Grand Central Terminal was certainly a sight for sore eyes. The uproar was habitual as it was the morning, and numerous tourists as well as locals had circled the place, either catching a train or indulging in the marvelous architecture that was presented.
Mack remained stagnant in the main concourse for a moment, appreciating the starry ceiling design as it displayed an intricate, astronomical illustration. At the center of the masterpiece, an American flag hung downwards, swaying ever so slightly as whatever breeze tempted it to.
"Mack, are you listening to me?" Jade chimed in, aiming to grab her friend's attention.
Mack snapped back to reality, attending to the voice in his bluetooth headset calling his name.
"Yeah, I'm inside the station right now," Mack answered back, keeping his eyes peeled for anything that could be helpful to his objective. The memorandum that he had deciphered the day before was specific, but was it as simple as it seemed? Of course not.
Grand Central Terminal was not only vast in size, but it also contained flocks of people from all over the world. Picking out who belonged in the station and who didn't appeared effortless, but not everything was what it seemed. Mack knew that firsthand.
"Too bad Xander couldn't be here today," Mack mentioned, considering how much Xander's instincts could helped at a time like this.
"You know how he is. He has to work, work, and work. You'll be lucky to get him off of that office chair every now and then." Jade thought of her friend and how big of an assistance he could provide if he was able to be there. Of course, she believed that she and Mack were capable of handling it. Or else, they wouldn't have gone.
"Well, you can't do any harm with that." Mack monitored about the station again, not perceiving anything that gave the impression of being abnormal just yet. "Jade, anything from your end?"
"No," she replied, shifting herself in her car seat as she gazed at the entrance to the terminal which settled diagonal to where her Suburban was parked. "The only thing unusual about this scene is that Pershing Square is jam-packed earlier than lunch hour."
Before Mack could produce a response, he felt someone bump into him. When Mack looked down at the man, he appeared to be in his later years of life, judging by his snow-colored hair and wrinkled complexion. He wore big-framed glasses as well as a matching trench coat and trilby hat combination.
"Pardon me, sir. I am so sorry," the man apologized, laying his hand on Mack's arm to express his regret.
"It's fine," Mack acknowledged, revealing a small smirk to the man.
The man returned the gesture and departed without saying another word.
"What just happened?" Jade questioned, clenching her phone tighter as she held it near to her ear.
"Nothing. Just had some-" Mack discontinued his sentence as he detected an item resting on the ground beside him: a brown leather buckle briefcase.
"Mack? Is everything okay?" Jade grew more and more apprehensive about the circumstances with each passing moment. Something had to be transpiring in that exact moment.
Mack rapidly revolved his head in the direction the man had taken off towards, believing that maybe he had left the bag behind by mistake. He had to be long gone by then seeing as Mack could not pick him out from the crowd.
Mack removed the briefcase from the ground and perceived a tag hanging from its handle. He turned it over, hoping to discover who the owner was so that the case could be returned as soon as possible.
Just skimming through the name and address on the tag, Mack knew that something was not right. This had to be the catalyst to the sole purpose he was there, and the thing that he was supposed to find the second he stepped into the station.
"Mack!" Jade shouted, snapping Mack out of his train of thought. "Please tell me you're still there."
"Yeah, I'm here." Mack rejoined, studying the label back and forth. Whatever it proposed was something worth looking into. "Some guy bumped into me, and I think he left this briefcase on the ground."
"Does something about it seem strange?"
"It wouldn't be worth telling if it didn't." Mack brought the tag closer to his eyes, preparing to articulate his next statement. "The tag says the bag belongs to me."
"Well, have you ever seen it before?" Jade furrowed her brows at his account, not grasping what was to come after Mack's discovery.
"No, of course not," Mack maintained his poise as he arranged to undo the single buckle that held the briefcase shut. "I'm going to take a look inside."
"Wait, it's obvious that you finding that bag was intentional."
"I came here for a reason. I'm not leaving until I find something."
Jade exhaled as she comprehended how atrocious everything was going to turn out if Mack was the one agreeing to the regrettable notions.
Mack unclasped the fastener on the bag and uncovered its containments for only his eyes to regard. There, he distinguished a set of numbers counting down on a small screen. Minutes, seconds, and milliseconds were reducing each and every instant as he took the time to understand the object.
"Two IEDs connected to one timer," Mack specified as if he was trying to verbally figure it all out.
"Shit." Jade stayed composed, trusting that there had to be a way out of this. "Mack, you have to get that thing away from those people."
Mack reached into the handbag to ensure that he had taken out everything that was left inside for him. He glided his hand out once he had a hold on what felt like a piece of paper and a ticket.
Take the 7 to Bryant Park before the clock runs out.
He jammed his hand into his coat pocket and swiftly pulled out his phone, expecting to disable the explosive with a basic hack.
"Fuck," Mack cursed, pulling away from his device after it shocked him. The program on his phone malfunctioned as he placed it back into his coat.
"I'm unable to hack it, but there's instructions in the bag." He began, passing through multitudes of people as cautiously as he could to try and catch the train. "I'm getting on the 7 to Bryant Park."
"And then what? That thing explodes whether you get on that train or not." Jade objected, deeming all of it as being unbeneficial to them.
"I have fifteen minutes and counting. I'll arrive in five," Mack persisted, knowing that he couldn't allow the bomb to go off in a congested area like Grand Central Terminal.
Jade leaned back in her seat and cupped one hand onto her forehead, reflecting on the abysmal situation they were both caught up in. "I hope you know what you're doing."
She glanced up in front of her car then at her rear view mirror as she spotted two NYPD Ford Interceptors: one parking right behind and the other parking a few feet ahead of her vehicle.
What the hell? she thought, keeping her eyes on the automobiles as an officer diverged from the rear car and made his way towards her.
"Mack, I think we have a problem here." Jade scooted as far back in her chair as she could, wishing to evade whatever misfortune she had coming for her.
"What's happening?" Mack worried, not understanding Jade's remark completely.
"Two cop cars and an officer walking right up to the Suburban."
The officer approached her window and gently tapped the glass, immediately capturing her attention.
"Stay on the phone, and be ready to get on your feet if you need to," Mack advised, ultimately reaching his stop. He waited on the platform, not taking his mind off of Jade and what she was potentially about to endure.
"I got this." Jade retained the phone up to her ear and rolled the window down, all set to learn what the officer required of her.
"Good morning, miss. We received a call a few minutes ago letting us know that a description that matches that of your vehicle is in possession of drugs," The officer stated, not shying away from exhibiting the NYPD uniform that he was dressed in. He positioned his forearm on the joint of where the car door and the roof of Jade's vehicle convened, establishing his presence.
Jade raised an eyebrow, not knowing what to say to the authority figure in front of her. It was possible that this could've been a mistake, but there was also the possibility that the whole encounter was premeditated. She set her phone down on her lap, directing the transmitter upwards so that Mack could listen in on the exchange.
"Do you mind stepping out of the vehicle?" The officer asked, glimpsing back at the Suburban's rear.
"May I see some identification, officer?" Jade queried, not able to identify whether she was merely paranoid or if the circumstances were one step away from turning hostile.
The officer accessed his back pocket and removed his ID card, presenting it in front of Jade's face. She scrutinized the card and uncovered nothing that looked unusual. Still, there was something she still wondered about.
"Officer Ramos, are there usually this many units around the area?" Jade tilted her chin upwards for a second, motioning the officer to look down the street. There were three other patrol cars parked near Cipriani's restaurant which Jade knew were not typical once she factored in the two that were surrounding her vehicle.
"Miss, we're just here to do our job. No questions asked," the officer commenced, edging nearer into the gap that prevailed between them. "Now get the hell out of the Suburban."
Mack recognized that the officer's remarks were atypical. Jade, get the hell out of there, he thought. There was no way to communicate with her in that instant.
Jade had nothing to hide in the trunk of her car, but the officer's intentions were what drove her to believe that this was not an ordinary day on the job. If she withdrew from her vehicle, she was going to be in an unpleasant position.
"Yeah, of course. Just give me a second, so I can end this call," she uttered, not loosening up her expression in front of the cop.
"Sure thing." The officer backed off from her vehicle a tad while still upholding his place adjacent to it. He then put a hand on his pistol, making it seem as if he was ready to make use of it.
Jade brought her cellular device up to her ear once more, praying that Mack was still on the other line. "Did you get all that?"
"Whatever you do, don't let those guys get to you." Mack instructed, already instilling his confidence in her abilities.
"Okay, I'm getting out of here." Jade declared, spotting that the keys to her car had been in the ignition the entire time. All she had to do was put the vehicle in drive and stonewall the frauds.
In a flash, Jade adjusted the gear shift and floored the car onto the street. Even though her reaction time was beyond perfect, she could not zoom past the Interceptor that was parked a few feet forward.
Before she could perceive what was taking place in front of her, the officers from the front automobile were already out of their vehicles, throwing numerous road stars onto the path and triggering the SUV to swerve to some extent.
She slammed onto the brakes, bringing the car to an immediate halt. Her head thrusted onward and struck the steering wheel as she cursed, "Fuck."
"Jade, are you still there?" Mack enquired, finally boarding the train. Whatever he was sensing from the other end did not sound unperturbed.
Jade took a moment to regain her focus as the men started darting up to her car. She used the palm of her hand and wiped the part of her forehead that collided with the steering wheel, sighting some blood rushing out.
A couple of bullets hit her vehicle, shattering the rear windshield and undermining the back. That was when she forced the door open and took off sprinting down the block.
"Jade, talk to me," Mack fretted. He stood with the briefcase by his side, clutching onto the train car's handlebar to sustain his feet on the floor as it began moving.
"The Suburban's wrecked. I'm heading down East 42nd Street right now," Jade notified, peering backwards as she made her way through the mass of pedestrians.
"Keep your head down and try to sidestep them."
"I'm heading to the Chrysler Building. I'll seek shelter there until things settle down."
"Okay." Mack knew that he was never going to forgive himself if something were to happen to someone he felt accountable for, so he held onto whatever faith he had. "Be careful."
"You too," Jade responded, crossing the street and advancing further down 42nd Street as she made out the skyscraper in the distance. "And don't be a hero."
The two of them concluded their call and went about their own, equally having to fight their way out of brutal situations.
Two minutes until arrival at Bryant Park.
Mack eyed into the bag and noticed two minutes left on the clock as the train came close to a stop.
He was the first to move through the crowd of people, dash up the stairs, and come out of the metro, racing down west 42nd Street. He stared down once again at the countdown, establishing that there was less than a minute on the timer.
He ran as rapidly as he could, not resting to catch his breath. Once he passed the New York Public Library, he would be where he was directed to be. The question remained on whether he would make it there in time.
The clock kept ticking down, approaching the ten-second mark. Just a little bit more, Mack thought, not taking into account what he would have to do once he reached the park.
For the final three seconds, he kept his eyes on the clock as he trekked onwards. If heaving his body onto the explosive was going to diminish the blast radius even the slightest, that was enough to convince him.
3… 2… 1…
Once the timer cleared, Mack was on top of the bag, squeezing it tight to his chest. He shut his eyes as he predicted when the device was going to detonate. The thing was, it didn't.
He concentrated in on the timer again, verifying that there was no time lingering on the clock. Right from the start, it had been a counterfeit.
All of a sudden, Mack catch sight of a horde of NYPD vehicles and ambulances, blockading the street as officers departed from their cars and rushed down to the metro.
He made his way back onto the scene, knowing that the diversion had succeeded. He understood that it was better to be safe than sorry, but was it worth it?
Mack got close enough to the swarm of parked police cars in front of the stairway that ran down to the station. He halted behind the assembly of individuals as caution tape surrounded the area to prevent anyone from crossing the threshold.
Mack noticed a police lieutenant clearing out of his vehicle, pausing near where he was standing to transmit a message into his two-way radio. "Possible 10-66 on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. Close off the perimeter. Over."
10-66, he thought.
"The 7 train to Times Square took off early. The Bryant Park train has not cleared yet," the officer resumed, eventually removing himself from his position and proceeding to meet his colleagues.
Mack didn't think twice about dashing down the steps and getting as many people out as he could. The distraction lead to this one devious event, and it was all his fault.
"Two minutes until the train passes through," another officer announced to his workmates. "We need to evacuate everyone fast."
Mack stepped onto the train, setting his bag down on a seat. He felt the force of people shoving him backwards as they sought to make their escape, and he permitted them to move through while keeping his objective in mind.
He gazed down in the direction of the train car's end, scanning to ensure that everyone had made it out in one piece. That was when he detected a cluster of people trapped on the other cars.
"Sir, I need you to get to the surface right now," a young officer alerted Mack, tugging him out of the train with a firm grip on his shoulder.
"There are still people on the other cars. If we open the doors, we'll be able to-"
"It's too late. Please get to the surface."
Mack opposed the idea as much as he could, but he was restrained to ground-level once a team of officers showed up. They dragged him up to the surface, abandoning whoever was left on the train.
It felt as though time decelerated as Mack stood on ground-level. He watched as people wept, clutching onto their loved ones. He observed as many others struggled to thrust through the line of policeman. It overwhelmed him to know that there were so many people left on the cars. How many were going to remain alive after the crash, if any?
Despite the awaited deafening sound, every single individual flinched. Those seconds felt like minutes as the impact was sensed through the asphalt.
Mack decided to make his move. Whether this scheme would've initiated without him being at Grand Central Terminal that morning or not was undetermined. Either way, the burden was too considerable to ignore.
"Sir, you can't go down there."
Without a second thought, Mack zipped under the caution tape and hurried back down the metro, ramming through the line of cops in spite of the lieutenant's commands. He solely couldn't let someone lose a loved one in a scenario that could've been averted.
The lieutenant prohibited his team from detaining Mack once he got too far as smoke erupted from underneath, restricting everyone's line of sight.
A few of the train cars had bent onto the platform, flipping onto its side. Observing the inner parts of the train, Mack identified that there were still living and breathing passengers on board.
When he couldn't force the doors open with his bare hands, he salvaged a metallic bar. With a few jerks, the door was loose and people scurried out and up the stairs.
Mack may have rescued numerous people, but the amount that were left lifeless appeared to outweigh the amount that were animate. He continued to pry open the remaining doors on both trains, permitting the last few commuters to flee the scene.
Mack rotated in the direction of the voice, analyzing near the end of the car he was in. He perceived someone cramped under some of the wreckage and made his way over without delay.
The closer Mack advanced, the more he realized that it was the same man from earlier. He was stuck under a metal rod as his face coated in blood, and he gasped for air. Whatever resentment Mack had boiling inside of him was put off to the side.
"Hold on, sir. I'll get you out of here," Mack assured, beginning to elevate the bar and remove whatever rubble that was resting on top of the man's body.
Once he shoved everything off to one side, he held his hand out to assist the man to his feet. Mack eyed out towards the exit to make sure that it was all clear. That was when he heard the cock of a gun.
He progressively revolved his head around to face the man once more, feeling the barrel of a gun pressing on the back of his head.
"Mr. Tesla wanted me to send you a message," the man began, gathering whatever power he had left in him to convey those words. "You see what he is capable of. Don't fuck around."
"Put the weapon down!" A voice hollered from behind the both of them.
Mack made out the footsteps rushing into the car, but he didn't feel comfortable turning around until the man willingly dropped his firearm.
Mack was dragged up onto his feet by an officer, color draining off of his face as he pondered about the man's words. Donnie deliberately injured all of these people in an effort to send him a message. Son of a bitch, he thought.
The police officers pulled the man up and handcuffed him after obtaining the directives from their lieutenant. Within a few moments, the man was ushered out of the metro and up onto ground-level as Mack observed. The message worked.
Jade thrusted the doors open and charged into the Chrysler Building. She had no strategy as to how she would carry out her escape, but that was the only place she had considered hiding in. She glanced back, looking to see whether she shook off her pursuers for the time being.
"Miss, are you lost?" A security guard probed, stepping in front of her and obstructing her path. The guard was bulky and robust, not permitting Jade to bypass him even with her exceptional maneuvers.
"I really need to get through," Jade proclaimed, not wanting to get drawn into another threatening situation. There had to be a way past the guard, and she had to find one quick.
"Please slow down. There's an important business meeting going on, and I can't let any day trippers in. You'll have to come back later," he rejected, broadening his stance.
"You want to do something on your job? There are guys with guns out there trying to murder me, and I would rather not deal with them right now."
"You really don't understand," she disputed further, pushing once again, but still continuing on unsuccessful in her efforts as the guard clutched her wrists to restrain her. "I need to get out of here."
"Miss, the door is right behind you. I need some ID or you don't get an admission."
Jade's next remark remained in her throat as she perceived another voice coming from behind the guard. "Let her through."
It was composed and recognizable. She heard the footsteps edging closer and closer as the laughter from a group of officers in the lobby silenced. However, she still couldn't glimpse past the guard who lingered within her field of vision.
The figure finally emerged from behind, exhibiting a smile as he sported an NYPD captain's uniform. Instantaneously, Jade acknowledged the familiar face, and it was unquestionably one that she was fortunate to have run into.