Stone Cold (Camel Club #3)

Oliver Stone, the leader of the mysterious group that calls itself the Camel Club, is both feared and respected. Keeping a vigilant watch over our leaders in Washington D.C., the club has won over some allies, but it has also made some formidable enemies.

Annabelle Conroy, an honorary member of the Camel Club, is the greatest con artist of her generation. As an old, powerful mark hunts her down and the Camel Club tries to protect her, a new opponent suddenly arises.

One by one, men from Stone’s shadowy past turn up dead. Behind this slaughter stands one man: Harry Finn. To almost all who know him, he’s a loving father and husband who uses his skills to keep America safe. But Finn is also an unstoppable killer who now sets his lethal bull’s-eye on Oliver Stone. And with Harry Finn, Stone may well have met his match.

CHAPTER 1

Harry Finn rose as usual at six-thirty, made coffee, let the dog out into the fenced backyard for its morning constitutional, show­ered, shaved, woke the kids for school and oversaw that compli­cated operation for the next half hour as breakfasts were gulped, backpacks and shoes grabbed and arguments started and settled. His wife joined him, looking sleepy but nonetheless game for an­other day as a mother/chauffeur of three, including a precocious, independent-minded teenage boy.

Harry Finn was in his thirties with still boyish features and a pair of clear blue eyes that missed nothing. He’d married young and loved his wife and three children and even held sincere affection toward the family dog, a floppy-eared golden Labradoodle named George. Finn was an inch over six feet tall, with a long-limbed, wiry build ideally suited for speed and endurance. He was dressed in his usual faded jeans and shirttail-out clothing. And with round eye­glasses on and his intelligent, introspective expression, he looked like an accountant who enjoyed listening to Aerosmith after a day of crunching numbers. Although he was amazingly athletic, living by his wits was actually how he put bread on the table and iPods in his kids’ ears, and he was very good at his work. Indeed, there were very few people who could do what Harry Finn could. And live.

He kissed his wife good-bye, hugged his kids, even the teenager, grabbed a duffel bag that he’d placed near the front door the night before, slid into his Toyota Prius and drove to National Airport on the Potomac River right outside of Washington, D.C. Its official name had been changed to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, but to the locals it would be forever simply National. Finn parked in one of the lots near the main terminal building, whose chief architectural feature was a series of connected domes cop­ied from Thomas Jefferson’s beloved Monticello. Bag in hand, he trudged across a skywalk into the sleek interior of the airport. In­side a restroom stall he opened his duffel, pulled on a heavy blue jacket with reflective stripes on the sleeves and a pair of blue work-pants, slid a pair of orange noise mufflers around his neck and clipped the official-looking ID badge onto his jacket.

Employing a standard turnstile crash maneuver, he inserted him­self into a herd of airport employees trekking through a “special” security line. Ironically, this line lacked even the cursory level of scrutiny forced on ordinary passengers. Once on the other side of the barrier he bought a cup of coffee and casually followed another airport worker through a secure door to the tarmac area. The man actually held the door open for him.

“What shift you working?” Finn asked the man, who told him.

“I’m just coming on,” Finn said. “Which would be okay if I hadn’t stayed up for the damn football game.”

“Tell me about it,” the man agreed.

Finn skittered down the metal steps and walked over to a 737 that was being prepped for a short-haul flight to Detroit with con­tinuing service to Seattle. He passed several people along the way, including a fuel man, two baggage loaders and a mechanic inspect­ing the wheels of the Michigan-bound plane. No one confronted him because he looked and acted as though he had every right to be there. He made his way around the aircraft as he finished his coffee.

He next walked over to an Airbus A320 that would be on its way to Florida in about an hour. A baggage train was parked next to it.

In one practiced motion, Finn pulled the small package from his jacket and slipped it into a side pocket of one of the bags stacked on the train. Then he knelt next to the plane’s rear wheels and pre­tended to check out its tire tread. Again, people around him took no notice because Harry Finn exuded an air of a man perfectly at home in his surroundings. A minute later he was chatting up one of the ground crew, analyzing the prospects of the Washington Redskins and the deplorable state of employment for those toiling in the aviation industry.

“Everyone except the head honchos,” Finn said. “Those bastards are printing money.”

“You got that right,” the other man said, and the two did a little knuckle smack to seal their solemn agreement on the disgusting greed of the rich and the ruthless who ruled the not-so-friendly skies.

Finn noted that the rear cargo hatch of the Detroit flight was now open. He waited until the handlers left with their train of luggage carts to fetch the bags and then climbed up on the lift parked there. He slipped into the cargo hold and inserted himself into his hiding place. He’d already picked it by studying interior cargo schematics of the 737 series, which were readily available if one knew where to look, and Finn clearly did. He’d also learned from open source re­search on the Internet that this plane was only going to be half full so his added weight in the rear would not be an issue.

While he lay curled in his hiding place the plane was loaded with fat bags and stressed passengers, and then it was wheels up to De­troit. Finn rode comfortably in the pressurized cargo hold, although it was a bit cooler here than in the main cabin and he was glad of the thick jacket he wore. About an hour after takeoff the plane landed and taxied to the gate. The cargo door was opened a few minutes later and the baggage offloaded. Finn patiently waited for a bit after the last bag was removed before he came out of concealment and peered through the open aft door. There were people around, but none looking his way. He climbed off the plane and dropped to the tarmac. A minute later he noticed a pair of security officers head­ing in his direction, sipping coffee and gabbing. He reached in his pocket, pulled out a lunch bag, took out a ham sandwich and began eating it as he walked away from the plane.

When the two guards passed him he nodded. “You regular cof­fee drinkers or is that half-caf caramel latte with a twist and four shots of who the hell knows what?” He grinned with his mouth full of ham sandwich. The two cops chuckled at his remark as he walked off.

He entered the terminal, went to a restroom, took off his jacket, ear mufflers and ID badge, made a quick phone call and marched to the airport security office.

“I put a bomb in a bag that was loaded onto an A320 at National Airport this morning,” he explained to the officer on duty. “And I just rode in the cargo hold of a 737 from D.C. I could’ve downed the plane anytime I wanted.”

The stunned officer was not wearing his weapon, so he leaped over the desk to tackle him. Finn neatly sidestepped this attack, and the fellow sprawled on the floor screaming for help. Other of­ficers poured out of the back room and advanced on Finn, guns drawn. Yet Finn had pulled out his credentialing letter before the pistols had even appeared.

At that instant the door to the office flew open and three men strode in, their federal badges held high like the scepters of kings.

“Homeland Security,” one of the men barked at the guards. He pointed at Harry Finn. “This man works for us. And somebody’s in a shitload of trouble.”