The time between the triumphant New Year’s Eve celebration of Jaio’s message with the overwhelming support of the revelers in the crowd and the week leading up to the event with the Pope at Yankee Stadium flew by for Greyson.
He worked around the clock confirming details, communicating plans, briefing Henry, Cael, Gina, Missy and Brad Halsey on his progress. He saw his siblings on VidBits every day, although they rarely had time for social interaction. Monitoring all Jaio’s appearances in the media alone took him, Gina and Missy a large amount of their time.
Soon after the New Year’s appearance that generated so much buzz and national recognition and with the announcement of the upcoming connection with Pope Ignatius, Jaio received offers to appear on all the morning shows. The 24-hour news wanted him to spar with their experts on religious issues, his positions, world politics and any other topic around the human condition imaginable. Reporters and columnists flooded the phones in the office and in the Call Center seeking commentary. Foreign press reached out to them. Politicians offered to co-headline events with him.
The Time Magazine cover photo came out and others followed suit. Newsweek ran a cover with a feature article detailing all his known public appearances in the past year. FoxNews covered the story. Even People Magazine pulled out Missy’s book and ran an extended series, essentially reiterating much of the content of the book, but repackaged as their own independent research.
Henry picked and chose Jaio’s public opportunities in conjunction with Cael and Jaio. They worked to keep him current, but just away from the most glaring spotlight to avoid overexposure and what Henry referred to as the shine of empty celebrity.
The advertisements and promotions for the Pope’s visit crested with a few days to spare. Jaio’s image appeared in bright lights across Times Square. CNN ran a countdown. Poorly Photoshopped pictures of Jaio standing just behind Pope Ignatius appeared on billboards and on passing city busses.
As much as the security coverage plan had come together quickly, in an ad-hoc fashion for Jaio’s solo appearance in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, the meticulous security detail for the event at the stadium took the entire three months to plan and coordinate with the Pope’s own small army of security personnel.
Henry and Cael engaged Lloyd Burnham himself to help negotiate the roles of each team and the leadership structure of the security personnel. They conformed to much of the Pope’s protocol including the badging and tracking of their assets and the methods of communication. Burnham had to pull all his Italian speaking agents out of their assignments and apply them to the project.
“I don’t know what it is,” Cael confided to Ruben and Greyson one late night after a marathon transportation and logistics planning session. “I’m uneasy about this.”
“The size and scope of it?” Ruben asked.
“No,” Cael replied, almost wistfully. “We’re not easily overmatched, my friend.”
“The lack of control with Deltanomics and the Pope’s team taking on so much of the responsibilities?” asked Greyson.
“Maybe that’s it,” said Cael, still visibly troubled.
“The Pope is priority number one,” said Ruben. “Deltanomics has a solid plan for Jaio, but it is the secondary path.”
“Yes,” Cael answered, his gaze tightening and his focus returning to its typical form. “We need a tertiary protocol. Stick around cousin. We have work to finish tonight.”
On the day of the audience, the clouds had moved into the Bronx, but seemed to form a ring around the stadium. The sun still shined on the stage and reflected off the glass façade of the empty New York Yankees Steak House above the stage.
Henry Lucas declined Lloyd Burnham’s offer of a fine Cuban cigar as they sat in the Luxury box behind Home plate. They looked out over the vast stadium below them. A stage sat in deep center field, pressed up against the warning track. The crowds had long-since filled each section other than the outfield bleachers, which had been closed to the public and occupied by security personnel from both the Pope’s team and the Deltanomics crew.
“This might be the biggest event of the 21st century,” Lloyd said, blowing smoke into the air above his head. “Played right, it could be the most significant moment in the past thousand years. The new Jesus meets the Pope.”
“We don’t like that term ‘New Jesus’,” Henry corrected him. “That messaging is divisive. It alienates just about every group. It threatens the Catholics and pisses off all the non-Catholics. He is Jaio. He speaks to all denominations, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, even Muslims and Atheists. He has his own message and it’s relevant to members of any religious group.”
“Sure,” Lloyd gave his sly smile. “We wouldn’t want to alienate too many radical Muslims now, would we.”
Henry stared out the plate glass window wishing he hadn’t gone to bed with such an asshole. But he was stuck with the alliance he formed. And he knew that Jaio’s movement could not have come so far without the series of choices he had made, including stepping down as CEO to run the foundation and hooking up with Lloyd to gain access to his resources.
He tried to suppress the thought, but the phrase; “deal with the Devil” crossed his mind.
Greyson, Cidalia and Hakim stayed behind to babysit Olivia while Henry joined Jaio, Cael and the team at the stadium.
Greyson and Cidalia peered over the railing of the balcony outside Henry’s luxury suite at the vast opening of Times Square on a Sunday morning. It bustled briskly but seemed almost abandoned in comparison to the wild scene on New Year’s Eve.
Greyson gathered Cid and Hakim with their backs to the square and squeezed them in for selfie pictures.
“Here we are,” he pronounced into his inanimate phone as if the device cared. “Times Square, top floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel. Does it get any better than this?”
Cidalia held up her bottle of water, her arms slung over the shoulders of her two male companions and yelped out a “Woo Hoo”. Greyson raised his hands in the air while Hakim mustered a half smile. They snapped pictures inside and outside the room. They zoomed down the block and tried to capture the scene where Jaio had stood addressing his thousands of fans atop the risers at the far end of the square. They took goofy pictures of themselves in funny poses. Olivia giggled and spilled her grape juice on her dress, just like she had the first time Greyson met her.
Greyson moved to the desk and checked his e-mails, while Hakim and Cidalia retreated to sit on the bed watching the Cartoon Network with Olivia. They flipped between Olivia’s program and the news coverage of the Pope’s visit. The time passed. They mellowed and anticipated the excitement to come.
The giant marble edifice stood before Cael Block and Ruben Herrera. In bold blue letters, the words “Yankee Stadium” arched across the top of the entryway. Deltanomics agents worked the turnstiles, searching bags, checking IDs, wanding selected people and monitoring the metal detector. Cael and Ruben showed their credentials and slipped into the security entrance. They conducted a third walk of the perimeter and discussed their multiple contingency plans. Cael would take ownership of Jaio in the event of an attack. Ruben would cover him. Once safe, Ruben would systematically seek the members of Jaio’s cabinet and secure their safety.
Cael gazed through his heat-sensing binoculars and viewed Henry with Lloyd in the luxury box above home plate. He checked his asset tracker. From his phone, he could tell the exact geolocation of Jaio, Olivia, Henry, Gina and Ruben from tiny sensors he placed on their bodies.
He watched the clouds in the distance beyond the American flag in Left Center field and wondered about the chances of a washout. A big part of his soul longed for a torrential rain to close the whole operation. He knew how big the moment would be for Jaio’s mission. But he also felt a new emotion. For the first time, he felt a lack of control over the situation. That lack of control led to an uncharacteristic dip in confidence. The dark clouds in the distance created a visualization of his world without Jaio. For the first time in his professional career as a soldier, he felt fear.
Michael Horniday followed Cael’s directions explicitly. He worked out of the remote monitoring center they set up in Greyson’s apartment, watching feeds from the video cameras at the stadium, listening to all the Deltanomics radio chatter and monitoring the movements of the Pope’s security staff as well. His purpose was to serve as a redundant set of eyes reviewing all activities and scanning for any signs of trouble. In the event of a problem, Cael and Ruben would switch to a completely closed communication channel with Michael. Their secondary protocol would be to slip into dark shadow mode and break off from their partners from Deltanomics and from the Vatican.
Michael spent the hours before the event checking and double checking all his listening and monitoring channels. He cycled through each recording device in the stadium including street cameras and body cameras on each Deltanomics agent. He listened and watched his scrolls, which translated any foreign language into English text and cascaded it across the bottom of his screen for him.
He reviewed all the obscure web sites that Cael bookmarked for him to search for clues that an extreme radical group might move in on the event. He munched on cold, day-old pizza, kicked up his heels and flipped through the TV channels to watch the coverage. Every station but the Disney Channel seemed to dedicate the morning to endless discussions and debates about Jaio’s place in the world and the impact of his ministry on society.
With an hour to spare before the start of the Pope’s address, Greyson, Cidalia and Hakim switched Olivia to her iPad and gathered around the TV, at the edge of the bed to watch the proceedings.
In their focused excitement, they barely noticed the sound of the keycard in the lock. They thought little of the door opening and glanced casually to greet one of Henry’s staff or any of the security personnel that stood guard in the hallway.
Instead, a half-dozen hooded figures spilled aggressively into the room with guns raised. Neither Greyson, Cidalia nor Hakim had any time to react. The attackers shouted in a foreign language. Within seconds they all had multiple hands across their bodies forcing them to the ground. Greyson lay face down in the carpet. The texture irritated his face and he felt dust particles rush through his nostrils.
The entire ordeal took only a handful of seconds. Someone pinned Greyson to the floor. He could hear Cidalia scream. He barely saw it. The butt end of a gun flew through the air catching her right across the forehead, immediately silencing her. Greyson tried to stand. The blow to the back of his neck came from a forearm. He fell to the floor in a heap. The attack stunned him, but he retained consciousness. He closed his eyes and lay still by Cid’s side as if he were just as comatose as her.
He felt the frantic sound of excited voices dim and realized they were vacating the room. Without flinching a muscle, he opened an eye and caught a blurry view of the assailants standing by the door. One of them carried a bundle of clothes, or a pillow or something small, round and fluffy. As the attackers left the room he realized the bundle was Olivia. They were kidnapping her.