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Memorial day, p.13
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       Memorial Day, p.13

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  "This is Director Kennedy. Patch me through to Agent Warch ASAP."

  After several seconds and a few clicks a tired voice came on the line. "Warch here."

  Kennedy knew the special agent in charge of the president's Secret Service detail well. "Jack, it's Irene. Sorry to bother you at such an awkward hour, but we have a situation."

  Warch's voice was suddenly less tired. "What's up?"

  "I'm about to implement Operation Ark, and it's not a drill." Kennedy imagined that the agent was now sliding out of bed. Operation Ark, the code name for the evacuation of key government officials from the city had only been set into motion one other time that the two of them could remember.

  "Okay. What's the threat?"

  "We have reason to believe a WMD might be in the city."

  "What kind?" Warch's voice was suddenly a bit tighter.

  "This goes no further, Jack. I haven't even told the Pentagon yet."

  "I understand, but I need to know what I'm dealing with."

  "The intel right now points to a nuclear weapon."

  "Jesus Christ."

  "Jack, this needs to be done very low key, but fast. No Marine One. Put him in the limo and take him up to Camp David as quickly as possible without making a scene. Bring the First Lady with, and don't take no for an answer from either of them."

  "Roger."

  "Call me with confirmation as soon as they're in the limo and on their way. I can be reached at the Global Ops Center for the next fifteen minutes."

  "Understood."

  Kennedy ended the call and turned to Carl Benson, the director of the Ops Center. He was fully briefed on the evening's developments and was waiting for further direction.

  "Have my helicopter warmed up, and lock this place down. I don't want any personal calls in or out."

  Benson nodded and went about carrying out Kennedy's orders.

  The director of the CIA did not grab the phone immediately. The next call would unleash a torrent of warning bells, waking people from their sleep and beckoning them to secure federal facilities strategically placed around Washington, D.C. Many of them would leave disoriented spouses and children left to guess at what might be happening. By morning, thousands of people would know that something serious was going on and the press would begin to dig. The facts that Mitch Rapp had just unearthed would be exceedingly difficult to hide from the public, and once they knew them, pandemonium would follow.

  This was the conundrum they were confronted with. If they wanted to stop these terrorists, they would have to use all of America's national security assets, but at the same time, hope that they didn't tip their hand to the terrorists themselves. It would be an impossible secret to keep, but there was no other choice but to try.

  * * *

  Twenty-Four

  The Secret Service was exceedingly good at its job for a variety of reasons. The selection process by which agents were chosen was one of the most stringent in all of law enforcement, but it was the level of their training and its frequency that separated them from virtually every personal protection detail anywhere in the world. Scenarios were constantly scripted and run through with new agents assigned to the presidential detail, as well as veterans.

  At their state-of-the-art training facility in Beltsville, Maryland, the agents were taught to shoot with pinpoint accuracy, and they rehearsed ad nauseam motorcade procedure and how to handle a crowd when their charge decided to get out of the car and walk the rope line. In addition they went through countless dry-run exercises at the White House, Camp David, and Andrews Air Force Base. All of this training took place for one specific reason. When a crisis hit, seconds mattered, and a single hesitation by just one agent could be the difference between the president living or dying.

  To make matters even more difficult, the men and women they were asked to protect tended to be anything other than docile. Instead, they were almost always intelligent, independent minded people who were used to being in charge. They did not like being told what to do, and very often resisted the suggestions put forth by the Secret Service concerning the proper level of security.

  All of this figured into how the Secret Service did their job. So while Director Kennedy would have preferred a quiet orderly evacuation of the first couple, with as few people knowing about it as possible, that just wasn't the way it was done. If there was even a whiff of a nuclear weapon in the nation's capital Warch wanted the president far away, locked up in a secure bunker.

  Seconds mattered, and since it would take Warch twenty minutes to get to the White House, the detail's shift leader would have to be the one to execute the evacuation. Warch was left with two options, the first would be to call Beth Jorgenson and utter a single phrase that would in turn set into motion a well-rehearsed preplanned evacuation that would take no more than sixty seconds to complete. Or he could call Jorgenson and tell her that he would like her to calmly and quietly pack up the president and the First Lady and drive them up to Camp David without making any scene.

  The problem with the latter option was that there was a fifty-fifty chance the president would choose not to comply in a timely manner, and a ninety-nine percent chance that the First Lady would outright refuse to go. The president would want specifics, and then he would want to talk to his advisors and try to reach a consensus. Warch decided his nerves couldn't take the latter. If there was any fallout he would just have to deal with it later.

  WHEN THE CALLcame out over the detail's secure radio net, agents and officers alike sprang into action. In the basement of the West Wing, eight men who were part of the counterassault team or CAT, jumped to their feet. Dressed in black tactical jumpsuits and laden with ballistic body armor, the men quickly grabbed their helmets, automatic rifles, and machine guns. They poured out of the West Wing and onto the South Lawn setting up a perimeter around "Stage Coach," the presidential limousine.

  On the second floor of the mansion two agents, one female the other male, burst into the first family's bedroom without knocking. The agents apologized to the First Lady for the intrusion, but made no effort to explain further why they were awaking her after midnight. The covers were thrown back and Mrs. Hayes was plucked from the king-size bed and offered a robe. Before it was knotted she was being hustled from the room on her toes, an agent on each arm. Across the hall the elevator was waiting, doors open. The First Lady was deposited in the lift and the doors closed like a vise for the quick trip to the ground floor.

  The president was in the Situation Room with his feet up on the long shiny conference table watching Sports Center and thinking about going to bed when the heavy soundproof door opened with a thud. Beth Jorgenson entered the room with three other agents.

  "Mr. President, please come with us."

  Understandably so, the president looked a little shaken. "What is going on?"

  "We've been ordered to take you to Camp David, sir."

  Two linebacker-sized agents grabbed the president under the arms and yanked him to his feet. Jorgenson led the way out of the Situation Room, down the hall and up the stairs. The agents ignored the president's questions, and stayed focused on the task at hand. They burst onto the colonnade outside the West Wing and began jogging down the path to the driveway that arched its way through the South Lawn.

  The tanklike presidential limo was waiting, engine running, its passenger-side doors open. An ominous looking black suburban was also waiting behind it. An agent stood at each corner of the vehicle. Two of them were holding their FNH Five-Seven tactical pistols at the ready while the other two were holding FNP-90 submachine guns.

  The First Lady was unceremoniously brought out of the basement door, her robe billowing open, her bare legs on display. Fortunately there was no one around to witness it. She arrived at the limousine seconds before the president. One of the agents who had more or less carried her along the way placed his hand on top of her head as if she were a perp being stuffed into the back of a squad car, and tossed her into the backseat so they co
uld get out of the way of the quickly approaching president and the agents who were helping him. President Hayes was given the same treatment.

  Normally, they would have the backup limousine and a half dozen other vehicles as part of the motorcade, but not during a quick evacuation. Those vehicles were at this very moment being fired up at the Secret Service's garage only a few blocks away. Out of necessity four agents piled into the back with the president and the First Lady. Jorgenson climbed into the front seat with the driver, and two more agents got in the jump seats behind her and the driver.

  As soon as the doors to the limousine were shut, the counterassault team piled into the back of the Suburban. The two armor-plated vehicles raced out the heavy gate and onto West Executive Drive where they were met by two Secret Service Uniformed Division sedans. One pulled out in front and the other followed. Six blocks later the backup limousine joined the formation as well as a communication van bristling with antennas. The entire evacuation had taken exactly fifty-two seconds.

  * * *

  Twenty-Five

  ATLANTA

  The warehouse was not located in the best part of town, but that was to be expected. Good real estate in Atlanta was expensive, and the men who had invested in this small trucking company were not looking for a long-term investment. They simply wanted entry into a business that would pay dividends of a different sort. The previous owner, a seventy-two-year-old man who could no longer drive, was more than eager to retire.

  They gave him the terms he wanted. He received a cash payment of $80,000 up front and would get an additional $5,000 a month for three years. When the new owners first took over, six of the trucks were in decent shape, and two of them needed some work. That was thirteen months ago. Now only three trucks were running, and the owners had no intention of repairing the others. If things went according to plan they would no longer be in business after Memorial Day.

  Ahmed al-Adel mopped his brow with a cloth and cursed the oppressive humidity of Atlanta. The warehouse was not air-conditioned. Only a few more days and he would finally return home. Al-Adel had immigrated to America in 1999, and scarcely a day had passed that he hadn't regretted his decision to come to this godless country. He'd been told Atlanta had a large Muslim population, that it would be easy for him to make friends, and hopefully find a wife. He had two uncles and many cousins in the area. Al-Adel was a gifted man in the sense that he was smart and well educated, even if he lacked physical stature. In his mind, it was infinitely better to have brains.

  Al-Adel was shocked that his relatives even bothered to call themselves Muslims. They had been so corrupted by America and its vices that he was certain every last one of them was on the express lane to Hell. Al-Adel had been ready to return home to Saudi Arabia when his glorious brothers had flown the planes into the towers in New York and the military's headquarters in Washington. He had watched the events unfold in his one bedroom apartment, and cheered the successes of the brave Muslim warriors.

  Their heroics had given al-Adel the courage to stay and fight. It was not long after the attack that he had started to find others who felt the way he did-that America was a disgusting, decadent place. Even young Muslim women here no longer honored their parents the way they should. They went out in public unaccompanied by male relatives and made no effort to cover their faces. Many of them had even taken to driving.

  Al-Adel had expressed his disapproval to one of his uncles and the man had done nothing. His female cousins made fun of him behind his back. They made fun of his slight physical stature and his traditional ways. They did not think he noticed, but he heard their whispers and snickers. They were like a flock of cackling hens, who had no idea of their place in this world. That was all about to change. Al-Adel and his fellow warriors were about to ignite a spark that would lead to a global jihad.

  Al-Adel stepped out into the yard and walked across the pock-marked asphalt toward his idling truck. Two men were standing by the truck talking to each other. One of them came toward al-Adel and enveloped him in a warm embrace.

  "Allahu Akbar." God is great.

  Al-Adel repeated the greeting."Allahu."

  "I checked everything personally. It will take you to your destiny and beyond."

  "Thank you." Al-Adel clapped him on the shoulders. "Hopefully, we will meet again in our homeland."

  "If not, then in paradise," the man said with a proud grin.

  "Yes." Al-Adel beamed with satisfaction. "Remember the instructions I gave you. If you do not hear from me by ten this morning I want you to call the number I gave you."

  The man nodded. "I know exactly what to do. Now get going."

  The two men hugged one more time, and then al-Adel climbed behind the wheel of the big rig. The third man got in the passenger seat of the cab, a pistol bulging from the waist of his pants. Al-Adel gunned the engine several times and then forced it into gear.

  The man standing on the ground cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, "Be careful."

  Al-Adel gave him a toothy smile and nodded. He had gotten quite good at driving the big rigs. For nearly a year now he had made three round trips a week from Atlanta to the port of Charleston. None of those trips had been as important as this one, but this time Allah would be keeping an even closer eye on him.

  * * *

  Twenty-Six

  WASHINGTON, D.C.

  Peggy Stealey was in the middle of a rather violent dream. She had just delivered a crushing blow to her karate instructor's groin, but that wasn't enough. With great speed and precision she moved on to his solar plexus, throat, and then finally nose. The last blow was a textbook palm strike and sent the man to the mat, blood dripping from his flattened nose. She saw herself standing over him, her hair a disaster, her cheeks flushed, and her skin glistening with sweat. A look of profound accomplishment spread across her face, and then something happened. A stimuli that wasn't supposed to be in her dream.

  Her eyelids flickered and then opened. She looked over at her bedside clock, things still not quite registering. The blue letters told her it was 2:28 in the morning. She realized her victory was only a dream and was pissed. It was the best one she'd had in months. She laid her head back down and closed her eyes. She should have known that kicking her sadist instructor's butt was too good to be true. She told herself if she fell back asleep fast enough she might be able to pick up where she'd left off.

  Seconds later Stealey figured out what had pulled her from her dream. Her pager over on her dresser was vibrating. Stealey grabbed a pillow and clamped it down on her head. She wanted to return to her dream. Weren't twelve-hour days enough? She was almost always up by five, never asleep past six, and always brought work home with her. She was lucky if she got five hours a night, so was it too much to ask for them not to bother her between midnight and when the sun came up?

  Stealey whipped her pillow across the room, and cursed herself for not having the courage to ignore the damn siren call of work. No wonder she couldn't find a steady boyfriend. There wasn't time for herself, let alone anyone else.

  She swung her long, toned legs from under the covers and walked over to the nightstand. When she reached out for the pager, she realized why she had been dreaming about throttling her karate instructor. Stealey winced as she was reminded of her sore left breast. Always pushing herself to get better, Stealey, a third-degree black belt, had gotten overly aggressive while sparring with her instructor. She had landed a glancing blow to the older man's head, but in the process left herself wide open. Master Jing, not one to let such a mistake go unpunished, responded with a lighting-quick strike that knocked her clean off her feet. Stealey could still picture Master Jing standing over her, chiding her for such a foolish mistake. She would have attempted a reply if it wasn't for the fact that there was no longer any air left in her lungs.

  She picked up the pager and looked at the small readout. When she saw the number staring back at her she said, "Oh shit."

  Stealey ran from her room. The
Department of Justice had a twenty-four-hour command center, and there were only two reasons why they would be calling her in the middle of the night. She reached the kitchen, where she immediately noticed the blinking message light on her answering machine. Stealey pressed play and grabbed her cell phone to turn it on. She kept a fan on in her bedroom and turned off the ringers at night so she could sleep. The pager was kept in her bedroom on the off chance someone really needed to get hold of her.

  The attorney general's voice came out of the small speaker on her answering machine. His only direction was to call him immediately. Even though the message was brief she could tell something was wrong.

  She grabbed her phone and dialed his cell phone number. He answered on the first ring. "Peg, are you on a land line?"

  "Ah no. I'm on a cordless."

  "Where the hell have you been?"

  She pulled her hair back trying to think of an excuse and finally told him the truth. "Sleeping."

  "Listen to me. I can't discuss this with you over an open line. Get to the Joint Counterterrorism Center immediately and call me back."

  Before she could ask what was going on the line went dead.

  Stealey just stood there in her kitchen, left dumbfounded and staring at the cordless phone. The new Joint Counterterrorism Center was only a few miles from her apartment. The facility was near Tyson's Corner, on the far western edge of the Beltway, and had just recently opened. The idea behind the top secret facility was twofold. The first was to get the FBI and the CIA working together on the war on terrorism, and the second was to get the FBI's counterterrorism people out of downtown.

  The rationale behind that move was pretty straightforward. FBI headquarters was a target of high value for terrorists, and if they succeeded in destroying the building, they would take with it the very agents who were supposed to investigate the attack.

 
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