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"And Then They Came..." (Chapter XV)

Chapter XV

Enrique watched from the second floor balcony as the kidnapper’s team stopped its van, and carried into the house the still unconscious boy. He noticed that Yousef was limping badly, holding on to his right knee.

Nour, the short-haired woman who had shot one of Francisco’s bodyguards, and Hassam, the shorter of the two men who had grabbed Francisco and who was now carrying the boy, walked ahead. The Iranian Javid, still dressed in his UPS uniform, and Yousef followed.

Enrique waited for the group to climb the stairs to the second floor, his dark eyes flashing with satisfaction.

“Did you administer the virus to the boy?” he asked Nour.

She nodded. Barely five feet tall, with black, short, cropped hair, a sensual mouth, and an athletic body, she would have been a very beautiful woman except for the hardness in her eyes.

A native Egyptian, she had managed to become the second highest grade in her class at the Engineering School in the University of Cairo. However, during her second year there, her family had decided that her younger brother should be the one attending school, and had cut the funding it had reluctantly provided for her education. She would, her father had told her in no uncertain terms, dedicate her time to the domestic chores of the household, as any proper Muslim female should.

Enraged, she had abandoned her family, found a job as a waitress in a cafe, and enrolled herself back into the Engineering School. During that time, she had stayed in an array of improvised quarters: from a floor mat in an apartment shared by various students, to a few nights in the kitchen of the cafe where she worked, to a half night in the house of one of her professors where he had had attempted to rape her, to finally a couch in another female student's room.

It had been at the university where she had first been acquainted with the radical fundamentalist preachings of the Imam Rashad al Sharkawy, and avidly listened to his and other Muslim extremist preachers who condemned the Western world powers, and particularly the United States. She had joined other radicalized students in several violent protests, and even become Secretary of the Cairo University Muslim League of Students, a radical organization supporting the establishment of a secular Muslim state.

Eventually, she had gravitated towards Al Qaeda, where San Miguel had quickly learned about her and recruited her into his elite terrorist group. Nour, San Miguel had assured her, would be valued for her talents and not her sex. She would be trained as a freedom fighter, and nobody would be able to ignore her natural talents ever again.

During the eight years she had been under San Miguel’s wing, Nour had blossomed into a full fledged terrorist, becoming a merciless, deadly fighter. Her progress had been spurred not only by her natural intelligence and athleticism, but by her innate ruthlessness. There was a cruel streak in her, she had discovered early on in her new career, that allowed her to carry out any assignment with cold-blooded efficiency.

That character trait had been in full display that afternoon.

“I injected the contaminated blood in the van, while the boy was unconscious. He may feel his arm a little sore when he wakes up, but he won’t know what happened to him,” she responded with an impish smile.

Enrique nodded distractedly, the wheels in his mind already turning to the next phase of his plan,.

“Excellent. Symptoms normally should start to show within a week, but the sooner they do the better. We want the virus to be detected quickly. We’ll take a blood sample in two days, and check the virus’ progress. Lock him up in his room.”

He turned his attention to the limping Yousef.

“What happened to you?”

“Another schoolboy kicked his ass,” Hassam said in a mocking tone, before the thin, sour looking injured terrorist could answer.

“A boy kicked me under the knee from behind, when I was not looking,” Yousef answered defensively. “I would have taken care of him, but Nour got to him first.”

Enrique quietly observed the injured knee. It was already swelling.

“Well, take care of it,” he said. “It looks sprained to me. We can’t have the luxury of losing you during the next few days of the operation.”

Yousef nodded, and headed towards his room. In the meantime, Hassam and Nour continued towards the back room, where Francisco would be locked up.

“That thing that you injected into the boy,” Hassam said to his female associate, “it looks like blood.”

“It is blood,” Nour replied casually.

“And it has a virus?”

Nour nodded.

“What kind of a virus?”

“If Enrique has not told you that, then it is because you don’t need to know,” she answered, directing him a half-peeved glance, but secretly enjoying that she had been given access to more critical information than her associate.

It was one of Enrique’s inflexible rules—and before him San Miguel's—that each member of his team would only be privy to those portions of his plan that were pertinent to that person. Nobody, except Enrique himself and sometimes one or two of his top associates, would be aware of the entire details of the operation.

Thus, when Enrique had instructed his top computer person, José Ramón Ramírez, to find out what was the Governor’s son blood type, the Spaniard had never questioned him or tried to find out why. It had been relatively easy for José Ramón to locate the hospital where Francisco had been born, and then hack the hospital’s data base to find out his blood type. It was B positive.

Armed with that information, Yousef, a trained paramedic, had been sent to the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo where, posing as a volunteer nurse, he had joined the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), and worked for the organization for three months, fighting the spread of the ebola virus.

Even though he had been fully protected from the infectious disease by a virus hazmat protection suit, goggles, boots, and a respiratory air filter, Yousef had taken no chances. Three weeks prior to his arrival in the Congo, he had been inoculated with an RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine. The vaccine carried an ebola virus antibody, obtained from the blood of infected cattle, that had proven very effective in the battle to control of the deadly disease.

Yousef had also brought to the Congo with him a portable blood test kit that identified, in a matter of minutes, the blood-type of the patients being treated. During his last two weeks with the Médicins Sans Frontières, he had surreptitiously drawn blood from dozens of patients, keeping and refrigerating four vials of the infected blood that he had identified as B positive. He had kept the virus vials in a small portable freezer, which in theory would allow the virus to survive.

Yousef’s main problem had been transporting and keeping frozen the vials of the infected blood while traveling to Puerto Rico. Enrique had provided to him with a set of thick, hollowed, false magic markers into which the small blood vials could be fitted and packed with dried ice.

Yousef had kept them in his handbag during the more than twenty-six hours of travel that it had taken to land in the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan. He had breezed through every security network without incident.

The execution of the next stage of the plan had been assigned to the steady and unshakeable Nour. On the morning of the kidnapping, Yousef’s hands had shaken when he had transferred two of the thawing ebola contaminated vials to the female Egyptian.

As the van transporting Francisco headed towards the terrorist compound in the El Yunque foothills, Nour had donned a pair of surgical gloves, drawn the blood from one of the vials through a syringe, and injected Francisco with it.

Like Yousef, she had been vaccinated against the disease as an added precaution. But the symptoms of the ebola virus would take at the very least two days to begin to manifest themselves from the moment it had been injected—if the virus was still effective—and probably take much longer—about seven or eight days—to really become apparent.

And the ebola-infected boy would not be contagious until then, the virus only spread by contact with his bodily fluids or blood.

Nour had disposed of the used injection in a sealed tin container, and brought it with her to the compound. There, it would be left as a souvenir for the police, after they had abandoned the mansion. Who knew, she wondered gleefully, maybe the virus would survive all of that time. That would really throw a monkey wrench into their lives.

Hassam entered an air conditioned room with iron barred windows, and deposited the unconscious boy on the room’s bed. He stared at him with pity, then looked at his companion.

“Whatever it is that you injected to him,” he told her, “I don’t like it. I don’t make war on children.”

Nour smiled, and walked out of the room.

(Chapter XVI of "And Then They Came..." will be posted on Monday, June 15)

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