AnnotationLarry Collins, Dominique Lapierre
The Subject: The ultimate terrorist threat.
The Target: New York City
In Libya, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi has secretly, painstakingly succeeded, with the help of borrowed and stolen Western technology and his immense oil revenues, in constructing a three-megaton nuclear device.
His target is not Jerusalem, but New York; his aim is to hold the city for ransom against the establishment of an autonomous Palestinian state. If he does not get his way, the bomb, smuggled into the country and hidden, will go off in thirty-six hours, killing millions of New Yorkers.
There are just 36 hours to save 8,000,000 people from a threat they can't even be warned about — a threat that could be happening as you read this…
The Fifth Horseman
And I looked and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9
The rain, the bitter rain of winter, flayed the window with its silken lash, sending jagged rivulets coursing down its plateglass surface. The man peered out, across the empty canyons, into the black recesses of the night. He shuddered. No night to be on the water. His eyes strained for a glimpse of the familiar outlines of the harbor at his feet, the lowlying lights of the Jersey docks, the tip of Governor’s Island, the distant blink of West Bank Light out beyond the Verrazano Bridge.
Behind him a Teleprinter clacked. He glanced at his watch. It was a few seconds after midnight. Twenty miles out to sea, the first incoming freighter to enter the Port of New York on this Wednesday, December 9, had just arrived off Ambrose Light, passing as she did into U.S. Customs control. The man turned to his desk. He was, from his command post in Room 2158 of the World Trade Center, responsible for the Customs control of the harbor for the next eight hours. He opened the logbook on his desk to a fresh page and entered at its head the date of the new day beginning in the records of the Port of New York. Then he tore off the piece of paper spewed out by the Teleprinter and diligently entered the scanty information it provided on the 7,422nd ship to enter the harbor that year: her name, the Dionysos; the flag she flew, Panamanian; her destination, Pier 3 of the Brooklyn Ocean Terminal.
When he had finished, he flicked the Dionysos’ name onto the keyboard of the computer terminal beside his desk. The terminal was linked to the NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. The record of any criminal violation in the history of the Dionysos from the seizure of a kilo of heroin in her hull to the brawling of one of her seamen in a Galveston, Texas, bar would be reproduced in seconds on the screen above his keyboard. He noted the lime-green column of light forming there: “No Record of Violation.”
He grunted and marked the letters “N.R.” beside the Dionysos’ name in the space his log provided, evidence there was no reason for the U.S. Customs to be concerned with the aged freighter riding the heavy swell of the Ambrose-Barnegat Channel.
For generations a little red ship tossing on the edge of the Atlantic’s angry tides had been the sentry post before the New World, the harbinger to millions of men and women of the Promised Land. The old Ambrose Lightship was gone now, a museum piece moored to a pier in lower Manhattan. The Ambrose Light off which the Dionysos waited in the predawn darkness was a Texas oil-drilling platform, a dull-gray structure topped by a cluster of radar antennas and a helicopter pad. Beyond the steel piles that held it to the ocean floor, the bottomless gray seas rolled down to the Bay of Biscay and all the shores of Europe. Behind it, a pale glow stained the horizon, the reflected lights of the great city to which Ambrose was the gateway.
On his bridge the master of the Dionysos stared impatiently at those beckoning fights. The rain had eased now, softening to a cold spray that stung his bearded face. Beneath his feet he could feel his vessel’s aging plates creak with each toss of the Atlantic’s waves. She was one of the few Liberty ships, the DC-3s of the oceans, still in commission. From the Anzio beachhead through a score of owners and half a dozen flags, she had hauled cargo and contraband around the world for almost forty years.
The company under whose registry she now sailed, Transocean Shippers, had been incorporated six months earlier under public deed 5671 issued by Notary Public Three of the Circuit of the City of Panama. The address given on its registry certificate was that of a small law firm in Panama’s Calle Mercado. In the law firm’s files, the company’s headquarters was carried as a post-office box in Lucerne, Switzerland. As was the case with most of the world’s shipping, from supertankers to obscure fishing vessels, all trace of the Dionysos’ owners ended there at an anonymous post-office box.
The Sandy Hook pilot on the bridge beside the master grunted and tossed his cigar overboard. The time had come to start the Dionysos up the Ambrose Channel to port.
The master watched as off to starboard the low silhouette of Jones Beach gave way to the outlines of Coney Island and the squat shadows of the tenements of the Rockaways. There was no sound on the bridge except the intermittent clang of the buoy bells rocking in the darkness on the Atlantic’s swell and, rising from below, the slap of sea on steel.
Then, suddenly, the master knew that the man was there. Without even looking he sensed his brooding presence on the bridge. He glanced sideways and saw him, the Dionysos’ only passenger. He was hunched over the starboard rail, his back to the master and the pilot, his black leather jacket’s collar turned up to ward off the rain, a checked tweed cap jammed tight over his ears. Silently, he stared at the oncoming shore. The master moved to his side.
“Not cold?” he murmured.
There was no reply.* * *
The man drew a cigarette from the pocket of his leather jacket. He did not offer the master one. He struck a match, cupping its flame with the cradle of his palm as he did — the swift, practical reflex of a man long accustomed to lighting cigarettes in the open, in defiance of the wind. In its brief glow the master saw again the uneven welt of the flesh of the scar that ran from the passenger’s left ear down to his shirt collar.
The passenger was in his early thirties. He was not tall; barely an inch or two taller than the stubby master. He was lean; but even there in the darkness on the bridge the master could sense the heavy roll of his shoulders, the bulge of an upper chest so muscled that it was out of proportion with the rest of his body. Probably a weight lifter, the master had thought when he saw him first, sitting on the edge of his bed in the cabin the ship’s owners had ordered the master to turn over to him.
His hands were wrapped tightly around the railing of the bridge, his knuckles seeming to emit a whitish glow, as if, driven by some inner strain, he was trying to rip the rail from its moorings. They were frightening, those hands, crude blocks of flesh. The passenger had spent hours during the voyage hardening them, hammering them against the ship’s bulkheads in karatelike blows.
“Been to New York before?” the master asked.
The passenger turned his eyes to him. They were pale blue, a blue as fragile, as delicate as the blue of old Wedgewood porcelain; the only fragile aspect, the master had often thought, of the passenger’s being.
There was no hint of feeling in them now. They were as cold and as remote as the sea around them. He looked at the master, studying him for a long moment. Then, wordlessly, he returned to his silent contemplation of the shoreline.
Ahead a blinking beacon beckoned to the Dionysos, West Bank Light. She hove to starboard around the light, leaving off to port the most dangerous spot in the harbor, Roman Shoals. On her new course, she pointed up the Narrows, her prow bearing straight for Verrazano Bridge. Suddenly, there in the light of breaking day was the prodigious spectacle that had brought joy and hope to so many millions: the towers of Manhattan emerging from the mists, dark tree trunks of a petrified forest of glass and steel, tips brushed by the scudding clouds.
The Dionysos sailed straight ahead toward the skyline rising before her prow. The master could distinguish the buildings of lower Manhattan now. He pointed them out to his passenger, the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Chase Manhattan Plaza, the Bell Telephone Building. Finally, he waved toward the familiar figure in her greenish robes of bronze, lost almost against the imposing backdrop.
“Statue of Liberty,” he announced. “Recognize her? You must’ve seen pictures of her.”
The passenger gazed at him. Again his face was expressionless, as void of emotion as a pharaonic mask.
“No,” he said.
Then he turned away and spat down at the dirty green water sliding along the hull.
The Dionysos’ horn shuddered the air. Shifting her course away from Manhattan’s beckoning skyscrapers, she swung east to the lowlying piers of Brooklyn, toward three long piers pushing out to sea on wooden piles, their surfaces darkened to the color of dried blood by seaweed and algae.
Two generations of GIs had sailed away from those decaying piers of the old Brooklyn Army Terminal, off to the trenches of Belleau Wood or the beaches of Normandy. Along the roof of the middle pier was a last reminder of the great crusades that had begun and ended here. The words painted there to greet millions of GIs returning from Europe had been a bright blue once, as bright and fresh as the hopes they had stirred. Now they were a lusterless gray, a fitting match to Brooklyn’s drab, decaying docks. The passenger strained to read them in the early light. “WELCOME HOME,” they said.
Shortly after the Dionysos had moored, an inspector of the U.S. Customs and an officer of the Immigration and Naturalization Service appeared at the top of her gangplank. The master escorted them to the ship’s small wardroom, where he signed before the Customs inspector four copies of one of the oldest and most traditional documents of the world’s sea lanes, a ship’s manifest.
“Report and Manifest of the cargo laden on board the S.S. Dionysos whereof Mr. Saltaferro is master, sailing from Piraeus and bound to New York,” it began. Below was listed and described every piece of cargo the Dionysos carried, the shipper and consignee, the port at which she had taken it on and the port for which it was destined. Because of the letters “N.R.”
entered next to her name in the port’s log the night before, her Customs inspection ended there with the master’s signature.
Meanwhile, the mate had mustered the crew before the INS officer. Each seaman presented his seaman’s book to the officer and was issued an I-95, a crewman’s landing permit, which would allow him to come and go freely while the ship was in port. The INS officer handed the crew list to the master for his signature.
“No passengers?” he asked.
The master laughed. He gestured at his ship’s tawdry wardroom, littered with old Greek newspapers, faded pinups, its wood panels reeking with the odor of rancid olive oil.
“Does she look like the QE2?”
The INS officer laughed, too.* * *
The passenger watched the officials leaving the ship from the porthole of the master’s cabin. When they had left, he removed his belt and unzipped the zipper which ran along its interior. From the pocket inside he removed a pile of hundred-dollar bills. He counted out five and fitted the rest back into his money belt.
He stepped into the next room, the master’s office, and looked around. An old copy of Playboy lay on the master’s desk. He opened it to the centerfold, carefully inserted the money, then closed the magazine, went back to the cabin, shut the door and lay down on the bed.
Roughly thirty minutes later, there was a knock on the cabin’s main door.
“Who is it?” the man called out from the bedroom.
“I have something here for you. From Laila,” a voice answered from the office.
“Put it in the middle of the Playboy on the desk. There’s something there for you. Take it and go.”
A tall gangly youth, his head totally shaven in response to some bizarre urge, entered the office and picked up the Playboy.
The man in the bedroom waited a few seconds after bearing the door slam behind the departing messenger. Then he rushed to the office to open the envelope that had been left behind. It contained a Social Security card and a piece of paper with an address and a telephone number. Below them was scrawled one word: “Welcome.” The man smiled. This time, he thought, the word meant what it said. Suddenly he went taut. The door was opening behind him. The bald young messenger was back at the door. He stared for an instant at the passenger. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “I forgot my hat.” He moved to pick it up and leave.