The White House
15:45 (20:45 GMT)
Mike finished an afternoon meeting with the Director of NSA and was walking to his next meeting. Together with Director Slocum and Director Thomas, they were to update the president on the status of the al Hamwi situation. That’s when he saw Veronica Slocum coming down the hallway.
She stopped him and asked him to step into another room.
“What the hell is going on with MacKay? I gave him a direct order to return to Langley and he directly disobeyed that order.”
Mike knew he was going to have to deal with this sooner or later. Now was just a good a time as any, especially since it wasn’t in front of the president. “Veronica, the last I heard was that they had a drop in oil pressure and had to make an emergency landing. That doesn’t sound like insubordination to me; it sounds like they had a legitimate emergency.”
Veronica shook her liver spotted finger at Mike. “Emergency landing my ass! It’s a brand new forty million dollar jet. That’s bullshit and you know it. I have half a mind to have him arrested when he gets back.”
Blake was being his regular thorough self and Mike knew it. It aggravated the crap out of him that Veronica didn’t understand that.
“Being a new plane has nothing to do with it, Veronica. Haven’t you ever had a new car? The first few months, you always have to take it in for minor problems here and there. You know—work the bugs out. They’ll get it fixed and he’ll be back here by tomorrow I’m sure.”
Veronica shook her head in disgust. “You need to keep your dog on a better leash Mike, or you just might lose him.” She turned and walked out the door.
Mike waited a second for her to get down the hall a bit. God, she’s incorrigible. He thought for a few more seconds about how he could keep the heat off Blake, then left to go meet with the president.
As he was walked down the hall, he saw Veronica go in the meeting room. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Director Thomas spoke quietly to each other outside the room. He was just about to say hello when his secure phone rang. He stepped to the side to answer.
“Mike, its Blake.”
“It’s about time I heard from you. How’s the oil pressure problem?”
“Yeah, it’s all fixed.”
“Good. When are you coming back? I just covered for your ass. That bitch is calling for your head, so I hope you have something good.”
“I do. You know I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think I had a good lead.”
“Go on,” Mike said.
“al Hamwi, in fact, loaded up the weapons and put them on a cargo ship called the Angel van de zee on the morning that I was there. I got on the marine traffic website and tried to track it, but I think they must have disabled their transponder. Where it went from there I don’t know.”
“Not a problem. I’ll call up satellite images from that day and will get a visual on their bearing. I’m about to head into a meeting with the president now on this very topic; as a matter of fact, I’m late. I’ll get on it and let you know anything I find out. Anything else?”
“I’m afraid so. It looks like he bought around twenty-five of these weapons, all in different caliber sizes with the biggest being the forty millimeter grenades. And, that’s what he bought the most of; fifteen units of the forty millimeter grenade launchers.”
Director Slocum, President Pennington and the others were already engaged when Mike opened the door. He knew that Veronica had no compunction in telling the president what she thought of the current situation or throwing him and Blake under the bus.
“Madam President, so far this mission has been a disaster. Blake MacKay has managed to get almost his entire team in Afghanistan killed, including a valuable asset that we’ve had for a couple of years, he’s all but hijacked a company jet and he has yet to even come up with any new information.”
The president sat back in her chair and intertwined her fingers. “Veronica, I understand your frustration. These things can get a bit hairy. I can recall plenty of times when we lost good soldiers defending the Afghans when their men were either hiding under beds or running away. Let’s just see where this goes.”
“Madam President, with all due respect, he disobeyed a direct order. It is a punishable offense.”
Mike knew he had to butt in after that comment. “Madam President, everyone, I apologize but I need to speak to Director Slocum. It’s about this situation. It will be just a minute.”
“It’s okay Mike. I understand the chain of command. No sense in telling the information that you have twice. We’re wasting valuable time. Just come on in and tell us what you have. We’ll understand that this would normally be coming from Director Slocum.”
Veronica leaned back in her chair. She gave Mike the This had better be good look as he sat down.
Mike said, “Madam President, general, everyone. I just got off the phone with Blake MacKay. Turns out his instincts were right. He followed up on a potential lead in Cuba and he was able to turn up some information. al Hamwi did in fact buy those weapons and pick them up. He purchased twenty-five of them in assorted calibers with the majority of them being the forty millimeter grenade.”
A few choice expletives were spoken around the room, including some from the president. Mike then said, “He loaded them on a small cargo ship called the Angel van de zee. The onboard transponder that would normally allow us to track its bearing has been disabled. His destination at this point is unknown.”
General Thomas said, “If this is just the beginning stages of a long term plan, he may just be acquiring them. He’ll store them away somewhere until they’re ready to use them.”
President Pennington then asked, “Perhaps we’re being too vain gentlemen—and lady. What if the plan is for something else entirely? Not meant for an attack on us?”
Mike said, “That is a very good question Madam President. They’re all good questions, but merely speculative at this point. I’m calling NRO as soon as we’re done here to look at satellite imagery so that we can track this ships path. Until we know where it’s headed, it’s just a guess as to what he’s up to. Madam President, with your permission?”
She nodded and gave him permission to leave. After Mike left the room, the president turned to Veronica and said, “Looks like you jumped the gun on Mr. MacKay, Director.”
Veronica could feel her face start to flush with anger and embarrassment, but she held it in. Oil pressure problems. I knew that was bullshit. “Yes, Madam President, it looks like I did.”