Authors: Dale Amidei
Tags: #Suspense & Thrillers, #Suspense, #Thriller, #Fiction
Passing the scene, Boone headed for the front stairwell as the fastest route down to Field Operations. “
Officer Lambert,” she said with a smile just as easy as the one he returned. “Your first day is going well?”
was the pleasant reply as if nothing whatsoever had passed between them the previous evening.
Because nothing actually did,
she realized. She arrived at the stairwell, so glad she had not added the burden of a sexual excursion to her growing concerns with Ritter’s new hire. Lambert’s personable performance was cementing her paradoxical reaction. It was instinct, rather than logic, and Boone realized with a rush her well-honed field sense to be what prevented her from taking Lambert’s apparently effortless assimilation at face value.
Go with the gut,
There’s a reason you don’t trust this guy. Now you need to find out what it is.
Benedek Jancsi Novak had been as responsive to procurement needs as Yameen al-Khobar hoped he would be. Indeed, as the billionaire promised, Yameen needed only to ask, and requests for which he had been prepared to wait a good deal of time appeared instead overnight.
It cannot be an accident,
the Saudi’s never-resting mind concluded.
My requisitioning was anticipated. I am only playing a role in this production. Novak is directing us all.
The former field agent of Saudi Arabia's GIP now casually walked a parking structure accessible to the public. Occasionally, he referenced a slip of paper in the palm of his gloved hand. He was glad for his knit cap and sunglasses, a getup practical for Europe's winter temperatures. The items also made his appearance as indistinguishable as was possible.
And there are few places than this in which I would be less eager to be recognized.
A few more paces, and he consulted his reference notes again.
There. Another Porsche.
This one appeared to match the description he had been provided, from the paint scheme to the custom racing wheels and tires.
This is the one. I would have expected to find it in a somewhat more prominent parking assignment. No matter.
Al-Khobar cleared his six o’clock and scanned as well the entirety of the parking level, one from appearances he had to himself. A small device appeared, taken from his coat pocket, with a single exterior switch which was flicked into position as his gloved hand concealed it under the German sports car’s body. The Saudi felt the powerful neodymium magnet grab at the galvanized sheet metal aggressively, but he settled it into place with a gentle touch so as to not disturb the vehicle’s security system.
Hesitating, he readied himself for any piercing alarm and the hasty retreat which would necessarily follow. No such activation, however, came.
Very good. It will take some force to get you back out of there.
He straightened, looking around once more and satisfied the placement of the device had gone just as well as he hoped.
Yes, it will take considerable force indeed. That will be Phase Two.
Pacing on, al-Khobar strode to the end of the level and ducked down the stairwell to the street. There, he had parked the white delivery vehicle holding the remainder of what had been waiting for him upon arrival in Geneva.
After the side door to the van opened and then closed again behind him, the Saudi's next effort at role camouflage began by donning a maintenance worker's coveralls and hard hat bearing the logo of a Swiss environmental-systems firm. So transformed, he moved forward to the driver’s seat and got the big vehicle running. Checking his mirrors, he accelerated into the driving lane.
The trip was a short one. In less than a kilometer he again parked, this time in the vendor lot behind the area’s tallest structure. The Saudi exited the van and walked around to his vehicle’s back doors. A heavy equipment cart rolled out onto the asphalt, where he could stand and tip the case up and into a configuration more easily passed through the service entrance accessing the interior of the building.
Al-Khobar wheeled his gear toward the structure. He knew his appointment to maintain the rooftop air handlers had been established already. He carried little expectation—as expertly as his patrons had been coordinating his mission to this point—there would be any complications arising from that end.
It is now a matter of obtaining access to the roof, and then perhaps a bit of a wait
. It was nearly the lunch hour. Al-Khobar had eaten already. There would be no time for lunching after the first bit of this morning’s work. He would need to depart this locality afterward, and he would need to accomplish his withdrawal without delay.
Schuster stood in the outer reception area, talking with Caroline for a brief time before he popped his head around the jamb of his boss’s doorway. Deep in thought at his desk, McAllen stared intently at his monitor.
“General, sir … if you don’t mind, I’ll be taking off for lunch a little early. Baby has an appointment,” the man said with a grin.
Looking up, McAllen cracked a smile. “That car of yours again?
boy. I thought Porsches were supposed to be top quality, and you’re taking it in so soon?”
Schuster seemed unperturbed at the jibe. “Second annual maintenance already, can you believe it? And she’s still running like a
too.” McAllen’s XO glanced at his wristwatch, just as much a status symbol as his choice of vehicle. “Barring objections, sir, I better go.”
Waving, the General dismissed him. “Go, Bernie, go! Give the damn thing a kiss from me too.”
His second-in-command grinned and was gone. McAllen returned to his correspondence but at the same time now realized he, too, was looking forward to lunch.
Damned distractions. Bernie can have his Autobahn racer. Give me a good car with a bottle of bourbon in the back and a driver any day of the damned week.
Schuster stepped smartly through the parking structure InterLynk shared with several nearby businesses. The spaces were all leased, except for the few designated for visitors and deliveries. He made his way up to the second level, encountering a man waiting there already. “Klaus! Dammit, man, I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” InterLynk’s executive officer apologized.
“No problem, no problem,” his mechanic assured him. “I was dropped off only a moment ago.” He held out his hand, into which Schuster dropped his key and fob. The automotive professional tossed the set into the air and expertly grabbed the component he needed. He looked at the one customer whom his shop never had to notify of a scheduled maintenance appointment. “Any requests, other than the yearly checklist?”
“Maybe the computer tweak we discussed on the phone. What the hell.”
“It might add a few hundred,” the Porsche-certified German replied cautiously.
Schuster shrugged. “Eh. You only live once, right?”
The mechanic grinned and nodded, glancing at Schuster’s car. “And a man’s vehicle should reflect it. It will be done as you wish,
“She’ll still be back by the close of business, right?”
… no problem.”
Satisfied, Schuster stepped back and watched Klaus settle down into the best car the former diplomat had ever owned. The roar of the motor and the smoothness of the shifter sounded even better on the exterior than they did sitting inside on the leather upholstery.
Take care, Baby,
See you soon.
On the roof of the nearby high-rise, located down the broad avenue from InterLynk headquarters and the United Nations’ Geneva complex, Yameen al-Khobar had opened and assembled the launch tube for the prototype antitank weapon carefully packed into the sectioned foam plank inside the equipment case. He had been allowed up to the roof with little trouble. The laptop computer included in his kit was now up and running, sitting on the nearby parapet. The chilling effect from the cold, December winds up here, over a hundred meters above Geneva, made the abrupt alarm of the device's only open user application a welcomed sound. The program's sole function was to listen for the signal of the transponder he had placed only a short time ago. According to the map on the screen’s display, the device was currently active in the parking garage below.
He should come out right in front of me. I can hardly miss.
Shouldering the well-balanced but hefty launch tube of his camera-guided weapon, al-Khobar flipped the switch to arm the firing mechanism. The display now in front of his face panned toward the structure’s exit, and he zoomed in slightly to give himself the opportunity to visually confirm the target once it appeared. The sterilized, unmarked and unnumbered weapons system on his shoulder seemed perfectly suited to his anticipated task.
They meant you to kill a tank.
You should certainly erase a Carrera.
Bernie Schuster walked to the outer edge of the parking facility's second level, content to watch his Porsche roll if he could not actually be the one to drive it. Klaus wheeled the vehicle out onto the boulevard with care and accelerated away with a gratifying roar, one letting Schuster know his trusted mechanic also appreciated the sleek automobile’s spirit.
Damn. You’re beautiful, and you’re mine. Take care of her, buddy
. InterLynk’s XO had only just started to turn away when his ear registered a sound moving past the exterior of the ramp. His mind had not even registered the noise before the shock wave from an explosion down the street thumped into his chest. “
” he exclaimed involuntarily, ducking as fragments and debris rattled against the concrete of the structure protecting him.
What the hell?
Pivoting back to his former position, he felt his world spin.
My friggin’ Porsche just blew up!
Car alarms, both inside the parking garage and out, noisily sounded their protests. Schuster frantically scanned the scene again without finding his beloved ride. The twisted pile of metal now blocking both lanes on the avenue outside had to be Baby.
My car … oh, goddammit … they got Klaus, too!
The shakes hit him at the same time as reality before Schuster dug out his cell to call in the emergency.
Son of a bitch! That was supposed to have been me!
Chapter 16 - Cause and Effect
Boone heard Ritter’s cell phone sound off within seconds of the
outside. The sensation
she knew, the former USSOCOM operative must have also perceived as some type of explosion. She ducked into her Director’s next-door office and could hear by the high-volume squawks emanating from his mobile device it could only be Schuster, his voice in full panic mode. Seeing her coming, Ritter switched his cellular over to speakerphone.
“They just blew my damned car to smithereens, that’s what happened! I watched the kid from the garage drive away, and then … fuckin’
Ritter glanced up at her. “Geneva PD and Fire. ASAP.”
She picked up his desk phone's handset and rang Franz downstairs, her voice terse once the man answered. “Franz, the explosion outside was Bernie’s car. Call it in to 117 and 118, and lock down the entrance. We’re going out for a look.”
Jawohl, Fraulein Doktorin,
” was the only reply she needed to hear.
Looking at her as if he concurred, Ritter asked, “Bernie, where are you?”
“Parking garage!” the man’s breathless voice gasped over the speaker.
“Well, stay there until we meet you. Boone and I will be out in a minute.”
Ritter grabbed his overcoat, inspiring Boone to do the same before she followed him toward the back stairwell and the below-ground passageway which would get them to Bernie without compromising Franz’s lockdown. Pulling on her coat, she was comforted by feel of the leather holding Little Swiss slapping at rib level under her business clothing as they moved quickly for the exit. Boone was glad she was armed. As for Ritter, she did not need to ask.
The scene remained all sirens, smoke and foam for a time, at least until the fire consuming what remained of Bernie’s vehicle was addressed. Franz joined them before the firefighters’ work gave way to that of the investigating Swiss authorities. Through the combined efforts of McAllen’s native Chief of Security and Boone exercising her tact and language skills, they finally convinced the Geneva PD—following a couple hours of the official investigation—to allow them a forensic look at what remained of a once really nice car.
Its engine and gearbox, laying in the roadway, gave the approximate location where Bernie’s mechanic Klaus had departed his earthly existence. The crater spread out from there, taking most of the charred lane.
“Car bomb? How did they plant it?” Schuster asked.
Ritter turned and looked behind them, toward the neighboring buildings, and then back to the wreckage. “I don’t think so. Look at the crater. A device on the vehicle would have left a symmetric blast pattern. This one is more of a teardrop shape.”
Boone looked down, peering at the pattern Sean referenced, and paced backward until it resolved into a more round shape. “Colonel, you’re right. This was a high-angle shot.” She, too, looked back toward the other office structures behind them. Calculating the slant, she raised her arm, finger pointing to the roof of the tallest building. “Up there … at least, they
Undoubtedly the operator’s long gone now.”
” Schuster exclaimed in an incredulous tone.
“Good sized one, too. Antitank weapon.” Ritter looked down the street on a line toward the attacker’s presumed position. “I’m not seeing the guide wire from a TOW or something similar. It must have been either a heat seeker or visual guidance.” He looked at his colleague and smirked. “You ought to feel
Bern. Someone just spent forty grand or so trying to make you into a memory.”