Read Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella Online

Authors: Gary Ponzo

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Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella

BOOK: Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella
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Flight 12 to Rome


Gary Ponzo

Copyright 2015 Gary Ponzo

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written permission of the publisher.

This book is a work of fiction and the creation of author Gary Ponzo.

Chapter 1

FBI agent Nick Bracco sat against the window on Flight 12 and searched intensely for the terrorist. He didn’t know a name or even a face, but he knew somewhere on board was a passenger with a device that could change the world in an instant.

The 767 idled on the tarmac as passengers continued to board the plane. Nick scanned every face, searching for someone who might be carrying the device. It could be small enough to be wired into the hard drive of a laptop so it wasn’t easy to locate. The nerds were becoming the greatest threat to the world of terrorism. A world Nick had known very well as the head of counterterrorism for the FBI.

He checked his phone display for the time. It was a couple of minutes past midnight. Everyone was tired and looking forward to a decent nap along the way. That’s when Nick spotted a familiar face. As she came down the aisle she carefully assessed him, then her boarding pass, then finally Nick again as she stashed her bag under the seat and sat next to him.

“What are the chances of me getting this exact seat,” she said, then buckled her seat belt and reached for the airline’s magazine in the front pouch.

“One hundred percent.”

Jess Kimball was a popular journalist with
Taboo Magazine
and well known among the law enforcement community. “I can take care of myself,” she said without looking up.

“Really?” Nick folded his arms across his chest. “Even after the death threat from Shad McRea?” Jess’s mouth opened, but she was too shocked to speak.

“Yeah,” Nick said. “We know things.”

Jess examined Nick as if he were an exhibit at a museum. “How?”

“I have friends in the music industry.”


Jess bent over and pulled a small notepad out of her purse. “How do you know all this? Are you here to protect me?”

Nick shook his head while examining the boarding process. Many of the passengers stared at Jess with a flicker of recognition in their eyes.

Jess began to scribble some notes.

“What are you doing?” Nick asked.

“I’m writing.”

“Writing what?”

Jess looked up from her notebook and gave Nick a disappointed scowl. “Look, Agent Bracco. You have your weapons,” she held up her pen, “and I have mine.”

Nick sighed. “Listen, I’m just giving you a hard time, Shad is a harmless blowhard. And besides,” he handed her a silver pen with a thick rubber grip at the bottom, “this is the type of pen you need to use. It works from every angle without interruption.”

Jess seemed to assess the object with suspicion. After scribbling some words onto her notebook, she nodded her head in approval. “Nice. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Jess continued to write in her notebook. “If you’re not here to protect me, then why are you here?”

Nick glanced around to assure their solitude. “We believe there’s a terrorist on board with a device that can destroy a metropolitan city in a flash.”

Jess blinked, but said nothing.

“You’ve actually done research on the subject for one of your stories.”

“Which story?”

Nick kept scanning the cabin. “Antimatter. The Next Big Threat.”

That got Jess to glance around as well. “You’re kidding.”

“I wish I were.”

The luggage compartment door shut with a bang below them and Jess nearly jumped from her seat. “Then why haven’t you emptied the plane and arrested the suspect?”

“Because,” Nick said, resuming his inspection, “we need to be certain of our facts. I get barraged with misinformation. Sometimes it’s better to wait and watch. Besides, I have an entire battalion of agents from several agencies waiting for our flight to land.”

“So in the meantime we’re going to take a flight with a container of antimatter on board?”

“Do you remember how much stability and protection it took to transport antimatter?”

“Yes, of course,” Jess said, following Nick’s gaze at the boarding passengers. “It would take a container the size of a submarine missile with specific temperature parameters. Once those parameters were compromised . . .” Jess shrugged.

“We know.”

“So then antimatter couldn’t be on board.”

Nick spotted a slender man in jeans and collared shirt with a messy crop of wavy black hair and a nervous twitch in his gait.

“Shit,” Nick murmured.

“What?” Jess asked.

The man made eye contact with Nick, but kept pushing his way down the aisle past Nick’s row.

Nick shut his eyes and blew out a breath. “Our night just got more complicated.”

Jess swiveled her head, but seemed lost.

“The guy’s name is Kyle Church,” Nick said. “Long story. He used to work for me years ago. Before he was caught taking a bribe.”

Jess glanced down at her notepad as if asking permission.

Nick looked over at her. “This is off the record.”

“You still haven’t told me if someone has antimatter aboard this flight.”

Nick twisted in his seat to face her. “You’re right about the conditions that antimatter needs to be transported. It’s extremely volatile. But what if someone created a way to reduce the volatility? What if someone created a device that could keep the antimatter and matter separated in a single container? A container made of such a strong alloy that only a powerful explosive could rupture the divider and introduce the molecules in a flash? Would that be dangerous?”

Jess’s eyes widened. “It would be very dangerous. But that’s science fiction.”

Nick sat back in his seat and took another long breath. “Not anymore.”

They were quiet for a moment while the flight attendants began ushering people into their assigned seats and closing overhead compartments.

“Why are you telling me this?” Jess asked like a good reporter should. “Isn’t this confidential?”

Nick leaned his head back and shut his eyes again. “It’s only confidential for another few days. Some scientist in Italy doesn’t have the same sense of concern as we do. He’ll expose the discovery in an article in next week’s
Science Digest

“But . . . uh . . .” Jess stammered over her disbelief. “He can’t.”

“He can,” Nick said. “And he will.”

The plane engines roared with anticipation for the long overseas trip. Nick could see the flaps rising and lowering as the pilots worked their way through the preflight routines.

“There’s more to the story, isn’t there?” Jess said.

“Of course there is,” Nick said.

“I mean, you didn’t have me assigned to sit here just to tell me that story.”

“That’s true.”

The plane began to back away from the terminal and Nick felt a sense of apprehension come over him. What had he gotten himself into?

The captain introduced himself on the overhead speaker system, announcing to everyone that they were on Flight 12 to Rome. As if some passenger might jump up and run for the exit looking for their flight to Indianapolis instead.

“What are you hiding from me?” Jess insisted.

Nick reached into his brief bag, pulled out a leather binder, and placed it on his lap. “You’re a very popular reporter.”


“And popular reporters have a certain accessibility that average citizens don’t.”

Jess seemed to understand. “So you want me to spy on the other passengers.”

“No, you’re going to interview the passengers about their trip to Italy and why they’re going. Is it for vacation? Work? Family? All things that people would love to tell you about since you’re such a renowned celebrity.”

“I am not a celebrity.”

“No? Then why did every passenger stare at you as they passed by. They know you, Jess. They’ve seen your face on their television screens over and over again. ‘Investigative journalist stops crime.’ ‘Victims’ rights activist delivers justice when the legal system fails.’ You’re an American hero for crying out loud. Why not use that leverage to prevent an act of terrorism?”

Jess Kimball’s face fell to a stoic anger. “You should’ve been a salesman, Agent Bracco. Selling your brand of patriotism in return for my ethics.”

“Call it whatever you like,” Nick said, opening his folder and examining the contents of his report. “When we reach altitude you go do your thing and bring me the info you’ve received. The wheres and whys of the passengers’ trip and I’ll cross-reference it with the data on my manifest.”

“You know, I really don’t like you very much.”

Nick looked out the window at the full moon hanging on the horizon, glaring at him. “Yeah.” He shrugged. “I get a lot of that.”

Chapter 2

The 767 was cruising at thirty-three thousand feet for ten minutes when Captain Paul Greko turned on the autopilot. They were a couple of hundred miles over the Atlantic and just moving out of radar range. The plane was now completely invisible. Greko’s copilot, Timothy Johnson, yawned and stretched for the first time since they’d taken off.

Greko turned in his seat to the two pilots in the rear of the cockpit and said, “Okay boys, time for your nap.”

The two pilots unbuckled their seatbelts and ritualistically moved to the door. They were half of the four-pilot team assigned to Flight 12, and they’d followed the same procedure for every flight they’d ever taken. Half the crew would nap for a few hours, then take over for the second half of the flight and landing.

As they exited the cockpit to their designated first-class seats, Greko said, “I’ll send for you in three hours.”

There were a couple of murmured thanks, then the cockpit was down to two. Greko pushed the code into the keypad, locking the door.

Johnson pulled out a Kindle from his bag and began booting the device to life.

“What are you reading now?” Greko asked, taking his seat and buckling up.

“It’s an old John le Carre novel,
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

“Really? Tell me about it.”

“It’s about this English spy who’s being forced into retirement and he’s asked to accomplish this one last mission.”

“Hmm,” said Greko. “Interesting.” What he didn’t say was, “How apropos. I too am being forced into retirement.” But that would lead them down a very dark conversation of foolish spending habits and poor investment decisions which had cost him almost all of his retirement funds. Especially now when his pension had been slashed by the latest airline takeover. In essence he was a fairly fit sixty-five-year-old with little or no backup plan for his impending job loss.

Johnson crossed his legs and began reading his Kindle as he did on most overseas flights, which were boring as boring could be. “What’s the position name for Reykjavik?”

“Haven,” Greko said, referring to the code name for their designated reporting spot. Once they were out of radar range it was up to the pilot to check in once they reached a designated position so the air traffic controllers could manipulate the flow of traffic over the Atlantic. There was no way of knowing whether the aircraft was actually over the designated check-in point, making it fairly easy to disappear over the ocean. And that was exactly what Captain Greko intended to do. And he would receive a very large payoff to make his final flight a memorable one.

Johnson was engrossed with his spy novel while Greko unbuckled and moved behind him. “It’s time for a little snack,” he said, reaching into his pilot’s bag and removing a small black pouch.

Johnson paid no attention, making it that much simpler for Greko to take the prefilled syringe from its package and quickly jab it into the side of Johnson’s neck, then push the plunger down and empty its contents.

“What the—”

“Relax,” Greko said, placing a comforting hand on his copilot’s shoulder. “It’s just a sedative. You will sleep for a few hours, but that’s all. I was promised no one would be harmed.”

Johnson fought the drug for a few seconds, kicking his legs out and grasping at his neck, but finally giving in. His head slumped to the side and Greko spent almost a full minute finding a position for his coworker to be comfortable while he commandeered the aircraft to its final destination. Greko would gradually manipulate the aircraft to a more southern direction to avoid anyone on board noticing the change in flight plan. It was a red-eye flight where most of the passengers were trying their best to sleep anyway.

Greko returned to his seat and turned off the autopilot. It was merely a few more hours before he would receive the reward for his maneuver. A very handsome reward at that.

* * *

Nick was scrutinizing the names on the passenger manifest and cross-referencing them into his computer system, looking for an alias or some other correlation with an Italian background or possible terrorist connections.

Jess Kimball returned from her first round of interviews and took her seat next to Nick with a huge sigh.

“Well?” Nick asked.

“Well, your pen works great, but your strategy sucks.”

BOOK: Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella
3.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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