Memorial Day, p.29Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
"So," Rapp was starting to piece things together, "this Kazakh test site is littered with how many duds?"
"We're not sure," Reimer answered.
"Take a guess?"
"Maybe a dozen. Maybe more."
Rapp's mouth opened in disbelief. "Why the hell have I never heard of this threat before?"
"Because it wasn't actually deemed a threat. This Kazakh test site is a radioactive wasteland. The idea of someone trying to dig one of these things up is ludicrous. If you don't have the proper equipment, you're going to die. And even if you do have the proper equipment, you'd better be quick about it."
Rapp buried his face in his hands. "Or you could just promise a bunch of young Islamic radical fundamentalists an express ticket to paradise." Rapp stood and looked at his phone.
"Is this test site still in operation?" McMahon asked.
"Is it guarded?"
"It's over two hundred thousand square miles."
"So it's not guarded?" asked a disappointed McMahon.
"Oh, this is bad," said Rapp.
"Maybe maybe not." Reimer tried to keep an upbeat attitude. "The Russians are looking into it. My counterpart is on his way down there right now with a team to investigate."
"Who else have you told?" Rapp asked.
"Just you two. Considering the circus we went through earlier in the week, I didn't want to get people too riled up."
Rapp nodded. "I don't blame you. Skip, what do you think?"
"Did you find anything on that raid that would point to a second bomb?"
Rapp thought about it for a moment. "No."
McMahon contemplated the manhunt that was already underway. "Virtually every law enforcement officer in the country has seen the sketch of al-Yamani and the photograph of Zubair. Thanks to the info you got over in Afghanistan, we've got a good lead on the terror cells here in America. We're going to be serving a batch of arrest warrants this afternoon from here to Atlanta and beyond. I say we wait to hear back from the Russians, and see if we catch any breaks on the home front."
"I agree," replied Rapp. "Let's keep this between the three of us until we know more. I don't need any more lawyers from Justice telling me what the rules are, and the president and his people are busy enough getting ready for tomorrow's dedication."
* * *
They got to the rendezvous point early, and al-Yamani had Hasan drop him off. He gave them instructions not to wait for him. If he did not call them back by 12:30, they were to leave for Washington without him and do their best. Al-Yamani honestly didn't know what to expect. His faith told him one thing, but his practical experience told him something else. The Americans had penetrated his organization, but how far he did not know. So far it appeared that only one cell had been compromised. If his old friend had been discovered, al-Yamani was confident he would have held up under torture and warned him by passing along the prearranged signal. That was of course if he knew he'd been discovered. These Americans were tricksters, and his ally from the early days in Afghanistan was much older now. He might not even know the Americans were on to him.
Despite his deteriorating health, the walk through the park was strangely refreshing. Just being out of the confined space of the vehicle and away from the nervous chatter of the Pakistani scientist did wonders. Al-Yamani found the bench next to the cannon. He'd seen photos of it and recognized it instantly. The historical significance of the artillery piece meant nothing to the Saudi. There was a bronze plaque near the cannon. He thought about going over to read it and decided not to. Instead he would use these last few minutes alone to center himself. To pray to Allah for the strength to make it through the next twenty-four hours. That's all he asked for. That and some luck.
A short while later he heard a car pull up and the door slam. Al-Yamani looked over his shoulder and saw a man get out of the green-and-white cab and begin walking toward him. He was not a passenger. He was the driver, and thankfully he was alone. Al-Yamani should have gotten up, but suddenly he didn't feel so good, so he sat there conserving energy and waited for his old comrade to come to him.
The cabdriver stopped about ten feet away and looked disbelievingly at the man sitting on the bench. "Mustafa?"
Al-Yamani took his sunglasses off. Hopefully his eyes would bring a spark of recognition. "It is me, Mohammed."
"You have changed so much." The man's voice was laced with concern.
"And so have you my friend." Al-Yamani's voice was weaker than he would have liked. "Your beard no longer has any pepper. Only salt."
"It has been a long time. More than a decade."
Al-Yamani nodded. They had last seen each other in Afghanistan in 1987. Mohammed, one of the bravest warriors al-Yamani had ever seen, had almost died in a fierce battle with the Soviets. A CIA man who they had been working with for nearly two years saw to it that Mohammed got evacuated to Germany where real doctors could work on him. After nearly a full year of convalescence the CIA man then helped him immigrate to the United States. He had settled in Richmond, Virginia, and had been driving a cab ever since. Al-Yamani had corresponded with him over the years, and sensed that his fellow warrior had kept his fervor.
"What is wrong with you?" the man asked.
"I am dying."
"We are all dying."
"Yes. Some faster than others, though."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No." Al-Yamani shook his head only once and stopped. It hurt too much. "I am ready to die."
"What is wrong with you?"
"Nothing that can be cured. Enough about me. How have you been, my friend?"
The cabdriver fingered his prayer beads. "These are difficult times. Our faith is under attack."
"Yes, it is. That is why I am here."
"The boxes you sent me?"
"Yes. Have you kept them safe?"
"I have. Just as I promised."
"Did you open them?" Al-Yamani looked his old friend in the eyes.
"Good." Al-Yamani believed him. "Will you take me to them?"
"Absolutely. I will take you to my home first, though, and we will eat and talk."
Al-Yamani would have liked that, but it wasn't going to happen. "I'm sorry, Mohammed, but I cannot. I am on a mission from Allah and time is short."
THE STORAGE FACILITYwas only twenty minutes away. Al-Yamani rode in the cab's passenger seat to make sure things looked normal. Mohammed had not pressed him further about taking time to relax and talk. The two had served side by side for nearly five years in the bloody war against the Soviets. Mohammed knew al-Yamani was a serious man of few words, a man who he respected greatly, and a true believer who had left his native Saudi Arabia to come fight the aggressors in Afghanistan. Mohammed had been amazed by the devotion of his fellow Muslims and their call to arms-especially al-Yamani.
He was the bravest and toughest of all the mujahideen Mohammed had fought alongside. Mohammed had been there the day that al-Yamani stepped on the mine that tore his lower leg from his body. He had never witnessed anything like it. There were no screams and no tears. Al-Yamani handled the grievous injury in a manner brave men hoped they would, but rarely did. Barely a month later al-Yamani was back in action, hobbling around the difficult terrain on a wooden peg. He was unstoppable. The most fearless man he had ever known.
Mohammed told him all those years ago that he prayed a day would come when he would be able to repay his Islamic brother in arms. Four months ago, al-Yamani had contacted him. A letter appeared under the door of his apartment one morning asking for his help. The letter contained instructions on what to do if he was willing to assist his old friend. Mohammed hadn't hesitated for a moment.
The favor, in fact, proved disappointing. He was only expected to do two things, neither of them difficult. The first one involved renting the storage locker and waiting for the packages to arrive, and the secon
The storage facility comprised one large, two-story block building surrounded by rows of orange and white garages. As they drove through the open gate, al-Yamani looked behind them for the truck. He had ordered Hasan to follow at a discreet distance. As they passed into the yard, he glimpsed the truck pulling off to the side of the road.
Two turns later they stopped in front of one of the smaller storage lockers, with a four-foot-wide orange metal door. Al-Yamani and Mohammed got out. While Mohammed inserted the key in the lock, al-Yamani looked around cautiously. This was once again one of those moments when he half expected the American police to jump out and handcuff him. Mohammed slid the door open, and sitting right there on the floor were three boxes. Al-Yamani recognized them immediately, for he had been the one to pack them. He had been unwilling to trust anyone else with this part of the operation. One of the boxes was fairly light. Al-Yamani grabbed the light one and allowed Mohammed to wrestle with the other two.
In less than a minute they were back in the cab and leaving the storage facility. When they pulled out of the yard, al-Yamani was once again in the backseat. He told Mohammed to turn left. They had barely made it across the lane of traffic when al-Yamani noticed something that caused him to stop breathing.
Up ahead on the left he could clearly see the truck and trailer pulled over to the side of the road and parked behind it was a police car with its lights flashing. Al-Yamani stared out the window as they passed by, searching for a clue as to what might have gone wrong. A police officer was at the window of the truck with his right hand resting on his gun. If the Americans were on to them, they surely would have more than one police car involved.
He made his decision in an instant. Without sounding alarmed he said, "Mohammed, turn the car around, please."
"Right here?" They were on a two-lane road with the next stop-light approximately a quarter mile away.
"Down a little further. We have a problem."
Mohammed drove a little further and swung the cab around. "What is wrong?"
There wasn't a lot of time to explain, so al-Yamani decided on the truth. "Some of my men have been following us, and they have been stopped by the police. "Up ahead on the right."
"What are you going to do?" The cab started to slow.
The police officer was back by the trailer now. He touched the padlock on the door, and then started walking back toward his vehicle. He was reaching for something on his shoulder and a split second later al-Yamani realized what it was. The cab was going less than twenty miles an hour.
Al-Yamani looked at his old friend's reflection in the rearview mirror. "Mohammed, do you trust me?" he said urgently.
"Then I need you to do something for me, and you have to do it immediately and without hesitation."
* * *
Hanover County deputy sheriff David Sherwood was looking forward to his weekend off. He'd just purchased a new Jet Ski that could do eighty miles an hour, and this would be his first chance to really open it up. This was his first Memorial Day weekend off since joining the department four years ago, and he planned on spending it down on Lake Gaston on the Virginia-North Carolina border. One of his high school buddies had purchased a little place with five beds, and Sherwood planned on getting one of them. More than twenty people had been invited and told to bring tents and sleeping bags. Sherwood didn't do the tent thing. Not unless some little hottie wanted him to share her sleeping bag.
No, he definitely had his eye on one of the beds, and that meant when his shift was over at 2:00 he would have to get his ass out of town quickly or it would be tent city. His truck was all gassed up and his shiny new wet bike was hooked up and ready to go. All he had to do was pick up a case of beer on his way down and he'd be in great shape.
The pickup truck and its trailer had caught his attention several miles back down the road. Sherwood had a theory. Most people who pulled trailers were morons, himself excluded, of course. For starters they thought that the two-wheeled box they were pulling gave them an excuse to dispose with all common sense and the rules of the road.
This particular moron had pulled off in such a way that the tail end of his trailer was practically hanging out in traffic. And, of course, he hadn't bothered to turn his hazards on. Sherwood had had no idea just how many stupid people there were in the world until he got into law enforcement.
As Sherwood pulled his cruiser to a stop he hit his lights and radioed in that he was making a routine traffic stop. A lot of people would die on the road this weekend, and just maybe he could talk some sense into this idiot before he caused an accident.
Sherwood noticed the Georgia plates on the trailer and shook his head. He got out and walked up to the already open driver's window of the vehicle. He kept his right hand on the butt of his gun and stopped just short of the driver as he'd done a thousand times before.
"Is there a problem here?" he asked.
"No. No problem," the man answered, sounding no more nervous than the average motorist.
Sherwood noticed a slight accent. He couldn't place it but it definitely wasn't southern. "License and registration, please." The man handed it over immediately, which was always a good sign. Sherwood studied the Georgia license, and then looked over the top of his wraparound sunglasses at the driver. The photo matched the face.
"Where are you from, David?"
"Atlanta," Hasan answered.
"I can see that I mean, where are you from originally?"
"Oh I'm sorry. Greece." Hasan was suddenly grateful that al-Yamani had made them rehearse their stories over and over.
Sherwood nodded and then looked at the other two men in the vehicle. Something about the man in the backseat struck him. He was small, like a teenager, and he looked jumpy.
"Did I do something wrong?" Hasan wanted to distract the police officer's attention from the nervous scientist.
Foreigners,Sherwood thought. "This isn't exactly the best place to pull over."
"You should be more careful when you're pulling a trailer like this. Your tail end is hanging out in traffic." Sherwood would probably let him off with a verbal warning, but he'd make him sweat a bit. "Sit tight while I run your license, and I'll be back in a couple of minutes." Sherwood took another look at the passenger in the backseat. There was something about the guy, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
Sherwood began walking back to his cruiser. He paused briefly and memorized the plate on the truck and then stopped at the trailer and looked at the heavy padlock. The padlock and the Georgia plates caused something to click. And then he thought of the dark skin and the accents. Greece wasn't the Middle East, but it was close and besides, Sherwood didn't have the foggiest idea what a Greek guy was supposed to sound like. He'd been tired when he came into work at 5:00 a.m., but he seemed to remember some stink that the Feds were making about a couple of foreign guys they were looking for who had been in the Atlanta area. He couldn't remember specific features from the photos he had glanced at, but he did remember that one of the guys looked a little young to be a terrorist.
Sherwood stepped away from the trailer and looked back at the truck. The driver was watching him intently in the big side-view mirror. The twenty-five-year-old deputy put his right hand back on his gun and with his left hand he toggled the transmit button on his radio.
Tilting his head toward the shoulder mike he said, "Dispatch this is "
The deputy never finished his sentence. Nor did he see what hit him. A passing car swerved from the right lane of traffic and struck him in the left leg, sending him bouncing off the trailer and to the ground, where his head hit violently. His eye
* * *
The decision to head to the airport had been relatively easy. Reimer hadn't heard back from the Russians, and the bevy of search warrants that had been served had yet to produce any explosive evidence. They were at a standstill in an investigation that Rapp had no real control over. In addition, Rapp's people were telling him that they thought al-Yamani was already gone. The upper echelon of these terrorist organizations didn't martyr themselves. They let the new recruits do that. Several of the CIA's top analysts were predicting that al-Yamani had already left the country and was on his way back to his cave.
Rapp checked the clock. It was 3:08, which meant he'd be cutting things a little close for his flight. He was just pulling into long-term parking at Dulles when his digital phone rang. He checked the number before answering. It was McMahon at the Counterterrorism Center.
"You at the airport yet?"
"Yep. Just pulling into the parking ramp."
"Well we've got an interesting development that I thought you might want to hear about."
Rapp rolled down his window and grabbed the ticket. "I'm listening." The arm popped up, and Rapp drove under it.
"The Virginia State Police called. We've got a possible I.D. on Imtaz Zubair."
Rapp eased up on the gas. "Is he in custody?"
"No, and this is where the story gets a little confusing. The report is that he was I.D.'d by a deputy sheriff who pulled a vehicle over for a routine traffic stop. Apparently the deputy was on his way back to his car to run a check on the driver when he was hit by a passing car and knocked unconscious."
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes