“They are magnificent are they not my friends?”
The other two men huddled around the laptop in the spacious room on the top floor of the house absently nodded their assent. It was an automatic response; one they had made about a hundred times just this night.
The current objects of veneration were the mammary glands of an American starlet. Their host and leader, Abu Faraj al-Libi, spent hours each day mesmerized by Baywatch reruns that had been stored and delivered to him on a USB.
He was obsessed with the show’s most renown actress, a strapping blonde of questionable theatrical skills but undeniable natural assets. When he had heard there was a sex tape of said actress and her American rock star boyfriend floating around the internet he had ordered an all-out but discreet effort be made to bring him a copy.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted, in his superior’s defense, that there was little else to do here in Abbottabad as they waited for the heat from America’s search for anyone and anything associated with Osama bin Laden to die down. Still, he had no choice but to disapprove, if only from a security standpoint. The compound had no internet connection and no phone line. Visitors were admitted on the basis of mission necessity.
Abu Faraj was a man of action and hiding out in this compound with his wives and children made him restless, irritable, and
extremely hard to get along with. Khalid had witnessed this personally and in time he had grown to despise his immediate superior as well as covet his position in the Al-Qaeda hierarchy.
Up until now there had been little he could do about his discontent. Where Abu Faraj was strong, fierce, and charismatic, Khalid knew he himself was valued only for his intellectual achievements and that to most of the fighters sworn to the cause he appeared weak, pious, and maybe a bit too fervent in his call for the warriors of the movement to set when tempted by the pornography of the West. He was forced to tone down his call for virtue in deference to Abu Faraj’s open weakness and had come to realize that he would rise no higher or enforce own his ideas until his superior was dead.
Allah willing, that would happen tonight. Word had come down from the highest levels in Saudi Arabia that Abu Faraj had outlived his usefulness. The third man in the room, the courier who sat watching this Western filth with them now had brought with him an offer for Khalid. If he wanted the next position in the hierarchy, it was his. All he had to do was betray Abu Faraj and diligently follow all future instructions. After a quick moment of prayerful thought Khalid had readily agreed.
So tonight, to the surprise and obvious delight of his superior he had subtly suggested it was a good night for Baywatch. He had expected to have to endure the sex tape also but Abu Faraj rarely watched that anymore. He apparently found it depressing that Allah had gifted Tommy Lee with so much more manhood than he had “The Lion of Islam”.
Khalid looked at his watch. Everything was in place. The assassins would come directly to this room and eliminate Abu Faraj.
The women and children, but more importantly, he and the courier, would be left undisturbed. They were to spread the word that the “lion” had died heroically, a martyr to the cause. Khalid would immediately be declared the new Al-Qaeda operations officer and proceed on a mission of great importance. What mission exactly, was yet to be determined.
Khalid speculated idly on what this mission might be and what his life would be like after he accomplished it. Maybe he would return to this very compound and set up his headquarters. It was a nice place, much more comfortable than the caves of Afghanistan which he had called home after 9/11.
As for the women and children, well, the kids were well behaved and the women properly respectful. The wives of Abu Faraj were pleasant to look upon, especially the newest one, fifteen-year-old Buthaynah. Khalid surmised that her name, which meant “of beautiful and tender body” was an accurate description of what lay beneath her robes and veil. Did not her eyes linger on him a little longer than necessary when they passed?
There would be no sin he reasoned. It was his duty to care for the family of a fallen comrade. Why not marry all three wives? He had no family yet and he would finally be in a position where he would have the power and wealth to do so.
So, while Abu Faraj fantasized about blond houri romping around California beaches wet bikinis, Khalid kept his own fantasies properly local and Islamic by dreaming of Abu Faraj’s wives sleeping peacefully downstairs on the second floor.
Stanley Ladnier performed a function check on the Glock19 then screwed on the silencer. He didn’t want any surprises tonight. He was a creature of habit when it came to wet work and it had saved his ass on many occasions. He looked over at his partner and took comfort in the fact that he was doing the same thing.
Stanley didn’t like his partner though he found it hard to articulate exactly why. It wasn’t the obvious, it wasn’t because Allan was black. On the contrary, this was one of the things Stanley did like about him, that and the fact that like Stanley he was from the South. The Central Intelligence Agency was full of prissy Ivy League boys from the East that Stanley couldn’t stand. Being ex-military Stanley found a competent black face with a similar background refreshing.
Stanley hailed from Alabama while Allan was from Louisiana, a different South to be sure, but still the South. Stanley mused it was probably the subtle influence of French culture so obvious in his friend’s outlook that he objected to. Stanley didn’t like anything to do with the French, the Chinese, or Arabs, which made him wonder what the fuck he was doing here. But then again, he would be killing Arabs tonight and that part of his job was sheer fun.
Stanley detested almost anyone who wasn’t American which made a large portion of the world’s population off limits to him for the purposes of friendship and camaraderie but he found he could live with that and apparently, they could too. He looked at his watch. It wouldn’t be long now.
He and Allan had arrived here a couple of weeks ago, but the Agency had been observing this place for months. Analyst had concluded that the place had been custom built to hide someone of significance. The only question was who.
Stanley had hoped against hope that he would be the one to get Bin Laden. That would have been the crowning achievement of a good twenty years in service to his country but Washington would never assign a high profile kill like that to the Agency. That went to the glory boys in one of the Special Forces units. You could bet they wouldn’t skulk in quietly, kill everyone, and disappear leaving a mystery. No, they’d swoop in with high tech helicopters and the absolute latest in state of the art weapons systems and twenty-four hours later it would be all over CNN. Stanley sighed. He had been there, done that, and had the medals at home in the closet to prove it.
Last night they had been briefed that there were two big targets inside, Al-queda’s number three and number seven respectively. Not exactly Ben Laden. There were probably only a handful of American’s alive who knew these guys name or could even pronounce them. Not exactly small fry but they hadn’t risen to the level of infamy their boss had. Then again, few ever would, not if Stanley and others of his ilk had anything to do with it.
He thought about that briefing. Their orders were strange but very clear. They were to kill everyone in the house but number seven. To him they were to pass along a message. Everyone. No exceptions. Stanley didn’t have a problem with that and the compound’s location would make it relatively easy to get in, do it and get out quietly. The biggest problem would probably be the sheer size of the place. It was a three-story compound and would probably take he and Allen anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes to sanitize. More if they met unexpected resistance.
The Agency had used surveillance photos and intelligence reports to determine how many were in the place and exactly who they were but Stanley had learned the hard way that there was always an element of surprise involved in an action like this and there was always a chance that several fighters remained inside out of view. After all, the place was built for just that purpose. Google Earth maps made from satellite photographs showed that the place hadn’t even existed in 2001 but boom, in 2005, there it was. Best estimates put the time of completion sometime in 2004.
It was located at the end of a dirt road and surrounded by a twelve to eighteen-foot-high concrete wall topped with barbed wire. The house itself was placed right in the center of a plot of land eight times bigger than any of the houses nearby. And as if all that wasn’t enough privacy, the third-floor balcony had a seven-foot-high privacy wall. Someone was very concerned about nosy neighbors.
Allan nodded his assent and after making sure their rented Honda was locked they entered the wood line. This spot was very isolated; they had scouted it out carefully in the last two weeks. Both men wore fatigues and carried a rucksack on his back. There were two security gates to the compound and they had decided to go over the wall at a point equidistant from the two gates. Stanley’s heart quickened and his pulse raced a tiny bit faster with every step.
Stanley was ex Special Forces and any dangerous mission, but especially those involving a stroll through the woods, excited him. It certainly beat the shit out of tramping across the open dessert.
This was his first active assignment in two years. He had been chained to his desk doing paperwork and supervising the training of new agents since that fiasco in Hong Kong. Christ! What a fuck up that had turned into. He cursed and gave himself a mental command to focus. Forget about Hong Kong and that Chink bitch. Focus on the task at hand.
When they got to the wall Allan took a small device consisting of flat plates patterned with tiny holes from his rucksack. It was the latest in a series of Spider man like scaling devices developed at Langley. James Bond got all the glory in his flashy movies but MI6 wasn’t the only national spy agency with a group of eccentric technical geniuses like Q doing research on all kinds of off the wall devices.
The Spider Man walker worked on the same principle similar to the one that causes two wet glass slides to stick together. A nine-volt battery pumped water through the device, causing droplets to squeeze through. The tension created by the droplets caused the device to be able to grip another surface. While on the surface it might look like the little unit didn’t stand a snow ball’s chance in hell of being able to hold the weight of an adult male with gear, like much in the murky world of espionage, appearances were deceiving.
The secret was in the scaling. The smaller the holes in the device were, the greater its traction.
Stanley had pulled rank and given his younger partner the honor of scaling the wall. Not that he didn’t trust the boys in the labs but hell, even an old dependable device like a detonator, or an M16 could let you down sometimes. He watched the younger man carefully begin his ascent, looking for the smoothest places to lay the plates on. It was an awkward slow process, a matter of waiting for the water to seep in and create tension so you could stick and then seep out so that you could move again.
Finally, Allan reached the top where he parted the barbed wire with an old-fashioned pair of wire cutters. Next, he detached a grappling hook from his belt and after tying a light nylon rope from his ruck through the eye, and securing the prongs firmly on the other side of the wall, lowered the rope to Stanley.
Soon both men were over the wall and inside the compound. Thank God the idiots didn’t have dogs.
That was the first thing an American would have added had he overseen security here Stanley thought. You couldn’t beat a good pack of well trained dogs for security at a place like this. His opinion, but then he was from Alabama and Bama had a soft spot for dogs.
Moving quietly and efficiently the two men donned traditional Arab male dress. A white keffiyeh to cover their heads, with a black agal to hold it in place. Then a white thawb dishdasha covering the body from neck to toe, and finally a flowing black bisht, the robe-like outer garment that covered the outfit from the shoulders down.
Checking each other carefully they lay the rucks with the things they no longer needed at the base of the wall, then mimicking the flowing stride of men born and raised in the desert they each went to take out his assigned gate.