Who orchestrated the execution-style murders? And will they strike again?
In the midst of shock, grief and outrage, with an ineffective President in the White House, the directors of the FBI and CIA work together to stop the insanity and reduce the panic that grips the nation.
"American in the Crosshairs," a can't-put-it-down mystery races from Washington, D.C., to Detroit to Oakland to Montana to Biloxi and back to Washington for the surprising conclusion.
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By Jack Dold
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Jack Dold
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTuesday, April 14, 2009
He felt a tremor of excitement as his finger pulled the trigger, a surge of feeling that evoked an audible "Allahu Akhbar!" It was hardly a prayer, but rather a challenge, a declaration to the world, a shout of defiance.
In the parking lot below, a woman screamed, clutching her chest as she collapsed to the ground, her bag of groceries tumbling around her, a pool of red quickly spreading. Other shoppers heard the scream of the woman, but it took them several seconds to realize what had happened. Those precious seconds were enough for him to disappear into the dense brush that covered the hillside.
Out of sight, he calmly walked back to his car, a white Escort, where he carefully placed the rifle in a rack in the back of the trunk, pulling up a panel that clicked into place, concealing the weapon from any casual inspection.
He looked at his watch: 1:33 in the afternoon. He started the car and drove north, out of Des Moines. Once clear of the city, he pressed the # button on his cell phone.
Simply that. Ali Sharif Nizzam let out a large sigh, put down his phone and thought of nothing. He was a soldier, and his personal war had commenced. He didn't realize that this day, April 14, would be a day that America would always remember, a date like December 7 and September 11. He had his assignment, and he had carried it out to the letter. As far as he knew, he had acted alone, passed his personal test. That was enough.
In Morgan City, Louisiana an old man was just leaving the library when the bullet struck him down. He fell without a sound, dead before he hit the ground. Nobody saw the gunman turn the corner and drive away. No one saw Jake Meyers fall that afternoon. The gunman pressed the 3 button on his phone.
In Loomis, California, a tow truck pulled up behind a stalled car with New Mexico license plates, on a quiet farm road. A young man was leaning against the car, which had its hood raised. As the driver approached, the man pulled a pistol, a Beretta M9, and fired two shots into his head. John Bateman closed the hood, started his old Volvo and sped away. It was 11:30 A.M., Pacific Daylight Time. He pressed the seven button on his phone.
A musician died in Big Springs, Texas; a cheerleader in Elmira, New York. In Grants Pass, Oregon, an elderly woman was shot, in the doorway of the senior center—numbers thirty-seven, fifteen and ninety-eight were phoned in. Similar murders occurred in Mansfield, Illinois; Battle Mountain, Nevada; Walla Walla, Washington; Spring Green, Wisconsin; and Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Exactly one hundred "average Americans" died that day, that terrible April 14, at precisely the same time—2:30 P.M. in New York, 11:30 A.M. in California, 8:30 A.M. in Hawaii. The murders occurred in a hundred small, not quite nondescript towns, the "heartland of America." Fifteen victims were children; fifty-eight men; all were Caucasians. At least one assassination was reported in every state of the union, including Tok, Alaska, and Kealakekua, Hawaii. April 14—a day that would indeed be remembered.
* * *
Two men, Asim Tamimi and Sa'id Mutanabe, sat forward in their stuffed chairs, concentrating on a small TV, listening to the news on CNN. Nazim ibn Asid, the third man in their team, wore an expression of stern purpose as he entered the room. Neither man moved to greet him, or even looked up.
"You have a report for us?"
"Yes. All fifty reported in. A complete success." His voice was without emotion, as would be expected. "They are now on the move, awaiting their next assignment."
"You have done well, Nazim. It is a good start."
"Has the panic begun?"
"Indeed it has. And as we anticipated, the press will be a potent ally. They have fueled the flames beautifully. Americans are weaklings; they have no stomach for warfare in their own homes. We meet on Friday morning at eight."
"You didn't tell him there were a hundred deaths," Sa'id said, almost whispering, after Nazim had departed.
"He will find out soon enough." Asim, the obvious leader of this trio, shook his head. "We had better find out about the other fifty as well. I fear we have been badly deceived. I thought we were the only ones recruiting soldiers. I want to know who the others are."
For Asim Tamimi, April 14 had commenced more than two years before, with a phone call out of the blue, and a meeting in Chicago. The phone call came from a man who identified himself simply as Umar, asking that he come to Chicago for a meeting of vital interest to him. No details were given, but the commanding tone of voice led Asim to believe that he didn't want to miss this chance, that it would not be tendered a second time. He received an e-ticket the following day, and flew to Midway Airport in the afternoon, where he was met by a chauffeur holding a sign with his name, "Mr. Tamimi," professionally printed. The car left the city, heading southeast, as far as he could tell, in the direction of Gary, Indiana, pulling off of I-94 about ten miles out in a warehouse district. He was taken to an isolated building and escorted, without so much as a word, into a well-appointed suite of rooms. There he was met by a man, bald-headed with a full beard, who was impeccably dressed, offering a broad smile and an extended hand. Asim noticed the diamond earring.
"Welcome Mr. Tamimi. I am Umar. I trust that your flight arrangements were satisfactory?"
"They were fine."
"You are undoubtedly wondering why you are here today," Umar said after they had sat down at a conference table. He leaned toward Asim. "I will come right to the point. My associates and I have been watching you closely for some time, and have come to the conclusion that you are in the process of recruiting young Arab men for some undisclosed activities. Is that true?"
Asim leaned back in his chair, his defenses immediately up. "I have no idea what you are talking about. I am employed by the Detroit Political Action Committee to find employment for young men and women. The activities are fully disclosed. We are looking for jobs, registering voters, securing mortgages. I would not say that is recruiting, as you call it."
"As it happens, we are also looking for workers, and perhaps we can pool our resources."
After almost an hour of non-committal conversation, Umar finally broached the central question:
"Do you wish, Mr. Tamimi, to bring this country to its knees?"
It was a bolt out of nowhere, catching Asim completely by surprise.
In that simple word was born a contract. It was agreed that Asim would find and train fifty soldiers for an operation which would take place sometime in the near future. These men were to be drawn from the normal world of the Arab community, unknowns who were not to be found on any lists, not on the TSA No Fly List or the Select Screening Lists. They were not to be radicals associated with the major Detroit and Dearborn mosques, preferably not even living in those cities. They should be upwardly mobile, happily married, in short, average Americans. Umar outlined for Asim the exact plan that would ultimately come to fruition on April 14, a plan that would bring panic to the United States. When he finished, Asim was staggered. Has he been reading my thoughts? he wondered, amazed that what was being outlined was frighteningly similar to what he had been formulating himself in the last few months.
"Why would I need you for this plan?" he asked Umar.
"Because I can provide you with supplies as well as cover. I will provide the weapons and the funds for the training. And I can keep the government from bothering you while you are organizing. I am prepared to offer you $1,000,000 today. If you agree, you will find the weapons have already been deposited in Dearborn."
A good poker player would have seen Asim's eyes react.
"Besides the fifty recruits, what else do I need?"
"You will need one or two close friends to assist you, your legs to organize your cell. But be advised," Umar's voice lowered, carrying a threat. "We have extraordinary ears, Asim. If you or they cross us, you, and they, will die, as surely as the targets we will eventually select. I will need the names and addresses of any man you recruit, nothing more. Until the day you are called to action, we can cancel everything. And we will if we find you are failing on your end. If you succeed, as I feel you will, you will walk away a very wealthy man."
Asim raised his hands defensively. "Why do you need names?
I will have to vouch for them anyway; it will be my life that is at stake."
We want the names to be sure that they have not surfaced on one of the government's terrorist lists. If they are compromised we don't want them to be part of this operation."
"Why are you doing this? What's in it for you?"
"That isn't important. Let me say that we wish to create an unseen wind, a cleansing wind that will wash this land free of the moral evils it has nurtured for more than half a century. You and your recruits will be that wind. I will contact you by phone whenever it is necessary. There is no way that you can contact me. Don't try. If security fails, everyone fails."
Both the cash and the guns were waiting when Asim returned to Dearborn, the cash deposited in a safe account on which he could draw, the German rifles, fifty of them, Heckler-Koch MSB 90A model, with scopes and silencers, cached in a new warehouse in Hamtramck, a suburb close to Detroit. The building's front was a racquet-ball club, but there was a sound-proof shooting gallery concealed in the rear. Asim was stunned by the realization that this entire structure had been built prior to his meeting with Umar, that this project had been underway long before he had even dreamed of it. It left him more than a little uneasy about the contract he had made and the nature of those behind such a plan. Umar had spoken in the plural, as though he were only one of many persons involved. Asim pushed those thoughts out of his mind, resolving to concentrate on the job ahead of him.
* * *
About the same time, a similar call to arms was made in Great Falls, Montana. This time the voice on the phone identified himself as Omar Bedrosian from Chicago, an Armenian businessman who professed a deep concern for the direction that America was taking, a direction that led away from the personal freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. He received a welcome reception from Big Jim Ryder, a cattle rancher, who at that particular moment was not having an easy time of it. Increasing taxes, the low price for beef, draught, the changing eating habits of the population, not to mention a very messy divorce—all of these were taking a toll on his finances, forcing him into huge loans and mortgage payments. Many a night he lay awake wondering how he was going to come out of this, blaming the environmentalists, the liberals, his ex-wife, and most of all, the government in Washington for pandering to these "idiots" who were destroying the country. He was in a receptive mood when Omar invited him to Eddie's Steak House for one of their massive slabs of beef, a few scotches and talk.
"I am organizing what I call an 'emergency corps,'" Omar said after they were sipping on their scotch. Asim Tamimi would have recognized the man as the Umar he had met in Chicago. That subtle name shift from Umar to Omar, from Arab to Armenian, was crucial for a meeting in Montana where Arab names were not generally received kindly. "There are thousands of us," Omar began, "who are not happy with the slide we are making into government control." He held up his right hand as though to stop himself. "Let's call it what it is—socialism. The time will come when the only way we are going to combat this is with action. We will need to know whom we can count on if it comes to that."
"Are you talking about a war? An armed revolution?" Big Jim sat back in his chair, pushing away slightly from the table. "You're nuts. I may not be happy with the assholes in Washington, but I'm not going to take up arms against this country. I love the U.S.A. I've traveled some. There's no place on this earth that is as good as here. Shit, would you go live in England with all those pasty-faced little twerps? Or go goose-stepping around with the Krauts?"
"I'm not talking about a war or revolution. I'm talking about self-defense, about standing up for your principles when someone is trying to take away those precious things you are talking about."
"What do you have in mind? There are lots of folks up in these parts who are ready to defend themselves. There must be a hundred different militia units and survival corps in Western Montana, and who knows what's out east of here."
"Exactly, Jim," Omar replied, giving a thumbs up gesture. "I want to build a small unit, of maybe twenty-five soldiers whom we can rely on if we need them. I'm not looking for some weirdo like that Unibomber nut over in Lincoln, or a maniac like McVey. I want upstanding citizens, teachers, doctors, who have never crossed an FBI inquiry, who live their lives quietly attracting no attention except within their own families. Such men can be a powerful force in a crisis, because they are unexpected, unknown. I would like you to find me such men."
Big Jim gave him an incredulous look. "Why would I do that? I'm not that pissed off at the government."
"The time might come when you are, Big Jim. But I can offer some incentive. I am prepared to offer you $1,000,000, which should be more than enough to buy up the mortgage on your ranch and leave you free and clear, and then some. I can furnish you and your men with any type of arms you need, and I can steer the government away from your doorstep if necessary. Just get me twenty-five soldiers ready to take arms and use them."
Big Jim took a long slug on his scotch, and stared down at the T-bone that practically covered his plate, his mind jumping back and forth between disbelief and hope, and deep down, fear.
"Omar, buddy. You got yourself a deal!"
* * *
In Oakland, California, the same man, identified himself as Umar Hussein al Rashid, claiming to represent powerful Chicago interests seeking to effect substantial changes in American society, changes that the black man had been thirsting for ever since the Civil War and Reconstruction. He was speaking to a local minor politician, Faud ibn Majik. Though he didn't say it, Umar implied to Faud that he was connected in some way with the Chicago mosque. He did make it clear that what he was about to say was not the policy of the Nation of Islam, but would most certainly advance its prestige and standing in the community.
"Exactly what is it you are proposing?" Faud asked, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, not at all comfortable with the tone of this stranger's remarks.
"Bluntly put, I am proposing that you recruit and train an elite squad of black fighters, men who are ready to act in the best interests of their people."
"We already have such squads, here in Oakland and elsewhere. That's the legacy of the Panthers, defending their communities."
"I am not looking for another version of the Black Panthers. I am looking for a force that has no face, a band of brothers who are well-educated, upstanding, beyond suspicion, unknown to FBI, DEA, gang experts, not on any of the suspect lists. I want men who are enrolled in college, who are on their way to escaping from the ghetto."
"And how would you use them, Umar?" Faud began to build a defense against this outsider, although he couldn't quite come to grips with what was bothering him.
"I would use them to start a black revolution."
As Umar outlined his plan, Faud's eyes brightened with interest. Unconsciously he tugged on his right ear and quickly looked away, a "tell" that Umar did not fail to notice. I've got him, he thought, and a friendly smile won the hand.
Excerpted from CROSSHAIRS by Jack Dold Copyright © 2011 by Jack Dold. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an excellent read. Suspense with a great story and creative twists. A real page turner and fabulous plot. Enjoy it!