Read Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella Online

Authors: Gary Ponzo

Tags: #General Fiction

Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella (6 page)

BOOK: Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella
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Kirk used his free hand to rub his bald head. “We can try to impair the flight somehow, but that puts us in the ocean.”

“That’s your idea?” Nick asked.

Kirk lifted his left shoulder into a half-hearted shrug. “It’s the best I got on short notice.”

“Remind me to give you a couple of days notice before the next hijacking.”

Suddenly the plane lurched and the engines pulled back.

“He descending,” Kirk said. “Probably twenty minutes out.”

“Is this thing really as invisible as they think?” Nick asked.

“If we’re in the middle of the Atlantic, then yeah. If there’s some small island out in the middle of nowhere, then they can pull it off.”

“And what about search parties?”

“I’m sure he’s turned off the transponder, but eventually I think they’ll find us,” Kirk said, then looked directly at Nick and lowered his voice. “It’s just a matter of whether we’ll be alive when it happens.”

It was the exact thought Nick had. He’d tried to hold down the images of his wife and son finding out about their father who was never found, or killed on a remote island. He looked at the faces of the passengers and found nervous smiles from people who didn’t quite understand the predicament they were in.

“We need a plan,” Nick said to himself. “And fast.”

A young boy came waddling through the mess on the floor to approach Nick.

“Officer,” he said, “are we landing in Rome now?”

The plane kept descending and the boy was merely asking what every other passenger wanted to know.

Nick leaned over and touched the kid on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. You can tell your folks that you will be landing in Rome sometime today.”

The boy smiled, then scurried back from where he came.

Nick was putting himself in a hole and just prayed he would be able to climb out of it. From the back of the plane, he could see Lisa glaring at him with a knowing grin.

“Boy, do I need a plan,” Nick whispered to himself.

Chapter 8

Sam Pettit was gulping down his third mug of coffee and feverishly reviewing the data he’d received for Flight 12 on his computer monitor. The pilot was experienced, the plane in good working condition. There was no weather that he could tell. It was always a puzzle that he would put together piece by piece. Somewhere there would be a sign that would lead him in a specific direction. Right now was the hardest part, because he couldn’t narrow it down to mechanical failure or pilot error, so he had to presume all scenarios, which made the search extremely difficult.

If he knew it was a terrorist takeover, then he could widen his scope and prepare for ancillary events, but without that knowledge, the entire ocean was his haystack. And Flight 12 was a very tiny needle.

Sam pushed the button on his phone. “Swanny, do you have that report yet?”

“Not yet,” Agent Swanson said.

“Do you feel they’re stretching it out?”

Swanson didn’t respond right away. Sam was accusing the FAA of sandbagging information so they could conduct their own investigation before sending the data to the FBI.

“Hard to say, Sam. They’re pretty busy over there.”

Sam drummed the pencil on his desk. “Can you get me that Kurtze guy again?”

“Sure.”

A minute later his phone chirped. “1205.”

Sam pushed the button. “Kurtze?”

“Yes sir.”

“I need a better timeline,” Sam said.

“Um . . . well, I was told by the FAA I was supposed to talk with them.”

“Look, if you want to play footsy with the FAA, fine. They can make your life miserable and I get it. But we’re talking about a plane which may be headed toward a busy civilian population. I can’t afford to wait for bodies to be show up before I claim this a terrorist attack.”

“I understand.”

“So, are you going to help me?”

Just then another chirp interrupted the call and Agent Swanson’s voice came over the intercom. “Sam, I have an urgent call from Walt Jackson.”

That stopped him.

“What line?”

“1203.”

Walt Jackson was the Special Agent in Charge of the Baltimore office. He also headed up a small tactical group of agents who specialized in counterterrorism, known simply as The Team. It would confirm Sam’s suspicions were real.

“Hang on, Kurtze,” Sam said, then put him on hold. He took a long sip of his cold coffee, then a deep breath. Finally, he pushed the 1203 button.”

“Hey, Walt.”

“Sam, I need all the data you have on the missing flight.”

“Of course. I’ll send the files over to you right now.”

“And Sam, we’re going to take over the investigation.”

Sam forcefully pressed his pencil down on his desk, the middle of it bending near the point of break. “I don’t understand. This is my expertise, Walt. This is why this division exists, for days like today.”

“That is true.”

“So why take it away from me? You think I’m not capable handling this?”

Walt’s voice seemed to soften. “Not at all, Sam. You’re the best aviation expert we have and nothing is going to sway my opinion on this.”

“So?”

“So . . . Nick Bracco is on that flight.”

Sam dropped the pencil and watched it roll off his desk. “Oh no.”

“Oh yeah.”

“So it’s definitely an act of terrorism?”

“It would seem logical.”

“But Walt, I could still be an asset.”

“No doubt, but I can’t have the FAA working with two divisions of the Bureau. I’ll handle the flow of information and send it your way once we’ve filtered through it. Make sense?”

Sam wanted to say, “No, it doesn’t make sense. When it comes to aviation, I’m the expert.” But instead, he said, “Sure, but don’t you want an aviator involved in the process? I could be over there in thirty minutes and work with—”

“No,” Walt’s voice rising now. “You stay in your office with your support staff and work out the scenarios for us as we send them your way. Are you going to be okay with this?”

Walt Jackson had seniority and the terrorism division had jurisdiction in virtually every case. But Walt had the decency to ask Sam if he was okay with it, allowing Sam to be part of the plan and not an obstacle.

“Sure,” Sam said, his right hand sitting uselessly on the desk. “I’ll support you however I can.”

“I appreciate it,” Walt said. Then there was a period of silence where Sam wasn’t sure if Walt had hung up already. After twenty seconds, Sam said, “Walt?”

“Listen,” Walt said thoughtfully. “If anything happens, I don’t want your head on the plate. I’ll take the hit.”

Another solid point. When he relinquished the responsibility to Walt, he also gave up the ability to be a scapegoat. Sam couldn’t tell if Walt was being genuine, or using this as a tool to speed up the transition.

“Of course,” Sam said. “I understand.”

“Besides,” Walt said with a low tenor to his voice, almost cracking. “I’m the one who has to call Julie if Nick doesn’t make it.”

Sam lowered his head, almost ashamed of his politicking. This was more personal to Walt than professional.

“Of course,” Sam said, fully on board now. “I’m here whenever you need me.”

Whether Walt didn’t have the voice to finish or he just needed to move on, the phone disconnected. Sam sat there staring at the lone button on his phone, still blinking.

He pressed the button and said, “Kurtze?”

“I’m here, sir.”

“Go ahead and keep cooperating with the FAA. They’ll know what they need from you.”

“So you don’t want—”

“No, this has been reassigned.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“It means we have a real issue on our hands and the specialists have taken over.”

Kurtze hung up with a questioning sign off, but Sam finally understood what Walt Jackson had offered him. And as he looked out his window into the darkness, there was the slightest bit of relief on his mind.

Chapter 9

“It’s not so much fun when you don’t have those gadgets with you, huh, Agent Bracco?” Bennett said from his front-row seat.

Nick was up against the cockpit door, leaning on it like his presence alone might cause it to open. He squinted at Bennett. “Exactly what gadgets are you talking about?”

“I read lots of magazines,” Bennett said. “You and your partner Matt McColm have used a variety of devices to get out of sticky situations. But you don’t have your partner or the gadgets with you this time. Quite a disadvantage.”

“When I come visit you in prison, you’re going to have to show me which articles you’re reading, because I can promise you, they’re full of hyperbole.”

“Sure,” Bennett said in a mocking voice. “Except we’re less than ten minutes from touchdown and you haven’t improved your situation one little bit.”

Nick handed his pistol to Kyle Church and said, “Get Weston up here.”

Kyle gave him a peculiar look, then took the gun and went toward the main cabin.

Nick grabbed a fire extinguisher from the wall, slammed it against the cockpit door and screamed, “Open this damn door!”

Nothing. The plane seemed to dip in the sky, and Nick’s legs were giving out with each yard the plane dropped. He was sleep deprived, frustrated, and losing hope. Finally he resigned himself to a last resort. He went over to Jess, who was writing frantically in her notebook without ever looking up. As he approached, he heard a shriek from the main cabin. Then he could feel the plane bounce from a sudden thump of the floor. When he finally found the source of the commotion, it made his stomach drop down to his knees.

Moving up the aisle was Kyle Church followed by one of the goons who had Kirk Weston in a stranglehold. The air marshal’s right arm was completely bent behind his back, being pulled up by the terrorist. On his face was pain and irritation.

Behind them was Cory waving Nick’s gun like a prize he’d won at the county fair.

“Aw, Kyle,” Nick said. “Don’t tell me.”

“Sorry, Nick,” Kyle said pointing the pistol out in front of him. “They offered to give me the name of who murdered Kristin, plus a lot of money.” He shrugged, as if he had no other choice but to defect.

For the first time since he’d boarded the plane, Nick actually believed it just might be over. He shook his head. “Kyle,” he murmured, “so all that stuff about Clayton was bullshit?”

Kyle grinned at his storytelling ability.

Bennett now stood up and squeezed the creases of his slacks as if that were his biggest annoyance of the flight. “Sit down,” he ordered Nick.

Nick returned to his seat where Bennett just vacated. He looked over at Jess across the aisle, scribbling away. “I hope you’re enjoying this,” he said.

Jess looked up at him. “What? I’m doing my job.”

Nick tried to control his breathing, but as the plane drifted lower and lower, so did his hopes of surviving. His mind raced with ideas, but he needed to save the people on board. Nervous smiles were replaced by sobs and passengers wiping their eyes.

Nick wanted to tell Jess something, but Kyle stood guard over him while Bennett paced in front of first class, looking around at the collection of terrorists he’d assembled. They’d resumed their search for the elusive device, but it was becoming uncertain whether it would be found.

Bennett crossed his arms with a disgusted expression and said to Nick, “You do understand I’m doing this for the world?”

Nick’s stomach churned with anxiety. “Are you trying to justify your actions?”

Bennett strolled back and forth with the straight-backed posture of a professor. “Not at all. I just want you to appreciate my motives.” This time he looked over at Jess who was absorbing his propaganda like a prized student.

Nick was ready to strike, not caring of the consequences. Cory cocked his head almost daring Nick to move.

The sun was beginning to brighten the windows and Nick was able to see the Atlantic. They were very low now.

The doors to the landing gear opened as they screeched their approach to the uncharted island. Bennett sensed the urgency of his plight and grabbed the PA microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said in a professional tone, “so far we have not found the device we so dearly need to protect our families back home. In an effort to expedite the process, I will begin to have one passenger killed every sixty seconds until the person with the device comes forward.”

Now the entire plane was filled with shouts as parents huddled their children and husbands grabbed their loved one’s hands.

“We shall start with you,” Bennett said, pointing to the pilot who’d assisted Nick earlier.

The pilot instinctively leaned back, as if he could delay his death by an extra millisecond. His face tightened with terror as Cory approached with his gun outstretched.

“Now,” Bennett said into the PA system, “I will count to three and if the person with the device doesn’t come forward, I will have to kill this fine gentleman. His death will be on your conscience.”

BOOK: Flight 12 to Rome: A Nick Bracco Novella
5.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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