Read The Second Shooter Online
Authors: Chuck Hustmyre
Donahue sank to the deck.
Blackstone scuttled back to door with his M-4 and scanned the ground for targets. In the circle of yellow flickering light cast by the burning car he could see that the van was gone.
Favreau raced the van south down the George Washington Parkway, parallel to the Potomac River. They were approaching the exit for the Chain Bridge. Just ahead of them, a sedan and a pickup truck cruised side by side, blocking both lanes. Favreau swung the steering wheel to the right and passed them on the shoulder. From the passenger seat Jake saw the speedometer fluttering at ninety. He turned to glance through the rear windows. The helicopter was back there. Tracking them. "They're still with us."
Stacy sat in back behind Jake. She was shaken up. "They tried to kill us. They actually tried to kill us."
Favreau adjusted the sideview mirror so he could see the helicopter. "And they're about to try again."
"Take the bridge," Jake said. "We can lose them in the city."
"No," Stacy said, a sudden new crispness in her voice. "Not the bridge. Take the new tunnel."
"Good idea," Favreau said.
"We can't hide in the tunnel," Jake said. "There's no shoulder."
Favreau smiled. "We're not going to hide."
Blackstone sat in the left-hand doorway and keyed his microphone. "Put them on the port side before they get to the bridge."
"Roger that," the pilot said through the headset.
After bracing himself against the forward edge of the door and compressing into a solid shooting position, Blackstone wedged the extended stock of the M-4 into his shoulder and looked over the top of the weapon, scanning the road ahead as the helicopter gained on its quarry.
When the aircraft drew abreast of the fleeing van, Blackstone pressed his cheek onto the stock and peered through the rear leans of the ACOG. The Advanced Combat Optics Gunsight had a glowing reticle surmounted by a red arrow zeroed for a hundred yards and black horizontal stadia lines to compensate for bullet drop at distances out to eight hundred yards. Blackstone lined up the apex of the red arrow with the roof of the racing van, just to the right of the driver's seat. The distance to the target was close enough to a hundred yards so that any variance wouldn't affect the flat-shooting .223-caliber rounds. He took a deep breath, let half of it out, then relaxed as his index finger squeezed out the slack in the trigger. He smiled. "Goodnight, asshole."
The gunsight jerked hard right, the barrel banging against the door frame. Knuckles hit him high on the left cheek. Not a hard punch but enough to stun him, although more from surprise than pain, and it knocked him off balance, almost pitching him headlong out the door.
When Blackstone regained his balance enough to turn around, he found Donahue standing in front of him, one hand wrapped in the M-4's nylon sling and the other hand balled into a fist. Blackstone clung tight to the rifle, which was what had actually saved him from falling out of the helicopter. If the dumbass FBI agent had simply let go of the rifle, Blackstone would have tumbled out. Instead, he had regained his balance and was now able to lurch to his feet.
Donahue latched onto the rifle with his other hand and tried to twist it away from Blackstone. The man obviously knew absolutely nothing about close-quarter combat. It was almost embarrassing. Blackstone knuckle-jabbed Donahue in the throat. The agent gagged and fell back against the rear bulkhead, collapsing onto his ass and coming within a few inches of toppling out himself.
Blackstone considered fulfilling his threat and throwing Donahue out of the helicopter but decided that a dead FBI supervisor was more headache than he wanted. Still, he needed to get control of this idiot fast. He pointed the M-4 at Donahue. "The only reason I don't toss you out and say it was an accident is because I still have a use for you. But if your ass comes off that deck again," Blackstone glanced out the door and saw they had passed the van, "you're going to have about a hundred feet to learn to fly."
"They're not taking the bridge," the pilot said through the headphones.
Blackstone kept the rifle pointed at Donahue as he keyed his microphone. "Bring me back around for another pass. Port side again."
"Yes, sir," the pilot said.
The van barreled down the George Washington Parkway.
"They're pulling away," Stacy said, her face plastered to the window in the side door.
"Keep watching," Favreau said as he laid on the horn and whipped onto the shoulder again to pass an old station wagon whose driver was scrupulously obeying the speed limit.
"Didn't you hear me?" Jake said. "There's no shoulder inside the tunnel. We can't stop."
Favreau cut back into the lane only inches in front of the station wagon. "American drivers are all idiots!"
Up ahead, Jake saw a green highway sign for the exit to the Thomas Jefferson Tunnel.
"We can't lose them in the tunnel," Jake said. "They'll just wait for us on the other side."
"That's what I'm counting on," Favreau responded as he jerked the wheel and squeezed between a delivery van in the right lane and an eighteen-wheeler trying to pass it on the left. The trucker gave them an angry blast from his air horn.
"What do you mean, that's what you're counting on?" Jake demanded.
"I mean we're notâ"
"They're coming back," Stacy shouted.
"I was sure they would," Favreau said.
Jake looked out the window. The helicopter was swooping toward them.
Favreau took the exit ramp so fast that for a few seconds Jake was sure the van was going to roll over. "At least don't kill us before we get to the tunnel."
As the van careened around the circular ramp, Favreau forced them into a tiny slot between two sedans. Both drivers blew their horns. Up ahead, Jake saw the gaping maw of the Thomas Jefferson Tunnel. "I hope you know what you're doing."
Favreau glanced at him. "Me too."
"They're headed into the tunnel," the pilot said.
Blackstone was tracking the speeding van through the ACOG, but it was too far for an accurate shot even with the four-power magnification. Not that he gave much of a shit about civilian casualties. Collateral damage was a fact of combat operations that he had long ago learned to live with. The problem was that explaining dead noncombatants, especially if they included children, to the government pencil pushers who hired him was never a sure thing. Sometimes the bookkeepers got squeamish. "How long will they be in the tunnel?" Blackstone asked the pilot.
"About forty-five seconds."
Blackstone took his eye from the gunsight and glanced at Donahue, gratified to see the FBI man still behaving himself. He keyed his microphone and told the pilot, "Set up on the other side of the river and let them come to us."
"Roger that, sir."
The helicopter swept over the mouth of the tunnel and in seconds was across the wide, dark Potomac River.
The van plunged into the tunnel.
"Okay," Jake said, "now what?"
Favreau didn't answer. Instead, he jammed down the horn and cursed in French at two cars driving more or less in staggered formation, one in each lane with barely a car length between them. Somehow, Favreau managed to cut between them without crashing.
The tunnel was two lanes in each direction with a concrete divider running down the center. It connected Arlington and the District just west of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and ran under the useless but hard fought-over Three Sisters Islands, which weren't islands at all, but three tiny outcroppings of granite, which a bunch of preservationists and environmentalists had spent decades trying to "protect." So instead of building the Thomas Jefferson Bridge over the Three Sisters, the Department of Transportation had dug the Thomas Jefferson Tunnel under them. On the District side, the tunnel linked up with 44th Street NW, then Archbold Parkway.
The van was already at the midpoint of the tunnel. Behind them several drivers were venting their rage through their horns.
"They're going to be waiting for us," Jake said.
Favreau smiled. "I know. So hang on." Then he slammed on the brakes and spun the steering wheel hard left. The centrifugal forces drove Jake into the dashboard and then into the passenger door. Behind him Stacy screamed as she was pinned against the back of Jake's seat, then tossed against the sliding side door.
Still holding the brakes down and the wheel over, Favreau stomped the gas pedal to the floor. The combination of hard front braking, shifting the van's center of gravity forward, and all the power going to the now much lighter rear end, spun the back wheels and accelerated the counterclockwise rotation into a tire-smoking J-turn, at the end of which the van shuddered to a stop in the middle of the fast-moving traffic. Facing the wrong way.
Then the engine choked and died.
Outside, tires squealed and even more horns shrieked. Metal and glass crunched. Miraculously, nothing hit them. Through the windshield, Jake could see that the van sat astride the inside lane, its nose pointed south, the direction from which they had just come. Several cars were tangled in front of them, amid torn metal and shattered glass. Other drivers managed to whip into the outside lane an instant before rear-ending the wrecks, and they blew past the van with screaming horns and wild hand gestures.
Favreau slammed the gearshift into park and reached for the stripped ignition wires. "That didn't work out exactly like I planned."
"You planned that?" Jake shouted.
The motor cranked but didn't start. Favreau pumped the accelerator and tried again.
"You'll flood it," Stacy said from the back.
Favreau quit pumping the gas. He touched the wires again. The starter ground around and around. Finally, the engine sputtered to live. Favreau threw the transmission down into drive and stomped the gas pedal.
Jake had taken his eyes off the windshield to watch Favreau's hands work the ignition wires. When he glanced back up, he saw an eighteen-wheeler sliding toward them in the inside lane, the smoke of burned rubber trailing from its tires. "Look out!" he shouted.
Somehow Favreau managed to cut the wheel in time to slip into the adjacent lane a fraction of a second before the truck slammed into several wrecked cars and knocked them into the space the van had just vacated. As the Frenchman drove against traffic, a raging river of white lights rushed toward them.
Working the gas pedal, the brakes, and the steering wheel with the dexterity of a Paris pickpocket, Favreau ducked and dodged the oncoming vehicles, missing everyone except a tow truck that smacked off the passenger-side mirror. He even played chicken with a school bus full of high school football players. Yet somehow he managed not to crash. Then they were back on the Arlington side of the river, still going the wrong way but with more room to maneuver.
Favreau slung the van onto an on-ramp against traffic. He raced around the circle dodging cars; then near the top of the ramp he bounded over the curb and jumped onto an off-ramp, this time going with the flow. Seconds later they were headed west on US Highway 124.
They had survived.
Once Jake could breathe again, he reached over and grabbed Favreau's collar and nearly jerked him out of his seat. "You almost got us killed."
"On the contrary, my friend. I saved us from getting killed."
A horn blew. The van was drifting into the next lane. Jake let the Frenchman go.
Favreau rolled his window halfway down. A cold wind filled the van. He glanced back at Stacy. "Can I borrow your phone?"
"Sure." She handed him her FBI Blackberry.
"Who are you going to call?" Jake asked.
"Nobody," the Frenchman said. Then he tossed the phone out the window.
"Hey!" Stacy shouted.
"They can track us through the phone."
Nobody said anything. Jake turned to look at Stacy. Favreau was right and they both knew it.
A few minutes later Favreau signaled for a lane change and took the ramp for westbound Interstate 66.
"Where are we going?" Stacy asked.
Favreau glanced at her in the rearview mirror and smiled. "Shady Point, Oklahoma."
When the helicopter touched down on the rooftop helipad, Bill Blackstone, who had already secured his M-4 to a bulkhead-mounted rack, sprang out and landed softly on the roof.
His time with Wendell Donahue hadn't exactly gone well, but he knew the FBI man was a professional. Surely, Donahue could see the bigger picture here. Could appreciate what was at stake. This situation was way beyond some school yard posturing or dick-measuring. This was nut-cutting time. What happened next was the difference between a gold watch or an indictment.
As Donahue climbed down from the Huey he snagged his foot and almost did a face-plant on the roof, but Blackstone caught his suit coat, which was now stained beyond the ability of even the best chink dry cleaner to make presentable again, and hauled him upright. Instead of being grateful, however, Donahue, once he got his feet under him, knocked Blackstone's hand aside and marched past him.
Blackstone followed Donahue across the roof to the stairwell, then down to the stairs to the building's top floor. Donahue held the metal fire door open for Blackstone, which made Blackstone think that perhaps they had reached a detente, but as soon as Blackstone stepped into the deserted hallway, Donahue spun around and shoved him against the wall. The FBI man was back on his home court and feeling his balls again. "You're under arrest," he said.
Blackstone kept his cool, fully aware that with the change of venue, the scales had tipped in Donahue's favor. "What's the charge?"
Donahue pressed him harder into the wall. "I'll start with attempted murder of federal agents."
"I was trying to clean up your mess."
"This problem is still fixable," Blackstone said. "Which means you might still be able to salvage your career."
"My career's not the one in jeopardy."
"You sure about that?"
Donahue looked anything but sure. "What do you mean?"