(Need to re-read Chapter 1? Click here)
Walt Kincaid awakened that misty Monday morning and squinted at the large red numbers on the clock radio beside his bed. Four forty-five am. He toyed with the idea of turning over and squeezing in an extra thirty-five minutes of sleep before the alarm sounded, but the adrenaline already coursing through his body told him that further sleep was not an option.
He rolled on his back, propped his pillows behind his head and stared at the ceiling. He would take an eight am flight from San Francisco to San Diego’s Lindbergh Field where he would be taken to Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado. It was there that Kincaid and NSW’s commanding officer would put the finishing touches on Operation Snow Plow, the work authored by Walt and his secret FBI Task Force 64.
He got up and walked to the kitchen, putting his coffee in the microwave. The only thing that nagged him about Snow Plow was that, when fully operational, a number of innocent people were going to die. He had tried to rationalize away his concern by telling himself that they were in a war, and in war there were always going to be civilian casualties. Couldn’t be helped. Collateral damage. His Jesuit professors at Georgetown would have told him that what he was planning was evil. But they were, he had decided, wrong. The ends do justify the means.
On the way to the shower, Walt stopped to look at his reflection in the full-length mirror located to the left of the bathroom door. What he saw was a sixty-seven year old FBI agent of medium height with a sagging face and a full head of wavy hair almost completely free of gray, thanks mostly to the hair coloring he had been using every six weeks for the past ten years. He hated getting old. He wasn’t going to give in to the aging process just like he hadn’t given in to the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with fifteen years ago. This was just who he was … and had always been.
That attitude hadn’t made him an easy person to live with. He realized that now. At times, and more frequently now since he was so close to mandatory retirement age, he regretted having such a hard-nosed personality. Especially with his close relationships. It had cost him his wife, and, to a certain extent, his son.
His wife had divorced him twenty years ago. She died ten years later of breast cancer. No matter what he did, he couldn’t make amends to her. But Rob, his son, was a different story. He could still reconcile with him. Rob had gone into the military after high school and became a Navy SEAL. While they corresponded occasionally, they hadn’t seen each other much over the past fifteen years or so.
With retirement looming, and Snow Plow promising to be a lasting testimony to his FBI career, he had begun to think how great it would be if Rob could come back home. He had left the SEALs a year ago and opened a “Security Agency” that contracted with the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, offering his “special talents” for jobs that may not pass Congressional oversight if they were carried out by the military.
The firm, headquartered in Virginia Beach, could just as well be HQ’d in San Francisco. He had written Rob a letter to that effect almost a month ago but hadn’t heard back from him yet. If he could actually speak to Rob, he would tell him he was a different person than the one he knew fifteen years ago. Loneliness, it seemed, had trumped his tough guy persona.
Walt dried off and quickly dressed. Before leaving, he went into the spare bedroom, as he did every morning and knelt on the kneeler placed in front of a statue of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. It was a mini-shrine Betty had put up. Crossing himself, he said a quick prayer for the success of Snow Plow … and Rob’s safe return home.
Walt Kincaid arrived at San Francisco International at seven twenty-five, and boarded Flight Five-Sixty to San Diego. At exactly eight-oh-two, the big plane rolled down the runway and glided gracefully into a crystal blue sky.
A few minutes later, the plane banked gently left and headed over the West Bay hills. Over the intercom, the pilot’s calm voice told him that they were just now passing through eleven thousand feet on their way to a cruising altitude of thirty-six thousand feet, and that the high in San Diego was expected to be seventy-three degrees.
Walt sat back in his seat, and looked at his watch. It was eight-twelve. He closed his eyes in the hope of catching a quick nap before his flight reached San Diego.
Two men stood on a ridge in the West Bay hills and watched the big plane make the turn that would bring it almost directly overhead. They had parked their nondescript car in one of the many regional parks that dotted the landscape of the coastal hills running from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, and then hiked to the ridge just as dawn was breaking. Both wore black North Face parkas to ward off the cold, drippy mist that rolled off the Pacific Ocean that time of morning, and black ball caps with the red logo of San Jose’s professional soccer team.
As the plane passed overhead, one of them pulled a stopwatch from his jacket pocket. “Are you ready?” he said in a thick Mexican accent.
“Si,” his partner said, already keying a string of numbers into his iPhone.
Cruz had pulled up the flight on his computer screen. “Five-Sixty had wheels up at eight-zero-three,” he told Hartmann. “It just now cleared the coastline over Pacifica. I’ve alerted the pilot to return.” He paused. Hartmann could hear a few faint clicks of Cruz’ keyboard. “He got the message,” Cruz said. “The plane is beginning its turn back now. How much time do we have?”
Hartmann looked at his watch. It was eight-fourteen. “I wish I knew,” he answered.
The plane had just started its wide arching turn back toward the airport when the man with the iPhone tapped the “Call” button. The seven-thirty-seven shuddered violently and then erupted in a massive orange and crimson ball of flame, scattering pieces of Walter Kincaid and one hundred eighteen other poor souls over four square miles of the blue Pacific below.
When Hartmann heard Cruz whisper, “Oh, shit,” he knew they had run out of time.
An hour after Flight Five-Sixty went down, a white van bearing the name Expert House Cleaning Service pulled into Walt Kincaid’s driveway.
Witnesses said there were two men in the van, and that both got out and went into the house. They all agreed they were wearing blue overalls and carrying what looked to be large laundry bags. It was in those “what looked to be large laundry bags” that the two Expert House Cleaning Service’s “cleaners” carried out the contents of Walt’s wall safe, the flash disc containing his Snow Plow file, the hard drive from his computer and the contents of the top two drawers of his filing cabinet.
Please leave a Reply as to what you thought of the chapter. If it moves you to want to read further, please email me at DennisKollerAuthor@gmail.com and I’ll send you the next few chapters.