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Bradley's Ghost

Bradley's Ghost

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Bradley's Ghost

évaluations:
5/5 (1 évaluation)
Longueur:
319 pages
5 heures
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Jan 30, 2012
ISBN:
9781465915030
Format:
Livre

Description

When Running Wolf, sees the crashed aircraft, he photographs the corpses of the eighty-seven souls as they disappear and brings to light the discovery of a diabolic deed. The National Transportation Safety Board quickly determines this is beyond their scope of responsibility and requests assistance.

The investigation moves from the Sioux Indian Reservation and state of South Dakota to Washington, D.C. when it becomes apparent that domestic terrorists with a biological agent are involved. Federal agencies headed by FBI Agent Bill Bradley race against time in their attempt to discover and apprehend the masterminds behind the crime.

A scheduled bio-terrorist exercise provides a perfect smoke screen for the aggressors to strike their first major blow to the citizens of the United States. In the government’s attempt to contain the threat within the borders of South Dakota, the exercise changes to a genuine fight for survival. It becomes clear that the state and local levels of government have been under-funded and under-trained to counter the real threat of a biological attack. Support comes from a surprising entity as the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians sacrifice a sacred secret in order to offer safe haven to the citizens. But will it be enough?

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Jan 30, 2012
ISBN:
9781465915030
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Ray Derby spent forty years providing information on personal protection in the emergency management field. He provided chemical, biological, and radiological expertise and other support to five U.S. presidents. Derby is now retired and lives with his wife in Virginia?s Shenandoah Valley. www.rayderby.com

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Aperçu du livre

Bradley's Ghost - Ray Derby

coincidental.

CHAPTER 1

The door swung sharply back and forth as the gusts of wind struck the sod house, and a piece of torn canvas, covering one window, fluttered in and out. The house appeared to have been abandoned years ago, but in this harsh land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the scene was almost commonplace on the vast prairie. An old Chevy pickup was parked next to the house, and a small, parched garden plot was located a few yards behind the building.

Nothing else stirred as Red Fox drove slowly toward the dwelling with the box of groceries that Lone Hunter had asked him to pick up in Wanblee earlier in the morning. As he approached the house, he felt uneasy and the feeling continued to build as he stopped his pickup truck a few yards away. By now, he had expected Lone Hunter, his wife, or their children to come out, but nothing stirred except the door and canvas that moved in the wind.

Pushing the gearshift into park, Red Fox leaned back against the seat, observing the surroundings. A loud thud startled him as a black bird fell from the sky, landing on the hood of the pickup. It did not move, and although Red Fox was not superstitious, he was suddenly afraid. As he slowly looked around, he noticed a number of other birds and Lone Hunter’s dog lying lifeless on the ground. He honked the horn, cautiously opened the door of the pickup, and then walked toward the house, calling out as he approached.

For late March, the wind still had a cold bite and he shivered, but he knew it was not from the cold. A larger, dark mound at the side of the house came into his view, and he recognized Lone Hunter’s long, slender frame sprawled grotesquely on the ground. His position gave the impression that he had been trying to reach his pickup but never made it.

Red Fox cautiously approached the body and looked into Lone Hunter’s face. Although he had seen death many times in his long life, nothing compared to what he was looking at now. Blood was still seeping from Lone Hunter’s open eyes, his ears, nose, and mouth as if whatever happened had occurred just a few minutes ago, yet the body appeared to be stiff. One arm was pointing straight up in the air, and one leg, pulled tight against his stomach, was raised several inches off the ground.

Red Fox felt nausea wash over him. He turned and ran back to his pickup and started backing down the rutted driveway toward the road. The pickup suddenly swerved to a stop as his convulsions started, and his hand went rigid on the horn. The wind carried the mournful sound across the prairie for a long time, but there was no one to hear.

Upwind, approximately one mile from the house on a small knoll, a man laid with a stopwatch in one hand and a pair of binoculars to his eyes as he took in the scene below. When he saw the pickup swerve to the side of the road and stop, he looked down at the watch and then smiled. Only 12 minutes had elapsed since the vehicle had turned off the main road and moved toward the sod house. It was now 12:18 p.m., and the observer mentally calculated that in another twenty minutes or so, it would be safe to enter the area. He reached for his cell phone and made the call.

He again smiled with satisfaction as he continued to observe the area below. The overall results improved with each testing. When the agent had been dispersed, the wind was blowing around five miles per hour, but in the past hour, it had increased to fifteen. The weather forecasters had not predicted that to happen until later in the day. He knew there were no other homes within thirty miles downwind from the sod house, but he still did not like the idea of the wind carrying the agent farther than planned.

Half an hour later, he saw the large, unmarked semi-trailer pull to a stop in front of the pickup. Several people in white suits with plastic helmets pulled the driver from the vehicle, placed him in a large, black plastic bag, and carried the body to the back of the tractor-trailer. Quickly, the pickup was driven into the trailer as well. When this was accomplished, the semi moved to the house, repeated the process of removing Lone Hunter and his family, and then proceeded to retrieve the dog and birds.

As the cleanup operation continued, the observer checked the main road with his binoculars, and could see the two pickups positioned as lookouts. Each was approximately a half-mile from the house and stationed at opposite ends of the road. He knew there would be ample warning if anyone came along.

By 2 p.m., all the vehicles were gone and he took one final sweep of the area with his binoculars. All he saw was the desolate landscape and the door of the sod hut still swinging in the wind. He slowly stood up and walked down to the coulee bed where a Jeep was parked and drove off.

CHAPTER 2

Nicholas Arinson stood outside as tribal police officers searched the house and surrounding area for clues as to what might have happened to Lone Hunter and his family. Nick, to his friends and enemies alike, was the owner and publisher of the largest newspaper in the state, The Prairie Times. Although Nick had a number of staff reporters, at seventy years of age he still had that knack of sensing a special story. From time to time, he was not above chasing a fire truck, or for that matter, beating it to a fire. He liked to champion the underdog and raise hell with the politicians, but he printed the news in an honest and forthright manner and was liked and respected by most people in the state of South Dakota.

The telephone call from the police chief on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation had come into Nick’s office at nine o’clock that morning. A short time later, Nick was driving the ninety miles to Wanblee, a town located on the reservation, to meet with the police chief.

It was now close to 1 p.m. as he watched Chief Eagle Feather approach.

Nick, it beats the hell out of me how someone can just vanish. What’s worse, how can a whole family and a neighbor all vanish at the same time? It just doesn’t make sense. Hell, even his dog is gone. Come with me. I want to show you something.

Nick followed Chief Eagle Feather to the sod house, and as they entered, Nick was surprised with what he saw. The house was not only clean—it was immaculate. There was no clutter anywhere. The bed was made as if by a new army recruit waiting for inspection, and the room looked as if you could eat off the floor.

Chief Eagle Feather commented that Lone Hunter’s wife was noted for being exceptional in a lot of things, but housecleaning was not one of them. He gave a short laugh, and then said in a more somber tone, I bet if this place was dusted for fingerprints, you wouldn’t find any.

Nick shook his head, slowly walked out the door, crossed the yard to the edge of the coulee and looked out across the landscape. Deep in thought, he glanced down and saw a small deer mice nest common to this area. With the side of his boot, he gently removed the top layer of grass exposing the nest. He had not expected to find anything in it, but the nest was full of young offspring not more than an inch long, and all were dead. He picked up one of the young rodents, gently touched it and was again surprised at how stiff and hard it was. From the contorted body, he could tell it had died an unnatural death.

He was about to call to the chief when he saw a small dust cloud in the distance and watched as a dirt bike sped across the prairie toward him.

Chief Eagle Feather moved to Nick’s side and waited as the rider approached. The biker was slight in build and appeared to be in his late sixties, but Nick had met Running Wolf on numerous occasions and knew he was only fifty one years old and one of the best trackers on the reservation.

Without speaking, Running Wolf picked up a stick and started drawing a map on the hard ground. When he completed his drawing, he looked at them. I found no trace of Lone Hunter, his family, or Red Fox either. As you can see, I started in a circle and slowly worked my way outwards. Using the stick as a pointer, he moved it in an outward motion away from the center of the map.

Lone Hunter never left this house unless it was by the driveway. Still, I did find something unusual. He stooped down and drew two lines that appeared to be a V with the open end pointing east. He sketched a house in the center of the symbol.

Running Wolf sat on his haunches for a moment before he spoke. In that area, I found nothing alive, not — a bird, rodent, coyote — nothing. And, I covered almost twenty miles before I found anything moving. I have no way of explaining it, but whatever killed them was quick and deadly. I collected some of the animals and birds. They’re in the plastic sacks on the bike. You might want to send them to the state health department for examination. They may be able to tell you something about how they died.

Nick turned to the chief. Have you notified the federal marshal’s office yet?

Sure, and you know what they said? Until a crime has been committed or evidence to indicate one apparently occurred, they have no intentions of getting involved. Marshal Rexroad is an asshole. His comment to me was, ‘Look, I don’t have time to search for lost Indians from the reservation. Hell, they probably just got tired of where they were living and decided to go off and visit relatives.’ I never cared for Marshal Rexroad, but his deputy is another matter. He’s the one who should be the marshal, not the other way around.

~~~~

As Nick drove back, he tried to rationalize what he had seen and heard. His intuition said there was a big story here. A nagging recollection had surfaced when Chief Eagle Feather called this morning, but he had not mentioned it to the chief. About nine or ten months ago, he had responded to a similar incident on the southeastern portion of the Cheyenne Reservation, near Hidden Timber. Another Indian family had disappeared under almost identical circumstances. One day they were there and the next day they were gone without a trace. However, no one had noticed any dead animals around the dwelling, but Nick remembered vividly how the inside of the dwelling looked. It was spotless, just like Lone Hunter’s lodgings.

~~~~

When Nick arrived at his office, most of the staff had already left for the day — that is, all except his senior reporter. She stood by his desk with her arms crossed and that look that said, it’s about time you showed up.

He walked past her, slowly sat down at his desk, and then looked up at her and smiled. She looks just like her mother when she was in her twenties, he thought, small and petite with short blonde hair and brown eyes. She may have the distinction of being the best reporter on his staff, but she was also his granddaughter and not above giving him a piece of her mind. And, it appeared that now was one of those times.

Nick, you’re too damn old to go gallivanting across the state by yourself just because someone calls you. You have five reporters who are supposed to be doing that for you. It’s what you pay us to do. Besides, you knew the governor was holding a press conference today on the new proposed highway bill, and if anyone from the paper should have been there, it was you. But, what do you do? You take off and spend the day on the Sioux Indian Reservation and for what? What’s so earth-shattering about a missing Indian family? From what I understand, there was no crime committed. There is no special story in that type of situation, only the tragic way those people have to live.

Nick was tired. His body no longer seemed to support his sharp-witted mind and all the things he still hoped to do. Stubbornly, he wrote his notes, jabbing his pencil as he placed periods on the paper, but he refused to allow Jackie to shoulder any more work around here. Not because she couldn’t handle it, quite the opposite. He was just not ready to give it up yet.

Her voice softened. Granddad, I worry about you when you take off like that. Besides, you could have gotten one of the staff to at least drive the car for you. You’re not as young as you used to be; only you won’t admit it.

Nick had heard that line from her more than once in the past year, and at first, it had made him angry. But in time, he came to realize that it was only her concern for him that caused her to voice it. Now, he just waited until she had her say.

She finally threw up her hands. What am I going to do with you?

He smiled. Take me to dinner.

She shot back, You buying?

He nodded in agreement.

You’re on. I’ll pick you up in forty-five minutes. She moved to the door, and then while reaching for the handle, she turned and looked at him. Are you going to tell me what’s really going on at the reservation?

She has that reporter instinct — she can feel a story, he thought. Maybe later, Jackie. Maybe later.

CHAPTER 3

Governor Mills was not happy with what he was hearing, and he could sense by the tone and demeanor of the people around the table that they were not happy to be here either. A former mayor of Rapid City, he had surprised almost every politician in the state when he had upset the incumbent governor in a race that was not even close. The citizens of South Dakota were fed up with the politics that had all but paralyzed the state for the past few years, and the voters expressed their anger at the polls.

In his fifth month in office, Governor Richard Mills was holding a three-day seminar with senior departmental officials. He was demanding answers to his questions on how they were conducting business in their own individual departments and agencies, and more importantly, what they were doing to support the citizens of the state. Many officials did not fare well. Of course, they resented that their poor performances were being put in the spotlight for everyone to see, and that was exactly what the governor wanted to accomplish.

Adjutant General Waymore had just completed his report, and the governor thought at least the Army National Guard seems to be in good shape. It’s too bad that many of the other departments and agencies are not as efficient. His thoughts were interrupted by the general’s voice.

Governor, I would like to introduce Gary Powers of my staff. He’s the director of emergency services, and if a major disaster were to occur in the state, he and his staff are the people you would be working directly with.

The governor looked at the man sitting beside the general and was surprised at his youthful appearance. Most of the officials in the room were in their fifties or sixties, but this young man appeared to be in his early thirties.

Mister Powers, I have been acquainted with General Waymore for a number of years, and I know that he never does anything without a specific reason. Do you want to tell me why he brought you here, or should I ask him?

Powers did not hesitate. That won’t be necessary, Governor. I personally asked the general if he would allow me to accompany him to this conference, and I had two reasons for doing so. I am sure the former governor was not even aware that the state had an emergency preparedness program, let alone the name of the person responsible for it. Yet, as the general has stated, if this state has a major disaster, it will be my staff and myself who have the responsibility for attempting to either control the event or clean it up. On the other hand, as the chief executive officer of the state, you are responsible for all major policy decisions on how that will be accomplished.

That surprised the governor, but on assessing the information, he knew the young man was right. You said there were two reasons for being here. What’s the second one?

Sir, within the next two weeks, you will be contacted by the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, otherwise referred to as FEMA, in Washington, D.C. He will be requesting your support in conducting a major federal exercise in this state.

Before he could continue, the governor said, Mister Powers, how is it you are aware of this proposed request, and how accurate is your information?

Governor, it’s my job to interact with FEMA on anything from training to submitting recommendations to you for requesting federal funds for disaster relief. Any request you might make for assistance would go through FEMA. And I have some very reliable contacts there.

Well, the governor said, if the feds want to conduct an exercise in our state, I see no reason for not accommodating them. If nothing else, it would give us all some insight on how well prepared we are to cope with disaster situations.

I’m sorry, Governor, but I disagree with you. My recommendation is that you not accept the invitation. The audience was flabbergasted at Gary’s audacity.

You care to explain that recommendation, or is your department, and by that I mean you, not prepared to do the job you’re paid to do?

Gary did not flinch from the remark. No, sir. That is not what I meant at all. With the small staff and limited funding we have received in the past two years, we have done fairly well. My staff can handle most types of disasters that might occur, such as floods, fires, and hazardous material incidents. What we’re not prepared for is the type of exercise the federal government is proposing for South Dakota, and even less prepared for a real event of this kind.

Which is?

They want to exercise a scenario that involves a terrorist group using chemical or biological agents against the citizens of this state. Sir, we do not have the staff, resources, or funding to support that type of incident or any simulation thereof. Politically, the inevitable, negative results would be damaging. The citizens of this state would not be very happy hosting a major exercise, which made the state appear unprepared. And, Governor, you would be the one taking most of the heat.

The governor heard alarm bells going off in his head and abruptly turned to his aide and then back to Gary. Mister Powers, I would like to see you and the adjutant general in my office next week. Make an appointment with my aide. Bring whatever support staff you wish and provide me with an in-depth briefing on your program. He then directed his next remark to General Waymore. John, is this what you had in mind?

The general grinned. Yes, sir. It was.

CHAPTER 4

As North Central Flight 321 raced down the runway, Captain Ellis could feel the 727 leave the ground and climb smoothly into the sky. No matter how many times he had taken off, it still gave him a high. He heard the Omaha tower operator request he change frequency for the Air Route Traffic Control Center, or better known as the ARTCC, at Minneapolis. After identifying himself, he was given instructions to climb to flight level fourteen, which in air traffic control terminology meant fourteen-thousand feet, on a heading of three-three-zero degrees to Seattle, Washington. It was a nice clear day, and it was going to be a good flight.

~~~~

Charlie had been at the Minneapolis ARTCC as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic controller for seven years, and today was as demanding for him as any other day. After vectoring a DC-10 to a new heading, he reached for his Coke and raised it toward his lips only to stop and stare at the scope. He could feel stress mounting as he spoke into his microphone. Ah, North Central Flight three-two-one, please ascend to flight level fourteen. Do you copy?

After a few seconds, he tried again with no success. He leaned over and asked the traffic controller at the next console to pick up his area and then motioned for Rob, the shift supervisor.

As Rob approached, Charlie said, We have a problem. And he pointed to the scope. A few minutes ago, I vectored North Central Flight three-two-one from Omaha, Nebraska to Seattle at a heading of three-three-zero degrees, flight level fourteen. Look at the scope and tell me I’m wrong. It appears that he’s on a heading of three-two-zero degrees and at a flight level of twelve. I have tried to contact him several times and received no reply, and if I’m not wrong, that aircraft is descending. I now read him at flight level nine.

Rob looked up when he heard his name called and saw his deputy point to the phone. What? was all he said as he picked up the phone. Then, Charlie heard him say, Omaha tower, did you try to contact him?

As Rob hung the phone up, he asked, Where is he now?

Charlie had been watching the scope intently and answered, Flight level eight-five and still slowly dropping. At this rate, he will be down in about ten minutes.

Shit! Rob said. Is there any place he can land?

Not if he stays on that course. I’ve run a profile, and if he continues his descent and does not turn, he should come down somewhere around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Rob reached for the phone again and punched the red button. Sharon, a duty officer at the FAA headquarters operations center, immediately answered the call. She then began setting up a teleconference with organizations and agencies involved in aircraft incidents.

~~~~

Running Wolf laid motionless on a slight rise watching the young coyote stalking an unsuspecting jackrabbit. Normally, Running Wolf had to work hard to get this close to a coyote, but this one was too engrossed in tracking the meal in front of him and not attentive enough to his surroundings. That neglect would cost him his life. In the tranquility, the crack of the rifle sent the rabbit scurrying down the coulee.

Running Wolf did not move. Instead, he looked out over the harsh land that he had lived on all his life, except for a four-year stint in the Marine Corps during his early youth. He took what the Marines had to offer, interwove it with his Indian heritage and returned to the reservation as a different man. It amused him to think he was an educated Indian with a four-year degree in psychology. Few knew it, and most would not believe it in any case, but he really didn’t care; he was a loner. To the tribe, he was a cross between a medicine man and an enlightened man.

Pushing himself up, he heard a sound and looked to the sky. As he continued to stare, he saw an aircraft that appeared to be much too low. In fact, it looked like it was coming right at him, and as it passed overhead, it seemed like he could reach up and touch it. Instantly, the back draft from the aircraft picked him up and threw him into the gully.

When consciousness returned to Running Wolf, he felt as if every bone in his body was broken. After cautiously moving, he knew his body had taken a pounding but was still intact. He looked at his watch and saw that almost an hour had passed since the plane had flown by. He climbed out of the gully and could see smoke rising in the west. As he made his way to his motorcycle, he estimated it was ten miles to the crash site.

~~~~

Running Wolf stood on a low bluff, looking down at the aircraft below him. A primal fear engulfed him, and he silently forced it back. In one way, the aircraft had been fortunate because it appeared to have made a perfect belly landing. It had glided across the hard ground, passing through a small depression that sheared off both wings, leaving the fuselage completely intact. The fuel in the

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