Memorial Day, p.31Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
"Can you do this by yourself?"
"No." Zubair shook his head nervously.
"Of course not." Al-Yamani could recognize a coward when he saw one. The Pakistani didn't want to expose himself to the poison. He looked to Hasan and Khaled. "Is the boat ready?"
"Yes," answered Hasan. "It is fully gassed and in good working order."
"Good. Grab a blanket off one of the beds upstairs and use it to wrap up the old man, then go out to the garage and help Imtaz with the assembly of the weapon. We'll leave as soon as it is dark and dump the old man's body in the river."
The three men left, leaving al-Yamani and Mohammed alone. Mohammed looked at his old friend and said, "Mustafa, what are you up to?"
Despite the dull pain coursing through every vein in his body, al-Yamani smiled. "We are about to strike a glorious blow for Islam, Mohammed. A glorious blow."
In Mohammed's wildest dreams, he would have never guessed that his friend possessed the destructive power of a nuclear bomb. "Who are you going to kill?"
"The president," al-Yamani said proudly. "The president, himself."
* * *
All four TV stations in Richmond led the evening news with the story, as well as two of D.C.'s network affiliates. There was a manhunt under way, and very few things got the viewing audience as fired up as a good old-fashioned manhunt. Reporters and camera people were at the hospital, where the fallen officer was recovering from brain surgery; they were at the scene of the crime; and they were at the Hanover County Sheriff's Department.
During the six-o'clock broadcast Sheriff Randal McGowan released the video of the hit-and-run that had been captured by the camera mounted on the deputy's dashboard. So startling and violent was the collision that it was virtually guaranteed to be picked up by every station from Charlotte to Baltimore come the eleven-o'clock news. Sheriff McGowan told the reporters that they were looking for a green-and-white Metro Taxi Cab, most probably driven by a Mohammed Ansari, a resident of Richmond. A photograph of Ansari was released, as well as a brief description of a second vehicle that had left the scene of the crime. Sheriff McGowan made it very clear that the second vehicle, a green-and-tan Ford F-150 pickup pulling a trailer, was only wanted for questioning in relation to leaving the scene of the crime.
Skip McMahon had been adamant about the last part. He'd been in close contact with Sheriff McGowan and the special agent in charge of the FBI's Richmond office for the last several hours. The roadblocks set up by local law enforcement had yet to turn up a lead, and there was major pressure to go to the media for help. The big break was the tape of the traffic stop.
The license plate wasn't caught, but the cab company was identified. After some quick checking, the dispatcher for the company confirmed that they had one cab that had been AWOL for the better part of three hours. When McMahon and his team heard that the driver's name was Mohammed Ansari, the pucker factor doubled. A quick check of the CIA's counterterrorism database proved even more ominous. According to their records Ansari had immigrated to America from Afghanistan in the late eighties with the help of the Agency. He had been interviewed post 9/11 by the CIA and asked about his relationship with none other than Mustafa al-Yamani. At the time, he went on the record to say he loved America and was embarrassed by al-Qaeda.
Somehow, Rapp doubted the veracity of that statement. The facts were beginning to add up. A deputy stops a truck, thinks he recognizes Zubair, who they know was recruited by al-Yamani, and suddenly the deputy gets run over by a cab driven by a guy who fought alongside al-Yamani twenty years ago in Afghanistan. There was no way it was a coincidence.
They were starting to fear the worst when Reimer's counterpart in Russia called with some good news. He and his team had just conducted a thorough search of the area where the atomic demolition munitions were tested. Only one of the four holes where failed tests had occurred had been compromised. The Russians were apologetic, but at the same time confident that the Americans had intercepted the only missing piece of nuclear material. In addition, an FBI WMD team out of the Richmond office did a cursory inspection of Ansari's home and his locker at the cab company and came up with no hint of radiation.
What was in the trailer then? Both Reimer and McMahon argued that it was most likely an improvised bomb, made out of fertilizer and fuel. In the counterterrorism business they called it a poor man's bomb, the modern-day and much larger version of a Molotov cocktail A dirty bomb was a possibility, but more difficult to pull off and hence more remote. The consensus was that al-Qaeda was trying to carry out an attack despite the setback in Charleston. A strategy was decided on by McMahon and Rapp and they both consulted their bosses before proceeding with it.
Spooking Zubair and al-Yamani by letting them know they were onto them was a bad idea. It might cause them to prematurely detonate the weapon, or change targets, or simply abort and disappear. Rapp was adamantly opposed to running the risk of alerting them, so it was decided that the best way to advance the investigation without tipping their hand was to make Ansari and his cab the focus of the search.
Not long after the story aired on the six o'clock news the Hanover Sheriff's department received two phone calls. The first one was from a man who was out walking his dog near Tunstall at the time in question. He reported that he specifically remembered a green-and-white Metro Cab passing him heading east, and that it was going very fast. That was why he remembered it. When he was pressed about the Ford pickup with a trailer, he couldn't be sure, but he did seem to remember a second vehicle. The man sounded old, his voice was a little shaky, so the deputy who took that call didn't have a lot of faith in the lead until he fielded another call a few minutes later. It was from a woman near Plum Point, and she was very specific.
This woman had walked to the end of her driveway to pick up the mail. She knew the exact time, because she went out to get the mail at the same hour every day. She was standing at the end of her driveway when both the cab and the truck came racing around the bend. The deputy asked her if she was sure, and she said she was because she remembered thinking two things. The first was,What in the heck was a Metro Cab doing way out by Plum Point and the second wasWhat was her seventeen-year-old son doing chasing it. It turned out her son also drove a green-and-tan Ford F-150 pickup truck. As further proof of her sharp mental faculties she told the deputy that she and her son had watched the six o'clock news together. After the story on the hit-and-run aired, her son commented that that must have been why he'd been pulled over twice this afternoon.
McMahon himself called the woman, a Mrs. Molly Stark, and spoke to her. After hearing Mrs. Stark tell her story, McMahon asked to speak to her son. Two minutes on the phone with her and one with the boy was enough to convince him. Like most career law enforcement types he didn't need a polygraph to tell him if someone was lying, just a few well-phrased questions and a discerning ear.
When McMahon announced this new development, there was a collective sigh of relief at CT Watch. The terrorists had fled east and south, away from D.C. Upon further discussion with the Virginia State Police they learned that Interstate 64 between Richmond and Norfolk had been fully covered during and after the hit-and-run. With the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries providing a natural roadblock to the east it was now quite a bit easier to narrow the search. It was starting to look more and more like they had pulled off somewhere, and were indeed holed up.
The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team was on alert status down in Quantico, no doubt pissed off that their Memorial Day weekend was being delayed, but that's what they were paid for. With their helicopter transports they were only thirty minutes away from the area. Rapp took the opportunity to point out that SEAL Team Six was even closer, down in Little Creek, Virginia. This comment would have been vigorously challenged by the other FBI special agents present if it had been uttered by anyone other than Rapp. American soil was the FBI's territory, not the military's. It was that simple.
As they stood staring at the ma
* * *
Rapp slipped away to consult with Kennedy. She had left town around four with her son and mother to spend the weekend at a house they'd rented on the beach in Ocean City, Maryland. They were only a few doors down from her cousin, who had a whole flock of kids for Tommy to play with. Kennedy never showed it, but Rapp knew she was stressed. They'd been planning this trip for a year. Kennedy's cousin had invited them to stay at her house, but that was impractical. She had a security detail, broad-shouldered men with big appetites and big guns, who needed to be housed and fed.
Kennedy had tried to get Rapp to leave for Wisconsin by saying that she could delay her trip and keep an eye on the recent developments down in Richmond. Rapp's thoughts immediately turned to her son Tommy. The kid had suffered more than his fair share of disappointments in life. His mother worked sixty hours a week minimum, and his father lived on the opposite coast. He had been talking about this trip for months. In his typical rough fashion Rapp pointed all this out to Kennedy, and in turn she became uncharacteristically defensive. Eventually, though, she saw Rapp's point and left with her son, mother, and security detail.
Rapp had spoken to her about an hour and a half ago just after her small motorcade had crossed the Bay Bridge. Now one of her bodyguards answered her secure phone, and a minute later Kennedy was on the line.
"How's Tommy?" Rapp asked.
"Great. Couldn't be more excited. He's running around down on the beach with the other kids looking for wood to build a bonfire."
Rapp could tell by her voice that she was relaxing. "Good. Make sure you tell him I said hello."
"I will. What's up?" she asked.
Rapp brought her up to speed on the manhunt, and told her about Reimer's conversation with his Russian counterpart. Both pieces of news seemed to give her some comfort. They were the first bits of good news she'd received since finding out the CIA had helped Mohammed Ansari immigrate to the United States. Once that little tidbit was made public, she would be beaten over the head with it even thought she'd only been a junior-level case officer at the time.
Throughout the afternoon one thing had given Kennedy great concern. Tonight was the state dinner honoring the Big Three of WWII: America, Great Britain, and Russia. It would be the perfect time to launch an attack. The only thing that prevented her from calling the president was that he was already up at Camp David with the British prime minister playing golf. At that location they were not a target. She agreed with Rapp that it was best to stay out of the way of the FBI and the locals. As a precaution, though, she stayed in close contact with Jack Warch, the special agent in charge of the president's Secret Service detail.
She knew that now the president was at this moment returning to the White House aboard Marine One with the British prime minister. They were apparently running late for their own state dinner. None of this was a surprise to Warch, since the president had turned tardiness into a habit recently. The Russian president was also running late, having been delayed by some unusually strong headwinds on the way over. He had just made it to the Russian Embassy and wasn't expected to arrive at the White House until nearly 9:00, an hour and a half late. Additionally, Kennedy had spoken directly to Reimer, and he guaranteed her that based on the material they found in Charleston, the sensors in and around the capital would have alerted them to any nuclear weapon being smuggled into the city.
Rapp had just finished giving her the details of the manhunt when she asked, "What's your gut telling you, Mitch?"
"I think they're holed up somewhere. We're talking about five Middle Eastern-looking men in a part of the country where there's a ton of retired military if they'd stolen a vehicle we would've heard about it."
"That's if someone saw them."
"That's the other thing. You've been down there. It's not far from the Farm." Rapp was referring to Camp Perry where the CIA trained all of their new recruits. "There's a lot of woods. A lot of dirt roads and trails where someone could disappear."
"And you still think the locals can handle this?" she asked.
"They're our best option right now, but if we find the vehicles abandoned in the woods I'd like to bring in the SEALs and track them."
"Well," she said thinking about the repercussions, "you know how that'll go over."
"I've already had one go around about it, but you and I know it's not even close. HRT is really good in a controlled environment, but not that used to running patrols in the woods."
"I agree. We'll cross that bridge when and if we have to. In the meantime keep me posted on any new developments."
Kennedy disconnected the line and stood there in the kitchen staring out through the big double sliding-glass doors at the deck and the water beyond. Somewhere down on the beach she could hear the laughing and yelling of her son and her cousin's children. She wished that just once she could get away from it all. Shut it off, and live like a normal person. The head of her security detail was standing in the hallway by the kitchen watching her.
"Carl," she said, "would you call Langley and tell them I need a helicopter put on standby."
Kennedy dialed the next number from memory and looked at her watch. It was almost 7:30. Special Agent Warch answered after the first ring. "Jack, it's Irene. Are you back at the White House yet?"
"Almost. I know it's a real shock, but we're running late."
"So you're on Marine One right now?"
Kennedy thought about it for a second and said, "Jack, I need you to do me a favor. It's more of a precaution really." Kennedy went on to explain what she wanted, and with a little bit of cajoling, the agent in charge of the presidential detail agreed.
* * *
Peggy Stealey arrived at the dinner in a black stretch limousine with DNC Chairman Holmes. As she was helped from the backseat, the long slit of her evening gown parted to reveal a naked, toned leg that caught the attention of even the military Honor Guard arrayed on each side of the door. She took Holmes's arm and elegantly strode up the steps under the North Portico of the White House. Flash bulbs erupted to catch the stunning blonde who looked like she would be more at home on the red carpet at an awards ceremony than a state dinner at the White House.
The two entered the White House and were immediately offered a glass of champagne. Stealey took one, but Holmes declined. He'd already declared his intention to avoid the pond scum that they served at these types of things and stick to Belvedere vodka, which of course meant that he'd be tanked by ten. To Holmes any bottle of wine, sparkling or otherwise, was to be avoided unless its price tag had at least three digits prior to the decimal. For an evening like this, four would have been preferred, but Holmes hadn't been consulted. If he had been, it probably would have meant he was expected to pay for it, or worse, provide a dozen cases from his private collection. That would never happen. The only sin worse than drinking a cheap bottle of wine was wasting a good one on people who couldn't appreciate it.
Holmes looked like a fullback blocking for a halfback as he pushed his way through the Cross Hall toward the East Room and the bar. Between them he and Peggy created quite the stir, half the men beseeching Holmes for a favor and the other half gawking at his date. Holmes refused every attempt to engage him in conversation.
"You know the rule," he said at least three times. "Not until I have a drink in my hand." As chairman of the DNC he was in control of the party's purse strings, and there was never enough money to go around.
When they finally reached the bar Holmes went around the sid
The bartender came over and Holmes slapped a folded hundred-dollar bill in the man's hand and whispered in his ear, "Belvedere on the rocks, double, and a tall Vodka tonic, double."
The man glanced down at the crisp bill and said, "Sir, it's an open bar."
"I know it is. That's your tip."
"But I can't "
"Yes, you can," Holmes said impatiently. "Now hurry up. I'm thirsty."
The bartender left to make the drinks.
Stealey turned her bare back to the people in line. "You're getting some awfully dirty looks, Mr. Chairman."
Holmes glanced over her shoulder and plastered an ugly smile across his face. "They're not looking at me. They're all looking at you. They're thinking you're a movie star."
Stealey smiled warmly. "What a nice compliment, Pat."
"Yeah, either that or they think you're a high-priced call girl."
The smile vanished and was replaced with a scowl.
"You should be flattered. Have you ever seen how hot some of the call girls are in this town?" The scowl remained, so Holmes kept digging. "All I'm trying to say is that you are an extremely beautiful woman. You look fantastic tonight."
Stealey sighed and shook her head. "Patrick, there are nicer ways to say that than comparing me to a prostitute."
Thankfully the drinks arrived, because Holmes couldn't see her point. He didn't sayprostitute, he saidcall girl, and in his mind, and in this town, there was a big difference.
He took the drinks from the bartender and told him he'd be back in about ten minutes to reload. He handed Stealey her drink and with a British accent, said, "As I mentioned, you lookraaavishing this evening." He raised his glass in a toast. He looked handsome in his tux, and she looked stunning in her shimmering robin's-egg blue evening gown. If all went well he'd finally get her into bed tonight. They both took a drink and smiled at each other. He knew she knew, and she knew he knew and round and round they went.
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes