The Professor and Hasani were going through the plan for tomorrow, step by step. Meticulous detail was the Professor’s signature. He knew the devil was in the details. Get the details right, and the plan will work.
His worry was over the timing issue and the transfer of the drivers of the car bombs to the getaway cars. Hasani ran three practice runs of the target bridges during rush hour traffic at the same time as he planned attacks. The first one was very poor. By the third run, it was much better. The bridge bombs would have been within the allotted five-minute window, and the drivers could have easily transferred to the getaway cars. The bridges would not be destroyed but traffic would be delayed for hours and damage repair would take a few days to a week or so. He wasn’t after damage. He wanted terror in the hearts of every citizen. Let the authorities worry about who was responsible. No phone calls to claim credit from him. Tomorrow morning, a new phase of the war comes to Satan’s Capital.
At 7:15 AM, the car bombs and their escape cars left the stable on the Professor’s mini farm and turned north on Route 15 to the Leesburg bypass, where one set of cars then went east on Route 7 to Route 123 through McLean to Chain Bridge. The second set of cars stayed on Route 15 through Leesburg to Whites Ferry and Poolesville, and then on to the Beltway southbound to the American Legion Memorial Bridge.
The weather, for a day in mid-February, had a taste of spring. A few crocuses were showing their muted blooms in protected areas. An intermittent sun shown through clouds that threatened nothing. John Asker, his wife and their two preteen daughters were crossing Chain Bridge heading to McLean to drop the girls at a private school. After that they were going to have a leisurely breakfast at the local deli and then do some shopping at Tysons Corner for birthday presents for the oldest daughter and Alisia’s mother. It had been a while since they had had leisure time to themselves. They needed the two incomes but little time was left after attending to the essentials of married life with two daughters.
John saw the car coming toward him slow and stop. Wondering what in the world any driver was doing stopping in rush traffic on Chain Bridge, he slowed quickly and the green Ford Taurus tailgating him couldn’t stop and slid into Asker’s rear bumper. Asker thought, hell, a damn fender bender. We’ll be here for at least 30 minutes. Asker got out of his car, telling his wife and daughters to stay inside. No one was hurt, and they would soon be on their way. He saw a man half running from a car behind the one he saw stopping. A police car passed him and stopped beside the stopped cars. The police officer walked over to the cars blocking incoming city traffic. Asker heard an explosion he knew was gunfire and jumped back in his car, with the thought he had to get his family out of danger. A clear lane lay ahead and he accelerated across the bridge. The exchange of insurance information could wait until they cleared the bridge. He was directly opposite the second stopped car when the car bomb went off. The Askers’ car was blown off the bridge into the raging waters of the Potomac River. No one in the Asker car survived. Several cars were blown off the bridge. Others were burning. It was ten minutes before the first help arrived, and the first responders were too few to handle all the casualties and chaos. The Professor’s men died in the explosion. The woman police officer prevented their escape but paid with her life. No one would ever know what she knew when she died. No eye witnesses survived. The bridge wasn’t badly damaged, but it would be at least a few days before its soundness could be officially verified.
Five minutes after the first explosion, the second car bomb on the American Legion Memorial Bridge exploded. The Professor’s men escaped just as planned but several commuters were killed and wounded among the bumper to bumper traffic. It was hours before the mess was cleaned up, and the bridge was closed until it could be certified safe. Commerce and personal travel on the western loop of the Beltway came to a stop. Tomorrow, alternate routes into and out of the city would be jammed for hours.