Bula Bridge Excerpt

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Excerpt from Chapter 3:

At the moment he was Roger Shultz.  It was one of a long list of aliases he’d used and it wouldn’t be his last.  He sat calmly in a worn booth in a restaurant in downtown Cleveland waiting for the waiter to bring him a glass of lemon water.  Glancing around, he checked for surveillance cameras and didn’t see any.  He wore faded jeans, a CAVS sweatshirt and ball cap. He adjusted the cap hoping to blend in with the crowd of basketball fans going to the game tonight. His puffy, black winter coat lay in the booth beside him. Loud rock and roll music blasted from speakers around the room.  The noise would make talking more difficult but it would also mask the discussion that was coming from prying ears or microphones.  The music was even loud enough to silence Allah’s voice in his head.  That was okay.  That voice would be there again when he needed it.

He remembered the first time Allah spoke to him.  It was right after he’d gotten another severe beating from his stepfather.  For a while, he didn’t know exactly how long, he’d been unconscious.  When he woke up, the voice was there, strengthening him, advising him, calming him.  It wasn’t until much later that he realized it was Allah talking to him.

Watching the people in the crowded restaurant turned his stomach.  Heathens; godless people, every one of them. Women dressed like sluts, heads uncovered and more exposed skin than should be allowed.  Indulgent men, women and children, stuffing themselves greedily with food that certainly was not clean, drinking alcohol and laughing about it, blatantly violating Allah’s laws.  They would all be punished one day, some maybe sooner if he completed his next assignment.  And they deserved exactly what they were going to get. Roger would play his part for tonight, appear to be one of them, but in his heart he hated them.

The waiter arrived with his lemon water, interrupting Roger’s thoughts.  The twenty-something man with tattoos and a clunky earring set the glass in front of Roger and asked, “Are you still waiting for someone?”

Roger saw his contact entering through the door from Prospect Avenue.  He turned back to the waiter and said, “He’s here now.  Give us a minute.”

“Sure. Just wave when you need me,” and the waiter moved off.

Roger watched the man come up the stairs that separated the bar area from the dining room.  He was bulky, like a bear and had long dark hair, matted and sticky.  His pockmarked face remained serious while his dark eyes were full of mischief.  He wore faded blue jeans, a red and black plaid shirt, and a fresh, new CAVS jacket.

Roger knew the man from their assignment in Montana.  He didn’t know the man’s real name; no one knew real names.  What he did know was the man professed no particular religion, and certainly was not Muslim.  That bothered Roger.  He knew he was Allah’s instrument, knew that the heathens needed to be punished, destroyed.  Allah’s voice in his head assured him that only true Muslims deserved to live.  This man had other motivations.  He was not driven by Allah, or revenge, or any other reason that Roger knew.  Roger guessed that the man just like killing; he probably would have been a serial killer if he hadn’t joined jihad.

The newcomer slipped between nearby tables and settled into the booth across from Roger.  He nodded and said, “I made it.”

“I see that.  What do I call you?”

“Buck Marshal.”

“I’m Roger Shultz.”  Roger picked up his lemon water, took a sip, set it back down and said, “How’d you get here?”

“Drove.  Paid cash.  Nothing traceable.  What are we doing in Cleveland?”

“We have orders,” said Roger and then stopped as the waiter returned.

Buck ordered a coke.  They agreed on an appetizer and had the waiter put that in too.  As soon as he’d gone, Roger took up the conversation.

“We’re going to make the Ashtabula River railroad disaster look like a picnic.”

“The what?”

“Ashtabula railroad disaster.  Look it up.  In 1876, a railroad bridge that was built using a lousy design collapsed and dumped everyone hundreds of feet down into the river.  Typical infidels, money is more important than people.  That mistake killed a lot of people.  We’re going to do better.”

“We’re going to blow up a railroad bridge?”

“That is the general plan.  We’re going to blow a bridge over the Ashtabula River with a train on it.  Unfortunately, it’ll be a freight train so no passengers.  Not sure what the train will be hauling.  I hope tank cars full of toxic chemicals.  I don’t have details yet.”

Buck took a sip of his coke.  “This is different than Montana,” he muttered.  “Why us?  We don’t do explosives.”