Mother of Satan: The Disinformation Highway
(This is the continuation of a serial novel. For previous chapters click HERE.)
The prisoner’s real name was Ramzi Kamel.
He had a clean record, a doctorate in physics, and he was listed in fair but stable condition at George Washington Hospital. Ramzi was far more dangerous than Mohammad. Like Mohammad, Ramzi was educated in the United States and spoke perfect English.
No intelligence agency had been able to directly link him to a single terrorist act and this fact enabled Ramzi Kamel to travel the world with impunity. Formerly an explosive expert, Ramzi had more recently shifted his focus to the quieter world of electrical sabotage.
He knew how to trigger critical power outages at the major inter-ties. When one of these critical ties exceeded its maximum current it would overload. That overload would then cause the meltdown of other critical inter-ties. This would trigger what utility companies call a “cascading event” which can cause entire states to lose electricity. With the simple flip of a switch or two in cyberspace, Ramzi could cause trains to collide, paralyze police and fire operations and disable the traffic lights of an entire city. Ramzi Kamel’s specialty was the disinformation highway.
On the day of Kyle Lipskey’s fateful raid, Ramzi Kamel had just arrived in Washington. He was traveling with his real passport instead of one of a half dozen others he traveled under when “consulting” abroad. The throng of reporters gathered in the hospital lobby had not yet been informed Ramzi was not the Shenandoah Bomber. They were growing impatient.
Irwin Rogers picked up the phone on his office desk and called Darren Harrison at home.
“Darren, are you ever lucky that you were off,” Rogers said.
“What happened?” Harrison asked.
“The interview with Jennifer Vallos went better than expected. She gave me the address of a suspect named Mohammad. He was last seen with Alexi on the night he was murdered. Seems that on the night in question, Alexi and Mohammad had an argument. Get this — over a blow job of all things. Mohammad wanted Jennifer to give him some head and Alexi agreed, but he couldn’t get Jennifer to go along,” Rogers said.
“So he killed him because he couldn’t get some head? I don’t know man, that sounds pretty lame,” Harrison said skeptically.
“You haven’t heard lame yet,” Rogers responded. “It gets worse. Turns out the FBI wanted Mohammad all along. I’ll need to give you the details in person, but for now let’s just say that this dude is into some very heavy terrorist shit. Foggs called me into to his office as soon as I got back from the Jennifer Vallos interview and told me to back off — that it’s a federal thing now and I’m only to assist them. The FBI decides they’re going to take him down in a raid so they come in like gangbusters — EST — the works.
“Just before the raid goes down, the Agent in Charge announces to the team that Lou Ciano had just died in the hospital. Needless to say our man gets himself a serious hickory shampoo during the course of his arrest. Now it turns out they got the wrong guy. The man we have in custody is named Ramzi Kamel — not Mohammad and Customs has verified his airtight alibi. Kamel entered the country today.
“The FBI is tearing the townhouse apart as we speak. They’re looking for anything they can find to link this guy in as an accomplice. Meanwhile, as the assistant, I get to write my statement here at the office. Everyone around here is on edge here so if I hang up suddenly you’ll know now that Foggs came in.”
“I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Lou Ciano, Irwin. Did he have a family?” Harrison asked sympathetically.
“ A wife and two kids — a boy 7 and a girl 12. Merry Christmas huh!” Rogers said sarcastically. Suddenly the irony of his own words lingered in Rogers’ mind inexplicably, as though the words themselves contained an ominous premonition. In less than three weeks it would be Christmas.
“I wish I was there to watch your back Irwin,” Harrison said sincerely. “If you need anything — you’ve got my number.”
Suddenly Rogers could hear the voice of Kyle Lipskey approaching from down the hallway. He was talking to Alphonso Foggs.
“Gotta go,” Rogers said quickly before hanging up the phone.
Rogers dutifully resumed writing his statement for the benefit of their entrance.
The two men entered the room and only Kyle Lipskey greeted Rogers with a question.
“How’s the statement coming, detective?”
“Be through in a minute,” Rogers replied while feverishly writing. He pretended not to notice the obvious disdain these two men were trying to impart upon him.
“When you’re through I’ll see you in my office,” Foggs said.
Rogers turned and looked back into the eyes of Alphonso Foggs and then at Kyle Lipskey before nodding his head in agreement. “I’m finished now sir,” Rogers said.
Rogers left the room with Foggs while Lipskey remained behind in the squad room. Once in his office, Foggs shut the door and turned to face Rogers. The two men were standing toe to toe.
“I’m going to ask you this once and I expect you to tell me the truth. Do you understand me?” Foggs asked with obvious restraint. The vein in the temple of his head was bulging with anger.
“What exactly did you and Debbie Peerless talk about today?” Foggs asked. “I want to know everything you said.”
“I called the number in my pager not knowing who it was. Then I heard a woman’s voice answer. As soon as she said ‘Debbie Priceless,’ I hung up. I have no idea how she even got my pager number,” Rogers said.
“So tell me Rogers, why were you being such an insubordinate, smart ass at the command post tonight? Do you like baiting me, detective?” Foggs asked.
“In my opinion, it was you baiting me sir. When I approached you to suggest you might need to be vaccinated, I honestly thought you might have been in some danger. How was I supposed to know that you had already been vaccinated? After all — this is supposed to be my case. I’m the senior detective assigned and yet I’ve intentionally been left in the dark, not only by the FBI, but by my own commander as well. Then, when I ask a simple question about when you knew about this terrorist angle, you simply tell me that you ‘knew before I did’ and that I’m supposed to ‘leave it at that’. I’m the one who was dissed here — not you!” Rogers said indignantly.
Silence followed as Foggs stared blankly back at Rogers, assessing what had been said. Rogers hoped that his offense-defense smoke screen would work.
“All right,” Foggs said, “I believe you. Not because of your speech either. I had to make sure you weren’t the leak so it was me who had you paged and I’d do it again. And don’t even think about getting all uppity with me and whine about your treatment. If you’re not happy in homicide, I hear they have a few openings in patrol,” Foggs said sarcastically.
The brass has been threatening to transfer officers back into uniform for the last hundred years or so. Rogers never groveled when he heard this ploy, unlike some detectives he’s known. Not unlike the private sector, police work has its share of back stabbing and butt kissing. There will always be some cops who will be willing to do all kinds of kissing and stabbing to stay out of uniform. To Rogers, wearing a uniform had never been something to be ashamed of. Kissing butt was.
“Sir, I don’t understand. How could you have paged me today when I was standing right in front of you all along? You never got on the phone,” Rogers said.
“I’m sure an experienced detective like yourself can figure out that little piece of the puzzle Rogers. First — I’ve already told you that I had someone else do it and, second — no I’m not gonna tell you who it was! Now why don’t you go back in there with Agent Lipskey and get back to work,” Foggs said, dismissing Rogers with a backward wave of his hand.
Just as he reached for the door Rogers got an ‘Oh, by the way …’
“Oh, by the way. Your partner Harrison has been cleared to come back to work. He starts tomorrow,” Foggs said matter of factly.
Rogers smiled and then looked back at Foggs. He wanted to thank him but then thought better of it.
“That’s good news. We need him,” Rogers replied, trying to conceal his delight. Early in his career he had learned the hard way never to let the brass know when he was pleased. Such openness was almost as dangerous as letting them know when you were displeased.
As he left the room and closed the door behind him, Rogers almost felt ashamed of having to lie to Foggs about Debbie Peerless. It was at that moment he saw Jerry Manley standing alone in the hallway for no particular reason. He appeared even more nervous than his usual shaky self.
“ How’s it going Roger?” Manley asked insincerely. He was trying to appear casual and friendly while avoiding Rogers’ eyes.
“Fine Jerry, how’s it going for you?” Rogers asked while not waiting for his reply. “Wish I could chat, but I’ve gotta go. Beep-beep !” Rogers said with a grin before disappearing down the hallway.
Rogers rejoined Kyle Lipskey in the squad room. He was seated at Harrison’s desk surrounded by a half dozen agents and EST members. The agents were sorting out some of the items seized during their search of the townhouse while the EST members were carefully constructing their statements about about who did what to the violently resisting suspect in custody. Each litany with, “a brief struggle ensued until the suspect was effectively placed under arrest.” Throughout the room, large plastic bags containing shiny metal tubing was being labeled and sealed along with a black vinyl bench rest. Rogers decided that now was as good a time as any to break the ice with Lipskey.
“Kyle, I can join you now that Foggs has assured himself that I’m not the leak,” Rogers said, interrupting their flurry of activity.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Lipskey replied. “Let’s you and me talk in private Irwin. How about the interview room?”
Lipskey entered the room and took the same seat Candy Cole had taken during her interview. Rogers sat in his usual seat.
“I’m going to tell you a true story about something that happened to me last year Irwin and, after I do, I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from,” Lipskey began.
“After the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 we began a manhunt for the person we believed was the mastermind behind the bombing. His name was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. Despite a $2 million reward, Yousef eluded us for nearly two years. He was finally arrested in Pakistan and brought back here to stand trial where he was found guilty. I was one of the agents who was assigned to take him into custody and transport him back to the United States to stand trial. Naturally this was no commercial flight so when we arrived in New York, we had instructed the pilot to divert his approach so we could fly over the World Trade Center. As we were flying over Manhattan, one of the agents pointed out to Yousef how the building that was bombed was still standing. Do you know what his response was?” Lipskey asked, not waiting for a reply.
“Yousef turned to the agent and said ‘It wouldn’t be if I had better help.’ Then the son of a bitch smiled. I’m telling you all this because I want you to know the kind of mentality we’re dealing with. This is not your run-of-the-mill street punk who whacks someone over a couple rocks of crack cocaine. People don’t seem to understand this yet, but the Oklahoma bombing would have seemed mild compared to what could have happened at the World Trade Center had the detonation gone differently. What I’m saying is that we were very lucky that there wasn’t ‘better help.’ Otherwise thousands of innocent civilians would have died.”
“Now I don’t know what kind of internal politics are going on here in Homicide and quite frankly Irwin, I don’t give a shit. All I care about is apprehending this murdering son of bitch before he kills again and I’m not going to allow any petty in-house bickering to hinder my investigation. Understood?” Lipskey asked pointedly.
“Not a problem Kyle,” Rogers replied. “Now that we’re getting everything off, our chest let me tell you where I’m coming from. I don’t expect to be left in the dark anymore about what’s going on concerning this case. My partner and I could have walked into the middle of this thing totally blind …”
“No,” Lipskey interrupted, “we were monitoring your progress. We wouldn’t have let that happen.”
“Monitoring our progress?” Rogers yelled. “Fuck that bullshit that you were monitoring our progress Lipskey. I’m telling you we don’t always tell your man Foggs everything we’re doing the moment we do it. I said we could have walked in on something.” Rogers waited for an objection in Lipskey’s eyes and saw none. Now he was certain Foggs had been Lipskey’s stoolie all along.
“Point well taken,” Lipskey agreed. “From now on we’re a team. I promise that you’ll know everything I know — fair enough?”
“Fair enough,” Rogers responded, rising to his feet to extend a handshake.
The two men stood facing each other across the table, smiling in agreement as they shook hands.
Rogers couldn’t wait to test this newly formed alliance.
“The guy who’s in custody at George Washington Hospital Center … have we got anything on him yet?” Rogers asked.
“That’s priority one Irwin,” Lipsky agreed, while acknowledging another agent’s gesture that he had a phone call. “As soon as the doctors say it’s all right to interview this suspect, we’re going to ask him to explain how all that blood, semen and pubic hair wound up in his weight room. There were enough samples to indicate that someone may have been murdered. The victim may have been drugged. We found a hospital size bottle of chloroform, which under federal law, is a controlled and dangerous substance.”
Lipskey answered the phone. It was Agent Parker. In the trunk of a black sedan parked in back of the townhouse they found the body of Raymond Jones, also known as Cupcake.
Airborne All the Way
Years earlier, when Gen. Maxwell Howell took command of the 101st Airborne Division, it was a sweltering hot Kentucky afternoon in August. Practically the entire division stood assembled in formation awaiting the new general’s arrival, to include his predecessor, Gen. Thomas Compton. Howell had staged a grand entrance. He parachuted in, landing directly on target, at full attention in front of Compton. Howell’s deep set eyes and square jaw exuded his self confidence as he stood at full attention, trim and fit as any 50-year-old man on the planet. After his parachute collapsed, Howell’s first words were amplified over the public address system as he saluted the departing Compton.
“Airborne all the way Sir!” Gen. Howell exclaimed.
While Compton was less inclined to appreciate these theatrics, the troops loved it. They finally had a leader who was one of them. Compton returned Howell’s salute that day and executed an about face into the world he better understood — politics and promotion. Compton would later rise to become the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, however he would always envy and respect Howell from that day on.
Based largely on that respect and his appreciation of the full potential of the 101st Airborne Division in battle, Compton personally selected the 101st to enter Washington if a biological incident occurred. Until such action became necessary, life at the 101st would be drill, drill, drill. Riot control training, decontamination training, deployment training, along with medical and morgue evacuation procedures.
Only the upper echelon knew for sure these exercises were much more than a drill. It wasn’t long after their inoculations that the rank and file began sensing the urgency of their deployment at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
Troop deployment exercises were accomplished on the weekends to give the appearance they were the National Guard on a weekend training mission. They would converge on the major arteries that approached Washington, D.C., always stopping just short of entering it. Their orders were clear. They were not to alarm the public and Gen. Maxwell Howell always followed his orders to the letter. Until those orders changed, he could only hope that there would never be a reason to enter the city.
Howell was uncomfortable with biological warfare. Anthrax was an invisible killer. Howell’s weapons of choice made noise and his targets were the soldiers of the enemy. True, as in any war, he had killed innocents, but never intentionally.
“What kind of coward would deliberately attack innocent and unarmed citizens?” Howell asked of his adjutant one day during maneuvers.
The adjutant, Capt. Eric Stumeyer, weighed his response carefully as he typically did with all his responses to the general. “A terrorist coward, general,” Stumeyer replied, “it’s the nature of the beast.”
Karun on the Run
Mohammad Karun gazed at the picture of Ramzi Kamel on the front page of the morning newspaper and he realized at that moment, that were it not for divine intervention, it would have been him instead of Ramzi now being tortured. The goddess of fate, al-Manat, watches over me, he thought. This was another sign there is a holy blessing upon my mission.
At dusk, the night before, Mohammad approached the townhouse from the rear alleyway. He was wearing a heavy stadium jacket with his hood up to shield him from the cold. It was then he noticed the suspicious vans parked along the street together with an unmarked Chevrolet that sprouted far too many antennas. Alarmed by their presence, Mohammad continued down the street and off to safety, leaving Ramzi to his fate.
Since this narrow escape, Mohammad had taken the precaution to shave off his beard and trim his eyebrows. His head was now completely bald, making him appear more like a Buddhist monk than a Muslim. He now laid upon his motel bed, squinting to read the fine print of the morning newspaper, having been forced to leave his reading glasses in the townhouse. His long fingers with their hairy knuckles curled slowly around the page turning it to A 17, The Shenandoah Bomber Escapes cont ….
Mohammad was grateful that he had plenty of American currency. Paying for new shelter would never be a problem. He addressed the motel clerk as Senor, registering under the name of Diego Vargas. He paid for his room in cash, a week in advance. Mohammad, who was fluent in Spanish, had often traveled under an Hispanic pretense.
He realized he would need new clothing before going to the safe deposit box to make his withdrawal. There was plenty of time left. Looking at the newspaper photograph of Ramzi’s bloody face filled Mohammad with rage. He could not wait to see these infidels vomiting their own blood in the agony of their death. May they rot in the misery their leaders have caused others, he thought. This would be a holy war. A Jihad of the sword.
As Mohammad continued to read the newspaper article, he noted that Lee Williams, a prominant Washington attorney, had entered his appearance on Ramzi’s behalf. He is the same attorney Mohammad had been instructed to contact were he ever to be apprehended.
Mohammad read on, fully engrossed in the story. Williams was arguing for the release of his client. “The government has the wrong man and they know it,” said Lee Williams, Kamel’s attorney. “By continuing to detain my client they are compounding one injustice with another. Ramzi Kamel arrived in Washington only hours before his arrest. The Shenandoah bombing took place a week ago at which time my client was in Iran. The government knows this, just as they know perfectly well that Mr. Kamel is a law-abiding physicist with a spotless record. He is a teacher — not a terrorist,” Williams proclaimed, “and the government refuses to produce a shred of evidence that proves otherwise.”
According to the article, the disposition of the case was now up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which had the matter under review. An unnamed source within the Justice Department was reported to have said that the case against Kamel appears “weak — at best.” Ira Goldberg, the U.S. Attorney in charge of the case, stated that “There will be no rush to judgment in this case or, for that matter, any other case that is handled by this office.”
A Jew, thought Mohammad with disdain, Ramzi will never receive justice in a Zionists courtroom.
Then Mohammad read the statement of Kyle Lipskey, the agent in charge. “The Shenandoah bombing which took the life of Agent Lou Ciano and 18 others, was the act of a coward. This man must and will be brought to justice.”
Calling us cowards has become an American cliché. Even the President does it. And to what purpose? Do you think you sound tough and brave when you insult me from afar, laughed Mohammad to himself. You — calling me — a coward. I am but one voice calling to you from the desert and you are the army in my pursuit.
I fight with the only weapons available to me and they now make you tremble. You have been living in a fool’s paradise called the United States. Did you really believe that your shores would be safe forever? Nothing is beyond the arm of our vengeance infidels. I have a question for this government spy named Lipskey. Are you prepared to die as I am? Would a coward lay down his life so willingly? You know nothing!
Mohammad had not eaten in three days and he only drank water at night. He enjoyed fasting. The discipline and pain of hunger gave him strength. He was losing weight rapidly. Fasting was a sign of moderation and submission to God’s will. One of the five pillars of his faith that the Holy Man Reza had taught him. Reza had led him to the path of his Islamic revival and he was fully prepared to defend Islam, the home of the first man and the first prophet Mohammad. Now he must prepare for the Night Ride for soon he would be worthy to ascend to the Gate of the Watchers.
Shahada is the first pillar, the faith in one God and his prophet Mohammad. The second pillar is Salat, prayer given five times a day while facing Mecca. Zakat is the third pillar, Almsgiving, the practice of charity. Giving of the worldly goods acknowledges that all things truly belong only to God.
The forth pillar — Sawm — is the month of fasting. Mohammad read one-thirteenth of the holy Koran each night of fasting. The fifth and final pillar is Hajj — the duty of all Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetimes.
Mohammad was looking pale and gaunt. His complexion was ashen-blue. Large, dark circles had formed beneath his sad, brown eyes. The baldness of his shaven head accentuated this appearance of illness, as though he were undergoing radiation treatments that were failing.
Mohammad felt himself dreaming of his youth and yearning for its innocence. He remembered how he and Alexi had played the game of king and general in the sands of the desert. How prophetic those games had proven to be in the end. Mohammad had killed many times in his life, but never until now had he felt the agony of remorse.
The memory of killing Alexi was haunting Mohammad and filling his soul with great pain. That night, Mohammad had demanded his woman to provoke Alexi to insult him. Mohammad needed some anger to fuel him to do this hardest of things.
Instead Alexi had yielded to his request willingly in the name of their friendship. They all had to die, starting with the hardest to kill first. There must be no trail back that could provide an excuse for war. It must appear as a single act, committed by an individual, for which no country could be held liable.
The old network had to be destroyed. So it was that I killed my best friend and trusted lieutenant he thought. Achmed who drove me that night, had to be next. Now the slate was nearly clean. I will ask their forgiveness when I join them in Paradise, he silently thought. But he could not stop thinking.
Mohammad tossed down the newspaper and turned on the television. The News at Noon was about to begin. The lead story showed Ackmed’s black sedan being searched by investigators as they removed Cupcake’s body from the trunk.
Once again Mohammad felt that strange desire overcome him as he recalled their last evening together. He became aroused when he saw the high heal dangling from the rigid leg of the body as it was removed from the trunk. The cold weather had been kind to the corpse, he thought. An enhanced photo taken from his Virginia driver’s license flashed on the television monitor. It depicted Mohammad with and without a beard. He now realized that he should have taken the time to burn the car.
I have led an unworthy life, he thought. My only purpose has been to serve others as their weapon. First for the Shah and now, at long last, for Allah. In the end I will reform and purify myself. There is so much for which I am ashamed in this world. The weakness of my flesh.
My father, a Dervish, was known for his addiction to ecstatic experiences. He was a profligate person, licentious and extreme. Perhaps he is why I sense this pleasure while watching the twisting squirms of those I kill. The intoxication I feel from the wine of an enemy’s blood. These are inner thoughts for which I can find no explanation nor method to control. Even now, during fast, my thoughts are invaded by the temptations of sex, from which I must — and will — abstain.
After reflecting back upon his life, Mohammad was more than merely resigned to death. He was welcoming it.
The Visiting Hours
Kyle Lipskey and Darren Harrison entered the cell block together. It was Harrison’s first day back on the job and he felt a little uncomfortable at having to partner up with Lipskey. At the last minute Irwin Rogers had received an urgent phone call from Phil Donovan at the CIA. Something had come up and Rogers had to meet with him at Donovan’s home in McLean.
Lipskey and Harrison were about to meet Ramzi Kamel face to face for the first time. Kamel had been released from the hospital and was being held in a specially secured confinement area in the Courthouse, far away from the general population of the jail. These were the special visiting hours, when inmates weren’t allowed visitors unless they wore a badge.
Ramzi looked up at the two men as they entered his cell. Harrison was wearing his black London Fog trench coat which exaggerated the already enormous appearance of his 6-foot, 6-inch frame. Kamel looked up at Harrison with frantic eyes. Kamel’s face was still swollen from the hickory shampoo that he’d received the night of his arrest. Large clumps of missing hair exposed the stitches he had received. Stitches that were bursting at their seams, swelling to the size of golf balls.
“My lawyer has instructed me to say nothing,” Kamel yelled frantically.
“No one else can hear you Mr. Kamel, so you can spare me the theatrics,” Lipskey said patiently. “Calm down, try and relax. We’re just here to talk.”
“I have nothing to say to you. Please leave,” Kamel demanded, trying to sound as though he were in control.
“You don’t have to say anything Mr. Kamel but, there is one thing you should also know. I don’t have to leave until I feel like it. For now it would be a good idea if you just listened,” Lipskey said while sitting down on the chair opposite his bunk and facing him.
Harrison remained standing, staring coldly at Kamel at a right angle to where he was seated on the bed.
“You’re wasting your time. I will never speak to you,” Kamel said defiantly.
“Mr. Kamel please listen to your rights,” Lipskey said as he withdrew his Miranda card and began spouting the litany of rights this Iranian National had as a result of his arrest in this country.
Harrison passed the time listening to this obligatory Miranda warning being read aloud by putting his own spin on the words and paraphrasing them in his mind.
You have the right to keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to say anything and you’d be a complete idiot if you did. Anything you do say, can and will be turned around and broken off in your ass. You have the right to hire a sleezeball and to have him with you during questioning for as long as you have the 300 bucks an hour that he’s going to overbill you.
If you are a poor terrorist and cannot afford a sleezeball of your own, we promise to find you one that’s fresh out of law school and who will be willing to add you to the long list of clients who have already pled guilty. And last but not least, if for any reason during questioning you decide that you no longer want to tell us about the bomb, we promise to stop questioning you, even if you are about to tell us where and when it will detonate.
Welcome to America motherfucker.
“These are your rights. Do you understand these rights?” Lipskey asked while tucking the Miranda card back into his credentials wallet.
“ I understand nothing … only that I’m innocent. I have been beaten and tortured for a crime I know nothing of.”
“Why don’t you save that bullshit for the lawsuit Kamel, you piece of shit,” Harrison yelled, stepping in Kamel’s direction.
Lipskey glanced at Harrison and held up his hand as a gesture for him to back off.
“ Not yet,” Lipskey said.
“Not yet … what you mean ‘Not yet?’” Kamel asked.
“He wants to take you to CIA Headquarters Mr. Kamel and we, that is to say the FBI, don’t want to see that happen. You know of the CIA, don’t you Mr. Kamel?” Lipskey asked, not waiting for a reply. “They want to take you to their headquarters for questioning. If they do, I may never know what happens to you after that. What you should know is that Mohammad is saying one thing to the CIA and you, unfortunately are saying nothing.”
Harrison could smell the fear emanating from Kamel’s body. He picked up the clue Lipskey had sent him.
“Let me take him to the CIA now so that he can join his friend Mohammad,” Harrison pretended to beg.
Just then Harrison’s cell phone ran. In the middle of their lie Irwin Rogers had decided to call from Phil Donovan’s house in McLean.
“Harrison,” he answered.
Except for a “Uh – huh” or an “ I see” Harrison said nothing while a slow, broad smile began to fill his face.
“Oh yeah … I’ll ask him … and Irwin – do me a favor. Tell Mohammad I believe him now, OK?”
Then Harrison walked over to Kamel and ordered him to stand. Kamel obeyed the order from this huge, black man without question. Lipskey remained silent, not having a clue as to what Harrison was going to do next.
“Your man Mohammad is having a real tough time over there at the CIA, Ramzi. I’ll say one thing for him. He sure is doing a whole lot of talking about you my friend,” Harrison smiled while looking down at the disbelieving but frightened face of Ramzi Kamel.
“He told us to ask you if you’ve caused any major power outages lately. I understand you like to turn a city’s lights off. Is that true? Do you still like to watch trains crash after you turn their signals off?”
Harrison waited for the acknowledgment he knew would show in Kamel’s eyes. When that moment came, Harrison pretended he needed to leave. He summoned the guard and then looked at Lipskey to offer his explanation.
“That was my boss at the CIA,” Harrison explained. “The White House just called and the president has ordered that Mr. Kamel be taken to CIA Headquarters immediately. You can talk to him for five more minutes and then I’m afraid we’ll have to go. After that, no one will be allowed to see him again … not even his lawyer, Mr. Williams. Understood Lipskey ?”
Without so much as the hint of a smile, Harrison yelled for the guard a second time.
“Let me talk to you about this in private — please,” Lipskey asked urgently.
“Fine,” Harrison agreed, “but there’s nothing I can do now. You heard the man. The president wants him gone in five minutes. That’s — that!”
When the guard arrived, Lipskey and Harrison hurried down the hallway and entered a private office in the adjoining wing.
“What the fuck was all that about?” Lipskey demanded as he shut the door behind him.
“You’re not going to believe this Kyle, but that really was the CIA. That was Rogers who called. He just got through interviewing Phil Donovan at his house.
“Turns out the CIA thinks this Kamel dude is a terrorist too. They only know him by his code name. Night Ride … Night Rider … something like that. Anyway, his specialty is causing major power blackouts, and they think he may have come here to help Mohammad with his mission. That’s all I know. Did you see the look on his face when I mentioned power outages?”
“Yeah I saw it. But why the hell did you have to bring the president into this for Christ sakes? Kamel’s attorney is gonna love that part.”
“Relax.The Supreme Court said it’s OK if we lie and besides … who used to say it’s better to tell one big lie than a lot of little ones?”
“His name was Adolph Hitler,” Lipskey said, not amused.
“That’s him — Adolph,” Harrison laughed loudly. “Now why don’t you go back in there and tell the man he has a couple of minutes left until I come back. After that it’s La-La-land. Trust me. He’s in there sweating his ass off. You forget, where he comes from they cut the arms off of thieves. Would he tell the cops in his country to go fuck themselves? Chill out Kyle. I know you can do it man.”
“I hope you’re right, for both our sakes.”
When Lipskey returned to the cell, Ramzi Kamel stopped his pacing long enough to look the agent in the eye.
“Are you going to let him take me? I want to call my lawyer. Now! It is my right,” Kamel demanded.
Lipskey had always been a straight, by-the-book agent but, even straight can get bent out of shape when dealing with terrorism. This was war, yet the rules were supposed to stay the same. The law says this case gets handled the same way a bank robbery does. Collect the evidence, build a case and then get a warrant.
The truth is that getting a warrant for a terrorist was often a waste of time, especially when the country your trying to extradite from secretly sponsored the terrorism to begin with. At home the terrorist is regarded as a hero, which explains why suspects responsible for blowing airplanes out of the sky 10 years ago are still at large. And now Mr. Kamel sits in his cell demanding a phone call.
“ I’m very sorry, sir,” Lipskey replied, “but I’m no longer in charge of this case. I have been told by my superiors that I have failed to obtain any information from you and, since the CIA is having no problem getting information from Mohammad, they figured that it will be more productive for all concerned if you also were to be held in their custody.”
“But the Constitution says I can make a phone call. It is my right!” Kamel yelled.
“The Constitution says you can have the right to a phone call? That’s right, I forgot that you’re a college professor aren’t you? I wasn’t aware they had phones back when the Constitution was written.”
“I won’t go. You will have to kill me first,” Kamel said.
“He will sedate you if you resist. I’ve seen him do it before. Why are you being so difficult? Ramzi, try to look at it from our point of view. We know all about the plan to spread the anthrax. Now try to imagine if you were in charge and I was your prisoner. You have a responsibility to protect the lives of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands of people.”
“Two men are left who can finally put an end to this nightmare. One is cooperating and the other is not. What would you do?” Lipskey asked, silently hoping he had not been too specific.
“Why do you need my cooperation if you have the cooperation of Mohammad? Mr. Williams told me that you did not find Mohammad and that you thought at first I was him.”
“Mr. Williams is correct. What he doesn’t know is that the CIA caught Mohammad early this morning while he was trying to return to the townhouse and they don’t have to give press releases. Between you and me, Mohammad will never be officially arrested now that they CIA has him.”
“The CIA is an evil organization. You know that don’t you? The FBI does not do such things, but some people often mistake our kindness for weakness,” Lipskey said.
“Do you call this kindness?” Kamel yelled while pointing to his stitches.
“No I do not,” Lipskey agreed, secretly loathing each conciliatory syllable he had to utter to Kamel.
“It was wrong what they did to you and the men who hurt you shall be punished. They allowed the death of a comrade to affect their judgment. But Ramzi, they did not kill you, like Agent Ciano and the others and since becoming my prisoner you have not been touched again. Is that not true?” Lipskey asked, trying to bring Kamel to concede that first — all important yes.
Kamel nodded his head slowly in agreement.
Lipskey could see that Kamel was considering that all-important, first big step. In the slang vernacular, Ramzi Kamel was getting ready to “roll over” or “flip.” From this moment on, there could be a hundred things that could trigger him to change his mind. A look in the investigator’s eyes, a specific factual error, a deal too good to be true or one that’s not good enough.
Between the two men now lay a virtual minefield of verbal errors the investigator must be careful to avoid in these final moments. Officially, no promises or inducements are ever made to coerce a statement from a suspect. In practice, it happens every day within a system that is laced with subtle hypocrisy.
“For what it’s worth, Mr. Kamel, I don’t believe you are the mastermind behind all this. I think it’s Mohammad who pulls the strings and he’s using you to get off easy.”
“What incentive do I have to tell you anything?” Kamel asked, leaning back against the cell bars in contemplation.
Right on cue, Kamel’s incentive began his approach from down the hallway. The hollow sounds of Darren Harrison’s size 14 triple E footsteps could be heard echoing off the steel walls. In his hand, Harrison held the largest hypodermic needle of water Kyle Lipskey had ever seen.
Harrison’s huge hands clenched the syringe and pressed the plunger splattering an ounce of water off the cell ceiling. Detective Harrison and Agent Lipskey had definitely crossed the line and there was no turning back now.
“It’s Rock-a-bye Baby time, Kamel. Get on your feet,” Harrison said as though he couldn’t wait to stuff the needle into Kamel’s arm.
“I will tell you all I know Agent Lipskey. Just let me stay with the FBI. I do not want to go with that man and I will not. Before Lipskey could move to stop him, Kamel lunged forward, head down, and rammed his own skull into the steel cell bars. Blood spurted into the air and rained down upon Lipskey’s blue, pinstriped suit.
“All right,” Lipskey yelled as he grabbed Kamel by his shoulders and threw him back onto his bed. “You can stay.”
The sounds of screaming prompted the guard to check his monitor. He came running down the hallway to assist when he was stopped by the halting frame of Darren Harrison.
“It’s OK brother man — we got it under control,” Harrison assured. “Fool tried to ram his head into the cell bars to make us look bad. We could use some restraints.”
“Does he need medical attention?” the guard asked.
Harrison wished he could remember the guard’s name without glancing at his nameplate and losing the personal connection in the process.
“Not right now, Cool. Let’s just get him restrained first.”
As the guard turned to run down the hall for some leather restraints, Harrison withdrew the syringe from the pocket of his black trench coat.
“Motherfucker I’ve had enough of your shit,” Harrison yelled while holding the needle high in the air for Kamel to see from his bed.
“No … PLEASE!” Kamel screamed.
Lipskey turned and grabbed Harrison’s arm and took away the syringe. “Leave him alone. I’m not letting you take him.”
“Who the fuck are you to tell me shit, Lipskey?” Harrison demanded convincingly. “I’ll be back with my own people next time. Your career is finished.” s
And so probably is mine, he thought.
Harrison turned in mock disgust, slamming the cell door behind him. “I’ll be seeing you later Kamel,” he yelled as he stormed down the hallway to smooth things over with the guard.
Kamel was curled up in the fetal position, trembling in his bed. His forehead was swelling, but the bleeding had stopped. He now had one more knot on his head to add to his growing collection. He also had a few things he ready to tell Agent Kyle Lipskey.
Lee Williams went ballistic when he discovered the manner in which his client had given his “confession.” He filed a formal complaint against both Darren Harrison and Kyle Lipskey with their respective agencies and then he called a press conference.
Williams had hired a private investigator to accompany him to the jail. The investigator managed to take several close-up photographs of Ramzi Kamel’s freshly swollen head. These photographs, together with a prepared statement, were released to the media during a noon press conference.
As Mr. Kamel’s attorney I must strongly object to the manner in which he is being coerced and beaten into confession. Last night my client was literally tortured in his cell by an agent of the FBI together with a local detective of the Metropolitan Police Force. My client, who was already suffering from multiple head injuries, was repeatedly rammed, head first, into the steel bars of his cell. In addition, Mr. Kamel was threatened with a large syringe which was purported to contain a lethal dose of the AIDS virus. These highly illegal interrogation tactics are unworthy of a Banana Republic, much less the United States.
To be continued …
(Feature photo: Author George Munkelwitz providing airline security during a presidential visit in Sarasota)
George Munkelwitz has been a law enforcement officer for 32 years. He spent 22 years patrolling the streets as a Prince George’s County Police officer. He served in Vietnam as a military intelligence specialist where he worked with the controversial Phoenix Program. Prior to the anthrax attack, he was writing the book “The Mother of Satan.” After the anthrax attack, an article appeared in the Washington Times magazine Insight, quoting his expertise in military intelligence, and mentioning his book. ABC news interviewed him but he felt the network treated him like a suspect and not an expert in the field. He never published the book after that interview. Nearly two decades later, his serial novel is finally published by Baltimore Post-Examiner.