Thursday, September 9, 2010

Next Chunk

He would never be one hundred percent certain what he had seen happen that night, no matter how many times he relived it. One second he was watching the jet settling toward a landing and the next, an explosion burst from the rear of the plane. Initiating back by the twin turbofan engines, the small, bright blast tore through the night, out of nowhere. It occurred to Ben that the sound of that initial explosion wasn’t all that much louder than big shells at a good fireworks display; just loud enough to get your attention. None the less, he felt it his guts when it detonated. Immediately after that initial ‘Pop’, the back of the Learjet blossomed into an orange, yellow and black ball of flame. Ben watched in fascinated horror as secondary explosions tore the small jet apart. The whole flaming mess fell rapidly and struck the ground. It wasn’t as graphic or spectacular as what one might see on the silver screen, but… Real, heavy pieces of what moments before had been a powerful little corporate jet were now flaming, smoking remnants that tumbled crazily across the grassy verge. As the pieces settled, the sound of the secondary blasts rolled out from the crash site.
Oh, shit, he thought.
Things were definitely not going smoothly anymore.

The mesmerizing effect of the unexpected crash was shattered by the sound of BLI’s Aircraft Rescue Firefighting trucks, tearing toward the crash site from their station at mid-airport. Everyone had stopped whatever they’d been doing when the jet went down. Crashes are constantly on the minds of almost everyone who travels through or works at an airport. When it actually happens, there is always a brief moment of disbelief; witnesses drink in the sensation, as if confirming that what they’d just seen or heard really happened. Ben and the radio tech came out of the reverie quite quickly. Ben’s immediate concern was gaining control of everything else that was going on right now. Orders left the comm. van for perimeter and take down assets to grab everyone from the buyer’s retinue, immediately. Since the van from the ice arena had moved to the hangars, they had unwittingly brought themselves closer to the majority of the take down team. Both vanloads were confronted. A brief firefight broke out when a gang member burst out of the van and opened up with an AK-47. He died in a hail of SWAT gunfire, which quickly convinced his companions of the futility of further resistance: They were subdued without further incident. All the peripheral bad guys had been corralled in less than two minutes from the time the initial order went out.

Saks and Raible were thinking along the same lines tactically; however their charges were still on edge and angry due to their perceived mistreatment at the hand of Saks. When the noise of the explosion rolled across the GA tarmac, Khan assumed some kind of double cross and drew a semi-automatic pistol. Mirroring his boss’s move, his driver started to draw his own pistol. Fortunately, neither Saks nor Raible was unprepared for such an event. Before Khan could level his pistol at Saks, Raible had whipped his coat aside, raised his MP-5 and leveled it at Khan’s midriff. One look at his face gave no illusion whatsoever as to what would happen if Khan’s pistol continued to rise. Just to make sure Khan understood the circumstances, Raible spoke quietly:
“Move and I’ll fuckin’ cut you in half. Drop it or you’re dead where you stand…”
Khan’s driver had focused, for a fateful fraction of a second, on Raible’s movement. His hesitation revealed his lack of experience handling weapons: By the time he realized his error, he was facing the very large, double-barrels of Saks’ sawed off 12-gauge. Saks smiled evilly as he noted the surprise and fear in the man’s eyes.
“That goes double for you, pal; move and I’ll blow your belly out your asshole...
Drop it, now.”
Khan and his associate dropped their weapons and raised their hands.

Ben pushed back the console chair in the back of the van. He removed a headset, sighed, and looked at his commo guy.
“Holy shit, what the fuck was that? What the hell just happened out there?”
Radar stared at his display screens, as if an answer might appear there.
“I have no idea, Ben, but I do believe we are in deep kimchee.”
Ben stepped out of the van and started walking toward the north end of the field.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Away we go...

Chapter I – Dreams

January, 2009: The Colonial Inn, Concord, Massachusetts

In the picture from the #1 camera, Khan and Saks face off.
Khan looks at his watch, clearly annoyed and then stares at Saks. It is actually somewhat amusing, even when it’s dangerous, to see someone try to menace C.R. Saks.
Saks’ voice, thick with contempt, comes over the body wire.
“What time you lookin’ for? I didn’t say what time they’d be here.”
“You told us to be here at 11. It’s 11. Where’s my dope?”
“Your dope, is it now… Well, probably the same place my money is - somewhere else: Why don’t you just loose the macho while we wait?”
“Fuck you, white boy.”
“No, no, no, see - I’m being polite. I haven’t sworn at you...”
“Hey, whatever, I got shit to do other than listen to you talk trash.”
“Now that… You got that right, anyway. You know, I’m really gonna miss you after this...”
“Whatever, little man - where’s my dope?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, boy, when I know you really got money, then you’ll know I really got the dope.”
“Hey, fuck you, man, I told you what I expected, I told you how it is gonna be, you don’t see money until after I seen dope.”
Saks looked at Raible with an exasperated expression and then returned his bored gaze on Khan.
“Hey, nice talk; you fuckin’ manage to fuckin’ say fuck about every fuckin’ second fuckin’ word, huh? You kiss your mom with that mouth? Anyway, seems like maybe you did yammer something about that. But, see, I recall us agreein’ that the money would be brought to the gate by another car and I don’t see another car. All I see here is you, yappin’ at me. So if you got money close at hand, why don’t you just prove that to me; you know, so that I see you’re not just waitin’ for my dope to arrive so that you can rip it off? I mean, why else should I trust you - friendship?”
“I got the other car; you don’t need to worry about that.”
“Right, no worries, all I gotta do is trust you, right? Get real, Cheese-head. Show me that their money’s close or you can just get back in your fag wagon there and drive your sorry ass back to Vancouver, eh?”
The two stared at each other, Khan obviously angry and aware of the fact that he was not in control, but uncertain what to do about it. Ego got in the way of sound reasoning, otherwise he just might have high-tailed it north. Saks, on the other hand, looked merely bored: Anyone who knew him would note that the man was in the relaxed state one sees in athletes and martial artists; a de-focused awareness. Saks was watching Khan closely and Ben knew it.
Khan spat and pulled a small radio out of his pocket.
“You got this, John?” Ben queried the Comm. Officer.
“Yup, right… there. Motorola talk-about on a preset public frequency - Piece of cake.”
Khan’s voice rattled across the speaker, speaking what sounded like a dialect of Chinese.
“Can’t help you there, boss,” Radar grinned, “I don’t even know what dialect they’re speaking, but we’ll get it translated.”
“Swell,” Ben grimaced, “So what if he’s saying “Screw them, come down here now and grease all these turds?””
“Like I said, can’t help you there, boss, I’m just the Comm Guy.”
“Not your fault, Bro, just blowin’ off steam…”
“No worries, Boss.”
“And stop calling me boss!”

The second van fires up, the one that had been lurking beside the old ice arena. It creeps away with no lights, even when the brakes were obviously being applied.
“Hey, looky there, the sonsabitches got brake light cut-outs!” came over the DEA frequency.
The van cruised slowly across Mitchell Way, stopped just outside the gate and flashed the headlights briefly.
Khan turned back to Saks, “There’s the money, man!”
“Well, now, there’s a van, for sure… But I don’t see any money…”
“And you ain’t gonna either, shithead, until I see some dope!”
“You know what? You got yourself a genuine hostility problem there, son…”
Saks figured he had screwed with this clown enough: It was time to make things happen. He reached into an inside coat pocket: Khan’s associate stiffened theatrically. Raible’s right arm raised slightly inside his coat: His attention was set on the second man. If things went wrong, (At least as far as these guys up close were concerned), he was responsible for his counterpart, and Saks for Khan: “It’d be my distinct pleasure,” had been Saks’ exact words. So far, barring Khan’s to-be-expected impatience and lack of tact, things had gone remarkably smoothly.
Saks spoke quietly into a small radio and received a response fairly instantaneously. He returned the device to his pocket.
“Hey, pretty fancy, man – maybe too fancy, eh?”
“Yeah? Why, you jealous? When we’re done, even you’ll be able to afford one, pal.”
“Hey, fuck you man!”
“Don’t you ever get tired of saying that?”
The exchange broke off when Khan could think of nothing new to counter with.
Khan’s associate nervously pulled a cigarette pack out of his pocket, offered one to Khan. With surprising speed from a big man, Saks stepped in, leaned toward the man, and snatched a smoke from the pack.
“Thanks, thanks very much, very kind of you; John, you?”
“Nah”, replied Raible, gesturing at his lip with his free hand, “Got a dip in, thanks anyway, though.”
Before Khan could be annoyed with him, Saks had produced a lighter, lit his pilfered smoke and began casually puffing away.
“John Player Specials,” he grinned, “Very tony smoke, eh?”
The other men required several attempts to obtain a steady flame before they could join him. The foursome stood, stomping their feet, trying to appear calm, and turning their backs to the stiff breeze. Before the cigarettes were tossed to the pavement, the faint sound of the Learjet approaching from the south became audible over the wind. Weather conditions were actually improving a little. The winds were slightly gusty, but the steady breeze had noticeably lost velocity, down to somewhere between maybe 5 and 10 knots. Overhead the clouds were breaking up somewhat: They scudded across a waxing moon and a few stars, shining dully. Finally, they heard the Learjet overhead and slightly to the east, heading north on its downwind leg. The group stood in silence as the jet crossed behind them, roughly paralleling the highway, marker lights blinking brightly on the fuselage. In the van, Ben and the tech ran through radio checks with all stations. Everyone was ready, maybe a bit too keyed up for his or her ultimate health and well-being. Not bad, though, given the circumstances.

Ben turned toward his radio guy. “You got the tower frequency up too, don’t you John?”
“Hey, does the Pope mumble?”
The tech flipped a switch and the ever-casual voice of an air traffic controller spilled from a speaker.
“Bellingham Tower, Lear November-Zero-Three-Five-Whisky-Tango...”
“November-Zero-Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, Bellingham Tower, go ahead, Sir.”
“Roger Bellingham, we’re east of you, Sir, on a downwind for runway one-six.”
“Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, Roger that, no other traffic in the pattern at this time. Wind is variable from one-seven-four degrees, currently one-zero knots, gusting to one-five knots: Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, report base to final.”
“Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, roger that.”
The Lear was now roughly northwest of the airport. They’d set up for a final approach somewhere southeast of Ferndale. Ben remembered what a stink the residents up there had made when jet service first came to Bellingham in the mid 80’s:
Could you blame them, he thought, would you want that noise over you at 11-something at night?
The jet began a graceful turn to the west, onto its base leg.

Again, the air traffic control frequency came to life.
“Bellingham Tower, November-Zero-Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, turning base for final, runway one-six.”
“Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, Roger, Sir, you are cleared to land, no change in conditions: Contact Bellingham Ground on one-two-two-point-five when clear of the runway and good evening to you, Sir.”
“Three-Five-Whisky-Tango, Bellingham Ground on one-two-two-point-five, roger that and thank you, Sir.”
A moment later a bright burst of landing lights flared as the Lear turned south on final approach for Runway 16. The Learjet was losing altitude and speed steadily as it flew back south toward the runway. The pilots would be watching the MALSR, the Medium Approach Lighting System with Runway End Identifier Lights: Racks of powerful strobe lights, aligned with the center of the runway and with smaller, fixed lights arrayed to either side of them and perpendicular to the runway’s direction, flashed in sequence from farthest out to closest in. Next in to the pilot’s view were boxes containing two colors of lights, white and red. The pilot’s mantra for using this tool goes “White’s alright, Red you’re dead;” they help maintain a proper angle of approach. Ben had buddies in the department who flew. Heck, one of them was actually a flight certification examiner for the FAA. He was contemplating this memory and watching the jet’s graceful approach, when without any real warning whatsoever, all hell broke loose.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Welcome. I have written a novel, over many years, and my lovely wife wisely suggested I release it in parts, as sort of a self-publishing scheme, and see what happens, so, I am...  Stay tuned.