Tidal Wave 23

Tidal Wave 23
Thomas J. Ryan
Special Agent Tristan Wood observed the hustle and bustle of
Massachusetts Avenue buzzing with late morning activity. Cabs lined up in front
of Union Station waiting for their next customer. Tristan took in the view of
the United States Capitol while his FBI partner scanned through FM stations on
the radio of the unmarked car. Though not a residential part of town, this was
one of the most densely populated areas of the country during the week. Within
one-half square mile sat the White House, Capitol building, Library of
Congress, Metro Center, the Smithsonian museum complex, Washington Monument,
and the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building to name a few. This was literally ground
“Not too loud.” Tristan
turned the volume down on the digital clock, which read; 11:11 a.m.
A handheld police scanner
sat upright on the dashboard and hissed with occasional chatter over the
frequency dedicated to the Secret Service. Another threat on the president’s
life had prompted FBI to grant them four agents as additional security. Tristan
and Jason kept watch over the front entrance and a second team covered the lot
on the north side of Union Station. FBI special agents hated this kind of work
considering it both demoralizing and boring. Today they were glorified security
The president of the United
States was at Union Station this morning for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for
the debut trip of the new Amtrak Next-Generation, or Next-Gen, high-speed rail train. It was the first of its kind in
the country, connecting Washington, DC, to Philadelphia, New York City to
Boston, using magnetic levitation or MAGLEV. This meant the train floated above
the track at about 220 mph. The problem, from an engineering standpoint, was
that MAGLEV could not run on standard tracks and needed a dedicated rail,
stipulating added expense. And as with most government projects, the appraised
$117 billion cost had more than doubled upon its completion. Amtrak had been in
the black for decades, continuing to run only by subsidies courtesy of the
American taxpayer. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Next-Gen
project could take fifty years just to break even. Watchdog groups criticized
the timing, pointing to the extremely bad economy that seemed to continue with
no end in sight. Sudden activity over the scanner brought Tristan back from his
“Phoenix is on the move!” Static.
“Bring in the Stagecoach!” Static.
“What is condition of
Phoenix?” Static.
“Phoenix is on the move!” Static.
“Where?” Static.
“Heading to the Castle!” Static.
Tristan and Jason were out
of the car and running across the street toward the Main Hall. They entered
Union Station and headed for the Amtrak Next-Gen terminal. The dark suits of
the two young FBI agents always drew attention. Black was no longer the
required color, nonetheless, a conservative dress policy remained in the
Bureau. Tristan Wood liked wearing a suit. After years in the military he had
become accustomed to order, and took pride in his professional appearance.
Several inside jokes about the dress code persisted among the agents who, at
the moment, referred to themselves as the Men
in Black
“Bravo Team, are you on
your way?” Tristan spoke into the scanner.
The response was stark,
“Already here.”
With only two teams from
FBI today, they kept it simple. Tristan and Jason were designated Alpha Team
and the others, Bravo. They weaved in and out of shoppers and travelers on the
middle of three levels that comprised Union Station. Both men hurried past
Amtrak Police, arriving at the location of the ceremony. Tristan was now
visibly limping.
“You okay?”
“I’m fine.”
He attempted to brush it
off, but was in obvious pain. The hard concrete surface aggravated his bad leg.
At over six feet tall and 200 pounds, this type of exertion put unwelcomed stress
on his joints. They approached two Secret Service agents, easy to spot since
they dressed just like FBI with the addition of the earpieces, and held up
their badges.
“What happened?” Tristan
“Somebody tried to set off
a bomb in a piece of luggage.”
“The president?”
“He’s safe. We got him out
of here right quick.”
Tristan recalled the codes
Secret Service had used. If Phoenix
was in the Stagecoach going to the Castle, the president was in his limo
going to the White House. A common misconception, the unambiguous and easily
pronounced words were chosen simply for identification purposes and were not
secret. The White House Communications Agency, created under FDR, chose code
names to identify the commander in chief, his family, and prominent persons and
“Where’s the bomber?” Jason
asked, scanning the area.
“We don’t know.”
“He lit the fuses and
walked off into the crowd. We’re reviewing the security tape now to try and ID
“No time for that,” Tristan
“See the guy over there?”
One of the Secret Service agents pointed to an older gentleman surrounded by
Metro Transit Police. “So far he’s the only real witness.”
“Who are we looking for?”
The other Secret Service
agent paced with adrenalin. “A man wearing jeans and a short sleeve, striped
golf-shirt is all he remembers. He thinks it was blue. We’ve got exits covered
and my guys are on the upper and lower levels.”
“What about the parking
“I have two men out there
as well, but there’s serious ground to cover. It just happened, he can’t be
“We’ll search the north
The pair rushed across the
room to Bravo Team, a young man and younger woman speaking with a civilian.
“Anything?” Tristan asked.
“Nope,” said the female
“Head out back and comb the
parking lot, jeans and striped blue shirt, right?”
“Got it,” both special
agents hurried off.
“Seems they have all the
bases covered. I don’t remember seeing anyone fitting that description as we
came in, do you?”
“No. But it doesn’t mean we
didn’t miss him.”
Then Tristan spotted the
departure board, a massive split-flap display hanging from the ceiling. The
status of all departures was, “On Hold.”
“The trains.”
“Let’s go.”
The FBI agents ran out to
the platform where two Amtrak commuter trains sat idly on opposite tracks, each
man entering a different car. Tristan advanced up the aisle, making sure to get
a clear visual of every person as he progressed. He swept through the first
four cars with diligence, ending up in the fifth and last. The restroom was
occupied. A conductor clipped tickets, probably expecting the train to depart
at any time. Finding no one with the description of the bomber suspect, he
“I need your help,” Tristan
said, flashing his FBI badge.
The man stopped inspecting
the commuters, “Sure thing.”
They arrived at the forward
end of the car.
“Can you unlock the
restroom door for me?”
The conductor searched for
a key, finding the one he wanted. Tristan motioned to wait and then knocked. No
answer came.
“Anyone in there?”
Again, no reply. He nodded
to the conductor who slowly turned the key. Tristan took out his Glock and
racked the slide. With the other hand he opened the door as fast as possible
while pointing the gun inside. A young Middle Eastern man in jeans and a blue
striped golf shirt leaned against the back wall, hands up. Tristan threw him
face-down onto the aisle floor as passengers became aware.
“Do you have any weapons on
He had to repeat the
question and still got no response. Tristan searched his pockets finding only a
used Amtrak ticket stub, and then FlexCuff’d his hands. Helping the young man
off the floor, he escorted him off the train. As they walked back toward the terminal
Jason joined them, grabbing the suspect’s other arm.
“I knew you’d find him, I
have no luck.”
A Metro Transit cop ran up
to assist, leading them back to the Amtrak Police Station where they locked the
suspect in one of the small holding cells. Another cop searched video feeds in
front of a control center that reminded Tristan of an air traffic tower. He
recalled Team Bravo using his scanner.
“Did you find anything on
him?” Jason asked.
“Just this stub.” He handed
it over. “If there was a wallet, he ditched it.”
“One way from Philly?
“Is that the bomb?” Tristan
referred to the carry-on bag sitting nearby.
One of the cops opened it,
revealing multiple blocks of C4 bricks linked in series by wires. “Take a look
at his little toy.”
“Holy sh…” Tristan
interrupted his partner with an impulsive punch to the arm. He didn’t like
cursing and considered it a cheap way of self-expression. The FBI ethics policy
against foul language did not list specific words or result in punishment, but
a special agent reflected the integrity of the Bureau. Swearing did not create
a positive image.
“How much explosive power
is this?” Jason asked Tristan, calling on his military experience.
“This would have taken out
everyone in at least a hundred yard radius. The president would have been
killed instantly. In fact, I’d say this entire section of Union Station would
be leveled.”
“Oh, great.”
Tristan pulled off one of
the blasting caps, shook, and then smelled it. A black substance on the end
rubbed off on his thumb. “This is a fuse cap.”
Before he could answer,
Team Bravo arrived. The female agent assessed the young man in the cell.
“That him?” She studied the
suspect. “What’s wrong with him, is he injured?”
“I don’t think so,” Tristan
“He seems a bit dazed.”
This had occurred to him.
The suspect acted strangely subdued, even as he was being arrested, as if in a
The other FBI agent leaned
in, “See his hands?”
With head down and eyes
wide open, the bomber suspect impassively stared at the floor. Tristan now
caught what he had failed to recognize. The young man had scars on his hands.
“Looks like he was
practicing,” the female agent commented.
Jason perked up. “Here’s
our guy!”
The video showed an Amtrak
train lumber to a stop. Passengers began to exit, including the bomber suspect
with his luggage.
“So we know he was on the
train. Let’s go to the ceremony area,” Tristan said.
The Metro cop switched to
another shot of Union Station where spectators jammed in for a view of the
president. After searching different angles they located the culprit, standing
in back of the crowd, watching. A moment later he bent down and unzipped the
top of the luggage bag, pulled a lighter out, and lit two fuses before walking
away. The sparkling light began to capture the attention of those nearby. Both
fuses quickly burned down and fizzled out with a poof. Two plumes of smoke rose upward intertwining as if in a
“Rewind that?” Tristan
asked. “Check this guy out.”
He pointed to a man in a
red sweatshirt with his eye on the bomber suspect. Due to the angle, the face
was indistinguishable. After the fuses burned out he calmly pulled the
sweatshirt hood over his head and walked away.
“Strange,” Jason said.
“This guy looks familiar.
Can you go back to the video of the platform?”
The Metro Transit cop
replayed the previous frames.
“Stop it right there.”

Jason pointed at the screen. “Well, what have we got here?”