Marc Cameron

National Security


Deliver me from workers of iniquity, save me from bloody men.

— Psalms 59:2

Sunday, 30 August Nimble Rock, Colorado

Mahir Halibi saw blood as filth. But in war, such filth was plentiful-and an absolute necessity.

The young Saudi wiped his hands on a shop towel, leaving a fresh crimson streak on the grimy cloth. The night guard-a Hispanic man about his age with a large belly and new running shoes, lay facedown, eyes slammed wide as they had been when Halibi’s blade caught him by surprise. A dark pool blossomed on the concrete next to the obscene wound that opened his neck. White cords from an iPod trailed from his ears, one cord cut neatly in two and partially embedded in the gore. Glistening flies from three stinking garbage trucks buzzed around the dead man, crowding his sightless eyes for a spot to lay their eggs.

It had taken Halibi and his two cousins over two hours of constant, backbreaking labor to unload three hundred and sixty bags of fertilizer from two moving vans and distribute them-not nearly as long as the year it had taken to collect them in small purchases across the Rocky Mountain west.

The overpowering smell of ammonium nitrate stung the back of Halibi’s throat and caused him to gag. Setting the thick, sausagelike tubes of Tovex booster explosive in the hold of the trucks sent tears streaming from his burning eyes. He felt as if his nose had been stuffed with tiny razor blades.

Roughly four hours after they had arrived at the Public Works garage, Halibi felt they were finally ready. Drenched in sweat, his gaunt body was filled with a sudden calm. For some inexplicable reason, he thought of apricots and dates and roasted lamb. He quickly shook away the notion. His next meal would be in the splendors of Paradise.

The trucks were wired as he’d been taught at the sheikh’s training camp, deep in Pakistan’s lawless Northwest Frontier. A handheld detonator in each cab led through the broken back window and into the cavernous metal garbage box. These wires connected to blasting caps he’d inserted into the tubes of Tovex. The strong metal holds, emptied of their wasteful American refuse, were each crammed full of over six thousand pounds of diesel- soaked ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitro methane, an industrial solvent. Together the components made what was known as ANNM-an explosive one point six times more powerful than an equivalent amount of TNT. Timothy McVeigh had used a single Ryder Truck with roughly four thousand pounds of the stuff to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Halibi had three, each half again as large-and the time had come to put them to use.

Contact with the night guard’s blood made Wudu — ritual ablution-essential before an offer of prayer. And what was martyrdom but the ultimate form of prayer?

Halibi removed the lid to a new bottle of Aquafina. Beginning with his hands, he washed three times to his elbows, then moved cool water back and forth in his mouth, spitting away from his two cousins. He drew water into each nostril three times, touched his face, then moved to symbolically cleanse the remainder of his body, ending with his feet. His cousins repeated the same motions under the shadowed metal eaves of the Public Works garage. Devoted men of great piety, they were no doubt thinking as he was of the wondrous rewards that awaited them all in Paradise. All were freshly shaven, and now cleansed from the filth of the world. Halibi, the eldest, was not yet twenty-four.

“ Allahu akbar,” Halibi whispered, as he grabbed a handrail and pulled himself up and into the first truck in line, squinting, curling his nose against the harsh odor of ammonia that shrouded the vehicles in an invisible cloud. Eighteen months of preparation had at last come to fruition.

Molly Roberson brushed a curl of sandy hair out of her eyes and took a long, critical look in the bathroom mirror. This mothering thing was turning out to be more than she’d bargained for. Twin eight-year-old boys took a lot out of a girl and she was beginning to show it. She patted the five pounds of extra fat that had remained on her once-flat stomach after the boys were born-Jared jokingly called it her peter belly and took full credit for causing it.

She ran a thumb across her eyebrows, in desperate need of a little wax and TLC. “I don’t even have time to shave my legs,” she whispered to no one in particular. “Guess my plans of becoming CEO of Microsoft will have to wait awhile…”

She’d woken early to read the paper and see her husband off to work. The weatherman said it was going to be hot and Jared sometimes skipped wearing his bulletproof vest if she didn’t get up with him and force the issue.

Now, resting both hands on the counter, she sighed, blowing at the curl that kept falling across her eyes. She needed a haircut and a long bath and a visit to the chiropractor…

“Mom!” It was Sam, the older of the twins by fifty-eight minutes. She could picture him on the other side of the bathroom door, already dressed, blond hair moussed as only an eight-year-old could mousse it. “Trent says he’s not coming with us, but I told him he had to because we’re buying school clothes.”

Molly smiled, taming the errant curl with a plastic clippie from her stash in a cup beside the toothpaste. She felt much too haggard for thirty-four. A stupid clippie in her hair and bags under her eyes-that’s the way mothers of twin dynamos were expected to look, like they’d been on a ten-day drunk. She was lucky Jared was the sort of husband who could overlook a little leg stubble.

She wriggled into a pair of clean but tattered black capris and a pink T-shirt before opening the door. “What’s this about your brother, little dude?” She looked down at a freshly scrubbed Sam, his hair swept up in an earnest- looking pompadour.

“Playing Mario Kart on the Wii,” Sam said, rolling his wide, blue eyes like an adult.

Molly looked at her watch. It was almost noon. They’d be lucky to find a place to park a mile from the mall. She leaned over the banister leading down to the basement. The smell of pizza and dirty socks rose up from the darkness to meet her. Jared called it the twins’ man-cave-no place for a woman.

“Mister, you better march up here ready to go in three minutes!”

Trent, who was so slow it had taken him an hour longer than his brother just to wallow his way through the birthing process, plodded up the stairs dragging a blanket. He was slow, but he had a good-hearted glow about him that made it difficult to stay mad for long.

“I don’t feel so good, Mama,” he said, leaning his head against his mother’s chest. She couldn’t help herself and mussed his tangled bedhead of blond hair. “Seriously,” he mumbled against her shirt, nuzzling her between the boobs in the naive way he was sure to lose all too soon. “I know I’ve been playing games all morning, but I really feel sick to my stomach.”

“The back-to-school sales are today, dude,” Molly chided. “We’ve got to get your clothes and supplies.” She tilted his chin up with her finger so she could look him in the eye. “I was planning to go by Cold Stone for some ice cream…” With Trent, ice cream was a tried-and-true tactic.

To her surprise he shook his head, puffing out his cheeks to show the thought made him nauseous. She put the back of her hand on his forehead. Maybe he was a little feverish.

“Sam’s the same size as me. Can’t you just get the same stuff for both of us?” he mumbled. “I’ll barf all over everything if I have to go out.”

Molly folded her arms and looked at both her sons. If Trent was sick, she couldn’t make him go. That would be way too unmotherly of her. She pursed her lips in thought. He was only eight. Even eight-year-olds needed a

Вы читаете National Security
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату