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Memorial day, p.14
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       Memorial Day, p.14

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  The gravity of what must be going on began to seep in. She was supposed to keep a Go Bag packed at all times for just this type of situation. Stealey cursed herself for not paying more attention during all the exercises.

  They'd given her three phones, and two pagers, and instructed her to carry all of them with her at all times. Her feeling had been that the entire thing was overkill. One phone and pager were designated to be used during the normal course of business. The second phone and two way pager were given top priority on cellular towers, and the last phone, which was still in its box, was an iridium satellite phone to be used if regular service was knocked out.

  All she'd wanted was five hours of sleep. She placed the cordless phone back in its cradle and said, "This better not be a damn drill."

  Even as she started down the hall to get dressed, she knew it wasn't. Stokes would have told her, plus they didn't wake the attorney general up in the middle of the night for drills. Stealey picked up the pace. She threw on a gray pants suit and stuffed some toiletries and extra garments into the bag she was supposed to have packed, and then headed back to the living room. She took a quick look at herself in the mirror by the door. Her hair was a mess and she still had sleep lines on her face.Screw it, she thought.I'll have to do it in the car.

  Stealey yanked open the front hall closet and started chucking boxes out of the way until she found the satellite phone they'd given her more than a year ago. She doubted the battery was charged, but she'd bring it anyway. She was almost out the door when she realized she didn't have her purse, so she went back to the kitchen table to get it. She threw the bag over her shoulder, grabbed her purse, and left, forgetting to lock the door. Stealey was already in the garage by the time she realized her mistake and cursed herself up and down. She almost went back and then thought better of it. Something told her now was not the time to worry about unlocked doors.

  * * *

  Twenty-Seven

  AFGHANISTAN

  The two vehicles arrived back at the base with little fanfare. The Special Forces contingent had their own section of the base and an MP in a Humvee escorted them to General Harley's command tent. Rapp started to get out of the truck before it stopped. He was so sick of listening to Waheed Abdullah scream he'd actually thought of knocking him out. Rapp had been shot before, and there was nothing pleasant about it, but the man had been screaming, moaning, and crying now for close to thirty minutes.

  Rapp lifted the back hatch half hoping Abdullah would roll out and hit the ground hard enough to break his jaw. His wish did not come true. The Saudi screamed even louder once he saw his tormentor. Soldiers began spilling out of the command tent, followed by General Harley. Rapp would have liked to avoid this scene, but there'd been a change of plans. Urda and his Afghani bodyguards grabbed the other two prisoners and leaned them against the SUV.

  No one, least of all General Harley, noticed, or cared, or more likely dared ask Rapp why he'd left with five prisoners and returned with only three. There were certain things Harley was just better off not knowing.

  "You want medical attention for this one?" asked Harley, as he pointed to Abdullah, who was between shrieks and breathing so heavily he looked as if he might pass out.

  Rapp wanted to crack him over the head with the butt of his pistol and knock him out, but doing it in front of all these officers would be a real bad idea. Reluctantly, he agreed to the medical attention for Abdullah. Rapp, at any rate, needed to look at the intel they'd seized from the village before he interrogated Abdullah and the others again. Right now he had no way of gauging what was the truth and what were lies.

  A medic showed up and quickly assessed the prisoners' wounds. Urda asked Rapp if they should take the other two prisoners away. Rapp told him no. Showing them that their captors could have some compassion was a good thing.

  Rapp walked over to the medic and bent down so no one else could hear. "Give him just a little bit of morphine. Enough to last thirty minutes, tops."The medical treatment might be just the right thing, thought Rapp. A little bit of morphine to dull the pain temporarily, and then when it started to wear off he might become real talkative.

  He stood over Abdullah and quietly spoke to him in Arabic. "I am going to check on what you just told me, and if I find out you've been lying to me, I'm going to start cutting your fingers off one by one."

  Rapp straightened up and waved Urda over. The two CIA men huddled with General Harley, and Rapp asked the older man, "You have a place where Jamal can continue interrogating these three?"

  "It's all set up and ready to go recording equipment and all. I've also got some Delta boys who are more than eager to assist."

  "Good." Rapp turned to Urda, but before he could talk, the general grabbed his arm.

  "Listen if you need to get rough with them I don't want anyone other than the Delta guys in the room, and make sure the cameras are turned off."

  Both Rapp and Urda nodded.

  "And no executions," Harley whispered. Gossip on a military base was as common as morning PT. "You guys need to resort to any of that stuff you take them off base again." The general glared at both men to make sure they were clear on this point.

  "Understood," said Rapp. Urda nodded.

  Harley nodded with satisfaction and then turned to one of his men. "Captain, would you please escort Mr. Urda and his " Harley almost used the word prisoners, but stopped short. "Would you please take Mr. Urda to the place we discussed."

  "Yes, sir."

  The Afghani bodyguards grabbed Abdullah, while Urda took hold of the other two by their elbows and they were off.

  As Harley watched them leave he said to Rapp in a low tone, "I can't believe they've got a nuke."

  Rapp still held out some hope. "We don't know for sure what they have, but we have to assume the worst and work our way back from there. Hopefully, all they've got is a dirty bomb, and they never get the chance to light it."

  Harley was silent for a second. His people had found another piece of evidence that he hadn't shared with Rapp yet. "I've got family in D.C."

  "They haven't beaten us yet, general."

  "No, but I can't even believe they've gotten this far." He waved his arm to the south toward the distant mountains. "We need more men, and I'm not just talking snake eaters." Harley used the slang for Special Forces. "We need three combat divisions and a whole lot of support. We need to go up into those mountains and end this thing."

  "Well, if they set a bomb off in D.C., you'll get your wish."

  The general shook his head, his sense of foreboding deepening. "If they set off a nuke in D.C., this entire region will be turned into a pile of radioactive rubble."

  "Well, let's hope they don't succeed."

  Harley didn't seem real optimistic at the moment. He waved for Rapp to follow him. "Let's get started."

  They stepped into the large tent and the general walked over to a table set up with food and coffee. "You must be hungry."

  "Starved." Rapp grabbed a turkey sandwich and tore at the cellophane. When a large enough portion was free, he took a big bite and then poured himself a cup of black coffee. While Harley explained what they were doing, Rapp continued to eat.

  Large rectangular tables were arranged around the room in a horseshoe pattern. A morass of cables and chords connected the various computers, scanners, flat-panel monitors, printers, and fax machines. Most of the men and women were wearing desert BDUs, but a few were in civilian clothes, which meant they were CIA.

  "This first group over here is working with your people back in Washington to decipher the data on the computers. The other two groups are pouring through the files and separating them by language. More of it is in Arabic than we originally thought." The general pointed to the last table. "Those are Urda's people. Anything we find written in Urdu or Pashto we immediately kick over to them. We've already found several things of interest. Follow me."

  Harley walked over to one of the large bulletin boards that ringed the perimeter
of the tent. Pinned to its middle was the map of Washington, D.C., that had everyone so worked up. Next to it was another map that Rapp hadn't seen.

  "We found this folded up and stuffed in a file." Harley pointed to the upper portion of the map. "Can you read any of it?"

  "Some of it." Rapp studied the map. More than anything he recognized the shape of the large blue body of water in the middle. "It's the Caspian, right?"

  "Correct," answered Harley. The map was of the Caspian Sea with Iran to the south and Kazakhstan to the north. "Any idea why they would bother with a map of the Caspian?"

  Rapp stared at it for a moment. "None whatsoever."

  "Well, neither did we." Harley slid over a bit. "These maps need no introduction," he said, pointing.

  One was of the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, and the other one was of Florida and the northern part of the Caribbean.

  Harley touched the map and asked, "Do you see what's been circled?"

  "New York, Miami, Baltimore, and Charleston."

  "That's right. The four busiest ports on the East Coast."

  "Shit."

  "That's not even the worst of it," replied the general. "Come look at this." He walked Rapp around the outside of the tables to the area where Urda's people were set up. The three bearded men were dressed casually and so focused was their attention that they paid no attention to Rapp and the general.

  "These are our Pashto guys. They were the ones who found the names of the missing Pakistani nuclear scientists."

  "What else have they discovered?"

  "Detailed descriptions on how to shield a nuclear warhead and sneak it past the sensors we have at all the aforementioned ports."

  Rapp closed his eyes out of frustration. "What else?"

  "A laundry list of materials needed to build the fire set and how to assemble and shape the explosive charge to achieve maximum yield."

  The yield was how the explosive power of the bomb was measured. "Have we discovered the yield?"

  "According to this right here," Harley tapped a file lying on the table, "twenty kilotons."

  "Say again?" asked a somewhat shocked Rapp.

  "Twenty kilotons."

  "That's no dirty bomb."

  "No."

  "Any idea where they got this thing? Did they steal it from the Pakistanis?"

  "So far we haven't a clue, but all of this is being sent back to the Joint Counterterrorism Center, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council. I would imagine someone very high up in our government will be calling Pakistan any moment and demanding a full accounting of their nuclear arsenal."

  "I hope you're right. What else?"

  "We have some interesting bills of lading we're trying to decipher, but it's a real jigsaw puzzle."

  "What about something arriving by air yesterday?"

  Harley asked one of the analysts, and was told no.

  "Could it be on one of the computers?" asked Rapp.

  The analyst shrugged. He had no idea.

  Harley and Rapp walked over to the section that was working on the computers. They were told that so far nothing involving shipping records had been unearthed, but they'd barely scratched the surface.

  Rapp wondered if Abdullah had lied to him and thought it might be a good idea to put a few more questions to him. "General, can one of your men bring me to where the interrogations are being conducted?"

  Harley called out for one of his aides. He told the junior officer where to take the man from the CIA and then said to Rapp, "If we come up with anything new, I'll send for you."

  "All right." Rapp started to leave and then turned. "General, one more favor. Would you have my plane gassed up and ready to go?"

  "Consider it done."

  * * *

  Twenty-Eight

  WASHINGTON, D.C.

  Special Agent Skip McMahon had been with the FBI since the day he'd graduated from Penn State thirty-five years earlier. He'd seen a lot of strange stuff. He'd been involved in more stressful cases than perhaps anyone else at the Bureau, but this one was looking as if it might take the cake. He knew the current situation wasn't a drill because as the man who ran the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, he would have been in on it.

  To be rousted in the middle of the night by the shrill ring of his STU-3 secure telephone was never a pleasant experience, but on this particular evening the message he received from the Counterterrorism Watch Center caused him to bolt from his bed and get dressed as fast as his arthritic knees allowed.

  Operation Ark had been implemented. The president, his cabinet, the Supreme Court, and the leaders of the House and Senate were all being evacuated from the city. That was part of what they called, "COG," or continuity of government. McMahon was part of "COOP," or continuity of operations. While they fled, it was his job to stay, and try to stop whatever it was that the terrorists were attempting.

  At the moment, he was trying to do just that from an elevated glass-enclosed room at the new Tyson's Corner facility. He looked out onto CT Watch, a 24/7 center that monitored terrorist activities around the world. The high-tech room was manned by sixty-two special agents and another twenty-three intelligence analysts from the CIA. The analysts were part of the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC). The CIA's Counterterrorism Center was located on a separate floor.

  McMahon looked out across the sea of consoles and computers. Something was going on over in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Apparently the CIA, with the aid of the military, had got their hands on some high-level terrorists. Intel was pouring in so fast the translators were struggling to keep up. McMahon saw Jake Turbes, the director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, enter the room. He walked hurriedly down the side aisle and joined McMahon in the elevated glass room.

  "This just came in." Turbes handed over a piece of paper.

  McMahon looked at the list of cities. "These are four of the busiest ports in the world."

  "I know, but it's all we have to go on for now."

  "In addition to all of the international air-cargo flights?"

  "No one ever said it was going to be easy, Skip."

  The new Joint Counterterrorism Center wasn't even fully operational and they were getting hit with a scenario that was quickly stretching them to the limits of their capabilities.

  "Yeah, I know." McMahon was trying to think of how to deploy his assets. "Any chance you guys are going to be able to narrow this down for us?"

  "We're trying."

  McMahon dropped the piece of paper on his desk. "I'd better call Reimer and get his people in on this." McMahon was referring to Paul Reimer, who ran the Nuclear Emergency Support Teams for the Department of Energy.

  "Good idea." Turbes left the room as quickly as he'd arrived.

  McMahon had sixty speed-dial buttons on his secure phone, and Reimer's button was near the top. He pushed it, and a few seconds later the Vietnam vet and retired Navy SEAL was on the line.

  Like McMahon, Reimer had also been awakened by the shrill ring of his government issued STU-3 and given instructions to head to the Department of Energy's secure underground facility in Germantown, Maryland.

  "Reimer here," he answered in a voice that hadn't quite warmed up.

  "Paul, it's Skip. Are your NEST boys ready to go to work?" McMahon was referring to the Department of Energy's Nuclear Emergency Support Team.

  "I've already got one of my Search Response Teams doing a random search downtown."

  "Great I've also got some ports for you to take a look at."

  "How many?"

  "Four to start with. New York, Miami, Baltimore, and Charleston."

  The list of cities was met with momentary silence and then Reimer said in a sarcastic voice, "As long as you're at it, why don't you just add New Orleans, Houston, and L.A. to the list?"

  "I know it's a big job, Paul."

  "Big job! You've got to be kidding me."

  "Sorry, but right now it's all we've got to go on."

  "What about the
airports?"

  McMahon grabbed the back of his neck. "We've got agents overseas looking into it."

  "What if the damn thing's already in the country?"

  "The consensus is that the sensors would have picked it up."

  The sensors McMahon was referring to were installed in every U.S. port of entry. They were designed to pick up the radiation signature emitted by a nuclear device. The sensors were good at detecting un-shielded devices, but were less effective against ones that were shielded properly.

  Reimer scoffed at the idea that the sensors would have picked up a device entering the country. "I heard some intel on the Pakistani scientists we've been looking for turned up. Sounds like they got recruited."

  "Where did you hear that?" asked a genuinely surprised McMahon.

  "I just got an intel dump from CTC. They wanted my technical people to go over some information." Reimer stopped for a second and then added, "Skip, you know as well as I do, if they had any scientific help with this thing, they would have shielded it, which means our sensors at the ports have a significantly reduced chance of detecting it. In fact they have almost no chance at all."

  McMahon needed to get a better handle on what they were up against. "Let's hope they aren't that savvy."

  "Roger that. For now, I'll call in my RAP teams and have them start looking at these ports." Reimer was thinking about the Department of Energy's Radiological Assistance Program. He had twenty-seven teams dispersed at DOE facilities around the country. They weren't as well equipped as his Search Response Teams, but until they got more specific intel they would have to fill the breach.

  "The second you hear anything else let me know."

  "I will." McMahon hung up the phone and looked up in time to see a disheveled Peggy Stealey come storming through the Emergency Crisis Center. The near-permanent frown on his face deepened.

 
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