A Russian colonel tries to terrorize the United States into withdrawing its troops from Europe so Russia can bring the breakaway republics back into the fold. He is part of a clique that includes General Kuchma who is running in the presidential election. Convinced that getting American troops out of Europe will ensure Kuchma's election, the colonel launches a series of terrorist attacks against the United States.
New York City, New York
December 28th started out like every other day at John F. Kennedy
International Airport for Clint Jackson. He parked his ten year old car
in the employee parking lot then punched in at 1:58 a.m., two minutes
early. Clint put his gloves on then headed for a yellow pickup truck.
He laid his sack of donuts, a newspaper and thermos on the passenger seat.
As soon as he started the engine he turned the heater on and waited for it
to spew warm air. After a quick radio check with the tower, Clint turned
his headlights on then drove alongside the runways checking for patches of
ice, loonies and debris. As he drove by the runways he spotted a
coworker's truck checking the taxiways.
Satisfied the runways were in good shape and there were no loonies
around, Clint parked at the end of the runway and poured himself a cup of
coffee laced with a touch of bourbon. This was his second year with
security at JFK and he was lucky to get the job. An ex-policeman, Clint
was fired from the LAPD for excessive use of force. He missed Los Angeles.
When asked by his coworkers why he liked LA he always replied, "At least
you don't freeze your ass off there."
After Clint's picture was prominently displayed in the Los Angeles
newspapers, he decided it was time to leave. For the next year he tried
to get a police job to no avail. While staying with his brother, in
Queens, he answered an ad for a security guard and was finally hired.
Clint knew he was washed up and was just putting in time until he could
collect Social Security. When he got his first paycheck, Clint moved out
of his brother's house and rented a furnished room. After three months on
the job, his boss found he was reliable and Clint was promoted to the
runway detail. Night after night Clint checked the runways. Although
his pickup truck wasn't a squad car, Clint thought it was better than
walking around the terminal with the other Keystone Cops; besides, it gave
him time to think—not that he had a lot to think about.
Clint's fourteen years in the army and his sixteen year career as a cop
were rather ordinary. During both careers he received half a dozen medals
and one citation for bravery. He never married and intended to make the
army his career but as division after division was phased out, or
downsized, so was Clint. He was a good cop and did his best to protect
the citizens of Los Angeles. When the time came that he needed help from his
superiors, it wasn't there.
Clint was out of uniform getting ready to draw money from an automated bank
teller when a young punk stuck a knife in his back. Clint's reflexes kicked in and he
struggled with his opponent finally pumping two shots into him. It turned out the
politician's son, a sixteen-year-old honor student, only had a pocketknife. The good
citizens couldn't believe a 120 pound honor student was dumb enough to hold
up a 200 pound off-duty cop. Instead of shooting the boy, reporters thought Clint
should have subdued him—never mind the boy was high on drugs and his knife
was poised to puncture Clint's body. Two witnesses to the incident and the boy's drug
test couldn't be located. It was an election year and Clint was hung out to dry.
Clint finished his coffee then made a routine sweep of the airport
perimeter. He thought he saw something in the distance and trained his
spotlight on it. Clint drove alongside the object then got out of his
truck. He picked up a large metal panel and threw it in the bed of his
pickup. Every so often Clint found an inspection panel that fell from an
airplane so he wasn't surprised. He wondered what the traveling public
would think if they knew parts fell off the airplanes they were flying.
Clint got on the radio and was told to bring the part in. He reached in
his pocket for a pack of Lifesavers and stuck one in his mouth.
As soon as Clint parked his truck inside the Aeroexpress hangar, half a
dozen men descended on the pickup. Two mechanics removed the part and
laid it on the hangar floor. The other men, in suits, inspected the
panel. No one paid any attention to Clint. Peering through the crowd,
Clint saw some numbers on the underside of the inspection panel. He heard
one man say, "This came off an outboard 747 nacelle." Another man got on
his cellular phone and read off the serial number on the inboard side of
the panel. A minute later he overheard the man say, "It came from Flight
120." Clint nudged a mechanic and asked him what the big deal was. "These
guys are from the FAA. Flight 120 blew up a while ago with a couple of
hundred people aboard."
Two FAA inspectors approached Clint with open notebooks. Ten minutes
later they finished questioning him and he got back in his truck. Clint
parked at the end of the runway, poured himself another cup of coffee,
then tuned his radio to a twenty-four hour news station. After he
finished his shift, Clint kept his car radio on as he drove to his
furnished room. He got out of uniform, showered, then walked to a nearby
diner. Sitting at the counter, he ordered supper while the other
customers ate lunch. Clint kept one eye on the television set as he ate
and learned what remained of Flight 120 was sitting under seventy feet of
water in Long Island Sound.
At one o'clock the next morning, the alarm clock went off and Clint got
out of bed. By the time he shaved, the coffee was made. He decided
against adding his usual two jiggers of bourbon and filled the thermos
with coffee. On the drive to work he stopped and picked up a newspaper
and four donuts. Clint punched in at 1:59 a.m. and started his rounds.
After he checked the runways, Clint drove to the spot where he found the
panel that fell off of Flight 120 when it took off from JFK. He got out
of his truck and scoured the area but found nothing of value. Clint
wondered what would have happened if he found the panel sooner. For some
reason he couldn't understand, Clint felt partially responsible for the
downing of Flight 120.
Clint parked his truck alongside the Aeroexpress hangar. He got out of
his truck and spoke to one of the mechanics who removed the panel. The
mechanic assured him the panel that fell off had nothing to do with the
explosion. Together they walked to a nearby Boeing 747. The mechanic
pointed out both outboard nacelles and the location of the panel that fell
off but didn't know if the panel came from the left or right nacelle.
Clint felt better after talking to the mechanic but still wasn't satisfied.
According to the radio and television, over a hundred witnesses saw a
streak of light heading toward Flight 120. Some talk show callers thought
a missile downed the 747 and killed the 230 passengers and crew. Others
thought a bomb brought the airplane down.
When his shift ended Clint drove back to his room, got out of uniform,
and showered. Instead of going to the diner he spent the rest of the day
in a bar watching the news about Flight 120. As he didn't own a
television Clint decided to buy one. It was a big decision. For most of
his life he never owned more than he could haul in the trunk of his car.
Since his credit card was almost maxed out, he drove to a television
repair shop and bought a used TV.
In the weeks that followed, Clint religiously followed the news about
Flight 120. When the families grieved, Clint grieved. In his mind, he
thought if he found the panel sooner the accident might have been
prevented. When he heard they were going to reconstruct the 747 from bits
and pieces retrieved from the Sound, his interest was so intense that when
he emptied his last fifth of bourbon he forgot to buy another one. On one
of his days off Clint drove to the hangar, near the tip of Long Island,
where the 747 was being reconstructed. To his disappointment, he was
refused admittance by guards from the same company he worked for.
Not to be dissuaded, Clint told his boss he needed money and asked if
he could get him a job on his days off at the Long Island hangar. Good
employees were hard to find so Clint's boss made a few phone calls and on
his next day off Clint reported for work at the hangar. Unfortunately, he
was assigned to the gate and never got into the hangar. In the weeks that
followed, Clint was eventually assigned to roving patrol and on occasion
got into the hangar. Inside the hangar, he saw a gigantic jigsaw puzzle
as technicians added pieces to the aircraft's skeleton. Clint learned a
lot about the Boeing 747. From his army days, he knew something about
electricity and hydraulics. Clint did most of the work on his old car so
he was a quick study on things mechanical.
As time went by, the 747 began to take shape. Clint watched as pieces
were added to the left outboard nacelle. When he saw a panel, similar to
the one he retrieved, added to the nacelle he assumed the panel he found
belonged to the right nacelle. Night after night as he patrolled JFK's
runways Clint longed to return to the hangar. He felt he was on to
something—he didn't know what but he felt like an old dog hot on the
On his next day off Clint was assigned to the gate again. He offered
a coworker ten dollars to switch assignments. After the coworker refused,
Clint upped the offer to twenty dollars. The coworker accepted and
wondered why anyone in his right mind would rather walk than sit in the
gatehouse. When Clint entered the hangar, he noticed the right outboard
nacelle was almost complete. To his surprise, he saw that the bent panel
he retrieved at JFK was installed on the right outboard nacelle. He walked
over to the left outboard nacelle and verified that an identical panel was
During his stint with the LAPD, Clint volunteered for half a dozen
undercover assignments and knew the value of being discrete. He made some
inquiries and got a chance to look at the information on a computer
screen. The screen showed that both panels were retrieved by divers.
Entries for the date found, time, coordinates, name of the diver and ship
were clearly shown. This was the first inkling Clint had that something
Over the next few weeks, experts poured over the reconstructed 747
trying to ascertain the cause of the explosion to no avail. On radio and
television, speculation was rampant and ranged from little green men to an
asteroid hit. Clint didn't believe in little green men and from mechanics
learned there was no evidence of an asteroid hit. When the cockpit voice
and data recorders were recovered, they yielded no clues. The only
theories that seemed to make sense were that a fuel tank exploded or
Flight 120 was downed by a shoulder fired missile or a bomb.
By this time Clint was convinced the outboard nacelle panel he found
was not the cause of the accident and wondered why there were false
entries in the computer. As he patrolled the runways at JFK, he pondered
the problem. The thought occurred to him that the missile entry point may
have been under the panel and someone was trying to cover it up. If the
panel was installed and intact at the time of the explosion, it would be
obvious that a missile did not penetrate it—but the panel was on the
ground at JFK not on Flight 120. As he had no one with expert knowledge
to turn to, Clint decided he needed hard evidence to prove or disprove his
theory. He knew his word would be worth as much as it was in LA when he
shot the punk kid who tried to kill him.
On the way home that morning, Clint stopped at three pawn shops looking
for a small camera. He finally found one that fit in the palm of his hand
and parted with his drinking money to buy it. As he didn't know much
about photography, he stopped at a second hand book store and bought two
books on the subject. Clint had never been a good student but when he
wanted to learn something he usually succeeded. Clint spent the next few
days studying photography. He practiced while patrolling the runways and
eventually produced near professional results.
On his next day off, Clint reported for work at the Long Island hangar
and was assigned to roving patrol. He knew cameras were not allowed on
the premises. With a miniature camera in his pocket, Clint felt like a
spy. When he passed through the hangar, there were too many people around
and he had no opportunity to take photographs. On the drive home he
tried to remember what he learned about shoulder fired missiles in the
army. Clint fired practice Stinger missiles two or three times and tried
to recall the fusing options. When he remembered the warhead was small,
around two pounds, it jogged his memory and he recalled there were three
fusing options but he couldn't remember what they were.
After his shift at JFK Clint stopped at the local library. It was the
first time he visited a library in almost thirty years. It took him a
while to learn to use the computer terminals but eventually got the hang
of it. Gathering up a handful of books, Clint sat at a table and poured
over the pages. He thumbed through charts that showed sustainer-motor
burn time, fly-out time and finally found the three fusing options: contact,
penetration and time-out. While he was at the library, he
perused data on other shoulder fired missiles. From the specifications,
Clint noted the Chinese Vanguard and the Russian SA16/18 missiles had
longer ranges than the Stinger.
Instead of driving home Clint headed for a local tavern to do some
serious mulling. He took a seat at the end of the bar and ordered a bourbon
and water. From his observation of the reconstructed 747, the right
outboard nacelle did not appear to sustain serious damage: most of the
damage was some distance away. Clint reasoned if the missile was fused
for a one or two millisecond time-out, the damage would be some distance
from the outboard nacelle. He was about to order another bourbon when he
realized he only had a few dollars and needed to eat and buy gas. Clint
walked over to the diner and ordered coffee and a bowl of chili. As he
ate, he wondered why he was wasting his time and money investigating
Flight 120. The FBI, NTSB plus the best scientists and engineers in the
country were on the job. As an ex-policeman Clint knew some crimes were
solved by dumb luck. Occasionally someone stumbled across something
everybody missed; maybe he could do the same.
On his next day off, Clint reported for work at the Long Island hangar
and was able to take a dozen photographs. He brought his film to a one
hour photo shop and ordered two sets of prints. The quality of the
prints was excellent and the features of both outboard nacelle panels were
clearly visible. On the morning of his second day off, Clint mailed one
set of prints to his brother and asked him to keep them for him. Instead
of going to work at the hangar, he called in sick and drove along the
shore of Long Island looking for a ship called the Jeannie B
It was dusk when he finally located the Jeannie B
. Two crewmen
were smoking and lounging on deck when he boarded the craft. Clint introduced
himself and asked if the Jeannie B
participated in the salvage of Flight
120. Both crewmen were proud they participated and were glad to answer
questions. When he showed the crewmen the photograph of the bent panel,
they recognized it instantly. One crewman showed him a notebook that
contained a crude sketch of the panel and the numbers inscribed on it.
Clint jotted down the information then thanked the crewmen.
For the next week as he patrolled the runways at JFK, Clint wondered
how the panel he found at JFK wound up in Long Island Sound. At first he
thought the panel came off another 747 and was incorrectly marked. But
the panel he found was bent; both Jeannie B
crewmen verified the panel
they retrieved was bent in an identical manner. When Clint arrived at
what had to be the answer, he was mad as hell. The only way the panel
could wind up in the Sound was if someone dropped it in the water after
he found it.
Clint was not a believer in flying saucers, Elvis sightings or
conspiracy theories. From experience, he knew there were plenty of
unsolved crimes. That someone was trying to cover up the downing of AEX
Flight 120 made him more determined than ever to root out the truth. As
the months went by, no new evidence was uncovered and the NTSB pushed the
theory that a fuel tank explosion caused the mishap and discarded the
missile and bomb theories. Clint tried to think of schemes to remove the
right outboard panel and look inside but didn't have any luck. Even if he
removed the panel, he wasn't sure he would recognize what he was looking
for. After a lot of thought, Clint realized he reached a dead end and
couldn't go any further without help.
As he patrolled JFK's runways, Clint thought about contacting the FBI
or the NTSB but decided against it. There was no way the panel could be
retrieved and dumped into the Sound without some knowledge on their part.
Whoever dropped the panel into the Sound knew the exact location of the
divers. He hated to admit it but he seemed to be in the
middle of a conspiracy. Clint thought about contacting a reporter but
doubted that anyone would believe a security guard. He remembered what
happened in LA when they splashed his picture across the front page and
accused him of murder. Only one reporter asked him for an interview and
that was on the radio at two in the morning. At most, half a dozen truck
drivers heard his side of the story.
Clint was almost ready to give up when he heard the NTSB was
conducting a briefing that was going to be televised for the edification of the
public. If he was present and questions from the public were allowed, he
just might be able to throw a zinger in somebody's lap. After some phone
calls, Clint found out where the briefing was going to be held. He
applied for five days off and intended to drive to Washington, D.C. Clint
checked his wardrobe and brushed his charcoal gray suit; it was his only
suit. Although it was over three years old it had only been worn three
or four times. He packed his suitcase then threw it in the trunk of his
car. When he checked his car over, he found four nearly bald tires.
Clint drove to Sears and had new tires installed. He wanted to save his
cash for food and motel bills so he handed the clerk his credit card and
hoped for the best. To his surprise, the cash register printer spat out
a bill. Clint signed the bill, pocketed his copy, then started for D.C.
Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia
After a leisurely drive to Maryland Clint checked into the cheapest motel he could find. He bought a local paper in the lobby then walked to a nearby restaurant. After he ordered Clint opened the newspaper. An article about the Maryland State Police caught his eye. The article was short and stated the police found a French Mistral missile ready to launch near Friendship Airport but gave few other details. Through news sources and from conversations with mechanics and security guards, Clint knew that twenty-six civil transport aircraft had been downed by shoulder-fired missiles. If Flight 120 was included, the count would be twenty-seven. Clint was convinced if the police hadn't found the Mistral it would have been twenty-eight. On the way out of the restaurant Clint bought two cigars. Back in his room, he called the newspaper office but found they had little information beyond what was printed. He did learn the missile was found not far from an active runway.
The next morning Clint rose early and didn't bother to eat breakfast. He drank two cups of instant coffee from the wall-mounted machine in his room then donned his grey suit, blue shirt and a black knit tie. Clint had no intention of looking like a minimum wage security guard if he was allowed to ask questions. He picked the blue shirt in case the television cameras picked him up. Clint stuffed the cigars in his jacket pocket then slung it over his shoulder and headed for his car. The hotel the NTSB briefing was being held at was in Virginia just across from D.C. Clint wanted to be early so he would be sure to get a seat up front. He finally located the hotel parking lot and parked next to a Greyhound bus.