GM - Story #3

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Chapter 36

Michael thought to check in with his brother and sister but wanted to listen to a set of talking heads on CNN discuss their misguided views on why Jaio should be considered a fraud. CNN showed groups of protesters outside Yankee Stadium shouting phases such as “Say ‘NO!’ to J.O.” and “Jesus –YES! Jaio – NO!”. An older, bearded man holding a bullhorn led a sizeable group in shouting weird religious chants such as “One True Jesus – Lord and Savior” and “Hell No. Jaio Must Go!”

Michael rolled his eyes at the display.

The broadcast cut to the live shot of the stadium. The Pope emerged from a hole in the floor of the stage and rose up on a hydraulic lift like the sun climbs into the morning sky above the tree line on the horizon.

For at least three minutes, the deafening sound of screaming and cheering dominated the broadcast and the CNN commentators remained silent to accentuate the extreme adoration for Pope Ignatius III.

He started right in on his mass and worked through all the rite and ritual of the Catholic proceeding before arriving at his homily. He called for world peace. He advocated for tolerance of all people by race, by creed and by sexual orientation. He belabored the point about sexual orientation calling it “God’s gift of choice in love”, a point which caused the CNN commentators to gasp and speculate about the world’s reaction to such a progressive pronouncement.

He called out the Mayor of New York to bless him and praise his work with the homeless on the streets of New York.

Gina stood next to Jaio in the small, dark area below the stage. Nerves danced along her spine. As the Pope wrapped his audience with the Mayor, Jaio turned to Gina, put his hands on her shoulders and thanked her for helping him. She felt a wave of relaxation rush through her body. And then he turned, walked up the staircase and disappeared into the light above.

The sound of Greyson’s apartment door bursting off its hinges and crashing onto the floor of the living room jolted Michael, sending shock waves through his body. He moved in slow motion, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

In contrast, the dark, burly figure that raced into the room worked quickly and efficiently, subduing Michael to the floor in seconds.

“Greyson Holiday,” Michael’s attacker shouted in his ear. “You’re coming with me.”

The assailant hoisted Michael to his feet and faced him. His headphone flipped to the floor, his pizza toppled onto the desk. Michael stared blankly into the cold, dark eyes of Major Devin Patel. He was dressed in military fatigues and jet-black boots. He had a belt with a gun, pepper spray and a taser all ready to be used on Michael.

“No ...” Michael mumbled. “This is a mistake…”

“Save it Holiday before I beat the shit out of you,”

“I’m not…”

Patel smacked him across the face.

“Yes, you are coming with me.”


“We have a date with your friend – the one who thinks he can go around saying he is the Son of God.”

“I’m not …” Michael continued to babble as his mind raced and fear left him only semi-coherent.

“You are Jaio’s driver,” Patel said. “I know who you are.”

Michael’s mind regained some focus. He realized the play. This maniac wanted his brother and didn’t know he had the wrong one. Michael stopped saying “I’m not…” and opted to play the role of his brother to shield him from the danger he faced.

“If you need motivation to come quietly with me,” Patel continued. “check this out.”

He produced his iPhone from one of the many pockets in his camouflage vest and held up a live video of his sister. She was bound, gagged and tied to a chair in a non-descript room, surrounded by a black tarp to obscure any of the surroundings. She had some sort of rounded metal bar encircling her neck with a square box affixed to the side of the ring. He didn’t need to hear Patel explain the situation. His sister had a bomb attached to her neck.

He felt the muscles in his face droop as if having a stroke. The blood seemed to rush out of his body and the fear he initially felt for himself increased exponentially. His heart raced, and he felt faint. Patel held a small black hand-held device with a red button in front of Michael’s face.

“What do you need from me?” Michael asked.

“Get the car,” he replied. “And bring your phone. We’re going to Yankee Stadium.”

As Greyson lay petrified on the ground next to Cidalia, he was surprised to hear Hakim’s voice, speaking loudly in Arabic. He couldn’t see his friend, but from his tone, he was still upright. The dialog sounded curt, but not angry or overly antagonistic. In fact, as Hakim spoke, their attackers seemed to grow calmer.

And then, the room went almost silent. Greyson moved his head just enough to get a glimpse of the last assailant leaving the room. To his amazement, Hakim was nowhere to be seen. And then he realized, the last figure to leave the room was Hakim. Had he left with them? Greyson hesitated in fear that if he moved, he’d be smashed across the face and rendered unconscious like Cidalia

He broke the hesitation and jumped to his feet. He grabbed his phone and called Cael. As he conveyed the events of the past three minutes in the suite he checked Cidalia, who lay still, but was still breathing and moaning in a foggy concussed haze.

“They took Olivia,” Greyson screamed into the phone. “Hakim betrayed us!”

Greyson propped Cidalia’s head into his lap. He had put his phone on the night stand on speaker and continued to provide details to Cael of the attack on their suite. Other guests from the hotel poked their heads into the room and asked if they were okay. A Manager entered the room, out of breath.

“Call 911 and get her medical attention,” Greyson barked. “I have to find Olivia.”

“You can’t go out there,” said the Manager in a frazzled voice. “There has been a shooting. We think there is someone loose in the hotel with a gun.”

“No shit,” Greyson barked back. “They were here. They took Olivia.”

“There are two men who are unconscious in the hallway,” the Manager continued, displaying little ability to understand or listen to Greyson. “We’re locking down the hotel.”

Greyson grabbed his phone and propped a pillow under Cidalia’s head. A giant purple lump already formed above her right eye.

“You need to stay here,” said the Manager. “It may not be safe.”

“A little girl has been abducted,” Greyson snapped at the Manager. “I don’t have time for you to process this. Lock all the exits. You are looking for about a half dozen guys. At least one of them had a beard. I didn’t get much of a look at them.”

The Manager stared at him comprehending the situation.

“Shit,” he muttered before hoisting the walkie to his face again and ordering his security guards to look for a group of people who may have a small child as a hostage.

A little green light caught Greyson’s attention. Cidalia’s phone had fallen to the floor and lay under the remnants of the sheet, which had been pulled to the ground. More guests congregated at the door, curiously viewing the carnage.

The text message read: Hakim: “out service exit - on Bdwy now

Greyson stared at it for a second, not comprehending.

Is he giving us updates?” Greyson asked himself. “What is he doing?

A second text blinked: “gong towrd sbwy

Greyson reformulated the image of Hakim exiting the room along with the men that had attacked them, leaving Cidalia clinging to consciousness and Olivia ripped from her bed in her pajamas and slippers. Maybe he had deceived them into thinking he was a member of their team?

The Manager informed Greyson that a staff paramedic would be with them in a minute and that none of his security staff had seen the attackers. Greyson nodded, his mind racing and swirling like when he used to drink. Then clarity struck.

“I think they’re on Broadway and they’re taking Olivia to the subway,” he spoke out loud to nobody that would understand. “I have to go. … Take care of my friend.

He grabbed his phone and Cidalia’s, texted what he knew to Cael and bolted out of the room, leaving his ailing girlfriend in the hands of all the strangers that had come to help.

He ran on adrenalin. Hakim must have escaped with his crew five minutes earlier. They had made it to Broadway and were probably a block away. He had no idea where Cael was, and he received no further updates through Cidalia’s phone.

Cael immediately texted Ruben on their private network to get to the Times Square Subway. He could commandeer one of the Deltanomics helicopters that sat atop the parking garage across the street and get there in minutes. He’d have to set down in the middle of the square to get there in time.

Cael pushed past Gina and took the stairs three at a time to grab Jaio off the stage and out of what he anticipated to be the next wave of attack.

No sooner did he reach the platform, did the bomb go off right overhead. The entire façade of the steakhouse above the stage exploded with shards of glass shattering everywhere. Bodies flew from every angle to shield the Pope and he instantly disappeared down the hydraulic shaft with at least a dozen guards around him.

Cael had been knocked off his feet. Smoke billowed from the hole in the glass. The 50,000 spectators panicked, screamed and clamored over each other to escape. The infield flooded with security personnel and the AV system urged order in the evacuation.

The sound of other explosions rang out. Cael could not tell where they went off. They almost sounded like audio recordings of explosions rather than actual explosions.

The expected cadre of Deltanomics agents either reacted slowly to implement their protocol or had been somehow blocked from access to the stage. Jaio stood momentarily exposed. Cael pulled himself up from the floor, grabbed him, just as he had in Jeruselem a decade earlier and pulled him down the opening backstage.

Fake smoke,” Cael observed as he looked back at the scene behind them. “Designed to create confusion and fear but minimize damage and loss of life. This is about creating confusion and distraction.

Gina met them, her face scared but focused.

“Get down and stay out of sight,” he barked.

“I’m coming with you,”

“No,” Cael shouted back as he maneuvered Jaio through the hallways below Yankee stadium. “Too dangerous.”

Gina followed anyway, and Cael ignored her pursuit. His singular focus was to get Jaio out of the stadium through the VIP tunnel.

When the new stadium opened in 2009, the designers had thought to build egress routes for athletes and performers in the case of a riot or a raucous crowd. The series of tunnels led to innocuous locations across the various streets that bordered the stadium. One landed close to the stairway to the elevated train. Another came out in an alley between a sports bar and a memorabilia shop. Cael had his escape route mapped and executed his plan.

They rounded a corner. The lights flickered and then snuffed out. Cael pulled out his flashlight. Gina stayed close. They heard footsteps behind them. He flashed back. They sensed the danger ahead. Cael flashed in front of them. They were surrounded by Deltanomics agents with guns drawn. Cael stood in front of Jaio, acting as a human shield, while also shoving Gina to the ground into a small alcove.

The agents moved in. Cael drew his weapon. They closed from both sides. Jaio rested his hand on Cael’s tense, bulging shoulder muscle. He whispered something softly in his ear. Cael lowered his gun.

Gina cowered on the floor, out of sight.

“You’re here to escort us to safety?” Cael asked defiantly, knowing the futility of conversation.

“We’re here for him,” the lead agent replied.

Jaio moved past Cael. Cael flinched, but yielded with Jaio’s reassuring expression. Jaio removed his overcoat. He wrapped it around Cael and kissed him on the cheek.

“The time has come,” he said to either Cael or the agents. Gina couldn’t tell.

The agents behind moved right by Gina in her alcove, passed Cael and surrounded Jaio.

“Turn around,” the Deltanomics agent commanded to Cael as his team continued to escort Jaio further down the hallway.

Cael turned, defeated. His shoulders slumped. He looked small to Gina for the first time since she met him. Jaio disappeared down the hallway, surrounded by his captors. Gina’s gaze had moved from Cael to the fading group ahead. She had no preparation for the jarring smack of the Deltanomics leader’s gunshot ringing in the dark, point blank into Cael’s back.

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