by Captivating Author

Tom Garland

David Rush awakens  to a reality 

                     he never knew existed....

 

CHAPTER 1 

 

           Since the murder of his wife John Campbell had separated himself from everyone and everything that once defined his existence. Not a day passed that he did not think of his beloved Kara. Since her death John had chosen the path of solitude. When he left the CIA, he did so without fanfare, or farewells. A simple hand written note to the director of his resignation had been mailed without a return address. No explanation was needed. John faded into obscurity. He’d check on his parents in Illinois once a month, either a quick surprise visit or a hurried telephone conversation. He’d spoken to his brother one time since Kara’s murder two years earlier.

          John had never been accused of being an optimist; yet he excelled in everything he didn’t think he could do. John was that way. His degree was criminal law with a minor in creative writing. Neither path overly excited him. So when a recruiter with the Central Intelligence Agency approached him just before graduation he accepted their offer without hesitation. Relieved he didn’t have to pound the pavement looking for a job.

          John barely broke a sweat going through the CIA’s rigorous training program. He excelled in the elite surreptitious training; in which a privilege few were handpicked. John Campbell quickly became their go to man. In the field he proved to be one of the agencies most prolific operations officers. For ten years John had put his life on the line for his country without a second thought. He had done amazing things for his country that he could never tell anyone about, not even his wife. Kara would have never been able to handle knowing that side of her husband.

          But that was then.

          The last two years since Kara’s murder John Campbell buried himself in his new work. Actually the first year he had simply buried

 

                                                                                                                                            9

 

10                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

himself. He’d spend his time writing sappy poetry about his dead wife. He had a pile of short stories, all first drafts with no motivation to perfect any of them. Then one afternoon while having lunch at an outdoor café in the West End near downtown Dallas, he overheard a table of women complaining about the men in their lives. It was all the motivation he needed. He got the crazy idea to write an advice column for men on how to treat women. John sent the idea to a number of newspapers. The Fort Worth Star Telegram was the only paper to respond to his idea. A month later John received calls from four other papers wanting to print his column. A year later close to a hundred papers printed his weekly column. He became somewhat of a cult hero among women. John used the pseudonym Mr. K, in memory of his wife, as his pen name.

          John had grown up in Quincy, Illinois in the heart of Midwest America. The son of farmers, John had always loved the outdoors and never shied away from hard work. After Kara’s murder his parents tried talking him into moving back. But John had loved Dallas during his college years at SMU and the decision to make Dallas his home was an easy one. Dallas was large enough to get lost in, yet not so crowded to feel smothered. The Uptown area, near the A/A center where the Mavericks played basketball, a relatively new developed area of Dallas, was littered with high rise condos, restaurants and clubs. Downtown was within walking distance. John made his residence on the fortieth floor of Plaza D. The only thing above him was the roof, which had been turned into a park, complete with trees, grass and running path. Plaza D had everything a single man could possibly desire. Weeks would pass without John ever leaving the building. This particular morning he decided to take his laptop and walk downtown for coffee and a bagel at a little café he enjoyed called Jenny’s.

          The day was November Ninth and in this part of Texas the weather was near perfect. Seventy degrees, crystal blue sky and a light northern breeze. On days like this he wished Jenny’s had outdoor seating. He ordered his usual house blend java, black, with a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered thick with cream cheese. The time was 9:45 a.m. and most worker bees were on the job. He had the café mostly to himself for the next couple hours. Enough time to finish his column. With his laptop open, his coffee to the side and a mouth full of bagel and cream cheese John typed his advice for the week, Kara always his inspiration. It was

 

                                                                         AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                                    11

 

 

easy writing what he’d do for her and say to her had she been alive. John sat at a table towards the back, yet with a perfect view of Commerce Street through Jenny’s huge picture window. He watched as men and woman strolled hurriedly in their dark suits, cell phones plastered to their ears and swaying leather briefcases keeping rhythm with their gait. He was thankful not to be a part of the rat race. John typed a sentence, and then raised his coffee cup to his lips. His mindless gaze drifted through Jenny’s windowpane. What he saw froze him in place and sent his brain wheeling back in time fifteen plus years.

          Elizabeth Capps stood on the other side of Commerce Street waving down a cab. It was like seeing the dead come to life. For a second he was unable to move before pure instinct jolted him from his chair and racing for the door. He yanked opened the heavy wooden door with frosted glass and yelled over the Commerce Street traffic.

          “Lisa!”

        With four lanes of traffic between them and the hum of the city whining loudly, she could not hear him. She looked anxious, maybe even scared. Not the confident, borderline arrogant, Lisa Capps he had once known. A car, not a cab, came to a screeching halt in front of her. The back door flew open. Elizabeth jumped, nearly leaped into the car. John gave up trying to get her attention when the black Mercedes with heavily tinted windows, accelerated around the corner and was gone.

          Seeing Elizabeth Capps for the first time in – God has it been sixteen years - had literally sucked the air from his lungs. Elizabeth, or Lisa, was the girl all others had been measured by, even his beloved Kara. Although after the second date Kara became the new measuring stick. Of course after Kara a measuring stick was no longer necessary. No one would ever measure up to Kara.

          For a few moments John stared in the direction the Mercedes had sped away before turning back to Jenny’s. Last time he laid eyes on Lisa Capps, he was twenty years old. She had broken up with him and left his heart in pieces. She had barely crossed his mind in the last ten years.

 

-------------------------------------

 

          John was in the motion of opening Jenny’s heavy wooden door when the first explosion nearly knocked him off his feet. The door’s thick frosted glass moaned and popped, but held fast. Before John’s

 

12                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

mind could wrap around and process the first explosion a second, third, and forth, possibly fifth explosion came with the flurry of scud missiles. John held firm to the door handle. His head slammed into the heavy frosted glass just before he fell to the pavement.

        After a moment of disorientation, using the door handle he pulled himself up. A sea of horrified humanity raced towards him and then passed him. Some screamed, many were bleeding, others cried as though the world was coming to an end. The shock from what was happening removed them from reality. Car alarms welled and horns blared. Traffic quickly jammed on Commerce, as many abandoned their vehicles. The sky above grew dark from the heavy smoke caused by the explosions. John was opening the door when three more explosions rocked the ground beneath him. The few people inside Jenny’s were huddled behind the counter screaming hysterically. Jenny stared at John, wide eyed, in a state of shock. Her customers, though scared out of their minds, appeared to be unharmed. Jenny’s massive picture window had imploded, glass was everywhere.   

          “Come on!” John yelled, motioning them to the door. “It’s not safe here. Hurry!”

          Everyone but Jenny followed his order.

          “You, too, Jenny, come on.”

          “I can’t leave my store.” She pointed to the broken window. And then as if nothing else mattered she said, “John, you’re bleeding.” Jenny took the towel tucked inside her apron and started to wipe John’s face. John took the towel from her catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror behind the coffee bar. The right side of his face was covered in blood where his head had collided with the door glass.

          “It’s too dangerous, Jenny, you’ve got to go.”

          “I can’t leave, this is all I have.”

          “Jenny, it’s not an option, you have to go.”

         She could tell by the look in John’s eyes that he probably had a better idea of what was going on than most.

          “I at least need to empty the cash drawer.”

    “Hurry up then!” John shouted, fearing more explosions might be forthcoming.

          Jenny took one last look at the business she had saved years for. It had been her dream to have a place where people could come and gather for a brief and peaceful escape from their hectic lives. She had

                                                                             AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                            13 

 

placed a small sign at the top of the door the first day she had opened for business. It read: Before entering all your cares and worries must be left outside. If you’re lucky they might all be gone by the time you leave. Now as she exited the business she had opened four years earlier the uneasy feeling that she might never see it again flooded her with sadness. “It’ll be okay,” John said. “What’s lost here can be replaced. Human life cannot be replaced, now go.” Jenny paused at the door. “What’s happening, John?” John just shook his head and nudged her on. “Aren’t you coming?” Jenny said. “I’ll be right behind you.” He watched for a second as Jenny disappeared into the mass of humanity.

 

-------------------------------------

 

Commerce Street ran East and West. East was in the thick of downtown and where the explosions had taken place. It was hard to see anything over the throngs of people racing his way.

          Risking the possibility of being trampled to death, John made the fifteen foot journey across the sidewalk to the street. There he climbed on top a cream colored BMW parked curbside. It’s alarm blaring. When he first heard the explosion he thought of 9/11. What he saw now left no doubt. Cars sat dead in the middle of the road, some smashed by the heavy falling glass from towering skyscrapers, enormous plates ofglass an inch thick and weighing a ton. People abandoned their cars, fleeing in unison from the dark force that turned their beautiful day into death and terror. Sirens blared from all directions blending with the screams and cries. John heard a helicopter circling somewhere above the gray cloud of smoke and thought that to be unwise.

          Following his instincts, John began moving towards the chaos that had disrupted so many lives this day. It had always been John’s habit to go against the grain. Today was no different. As everyone ran from the chaos, John ran toward it. It then hit him what lay ahead: The Federal Building. Any doubt of this being a terrorist attack instantly vanished.He had to use the cars lining Commerce to avoid the rush of the crowd.

          He had no idea so many people inhabited downtown during

 

 

 

14                                                                         TOM GARLAND                                                             

 

the day. Each one of the towering skyscrapers could easily hold the population of many small mid-western towns.

          What was he doing? What could he do? The closer he got to the Federal Building the more dead he saw lying still in the street and on the sidewalks. Some, where burnt beyond recognition, others had been severely cut by flying glass. And yet some appeared to have been trampled to death by others trying to save their own lives. He proceeded east. Everyone else moved west.

          John stopped in front of the pinkish granite Federal Building. Its thick walls were unmoved by the explosion. The upper floors, not being heavy granite showed severe exterior damage. The upper west side of the building looked as though Godzilla had taken a huge bite out of the top four floors. Fire blazed through most of the east side windows where the building’s structure was still intact.

          The tallest building in downtown, a seventy-four story glass structure sat across the street. A massive bright red iron sculpture of somebody’s twisted imagination sat on the concrete out front. One of the enormous glass panels had fallen squarely onto the sculpture sending shards of deadly inch thick glass splintering in all directions, like heavy stones rocketing through the air. Another panel had flattened a few cars in the middle of the road before shattering. John was mesmerized by what he saw. This was 9/11 all over again. He then realized it was 11/9. Terrorists with a sick sense of humor, he thought.

          John Campbell clinched his fist.

          It was time to go back to....

 

CHAPTER 

 

           Since the murder of his wife John Campbell had separated himself from everyone and everything that once defined his existence. Not a day passed that he did not think of his beloved Kara. Since her death John had chosen the path of solitude. When he left the CIA, he did so without fanfare, or farewells. A simple hand written note to the director of his resignation had been mailed without a return address. No explanation was needed. John faded into obscurity. He’d check on his parents in Illinois once a month, either a quick surprise visit or a hurried telephone conversation. He’d spoken to his brother one time since Kara’s murder two years earlier.

          John had never been accused of being an optimist; yet he excelled in everything he didn’t think he could do. John was that way. His degree was criminal law with a minor in creative writing. Neither path overly excited him. So when a recruiter with the Central Intelligence Agency approached him just before graduation he accepted their offer without hesitation. Relieved he didn’t have to pound the pavement looking for a job.

          John barely broke a sweat going through the CIA’s rigorous training program. He excelled in the elite surreptitious training; in which a privilege few were handpicked. John Campbell quickly became their go to man. In the field he proved to be one of the agencies most prolific operations officers. For ten years John had put his life on the line for his country without a second thought. He had done amazing things for his country that he could never tell anyone about, not even his wife. Kara would have never been able to handle knowing that side of her husband.

          But that was then.

          The last two years since Kara’s murder John Campbell buried himself in his new work. Actually the first year he had simply buried

 

                                                                                                                                            9

 

10                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

himself. He’d spend his time writing sappy poetry about his dead wife. He had a pile of short stories, all first drafts with no motivation to perfect any of them. Then one afternoon while having lunch at an outdoor café in the West End near downtown Dallas, he overheard a table of women complaining about the men in their lives. It was all the motivation he needed. He got the crazy idea to write an advice column for men on how to treat women. John sent the idea to a number of newspapers. The Fort Worth Star Telegram was the only paper to respond to his idea. A month later John received calls from four other papers wanting to print his column. A year later close to a hundred papers printed his weekly column. He became somewhat of a cult hero among women. John used the pseudonym Mr. K, in memory of his wife, as his pen name.

          John had grown up in Quincy, Illinois in the heart of Midwest America. The son of farmers, John had always loved the outdoors and never shied away from hard work. After Kara’s murder his parents tried talking him into moving back. But John had loved Dallas during his college years at SMU and the decision to make Dallas his home was an easy one. Dallas was large enough to get lost in, yet not so crowded to feel smothered. The Uptown area, near the A/A center where the Mavericks played basketball, a relatively new developed area of Dallas, was littered with high rise condos, restaurants and clubs. Downtown was within walking distance. John made his residence on the fortieth floor of Plaza D. The only thing above him was the roof, which had been turned into a park, complete with trees, grass and running path. Plaza D had everything a single man could possibly desire. Weeks would pass without John ever leaving the building. This particular morning he decided to take his laptop and walk downtown for coffee and a bagel at a little café he enjoyed called Jenny’s.

          The day was November Ninth and in this part of Texas the weather was near perfect. Seventy degrees, crystal blue sky and a light northern breeze. On days like this he wished Jenny’s had outdoor seating. He ordered his usual house blend java, black, with a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered thick with cream cheese. The time was 9:45 a.m. and most worker bees were on the job. He had the café mostly to himself for the next couple hours. Enough time to finish his column. With his laptop open, his coffee to the side and a mouth full of bagel and cream cheese John typed his advice for the week, Kara always his inspiration. It was

 

                                                                         AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                                    11

 

 

easy writing what he’d do for her and say to her had she been alive. John sat at a table towards the back, yet with a perfect view of Commerce Street through Jenny’s huge picture window. He watched as men and woman strolled hurriedly in their dark suits, cell phones plastered to their ears and swaying leather briefcases keeping rhythm with their gait. He was thankful not to be a part of the rat race. John typed a sentence, and then raised his coffee cup to his lips. His mindless gaze drifted through Jenny’s windowpane. What he saw froze him in place and sent his brain wheeling back in time fifteen plus years.

          Elizabeth Capps stood on the other side of Commerce Street waving down a cab. It was like seeing the dead come to life. For a second he was unable to move before pure instinct jolted him from his chair and racing for the door. He yanked opened the heavy wooden door with frosted glass and yelled over the Commerce Street traffic.

          “Lisa!”

        With four lanes of traffic between them and the hum of the city whining loudly, she could not hear him. She looked anxious, maybe even scared. Not the confident, borderline arrogant, Lisa Capps he had once known. A car, not a cab, came to a screeching halt in front of her. The back door flew open. Elizabeth jumped, nearly leaped into the car. John gave up trying to get her attention when the black Mercedes with heavily tinted windows, accelerated around the corner and was gone.

          Seeing Elizabeth Capps for the first time in – God has it been sixteen years - had literally sucked the air from his lungs. Elizabeth, or Lisa, was the girl all others had been measured by, even his beloved Kara. Although after the second date Kara became the new measuring stick. Of course after Kara a measuring stick was no longer necessary. No one would ever measure up to Kara.

          For a few moments John stared in the direction the Mercedes had sped away before turning back to Jenny’s. Last time he laid eyes on Lisa Capps, he was twenty years old. She had broken up with him and left his heart in pieces. She had barely crossed his mind in the last ten years.

 

-------------------------------------

 

          John was in the motion of opening Jenny’s heavy wooden door when the first explosion nearly knocked him off his feet. The door’s thick frosted glass moaned and popped, but held fast. Before John’s

 

12                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

mind could wrap around and process the first explosion a second, third, and forth, possibly fifth explosion came with the flurry of scud missiles. John held firm to the door handle. His head slammed into the heavy frosted glass just before he fell to the pavement.

        After a moment of disorientation, using the door handle he pulled himself up. A sea of horrified humanity raced towards him and then passed him. Some screamed, many were bleeding, others cried as though the world was coming to an end. The shock from what was happening removed them from reality. Car alarms welled and horns blared. Traffic quickly jammed on Commerce, as many abandoned their vehicles. The sky above grew dark from the heavy smoke caused by the explosions. John was opening the door when three more explosions rocked the ground beneath him. The few people inside Jenny’s were huddled behind the counter screaming hysterically. Jenny stared at John, wide eyed, in a state of shock. Her customers, though scared out of their minds, appeared to be unharmed. Jenny’s massive picture window had imploded, glass was everywhere.   

          “Come on!” John yelled, motioning them to the door. “It’s not safe here. Hurry!”

          Everyone but Jenny followed his order.

          “You, too, Jenny, come on.”

          “I can’t leave my store.” She pointed to the broken window. And then as if nothing else mattered she said, “John, you’re bleeding.” Jenny took the towel tucked inside her apron and started to wipe John’s face. John took the towel from her catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror behind the coffee bar. The right side of his face was covered in blood where his head had collided with the door glass.

          “It’s too dangerous, Jenny, you’ve got to go.”

          “I can’t leave, this is all I have.”

          “Jenny, it’s not an option, you have to go.”

         She could tell by the look in John’s eyes that he probably had a better idea of what was going on than most.

          “I at least need to empty the cash drawer.”

    “Hurry up then!” John shouted, fearing more explosions might be forthcoming.

          Jenny took one last look at the business she had saved years for. It had been her dream to have a place where people could come and gather for a brief and peaceful escape from their hectic lives. She had

                                                                             AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                            13 

 

placed a small sign at the top of the door the first day she had opened for business. It read: Before entering all your cares and worries must be left outside. If you’re lucky they might all be gone by the time you leave. Now as she exited the business she had opened four years earlier the uneasy feeling that she might never see it again flooded her with sadness. “It’ll be okay,” John said. “What’s lost here can be replaced. Human life cannot be replaced, now go.” Jenny paused at the door. “What’s happening, John?” John just shook his head and nudged her on. “Aren’t you coming?” Jenny said. “I’ll be right behind you.” He watched for a second as Jenny disappeared into the mass of humanity.

 

-------------------------------------

 

Commerce Street ran East and West. East was in the thick of downtown and where the explosions had taken place. It was hard to see anything over the throngs of people racing his way.

          Risking the possibility of being trampled to death, John made the fifteen foot journey across the sidewalk to the street. There he climbed on top a cream colored BMW parked curbside. It’s alarm blaring. When he first heard the explosion he thought of 9/11. What he saw now left no doubt. Cars sat dead in the middle of the road, some smashed by the heavy falling glass from towering skyscrapers, enormous plates ofglass an inch thick and weighing a ton. People abandoned their cars, fleeing in unison from the dark force that turned their beautiful day into death and terror. Sirens blared from all directions blending with the screams and cries. John heard a helicopter circling somewhere above the gray cloud of smoke and thought that to be unwise.

          Following his instincts, John began moving towards the chaos that had disrupted so many lives this day. It had always been John’s habit to go against the grain. Today was no different. As everyone ran from the chaos, John ran toward it. It then hit him what lay ahead: The Federal Building. Any doubt of this being a terrorist attack instantly vanished.He had to use the cars lining Commerce to avoid the rush of the crowd.

          He had no idea so many people inhabited downtown during

 

 

 

14                                                                         TOM GARLAND                                                             

 

the day. Each one of the towering skyscrapers could easily hold the population of many small mid-western towns.

          What was he doing? What could he do? The closer he got to the Federal Building the more dead he saw lying still in the street and on the sidewalks. Some, where burnt beyond recognition, others had been severely cut by flying glass. And yet some appeared to have been trampled to death by others trying to save their own lives. He proceeded east. Everyone else moved west.

          John stopped in front of the pinkish granite Federal Building. Its thick walls were unmoved by the explosion. The upper floors, not being heavy granite showed severe exterior damage. The upper west side of the building looked as though Godzilla had taken a huge bite out of the top four floors. Fire blazed through most of the east side windows where the building’s structure was still intact.

          The tallest building in downtown, a seventy-four story glass structure sat across the street. A massive bright red iron sculpture of somebody’s twisted imagination sat on the concrete out front. One of the enormous glass panels had fallen squarely onto the sculpture sending shards of deadly inch thick glass splintering in all directions, like heavy stones rocketing through the air. Another panel had flattened a few cars in the middle of the road before shattering. John was mesmerized by what he saw. This was 9/11 all over again. He then realized it was 11/9. Terrorists with a sick sense of humor, he thought.

          John Campbell clinched his fist.

          It was time to go back to....

 

CHAPTER 3 

 

           Since the murder of his wife John Campbell had separated himself from everyone and everything that once defined his existence. Not a day passed that he did not think of his beloved Kara. Since her death John had chosen the path of solitude. When he left the CIA, he did so without fanfare, or farewells. A simple hand written note to the director of his resignation had been mailed without a return address. No explanation was needed. John faded into obscurity. He’d check on his parents in Illinois once a month, either a quick surprise visit or a hurried telephone conversation. He’d spoken to his brother one time since Kara’s murder two years earlier.

          John had never been accused of being an optimist; yet he excelled in everything he didn’t think he could do. John was that way. His degree was criminal law with a minor in creative writing. Neither path overly excited him. So when a recruiter with the Central Intelligence Agency approached him just before graduation he accepted their offer without hesitation. Relieved he didn’t have to pound the pavement looking for a job.

          John barely broke a sweat going through the CIA’s rigorous training program. He excelled in the elite surreptitious training; in which a privilege few were handpicked. John Campbell quickly became their go to man. In the field he proved to be one of the agencies most prolific operations officers. For ten years John had put his life on the line for his country without a second thought. He had done amazing things for his country that he could never tell anyone about, not even his wife. Kara would have never been able to handle knowing that side of her husband.

          But that was then.

          The last two years since Kara’s murder John Campbell buried himself in his new work. Actually the first year he had simply buried

 

                                                                                                                                            9

 

10                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

himself. He’d spend his time writing sappy poetry about his dead wife. He had a pile of short stories, all first drafts with no motivation to perfect any of them. Then one afternoon while having lunch at an outdoor café in the West End near downtown Dallas, he overheard a table of women complaining about the men in their lives. It was all the motivation he needed. He got the crazy idea to write an advice column for men on how to treat women. John sent the idea to a number of newspapers. The Fort Worth Star Telegram was the only paper to respond to his idea. A month later John received calls from four other papers wanting to print his column. A year later close to a hundred papers printed his weekly column. He became somewhat of a cult hero among women. John used the pseudonym Mr. K, in memory of his wife, as his pen name.

          John had grown up in Quincy, Illinois in the heart of Midwest America. The son of farmers, John had always loved the outdoors and never shied away from hard work. After Kara’s murder his parents tried talking him into moving back. But John had loved Dallas during his college years at SMU and the decision to make Dallas his home was an easy one. Dallas was large enough to get lost in, yet not so crowded to feel smothered. The Uptown area, near the A/A center where the Mavericks played basketball, a relatively new developed area of Dallas, was littered with high rise condos, restaurants and clubs. Downtown was within walking distance. John made his residence on the fortieth floor of Plaza D. The only thing above him was the roof, which had been turned into a park, complete with trees, grass and running path. Plaza D had everything a single man could possibly desire. Weeks would pass without John ever leaving the building. This particular morning he decided to take his laptop and walk downtown for coffee and a bagel at a little café he enjoyed called Jenny’s.

          The day was November Ninth and in this part of Texas the weather was near perfect. Seventy degrees, crystal blue sky and a light northern breeze. On days like this he wished Jenny’s had outdoor seating. He ordered his usual house blend java, black, with a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered thick with cream cheese. The time was 9:45 a.m. and most worker bees were on the job. He had the café mostly to himself for the next couple hours. Enough time to finish his column. With his laptop open, his coffee to the side and a mouth full of bagel and cream cheese John typed his advice for the week, Kara always his inspiration. It was

 

                                                                         AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                                    11

 

 

easy writing what he’d do for her and say to her had she been alive. John sat at a table towards the back, yet with a perfect view of Commerce Street through Jenny’s huge picture window. He watched as men and woman strolled hurriedly in their dark suits, cell phones plastered to their ears and swaying leather briefcases keeping rhythm with their gait. He was thankful not to be a part of the rat race. John typed a sentence, and then raised his coffee cup to his lips. His mindless gaze drifted through Jenny’s windowpane. What he saw froze him in place and sent his brain wheeling back in time fifteen plus years.

          Elizabeth Capps stood on the other side of Commerce Street waving down a cab. It was like seeing the dead come to life. For a second he was unable to move before pure instinct jolted him from his chair and racing for the door. He yanked opened the heavy wooden door with frosted glass and yelled over the Commerce Street traffic.

          “Lisa!”

        With four lanes of traffic between them and the hum of the city whining loudly, she could not hear him. She looked anxious, maybe even scared. Not the confident, borderline arrogant, Lisa Capps he had once known. A car, not a cab, came to a screeching halt in front of her. The back door flew open. Elizabeth jumped, nearly leaped into the car. John gave up trying to get her attention when the black Mercedes with heavily tinted windows, accelerated around the corner and was gone.

          Seeing Elizabeth Capps for the first time in – God has it been sixteen years - had literally sucked the air from his lungs. Elizabeth, or Lisa, was the girl all others had been measured by, even his beloved Kara. Although after the second date Kara became the new measuring stick. Of course after Kara a measuring stick was no longer necessary. No one would ever measure up to Kara.

          For a few moments John stared in the direction the Mercedes had sped away before turning back to Jenny’s. Last time he laid eyes on Lisa Capps, he was twenty years old. She had broken up with him and left his heart in pieces. She had barely crossed his mind in the last ten years.

 

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          John was in the motion of opening Jenny’s heavy wooden door when the first explosion nearly knocked him off his feet. The door’s thick frosted glass moaned and popped, but held fast. Before John’s

 

12                                                                           TOM GARLAND

 

 

mind could wrap around and process the first explosion a second, third, and forth, possibly fifth explosion came with the flurry of scud missiles. John held firm to the door handle. His head slammed into the heavy frosted glass just before he fell to the pavement.

        After a moment of disorientation, using the door handle he pulled himself up. A sea of horrified humanity raced towards him and then passed him. Some screamed, many were bleeding, others cried as though the world was coming to an end. The shock from what was happening removed them from reality. Car alarms welled and horns blared. Traffic quickly jammed on Commerce, as many abandoned their vehicles. The sky above grew dark from the heavy smoke caused by the explosions. John was opening the door when three more explosions rocked the ground beneath him. The few people inside Jenny’s were huddled behind the counter screaming hysterically. Jenny stared at John, wide eyed, in a state of shock. Her customers, though scared out of their minds, appeared to be unharmed. Jenny’s massive picture window had imploded, glass was everywhere.   

          “Come on!” John yelled, motioning them to the door. “It’s not safe here. Hurry!”

          Everyone but Jenny followed his order.

          “You, too, Jenny, come on.”

          “I can’t leave my store.” She pointed to the broken window. And then as if nothing else mattered she said, “John, you’re bleeding.” Jenny took the towel tucked inside her apron and started to wipe John’s face. John took the towel from her catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror behind the coffee bar. The right side of his face was covered in blood where his head had collided with the door glass.

          “It’s too dangerous, Jenny, you’ve got to go.”

          “I can’t leave, this is all I have.”

          “Jenny, it’s not an option, you have to go.”

         She could tell by the look in John’s eyes that he probably had a better idea of what was going on than most.

          “I at least need to empty the cash drawer.”

    “Hurry up then!” John shouted, fearing more explosions might be forthcoming.

          Jenny took one last look at the business she had saved years for. It had been her dream to have a place where people could come and gather for a brief and peaceful escape from their hectic lives. She had

                                                                             AN UNLIKELY TERRORIST                                                            13 

 

placed a small sign at the top of the door the first day she had opened for business. It read: Before entering all your cares and worries must be left outside. If you’re lucky they might all be gone by the time you leave. Now as she exited the business she had opened four years earlier the uneasy feeling that she might never see it again flooded her with sadness. “It’ll be okay,” John said. “What’s lost here can be replaced. Human life cannot be replaced, now go.” Jenny paused at the door. “What’s happening, John?” John just shook his head and nudged her on. “Aren’t you coming?” Jenny said. “I’ll be right behind you.” He watched for a second as Jenny disappeared into the mass of humanity.

 

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Commerce Street ran East and West. East was in the thick of downtown and where the explosions had taken place. It was hard to see anything over the throngs of people racing his way.

          Risking the possibility of being trampled to death, John made the fifteen foot journey across the sidewalk to the street. There he climbed on top a cream colored BMW parked curbside. It’s alarm blaring. When he first heard the explosion he thought of 9/11. What he saw now left no doubt. Cars sat dead in the middle of the road, some smashed by the heavy falling glass from towering skyscrapers, enormous plates ofglass an inch thick and weighing a ton. People abandoned their cars, fleeing in unison from the dark force that turned their beautiful day into death and terror. Sirens blared from all directions blending with the screams and cries. John heard a helicopter circling somewhere above the gray cloud of smoke and thought that to be unwise.

          Following his instincts, John began moving towards the chaos that had disrupted so many lives this day. It had always been John’s habit to go against the grain. Today was no different. As everyone ran from the chaos, John ran toward it. It then hit him what lay ahead: The Federal Building. Any doubt of this being a terrorist attack instantly vanished.He had to use the cars lining Commerce to avoid the rush of the crowd.

          He had no idea so many people inhabited downtown during

 

 

 

14                                                                         TOM GARLAND                                                             

 

the day. Each one of the towering skyscrapers could easily hold the population of many small mid-western towns.

          What was he doing? What could he do? The closer he got to the Federal Building the more dead he saw lying still in the street and on the sidewalks. Some, where burnt beyond recognition, others had been severely cut by flying glass. And yet some appeared to have been trampled to death by others trying to save their own lives. He proceeded east. Everyone else moved west.

          John stopped in front of the pinkish granite Federal Building. Its thick walls were unmoved by the explosion. The upper floors, not being heavy granite showed severe exterior damage. The upper west side of the building looked as though Godzilla had taken a huge bite out of the top four floors. Fire blazed through most of the east side windows where the building’s structure was still intact.

          The tallest building in downtown, a seventy-four story glass structure sat across the street. A massive bright red iron sculpture of somebody’s twisted imagination sat on the concrete out front. One of the enormous glass panels had fallen squarely onto the sculpture sending shards of deadly inch thick glass splintering in all directions, like heavy stones rocketing through the air. Another panel had flattened a few cars in the middle of the road before shattering. John was mesmerized by what he saw. This was 9/11 all over again. He then realized it was 11/9. Terrorists with a sick sense of humor, he thought.

          John Campbell clinched his fist.

          It was time to go back to....