Adams yelped and grabbed himself. “What in the hell is wrong with you?”
“I was your only chance, you dumb ass. All I wanted was the slightest sign of remorse, and instead I got more of your pompous defiance.” He turned for the door.
“Where are you going?” Adams asked in a voice that had suddenly lost its command.
“To get the man you think so little of.”
“Wait!” Adams said in a voice that finally betrayed a bit of fear.
Hurley didn’t bother to turn around. “You blew it. Now you get to find out firsthand if torture works.”
RAPP checked his watch. He had thirty minutes at the most and then he would have to hightail it up to Langley. He wasn’t worried about his alibi. Should the feds come knocking, he’d send them to Hurley, and as long as the tough bastard kept breathing, he’d tell them that Rapp had arrived shortly before seven the previous evening and stayed the night. As to what they’d discussed and done during the roughly twelve hours since, they could confidently tell the feds to pound sand. The agents might not like it, but the men and women of the clandestine service had good reason for being tight-lipped with them and the good ones knew it.
What bothered Rapp was the fact that there were more important things for him to be dealing with—like trying to find the three terrorists who had vanished. They had launched a manhunt like nothing he’d witnessed in his nearly twenty years of service. Every law enforcement officer in the country was on high alert, and so far they’d only come up with thousands of false leads. Seven days postattack they finally started looking at different scenarios. At first they’d concentrated on the airports, the borders, and the big ports. The Navy had boarded and searched twenty vessels that were deemed suspicious. Not a single person had been able to explain to Rapp what intelligence had landed those ships in the suspicious category, but he’d learned enough over the years to not try to swim against the current. The Navy was simply doing what they were ordered, and those orders were coming from men and women who would rather look busy and earnest than get thoughtful.
Now they’d moved on to the smaller marinas, airstrips, and remote border crossings. In Rapp’s opinion, and he’d voiced it rather loudly, this should have been the area of focus from the beginning. The men who were behind the attacks had shown a discipline and level of sophistication that he was sure would lead them to be every bit as creative and careful in their escape. Despite all the hard-working and devoted individuals who work for it, the federal government is not a precise instrument. In the post–9/11 world the training was better, the equipment was superior, and the ability to share information in real time had improved dramatically, but the alphabet soup of government agencies had also grown. As only Washington could do, layer after layer of bureaucracy was added, all in the name of streamlining the federal government’s ability to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack.
Rapp, and a handful of others, had predicted how the politicians would react. The very room he was standing in was proof that they had been right, and that they’d managed to stay one step ahead of the lemmings as they continued to do what they thought would be least offensive to the very men they were fighting. And now, on top of trying to find out where the terrorists were, he had to deal with this sideshow—this little drama with Glen Adams. It was adding undue stress to an already difficult situation. Rapp hadn’t liked it when Hurley asked him to bring Adams down to the lake house, but knowing the family history he conceded. Looking back on it now, Rapp wished he’d flown out over the Atlantic and dumped Adams out the rear luggage hatch of the G500 at about five thousand feet. It would have been a lot easier.
Now Rapp and the others had to stand around and watch this painfully slow tragedy unfold in real time. Rapp had been through this enough times to know that once you decided a man had to be killed there was no sense putting it off. The hand-wringing and moral debate had to take place up front. In Adams’s case, that meant before they even picked him up. Once that was done there was no turning back. You couldn’t undo the fact that they’d already broken a number of laws. Yet here Nash was making waves. No doubt it had something to do with the strain they’d been under lately, but even so, Rapp expected more from him.
Rapp had seen it before, usually in the military, where despite amazing effort, the use of force was not always as precise as they would like. One too many innocent bystanders blown up by a bomb or killed by an errant bullet, and you were likely to have the occasional foot soldier check out. It wasn’t always easy to detect. Everyone acted different in the days immediately following an engagement with the enemy. Especially the first twenty-four hours after combat. It was not unusual, for instance, for one of the men to become quiet. The noncommissioned officers put up with it to a point, but if that brooding turned into questions about the morality of the mission, the noncoms stepped on it quick and hard. If a trooper or Marine couldn’t snap out of it, they were gone. Effective fighting units were not the place to debate the ethics of urban warfare. The integrity and effectiveness of the unit could not tolerate it, so the men either snapped to, or were dumped.
Rapp was beginning to question if he would have to do the same thing with some of his men. He would not have guessed that Nash would be one of the problems. He looked across the room at the retired Marine officer who was giving Lewis an earful, and thought it must be the stress of the past week. None of them had slept much, and Nash knew the men and women who worked at the Counterterrorism Center much better than he did. Watching tough men in full combat gear die on a mountain range was hard enough, but was not incongruous with the mission or the surroundings. Watching civilians blown away at point-blank range in an office setting was an entirely different matter, though. Rapp had begun moving toward Nash and the doctor, when he heard his name called from the overhead speaker.
“Mitch, get in here and bring the file.”
Rapp stopped. It was Hurley. He would have to wait and talk to Nash in the car on their way back to D.C.
DESPITE the urging of the mentally challenged Moroccan, Hakim took his time. He put on his pants and a shirt before grabbing his pistol and gas mask. He’d thought about this exact moment many times since purchasing the safe house. Escape was an illusion. Yes, they might make it to the river, but America was a country with vast resources. In the aftermath of the attacks on the Towers a
nd the Pentagon every county and city in the country had received federal dollars to bolster law enforcement and critical response to terrorist attacks.
Local law enforcement went on a spending spree, snatching up state-of-the-art communications gear, biohazard suits, and weapons that rivaled those used by elite Special Forces units. Budgets for training increased in some cases by a thousand percent. Planes and helicopters with night vision equipment were added to the arsenal as well as boats and specialized vehicles of all shapes and sizes. And that was just at the local level. Chicago was less than an hour away by air, and the FBI Field Office there had a SWAT team that was considered every bit as good as their venerable Hostage Rescue Team that they kept in Quantico, Virginia.
Hakim, in general, was equal parts optimistic and pragmatic, but on this issue it was hard to be optimistic. He knew from the moment he found this place that they would be dead if the Americans ever found them. They went through the motions of discussing escape routes, and the provisions had been put in place, but both he and Karim knew it would do them little good. Ahmed, on the other hand, was probably naïve enough to think they could get away.
Hakim started down the hallway at an almost casual pace, his pistol in his right hand and his gas mask in the other. He made no attempt to stay low to the ground. The Americans would not fire first. They would try to contact them, ascertain the situation, negotiate their surrender, and if all of that failed they would strike or they might simply wait them out. That last point concerned Karim more than any other. If they were going to go down, he wanted to do it in one final, glorious battle, taking as many Americans with him as possible. The idea of being surrounded and forced to choose between suicide and surrender was extremely unappealing.
A few steps before Hakim reached the front of the house he heard the squawk of a radio. It was Ahmed calling out the distance to his targets. Hakim walked past the center staircase and reached the front portion of the house. A small dining room was on his left and a living room on his right. Karim was in the living room, kneeling at the window ledge, peering through the lace curtain.
Karim looked at Hakim and ordered, “Get down.”
Hakim ignored him and walked straight to the front door, where he looked through the small twelve-by-twelve-inch window. Two men were coming up the gravel driveway and they were definitely dressed in orange—orange hats and orange vests. Hakim was slack-jawed for a moment, and then began to snicker as he thought of Ahmed’s confusion. In Afghanistan the Americans would drape their vehicles and positions in orange panels to reduce the chances of their own planes bombing them. Ahmed assumed these men were wearing orange for the same reason—that they were federal agents and they did not want their own men shooting them.
“Get down,” Karim hollered.
“Relax,” Hakim said. “They are hunters.”
“How do you know?”
Hakim often grew tired of having to explain the obvious to his friend. “Hunting is very popular in this part of America. Animals are color-blind. They wear orange so they don’t get shot by another hunter.”