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Memorial day, p.35
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       Memorial Day, p.35

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  Stealey must have felt left out because she picked this as the moment to glare at McMahon and shake her head in disgust. "I would expect more from a man who has put in thirty years at the Bureau, a man who has sworn to uphold the law."

  "It's a foregone conclusion," yelled Jones. She looked right at Director Kennedy and Director Roach. "They're both fired! Right here! Right now! It's over! I want them both fired right now!"

  Kennedy watched all of this carefully. She had not yet had the chance to tell the president or the others about the events in Richmond and Atlanta. Rapp had asked her to wait until he arrived at the White House. Director Roach had received the same request from McMahon.

  Kennedy knew Rapp could be reckless, but that was part of the territory. She knew he had a problem with following rules, but she also knew he was no fool. He was holding something back, for if he had truly screwed up as badly as these two women were claiming, there was no way he'd stand here and take it. In fact there was no way he'd be here at all. He had a healthy dose of pride that precluded him from suffering the criticism of anyone he did not respect. Even more telling was McMahon's participation. Kennedy knew him well enough to understand that there was no way he would ever take part in anything so drastic unless there was good cause.

  "Well," Jones said to Kennedy and Roach, "I'm waiting."

  "Okay," announced Rapp as he looked at his watch, "Amateur hour is over. You two can either sit down and shut your mouths, or leave. It's up to you."

  The president slapped his hand down on the table and yelled, "Damn it, Mitch, I have had enough your reckless antics. I don't care what you've done in the past, I can't protect you any longer. You have become a major liability, and your irresponsible behavior can no longer be tolerated."

  "Do you haveany idea what the media is going to do to us over this?" asked Jones.

  "Do you have any idea that al-Qaeda has smuggled a second nuclear weapon into the country?" Rapp leaned forward, placing both hands on the table. "That's right, Mr. President, so before you get rid of me, please allow me to save your ass one last time. While you've been busy listening to these two idiots," Rapp pointed at Jones and Stealey, "chatter in your ear about the ills of the Patriot Act, and the upcoming election, and how good a running mate Attorney General Stokes would make, we've been out busting our asses trying to figure out what these terrorists are up to, and you are not going to like what we found out.

  "Earlier this evening, we received a call from the CDC down in Atlanta. A local hospital had called to inform them that they had an out-of-state truck driver who had just died from Acute Radiation Syndrome, an illness that is very rare. The CDC, DOE, and FBI located this man's truck and trailer and found that they were contaminated with Pu-239, which is the isotope used in the production of weapons-grade nuclear material. We found out the truck driver picked up a load in Mexico and crossed over the border on Wednesday morning headed for Atlanta."

  Rapp turned his attention on Stealey. "Atlanta, if you will remember, was also the destination of Imtaz Zubair, the missing Pakistani nuclear scientist. It also happens to be the home of Ahmed al-Adel, who was arrested in Charleston this week. The same man you decided to prosecute rather than deport and hand over to the CIA."

  Stealey stood so she could face Rapp eye to eye and started to lecture. "You have no idea what you're talking about. We can't simply deport American citizens and hand them over to the CIA for torture."

  Rapp cut her off with a booming voice that was almost a full-blown yell. "The debate portion of the evening is over. You are an idiot! You have no idea what you are talking about, and you have no idea what it takes to wage this war. Now sit down, and don't interrupt me again or I will throw you out of this room by the scruff of your neck." Rapp pointed his finger at the president's chief of staff and said, "And that goes for you too, Valerie."

  Stealey slowly sat back down and Rapp continued. "As I was saying considering the gravity of the situation, I took it upon myself to interrogate Ahmed al-Adel, who has refused to talk to anyone except his lawyer, and who has proclaimed he is a patriotic American. Before anyone tries to get back on their constitutional high horse, I'd like to remind all of you that this was the same man who tried to pick up a twenty-kiloton nuclear weapon, which would have killed upwards of 100,000 people and destroyed this building and most of the city.

  "After just five minutes of persuasive questioning, Mr. al-Adel admitted that he was in fact part of a terrorist cell that was planning to detonate a nuclear weapon on American soil. There is only one problem, though. The bomb that Mr. al-Adel picked up in Charleston was not meant for Washington, D.C. It was meant for New York City. The second bomb is intended for Washington, D.C. The one that came across the border from Mexico on Wednesday morning."

  The room was dead silent for at least five seconds and then the president, concern and embarrassment represented equally in his voice, asked, "Do we have any idea as to the location of the second bomb?"

  "Yes," said Rapp, "but I'm not going to tell you. Not until you're on board Marine One with the British prime minister, the Russian president, and your wives, and on your way to Camp David."

  The president started to protest, but Rapp shook his head firmly. "Not until you're up at Camp David. I know the time and the specific target of the attack. The only chance we have of stopping them is to make everything appear as if it's business as usual. That is why your press secretary is going to announce that you and your fellow leaders decided to head up to Camp David tonight so you could play an early morning round of golf, before coming back into the city for tomorrow afternoon's dedication ceremony."

  The president gave Rapp a disapproving look. He was not used to taking orders, but knew he had put himself in this situation by not heeding the advice of Kennedy. He turned to his director of the Central Intelligence Agency. "What do you think?"

  "I think you should go to Camp David."

  "What about Operation Ark?"

  Kennedy did not think an evacuation of key people was a good idea, but decided that she would keep that to herself for now. "I think the most important thing right now is to get you and your fellow leaders out of the city. Once you are up at Camp David we can discuss the rest."

  * * *

  Eighty-Two

  POTOMAC RIVER

  Saturday morning dawned with heavy gray skies and a steady rain that peppered the calm surface of the bay. The hypnotic effect of the rain falling on the water served as the perfect backdrop for their morning prayer. They'd made their way down the York River and out into the Chesapeake under the cover of darkness, and were now headed north. The thirty-seven-foot cabin cruiser owned by Mr. Hansen was more than up to the task, especially on calm seas. Its GPS navigation system helped them to maneuver through these foreign waters.

  Like al-Yamani, Hasan and Khaled had also learned basic seaman-ship on the Caspian. They had been in charge of receiving and preparing the fresh martyrs who were shipped in from around the region. They would house them for a day or two, waiting for al-Yamani to return with the flat-bottom barge, and then they would have nothing to do until the next batch arrived. During those inactive times they were ordered to learn the ways of the water. Money was not an issue, so whenever the opportunity arose, they would rent a boat and practice on the calm waters of Gorgan Bay at the southeast edge of the Caspian.

  Despite everything they'd learned, though, there was no way they could have memorized the craggy outline and bays and inlets of the Chesapeake. The GPS and chart that was onboard had been lifesavers, for they had never planned on navigating this body of water at all. The original plan had called for them to put in at Dahlgren on the Potomac River forty miles due south of Washington. The route following the river was a bit longer, but not significant compared to the 200 miles they now had to travel in the rain and with poor visibility.

  Al-Yamani was on his knees, but he was not praying. He was in the head, throwing up yet again and it was not a pretty sight. He could no longer keep dow
n even a morsel of food. His thirst was insatiable, but with every cup of water came more vomiting, and the fluid had gone from a pinkish tinge to dark crimson. He placed his hand on the edge of the tiny toilet and locked his elbows as he braced himself for another stomach-tearing hurl.

  The wave of nausea passed, and al-Yamani was left hovering over the toilet, a thick dribble of blood and spit hanging from his mouth. His entire body was covered in sweat and he was shaking. This would be his last day on earth, whether they succeeded or not, but he did not believe they would fail. Not after yesterday. Allah was guiding them, showing them a safe passage to their destiny.

  They were all going to die. He had been forced to lie to the scientist about that, but he felt no shame in doing so. Certain people were not strong enough to handle the truth. The scientist had spent most of the trip sitting in the bed up under the bow of the ship, as far away from the bomb as possible. Zubair had been adamant that the bomb be lashed to the fiberglass swim platform at the aft of the vessel. Even though they'd gone to great lengths to shield it, the weapon was still giving off significant radiation. Because of that it had to be placed downwind and as far away from them as possible.

  The scientist had asked what the plan was once they got to Washington. Al-Yamani told him they would set the timer on the bomb, dock the boat, and then leave.How would they get away? the Pakistani wanted to know. Al-Yamani told him someone would be waiting for them. It was another lie, but one that the Pakistani would never know, because he would be dead before they reached the city.

  Khaled came down the stairs into the small cabin and stood over al-Yamani. "We are nearing the river."

  Al-Yamani barely had the strength to stand. He held up his arm so Khaled could help him to his feet. "Is it still raining?"

  "Yes."

  Even with the help of Khaled it was a struggle to stand. Al-Yamani began working his way up the stairs with Khaled both pushing and holding him from behind. When they reached the helm he sat down on the bench seat next to Hasan who was driving.

  Al-Yamani peered through the rain-spattered windshield and waited for the wiper blade to come around and give him a glimpse of what lay ahead. "Any sign of trouble?"

  "No, but we aren't quite there yet."

  "Where is the river?"

  "According to the GPS it's up there on the left about another mile."

  Al-Yamani couldn't see anything but he trusted his fellow warrior.

  "If you see any sign of trouble we will continue past the mouth and then decide whether we should proceed to Baltimore or try again."

  "I know. Maybe we should have the scientist arm the weapon."

  Al-Yamani had thought of this, but was reluctant. He did not know if the bad weather would end up forcing a postponement of the dedication of the memorial or not, and until he knew for sure he wanted to wait. "Have you learned anything of the weather?"

  Hasan kept his eyes on the water, but pointed to the radio controls. "They don't know if it is going to clear or not. They are giving it a fifty percent chance by this afternoon."

  Less than a minute later they came up on the channel marker to enter the Potomac. The going had been slower than anticipated during the night, and Hasan had had to compensate by running at a faster speed while they were out in the bay. He pulled back on the throttles taking the boat down from its cruising speed of thirty mph to around five mph. There wasn't a boat in sight.

  Both men smiled. "How long until we lay our eyes on the city?" asked al-Yamani.

  "We will be there by noon. A full hour before the ceremony is to commence."

  Al-Yamani grinned with anticipation. "Good."

  * * *

  Eighty-Three

  WASHINGTON, D.C.

  It was a long night, and morning brought with it more questions than answers. The president had boarded Marine One with the leaders of Great Britain and Russia and their wives and left for Camp David. Irene Kennedy, National Security Advisor Haik, Secretary of State Berg, and Chief of Staff Jones had all taken a separate helicopter from the Pentagon's heliport and met the president at the secure underground Site R, near Camp David, where they were now safely monitoring the situation. Before they all left the Situation Room, though, Rapp had forcibly commandeered Jones's mobile phone.

  At daybreak Rapp had dispatched Secretary of Defense Culbertson to Site R to help bolster Kennedy and Haik's sway over the president and negate that of Berg and a diminished Jones. Even though Jones had been severely embarrassed at the midnight meeting, she was not the type of person to just quietly fade away. Rapp had a feeling before this was all over she would once again be chirping in the president's ear poisoning his judgment with her usual politically tainted advice. Rapp appraised Secretary Defense Culbertson of this concern, and Culbertson gave Rapp his word that he would deal with Jones harshly if she tried to pull anything. He also promised that the military would monitor all calls she made or received from Site R.

  The remaining attendees of the midnight meeting in the Situation Room, FBI Director Roach, Attorney General Stokes, Peggy Stealey, McMahon, and Rapp, all left for the Joint Counterterrorism Center. Rapp made it crystal clear to everyone that there were to be no personal calls. Absolutely no one outside of the core group was to know the real reason why the president and his guests had returned to Camp David. If the press got wind of what was going on they would simply have to endure a repeat of what had happened earlier in the week. Only this time it might precipitate the premature detonation of the device. With that in mind he also commandeered Stealey's mobile phone.

  When the president was safe at Camp David, Rapp honored his word and explained to him over the phone the details of what he'd discovered. The terrorist they had captured in Charleston had confessed that the bomb was to be detonated at noon this coming Tuesday in New York City, not Washington, D.C. It was to be the second act in a terrorist attack that was to wreak havoc on the American psyche, economy, and very soul. The first act was to take place at 1:00 p.m. today during the dedication of the WWII memorial. It was designed not only to destroy the city but to decapitate the federal government by killing the president and the other senior officials and politicians who were to attend the event. The allied leaders who were set to attend were a bonus. The follow-up attack on Tuesday was designed to make sure the American economy slipped into a depression. Shockingly, the planners of the terrorist attack had not taken into consideration a possible nuclear retaliation by America. Such was the thinking of martyrs.

  Rapp, McMahon, and Reimer all argued forcefully that any evacuation of either city would hinder their search for the weapon and more than likely precipitate the attack. As morning approached, the Russians now found a second test site that had been excavated, despite their initial report that only one site had seen compromised. Records showed that this portion of the range had been used to test warheads for the Russian navy. This spot in particular had been the location of a failed test for a fifteen kiloton warhead to be used in a torpedo. Near the excavation they found a shallow grave containing at least fifty bodies and probably more.

  Based on the radiation signatures at the site in Kazakhstan and those found on the trailer and truck in Atlanta, Reimer believed that they were dealing with a very unstable configuration of nuclear material, a warhead that was throwing off large doses of radiation. It would be much easier for his NEST teams to find than he had originally feared. That had been the assessment at three in the morning, but now as the clock inched toward midmorning Rapp's assuredness, at least, was beginning to wane.

  A combat air patrol was up over the city, surface-to-air-missile batteries were activated at both the Pentagon and the Capitol, the no-fly zone around the city had been expanded to forty miles, and every airport within 200 miles was under close scrutiny by an airborne early-warning AWACS. The door-to-door search by the local law enforcement agencies down by Richmond had so far come up blank, and the NEST teams, contrary to what they had hoped, had yet to get a hit on the device. Reimer explained tha
t it had something to do with the rain affecting the sensors that were carried aboard the helicopter that was patrolling the area south and east of Richmond.

  On a more positive note, though, the rain was keeping people from coming into the city for the dedication of the new WWII memorial and the festivities that were to culminate with a rock concert and fire-works display after dark. The Park Police estimated that upwards of 500,000 people would attend the event from start to finish. It was slated to begin at 11:00 a.m. So far, the only people who had showed up on the Mall were the vendors, event security, and a handful of die-hard fans who wanted to stake their claim to a front-row seat for the various acts that were to start midafternoon and continue well into the evening.

  Every law enforcement officer on the East Coast had the sketch of al-Yamani, the passport photo of the Pakistani nuclear scientist, the photo of the cab driver, and the fake driver's license that had been left behind at the traffic stop in Richmond. After pouring through the CIA's terrorist database with facial-recognition software, they were now confident that the man on the fake license was Hasan Abdul-Aziz, a Saudi national who hailed from the notorious al-Baha province.

  The area between Richmond and Norfolk was flooded with cops, all looking for the fugitives. Nowhere though, were the wordsnuclear, orweapon of mass destruction mentioned. This was strictly a manhunt for a group of suspected terrorists who were considered extremely dangerous. The fact that they were terrorists was kept out of the press releases. The media were told only that the men were wanted for questioning in the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. The tape of the deputy getting run over by the cab was getting a lot of air time and was the lead story on every local Saturday-morning newscast.

 
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