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© 2022 by Jan Topaz. All rights reserved.
This Book Or Any Portion Thereof may not be reproduced
or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, 2022
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: A Jewish Pope and Chinese President 5
Chapter 2: The General’s Vice 26
Chapter 3: Hunted by Terrorists 37
Chapter 4: General Vice President 52
Chapter 5: The Proposal 67
Chapter 6: Terrorist in Fairfax 78
Chapter 7: The Beheading 87
Chapter 8: The VP Gets a Promotion 109
Chapter 9: The Terrorists’ New Plot 138
Chapter 10: A Glow Worm named Danny 150
Chapter 11: Shot and Poisoned 166
Chapter 12: A Real Deal 197
Chapter 13: Pegging Gino 227
Chapter 1: A Jewish Pope and Chinese President
Danny’s point of view
The Directors of the CIA and Secret Service call the day after the Vice President’s rescue in Morocco.
“Mando, we’ve talked to the Pope and his security staff. Neither Pope nor President wants to postpone the event. The public expects an appearance because their PR people promised them one.” My lips seal into a thin line. I expected this, but that doesn’t make it easier to hear.
He continues. “The helicopter idea is the best, but they don’t want to cheat the public who’ll be waiting for their arrival. And they refuse to give terrorists the idea they can manipulate world leaders’ schedules on a whim.”
“Understood. What’s the plan?”
“If you guys will double and disembark the planes, you can switch places once in the Limo, two SS and the VIPs will still exist.”
“Yes sir, but I suggest we carry on until safely inside the Vatican. The fanatics will have a backup plan if the first assassination fails. The President and Pope should go in separate cars. If someone shoots us, use a different escape plan.”
“We’ll figure that part out. Where are you now, Rome now, or Madrid?”
“Rome, sir.” I keep my answer short.
“Good. We’ve already duplicated the payment and deposited it with your attorney. Our advance team will meet you this afternoon and work out details to everyone’s satisfaction. You’ll need clothes like the president and Pope to fit you properly. The Vatican’s tailor can do that for you. Can you be there by ten for measurements?”
“We also heard what you did for Sherman and our six guys. That was fantastic. Thanks. I know their families will want to send you thank you notes and holiday cards.”
“That was all Falcons, sir. You are welcome.”
The day goes well. We meet the tailor and go shopping for shoes, and personal clothes from Italian boutiques before meeting with the advance team.
We determine where our snipers and spotters should be, and where to station the constables and troupers. I get Kammy’s attention. “Kammy, you’re ready to be a spotter for a sniper. You’ve got good eyes, quick reflexes, and you know what to look for.”
“Ah, I’m not ready to be the shooter?”
I pinch her nose while wrinkling mine. “Most likely, but the home boys should protect their pope in their own hometown. Besides, snipers work in pairs and take turns being shooters and spotters. If you weren’t a good sniper, you couldn’t be a spotter. Know why?”
“Because the spotter is the backup sniper; if he’s hit, you’re it.”
She looks down and scrapes her foot on the floor, disappointed. “Oh, all right.” She brightens. “But I am getting close, aren’t I? Close to being good enough to solo as a sniper?”
I can’t help grinning at her eagerness. “Close as honey to a honeycomb.”
The next morning we meet Air Force One and the Pope’s Jet in different cities. I transform Gino into the President and then fly to Germany to join the Pope on the Vatican jet so I can be his understudy. I start by making a mask of the face I’ll duplicate by covering the face with an instant drying spray that becomes a thin acrylic replica of that person’s face. These masks go over our faces topped with makeup, wigs and other items. We have particular bulletproof shields that fit over our head and face like an enclosed pair of sunglasses. Thanks to graphene, the guards are thin and don’t call attention to themselves.
We expect heart shots because the targets wave and turn their heads when they greet their admirers. A security agent places the glasses on our heads after we step onto the stairs, so the audience recognizes us and accepts us as the originals instead of copies. I pair our three snipers with trained snipers as spotters and instruct them in ways to search and destroy the enemy. Question is, will they eve gelen escort spot them before or during the shot? Chances of before are remote.
I have an enlightening and stimulating conversation with the pope on the trip to Rome. I imagine Gino has some private time with the President. Even though we’ve studied videos of their public appearances to learn how they walk, talk, hold their head and their overall posture, we practice with them side by side for others to identify needed corrections. Then we study videos of the practice run because we must mimic every move and gesture.
“Are you Catholic?” The Pope asks.
I smile. “No sir, today the Pope is Jewish.”
A smile adorns his face. “No problem; we have the same boss.”
Since I am an inch taller than the pope, taller security guys will flank me to disguise the discrepancy. A bald cap topped with a horseshoe of gray hair and the red skull cap, colored contacts, and wire-rimmed glasses make my head look like his. The ankle length white robe with the red stole and cross dangling around my neck makes me into a convincing Pope. A Jewish Pope at that. Even more intriguing, a Jewish Female Pope. What an oxymoronic paradox. What fun. For now.
It’s easy for Gino to impersonate the President. The only challenge is the Eurasian eyes. His white hair is still black from being an Arab, but he’ll wear a wig. The Ronald Reagan hairstyle and middle age worry lines accented with the full lips and dimpled chin are the president’s signature features. The dark blue pinstripe suit made by the Popes’ tailor fits perfectly, and his Secret Service team provided him with duplicate shoes and hose. The corporate CEO is the President of the United States for a couple of hours.
It is common for the Pope to address crowds in English, so that covers me if I must talk. I match his voice close enough.
His security chief is apprehensive. “Mando, do you expect trouble from the ground at the airport?”
“Suicide bombers up close and distant snipers are the most likely. We must prepare for both. Armed staff and news personnel are in key positions to shoot and wear bombs, sir. News Media personnel are the highest civilian risk because of their proximity.”
“Yes, Mando, we need all eyes for those things. You’ve got the counter snipers in place, and I understand you are exceptionally skilled in response time in neutralizing the threat. We have ample agents and security personnel, so I doubt we’ll require your action.”
“Yes, but listen chief, if your agents run at the shooter two soon they may get a knife or spike intended for the shooter or bomber. I can handle most of it if the airport security folks follow my lead.”
“They will follow your orders, sir.”
I smile. “I hope so.” The ground is my primary concern. This is too important of an event for the terrorist not to have a backup plan for their backup plan that backs up the primary strategy.
We land fifteen minutes apart and taxi to opposite sides of the runway to panic the shooters into splitting up. Ten minutes later we taxi back to the center and park seventy-five feet apart on the tarmac.
Air Force one remains on the runway until the Vatican jet arrives. They sit on the tarmac to time the leader’s simultaneous exits to eliminate the time window between the assassin’s shots. If one man drops, the other ducks back into the aircraft. I expect two dedicated shooters, but still take precautions.
Showtime. Lights, camera, action! This is it. No turning back or backing out. Hell, with secret service on our butts we can’t back up, either.
The door opens, and the security staff begins their descent to meet the ground crew security team. Gino and I are in contact with the security chiefs through earpieces, and they are in contact with all agents and snipers.
I ask the security chief if there has been any sign of hostility or gun barrels.
“No, Mando, but we’ve marked several buildings and rooms as likely shooting points. All snipers and spotters are in place. I assigned each spotter a section to watch for hostile snipers.”
I’m not concerned about armor-piercing rounds because our thick reinforced armor chest plates withstood all test rounds.
A security agent taps me lightly on the shoulder. “You are up, sir.”
“Thank you.” I follow the Popes’ protocol and step onto the stairway, pause, and slowly scan the crowd as I smile and wave. The other hand stays out of sight because it holds three saw blades and a spike. My robe’s slits make spikes, knives, and blades accessible. The positions of the agents surrounding me give me room to throw. I can throw fast enough to avoid detection by converting the completed throw to a wave.
I’m on the second step, head and face shield in place, smiling and waving istanbul eskort bayan when a cameraman about twenty feet high in a lift bucket fifty feet away abruptly drops the camera and yells, “Allah Akbar!” The driver of the bucket truck stomps the gas pedal and zooms toward our stairway like a scalded dog. The cameraman holds his right hand high to reveal a detonator and opens his coat. His chest and abdomen is solid dynamite and he’s holding a dead-man switch with the trigger button pressed. If shot, the limp finger releases the switch to detonate the bomb. Hence the terms suicide bomber and dead man switch. When the truck is thirty feet away, it screeches to a sudden halt making the attacker airborne straight toward us. Both bombers for each plane move in sync in well choreographed moves. But since their choreographer didn’t include the Hawks in their dance.
When the terrorists reveal the dead-man switch our Teflon and ceramic coated razor sharp disks blades swish through the air faster than the eye can see. The dead man switch dies when the disc separates his wrist from his arm with one clean , dashing the bomber’s hope of receiving forty virgins in heaven to the Tamarack below he’ll smack into with a thud instead of a boom. Without the ceramic coating, the steel discs would complete the circuit and detonate the bomb. But instead of a boom, the suicide bombers and their hands are on separate flights when they go airborne.
I sling an anodized steel spike deep into his neck between the number two and three vertebrae and severs his spinal cord. He lands face down ten feet from our stairs sliding toward the stairs with his head flopping up and down like a ping pong ball in a bingo cage. The security agents surround the body quickly to block the camera views of the gray, four-sided razor sharp pear point of the heavy metal spike protruding just below the base of his skull.
I snap an order. “Agent, split the bomb wires and strip one down halfway and tie it off pointing downward; call the bomb squad and retrieve those disks.”
A second after I spoke two sniper bullets hit each of us in the chest. I hadn’t counted on a pair of snipers for each target and a freak accident.
The two shots strike my heart so close together the bullet holes connect like Siamese twins. The bullets slam into my armor, lift me off my feet and send me crashing into the security agents behind me. When the blood packets over my armor pop, a crimson flower blooms over my heart as the rest splatters outward. Chances of the Pope surviving such an onslaught of high-powered rifle shots seem impossible. The Pope can’t survive that. No way.
Yes, way. He has no problem surviving the assassin’s bullets because he’s in the air-conditioned plane watching his holy self get shot on international television. After getting shot I’m holy too—but blasted instead of blessed. Agents spirit me back into the plane and slam the door. The men on the ground quickly disengage the stairs and run it far away while the pilot pivots the jet’s nose toward the runway. an ambulance with flashing lights and screaming siren races in from one direction, and a white helicopter with a giant Red Cross painted on each side flies in from the other.
The President and the pope are both killed at the same time. Togetherness.
TV networks broadcast the event live in the play-by-play style used for sports as the camera jockeys’ telephoto lens document it. The bomber’s bold attempt to assassinate two world leaders is followed by stunned dismay when the bullets strike His Holiness (her holiness) and the President. Thanks to the live TV coverage, public execution is a terrorist’s dream. For now.
International airwaves carry the urgent message worldwide: “The Pope and the President were assassinated!”
I’m rushed to the popes’ hospital gurney in the plane’s sickbay and hooked up to a heart monitor. The beep is slowing down. The peaks on the graph are in decline. The men note the copious blood over my heart and witness the monitor showing my heart slowing toward a stop and prepare for the worst.
The Pope insists upon seeing me. The instant he sees me his complexion turns pale enough to blend in with his white robe. “My son! Oh, my son! What have they done to you?”
I try to open my eyes, but something’s wrong. I croak to Gino through the microphone in my ear piece, “I’m hurt, Falcon. Come quick before I pass out.”I come out of the faint feeling hands groping my armor in search of fasteners to remove my armor. I yell as loud as I can, which is barely audible. “No. Stop. My doctor is on his way. One wrong angle twist of the armor will drive the bullet into my heart. Wait!” They back away asking each other, “Is he delirious? Should we believe him and wait?”
Meanwhile, Gino trades his Presidential identity for the falcon, grabs a lab coat from the medical bay, leaps to the retreating stairs and sprints to our plane. The Pope’s chief rezidans escort agent snaps an order. “Move the stairs back to the plane and let the President’s doctor through. Open the forward hatch and stand back to let the doctor pass. His Holiness is in critical condition.”
I hear a commotion up front and the security agents yelling, “Gangway! Gangway! Make way for the doctor. MOVE!”
When he reaches the sick-bay, I am fading fast. A voice yells behind Gino “Clear the way for the paddles. We’re losing him.”
Gino yells. “Stop. No paddles. Stand back.”
“Stand back. Agents, remove this man back and keep the area clear.” He bends over me as my last breath escapes my body.
The medic yells again. “Sir! Let us through. The heart monitor has flatlined.” I hear that, but nothing else. All is nothing, and I’m nobody.
Gino works his magic monk hands by immediately freeing the top shell of my armor and placing one hand beside my heart. His other hand rips off my mask so I can breathe better. My identity is safe because there’s a disguised Mando hidden behind the mask. I don’t float out of my body like Gino but I know of what’s happening around me because I hear every word spoken. I’m in a coma, yet alert to audio input. I’ve no concept of time, but I’m not confused like Gino was. I feel him take off my armor and mask; hear him yell at a man who must have those shock paddles, and glimpse Gino’s face and moist, concerned, yet confident eyes. I love him so much, even when I’m dead. I am sure his chi will repair my body and make it fit to live in again. Darkness returns. I remember my past fear and desire about not wanting to die alone. When I die I want to look into the eyes of the man I love, and know I’m loved, and for him to know I love him. The confirmation and reassurances are worth dying for—as long as it’s only temporary. The area over my heart is a burning white flame now, so I imagine those hands must look radio-active.
What seems like a Nanosecond later my heart is pumping warm blood through my arteries and veins. My chest heaves, fighting to restore oxygen to my lungs and blood. I don’t move until my body is operating according to design.
My eyes flutter open and see Gino’s face over mine. His eyes show concern, determination, and love. I’m feeling better by the second. My hectic heart is getting a regular beat, and my heaving chest is easing up and settling down to a slow, even rhythm. Since his hands are still glowing the healing is not complete. While remaining still I notice my armor on the bed near my feet and spot two bullets sharing the same hole. “Damn! The first bullet hit the rim of the second one and drove it deep enough to penetrate the armor I thought was impregnable. That couldn’t have been on purpose. They weren’t using lasers to paint the exact spot to shoot. Damn! A freak accident and I’m the freak.
Gino waits until the glow is almost gone before speaking. “How are you, Your Excellency?”
I manage a smile and reply. “Thanks for getting the hippopotamus dancing the polka off my chest.”
The pope must have remained because his expression is between horror-stricken, relief, and disbelief. He steps closer. “Excuse me, Doctor, may I come closer?”
Gino steps to the side. “Of course, your Excellency. Come and see your understudy’s outstanding job of recovering.”
He is meek and quiet when he speaks. “My son, it’s an undeniable blessing to have a physician like this gentleman with you. I feared for your life. How do you feel at the moment?”
I feel well enough to say a few words. I flash what I assume is a grin and say, “See? I put my whole heart into what I do.”
He jumps back like he’d stepped on an electric eel barefooted. “How can you feel well enough to joke? You are bleeding and have bullet holes in your robe! I watched you die.”
I still haven’t moved. “Not to worry Sir, I’m not on the death angel’s schedule yet. Maybe my final destination is undecided.”
His physician weaves around the others to get close to me. “Excuse me Doctor; may I take his vitals now?”
Gino steps back. “By all means.” He knows my sports bra is tight enough to conceal my gender.
Gino’s eyes search out the medic with the paddles and wave him over.
The timid man is humbled. Gino holds out the armor shell and thumps beside the two bullets. “See what you would have driven into his heart?”
The man can’t breathe. He’s beyond horrified at what he would have done. “I-I would have killed him, no?
Gino shakes his head. “No, he was already dead; you would have made it permanent.”He puts a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Sorry for yelling, but now you understand the reason, don’t you?”
“Y-Yes Sir. Thank you. I couldn’t live with myself knowing I took a life instead of saving it.”
The doctor finishes taking my vitals and decides I’m alive. “Young man, I don’t know how, but you’re put to rights.”
Each staring pair of doubting eyes waits for me to kill over. I look into Gino’s eyes and love him all the more. “Doctor, is this bird ready to fly?”
He pulls me to my feet, grinning. “You’re free to fly like a Hawk.”
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