Read Chapter One Below
Ahmed Khan, Federal prisoner number 497313, a hero of the Jihad, an adviser to
Osama bin Laden, and Al Qaeda field commander waited for his ride out of prison.
Dust announced the progress of a Brink’s truck as it barreled toward the chain link
fence gates of Staleyville County Prison. The steel vehicle smashed through the
aluminum outer gate drawing the full attention of everyone in the exercise yard,
including the lone guard in the lookout tower. It ripped through the inner gate,
slammed on the brakes, turned hard left, and stopped. The rear door flew open.
Khan and fellow inmate, Arthur Wegman, a jihadist in training, scrambled into the
back of the truck. The door slammed shut as the armored vehicle spun around and
left the way it came, leaving clouds of dust in its wake.
Jeans, plaid shirts, and Nike running shoes awaited the escaped convicts. As
they stripped off orange jumpsuits and changed into the street clothes, Khan spoke
in Arabic to his compatriots who masterminded and executed the escape. “Good
job. Great timing. What do you have for me?”
The stocky, bearded man in the front seat, Ali, handed a cell phone to Khan,
“The coordinates are programmed. Just follow the map and you’ll reach the others.
It’ll take at least three or four hours to get there on foot, but, they’ll be waiting.
You should be halfway before they get a search party going.”
“What about him?” Khan said, still speaking Arabic. His head ticked toward
“After we drop you off, we’ll head for the dump where two cars are stashed.
Wegman’s won’t run. We’ll meet you after we lose the cops.”
“Good. If something goes wrong, kill him.”
Ali looked at Wegman, smiled and nodded. Wegman glanced first at Khan and
then at Ali with narrowed eyes and a crinkled brow. He ran a hand over his closecropped
“Okay.” Khan gave instructions to Wegman in English, “I get out soon. You
go with Ali. He has car for you. Follow them. Ali, where will you meet?”
“Meet at Wendy’s in Staunton near expressway. Map will be in car. Don’t get
caught. Okay?” Ali said.
“Where are you going? Why can’t I go with you?” Wegman asked.
“I’ll be on foot and you’d slow me down. You and Ali are splitting up cops.
Run them around and try to lose them. We all meet in eight hours.”
Wegman nodded his head. “Okay, you’re the boss.”
“Don’t forget it.”
Khan eyed the cell phone and pushed start on the programmed app. A voice in
Arabic said, “Turn right in three hundred yards.” The armored car slowed. Ali
handed Khan two bottles of water and a 9mm handgun.
“You are at your destination,” a voice from the phone said.
Khan jumped from the back door and ran into the woods, out of sight. The
truck sped toward its next stop. Once Khan cleared the road, he stopped and
surveyed his surroundings. About half a mile off to his right stood a faded white,
square farmhouse. He was well hidden behind the tree line and dismissed any fear
he’d been noticed.
He reset the GPS on his phone. A topographical map appeared along with a
small compass. The Arabic speaker said to maintain a two hundred twenty-fivedegree
heading. After aligning the compass with a cleared swath cutting through
the middle of a Blue Ridge foothill for power transmission lines, he began his
cross-country trek at a jog. The sheared corn fields provided no cover. He left an
easy trail to follow, but with his head start, it wouldn’t be an issue. Giving him
three or four hours needed for the trek, he would arrive at the rendezvous by
After jogging about fifteen minutes, he came to a treed oasis and took a break
to catch his breath and listen. Muted sirens wailed in the distance. The search was
still confined to the main roads. There were no crackling leaves or snapping twigs.
No one was within close proximity. A helicopter’s strobe lights flashed in the far
The oasis turned out to be a forest that ran up and down the western Virginia
Piedmont. The exceptionally dry summer left the landscape brown and lifeless. No
vibrant fall colors graced the forest, and the colors of autumn had faded. Each step
crushed dried leaves and twigs. The noise he made was of no concern; he must
keep moving. Even if a search party followed him, it would take them thirty
minutes or more to get organized.
The forest emptied into another cut cornfield. A helicopter would be able to
spot him from miles away. The next cover seemed to be about a half mile away.
Khan ran for it at full-out sprint. His lungs burned and strained for air as he
reached the trees. He was out of shape. Years ago, he jogged for hours at a time,
including going up and down rugged mountain trails. As he steadied himself
against a massive oak and panted, he sensed movement behind him. Two people
emerged from the foliage on the other side of the field. The urge to flee pumped his
adrenaline. He ducked into some bushy foliage and checked his GPS, which
verified he was two-thirds of the way there and right on course.
Zigzagging through a stand of trees, he kept a tree between him and his
trackers. Now he wished he had been more careful. Still, he’d seen them and knew
where they were. An hour later, another open field faced him. A large stand of
trees occupied the middle of it. The GPS showed it as the rendezvous spot. He
shook his head and cursed whoever chose this place.
He stayed in the trees as long as he could, stopping by a live oak with gnarled
roots. He needed a break, but he couldn’t risk taking his time with a search party
headed his way. He made a dash for the treed oasis. As he neared, someone called
out, “Ahmed Khan, is that you?”
“Yes. It’s me. Shut up.” Khan hissed as he dove for cover.
The oasis held a surprising and welcoming cool. Khan was spent. He guzzled
the canister of water offered to him by one of the three team members who huddled
together out of sight of the on-coming search party. They each held an AK-47, and
an ammo belt with holster and pistol. Two shotguns leaned against an ATV. Two
dirt bikes rested alongside. Khan took one of the shotguns, cleared the chamber,
aimed, and pulled the trigger on the empty chamber.
“This I missed in prison. They didn’t let us shoot.” Khan quipped. His crew
laughed along with him. He held his hand up. “I’m being followed. It’ll be dark
soon, then we get out of here.”
Khan ordered Said, a veteran of Al Qaeda, with a weathered, scarred face as
evidence of his experience, to lay low at the edge of the trees and watch for any
sign of the approaching danger.
Khan sat on the ATV. The second Al Qaeda militant, Omar, handed him a bag
of roasted pumpkin seeds and a bag of pita chips.
“We eat kebabs, later,” Omar said.
Khan nodded, then faced the third member. “Ibrahim, good planning. I was
going to curse you for this spot. But it’s good. It’s good…. What have you done in
“We have list of seven SEAL Team Six families. Abdul killed a father of one
the other day in a car wreck. He acted like he was Latino and was deported. He
made it back to Peru. Timur is in Ohio watching another family. One lives close to
here in Staleyville. I show you tomorrow.”
Khan raised his eyebrows. “This is good news, Ibrahim. We’ll take care of
them right away.”