Sunday, April 29th, 2012 | Uncategorized
A “Chris Johnson, Anglican Investigator” blast from the past
Part Four- The following takes place between 2:00 PM and 9:00 PM.
2:00 PM – I immediately pulled the Nissan over to the side of the road and stopped. The three of us looked at each other but couldn’t say a word. Then Greg and Dale began making phone calls while Dale logged on to the Internet.
“With the Pope and the bomb threat, the President’s basically gone to DEFCON 1, Chris,” Colleen continued. “This is priority number one for every law enforcement and intelligence service in this country and all over the world. Do you guys have any idea where the bomb and the hostages might be?”
“I’m certain that both are somewhere in this area,” I said. “We don’t know exactly where yet. Are you still in town? How many agents do you have on hand?”
“I’m still here. And I’ve got as many as I need.”
“Get more. Lots more. Put Allen back in the field if you have to. Since we’re also fairly certain that the hostages are in the same place as the bomb, I don’t plan on playing hero. You guys are going to have to handle the actual raid.”
“I’ll pass this up the line and get to work organizing things. Call me as soon as you know.”
“Will do, kid. Stay cool.”
I hung up. “I just got off the phone with the Archdiocese here,” said Greg. “Nobody can find Archbishop Burke. They were circumspect but they sounded really worried. And nobody would connect me to Archbishop Egan in New York. They also sounded scared.”
“Nobody in Pittsburgh knows where Duncan, Iker, Stanton or any of the Network bishops are,” said Dale. “Billy Graham, Benedict Groeschel, Rod Parsley, and Mother Angelica are all missing. Cardinal Arinze and Archbishop Akinola are nowhere to be found. EPF and the Maryknollers are pushing all-in.”
I started the car back up and headed east. “We’ve got to get off the road as soon as possible,” I said.
3:00 PM – Up the road a bit, I noticed Pamela’s, the restaurant/bar owned by my friend, jazz superstar and actress Pamela Melton, so I pulled in the parking lot, parked as out of sight as I could, and we went inside.
Pamela didn’t get back to St. Louis much since, if she isn’t recording, touring or acting, she spends most of her time at one of her four estates here and there around the world. But she’s been known to pop into town and sing a set at her joint now and then. Bootlegs are available on eBay all the time.
Nobody was there. Price and Griffith ordered Cokes while I ordered a Manhattan. “A Manhattan?” wondered Dale.
I was dragging. “Why not? Lord knows, caffeine’s not working anymore.”
Even though there was no one there, we headed for a corner booth where we could see anyone who came in. Greg took out the laptop and turned it around so that we all could see it. “You can run this thing at different levels. Basically from 5,000 feet down to ground level.”
“Run a prediction up to 9:00 tonight,” said Price.
Griffith did so. “That dark blue spot is the strongest part of the Nexis,” he told us.
“Now isolate it for Missouri,” I said.
Greg ran it again. “We seem to be looking at a time frame of approximately 5:30 PM to 10:30 PM,” he said.
“Take it down as far as you can. Try to isolate it for St. Louis.”
Griffith ran the predictor again. “Were I to guess, I’d say roughly 7:30 to 9:00 PM. But as you can see, that still doesn’t tell us what we need to know.”
I sipped my drink. “Run the prediction again. All levels, highest to lowest.”
Greg entered the data and we watched the predictions. At ground level, the strongest part of the Nexis was almost black. “Did you guys notice something about the strongest part of the Nexis?” I asked.
“It keeps its shape. All the way down to the deck,” said Dale.
“Roughly circular,” said Griffith.
“Now run another St. Louis prediction and save the file,” I stared into my glass as I slowly turned it. “See if this makes sense. All the way down, we’re basically looking at a circle. Doesn’t that suggest that the very strongest part of the Nexis is in the exact center of that circle?”
“Yeah,” murmured Price. “It certainly does.” Greg nodded in agreement.
4:00 PM – “Hand me the laptop. I have to download something.” I logged on the Web and called up the National Weather Service. “A year ago, Nicky developed some software for the National Weather Service that should help us determine…”
“Quick observation,” interjected Greg. “For all practical purposes, your wife is Angelina Jolie only hotter by a factor of 18.4.”
“19.2,” said Dale.
“20.3 at last count, actually,” I observed.
“For the love of God, SHUT UP!!. So you’re telling me that the hottest woman in the entire world writes software for the National Weather Service and who knows who else? How is that possible?”
Nicky’s software finished downloading and I installed it. “Dunno. That’s just one of them weird things that happens. Actually, she hasn’t done too much of that kind of thing lately.”
“I understand,” said Greg. “What with having the baby and all.”
“Well, that and the open-source Web browser she’s developing to compete with Firefox. The kid does sleep now and then.” Griffith started to say something, looked at Price who shut his eyes, slowly shook his head and instantly began testing Nicky’s software.
“What does this stuff do anyway?” asked Dale.
“Nicky calls it positional analysis. It takes radar readings and tells you where any given point on the screen is. What city a storm’s passing over, landmarks in a storm’s path, things like that. Meteorologists, meteorology schools, meteorology students, storm chasers and weather freaks use it all the time.”
Griffith picked it up right away. “Are you sure the file will work with this?”
“There’s a map there so it should. It’ll scale everything. It’s designed to work with just about any graphic analysis file so go ahead and run the St. Louis thing. Select the strongest part of the Nexis, right click and select ’Center.’ It’ll tell you when it passes over a landmark.”
Greg started the software and stared at the screen. “Nothing so far. Just home addresses, near as I can tell. Wait a minute. We’ve got one. The Cathedral Basilica. 7:30 PM.”
“Freeze it.” I looked at Greg and Dale. “Feasible?”
“No,” said Dale. “If they suddenly stopped having Masses, too many people would ask questions. Then there’s the question of space. And I can’t think somebody wouldn’t have seen something weird going on and reported it.
“They could keep the basement door locked,” said Greg. “Although I guess the maintenance people would have to be given time off or they could find out if anyone’s down there.”
“Just to be on the safe side, we’ll drive by and take a look at it. Resume the program.”
The program started again and the three of us watched the Nexis continue to move over the St. Louis area. Then we got another hit. The Edward Jones Dome. 8:45 PM. Then the circle moved off into Illinois.
I stopped the program. “I think it’s the Ed,” I told them.
“They’d need a lot of people,” Price suggested.
“Maybe not, as long as the doors stay locked,” Griffith said. “And there have to be plenty of places, delivery areas, players entrances, things like that, where hostages could have been brought in without anyone noticing.”
“Only one way to find out,” I said.
5:00 PM – We drove to downtown St. Louis, stopping at a Best Buy so I could buy some binoculars of my own and at a 7-11 for a few extra supplies. First stop was the Cathedral Basilica.
We circled it once. “No security,” I remarked. We watched an old lady climb the steps and enter. “And they don’t seem to be turning the public away.”
I parked the Nissan and the three of us went inside. No one attempted to stop us. We spent a few rapturous moments admiring the spectacular mosaics on the walls and ceiling of the Byzantine-inspired church before getting back to business.
As we wandered the halls, we didn’t see very many people. No one asked us who we were or why we were there. The door to the basement was open so we peered downstairs. No one was down there. Dale looked at me and said, “Let’s get going.”
We got back in the Nissan and headed north. Greg was on the Internet. “I found a particularly interesting news story on the Edward Jones Dome web site. Apparently, there’s going to be a major ’peace convention’ there tonight. The public’s not invited. And I don’t think I have to tell you who two of the co-sponsors are.”
So much for coffee, I thought. Adrenaline was kicking in.
When we got to the Dome, I circled it. All the main entrances had security guards in front of them as did what appeared to be the delivery areas. I noticed an unguarded door that looked promising so I parked the car a block away and said, “Let’s check the sight lines.”
We casually walked up the street and got as close to the Ed as we dared. The three of us looked carefully in both directions. “Acceptable?” I asked.
“Perfect,” said Dale.
“Far enough away from the security guards? I don’t want them investigating any funny sounds they hear.”
“It should be,” said Greg.
We went back to the Nissan and parked it in a parking lot. The three of us picked up our supplies and started walking back toward the Ed. I handed Greg and Dale spray bottles of my knockout agent. “Don’t want to have to shoot anybody if it’s at all possible.” I told them.
Crossing the street, we walked up to the door. Both Dale and Greg got out their guns and watched both directions while I took out a spray bottle of my knockout agent and began pounding on the door.
After not all that long, I could hear someone say, “Hold your damn horses.” A man unlocked the door and managed to say, “What’s this all about?” before I sprayed him in the face.
Dale and I caught him before he fell as Griffith ran past us. “Clear,” said Greg and continued to monitor things. Then we pulled our friend underneath some stairs.
I took out a half pint of Jack Daniels, went outside, poured out about a third on the grass, poured some on our friend’s shirt and placed the rest in his hand.
“Jack Daniels, Gracie?” Dale asked.
“If I’m going to get the guy fake drunk, I’m at least going to get him fake drunk on something reasonably good,” I replied. “Is that the key still in the door?”
Price walked over, tested the key, took it off the man’s keychain, put it on his own and tossed me the rest of the man’s keys which I stuck back in his pocket.
6:00 PM – Greg looked at us, made a slashing motion across his throat and pointed to the left. We could hear faint voices approaching so we calmly but quickly walked up the ramp to the next level.
After making sure nobody was following us and that nobody was on the next level, we hesitated briefly before deciding to go up one more level. We made a complete circuit of that level but it was deserted.
Arriving back at our starting point, we took deep breaths and carefully crawled out(literally) to get a look at the field. None of us were prepared for what we saw.
The field below had been divided into hundreds of cells of different sizes, each with thick, plastic walls. Some contained individuals, both men and women, while others housed entire families, some with very young children.
I don’t know how many people were locked in those things but it may have been in the thousands. Many of them glanced toward the center of the field every now and then and all of them looked very, very scared.
I looked for faces I recognized. Two in particular but I didn’t see them. At one point, I thought I saw Amy Welborn and her family but I wasn’t sure.
Armed guards casually strolled around. As we watched, one of them, just for “fun,” aimed his gun at a very young little girl, screamed and pretended to pull the trigger, causing her to shriek in terror and run into the arms of her mother, crying inconsolably.
As the guard walked away laughing, I could feel Dale tense up and reach for his gun. “My silencer works,” he whispered. “They’d never figure it out.”
“I know,” I said in a low voice. “Nobody would like to drop the guy more than I would. But that’s not what we’re about. Have you spotted the bomb yet?”
“Dead center,” whispered Greg, pointing at the middle of the field.
“So of course they put the Pope there,” said Price. “And is that Dr. Graham next to him? And Mother Angelica? And those have to be Akinola and Arinze.”
I took out my digital camera and began snapping as many pictures as I could. The zoom on the camera was sufficient for tight shots so I took as many of these as I could, getting as many different people as possible as well as three shots of the bomb. “That should be enough for a warrant. Let’s get out of here.”
The three of us went back downstairs, hesitating briefly at each level to make sure no one was there. For a few tense moments, we had to stop before we got back to the first floor to let some people pass. Then we hurried across, unlocked the door, went outside, locked the door behind us and ran back to the Nissan.
I handed Greg my camera. “Upload these to the laptop and get ’em off to Colleen.” Then I called her. “Kid? Chris. It’s definitely the Ed. Some pictures are on their way. Guess it’s your ballgame from here on out.”
“Not entirely,” Colleen said. “This time, the President wants you guys along if you’re willing. We might need your expertise. And I want you there for your families.”
I looked at Dale and Greg and both of them smiled and nodded. “I guess we’re in,” I said. “Where are you guys?”
“The Civil Courts Building.”
“We’re on our way.”
7:00 PM – We walked into the Civil Courts Building. Guards at the the door immediately waved us through, saying, ”Seventh floor.”
We rode the elevator to the FBI command center where Colleen and Allen greeted us. “We’re getting the warrant now,” she told me. “Go get yourselves some body armor.”
The three of us were fitted for body armor and then loaded up with as much ammo as we could carry. I introduced Dale and Greg to St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa. “How many men have you got on this?” I asked him.
“No idea,” Chief Mokwa told me, chuckling. “Just about every force on both sides of the river is represented here tonight. We had more volunteers than we had slots. I’m in overall command.”
“Just tell us where you want us,” Price told him. “And good luck, Chief.”
“You too,” said Mokwa.
Chief Mokwa left to go to his command post. For the next ten minutes, Allen, Colleen, Dale, Greg, the other FBI agents and officials in the room and I tried to make small talk but failed miserably. Then a worried-looking aide came in and motioned for Allen.
Something was wrong. As Allen and his aide talked, Allen got more and more agitated. Colleen walked over and joined the conversation for a while. As she walked back toward me, the look on her face was a combination of stunned disbelief and fear.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“We…we…didn’t get the warrant.”
“What?!!” Dale, Greg and I exclaimed all at once.
“There was a lawyer waiting when our people got there and he contested everything. In the end, the judge said she wasn’t convinced by the pictures. Said it could have been anything. We can’t go in, Chris. Not legally.”
“What’s this judge’s name?” Dale asked.
“Don’t tell me,” said Greg.
“Yup. Senior warden, All Saints Episcopal Church here in town. Member, Episcopal Peace Fellowship.”
“Can’t we get another judge?” I demanded.
“Not until 9:30 tonight.” Colleen slammed the side of a table with her hand. “Frankly, most of us are talking about going in anyway. Screw the career.”
“Hold up. We might be able to provide you with some cover,” I told her. With a slight shake of my head, I signaled for my two associates to join me away from the others.
“Dude?” Dale said. “You’re the best there is. I’m the best there is. Chances are, Greg’s the best there is. But there is no way in hell that we can take them down by ourselves.”
“Wasn’t planning on it,” I replied. “I’ve got an idea. Colleen? Allen?” I said, motioning both over. “Tell your people to stay in place. Alert Chief Mokwa.
“In about ten or fifteen minutes, there’s going to be a 911 call from a member of the Ed’s maintenance staff about a gun battle. Patch it through to the Chief at once. You come in and we’ll sort it out later.”
Allen and Colleen looked at each other. “Do it,” Allen told me.
I spotted somebody’s flip-top water bottle. “This will do nicely. Have you guys still got that knockout agent I gave you?” Dale and Greg gave me their bottles and I poured everything into the water bottle. “Oh and I’m going to need gas masks.”
“We have these,” said Allen, handing us some small units, “but they only last fifteen minutes.”
“Perfect. We’ll see you in a little bit. Head out and get into position now.”
Griffith, Price and I went downstairs, got in the Nissan and headed north. “They’re going to be waiting for us,” said Dale.
“That’s what this stuff is for,” I said, holding up the water bottle.
“You can’t spray them all at once,” said Greg.
“Won’t have to.”
We found the parking lot we were in before, parked the car and started walking toward the Dome. “The plan,” I told them, “is to get in, take the first entrance we come to, get on the field and secure the bomb.
“I’m not interested in killing anybody. I just want to make a lot of noise. Once we get going, Greg here makes the 911 call and reports the gun battle.”
“Which they’ll hear,” said Price.
“With any kind of luck. Hopefully, we can hold them off long enough for the St. Louis police and the FBI to get in. At which point we back off.”
We got to the door and put on our gas masks. On the other side, we could hear voices. As Dale stuck the key in the lock, the voices fell silent. I began vigorously shaking the water bottle. When the knockout agent turned gray, I signaled to Dale who opened the door.
I flipped open the bottle and tossed it inside. A cloud quickly emerged from the bottle and I could hear people dropping. After five seconds or so, I said, “Go, go, go, go, go!”
The three of us ran inside, into an entrance that was right in front of us and down toward the field. In front of us, we saw Andrew Sullivan who reached for a walkie-talkie.
“Freeze, Sully!” Price shouted. “There’s a door straight up these stairs. If I’m you, I use it.” Sullivan hesitated a moment and then ran shrieking past us and out of the Ed.
We jumped on to the field and sprinted toward the bomb, firing in the general direction of the guards and causing them to dive for cover. They were more surprised than anything else.
All around us, we could hear people screaming, “Help us! Get us out of here!” We got to the bomb and frightened off its only guard. Then as Dale and I began firing in the general direction of the guards and the rest of the EPF/Maryknollers, I shouted, “Greg! Make the call!”
Griffith hid himself as best he could and dialed 911. “911? There’s some kind of gun battle going on at the Edward Jones Dome. I don’t know who they are, I’m just on the maintenance staff here. Send help quick!”
After what seemed like an eternity but was probably only a couple of minutes, we heard shouts off in the distance. Our attackers suddenly stopped firing and put their hands in the air. A bomb disposal unit ran in, jumped on the field and ran toward us. It was over.
8:00 PM – The police and FBI agents stayed off the field while the bomb unit did its work. So Greg, Dale and I went off looking for our families.
As I walked through the cells, none of the prisoners said anything to me. Some held their hands to the glass as I passed, others mouthed the words “Thank you” but most just stared at me. One beautiful little girl did say something. “Sir?” she shyly asked. “Is it almost over?”
“Yeah, sweetie, I think it is,” I told her. “Just wait a little bit longer.”
Then I saw her in a cell about thirty yards away. Paul was asleep in a crib but Nicole stood there staring at me. I broke into a sprint. When I got to within ten yards, I heard Colleen over the PA system. “Chris! Dale! Greg! We need you at the bomb immediately!”
I looked back toward the bomb and then at Nicky. “I…I have…I have to…”
My wife’s smile was angelic as she raised her hand and mouthed the words, “I know. Go.”
I ran back to the bomb. Greg and Dale were already there. “Chris?” said Colleen, pointing to two of the bomb disposal technicians, “this is James Wirrell and this is Mark Windsor. We’ve got a serious problem.”
“Basically,” said Wirrell, “we can’t disarm the bomb.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“There are electronic sensors running the entire length of the bomb and its entire circumferance,” said Windsor. “They’re spaced at 1/32nd of an inch apart. If any of those are cut, the bomb goes off. We have 1/64th of a inch to play with.”
“And we’re in the window right now, aren’t we?” asked Wirrell. I nodded.
“We can do it, we have the equipment,” said Windsor. “But considering what that thing’s made of, we estimate that it will take us four hours. Minimum.”
I looked at Dale and Greg. “Then we’ll do the only thing we can do. Colleen, have you got a van that’s fully gassed up?”
“Yeah, straight that way,” said Colleen.
“Show us where it is and then tell everybody to stay out of our way.” Greg pulled a cart over, we put the bomb on it and then raced out of the Ed, Colleen leading the way.
As we got outside, Colleen shouted, “It’s over there! And the keys should be in it!”
“Greg, do you have the laptop?”
“Yeah!” Greg replied.
“Then Dale drives, you watch the Nexis and I watch the bomb.”
We loaded the bomb into the back of the van, climbed in and Dale sped away, quickly reaching more than 100 miles an hour. Fortunately, the Illinois Highway Patrol had been alerted so there wasn’t any traffic as we crossed the river into Illinois.
“Where’s the Nexis?” I asked.
“Following us,” Griffith said.
“Chicago?” wondered Price.
“With any kind of luck. Take 64 and floor it.”
“We’re out ahead of it,” said Greg. “Fifteen minutes but it’s gaining, Chris!”
We tore across central Illinois, Dale getting everything he could out of the van. I have no idea exactly where we were when I looked at the bomb timer and shouted, “Sixty seconds!”
“We’re out!!” screamed Greg.
“Up there!!” shouted Dale. “The creek bed!!”
Dale slowed the van to stop and then he and I got out, took out the bomb, sprinted toward a creek bed and hurled it in. The bomb suddenly began to glow with a bright orange glow that was blinding. Then it faded as the bomb dissolved into dust.
As we turned back toward the van, Griffith got out and stood next to it. “No effect,” he said with a smile. “The Nexis is still in one piece.”
We took our time getting back. We were just about to Teutopolis so we pulled into the home of the Wooden Shoes, gassed up and got something to eat. I guess it was our exhaustion that prevented us from noticing all the people staring and pointing at us and the unusual excitement of our waitress.
Somewhere in central Illinois, we saw something we thought was odd. A family stood by the side of the road. Thinking they needed help, Dale slowed down only to have the family start jumping up and down, cheering and taking our pictures. We stopped, got out and let them take a few more formal ones before we continued.
As we drove west, we saw more and more of them. Ones became tens, ten became hundreds, hundreds became thousands and thousands became tens of thousands. As we approached St. Louis, we were stopped by an Illinois highway patrolman. ”What’s going on?” I asked him.
“You’re what’s going on,” he replied. ”You’re getting an escort into St. Louis.”
There had to have been a million people on both the Missouri and Illinois riverfronts. Where they came from, I have no idea. As we crossed the Martin Luther King Bridge, with police cars in front of and in back of us, hundreds of thousands of flashbulbs went off, making the Gateway Arch sparkle like a diamond.
“Oh my God,” murmured Greg.
When we got to the Missouri side of the river, the St. Louis police took over. “We’re taking you back to the Dome,” one of them told us. “All the hostages are getting looked over by medical personnel. You guys should be done with your press conference by the time they’re finished.”
We arrived back at the Dome. I had never seen so many press in one place. The three of us were escorted to microphones. “Uh…guys?” said Greg. “I’ve never done anything like this before so any pointers would be appreciated.”
“The main thing,” said Dale, “is to look like you’ve been here before.”
“How do you do that?”
“What I generally do,” I said, “is to look bored. That usually takes care of it.”
For a presser broadcast worldwide on every television station in the world, this one was remarkably easy. We made a point of deferring to Allen and Colleen who were standing off to one side. After about an hour and a half, I cut things off and Dale, Greg and I headed into the Ed.
Greg’s CETU associates came out first and he introduced us around. Then Kathy Shaidle, Binky, Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, Captain Yips, Wannabe (Newbie) Anglican, Janjan, Dawn Eden and Sue Dallstream came out with their families and a good many of their friends. All of these, of course, had to meet and thank us.
In the midst of all this, I noticed a woman and some kids standing off to one side staring at Greg so, with a hard elbow in his ribs, I drew his attention to them. “Guys, I’ve got to…I’ve got to…” he stammered.
“What you’ve got to do is get over there, slick,” said Dale. Griffith started over, stopped and turned back. Price grinned at him. “Greg? It’s been a pleasure working with you.” I shot Greg a grin of my own. At that, Griffith smiled back, pointed at Price and I, ran over to his family and hugged all of them hard.
For a few more minutes, Dale and I accepted the thanks of the hostages, some of whom we knew, most of whom we didn’t. Then I noticed a woman, two daughters and a son materialize off to my left.
Dale saw them too. As usual, his parting was completely unemotional. “C? Until next time.” He ran over, hugged his kids more than once and started to leave. Before Price left, he stopped, looked at me and, with an expressionless face, raised his hand. I raised mine back.
I was alone. I was used to accepting adulation all by myself but today I didn’t want to. While shaking this hand and that one, I continually scanned the crowd in search of two people.
Then I saw them.
Nicky approached me slowly. Paul recognized me and greeted me with as delighted a smile as I’d ever seen from him. I walked toward my wife and stood there for a few seconds. All I could manage was a lame, “Hi, honey.”
“Tough day?” was all Nicky could get out before she collapsed, sobbing, into my arms. Then, oblivious and indifferent to everything and everybody, I held my wife and my son for a very long time.
Eventually I whispered into my wife’s ear, “I’ve got an idea.”
“What?” Nicky whispered back into mine.
“Let’s go home.”
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