December 2003 Release from
December 2003 Release from
THE WINSLOW ESTATE
and Jackie arrived at the residence of Hartwell Prost, his longstanding
butler answered the door. A trim, distinguished looking gentleman
with impeccable manners, Zachary always had a genial smile to
Sullivan-Mr. Dalton, what a pleasure to see you again."
good to see you," Scott said while Jackie extended her arms.
Zachary responded with a gentle embrace. "Please come in. Mr. Prost is on the veranda."
have you been?" Scott asked as Zachary led them through the
"I've been splendid," he replied without turning around. "Thank you for asking."
They followed Zachary to the roofed back porch extending half the length of the mansion. When Jackie and Scott stepped outside, they detected the distinctive whiff of mesquite smoke.
Hartwell was sitting in an Adirondack chair, sipping a beer and puffing on a Cuban cigar. Next to him was a wooden tub filled with assorted brands of beer buried in ten pounds of crushed ice. The brick, four by eight-foot grill was loaded with an array of barbecue selections, including beef, chicken, ribs, and turkey. The mesquite smoke, mingled with Prost's favorite barbecue sauce, gave off a pleasing scent that whetted the appetite.
The serving table was loaded with several side dishes, Spode bone china dinner plates, freshly polished silverware, finger bowls, and stacks of cloth napkins the size of kitchen towels. Hartwell's chef, a large, raw-boned woman with a pronounced Bostonian accent tended the barbecue and the simmering pot of baked beans. Though Molly McCallister never attended a formal culinary school, she could match any chef de cuisine in quality of preparation and presentation.
Prost extracted two beers from the sea of ice, placed them on the table, and then dried his hands on a towel. He stood to great his guests and reached for Jackie's hand. "How was the flight?"
smooth as silk," she said with a wide smile.
"Yeah, the real captain is shorter than I am."
laughed good-naturedly. "I hope you're hungry."
Jackie admitted, surveying the abundant array of food. "Looks
like we'll have enough for seconds."
never runs short on food," Hartwell said with a hint of pride.
"After one of her spreads, Zachary and I eat leftovers-at
least three days worth."
fanfare, Scott placed a bottle of 1987 Chateau Montelena Cabernet
Sauvignon on the dining table.
opened the beers and handed the first one to Jackie.
Hartwell said, handing Scott a beer. "You can stay in the
guest lodge and head home tomorrow."
Jackie's quick smile. "Sounds great," he said. "I'll
call the FBO and tell them we'll be staying overnight."
him her cell phone while he fished the Signature Flight Support
business card out of his wallet.
worry," she said under her breath. "I packed a bag for
us. It's in the back seat."
think of everything."
has to," she said with an innocent look.
completed his call, they fixed their plates and enjoyed the old-fashioned
barbecue dinner. Old-fashioned that is, except for Scott's bottle
of Cabernet and a bottle of Cotes-du-Rhone wine from Hartwell's
meal, Molly and Zachary cleared the table while Hartwell charged
his guest's wine glasses. "Let's take a walk."
Jackie picked up their glasses and followed Hartwell. Prost led
them past the swimming pool and tennis court to a large, ornate
gazebo. After they were seated on the raised deck, Prost cast
a look across the pond at the two horse stables.
gaze still fixed in the distance, he began the conversation. "I'll
bring you up to date, and then we'll explore our options regarding
Zheng Yen-Tsung. A Dallas police officer found the vehicle we
believe Zheng was driving."
you sure it was Zheng?" Jackie asked.
but the vehicle was stolen and then abandoned at Love Field. It's
a white Buick Century identical to the one witnesses described.
The window on the driver's side was blown out, and there were
two streaks of blood on the driver's door. We're betting it will
match the blood of the Fort Worth policeman."
Hartwell's eye. "As it stands now, we really don't know if
it was Zheng?"
And that leads me to the next subject. Are you familiar with the
name Saeed Shayhidi?"
the name. "Isn't he the billionaire shipping mogul?"
in the same." A smile of satisfaction crossed Hartwell's
face. "We have hard evidence that he recruited terrorists
from the al-Qaeda network. This came from two senior al-Qaeda
leaders recently captured near Khowst, Afghanistan."
Shayhidi's profile?" Scott asked.
a cleaver, cautious man who takes great pains to conduct his affairs
in a stealth mode, but he's made a few mistakes recently."
a fresh cigar from his shirt pocket. "Pryor to the assault
on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Shayhidi was recruiting
key members of al-Qaeda and key figures from other international
mouth quirked in wry remembrance of the secret meeting in the
Canadian Maritimes. "Just prior to the Usama bin Laden-Taliban
campaign, the Russians agreed with us on the deployment of tactical
nuclear weapons near Afghanistan. Actually, at the military air
base in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, along with three
other locations in the area."
to light his cigar. "In turn, we assented to Russia deploying
several tactical nukes around Chechnya. One of our CIA retirees,
a savvy Central Asian expert named Dennis Stambaugh, was recruited
to oversee the Russian deployment. Stambaugh was having a late-night
dinner with the senior Russian nuclear expert when the Russki,
well into his cups of vodka, bragged about his former military
boss selling suitcase nukes to one of Shayhidi's right-hand men.
was our first big break." Prost inhaled the aromatic smoke
and slowly released it. "The NSA has been using an updated
version of Echelon, the name is still classified-let's just call
it Echelon II. They're using it to monitor Saeed Shayhidi's e-mail
and phone conversations to three members of his terrorist network."
who was knowledgeable in the world of electronic monitoring, was
surprised by the unexpected disclosure. "I didn't know they
had a new version of Echelon. Must be an incredible leap forward
for NSA to keep it under such tight wraps."
it's a quantum increase in technology," Hartwell said with
a knowing smile. "The new system is designed to deal with
some of the thorny encryption problems we ran into with the earlier
version. It still has some bugs, but we're slowly working them
flicked ashes from the end of his cigar. "Shayhidi has no
idea what we know, but I can assure you, we have a major problem
Scott exchanged a questioning glance.
II, our unmanned aerial vehicles, and our space-based assets have
produced a windfall of intelligence about another campaign of
terror aimed at America, even more ambitious than the attack on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The primary link in the
chain of evidence clearly ties Shayhidi to the planned attacks."
reached into his pocket, then unfolded a piece of paper. He handed
Scott the picture of Shayhidi that included his physical description,
and information about his ties to various terrorist-related crimes.
his wine. "From what we know, again using the technology
of Echelon II, satellites, various recon assets, and UAVs, his
terrorist cells in the U.S. are preparing to embark on an all-out
assault on American soil. And, we believe he is preparing to bring
in hundreds of reinforcements for the "sleepers" who
are already here."
a question. "Can't we stop them at our borders?"
sighed. "We're still being invaded almost daily by members
of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations."
border problem should have been fixed by now," Jackie insisted."
making progress, but it's like one person trying to plug forty
holes in the dike. It's going to take a lot more people and assets.
According to the CIA, hundreds of "freedom fighters"
are pouring into the US every month. The newcomers are distributing
an "Encyclopedia Jihad" that contains elaborate bomb-building
instructions and other advice for newly trained insurgents."
Montreal connection?" Jackie suspected.
shook his head in frustration. "Yes. That's a serious problem
for us. In the last few years, Canada has become a "Disneyland"
for terrorists, estimated to be five to six thousand strong."
forward in his chair. "Many of them, including female "Tigresses"
with degrees from MIT, Stanford, Brandeis, and other prestigious
schools are arriving in Montreal. They make their way to the Canadian
Rocky Mountains on the western side of the Continental Divide.
From there, they are filtering across the border at night and
disappearing into Washington, Idaho, and Montana," he said
through a cloud of cigar smoke.
what we know, they live inconspicuously. Canadian law enforcement
officers recently apprehended two Islamic extremists outside the
Sunnah Al-Nabawiah Mosque in Montreal."
ones with the explosives?" Jackie asked.
right. One of them, Ahmed Abun-Nasr, was a member of Egypt's Vanguards
of Conquest. Abun-Nasr has assassinated three Egyptian politicians
who were pro-American and outspoken about it. Shayhidi is one
of his supporters.
any rate," Hartwell continued, "these two thugs had
counterfeit US visas, fake birth certificates, and phony Social
Security numbers. They also had a station wagon filled with enough
high explosives to bring down the Empire State Building."
about the Border Patrol agents?" Scott interrupted. "Have
we added more officers to that area?"
eighty as of yesterday, including three dozen more FBI agents
disguised as vacationers or locals. But the border is still so
poorly staffed that terrorists and explosives are slipping through
on a daily basis. In the area we're most concerned about, there
are close to sixty smuggling corridors, heavily used day and night,
that have had their electronic motion and heat sensors destroyed."
his head. "That's amazing, just amazing after the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon. We have over nine thousand
agents patrolling the two-thousand mile Mexican border and what,
three-hundred, maybe four-hundred agents for the 5,500 miles of
to four-hundred agents," Hartwell said. "There are some
places that aren't even patrolled. Many crossings in sparsely
populated areas are closed at ten p.m. and left unattended until
the next morning."
at Prost and shrugged. "Terrific, put out the orange cones
and head to the tavern."
about it. Some of the sectors don't have jail space for illegal
aliens, so they're released to await trial."
joking." Jackie's eyes were wide in disbelief.
wish I could joke about it," Prost said. "The agents
call the process their 'catch and release' program."
" Scott said with a touch of sarcasm.
president is working on the problem as we speak. As you know,
our relationship with the Canadian government since the war in
Iraq hasn't been exactly cozy. President Macklin and the homeland
commander-in-chief are dealing directly with the Immigration and
Naturalization Service and senior Canadian authorities. We're
going to use forces from the Marines, Army, and National Guard
units to help patrol the Canadian border until we can train more
"At the other end of the spectrum, heavily armed Mexican
soldiers and Mexican police are increasingly crossing our border
to provide cover for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Violence
is spiraling out of control. All of this is happening while Border
Patrol agents are resigning in droves.
drug problem is especially prevalent along a 100-mile stretch
of desert between the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and
the Coronado National Forest. Mexican drug smugglers will account
for eighty percent of the cocaine and fifty percent of the heroin
that reaches the streets of America. During the past three weeks
heavily armed Mexican soldiers, inside our border in Humvees,
have fired on Border Patrol air units near Copper Canyon in California
and Vamori, Arizona."
we're not doing anything?" Jackie asked.
of tomorrow afternoon or evening, depending on how long our meeting
with the Mexican ambassador lasts, National Guard troops will
be assisting the Border Patrol agents along critical areas of
the Mexican border. Mostly crossing points."
curiosity was aroused. "What about the Posse Comitatus Act?"
a genuine concern," Hartwell admitted. "Under the circumstances,
many people on Capitol Hill are calling for a congressional review
of the act. Involving the military in domestic policing is going
to offend a lot of people, but the president has to do what's
best for all the citizens.
top of everything else," Hartwell went on, "we have
a serious problem brewing in our own backyard, our southern flank,
Central and South America. Latin American countries are teetering
on the brink of financial collapse and total chaos. Crisis seems
endemic to that region and it's getting worse by the day.
biggest threat to the region is terrorism orchestrated by the
pro-Castro, pro-Iraq radical regime in Venezuela. Terrorism and
terrorist training camps are spreading like wildfire throughout
Central and South America. The instability is moving many struggling
countries into an anti-American, anti-free market direction.
of Hamas and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah have established terrorist
operations in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Argentina, and
Brazil. The region has become a haven for Islamic extremists who
have bombed Jewish and Israeli compounds in Buenos Aires."
tense. "In addition to that breeding ground, Hezbollah and
al-Qaeda are extremely active in training terrorists in the common
border area of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. We have clear evidence
that many of these tri-border terrorists from both regions are
making their way by seagoing freighters to Vancouver, British
Columbia, and then coming across our border in eastern Washington
expression hardened. "This terrorism problem is the reason
I wanted to visit with you in person. President Macklin and I
want to keep this information quiet until we're ready to make
his gaze across the wooded hills. "Homeland security is a
priority at the White House and at the Pentagon. We don't want
to create any undue anxiety for the public. The Twin Towers and
the Pentagon catastrophes are still on people's minds."
certainly on mine," Jackie said.
puffed on his cigar and continued. "As a supplement to our
undercover FBI agents on the ground, we would like the two of
you, using a civilian helicopter, to concentrate on tracking these
illegal infiltrators from the time they leave Canada until they
reach their destination, or destinations. See if you can figure
out where they're gathering and, most importantly, what their
Scott shared a concerned look.
do you think?" Prost asked, sensing their lack of enthusiasm.
"You seem concerned."
do the best we can," Scott said with a frown. "As you
know, they slip in and out of the shadows like ghosts. Don't know
how effective we'll be at tracking them."
do your best, see what develops." Hartwell tapped ashes from
his cigar. "We're using a great number of other assets, but
we know there is no substitute for on-site human intelligence.
President Macklin and I appreciate your direct situation reports,
the unfiltered truth. Your sitreps are a real contrast to the
watered down assessments we receive through various bureaucracies."
Jackie made momentary eye contact, but neither said anything.
Both suspected not all the cards were on the table.
a long stream of cigar smoke. "As usual, we'll provide anything
you need, weapons, equipment, intelligence information, et cetera,
just say the word."
already thinking about some of the base weapons of a SEAL platoon's
firepower. "We like the H & K P9S, the Smith & Wesson
357, and the H & K MP5 submachine gun."
make a list," Hartwell said evenly. "One other thing.
If you locate any terrorist cells, we prefer you not act
unilaterally, unless your lives are in danger. We want to have
plenty of backup before we take on any of them."
Scott said and then hesitated. "How closely are the president's
people working with the INS?"
closely. After the latest developments, he and General Jamison
are working directly with the Canadians and the INS."
himself before he spoke. "Sir, forgive me for asking, but
couldn't the FBI handle an operation like this?" He didn't
wait for an answer. "Is there a bigger problem?"
a few moments, starring at the wooden deck beneath his feet. He
slowly raised his head. "Actually, there is a much bigger problem," he said wearily. "I was going to wait
until morning, after the president's daily brief from the CIA,
to discuss it with you."
locked gazes with Jackie and then Scott. "This is so confidential
that only a handful of people know about it."
Scott and Jackie exchanged another glance.
days ago, a U.S. Border Patrol agent stumbled onto a special-action
cell of terrorists crossing the Canadian border close to the junction
of the Idaho-Montana state line. There was a shootout and the
agent killed three terrorists while he was calling for backup.
When another agent arrived a few minutes later, he discovered
his friend had died from gunshot wounds."
can you be so sure they were terrorists?" Scott asked.
his voice. "They left behind a Russian-manufactured suitcase-size
kidding?" Jackie said.
It's probably like the one Scott discovered onboard Sweet Life.
Only this one has definitely been modified."
so?" Jackie asked.
timing device has been moved to accommodate a fabricated band
of steel, actually four bands, that encompassed the weapon. The
bands, which were not installed, appear to be a brace of some
Hartwell's eyes. "Maybe they were used to attach the bomb
to the shipping container, some kind of protective device."
don't know, but they're round, intersect at opposing poles at
forty-five degree angles and bolt to the bomb."
mind conjured images of nuclear weapons being detonated in the
heart of New York City. "Do we know if any other nukes have
slipped into the country?"
we do," he answered in a hushed voice. "Through Echelon
II we know the terrorists who were killed were members of one
of seven teams smuggling nukes into our country. Each team was
responsible for one bomb. We don't know where the other six groups
sat in silence for a moment while the gravity of the situation
impacted Jackie and Scott.
finally broke the silence. "We have solid information, corroborated
by intelligence on the ground, that these nukes originated in
the Ukraine. A company named Yuzhmash, Ukraine's largest rocket
maker, has a close defense-technology relationship with Syria
and Iran. What we don't know is whether the bombs came from Syria
or Iran. At any rate, we've been able to connect these seven nukes
directly to Khaliq Farkas."
Jackie and Scott asked in unison.
Farkas is working for Saeed Shayhidi. On Shayhidi's orders, Farkas
will activate the other six cells. We believe that time is near.
That's why we need the two of you involved in this operation.
Like I said, only a handful of people know about this. We want
to keep this totally contained, away from Congress and possible
leaks to the media. Don't want to spook the public or cause Farkas
to go underground."
allowed them to absorb the revelation. "Sure, the FBI can
help to a point, but if push comes to shove and we locate these
nukes, we don't want to have to get a search warrant. We can't
afford to get tied up in legal quicksand and have the news hit
Jackie nodded their understanding.
we receive more information, I'll be feeding it to you. For now,
we want you to familiarize yourselves with the northwestern states
where the terrorists are infiltrating the borders."
Prost took a long drag on his cigar. "The bottom line. Find Farkas and the nukes before Shayhidi activates the other six cells."
COPYRIGHT © 2004 by Joe Weber