They are certain that striking the heartland in this manner will ensure that no one will ever dare to challenge their authority.
Is this belief reality or abject stupidity? If al Qaeda's plan is successful, will it lead instead to vengeance in the form of a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East, the demise of Islam, and genocide for Muslims?
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By Edward David Doney
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 Edward David Doney
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSunday Evening, August 28, 2016 – Interstate 29 North of Grand Forks, North Dakota
"I can't die!"
Stanton Wells, barely conscious, heard the scream.
"I can't die!"
There it was again. What was happening? Who was screaming? Was someone really screaming or was it a dream? Everything was out of focus. He couldn't think. He was in a daze and just wanted all of it to go away.
Suddenly his head jerked and smashed into the driver's side window of his rental car. The agony of the blow was excruciating. Whatever it was it certainly was not a dream. The hurt elsewhere in his body carried him further back into reality. He began to remember what was happening, not at the lightning speed at which his brain usually functioned, but hesitantly, grudgingly, as if he wanted to avoid it for as long as possible.
His head hit the window again. He was being violently tossed around, his car tumbling. Then the staggering realization. He was the one screaming. He was the one in the middle of this horror scene.
The other car had come out of nowhere, racing upon him from behind, starting to pass and then smashing into him, forcing him off the road, over the embankment and into the field beyond.
He remembered hearing the screeching of brakes and the gnashing of metal on metal, feeling his own weightlessness as his car flew through the air, becoming aware of the excruciating pain in his knees and legs when they hit the bottom of the dash as the car bounced off the tree and tore through the boundary fence, rolling over and over down the sloping terrain into the adjacent pasture.
The car was still rolling, still tumbling. His body was jerked again by the violent movements. This time the pain permeated every nerve of his being. Then there was no movement. The car had stopped, but something was still wrong. What? He had to come out of it. Think Stanton, think. Of course. His 6'6" frame was hanging upside down, held in place only by the seatbelt. This was crazy. What was going on? Where was he? Why was this happening?
He thought again of his screams. He remembered saying "I can't die." The words had been precise. They were his. They were also fact. Dying today was not an option. The fate of his country would not allow it. The fate of millions throughout the world would not allow it.
He knew what had happened. They somehow learned that he had been listening and now they were trying to kill him. That had to be it. There could be no other reason.
Getting out of this car was his first priority. Getting away from them was next. They were out there. He knew it. He had to get away. He had to get away. He had to ... get ... away....
Stanton lapsed into unconsciousness.
The other car traveled nearly the length of a football field before it could skid to a stop after running the stranger's car off the road. The two men in the car jumped out and ran down the embankment. Both became entangled in the barbed wire fence that bounded the 80 acre field.
"Damn it!" cursed the Russian. He struggled to free himself, becoming only more tangled. "Ahmed, get me loose!" he called to his Middle Eastern companion. Ahmed had freed himself and was already running into the pasture.
"No time," he said.
Ahmed fired his weapon as he ran, strafing the stranger's car. Still 100 yards away he watched the car finally stop rolling. Only a matter of seconds now. He would make sure the infidel was dead. He did not know how much the stranger had heard and didn't care. Nothing could jeopardize his mission. He was al Qaeda's last hope, their only hope. He had come too far and could not fail now.
Ahmed reached the stranger's car. The next thing he knew he was laying on the ground, dazed, with flames dancing in the grass all around him. It was his turn to wonder what was happening. As his brain cleared he realized the car's gas tank had exploded.
"Let's go, let's get out of here, he's dead!" the Russian screamed from the edge of the field. "People are coming."
Ahmed turned his head back toward the Russian and saw that he had freed himself from the fence. He could also see lights coming on and window shades rising in farmhouses up and down the road. Doors were opening and people were shouting, "What's going on, what happened?"
Violence had disturbed the silence of the night in rural North Dakota and Ahmed knew violence was an unknown here. If shots were fired it was usually someone trying to kill a coyote or deer poachers intending to procure the main course for numerous Sunday dinners, and such shots were never fired at night. Something was wrong if shots were fired after dusk and if something was wrong people would come to see what it was. In rural North Dakota, they would come armed.
Staggering to his feet, he was still dazed from the gas tank explosion. He had to make a decision. The Russian scum was an infidel, but he also played a vital role in what was to come. Besides, Ahmed saw that the fat Russian had freed himself and knew that he would run at his lumbering pace back to the car and leave without him if he stayed in the field any longer to make certain the stranger was dead.
He heard the shouting voices again, closer now. The locals would be on the scene soon. The stranger's car was demolished and in flames. No one could have survived that crash or the explosion. He had to be dead as the Russian had said and Ahmed could not allow himself to be detained and questioned by the authorities. That would be risky at best and could put an end to his mission. He could not let that happen. His people were depending on him to return them to greatness.
Ahmed took one last look at the burning hulk of the vehicle and decided that the stranger could not be alive. He turned and ran back toward the waiting car, jumping in as the Russian was turning on the ignition. "Another ten seconds and you would have walked back," the Russian glared at Ahmed as he spoke.
"And you would have soon after been a dead man," Ahmed glared back.
They sped off together into the night, glowering at each other, as the first of the nearby residents hesitantly approached the burning car in the pasture.
The explosion awakened Stanton this time. The burning sensation in his left shoulder ensured he would remain conscious. Stanton thought the searing heat from the gas tank explosion was the cause of his pain. He would only later find out that a bullet from Ahmed's gun had pierced his shoulder, but he had been oblivious to Ahmed or his strafing the car. He just knew that the heat was intense and he had to get out before he was cremated.
Stanton hit the seat belt release and dropped to the ground. He crawled out through the smashed driver's side window and struggled to his feet. His clothes were steaming and he felt his skin being scalded as he staggered away.
He ripped and tore at his clothes, stripping to nakedness. Stanton began running, surviving on adrenaline now. His only instinct was to get as far away from the car as possible. He staggered and ran for what seemed like forever, his lungs bursting, and still he ran ... and ran ... and ran ... until he fell into emptiness. The water in a small stream ended his fall and shocked his body with its coldness.
The waters soothing quality lessened the burning sensation on Stanton's skin, but the ache in his shoulder still would not go away. Even so, the dulling of the pain in the rest of his body allowed his mind to lose focus and he again wondered if this was all a dream. Everything was blurring. His head dropped beneath the stream's surface and his choking and gasping for breath woke him for a third time.
C'mon Stanton, focus. It's not a dream. It's not a dream. He thought talking to himself aloud would help, would keep him conscious and enable both his brain and body to function.
No, this was not a dream. He had to banish that thought from his mind. It could cost him his life. He had to live in the reality of what had happened to him, what was happening to him.
He also realized the trauma of what had happened was taking its toll. He couldn't last much longer, no matter what the stakes. With his last bit of strength ebbing he felt his feet touch the bottom of the stream. He struggled to shore and crawled onto the dry sand at the edge of the creek. Crawling until he no longer had control of his mind or body, Stanton Wells collapsed and lapsed into unconsciousness for the final time that evening.
Chapter TwoThirty six years ago, a young man named Taylor Wells was a State Department diplomat assigned to the United States Embassy in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. There, at one of the many Embassy parties for the country's social elite and political powers, he met a young Jordanian girl named Baheera Shareef al-Saghir.
They fell in love.
Baheera's father, a mid-level official with the Jordanian government, seeing that his daughter was madly in love with the American and wanting her to have a life of happiness with this man that she loved, ignored the fundamentalist tradition of arranged unions and, after much cajoling by Baheera and her mother, consented to her marriage to Taylor.
Stanton was born within a year and because of his father's profession as a diplomat, spent his childhood and adolescence alternating between living in Washington, D.C. and various Arab countries in the Middle East, depending upon his father's place of assignment.
Growing up in this lifestyle enabled him to gain an intimate knowledge of the people of the area and how they compared to his countrymen in United States.
He felt a closeness to those of Arabic ancestry. They were his mother's people. Their beliefs and way of life fascinated him. As he grew older he continued to study them, not only because of this fascination but also because he wanted to convey his knowledge of what they were really like to his friends in the United States.
He knew Americans had many misconceptions about the people of the Middle East, not only about Jordan, with which we had always had good relations, but much more so about the other Arab nations in the area.
When his father retired from the State Department and accepted a Professorship at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, it seemed natural to Stanton to choose to go to college at OU and major in Middle Eastern Studies.
He obtained a Bachelor's and Master's degree in his major, graduating Summa Cum Laude in both.
Following in his father's footsteps, he entered Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., seeking a PhD in International Affairs.
He graduated in May, 2001 and, as his father had done, went to work for the State Department. He was posted to Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv was a dream assignment for Stanton. He had been taught while growing up that understanding the people of other lands was the key to peace, a diplomat's necessary mindset.
He believed that if the Arabs and the Jews could somehow let go of the past and concentrate on learning about each other as people, people with the same needs and hurts and goals and aspirations, then finally, after thousands of years, they would truly begin to understand each other and peace would soon follow.
A lasting peace in the Middle East. Accomplished with the help of the United States. Accomplished with his help. That was Stanton's goal ... his naive goal ... fifteen years ago, and his mindset the morning of September 11, 2001.
As with most Americans, 9/11 was Stanton's wakeup call. Still, he could not believe that the Arabs, the people of his mother's heritage whom he had come to know and love, could be responsible for such a horrible act.
He believed that they were as distraught as those in his own country about the actions of renegade Islamic fundamentalists and, as did he, wanted nothing more fervently than the quick capture and summary execution of those responsible.
His continuing naiveté about the mindset of the Arab countries of the Middle East, and wanting to disprove what was fact, contributed as much, if not more, to his leaving the State Department and applying for a position at the Department of Homeland Security when it was formed in March, 2003.
As an agent, rather than a diplomat, and with his knowledge of the Arab people, he believed he would be able to gain their trust and prove to his compatriots that Arabs were as horrified as was he by the events of 9/11, especially those living in the United States whom he believed were as patriotic as anyone.
Stanton's resume was an impressive testimony to his intelligence and he would have been accepted into the Department immediately, even if his father had not been well known and respected by those forming the new government agency.
He was assigned to the Investigative Division.
Growing up the son of a diplomat and his childhood lifestyle equipped him with the people skills necessary to earn the trust of others, a necessity in both working with people and gathering information that might be critical to neutralizing a threat.
Liked by everyone he knew, in service and out, he was perceived as a rising star.
He was given five promotions in six years and transferred to the Heartland operations group in Oklahoma City. He became a clandestine agent. It was what he wanted.
In his new position, he was given increasingly significant and sensitive assignments.
Now, after nearly fifteen years of service, Stanton was regarded as one of the best agents in the Department of Homeland Security.
Chapter ThreeSunday Afternoon, August 28, 2016 – Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
"My knees are getting calluses from praying so much. That's the only thing of consequence going on here." Stanton was phoning in his daily report to the Department of Homeland Security Oklahoma City "Heartland" Office.
"Pray that Allah will heal your calluses," Greta, the agent on the desk, answered with mock sympathy, laughing. "If you try to go to a Canadian doctor, you may be up there waiting to get an appointment for a few years with the healthcare system they have."
Stanton grinned. "A lot of help you are. Hey, tell Barry I'm going to break this thing off in another week if nothing happens. Ask him to call me if he disagrees, but there is absolutely no action."
"Okay, but you may get a call. You know how our boss Barry is about terminating assignments early."
"I know. We'll see. Got to go Greta. Time for evening prayers."
"Have a good one Stanton. See you in a few months." Greta was chuckling.
This latest mission was not thought to be dangerous, although Stanton had been involved in some that were during his tenure as an agent, including a recent one in which he was instrumental in thwarting a potentially serious terrorist attack on the water supply of a small town along the Arizona-Mexico border. There had been a gun battle and casualties, but it was explained to the locals as the capture of illegal aliens who had escaped across the border to avoid going on trial for murder in their own country. No one had questioned the explanation and widespread panic was avoided.
The town's populace never knew the threat to their own lives, but there were comments about how the perpetrators looked more like Arabs than Mexicans. The local police force was also kept in the dark about the true nature of what had happened.
This latest assignment of Stanton's was simply to attend prayers at a mosque in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada for a couple of months and keep his eyes and ears open. It was to be an information gathering mission only and essentially a follow-up to a recent incident in Montreal involving the now deceased agent of a newly formed and relatively unknown Russian terrorist group with the acronym CSAR.
CIA intelligence information had disclosed that the Russian group had received money from al Qaeda sources. There was no information as to why the money was given, or what was expected in return, or why the agent had been killed, or who had killed him. In fact, there were still more questions about the incident than answers.
All the Oklahoma City Homeland Security Office knew was that the Russians were rumored to have contacts at the Winnipeg mosque and that the mosque was going to be used as a transfer point for additional funds.
The information source had not been validated and the data was so vague that even Barry Reimer, head of the Oklahoma City office, had doubts as to whether or not the Department's time was being wasted.
Excerpted from Target: Heartland by Edward David Doney Copyright © 2013 by Edward David Doney. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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