In case you’re not familiar with the term Amerithrax, it’s the FBI’s code name for the investigation of the anthrax letters that killed five people and injured seventeen in the months following 9/11. Just recently, A person of interest, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins died of a drug overdose—an apparent suicide. Dr. Ivins was a resident of Frederick, Maryland, and a long-time anthrax researcher who worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, known as USAMRIID. He was the prime suspect and the government was building their case on him and had issued search warrants for his car and home.
Reviewing the available documents provided by the FBI and Department of Justice, there are some interesting things that have come to light. There were two distinct levels of refinement of the anthrax spores sent. The first batch was rough though not unrefined. The letters sent to Capitol Hill contained highly refined anthrax of the same strain, like a very fine powder that would suspend in air. The letters were printed in block letters like a child would use, however the FBI suspected that they were written by an adult. They were also mailed from Trenton New Jersey.
I started writing A Reason For Dying about 3 years ago and actually plotted the novel the year before that. The novel begins with Laura Daniels, Assistant Special Agent In Charge as lead investigator of Amerithrax. Of course, she fails to crack the case and lands in the FBI Seattle Field Office. However, here are some excerpts from the novel that I find to be eerily similar.
November 28, 2001
Saif Yasin stared into the blackness, straining to see through the icy rain, silently praying to Allah to help him control his anger and decide if the American should die tonight...
... “Josef?” The man wiped rain from his eyes and forehead, and squeezed water from his curly black hair.
“No, Dr. Bates, my name is Sam. You might say I’m Josef’s boss. I have made the trip myself to see you.” Saif casually flicked rain from his overcoat as he stared at Dr. Bates with sharp, calculating eyes. High cheek bones shadowed light brown skin and thin bloodless lips framed perfect English.
“But, I was supposed to meet Josef.”
“Let’s just say Josef was demoted. You will deal directly with me now.”
“Look, I know what you want. I told Josef, six grams was the best I could do.” Bates’ voice wavered. “After 9/11, security got tight. I almost got caught.” Chapter FourJosef Mohammed, Saif’s second-in-command, had found Dr. Reed Bates working for the army at Fort Detrick. The corrupt doctor claimed he could deliver four hundred grams of weapon’s grade anthrax from the army’s infectious disease research program.
Okay, so I had pinned this on an Army Doctor that lived in Frederick, Maryland, Dr. Reed Bates. In A Reason For Dying, Dr. Bates was driven by greed. When he wanted out, he found that he made a deal with people that were ruthless and with no value for life. They kept a stranglehold on him by threatening his wife. We'll have to wait and see what the government uncovers about Dr. Ivins motives, if he did indeed launch the attacks. Here are some more excerpts from A Reason For Dying.
The depletion of manpower now assigned to 9/11, thrust Laura into the spotlight as the lead agent on the anthrax letter investigation. Her first big case and she was nowhere; no leads, no solid evidence, no nothing. Just seven letters written in a childlike manner, several grams of refined anthrax and five dead bodies--hopeless, just like her apartment. Like her life.
She knew that all seven letters were in the same handwriting and contained at least two grades of anthrax.
The first group of letters, sent to various media offices contained a low grade or cutaneous anthrax. The second two letters, sent to the senators, contained refined weapons grade anthrax.
Even though the grade was different, the anthrax came from the same strain. The strain was very similar, if not the same, as the type used for research by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland. However, the weapons grade anthrax was refined into an extremely fine powder with low surface cohesion that would disperse and stay suspended in air, which made it easier for unsuspecting victims to inhale or ingest.Writing a Thriller requires a lot of research and while I researched this thoroughly, I’ve surprised myself at how closely my novel follows the case as we know it. Unfortunately, we may never know Dr. Ivins real motives. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for the fictional account offered in my novel. And I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of the novel doesn’t have the same similarity to real life. Otherwise, we’re all in serious trouble.