By Jean Blasiar
For some reason when Joe Morgan found the brown paper package on his bus before he clocked out, he decided not to alert anyone, not Security or even his supervisor. Flaunting all instructions to the contrary, he picked up the package and put it in his truck.
It wasn’t until much later that evening when Joe was home watching television and having a beer, that something in an ad jostled his memory about the package. At first, he dismissed the urge to go out to the garage and get the package, but the more he thought about it the more his curiosity won out.
It didn’t rattle, or even move, when he shook it. He could have dumped it in the trash, but he brought it into the house and opened it. No address. Nothing to identify the sender. The brown paper turned out to be a grocery bag turned inside out.
A bunch of papers clipped together inside with the title, تحذيري, إنذار
At half time, Joe started reading.
It didn’t matter to Joe that after reading for ten minutes, the game had come back on and his team pulled ahead. It didn’t matter that the second half turned out to be the all time controversial half of the series—a blow-out fight for the ball with a player getting punched, resulting in members of both benches running onto the court and duking it out. Joe had put the volume on ‘mute’, not to be disturbed after reading the first page of تحذيري, إنذار . Without even looking at the fight that would warrant three inch headlines on the sports page in the morning, Joe switched off the TV and picked up the phone.
A plainclothesman was knocking on Joe’s door less than a half hour later. After checking his badge, Charles Dewey – Homeland Security, Joe invited him in.
Without a word of explanation, Joe handed Charles Dewey the package, now unwrapped.
“You didn’t think…” Charles started to say but Joe cut him off.
“Don’t lecture me about taking a package without telling anyone.”
“Maybe the bomb squad?” Charles suggested.
“I know a bomb when I see it.”
“Really? What makes you an expert?”
“Three years in Iraq. Special Forces.”
“You think you’d know better.”
“Sit down and read this.”
“Yes. The guy’s dangerous.”
Charles looks at the title page. What’s this?”
“It’s Arabic for “Warning”.
“You know that because…”
They say together…“Three years in Iraq.”
Joe added, “I studied Arabic in Special Forces before being deployed.” He points to the title.“That’s the only Arabic. The rest of the manuscript’s in English, not great English, but good enough.”
“Give me the 30 second version.”
“He’s feeling guilty about an upcoming mission. He practically begs whoever reads his script to stop him before his family in Fallujah is murdered. He wants someone to kill him before he can get to the President. Then he will be a martyr and they’ll let his family live.” Joe waited while that sunk in before he asked, “You want a beer?”
“I can’t… Yes.”
Charles Dewey sat down to wait while Joe got him a beer. “If I call my people, I have to tell them how I got this…what is this anyway?”
“It’s instructions how to kill him before he gets the President.”
“If I tell how I came to have this, you’ll be splattered all over.”
“Better me than the President.”
Joe hands Charles his beer.
“Maybe I found it.”
“On my desk at the office. I don’t know how it got there.”
Joe sips his beer. “Neither do I.”
“Who are you? We’ve never met.”
“That’s right. Take your beer and get out of here.”
Charles sets down his beer, starts to leave with the package. “I think I found it in a bar when I was having a beer. In the restroom. We’ll probably spend the rest of the night interviewing the bartender and waiters and patrons, but, hey…they probably couldn’t find Iraq on a map if they had to.”
“And I almost didn’t pick it up because I thought it was somebody’s homework. Or propaganda.”
“Definitely true. Another beer?”
“No. I have to go to a bar and have one before I go to the restroom.” He starts to leave, turns to Joe. “Thanks for saving the President.”
“My pleasure. It’s what I was trained to do.”
Joe Morgan wouldn’t receive a medal for his actions that night, but then, he had so many. He spent three years in Iraq.