Jack can see that all the others, except perhaps Belcheck, are horrified by the savagery of what has just happened. He wasn’t expecting Seminov to shoot Marie, but what has registered with Jack the most is that he himself is seemingly immune to the ferocious brutality he’s just witnessed. ‘I should feel something, surely. When did this become okay?’ he wonders. Seeing the others’ reactions has drilled home how far removed from normal human responses his have become. Although he has done very similar things in the past, perhaps worse, it had only ever been him who was prepared to go to whatever lengths were necessary. He’d never seen anybody else do the same and it certainly placed a different perspective on it.
Seminov is demanding answers from Dan. “Where? When?”
The prisoner, white faced, spills the words out, speaking quickly, “I don’t know where. Sometime in the next hour. We were due to meet the truck at three.”
“Where were you meeting the truck?”
“Where?” Seminov insists fiercely.
“Somewhere out on the Moscow Ring Road. North, about ten minutes from here. Brett knew where.”
“What did you buy tonight?”
“A Rocket Launcher.”
“Lebedev asked for it. I don’t know what he planned to do with it. He said something about back up.”
“Who else is involved in this?”
“There’s the rest of Suvarov’s team and they’ve got someone on the inside, but I don’t know who. Lebedev used to speak to them, they were in contact.”
“I never heard Lebedev on the phone to anybody,” volunteers Katya.
Jack goes up the other end of the room and says to Seminov. “We can try and see if we can intercept the truck but if we miss it then we waste a lot of time and achieve nothing.”
“I can just call it in, they’ll put an APB out and the truck can be picked up easily, there won’t be much traffic out at this time.”
“Captain, you heard him, there’s somebody on the inside. We can’t risk word getting back; we need to go in discreetly. Where’s the President staying at the moment?”
“I don’t know. It could be any of three places. There are two in the center, both in the Kremlin complex, ten or fifteen minutes east from here or there’s his country residence, to the west on the outskirts and about thirty minutes away,” says Seminov.
Elizabeth, sitting on the couch says, slightly shakily, “I can find out.”
“Do it,” orders Jack.
She pulls out her phone and dials.
Alexei checks his watch again. They are behind schedule and are late to meet the truck. They are barely on the outskirts of the city. “Yury, Can you go any faster?” demands Alexei impatiently.
“Not if you want us to be anonymous.”
Yury’s annoyed by Alexei’s impatience. It was due to Alexei they were late in the first place.
Despite his irritation, Yury increases his speed a fraction and watches, in his rear view mirror, as the SUV behind, catches up and keeps pace.
Jack goes into the kitchen and takes the flashlight he had seen earlier from the cupboard, and then goes out of the room. Elizabeth follows him outside. She hasn’t really had a chance to speak to him alone.
He holds up his hand to indicate she should stay back. She stops and retreats back to the front door. Jack goes to the car and looks at it sitting low on its rear axle. He pulls his weapon and opens the trunk.
Jack almost lets out a low whistle when he shines the flashlight on its contents. “What is it?” asks Elizabeth, moving closer.
“It’s not just a rocket launcher. It’s an ATGM – an anti-tank guided missile,” says Jack, explaining the acronym.
Elizabeth moves up to stand beside him. “An AT-14 Spriggan to be precise,” she replies.
He gives her a wry sideways look and then focuses back on the trunk. At the back, under a blanket, there is a large, long wooden crate. Straining with the effort, he pulls it towards him by one of its rope handles and then takes Marie’s knife from his pocket and jemmies the crate open. Two different warheads sit side by side, nestling in a cushion of straw.
While he’s closing up the crate, he says, “This is a well-funded organisation. These are high value items. Two different missile types, two purposes. “
“We need to hand over the prisoners. I don’t think we can involve the Russians, what if they arrest you again? And I need to stay under the radar. I can contact the CIA here in Moscow. They can do the hand off.”
He stands up straight, the crate resealed, looks across at her and sees anguish in her eyes.
“You’re going to go to Putinov’s with Seminov, aren’t you? ” she says wretchedly.
“Yes, I have to.”
“This is selfish, but I don’t want you to go. It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. I want proper time with you,” she finishes, her voice full of regret.
“Even after you saw what I did in there?” queries Jack with an edge of bitterness, well aware that his actions would have appeared brutal and cruel.
“Jack,” she says tenderly, “What you have been through….. You are not just the man I saw at work in there. It does not define you. You’re doing a job and you took no pleasure in it. I’m well aware of what being an agent entails and the toll it can take.” She looks into his eyes and says earnestly, “I am not here to judge you. I am your mother, whether you believe it or not, and when this is over, I’ll take a DNA test and prove it to you.”
Before Jack can stop himself he says, “I believe you.”
Elizabeth’s face crumples with relief, and tears well up in her eyes. “Oh, Jack…”
She puts her hand up to his face and cups his cheek. “My son… I am so very proud of you.”
Jack, still trying to fathom why his brain is so readily accepting this woman as his mother, takes her hand in his, lowers it from his face and squeezing it gently, says, “We need to get ready. I need to tell Seminov about this,” and nods towards the weaponry in the trunk.
“Yes, of course. Sorry.” Elizabeth wipes her eyes and reverts to pragmatism. “I’ll contact the CIA as soon as you leave and they can organise the handover of the prisoners to the Russians. Katya and Anton will stay with me until you get back.”
“Katya? Are you sure we can trust her?”
“I’ve been listening to her talking to Chloe. She’s on our side, I’m sure of it. She got sucked in by Marie and she’s had her eyes opened to her and the real circumstances around her mother. It’ll be fine,” Elizabeth carries on, “…..and Anton will be with me. Don’t worry, he’s very capable.”
She changes the subject rapidly, “If you think Morozov won’t hold up his end of the deal, I can get you out of the country, regardless of what happens. We can both use the container to get out.”
He puts a hand on Elizabeth’s shoulder and with a hint of a smile says, “That sounds like an ideal opportunity to spend some time together. Can you get Seminov and send him out here?”
Jack finishes searching the trunk but there is nothing else there. He climbs into the back seat and starts going through the various bits of paper and trash littering the car.
Seminov comes out the house to join him and gets into the driver’s seat and following Jack’s lead, starts searching the front of the car.
“There’s a Kornet with two warheads in the trunk, a HEAT and one FAE.”
“And that was the back up?” says Seminov, “What the hell have they got as the main weapon then?”
Jack, viewing the question as rhetorical, doesn’t answer and keeps searching the car for anything that can help them.
Seminov looks at Jack in the rear view mirror and considers the man he has been working alongside, trying to reconcile what he has seen in the flesh with what he had been told about Bauer before this assignment.
“Why did you try to kill Suvarov in New York?”
“I didn’t try to kill him. If I had tried to kill him, he wouldn’t have been alive today to co-ordinate a terrorist attack on Russian soil. My mistake,” says Jack, sarcastically.
Seminov, ignoring the sarcasm, but not entirely masking the impatience in his voice, asks another question to try and fill the gaps. “And Novakovich and his men at the Russian embassy?”
Jack sighs. He has grown tired of having to explain what happened in New York, it just brings back bad memories for him, but ,realising he owes Seminov some sort of explanation, he pauses his search and sits back.
“Suvarov was behind the assassination of President Hassan. He also gave an order to Novakovich, which Novakovich facilitated. The order was to kill my ….” Jack pauses, trying to find the right word to avoid letting emotion get the better of him, “….partner. “
Jack’s voice cracks slightly, “Her name was Renee Walker. She was shot in my apartment and she didn’t deserve to die.”
Seminov, hearing the emotion in Jack’s voice, doesn’t say anything, but busies himself searching the car. Seminov is aware he is merely going through the motions looking in the glove box, he isn’t really concentrating on the job, but rather he’s trying to understand Bauer’s motives. If the Russian Government had ordered a hit on Jack’s partner, and Seminov was pretty sure that Renee Walker was someone that Jack had cared deeply about, he wouldn’t blame Bauer for wanting to exact revenge, even all these years later. He just needs to be sure Jack is truly an ally before he lets him anywhere near Putinov.
“Why are you still here, Jack? You could have walked away, gone under the radar like you did before. You’ve refused to go back, so you’re not interested in trying to clear your name.”
Jack halts his search of the car again, looks at Seminov’s reflection in the mirror and says in a gravelly voice. “I believe in justice.”
Jack’s reply takes Seminov by surprise. “And what about justice for you? What will you do if Morozov doesn’t stick to the deal? I will do what I can, but unfortunately, the man’s a vulture and will want his pound of flesh.”
Jack shrugs his shoulders. “I’ll worry about that when it happens, Captain. These people need to be stopped and for now, the priority is to protect Putinov.”
Seminov takes a moment to consider Jack’s words. Despite the tragedies that have obviously been bestowed upon him, the way he’d answered, with such heartfelt sincerity, has convinced Seminov that Bauer has his morality intact. If the circumstances were different and they weren’t on seemingly different sides, Seminov thought he and Jack could probably have been good friends.
Satisfied, Seminov resumes his search of the glovebox, this time giving it the attention it warrants.
Serge is sitting in his Kremlin office when his monitor alerts him that the computer system is being infiltrated again. The system is primed and ready and immediately starts running a trace on the hacker. He watches as the software gets to work tracking the route, bouncing back and forth across the globe until it finds its source.
‘Right here in Moscow. Got you!’
He makes a call ordering an assault team to be ready to leave in two minutes, prints the report of the information gleaned by the system about the interloper, and, as he walks out the door, he reads the single sheet of paper. The hacker had conducted a search on the President’s itinerary.
Kate has brought the car up from the road where Anton had left it earlier. Seminov and Jack are back inside after a thorough search of the terrorists’ car revealed nothing of any use.
They are all checking their hand guns and sharing out their remaining ammunition when Elizabeth’s cell warbles with an incoming call. She answers it after barely one ring. She nods, says thanks and hangs up.
“That was Davis. He’s managed to get the information on Putinov’s location. It’s the country residence.”
“Are you sure you will be okay?” Jack asks her, aware that she will be left with three prisoners and Katya with only Anton as support.
Elizabeth nods. “We’ll contact the CIA immediately. You go. There won’t be any trouble with them.”
Anton nods towards the three handcuffed captives and adds with a grin, “And if there is, I’ll shoot them.”
“Jack! We need to go!” urges Seminov.
Jack starts walking quickly towards the door but before exiting, turns to Anton and says sternly “You keep her safe,” nodding towards Elizabeth.
“I will, I promise.”
Seminov nominates himself as the driver, and they all hurry into the car. Chloe, Belcheck and Kate get in the back with Chloe in the middle and Jack gets in the front passenger seat.
The sun hasn’t yet broken over the horizon, but the sky is already lighter. Jack looks out of the car window, soaking up the varying scenery as Seminov drives the car smoothly and efficiently round the back of Gorky Park and out of Frunzenskaya district towards the Russian President’s country retreat.
Yury turns into the quiet side street and stops in front of a warehouse door. Alexei gets out the SUV and pulls on the building’s door. The door slides back with very little noise, it’s obviously been well maintained and recently oiled.
He waves Yury and the following SUV in and they park up side by side, alongside a plain white truck which is already there. Alexei closes the doors and walks back to Yury.
“The Americans are supposed to be here. Where are they?” says Alexei.
Mikhail has got out of the other SUV and says, “They should have been here at three. They were going to fix the turret in the back,” he nods towards his vehicle.
Alexei starts pacing the length of the warehouse and looks at his watch. “Do you have a contact number for them, or was it only Lebedev?”
“Only Lebedev,” says Mikhail, “we have no way of contacting them.”
Alexei sighs. This was going to make everything so much harder. The original plan had been to set up the SUV about two kilometers away from the President’s country residence and then remotely fire the warheads. The truck was to be used as a diversionary tactic in the Kremlin complex which would have initially caused havoc and focused attention away from the President. Then the missiles would have done their job. Without the missiles, the entire plan will have to be reworked.
“We wait” says Alexei, still pacing.
As Seminov drives towards the outskirts of the city, Jack is still looking out the window, lost in thought.
“What were the weapons in the trunk?” asks Belcheck.
Seminov glances across at Jack expecting him to reply but when nothing is forthcoming, answers the question.
“There were two warheads; one was a high-explosive anti-tank warhead, HEAT for short. It’s designed to attack tanks with explosive reactive armour. Armour penetration for the HEAT warhead is twelve hundred millimeters, with a range of up five kilometers.”
“My God, What was the other one?” asks Kate.
Seminov again waits for Jack to join in the conversation, but eventually says “A high explosive, incendiary missile for use against battlements. It uses fuel air explosives. It’s not necessarily the explosion that gets you. What also kills, is the pressure wave and the resulting vacuum, it can rupture lungs and if the fuel burns but doesn’t detonate, you’ll be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAEs are highly toxic, undetonated fuel is as lethal as most chemical agents.”
Chloe absorbing all the information says, “I remember reading a Defense Intelligence Agency report about FAEs back at CTU. It said that the effect of an FAE explosion within confined spaces is colossal. Those near the ignition point are obliterated and those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal injuries, burst eardrums, crushed inner ear organs, severe concussion, ruptured internal organs, and possibly blindness. And another DIA document said that because the shock and pressure waves cause minimal damage to brain tissue, it’s possible that someone wouldn’t be rendered unconscious by the blast, but instead suffer for several seconds or minutes while suffocating.”
Jack is only half listening, but considers, like he has many times before, that it’s a sad reflection on the human race that countries all over the world have invented weapons like this, let alone use them.
He loses himself again in the view out the window.
Serge’s team members have taken up strategic positions outside the tower block while Serge leads the advance team to the door of the apartment housing the hacker.
Serge signals to two of his team to go ahead and batter down the door. The door splinters on its hinges and the two soldiers move in, weapons raised. Michael Davis is sitting at the table in the main living room of the apartment. He immediately hits a key on the laptop in front of him and then raises his hands.
Serge follows his men in and says, “Who are you?”
Davis, with his hands still raised, says in perfect Russian, “I could ask you the same thing.”
Serge takes his phone out of his overcoat pocket and holding it up says, “Smile for the camera,” and presses a button and uploads the image to the FSB for identification.
“I’m guessing that you are an associate of Elizaveta Hejduk and that your name is Michael Davis. That’s what our voice recognition suggested. You can tell me now, or we can wait until I get confirmation. It should take under two minutes.”
“What do you want?” asks Davis
“I want to know what you are doing in Moscow and why you were hacking into our systems,” says Serge calmly, “and when you’ve told me that, you can tell me where I can find Elizaveta Hejduk.”
“I don’t know where Elizabeth is,” says Davis, “The reason I was looking in your systems is I am trying to stop an imminent attack on the Russian President.”
”And I’m supposed to believe that?” says Serge, “Tell me where Hejduk is and it will save you being charged with withholding information on top of all the other charges we have against you.”
Davis shrugs and lowers his hands.
“Search him,” orders Serge.
The two soldiers drag Davis out of the chair and force him onto the floor. One of them places his knee into the small of Davis’s back and the other searches him thoroughly. When they have satisfied themselves that he doesn’t have anything secreted on his person, they handcuff him, tightening the handcuffs until Davis winces and then drag him up off the floor onto his feet.
Serge takes the seat vacated involuntarily by Davis and starts to search various files on the laptop.
He finds what he wants relatively quickly and he turns his head to look at Davis who has been watching him.
“Is this her phone number? Called less than ten minutes ago?”
Davis bows his head and looks resolutely at the floor.
Serge doesn’t bother to wait for an answer; he pulls out his cell phone and requests a trace on the number.
Katya is sitting on the couch staring at Marie who appears to be only semi-conscious, her face glistening with a fine film of perspiration. The pain of her knee must be unbearable thought Katya. She turns away, struggling to find any sympathy for the woman.
“I’m so sorry for lying to you” she says to Elizabeth, “I didn’t know the truth. I had no idea about Jack’s wife or anything my mother was involved in.”
Elizabeth looks at her, “It’s been quite a day for all of us.”
“Why is Jack risking everything going after the terrorists? Surely, he could end up back in jail?” asks Katya.
“Because,” Elizabeth, unable to keep all the pride from her voice says, “it’s the right thing to do.”
Elizabeth looks at her watch. “You two should go.”
“Why?” asks Katya.
“Because I need you to be here when they all get back so you can help me get Jack out of the country. If you’re here when the CIA turn up, they’ll want to question and debrief you and you’ll be tied up in hours of red tape. If you go, you can come back once the CIA have gone. I can tell them I’m still working and they won’t pull me in.”
“I’m not leaving you alone,” says Anton, “I gave Jack my word.”
“What can happen? They are handcuffed.”
Anton could see Elizabeth’s logic but isn’t comfortable leaving her alone with the three prisoners.
“Well, we won’t go yet. The CIA won’t get here for at least another ten minutes.”
Alexei is impatiently pacing up and down the warehouse.
Mikhail goes over to him and says, “Yury and I have checked over the truck and everything’s ready to go.”
Alexei turns and walks over to the truck, looks in the back and says, “Cover it up and close the doors.”
Alexei goes to the cab and checks that everything is there that should be and once satisfied he walks away and calls to the other men who are standing at the back of the warehouse smoking cigarettes.
The men all gather round him. Alexei has come up with an alternate proposal but it’s risky and will require team work. He needs to make sure they all understand their roles and are fully committed to the cause.
He takes them through it step by step; the men seem remarkably unfazed by the sudden change in plan although Alexei feels the need to remind them why they are doing this.
“President Suvarov died because he believed in the cause. He will be remembered as a martyr and it is our duty to carry on the fight for him and for Mother Russia”
The men nod and without any prompting, in unison say, “Rossiya-Matushka.”
Alexei, suitably satisfied by the level of commitment from his team, lifts his right hand and spirals his finger in the air, signaling it’s time for them to move out. He walks over to the warehouse door and slides it back, the men pile into the two SUVs and turning the vehicles round, one after the other, leave the warehouse.
Alexei looks at his watch again. He can only afford to wait three minutes more and then he must leave too.
Chloe, in the back of the car, is frustratedly tapping on the keyboard of her laptop.
“I can’t get hold of Davis for satellite coverage. We’d set it all up before we left. I’d just got connected and then he closed the port combination I was using and I can’t get it back open. I’ve been trying over and over again.”
“We need satellite coverage, we’ll be going in completely blind without it,” says Kate.
“Phone Elizabeth,” says Seminov.
Much to the others’ surprise, Jack interjects. He has been mute and insular for the whole of the journey up to now, only seemingly interested in looking out the window. “No! I don’t want there to be any distractions for her. Not until she’s definitely handed off the prisoners. Kate, will Erik help?”
“Won’t do any harm to ask,” she says, dialling.
Serge has searched the laptop thoroughly and hasn’t found anything else of note. He shuts it down, unplugs it and closes its lid. “Evidence,” he says to Davis.
“You don’t have to do this. We are trying to help stop the terrorist attacks. Elizabeth is working with somebody who has already captured three terrorists. We were the ones that told you Suvarov’s location. Why would we do that if we were working against you?”
Serge shakes his head. “Based on Elizaveta’s history, I find that very hard to believe. She has one loyalty, and one loyalty only: to the American Government.”
“Yes, which is why she is trying to stop the attacks. The terrorists were making it look like Americans are behind it,” Davis says, desperately.
“So tell me where she is, Michael, and we can sort this out.”
Davis knows that he can’t give up Elizabeth’s location, not with her history. He has to find a way to either convince or delay Serge from finding her. Convincing him hasn’t gone well so far, so delaying him was the only other option open to him.
Serge’s cell pings an alert and he pulls it out of his pocket. Davis sees his opportunity and dives forward, aiming his head straight into Serge’s diaphragm.
Serge falls backwards at the onslaught and his cell phone clatters to the floor. Davis rolls off Serge towards it, if he can damage it enough, maybe Serge won’t see Elizabeth’s location.
He rolls onto the phone and with his arms still handcuffed, grabs it with one hand with the intention of bashing it against the floor to destroy the screen. Before he can get into a position to allow his hands enough momentum to hit the phone on the floor with suitable force, the two guards are on him, rolling him over and snatching the phone out of his hand.
Serge, winded, stands up and says “You’ll regret that.”
He takes his cell phone, brushes down his clothes, nods to the two soldiers and says, “Teach him a lesson,” and walks out of the apartment.
The two men look at each other, knowing what has just been ordered.
Chloe is tapping away at her laptop while Kate relays the information from Erik.
“Do you have schematics for the President’s residence as well?” asks Kate
After a moment, she follows up with, “Okay, the satellite will have to do. Hang on.”
She looks at Chloe, who is still tapping away. After a few more keystrokes, Chloe nods and turns her laptop to show Kate the screen.
Kate puts the phone back to her ear. “Erik, we’re in. Thanks and don’t forget – this needs to be kept off book.”
President Putinov is sitting at his desk deciding whether to ask for a coffee or to see if he can catch some sleep, when he is interrupted by a call on his private line.
“Da,” says Putinov, picking up after four rings.
“Mr. President, how are things there? I have just had a very interesting conversation with one of Hejduk’s associates.”
Serge briefly considers telling the President about Davis’s claims of a terrorist attack but he didn’t believe a word of it and it would only worry the President so swiftly decides against it.
“Everything’s fine here. What did he say?” demands Putinov
“I have some good news, Mr. President. Elizaveta Hejduk will be in custody within the hour, I am on my way there now.”
“Thank you, Serge, I appreciate the update.”
Putinov leans back in his seat and then feeling satisfied at the news he’s just heard, decides he deserves a nap, so stands up and moves over to the window to sit in his favorite chair.
Alexei looks at his watch. Although he has made good time on the empty roads, he is still at least fifteen minutes away from the target. Dawn is less than ten minutes away and the sky is already a pale violet; something else to hinder them.
The plan had always been to attack before dawn when they would still have the cover of darkness, but when the guards would be at their weakest. Suvarov had told them that scientific research had shown that between the hours of three and four a.m., the human body is at its lowest ebb. His team had been adjusting their body clock for weeks to counter the effects so they would be at their peak. Alexei thought it most unfair that they had thought of absolutely everything down to the finest detail and yet their plans were just seemingly unravelling.
Alexei anxiously looks at his watch again and then smiles to himself, as he realizes the bomb at Suvarov’s house will be going off any minute. That will be a suitable diversion for the authorities.
5:35 pm (Washington D.C.)
President Hayworth is tapping his fingers impatiently on the desk in front of him.
“Erik, what’s going on? We agreed that Bauer would hand himself over so we could put this all to bed.”
Ritter had long ago given up trying to get Jack on the phone and for the last eight minutes has been wrestling with his conscience as to whether to use Kate’s number to his advantage. He was now convinced that Bauer had been ignoring his calls whereas up to when he had received Kate’s call he hadn’t been sure.
‘Damn you, Bauer ‘ Ritter curses to himself. He can see President Hayworth is fast running out of patience and he decides that Kate will understand the impossible position he is in even if Jack won’t see it that way.
“Mr. President, I have been unable to make contact with Bauer. He has been avoiding my calls; however, I think there may be another way to get in touch with him.”
Kate’s phone rings and she presses the call button. “Erik? What’s wrong?”
“This is the President of the United States. Let me speak to Jack Bauer.” She takes the phone away from her ear, shocked that the President was the voice on the other end of the phone, and equally shocked that Erik had so obviously sold her out.
She leans forward and nudges Jack.
He jumps slightly, looks around at her and sees the phone in her hand by his shoulder.
“It’s President Hayworth; he wants to speak to you.”
Jack sighs. He’d known it was a risk and doesn’t blame Ritter. Resignedly, he takes the phone from Kate’s hand.
“Mr. President, this is Bauer. How nice to hear from you, it’s been a while.”
Hayworth ignores Jack’s hollow pleasantries and gets straight to the point. “Mr. Bauer, I understand you have been avoiding calls from my CIA Director, Erik Ritter, who had strict instructions, from me, to request that you hand yourself in to the local authorities. We have an international incident and, as I’m sure you are aware, not least because of your past actions, we have a rather volatile relationship with Russia. They believe that you are behind the attacks being made on their country.”
“I am well aware of the situation, Sir; I am doing my damnedest to stop the attacks. I declined Erik Ritter’s request. I saw little point in repeating myself and so I focused on the job at hand, which seemed to me to be a far more productive use of my time, Sir.”
Jack’s flippancy is not going unnoticed by President Hayworth.
“Mr. Bauer, this is a direct order from the President of the United States. Hand yourself over to the Russians so we can sort things out.”
Jack narrows his eyes and his countenance hardens, “Mr. President, from where I am sitting, there is nothing to sort out. I can’t do anything from a prison cell. I’m working undercover with a member of the Russian forces, and together we are trying to stop the attacks. I appreciate the call, Mr. President.”
Jack hangs up, lowers the electric window and drops Kate’s cell phone onto the fast moving road beneath them and then hits the button to wind the window back up.
“Jack? You can’t…”
“Leave it Chloe.” Jack cuts her off and resumes staring blankly out the window.
Kate is about to back Chloe up and say that he can’t go against a direct order from the President and then, remembering the aftermath of the last time she’d said that to Jack, decides to keep quiet.
“You really need to go,” says Elizabeth, “the CIA will be here any minute.”
Anton is still not comfortable with the situation. “Here, take my gun.”
“Don’t be silly, Anton. They are handcuffed, two of them are wounded. It’ll be fine”
Elizabeth’s pragmatism and single mindedness were frequently refreshing, but also irksome in situations like these thought Anton.
“This is not up for debate.”
He hands her his SIG and then walks over to the prisoners and applies a stranglehold on each of them, rendering them, one by one, unconscious.
“We will be just outside, any problems, fire the SIG, we will be close enough to hear it.”
“Just don’t let them see you. That would be a disaster.”
“We won’t. We’ll be back as soon as the agents have left.”
“That’s fine, I’m not going anywhere” says Elizabeth, smiling.
Anton and Katya walk out of the room leaving Elizabeth alone with her three charges.
Elizabeth sits back into the couch, looks at the clock and thinks about the others. ‘They must be almost there by now.’
She is trying not to worry about Jack. He has been locked up for over six months, and even for somebody as well trained and capable as he is, it would have affected him. In the relatively little time she has spent with him, he has seemed remarkably capable, even ignoring his recent incarceration. She finds herself welling with pride again. She decides to refuse to consider the possibility that anything will go wrong and trusts that the others will keep him safe. They certainly seem to be a fine bunch, even Seminov, and she is glad that her son has such a strong team looking out for him.
She starts daydreaming about spending time with him once this is all over. She lets her mind wander, thinking of all the things they have to talk about as they make up for all the lost years.
Anton and Katya wade into the deep undergrowth running up the side of the house.
“Ow,” mutters Katya. “Bloody brambles.”
Anton pushes them to one side, careful not to break any branches and possibly disclose their position. He steps forward several more paces and looks around him. He has a good enough view of the window and the driveway through the undergrowth, and they are obscured on all sides by trees and bushes.
“This will do. Hunker down.”
They both kneel down in the dirt and wait.
“Take the next left,” says Chloe, directing Seminov.
“Jack, we have a problem. The entire estate is surrounded by a wall. The best I can make out is that it’s at least fifteen feet high.”
“How do you propose we get in?” asks Kate.
“Through the front,” replies Jack calmly.
“The entrance is off to the right, just beyond this corner,” continues Chloe.
“Pull in here,” Jack cuts in.
Seminov does as Jack says, and parks the car on a grassy verge under a low hanging tree, then kills the engine immediately. It’s not much cover, but it’s the best that’s available to them.
“Stay here. Jack and I will go and see the lay of the land,” says Seminov to the others.
They both get out, shutting the car doors as quietly as they can and then, keeping close to the undergrowth, make their way up the road and round the corner ahead.
The car’s passengers watch them go until they lose sight of them.
“Do you think Jack’s okay?” asks Kate .
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen him so withdrawn,” Chloe says worriedly.
Chloe and Kate both look at Belcheck. He doesn’t say much, but he’s astute.
“He’s just spent six months not talking to anybody. I’d say he’s quite chatty, considering.”
The women, both reflecting on Belcheck’s words and raising an eyebrow at each other, agree he has a fair point.
Seminov looks back and sees that the car is out of sight. He gently pulls Jack back. “Are you okay? You have been very quiet. I need to know you are up to this, physically and mentally.”
“I’m fine,” says Jack, impatiently, shrugging off Seminov’s arm. “I’d tell you if I wasn’t. Let’s just get this done.”
Mikhail has found his position high up in the leafy tree that he’d scouted out several weeks before, and is sitting quietly. He’s breathing slowly, in and out through his nose, calming his heart rate after the rather energetic climb up the stone wall with the aid of a grappling hook followed by a Tarzan like swing across to his tree hide.
Once his heart rate has slowed to an acceptable level, he takes his Serbian made sniper rifle from its custom case.
He takes the 12.7 by 108 mm cartridges from his ammo pack and deftly loads the magazine with five. This always makes him smile. It has become a ritual, despite him only ever needing one shot to hit his target on all the missions he has done. He was always top of his unit every year, way ahead of his nearest competitor and he finds great personal satisfaction in maintaining his one hundred percent record.
‘The main reason this Zastava M12 Black Spear is my favorite rifle is because it has a muzzle brake and an aluminum stock with a built-in buffer to reduce recoil so I can take aim and fire again with minimal delay and yet never need to use it,’ he thinks smugly.
He checks the scope and once satisfied, he checks the distance to the lit window of the house. As he estimated, it’s just over six hundred meters. The ammunition he’s chosen has an effective range of eighteen hundred meters. ‘Low wind, perfect conditions. This is a walk in the park.’
He shuffles back and stretches himself, cat like, out along the full length of the thick, sturdy tree bough, and sets up the bipod under the barrel. He then nestles the muzzle end of the barrel into the perfectly shaped groove in the trunk that he had painstakingly carved out last time he was here. He retracts the third leg in the stock and then wriggles himself into position. Finally, he wraps his non-firing arm into the sling forcing his arm to be still. He’s ready. He lines up and puts his eye to the scope and sees Putinov asleep in the chair in front of the window and aims the cross hairs in the middle of Putinov’s forehead.
‘Bang!’ he says to himself, smiling wickedly.
He takes his finger off the trigger and presses a small button, three times in quick succession on his headset. “Alexei, I’m in position.”
Mikhail looks at his watch. ‘Three minutes to go. A perfect opportunity to get my heart rate down even lower.’
Jack and Seminov are back at the car and Seminov is updating the others.
“There’s a guard house at the front, manned by two sentries. The gates are open. Once inside the perimeter, there’s a driveway leading to a main door which is also guarded. One man, all three are armed.”
“So how are we going to get in?” says Kate. “We can’t shoot our way in.”
“We will have to convince them,” says Jack authoritatively. “Come on, let’s go. Chloe, can you stay here? I need you to keep us updated with any movement on the satellite. Call if there’s anything.”
Chloe nods her agreement and the others get out of the car and stealthily make their way towards the front entrance.
Putinov is woken from his slumber by the persistent ringing of the phone on his desk. He groans as he lifts himself out of the chair and makes his way to his desk, rocking his head from side to side trying to lose the crick in his neck that has developed while he was asleep.
“Da?” he says, somewhat sleepily.
“You need to listen and do exactly what I say if you want to live, Mr. President.”
Putinov is immediately awake. “Who is this? How did you get this number?”
“Both of those are irrelevancies, Mr. President. You need to understand that I am in control of the situation, not you. Do you want to live Mr. President?”
Putinov makes his way around his desk to reach for the panic button secreted in the footwell.
“You aren’t listening, Mr. President. Don’t move. Try that again and I’ll consider your answer to my question as ‘no.’ Walk back around to the front of the desk. Now.”
Putinov does as he’s told by the voice on the other end of the phone and looks around the room and out of the window, trying to see how he is being watched.
“Yes, Mr. President, very good. You understand that I can see you. You won’t be able to see me though, so let’s get on with the reason for my call.”
Putinov musters up some bravado. “What do you want?”
“I want you to resign your position. I want you to phone one of the national TV stations and do a live web broadcast to announce that you are immediately standing down because you are not fit to hold the position of President of Mother Russia. The full transcript is in your email inbox. As it’s your moment of glory, I’ll let you choose which TV station you want to use. “
“And if I don’t do it?”
“You really don’t want to ask that question, Nikolay.”
The line goes dead and before Putinov can put the phone receiver back in its cradle. He hears a sound like a distant firecracker and the back of his favorite armchair is obliterated.
The team hear the gunshot. Booooofff!
Belcheck runs back towards the car and runs on past it, towards the sound of the shot. He stays close to the wall, his semi-automatic poised.
Jack, Kate & Seminov run up the road towards the gates; The Russian guards immediately block their path with their weapons raised. Jack steps forward with his arms up and Seminov and Kate follow suit.
Seminov is just about to speak when Jack, in Russian, says, “The President is in danger; we have intel about a terrorist attack. There is an organisation called Red Square who are behind it. This man here is a Russian Special Forces Captain. We have been working together and we really need to speak to whoever is in charge.”
Seminov, despite the gravity of the situation, can’t quite stop his right eyebrow rising at Jack’s ability to speak Russian.
‘Considering Jack had claimed ignorance of the language a mere eight hours ago, he’s remarkably fluent now.’
Seminov takes a step forward and puts his hands out in front of him, wrists together and says, “Handcuff us, just let us speak to the person in charge.”
The two Russian guards look at each other and decide to take up Seminov’s suggestion. He is turned around with his back to the guards and he voluntarily puts his hands behind his back where they are secured in cuffs by the first guard. Jack replicates Seminov’s movements and then Kate does the same.
The second guard has removed Seminov’s gun from his holster and he takes Jack’s from the waistband of his pants and then takes Kate’s as well.
The guard twitches the barrel of his rifle towards the house, indicating his charges should start walking.
Jack obeys, but then turns and walks backwards and calls to the first guard who has resumed his position in the gatehouse. “Close the gates!” He turns back around and breaks into a slow run to catch up with the others.
They walk as a group up towards the front door, following the line of the low level walled flowerbeds that hug each side of the driveway and then converge towards the impressively solid looking front door.
The gate guard nods to the armed man on the door and goes through the entrance and the doorman closes it behind them. They are led the length of a large marble floored hallway. Near the end, the guard opens the one door on the right and stands on the other side of it, waiting for the three of them to join him. Seminov goes in first, then Kate with Jack the last in.
As Jack walks past him, the guard looks over to Seminov and is just about to speak when Jack charges at him, aiming for his midriff, knocking the guard off balance. A well placed kick by Jack causes the guard to double over and Jack quickly wraps his handcuffed arm around his neck. Using his back as leverage against his wrists, Jack applies a chokehold and within seconds the guard goes limp and slips to the floor.
Jack immediately squats down feeling for the guard’s pockets so he can find the keys to the cuffs.
Seminov looks on, impressed. Any doubts he had about Jack’s physical and mental state have been completely dispelled.
Jack has found the keys and undone one cuff and quickly brings his hands round to the front to undo the other and then does the same for Kate, who on being released, goes to the guard to reclaim their weapons. While Jack is undoing Seminov’s cuffs, Seminov says, “Sorry for doubting you were up to this.”
Jack is well aware that adrenaline is responsible for most of his energy levels at the moment but just says dryly, “Don’t be, I’d have done the same in your position.”
Kate hands their weapons back to them. As Seminov checks his magazine, he nods towards the sleeping guard and, in Russian, says to Jack, “He likes your outfit.”
Jack, while checking his own weapon, responds deadpan in the same language. “Tell him thanks. Although I’m not really sure it’s my color, it makes me look like I haven’t seen any daylight in the last six months.”
Seminov and Jack grin at each other, enjoying the camaraderie.
Jack realised he was enjoying himself, despite the dire circumstances. It was a very long time since he had worked as part of a team and he’d missed it.
Kate, although fully understanding the exchange, has no idea what the joke is and just gives both men a stern look and says, “Ready?”
Putinov is hurrying along the corridor, being hurried and flanked on both sides by his security team. He’s bundled in and the doors are sealed behind him. He stands there for a moment, breathing hard, waiting for his heart to stop thumping from all the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He knows he is now safe. There are two guards outside the door. The room is hermetically sealed with its own air supply, ten centimetre armour plating and everything a person could possibly need to survive for a minimum of seventy-two hours without leaving the room.
Putinov paces up and down, already counting down the minutes to when he can get out of the safe room and find out who was on the other end of the phone.
Anton points to movement up by the house. Katya looks and sees four men, dressed in dark, tactical gear make their way towards the door. One man bends down, obviously picking the lock. After just a few moments he gently pushes the door open, covered by his team.
They stealthily make their way inside. Anton and Katya look at each other in bewilderment.
Elizabeth, out of the corner of her eye, sees the door open, but before she can do anything there are two weapons trained on her. Two other men have their weapons aimed towards the still unconscious prisoners.
One of the men, obviously the leader, speaks into his comm unit. “Serge, all clear. She’s here. Come on up.”
Elizabeth is quickly relieved of her weapon and handcuffed and then she’s pushed back down onto the couch.
Almost immediately, Serge comes into the room accompanied by two more soldiers. “Elizaveta Hejduk. It’s been a while. I’m delighted I’ve been able to catch up with you, but I assume the feelings are not reciprocated.”
Elizabeth straightens her back and looking Serge straight in the eye says, “Serge. Put the past behind you, just for a moment. Listen to what I have to say.”
“All that comes out of your mouth Elizaveta are lies and more lies. You will pay for your crimes against this country. You are under arrest and will be going to prison for a very long time.” Serge puts his head on one side as if thinking, “Probably for the rest of your life, considering your advancing years.” He smiles. “If you’re wondering, we got your location from Michael Davis. He sold you out Elizaveta, he was only interested in saving himself. Tell me what you are doing here and maybe we can offer you some leniency.”
“Serge, the people over there are terrorists. Two are American; we have been trying to stop an attack on your President. In the trunk of the car outside are an anti-tank missile and two warheads that we intercepted.”
Elizabeth knew that Davis would have done anything in his power to prevent Serge, and she also knew that the mention of leniency held no weight. She just needed to get Serge to listen, at least then she could prove that the American Government weren’t involved and on top of that, there was a chance that Jack would get some help.
“And all three prisoners are unconscious so we can’t verify your story. How unfortunate,” says Serge dryly.
He turns to one of his men. “Check the car.”
“We’ll need an ambulance for these three too. Call it in.”
Anton & Katya watch in silence as one of the soldiers comes out and looks in the trunk of the terrorist’s car.
Then Serge comes out, just ahead of two more soldiers who are each holding one of Elizabeth’s arms, leading her down the steps from the house.
Serge calls out in Russian to the soldier at the car trunk “Well? What’s in there?”
“She was telling the truth, Serge.”
“Bring the car up,” orders Serge and the soldier shuts the trunk and runs quickly up the drive towards the road. Just a moment later the car pulls up next to Serge and Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is pushed into the back of the car and one of the soldiers gets in alongside her. He reaches down for something and then covers her head with a hood.
The other soldier opens the front passenger door for Serge and the car drives away.
The remaining soldier stands with his back to them, guarding the trunk of the car.
Anton nudges Katya and says in a low whisper “We need to move. Now.”
Katya nods and they both slink away deeper into the undergrowth.
Seminov has led Jack and Kate up the stairs, looking out for any Russian security personnel, and has taken them directly to the President’s private apartment. Jack wonders briefly how Seminov knows his way around so well, but decides not to question it. They look in all of the President’s rooms but everything is in order. They make their way to the office and immediately see the chair. A glance at the window confirms it was a sniper bullet.
Jack edges up to the window and peering round the frame, looks out. It is now fully light but he can’t see anything, just the acres of manicured grass, interspersed with the odd tree. He turns to the others, “There’s no blood, but this shot was obviously accurate. So it was done to make a point, not to kill. There’s something else going to happen. Where’s the President?”
Seminov says, “If he’s locked down somewhere then he’s safe. We can let the authorities deal with it.”
Jack looks thoughtful, trying to think of things that could work against the plan outlined by Seminov.
“Where’s he likely to be locked down? Where’s the safe room?”
Seminov thinks for a moment and then says, “It’s on this floor, across the other side at the front of the house. Over the hallway.”
“We have a problem.”
Alexei hears the voice in his ear and immediately gets on his radio unit and says, “Mikhail, what is it?”
“Bauer is here. He’s in the President’s quarters. The American woman that was at the house is here too. There’s somebody else with them I don’t recognize. You should have just let me shoot Putinov when I had the opportunity.”
Alexei can’t conceal his frustration, “Mikhail, we’ve been through this. It wouldn’t have made the impact that the cause wanted and we needed to give Putinov an opportunity to resign. That was always Suvarov’s objective. Just focus on the job and stop going over old ground. Don’t worry about Bauer, it means it’s even easier for us to blame the Americans.”
Alexei checks in with all of his men, commanding them to take up their positions, it’s almost time.
He pulls the U-shaped, carbon fibre neck brace from the seat of the cab and puts it on his shoulders, and then puts on the crash helmet affixing the neck brace to the helmet. They’d only been added as a precautionary measure in case there were any obstructions at the Kremlin but he was glad they were there. He climbs into the back of the truck and crouches down next to the blanket shrouding the device beneath it. He pulls the blanket back, throwing it into the corner of the truck’s interior and then sets the timer. He watches it for two seconds to satisfy himself that it is counting down on the display and then quickly stands up, jumps down out of the truck and then closes the truck doors.
He runs to the front cab and gets in and immediately fires up the engine. He quickly fixes the five point seatbelt which hugs him back into to the custom moulded seat.
He yells into his radio “Be ready!” flips down the helmet visor, floors the accelerator and the truck lurches forward, gathering pace. Alexei moves up the gears, accelerating hard all the while.
The truck charges towards the entrance gates and Alexei watches as the solitary gate guard runs to the middle of the gates, weapon raised. He sees the repetitive muzzle flash as he bears down on the guard, the bullets making no impact on the toughened bullet proof glass of the truck’s front window.
The last thing that Alexei sees as he hits the gates full force, is the guard diving off to the left to avoid being mown down.
The truck crashes through the gates; the steering wheel is almost wrenched from Alexei’s arms with the impact. The five point harness and the neck brace do their job, preventing him being thrown around like a rag doll.
The truck yaws from left to right and Alexei has to fight with all his strength to keep it heading in the right direction. He manages to get it under control just in time and the truck ploughs forward, straight through the front door, taking the house walls on either side with it.
The truck slews round with the force of the impact and comes to a shuddering halt almost sideways on to the bottom of the sweeping staircase. Steam belches from the shattered radiator and the bodywork groans as it settles itself in amongst the dust and rubble.