“Stop moving,” Rapp ordered as he quickly searched the jacket pockets.
“This time you’ve gone too far!” Adams shouted. “There is no way you’re going to be able to weasel your way out of this. Kidnapping, assault . . .”
Rapp ignored the list of charges and told the driver, “It’s just the one phone.”
The driver nodded and put out his hand. Rapp gave him the phone and a second later the driver pulled over, rolled down his window six inches, and handed the phone to a man standing on the street corner.
Rapp turned his attention back to Adams, who, while done listing the potential charges, had now moved on to expressing the joy and satisfaction he would receive from watching Rapp brought to justice.
“Glen,” Rapp said, “that’s not going to happen.”
“The hell it isn’t!” Adams said emphatically.
Rapp sighed. “The chance of your ever seeing me brought to justice is zero.”
“You don’t know me very well, if you think for a minute I’m somehow going to be talked out of going to the attorney general with this.”
“I know you all too well, Glen, but apparently you don’t know me very well, if you think I’m going to let you live.”
“Live?” Adams asked incredulously. “You wouldn’t dare!”
“I’ve dared more times than I can count, and for far less than this. You’re a traitor, and unless you can somehow explain to me why in the hell you’ve been leaking classified information, I’m going to kill you.” Rapp looked into the eyes of the man sitting next to him and said, “It’s really not that complicated, and if you really believe I’m the monster you claim, you should know I’m serious.”
The seriousness of his predicament finally sank in. Adams, his jaw slack, stared at Rapp for a long moment and then, blinking, looked to the driver and shouted, “Pull over right now!” The driver ignored him, so Adams repeated himself, but even louder.
Rapp twisted in his seat, took a good look at Adams, picked his spot, and then let loose a left jab that caught the inspector general square on the chin. Adams’s head bounced off the window and then his entire body went slack.
THE old farmhouse sat nestled in a cusp of trees a few hundred yards from the banks of the Mississippi River. A creek flowing from the northwest forked and flowed around the rise of land before joining up again and draining into the big river that divided America roughly in half. The eighty-acre parcel was mostly wooded, with some rolling open land to the west. Most important, it offered concealment.
Hakim had found it on his drive north from Hannibal, Missouri, the previous fall. It had been advertised in the West Burlington newspaper as the perfect retreat for solitude, and Hakim decided it was worth a look. After a brief phone call with the local realtor he learned that the family had been selling off parcels of land for over a decade. The kids were all gone—one in Chicago, two on the East Coast, and one on the West Coast, Dad was dead, and Mom had just been moved into a nursing home. All that was left to sell was the old house and two barns that sat on the heavily wooded eighty acres by the river. The realtor warned him that the land around the house flooded most springs and the driveway sometimes washed out, so it wasn’t good for much of anything except hunting.
Hakim told the woman it didn’t sound like it would work, thanked her for her time, and hung up. He then drove north on Highway 99 until he found the place, which proved to be more difficult than he had thought, which in the end of course was a good thing. From a tactical standpoint the place had a lot of positives. There wasn’t another house in sight and the local road dead-ended at the property’s driveway, which meant there would be minimal traffic, if any. Hakim took a few photos and then called the lawyer in New York and instructed him to buy the property through a game and wildlife conservancy trust that had already been set up. The lawyer handled the closing. Hakim then directed him to hire someone to put up a gate along with a lock box, and some No Trespassing signs. Since then he had been back to the property just twice, both times to lay down provisions and make sure everything would be ready for them.
As it turned out, the house ended up being one of the rare parts of the plan he and Karim had agreed on. They had labored over the best route of escape after the attacks. The airports were out of the question, as was private aviation. The Americans were well rehearsed in closing those two avenues. Next they looked at the seaports on the East Coast and then the Gulf of Mexico. During normal times, stowing away on a container ship would not be difficult, but the Americans would be at a heightened state not seen since the Towers had been taken down. Every port would have hundreds of eyes and countless security cameras looking for them.
They looked at crossing the border into Canada or Mexico. Driving through a border-controlled checkpoint seemed far too risky, so they decided they would have to make the journey on foot, hiking through rugged wilderness. Karim was confident that they could handle the physical aspect of the trip. The real problem would be finding someone they could trust on the other side. Their resources were stretched too thin already. They would have to turn outside the group to find help. Hakim, knowing the depth of his friend’s paranoia, offered his counterintuitive suggestion of driving to America’s heartland and lying low.
Like Saudi Arabia, America was an immense country with large cities as well as vast open spaces that were sparsely populated. While it was true that America was a melting pot, especially compared to a closed society like that of Saudi Arabia, it was not exactly as open as it looked on paper. All those various groups tended to cluster together, which nullified much of the potential for concealment. Karim had originally thought his friend meant driving to a city like Chicago. With over ten million people in the metropolitan area, they would be the proverbial needles in a haystack. Having actually spent some time in America, Hakim had to explain why going to Chicago was a bad idea. There were too many eyes and ears in a big city and there would surely be reward money offered. If everyone was looking for them, the best solution was to find someplace where they could let the storm blow over in absolute privacy. Karim loved the idea and gave his best friend the approval to find such a place.
Hakim stared out the small kitchen window toward the river and the rising sun, and watched a single wild turkey strut across the yard toward the woods. He looked to his right in search of the others. Five mornings in a row he’d seen the seven turkeys strut along their little trail and into the woods. Had the others been killed, was this one kicked out of the herd, or flock, or whatever it was that you called a group of turkeys? Whatever it was, Hakim could identify with him. Every morning for the past week he’d thought of going it alone. Just walk down the hill to the river and get into the little boat he’d stashed in the underbrush. He’d fire up the twenty-five-horsepower outboard and push off from
the bank. Head south like Huck Finn. Take the big river all the way to the Gulf.
Had there been a single incident that had caused the rift, or was it a culmination of events? Hakim had been searching for the answer all week. Was it when he left his best friend in the mountains of Pakistan almost a year ago? Was it the jungles of South America that had warped his friend’s brain, or had it happened much earlier? Like most childhood friendships, theirs had progressed without question or challenge. Karim was the student with the best marks. He was a naturally gifted athlete with a competitive streak unmatched by any of the other kids in the neighborhood, and he had always been the most diligent when it came to prayer. He had been intense even then, while Hakim was far more laid back. They had always complemented each other.
As Hakim took a sip of tea he wondered if it had been an illusion of sorts. Had they ever really been that close? Hakim wanted to believe they had been the best of friends, but it was possible that the relationship had always been one-sided. It was hard to tell the difference between a driven individual and a self-centered ass—maybe they went hand in hand. Whatever the case, there had been a change, although it was possible that it was more of a progression. His old friend was proving to be every bit as narcissistic as the rest of the al Qaeda leadership. With each passing day he was increasingly obsessed with the coverage of the attacks and the aftermath. The prophet had warned against such self-love.
Hakim was attempting to reconcile the thorny theological aspects of their struggle when he heard the voice of his friend.
Hakim was not surprised. He had long ago grown used to Karim’s ability to move about silently. He looked over his shoulder and nodded. Glancing at the nearby clock he noticed it was 6:00 A.M. His shift was over and he wouldn’t be back on again for eight hours.
“Anything interesting happen on your watch?” Karim asked.