you’re not briefing, you’re
briefed. Come with me when the meeting is over.” Then she sat down next to Holly.
“Homeland Security,” Kate said, and the director stood up. “Remain seated, please, all of you. What do you have, Stan?”
The man sat down. “Madam President, good morning. Overnight we have had strong hints from three sources, two of them electronic, that an important Al Qaeda figure has been infiltrated into Washington, perhaps even into our government. His purpose looks to be—using his position to glean intelligence—the organizing of a major terrorist attack against the city, with a government building or facility at its center.”
“Do you have a name?”
“Not yet, Madam President. We are working backward to determine that. We’ve sent out word to the appropriate operatives to locate the top twenty Al Qaeda officials. We’ll work from a list of those missing from sight. That will give us a short list, then we can turn the attention of all agencies to finding him.”
“That seems a logical procedure. Anything else to report at this time?”
“No, Madam President.”
“Don’t send out any broad alerts,” Kate said. “We don’t want to get his attention. I hardly need say that no one is to mention this to anyone outside this room.” She patiently worked her way through those present; nothing else rose to the level of the first report.
When they were done, Kate left the room first, and Holly trailed her to the Oval Office.
“Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?” Kate said, flopping down on a sofa. “Hot stuff, right off the bat. I wonder if they’ve been saving it for a few days, just to start my administration off with a bang?”
“I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that.”
“It will be interesting to see how quickly the press picks up on the story and who leaks it. Did you find an assistant?”
“Yes, ma’am, but she won’t start until Monday—she needs work.”
Kate laughed. “Let me guess: an Ivy League drudge? What the Brits call a ‘swot’?”
“A perfect one. She’s very smart, and I’m going to have to spend some time showing her that she’s stupid.”
“Were you like that when you joined the Agency, Holly?”
“I was a babe in the woods.”
Kate laughed. “I doubt that.”
“Do you want this morning’s report given to the NSC?”
“Not yet. First let’s see what result a few days’ work brings.” There was a knock, and the door leading to the Oval’s waiting room opened. “The secretary of labor designate is here, Madam President,” an assistant said.
“Send him in.” She stood up to greet the man. “See you later,” she said to Holly.
STONE, DINO, AND VIV got to Manassas well ahead of time; they stowed their luggage, and Stone did a thorough pre-flight inspection, then he got a weather forecast—severe clear and light winds—and filed a flight plan.
At noon, the gate to the ramp slid open and three black SUVs cruised through and came to a stop at the left wingtip of N123TF. Will Lee hopped out of the front seat of the first one, and an agent retrieved a single duffel from the trunk. Stone shook hands with Will, stowed his duffel in the front luggage compartment, and walked Will around the airplane, pointing out features. Finally everyone boarded, including a young woman in a business suit and a shoulder holster who represented the Secret Service, and Stone helped Will into the right cockpit seat.
“It’s snug,” Stone said, “but you’ll get used to it.”
“Do I have a choice?” Will asked, struggling to get his left leg to follow his right leg into the footwell.
“Only the passenger cabin, and that’s no fun.” Stone climbed into the pilot seat and helped Will figure out the four-point seat belt, then secured his own. He started the engines, radioed for a clearance to Teterboro, and was surprised to be given a routing of direct to destination and an immediate climb to his cruising altitude.
“I made a