A couple of Tuesdays ago I started recapping retired Denver Broncos placekicker Jason Elam’s debut novel, Monday Night Jihad. Last time, we were introduced to star PFL linebacker for the Colorado Mustangs, Riley Covington, counter-terrorism intelligence analyst Scott Ross, and the fabulous, exploding al-Hasani brothers. Part two opens (OPENS!) with some torture and things just ramp up from there.
So turn down the volume to FOX NEWS, grab your soy milk and fresh berries protein shake, renounce the Great Satan, and get ready for part two of the With Leather Book Club presents: Monday Night Jihad.
Friday, December 19
CTD North Central Division Headquarters
Jim Hicks is currently engaged in some “active persuasion” methods of interrogation on Mohsin Kurshumi. By which I mean he’s straddling the guy, forehead pressed against forehead, with an interpreter’s tie in one hand and his Navy SEAL combat knife in the other. The knife, by the way, is slowly being pushed underneath Kurshumi’s chin (PERSUASION!). Hicks twists the knife in deeper and deeper as he tells the translator to explain that the cameras in the interrogation room have mysteriously malfunctioned. Hicks also wants it known that Kurshumi won’t be his first accidental kill (And by accidental kill he totally means intentional, cold-blooded murder victim), but Hicks will make it the slowest, and even the translator probably won’t make it out of the interrogation room (Jeez, I hope some brave freedom fighters are on their way to stop this monster). Hicks finally pushes the knife through Kurshumi’s flesh and into the bottom of his mouth and demands answers (WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR? WHERE’S THE BOMB? SWEAR TO ME! WHERE’S THE BEEF? WHO’S NEXT? DO YOU KNOW THE MUFFIN MAN?)
Ten minutes later, and Hicks is bolting from Torture Room D to the bathroom, where he horks up the contents of his stomach (I think this is meant to show that Jim is a good guy, since he literally cannot stomach having to interrogate people in such a violent manner. Of course, if he were actually decent, he’d be unable to go through with the whole face-stabbing thing from the get-go). He washes himself and his knife clean of Mohsin Kurshumi’s DNA (Gross, Yemeni blood!), then stares at his reflection in the mirror. Hicks had long ago tricked himself into thinking that it’s okay to torture dudes if that one life can save hundreds or thousands, but considering he’s a wreck of a human being, riddled with sleepless nights and or nightmares, and has two failed marriages under his belt, Jim might have been off in that assessment.
Before his existential crisis can spiral even further out of control, Hicks gets a call from Scott Ross. Jim lets Scott know the high-points of the interrogation since a transcript is still being typed up (How many Hs in that last blood-curdling yell? Probably like twelve). Kurshumi was looking for his own map and set of keys to presumably build his own suicide vest (It honestly sounds like he was picked up for looking under the wheel wells of cars), and that makes Scott realize “Allah controls the weather” refers to cold temperatures allowing the terrorists to disguise their bomb vests under layers of jackets and sweaters. Scott wants more intel, such as how many other bombers there are and where they plan on attacking, but the only other information Hicks was able to extract is that the attack is scheduled for tomorrow due to Kurshumi swallowing his contact number when he got pulled over. Ross wants someone to take another crack at Kurshumi, but Hicks assures Scott that there is nothing else of value to be squeezed from Mohsin’s brain. Jim angrily hangs up and gets back to work, having decided to brood, get really angsty and listen to Papa Roach on repeat as soon as he gets off the clock.
Friday, December 19
North Central United States
Abdel is inserting the last blasting cap into the C-4 when Aamir reminds him of the glory associated with being a martyr. Aamir speaks of the money their parents will get, and how the al-Hasani brothers will become famous by their actions, but Abdel is still stewing over Aamir slapping him. Abdel grabs a knife and cuts open Aamir’s shirt, revealing a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Aamir uses the burner phone to call the number and the brothers receive their instructions, then smashes it to bits, wasting a perfectly good SideKick and some quality Any Time minutes. Aamir again tries to give a pep talk, but Abdel simply cannot listen to any more tonight, as he’s having a bit of a crisis of faith (Or he just really doesn’t want to get blown to bits). Abdel retreats to a corner of the room with his thoughts while Aamir heads out for some dinner (If I was going to explode myself, I think I’d eat a bunch of popsicles for a nice color splash), then returns to go to bed.
Friday, December 19
CTD Midwest Division Headquarters
St. Louis, Missouri
Scott and the Ross Force Five have assembled to discuss potential terror attack points. They’ve got the when, they just need the who and the where, so however-f*ck the whats. The group consists of Ross, Tara Walsh, former teen hacker (And daughter of Kate Libby and Dade Murphy) Evie Cline, MIT grad Virgil Hernandez, and Joey Williamson, who is the only team member aside from Ross to have not graduated from a prestigious university (Joey Williamson, DeVry University, class of February!). Ross goes through the team, asking for any major manufacturing or financial centers in the general Minnesota area, but nothing seems like a major target. Something only triggers when Hernandez points out that most convention centers aren’t having conferences due to it being a week before Christmas, which Ross apparently failed to notice, since I guess St. Louis either doesn’t decorate at all, or decorates so early everyone becomes numb to how nigh Christmas actually is. Ross calls for silence to work things out, but Tara is already phoning Jim Hicks to let him know the target is…(Wait for it, let the dramatic tension build)
THE MALL OF AMERICA! (If they blow up the Wicks n Sticks or the Auntie Annie’s Pretzels, I will lose all of my sh*t)
Key Lines: He slowly pushed himself to his feet and steadied himself as he wiped his bloody handprint off the white plastic toilet seat – WILSON! WILSON I’M SORRY!
Little punk sits behind a computer screen all day and then tells me how to do my job? The only blood he’s ever had on his hands was probably from his own nose.
– Yeah, that Scott Ross punk never shed the blood of some dude in custody via protracted torture! You tell him with your mind-thoughts, Jim Hicks!
Friday, December 19
Inverness Training Center
Riley Covington has just finished with all of the media obligations, ending with the live interview for the PFL Network. It’s a bit of a drag, having to answer the same questions over and over, but he manages to hit all the key points: “We want to play good”, “We hope we play good”, “We’re gonna go out there and give it 110%”. He heads out of the training center, cursing the stroke of forgetfulness that made him leave his new gloves at home, when he sees a plethora of stretch Hummer limos. It’s the night the Mustangs rookies have to cover the dinner bill for the entire team because it’s always a good idea to bankrupt the young players early.
Riley heads down the line of cars, looking for the linebackers’ limo, when something makes him pause. All the other vehicles have been blasting thumping bass from the sound system, but he hears opera lilting from the speakers of a limo in the center of the line. Sal Ricci rolls down a window and explains it is in honor of Ricci being named offensive player of the week after his stellar performance against the Pittsburgh Miners (And their stellar quarterback, HARF THROEWSENBORG), including two touchdown receptions. Riley takes a closer look inside the limo to find a trio of receivers singing into their bottles of Michelob, impersonating the Three Tenors (Y’know, Groucho, Costello, and Laurel), while back-up tight end Jerrod Watkins is doing something he calls operatic beat boxing because beat boxing is apparently still a thing in 2007-ish.
Rookie linebacker Garrett Widnall waves Covington over, allowing him to leave the receivers and their strange music rituals. Covington feels bad for Widnall’s wallet since he didn’t get a huge contract coming out of Division II Humboldt State, plus Garrett stocked the limo’s mini-fridge with Diet Pepsi for him. Of course, Riley drinks Diet Coke, a fact that Keith Simmons is quick to point out to Widnall, and Simms barks at the rook to run back inside the training facility to get some tasty robot sweat for Pach.
The limos make it to Del Frisco’s, the swankiest joint in the one-horse town that is Engelwood, Colorado without much incident. Riley, Sal, and rookie offensive tackle Travis Marshall (WILLIAM AND MARY, SIXTH ROUND, WHAT IT DO?) are sharing a booth off the main group of tables, and Riley is already planning on helping out Travis in addition to Widnall before the night is over. As the men converse, Chris “Snap” Gorkowski jams himself all up in the booth and demands Marshall serenade the team with the William and Mary fight song in the style of “Mary more than William”. Snap takes a couple of huge bites out of Marshall’s New York strip, then drunkenly stumbles back to the main table. Travis moans about having to perform when Ricci explains he had to sing the Italian and German national anthems, the A.C. Milan fight song and the Hamburg Donnerkatzen (Also, it turns out “Donnerkatzen” means Thunder Cats, so go fightin’ Lion-Os!) fight song in his rookie year, so shut your calzone-hole, kid.
Marshall reluctantly leaves the booth to start crooning to a bunch of drunk football players, allowing Riley the opportunity to buy him a few entrees and side dishes on the sly. Ricci questions Covington’s motives, and doesn’t buy that it’s just to keep Travis from raiding his pantry. Riley talks about not just wearing WWJD gear, but living idea behind a Jesusly life. Ricci’s sort of familiar with the concept, having seen WAS WURDE JESUS TUN gear in Germany (But apparently there was no such movement in ITALY of all places), but due to being a heathen European, thinks one good deed means one step closer on the stairway to heaven. Before Riley can further expound on the fact that THROUGH CHRIST THE LORD JESUS WHO STRENGTHENS ME, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE, Sal gets a phone call and scurries off to answer it.
Gorkowski climbs on the table, stomping through dishes of vegetables and the exotic POTATOES FANDANGO, holding a $2500 bottle of whiskey that he insists everyone on the team take a shot from. But WHOOPS, he clumsily drops it, shattering the bottle, requiring another $2500 added to the rookies’ tab. Ricci returns to the booth, flustered, and after Covington presses him, explains that his daughter took a spill and bumped her head, and his wife just wanted confirmation that she’s not a monster of a parent (She totes is, though).
Riley gets home and ruminates on Sal’s attitude after the phone call. Ricci’s always played things close to the vest, and heck, Riley barely knows more about his friend than the average fan does. Just the major points: foundling, discovered at an Italian orphanage, star soccer player-turned football player. Riley wrestles with calling Sal, ultimately decides not to invade on another man’s privacy, and remembers to set his gloves right next to his car keys before he heads to bed.
Key Lines: As Riley look around, his impression was less of twenty-first-century luxury than of 1970s Huggy Bear. – Look, I haven’t ridden in many (Any) Hummer limos, but I’m not expecting shag carpeting and disco balls. Also, by my napkin math, Covington is an 80s baby, so what the hell does he know about Huggelfeld J. Bearington?
Sal’s moods were often a little unpredicatble, but Riley had always written that off to his friend’s being European. – Ugh, those emotionally flighty Europeans, am I right? It’s like, what if a man behaved like a woman!