Sunday, February 21, 2016


                                                        Chapter 3

            Dane Kanter sat in a plastic chair with a towel over his shoulder even though he’d been out of the water for a couple of hours.  He was in a correctional facility just south of LA, where FBI Agent Nick Bracco was rushed over from his home in Arizona.  Bracco watched the kid clutching the towel like a security blanket. 

            They were in a small meeting room designed for attorneys to meet their clients without fear of being overheard.  Dane sat behind a square table while Nick stood with his arms folded, looking down at the boy who exuded every form of apprehension he’d ever seen in an interview.

            The door opened and Nick’s partner, Matt McColm came in carrying a drink tray with three containers.  He placed the tray on the table in front of Dane, then removed a cup of hot chocolate and left it in front of the kid.  He handed Nick his coffee, then took his own coffee and went to the corner of the room and leaned against the wall.  Matt was the enforcer, so he’d let Nick do the heavy lifting, then move in when the time was right.

            “I guess I’m having a hard time understanding the payoff,” Nick said.  “You were going to drive into a car wash, where some guy was supposed to jump into the passenger seat and give you the ten grand while another guy unloaded the package in the trunk.  Is that it?”

            Dane put his hands around the warm mug of hot chocolate and leaned over the steamy beverage.  He stared into his cup and said, “I was drunk.”

            “I’m not disputing that.”

            “And they forced me.”  The kid looked up searching for compassion.

            Nick wasn’t there to coddle the kid.  He’d flown over from Arizona where he was working another terrorist operation when he’d received the call.  Nick was the FBI’s lead terrorist specialist, so he prioritized his time with the most imminent danger first.  And this was definitely a priority situation.

            Nick took a sip of his coffee and said, “Do you know who I am?”

            Dane sat still, still staring at the steam rising from his hot chocolate.  “Yeah, I seen you on my vine.”

            Matt raised his cup and gave Nick a mock toast, as if he’d finally made the big time.  The Internet. 

            Dane’s eyes darted at Matt, then back to Nick.  “You’re the guys who captured that Kharrazi guy a couple of years ago.”

            Now Matt was beaming.  He stuck out his chest with pride while Nick shook his head at his partner’s antics.

            “Okay,” Nick said, “then you know we’re not here about your traffic violation.”

            This time the kid looked at Nick as if they were at the penalty phase of the interrogation.  “Do my parent’s know yet?”

            Nick wanted to kid to be completely exposed.  He needed Dane to experience a sense of isolation, so he could become the kid’s surrogate.  The only one who could help.

            Nick pulled a chair away from the desk and sat next to Dane.  He placed his coffee on the desk and leaned toward the kid.  “No,” was all he said.

            The teenager kept his eyes glued to Nick when he asked, “Can I call them?”

            Nick had the kid dripping with anxiety.  He leaned back and said, “Tell me about the device.”

            Dane seemed insecure about this request so he said, “The bomb?”

            “Who told you it was a bomb?”

            “The Mexican guy.”

            “Did he have a name?”

            “I think . . . Jefe?”

            The Spanish word for ‘Boss.’  Nick couldn’t tell if the kid was fabricating the answer to this one, so he forged ahead.  “And did Jefe show you the bomb?”

            “No.  Just the case.”

            “So you never looked inside the case?”

            Dane shook his head.

            Nick gestured to the cup in front of Dane.  “Drink.”

            Dane followed his instructions and a couple of shaky hands put the cup to his lips.

            “So you decided not to report this to the police once you were inside California?”

            The kid put the cup down and said, “You make it sound like I had a choice.  There was a detonator strapped to my chest and they were watching my moves with that camera on the dashboard.”

            Nick frowned.  “There was no camera on your dash.  That was just the tip of a miniature lense.  There was no feed to go anywhere.  Also, there wasn’t a detonator on your chest because there was no bomb in the trunk of your car.”

            Dane’s shocked expression told Nick everything he needed to know about the kid’s complicity with the scheme.  He was just a tool.

            “How could that be?” Dane asked.  Then he asked the better question.  “And why?”

            “They wanted you scared and obedient.”

            Dane patted his chest.  “What about the detonator?”

            Nick shrugged.  “You said it looked like a flash drive.  It was probably a flash drive.”

            Dane’s eyes grew wide.  “Then what was in my trunk?”    

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