The story is about Washington bureaucracy, terrorism, espionage, culture clash and Information Technology. It happens after 9/11.
The Plot evolves through the lead-in characters Robert Grundell and Ahmed Khalifa, nextdoor neighbors in the Arlington, Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.
Robert is a bitterly disgruntled Treasury Department employee who has a Top Secret Clearance with the agency as well as with Defense.
Ahmed is a Pakistani immigrant on a working visa sponsored by his boss, Abu Kamal Ramshallah who, unbeknownst to him at first, is a terrorist agent.
Robert is angry with his bosses and management for the way he had been treated for years in the office. Since he has no place else to go because of the freeze and downsizing on federal jobs, he chooses to get even. He plans to discredit his bosses by sabotage.
Learning of his situation at work through Ahmed, Abu Kamal preys upon his vulnerability. He offers Robert a deal to make a lot of money passing classified top secret military and civilian data to him and his people.
Without any qualms, Robert sells out, resulting in horrifying consequences to the U.S. government. Through data passed to them by Robert, the terrorists are able to launch a successful attack on the Pentagon itself, a suicide truck bombing in the Punchbowl Memorial in Hawaii on Veterans Day and an all-out daytime assault on a train carrying a half a dozen U.S. senators (final scene of the novel).
Along with Robert, Ahmed and Abu Kamal, the base plot above brings into play the following Major Characters:
Omar Husain - the terrorist leader, an Islamic fundamentalist, teacher and trainer of Soldiers of Islam (sleepers) who, like himself, commit their lives to Islamic Jihad (holy war).
For over twenty years, the U.S. and its allies have been trying to capture him, but they couldn't even identify the man, don't know his name, what he looks like. For a matter of reference, the FBI code-names him... Saladin.
Julie Santorelli - A college math teacher in Falls Church, Virginia. Girlfriend of Chris below. Julie is captured by Omar at first because she witnessed a killing Omar was involved in, then later as a hostage when the FBI finally identifies him as Saladin.
Chris Phillips - A federal government employee at the Interior Department in Washington. His work involves data transmission to Robert Grundell at Treasury Department.
Richard Bartley - The FBI undercover who becomes the lead agent in the worldwide hunt for Saladin.
The Theme of the story unravels from two subplots, distant in time and place, which bring about the preceding events and the characters above to cross paths in life.
Chronologically, the first involves Julie's early girlhood years (1975-76). An Italian nun, Julie's aunt (Sister Caterina), returning from a mission in the Philippines, passes a message which she learned from a Filipino Mother nun and had handwritten in the back cover of a bible, to Julie and to Kamilah, a neighbor of Julie at the time and Omar's future fiancee. Kamilah's mother is a Christian, her father a Muslim. Sister Caterina gives Kamilah's mother the bible as a family gift.
The other [subplot] is that of Omar in his early manhood in southern Lebanon, caught in the middle of the Arab-Israeli war in 1982 when his entire family, as well as Kamilah, were killed. Driven by savage anger and hatred, he commits his life to the Jihad.
The fundamental Conflict in the story is that between the Muslim and the Judeo-Christian cultures and beliefs. This becomes the focus of the character relationship between Julie and Omar, staged during Julie's captivity.
In this time of the story, Julie discovers the man she is dealing with. Not a cold-blooded killer, a mindless fanatic, but a man of high intellect and great sensitivities, and a man tortured by his conscience.
In the room Omar holds her captive, Julie finds the bible Sister Caterina had given Kamilah's mother years before. Here, the reader learns what inner conflict rages within the man - that between the life of violence and destruction he lives, his commitment to Jihad, and the message he learned from Kamilah when he consented to read the bible.
In the final scene of the novel, during the battle in the train, Saladin's anger and hatred succumb to the message. He and Julie come to an unworded understanding of a reconciliation. All but he and one of his men are killed in the battle with the FBI. He escapes, stilll holding Julie this time as a willing hostage to provide cover to Omar at the risk of her own life.
Earlier in the battle, Julie tells Omar:
"Please stop these killings now. It's absolutely senseless!"
"Nothing makes any sense any more," he retorts. "Life is meaningless. For me, it is."
"No life is meaningless," she replies. "It's never too late to redeem one's self. Please listen to what's really inside you. I know it's there, within you!"
Before Omar leaves her, he says:
"You made me want to live. You saved my life."
"I'm glad I did," replies Julie.
He thanks her and, touching her face lightly as he steps away, adds: "You won't regret it. I promise."
I was born and raised in Imus, Cavite (province), Philippines. Immediately after obtaining a B. Sc. degree in Architecture from the National U in Manila, I came to the U.S. I spent eleven years dawdling with architecture till my late thirties. First in West Orange (NJ), Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles and lastly in the D.C. Capital area. Then I had enough of it when I noticed I wasn't getting anywhere - no pension, no job security, no practice, no nest egg. This was in the mid '70s when computer programming was catching on in the academia.
So, I went to a computer training school and switched careers. After a couple of years in the private industry, I got in the federal government and launched a 26-year career in the civil service.
In the meantime, I've written and published several other books, namely: Voices From the Heart. (fiction novel 471 p.), Ordinary Lives: A Journey Through America (an autobiographical novel, 561 p.), Polarized (a near-future socio-political fiction novel, 452 p.), Being Here, (fiction novel, 328 p.), Mr and Ms Stories (four novellas, 350 p.), Duck People (short stories, 292 p.).