You want your Mammon? I got your Mammon right here. Chapter Seventeen is ready to roll. Need to catch up? You can download all seventeen chapters right here. Questions? Comments? Let me have ’em.
Husam al Din had no faith in names. A name was just another tool. Since arriving in Chicago, he had been Marco Pelligrino, Dimitri Stavapopolus and now Ricardo Orendain. With his fine features, light olive skin and light brown eyes, he had passed for everything from a Spaniard to an Indian. He didn’t even know what his real name was. He’d only been a few weeks old in 1978 when the Israeli’s bombed the refugee camp in Lebanon. His parents were killed and he was just another orphan raised by the PLO. In the camp, they called him Ahmad, but his parents must have called him something. So far as Husam was concerned, Ahmad was just his first cover.
He had come to Chicago for Stein. The Jew Stein, as his contact at MOIS liked to say. But, to Husam, just the target Stein. He’d had the religious indoctrination as a boy, the feeble Mullahs and their nonsense. There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. The United States as the Great Satan, all the rest of it. But Husam believed reality was the best teacher.
And reality was this. Any time Israel wanted, the jets came and bombed the camps, and the Palestinians had to hide in the rubble like roaches. If Israel decided to destroy Beirut, they destroy Beirut. If there was no God but Allah, then why did Yahweh get to buy F-16s and Abrahms battle tanks from the United States, leaving Allah’s people to fight them with AK-47s and stones? Ahmad had no more faith in gods than he had in names.
But he had a talent for killing. Ahmad was very bright, the brightest boy in any of the classes in the camp. And so the men in the kaffiyehs had taught him as well. Pistols, rifles, explosives. How to fight with his hands and with knives. A Kalashnikov – this was a god he could believe in.
When he was fourteen, he had his first exam. He remembered crawling forward in the dark toward the Israeli roadblock. Watching for a long time to be sure. Two soldiers outside the APC. After an hour, the APC opened, and the two soldiers traded places with two others inside. Four soldiers. His instructions were simple – he was to kill at least one Israeli and return alive. At any time, he could kill the two outside the APC, but the muzzle flash would give away his position. He was not interested in learning how good the soldiers inside the APC were with the 20mm cannon and 50mm machine gun. But these Israelis were complacent. It was a quite sector, routine duty. Ahmad watched for an opportunity. It took him more than three hours to move to a slightly elevated position behind the APC, giving him a clear line of fire into the vehicle when the doors opened. At the next shift change, all four soldiers were within a narrow range of fire, the door to the vehicle directly in front of him. Ahmad was calm. Many of those he trained with would have cut loose with a long burst of automatic fire, sweeping the rifle back and forth. But Ahmad flicked the selector switch to semi-auto. Three round bursts, twenty rounds in the magazine, with one spare magazine. Ahmad knew that if he had to switch magazines before the Israelis were down, he was as good as dead. Ahmad sighted on the Israeli standing in the door of the APC. When he went down, the others might trip over him trying to get inside.
Ahmad fired, all three rounds hitting the Israeli in the torso, the Israeli falling on the ramp. Ahmad swung the rifle a couple inches left and hit the second Israeli with a burst. He went down. He was still moving, but down. The Israelis were well trained. The other two both hit the dirt, rolling apart so that they were separate targets. They had seen the muzzle flash. Both brought their Galils to bear, first one, then the other, raking the ground in front of Ahmad’s position with controlled bursts, each of them moving further out as the other fired – fire and maneuver, looking to flank. Ahmad slid slowly down the small embankment and rolled to his left, timing his movements with the firing by the Israelis to cover the noise. As one of the Israelis fired at the spot where Ahmad had been, the other got up to run further right. Ahmad hit him in the back with a burst. The final Israeli turned his fire to Ahmad’s new position, but Ahmad still had the advantage of elevation. When he heard the Israeli stop to change clips, he sighted carefully, hitting the Israeli in the face and helmet.
Ahmad had fired four bursts – 12 rounds. He knew he still had eight rounds in his clip, but he swapped in his full clip and watched the scene for a moment. The second Israeli was still moving, trying to crawl toward the APC. Ahmad sighted carefully and put a three round burst into his head. He then put a burst into each of the other Israelis, just to be sure. He walked down to the APC and looked inside. He knew he shouldn’t loiter, but he wanted his first mission to cement his reputation. Much of his explosives training had been working with captured or unexploded Israeli ordinance to improvise bombs. He quickly jury-rigged a couple of the 20mm shells inside the APC and set them in the munitions storage area. He cut a long strip of uniform from the dead Israeli in the door of the APC, twisted it into a fuse, dipped it into the spare fuel tank, set it in place and lit the end. Ahmad new he didn’t have long – the flame would race up the fuel-soaked cloth. He had barely made it back up the slight embankment, throwing himself down, rolling downhill, when the improvised shells went up, then the other shells and the fuel. The APC exploded in a huge fireball, pieces of hot metal raining down everywhere, one of them glancing off the back of Ahmad’s left thigh, burning him.
Ahmad knew the Israeli combat patrols and helicopters would saturate the area between him and the camps. He ran south, toward Israel.
For two days, Ahmad dodged patrols, slowly making his way back to the camp. By the time he returned, he was a legend. The 14-year-old boy sent out to kill a single Israeli who had instead wiped out an entire APC crew and their machine. And he had a new name, this one of his own choosing. Husam al Dim – the sword of faith. Just because he didn’t believe didn’t mean belief couldn’t serve his legend.
Husam served the PLO first, numerous missions into Israel. As the PLO had faded from power, Husam was quick to switch allegiance to Hezbollah, and then quick to understand that the real power lay in Iran. Husam was disgusted with the wasteful Arab penchant for solving every problem with a bomb – first the car bombs, then the suicide bombs. Husam had no interest in throwing away his life for a harem of heavenly virgins. He had, by then, sampled several of the earthly variety, and preferred them. But his skills had given the Iranians another option. When there was one target you wanted dead, you used Husam. And you paid Husam.
So , when Al Queda had learned that Stein was behind the theft of their diamonds and the death of their couriers, word had passed to MOIS and MOIS sent Husam. Stein was easy. Unfortunate that some kaffir had recognized him as he walked to his car, but he was easy, too. And then Hardin.
MOIS hadn’t gotten word to him in time, that was the problem. Hardin had met with Stein less than 24 hours after stealing the diamonds. It took longer than that for Hezbollah to know, and then for Al Queda to know, and then for MOIS to know, and then to contact Husam. Husam had even seen Hardin, the weathered looking man, the last one to leave Stein’s box.
Hardin had been relatively easy to follow in Chicago. In America, everything was for sale, even its own security. Someone at MOIS had a contact that would sell access to the city’s monitoring systems. He soon knew where Hardin had his car. And if he only had to kill Hardin, then Hardin would already be dead. But he needed the diamonds. And that meant he needed time with Hardin, alone, in case Hardin didn’t have them with him and had to be convinced to give them up.
Two other men had tried to take Hardin – Husam had watched them put him in the car, had followed them far to the south, had watched from a distance as Hardin turned the tables on his attackers. The American Mafia. Husam had only seen films. Interesting.
Then Hardin had disappeared. But Hardin still needed to sell his diamonds. And, after Stein, after this mafia business, Hardin was wanted by the authorities. So he would not be able to leave, not yet, not without a buyer.
Husam studied the maps of the area, the expressways ringing the city, the location of the airports, the various rail lines. Oak Brook. It straddled both a major north-south and major east-west roadway, was near one of the major rail lines, was halfway between the two airports. He found a good hotel next to a large shopping mall. An affluent area, judging by the cars in the parking lot. During the day, he would drive around the area, learning the roads, learning the traffic patterns. In the early evening, he would go to the mall. He would ask attractive women their advice – a gift for his mother in Madrid. Eventually, one of the women would accompany him to dinner, and then usually back to his room. MOIS would have a lead, eventually. In the meantime, Husam would learn more about America.