It's been disclosed that fugitive Osama Bin Laden may have been hiding in Bisbee, Arizona, a remote town close to the United States/Mexico border. Local law enforcement officials believe that Bin Laden used false documentation to enter the country through Puerto Rico before making his way to Arizona, and that he has been living there for about six months under an assumed name. Although the suspect has again eluded authorities and is assumed to be fleeing the country, residents here were surprised to discover that an international criminal had been living in their very town, right in the midst of their everyday life.
"He seemed like such a nice man," said Brad Smith, owner of the School House Inn. "He spoke with a bit of an accent but I didn't think nothing of it." According to Smith, Bin Laden stayed in the Geography Room, which is one of eight rooms named after school subjects at this quaint hotel. "He really liked reading books on the shaded patio and watching the hummingbirds," Smith said. "He just loved bird-watching. Sometimes I would pack him a lunch and he would borrow my binoculars and be gone the whole day just walking around the desert. I'll never forget the day he spotted a bald eagle. He was so touched to finally see one."
When asked if Bin Laden's trips into the desert might have been for surveillance reasons, Smith became defensive. "Why would I think that?" he asked. "The thought never even crossed my mind. Sure, he took some equipment along, like his wristwatch digital camera, to take pictures of the birds he saw. And you never saw him without his laptop and cell phone. I told him he needed a new one because his was real old and about ten times bigger than mine with antennas and stuff. But he was writing a book, he said, so why shouldn't he take advantage of the peace and quiet?"
"Besides," Smith continued. "He always wanted a banana muffin for breakfast. Men who eat banana muffins are not known to be international terrorists, are they?"
Bisbee is a quiet community of about eighty-five hundred people located in southeast Arizona. Rich in history, it began as a mining town in the late 1800s and once housed bawdy houses and taverns along its hills. Mining was its main industry, however, until 1975, when the mines closed and the company left town. Today Bisbee is a tourist haven with folk art studios, antique shops and trendy restaurants mixed in with hometown diners and the occasional fast food restaurant. Bin Laden, it seems, liked to eat and had no problem spending money.
"Sure, he came in almost every day," said Dot, owner of Dottie's Diner. "Told me his name was Herbert. Why would I be suspicious of that? He was the nicest man and always asked a lot of questions about the border and how far away it was and stuff. He was real interested in Mexico and the illegal crossings. No, I never thought anything of it," she told reporters. "He gave me good tips and never pinched my butt. That counts for something around here, let me tell you."
According to Dot, Bin Laden came in for dinner every night the diner was open. He always ordered the same thing, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. "He loved ketchup," she said. "Poured it over everything on his plate, even the green beans." After eating his meal, he liked to have a cup of tea and talk with the locals. "Especially John Johnston," said Dot. When asked what they discussed, Dot couldn't say. "I'm running around here with my head cut off, you know. I don't have time to listen to people's conversations. Now who wanted the apple pie?"
John Johnston, owner of the Cavern of Chinese Country Antiques on Main Street, was skeptical that his friend Herbert was the infamous Osama Bin Laden. "I just don't believe it," he stated emphatically. "Me and Herbert had dinner together almost every night. We talked about the economy, how the world's going to hell in a hand basket, how kids today don't have no respect you know, stuff like that. He got real passionate about world politics, though, so I usually avoided bringing that up. He told me he was from Pakistan and that he was traveling around the world in order to write a book. Why would he lie about that?" he asked reporters.
"Had a bit of a temper, if you ask me," he added. "Real sensitive about the war in Iraq."
Martha Stuart, manager of Arizona Cactus and Succulent Research, a botanical garden located on South Cactus Lane, was very emotional when reporters caught up with her. "This is just terrible," she moaned, near tears. "I trusted him with all my prickly pears. I'm just so upset I can hardly talk." According to Stuart, Bin Laden volunteered at the garden, tending the cacti. "He gave them names and talked to them," Stuart said. "They absolutely thrived while he was here. Bloomed all the time. He even taught me the polka." Overcome with emotion, Ms. Stuart declined any more interviews and is now rumored to be under a doctor's care.
Officials still aren't sure how Bin Laden managed to live in this tiny Arizona town for so long. According to the residents, he showed up last August and stayed until last week, when he disappeared, presumably into Mexico. "We're looking into this breach of security," read a statement by White House officials. "We are appalled that he was able to enter this country and enjoy the comforts and benefits we offer our law-abiding visitors. Be assured that a subcommittee will be formed, and this incident will be vigorously investigated."
Whether Herbert was indeed the famed Bin Laden remains to be seen. His room at the Schoolhouse Inn has been searched, but it is doubtful that any of his belongings will disclose his true identity. So far officials have released details about three of the items: a picture of the suspect taken at some sort of festival in which he is wearing a balloon hat shaped like a rabbit; a pair of dirty socks, size large; and a key chain from the Busy Bee Coffee Shop. "It appears that our suspect left in quite a hurry," one official remarked. "He left quite a few personal items that we are examining for clues to future terrorist activity. I can disclose this: we are quite suspicious of the balloon hat. It may have been used as a communication signaling device."
Meanwhile, Bisbee is ready to let this bit of notoriety pass on by. Several residents were overheard complaining about the news crews that filled the town's hotels and restaurants to capacity. "Herbert was a great guy," one said resentfully. "I don't care who you say he was." Penny Whistle, the town's massage therapist, put it more succinctly. "He was just a regular guy who liked his massages with extra oil," she said disdainfully. "He had a terrible knot right under his left shoulder blade that needed some special attention. So what if he liked a little spanking once in a while? This idea that he's Bin Laden is just ridiculous."
Itinerate novelist or international terrorist? The citizens of Bisbee don't know, but they're hoping the evidence supports their claims that this visitor was just a nice man from Pakistan who may have been a little odd. There has even been talk of the town council sending a posse out to the desert to track him down. "That way we can prove that this man was not Bin Laden. We're not stupid hicks, you know, just because we live in Arizona," said Hoyt Smith, the mayor of Bisbee. Another citizen, who preferred to remain anonymous, was more skeptical. "I think we were too trusting and maybe should've checked his I.D.," he said. "No one likes to think they've been duped."