Memorial Day, p.16Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
"They are," answered Kennedy, "but they are not foolproof."
"Mr. President," said the Secretary of Homeland Security, "In about two hours this city is going to wake up, and rush hour will begin. If Washington, D.C., is in fact the target, we need to consider shutting down all incoming lanes of traffic. As general Flood pointed out, the quickest way to increase the death toll is to let people come into the city to work."
The president looked to Kennedy for guidance.
"I respectfully disagree," answered the director of the CIA. "Until we have more specific intelligence, any such action would be premature and would likely hinder our search for the device."
The Secretary of Homeland Security frowned at Kennedy's polite rebuke and said, "At a bare minimum, sir, we should begin checking all pickup trucks, box vans, and semi trucks headed into the city. We should also consider shutting down the Metro."
"I would advise waiting another hour," answered Kennedy.
Secretary of the Treasury Keane, who was at the Mount Weather facility with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the vice president, chimed in by saying, "Mr. President, if the slightest whisper of this gets out, we need to be prepared to step in and close the financial markets even before they open."
All at once, the meeting digressed into a free-for-all, with splintered conversations breaking out between the various groups. President Hayes pushed his chair a little further away from the table and for his own part tried to figure out where this madness might lead them.
CIA Director Kennedy leaned closer to the president and said, "Sir, if you could call the meeting back to order, I'd like to suggest a course of action."
Hayes liked the sound of Kennedy's reassuring voice. "Everyone!" Like all good orators the president knew how to project his voice. He did not have to repeat himself a second time.
"Dr. Kennedy has the floor," he commanded.
Kennedy laid her palms flat on the table and spoke in an even but confident voice. "With each passing minute, we're getting a better handle on this situation. As strange and counterintuitive as it may seem, the best course of action for us right now may be to do nothing. It's a quarter past four in the morning. We have a little time before people begin waking up and heading into work. I propose that for the next hour we allow our counterterrorism people to do what they're trained to do, and stay out of their way. At five thirty we can reconvene, and decide if we need to take further action."
The president didn't wait for anyone else to argue or interject. "We will reconvene at five thirty. In the meantime dust off the contingency plans we have in place, and have your agendas set and prioritized for the next meeting. I want a clear and concise take on everything: intel, military, financial markets, the press and Irene and Beatrice," Hayes pointed to Kennedy and the secretary of State, "I want the two of you to coordinate a strategy on how to deal with Pakistan, and any other allies we might need to put some pressure on."
The president then took in the rest of the room and looked up at the large screen. "I can't stress enough how important it is that we keep a lid on this thing. The last thing we need right now is the press getting wind of this. They'll create a damn panic and this situation will spin out of control before we have the chance to stop it."
* * *
Rapp stepped into the tent and in the dim light spotted Urda sitting at a small table with one of the prisoners. As he approached and his eyes adjusted he saw it was Ahmed Khalili, the young man from Karachi. Two mugs were sitting on the table in front of them. Khalili's hands were still bound, but in front of him so he could drink. Rapp took all of this as a good sign. As he approached the table the young Pakistani looked away from him.
"Ahmed, don't worry," said Urda, sensing the young man's nervousness at the sight of Rapp. "Nothing will happen to you as long as you continue to cooperate." The CIA's Kandahar man stood. "I'm going to step outside for a second. Continue enjoying your tea, and I'll be right back."
Once the two men were outside Urda said, "He's talking."
"Good, but is he telling us anything useful?"
"I think so. He's their computer guy. That's how he knew who you were, by the way."
"They asked him to get his hands on everything the press wrote about you. They wanted to know about your wife, and he was told to find out where you lived."
A look of proprietary concern spread across Rapp's face. "And did he find out where I live?"
"I don't think so."
Rapp looked back in the tent. None of this came as a surprise to him, but it was still worrisome. He would have to look into it further, but right now there were more important things to deal with. "Did he say anything about where they got this bomb, or how they transported it to the U.S.?"
"Not so far."
"Then what has he been talking about?"
"The cells they have in the U.S." Urda raised an eyebrow.
Rapp liked the sound of this and motioned for Urda to spill the beans.
"He explained how they've been contacting their people in the states via e-mail. He can give us the accounts they were sending the e-mails to, and he said something else very important."
"What?" asked Rapp.
"Supposedly, somebody big was going to America to help carry out the attack."
"Did he tell you who?"
Urda nodded. "Mustafa al-Yamani."
Rapp's hands balled into tight fists upon hearing the man's name. "How and when?"
"They knew they couldn't get him in on a commercial flight so they were going to do it by water."
"I haven't got that far yet."
"Let's get back in there and find out."
Urda reached out and grabbed Rapp's arm. "Take it easy on him. He thinks you're the devil and I'm not exaggerating."
"I'll go easy on him so long as he cooperates."
Urda took his seat at the small table and Rapp grabbed a folding chair, flipping it around backwards and sitting down between the two men. "Ahmed," started Rapp in a calm voice. "As long as you tell me the truth, you have nothing to fear. How did Mustafa al-Yamani plan on entering America?"
"By boat." The young Pakistani slid his trembling hands under the table.
"Do you know when?"
Rapp remembered that Abdullah had told him the bomb was to have arrived yesterday. "Was he accompanying the bomb?"
Khalili shook his head.
"Are you sure?" Rapp asked suspiciously.
"Yes. He was to fly to Cuba where he would take a boat and enter Florida somewhere on its eastern coast."
Rapp wanted to know more about al-Yamani, but there was something else of even greater importance he needed to know first. "How was the bomb to enter the country?"
"I'm not sure." The Pakistani looked down and away when he answered this.
Rapp reached out with his right hand and placed it on the table. The move caused the prisoner to flinch. "Ahmed," said Rapp in a stern voice. "Look at me."
Reluctantly, he did so.
"You know more than you are telling us. How were they planning on getting the bomb into the country?"
"I'm not sure," he answered in a shaky voice, "but I think by ship."
"And why do you think that?"
"About three weeks ago it was loaded onto a freighter in Karachi."
If Ahmed was telling the truth, that meant Abdullah was lying to him, that was unless the bomb had been off-loaded at a port somewhere and then transferred onto a plane for the rest of the journey. To Rapp that seemed like more work than it was worth. Why not just put it on a plane to start with?
"Ahmed, an hour ago you seemed to know a lot less. How can I be sure you're telling me the truth?"
He looked up at Rapp with a pleading expression. "These are things I am not supposed to know. Things I overheard the others talking about."
"Did you hear Abdullah talk about any o
Ahmed, confused, just looked at Rapp.
"Did you hear Abdullah talk about how they were getting the bomb into America?"
"Yes. By ship."
Rapp took a moment to study the man's face. "At any point did they talk about putting it on a plane?"
The young Pakistani shook his head. "Not that I heard."
"Did you hear what port they were going to bring the bomb in to?"
"No." He shook his head. "I heard them mention several cities."
"New York and Baltimore were the two I remember."
"What about Miami and Charleston?"
"I think those too."
Rapp leaned back and looked at Urda. "I need to go make a call. Maybe you two could discuss how Mr. al-Yamani got into America and who is helping him."
Urda nodded knowingly. As Rapp left the tent, Urda told his young prisoner he was doing a good job and asked him if he wanted more tea.
Outside, Rapp made no effort to retrieve his satellite phone. The call to Kennedy would have to wait until he had the chance to ask Abdullah why he'd lied to him, and this time each lie would cost him a finger.
* * *
Rapp found Abdullah about fifty yards away. They'd placed him in an ammunition storage bunker that was partially underground and surrounded by sandbags. Two Delta troopers were sitting in front of the bunker playing a hand of cards, while Abdullah lay inside on a stretcher. If the medic had given him the right dose of morphine it should be wearing off right about now.
Rapp went down the steps and had to tilt his head so as to not hit the header. Two things were instantly apparent: Abdullah wanted more morphine, and he was not happy to see the man from the CIA. Rapp stood over him for a moment assessing his next move. Even though he told him he'd cut his fingers off if he lied to him, Rapp thought the better approach now would be to dangle the relief of morphine in front of him.
"Waheed," Rapp used his first name. "How does your knee feel?"
The Saudi turned away from Rapp and bit down on his lip.
Looking down at the terrorist, Rapp took the steel toe of his boot and nudged the bloody and bandaged joint. Abdullah let out a scream that was ear-piercing in the confined space. Rapp reacted by bending over and backhanding him in the face. In Arabic he told the terrorist to stop screaming like a woman.
After the Saudi stifled his cries, Rapp asked, "Waheed, would you like more morphine?"
The man did not answer at first, and then finally through a clenched jaw he said, "You know I do."
"Well, that shouldn't be a problem. We have plenty of it."
Abdullah, who was half on his side and turned away from Rapp, opened an eye and looked at his tormentor with a glimmer of hope.
"That's right we have enough morphine to make all the pain go away. It's going to be a long flight back to America, and I want you to be comfortable." Rapp noticed Abdullah had lost his zeal for flinging verbal insults.
"You told me a lie earlier." Rapp lifted up his boot and again nudged Abdullah's bloodied knee. The terrorist screamed in response. When he was done Rapp said, "If you want more morphine, I'm going to have to send someone to get it. It could easily take thirty minutes so the sooner you tell me the truth, the sooner you'll get your shot."
"Thirty minutes?" cried a horrified Abdullah.
Rapp shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "I could probably come up with some sooner, but that depends on how forthright you are this time."
"I told you the truth," he moaned.
Rapp wound up this time and sent his steel-toe boot crashing into the Saudi's wounded knee. When Abdullah was done screaming, Rapp said, "The others are talking, Waheed. I know for a fact that you lied to me."
"The others what others?"
"The other two men who came back to the base."
"They know nothing," said Abdullah defiantly. "They were not involved in any of the planning."
"Is that right?" asked Rapp. He dropped down into a squat and grabbed Abdullah's hair. "Would you care to tell me where your friend Mustafa al-Yamani is right now?"
Abdullah's eyes opened wide at the question, but his mouth remained shut.
"This big plan of yours is unraveling," said Rapp. "Those two underlings know a lot more than you think. We know al-Yamani flew to Cuba and then got on a boat for Florida. We're tracing the e-mails that you sent to the cells in America, and the FBI is moving to arrest people right now. This entire thing is falling apart and you're getting left behind." Rapp stood and studied the Saudi for a moment.
"Maybe I should give you more time to think about it. I'll be back in an hour." Rapp started to leave, but before he reached the door Abdullah cried out for him to wait.
"It's not coming into America by plane."
"How is it being transported then?"
"Destined for what port?" Rapp moved to stand over him again.
Abdullah mumbled an unintelligible answer.
"I didn't hear you. What port?"
"I want more morphine first," Abdullah howled.
Rapp put his boot on top of the bad knee and pressed down.
Abdullah began screaming his head off.
Rapp snarled, "I'm not taking my foot off until you tell me what port!"
Abdullah kept screaming.
"What port!" Rapp put almost all of his weight on the bad knee. "What port, Waheed?"
"Charleston! Charleston!" The man's face was covered in sweat and contorted in anguish.
Rapp let up a bit but kept his boot in place. "And when is it due to arrive?"
"You said yesterday when I asked you an hour ago."
"I lied! It's coming today! I swear I'm telling you the truth!"
"What's the name of the ship?"
"I don't know," he screamed with a genuine look of panic on his face.
"Where did it originate from?"
"How long ago?"
"Three weeks. Please oh please I'm telling you the truth."
Rapp removed his boot, and grabbed a knife from a scabbard on his right thigh. Bending over, he held the knife in front of Abdullah's face and said, "This is your last chance. I'm going to get you some morphine, but if I find out you've lied to me, I'm going to come back, and not only are you not going to get your morphine I'm going to start lopping off your fingers one by one."
* * *
The trip out to Sullivan's Island didn't take long. The island marked the northern entrance to Charleston Harbor. They continued past the main gate to historic Fort Moultrie Park and took a left on Station 12th Street. They parked a half block from the water and got out of the car. al-Yamani asked Yacoub to grab the bag from the trunk, and the two of them walked to the beach. Once out of the car's air-conditioned comfort al-Yamani was again reminded of how foreign humidity was to him. Growing up in an arid land had acclimated him to dry heat, not this smothering wet air.
By the time they reached the sand he could feel rivulets of sweat dripping down his back. Yacoub led the way across the light-colored beach. Visibility was good with a quarter moon and not a cloud in the sky. Out to sea on the horizon the sky was beginning to lighten a bit. The sun would be up in about an hour and a half, and if things went according to plan, not long after that the container would be headed north.
Yacoub pointed out into the harbor and said, "That is Fort Sumter. It is almost one point five kilometers from here to there. The boat will pass right between us."
This is no boat,al-Yamani thought to himself.It is a ship. He had been there in Karachi to supervise the packing and loading of the container. Al-Yamani had intentionally chosen the largest vessel he could find. He rationalized that the more containers the ship could carry, the less likely it would be that the Americans would find the lethal one in a random sea
"You can see the channel markers there and there." Yacoub pointed to the red and green lights floating out in the water.
To the right was downtown Charleston. The skyline was nothing stupendous, but al-Yamani knew this was an old city by American standards. The harbor where they had just come from was illuminated by bright flood lights. Even from this vantage al-Yamani could make out the monstrous cranes swinging cargo off the big vessels docked at one of America's busiest ports.
"Here comes a boat now." Yacoub pointed out to sea.
"You mean ship. A boat is little. That is not little." Al-Yamani checked his watch and said, "Binoculars."
Yacoub zipped open the duffel bag and handed the high-powered binoculars over.
Al-Yamani looked through the lenses and found the vessel steaming toward port. It was a container ship. A big one, fully loaded. Beyond it, out to sea, al-Yamani could make out at least two more ships headed in. One of them was his ship, he hoped. A slight breeze blew in from the ocean and it carried with it the sound of engines and churning water.
A minute later the ship passed between their position and Fort Sumter. Al-Yamani read the name on the prow. It was not the ship he was looking for, but he was not surprised. His ship was not due for another ten minutes. He'd checked it on the internet before leaving Cuba. One of their people in Karachi had explained how to do it. Using GPS and transponders, merchant ships were tracked all over the globe. These big container vessels were run by state-of-the-art automated systems that maximized time and fuel efficiency. Barring bad weather or other unforeseen conditions, the arrival time of a vessel at a given port could usually be predicted within minutes.
Al-Yamani grew a bit nervous as the next ship passed and it again wasn't the one he was looking for. There were plenty more lights out on the horizon but he had waited a lifetime for this moment and he didn't want to wait any longer. If the Americans were onto the plan he would know soon enough, for there was no way they would risk letting this cargo enter one of their ports.
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes