Six Virgins | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Six Virgins

Six Virgins Dallas Releford Israel Garcia parked his new SUV in the employee parking lot and got out. Locking the vehicle, he turned and walked toward the loading dock where he had worked for almost five years. Soon he would have enough money saved to make a down payment on a new home. As an illegal worker from Guatemala, he felt like a stranger on foreign shores except he had gotten used to America and didn’t want to leave it, ever. After he purchased his new home, he would send for his wife and two daughters to come to America and live with him. He missed them even though he wrote a couple of letters every week and called them on Sundays. Sending half his paycheck to them meant that he had little left to live on, or to put in the bank. Somehow, he had always managed. Yes, things were going well for him, except he was still just an illegal immigrant living in a country that was turning hostile toward foreigners. Sometimes, he guessed he didn’t blame them. Many Americans were having great difficulties finding work because so many jobs had been exported to other countries and illegal aliens had taken most of what was left. Millions of people were coming to the United States seeking a better way of life and he had been one of them. He was still paying the employment service in El Paso for helping him cross the border. Sighing as he neared the dock entrance, he wondered seriously if he would ever be able to pay them off. His best friend, Juan Rodriquez worked at Warren Foods, the company that manufactured prepackaged meals for the US military. He was the dock foreman. Israel lived with Juan and his family not too far away. Juan was only one of his friends, nonetheless he was happy to have him as a friend. Only he knew that Israel wasn’t legal and he would never tell anyone. Juan had been an illegal immigrant from Mexico too until he managed to get his citizenship a few years ago. Israel hoped that he could become an American citizen and he was sure he would, except it seemed that the only thing his lawyer did was take his hard earned money and produce no results. Israel was extremely nervous and had good reason to be. Yesterday, the Department of Immigration had visited the facility quite unexpectedly. Fifty illegal workers had been arrested and hauled away in yellow school buses. Many of his friends were missing. Israel suspected that he might be among the next batch to go. What would he do then? His family already lived in poverty and if the money he was sending home ended, they would starve to death. His hopes and dreams of owning a new home, bringing his family to America and living a better life would vanish with his new SUV when he was unable to make the payments. Despondent, wary because he didn’t know what might happen next, he pulled the old gray metal door open and entered the shipping and receiving warehouse. It was ninety degrees outside and he didn’t know what it was inside. Without air-conditioning, it was sometimes so hot he could hardly breathe, but he didn’t dare to complain. Anything was better than what he would face at home in Guatemala. “About time you got here,” a voice yelled at him from a forklift as the driver brought it to a sudden halt in front of him blocking his path to the bathroom he usually visited before climbing up on one of the forklifts himself. Israel frowned until he realized that it was only Juan having fun with him as he normally did. “What did you do, take a siesta before you came to work? You look like you aren’t awake yet.” Israel nodded his head and said nothing. Should he tell his best friend about his concerns? Then he remembered the harrowing trip across the border, days in the heat of a desert where he had been sure he was going to die and the weeks he had spent at his friend’s house in El Paso where he was nursed back to health. Those were long weeks and there were times he thought he might not make it. With the loving care of the friend’s wife and daughter, he had made it. Those horrible days were nothing in comparison to the terror he suffered in the weeks and months that followed. His friend told him that several Mexicans were going to Ohio where work was easier to find and invited him to join them. With a few donated clothes in an old garbage bag, a few dollars his friend had given him and letters from his wife tucked safely away in his shirt pocket, he joined the others. Before he left El Paso, two men in business suits visited him demanding that he stay in contact. The men were from an employment agency that helped illegal immigrants get across the border and never helped them find work. Promising that he would pay them back, he headed north in an old white Chevrolet Corsica that needed a muffler and a new battery. Somewhere in Arkansas, the car breathed its last and died. Hitching rides in empty railroad cars, they arrived in Cincinnati penniless. In the Spanish community, they found refuge in an apartment building where Juan was living. Israel and Juan became friends and Israel soon had a good job with good pay and benefits. He had never felt so lucky in his life, except he spent most of his life looking over his shoulder, as he was doing now. “I will help you, my friend,” Juan assured him after he had told him what happened. “We will find a way to get the money you need to pay off that agency. Then we will find you a better lawyer. Say, Amigo. I’m having company tonight. You are welcome to join us. After work some influential people are coming over to talk business.” “What kind of business are you going to talk about?” Israel didn’t understand. Juan was no businessman although he was smart and seemed to nourish his intelligence with constant reading. Being well informed is important in this country, Juan had told him several times and encouraged Israel to learn English better so he too could learn. Juan looked at Israel and smiled. “You’ll find out tonight. Better get to work now, the boss is watching us. You know how they are around here.” Israel grinned and walked toward the bathroom. Feeling his muscles tense, his stomach quiver as he passed Denver Calloway, a security officer that worked for a contract company, he greeted him with his usual cheerfulness and washed his hands in the bathroom after doing what he needed to do. Wondering why the company had so many security personnel, he thought that maybe they were afraid of terrorist attacks. Israel hated the terrorists, especially the Arabs for their blatant attitude toward America. If he could, he would kill all of them, except he was only one person and couldn’t even join the army or the marines. America was his country now, if only they would allow him to be part of it. Knowing that life was rarely fair, that fate was almost as cruel as death, he wondered why he had ever been born. In his country, people would kill you for a dollar. In America, they would kill you for nothing. Despite the fact that violence existed everywhere, he still loved America more than any other place he could think of. Now he knew the real reason he kept going, it was because of his wife and kids. Only when they were with him would he ever be happy. The night went quickly although Israel could not keep his mind on driving the forklift. His shift was from three-thirty in the afternoon until eleven-thirty at night. That was why he wondered what kind of friends would visit Juan at midnight. Israel drove through the night tired and ready for bed. He lived with Juan and his family in a nice home in Forest Park. He always wondered how Juan could afford such a nice house on the salary he was making. Perhaps his friends that he spoke of, the ones that were supposed to come to the house tonight, had helped him to get the house and all the other nice things he had. Still, he wondered what Juan could be doing for anyone that would allow him to have so much in such a short time. Parking the forest green SUV on the street in front of the two-story brick that sat on half an acre of land, he locked it and walked toward the house noticing a dark blue Impala parked in the driveway in front of Juan’s car. When he neared the door, inserted his key and pushed it open, he could hear cheerful voices coming from the kitchen. So that’s it, he thought, they’re having a party. Locking the door behind him, he walked into a dark living room and stood listening to the chatter in the other room. “I tell you, amigo,” Juan was saying to someone. “Israel will fit in perfectly. You wait, you see when you meet him.” “He has such a pleasant personality,” he heard Marie, Juan’s wife say as he walked slowly toward the kitchen. “His brown eyes and pleasant smile would captivate any woman. I’ve never met his wife. He has pictures of his family and his wife is beautiful and the little girls are gorgeous.” Israel walked into the kitchen and was surprised to see three strangers sitting at the table drinking beer. He knew right away that they were from the Middle East. Juan looked surprised to see him. “I didn’t mean to interfere,” Israel said feeling a little foolish even though he knew it wasn’t his fault he had walked in at an inopportune time. “Ah, Israel,” Marie said. “We were just talking about you. Have a seat and I’ll get you a cold beer.” Israel pulled a chair back from the table and sat down. He was aware that the eyes of the strangers were fixed on him. They made him nervous. He didn’t like them although he felt that it might be wrong for him to hate someone just because they happened to come from the same part of the world as terrorists. After all, he was a foreigner too. “What’s going on?” he asked directing the question to Juan. Juan took a drink from a can of beer and smiled. “My friend, we were just discussing how you would fit into a job we have for you. You will do well in this job, believe me.” Israel knew that his friend had spoken of a job except he didn’t know much about it or about the three young men who sat across the table from him. If Juan liked them and Marie was comfortable with them, then they must be all right. “What kind of job is it?” he asked. “Israel, I would like to introduce you to three of my business associates. The one at the end of the table is Jamal and the one on his left is Amar. Billy chose an American name because he loves this country so much. Isn’t that true, my friend?” Juan ignored Israel’s question. Billy’s face lit up and his smile spread its glow from ear to ear. “That is very true,” he said. “My parents came here from Pakistan over twenty years ago. I was born here.” No matter where they were born, Israel felt uncomfortable around them. Only when Marie brought him a beer and joined them did he feel his unease subside. If she trusted them then why shouldn’t he? “Glad to meet you,” he said smiling at them. “What kind of business are you in? Juan never mentioned the fact to me that he was an American entrepreneur.” “You do not know your friend, Juan,” Billy said. “He is one that will go far in this country. He already has made a lot of money working for us.” Puzzled, Israel looked at Billy. “What is it you do?” “We manage shipments, expedite deliveries and things like that.” “How can you make much money doing that?” Israel asked. “Easily,” Juan said. “In fact, we have a big job coming up and you can make twenty thousand just by helping us manage a shipment that is coming into our company Monday.” “I do not understand,” Israel replied. “We receive freight all the time without having someone manage it for us. What is the big deal?” “We work secretly for the government,” Juan said. “Sometimes the government needs things quickly and it is our job to move it as quickly as possible. We have a shipment of chemicals, cleaners and things like that coming in Monday. We have to store it in the center of the warehouse so it will not get lost. It is to be shipped out Tuesday, but until then, my friend, we have to keep an eye on it and make sure it is not moved from where we store it.” Israel stared at Juan with a puzzled look on his face. “You know warehousing procedures as well as I do,” he said. “Everything is stored according to location designations. Chemicals are stored at the front of the warehouse away from all the other shipments. For example, boxes and empty cartons are stored in the G200 to G300 section. The center section contains mostly meals and other food. We can’t put chemicals in the middle of the building. The manager would spot that right away.” “Perhaps you are right, my friend,” Juan said seeming disappointed in him. Looking at the three men he said with a forlorn look on his face, “Israel is my friend. I trust him. We must tell him the truth and let him decide what he wants to do.” “What are you talking about?” Israel was getting more confused. Juan knew about warehouse procedures and how things were handled. After all, he was a supervisor and had been doing the job for years. What did he mean by the truth? “We have friends that want us to ensure that the cleaning chemical containers are placed in the center of the building. The truck will arrive at about nine-thirty when few supervisors are around. We’ll just unload it and drop the load in the center of the building. There is not any danger to us. The explosion won’t occur until early next morning. We don’t come to work until later in the afternoon. We’ll be safe and we’ll be rich, amigo.” “Explosion?” Israel listened except he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They were planning to blow up the warehouse. His best friend was a terrorist. “Juan, no, you cannot do this thing. It is wrong. The money is not important. I won’t do it and you should not do it either.” “Too late,” Billy said. The grin on his face had turned from friendly to fiendish. “You know about it and we have already included you in our plans. We need another forklift operator. That freight needs to be quickly unloaded and placed where we want it. The quicker the operation, the less likely anyone will know.” Feeling trapped, Israel thought quickly hoping to figure a way out of the mess. Looking at Juan, feeling helpless, he asked, “Why are you doing this? What about Marie and the kids? What will happen to them?” “Not to worry,” Juan said. “Marie has known about the plan for a long time. She has nothing against America and neither do I. However, the government is threatening to send us back to Mexico. If that happens, we will lose everything that we have worked hard to gain.” “Send you back? I thought you were a citizen,” Israel replied. “How can they do this?” “Amigo, in a land of kings, they can do anything. My lawyer screwed up and my citizenship is in jeopardy. My new lawyer is working on it, however he may not be able to do anything. The only option for us is to make as much money as we can just in case we are sent home. This is a golden opportunity and Billy assures me that nobody will be hurt. Even if they are, why should we care? They do not care about us. We are second class citizens at best, even when they tell us we are citizens, we are still nothing in their eyes.” Israel dropped his head and rested it in his hands. “I cannot do it,” he said. “I won’t do it.” “Yes, you will,” Juan said. “They will kill your family if you don’t do it. There is too much at stake here. They will kill all of us if we fail. Do you understand, Israel? Do the job my friend and we are rich, fail and we die.” “The bomb will kill many,” Israel protested. “It will kill the guard and all of our friends. What about that guard? Won’t he be suspicious when he checks in chemicals?” “We will have all the paperwork to prove it is legitimate. We receive chemicals all the time. Nothing will be unusual about this. He will not suspect a thing. He will not be a problem. Well, are you in or do they kill your family?” Israel looked at him with something heavy pressing against his chest. “I guess I have no choice,” he said. Glancing at the three Muslims, he knew that hating them had been the right thing to do. If he ever got a chance, he would send them to collect their six virgins or whatever it was they expected to receive when they died. Only they would expect an award for murder. Then, he realized that it wasn’t just the Americans that were being threatened by these maniacs. The entire world was at risk, simply because anyone that didn’t believe as they did were infidels. “Great,” Billy said slapping Israel on his shoulder hard enough to cause pain to shoot up his neck. “You do a good job and we’ll have plenty of work for you. America will bow down to us one of these days and it will be soon. Already, we are in their universities, in their school system and even in their government. We have more political influence than the big corporations.” “That may be,” Juan said. “But, we have to be careful. Is this the only attack? Why are we doing this? You never explained why you want to blow up the warehouse?” Billy leaned forward as the other two men became more alert. “You do not need to know everything. I expect that it won’t hurt to tell you that this is only part of a larger plan to disrupt the food supply to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are hard at work on the inside of the production plant. They will poison the food. This will not only interrupt the food supply but will terrify the troops when they realize that they cannot even trust their own government. Hundreds will die before they discover the source of their problem.” “Si,” Juan said. “I was just concerned that I was doing something for nothing.” “You are doing it for the money, Juan,” Billy said. “We have to go. Are you sure you can handle this or should I help you.” “I’ll be fine,” Juan said. “It is just a routine operation. Israel is good at what he does. I will distract the other forklift operators while he unloads the truck.” After they left, Juan, Marie, and Israel sat at the table drinking beer. Israel never felt so bad in all his life. If he failed, his family would be slaughtered and he would never see them again. More than likely, he also would be killed. “How can you do this, Juan? I thought we were friends?” Juan sat at the head of the table. Israel was sitting to his right. Putting his hand on Israel’s arm, he looked at him and said, “I am your friend. Trust me.” Marie looked at Israel and smiled. “There is nothing to worry about,” she assured him. “Nothing at all.” “Listen, Israel. Tomorrow night when we unload the truck, you will do exactly as I say. Our lives and our future depend on you.” Israel looked at him and nodded. What choice did he have? He was trapped in a mad world with no way out. * * * Israel had not slept well last night. He kept dreaming about the terrorists slitting Marie’s throat. Then, they were threatening his wife and children. Troubling nightmares faded into grim reality when he awakened. Juan and his wife never mentioned what had happened the previous night and Israel imagined that it hadn’t happened at all. Still, he knew it was true as he got into his SUV and drove to work. This is it, he thought as he opened the door, walked into the office and greeted the security guard. “We got a lot of trucks in today,” Denver Calloway said. “I sure hope it is quieter for you guys.” “It normally slows down after first shift leaves,” Israel said even though he didn’t feel like talking to anyone. All he wanted to do was to go home and sleep until he couldn’t sleep anymore. “We’ll take care of it.” Walking out the office door, he got on his forklift and spotting Juan at the other end of the dock, drove toward where he was. “Plenty of work, my friend,” Juan shouted. “That is good.” “Yes,” Israel said. “It is too bad it is all to end so soon.” “Quiet,” Juan told him. “Someone might hear.” When Israel didn’t answer, Juan handed him a list of things that needed to be done. “Watch for the special shipment,” he added. “If it comes in and I’m not around, come and get me right away.” Israel told him that he would and began his arduous task of moving pallets from one place to another and unloading truck after truck. The night passed quickly, too fast for Israel who couldn’t get the feeling of impending doom off his mind. At about nine-thirty, the guard approached him and told him that a small truck had a load of chemicals that was being delivered. “We never get chemicals at night,” the guard, Denver Calloway said. “This is unusual. Shall I call the warehouse manager and find out what’s going on?” “No,” Israel told him. “Just tell the driver to wait. I’ll get Juan. He will know what to do.” Denver smiled and walked back toward the office. Israel sighed and drove toward the center of the building where Juan was busy clearing space for the chemicals. “The shipment is here,” he told Juan who sat on his forklift waiting for him. “Good,” Juan said and winked at him. “Do exactly as I told you to do. I’ll go up and get the papers in order. You do as I told you.” Juan drove over to the dock door where the truck had been parked. Opening the overhead door, he looked at twelve large plastic containers. Each was about fifty gallons and about the size of a barrel. The chemical was shipped in bulk quantities and was used to clean the production area where the food was manufactured. Staring at the common containers, he felt cold fingers creep down his neck as he realized that bombs were in those containers, bombs that could blow up the entire warehouse. Knowing that terrorists could be watching, not knowing who to trust, he did as Juan told him. Even the security guard could be a terrorist, or working for them, he thought. Traitors were everywhere. His heart sank as he realized that he was a terrorist, too. There were four skids with three containers on them. They would be easy to hide and nobody would probably notice them for a long time. Second shift, the shift he worked would leave at eleven thirty and nobody would be in the warehouse until next morning. Nobody would discover the containers until it was too late. Picking up the first pallet with the forks, he drove through a long maze of pallets and boxes toward the center of the building. As he passed the area where he was supposed to put the pallets, he saw that four pallets had already been put there, each with three containers of chemicals on them. Passing the location, he drove to the far wall where he dropped the pallet near double doors that led outside to a side parking lot. What was Juan planning? Would someone pick up the pallets and take them to the production area where they could do more damage? He didn’t know except he had to do as he was told. His family depended on him. It took him ten minutes to unload the last of the pallets and place them near the door. When he finished, he drove back to the double doors wondering if he should arrange them a little better. When he arrived at the double doors, the pallets and the chemicals were gone. After the truck left, Israel saw Juan talking to the guard. The guard walked into the office and used his cell phone. Had he been right? Was the guard part of the terrorist operation? Nothing else was said even though Israel took his customary break with Juan at ten o’clock. They talked about football and what they would do that weekend for the benefit of the other two forklift operators and the security guard who sat at a desk in front of a window where he could see the parking lot and the entrance to the building. On the way home, Israel wondered if they were supposed to go to work tomorrow. Nothing had been said about it. He supposed that he would ask Juan about what to do. Despondent, he thought about selling everything he had and buying a gun. Maybe if he drove fast enough, he could still save his family from the terrorists. He knew that he had too much knowledge of them for them to let him or his family live for very long. They were a threat to them and the terrorists didn’t leave witnesses around to talk or to call the FBI. When he arrived at home, he was relieved to see that only Juan’s car was in the driveway. He parked on the street as he normally did. Remembering happier times with his family, even though they had been poor and hungry, he felt a tear develop in his right eye. Brushing it away with the back of his hand, he entered the house. Juan and Marie were in the kitchen. The kids were probably in bed, he thought. “Come on in and have something to eat,” Marie invited him as if this were just another normal night and they were all friends. “We have a lot to talk about.” Israel sat down at the table as Marie prepared a plate of food for him. He didn’t feel much like talking or anything else, for that matter. His life was going in the wrong direction, down hill at an amazing speed. “Well, my friend, things went well and we have been paid. Life will get better. You see. Life will get better.” “What about tomorrow? People will get killed? Don’t you care?” “No, people will not be killed unless it is the terrorists,” Juan assured him. “Most of them have already been rounded up. I turned in the list with their names and addresses this morning. They are all in custody by now.” “What are you talking about? Are you loco?” Israel couldn’t comprehend that anything was or could ever be right again. Muslim extremists had his family and were threatening him if he didn’t do what they said. Marie placed the food in front of him. “The terrorists approached Juan about six months ago with their proposal,” she said. “He told the FBI and they hired him to work undercover until he could learn everything about the plot. The terrorists thought Juan was a good candidate because he was from a foreign country. They didn’t understand that we are real Americans now. You sort of got pulled into the mess when they decided you might be a threat since you lived here. We had to convince them that you were reliable and vulnerable.” “What about my family?” “They are safe, my friend,” Juan said. “The police down there picked up the terrorists that were watching them. The government is working hard to make you a citizen and to help you bring your family here.” “I’m sorry,” Israel said. “I thought you were really a terrorist. I should have trusted my friend.” “That was something you could not help,” Juan responded. “You can stop worrying now. We have enough money to start a business or just retire.” “Where did you get money? Did the FBI pay you?” Juan looked at Israel and smiled. “These were very valuable terrorists, amigo. Many governments wanted them and when I delivered them, I earned many rewards. The three extremists you met were only the tip of the iceberg. They had ten members of their cell in the production facility and two in the administration. Those two people hijacked the purchase order for the chemicals and modified it so that the chemicals would be delivered at just the right time. They made changes in the computer system so that it wouldn’t be noticed. The ten members in the production facility planned to poison the food so that hundreds of soldiers would be killed. The FBI got to them before they could do any damage.” “I don’t understand,” Israel said. “How could common cleaner chemicals be used as a bomb?” “Aha,” Juan said. “Those chemicals were made of a very strong acid. When mixed with certain other chemicals it becomes a very powerful bomb, strong enough to destroy the warehouse. Another container with those additional chemicals was inside the normal containers. A triggering device would have exploded the bottle containing those other chemicals. When the chemicals mixed, a reaction would have occurred and an explosion would have been imminent.” Israel lowered his head and stared at his food. He had suddenly lost his appetite. How could he eat when he had almost caused the death of hundreds of innocent people? “When I put the chemicals by the double doors, where did they go?” he asked. “Where did the chemicals in the center of the building come from?” Juan smiled. “Once we knew what their plan was, we knew we had to get the chemicals and the bomb out of the warehouse without being seen. While a trusted employee, the quality control person, kept the guard and others busy, I moved our stock of chemicals to the center of the building. The local fire department removed the chemicals by the double doors and the bomb squad took it from there.” “That was good,” Israel said not knowing anything else to say. “I didn’t want to do this thing, except I was afraid for my family. It will be good to see them again.” “That will happen in the next couple of weeks,” Marie said. “The government has assured us that you will be given every opportunity to become a citizen. You have many people trying to help you and to get your family to this country. See, I told you things would get better.” “I believe you,” Israel said. “Now that my family is coming and we have money, maybe I can afford to buy that house.” “We will see to it,” Juan replied patting his friend’s shoulder. “Tomorrow is another day. Eat your meal and we will talk. The terrorists have been taken into custody and that is one of the most important things. Had they succeeded, we might have been killed as well.” “Yes,” Israel said. “We all have many things to be grateful for. You know what I think?” “What?” Marie asked. “It feels good to be a good American. It really feels good even though I’m not officially an American yet.” “It does, doesn’t it?” “Yes,” Israel said. “I feel happy because those terrorists didn’t get their six virgins.” Smiling, Marie looked at him with her eyes wide. “What are you talking about?” “They believe that if they murder a lot of people, they will get many virgins when they die.” “I don’t think they will be getting any virgins,” Juan said. “Where they’ll be going, they’ll be busy suffering through repetitive tortures. That’s what Hell is all about, you know.” They all smiled knowing they had saved many lives and made a major contribution to their country. Thanks to them, a few more terrorists wouldn’t be allowed to run around killing people. Juan hoped that the captured terrorists could be convinced to tell the FBI who the other cell members were and that the FBI would catch them. He had learned enough about them to know they were not only dangerous to America, but that they were dangerous to other countries as well. Borders didn’t exist anymore. Terrorists could be anywhere and he shuddered as he thought about it. Taking his wife’s hand in his, he looked at her and thought how lucky they were that they had prevented a major attack and that they all were together. The End
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