Little BoyMature

Jalal Ghassan eased the rented mini-van a few inches forward and cursed the rush hour traffic that he was stuck in.  He had come from the port and his progress going downtown had been stop and go since feeding onto the FDR expressway.  Now he sat within a few miles of his intended target, a sea of red taillights taunting him, keeping his goal just beyond his reach.

 He was an intense young man, rail thin with a thick mat of long black hair surrounding his dark angular face.  His deep brown eyes nervously scanned the outline of the city as he made his way into its heart furtively searching for any threat to his position.  Ghassan felt like a trapped animal stuck here on the road as he was now.  He desperately wanted to get moving and on towards his final destination.

 Normally the young Arab would not have been in any such great a hurry.  His martyrdom wasn’t until several hours away and he could wait until he had reached the scheduled time and position to achieve his glory.  He had planned for years for this moment so what was a little traffic now to delay him?  When at last he depressed the trigger on the device it wouldn’t matter how crowded the area around him was or who was there to see it, people would be killed for miles and miles.

 What concerned Ghassan, as he searched the horizon, was the helicopter that was looming just overhead.  He had spotted it about ten minutes ago against the outline of a skyscraper.  He probably would not have seen it then hovering low in the driving rain had it not been for its silhouette passing directly in front of the structure.  Its navigation lights were off and it was painted entirely black.

 Desperately watching the arch of its trail as the copter swept through the sky, Ghassan tried to think of an explanation for it to being there.  True, he reasoned, it could have been a traffic copter but he assumed that the storm would have most likely kept all of them grounded.  What’s more, as he watched it circling above him he could see that it kept a constant altitude of around 600 feet.  It was dangerously low and yet he could not hear the drum of its rotor.  This meant that the engine was probably silenced and that was enough reason to believe that the craft wasn’t civilian.

 Checking his rearview mirror Ghassan could just make out the outline of two large SUV’s idling about four cars behind him.  He tried to remember if he had seen them at the docks and wondered how long they had been back there.  Had they been following him all along?  How could he have been so stupid?

 The men who had sent him here had been right all those months ago when they had told Ghassan that he was too aloof and too inexperienced to be a good soldier.  This was at the training camp out in the Sudanese dessert where he had been recruited for the mission during the summer.  Upon hearing their cruel words he had vowed to double his efforts for the cause.  He had thrown himself into the materials provided, outlasted every single one of his peers and learned all that was asked of him.  Ultimately he had been rewarded by being selected for this task.  It was an honor beyond any recognition that he could have hoped for.

 Turning on the radio, Ghassan tried to distract himself with the news but even that seemed to taunt him.  The channels were awash with talk about the recent ceasefire in Palestine and the joint address to be given tomorrow morning between the Arab and Israeli leaders at the UN.  It was disgusting hearing about the concessions that had to be made on both sides in order to achieve this vulgar peace.  He prayed that he would be allowed to make it to his final destination to stop this madness.

 Pulling open the glove compartment Ghassan clawed at the envelope that had been placed there and tore it open checking his reservation information.  Looking at the address of his hotel he tried to think of any kind of alternative route that he could take in order to get out of this traffic and into the safety of his room.  He was staying at the Tudor less than a quarter mile from the United Nations in a luxury suite.  It would be the finest bed that he had ever slept in and in the morning he would go off to meet his maker.

 The young Arab had no idea of his way around this city but surely there were other methods of getting to his destination.  As his restraint began to waiver he looked down at the less traveled roads surrounding him and weighed his options.  Finally tossing the printout onto the passenger seat Ghassan maneuvered the van onto the shoulder.  Slowly he began creeping towards the next exit just a few meters down.  That was when the spotlight hit him.

 In a sudden brilliant flash, the copter swung a beam on his position bathing the inside of the van in stark white light.  Ghassan stopped for a moment in shock, his eyes shifting from the sky to the SUV’s behind him.  He could see men getting out, automatic weapons on their shoulders as they sidestepped their way through the cars parked along the freeway.

 Reflexively the young Arab jammed down the accelerator cutting the wheel hard to the right as his tires spun lifelessly on the wet pavement before at last finding traction. The van lurched forward clumsily striking the expressways barrier before he was able to regain control.  Picking up momentum Ghassan shot down the narrow stretch of shoulder.

 As he sped forward the men from the SUV opened fire the spark of their gunfire lighting up the van and erupting off the concrete wall beside him.  Ghassan ducked helplessly as the bullets ricocheted around the vehicle shattering the windshield and taking off his driver’s side mirror.  Glass flew through the air glinting off of the helicopters spotlight like jewels. 

 In the chaos he barely saw the other SUV that had been sitting several cars in front of him turn into the wall of the freeway.  The black expanse of the vehicle shot before him butting its front fender against the barrier.  Ghassan slammed on his brakes narrowly managing to avoid a direct collision with it as he slid to a stop helpless and trapped. 

 Squinting against the helicopters blinding light the young Arab looked up and saw that he was surrounded.  A sniper stood on the landing skid of the craft which had dipped low in front and a battalion of men carrying automatic weapons had surrounded his van.  Somehow they’d found out about his plans.  This was not supposed to happen.

 In his final moments the young Arab extracted the trigger to the nuclear device from beside his seat.  As the men opened fire, filling his body with bullet holes he pressed the detonating switch.  They were still firing when the van suddenly became a brilliant fireball lit up against the night’s sky.    

The End

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