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“Good.
I want Cazaux as bad as you do, Lassen, but you’ve got to do this one by the
book or the circuit court will put us
both
out of business.” Wyman raised his right hand, and in the passenger section of
the Black Hawk helicopter, Lassen did likewise. “Do you swear,” Wyman recited,
“that all the information in these warrants are the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, and do you swear to abide by the regulations and
restrictions contained herein and execute these warrants to the best of your
ability?”

 
          
“I
swear, Your Honor.”

 
          
Wyman
signed three documents and handed them to an assistant, who unclipped the pages
and sent the pages one by one into a fax machine connected to the same secure
communications link. Seconds later, the warrants appeared in the plain-paper
fax machine on board the Black Hawk assault helicopter. A recent Supreme Court
decision ruled that the faxed copy of a warrant sent via a secure datalink was
as good as the original. “I’ll be standing by here in case you need me, Lassen.
I’m with you all the way.”

 
          
“Thank
you, Your Honor,” Lassen said.

 
          
“My
clerk tells me that Judge Seymour signed a series of warrants for ATF the same
time period,” Wyman said. ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, a
division of the Department of the Treasury, was involved with the regulation of
restricted, high-value goods such as liquor and weapons. “Since I wasn’t
briefed on their involvement, I assume you’re not working with ATF on this
one.”

 
          
“I
didn’t know ATF was involved, Your Honor,” Lassen said. “We got the information
that Cazaux had surfaced only a few hours ago. Can you give me any details on
the warrant, sir? Is Agent Fortuna in charge?”

 
          
“Your
old friend,” Wyman said with a wry smile—the sarcasm in his voice came through
loud and clear, even via the wavering secure datalink. “I see you have your
Kevlar on—I think you’ll need it, and not just against Cazaux.”

 
          
“I’d
better try to raise Fortuna on the secure phone, then, Your Honor,” Lassen
said. “Thanks again for your help.”

 
          
“I
have a feeling the shooting is going to start long before you encounter
Cazaux,” Wyman said, trying to interject a bit of humor into what promised to
be a very humorless scene coming up. “Good luck.” The encrypted datalink buzzed
when Wyman hung up, then beeped to indicate the channel was autochecked for
security and was clear.

 
          
Lassen
keyed in a user address key into the transceiver’s keypad, listened for the
autocheck tone again, and waited. Seconds later, he heard a cryptic “Tiger One,
go.”

 
          
Even
on an ultrasecure microwave datalink that was virtually untraceable and
eavesdrop-proof, Special Agent Russell V. Fortuna still liked using his old
Vietnam Recondo code name. “This is Sweeper One, on channel seventeen- bravo,”
Lassen replied. Although he disliked using all this code crap, he knew Fortuna
would not respond, especially during an operation, unless he used his code name
and confirmed the secure datalink channel in use. “What’s your location and
status, Russ? Over.”

 
          
There
was a slight pause, and Lassen could easily envision Fortuna, dressed in his
Star Wars
semirigid body armor that made
him look like an Imperial storm trooper from the movie, shaking his armored
head in complete exasperation. “Lassen, what the fuck do you want?” Fortuna finally
said. “You may have just blown this operation. You ever hear of communications
security ?”

 
          
“We’re
on a secure datalink, Russ. Get off it. I need to know your status. Are you
moving against Fugitive Number One? Over.”

 
          
“Jesus,
Lassen, why don’t you just get on the PA and tell the creeps we’re coming?”
There was another short pause, then: “Yeah, we’re ten minutes out. We zeroed in
on his operation at
Chico
, and we’re moving in. Since we didn’t have time to coordinate this
strike, do me a favor, get hold of the administrator of the airport and the
sheriffs department, and cordon off the airport. Stay on the outside until I
give you the word. Over.”

 
          
“Russ,
we’ve got word that Cazaux has got heavy weapons and high explosives at his
location, enough to take out half the airport. SOG is about fifteen minutes
out, and we’ve got some Apaches and Black Hawk assault helicopters from the
California Air National Guard with us. We’ll back you up.”

 
          
“Assault
helicopters? Are you nuts?” Fortuna asked. “Cazaux will start shooting the
minute he hears one of those things overhead. Keep them away from the airport.
Who the hell gave you a warrant authorizing attack helicopters, anyway? Are you
going to seal off the airport for me or not?”

 
          
“Affirmative,
Russ, I’ll take care of that,” Lassen said, pointing to the VHF radio and
motioning for the chief of the Special Operations Group, Deputy Marshal Kelly
Peltier, to make the initial calls for him. SOG was the Marshals Service’s
assault and special weapons team, organized to capture the most violent and
heavily armed fugitives. “But hold off on your operation until we get closer,
and brief me on your plan of attack.”

 
          
“I
don’t have time for that shit,” Fortuna snapped. “You can monitor our tactical
frequency if you want, but do not, I repeat,
do not
overfly the airport. We might mistake your choppers as one
of Cazaux’s escorts and take a shot at it.”

 
 
          
Special
Agent Fortuna was director of the southeast district of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, and Firearms. Ex-Marine Corps, all-around weapons expert, and a human
dynamo, as gung-ho as any man in the Treasury Department, Fortuna was an expert
in small-unit assault tactics— at least in his own mind. He relied on the
elements of shock and surprise to overwhelm the bad guys. However, the shock
and devastation of his attacks, in Lassen’s view, made up for a lot of sloppy
investigative work. Judges gave him warrants regularly because he got results.
Lassen liked to gather his deputies, surround a suspect, and wait him out.
Although these standoffs took time and manpower, this substantially reduced the
risk to his deputies. Fortuna liked to form a strike team, plan an assault, and
attack head-on at night with heavy weapons blazing. The result was usually a
lot of wounded agents and dead suspects, but the shooting was over long before
the TV camera crews arrived. Because of this fundamental difference in tactical
style, the two organizations sometimes moved without coordinating with the
other.

 
          
“Jesus,
Fortuna’s gonna play Rambo again,” Lassen said on the helicopter’s intercom so the
pilots and the rest of the crew could hear. “Paul, you better plan on setting
down on the far side of the runway opposite the action, off-loading the crew,
then evacuating the area,” Lassen told his pilot. To his SOG strike team leader
he said, “Kel, get on the phone to the chief of the Oakland Flight Service
Station and have them issue an emergency airspace restriction in a five-mile
radius of the airport. I’ll be the point of contact in charge of placing the
restriction. If you hit any delays after nine minutes from now, just get on VHF
GUARD on 121.5 and UHF GUARD on 243.0 and broadcast the warning in the blind
for all aircraft to avoid the airport. Christ,, what a mess.”

 
          
“The
TV stations will pick up the news if I broadcast on the GUARD channel, Tim.”

 
          
“I’m
not worried about that—I’m worried about Fortuna taking a shot at us or at some
commercial job who wants to land,” Lassen said. “Do it.”

 

 
          
Chico
Municipal Airport
,
California
That Same Time

 

 
          

Chico
ground, LET Victor Mike Two Juliett, ready
to taxi from Avgroup Airport Services with information uniform,” Cazaux
radioed.

 
          
“LET
Victor Mike Two Juliett, Chico ground, taxi to runway one-three left via alpha
taxiway, wind one-eight- zero at one-three,” came the response from ground
control.

 
          
“LET
Two Juliett,” Cazaux replied.

 
          
Russ
Fortuna, sitting in the front of the “six-pack” pickup truck, lowered the
handheld VHF radio and turned to his deputy strike leader beside him. “Right on
time and right where he’s supposed to be,” he said. The six-passenger pickup
truck they were riding in cut a comer and sped toward an open gate guarded by
an ATF agent and a sheriffs deputy. The three ATF agents sitting in the back of
the truck clattered as their armored shoulders bumped against each other. The
semirigid Kevlar armor they wore resembled a hockey player’s pads, with thick
face, neck, arm, torso, groin, and leg plates that would protect them against
heavy machine-gun fire with reasonable mobility. Their helmets were one-piece
bulletproof Kevlar shells with built-in microphones, headphones, and flip-up
night-vision goggles, powered by a lithium battery pack mounted on the back of
the helmet. They wore thickly padded
ALICE
vests over the armor, with spare ammunition
magazines, flash- bang grenades, and .45 caliber automatic pistols in black
nylon holsters. The agents carried no handcuffs or restraining devices—this was
a hard-target assault all the way. If the suspects weren’t restrained by the
sight of pistols and assault rifles, they were going to be suppressed by a
bullet in the head. Their main weapons were Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine
guns with flash suppressors; the driver of the truck would man a .50 caliber
heavy sniper rifle with a 30x nightscope that was big enough to destroy an
aircraft engine with one shot.

 
          
Once
through the gate, the truck headed along rows of small-aircraft hangars on
their right. A high-wing Cessna was taxiing toward them, flashing its landing
light, and the driver of the truck turned on emergency flashers to warn the
plane’s pilot to stay away. Another truck, an eight- passenger van with smoked
windows, was directly behind them, loaded with six more ATF agents in full
ballistic armor and combat gear. This van, and another one heading across the
airport to encircle Cazaux, each carried six fully equipped agents.

 
          
“Give
me a rundown of the location.”

 
          
The
deputy strike leader opened an airport guide to the paper-clipped pages.
“Avgroup Airport Services is the large parking area southeast of the control
tower, closest to the departure end of runway thirteen left,” he replied. “One
large hangar east, one more southeast, one more north. Pretty open otherwise.
From the northwest gate, we’ll have to come in from the north between this
hangar and the tower. That way we can cut off his taxi route.”

 
          
“But
he could use the parallel runway instead of the longer one, right? We should
cover both runways.”

 
          
“Runway
thirteen right is only three thousand feet,” the deputy strike leader said.
“The LET L-600 needs a good five thousand feet even for a best-angle takeoff,
and more if Cazaux’s got it loaded down with fuel and cargo. In addition, he’s
got a strong crosswind—that’ll cut down his takeoff capability even more. I
think he’ll have to take the long runway.”

 
          
“All
the same, I want unit three to go around east of the tower, down taxiway delta,
and take up a position on the east side of runway one-three right in this
intersection,” Fortuna said. “That way he can cover the departure end of runway
thirteen right and block the long runway if we need to.”

 
          
“That’ll
only leave two units on Cazaux,” the deputy strike leader said. “The airport’s
pretty big—if he rabbits, we might lose him. If they got choppers, we might
want to bring the Marshals in on this after all.”

 
          
“It’s
too late to bring them in now,” Fortuna decided. “Once we get Cazaux’s plane
stopped, we’ll have the Marshals move in, but I want to move into position
before anyone else appears in the line of fire.” The deputy strike leader got
on the tactical radio to issue his instructions.

BOOK: Brown, Dale - Independent 04
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