What if spam could kill? And what if at the same time–in a strange twist of irony–spam could prevent the death of countless others? This is precisely what happened on December 31, 2010.
Darkness has fallen over Moscow. Temperatures remain below zero after last weekend’s freezing rain rendered 18,000 people without electricity, heat or running water. As of today, power has been restored.
Thousands of Russians prepare to brave the chilling temperatures in Moscow’s famous Red Square, where they will ring in the New Year with live music and a massive display of fireworks.
Towering above the square is the famous Saint Basil’s Cathedral, shaped as a flame of bonfire rising into the sky. To the west stands the Kremlin, a fortified complex and home to President Dmitry Medvedev.
Elsewhere in Moscow a woman readies herself to attend the event. She covers her body in a simple black garment and lays her black veil across the bed. Anticipation of the evening causes her gut to swirl. Her pulse quickens. Pausing with one hand on the dresser, she takes in a deep breath. For her, this evening is far more than the passing of one year and the beginning of another. Far, far more.
The woman, whose name is unknown, will later be dubbed “Black Widow”.
Standing at the foot of the bed, she initiates her prayer ritual by reciting the first chapter of the Quran. A sequence of bowing, lying prostrate, sitting and standing follows, all the while giving glory to Allah and requesting forgiveness, mercy and blessing. Then the routine begins again.
Moments later, with forehead to the ground, the woman begins to tremble with excitement as the plea of her heart is brought before Allah. “I am most blessed and honored to serve you, Allah. I pray that you bless my mission tonight with a high rate of casualties.”
Droves of partiers have now converged on Red Square. The atmosphere is festive and light. The huddled throng cheers as the first band is introduced. The music begins.
Back at the safehouse, the fervent prayer of Black Widow persists.
“Purify my soul so I am fit to see you, Allah.”
Her thoughts move to the suicide bomber whose mission was fulfilled Monday at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. “Thirty-five people were successfully terminated, Allah. Tonight, I follow him and countless other martyrs into Paradise.”
With black veil in hand, she proceeds to the living room. A man sits on the edge of the couch hovering over the coffee table. Her gaze is drawn to the belt bomb he is working on.
Her trance is broken when her handler, Zeinat, moves toward her. Zeinat is a beautiful woman, dressed in a traditional Muslim hijab. She smiles as she takes hold of Black Widow’s hands.
“Are you ready?”
Black Widow’s eyes dance. “Yes, I am. Glory to Allah.” There is no hint of hesitation. How long she has waited for this moment.
The man stands with the belt in hand. “Raise your arms.”
Black Widow complies, eyeing the belt as it is securely fastened around her waist. Facing the mirror, she drapes the veil over her head, allowing it to cascade down over the belt.
“The cell phone is right here,” Zeinat fingers the belt. “Turn it on right before you walk into the crowd. We will be watching. When you are in position, I will send a text to detonate the bomb. Understand?”
The man moves toward the kitchen. “I must gather some things.”
Zeinat strokes Black Widow’s head. “Do you need anything? Let me get you some water.”
In the kitchen, the man rummages through a duffle bag on the table, while Zeinat fills a glass at the sink.
Black Widow, alone in the living room, drums her fingers on her leg in a nervous tick. Sliding the phone from its pocket, she depresses the power button and is satisfied when the screen lights up. Moving her finger to power it off, she flinches when the phone emits a piercing ringtone. The words “Happy New Year” appear on the screen, an automated text from the wireless carrier.
The shrill of the ringtone roars into the kitchen like a beast after its prey.
Zeinat drops the glass. Her screams are lost in the explosion, which propels her and the man across the kitchen in an enormous array of smoke and flaming debris.
Wounded, but alive, they stagger away from the remains of the burning safehouse.
Black Widow is dead.
BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS
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