Memorial Day, p.25Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
"How much do you know about what happened stateside yesterday?"
"I've got a handle on the big picture. We found a fire set and cash on the two ships bound for New York, and the explosives on the ship bound for Baltimore. The consensus is that they were going to bring all this stuff together in one place and then assemble the device."
"The nuclear material," added Rapp, "is out in the desert getting tested, and the two men who tried to pick it up are hopefully in a dark cell somewhere having very bad things done to them." Rapp said this last part with a false smile on his face, doubting, as he did, that this was what was actually happening.
McMahon nodded tentatively, not quite knowing where to start. "Last night Charleston PD got a call on a John Doe who had been stabbed to death in a parking garage. This parking garage just so happens to look down on the dock where our little package arrived yesterday."
"Have we I.D.'d the guy?"
"No, but he's Middle Eastern."
Rapp's eyebrows shot up. "Any chance it's al-Yamani?"
"Not unless he figured out a way to grow his leg back."
Rapp remembered that little fact and winced at his own stupidity. "Any security tapes?"
"Yeah but they're shit. We've got it narrowed down to about a dozen cars, based on the approximate time of death, and we're running them down right now."
"We think we know where your guy came ashore."
"Yep. On Monday the Coast Guard plucks this guy out of the drink down near the Florida Keys. He's lost so much blood they don't even think he's going to live. Well, yesterday afternoon he wakes up and starts telling a pretty interesting story. The guy's a Brit who lives on Grand Cayman. He gets hired to captain this really expensive boat that just so happens to be owned by one of the five thousand members of the Saudi royal family."
Rapp shook his head. He could already see where this was going.
"The Brit," continued McMahon, "takes the boat over to Cuba and picks up a guy who he's supposed to take to the Bahamas. A couple hours out of port the Brit gets knifed in the back and thrown overboard for dead.
"The Coast Guard thinks this sounds like drugs, so they call in the DEA, and here's where we get lucky. The agent the DEA sends to talk to the Brit is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force out of Miami. The DEA guy arrives at the hospital, just after reading the alert we sent out about al-Yamani, and he puts two and two together."
Rapp was now sitting on the edge of the chair. "He's sure it was al-Yamani?"
McMahon shrugged. "The only photos we have of the guy are shit. They're grainy, and he's got a big beard and a turban. You know the song."
Rapp did. "Let me guess he was clean shaven with a high and tight haircut."
"Did the guy remember a limp?" asked Rapp.
"He wasn't sure, but he did remember that the man stumbled a bit when he got on board the boat."
Rapp was already trying to come up with a way to lean on Cuba. They would have to trace this guy's steps, and hopefully catch him getting on a flight for Cuba that originated in a country they had a good relationship with.
McMahon wasn't done. "The Coast Guard put out an alert for the missing boat, and lo and behold, it had already been discovered on Wednesday morning by a game warden at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge."
"Near Cape Canaveral."
"Great. We don't have a shuttle launch this week, do we?"
"No. I already checked on that."
Rapp frowned. "Why Cape Canaveral then?"
McMahon shrugged. "I don't know. We've alerted NASA and the local authorities, but so far nothing else has turned up. I do have something on another front, however."
McMahon started sifting through some files. He found the one he was looking for and opened it. Holding up a black-and-white photograph, he asked, "You recognize this guy?"
Rapp looked at the security photo. "No."
"Well, you should. We never would have found him without you."
He looked at the photo again. "I still don't know who it is."
"That young man who, incidentally, is passing through customs at LAX is none other than Imtaz Zubair, one of your missing Pakistani scientists."
"When did he enter the country?"
"And you have him in custody?"
Rapp sat back, a disappointed look on his face. "I thought you said you found him?"
"Discovered," said a tired McMahon, "that he entered the country would be more appropriate."
"Any idea where he is now?"
McMahon knew he was approaching an awkward point. "We have him boarding a Delta flight at LAX and heading to Atlanta."
"I assume you've got him getting off the plane in Atlanta?"
"Not yet. There's a problem with the surveillance tapes, but we expect to have it sorted out this morning."
"What about these two guys you picked up in Charleston?"
There it was. Things were about to get really uncomfortable. "We have them in custody," answered McMahon somewhat evasively.
"Where?" Rapp tilted his head suspiciously, sensing something in his friend's voice.
McMahon didn't look away, but he wanted to. Instead he got up and closed his door. "They're being held in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center."
"You're not serious? They're here in town?" Rapp pointed at the floor.
"Listen before you fly off the handle there's a few things you need to know. For starters both these guys are naturalized citizens."
"I don't care if they're the president's long-lost brothers!" yelled Rapp. "They should be in the Navy brig down in Charleston or down in Guantanamo, or better yet, you should have handed them over to me."
"Mitch, they have a lawyer."
"A lawyer!" Rapp was suddenly on his feet. "You're not fucking serious."
"He's not just any lawyer he's a hotshot civil rights attorney from Atlanta with a lot of connections here in Washington. He went to the media with this late yesterday and "
Rapp cut him off. "I don't care who he is! This is ridiculous!"
"It wasn't my call," McMahon said defensively. "Trust me."
"Let me take one guess. They're Arabs, aren't they?"
The FBI man nodded again.
"So you're telling me that two Saudi immigrants, undoubtedly Wahhabis, showed up in Charleston yesterday to pick up a nuclear bomb and the FBI decides to back down because they hire a lawyer?"
"We're not backing down, and it wasn't the Bureau's call. This is coming down from Justice."
"The attorney general?"
"More or less."
"The attorney general takes his orders from the president. Are you telling me this was the president's idea?"
"No. I know for a fact it wasn't the president's idea. It started somewhere else."
McMahon hesitated, not out of fear that he could get in trouble, but out of caution. "I'm going to tell you how this all got started, but I want you to look at it from more than just your perspective."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rapp fumed.
"You don't have to play by the rules," McMahon said firmly, "but the FBI does. All I'm asking is that you understand the legal and political implications of what happened yesterday. Hear me out and then do whatever you feel is right."
Rapp had neither the patience nor the desire to listen to one more word, but for the sake of finding out who was behind this monumentally stupid decision he was at least willing to keep his temper in check for a few more minutes.
* * *
The midnight blue BMW series five darted through the morning traffic at a near reckless pace. Although angry, the man behind the wheel was very much in control of the ve
As always, he quickly checked the surrounding area while throwing the car in park and unbuckling his seat belt. Then he grabbed his keys and got out. While walking to the limo he continued to survey the landscape. The back door was open and he climbed in.
Dr. Irene Kennedy had the TV on and was reading a file. She didn't even bother to look up at the CIA's top counterterrorism operative. Kennedy hadn't been there when they'd convinced the president of this course of action, but as soon as she found out, the first thing that came to mind was that Rapp would be furious.
"And what's so damned good about it?" snapped Rapp.
Kennedy closed the file and slowly took off her glasses. "I'm glad to see you made it back in one piece."
Next to Rapp's wife and his brother, Steven, Kennedy was perhaps the most important person in his life. In many ways, her influence was greater than the other two combined. Kennedy knew things about him that the other two would, and could, never know.
Despite his great affection for Kennedy, there were times when her levelheaded demeanor drove him insane. "Irene, my head's about to pop off so let's dispense with the pleasantries. What the hell happened between the time I left Afghanistan and got back here?"
This was exactly why Kennedy had asked him to meet her here. She did not want him exploding at the White House. "The simple version, Mitchell, is that two U.S. citizens were arrested yesterday in conjunction with a suspected terrorist attack. As is their right, they retained an attorney and "
Rapp closed his eyes and began shaking his head. "Don't give me the P.C. version. I want to know how in the hell you let this happen."
"To be blunt I was outmaneuvered."
"I had my hands full."
"He didn't even consult you?" asked a disbelieving Rapp.
"Not really. By the time I found out it was too late."
"Was this Jones's idea?" Rapp detested the president's chief of staff.
"She was involved in the decision, but I think it originated at Justice."
"Yes, and one of his deputies."
Rapp shook his head. "I don't get it. I thought we had solved all this nonsense with the Patriot Act."
"So did I, but I should have known better."
"There was no way the left was ever going to let that thing stand. I should've known that once the shock of 9/11 wore off they'd begin to dismantle it."
"Irene you know me. I could give a rat's ass about politics and ninety-nine percent of the crap that goes on in this town, but come on these guys were involved in a plot to set off a nuclear bomb in Washington, D.C., and now I'm being told by the FBI that I can't talk to them, because they've got a lawyer."
"Mitch, I don't like this anymore than you do, but right now I don't see any other choice. This thing is public now."
"I'll tell you how to handle it. We take away their U.S. citizenship, based on the fact that they came to America with the intent of launching a terrorist attack, and then we put the screws to them until they give up every damn accomplice and piece of information we need."
"Mitch, the train has already left the station." She pointed at the TV. The screen showed a reporter standing in the White House press room. "The background has already been given to the press. The president is going to read a statement any minute. This is election-year politics. The president wants it both ways. A tough public prosecution of these two guys will give him a lot of good P.R., while at the same time assuage the concerns of the far left over the Patriot Act."
Rapp shook his head at the TV. "Mustafa Frickin' al-Yamani is on the loose somewhere in America. We have a dead Arab in a parking garage in Charleston, we have a missing Pakistani nuclear scientist arriving in Atlanta on Monday, and coincidentally the two guys we picked up in Charleston yesterday also happen to be from Atlanta." Rapp paused, his silence exuding frustration. "Has it occurred to anyone else that the two men who the FBI have in custody just might be able to help us track down al-Yamani and this nuclear scientist?"
Kennedy shared his frustration; she knew there was no way the Justice Department would allow anyone from the CIA, let alone Mitch Rapp to get anywhere near their two precious prisoners. Her protégé was now officially on the warpath and she had no interest in stopping him. "You'll have to ask the president about it. Just try and be respectful," she said.
* * *
The second motel wasn't as nice as the first. The carpeting was stained and matted, and the bedspreads were stiff and shiny. Imtaz Zubair did not complain. To do so in front of al-Yamani would have been foolish, especially since the man was in the bathroom throwing up. He was dying of radiation poisoning, that was obvious.
Zubair had seen it before when he worked at the Chasnupp nuclear power plant in Central Pakistan. There had been a minor leak that had been missed by a faulty sensor. A technician had continued to work in the contaminated area for an entire shift before it was discovered. By then it was too late.
Within a day the man was vomiting and had blotchy burn marks on his skin. Then came the swollen eyes, the agonizing spasms of pain, and finally the man's hands had turned to gelatin and he had bled to death from the inside out. Zubair still remembered the screams. What a terrible way to die.
Zubair sat at the foot of the bed and stared at the TV. He had been ordered to tell al-Yamani when the American president came on. According to the reporter they were running behind schedule, but expected him any minute.
When the president finally stepped behind the podium, Zubair called to al-Yamani. A second later he came out of the bathroom, wiping his mouth with a towel. Zubair noticed a dab of blood on the white towel and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help ease your burden?"
Al-Yamani shook his head and sat down on the edge of the bed. He was very interested in what the American leader would have to say. The president was joined by several people-two men and a woman.
"I have a brief statement, and then I'll field one or two questions before I turn things over to Attorney General Stokes." The president looked down at the podium for a moment and then back up at the cameras. "Yesterday the Department of Justice and the FBI foiled a major al-Qaeda terrorist attack that was designed to target Washington, D.C. As has been reported by the press, this attack involved the shipment of explosive devices aboard multiple international container vessels. Through the hard work and quick actions of the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and Department of Defense, this attack was thwarted, and in the process al-Qaeda has been dealt a serious blow. Terrorist cells located here in the United States have been identified and arrests are ongoing. Now I will take only a few questions and then Attorney General Stokes has a statement to make." The president pointed into the crowd of reporters.
A slender man with prematurely gray hair stood and asked, "Mr. President, is it true that you and senior members of your administration were evacuated from the city on Tuesday night?"
"As a standard precautionary measure that falls under the continuity of government program, certain people were evacuated from the city and moved to secure undisclosed locations."
"Were you one of those people?"
The president grinned. "For security reasons I will neither confirm nor deny." He pointed to another reporter.
"Mr. President." A woman stood up this time. "Can you confirm that this attack was to take place on Saturday during the dedication of the new World War Two memorial, and if so what extra measures will you put into place to protect the foreign heads of state who will start arriving tomorrow to honor the men and women who fought in the war?"
"For starters, al-Qaeda is on the run. They just gave us their best shot, and we stopped them in their tracks. As far as specific intelligence pointing to this Saturday's dedication we have seen nothing that would lead us to that conclusion. I'll take one more question."
A group of reporters began shouting questions and the president picked one. The others were immediately silenced and the one who remained standing asked, "What type of explosive devices are we talking about, sir?"
The president shook his head. "The investigation is ongoing, so I can't get into specifics."
A woman appeared from off camera and reached for the president. The president thanked the reporters for his time and then left. A man al-Yamani recognized as the attorney general stepped up to the podium and began to speak. Al-Yamani didn't need to hear any more.
He turned off the TV and said, "It is time to go."
"Are we coming back?"
Zubair offered to drive but al-Yamani declined. They got in the rental car and left the seedy motel. Al-Yamani was eager to get rid of the rental car.Keep severing ties, he told himself. As long as he did that, the Americans would have no chance of catching him, and he could prove the president's victory speech premature.
* * *
Rapp rarely thought of his job in terms of love or hate. It was a vocation, a duty, and not something that was easily affected by his moods, good or bad. There was only commitment to a cause in which he truly believed. There were, however, aspects of his job that he did not enjoy and increasingly took steps to avoid. One of them was coming to the White House.
For starters, Rapp and the president's chief of staff could barely tolerate each other. She was an impediment to every strategy or action he tried to advise the president on. The fact that politics weighed so heavily in every decision simply did not compute for Rapp. It should not have come as a surprise to him that in a town like Washington and in a place like the White House, politics played such an important role but, in an irritating and undermining way, it did.
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes