Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview

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CHAPTER 26. SUPERBOWL

Miami, Florida. February 3, 2013. 2 a.m.

 

Lou Caradanno was tired. He had been piloting Delta planes all week to Los Angeles and back and had seen his wife very little. He was really mad he had to take the 2 p.m. flight to Los Angeles tomorrow and miss the Superbowl. He had promised his wife he would watch it with her, but he was one of the lowest in seniority at Delta, so he always got the crummy routes nobody wanted. It was a good paying job, though, and that was tough to come by these days. His wife rustled him at 2 a.m.

“Honey, I thought I heard a noise.”

Uggh. “Are you sure?”

“I am pretty sure.”

Caradanno sat in bed for another minute. His wife nudged him again.

“Lou, go check it out, OK?”

“Uh, OK honey.”

He rolled out of bed, slowly looking for the light switch.

A dark shadow silently came into the doorway. There were two quick pings and it was all over. Mr. and Mrs. Lou Caradanno were dead. The gunman turned the light on. He rolled each body into a long canvas bag and zipped them up. Then he took each body down into the family’s basement, and hid them behind some old paint cans. Then the killer went upstairs and mopped the hardwood floor of the bedroom with cleanser and a mop so there would be no blood residue.

The killer looked into the pilot’s closet. His Delta Uniform was there, pressed and ready to go. He put that and the pilot’s shoes into a third bag. He also checked the nightstand, and took the pilot’s Delta ID, his car keys, his wallet, and his cell phone. The man known to the world as Francisco Perez, known to his master as an Abisali, known to the team as Altair, known to his father Osama Bin Laden as son, would now have a new identity—Lou Caradonna, Delta Pilot.

Perez went into Caradonna’s garage and opened the door with the garage opener. He pulled Caradonna’s 4x4 out of the driveway. Perez’s wife Feyza and his sister-in-law Saieed, driving the minivan, followed him to the next location, the home of Delta Flight Attendant Nancy Eli on Hibernia Lane. Perez, his wife, and his sister-in-law would have two more stops after that. By 4 a.m., the bodies of one pilot, one co-pilot, two flight attendants, and four spouses, were in canvas bags. By 6 a.m., the terrorist team was back at the safe house in Miami, where they met Tikah, the man who would act as co-pilot. Tikah took the Delta IDs from his friend. The Delta IDs would have new faces within the hour.

 

New Orleans. Warehouse District. February 3, 2013. 6 a.m.

By 6 a.m., both Al Hamal brothers were back at the truck garage in the warehouse district of New Orleans. One of the brothers, the one known as Antonio, finished packing the last box of C4 explosives. His little brother was finishing the rigging of the special machine guns to the front of the truck. The guns folded into sleeves on the side of the truck hood so that when the truck drove down the road, no one would notice the guns. A remote control pressed from a handheld device would pivot the machine guns out of their sleeves. Morse was handcuffed in the back of the police car, which was parked next to the truck.

“It is a shame we have to give up one of the trucks,” said Antonio. “The explosions would be better with two trucks.”

“Yes, but we have the police car,” said his brother.

Morse was listening through the slightly open window of the back of the police car, where he was bound and gagged. The brothers had only questioned him for about ten minutes about an hour ago, asking him what “lead” he was going to give to police. Morse feigned interest. The brothers seemed to shrug it off, as if they were not very interested. Morse considered this. It was probably because they figured their plan was so far advanced now, it could not be stopped.

 

Miami, Florida, 8 a.m.

That morning, at 8 a.m., Francisco Perez was scheduled to fly a group of corporate executives in the company Lear jet from Miami to New Orleans for the big game. He called in sick at the last minute, asking a fellow pilot named Tim Welsch to take his shift. Perez asked Welsch to punch in Perez’s time card when he started and ended the shift. Perez said he was on probation for attendance right now and didn’t want to get in trouble. Perez promised Welsch that he would pay him for the flight out of his next paycheck, and would give him $100 as a bonus. Welsch agreed. He had spiraling credit card bills and needed money. For anyone in the control tower, it would look like Perez was piloting the jet.

 

Washington, DC, 8:45 a.m.

President Anna Scall was excited about her first trip on Air Force One. She was dressed in black pants, a black and blue Panthers jersey with “Benjamin” written on the back, and a blue and black ponytail. Matt Suba told the President that he had to stay back and attend to the bombing investigation and other matters, but that he would watch the game on TV. The President’s husband and children would be joining her on Air Force One to go to the big game. As Scall and her husband got to the top of the steps to board the plane, Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report suddenly jumped out from inside the plane, growling like a panther, acting as if his hands were cat’s paws. Colbert was a native of South Carolina and had been invited by the President to join her family on the plane. His entire face looked like a blue cat. She laughed and took a photo with Colbert and her husband and then hopped inside the plane, excited about attending the Superbowl.

 

At 10 a.m., Matt Suba left the White House and went into a small coffee shop across the street. He took out his untraceable cell phone with prepaid minutes and sent a text message to his pilots. Moments later, he received a text message back. Everything was in place and ready to go. He made a similar text to his ground team. The message back was: “Dinner party ready to go. Our good friend John is with us and has promised he will not spoil the party.” Suba smiled. There was a reason he called himself Mudabbir. He was an excellent planner. By the end of today, he would be President of the United States, and the world would be a different place.

Miami Dade International Airport. 1:30 p.m.

The terrorist flight team approached the TSA security gate. Francisco Perez, wearing his captain flight outfit and his ID badge bearing the name of Louis Caradonno, strolled confidently to the X-ray machine. He took off Caradonno’s wristwatch, wallet, cell phone, and keys, and placed them in the plastic holder. He walked through the metal detector without a hitch. The TSA guard reviewed his credentials and flight information and passed him through. Tikah was next, and also made it through without a hitch. Then came the two women, posing as the flight attendants. The guard looked at their IDs for a few second longer, but passed them through.

As they started to walk away, one of the TSA guards said, “Captain!”

Perez calmly turned around slowly. “Yes?”

“Dolphins or Panthers?”

“Why the Dolphins, of course!” He smiled warmly, flashing his white teeth. Then they made their way to the gate. They passed through the gate checkpoint and boarded the Delta plane, Flight 16 to Los Angeles. The flight was full this afternoon. Perez made his pre-flight checks, and Tikah fiddled around in the cockpit pretending he knew what he was doing. They closed and locked the cockpit door, while Perez’s wife and his sister-in-law helped usher passengers to their seats. After twenty minutes, all the passengers were in and the tower cleared him for takeoff. By 2:05 p.m., Flight 16 was in the air, and headed toward the Gulf of Mexico

 

Washington, DC. Office of Homeland Security. 3 p.m.

Detective Ruddy Montana and Detective Tom Jensen were nervous. Morse had been right about the church bombing. He had been right about the Vice President being late. He had been right about a legislative appointment which was rushed. His last prediction was that there would be an attack on the Superbowl from the land and air. And now he was kidnapped. Montana and Jensen had been in touch with the Montgomery Police Department and knew that the kidnappers had killed a police officer, stolen his car, grabbed Morse while police were swarming everywhere, and then escaped into the backwoods. Why would anyone risk all that to kidnap an egghead professor, unless he was either part of the plot or knew about the plot? In both detectives’ minds, that did not smell good. They feared there would be another attack on the Superbowl, and they only had a few hours to stop it.

Just to see what would happen, Jensen had hooked up Hector Santiago to pulse and skin monitors and then questioned him about references in the prophecy Morse had provided. Santiago said nothing, but his pulse started racing and he looked nervous when Jensen referenced “Abisali,” “the Eagle,” “the Rams,” “the Builder,” or “the Planner.” References to “MABUS” and to “the spawn of the Devil” had no reaction. The accuracy of the prophecy was sending a chill up Jensen’s spine. He had to crack this plot before it was too late.

The interviews of guests at the Charleston Marriott revealed no pilots or truck drivers, as Jensen had hoped. That probably meant that the driver of the black van escaped into one of the taxis going to the Charleston Airport. They checked the flights leaving Charleston but there were flights going everywhere. The list was huge.

Montana had put out an APB on Morse’s children, and this morning, they got a hit from Morse’s mother’s credit card at a hotel in Washington, D.C. Two agents went over to pick the kids up and bring them in. They were due any minute.

The TSA was instructed to be extra vigilant today, and to call in anything even remotely suspicious. The FBI had ordered extra security at the Superdome. Snipers were on the roof of the Dome. Concrete barriers were set up at various points along the parking lot of the Superdome. An Apache helicopter was ordered to maintain surveillance from the air over the Dome.

Montana and Jensen turned to the elevator and saw Zach and Zoey Morse walking in with two agents. He brought them in a conference room.

“Hi, kids. Thanks for coming in again,” said Montana, patting Zach on the back with a fatherly tone. Montana was chosen to do the interview, because Zach did not like how he had been previously treated by Jensen.

“I guess you heard your father escaped and then was re-kidnapped,” said Montana.

Zach’s face was blanched. This whole ordeal had completely exhausted him. “Yeah, we heard. Have you heard anything from him?”

“No. But we hoped you could help us. We checked the cell phone records of the gentleman who rescued your father in Alabama and it says that right after he made the 911 call to the Montgomery Police, he called you, Zach, on your cell phone.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“What did he say?”

“He said he was OK, that he was fit as a fiddle, that they had not hurt him. He asked if we were OK and we said yes. Zoey told him she still had his bag with the Nostradamus stuff in it, and he told her to lock it in the hotel safe.”

“Anything else?” asked Montana.

“Yeah, he said that we should call our Grandma, get her credit card number and stay in the hotel. He said Grandma would come for us sometime today.”

“OK. And when your Grandma gets in town, we will tell her where you are so that she can come down here with you.”

“Whatever,” said Zach.

“Anything else?”

“No.”

“Are you sure? Take a moment and think about it. Go through each thing he said in your mind. Anything he said might be able to help us find him.”

Zach thought a minute. “There was something else. I asked him why he couldn’t just come home now, and he said he wanted to talk to you guys because he had some kind of lead.”

“A lead? What kind of lead?”

Zach thought for a minute. “I’m not sure, he said something about an address in Miami he wanted you to check out.”

“Did he say what the address was?”

“No,” he didn’t.”

“OK, that is very helpful. Anything else you can think of?”

“Nope.”

The detectives asked Zoey if she could remember anything.

“Daddy just told me where to put his bag and I told him to be safe and that I loved him.” Zoey’s eyes started to water. “Is he going to be OK?”

“We are going to do our best,” said Montana.

The two Detectives ran out of the conference room and went to one of their computer analysts.

“OK, Christine, we have something. Miami. Check all flights leaving Charleston yesterday and going to Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Then cross-check that against the FAA for any known pilots or flight attendants and then check with the USDOT for truck drivers.” Ten minutes later, Christine called them back to her station. She had three matches.

“I have a Timothy O’Rourke who is a truck driver for Allied Van Lines, left Charleston on a 3:00 p.m. flight yesterday for Fort Lauderdale.” Christine pulled up his photo. He was a large white man with red hair.

“O’Rourke,” said Montana. “Irishman. That doesn’t fit. The guy at the Cincinnati Bombing was Mexican or Arab. So was the guy who we suspect for the church bombing. And near as we can tell, so was the guy who grabbed Morse. I do not think the guy is Irish. Who’s next?”

“We have a Francisco Perez. Left on a 2:30 flight from Charleston to Miami. Works for a private jetliner giving Lear jet rides to corporate executives.”

“He sounds interesting. Photo?”

Christine pulled up the photograph. The detectives stared at the screen.

“What do you think, Tom? He look Mexican to you?”

Jensen squinted at the photo. “He looks Arab if you ask me.”

“I agree. Is he scheduled to fly today?”

“Yes, he is flying to New Orleans at 2:00 p.m. CJE Flight 2417.”

Montana and Jensen looked at their watches. It was 3:05 p.m. Montana yelled for another agent to come over to the station. “We need a conference call with the Regional Director of the FAA and the pilot of CJE Flight 2417, immediately! There could be a terrorist flying that plane!”

“Tell me about the third guy, Christine.”

“It’s a woman. Betty Islington. Flight attendant for TWA, left from Charleston to Miami at 5 p.m. yesterday, lives in Miami. Here is her photo.”

The woman was an African American, 52 years old.

“Doesn’t look right. I think this Perez is our guy. Team meeting in the conference room, people, three minutes!”

 

Somewhere in the air over the Gulf of Mexico 3:30 p.m.

“Flight 2417, this is Mike Peterson, Regional Director of the FAA. I also have two detectives with me from Homeland Security on the line. I need to speak to the captain.”

“Uh, this is the captain.”

“Is this Captain Francisco Perez?” asked Peterson.

Tim Welsch thought for a moment. He had clocked in under Perez’s name. If they knew he had done that, he could get fired. He would have to hope the tower didn’t know. “Yes, it is.”

“Captain Perez, I need you to turn your plane north and head to Destin Airfield.”

“Sir, I am supposed to be going to New Orleans. These guys have tickets to the Superbowl.”

“Captain, I do not care who has tickets to the Superdome! Please look out over your left wing.”

The pilot looked out his window. There was an F-16 fighter jet just off his wing. Another fighter jet was on the other side of his plane.

“Do you see those jets, Captain?”

“Yes, I do.”

“If you do not turn your plane immediately north this instant, and head to Destin Airfield with a vector 0, Niner, Seven, I have authorization from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to have those fighters shoot your plane out of the sky.”

“Whoa! Hold on a minute! I’ll turn this thing wherever you want. Don’t shoot, please! Look, I’m turning, I’m turning.” He turned the plane to the north. The fighters trailed him.

“Keep your present course, Captain.”

“No problem. Please, don’t shoot! I have two kids!”

“Keep your present course and nothing bad will happen.”

The plane continued north for another forty five minutes. When the plane started to fly over the land instead of the water, one of the corporate executives knocked on the pilot’s cabin door. The pilot opened the door. The executive and his friends were completely drunk, and were wearing Dolphins jerseys.

“Hey, there, Commander, I was just noticing we were flying over land now, are we almost there?”

“No, we had to take a detour. We are flying into Destin Airfield.”

“Destin Airfield? What are you talking about? We are going to miss the game!” The other Miami executives heard their friend’s discussion and came up to the pilot’s door. “It’s almost 4! The game is going to start soon! I didn’t pay $4,000 a ticket and $1,000 for this flight so you can dump me off in Destin! Now you turn this goddamn plane to New Orleans or I am going to have your job!”

“I cannot do that sir! I was ordered by the FAA to land there?”

“Well, why would they say that?”

“I don’t know. But they said they would blow us out of the sky if we didn’t go to Destin.”

The drunk executive looked out the window. He didn’t see anything.

“Who is going to shoot us?”

“The F-16s that were there a minute ago.”

“Well, I don’t see ‘em now. Look, you just fly us to New Orleans and let me worry about the FAA. I will pay whatever fine they impose on you.”

“I can’t do that, sir. Now you are going to have to take your seat! Now!”

The captain, Tim Welsch, was black. The executive, a good old boy from the Old South was not going to let this “colored fella” tell him what to do. He was an important man, a rich man. Who did this little black punk think he was?

“I am not going to sit down! I paid good money for this flight and you are going to fly us to New Orleans, BOY!” With that, he slapped the pilot hard on the side of the head. Welsch had not anticipated a strike to the head and when he fell to the left side, his arm hooked on the steering wheel, pulling the plane sharply and violently to the left. The Lear jet started to veer to the side, and the drunk executives all fell down on the carpeting.

“He is turning violently, sir!” yelled one of the F-16 pilots. “Permission to engage!”

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was monitoring the situation from the Pentagon. He thought for two seconds, and then realized the risk was too great. They might not get another chance.

“Engage!” The F-16 fired a rocket into the belly of the Lear jet, which exploded into a fireball, killing everyone on board.

Detectives Jensen and Montana saw the explosion from the F-16 video being transmitted to their screens. Their expressions were grim. They did not know how many people were on board, but at least the plane could not hit the Superdome.

 

New Orleans. Warehouse District. 4 p.m.

The Al Hamal brothers had spent the morning applying a phony decal which read “New Orleans Police Department” over the Montgomery Police Department police car. It looked pretty decent if you didn’t look too close. Then they had taken an entire pallet of C4—the C4 that they had originally planned to use for the second truck—and rigged wires to the side door of the warehouse. Anyone opening the door would blow the garage sky high.

The positioned Morse in a chair, cloth in his mouth, hands bound behind his back to the chair, legs bound to the feet of the chair. Morse knew that one way out of being bound is to keep the rope from being tied too tight. If you place your wrists apart slightly and then expand your chest as much as possible, the binds will be looser, allowing the victim more room after tying to wiggle free. Unfortunately, the Al Hamal brothers knew that trick, and tied his wrists together tightly. They punched him in the chest before tying the rope across.

“Your dumb little tricks don’t work with us, Professor!” they laughed. The two brothers placed the chair in full view of the window to the side door of the garage, so that if anyone looked in, they would see Morse, open the door, and trip the explosives. Then they lifted up the bay door and drove the truck and the police car out, closing the door behind them. The warehouse was dark. Morse made note of the truck’s license plate as it drove out. The only light was a light bulb with a string right over Morse’s head. Morse grunted and gurgled in desperation. He was probably going to die here tonight. Morse kept thinking about the words of Henriette the prophet. He had not stopped anything. They were going to succeed.

 

Ils attaquent le stade quand on va jouer, pendant le jour.

L’Aigle s’approche de l’air.

Les gens fuient chercher le secours.

Les Béliers attaquent de la terre.

They attack the stadium when they are about to play, during the day,

The Eagle approaches from the air.

The people flee to seek help.

The Rams attack from the ground.

 

The Rams were on their way to begin the ground attack.

 

Somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico, 4:30 p.m.

“Good afternoon, football fans. This is Captain Caradanno speaking. The flight attendants will be handing out earphones in just a minute. Any of you wishing to see the Superbowl can turn your dials to Channel 2, and you can view the game from the screens which we are lowering from the ceiling. The pre-game should start in about a half hour, and the game begins at 6.”

 

New Orleans Superdome. 50 yard-line. Presidential Box.

The President’s three girls were thrilled. “Mom, these seats are awesome! Do you think we could get autographs after the game?”

“I don’t see why not!” said the President.

She and her children scarfed down some brats and pretzels, anxious for the game to begin. Her Secret Service team was all around her, eyes darting out in all directions looking for potential threats.

 

New Orleans Warehouse District. 4:30 p.m.

Morse looked around him in desperation. There was nothing sharp he could use to cut the tight ropes. He could try and jump up in the chair, with the hope that the chair legs might break, thereby giving him a sharp tool, but that was a big risk. If he failed, he would be more likely to wind up on the ground tied to the chair, in a worse predicament than he was now.

There was nothing within reach, only the string of the light bulb. Maybe he could grab the rope with his teeth and then flash the light off and on, and someone might see him. Morse considered that. Even if he was successful, that would only cause someone to open the side door to the garage, blowing him to Smithereens.

In the ensuing minutes, Morse started weeping. He was really going to die here. His children would have no parents, both killed by terrorists. How could they possibly cope? Why hadn’t he realized at the McDonald’s that the cop was a phony? He pictured his children at his funeral, crying, his name, John Morse, etched in his tombstone. John Morse…. Then he thought of something. Morse. Maybe….

He scooted the chair over with all his strength, nudging it over about five inches, until the string from the light bulb ran across his face. Then he used his teeth to grab the light string. He turned the light off, and then back on, but he did it in a pattern. Morse Code.

He remembered his father had taught him Morse Code as a child. He wanted him to learn what his name meant. His family was actually related to Samuel Morse, the man who invented the Morse Code as a way of sending messages in wartime. He reached back into his memory banks and was surprised that he remembered all the letters’ codes.

The dot was a short flash of light, and the dash was a long flash of light. He began turning the light off and on with his teeth, sketching out a message. He had no idea whether anyone would see it.

 

In New Orleans Harbor, Harbor Masters Billie McGhee and her husband Donny were sitting on the deck of their shrimp boat, relaxing in lawn chairs, with an old TV with bunny ears propped up on a crate. They each had a bag of Cheetos, a hamburger, and a can of Dixie Beer and were relaxing in front of the TV, waiting for the pre-game to start. Billie was a diehard Miami fan.

“You know,” said Donny, “Those St. Louis Rams was idiots lettin’ that Warner go. He brought their team to the Superbowl, and he gets one lousy injury and they throw him on the scrap heap.”

“I can’t believe he could get those Cardinals to the playoffs. Now them’s some idiots,” said Billie.

“Looks like we’ll have good weather, though. Hope it keeps up. Our catch wasn’t too good last week.”

Donny popped open another beer, and then looked out toward the pier. That was odd. He had the phone in the Harbor Master’s office forwarded to his cell phone, so he could watch the game on his boat. Just then, his cell phone rang.

“Is this the Harbor Master?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I was walking by the warehouse over by Pier 47 and I noticed some weird flashing lights coming from the inside. I wondered if you could check it out.”

“Sure. Who is this calling?”

The line went dead. Donny McGhee grabbed his flashlight and jumped down onto the pier from his boat.

“Where ya goin?”

“Somebody is reporting strange lights coming from the warehouse by 47. You wanna come check it out with me?”

“Sure.” Billie jumped off the boat, and hurried to catch up to her husband. They walked down the pier and over to the small warehouse.

“Hey, Billie, look at that over there. You see that flashin’?”

Billie looked over. Sure enough, there was some weird flashing of light off and on. Wait a minute, she thought. That light is making a pattern. She and Donny had used Morse Code before with their ship’s light as part of safety training.

“Hey, Donny, I think that’s Morse Code!”

Donny stared at the warehouse. “Damn, I think you’re right. Hey, hand me that notebook and a pen.” Billie handed him the notebook. Donny watched the lights and started to write something.

“…DO NOT OPEN WARA HOUH BOOR. HELP. KNDNIP.”

“Wara-houh.” Billie looked at the translation. “That must be ‘WAREHOUSE DOOR.’ HELP. KIDNAP.”

“Hey!” said Donny. “We gotta get over and help that guy.” Donny and Billie sprinted over to the warehouse. They approached the side warehouse door and looked through the window, where the light was going off and on. There, tied to a chair, was a thin man with gray hair, and a rag stuffed in his mouth. He was sweating profusely and violently shaking his head back and forth.

Donny started to reach for the door, when his wife grabbed his hand. “Hey, Donny! The message said don’t open the warehouse door. It is probably rigged or something. Let’s get in another way.” They went over to the middle of the garage and tried the bay door but it was locked. They continued further down to the other end of the building where they saw a big window. Donny took a big rock and threw it through the window. He cleared out the glass with his shirt and then tried to get through the window, but he was too fat.

“Oh, for the love of Neptune!” cried his wife, putting out her cigarette. She pushed her husband out of the way and crawled through the window opening. Donny handed her his flashlight through the window. She saw Morse at the other end of the warehouse under the light and cautiously approached him. When she got near him, she took out his gag.

“Oh, thank God!” exclaimed Morse. “Thank you so much. I thought you were going to open that door. It is rigged with all those explosives.” Morse pointed to a pallet of C4 over in a corner. “Come on, we have to get out of here. Can you untie me?”

“Sure, sugarplum. Just give old Billie a minute and you will be out of there in no time.” She undid Morse’s ropes and he rubbed his wrists. “Let’s go!” said Morse. They ran across the warehouse to the other side, where Morse crawled out through the window.

“Do you guys have a cell phone?”

“Sure do. It’s on the boat, come on,” said Donny and the three scrambled over to the small fishing boat.

911 Communications Center. Downtown New Orleans. 4:52 p.m.

“911.”

“Yeah, my name is Carlos Bonita. I would like to report a possible terrorist plot.”

“Yes, sir, go ahead.”

“I was just down in the Warehouse District on Warehouse Street. There is an old warehouse there by Pier 47. Anyway, I happened to be walking by there taking a smoke, and I looked in the window of the side door, and I saw a big truck of what looked like plastic explosives in there and a couple guys loading it up. I thought you would want to know.”

Two minutes later, three fire trucks, twenty police cars, the New Orleans Bomb Squad, and the local SWAT unit peeled down to the New Orleans Warehouse District, hoping to catch some real terrorists. The Al Hamal brothers laughed as they saw all the emergency responders drive by them and away from the Superdome. Americans were so gullible.

This time Morse was careful not to call the police, lest the killers track him again on the emergency channel. From the boat, he used the cell phone from the boat to call Zach, who was still at Homeland Security Headquarters in Washington.

“Zach! It’s Dad! I’m safe!”

“DAD!!” yelled Zach. “I can’t believe it’s you!” Zach started crying. Zoey, who was sitting next to Zach in the small Homeland Security Conference Room, started jumping up and down, crying with joy.

“Is he OK?” Zach nodded to her.

“Where are you, Dad?”

“I am in the Warehouse District in New Orleans. Listen, Zach, do you still have Detective Jensen’s business card? It is urgent I speak with him.”

“Dad, he is standing like fifty feet away from me. They picked us up this morning for questioning and I have been here all day.”

“Well, put him on the phone quickly!”

Zach dashed out with his cell phone, running towards Jensen. “It’s my Dad! I have him on the phone!”

Jensen grabbed the phone and put Morse on speaker in the conference room with the other detectives and analysts.

“Morse. Where are you?

“I am in the Warehouse District in New Orleans. I am on a shrimp boat by Pier 47, I think. Listen, I saw what these guys are planning. They have a tractor trailer filled with C4 explosives, Louisiana plates, license plate CXS-990 and they are heading to the Superdome right now! They put a decal over that Montgomery Police Department police car and made it look like a New Orleans car. And they have huge machine guns, hooked on some kind of contraption on the front of the truck, so they can gun down whatever comes at them. And I also saw…” Just then there was a deafening blare of sirens as a pack of police cars came screaming around the corner towards the warehouse.

“What is that, Morse? We can’t hear you.”

“It’s a whole bunch of police cars…. Oh, my God, I know what they’re doing.” He handed the cell phone to his friends on the boat, and dashed down the wooden pier toward the warehouse. The police cars parked in front, and the men jumped out of the cars, heading for the side door.

Morse ran at them head on like a crazy man. “Wait! Stop! Don’t open that door!”

To Morse’s great surprise, the police officers opened the side door and there was no explosion. Morse looked confused. Had the wires failed? He walked up to the warehouse with the police officers, where he had been a captive. He explained to the police who he was. One of the officers walked over to the pallet of C-4 and pulled off a clay brick. He looked at the brick curiously, and then brought it over to one of the Bomb Squad officers.

“Does this look like real C-4 to you?”

The Bomb Squad officer examined the brick closely.

“Nope. This is just modeling clay.” He looked at a dozen other bricks and made the same conclusion.

The first officer called Dispatch on his shoulder radio. “Dispatch, we have a false alarm here. It looks like this was a diversion to get us away from the Superdome. Tell all the guys down by the Superdome that the terrorists are probably on their way.”

Jensen was yelling into the cell phone Morse had borrowed.

“MORSE! What is happening there?”

Morse gave them the rundown, and explained how the C-4 was fake, and that this was all a diversion. “Jensen, your people need to stop that truck and that police car now!”

“OK, we will get them. Morse,” said Jensen, “Hey, when you talked to your son earlier, you said something about a lead with a Miami address. What was that?”

“I found it in the glove compartment of the black van. It had Mapquest Directions to 14780 Hibernia Lane. That must be important.”

“OK, thanks. Stay there, John. We will have New Orleans PD escort you back to our FBI Field Office in Baton Rouge. Then we can get you back to Washington tomorrow morning. I will make the calls.”

“Detective, were you able to stop the air attack?”

“Yes, we found the guy and shot his Lear jet out of the air.”

“Lear jet?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

“That seems a little small to be using for the big air attack of the century, don’t you think?”

“Well, I guess so, but I still think he could do a lot of damage if a Lear jet crashed into the Superdome roof.”

“I guess so,” said Morse, unconvinced. “Detective?” asked Morse.

“Yes?”

“Will you make sure my kids are safe?”

“Sure.”

“OK, I will talk to you later.”

 

Louisiana Superdome, 50 yard line, Presidential Box. 5:05 p.m.

The President’s Secret Service Agent received an urgent message in his earpiece. CHICKEN FRIED had to be moved immediately. There was an almost certain terrorist threat coming, a man in a truck loaded with C4, and machine guns mounted on the front.

“Madame President, you and your family need to come with me right now!”

The agents surrounded the surprised President and her family, shuffling her out the underground exit of the stadium reserved for rock stars and dignitaries, and threw her into the third of six black SUVs.

“Move! Move! Move!”

The SUV’s pulled out of the garage, heading for the nearest safe exit.

 

Miami, Florida. Hibernia Lane. 5:08 p.m.

Field Agent Barry Yoman of the Miami FBI Field Office just happened to be two blocks away from Hibernia Lane on his way home when he got the call. It was urgent, a matter of national security. He pulled up to 14780 Hibernia Lane, walked up the front steps and knocked on the front door. There was no answer. He announced his presence as a police officer but still no presence. He did not have a warrant, so he went around the back of the house and peered through the basement window. There was light on the steps going into the basement. He could swear he saw red marks on the steps. That was good enough for him. Legal could straighten it out in the morning if he was wrong. He kicked in the back door and ran down the steps. There was no sound in the house. In the basement he saw a stack of cardboard boxes. When he moved the boxes, he saw two very large canvas bags. There appeared to be some blood on the outside of the canvas. He zipped open the first bag and saw a head with a bullet hole in it. Gasping, he unzipped the other bag and saw another dead body, also shot through the head.

“Dispatch! I am at 14780 Hibernia Lane, home of Bob and Nancy Eli. I have two dead bodies here, presumably the residents, each shot through the head with one bullet. Their bodies were crammed inside duffelbags in the basement.” The FBI Agent, with his gun drawn ran up the stairs into the kitchen and family room, and saw nothing suspicious. Then he ran up to the bedroom. On the dresser was a photo of Nancy Eli at work.

“Dispatch. The woman who lives here, Nancy Eli, is a Delta Flight Attendant. I repeat, a Delta Flight Attendant.”

 

Washington, D.C. Headquarters of Homeland Security

By 5:12 p.m., the Regional FAA Liaison for Delta was on the phone with two Detectives and the Director of Homeland Security.

“Nancy was scheduled on Delta Flight 16 leaving for Los Angeles at 2:00 p.m. today. The pilot was Louis Caradonna, the co-pilot was Stephen Bishop, and the two flight attendants were Nancy Eli and Beverly Stiller. I am e-mailing you their IDs, photos, and addresses now.”

By 5:22 p.m., FBI Field Agents had arrived at Louis Caradonna’s house and found the two bodies zipped inside duffelbags in the basement.

By 5:31 p.m. FBI Field Agents spoke with the wife of Corporate Jet Express pilot Tim Welsch, who had called the company when her husband had not called his wife in several hours. The wife confessed that her husband had agreed to take Perez’s flight to New Orleans earlier that morning. The wife confirmed that they had two children.

By 5:32, the Detectives at Homeland Security figured out that they had shot down the wrong plane.

At 5:52 p.m., the tapes from Miami Dade International Airport Security arrived via e-mail. The video footage of the gate for Flight 16 showed Perez, another Arab looking man, and two Arab looking women dressed as flight attendants board the plane. Analysts compared their photographs in the video with the photos on their ID cards provided by Delta. They did not match.

At 5:56, the FAA confirmed that Flight 16 was descending into New Orleans and was 22 minutes away from the City.

At 6:00, the Panthers won the coin toss and elected to receive.

At 6:02, a massive tractor trailer, fitted with side machine guns mounted to the hood, rolled down Highway I-10 East towards the stadium.