His name was not Shalik Sarram, but it was the name on his passport, and he entered the Customs area at JFK bearing no aerosol cans of infectious disease, no knives or scissors or weapons of any kind. He was in perfect health. He had three thousand dollars in his wallet and a credit card with a limit of five thousand which he needed to show to get into the country on a visitor’s visa, but wouldn’t touch.
The well-dressed Indian — as it said on his passport, flying in from Delhi — presented himself at Immigration Control in his elegant dark suit, his pale blue tie. Shalik was a name meant to impart an outgoing personality. He wore a happy, friendly grin on his nicely-tanned, clean-shaven face.
“Anything to declare?” the Immigration man asked, scanning Shalik’s passport into the computer.
“Just my iPad,” Shalik said, pulling the device from inside his jacket. He turned it on. Held it out.
The man shrugged. “Purpose of your visit?”
“Tourism. First stop — after my hotel,” Shalik smiled, “ — the Statue Of Liberty! I can hardly wait!”
Immigration passed him through to Customs, where a female agent searched his blue roll-on bag, glancing surreptitiously at Shalik’s face while she poked through his clothes, watching for the signs — changes in breathing, posture, expression. But the man remained smiling, watching her casually as if the intrusion meant nothing.
Inside, Shalik was seething. The woman’s touch was haram. Forbidden. Unpure. Fortunately, the clothes were merely a prop, cheaply purchased to create a specific persona. Once Shalik had left the airport he would throw them away.
“Okay. You’re clear to go, sir,” she said, flipping the fabric top, sliding the case a couple of inches toward him.
Shalik zipped the bag, set it on the floor and left the airport at an even pace, looking around enthusiastically — as if fascinated by everything he saw.
Shalik’s real name was actually Sharik which he’d always thought fit him perfectly, so close was it to the English word Shark. He hated Shalik. Sharik was an Arab name! Shalik was Hindi!
It was a small sacrifice. Shalik was a terrorist. Recruited and trained for a specific purpose, a mission that had already begun.
He found a yellow cab. Got in. Gave an address.
Ready to move on to Step Two.