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How The World Will End
Abdul Lomadad considered himself to be one of the world’s best assassins, but still, he knew that eliminating the American Ambassador and two top Israeli scientists would be a challenge even for him. That’s why, he had worked out a detailed plan, but now his boss had become a major problem. Osama al-Massari, recently assigned to a government-sponsored terrorist group in Tehran was determined to impress his over-ambitious supervisor.
Fifteen hundred kilometers to the southeast, Special Operative Lomadad was standing on the balcony of the Leonardo Basel hotel in Tel-Aviv watching the great waves of the Mediterranean roll in on the beach below. Suddenly, his thoughts about his plans for the day were interrupted when his cell phone rang. He stared at the hated name on his caller ID. No! Please! Not now! No!
With each ring his anger mounted. Finally, he answered. But when he heard al-Massari’s voice, he spat, wishing his face were in range. Then his powerful voice exploded with such contempt Massari dropped his telephone. But that didn’t stop the shouting coming from the phone at his feet. “I told you not to pester me with your worthless instructions! You don’t have either the ability or the courage to do the dangerous work I do every day.”
Normally, Abdul was able to channel his anger into productive execution of his plans, but al-Massari had to be stopped. Still, he braced himself for what he knew would follow.
“Just think, Mr. Know-It-All, how much your insubordination is going to cost you.”
Al-Massari was right. It was insubordination, but Abdul was too angry to care. He knew there was nothing he could say that would make the idiot stop his harassing interruptions, but he had to try. “You can pick up your telephone and spit out angry orders from your easy chair. But I’m the one lying on a boiling Israeli roof hour after hour without moving a muscle, my body dehydrating by the minute while I wait for a shot that may never come. I know what an assassin feels in his bones. I know what an expert killer endures to complete his assignment. But you, Mr. al-Massari, don’t begin to comprehend the basics of what you’re trying to manage.”
“Are you finished insulting your superior?”
“It’s not my fault if the truth hurts. There’s no way you qualify to be in charge of this mission!”
Abdul knew his insubordination would be reported, but he was too angry to care. He also knew that it would be dangerous to follow al-Massari’s instructions. And there was no way he would let this puppet master order him to do things he would never do himself.
Massari’s voice rose in pitch. “Murder, Lomadad! Murder all three by week’s end.” His voice dropped to a low growl as he barked out every syllable. “Or your head will roll down Azadi Street!”
In his mind, Abdul could see Massari’s devilish eyes. The clinched, jutting jaw. He steeled himself against the next stream of words.
“I’ll have a smiling face sliced on your windpipe if you don’t discover what those infidels know and blow them away. Now cram your insubordination and do your job or your body will soon be in Aybak’s tomb.”
Abdul wanted to reach through the phone and strangle al-Massari. Instead, he put his mouth to the mike and shouted, “Aybak’s tomb is for traitors like you! If you want to know what you can expect from me, then listen carefully. He hit the mike hard with a rock to simulate the sound of a gunshot and ended the call.
Abdul spat again. He was nobody’s puppet––certainly not al-Massari’s. Maybe he would add one more name to his murder list.
He looked back at the Mediterranean below and breathed in the cool, sea air of his hotel balcony. Then he slowly exhaled, his anger and replaced it with a deep sense of purpose. A smile slowly creased his lips and turned into laughter that rippled all the way to his toes. He hated Massari, but oh he loved this assignment!
At 7 A.M., he took the service elevator to the top floor of the tallest building on Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Street and lugged a heavy bag to the roof. With every other step, he breathed a curse, one against Massari, and another against Israel. His uniform bore the logo of Israeli Roofing, and his wallet held a bogus contract to fix the roof. No onlooker would suspect that his bag contained a silenced sniper rifle, a spotting scope and a laptop with spare batteries, all under a false bottom beneath roofing tools.
His location gave him a clear shot at the street entrance of the American Embassy and the ambassador’s office. Without binoculars, he could see a man behind a window, working at his desk, far enough back from the window to remain unseen from the street. There he is, John Rickard Alexander, number three on my list.
His Yukon 100x spotting scope was so powerful it required a short, rigid tripod. He liked his fluorite-lensed Kowa better for its sharper image, but he planned to leave the Yukon behind, a throw-away. Abdul zoomed in and focused on an object resting on the ambassador’s desk. A white cord connected an iPhone to the computer.
This time, hacking into that iPhone from his wireless laptop only took Abdul five minutes instead of the two hours it had taken from his hotel room the day before. Soon he would know if the spy-phone software was worth the effort it took to appropriate a copy from a CIA workstation.
He fingered the focus on his Yukon and saw that the iPhone had finished synchronizing to iTunes. When the ambassador turned to read an article in the Journal of International Finance, Abdul brought up another copy of Internet Explorer on the ambassador’s computer, logged onto the spy-phone URL and dragged the application to the iPhone device in iTunes. Now he was ready to return the system to its former state.
Startled by the vibration of his phone, Abdul’s hand jerked and he watched the cursor dart out of sight. Almost done and some fool… One glance made his innards boil. Al-Massari! The metallic taste of adrenalin flooded his throat, and his mouth consigned the caller to eternal damnation. He turned off his phone without answering and concentrated on dragging the file but the file wouldn’t move. His laptop had frozen.
Any minute, Alexander would return to his computer and see the hack job. A moment later a message appeared on his laptop. “You just hung up on me and your report is 24 hours overdue. You can anticipate the Ayatollah’s hammer of discipline.”
His first impulse was to sling the laptop off the roof, take the next flight to Teheran and silence Massari … forever. But that would have to wait. He typed, “Sorry, am activating the target microphone now. Please release my computer so I can do my job. Will report when finished.”
Biting his lower lip and holding his breath, he completed the drag and watched the iPhone sync. Immediately, he heard the whir of computer fans and the ambassador cough. Abdul relaxed and inhaled a blimp load of air. His lips parted in astonished excitement. “It worked!” Quickly he synced another application to block the iPhone’s mute function and returned the computer to its former state.
Call in a report during a critical mission? Never! Hatred competed with … opportunity. Finally, he grabbed his phone and dialed. He struggled to drive the anger from his voice. For this to work I’ve got to appeal to his ego.
“Good news. I just activated Sidekick’s microphone and deactivated the mute.”
“See what happens when you obey orders?”
Abdul struggled to control his fury. “Yeah, and you’ve got reason to be proud. You can report the good news to … what’s his name?”
“That’s right, Chander. He’ll be proud of us.”
“He’ll be proud of me. You don’t deserve credit for obeying orders.”
Wide-eyed with delight, Abdul rang off without another word. Chander reports to my father. That means I can do whatever I like to Massari. Right now I’ll ignore him and handle this mission my way. Then I’ll get my revenge on Mr. Osama al-Massari.
The week before, Abdul had erected a false wall in the back of a maintenance shed that provided access to some antennas on a higher area of the roof. He left just enough space behind the wall to hide himself and his equipment. Still listening to sounds from the ambassador’s office, Abdul hid his weapons and electronics and returned to his hotel.
Satisfied with his work, he slept well. In the cool of the next morning, he returned to the roof and lay motionless waiting, looking, listening. His sniper’s Ghillie suit matched the color and texture of the roof’s gravel. He appeared to be nothing more than a man-sized pile of gravel near the edge of the roof.
He made a mental check of his plan: camouflage, escape method, optics, weapons, electronics. So far, the plan had been perfectly executed. All he had to do now was wait for the primary target to appear. The rest would be Mickey Mouse stuff. Take aim, wait, and shoot. The target would soon be eliminated because Abdul Lomadad never missed.
Now for the fun part. He typed “John R. Alexander” into the Google search window. Always good to know why the man you’re going to kill deserves to die. In a few seconds 3,251 hits were listed. He selected http://JohnRAlexander.com and learned that the Ambassador had grown up surrounded by Jews, that his best friend was a Jew, that his father had spent two years in Jerusalem on a short-term mission with Operation Mobilization. Abdul smiled. Alexander’s father was mixed up with that accursed Christian proselytizing group. Alexander had spent a year in Jerusalem with the same organization. In the next paragraph he read about a connection with a prominent couple named Carlton and Claudia Fromm. Carlton was due to visit Alexander in his office sometime today.
“The smile of Allah.” Abdul silently mouthed the words. “All three targets on one website.” But the next thing he read caused him to pound the gravel roof so hard it bloodied his fist. Alexander had become a Jew. He now claimed to be both a Christian and a Jew!
It’ll be a badge of honor to kill this infidel and worth every second I spend on this wretched roof.
But the intense heat of the overhead sun was almost unbearable. The sharp limestone rocks cut into his flesh. By afternoon he had consumed most of his water. His joints ached from hours of disuse. His mind wandered in the fierce heat. He forced his attention to what was happening at the moment as the Ambassador rose from his desk.
Peering into the scope, he focused on the ambassador’s head, gazing out the window and talking to a secretary.
“I don’t expect her to be late,” John said in Abdul’s earphones.
Her? Abdul gnashed his teeth. So the number 1 target is sending the number 2 target. A decision he’ll regret when he finds her in the morgue.
With his high powered scope and an audio feed from the Ambassador’s office, it felt like he was actually inside the office instead of frying on a roof like an egg. He saw Alexander point to a limo pulling into the parking lot. A statuesque beauty emerged. Her driver bowed respectfully, as the wind whipped her autumn-leaf golden hair. Abdul appreciated feminine beauty, and his heartbeat quickened at the magnificent sight.
“It’s Claudia Fromm, sir,” Abdul heard Margaret say. He adjusted the scope for a better view.
It’s a shame to kill such a gorgeous creature, but no time for distractions. Hopefully, I’ll quickly discover what they both know.
John had only seen Claudia twice, at embassy parties. Like most men, he had taken note of her grace and charm. She had the uncanny ability to make anyone feel they were the only person in a crowded room who was important to her. But she made sure they all knew that she was the happily married wife of the famous Carlton Fromm. She reminded John of his ex-fiancée, who being Southern born and bred, possessed the same rare quality.
Claudia looked directly up at John, holding his eyes for five eternal seconds before walking toward the building. John took a deep breath and loosened his tie. Then he quickly tightened it again, checking his reflection in the window.
The lady walked toward the entrance with the carriage of royalty, occasionally glancing back, as if frightened of some unknown danger. Unaccompanied, she breezed to the entrance, displaying the required document. The doorkeeper, accepted it without taking his eyes from her face, and said something. Claudia held up her left hand, allowing the doorkeeper to see the sparkle on her ring.
“I’ll bet that’s a gesture she has to use often,” Margaret said. “The doorkeeper never made a verbal pass at me.” John wondered why because Margaret had plenty of charm, but he withheld comment.
Walking to another window, John looked down into the interior foyer and watched Claudia walk to the exact center, stop on the United States crest imbedded in the floor and look up to meet his eyes, just as Carlton had said she would. John nodded, acknowledging there was no danger in sight. As planned, the Embassy Chief of Security appeared, identified himself to Claudia, and escorted her as far as the elevator.
Shall I have her wait in the reception room?” Margaret asked.
“No, we’ll dispense with formalities.” He turned and looked at Margaret and was startled to see tears in her eyes. He walked toward her. “Margaret, you’ve been crying. What’s wrong?
She wiped her eyes and covered her mouth. “Nothing. Nothing really.”
John put gentle hands on her shoulders. “Was it that doorkeeper’s response to Claudia?”
She looked down but didn’t answer.
“I could arrange for you to meet him.”
She looked up and smiled. “It’s just that…” She couldn’t finish.
“I’ve had three proposals, but I can’t marry a man I don’t love. My relationships always seem to be one-sided.”
“I know plenty of good, unattached men.”
She nodded and her eyes brightened. “Kind of you to offer a solution. Tell me, why have you never married? Too busy becoming an ambassador?”
“Close. She wouldn’t come to Israel and couldn’t wait for me to come back to the States.”
“How did Israel motivate you to leave the woman you loved?”
“I don’t know, Margaret. Who can explain a person’s love for the people of a nation or for a woman? I wrote an essay on the history of Israel and her people. My father had a short-term mission to the Holy Land. We exchanged hundreds of emails that year, and he persuaded me to follow his footsteps on a similar mission, I simply fell in love with the people and the country.”
“And that kept you from getting married?” she guessed.
“That wasn’t how it was in the beginning, but toward the end of my preparation, she backed out. Said she didn’t want to raise a family in a dangerous country like Israel.”
“Wow! Your story is sadder than mine!”
“Don’t get me wrong. One of the best things was that I already had two great Israeli friends when I landed. I met them during my earlier trip.”
“They were the Fromms?”
“Yes, and especially Carlton, and I guess we’ll find out soon enough why Claudia’s coming without him. All I know is that something has come up that’s too urgent to trust to email or a phone call.”
Claudia appeared in the open door. “Your 5:00 P.M. appointment, sir.”
John’s grandmother clock chimed five times as Margaret spoke, and his smile warmed the air. “Claudia, so good to see you again! I love appointments with people who are ultra-punctual.”
She held out a hand and smiled back. “You’re a busy man, and it’s been a long time.”
As John took her hand, he noticed beads of perspiration despite the coolness of the office. Her lips were pressed into a thin line, her face a billboard of anxiety. Her countenance made him fearful.
As John ushered her to a chair, her slim figure replaced his fear with a different emotion. A long sigh accompanied the image of his fiancée appearing again in his memory. The image vanished when he looked again at Claudia’s face. The whites of her eyes were so large he glanced behind himself, half expecting to see an intruder. Suddenly his fear turned to anger at whatever evil was tormenting his valued friend’s wife.
“So how is Carlton? I was hoping to see him too.”
“He wanted to come. There are assassins out there, and in the current emergency, it would have been too dangerous. Israel can’t afford to lose us both. Even my presence here is a danger to you. Can our conversation be totally confidential?”
“Of course.” John leaned toward the intercom and pressed a button.
“Harold, these proceedings must be completely private. I’m shutting off the mikes from here.”
“Roger that, Sir. Shutting down the recorder.”
“Okay Claudia. You were saying. …”
She paused and prayed that the way she had planned to communicate the message would convince John of the facts without telling him anything about the source. She had no intention of revealing that Carlton had discovered a way to use quantum cryptography to break here-to-fore unbreakable encryption, or how he had hacked into a secure Iranian network, downloaded a classified message and decoded it. And she certainly wasn’t going to tell him that the Iranians had discovered that he did it.
She took a deep breath and began. “Carlton stumbled onto a highly secret, Iranian weapon, and my coming here to the Embassy not only places me in danger, but it places you in danger as well. We think, no, we’re certain enemy eyes are watching.”
“Then why did he send you instead of coming himself?”
“That was my idea. I convinced him that a little feminine charm could defuse a hostile act more easily than his businessman image. Besides, his face is all over the news and mine isn’t.
“Of course you reminded him of your black belt in martial arts.”
“He knows I can take care of myself, hand-to-hand, but he was still worried. He told me exactly what to wear. Said he wanted to make every male in sight willing to die to protect the most beautiful woman on earth. He always exaggerates like that, but it’s sweet, and he loves me. In the end, I was elected to deliver the message. My lightweight Kevlar is good against many pistols.”
John looked out the window. When he looked back, Claudia was glancing around quickly, unconsciously, eyes searching out the window and toward the door, as if looking for some unknown danger. When she focused on John’s concerned eyes, she smiled and the tight furrow between her eyes vanished.
“Israel has a problem,” she declared slowly, almost in a whisper. “And Carlton and I have chosen you to be one of four people we’re telling about our discovery, at least until we learn more about who can be trusted.”
“Then you’re not talking about a nuclear Iran.”
“Worse. Israel may be in imminent danger from another source. This will give you details. She handed him a memory stick for his computer. I’ll write the password on your hand. Please memorize it and wash it off. It’s case sensitive, with a 16-bit hash of the digits in the first six primes. Use XOR logic and convert everything in and out of 16-bit ASCII. Do you have the math for that?”
He nodded and smiled.
She took his hand and took his breath away as she wrote
H o I t L G I O
on his palm and closed his fist for him.
“I recognize what you wrote. In English, there are eight more characters,” John said.
“You’re quick. Don’t speak it.”
“Of course. Primes counting 1 and 2?” he asked, to be sure.
“In mathematics, the unity number is not defined as a prime,” she corrected with a momentary frown.
“I see. Should I decode it now?”
“No. Wait until you’re alone. That will be safer for you and for us. Study the information, and you can get your questions answered later.
“Israel knows of this?
“Israel has a copy, but so far they’ve ignored it. It could be buried under a mountain of priorities. We’re asking you to use your position as Israel’s American Ambassador to get the Mossad’s attention. Your President will also need to know. Any computerized country is at extreme risk.”
“I’ll do what I can.”
Claudia smiled, but instantly the smile vanished. “Now that I’ve delivered the message, I’d best be going. Can you meet Carlton and me at noon Thursday of next week? There’s a wonderful Greek restaurant just north of here. Carlton believes it’s secure.”
“I know the place. I’ll be there.”
“You didn’t check your calendar to make sure you’re free.”
“I was to meet someone else. Margaret will reschedule.”
John escorted Claudia to the door and watched her walk elegantly to the elevators. The image transported him back to Los Angeles International Airport when he watched his fiancée walking away from him. He remembered his last question. “So, is this final?”
“Let’s say it’s semifinal. My mind is made up unless God changes it.”
“I’ll be praying He will.”
John had expected his fiancée to leave at that point, but she wasn’t finished. She had glanced out the window not to watch some airplane land but obviously to think of how she would phrase her parting words. Then she looked back into his eyes and sighed softly. “I hope you will pray, and that’s one thing I wanted to mention. I’ve always looked up to you as a fine Christian, but lately I’ve started to wonder if you’ve let your busy schedule crowd out the most important thing in your life. I want a man who puts God first in everything.”
John realized that his blank stare was an unspoken confession.
“You said you were going to Israel to serve God instead of your career, but that’s not the case, is it, John?”
The truth had torn his conscience, pierced his heart. He’d wanted to deny it, to defend himself, but this was coming from the dearest of friends.
“You’re right. Pray for me. I’ll work on it. I’ll change.”
But it was a promise he hadn’t kept. There was little time left for God in his life. And now that he was in Israel, there was nobody close enough to notice. It was strange how his good friend’s wife had overwhelmed him with painful memories of Lynn.
He had to force them out of his mind. A decryption problem demanded his attention.
After Claudia left his office, He plugged in the memory stick. Then he muttered, “Hear o Israel, the Lord God is One God, blessed be the Name of the Lord, as he wrote the first eight letters of the famous phrase,
H o I t L G i O
on a piece of paper. Directly under that he wrote the eight digits:
2 3 5 7 1 1 1 3
and he looked up the binary equivalents of the letters. He had done this kind of calculation dozens of times, and had the secret in a minute. The resulting keyboard characters:
z } C } v X |
unlocked the file on the first try.
John studied the diagrams, immediately realizing how little he knew about transistor circuitry, but the description was clear and equally clear was the fact that the life of every person in Israel could be forever changed in a single instant. His stomach muscles tightened. His fight-or-flight response activated, but there was nothing to fight and no path for flight. Not even as a Navy pilot had he experienced such panic. When you’re landing on a carrier in high swells during the pitch black of night, at least you know what you’re afraid of.
John breathed deeply trying to calm himself. He didn’t know enough about this technology to even imagine how it could be defeated. A huge challenge had been dropped in his lap.
“Oh God! I’m way over my head, and I’ve strayed too far from You, allowed too many things to interfere. I ask your forgiveness. You know the gravity of this situation.” He remembered a song that had once been a great comfort to him. It was based on Psalm 32, ‘You are my hiding place; you shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.’” He logged onto YouTube, searched for the title, and music filled his office.
John stepped to the window and breathed in the cool sea air. “I will trust in you, Lord,” he exclaimed. Then he noticed Claudia just exiting the building. A flash of light caught his eye, and he looked for its source. The reflection was coming from the telescopic sight of a rifle on the adjacent roof. The long, thick barrel of a sniper rifle, pointing at Claudia, was unmistakable.
“Claudia! Watch out!” he shouted.
She didn’t hear him.
He yelled again. Louder. The traffic drowned out his warning.
He slammed the window shut, grabbed the heavy phone on his desk, and threw it through the window. Then he rushed back in time to see the shattering glass hitting the pavement behind Claudia. She stopped and looked up. John saw her hair bounce as the bullet passed through her locks, and hit the pavement. An instant later, he heard the gun’s report. It was obvious the brief twist of her head had saved her life. He caught a glimpse of her terrified face as she turned and sprinted toward the waiting car.
John glanced back at the roof and saw Abdul reach for his machine pistol and resume firing. Then, he saw the chauffeur racing toward her. The shooter’s lead would need only a slight adjustment.
“Dodge! Zigzag!” John shouted. Whether or not she heard him, she began darting left and right. Bullets pounded the pavement all around her. The strong arms of her chauffeur lifted her and put his body between her and the shooter. He carried her to the car faster than John imagined possible. The man winced from a hit in his side, as he threw her onto the floor of the limo.
Seconds later, John found himself cheering as the powerful engine smoked the tires and the limo rocketed away.
Abdul kept firing. The rear window grew spider webs as it repelled bullets. Holes appeared in the steel trunk and bullets bounced off the top.
John’s heart pounded as he watched a stream of gasoline trailing the limo.
Finally, he relaxed when the limo disappeared in the distance. Margaret ran into the room screaming. “What happened? What’s going on?”
John was pressed against the wall avoiding the danger of the window. He waved her back. “A sniper almost killed Claudia.”
“A sniper? Where?”
“On that roof.” John took one quick glance at the sniper, who saw him and moved the muzzle to shoot in the window. John threw himself across the room and tackled Margaret. Bullets dug into the rug a meter from their heads. They crawled away from the window and out of the office. Then John unclipped his phone and dialed Israeli emergency for cell phones, 112.
“Yes sir, we know. Officers are already dispatched,” the operator told him.
Margaret slowly stood up and moved further from the window. “How long before help arrives?”
“Not long. Israeli technology triangulates gun shots, and the coordinates are automatically broadcast over police radio.”
Abdul knew that everyone would expect him to be blocks away soon, trying to blend in. Instead, he lay on the roof watching five Israeli police cars scream into the Embassy parking lot, sirens blaring, lights flashing.
He saw a SWAT team spill out, each man taking a different position, guns at the ready. A helicopter was inspecting his building, but Abdul lay still in his Ghillie suit, his body covering his rifle and laptop, the bag tucked under his stomach. He had already planted a trail of brass near the door that led into the building, and a few unspent cartridges down the stairs leading to the elevator, making it appear that he had spilled them in his haste. Soon the helicopter pulled away. He had prepared the perfect hiding place. He knew that later, they would search the entire building and find nothing.
He left his weapon and scope, retaining his electronics. He ran for the elevator, being sure to leave scuff tracks in the gravel. Then, he donned soft, fuzzy boots that left no tracks and carefully walked to his hiding place. Anyone inspecting the roof would think he had taken the elevator. He would stay painfully hidden until late in the night, or the next night if necessary. Then, dressed in a business suit, he would jump to the roof of another building, descend a ladder to the top floor, and quietly walk down a fire escape. Only then would he satisfy his thirst.
Crammed into the tiniest of hiding places, Abdul tried to compose himself. The space was too small to stretch his cramped muscles. The pungent smell of tarpaper filled his nostrils, and the ache of failure clouded his mind.
Frustrated and confused, he started to talk to himself. “I tried my best, but I didn’t eliminate anybody! Father will be so disappointed. Was Allah displeased with the plan?”
Suddenly, truth collided with his thoughts like a freight train reducing a cow to bloody meat on the tracks. Allah must have intervened! I wasn’t supposed to kill those people. Not today. Not until I know what they’re planning to do with the information they have. I was wrong, but was it my fault? No! Massari should have forwarded written instructions instead of trying to micro manage by telephone. But I’ve succeeded anyhow. I’ll monitor the conversation in the restaurant next Thursday. Then I’ll eliminate the targets.
“Hi Orville, thanks for abandoning the New York Police Department.”
“Hey John, being top cop in New York is boring compared to working for you. He opened the folder ‘Embassy Security’ on his iPad. “We’ll need to armor the walls, floor and ceiling and I’d like to dispense with the windows. No glass can withstand a standard RPG.”
“I know, but my guests and I love the view. So does the staff.”
“Hmm. Okay, maybe we can seat you and your guests over here behind active armor and put large mirrors over there to deceive outsiders about where you really are. That way, you’ll be able to see the Med and still be safe. You could even have windows and drapes that open by remote control. That’ll provide you with a nice ocean breeze along with privacy and safety.”
“We do think alike, my friend.”
This book capitalizes on the current interest in terrorist activity by taking the reader behind the scenes to observe the preparation and execution of both the perpetrators who cause it and the heroes who prevent it. If you like it’s message, you can help by writing a review on Amazon and a comment on this page.