“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 52

Before the Professor reached the outskirts of DC, he received a brief report stating JWM SerializationHankins was dead but not before he killed one of the martyrs with a hidden gun. The other two escaped. No police or people watching the recontact place were seen. Good, Hankins was a security threat just waiting to happen. It could hardly have been a setup. My people are very good at detecting surveillance, and Hankins had a loaded weapon. Who would stake out a trap with the bait armed, unless there was backup in the area to help him? The media reports would have more information. It still amazed him that so much information was given out by the various media outlets. Hankins was now history. He had to move on to his well-planned sniper attack that would shut down traffic in and out of DC. His campaign in Charleston was not a failure, but it was not nearly as disruptive as he wanted it to be. Soon he would be receiving internal criticism and hinted comments about funding. Hasani was the best. He and his people would remove any doubts his peers had about his war on America, in America.

He was going west along 495 and then Route 7 to Leesburg, Virginia. Three years ago he had used Arab money to buy a small, five-acre retreat on the west side of Mount Gilead four or five miles south of Leesburg on Route 15. He had never been there, but the descriptions of the log cabin and property almost perfectly fit the needs of his small group of dedicated Jihadists.

It was no longer as isolated, but the increased traffic would cover movement in and out of the country roads. He liked historical anomalies. Where better to attack American capitalism than from a former slave cabin dating back to the late 1700s? His Ford pickup truck would fit right in. Hasani should be there now. He loved to sit and talk in front of a big crackling fireplace. In addition to his skills as an assassin, Hasani liked to cook. He planned to enjoy himself on what surely would be his last battle against the West and their Christian God. There was no escape from this battle.

Using the GPS, he easily found his hideaway farm. Driving over a cattle guard up a steep rutted driveway, he parked next to a white Chevy pickup truck. Hasani came out to meet him. They embraced and the Professor let himself show a little emotion. He truly liked this simple talented fighter for Islam. With a thousand Hasanis, the war against the materialism of the West would have been over long ago. Hasani had no personal agenda. He always followed the guidelines given to him. Never complained. Never made special requests. Never questioned his superiors, even when he knew they were mistaken. He was a warrior from times past. He could have been a warrior in Saladin’s army, when it defeated the Western forces and the Templars at the battle of Hattin. Hasani would have loved battling the Templars. They had a similar code. Nothing for one’s self, everything for the cause.

He knew he was on the American most wanted list of terrorists, but they cannot know I am here within an hour’s drive of the White House. Over strong coffee, the Professor discussed the mission Hasani would undertake in two days. The campaign would start with two car bombs, one on the American Legion Memorial Bridge and one on Chain Bridge. Suicides were not required. In truth their only real use was the need to get a bomb near the target in the face of security forces. He didn’t have the resources to lose people without gaining an advantage. Two car bombs. Escape is simple, use four cars. The bomb cars are left on the bridges in any lane, and the drivers escape by getting into the getaway car right in front of them. The bombs are detonated by cell phone signals when the Jihadists are out of blast range. The only hard problem was to get the explosions within a five-minute period to increase the political effect. Traffic was always heavy during the morning and evening rush hours, but difficult to time precisely. He wanted the bombs to explode in the midst of heavy traffic. Using cell phones to coordinate timing would help, but there was always the unknown factor.

The car bombs were intended to get the authorities to focus on bridge defense and car bombs, while the main attack would be Hasani’s team of snipers attacking motorists on major arteries during rush hours. Since all the shooters could routinely hit a car-sized object at a thousand meters, it would take a while for the defense to catch up. By that time, he would have moved on. Hasani told him everything was ready. The car bombs were in the stable. The eight snipers, all American recruits, had their weapons ready and sighted in. Hasani always used his favorite rifle, the Barrett M82A2, a .50 Browning semi-automatic weighing 23 pounds. His team members were told to choose their own weapons. All elite shooters have a go-to rifle, and using different weapons makes it harder for the enemy to use ballistic forensics to back-track ammunition buys.

The Professor sat in the old part of the cabin made entirely of chestnut logs with new chinking and dabbing. The stone fireplace held a roaring fire, providing the only light in the room. It was against his beliefs, but all men have weaknesses and his was single malt scotch and strong cigarettes. The fireplace warmed the room. Staring into the fire with the flickering light dancing over the logs, he could see his part in the struggle against Western dominance in perspective. His name would not be recorded in the flow of history, but he felt fulfilled in believing he was on the right side in a fight that will last for at least another 1,000 years. He had a very small part to play, and he would play it as well as he could.

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 51

Just north of Richmond, Kelly pulled off I-95 and into an Exxon station. Jack had been JWM Serializationawake for the last 50 miles and, after using the men’s room and walking Shadow, he told Kelly he would drive from here. The area was new to Kelly and she was fascinated with the development and heavy, high-speed traffic. Jack told her this was her mother’s world. She had spent years in the Washington, DC metropolitan area when not deployed.

Kelly asked, “What can you tell me about my mother’s life and death?”

“You know some of the story. I’ll include more details. I only knew Anita for the last year of her life. She joined our team just after my father was killed in the house we are going to now. The house burned to the ground. Anita, Kathy and I set up our living quarters in the apartment over the three-car garage. From there we planned operations to take down several terrorist cells run by a renegade KGB officer. Your mother played a crucial role in our success.

“The chase extended to India and Nepal. We located the meeting place of several al Qaeda officials above a shop featuring Tibetan artifacts. Your mother and I charged into the meeting room and found six men and one woman seated around a long table. We started firing and, just when it looked like the shooting was over, the woman, who turned out to be an assassin high on the wanted list, was shooting at me from under the table. She had been hit but not fatally. I yelled to Anita to watch out. The assassin turned her weapon on Anita and shot her high on her thigh. Anita dropped her empty shotgun and pulled her ranger knife from her boot and dove under the table. She was shot again in the chest but managed to kill the assassin with her knife. I got to her seconds before she died.

“Nothing could have saved her. The thigh wound had severed an artery and the chest wound itself was fatal. She was in my arms. She knew she was dying and wanted me to leave her. In the seconds left to her, she said, ‘Take care of my sister. Her daughter is my daughter.’

“Somehow a fire got started. There was no way I could carry her body out of the fire and make an escape. We had talked about these kinds of scenarios, and it was Anita who made us all pledge to protect the group. The critically wounded and dead had to be left. As a result none of us was ever charged, and I don’t think al Qaeda ever figured out what happened. Your mother saved my life. I will be forever indebted to her.”

Kelly gave Jack a moment to get the huskiness out of his voice and to wipe the few tears running down his cheek. She said, “Thank you. I wish I’d had a chance to know her better. Now, another question. How does your past with my mother affect me?”

“It makes you a special person to me. Anita was nearly ten years my senior. There was no romance. I still love her and miss her incredibly. She was the big sister I never had. Having you here, gives me a chance to keep and continue the memory. I could have taken care of you without bringing you into our group, but Kathy and I saw your potential and we needed a replacement. You are still here because of your own skills and courage. You are the real deal. I know Anita would approve. Will I try to protect you? You’re damn right I will. You are precious, but you still have to pull your weight.”

“Thanks, Jack. I’ll try hard to fit in. I have a lot to learn.”

“That’s a perfect attitude. Look ahead. You thought the traffic was heavy 50 miles back. What you see now is normal DC traffic. There is almost no slack time. We’ll soon be in the action capital of the world, and a beautiful city. I never tire of the DC skyline. In another 40 minutes, we’ll be in the driveway of the Brandon house.”

By the time Jack drove u the last uphill sharp curve, Shadow was sitting up, looking out the window and whining to get out. Jack hadn’t seen his father’s house since the rebuilding process. His attorney, Lee Jensen, had the responsibility to rebuild the house. Only occasionally had he asked Jack for guidance. Lee forwarded pictures from time to time, and Jack approved the plans before the building started, but he was not prepared for seeing the house. It was magnificent. It was fitted perfectly into the landscape. The planting was in progress. Lee told him that a series of rainy days put the crew behind schedule. They would need another week but the interior was finished and furnished.

Kelly was shocked by the presence of the house. She looked at Jack and said, “My God, how rich are you? I’ve never been in a house like this. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like this in either Greensburg or Jeannette or even in Oakland, PA, the three areas I grew up in.” Jack laughed and said, “It is impressive but I assure you, this house can’t compare with some of the old mansions in Oakland. You just haven’t been exposed to this style of living. I am very lucky. My father made the money. My job is taking care of it and spending wisely. Give me a minute to let Shadow out.”

Shadow hit the ground running. He circled the house and came back to Jack’s side. He rubbed Shadow’s head and said we can go inside now, Shadow’s done his checking.”

It was almost dinner time. When Kelly entered, she could smell food being prepared. Jack grinned and said, “I asked the Minhs to close up the Charleston house and come up here. You will also notice that the landscape crew we had at the Johns Island house are here. They acquitted themselves well in defending us. They may not recognize you with your clothes on.”

“Will I never live that down? Next time there’s an emergency, I’ll get fully suited and booted with complete makeup.”

“Just don’t forget your SOCOM.”

“Don’t worry. I learned an important lesson that night. No matter what you think, always be prepared. Bad stuff can and does happen.”

“The house has several bedrooms with attached baths. You can take your pick. You could take your mother’s old room over the garage, but that makes extra work for the Minhs and separates the team. This place has been attacked once and it could be again. The last time, besides my father, the terrorists killed the house staff. Only one of the attackers got away. My father killed one. Shadow, though severely wounded, killed one. And the Nguyens killed another.

“Some days later, your mother, Kathy and I trapped and killed the leader and two of his shooters. Those men, who tried to kill us in Charleston, had ties to the same group. I forgot to tell you, the same group tried twice to kill me, Kathy and Shadow in Oakland while we were staying in the house I lived in when I worked as a homicide detective. Shadow saved us there.”

Jack settled in the master bedroom, far more elegant than the original had been. Now, besides a large bathroom in soft granite shades, a sitting room with a wall-mounted flat screen TV, computer station, multiple phones, a concealed refrigerator and comfortable overstuffed furniture, with a dining table for two overlooking the heated swimming pool and the small park adjoining the property, was screened from the sleeping area by a tasteful muted Japanese screen of random Kanji pictographs.

After a dinner of stir-fried vegetables, sticky rice and grilled filet mignon, Mrs. Minh showed Kelly to one of six guest rooms, telling her she liked this one the best. Kelly told her, she had never been in such a well-appointed room. Mrs. Minh laughed and showed her how to use the complicated shower, the TV that responded to voice commands, an iMac stand-alone computer, and house intercom system. She told Kelly, tomorrow Mr. Jack would show her the security features built into the house. She also asked if Kelly had her own weapon and did she need any more ammunition. Kelly kept a straight face but was sure that she was in the only house in McLean where the house staff made sure you had a weapon and enough ammo.

Just before leaving, Mrs. Minh said that it is a Brandon tradition to offer bed tea or coffee in the morning at seven o’clock. Actually, she said with a muted giggle, it was Miss Kathy who started it. Kelly was dead tired and decided to watch an old movie, maybe even a Western and get a good sleep. She needed a couple of restful nights. Only a man of her dreams could make this evening better.

Shadow showed up as she was getting in bed. She scratched his cropped ears, he licked her hand and continued on his rounds. As usual, Shadow had the run of the house. He could sleep anywhere he wanted.

Jack finished exploring his new house and went back to the master bedroom. It was only nine o’clock and he knew Captain Shorer would still be up. Captain Shorer answered on the first ring. Jack said, “Captain, do you have a few minutes? I’ve got a report for you.”

“Jack, good to hear from you. I wondered about you with all the action in the Charleston area. Sure I have time. Shoot!”

“Well, to start, you were right on about your Hankins perp. He was killed yesterday by two al Qaeda shooters. The little perp managed to shoot and kill one of his attackers. One of my new recruits, Anita’s daughter from Pittsburgh, saved a young woman he had tied up in his Georgetown, SC apartment for later pleasure. She saved the woman and fought Hankins off until Kathy arrived and flattened him. The Feds asked us to stake him out as bait, so they could catch an al Qaeda terrorist. Instead, it ended up in a shootout. We were not involved in the shooting. Kathy found some awful pictures of the young women he’d tortured and killed. Seems he only wanted to get pictures of the moment of death. I’ll send you a flash drive with the photos. I’m sure they wouldn’t stand up in court. I don’t know how to bring closure to the families of the dead women. There was no time for the niceties of due process.

“Thanks to your suspicions, six al Qaeda terrorists are now dead and I believe another captured. Five of those were killed in a fire. They were sleeping in an apartment over a garage. Two cars rigged with big bombs were in the garage to be used by suicide bombers the next day in downtown Charleston. It was impossible to tell all this to the police in Charleston, due to the need to protect an ongoing Federal Investigation. The division of justice between national security and law and order requirements is often weighted in the Feds’ favor, but not in this case.

“I had no approval to pass on this information to you, but I know you will handle it carefully. Maybe, at some point, more can be officially released to the pertinent authorities. We have moved out of Charleston and are now back in my father’s house, recently rebuilt. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Jack, my best to you and Kathy. I understand Shadow helped again when your Charleston house was attacked. Keep your badges and weapon authorizations until this thing is over. Thank you for the call. Now I can sleep a little better knowing the pervert who killed those Pitt coeds is dead and will not kill any more young women.”

The next morning at breakfast Jack told Kelly she would be on her own for a while, but to stick around the house until they heard from Lou and Storm. He expected them to arrive sometime today. Kathy would be in Richmond at least one more day.

When Jack called Frank and requested to see him, Frank said, “Glad you called. I want to see you today. Can you get a room at the Ritz where we can have a working lunch? I can’t think of anywhere else to meet with you and have no one who knows me see us together and begin to speculate. Some people in my office are beginning to realize that I have some damn good outside people helping out. I want to be careful as possible, even if it is inconvenient, to protect you and your group. I think Kathy told me that you favor Reuben sandwiches. Please ask room service to prepare one for me with some black coffee.”

“No problem. I can get a room nearly anytime. One of those perks rich folks like. See you at about noon. I’ll call you with the room number before then.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 50

JWM SerializationWhen she was outside, Kathy called Frank and told him the Professor used the name Harold Hollingsworth to register in the Jefferson Hotel. His forensic team was now going through the room he used. Kathy said, “He’s going north and needs wheels. I have a lead on where he might have picked up a vehicle. I’m going out there now to check some used car dealers in the 3000 block of West Broad. I’ll call you when I learn anything more.”

Kathy found a curbside parking space on West Broad beside a fire hydrant.

She sat in the car and put herself in the Professor’s position. He needs transportation. He has fake documentation but he doesn’t really trust it. None of the used car dealers along this street is going to take a check from anyone without checking with the bank. I don’t know how much cash he has, but he will have to have it to buy a car. The rental option is nonexistent. It is too controlled. He’s not in much of a position to bargain. I doubt he wants to carry his bag up and down Broad Street looking for the best deal. He can’t ride a cab into several car dealers. It would call too much attention to him. So he’ll want to make a deal in the first lot he tries. His taxi was traveling the same direction I did, and he wouldn’t want to cross the street in front of his driver who would remember his strange client. He would also want to use a place that had a large choice of cars and a number of daily sales so his cash purchase wouldn’t stand out.

Using her reasoning, Kathy decided to try Commonwealth Auto Sales. It had a big selection of cars and trucks and was on the right side of the street. She pulled into the lot and saw a salesman walking toward her before she was even out of the car. When the salesman asked how he could help her, she opened her jacket, revealing her badge and handgun and then said, “I’d like to see the sales manager please.”

“He’s over to your left, leaning on the Cadillac CTS.”

He waved his arm and called, “Charlie.”

Charlie looked up and walked toward Kathy who was moving in his direction.

He said, “Car shopping?”

Kathy smiled and said, “Nope, perp shopping. I believe you sold this man a car last Saturday morning.”

The manager looked at the photo and said, “What’s this all about?”

Kathy gave him her cop smile and said, “That’s not the way it works. I ask the questions. Let me try again. What kind of car did you sell this man for cash on Saturday morning?”

From the look on his face, Kathy knew she was in the right place.

While the manager was making up his mind about what to tell her, Kathy said, “I’m not interested in your operation. When I find out about what this man bought, I’ll be gone. If you decide to stonewall me, you will have made your last sale for a few days, while we go over your books, question your staff and search the entire lot. Now, which is it?”

“Your information is good. He was in here Saturday morning, but he didn’t buy a car. He bought a Ford 150 4W truck, and he did pay cash.”

Kathy said, “Good choice. Now, if you will please get me a copy of all documents involved in the sale, including VIN, dealer plate number, and the truck’s description, distinctive marking or damages and history. I notice you have some camera surveillance. I’ll want copies of all the tapes that show the man in question, and a short talk with everyone he talked to.”

“Okay. Come inside and have a cup of coffee while we get what you want.”

An hour later Kathy drove off the used car lot and headed for Route I-95 and McLean. When she pulled onto I-95, Kathy used her hands-free iPhone to call Frank. When he came on the line, Kathy said, “I have some new information. The Professor, using the same alias, bought a used 2006 white Ford 150 XLT 4×4 with 41,032 miles and Virginia dealer plates, DHL 1450 for $21,495 cash from Century Auto Sales, West Broad Street, Richmond. The truck has no distinguishing marks. I’ve alerted your forensics team to pick up a package containing all the paperwork and some surveillance camera footage. I’ve no evidence but I believe he is still headed north on I-95. I interviewed everyone at the car lot who had contact with him. Nothing turned up. He was strictly business, no small talk.”

“Kathy, great work. Nobody believes you could get so much information in such a short time. You are acquiring a remarkable investigative reputation. Okay, come up and join the rest of your team.”

Kathy heard the dial tone and thought, I guess Frank said goodbye. She knew she was a good investigator but recognized she was also lucky. Kathy had expected to have to visit at least a half-dozen car dealers and maybe more. She had reduced the search by some common sense analysis, but lady luck certainly helped. Now it was time to put the pedal down and get home to McLean and Jack.

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 49

By the time Kelly drove past the exit to downtown Richmond, Kathy had already been on JWM Serializationthe ground working for hours. After identifying herself to airport security, an electric car took her out to the forensic team in the parking lot. She didn’t know any of the team. It was obvious they had taken their briefing seriously. Their only question, was she the agent who found the Professor in Myrtle Beach. Kathy said, “Yes, now what can you tell me?”

Jackson, the team leader said, “We found his prints and some hairs on the headrest that should give us DNA. No documents, papers, maps, rental agreements or even food wrappers were found in the car. From the time he left the hotel in Myrtle Beach until he pulled into the parking lot, according to parking lot cameras, four days ago, Friday at 1:25 PM, the timeline indicates no stops along the way. He probably stayed within the speed limit. At 60 mph the driving time matches the time available between his departure and arrival here. He didn’t use the car phone and the nav system is not like Onstar. We cannot back-track his movement. We found some slight scratches on the back of the mirror that may have held a rental sticker. We’re running the VIN number against a number of databases and should have something soon. We know where he’s been but don’t have a clue to where he went in Richmond, and we are not likely to find any clues to his current whereabouts in this car.

“We haven’t worked the airport camera coverage. Our very clear instructions were to leave that to you. We’ll hang around Richmond until you clear us to go back to Washington. We’re putting up at the Jefferson. If you need us, one of us will be on call in the hotel. We haven’t checked in yet, but I’ll give you my cell number. I’ll be listed under Bill Jackson in the hotel records.”

Kathy thanked the crew and turned and walked back to her security-provided jitney and driver. The driver took her back to the Chief of Security, Oscar Connor. Kathy said, “Before we check passengers on every flight leaving here to anywhere during a four-hour period. I have some very clear photos of the wanted man and a definite time period. Using our deduced time, standard facial recognition software and your judgment of what route he would have taken from his car in the lot to a plane or exit, we should be able to find him. Can you spare a couple of your best people to help me?”

“Sure can, and I’m one of them. Let’s get started. Grab a cup of fresh coffee, and we’ll head down to the monitor room. My assistant will join us there.”

Kathy outlined the problem to the monitoring supervisor. “A green Passat entered the parking lot last Friday at 1:25 PM. I need you to determine the routes from his parking spot to buying a ticket, boarding a plane or exiting the airport. Then, using a timeline, narrow the video search. I have a clear photo of the man to enter into your facial recognition program. Is that enough for you to get started?”

“Yes, that’s a lot more than we usually get. Give me a few minutes to lay out probable routes and to get the photo scanned into our search parameters.”

In ten minutes the supervisor was ready to go. He found the car entering the lot immediately and was able to follow it to its current position. The image of the man exiting the car wasn’t good enough for facial recognition, but they could follow the man walking to a parking lot bus stop and getting on board at 1:35 PM. The cameras picked him up getting off the bus. Here the facial recognition software gave them a hit. The cameras lost him in the crowds. Kathy said, “This guy is a pro. He knows about cameras. Check your imagery of the major ticketing area, boarding areas, security check processing and exits.” It wasn’t until they focused on the exits did they get another hit. This time he was still carrying his one bag with his topcoat over his shoulder and wearing a hat and glasses. The Professor could be seen getting into a blue and white Citizens Taxi. The taxi number and the license were clearly visible as it pulled away.

Kathy said, “Great job! Please make a copy of the video footage we found on our subject and give it to Mr. Bill Jackson. He may still be examining the car in the parking lot. If not, he’s staying at the Jefferson. Now I need to rent a car. Thank you very much. You certainly understand your facility. It’s a pleasure to work with dedicated professionals.”

Mr. Conner was obviously pleased with Kathy’s praise and called for an airport cart to take her to the car rental section. Kathy selected a Ford Mustang and set off for the Citizens Taxi terminal. On the way she called Frank and told him that the Professor left the airport in a taxi no more than 30 minutes after parking his car in the lot. She promised to call again after checking out the taxi terminal.

Kathy thought her outfit was perfect for playing lady cop. Faded, but not new jeans, a black tee just a little on the tight side, dark leather pull-on half-boots and a tan linen jacket that covered her SOCOM .45 caliber sidearm in a tilted holster far back on her right side. She fastened her badge on the left front of her belt, well removed from any possibility of its interfering with a fast movement to bring her weapon into play. Her inch under six-foot height, shoulder-length natural blond hair and athletic 140 pounds rounded out her image. She wasn’t above using that image to help in eliciting information. Her steadily improving skills in Hapkido improved her confidence in handling situations without using her firearm. She was pleased with the way she had dealt with Hankins without even thinking about drawing her weapon.

The taxi terminal was just on the fringe of the ‘Fan’ area of Richmond. Once inside the smoke-filled entrance area, she went directly to the dispatcher’s desk. Her badge and gun were clearly showing.

The nameplate said he was Clarence Fox. Kathy said, “Mr. Fox, I need some cooperation.”

Three of the smoking loungers crowded up around the desk.

Turning to face them, Kathy said in her toughest voice, “Go away. If I need you, I’ll call.”

They laughed and jeered. Kathy stepped hard on the nearest instep and, when the man reached for her, she pressed a nerve on the outside of his forearm below the elbow. He yelled in pain. Kathy moved closer and said, “Now beat it, before I really hurt you.”

Holding his forearm, he moved away followed by his friends. Mr. Fox said, “Lady, you are welcome here anytime. Buck is a real problem. I can’t handle him and the boss won’t fire him. You certainly took him down a few pegs. Watch your back. He’ll be thinking about getting even.”

“For his sake, I hope not. Now, I’ve a couple of questions. Last Friday at about two o’clock, this man was seen getting into taxi number 12, plate GHY 617. Can you tell who was driving that cab and where he is now?”

“Yeah, I think so. It’ll be just a minute.”

Kathy waited, looking around the room that was the terminal for Citizens Taxi Service. This must be a job opportunity for ex-cons, judging from the tats and attitudes of drivers hanging around.

Mr. Fox motioned her over and said, “Got him. It was Bobby Anderson. He’s a regular. Pretty dependable. He’s nearby, I’ll call him in.”

Bobby showed up ten minutes later. Kathy was getting tired of being ogled by the creeps and asked Bobby if he would mind stepping outside.

“No, Officer, I’m okay with that.”

Once outside, Kathy showed Bobby the picture of the Professor and refreshed his memory about the fare.

Bobby asked to look at the picture again and said, “Yeah, I picked him up at the airport. Light luggage which he kept with him in the back seat. The odd thing was, he gave me no address. Just to drop him off in the historical part of the city. He’d tell me where. He did and I dropped him. He gave me a good tip. I was curious. What well-dressed guy, carrying a suitcase, gets out of a cab in the middle of a street. I was nosy enough to swing back around and saw him going into the Jefferson Hotel. I guess he didn’t want nobody to know where he was staying. In this business you see a bunch of strange stuff. Anything else?”

“No. That helps us a lot. Thank you very much.”

Bobby went back to his car and drove away. Kathy was parked a half-block down the street. When she got to the Mustang, Buck and one of his pals was leaning on her car, blocking the driver’s side door.

Buck outweighed Kathy by 80 plus pounds. A muscular type with bulging tat sleeves on his forearms and a belly gone to fat. He pointed at her and said, “Let’s see how tough you really are. Nobody pushes me around. Gun, badge, whatever, it doesn’t matter. So if you’re gonna call for backup, do it while you can.”

Kathy said, “Let’s just drop it. I’m sorry if I hurt your male pride. It will be better for both of us if you just move aside and let me drive off.”

Buck said, “No way, bitch. I’m gonna slap the shit out of you.”

Kathy relaxed, ready to take what opening he gave her, while watching the second man who didn’t say a word and looked unhappy. Kathy thought, the second guy wants no part of this. Buck’s charge came with surprising speed. Kathy pivoted to her right and side-kicked him just above the knee, stopping his momentum dead. His intended one, two combination never got untracked. He was down, white-faced, trying not to scream and holding his broken knee with both hands.

Kathy called to the second man and said, “Take care of him, and I won’t drag you both in. Next time, you both go to the slammer, if you’re still alive. Get away from my car, I’m leaving.”

The second guy ran inside and Kathy drove off as two men came out to drag Buck inside. She thought, my instructors were right. Stay calm, don’t think, take what you’re given, strike hard and end it quick. They were also right. The knee is a weak point. I could feel his knee going. He got off easy. Lucky for him neither Jack nor Shadow was here.

Next step is to check into the Jefferson. Haven’t been there for ten years. Not since I was a CIA trainee. Doesn’t surprise me that the Professor stayed there. He is very well educated, and Frank said he always enjoys fine things, has good taste and has no trouble mixing revolution with luxury. Charlestown, Richmond, maybe this terrorist is old world. Where will he go next? My guess is that he’ll continue north to DC and places like Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. Frank knows him and has a feel for his overall plan. Jack and Kelly will soon be in McLean. Wish I was there now. My memory of Jack’s house is of a burning shambles. To be honest with myself, I’m jealous of Kelly being in that house with Jack and Shadow. I trust them both, but that’s just the way it is, and I think always has been.

Kathy ended her musing as she drove up to the main entrance of the Jefferson. Before she checked in, she asked to see the Chief of Security. The front desk called him and he came over. Taking in Kathy’s badge and gun, he asked, “Officer, what can I help you with?”

Kathy introduced herself and said, “I’m almost 100% certain that this man stayed here for at least one night starting last Friday.” She then showed him the picture of the Professor. He took the picture and walked over to the front desk, conferred with the staff on duty and came back to Kathy.

He said, “You’re right. This person stayed here Friday night and checked out Saturday morning.”

“What name did he use while here?”

“Should I first see a warrant?”

“If you want to be uncooperative in a Federal Investigation you can insist on a warrant. I can call Washington right now and, rather than a low-key inquiry, they will flood the hotel with agents, close off the room he used and question staff and guests. Is that what you want?”

“No need to threaten the hotel.”

“Excuse me! That was not a threat. Read promise. I’m tired. You’re holding up my investigation. I haven’t even asked you how a high-ranking terrorist checked into your hotel under an alias with questionable documents and no credit cards. Check the desk and you will find he paid in cash, and you never even thought that was unusual. Where have you been the last ten years? Now, which way do we go?”

The Chief of Security went back to the desk with a worried look on his face. When he came back he said, “The man you want registered under the name Harold Hollingsworth, and he did pay his bill in cash.”

“Okay. Now I want a copy of everything he signed, including his bill. Also I want to question everyone with whom he had contact on the hotel staff. If the room he used is empty, I’ll need to see it. How did he leave the hotel? Did he have a car? Call a taxi? Did the doorman call the taxi? Can you make all that happen?”

“Yes, I can, and I’m sorry we got off to a bad start. Can we start over?”

Kathy smiled and said, “Of course.”

The room hadn’t been occupied since Harold Hollingsworth checked out. Realizing it would probably be a wasted effort, Kathy called the forensic team in to search the room. They were all booked in the Jefferson and were in the room in 15 minutes. Kathy briefed them and then left to interview the housekeeping staff and doorman. The interview of the housekeeping staff only revealed that Hollingsworth was a pleasant man who tipped well and took dinner the day he checked in and breakfast the next morning in his room.

Her interview with the doorman was slightly more productive. The doorman told Kathy he remembered the man in the photo. He turned down his offer to call a cab just after nine o’clock in the morning and walked down the street carrying his bag. Just before he turned the corner at the end of the block, he flagged a cab. When Kathy questioned him about the cab, he said it was one of those blue Citizens Taxis. Kathy thanked him and had the doorman call for her Mustang.

She knew exactly where the taxi terminal was, and 15 minutes later walked into the reception area to see Mr. Fox. The word had spread. The loungers in the drivers’ area got quiet, and Mr. Fox stood up when he saw her come in.

Kathy said, “Good morning, Mr. Fox. I have a few more questions. Can you help me?”

“Yes! Of course I can help you, Officer. What do you need?”

She showed him the same picture and said, “This man got into one of your taxis about 9:00 AM last Saturday on the corner of West Franklin Street and North Jefferson. I want to talk to the driver.”

Mr. Fox checked his aged PC and said, “Harry Ingram was the driver. Hey, Harry, come over here. The lady wants to talk to you.”

Kathy was amused, Harry was the quiet partner of Buck the taxi driver who tried to attack her earlier. Harry approached the desk in a hesitant manner and said, “I’m sorry about that. I knew nothing about Buck planning to waste you a bit. Doctor said he could begin to use crutches in a couple of days. He still doesn’t know what happened.”

“I’m not here to talk about our meeting. Give my best to Buck. If he wants to meet again, I have a room for him in the federal pen. He needs to work on anger management before it’s too late. Now, a few questions. Mr. Fox, please tell Harry what we need from him.”

“The officer wants to know everything you know about the man in the picture on my desk.”

“I don’t know this guy. He might have been a fare. I just don’t know.”

Kathy said, “One more chance and then you come with me. I know you picked this man up around nine o’clock Saturday morning near the intersection of West Jefferson and West Franklin streets. Think before you answer. It is a felony to lie or withhold information pertinent to a Federal Investigation. Do you understand? Answer truthfully and you are home free. Tell me.”

Harry said, “As I remember this fare was walking along West Jefferson carrying a suitcase. He signaled and I thought he looked like he was going to the airport, so I stopped. It’s a good fare out to the airport and often a better one coming back. He gets in and tells me to take him to the 3000 block of West Broad Street. I drop him there. He gives me a good tip and I drive off.”

“Did he ask you any questions or did you talk to him at all?”

“I asked him if he wanted me to wait. He said no, I’m meeting a friend.”

“Nothing else?”

“No, I swear that’s all.”

“Okay, Harry, we’re done here. Thank you.”

When Harry left, Mr. Fox, the dispatcher, said, “You put the fear of God into these guys and they don’t scare easy. When you were walking up to the door, one of them said, ‘Be quiet! Here comes fucking Wonder Woman. Do not mess with her.’ Coming from them that’s high praise.”

Kathy smiled and said, “Just doing my job. Thanks, I don’t think you’ll be seeing me anymore.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 48

Frank called the moment they unlocked the door to the motel room. Kathy answered her JWM Serializationcell. She started to brief Frank but he cut in and said, “I’ve been informed by the surveillance team. They are now sitting on the two shooters who left the scene. We’ve deployed a capture team and should have them under interrogation by tonight or tomorrow morning. That’s not why I called. The Professor’s Passat was just located in the parking lot at the Richmond Airport. A forensics team will soon be on it. I gave instructions that nothing else be done until you get there. I don’t have anyone else who can put themselves in the head of the enemy as well as you can, or as quickly. The investigative job you did in Myrtle Beach still has my staff scratching their heads. The know-it-all you had to deal with at the hotel fiasco is no longer with us. Go to Richmond as soon as you can. Use your police badge. Call me direct, if you run into any trouble. The contact instructions you will need for the forensics team are being downloaded now. Put Jack on. I need to talk to him.”

Jack took the iPhone from Kathy and said, “Go, I’m here.”

Frank replied, “I need Kathy in Richmond as fast as she can get there. And I need you and the rest of your team up here by tomorrow afternoon. I’m convinced that the Professor stopped in Richmond for a travel break and to change cars. He is on his way here. I know him, and this is where he can do the most damage. Early in the Iraq war, he ran several al Qaeda sniper teams. He was very good at it. We deployed a number of teams to wipe them out. You didn’t know it, but I now know you were part of this operation as a Marine Corps Officer. The record tells me that you were a highly skilled sniper and were very effective in counter-sniper operations.

“I’m convinced the Professor is planning such a campaign in the Washington area. Last year we almost caught an al Qaeda operative, known as Al Hasani. He is an exceptional sniper. He slipped through the Minneapolis Airport before we could get deployed. No question that he was there. The facial recognition software identified him. I’ve seen the pictures. There is no doubt. He will be casing set-up areas for sniper operations. I need you to also pick areas you think he might use. Your whole team will be needed.”

“Got it! I’ll need some equipment. We can all stay at my house in McLean. It has just recently been rebuilt, everything but the landscaping. I’ll call you when we get in. I remember that guy. I missed him once. It’s good to have a second chance.”

Jack knew the conversation was over but waited a second for the dial tone, Frank’s signature good-bye.

Kelly drove Kathy to the Myrtle Beach Airport for a timely route to Richmond. Storm and Lou drove back to Charleston to pick up the clothes they would need and to check out of the hotel. Shadow stayed with Jack. He would be going to Washington in the back of the Cadillac SRX. His own first class compartment. Two hours later Jack, Kelly and Shadow were on the road. Kelly was driving. Jack said, “I hope Kathy didn’t teach you how to drive her style.”

“No, I’m not as good as she is but I’ve been practicing, especially high speed passing while checking my six. She also showed me how to pick and use a good pace car. Let the pace car get the ticket is her mantra.”

“No more, please. I’m already terrified. I’m going to try to sleep. Wake me when you need a break.”

Kelly could hear both Shadow and Jack were in a deep sleep. Driving in the tunnel of her lights, she thought, I’ve never felt more alive and at peace with myself than I am right now. I’ll bet my mother felt like this. How else could anyone do what she did for so long? I wish I knew more about her. I know Kathy and Jack know more than they’ve told me. I’m sure they’ll tell me more when they feel the time is right. I feel closer to them than anyone I ever knew, except maybe Anita. Too bad I didn’t know sooner. Someday I want to trace her last mission. I think Jack and Kathy owe me that much. I wonder why they aren’t married. It’s easy to see they are very much in love. I don’t know Kathy well enough to ask her. I know Jack was married once. Maybe they’re afraid the ritual and commitments of a marriage will damage what they have. I know Jack does not have a wandering eye. A girl can tell when a man sees her stark naked, and there’s not even a glimmer of want in his eye. If I didn’t know better, I’d be doubting my own sex appeal. This career doesn’t leave much opportunity to find a companion. But if my mother could find a relationship in this life, I can.

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 47

At 3:30 Jack’s cell awakened. Lou’s voice said he saw two men at a high point on the bankJWM Serialization overlooking the parking lot using binoculars. They were checking the entire lot but seemed to focus on the northwest corner. No cars were headed to that position, and no one was walking near the Explorer. Lou’s voice got more urgent as he said, “Jack, I see movement in the Explorer and the two guys are coming down the bank toward the Explorer. The driver’s side door is opening. The bait is awake. Storm has the video running. The two men have split up and are approaching the Explorer from both sides. Your perp is out of the car but hanging on the door. He’s seen the two men. He’s got a gun.”

Hanging on every word, they heard three distinct gun shots, then two more. Lou said, “The perp fired first and put the guy closest to him down. The other one fired twice at Hankins. Hankins is down. The only one standing is now right over both of them. My God! He’s tapped them both in the head from close range and is now running down the parking lot toward the main entrance.”

“Lou, you and Storm try to get a good description of the car he gets into. That’s more important than getting good images. Can you see plate numbers at your range?”

Storm said, “I’m watching him through good optics. I can see plates. He’s getting into a late model blue Ford, four-door sedan. One other man in the car driving. They’re headed out the main gate to Route 544. Plate number is BBC 497 South Carolina plates.”

Kathy was relaying the information to the CIA surveillance teams as she got Storm’s report, including that shots had been fired and the bait and one attacker were down and presumed dead.

Lou, holding his position, said, “I see no evidence of any police or local security. A guy parking his new car 30 yards away saw the bodies and got his cell out. He’s still talking into it. It’s time for us to leave. You especially, before the entrances are locked down.”

Kathy didn’t need any encouragement. Her rental was already headed out the main entrance. The surveillance team, deployed along 544 west, checked in and said they had the target car. The make, color and plates matched the description.

Storm called in and said she and Lou were headed south on Route 17 to Georgetown and would see them there.

Kelly said, “Where’d Hankins get a gun?” Jack replied, “A little bit of staging on my part. I put Hankins’ loaded .38 in his lap, figuring the fact he had a gun would make it look less staged. I didn’t think he would regain consciousness that soon. Sometimes little touches work better than planned.”

Kelly said, “Will I ever think like that?”

Kathy said, “I’m just beginning to follow Jack’s thinking. Maybe in ten more years. I don’t know about you. You are already in a crash course and, I think, doing very well. Jack may not agree, but the process goes something like this. Don’t close out a plan. Always stay with it and add things that improve it. Think what the plan will look like to your enemy as it unfolds. Do not make decisions until you have to. There is no rule that early decisions are a good thing. Knowing when not to make a decision is important. You will never have enough information to make a perfect decision. People, like Jack, with great operational minds, have a feel when to make decisions irrespective of the information on hand. There now, I’m sure I’ve added immensely to your education in the Brandon School.”

“I think I’m sorry I asked.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 46

All five members of the Brandon team were in Jack’s motel room. Lou and Storm had just JWM Serializationarrived. While they were eating a late carry-in lunch, Jack brought them all up to date. The mission was to capture one of the expected al Qaeda team they expected to kill or kidnap Hankins. Kelly briefed them on the layout of the garage apartment where Hankins was living. He was now securely tied to his bed.

Lou asked, “What do we do with Hankins?”

“Good question. We don’t want him. The Feds don’t want him and I don’t think al Qaeda wants him. My first concern is that nobody in this room gets killed or injured. By now I believe even our newest member, Kelly, realizes it is much easier to kill than capture. Capturing a Jihadist is not going to be easy. Better to let them have Hankins than to risk one of us getting killed. According to Kathy’s interrogation of Hankins, the recontact plan calls for Hankins to be in the extreme northwest corner of the Walmart parking lot at the junction of Route 17 and Route 544 in Horry County. We need a plan to get him there like a staked-out goat in a tiger hunt. The people coming for him will be pros. They will reconnoiter the scene before committing. Their attack will be fast and deadly. I really don’t have a plan to capture one of them alive. These people will not surrender and we cannot get into a shoot-out, especially in a public place. The only thing I can think of is to hit one with a long-range shot and then prevent their carrying off or killing the wounded person, and I don’t like it. Too many opportunities for things to get out of control. Comments?”

Lou said, “My comment is, I don’t like the scenario. It puts us in a constant reaction mode. How about we stake out the scene and take the first opportunity to grab one of them before they attack. They won’t be checking out the place in force. One or two will be deployed as scouts. The scout or scouts will seek out the best observation spots and check out the overall area from there. We pick the likely spots in advance and set up our ambush. Leave your perp to deal with al Qaeda on his own.”

Kathy said, “I like the approach. It keeps us in the driver’s seat. Worst case, except for one of us getting killed, is that we get nothing and the bad guys get Hankins. Good riddance. It also gives us the option of doing nothing and following one of them to a place where the odds are definitely in our favor.”

Jack was silent for a long moment and then said, “The truth is that we don’t have the resources for this or the authority to endanger a number of innocent bystanders. There is also the problem of the Professor learning we know something of his operation. I don’t think the Feds would like that at this point. My plan is to set up video coverage of the recontact scene and see if they will provide the surveillance coverage to follow the people that pick up or kill Hankins. Kathy, please deal with your Fed friends. You speak their language. Lou, check out the scene and pick the most likely observation posts. Storm, please select and set up the equipment needed to get coverage of the northwest corner of the parking lot. Lou will help you after he picks out the most likely observation points. Kathy, Kelly and I will move Hankins into position two hours before the recontact schedule of 5:00 PM. Remember, it will be getting dark by 6:00 PM. Okay, let’s go.”

Jack waited until Kathy talked with Frank, who gave his okay and said he would have two surveillance teams in place. The teams would depend upon them for car descriptions, direction of movement and a departure alert. Jack and Kathy went in one car to within a block of Hankins’ apartment. Jack entered the apartment first, Kathy and Kelly followed at three-minute intervals. Jack stepped inside the side door to the garage with his SOCOM pistol in his hand, round chambered and safety off. He moved silently across the garage floor and up the staircase. Hankins was still tightly wrapped on the bed. Tape over his mouth and eyes. Jack checked the small apartment, put the SOCOM under his belt in the small of his back. Taking ear plugs from his pocket, he forced them into Hankins’ ears. He no longer needed to speak, see or hear. Kelly and Kathy arrived and they began prepping Hankins. Jack pulled the tape from his mouth, jerked him to a sitting position and jammed the neck of a bottle of blended whiskey into his mouth. By the time they got over half of the fifth into him, Hankins passed out and reeked of Four Roses.

The three of them carried Hankins down the stairs and into the passenger seat of his own Ford Explorer. Jack could have easily carried him down over his shoulder but didn’t want to take the risk of Hankins throwing up and drowning in his own vomit. It was too soon for him to die. Everyone wore latex gloves and there was no reason to wipe down the apartment or Hankins’ car. Jack drove the Explorer. Kelly and Kathy with Shadow followed in their own car. With all the duct tape removed and the residue scrubbed off, Hankins looked like a sleeping passenger, held in position by the seatbelt.

It was only a 30-minute drive from Georgetown to the Walmart at the junction of routes 17 and 544. Jack noted where Kathy parked and temporarily parked nearby. He gave Hankins two sleeping pills and forced another several swallows of Four Roses down his throat. Then he drove to the nearly vacant northwest corner of the parking lot. He shifted Hankins to a position behind the wheel and left the nearly empty whiskey bottle on the seat. As a last measure, Jack put the loaded .38 revolver Kelly found in Hankins’ chest of drawers in his lap to convince al Qaeda the passed-out Hankins wasn’t part of a setup. He had been in the northwest corner of the lot for less than three minutes.

The lot was filling up with after-work shoppers. On the way back to where Kathy and Kelly were waiting, Jack checked in with Lou on his cell. Lou told him he hadn’t seen any sign of anyone lingering in the observation points he located. He and Storm had a good view of the Hankins car from a less obvious surveillance post and the telescopic camera lens was sighted in. Storm was ready to video the site when the people coming for Hankins were seen.

Jack said, “Great! I’m going to wait here until you spot them. We’ll give them scheduled time plus an hour before we move Hankins.”

Jack climbed in the back seat with Shadow and brought Kathy and Kelly up to date. When he finished, he said, “We might as well relax a bit. We could be here for two or three more hours. With Lou’s experience on the street with the Bureau, he’s not going to miss anything. My main worry is that alcohol and sleeping pills affect people differently. It’s possible Hankins will surface too soon.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Intelligence & Politics