“Intelligence is making all sorts of excuses for the security breach.”; Durant’s secretary remarked. “He is a legitimate ACLU attorney and his mother’s death of was overlooked because they have different last names. She stayed behind while he came to the U.S. on a scholarship to Harvard. According to his academic transcripts, his IQ is off the charts. There’s no telling what sensitive information he leaked to al Salaam. I think the Justice department was so desperate to locate a possible defense lawyer that anyone with a pulse would do. They weren’t about to look very closely at a gift horse, and just imagine what it’s done to us. Don’t worry though, Albani will be brought up on federal espionage charges and providing material support to an enemy of the state. It’s only a matter of seeing what will stick against someone with a strong legal background and sympathizer ties to his terrorist organization.”
“We’ve got to find out what happened in those five minutes!”; The Captain shouted. We need iron-clad proof if we are going to nail this guy and stop al Salaam’s next plot. Who knows what that flaming bag of dung is planning against the world? For all we know, Albani just came to alert al Salaam about the operational condition of his organization since he was apprehended. Tell ‘knuckles’ and ‘chuckles’ to ‘interview’ both of them again. Hard. I want a second by second rundown. They’ll get it out of them. They always do.”
Before they could re-interrogate Bashir al Salaam or Tariq Albani, alarm bells started blaring over the compound P.A. Durant radioed the command post. “What the hell is going on?”
Lieutenant Banks answered. “The prisoner is not in his cell, sir. I repeat. The ‘guest of honor has left the presidential suite’. We are conducting a block-by-block search to locate him.”
“What prisoner? THE prisoner? Al Salaam is not in his cell? Holy Fudge! How could he get out? It’s like a damn bank vault! Lock down the entire bunker immediately. No one goes in or out. No food service vehicles, no laundry trucks, and no trash bags disposed through the chute. Put all available men on the search effort and no one leaves this installation without my expressed consent. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir. Crystal clear. If he’s still inside the compound, we’ll find him.”
“You’d better hope he is Banks! If not, all of us will be guarding polar bears in igloos at the North Pole next week.”
Despite an exhaustive search and countless man-hours, ‘the pious one’ simply vanished into the night. It was Captain Durant’s unpleasant duty to inform the President. The fugitive cost the taxpayers years of higher taxes, thousands of enlisted men’s lives, and billions of dollars to apprehend. Under his watch, the world’s most wanted terrorist had escaped. Not surprisingly, the news didn’t go over well. The commander-in-chief was so furious that he hung up on him. Minutes later a special investigator for the CIA called back in his place. He said that an independent review of the facility would to be conducted as soon as their representative arrived.
It didn’t take an MIT grad to know what that meant. All of their actions, policies, and procedures were going to be heavily scrutinized with a fine-toothed comb. The defense condition or ‘Defcon’ rating of the U.S. would escalate due to increased risk of attack. Military careers would be destroyed. Individuals would be thrown under the proverbial bus. Someone would be fingered and blamed publicly for the monumental screw up. Durant began mentally preparing himself for that likely outcome.
Special agent Sean Gleason arrived at the facility in the middle of the night. He was already deep into his investigation before most of the men were even out of their bunks. “I’ve examined the prisoner’s quarters”; he sternly began without introducing himself “; and there isn’t any evidence of force being used on the door locking mechanism. That tells me he didn’t escape on his own.”
“We haven’t been able to get any useful information out of Mr. Albani. So far he’s denying any contact with the prisoner at all.”; Durant replied while reaching over to politely shake his hand.
“What could he haves passed to al Salaam that could open that door?”; Special agent Gleason countered without accepting Durant’s handshake. “Nothing. There’s nothing he could have given the prisoner to escape his cell. Not to mention the station itself was on total lockdown. There was no way out of this place and yet, he’s gone. The odd event with the ACLU lawyer was just a diversion. It’s an inside job. I’m recommending polygraph tests for everyone here.”
Captain Durant withdrew his hand and dropped it to his side, awkwardly. He had hoped to forge a friendly relationship with the investigator but clearly the bureau sent a hard ass. They always did.