“I never saw them,” Karim said.
He was lying and Hakim knew it. “I purchased them months ago. They are also radios. We can talk to each other by pressing the buttons on the side.”
“Where did you buy them and how?” Karim said while shaking the phones.
“In New Orleans and with cash.” This had all been covered the previous weekend.
“I do not remember giving you approval.”
“There is no way to trace them.”
“What about a surveillance tape at the store where you bought them?”
“It is possible, but extremely remote. I wore glasses and a baseball cap and used a British accent when I spoke to the clerk.”
Karim paused and considered all of this. He looked at the phones and said, “No more secrets.” He tossed one phone to Hakim and the second one to Ahmed, who was standing in the dining room. “Do not turn them on unless I tell you. Are the numbers for all three phones programmed?”
“Yes.” Hakim watched Karim stuff the last phone in his pocket and then leave the room without another word. Hakim looked down at the phone in his hands and briefly questioned his own sanity. Was everything that had happened in Iowa a dream? He was almost certain it wasn’t. The phones had been discussed. Hakim had specifically told him they had been purchased well in advance as a precaution. He told him they needed the phones in case they were separated. That meant Karim either had a terrible memory or was conveniently forgetting that it had all been discussed. Hakim knew the truth, and he was also beginning to understand the depths of Karim’s immaturity. This was all about him and nothing else. It wasn’t about Allah, or Muslim pride, or a battle against the colonial powers. It was about the need to feed the Lion of al Qaeda’s ego.
RAPP cruised up Massachusetts Avenue toward Rock Creek. His mind worked geographically. It connected dots like stick pins on a map with strings running between points of interest, linking one location or fact to another. He was listening to Special Agent Art Harris, the FBI’s senior guy at the NCTC. Art had just stuck a pin in Rapp’s map and it wasn’t making a lot of sense. He trusted Harris, though, so he let him work his way through the preamble rather than telling him to cut to the heart of it.
Harris and Rapp had a nice arrangement. Through unofficial channels Art passed along what the FBI knew on various cases that bumped up against things Rapp and his people were dealing with. And he made sure very little was put in writing. Over the last few years, his early warnings had allowed Rapp to get out in front of certain things and deal with them before all the badges and lawyers showed up.
Harris had just told Rapp about an investigation in Iowa. Two bodies had been found in the basement of a torched farmhouse. They were burned beyond recognition,
but preliminary reports said they’d been shot. The local sheriff was all but sure they were two hunters who had gone missing the day before. He gave Rapp the back-story on what the sheriff thought had happened. While Rapp found it all about as interesting as a whodunit episode of Primetime he knew there had to be more to the story, or Harris wouldn’t have bothered to call.
“The sheriff called the JTTF gang over in Chicago,” Harris said.
JTTF stood for Joint Terrorism Task Force. They were formed after 9/11 to foster cooperation and preparedness between the myriad local and federal law enforcement agencies in communities across the country. “I’m listening.”
“The barn almost caught fire but survived the blaze. Inside, the sheriff found a bunch of supplies . . . the kind of crap the Armageddon types would have. A bunch of MREs, guns, ammunition, and some handy-dandy military grade C-4 plastic explosives complete with detonators. They also found a couple of backpacks that contained maps, cash, credit cards, IDs, and passports.”
“Photos?” Rapp asked, already knowing the names would be bullshit.
“Your boys run them through TIDE?” TIDE stood for Terrorist Information Datamart Environment and was an extensive database run by the NCTC.
“Doing it right now, but it doesn’t look promising. They prioritized it and have already blown through all the usual suspects. What’s left we wouldn’t be interested in. Unless you think one of these guys might be Filipino.”
“No . . .” Rapp said as he thought about it. Some weird crap went on in the rural areas across the heartland. It was amazing the type of hardware these militia groups could get their hands on. It was probably nothing, but just in case he said, “Do me a favor and send the photos to my BlackBerry.”
“I will, but there’s one other thing you might find interesting. The farm was purchased about six months ago by an LLC. It was handled by an attorney out of New York.”
“I’m sure people do that all the time.” Rapp had done it himself.
“I’m sure they do. The sheriff also said no one has ever seen anyone use the place. Kinda strange when you think of those Hitler-lovin’ groups. They tend to turn these places into full-blown communes. People coming and going all day and all night.”
“Yeah . . .” Rapp said, “I suppose you’re right.”
“Well, I just thought I’d pass it along. I wouldn’t be surprised if the wonder boys at Justice decided to send us knocking on that New York attorney’s door come Monday. If for no other reason than the C-4.”
It was late Friday morning. Rapp considered the possibilities. “Did the sheriff by any chance give your boys a copy of the deed and all the title work?”