At midnight, Fayez Sayeed arrived at the short term parking garage outside the main terminal at Baltimore-Washington International airport, where he parked a rented Cavalier on the second floor and took the stairs to the airport’s main entrance. He checked the monitors inside the terminal for Delta Flight 1227 and proceeded to the baggage claim area.
He mingled with the weary travelers crowded around him near the baggage carousel and watched pieces of luggage descend onto the rotating platform. Eager to complete his assignment, he edged himself closer to the moving conveyor belt and watched a scuba gear bag follow a soft-sided suitcase and an old trunk large enough to hold a body.
His instructions were simple: recover the blue suitcase with the orange smiley face stickers patterned in the shape of a crescent moon and transport the contents to an address he’d memorized. From there, he’d receive further instructions. A mission he could do in his sleep, and nothing like what he trained for as a child drafted out of his poor family life and into a world he knew little about; a world deeply rooted in God and discipline; a world that gave him shelter and put food in his stomach; a world that made a new life for him in exchange for his vow of faith, subservience, self-sacrifice, and secrecy. To meet a woman and fall in love had been his fate, but not his plan. To raise a family of his own and prosper in a foreign land took courage, for it was not his chosen path.
“Excuse me,” a businessman grumbled, dressed in a wrinkled shirt and tie as he elbowed himself between Fayez and a woman with her first piece of luggage. “Pardon…” He reached out and grabbed a blue duffel bag.
Irritated by the man’s persistence, Fayez stepped aside a few inches to give himself more space and allowed the stranger to carry his belongings through the crowd. He observed the next luggage dump making its way around and followed the bags closely with his eyes. Several travelers came and went, plucking their belongings one by one until the herd began to thin.
When the flow of arriving baggage trickled to a few pieces at a time, he doubled-checked the flight number posted above the carousel.
He scanned the terminal on the chance someone grabbed his bag by accident, but nothing obvious stood out. He checked his Blackberry email and re-read the encrypted message. As far as he knew, his instructions hadn’t changed.
He looked away from security cameras, contemplating his options. He checked his one-way pager and mumbled to himself. Failure was unacceptable. He’d prepared himself for too long, and sacrificed too much, to fail his first assignment.
Afraid to file a lost luggage claim, he typed a coded text message, but stopped short of sending it when he spotted his case making its way around the oval platform. He shoved the Blackberry in his pocket and bumped an elderly woman in his haste to grab the suitcase in front of her.
“Excuse me,” the woman apologized, snatching the blue suitcase with orange smiley stickers before Fayez could reach it first.
“That bag is mine,” said Fayez.
“Not this one,” the woman countered, drawing attention from her husband and a few travelers gathered around the carousel. She heaved the suitcase on top of her baggage cart. “All set,” she told her husband, who escorted her toward the lower level exit.
“Excuse me,” Fayez insisted, “you have the wrong bag.”
“This bag is ours,” the husband defended his wife.
“There’s no tag.”
“We never use those,” said the woman. “We always put stickers on our bags to identify them.”
Fayez reached for the suitcase then refrained when a pair of police officers entered the terminal. He stopped to discern their intentions, then he followed the woman and her husband outside the terminal toward the parking garage.
He reached inside his jacket for his weapon.
Not here. Not now.
He followed the couple to the elevator and stopped them before the doors opened. “Please!” he insisted. “This bag belongs to me!”
The husband thrust his arm out. “I don’t think so.” When the doors parted, he rolled the luggage cart inside the crowded elevator and pressed the fifth floor button. “We’re full,” he said as Fayez tried to force himself inside the jam-packed space.
Fayez cursed the stranger and took the stairs. He sprinted to the second floor where he’d parked the rented Chevy. Not wanting to draw attention, he backed the car out and drove to the fourth floor parking area, where a slow-moving Ford Aerostar with a broken tail light blocked his path.
He honked at the driver and watched the van maneuver from its narrow space, barely missing the rear quarter panel of the car beside it when the driver cut the turn too tight.
Fayez bumped the horn again, frustrated by the unexpected impediment blocking his path. “Move the fucking van!” he shouted inside his car. He rode the van’s bumper to the exit lane and gunned the engine to pass.
When he reached the fifth floor, he trolled along the end of each aisle, staring down the rows of cars until he spotted the elderly couple getting into a black Lincoln Towncar. Cognizant of the video surveillance cameras stationed at marked intervals inside the parking structure, he followed the Towncar outside the airport property and merged onto I-195, heading north toward Washington. Traveling just under the speed limit, he pulled alongside the Lincoln and lowered his window, signaling with his arm for the driver to pull over.
The Lincoln accelerated and changed lanes.
Fayez followed aggressively.
He checked the lanes around him, spotting a tractor trailer in his mirror with a lighted crucifix on the grill. He let the truck pass him and pulled along the Lincoln’s driver’s side. He lifted the silenced 9mm pistol from the passenger seat and fired a single shot through the window at the driver’s head.
The Lincoln veered off the shoulder and crashed through a bank of trees.
Fayez slowed along the shoulder and stopped to assess the scene. Then he jammed the transmission in reverse, speeding backward with his right arm on the passenger headrest as he craned his neck to view the wreckage through the Cavalier’s rear window.
Sparse traffic continued along the interstate.
Fayez jumped out with the engine running and approached the crumpled Towncar from the passenger side. The woman’s face had impacted the windshield, crushing her jaw into the back of her neck.
Fayez studied the lines of blood cascading down the front of her face like a colored candle in a bottle of cheap Chianti. He shot her twice in the head and walked calmly around the car to pop the trunk. Light rain began to fall in the frigid air as he opened his luggage and recovered the package he’d been sent to retrieve.