Riding up in the elevator, Spence weighed his options.
If Sartaq looks away I can bring the 1911 up and get off a shot. But I won’t have time to aim and Megyn is so close…
Spence glanced up to the top of the elevator’s back wall. A small black cube with a round glass eye and tiny pigtail antenna peered back at him.
The Police are monitoring this elevator. They’ll know when and where Sartaq gets off. They’ll try to intercept him.
Through the loose weave of the ludicrous bag hanging from Sartaq’s left arm, Spence could see several taped together red sticks, Dynamite he guessed, colored wires and the back of what was undoubtedly one of Alex’s remote control boxes.
Sartaq said something but it wasn’t English.
Spence shrugged and shook his head.
Sartaq nudged Megyn.
She translated, “He said, ‘You think you’ve beaten me.’”
Spence glanced at the floor number in the elevator’s indicator. It changed from ten to eleven.
The elevator had bypassed the seventh floor.
The Police overrode Megyn’s selection! Where are they taking us?
Spence tried to distract Sartaq so he wouldn’t notice the change.
“Let Megyn go. She’ll only slow you down.”
Megyn translated his words.
“She’s my insurance,” Sartaq answered through Megyn.
Megyn continued on her own, “Spence, he’s completely insane. Reason and logic won’t work. In the lobby when his remote control didn’t work, he was frantic, a cornered animal. He could do anything!”
Sartaq shook her roughly, apparently guessing she was saying more than he was.
Spence flicked his eyes up to the floor indicator. They were passing 23.
But Sartaq saw his glance. He looked up as well. Spence followed his eyes and watched the floor number change to 24 then 25.
Sartaq’s forehead creased and he shouted at Megyn.
She shrugged, turned and pressed the button for 36 but its light stayed dark. Sartaq twisted around and, his finger reaching through the revolver’s trigger guard, poked several more floors. The buttons all stayed dark.
Only one button was lit, the top one.
Spence smiled, “The Police are controlling the elevator. They’ve beat you, Sartaq. They’re waiting for you on the roof.”
Megyn translated the conversation.
Sartaq asked, “How did they stop my remote control in the lobby?”
Mickey’s jammer had worked!
Spence nodded, “They jammed the WiFi frequencies. Your bombs are useless.”
Sartaq began huffing like a bull.
The elevator’s ascent began to slow.
Sartaq wrenched Megyn around and pressed her against the doors as they began to slide apart.
She squished through the opening and popped out with him following close behind. Sartaq pushed her quickly half a dozen steps staying pressed close to her back. They passed the sharpshooters standing on either side of the open door who followed their quick exit with their rifles but were unable to keep Sartaq in their sights long enough to fire.
Sartaq spun himself and Megyn around to keep her between the shooters and himself. He continued backing away, the revolver still clamped to Megyn’s head.
Spence followed straight out of the elevator, his wounded arm limp at his side but the 1911 securely in his shooting hand at low ready. Spence locked his wrist and elbow so the sights would be in perfect alignment if Sartaq gave him any opportunity.
All I need is one second, Spence prayed.
The sharpshooters in full battle gear had fanned out to either side leaving Spence to cover the middle. They all three advanced as Sartaq backed away pulling Megyn along with him.
They continued like that all the way out on the roof deck where, projected 250 feet out, nothing but 57 stories of emptiness remained beneath them.
Six feet from the edge, Sartaq glanced around and stopped. He had no where left to go.
The sharpshooters continued forward and then started stepping diagonally to either side. They positioned themselves in a shallow “V” on either side ready to shoot. Spence remained in the center facing them, his 1911 at low ready.
But Sartaq kept himself tight against Megyn, his cheek pressed hard against her head, his flesh almost merging with hers.
Spence watched for any break, any relaxation but Sartaq was far too close to Megyn for him to attempt a shot even at this distance. All he could do was stand ready and hope for some lapse in concentration.
Sartaq must know he’s defeated, Spence thought.
Sartaq’s eyes and face had both turned red. He mumbled a few words and looked from sniper to Spence to sniper. His eyes first grew wide and then narrowed. He alternated between raving and sobbing. Megyn tried to translate his ramblings but had to keep interrupting herself to keep up with his tirade.
“My plan was perfect,” she translated, “so detailed and executed for months and …
“Wang Qing Yang, in his sacrifice, became a hero of …
“I showed them. The entire building, gone …
“Momma … my real father … grandfather Khan …
“Nine days in that God-awful container …
“A year with Major Qassim …
“Decades of recruiting, indoctrinating, persuading students …”
Sartaq flashed onto Spence.
“You,” Megyn started to translate then paused as she searched for the word, “defiled the plan. You,” again she paused, “tattled Alex’s WiFi!”
Spence nodded and tried not to gloat but he was pleased and even proud that it was him who had been responsible for the defeat of this madman’s awkward but ultimately ignorant attempt at high technology.
“Your uneducated guess at sophisticated technology has defeated you. Your plan was simple to defeat.”
The arteries in Sartaq’s neck began to throb as Megyn translated.
As she finished, Sartaq released her arm to reach in his left pocket and bring out the transmitter. He began shaking it at Spence, his incoherent babble continuing.
Spence looked Megyn in the eye and motioned to the right. Free of Sartaq’s grasp, if she moved slowly to the side, he and the snipers could shoot!
When she didn’t move, Spence’s eye was drawn by a bright light up in Sartaq’s raised hand.
The yellow LED of the transmitter was on.
My God, it’s synchronized to the receiver in the bag on his arm. Sartaq’s bomb is fully armed!
Spence felt his eyes open wide.
Sartaq must’ve noticed Spence’s gaze and reaction because he interrupted his raving to look up at the transmitter.
A huge grin spread across his face.
Sartaq’s entire demeanor changed. His face grew dark and his eyes narrowed. The grin became a cruel sneer.
He brought the arm with the transmitter down to sweep it around and draw Megyn close, the revolver in his right still pointing at her head.
Sartaq spoke slowly, his voice deep while Megyn translated.
“You may have stopped the WiFi in the lobby but we’re not there now, are we? My bomb,” he shook the arm wrapped around Megyn on which the bomb hung, “is active and ready!”
Spence held his breath as Sartaq’s thumb hovered above the “Go” button.
In the distance, Spence’s eye was momentarily drawn to the glint of a jet as it rose up from the airport a dozen miles away.
We’re about to rise up, too, he thought, but in tiny little pieces.
Ten seconds. What can we do in ten seconds? We’re out on the end of the deck, fifty seven stories …
Spence’s eyes narrowed as an idea suddenly flashed in his mind.
Spence spoke fast, figuring out the plan even as he said it.
“Megyn, when he pushes the button, we have 10 seconds.”
Megyn nodded but said nothing.
“We’re fifty seven stories up. There are ten to twelve feet per story so that means we’re more than 600 feet up.”
Spence paused hoping she would confirm his math but, when she just stared back, he went on anyway.
“Acceleration due to gravity is 32 feet per second per second.
“Halfway down is 300 feet, so how long does he have to fall to go 300 feet down?”
Megyn shook her head slowly but her eyes widened as she apparently began to grasp his plan.
Spence’s eyes wandered up and left as he concentrated.
“After the first second, he’ll be falling at 32 feet per second but he won’t have gone that far. Starting at zero and accelerating, he’ll go, what, maybe half that distance?”
“So that’s 16 feet down in the first second.
“Then in second number two he’ll speed up to 64 feet per second but only fall about 32 more feet.
“So 16 plus 32 is 48 … make that 50 feet after two seconds.
“Velocity then increases to 96 and falls 96 minus 64 for another 32 feet. Plus the 50 he’s down 80 after 3 seconds.
Megyn nodded rapidly as if approving Spence’s math.
“Four, speed to 128, 64 more feet down, he’s 144 feet.”
Spence paused as all the numbers threatened to tumble out of his head.
“So let’s ballpark it that after five or six seconds of free fall, he’ll be halfway down.
“He has to go over the edge at four, maybe five seconds into the ten.”
Spence visualized the concrete covered north side of the hotel. In his mind, a small dot with arms and legs toppled end over end as it fell. Halfway down it was enveloped in a tremendous explosion.
“He’ll be 300 feet down and 250 feet out from the concrete face of the building when the bomb explodes. Will that be far enough away and the north face’s concrete strong enough to deflect the blast? What about this deck we’re standing on?”
Sartaq had been scrunched forward, his head almost merged with Megyn’s neck, as Spence had gone on and on with his calculations. More than once he’d poked Megyn to translate but she’d ignored him and said nothing.
“When I tell you,” Spence finished, “yank your legs up and scrunch into a ball.”
Megyn nodded, her face long and drawn, “I understand what you’re saying but there’s got to be another way. This is … or at least was my brother. What happened to him is not his fault.”
Sartaq drew a deep breath. He seemed to have come to a decision.
Pulling his arm even tighter around Megyn, he whispered something in her ear.
Megyn’s eyebrows rose and curved as her forehead creased. She wailed, “No, Taq!”
His face peaceful, Sartaq turned his left hand so Spence could see the transmitter clearly.
Sartaq’s thumb pressed on the “Go” button.
The mechanical click was unmistakable.
An instant later, the red LED flashed on.
Spence’s lips began counting.
Looking at the bright red LED, Sartaq grinned wildly and then giggled like a little girl.
Half-a-beat after two, Spence shouted, “Now!”
Megyn jerked up her legs and violently bent forward, curling up into a one hundred pound medicine ball.
The sudden change in weight caught Sartaq unaware and Megyn fell free.
The Eco bag slid down his arm but stopped at his turned wrist, the transmitter still in that hand.
Spence raised the 1911. Long practice in Rapid Fire guaranteed the front and rear sights would be aligned and, as the sights slid up Sartaq’s chest, neck and onto Sartaq’s face, Spence pulled the trigger.
Every time the trigger bottomed out, his trained finger moved out just far enough for it to reset before he started pressing it again.
Firing methodically, three or four shots blasted out each second.
The gun bucked but Spence’s vice-like grip brought it back almost instantly to his target.
Each shot was like a boxer’s blow to Sartaq’s head. Again and again it thudded back with the impact. Sartaq staggered back, each shot driving his closer and faster to the edge.
Seven shots hit home before Spence’s finger pressed the trigger only to discover the gun was empty and the slide locked open.
The railing stopped Sartaq’s backward stumble but not his momentum. The upper half of his body, still free to go backward, leaned out and over the rail. As his weight continued out, his feet rotated up and then over the railing. The Eco bag, still hooked on his wrist, disappeared over the edge with him.
Sartaq was gone.
Only Spence’s voice, counting slowly, could be heard.
The iridescent bubble of a translucent shockwave expanded upward in the empty space beyond the end of the platform. Spence felt the shockwave in his feet as it passed up and through the deck.
A blink of a second later, a deafening “Boom!” thudded into their ears.
Nearly four seconds later, the sound came again as it began to ricochete, echo and reverberate among Singapore’s business and government buildings.
Finally, a roiling ball of orange and black floated upward and snarled into a monstrous grin as it twisted around the end of the platform.
Megyn was curled in a shuddering ball.
Spence stepped forward, knelt down and enveloped her in his arms. He rocked her gently as she sobbed.
Singapore Airlines flight 12, seat 3A, Flight Level 410 (41,000 ft)
Spence gazed out the window at the early-morning South China sea.
Normally, he’d be craning to see Vietnam to the west and, as the seven hour flight to Narita continued, he’d tick off the Philippines, Taiwan, the Japanese mainland and finally Yokohama and Tokyo for the stopover. Then, it would be another ten hours up past Russia, the Aleutians, Canada and then down the west coast to San Francisco before changing planes for the final ninety minute flight to Phoenix.
But his mind was as empty as the ocean below.
Raising the short glass to his lips, only ice cubes remained.
He held it up and jiggled it. The First Class cabin stewardess nodded and hurried over with the fifth of Macallan 12 year.
In all his years of travel, he’d never crossed the Pacific in First Class and, while he was grateful to the government of Singapore for the free ride home, he would remember little of the experience.
On the empty aisle seat next to him lay a handwritten note.
My dearest Spence,
I’ve taken an early flight to go and try to explain to my parents. Mother will be beyond words. I’ll need to hold her a lot. Dad will be— I don’t know. He loved Taq as much as he loved me.
I love you, Spence. You and I are connected more profoundly than I could ever imagine. I truly wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.
On the roof, you did what had to be done. That sounds trite, I know, but it’s true. Poor Taq had to be stopped. The horror that his life had become is now ended. I suppose it was a merciful end for what he’d done.
But Taq and I are connected by blood, by place, by life itself as only family can be. Nothing can ever change the bond I felt, and still feel, for my big brother.
It hurts so much to say this …
Whenever I see you, I’ll be reminded of those awful moments on the roof and how his life ended. I cannot do that. I must put it aside and not be reminded.
I’m sorry, Spence.
I love you,
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