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Authors: Stephen Romano

Tags: #Thrillers, #Crime, #Fiction, #Technological, #General

Resurrection Express (9 page)

BOOK: Resurrection Express
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I look at the giant screen.

The girl smiles back at me.

“The photo when we first met. Could I see it again?”

She curls her lip, reaching for the stack next to her laptop. Pulls out the picture. Slides it across the table. I pick it up and see what could be the face of my one true love, her arm hooked around the blonde’s, Hartman leading them through the crowded nightclub. That’s what the picture tells me, anyway. I can’t be sure at all if it’s really her. It’s full of fuzz and grain, out of focus, like a notion hardly remembered. And my eyes tell lies now, my heart stonewalled and my head transregressed.

I look at the picture. Look hard for the truth there.

I can’t see it.

“Can I hang on to this?”

Jenison nods. “Of course. I can give you a digital file, also, if you like.”

“I’d like.”

I stare at the photo, trying to picture the scene.

Trying to imagine what was on Toni’s mind when the shutter snapped.

“Why was she protecting your daughter? What was in it for her?”

“I don’t know, Elroy. Isn’t it possible that she saw a child in need of help and decided to provide it?”

The same way she helped me when we were kids, reaching out to educate someone weaker than her. To make us both immortal.

What did you get yourself into, baby?

If that’s really you.

“You could have filled me in on all this sooner,” I say to Jenison, still staring at the photo. “I could have been using the last few days to look in the right places.”

“The fact that you didn’t know anything is probably what saved your life,” she tells me. “If Hartman had really suspected what you were on the street for . . . if you’d dropped
any
hints to your little hacker buddies online . . . our friend might have made a bigger move, sent more shooters. You’d be very dead right now.”

I fold the photo in half, set it on the table in front of me. Tap the table with my fingers. My gears working now, all cycles engaged.

“I still say he’s got something bigger to protect than human trafficking. Ten shooters or ten million shooters, Hartman has never been this broad-daylight about killing anyone. I’ve seen him go pretty crazy, but he’s mostly a dirty player who does things in a dark alley—or he just cuts your throat while you’re sleeping.”

“You also said Hartman was a redneck, not a master scoundrel.”

“Yeah.”

“People
do
change, Mister Coffin.”

“Not David. Not like this. He’s a sneaky bastard and he’s not complicated at all. What he just did stirred up a major public shitstorm.
It’s all over the news right now. That’s bad business, like you said.”

“I did say that. I’m impressed that you were listening. Most people like yourself simply wait for their turn to talk in situations like these.”

“That’s why most people like myself die young.”

When I say that, Alex Bennett finally shakes her head, giving me a look, like,
Oh really?

Jenison smiles thinly. “Regardless of what you may think or suspect about Hartman, our dilemma remains . . . and our objective is the vault. That is not open for discussion. That’s why you’re on this team.”

“So let’s talk about the vault.”

“We have specs, but we have no way in,” Jenison says. “It’s a very dangerous job.
Physically
dangerous, I mean. And for your participation . . . you will be paid two million dollars.”

I almost don’t hear that last part.

I’m not thinking about the money.

I force myself to.

“Two million is more than I’ve ever made before. You sure do like to throw your cash around, don’t you?”

“I can think of a thousand other ways I’d rather be spending my fortune, Elroy.”

“How much do we get up front?”

“Nothing. I’m not a fool. You’ve already tried to cut and run once, I’ll not have it again. Under normal circumstances, I would have written you off. Sergeant Rainone would have enjoyed that, I’m sure.”

The Sarge doesn’t say anything. Just simmers.

“But you’re a unique breed,” Jenison says to me. “And this job is important. I’ll equip you and keep you alive long enough to do the job. Then my people will cut you loose in Mexico with your money. That is, of course,
if
you survive.”

I look at my father. “It’s really that bad?”

He looks at me. “Oh yeah, kiddo. It is.”

“Then it’s just like old times.”

Alex Bennett finally uncrosses her legs and leans forward, her searing amber eyes catching the dim light in the room, her voice tough and Southern, like some typical Texas caricature made really damn serious:

“No, Mister Coffin. It ain’t.”

5

00000-5

COFFIN RUN

T
here are three ways you approach a job like this—three plots of attack. The first is the simplest. You sneak in and steal everything over a wire. Hartman’s made that impossible. The second is the cowboy method. You run in making a lot of noise with ski masks on, waving guns and knives and sharp sticks—scare the hell out of them, make them give you everything, then run out. You still need at least one wirehead when you do that. And you have to be ready to kill a few people. That won’t work either in this case.

So the third method is the one we’re using in three days.

Guns and laptops.

The best of both worlds.

The Texas Data Concepts building isn’t located among Houston’s downtown business high-rises. It’s not even a high-rise at all. It’s a tech/administration annex located in a rural area off the main road, just on the outside of the city, one of those small five-stories where the execs mingle with the rank-and-file computer geeks, and certain percentages of the important work and research get done. It figures a vault like this would be located dead center. David must’ve bought the place right out from under them. They probably don’t even do real TDC work there anymore. A perfect cover for his trafficking hub. And whatever else he’s got going on. He’s been a real busy guy since I went away—and a lot smarter
about covering his ass. That’s so crazy, the more I turn it over. David Hartman getting smarter seems like the dumbest idea anyone ever came up with in three years’ worth of dumb ideas.

Jenison was right—people do change.

But we’re always that same dumb bastard, deep down.

I keep that in the back of my mind, as Dad talks to the men on the practice range. They’re lined up like a proper army platoon, all at attention. He walks casually up and down the line, like some kind of lieutenant. The first thing he tells them is that a building like this TDC place is a little easier than a high-rise because everything’s flat, spread out. They don’t have as much muscle on the perimeter itself because they never expect anyone to come at them hard from the outside. Usually, it doesn’t make any sense to hit a place this well-fortified electronically. Unless you happen to be us. We’ve gone into skyscrapers in Chicago and LA before and it was always a bitch. You need a helicopter. At least two men on each floor with heavy weapons, sometimes artillery, depending on the location of the building. On grounds like this, you go in using stealth. Ninja tactics. Nobody even knows we’re there. We tie up security guards and stick them in closets. If we’re lucky, we won’t have to kill anyone. That’s what Dad always says before we go in. He’s killed twenty-nine men in his life. All on jobs. You do what you have to do.

He’s working with the Sarge, who has direct command over his men during the run. We go in armed for bear, all of us. Dad is not just intel—he’s on the team, using his left hand. No way he’s sitting this one out. He says he owes me.

I watch him on the range as he instructs the men, tells them how to shoot.

He never uses a gun, and that fills me with sadness.

They run through maneuvers for the rest of the day. I don’t work the drills with them, but I watch their movements carefully,
going over specs on the Texas Data Concepts facility inside my head. I’ve memorized most of them already.

The outer security on the building itself is cheese. Laser sensors, silent alarm, the usual bells and whistles. There’s nothing much on the grounds surrounding the place, either. A wire fence, electrified, and a guard post at the main gate. They’ll be armed with handguns, no automatic weapons. We’ll be through the fence and inside the building in under five minutes, no casualties. When they run it on a stopwatch, full gear, the Sarge is impressed with how fast his boys move. He huffs the word “outstanding” a lot. Says we might have a chance if the tech kids don’t fuck it up. Every now and then he pulls out that evil-looking Rambo knife and slices the air with it to underscore a point. Tough guy or something.

This complex of theirs where they’ve been prepping the job is the most fortified and expensive I’ve ever seen, all privately owned by Jayne Jenison. There’s an armory in an underground bunker that looks like something out of Operation Desert Storm. Turns out the concrete slab that looks like a basketball court is really a helipad. Guess I get to ride in a chopper, after all. We go in at midnight by truck, just when the night watch starts. We have to hit the safe at exactly 2
A.M.
—it’s all about the time-lock sensors. Once we’re inside, I’ll have three hours to break the system.

Exactly
three hours.

If it starts looking like I can’t break the last level—the most important level—they clear the building and call in the escape helicopter. They’ll pull me out along with whatever’s in the vault, if I crack it. If I don’t, it doesn’t matter. That’s the deal.

The second, smaller building next to the barn houses the operations ready room and a workshop that has all of our tech gear for the job. It’s like a shopping mall for wireheads. Literally millions of dollars’ worth of raw stock. Racks of printed circuit boards,
memory cards, laptop chassis, processors, custom devices, all up to date and ready to rock. A station full of tools and mechanized equipment for making rigs. The right man could build a supercomputer in this room and fill it with enough blackware to launch rockets at the national deficit.

I walk in, and I’m the right man.

Alex Bennett comes with me. She is professional and polite, not guarded like she was before. She knows everything there is to know in this day and age.

But she never really smiles, either.

•  •  •

W
e start by opening a laptop with a screwdriver, souping up the memory card and using it to download detailed specs on the vault from a series of discs, while the muscle guys continue to work drills outside. We have just under two days to build a rig capable of cracking the tightest, most dangerous equation ever designed.

The gear is easy. The blackware is, too.

What people don’t realize—what Jenison and her people know damn well—is that it’s not really about the technology so much. It’s about the human being clicking the numbers on the other end. Improvisation. Skill. Experience, too. This vault at Texas Data Concepts will be my Moby Dick.

If Moby Dick was a monster with many arms.

We see the monster in three dimensions, outlined in green neon against the endless black of a computer screen: a steel door almost six feet thick, five coded security levels, three mean interconnected time locks and a series of steel gears up front which we have to break manually. That part is easy. You bring a big drill.

It’s the self-destruct protocol that’s gonna be the bitch.

A virtual tripwire rigged to nearly ten kilotons of TNT and plastic explosives.

There’s no way around it.

One wrong move and we’re all dead.

It’s a fail-safe that sits on top of everything and triggers automatically, even when you unlock the system with the proper code keys—it has to be shut down from inside the vault, once the door comes open, so it’s on a time delay. Three hours, to make sure nobody important gets killed. There are only a few hackers on earth who could get through their security in under three hours. They know damn well it would have to be one serious operator—and they want him taken out, along with everything he was trying to steal. It’s that important to them.

A monster job.

An impossible job.

I’m still going to do it.

I know the risk and I don’t care.

My wife is waiting for me on the other side, and so is Hartman. Whatever he’s up to, whatever his network is really all about—guns, bombs, girls, cold cash—this is where the most important piece of it lives. He’s given that away by guarding his secret so mercilessly.

I will show you no mercy, David.

Count on it.

As I run down the vault specs for a second time, Alex Bennett finally cracks something that looks a little bit like a smile. She tilts her head towards the ceiling, staring off into space.

I smile back at her, just a little. “Something’s funny?”

“I keep thinking how I ended up here.”

Her voice, country-as-hell, but full of smarts. Like some semi-hot farm girl who knows how to fly jets. I don’t have a Southern accent like she does, even though I’ve spent my most of my life in the Lone Star State. I’ve always blamed it on TV.

I lean back in my chair and size her up. “How
did
you end up here?”

“Weird luck, I guess.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll make it out fine.”

“It’s gonna be close.”

“Maybe. I think I can break the firewalls fast. Time locks are always harder. That could slow us down.”

“I saw a layered profile a little like this once during my first tour in Iraq. That was a couple of years back. It was a nightmare.”

“What happened?”

“The United States Army was keeping bales of money shipped over from America inside a concrete bunker nearly the size of a football field. They said it was twenty billion in cash.”

“Jesus.”

“A series of computerized minefields were built up around the main entranceway, which was a twenty-foot steel door carved off a totaled anti-aircraft tank—an M1 Abrams. Ever see one of those?”

BOOK: Resurrection Express
7.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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