My Kind of Town
Don Chapman

Monday, March 14, 2005


Finding Fatima

» Afghan-Iran border

He was merely America's most wanted man, not the world's. While Americans tended to practically spit his name -- as when they were asked to remove their shoes at an airport security check point, that effing bin Laden! -- in the rest of the world he was a heroic figure. There was no need for him to slip quietly across this border.

When his small caravan on horseback reached the high-mountain border crossing near Kusam, elevation 12,327 feet, guards were ready for a Dr. Amir and his medical mission. He was bringing a patient into Iran for emergency treatment.

Which was close enough to true.

Dr. Amir was in fact Ali, Osama's top aide. Osama's kidney condition was deteriorating. He'd been promised modern medical care by a grand imam. And though he carried an Afghan passport identifying him as Nasser al-Faoud, the guards recognized him and offered thanks and prayed for Allah's continued protection, praise his name.

Crossing the border with him was an armed guard of 40 loyal men. At Ali's direction, they loaded into several 4WDs and vans for the ride to Mashhad. Ali and another aide helped Osama into the back of a van converted into a dialysis center.

The machine sucked the toxins from his blood, but could do nothing for the anxiety in his heart. He'd sent his niece Fatima off on jihad to Hawaii, but the Chinese agent who was to meet her at the Honolulu airport, and who had arranged for her apartment and Internet service, was arrested just hours before she arrived. So the poor child, just 21, was all alone.

He wasn't worried about the Chinese agent -- Te-Wu, the Chinese secret police, had a reputation for never having betrayed a confidence in more than 1,000 years of service. But his niece, as intelligent as she was, was raised as a modest Muslim girl and had no worldy experiences. She did, however, have a bank account in Hawaii. And a secret e-mail address when she was able to get to a computer.

He was a patient man, fighting a war that would continue long after his passing, so he would wait for word from her, or from Awad, the head of his Hawaii cell whom he'd tasked with finding Fatima.

They were crossing the Nashaf River and entering Mashhad, where he would be the guest of the grand imam in his palace, when Ali's cell phone beeped. The message from Awad had been relayed as an e-mail halfway round the globe, passing through several anonymous conduits, some without their knowing it. Ali received it as a message from Osama's answering service: "Fatima found ... She and a local female with what appears to be local male, drove to Pearl Harbor, and out to Ford Island ... Will continue to update."

Allah be praised, his niece was doing very well on her own.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com

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