Authors: John Whitman
This book is dedicated to my friend and teacher, Darren Levine.
After the 1993 World Trade Center attack, a Division of the Central Intelligence Agency established a domes
tic unit tasked with protecting America from the threat of terrorism. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Counter-Terrorist Unit established field offices in several American cities. From it inception, CTU faced hostility and skepticism from other Federal law enforcement agencies. Despite bureaucratic resistance, within a few years CTU had become a major force. After the war against terror began, a number of early CTU missions were declassified. The following is one of them . . .
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|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
|OTHER SERIES OF 24 DECLASSIFIED BOOKS|
|ABOUT THE PUBLISHER|
It was a lonely road, with no cars moving and only one car parked on the gravel shoulder, hunkered there like an unhappy drunk. There was one light in the distance, a single white industrial lamp hanging over a faded wooden sign that read
. It had been hung there as a substitute for two large floodlights bolted over the sign. The floodlights did not work. The four men in the car had made sure of that.
All of them were slumped down in their seats as though sleeping, and three of them might have dozed off if it weren’t for the fourth.
“He’s gonna put up a fight. You think he’s gonna put up a fight?” said this man. Boy, really. Old enough to skip a shave or two without anyone noticing. Young enough to get antsy waiting behind the wheel.
“If he does, he does,” said the one in the passenger seat. Edgars. He was the pro in the group, which meant he’d done one job before. “Just take it easy, Heinny.”
“Yeah, take it easy, Heinny,” grunted Peterson, one of the two in the back seat.
“I don’t like that,” Heinny said. “It’s not my name.”
“We’re just joking,” Edgars said. “It’s easier to say than Heinrich.”
“I don’t like it,” Heinny said. “My friends never called me that.”
Edgars shrugged. “Your friends liked to say things in German, that’s why.”
Edgars turned around in the passenger seat, still careful to stay low, and looked at the last member of their group. He was slumped in the seat next to Peter
son, leaning away with his arms folded across his chest and his head rolled to one side, resting against the interior of the car.
“Looks like he’s asleep,” Edgars said. “Not that he looks so different when he’s awake. Poke him.”
“Why?” Peterson asked.
“Why not?” Edgars said. “You got anything better to do?”
Peterson didn’t. And he wanted to do what Edgars said because Edgars had done this kind of work before. So he poked the sleeping man on the shoulder. When that didn’t work he poked him on the chest.
The last of the quartet opened one eye. “Don’t do that again.”
“Are you asleep?” Peterson asked.
The man scowled. “Is it time?”
Edgars shook his head. “Ten minutes maybe.”
The now-awakened man rubbed his eyes and stretched—not a big, long-armed stretch that would have put his body in view through the window, but a weird, low, bulging stretch, as though all his muscles swelled up in their places and then contracted.
In the front seat, Heinrich watched him in the rear view mirror. He looked jealously at the man’s white-blond hair and blue eyes. Heinrich himself had always been scrawny—170 pounds stretched drum-tight across a six-foot, three-inch frame. Heinrich’s old friends would have praised the other man as a pureblood inheritor of the Aryan mission, a natural soldier for the cause. Of course, the “cause” was different now—at least for the moment. Brett Marks had convinced him of that. Marks had shown Heinrich how to grow out of his skinhead beginnings and into the higher cause of the Greater Nation. Heinrich had to admit that a part of him missed the skinhead life. Going out in Detroit on a Saturday night, picking fights with the wetbacks at the bus stop or Christ killers walking home from the sin-o-gogue, that had been fun (except for the time they picked on the Heeb who’d been in the Israeli army; that one had broken his jaw). But at twenty he’d begun to sense that skinhead mayhem wasn’t achieving its stated goal, and he began to search for something else. Something more.
He knew he’d found it the day he heard Brett Marks speak at the Christ Redeemer Church in Livonia. Marks was a true Aryan, but he never talked about race and he never even talked about religion. He didn’t wear Doc Martens or shave his head or call down fire and brimstone. He wore a suit and spoke like a politician, and when he talked he used ten dollar words to explain how the government had usurped the Constitution and stolen away the rights of the states and the individual. He said it didn’t matter if the current administration was dressed like the Rainbow Coalition or the Confederate flag, they were all attempting to steal the power of the people. Marks invited anyone who felt the way he did to join his political movement. Maybe it was the words, or maybe it was the message, or maybe it was just that twenty years seemed too old to be shaving his head and picking fights with ragheads, but Heinrich felt the message echo in his sunken chest. And so he found himself, a month later, joining the Greater Nation militia movement, and nearly one year to the day afterward he was sitting here on a dark rural street outside King City, California, waiting to strike his first blow against the tyranny of the Federal government.
He looked for something to say to the blond man. “You think it’s going to go as planned, Jack?”
The blond man didn’t talk much. He yawned a lot, which Heinrich thought meant Jack was bored, but Edgars said yawning was a sign of nervousness. Now Jack tipped his chin and said, “I hope so.”
“Car coming,” Edgars said.
They all looked at the rear or the side mirrors and saw car headlights blossom on the lonely road. Edgars checked his watch. “Four fifty-one. Timing’s right.”
The lights grew blinding in the mirrors, then the mirrors went dark as a Chevy half-ton with
printed on the side cruised by them. On cue, the four men opened their car doors and got out. Their car remained dark—Jack had popped the tiny light bulb out of the overhead light so it would not go on when the doors opened. There was a dull thud as Heinrich closed his door too fast, but the sound didn’t carry. Jack, Heinny, and Edgars drew handguns from their belts. Peterson slid a shotgun from the backseat. All four men hurried forward through the darkness toward the single light, where the truck had stopped.
Because the floodlights were out, it seemed to the truck driver that the four men melted out of the dark
ness. The big, hard one who looked in charge, the one with the shotgun, the skinny one, and the blond one who hung back.
“Don’t give trouble, you won’t get trouble,” said the one in charge, holding a gun up to his nose. “You’re the foreman.”
It wasn’t a question, but the truck driver answered anyway, his voice filled with that hyper-alertness of someone who’s just been shaken from sleep. “Yeah. Yes.”
“Tell me your name.”
“Okay, Javier Garza, you’re going to take us inside and show us where you keep the sodium cyanide.”
“Oh shit,” Javier Garza said.
“Oh shit is right,” said the man. “Now take us inside.”
“You can’t take that stuff,” said the foreman. “It’s a controlled substance.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll control it,” said Edgars. “Convince him.”
This was directed to Heinny. The former skinhead clipped the foreman once across the jaw, just enough to hurt him. “Do what he says. Now!”
The foreman seemed to lose all his strength then, just as Brett said he would. Obediently he held out his keys to show them, then turned toward the gate in the chain-link fence of Avilla Electroplating. Heinny felt a shudder of pleasure go through him. He liked hitting people, and besides, everything was going as planned, and that also made him happy.
Then a moment later it all went to hell in the weirdest way. Out of nowhere, Jack grabbed the muzzle of Heinny’s semi-automatic with one hand and pushed the line of fire away from the foreman. With the other hand he smashed the barrel of his own gun against Heinny’s temple. The single light over the building spun around several times and Heinny felt the ground jump up and knock the wind out of him. Somewhere far away Jack was yelling, “Federal agents! Drop your weapons!” At the same time, the floodlights that weren’t supposed to work suddenly exploded in blinding light, and dozens of other voices were shouting things like “Down! Down!” and “Don’t move!” and “Federal agents!” and “You’re under arrest!” Heinny was pretty sure he even heard a helicopter whooping down from above.
His head was still swimming. He tried to get to his knees but someone kicked him in the stomach. Then the same person leaned in close to him, blocking out the blinding floodlights. It was Jack, but Jack was now holding a badge in his hand. “Jack Bauer, Counter Terrorist Unit. You are under arrest for assault, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act against the United States.”
Jack Bauer knelt down even farther until his voice was a hiss in Heinrich’s ear. “I spent six months listening to your Greater Nation bullshit. Now you’re going to tell it to the prosecutors. And you’re going to help me get Brett Marks.”
At the same time, three thousand miles away in Washington D.C., three of the most powerful men in the world climbed into a limousine in front of the White House. Only one of them had been elected—President Harold Barnes, elected by the slimmest margin of the popular vote, which had not stopped him from turning a narrow victory into a powerful mandate. Across from him in the limo sat two men who also wielded immense power despite the fact that no citizen in any state in the Union had ever cast a single vote for either of them. One of them was Mitch Rasher, short, round, and brilliant, the President’s political advisor since his days as a Florida governor. The other was James Quincy, the Attorney General of the United States.
Rasher glared at the AG with undisguised annoyance. His words, however, were directed at the President. “I don’t like this,” he said. “It’s not the right call.”
Quincy returned the glare. He was more intimidated than he let on—Rasher had the President’s ear and could, essentially, make anything he wished into the law of the land—but like a man facing a pack of dogs, he understood that showing fear was a far greater sin than feeling it. “It makes perfect sense for me to come along,” he replied directly to Rasher. “You’re going to San Francisco for the Pacific Rim conference, and then you’re heading to San Diego for the NAFTA discussion. Both of those items involve Justice.”
“That’s not why you’re going,” Rasher retorted. He had a way of leaning into his words that gave his rotund figure all the menace of an avalanche. “You’re trying to get a boost for the New American Privacy Act. The whole idea of going to San Francisco was to put distance between us and NAP before the vote.”
“You guys supported this bill,” Quincy protested. “You guys helped me get some of the senior members in Congress to propose it.”
“Well . . .” Rasher said, “that was then, Jim. Now, even if it passed the Senate, I’m not sure we’d . . .” he trailed off.
The AG turned toward Harold Barnes. “You told me you were behind it, Mr. President. Don’t tell me you’re saying you’d veto it?”
Barnes stared at the window as though considering the AG’s words. In truth, he wasn’t doing much of anything. He had found this to be the surest type of politics—to surround himself with strong opinions and listen to those opinions wage war with each other. Leadership, he had decided long ago, meant presiding over those who had deep convictions.
Rasher ran interference. “There are degrees. There’s fall-on-your-sword support and there’s letthe-other-guy-fall-on-his-sword support. Guess which kind you get.”
“No one is getting cut by this,” Quincy argued, his eyes locked on Barnes’s distant expression. “This bill helps us stop terrorists. Period.”
Rasher raised his hands. “Preaching to the choir, Jim. But CNN tells me fifty-two percent of the people think NAP goes too far. We can score more points by scuttling it and looking good in the popular polls.”
Quincy sneered. “We don’t do what’s popular. We do what’s right.”
Rasher laughed derisively. “Is that what we do?”
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
. PST Greater Nation Compound
It was three o’clock in the morning and Jack Bauer was on his belly in a barranca in the high desert above Los Angeles. He couldn’t see his team or even hear them, but he knew they were moving into position. He could taste the dust in the air, kicked up by their boots as they surrounded the compound. Bauer lifted his head above the lip of the barranca and studied the collection of one- and two-story houses surrounded by a ten-foot wall. There were lights strung across the top of that wall every fifteen feet. At the moment each bulb gave off only a faint orange glow, like the ember of a dying fire. But they were motion sensors—the minute anyone moved within ten yards of them the lights would flare up and silent alarms would go off inside the compound, turning all his careful planning into chaos.
Jack stifled a yawn. He hadn’t slept much in the past two days. After the sting operation in King City, he’d led the interrogation of Heinrich Gelb, the neo-Nazi turned Greater Nation foot soldier. They’d put the screws to Peterson and Edgars, too, of course, but Jack had known from the start Heinrich would crack first. His youth was against him, but there was more to it than that—Heinrich was a weakling. That’s why the little Greater Nation hit squad had chosen him to be the heavy when they attacked the foreman— cowards always make the best torturers. So while Edgars and Peterson were stuck in their little rooms giving the cold shoulder to the other interrogators at the Counter Terrorist Unit, Heinrich sat in his metal chair under a bright light, pouring his guts out to Jack, the video recorder, and the Federal prosecutor. Hein
rich was still talking when Federal prosecutor Martin Padilla gave Jack the nod he’d been waiting for.
On any other case, CTU satellites would have put Jack’s quarry in an electronic vise. Not only would Jack have known where his target was, he could have known what he had for lunch and how many bites he took before he swallowed. But Jack’s case was so low on the priority list that he’d had to rely on human intelligence and a payphone to confirm his target’s whereabouts. His request for a CTU special entry team was rejected, and his call for FBI or Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms units fell on deaf ears. All personnel had been assigned to higher-priority missions. Jack had been forced to commandeer the local special response team. Local training was hit or miss. He just hoped that if rounds started going off, they hit what they aimed at and missed him.