Enemy Among Us: Chapter 40

Burns rode shotgun in McLeary’s rented Charger as they entered the parking garage below a covert DEA facility nestled within a cluster of high-rise offices outside a high-tech industrial park. Neither spoke on the elevator ride to the seventh floor task force office.

Burns flashed her badge at the guard on duty inside the office suite. “He’s with me,” she told the officer in uniform, pointing to McLeary beside her.

“You’re late,” Kriegel barked from the conference room window overlooking the Miami traffic below. He closed the vertical blinds and dimmed the lights. “Shut the door.” He motioned to Doctor Beckman who plugged her laptop computer into the video projection monitor on the table. “This is Doctor Candice Beckman, a senior pathologist with the CDC.”

McLeary shook her hand. “Doctor.”

Burns followed behind McLeary. “I’m Special Agent Burns. Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Candice answered. She pointed to Agent Bryant seated across the room in jeans and a Miami Dolphins jersey. “I assume you all know Special Agent Bryant and his team with the DEA task force?”

“We’ve met,” said McLeary. He stared at Agent Bryant with contempt, recalling the face of a former accuser.

Kriegel snagged the wireless remote from the table and clicked the PowerPoint presentation to flash the image of a bearded man with a bloody face, half buried in the crumbled ruins of a deserted military bunker destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. “Special Forces snapped this picture from a drone three years ago in Afghanistan after an airstrike on an al-Qaida stronghold failed to neutralize the primary target.”

“Who is he?” asked McLeary.

“His name is Ahmed Mahmoud Abdullah, a radical fundamentalist and previous deputy chief scientist from Saddam Hussein’s former death squad. Abdullah’s believed to be responsible for conducting hundreds of lethal experiments involving aerosolized biological pathogens on civilians. Mostly women and children.” Kriegel paused to reflect. “As the photo shows, he was left for dead in the airstrike rubble until our friends at Langley uncovered new intelligence to suggest otherwise.”

Kriegel clicked the next slide to illuminate the picture of an airline baggage handler.

“Meet Marcus Noland, a former CIA asset killed in Amsterdam where he was working as a ground crew member for Transatlantic Airlines. Noland was feeding the Agency information on Abdullah’s whereabouts and his alleged plans for a wide-spread attack on U.S. soil.”

Kriegel clicked to the next slide, which showed a dead woman on her knees in a public restroom with her head in a toilet. “This photo was taken one week ago. Intelligence suggests Ahmed Abdullah assumed the identity of Marcus Noland to gain access to the airport facility where he got close to this woman, Carla Bonnnove, Marcus Noland’s girlfriend and ground crew shift supervisor in charge of baggage screening. He used her to gain access to a baggage sorting area. We believe Abdullah was attempting to smuggle something out of Europe and into the United States.”

“Smuggle what?” asked Agent Bryant.

“I’ll get there in a moment.”

Kriegel advanced the presentation, showing a bathtub full of partially liquefied human remains. “You’re looking at what’s left of Marcus Noland who took his last shower in an acid bath. This picture was taken by Rosie Uppal, a senior field agent sent to investigate Noland’s disappearance when he fell off Langley’s radar. A local asset found Rosie dead in her car.”

McLeary got up from his seat. “Why didn’t the Agency roll up Abdullah when they had the chance?”

“Because you know as well as I do Langley’s not interested in making arrests.”

Agent Bryant spoke up. “And what about Ali Muheen? How does he fit in?”

Kriegel advanced to the next slide, flashing the family portrait of Fayez Sayeed with his wife and three children. “We’ll get there.” He coughed to clear his throat. “This is a picture of Fayez Sayeed taken two years ago. A naturalized American citizen, loving husband, father, and well-respected GS-14 working for the IRS until he went AWOL from his job a week ago and fell off the grid.”

Burns shook her head. “What does he have to do with anything?”

“Before Marcus Noland was murdered in Amsterdam, he supplied the CIA with intel about an Iranian mole living in Washington D.C. Marcus never uncovered the mole’s identity, only that he had strong ties to Ali Muheen and Ahmed Abdullah. Marcus believed the mole was working with Muheen and Abdullah in conjunction with other members of a Lebanon-based radical Shi’a group who call themselves—”

“Hezbollah,” said McLeary. He rubbed his chin. “The same group who attacked the U.S. Marine barracks with a suicide truck in Beirut in ’83.”

Kriegel nodded.

Burns scribbled in her notepad. “What about Fayez Sayeed? Does he have any ties in the U.S.?”

“Homeland Security has his American wife under federal surveillance. So far she’s not suspected of any terrorist involvement. Fayez Sayeed came to this country to obtain a permanent residence and now he’s abandoned his American wife and children.”

“What do we know about his plans?” asked McLeary.

“Not much. We deployed a code yellow terrorist alert. State and local authorities have an all points bulletin on Sayeed. Hopefully they’ll get lucky and pick him up.”

“And what about Ali Muheen?” Agent Bryant asked again. “How does he fit into all this?”

Kriegel coughed. “We’re still piecing everything together. But we do know Muheen is a brother-in-law of Ahmed Abdullah, whose wife and son were killed in the airstrike photo I showed you earlier. We believe Muheen operated several terrorist training camps in Chechnya and the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia. We also believe Muheen and his cohorts smuggled several experimental pathogens from a biodefense laboratory in Kazakhstan. Intelligence tracked him outside of Amsterdam, and most recently, Miami. We speculate he’s working in conjunction with Fayez Sayeed. As Agent Bryant can attest, the DEA’s had Muheen under surveillance for several weeks.”

Agent Bryant nodded. “For involvement with narcotics distribution. Now for all we know Muheen could be cooking up explosives instead of crack.”

McLeary looked at Burns, then at Agent Bryant, and finally at Kriegel. “Muheen is dead.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Agent Bryant.

“The man you’re watching is not Ali Muheen.”

Kriegel tossed the wireless control on the table, his posture telegraphing his disgust. “Have you been drinking on the job? Because the words coming out of your mouth don’t make sense.”

McLeary stood beside the conference table. “None of this makes sense,” he continued. “I received a tip two days ago from an anonymous source who believes Muheen is dead. This source also helped another colleague in Quantico decrypt a message from Gordon Gentry’s Blackberry we found in China Town, where a witness spotted Gentry getting into a sedan with Muheen.”

“What message?”

“Something about a magical kingdom.”

“And when were you planning to share this with the team?”

“I just did.”

It was obvious Kriegel struggled to keep a level head in front of Doctor Beckam. “What’s the connection?”

McLeary shrugged. “My money says Abdullah used Gentry to rob a bank. Gentry never knew the big picture. Neither did Rodney Nito and whoever else Abdullah’s team recruited to do their dirty work and sidetrack us from their real end game.”

“Which is what?” Agent Bryant chimed in. “My men have had Muheen under twenty-four seven watch for weeks. What makes you think your anonymous source is credible?”

“My gut,” said McLeary.

“Oh… well… why didn’t you say so in the first place? I’d trust your gut over credible intelligence sources any day.”

McLeary kept a tight face, deflecting Agent Bryant’s condescending tone with unwavering confidence in his own assessment of the anonymous caller’s credibility. “This wasn’t a crank call. This person had knowledge of Gordon Gentry’s Blackberry and the crypto skills to help an expert analyst uncover the coded message it was hiding.”

“So did anyone who worked closely with Gordon Gentry,” Kriegel interjected. “In fact, how do we know this mystery source of yours doesn’t pose a counter-intelligence threat? For all you know, he could be working with someone in Abdullah’s organization, dropping erroneous clues to disrupt our investigation. In fact, how can we trust that anything you’re telling us is true?”

“The same way we trust Agent Bryant never had inappropriate relations with barn animals.”

“That photo was doctored!” Bryant retorted amid a chorus of muffled giggles from his colleagues in the back of the room.

Kriegel gnashed his teeth. “God dammit McLeary! I warned you about pulling this sort of shit during my investigation.”

“You mean our investigation,” said Burns.

“Gentlemen, ladies,” Doctor Beckman piped up, undoubtedly attempting to diffuse the lethal concentration of testosterone in the room. “Please… We’re spinning our wheels and going nowhere fast.” She commandeered the remote from Kriegel and advanced to her portion of the presentation. “Time is our enemy.” She waited for the grumbling to subside before she started. “I don’t give a shit about your personal problems or your political agendas. The fact is we’re likely dealing with an anthrax outbreak the likes of which we’ve never seen before.” She clicked to a slide showing a list of names appended to five different hospital images linked to a bank photo. “Doctor Michael Lewis uncovered the threat before it finally killed him. His autopsy confirmed hematoxylinophilic bacilli had completely filled his perivascular lymphatic space. Immunohistochemistry revealed B anthracis in affected tissues with an antimicrobial-resistant strain modified to increase virulence.”

McLeary read the charts on screen. “Translation?”

“Doctor Lewis, and staff at other hospitals, confirmed almost a hundred cases citing exposure to weaponized anthrax as cause of death.” She paused once she finally had the group’s full attention. “A portion of my team began the process of trying to identify the source of the infection, starting with background checks of all known or suspected anthrax victims at nearby hospitals in the Washington Metropolitan region. We cross-referenced the list of names and discovered all were members of one or more of the financial institutions that were recently targeted. We confirmed our findings. Most of our anthrax victims were present during the time of the robberies.”

“Which leads us to speculate,” Kriegel added, “about the strong possibility that our robbery victims were exposed to airborne contaminants.”

“Are we at risk?” asked McLeary.

“The probability is low.”

“How low?” asked Burns.

“I can’t give an exact figure.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means we don’t have all the answers,” said Doctor Beckam. “Anthrax doesn’t spread like the common cold. It doesn’t pass from person to person.”

“Unless it’s been genetically modified to do so,” McLeary added.

Doctor Beckman looked at Kriegel then back at McLeary. “Let’s not jump to unfounded conclusions.”

“But it’s possible…”

“In theory, perhaps. Though it’s highly unlikely without knowing the specific gene sequence or—”

“We’re still missing something,” McLeary argued. “Are you suggesting the bank robberies we’re investigating are ground zero for these anthrax attacks?”

“It’s one scenario.”

“Why would someone launch a bioweapon attack during an armed robbery?”

Burns rummaged through her notes. “Rodney Nito said someone paid him to rob the credit union. Maybe he and Gordon Gentry were recruited to do more than steal money?”

“They don’t fit a bioterrorist’s profile,” said McLeary.

“Maybe not,” said Kriegel. “But it fits with Ahmed Abdullah’s MO.”

Doctor Beckman clicked to the next slide. “Handling virulent biological agents in an envelope is one thing, but creating a weaponized version of anthrax spores lies beyond the reach of most terrorist organizations. It requires highly specialized skills and access to sophisticated equipment.”

McLeary shook his head. He stared at Doctor Beckman through pinched eyes. “Any crackpot with a degree in biochemistry and a quantity of anthrax material could pull this off.”

“We’re not talking about mixing fertilizers with diesel fuel, Agent McLeary. There are more than seventy different strains of anthrax. A potential enemy would have to isolate different strains before finding one sufficiently potent to work in a specific, weaponized format.”

“Like the Ames and Vollum strains?”

“Or worse… An aerosol release of fifty kilograms of dried anthrax containing several trillion spores over a city of five million would produce more than a hundred thousand deaths and nearly a quarter million incapacitating illnesses. The spores are odorless and nearly colorless in the atmosphere. They can also sustain their potency for decades.”

Burns tapped her pen on her notepad. “What about a vaccine?”

“Antibiotics are the first defense for victims already exposed. The CDC stocks Ciprofloxacin, although its effectiveness varies depending on the length of time from exposure and whether the spores were inhaled or passed subcutaneously through the skin. The Pentagon stores the military’s Biothrax vaccine. Right now that’s our best pre-exposure protection against known anthrax strains.”

“What about unknown anthrax strains?”

“Biothrax, or any vaccine we manufacture, is not a cure-all. No two people can be guaranteed the same level of protection. With the right anthrax variant and the right antigens, our best vaccine could be rendered ineffective. I’ve been in touch with Fort Detrick—”

“What are you saying?” asked Burns. “How effective do you think this vaccine will be? If at all?”

Doctor Beckman stretched across the table and turned off the slide projector. The darkened room fell funeral-silent with the cooling fan humming inside the projector housing. “A better question would be: how do we prevent the next attack from happening?”

Enemy Among Us: Chapter 32

Kriegel stared out the hospital’s ninth floor window overlooking the ground below. In the darkness, a dizzying array of blue strobe lights reflected off a dozen police and emergency response vehicles. “What the hell happened here?”

“We’re on it,” Burns replied, standing beside McLeary. She had blood spatter on her face. “Local PD’s got a man on every rooftop with a clear line of sight.”

Kriegel stepped away from the window and examined the victim’s pillow, speckled with skull fragments, pulpy tissue, and streaks of brain matter. An open handcuff dangled from the hospital bed handrail. “Did they find the shooter’s nest?”

“Not yet. It happened fast. I was going to bring you up to speed as soon as we—”

“Save it, Burns. I’m here now.” Kriegel focused a penlight on the floor and walls. “Did this corpse have a name?”

“Rodney Nito,” said McLeary. “We pulled his rap sheet. He was a two-time loser with a hobby of jacking cars. He did a three-year stint in Attica. No ties to any members on our watchlist or anyone associated with the Aryan Brotherhood.”

“Attica? That’s Gordon Gentry’s alma matter. Any other connection between this guy and the Chase Bank robbery?”

“We’re still exploring,” said Burns. “Someone wanted Nito dead. Someone with a sniper rifle and the skills to use it.”

“Any nut-job with a hunting rifle and a scope could have made the shot,” Kriegel argued. “I want to know who killed him and why.”

McLeary watched Burns wipe her face with a tissue while Kriegel gnawed the end of an unlit cigar. He thought about Kriegel’s arrogance and how he carried himself. The man was poison in an open flask, waiting to contaminate an unsuspecting person like Agent Burns who blindly followed him.

“You still with us?” Kriegel barked, aiming the penlight at McLeary’s face.

“Nito’s crew wasn’t after the money,” said McLeary, turning his head away.

“Have you been drinking on the job?”

“They never intended to steal the credit union cash. They wanted to test the vault’s biometric scanner.”

“Bullshit McLeary. I’ve seen the surveillance tape. They went for the teller stations just like the first four jobs. This time they got greedy and tried to tap the safe.”

“There’s more to it.”

Kriegel clipped his penlight in his shirt pocket. “And you know this how?”

“A hunch.”

Burns looked out the splintered window. A police helicopter circled with its spotlight pointed at the building across the street. “Who else knew Rodney Nito was here?”

“That’s the first intelligent question I’ve heard all night, Agent Burns. I suggest you find out. Interview every doctor, nurse, admin assistant, and janitor who knew about the patient in this room. I want to know why Rodney Nito was targeted—and I want the shooter in custody.”

McLeary rummaged his mental Rolodex. “What more do we know about Ali Muheen and his involvement in these robberies?”

“That’s what you’re going to find out. I want you and Burns in Miami for a meeting with our friends at the drug enjoyment agency. They’ve had Ali Muheen under surveillance for a month.”

“A month?” said McLeary. “And you’re just telling us now?”

“I was apprised of their operation a few hours ago.”

Burns turned away from the window and looked at Kriegel. “So what’s our next move?”

“Find out what the DEA has uncovered on Muheen and any connection between himself, Gordon Gentry, and this Rodney Nito.”

* * *

McLeary followed Kriegel and Burns through the swarm of reporters gathered outside the hospital. Greeted by cameras and microphones, the three marched beyond the media circus with a terse “no comment” from Kriegel.

“Who’s our point of contact when we land?” Burns asked Kriegel.

“He’ll find you.” Kriegel pointed to his cheek then back at Burns. High velocity blood spatter dotted the side of her neck. “Get yourself cleaned up first.”

Burns touched her face. “Looks like we’re headed south,” she told McLeary.

McLeary dug his vibrating phone from his pocket. “So is this investigation…” He flipped it open and pressed it to his ear. “McLeary.”

“Don’t talk, just listen,” said a sullen voice altered through a vocal distorter. “Nod if you can hear me.”

McLeary turned away from Burns nonchalantly and scanned the tops of several surrounding buildings. He nodded slowly.

“Muheen is dead. Decrypt the Blackberry.”

“Who are you?” McLeary whispered as the call abruptly ended.

“Who was that?” asked Burns.

McLeary followed the crowd of reporters with his eyes. “Wrong number.”

* * *

Standing inside the Dulles International Airport, McLeary gazed at the 757 parked at the terminal, with the jet’s ducted fan blades spinning slowly inside the engine cowling mounted beneath the starboard wing. As the plane was pushed back, he focused on the cone at the center of the spinning blades, producing an almost hypnotic circular motion as the blades spun to draw air into the gas compression stage, where intense pressure and heat would produce the requisite thrust at takeoff to launch the massive plane into the air.

He estimated the number of blades spinning around the impeller’s shaft, multiplying their estimated surface area by the number of revolutions per minute to calculate potential air flow between idle and full-throttle settings.

He watched the plane push back from the gate as Burns approached him from the snack bar with a magazine and a fresh pack of gum.

“You look tired,” said Burns, handing McLeary the sugarless gum he’d requested.

“I’m good.”

“What’s your take on the DEA? Do you think they’ll let us play in their sandbox?”

“I wouldn’t bet on it.”

Burns watched the 757 roll away from the terminal and rubbed the bruise on her elbow. She stuck her hand in her jacket pocket and withdrew an envelope with the initials JM on the flap. She nudged McLeary in the arm with the paper. “This is yours.”


“Your paycheck. Don’t lose it. The first two are live until direct deposit kicks in, assuming you’re around long enough to collect it.”

McLeary took the envelope and examined the check. Living frugal for so long, the concept of money seemed almost useless to him. He folded the check and scribbled H a p p y H o l i d a y s. He studied the simple words, recalling a mathematical encryption algorithm he’d learned in a graduate mathematics course taught by a five-foot tall Chinese professor with bad teeth and a propensity to smear chalk dust on the back of his pants. “Happy Holidays.”

“What are you talking about?”

“A message I found on Gordon Gentry’s Blackberry. Happy Holidays. It means something… It’s encrypted. Substitution, transposition. Caesar cipher. Monoalphabetic ciphers. Limited permutation of alphabetic characters.”

“Are you high?”

“We need a way to decrypt it.”

“Gordon Gentry is dead. I doubt the message is of any significance to us now.”

“We don’t know that,” said McLeary.

“The bureau needs you to stop bank robbers. Not dive into every rabbit hole you come across.”

“I’m going to Quantico. Alone.”

“What are you talking about?”


“Kriegel wants us in Miami.”

“Kriegel’s a fool.”

“Maybe, but he’s still the boss in charge.”

McLeary walked away. “Thanks for the gum.”

Burns started to follow him, then reconsidered in mid-stride. She had McLeary pegged from the start: a loaner with a shady past and an uncertain future; a man with no one to go home to and nothing to live for but the job; a man who would say or do anything to further his personal agenda, no matter how much it jeopardized his career. “What am I supposed to tell Kriegel?”

“Tell him to go pound sand.”

“He’ll be all over your ass for this.”

McLeary kept walking. “Good. Then I’ll know where to find him.”

New song: When the Right One Comes Along

Leave your last goodbye in the rear view mirror

Where all your doubts and envy disappear

No regrets…

No complaints…

Embrace the changes…

We go through stages


Sometimes, we need, a brand new chapter

One with less, ending-in-disaster

A little more, love with lots of laughter

You know you can’t go wrong

When the right one comes along

When the right one comes along…


We live our lives on borrowed time

Hard to move on when we’re falling, way, be-hind

Caught in the storm we can’t get past

Not everything, in life, is meant, to last…


Sometimes, we need, a brand new chapter

One with less, ending-in-disaster

A little more, heart-starts-beating-faster

You can’t go wrong

When the right one comes along…

When the right one comes along…

When the right one comes along…


Is this how it goes?

Hell nobody knows

Stand on your toes and kiss me

Say what you mean

This isn’t a dream

Tell me how much you miss me


Sometimes, we need, a brand new chapter

One with less, ending-in-disaster

A little more, happy-ever-after

You know you can’t go wrong

When the right one comes… along


When the right one comes along…

She will when you least expect it


When the right one comes along

When the right one comes along…

New song entitled, “Someone Else”

I titled this one, “Someone Else.” A somber tune, but one I know many people have experienced in their lives. We’re all searching for something. Blessed are those who’ve already found it.

You were the one, who wanted space to breathe in
Without a heart to love or a hand to hold
Beyond the light, we hope to find forgiveness
But for you it’s always been about control

This ain’t our song
The note’s all wrong
When I wake up, I find you gone
No hesitation, life goes on
Despite our love, we both belong to someone else
A truth we hide within ourselves

Now the more he gives, the more he takes
I suppose, we learn to live with our mistakes
When the bad outweighs the good in the life you lead
You get caught up in the fire
Lost in your desire
Consumed by what you want, not what you need…

This ain’t our song
The note’s all wrong
When I wake up, I find you gone
No hesitation, life goes on
Despite our love, we both belong to someone else
A truth we hide within ourselves

The closer we get, the more we go astray
Unable to find the strength to walk away
From a place we can’t deny what we can’t see
Defined by who we are not who we’ll be…

This ain’t our song
The note’s all wrong
Despite our love, we both belong to someone else
Now it’s time we both collect ourselves
Bare the truth we can’t convey
And learn to live and love, another day

New Song: Jesus Loves You

When you feel helpless

Overcome with grief and sorrow

Don’t lose faith

Jesus loves you


When you feel, abandoned

Don’t give in

You’re not alone

He’s in your heart

He’s in your home

His love surrounds you

Like a sunrise on a cherry blossom highway

A child’s eyes

A desperate face

A rising tide

A fall from grace


There are things in life we learn we can’t control

And the more you trust in him, the more you’ll know

Jesus loves you


He’s paved in scripture

His love, is sewn, inside, the fabric of your life

He won’t desert you

He holds the power to forgive the unforgivable

A man of strength

A man of virtue


There are things in life we learn we can’t control

And the more you trust in him, the more you’ll know

Jesus loves you


He is your fortress

When you lose hope

You’ll find him, by, your, side

He will sustain you

He will, defend you, from, your, darkest night


Of all the things in life we can’t let go

The more you trust in him, the more you’ll know

Jesus loves you

Jesus loves you…

New Song: Nowhere to Hide

Nowhere to Hide


Somewhere, along the way, your heart grew tired

Of all the fools who denied the life you lead

So you walked away when your lease on love expired

Without a chance to show how much you mean to me


Love saves you

Love breaks you

Love keeps you, wide awake, at night

Love makes mistakes

Love cultivates those feelings, you keep locked away inside…


Now you follow around with your girlfriends, on Friday night

Hoping to find yourself in the arms, of Mr. Right

Taking one more drink and dance before last call

Stealing a drag from the last of your blue Pall Malls


Love saves you

Love breaks you

Love keeps you, wide awake, at night

Love makes mistakes

Love cultivates those feelings, you keep locked away inside…


Somehow, times goes by and the years unfold

Caught in the wrath, of my own lost soul

Trying to forget all the past and the pain, I left behind

‘Cause I know I can’t replace, what I can’t find…


Love saves me

Love breaks me

Love keeps me, wide awake, at night

Love makes mistakes

Love cultivates those feelings, I keep locked away inside…


In the end, it’s not about the destination

For us, it’s always been about the ride

I promise I won’t take this love for granted

When there’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide…


Love saves us

Love breaks us

Love keeps us, wide awake, at night

Love makes mistakes

Love cultivates those feelings, we keep locked away inside

Now there’s nowhere to run…

And nowhere to hide… again

New Song: This is Good Bye

(fast tempo)


I know you didn’t meant to hurt me

You said you never met my type before

All I needed was an explanation

A little meaningful conversation


I was hoping we could stay together

Instead of feeling lost forever

All I wanted was a chance to make things right

Now you got me, all torn up inside


So this is goodbye


Au revoir

Adiós amigo


Yeah this is goodbye


Au revoir

Adiós amigo


I was caught up in my indecision

Should have trusted, my, intuition

I was hoping we could stay together

But nothing seems to last forever

All I wanted was a chance to make things right

Now you got me, all torn up inside


So this is goodbye


Au revoir

Adiós amigo


Yeah this is goodbye



Adiós amigo


Maybe if I’d listened more

I wouldn’t be alone without you

There was something in your voice I can’t describe

And the more I dig, the more I find


So this is goodbye

Do svidaniya

Na shledanou



Adiós amigo


Yeah this is goodbye

Do svidaniya

Na shledanou



Adiós amigo


This is goodbye… (sustain)

This is goodbye

I’m so over you and I… (sustain)

This is goodbye… (sustain)

This is goodbye!

A new song for August: “I Miss Them”

I wrote this one on a rainy day. Idle mind / devil’s playground sort of thing.


Yesterday, their mom said hi

Came to see if I’m all right

And I told her so

Now I can’t let go

Of the one thing on my mind…


I miss them

They grow too fast

Time moves on and I still ask

Forgiveness, when I get sad

I might be old, but I’m their dad

I look back on the times we had…

And I miss them

Man, I miss them…


I learn to live with the pain inside

Ocean deep and one mile wide

Lord knows, how hard I’ve tried

I still laugh, and I still cry

But not a day in life goes by


When I miss them

They grow too fast

Time moves on and I still ask

Forgiveness, when I get sad

I might be old, but I’m their dad

As I look back on the times we had

And think about how much

I miss them…


When the walls are cavin’ in

I think back and I begin

To understand the reasons why

I do my best to occupy

The days alone

Lost inside an empty home


‘Cause I miss them

They grow too fast

Time moves on and I still ask

Forgiveness, when I get sad

I might be old, but I’m their dad

As I look back on the times we had

And think about how much

I miss them…

Man I miss them…

A Different Kind of Rainbow

Although my definition of classic rock may differ from yours, I think you’ll agree that the band in this segment is worth a listen. From your local library to the cyber-centric Wikipedia, you can read about dozens of platinum-selling bands all worthy of their legendary status. You can also hear their music on the airwaves or the magic of digital media. I think that’s great. I also think it’s enriching to explore some of the less well known music masters. The ones often lost in the noise, figuratively speaking.

Looking back, of all the live acts I could inveigle my mother into taking me to see as an 8 year old boy in Brussels, Belgium, I figured a band called Rainbow would be a sure thing.

I figured wrong.

Nonetheless, the first time I heard Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow on an old LP 33 (that’s code for big plastic disc), I was hooked. Mellow rock, as my young friends described it back then. No blistering fast guitar riffs. No incomprehensible, screaming-till-my-ears-hurt vocals. Just a smooth rock sound from a band of studio musicians. And far away from pop or disco.

That was 1978 – three years after Rainbow emerged – and a time when the likes of Ted Nugent, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Who, Bad Company, and other famous bands continued their rise to stardom.

As the lead guitarist and confounder of Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore had a brainstorm and decided to form his own solo band with vocalist Ronnie James Dio (the late heavy metal singer/songwriter worthy of a segment all his own).

Despite Blackmore’s propensity for firing more talent than Donald Trump, (the band cycled through two dozen members between 1975 and 1984, including 3 vocalists and 4 drummers), Rainbow thrived from ’79 to ’84. With the introduction of Joe Lynn Turner on vocals (sort of a Lou Gramm/Foreigner sound), Rainbow achieved the pinnacle of their success.

The following songs are among my favorites:

“Since You Been Gone” from the album Down to Earth (1979)


“I Surrender” from the album Difficult to Cure (1981)

“Stone Cold” from the album Straight Between the Eyes (1982)


“Street of Dreams” from the album Bent out of Shape (1983)


Remember – food will nourish the body, but great music can nourish the soul. Don’t believe me? Check out the tracks for yourself, and let me know what you think.




Mesh Networks: Part 2

Military Perspective

Aside from efforts to tame mesh network technology for commercial deployment, the U.S. Government has spent significant time, money, and resources on the research, development, and field deployment of mesh networks for tactical military operations.  With any mesh network deployment, the addition or deletion of network nodes can alter the dynamic network topology, emphasizing the need for efficient network organization, link scheduling, and routing to contend with varying distance and power ratios between links. A military environment, however, imposes additional complications by enforcing low probability of intercept and/or low probability of detection requirements, which in turn pose stringent power and transmission requirements on every network node [4].

Tactical military operations must also contend with varying degrees of mobility that occur within the military’s echelon of four Divisions per Corp, four Brigades per Division, three Battalions per Brigade, four Companies per Battalion, and three Platoons per Company [13].  In this particular hierarchy, the often unpredictable nature of battle can dictate the need to merge and reconfigure sections of missing forces, disrupting the communication paths from node to node within Battalions, Companies, or other command structures. And while some engineers argue that alternatives to mesh networking exist to support communications in these battlefield conditions, others highlight the mesh network capability for instantly configurable, decentralized, redundant, and survivable communications in frontline battle areas or during amphibious or airborne operations where a clustered, ad hoc network configuration might consist of people, planes, ships, and tanks. In this military environment, mesh networks must contend with the military’s requirement for preservation of security, latency, reliability, intentional jamming, and recovery from failure [1], [4].

The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) provides one example of a repeater-based, full mesh military network architecture that uses airborne relay to perform base station functions such as routing, switching, buffering multiple packet streams, and radio trunking. Developed for air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, JTIDS consists of up to 30 radio nets each sharing a communications channel on a time division multiple access (TDMA) scheme with most nodes in the network containing minimal hardware and processing power. In this configuration, the loss of any node within a radio net would have no negative impact on communications connectivity [1].

In another example, the Army’s Communications Electronics Command oversees ITT Industries’ development of the Soldier Level Integrated Communications Environment (SLICE). Designed for voice communications and troop mapping functions, SLICE represents the latest in military mesh network capabilities. Originally conceived as the DARPA Small Unit Operations Situational Awareness System, SLICE supports simultaneous networking of voice, video, and data transfer with a waveform and media access protocol that yields effective communications in urban canyons and dense jungle environments. In its present form, SLICE consists of a backpack-size computer with a headset display and built-in microphone. By 2005, ITT expects SLICE to shrink to the size of a PDA.  With respect to SLICE, JTIDS, or any other military radio architecture, the theme of digitized battlefield communications describes the warfighter landscape with requirements for wearable, ruggedized personal computers capable of flawless performance under harsh conditions [14], [15, [16].

Final Thoughts

With low transmission power requirements and a multi-hop architecture, mesh networks increase the aggregate spectral capacity of existing nodes, providing greater bandwidth across the network. And since mesh networks transmit data over several smaller hops instead of spanning one large distance between hops, mesh network links preserve signal-to-noise ratios and decrease reliance on bandwidth-pinching forward error correction techniques [17]. In terms of scalability, mesh networks can accommodate hundreds or thousands of nodes with control of the wireless system distributed throughout the network, allowing intelligent nodes to communicate with one another without the expense or complication of having a central control point. Furthermore, these networks can be installed in a manner of days or weeks without the necessity of planning and site mapping for expensive cellular towers. As with other peer-to-peer router-based networks, mesh networks offer multiple redundant communications paths, allowing the network to automatically reroute messages in the event of an unexpected node failure. Thanks in part to standards efforts underway in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) MANET Working Group, the design and standardization of algorithms for network organization, link scheduling, and routing will help facilitate the commercial acceptance of mesh network technology.

Despite their potential to provide a more sophisticated WLAN alternative, mesh networks must effectively address security issues with end-device and router introduction, user data integrity, device control and authentication, and network authentication. Aside from security issues, the RF-independent, self-forming, and self-healing characteristics these networks display come at  the expense of complex and power intensive computer processing. Even in static environments with all nodes stationary, mesh network topologies remain dynamic due to variations in RF propagation and atmospheric attenuation. With mobile nodes, a mesh network’s constantly shifting topology dictates the need for dynamic routing allocation, resource management, and quality of service management – all of which must be precisely choreographed to ensure optimum performance and reliability. Other skeptics contend that as ad hoc multi-hop networks grow, performance tends to deteriorate due in part to excessive traffic control overhead required to maintain quality of service along a path with multiple hops besieged by inconsistencies in routing and connectivity as nodes are added and dropped. Also, the network must handle multiple access and collision problems associated with the broadcast nature of RF communications. Regardless of these technical hurdles, researchers at Intel continue to push the research and development envelop in an effort to design a 100 Mbps mesh network where every network element (PC, PDA, mobile phone, etc.) could act as a data relay and link itself to all the devices in an intelligent network [10], [12], [17], [19].

With the ability to deploy a wide-spread coverage network without towers, mesh networks pose a viable alternative to traditional cellular architectures. Labeled as a potentially disruptive fourth-generation technology, QDMA-based mesh networks aren’t alone in their quest for the ultimate radio communications system capable of operating in unlicensed spectrum. Though technologically disparate from QDMA-based networks, ultra wideband (UWB) mesh networks present one alternative to MeshNetworks, Inc. proprietary QDMA-based software, thanks in part to recent FCC rulings approving limited usage of UWB devices. Several companies are championing the development of UWB networks, which promise data rates of 100 Mbps at very low power levels over a wide bandwidth from 1 to 10 GHz. By employing time-modulated digital pulses in lieu of continuous sine waves, mesh networks with UWB technology can send signals at very high rates in wireless communication environments that suffer from severe multipath, noise, and interference. Whether UWB mesh networks or QDMA-based mesh networks will prevail remains to be seen. Some analysts give the edge to UWB as an open standard, which is steadily gaining support in commercial and military markets. Either way, the continued development of mesh networks for military and commercial markets holds promise for a radical shift in the way we view the world of wireless communications [18], [20].


1      “Alternative Architectures for Future Military Mobile Networks,” Obtained April  7, 2003 from URL: http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR960/MR960.chap3.pdf

2      Poor, Robert, “Wireless Mesh Networks,” Sensors [on-line], February 2003. http://www.sensorsmag.com/articles/0203/38/main.shtml.

3      Braunschweig, Carolina, “Wireless LANs Could Turn Into a Big Mesh,” Private Equity Week [on-line], February 3, 2002. http://www.ventureeconomics.com/vec/1031551158703.html

4      “Project: Wireless Ad Hoc Networks,” NIST.  Obtained April 8, 2003 from URL: http://w3.antd.nist.gov/wctg/manet/

5      “QDMA and the 802.11b Radio Protocol Compared,” MeshNetworks: Technology, [on-line]. Obtained April 9, 2003 from URL: http://www.meshnetworks.com/pages/technology/qdma_vs_80211.htm

6      Blackwell, Gerry, “Mesh Networks: Disruptive Technology?” 802.11 Planet [on-line].  Obtained April 8, 2003 from URL: http://www.80211-planet.com/columns/article.php/961951.

7      Black, Uyless (1993). Computer Networks: Protocols, Standards, and Interfaces. Second Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

8      Stroh, Steve, “MeshNetworks – From the Military Battlefield to the Battlefield of Modern Mobile Life,” Shorecliff Communications [on-line], Vol. 2, No. 2, February 2001. http://www.shorecliffcommunications.com/magazine/print_article.asp?vol=10&story=85

9      Morrissey, Brian, “The Next 802.11 Revolution,” Internet News [on-line], June 13, 2002. http://www.internetnews.com/wireless/article.php/136561

10   Rubin, Izhak, and Patrick Vincent, “Topological Synthesis of Mobile Backbone Networks for Managing Ad Hoc Wireless Networks,” Electrical Engineering Department, University of California Los Angeles, 2001.

11   Krane, Jim, “Military Networks Trickling into Civilian Hands,” The Holland Sentinel [on-line], December 8, 2002. http://www.thehollandsentinel.net/stories/120802/bus_120802072.shtml

12   Fowler, Tim, “Mesh Networks for Broadband Access,” IEE Review, January 2001.

13   Graff, Charles et al., “Application of Mobile IP to Tactical Mobile Internetworking,” IEEE Magazine, April 1998.

14   “ITT Industries Awarded $44 Million to Develop Advanced Soldier Communications System,” PR Newswire [on-line], November 25, 2002. http://www.cnet.com/investor/news/newsitem/0-9900-1028-20696617-0.html

15   “Mesh Networks Keep Soldiers in the Loop,” Associated Press [on-line], January 27, 2003. http://www.jsonline.com/bym/Tech/news/jan03/113806.asp

16   Omatseye, Sam, “The Connected Soldier,” RCR Wireless News, March 17, 2003.

17   Krishnamurthy, Lakshman et al, “Meeting the Demands of the Digital Home with High-Speed Multi-Hop Wireless Networks,” Intel Technology Journal, Volume 6, Issue 4 [on-line], November 15, 2002. http://developer.intel.com/technology/itj/index.htm

18   Smith, Brad, “Smell the Coffee: Disruptive Technologies on the 2002 Horizon,” Wireless Internet Magazine, January 7, 2002. http://www.wirelessinternetmag.com/news/020107/020107_opinion_brad.htm

19   Ward, Mike, “Promise of Intelligent Networks,” BBC News [on-line], February 24, 2003.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/2787953.stm

20   Barr, Dale, “Ultra-Wideband Technology,” Office of the Manager, National Communications System Technical Notes, Volume 8, Number 1, February 2001