Memorial Day, p.32Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
Stealey set her champagne glass on the tray of a passing server and turned to take in the magnificence of the East Room. Weddings, wakes, and countless functions, some historical and some meaningless, had all been held in this, the grandest room of the People's House. The ambiance was intoxicating. This was power. This was the closest thing modern-day America had to a King's Court.
A senator, whose name Stealey couldn't recall, approached and extended his hand. Stealey returned the gesture and was surprised when the man took her hand in his and kissed it.
"Pat," the senator said to Holmes, while keeping his eyes locked on Stealey's, "please introduce me to this lovely woman."
"She's my fiancée, Harry, so take your mitts off her." Holmes grabbed Stealey by the arm and led her away. "I'm not one to talk about morals, but that man is the scum of the earth."
"Where are you taking me?" Stealey asked, as she was whisked across part of the dance floor and between several tables.
"I see our next vice president over here with his wife."
Stealey went rigid, but it was too late. Stokes and his wife, the mouse, were both waving at them. Holmes took a big gulp of vodka and then held up his drink. A split second later they were standing right in front the attorney general and his wife, Stealey as stiff as a board and Holmes as gregarious as ever.
"Libby, so good to see you." Holmes was well over a foot taller than the woman. He bent over and gave her a warm kiss on the cheek.
"Good to see you too, Pat." She rubbed his arm warmly. "You look very handsome tonight, and " She paused as she turned her big brown eyes on Stealey.
Stealey stood there with her best fake smile plastered across her porcelain face.Here it comes, she thought.She's going to kill me with kindness like she always does.
"Look at this beautiful woman." Elizabeth Stokes took a half a step back and looked Stealey over from head to toe. "Peggy, I swear you're the only woman I know who gets better looking each year."
"Elizabeth, you're too kind." The women exchanged air kisses so as to not disturb their makeup.
"For the last time, Peggy, call me Libby."
Stealey nodded and kept the fake smile in place. It drove her nuts that here this woman was, close to fifty, and she still wanted to be called by her childhood nickname. "Libby," she over annunciated the name like she was speaking to a child. "You look very nice also."
"Nice," growled Holmes. "You look gorgeous."
"Why, thank you." Libby did a miniature debutante twirl and batted her big brown eyes and lush eyelashes at Holmes.
That was her best weapon, Stealey knew. She'd seen her do it before. The big bedroom eyes and those naturally thick eyelashes drove the boys crazy. Stealey wanted to tell her in the worst way that she had slept with her husband and finally be done with this insincerity, but she knew deep down where that would lead. Libby was the mother hen and she would do anything to protect her nest. Martin was too gutless to stand up to her. There was no way he would leave and she knew she didn't really want him anymore anyway.
"So," Holmes said in much quieter voice. Everyone leaned in a few inches. "Has your husband told you the big news?"
Stokes looked almost instantly uncomfortable. "I think it's a bit premature, don't you?"
"Oh, I don't think so," Holmes said with a big grin.
"What big news?" Mrs. Stokes asked excitedly.
Stokes took another sip and shook his head.
"Oh, come on," Holmes chided him. "Won't you let me tell her?"
Stokes finally smiled. "All right, go ahead, but, honey, I want you to know the only reason I didn't tell you was that it's not a hundred percent yet."
"It ain't over until the fat lady sings, of course. But then again you're here tonight and the vice president isn't."
"What's going on?"
Stealey watched as Libby Stokes sidled up to her husband like a cat in heat.
"Please let me tell her?" asked Holmes.
"Good." Holmes offered his arm. "Would you like to accompany me to the bar, Libby? I need to freshen my drink and along the way I will share with you the good news."
Libby shivered like an excited child and they were off. Stealey watched them with a mix of disgust and amusement. She hoped Holmes told her she looked as nice as a call girl. She felt her boss's breath on her bare neck and slowly turned. He had that look in his eye. That look that he only got when his wife was not around.
"You look fabulous," he whispered, "and you smell great too."
If they were alone Stealey would have considered another blow to his groin, but this was obviously not the place for her to fully express the hate side of their love-hate relationship.
"It's too bad you brought your wife tonight."
Stokes stood there guardedly, knowing she was toying with him, but unable to help himself. "Why do you say that?"
Stealey leaned forward, her lips almost touching his ear. "Because I was going to bring you back to my place tonight and tie you up." Then leaning away from him she nonchalantly said, "Oh look, there's Valerie. Well, maybe some other time." And just like that she was gone, leaving her boss and former lover standing alone to sort out the mix of emotion and desire that was coursing through his brain and other parts.
* * *
It was just after 9:00 when Reimer walked into CT Watch looking more than a little concerned. Rapp had just gotten off the phone with his wife for the second time today. He apologized again, and she said she understood, even though she didn't sound like she did. He didn't like disappointing her and promised he would catch the first flight out in the morning. She said she'd be waiting for him at the end of the dock in her bikini. He laughed, she didn't. She was sick of sharing her husband, and he couldn't argue with her.
The Virginia State police, along with the various county and local authorities, had set up a series of checkpoints around the area where the vehicles had last been seen. Now that it was nightfall they were stopping every vehicle that was headed in and out of the area. If nothing turned up they were prepared to start going door-to-door come morning.
Reimer opened the door to the bridge, and instead of entering, he motioned for Rapp and McMahon to follow him. He walked straight into McMahon's office and didn't bother taking a seat. When McMahon and Rapp had joined him he closed the door firmly and said, "I just got a call from one of my people, and you're not going to like this." Reimer looked extremely unhappy.
"Apparently the CDC in Atlanta called some dipshit over at the Department of Energy this afternoon and reported a death at one of the local hospitals due to radiation poisoning." The veins on Reimer's neck were bulging. "This jackass paper pusher was more worried about getting out of town for the holiday weekend than national security, so instead of picking up the phone and calling me directly, he sent me an e-mail One of seventy-eight that I received today, and the little idiot didn't even bother to mark it urgent."
Other than the wordradiation and the reference to the Centers for Disease Control, Rapp hadn't a clue as to what any of this meant. "Paul, I'm not following."
"This guy died from ARS Acute Radiation Syndrome. I just got off the phone with the hospital. The doctor who treated him thinks he was exposed to a minimum of twenty thousand rads."
"And what does that mean?" asked McMahon.
"It means he was in contact with something very hot. Something you don't just stumble across in everyday life."
"Is the guy Arab?" Rapp asked.
"No. He's a Mexican American from Laredo, Texas. Apparently he picked up a load in Mexico earlier in the week and drove it to Atlanta. He dropped off his load and then went to fill up on gas, and passed out at the pumps."
"Don't tell me he brought it to the warehouse owned by the two guys we've got sitting out in Fairfax."
"Not that we know of, but I doubt it. If something this hot was in that warehouse, the WMD Teams would have picked up a whiff. We do kn
"And the trailer he brought across the border?"
"We're trying to get someone on the phone from the trucking company, but their offices are closed for the weekend."
"But we know where the truck is, right?" asked McMahon.
"Well, he should have paperwork in the cab." McMahon picked up the phone to call the Atlanta office. "I'm going to send some agents out there to look around. You got the address?"
Reimer handed over a piece of paper with the information on it.
Rapp asked him, "So are you trying to tell us that you think there's a second bomb?"
"I don't know that for sure, but I sure as hell don't like this coincidence."
"I thought your Russian counterpart was sure only one of the bombs was missing?"
"He was sure that only one of theunexploded atomic demolition munitions was missing."
"What are you trying to say?"
"There's dozens of duds buried under the ground on that test range. Everything from demolition munitions to the big megaton weapons designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles."
"The city killers?" Rapp asked in shock.
Reimer nodded but said, "I don't see how they could have dug one of them up. We buried those things miles underground when we tested them. I'm sure the Russians did the same. It would take a pretty big operation to go after one of them."
"Does your Russian friend know about this?"
"Yeah, I already talked to him. He agreed with what I just told you so they're shifting their search over to a part of the range where they tested some of the smaller warheads for cruise missile and torpedo designs."
McMahon hung up the phone shaking his head. "The Atlanta office already knew about it, and have two agents on the way. This damn bureaucracy. We can't even communicate within our own organizations. What are we going to do when DHS gets involved in this?"
"Once that happens we're screwed," Reimer said. "They'll want to start locking down cities, and evacuating people, and in the process all they're going to do is get in the way. I've already got one of my Search Response Teams on the way to Richmond. I think we've got a real shot at finding this thing. If that truck driver died from the exposure he got from this device while it was sitting in the trailer behind him, it's got to be pretty damn hot. That means my people should be able to get a bead on it."
"What if somehow they got around this manhunt and are in the city?" Rapp asked. "You know there's a state dinner tonight."
Reimer shook his head confidently. "They'd never get it past the portal sensors. The entire city is ringed with them, and we're tied into the traffic cameras. The slightest whiff and we're on them like that." Reimer snapped his fingers.
"I sure hope you're right," Rapp said.
McMahon was a bit more hesitant. "I don't know, Paul. We've got the whole continuity of government thing to consider."
Reimer frowned. "You saw what happened earlier in the week. One little hint that the leaders had been evacuated from the city, and the press was on the story like hyenas on a half-rotted carcass. We pull him out of that state dinner right now, it'll be all over the news, and then what's to stop these terrorists from simply blowing up Richmond or Norfolk? Fifty thousand people is fifty thousand people whether it's up here or down there."
"I know, but we're talking about the president and key cabinet members and the leaders of the House and Senate."
"The vice president is out in California," Reimer began ticking names off one finger at a time. "The secretary of the treasury is in Colorado, the president pro tem of the Senate is in Kentucky, most of the Supreme Court is out of town, and almost all of the Senate and House are gone. It's a holiday weekend. We have de-facto continuity in place."
"But we're talking about the president and the secretary of state, secretary of defense, the leaders of the House and Senate and the damn leaders of Great Britain and Russia."
"I know that, but I'm telling you if we evacuate them, the press will report it, and the terrorists will find out, and once they do that, why risk coming to Washington when they've all flown the coop? Add to that the likely panic by the public, and my people have almost no chance of finding this device. The terrorists will just blow the damn thing."
Rapp thought of something Ahmed Khalili had told him during his interrogation-that they planned on killing the president. "Paul's right. They want the president, and if they know they can't get him, they'll just kill as many people as they can."
"And if they manage to get this thing into Washington and end up killing the leaders of America, Great Britain, and Russia?"
Rapp shrugged. "At least there won't be any more ambivalence about the war on terror."
McMahon looked at his friend from the CIA and frowned.
Rapp reached out and nudged his shoulder. "Relax this state dinner isn't going to last all night. As soon as it's over I'll make sure that the president is very quietly taken back to Camp David and if we don't find this thing by noon tomorrow he won't be coming back for the dedication."
McMahon thought about it for a moment and somewhat reluctantly said, "All right, I'll go along with it, but there's something else I think we should do." McMahon looked at Rapp. "Something I think you'll have no problem agreeing to."
* * *
He wanted to kill the scientist, but at the moment did not possess the strength to do so. Al-Yamani was on the couch in the living room resting. The disease was in its final stage. The weakness, fatigue, and nausea were nearly constant. No matter how much water he tried to drink it could not soothe his parched and swollen mouth. His throat ached and his nose, gums, and rectum had begun to bleed. Several open sores were now visible on his forearms, and his top layer of skin had begun to slough off. Part of him, the weak part, wanted to simply fall asleep and never wake up. But that could not be allowed to happen.
For too many nights to remember, a beautiful vision had come to him in his sleep. He always sailed around the same river bend from left to right. The sky was a glorious clear blue, with not a cloud in sight. Boats large and small, some with sails and some with engines, were everywhere. Large groups of people were gathered on the river bank. The mood was festive, and beyond the tree-lined banks he could see the alabaster domes and spires of a great city. The capital of his enemy. That was his destiny. That was why he was fighting to stay alive for just one more day. He wanted to come around that bend in the river, he wanted to look on the unsuspecting faces of the nonbelievers, he wanted to sail right into the very heart of them and ignite a jihad that would show the true believers the path.
Hasan and Khaled would have to be his strength. That was why he had allowed the weak scientist to order them around. When they had finished assembling the weapon, and stored it on the boat, Zubair had made them strip naked in the yard while he hosed them down with water. Using a rake Zubair had then collected their clothes and thrown them behind the garage. Then the little Pakistani had marched them into the house and forced them to take long showers and scrub themselves with soap. Unbeknownst to Zubair, his efforts to prolong the lives of his fellow Muslims would be for nought.
Now his two warriors were walking around the house in the clothes of the seventy-year-old man who had died of a heart attack. The shirt and pants that Hasan had picked fit him reasonably well, but Khaled, who was both taller and more muscular, had been forced to put on a ridiculous track suit that was too short in the arms and legs. The two of them were now in the kitchen gathering some food and water for the trip.
Al-Yamani had seen the newscasts. Mohammed had become extremely concerned when the photo and description of him appeared on the television. The decision to help his old friend was proving to be disastrous. He even went so far as to at one point tell al-Yamani that he had ruined his life. Al-Yamani began to realize that his friend lacked the conviction he'd once had. The final disa
Hasan came and told al-Yamani that everything was prepared. Provisions and extra gas were on board and the boat was ready to go. Since no one else was around, al-Yamani asked Hasan to help him stand. When he was on his feet Mohammed entered the room and asked to have a word alone with him. Al-Yamani granted his wish.
Mohammed spoke without looking his old friend in the eye. "I know you have said you would like me to come with you, but I think I would prefer to stay here."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Someone needs to stay anyway and watch the woman."
Al-Yamani nodded as if he hadn't thought of that. "What will you say to the police?"
"I will claim ignorance. An old friend called and asked me to meet. As far as all of this other stuff is concerned I knew nothing."
It was clear to al-Yamani that Mohammed had been thinking about this, but hadn't thought it through well enough. There were certain things he would not be able to explain. Certain things that would put the police back on their trail, and al-Yamani couldn't afford that. They had nearly 200 miles to go, and according to Hasan that would take them approximately fourteen hours.
"I am sorry you will not be accompanying us on the final leg of this mission." Al-Yamani put his hand on his friend's shoulder and the two men walked slowly into the kitchen. The woman had been moved upstairs and was tied up in her bedroom.
"I think I have gone far enough. You will be in my prayers."
"Will you stay the night here?" al-Yamani asked as he very subtly made a gesture to Hasan with his free hand.
"Yes, I think so."
Al-Yamani stopped and faced him. He placed both hands on the man's shoulders and said, "May Allah watch over you." From the corner of his eye he could see Hasan moving.
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes