On a sunny morning in March, Flight 1099 from Abu Dhabi, bound for New York, disappears over the Persian Gulf. Among the 156 passengers is famous author Stuart Symington, returning to the US after visiting young Jordanian Amal Ahmed, with whom he has developed a close relationship.
A devout Muslim, Amal refuses to accept the obvious, reaching down deep into his faith to find out what happened to Stuart, firmly believing he’s still alive. The shy young man must summon his courage as he searches for answers, situations he could never have imagined himself involved in as he becomes quickly swept up in world events.
Will Amal, and the world, learn what happened to Flight 1099? Could anyone have survived the catastrophe? Could there be hope, as Amal insists, that a few lucky passengers might have survived, Stuart among them?
Ripped from today’s headlines, Amal’s story sets in motion a series of events that puts the entire world on edge as he embarks on an adventure of a lifetime.
Patiently Amal put in his ten hours at the store, thinking constantly about what he was going to do next. When midnight came, he locked the store but, instead of going home, he boarded a bus heading outward from the central city, toward Port Zayed.
Disembarking along the water, he walked in the direction of the docks. In fifteen minutes, after walking only a short distance, he saw it.
It would have been hard to miss, as the area around it was brightly illuminated. The ship was large, much larger than a yacht, and was clearly designed for the ocean. There were six men working loading various items onto the boat. And, on the deck at the rear of the ship, there it was.
Having not the slightest doubt this was the right ship, Amal hung back in the shadows pondering his next move. He wanted to talk to these men. But how? And what to say?
After thinking for several minutes, the only scenario he could come up with was to play the dumb tourist. After saying a brief prayer, he took a big gulp of the night air and stepped up to one of the men.
“That sure is a big ship,” he said. “What’s that big thing on the back deck?”
The man turned to stare at him, sizing him up. “That’s no concern of yours,” he replied evenly.
Amal was expecting the brush-off. “Is this the ship that’s going to look for the missing plane?” he asked quickly before the man turned away. “Is that a submersible?”
“What do you know about that?” the man demanded. “Who are you? What do you want?”
Forgetting the words he’d planned to say, and trying not to stammer, Amal answered, “A close friend of mine was on the plane. I’ve been in contact with the family who arranged the boat on their website. I was told the ship was getting ready to leave.”
The man stared at him, a cold, dismissive look on his face.
“So I thought this might be it,” Amal added meekly.
After a brief pause, the man finally said, “Whatever the family wants you to know will be on their website. Now leave us alone. We have much work to do, and we must get some sleep tonight before we depart early in the morning. There won’t be much time for sleep after that.”
The man turned and walked away. Amal remained for a moment, then retreated to the shadows to consider what to do next.
He had, at least, verified this was the right ship. And he’d found out just when it was going to leave. Now what?
If nothing else, he knew he wasn’t going home without finding out more. Whatever that took.
He stood in the darkness watching the men. After two more hours, they boarded the ship, raised the gangplank, and disappeared.
The spotlights under which they’d worked went out.
Amal looked at the ship in the darkness. Somehow it looked even larger in the dark as it cast a long shadow in the moonlight. Cautiously he approached, walking the length from stem to stern. If only the men hadn’t raised the gangplank.
Then he saw it, near the back of the ship. A rope ladder hung from the side, reaching down almost to the water. Here the hull of the ship curved away from the dock, leaving a distance of over a meter between land and ship. Amal looked at the space closely. It didn’t seem that far ...
A sudden impulse took hold of him, and he ran back on the dock away from the ship, then charged toward it at full speed. He certainly hoped he could jump the distance across the water to that rope ladder.
Because he couldn’t swim.