"And Then They Came..." (CHAPTER LXV)
“The police is here!” Rosario announced as he hurriedly walked into the room. “There must be at least twenty of them in the lobby, and I’m sure that they’ve surrounded the hotel. They should be here in a matter of minutes!”
After going for some coffee downstairs, Rosario had been getting into the elevator to return to Enrique’s room when he had spotted dozens of heavily armed policemen, wearing helmets and body armor, stream into the hotel’s lobby. As the elevator doors began to shut, he had watched some of the officers quietly begin to gather the guests and herd them out of the hotel.
Rosario’s statement was instantly taken at face value. His companions, watching the news on TV or conversing with each other, instantly stood up and began checking their weapons.
“Turn up the volume of the television,” Enrique instructed Da’ud. “We’ll head for the stairs at the end of the corridor. Rosario, you go first. Nour, cover our rear.”
The group swiftly walked out of the room within the next thirty seconds, and scurried towards the back stairwell. There, they waited while Rosario opened the stairwell's door and checked inside.
Ascertaining that the police was not there yet, the handsome terrorist signaled the others to follow him, cautioning them with a finger over his lips to be silent.
They were on the twelfth floor—a mistake, Enrique now realized. He should have insisted on a room in one of the lower floors, from where they could have jumped from the balcony.
The echoing sound of rushing footsteps greeted them as they moved in. Rosario pointed to the stairs heading to the floor above them, and began to climb in that direction, followed by the others. Scrambling half a flight up, they stopped and trained their guns towards the lower floor, as the hurried noise of the approaching men grew progressively louder.
Less than a minute later, five heavily armed policemen reached the twelfth floor and waited in a single file for further instructions.
“This is team Beta. We’re here,” the first man in the line whispered into a walkie talkie.
“So are we,” Rosario said from above, and the terrorists opened fire at point-blank range.
The man at the front of the line was struck twice, in the neck and the shoulder, dropping his hand-held communicator. The intense barrage of bullets also hit the three men behind him on their legs, torsos, and arms, amid screams of pain and surprise.
But the last policeman in the line managed to push himself away from the shooting and, taking a quick look up the stairs, stood up and began to run down.
He managed to reach the tenth floor before Nour, pursuing him, clipped him on his left ankle, causing him to pitch headfirst into the stairs below. Stunned by the fall, his foot throbbing with intense pain, the policeman tried to stand up, only to find Nour’s gun barrel pointing at him, less than an inch from his face.
The female terrorist fired, creating a distinct hole in his forehead and blowing away part of the back of his skull. Then, with deliberate calm, she stripped him of his weapons and waited for the others.
In the meantime, Rosario had walked among the fallen officers that were still alive, and cooly dispatched them.
Enrique picked up the dropped walkie talkie, examined it briefly, and then pressed its “Speak” button.
“This is Team Beta. We have just come in contact with the terrorists! Shots fired as they tried to exit through our position. They have backed away! They backed away! Two went back into their room. The others may be heading for the other stairs!” he shouted in an excited tone.
“Roger, Team Beta. Hold your position,” someone on the radio responded. “Help is on the way.”
Enrique smiled, and taking the walkie talkie with him, began to walk downstairs.
* * *
Enrique’s group rushed down the hotel’s stairwell, stopping at the fourth floor when they heard new footsteps coming from below. Quickly, they stepped out of the stairs and slipped into the fourth floor corridor, noiselessly closing the stairwell’s door behind them.
As before, Rosario headed the group, just in case some policemen were roaming the area. But his precautions were unnecessary; the corridor was empty, already vacated of its guests and employees.
Nour waited next to the stairwell’s door, holding an upraised gun, in case the police reinforcements did not bypass them.
At the same time, Enrique spoke again into his portable communicator.
“This is Team Beta. Two suspects are heading to the other stairwell. Get ready! We are going to pursue them!”
Nour heard Enrique’s voice reverberate through the opposite side of the stairwell’s door, as it was reproduced through the walkie talkie of the ascending reinforcements.
“We’re on our way!” one of the men responded, and Nour thought she heard the man's actual voice on the other side of the door.
Then the footsteps began to recede, as the reinforcements ascended.
“Let’s go!” Enrique said. “It won’t be too long before they find the real Beta Team.”
Nour opened the door a crack, and listened as the policemen continued to climb the stairs. She nodded to the others, and they walked out onto the stairwell, quietly heading in the opposite direction.
* * *
Guided by Nour, the terrorists descended to the ground floor, where a sign posted on the door read: “Exit to Open Parking”.
“Hide your weapons,” Enrique told the others, looking through the door’s small vertical window, and seeing no movement outside. Placing his Glock pistol in one of his pockets, he opened the door and walked out of the stairwell.
Casually, he strolled through the parked cars—most of them stationed in spots marked with “Valet Parking Only” signs—without being challenged by anyone. He looked back at the stairwell’s exit, and nodded slightly. Nour, Da’ud, and Rosario walked out after him.
They headed diagonally across the parking area towards Isla Verde Avenue, half a block away, the main throughway in the hotel area. There, they continued to calmly walk away from their hotel, threading their way through a throng of onlookers. The sound of urgent sirens reverberated behind them, as various emergency vehicles whizzed by.
“I don’t get it,” Da’ud said more to himself than to the others, while they began to distance themselves from the crowd staring curiously in the direction of the hotel. “How did they find us?”
“It is fairly obvious, isn’t it?” Enrique answered.
“To you, maybe,” Rosario countered.
“It was José Ramón,” Enrique stated with absolute certainty. “He must have been captured at the airport, and ratted on us.”
“But how? Why?” asked Da’ud. “How did they identify him? Does that mean we would have been arrested also if we had tried to fly out this morning?”
“Probably,” Rosario responded. “It must have been something that Alfaro discovered back at the hideout. Which means,” he added nonsensically, “that the sooner we kill him, the better we’ll be.”
Enrique shook his head.
“No, I don't believe it was Alfaro. We didn't leave anything behind us that he could have used to trace us here.”
“Then maybe the police got the information from Nabil and Javid. We know their ambulance was captured before it could explode. We haven’t heard anything from them all day long,” Rosario suggested. “Or as I said before, it could have been Yousef or Sami, if they survived their flight.”
“Like I said before, Yousef, Nabil…They were all fanatics. There’s no way they would turn on us,” Enrique stated flatly, admitting no contradiction. “Besides, they did not know where we were hiding. Only the people in our group knew. So no, it had to be José Ramón.”
“Or Alfaro,” Rosario insisted. “I still think it was him.”
Enrique directed a brief, humorous glance at his associate.
“You have it in for this guy, don’t you?” he said. "On the one hand, you say he's a fake. On the other, you think he was smart enough to find out where we were hiding. Which is it?"
Rosario laughed mirthlessly. “You should talk! It’s been me who has said that you’ve overestimated this guy all along, while you who have talked about him as if he was an invincible superhero, some sort of a warlike god. Of the people here, I've been the one who's been closest to him, and he didn't impress me as being particularly smart or even a good fighter."
"And yet," Enrique said, "you credit him with finding out where we were hiding."
"So yeah, I may have it in for him. And I may not be completely rational about it. I don't like him. I intend to kill him in a painful, prolonged way. He’s been lucky so far, but I’ll show you what a fake he really is.”
Enrique smiled, his eyes looking forward.
“Fake or no fake," he said after a pause, "I agree with you that the time has come to kill him. Whether quickly or, as you suggest, in a prolonged and painful fashion. I do believe he’s very dangerous, and that the faster we kill him, the safer we’ll be. I leave it up to you. But do make a bloody mess of him, and of his family. I want the people of this island, of the world, really, to realize who we are, and that we are unstoppable.”
“That can be easily arranged,” Rosario responded.
As they continued to escape the chaos behind them, they reached a large cemetery by the beach.
From outside the fence, Enrique saw an old Volkswagen red and white minibus parked among the rows of tombs, a man apparently placing some flowers on a nearby grave.
He turned to Nour and Rosario.
“There’s our transportation,” he said.
* * *
Hurricane Fay Advisory Number 19
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
500 PM AST
...POTENTIALLY CATASTROPHIC HURRICANE FAY IS PASSING OVER
THE U. S. VIRGIN ISLANDS AND WILL PASS OVER PUERTO RICO TONIGHT...
...PREPARATIONS AGAINST LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND RAINFALL
FLOODING AND DESTRUCTIVE WINDS SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION...
SUMMARY OF 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...INFORMATION
ABOUT 10 MI...17 KM SE OF ST. CROIX
ABOUT 105 MI...169 KM SE OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...165 MPH...270 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 300 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...916 MB...27.05 INCHES
WATCHES AND WARNINGS
CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY:
The Meteorological Service of the Bahamas has issued a Hurricane
Watch for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas.
The Meteorological Service of Antigua has discontinued the Tropical
Storm Warning for Antigua and Barbuda.
SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...
* St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat
* U.S. Virgin Islands
* British Virgin Islands
* Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques
* Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
* Saba and St. Eustatius
* St. Maarten
* West of Puerto Plata to the northern border of the Dominican
Republic and Haiti
* West of Cabo Engano to Punta Palenque
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...
* Saba and St. Eustatius
* St. Maarten
* St. Martin and St. Barthelemy
* Isla Saona to Cabo Engano
* Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas
Interests elsewhere in Hispaniola and the Bahamas should monitor the
progress of Fay. Additional watches and warnings may be required
tonight or Wednesday.
DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
At 500 PM AST (2100 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Fay was located
near latitude 16.8 North, longitude 65.0 West. Fay is moving
toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 km/h), and this general
motion is expected to continue through tonight. On the
forecast track, the eye of Fay will move near or over the U. S.
Virgin Islands this afternoon, cross Puerto Rico tonight, and then
pass just north of the coast of the Dominican Republic starting tomorrow.
Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft
indicate that maximum sustained winds have dropped from 170 to 165 mph (270 km/h)
with higher gusts. Fay is a potentially catastrophic category 5
hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Some
fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or so, but
Fay is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous category 5
hurricane as it moves over the Virgin Islands and Puerto
Rico. Slow weakening is expected after the hurricane emerges over
the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (55 km) from the
center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
WIND: Hurricane conditions will continue in portions of the
hurricane warning area in the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands this evening, and
spread into Puerto Rico tonight and
tomorrow. Tropical storm conditions are occurring over the
remainder of the Leeward Islands, and are spreading over the Virgin
Islands at this time. Tropical storm conditions should spread over
Puerto Rico during the next several hours. Hurricane conditions are
expected within the hurricane warning area in the Dominican Republic
late tomorrow, with tropical storm conditions expected by early
tomorrow. Tropical storm conditions are expected in the tropical
storm warning areas in the Dominican Republic tomorrow.
Hurricane conditions are possible within the next two days in the Turks and
Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.
Wind speeds atop and on the windward sides of hills and mountains
and on high-rise buildings could be much stronger than the near-
surface winds indicated in this advisory.
STORM SURGE: A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and
destructive waves will raise water levels by as much as 7 to 11
feet above normal tide levels in the hurricane warning area near
where the center of Fay moves across the Leeward Islands and the
British Virgin Islands.
A dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves
will raise water levels by as much as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide
levels in the hurricane warning area in the Dominican Republic, and
1 to 3 ft elsewhere along the northern coasts of the Dominican
Republic and Haiti.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause
normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters
moving inland from the shoreline. The water is expected to reach
the following heights above ground if the peak surge occurs at the
time of high tide...
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands...6 to 9 ft
The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to
the north and east of the landfall location, where the surge will be
accompanied by large and destructive waves. Surge-related
flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal
cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. For information
specific to your area, please see products issued by your local
National Weather Service forecast office.
RAINFALL: Fay is expected to produce the following rain
accumulations through Thursday:
Central and southern Leeward Islands...10 to 15 inches, isolated 20
U.S. and British Virgin Islands...10 to 15 inches, isolated 20
Puerto Rico...12 to 18 inches, isolated 25 inches.
Northern Leeward Islands from Barbuda to Anguilla...4 to 8 inches,
isolated 10 inches.
Windward Islands and Barbados...2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches.
Eastern Dominican Republic...4 to 8 inches, isolated 12 inches.
Rainfall on all of these islands will cause life-threatening flash
floods and mudslides.
TORNADOES: Several tornadoes are possible over Puerto Rico and the
U. S. Virgin Islands tonight and Wednesday.
SURF: Swells generated by Fay are affecting the Leeward Islands,
Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These swells are likely to
cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Please
consult products from your local weather office.
(Chapter LXVI will be posted on Monday, December 7)