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Cyclops One DeFelice Jim




6

“Make sure there’s no cash in the envelope,” said Blitz. “Then dump the cookies.”

“Want me to give them to the security people?”

“No way,” insisted Blitz. “Take them downstairs to the lobby, find some four- or five-year-old, and tell them it’s an early Christmas.”

“They look good,” said Mozelle, who was eyeing one of the rum cakes.

“The Devil always does. Please, before I’m tempted to find out who sent them and hold it against them.”

“Secretary of State’s office called: They want another conference on India and Pakistan in half an hour. Word is, the secretary wants to send a delegation,” added Mozelle.

“Just great. You volunteering?”

Mozelle laughed, then grew serious. “You are joking, right?”

“Yes.” Blitz folded his arms. “All right, I give in.”

Mozelle gave him a quizzical look.

“Give me one of those cookies. Then get rid of the tray.”

Chapter 4

Howe sat in the steel chair, staring at the blank white board at the front of the room, arms crossed, feet flat on the floor. The latest of the marathon debriefings had ended only a few minutes before, more or less as the others had ended: with his voice trailing off mid-sentence and the investigators standing around nervously waiting for him to continue.

Most likely they thought he was haunted by the accident, affected because he’d lost his wingman and lover. That wasn’t it: He just didn’t know what else to say. He’d gone over and over and over it until the words had no connection to what had happened.

Probably they didn’t know Megan was his lover. They’d always been pretty careful about that, and no one had brought it up yet.

He could feel her next to him, laughing.

“You’ve never seen Ben-Hur? The greatest movie ever made?”

She’d said that three weeks ago, in the Starr Bar, the little place they’d found “off campus” a good fifty miles away. Megan had started to explain the movie to him, shifting her body to take the different parts in the chariot race, moving fluidly in the dim light of the small room, mesmerizing him. She’d continued after they paid up and walked to the car, pausing for a kiss, continuing as they rode down the deserted highway back to North Lake.

That was the moment he’d realized there could be many conversations like that — long, meandering talks in the middle of the night. When they lived together, or got married, conversations would go on for hours and days, even; he’d hear her talk and watch her hands moving through the air, mimicking the beautiful curves of her body.

When they got married…? Had he thought that then?

No. That was something he was thinking now. He — they — hadn’t gotten that far. It wasn’t even hinted.

Howe had been married once, and it was a bust. But Megan was different, ideas flowing from her, thoughts—

And the sex, of course.

She had promised to buy Ben-Hur from Amazon.com so they could see it. The DVD had to take a roundabout route because of the covers involved in protecting the secrecy of the base; it hadn’t arrived yet.

It wasn’t so much her death as her complete disappearance that drove a hole in his chest.

“You’re Colonel Howe, right?”

Howe jerked his head around. A tallish man with a pallid face stood in the doorway, shadowed by a tall Air Force security sergeant. The civilian wore a somewhat disheveled gray suit; he might be athletic under it — he didn’t look fat or particularly thin — but his body slouched in a way that made it hard to tell.

“Who are you?” asked Howe.

“Fisher, FBI.”

“You think the planes got kidnapped?” said Howe, getting up. He decided he’d been interviewed enough today.

“Actually, I think they were used in a bank robbery. Got a minute?”

“No,” said Howe. “I have to go check on the search.”

“Ah, Jemma can screw that up on her own,” said Fisher. “And if not, she has about a million people helping her. I want to know about Captain Williams.”

“What about him?”

“What kind of guy was he?”

“What do you mean?”

“As a person.”

Howe shrugged.

“Did he like money?” asked Fisher, as if he knew the answer was yes.

“Money?” The other investigators had gone over the flight procedures and the myriad details of what had happened ad infinitum, but this came completely out of left field. “What the hell are you getting at?”

“How about York?”

“Megan York’s family’s richer than hell. One of her cousins is a congressman. What is it you want, Mr. Fisher?”

“Rest of the people on her crew? There were four all together, right, counting her?”

“You think we crashed the planes for money?”

“ ‘We’?”

Howe’s anger had risen so quickly it surprised even him. He felt as if he were looking at himself from across the room, watching his body pitch forward, his arms stiff at his sides, hands balled into fists. He stuck his face about six inches from the FBI agent’s; they were nearly the same height, with Fisher maybe an inch taller.

The agent didn’t flinch. His expression, in fact, remained the same: quizzical puzzlement mixed with a certain reserve wariness. Howe pulled his face back, sensing he’d been purposely provoked.

“I was just thinking those planes are worth a hell of a lot of cigarettes,” said Fisher.

“I don’t have time for this,” said Howe. He pushed past and out the door.

* * *

“Quick temper,” Fisher told the sergeant trailing him as he worked his way out of the rat-maze of administrative offices beneath the control-command level of the underground facility. “If this were Perry Mason,” said the FBI agent, “we’d figure he had something to hide.”

“I wouldn’t know about that,” said the sergeant.

“Johnson, if I accused you of taking a bribe, you’d get pissed off.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And if I accused your friend of taking a bribe, you’d probably also get pissed off.”

“Yes, sir, I would.”

“Yeah, me too. I can’t see why it changes anything for Perry. But he’s the man. Come on, let’s go see if the search parties have their coffee situation straightened out.”

Chapter 5

Captain Timothy “Blaze” Robinson — known as Timmy to his friends — pulled the F-16 through its turn gently, moving his whole body as he pressured the control stick. The Falcon did a graceful bank three thousand feet above the closest peak, tiptoeing around the Canadian Rockies as if afraid to wake them. Timmy nudged the aircraft straight and level, his movements the minimum needed to keep the plane on its course. He leaned his head toward the canopy, staring out at the terrain he’d been given to comb.

The search force included a half-dozen helicopters, several small propeller-driven craft that could fly low and slow in the mountains, a J-STARS aircraft with a bushel of sensors, and a U-2R providing near-real-time IR imaging. Still, Timmy flew as if finding his downed comrades were entirely on his shoulders. No high-tech sensor, no satellite image, could do a better job than his own eyes as they hunted through the shadowy slopes below. Two other pilots had taken this same workhorse F-16 over this same terrain on earlier shifts, but Timmy tracked over it as if it were virgin territory, sure that he would see something through the haze and persistent, lingering clouds.

By rights, Timmy should be the guy they were looking for. He was one of the F/A-22V pilots and ordinarily flew as Williams’s wingman; Colonel Howe had bumped him for the test, taking lead and slotting Williams behind him.

Timmy scanned his instruments, double-checking to make sure all systems were in the green. The F-16 had a smooth, easygoing personality, a can-do attitude that matched its versatility. She wasn’t particularly well suited to the SAR role, however; the propeller-driven and helicopter assets involved in the search could fly lower and slower much more comfortably, and had more eyes available for the search. That fact was reflected in Timmy’s assigned area, well out of the primary search grid. But neither the pilot nor the F-16 herself would have admitted this. Muscling her ailerons against the sharp wind vortices tossed off by the crags, the Falcon stiffened her tail and held off the breeze, sailing across the valley with the calm aplomb of a schooner on a glass lake.

The shared radio frequency being used to coordinate the search buzzed with voices. Grandpa — the J-STARS control that was coordinating the search — shifted assets around as the clouds slowly made their way off the mountains.

In a combat zone, a specific protocol governed when an airman would “come up” or broadcast on Guard frequency, the radio channel reserved for such emergencies and monitored by all of the searchers. These special instructions or spins conserved the limited battery power of the radios and made it more difficult for an enemy to detect or home in on the transmissions. But in this situation — and sometimes even in combat — a broadcast might be made at any time, especially if the downed airman heard a search plane overhead.

Timmy tried willing a broadcast into his ear; he heard only static, and even that was faint.

This long after a crash, what were the odds that someone had survived?

Not particularly good. Nor was it likely that one of the crew would be this far north. But it was possible. Moving at a couple of hundred miles an hour, you could travel relatively far in ten minutes, fifteen. There was no radar cover close to the mountains, and it was possible the planes had stayed in the air even longer. Punch out over the clouds, get pushed around a bit by the wind, hit your head somewhere — it was possible, if unlikely.

6

Жанры

Деловая литература

Детективы и Триллеры

Документальная литература

Дом и семья

Драматургия

Искусство, Дизайн

Литература для детей

Любовные романы

Наука, Образование

Поэзия

Приключения

Проза

Прочее

Религия, духовность, эзотерика

Справочная литература

Старинное

Фантастика

Фольклор

Юмор

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