The Lion &
The flight from Honolulu to Dallas-Fort Worth had been direct, for which Steve was grateful, but seven and a half hours in the air was still tiring. Traveling forward in time had him arriving when his body though it was time for bed, but the five a.m. newspaper delivery was being made at terminal E. Exiting the jetway, he glanced around looking for his contact known only to him by the name Bob Asher.
To the left stood a young woman with a small 8 x 10 sign in red felt tip marker that read "McGarrett."
Steve approached. "I'm McGarrett."
"A pleasure," she answered immediately extending a hand and shaking his firmly.
He gave a small inward smile at her age, she was young enough to be his daughter with wavy blonde hair, green eyes and smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose.
"Would you like a bite to eat?" She suggested. "The restaurant here serves up a fine breakfast burrito."
Steve glanced at his watch. "Strong coffee will do. I suppose it is still too early to meet Mr. Asher."
She led him towards the carousel to collect his bag. "We have a meeting with TI security for 7:00a.m. We've got about an hour."
With his suitcase retrieved, Steve followed the woman into the airport restaurant and within minutes they were facing cups of fresh coffee and burritos. At least airport food is usually fast, he thought.
"Texas Instruments was developing a microprocessor for the Navy," the girl commented. "There has been a security breech." She poured sugar into her coffee and Tabasco sauce and salsa onto the burrito.
Steve glanced down at the burrito and the scrambled egg and sausage that peeked out from the flour tortilla contemplating how well his stomach would handle the menu when he was this tired. "That is what I am here to discuss with Mr. Asher," Steve commented, wondering just a little why she had mentioned this.
She burst into a wide grin. "Bob Asher - that's me."
"Well, my formal name is Roberta - Papa always called me Bobbi Jean. But somehow I did not think that I would be treated as a serious investigator under that title. Most people envision a cheer leader, not a nuclear engineer turned criminologist."
Steve blinked. "A
pleasure to meet you, Bob." This is going to be interesting.
The three men sitting tensely around the walnut grain conference table looked much less friendly than Bob had been. New coffee had been delivered - along with some kind of deep-fried pastry.
Steve moved one square of pastry to his napkin and gave it a slight quizzical look.
"Empanada. They're good." Bob judged. "These are filled with apple and raisin - or pumpkin."
He gave a single nod, wanting the discussion to be more about business, less about culinary information.
"Thank you for coming. I am Ben Cantra." the gentleman at the head of the table finally said attracting everyone's attention. He gestured to the others. "Aaron Penrod, Clark Forrester, and I believe you've met Bob Archer. Folks, this is Steve McGarrett, chief of the state police of Hawaii and commander in ONI who has been sent to us on the highest recommendation of the president of the United States."
President? Cantra certainly doesn't mind name-dropping, Steve mused.
"Three months ago, the US Navy contracted Texas Instruments to design a microchip processor for the guidance system of nuclear missiles to be fired from submerged subs. Three days ago it was learned that the development plans had been compromised. Yesterday we learned that three pounds of weapons grade plutonium had been stolen from the Brits." He paused. "Now, in a better world, these events would not be related - but this is not a better world. We cannot afford to assume coincidence."
Steve nodded. No kidding. "What can you tell me about this microchip technology?"
Aaron spoke up, turning his mildly overweight frame towards Steve. "How big is the computer in your department?"
"The system is in HPD - fills roughly a standard twelve by fourteen room - including the storage for backups," he replied.
"What if I could give you six times that storage, and faster results from a unit that could sit on your desk?"
Steve cracked a smile. "Hard to believe."
Aaron held out a small clear plastic box. "Microchips."
Steve stared at the tiny green square object inside of the small inch square box. "This is what was lost?"
"The technology for creating it was compromised," Clark corrected. "There was an unauthorized forced entry into the system. The databank was copied."
"Copied onto what?"
"A tape - roughly the size of a tape recorder spool," Bob interjected.
"Do you know exactly what they got?"
"I know what they could have gotten," Clark replied. "Enough to place our entire defense at risk."
"Whoever took the information had security clearance access," Bob remarked.
"That ought to reduce the possibilities some," Steve remarked. "I want to see how your facility is set up for security - and the employment files of everyone who has access. We need to put some profiles together."
"What are you going to be looking for?" Ben asked.
Steve gave a quiet smile. "First of all money. This won't be about an employee with a grudge, it will be about money. Espionage always comes back to money."
The dirt floor and earthen walls seemed to absorb the light as well as the sounds. Four men including Camp, wearing a smagh, and Zeid huddled over the small lantern speaking in hushed tones and shoving a small notepad back and forth between them. One of them glanced towards the black abaya shrouded figure standing just inside of the door and muttered something in Arabic about ugly women.
One of the others commented back that it was not what was covered but what could be uncovered and they all chuckled. The mantel of tension again dropped over the quartet as the paper was once again passed back.
Upon receiving it, Zeid suddenly rose, the notepad tight in his fist. Uttering a command in Lebanese for them to wait, he exited the door without looking at the dark figure at the door.
Marten Camp glanced at the two men remaining. They both represented competitive buyers. The bids had gone much higher than Camp anticipated. He could tell from the sweat and expressions that neither of his opponents would accept losing this deal. Yet, for the moment, Camp had outbid them. Camp's dark eyes and tanned complexion had permitted him to blend in, his light hair effectively covered by the smagh. He promised himself that by tomorrow he'd make Williams buy some hair color at the very least. He could feel his Lugar pistol beneath the layers of cloth of his clothing, but made no eye contract with the men who sat with him. There would be sore losers before this exchange was over. Bloodshed would most certainly follow.
At last Abjar Zeid returned. "No bids are good enough," he declared in Arabic, mild frustration in his tone. "No less than two million US dollars."
Both the other men jumped to their feet brandishing handguns and shouting about this being a trick and that they had been fooled into coming. Camp remained seated, making no comment until the yelling did not subside over a few minutes.
"Where do you want the money?" he declared solemnly without emotion to Zeid.
"What?" Abjar sputtered above the din of the shouts.
"The money - how do you want it and where?" he asked, slowly rising to his feet.
The arguing stopped as the others stared at him.
"You give us two million?" Zeid asked suspiciously, cocking his head to one side.
"I'll give you two million five," he replied bluntly. "If it is as you say."
One of the two other bidders sneered and raised his gun. "This is a trick. We had a good understanding."
"What understanding!" Zeid shouted. "He gives me more money. Do you have this?"
"There was a promise!" He began to wave the gun around.
"A promise!" The other loser shouted hotly, "You were making a deal to cut me out?" He pointed his gun at the other losing bidder. They began shouting at each other.
Zeid began to back away as one of the bidders fired a single shot that struck no one. Instantly, two machine gun armed, masked men lunged through the door into the tiny hot space, firing as they came.
The abaya clad figure by the door suddenly lifted a gun and fired four times, fatally hitting a man each time.
"Not Zeid!" Camp shouted in English grabbing the seller. "We want this one!"
Just as the shrouded person lowered the automatic, a third man, Zeid's driver, barged through the door, grabbing the shooter's gun-hand and wrestling backward, both of them slamming into the earthen wall. Immediately the driver realized that the person he was combating did not fit what he expected. -- much too solid and strong for a woman. They landed on the dirt floor in the scuffle. By this time Zeid was shouting and Camp's gun was in his hand.
Moments later, the hijab pulled away revealing Danny's sweaty face.
The driver gasped in shock. "American!"
"Hold it!" Camp shouted in English, gun trained on the driver. "Hold it right there!"
"American!" the driver shouted again.
Abjar faced Camp, gun drawn on him. Camp stood, his gun on the driver. "IRA," Camp said calmly. "IRA. You know what IRA is?"
It wasn't clear that the seller did. All white infidels were the same to him. He licked his lips and fingered his weapon. "Gun down or I kill you."
"Then you go back to the drawing board for your bidders. Sure you want to kill me?" Camp asked. "Now, let's just all settle it down just a little. You lower your gun, I'll lower mine."
Keeping intense eye contact on each other, both men, slowly lowered their weapons. Breathing a little easier Zeid hissed towards Danny. "Abomination."
Danny and the driver exchanged untrusting glances as they disengaged from one another and got to their feet.
"I have good money," Camp got back on the subject.
Zeid pulled his attention away from the man in woman's dress. His eyes narrowed. This person had no respect for the teachings of Mohammed or the Qur'an.
"IRA," Camp muttered. "We are IRA. Money is good."
Danny had finished freeing himself from the black garb and now stood in sweat-soaked street clothes, gun still in hand. "Stand over there," he ordered the driver who slowly stepped to the wall, hands raised. "I'm not going to hurt you. We just want your goods."
Camp yanked on Abjar's arm. "I want to see your boss," he declared in English, all pretense of middle eastern identity dropped. "You take us to him."
Danny had checked each of his victims. They were all dead. Four bullets, four lives. How often I have detested this training. How often it has kept me alive. And how alarmingly easy it was to react. This was why I did not want this kind of life.
Abjar glared at Danny again. "No. He won't see you."
"You willing to die for that?" Camp asked and, as if on cue, Danny, momentary reflection aside, spun from the dead bodies towards Zeir - gun pointed at the Lebanese man's head.
"Kill me, no plutonium," Abjar pointed out.
"You won't sell it to me anyway, so what have I got to lose?" Camp replied.
Abjar bit his lip, obviously reconsidering his position. "Okay."
Camp grinned at Danny. "See, he is a most sensible guy. Let's go."
With the driver and Zeid in front, the foursome left the small room headed for the beaten up old car parked outside. Moments later the car was careening through the dark deserted streets of Beirut, past the blackened hollowed buildings with the occasional glimmers of small camp fires within the wasted structures. There were no other people or vehicles on the streets.
The car stopped before an old building that still bore some of its former embellished ornamental sculptured art on the exterior. It had once been beautiful. As they passed inside, Danny and Camp noticed the armed men in the shadows.
The beautiful turquoise inlaid floor was covered with nearly an inch of dust and debris as they walked through what was once a hotel lobby. The remains of a crystal chandelier hung from the high ceiling by a thin electric wire. There was the faint chug of a generator from somewhere in the building. Whoever occupied this place had the money to keep fuel for the engine.
Zeid knocked on the door, it opened throwing brilliant light over them.
"Enter," said the voice of the man that was reclining on the red satin coach inside. He did not rise. "So, Abjar, what is this?"
"He said two million five, but he wants to see you," Zeid said nervously.
The heavy bearded man Camp recognized by the single name Mounir gave a disgruntled grunt. "You go."
Abjar scurried away, leaving Camp and Danny.
Mounir slowly got to his feet, revealing the nearly naked woman who had been on the couch next to him. With a look of impatience, he tossed an afghan over her. "So you see me. What do you want?"
Camp gave a small grin. "What I'm paying for. You have the plutonium?"
Mounir laughed. "Me? Do I look like a storehouse?"
"Where is the plutonium?"
"Where is the money?" He waved a finger. "I thought not. Neither of us is foolish enough to bring our prize to the light so easily."
Danny glanced around the room having already detected security cameras and two methods of emergency escape. He wondered how many more hidden guards there were. There did not seem to be any obvious place the plutonium could be hidden in. It is not here. Not surprising.
"Do you want a transaction or not?" Camp muttered without blinking. "My money is good anywhere. How many are willing to meet your price?"
Mounir grinned. "Many would find it desirable."
"Perhaps, but there are two less buyers now than an hour ago. How many more would you like me to have vanish?"
Mounir sighed. "I will consider this." He made a motion and four men appeared from the shadows of hidden panels, weapons drawn. "The streets are unsafe - you will remain - as my guests -- tonight. We will talk more tomorrow."
The armed escort delivered Camp and Danny to second floor hotel room that was badly in need of repair. Once the door closed and locked from the outside, they were left in the dark.
Silence reigned for several moments as they both examined the room carefully by penlight, locating several electronic bugs. They compared their findings by hand signals, barely readable in the faint light.
"Get some rest," Camp finally said as he examined a barred window.
"Can't see there is much else to do," Danny replied, checking the wall in the closet. He carefully poked a knife into the plaster. "Fine fix this is - leaving us in this mess." He dug the knife blade into the wall and white powdery plaster cascaded to the floor.
"You always have been impatient," Camp answered as he crossed over to Danny and gave a nod. Pulling off the smagh, Camp tore a strip out of it. Danny, meanwhile removed a single bullet from inside his sock and carefully pulled it apart, pouring the gunpowder into the strip of cloth. Rolling it up, Camp stuffed it into the hole Danny had created in the wall, then lit the tail end of the piece with a cigarette lighter. Much slower than a fuse, they would need to wait the minute or two it would take the flame to travel up the cotton fabric. They retreated from the closet into the room and several moments later heard the small pop followed by scattering plaster.
Camp opened the closet door to examine their handiwork and discovered a hole about 18 inches in diameter. A carefully placed kick widened it, scattering more plaster. Camp scrambled through their escape hole to the dark empty hallway on the other side. Danny followed and moments later they were on the streets of Beirut.
"Nice evening exercise. So what did we accomplish?" Danny asked.
"Mounir will find us - and may give much better attention," Camp responded. "Get back to the apartment and wait for me."
Danny had studied maps of Beirut on his flight and was fairly confident he could make his way back to their small room. He merely nodded and by the time he had acknowledged, Camp had disappeared into the shadows.
"Tell me about Franklin Beltan," Steve tossed the employee photo across the table towards Bob.
Thirty three, wife, one child - a boy. Child has leukemia and has received care at Childrens in Dallas. Recently relocated to South Dakota," she read from the file. "No unusual banking activity, no purchases - they have, as you'd expect a huge bill at Childrens."
"Why did they go to South Dakota?" Steve asked.
Bob sifted through the paperwork. "Nothing there. No extended relatives."
Steve tapped on the table with his index finger thoughtfully. "More importantly, no well known cancer research facilities. But there is Ellsworth Air Force Base."
Bob and he exchanged looks. "Minutemen II ICBMs?"
"Over a hundred and fifty of them all over South Dakota aimed squarely at their counterparts in Russia," Steve commented. "An address for Beltan?"
"PO Box in Rapid City," she answered.
"We need to get to Rapid City," Steve commended. He picked up the phone on the table and dialed Garrison in Honolulu while glancing at his watch. 2:15pm central time - 7:15AM Honolulu time. I haven't slept yet, at least Garrison has.
Twenty minutes later,
they left Texas Instruments headed for Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth,
and a flight to Ellsworth in South Dakota. As the flight left the ground
headed northwest, Steve finally allowed himself to get some desperately
needed rest and fell sound asleep.
Danny had no trouble finding his way to Camp's small room. Outside the worn pocked door, he pulled his automatic, then entered - gun first. There was a faint scent of melted wax as several candles burned in selected spots around the room and a movement from the couch as Farah awoke. He raised his hand as he put away the gun.
She looked past him as if expecting Camp. "Where is Marten?" she asked in halting English.
"A mission" Danny replied. "He'll come later."
She nodded. "Food? Drink?"
He shook his head. "No thanks. I just want to get some sleep."
She waved him through the curtain to where a lumpy, but inviting bed lay just past what served as an oven. "Here?"
He gave a tired smile. "Looks great." He kicked off his shoes and pulled off his dusty outer clothing, then almost fell onto the bed in his T-shirt and shorts. Sleep immediately hazed his consciousness, but he roused to movement.
Farah had sat down on the edge of the bed next to him with an expectant smile as she began to unbutton her blouse.
He blinked. I am way too tired for anything. "No, Farah, you don't have to do this. It's okay. Really, I am so tired " the words could hardly escape his lips before sleep closed over his head.
Farah rose from the
bed and left the apartment.
Camp had little trouble locating Abjar - the man just wasn't that creative and totally unaccustomed to covert operations. Abjar had been sleeping in the corner of a bombed out building less than three blocks from Mounir's stronghold. He came jarring awake as Camp placed a hand around his throat.
"You tell me why I shouldn't just squeeze," Camp snarled in his ear. "You played us for fools, Abjar. You were going to get me killed back at that meeting."
Abjar violently shook his head. "No," he rasped. "No, not like that."
"Then you deliver us to Mounir and he is there waiting for us."
"I say no go to him - you insist," Abjar reminded through the stranglehold.
"You gave us up, Abjar."
"No, Mounir, he will find you - you see. He will make offer."
"Mounir was tipped off by you."
"No, no - no by me!"
Camp slammed a fist into Abjar's eye. "Tell me why, Abjar."
"No! Not by me!"
His fist struck Zeid's face a second time. "Then who? Who did you tell?!"
"No!" The man pleaded.
"You'd better come up with something fast for me to keep you alive," Camp growled.
"There is nothing - Mounir will sell to you."
"The hell he will." Camp tightened his grip as Abjar squirmed. "What's the plan, Zeid!"
Abjar should his head violently again. "No plan! No plan!"
"And that guy at the table didn't expect some kind of deal either? All that shouting about a promise? Get up. You're coming with me." Camp pulled Abjar to his feet knowing he could conduct his questioning much more efficiently in the security of his small apartment.
Camp dragged Abjar through the door into the apartment, then stopped cold. Rarely was Camp surprised by anything, but the condition of the small flat was alarming. Nothing had been spared. Dishes broken, the small couch shredded and smashed. "Farah!" he called. "Danny!" Maintaining one hand's grip on Abjar, the other occupied by his Lugar it took only moments to cover the distance and confirm that no one was there, but that they had been. Danny's cast off shoes and crumpled shirt and pants remained near the bed.
Abjar shivered in new alarm as Camp's fury rose. Williams would never have left voluntarily without his shoes if not his clothes.
"What do you know about this?" Camp demanded of Zeid.
"Nothing! Nothing!" Zeid pleaded.
Camp shoved him to the floor, gun at his head. "Talk, Zeid."
He wept openly. "Please, this not my doing."
"You knew where we were, no one else did. You talk now!" Camp shouted, cocking the weapon.
Abjar just sobbed.
Camp slammed him across the face with the gun. "Talk, Zeid."
"They - they threaten my daughter - my wife," he pleaded. "I had to do as they say."
"Okay," the furious Camp said, "who are they and what did they say?"
"Mounir want to know where your money from."
"What did you tell him?" Camp insisted.
"Nothing!" He pleaded. "I to come back in the morning! Nothing!"
This is going nowhere. Was this raid by Mounir or another player? What about the boss of one of those losers tonight? "Where did he take them?"
Abjar shivered again. "Do not know - really - I know nothing about this. I just to come back in the morning."
Camp's fist struck Abjar's chin and Abjar spun to the littered floor. "Who else is there, Zeid? Who else wants in on this? Who did those two guys work for?"
"I don't know-"
Camp kicked him in the chest and Zeid slammed backward.
"Last time I ask nicely, Abjar - Who did they work for?"
He just moaned in fear - and a fear well justified.
Camp placed the pistol against Zeid's right knee and fired.
The man's scream shook the small apartment.
"You have another knee, Zeid - who were they?"
He sobbed, writhing in pain. "One Iranian, other I do not know."
"Who in Iran?" Camp jabbed the shattered knee with his toe. Zeid attempted to cover his injury and Camp stepped on his hand, grinding the fingers hard against the floor with his heel. "Give, Zeid."
"Mostafa. Know only that," Abjar sobbed.
Camp paused. The name, as common as Smith, meant nothing to him.
Zeid was watching him, panting. "Please," he begged. "I have told you what I know." He lifted his bloody hands in a gesture of surrender.
Scowling, Camp knew he had received relatively little information. "The other man."
"I don't know!"
He cocked the gun and pointed at the other knee. "Last chance."
Zeid wailed as Camp fired again. This time the bullet pierced the popliteal artery and the blood flow was massive.
Rage blazing, Camp yanked Abjar's head by the hair to take his attention away from his injuries. "Abjar," he said in deadly calm, "you cannot face Allah with lies on your lips."
Abjar whimpered and shook his head.
Disgusted, Camp released
Zeid's hair, stepped back one step and shot him in the head. With a sigh,
he pocketed his gun, then glanced around the small apartment. He was always
careful. There had been nothing of value, nothing of importance and most
certainly nothing that would blow his cover. He glanced at his watch.
The satellite was in range and would remain so for another thirty minutes.
He would have just enough time to contact the office and ask them to check
out this Mostafa.
End part 2