Spooks: Chapter Three
CHAPTER THREE: The Challenge…
Lee Keller was pissed. He’d had a pretty good game of Solitaire going before SWAT had gotten the call from BWI. He’d been forced to drop his game, hurry to suit up, and then rush out to the helipad before Richard Zack beat him to the pilot’s seat. He wasn’t the only helicopter pilot that SWAT had lying around but he’d like to think he was the best. He knew he was damn good, and no one could tell him different, especially not one of those over-muscled SWAT assholes, or Richard Zack (Dirty Dick is what he called him behind his back). His father had once told him that he was the best pilot he ever saw, and coming from that cold-hearted bastard…that meant something.
It had been his father who’d got him this job. A veteran Maryland police officer, he’d recommended that Lee be hired as a pilot for SWAT. Not wanting to be in the same precinct, so his father couldn’t “watch over him”, Lee had put in for a transfer to the BWI team. Partly for that reason, and partly hoping that maybe he could con someone into letting him fly one of those 747s, his dream job. Still, he was now apart of SWAT and had to be put through all that basic training bullshit just like the other grunts. Lee couldn’t shoot worth a damn and didn’t care. Who needed a gun when you could fly away? He reasoned. That didn’t keep those instructor assholes off his back however, or shield him from all the sarcastic, backhanded remarks from the Targets. That’s what Lee called them, because that’s what they were…moving targets. At least, in his job, he could safely get away from the danger; those guys just marched right into it. They wouldn’t catch him like that.
Just like Lee would not catch Richard Zack in time, as the slightly smaller man had much quicker feet than the clumsy Keller, who got to the copter, sweating and breathing like he was going to hyperventilate. Richard was warming up the large metal bird, going through the checklist. The rudders were spinning slowly. Richard smiled behind the dark pilot goggles he wore below his helmet.
“You didn’t make it Keller.”
“Fuck you.” Lee’s anger only made him breath harder.
“Ooooooh, a-ti-tude! Well you can consider a new aerobic program to help you next time as you sit in the co-pilot’s chair.” He smiled wider. Richard hated Lee just as much as Lee hated him. He had heard that Keller called him ‘Dirty Dick’ behind his back. Lee looked sullen, but took his seat.
The chopper blades began to spin faster now as Richard powered them up all the way. The bird was ready to fly, and none too late as the two machine gunners burst from the exit of the modest SWAT building and made a mad dash for the helicopter. They were suited up in their tactical uniforms and such. Lee scoffed. From what he’d heard, it was just a couple of assholes shooting it out with security in a restaurant. They’d screwed the pooch and were now calling in airport SWAT to clean up their mess. He watched the two machine gunners rapidly feeding the .50 caliber ammo into the long assault rifle mounted on the deck. Again, Lee scoffed. It wasn’t a war. This is Maryland, not Bosnia. And at a crowded airport in the middle of the day? How bad could it possibly be?
* * *
A perfect portrait of chaos.
Picture this: A cold winter day in a hectic Maryland airport. A small café under fire. Innocent bystanders, hardened spies, and police officers mix and match in a surrealistic gunfight in small surroundings. Bullet casings, blood and glass desecrate the sterile environment. Three men are at the center of the ensuing chaos. One, watches but does not interfere, seemingly numb or ignorant of the gunfire, screaming, scrambling people running by him. He is neither. The other two are inside the café fighting for their lives. The rookie against his experienced adversary; and vise versa, then the two of them against airport security. In the climax of the exchange, the experienced German terrorist escapes violently through a window of the café, with a hail of 9mm shells to cover him. He views the third man, the observer. A small gesture, a challenge is issued between the old friends/enemies.
A question remains…
Mr. Black knew Stilling still had the disk. So it was decision time, chase Tammen or not. Part of him was tired of it all. The endless chases of one to the other across the globe for the past 5 years, and for what? All because of the challenge they represented to each other. The flip side was the bigger part of him, the part that burned with the desire to face his nemesis. His greatest enemy, his best friend, his exact opposite, and above all, his equal…potentially anyway. They would never find a bigger challenge than the one they’d found in each other, and in that challenge lay their entire relationship. One that had started in humble beginnings: high school. Then to West Point where they’d both attended for a few years before Tammen’s abrupt resignation, due to his own inner politics. The CIA, NSA, then to their freelance careers, where they’d finally parted ways. It’d had been a shock to those who knew them best, and to each other. It had been the challenge that had motivated the split; they’d always had similar goals. But this gave them the chance to explore their individual aspirations, and gave them a chance to explore that which had always been there…lurking beneath the surface of their relationship…they’d always felt it…and now they were acting on it.
From the time Tammen had turned to run into the crowd, Mr. Black hesitated a single split second, then he pulled back the slide on his Beretta Elite II, tightened his grip, and continued the everlasting chase.
* * *
Heavenly Investments Inc. Security chief, Ryan Babcock had been monitoring the radio traffic of the airport police all day. Then all hell had broken loose, Stilling and Tammen involved in that firefight. Now it seemed that two men had fled the scene. Probably Tammen and Black. Babcock knew he had to move fast, getting out of his unmarked black Chevy Lumina and motioning for his team of 12 to follow him from their own vehicles. Doors from 3 other cars opened and slammed, Babcock meeting his team at the door. Black had said he wouldn’t need back up, but then again he’d also said that there wouldn’t be any gunplay either. Airport security had turned tail to run, and were calling in the Big Boys, BWI’s Airport SWAT team.
Ryan hoped that if Stilling were in trouble he’d flash his Security team credentials. Heavenly Investments Security was after all, a licensed private team in Maryland, and all over the country. He also hoped the rookie was ok. It sounded like a war in there. If I could only reach them, Ryan thought. But the frequency between Mr. Black and Andy had been a private frequency between the two. His team, an assortment of serious people with various police, federal and military backgrounds, fully assembled at the door to the South Terminal. He himself was former FBI; the 5’7” slightly overweight man set his face and turned to address his “troops,” taking his hands out of the pockets of his trench coat.
“Listen up people! We have a situation inside the airport, not far from the Main Terminal. The status of our agents has yet to be determined. We’re going to proceed to the security office, before myself, Jones, and Miranda continue to the café. I believe that Agent Stilling is possibly wounded or worse, and that Mr. Black may be pursuing the target on foot. SWAT will soon be involved, so we have little time. Let’s move!”
As they ran into the Airport, Ryan wondered about Mr. Black, a good buddy of his for many years, then he abruptly made himself stop. Black was a professional, as was Ryan, who had to keep his mind on the job at hand. Besides, Mr. Black could take care of himself.
* * *
“Get down!” Mr. Black yelled to all those around him, pushing a man in front of him to the ground. He aimed, Tammen looked back; he activated the laser sight mounted on his Beretta; Tammen turned. They fired at the same time, each going to the opposite walls, Tammen left, Black right, the thunderous cry of 9mm and .357 shells drowning out the screaming crowd. Tammen spun behind his wall, falling into a small waiting area, as Mr. Black squeezed off four more shots that embedded deep in the far wall. Getting into a crouch, Tammen pulled his Beretta Elite from his waist and let fly with both Glock and Beretta through the café window. The bullets dotted the wall, as Black ducked to the floor and rolled out of harm’s way, then Tammen was on the move again, running down the corridor. Both guns in hand, bullet riddled jacket flying behind him. Black smiled to himself as he stood, opening his own jacket, before joining the chase. He hadn’t felt this alive in a good while.
They sprinted through the airport, seemingly toward the entrance. Everyone and their grandmother seemed to be heading in that direction as well, making it a difficult run. He tried not to, but Black kept running into people that got in his way or that Tammen threw into his path. The German rounded a corner, Black stopping and firing a single shot that was barely off, whizzing by Tammen’s ear. He too then took the corner—seeing Tammen waiting for him—and vaulted into the gift shop across from as his opponent fired, the bullets missing their target. He smashed into a rack of magazines and startled the woman hiding behind the counter. His leg hurt like hell, but Mr. Black quickly picked himself up and ran back out into the hall, his Beretta at the ready. Tammen beckoned him from up the corridor and Mr. Black took off again.
Sweat beaded off his brow and his suit felt soaked, but he ignored it. His leg hurt like a bitch, but he kept running. His lungs burned, but he sprinted, trying to catch up with Tammen. The exit was right up ahead. He stopped as the main terminal came into view, and planted his feet, laser light activated, and he took aim at Tammen’s back. People were rushing past him, back and forth, in his line of fire. He took a deep breath…and held it. In the split second the corridor was clear he fired.
* * *
The hammer of the Beretta struck the bullet in the chamber with the appropriate force. F=MA. The 9mm hollow point flew from captivity, losing it’s casing as it ejected through the slide as it slid forward. At 1,495 feet per second, the bullet cut through the air like a mini golden eagle towards its intended target; the length of the trip measured in hundredths of a single second. Connecting with the jacket, the little bullet continued its journey, undeterred by the flimsy leather. Through the coat, flying past the being attached to the coat by millimeters, the trip ending abruptly when the explosive round impacted in the far wall, loosing its velocity…and stopping altogether.
* * *
I hate it when that happens, Mr. Black tried to compensate, but Tammen was already zigzagging to the right, the terrorist jumping and turning in mid-air to bring his arms to bear. Black fired once—twice—missed, twice, and moved for cover as Tammen returned with two shots of his own even as he was air born. They were on the ground at the same time, rolling behind cover. Black in the doorway to the closed shoe shine outlet, Tammen behind the Sunglasses Hut vendor by the escalators in the Main Terminal.
The Beretta jumped lightly in Black’s expert grip as he fired 4 quick taps into the glass booth Tammen was using for cover. He popped up suddenly and Black ducked back as Tammen returned fire with four shots between his two pistols. Then there was the dry “she-clack” of metal on metal as the slide moved forward into the empty position on Black’s Beretta Elite II as he expended his last two shots into the booth, showering Tammen with glass again.
“Shit.” At once they were both reloading. Tammen dropping Stilling’s Glock and pulling an extra 9mm clip from a jacket pocket. Then he reached to the small of his back and pulled a twin Beretta to his own Elite I. Black hit the mag release on his Elite II and quickly locked and loaded his pistol before peeking around the corner. That turned out to be a mistake as Tammen opened fired with both pistols to cover his exit from behind the wall, powdering Black’s suit with plaster and debris from the wall. Then with a grin he was off again, but not toward the exit. Black watched in wonderment. Where are you going, buddy? He wondered. Never the less, he beat feet after his quarry, who was almost out of sight, as he neared a corner.
There he saw it. You bastard, he thought as he raised his gun, coming around the corner. The terrorist was making his way up the glass staircase that led to, what else, the observation deck. He wasn’t planning on leaving…not yet. He wanted to continue the game just as much as Black did. So in good sport to his opponent, Mr. Black opened fire on Tammen as he made his way up the stairs. Tammen ducked as Black fired, once—twice—thrice, then Tammen was lost to his view. Black stopped to breathe as he contemplated making the trip up the staircase himself. The elevator at once began to descend from the top floor. Black was puzzled for a moment, leveling his pistol at the metal doors of the elevator; then realized there could be a significant threat if he knew his “old buddy.” He turned; the elevator near the floor, and began to run, trying to make it around the corner before—the elevator “dinged.”
Black seemed to feel the explosion before he heard it, but once he did, he couldn’t hear anything else except the ringing in his ears. Around the corner, the airport shook with the impact of the explosion. He was thrown to the floor; the intense heat still felt safely around the corner. The doors of the elevator were blown off, metal shrapnel flying off, incredibly sharp, impossibly hot. A single piece shattered a huge stained glass model of the state’s mascot: the Maryland crab encased in a 5X5-foot glass square. The elevator itself exploded outward. The glass sides had blown in a chain reaction all the way up the shaft. The result was a blackened, gnarled metal…thing…that would be expensive to fix. As Black surveyed the aftermath (minutes later when he regained his equilibrium), there was one thought that came to mind: Tammen always did like grenades in the elevator trick. The last available avenue left to him to reach the top floor of the observation deck: the damaged, but surprisingly sturdy, and still usable staircase. And yet he hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. The question loomed again; but this time fate answered the question for him as BWI’s SWAT team decided to make their appearance at the entrance of the Main Terminal. It then became a question of facing his nemesis/friend…or 12 highly trained and heavily armored men with a pistol.
He took the stairs the only way he could: at breakneck speed, the battered staircase groaning under his weight. Tammen opened up on him from on high--Mr. Black crouching down on one knee—firing for cover as he dropped--and finding 6 SWAT officers rounding the corner. Spying him, a man with a gun, they opened fire with their H&K MP5’s. Black began to sprint up the stairs, avoiding the rapid sub-machinegun fire as it pelted the staircase, and moving back into the semi-automatic fire from Tammen. He spun on the landing (thinking Fuck this), pulling his secret weapon--another Beretta Elite II from the small of his back--and completed his turn to open fire with both guns, rapidly pulling the triggers, forcing his opponent to retreat. But he didn’t stop; he kept running and firing, the bullets tearing into the metal model of a plane’s engine that Tammen was hiding behind. The observation deck was home to things of that sort. Overhead there was a full-scale model of a wing of a 747.
Tammen came around the other side of the model engine and fired a deadly volley of lead in Mr. Black’s direction as he reached the opposite side, using it for cover. His adversary backed up as he fired going into a darkened alcove that housed a large glass model of a future airport. Mr. Black swallowed, then came from behind cover to join in the firefight. They circled the model, 5 feet away from each other, each unloading both pistols as they circled. Glass flying, bullets ricocheting of the wall, they circled; fingers numb, faces set, gazes hard, sweating, concentrating, ducking, weaving, using ever bit of skill they had.
At once it stopped. Four smoking guns clicked empty. Two men stood surveying the other, a destroyed model airport laying between them, empty casings and glass littering the floor, empty guns pointed at the other, wired on adrenaline…their drug of choice. They shared a single consciousness as each dropped one of their individual Beretta twins (it would take too long to reload both even if they did have the ammo) and pulled a spare clip, Tammen from his jacket, Black from his coat. Each hit the magazine release button at the same time, Tammen crouching, Black taking off for the lounge area back toward cover. Slapping in the fresh clip, pulling back the slide to chamber the first round, Tammen stood and began to pull the trigger, slowly, methodically, professionally, as Black literally dodged bullets like he’d been taught to. He dived, scrambled, moved, and California rolled, around glass tables, leather seats and couches that shredded and shattered as they were blown to bits.
Reaching cover behind another model engine, Black turned to return the favor to the German terrorist as he now scrambled to move. Black was just as professional as Tammen and duplicated his behavior, Tammen firing back at him as he spun behind a replica of the nose of an airplane. 10 feet away from each other, they came out again, the deadly dance, increasing in tempo, bullets whizzing, metal sparking, they made the 10 feet between them a monumental battlefield, diving over tables, model parts, and turning…to find guns leveled at their heads. A stand off.
Neither man spoke. They just breathed, hard and fast, sucking as much oxygen into their lungs as they could during their…what was this? Each of them could have easily squeezed the trigger and end it all. The relentless chases, the obsession, not to mention the property damage. Yet they just stood there, arms raised, guns poised, hammers cocked. Tammen smiled, and after a second, so did Mr. Black. They shared a chuckle, an odd thing in such circumstances, yet to these two enemies…friends…it made sense. They barely heard their own laughter however, as close combat gunfire can seriously effect one’s hearing. Which might explain why they didn’t see the helicopter, didn’t hear the “whuppta-whuppta-whuppta” of the spinning rotary blades…until it was right outside the huge observation deck window not 10 feet to their left, the machine gunner aiming his .50 caliber rifle on the deck of the craft at the two men. Tammen and Black looked back at each other, and then turned to run.
Copyright © 2001 Jan And Smokey