Halftime approached. The atmosphere around the Yanks’ dugout was of enthusiastic disbelief, the murmurs growing into cheers of celebration. It was like 1950 all over again.
“We are beating the Brits! We’re going to advance in the Olympics! Clear a path!”
Then the chanting began:
“The Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming, the drums rum-tumming everywhere! So prepare, say a prayer, send the word, send the word to be there! We’ll be over, we’re coming over, and we won’t be back till it’s over, over there!”
The son cheered along with the rest of the American supporters, Sam’s Army, as the team walked off the pitch. The fans felt like they had Great Britain on the ropes and that young Membrino would score again in the second half to give the United States a healthy two-goal cushion. Some of them may have not been knowledgeable in the ways of European football and there wasn’t a Tim McCarver-like presence to follow along with on television, but they did know that a two-goal lead in this sport was better than a one-goal lead.
The father, though, was cautious. He had seen dramatic implosions surrounding Team USA before. He recalled the Americans going ahead of Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in 2009 before the Brazilians came back and humbled their opponents with three second-half goals. He saw the same against the Italians in the group stages of the same competition. And being a Red Sox fan, he was used to September Swoons — until 2004, that is.
He took the safe road in thinking the British would have something to say about the scoreline in the second half, and he made sure that he told his son — and everyone else around him — that there were still 45 minutes left, and that anything could happen. That left the American fans, who noticed the father’s Liverpool jersey and the son’s England jersey as if for the first time, grumbling about Benedict Arnolds.
The son said, “Come on, daddy. You know we’re going to beat the British. We beat them in 1776, we can beat them today.” Tommy smiled so wide that the father couldn’t deny his son.
“We’ll see, buddy. We’ll see. I’m going to use the bathroom. Do you want anything from the concession stand while I’m away?”
The boy’s eyes lit up.
“Can you get me another soda and another hot dog? And one of those long horns that some people are blowing?”
The father laughed.
“A soda yes, a hot dog yes, a vuvuzela no. I don’t think customs would let us bring one into the country when we get back home, Tommy. How about a foam finger instead?”
The boy’s face fell.
“If you must. Spike will just eat it.”
“Don’t leave it lying around your room and he won’t. Your mother and I have been telling you to keep an eye on your stuff so the dog doesn’t get at it. Besides,” the father said, “what do you think Spike would do if he got his jaws around a vuvuzela and tried to eat it?” He winked.
The son brought his finger to his jaw, as if thoughtful.
“His barks would sound better than they do now.”
“And the idiot neighbors would call the cops again.”
The son mocked shock. The father simply laughed again.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, okay? Don’t go walking around the stadium.” He kissed his son on the forehead.
The boy wiped it off.
The father squirted himself out of the row and jogged up the stairs that led all the way up to the Royal Box. He came upon a tall steward, standing at the ramp entrance. The man had his hands wrapped behind him, coming to a rest at the small of his back. He eyed the father warily.
“Excuse me, sir. I have to go use the bathroom. Would you mind keeping an eye on my son? He’s right there in the England shirt.” He pointed toward his son, a few rows away.
“Stewards aren’t babysitters, sir,” the steward replied pompously, giving the father a look of impatience. “We get paid to babysit this lot,” he added, waving his arm about, indicating the crowd, “not your son.”
The father dug money out of his pocket and peeled off a twenty-pound note. He grabbed the steward’s arm, tore it away from his backside and thrust the bill into his hand.
“How about now?”
The steward looked down at the note with wide eyes. He usually received five-pound tips from helping people find their seats.
“Which one is your lad, sir? I’ll make sure he doesn’t get into no trouble at all,” the steward replied, this time less haughtily and more with a Cockney accent.
The father smiled and patted him on the shoulder, then directed his gaze to his son.
“I’ll only be a few minutes. Just a quick bathroom visit, a trip to a concession stand and I’ll be back before the second half starts.”
“No problem, sir. He won’t move a muscle.”
The father took one more look at his son before he turned and started to walk down the ramp, a smile on his face. His hands were in his pockets holding onto the notes.
The force of the blast changed that. Instead of staying on his feet, the father found himself thrown forward, as if the hand of God lifted him up from where he walked and tossed him twenty feet. The notes flew out of his hand and burned in the ensuing fireball. The father hit the cement hard, dislocating his shoulder and sending him rolling. His momentum finally stopped as soon as his body collided with a concession stand, causing his body to shudder even more; he didn’t even feel his ribs snap. He didn’t even register the severe amount of pain that he was in. Someone close by screamed, and his ears did not even register it as a scream of terror; his eardrums were concussed. It was only then that he smelled burning flesh.
It took him several more seconds to realize the burning flesh was his.
Someone smothered him with a woolen blanket, and soon the fire that had encompassed his backside was out. The screams continued, but he didn’t hear a thing.
The father tried to get up from the concourse floor, but someone’s weight kept him down. He could detect people rushing past him, toward the explosion. Thick black smoke began to fill the concourse as well as pour out from the stadium’s wound.
Once more he tried to get up, and this time felt no resistance. His body screamed at him to stay down and not move, for movement caused his nerves extreme discomfort. He stood up and looked toward where he came from, expecting to see a wall with concessionaires near the ramp that led into the stadium proper.
All he saw was smoke, fire, and through it, the south side of the stadium.
It was at that moment that the father began to panic.
Disregarding the pain as he stumbled forward, the father said “No!” repeatedly, shouting it louder and louder until he thought he could hear himself. He began to run toward the ramp, but he tripped as soon as he got there. He fell on top of a burning woman lying face down on the cement.
She was dead.
He looked up toward the stadium and saw the ramp littered with bodies. Smoke poured off them. He even saw the broken body of his babysitting steward laying at a right angle — but not a right angle that would be natural for human beings.
The father vomited violently, his insides coming out of him with the speed of an unstoppable train. The stuff spilled atop the dead woman, splattering on her back and off it onto the concrete. The stench of vomit and burning flesh reeked, and soon the smell of acrid, black smoke would counter it.
He tried his best to avoid stepping on the bodies, but at that point, he did not care: His only thought was making sure his son was okay.
Yet as he walked up the ramp, tiptoeing through the bodies, he had an incredibly bad feeling he would not like what he saw when he emerged.
His breath caught in his throat as he surveyed the damage.
The scene was incredible.
The scene was horrific.
He could not believe his eyes.
As a Liverpool supporter, what he saw at that very moment reminded him of what happened at Hillsborough, the deadly crush that occurred during an FA Cup semifinal over 23 years ago. He had seen YouTube footage from the BBC of the event, and the scene had sickened him senseless. He recalled people rushing onto the pitch, using the advertising boards that ran around the playing surface as makeshift stretchers to carry the wounded and the dead away.
This was Hillsborough on a much greater scale, he thought. This was September 11, Hillsborough and any terror attack rolled into one.
The thought made him want to puke again.
The blast vaporized three entire sections of seats near the United States’ dugout. Bodies were burning. He saw stewards from the southern side of the stadium running across the pitch to help, even though it would have been prudent to stay put and prevent the crowd from panicking. Fans, both British and American, also came across. Perhaps there were nurses, doctors, constables and firefighters on that side, but right now, they looked like Olympic sprinters.
He began to shout Tommy’s name repeatedly, hoping his son would recognize his voice, pleading for the boy to come find his father.
The father couldn’t see him. No one shorter than five feet came running toward him. His bottom lip began to tremble as his eyes searched the crowd on the pitch.
God, he prayed, if you’re listening, please bring Tommy back to me. It’s his birthday soon. I need him to come home with me.
The father did not hear silence in return, nor did he hear anything at all.
He began panicking, and it was almost like he wanted the dead steward to hand him his money back and to restrain him as he walked forward toward where he and his son sat during the first half. He couldn’t find those seats, though.
He stumbled forward, his feet kicking up shards of concrete, metal and plastic, the debris left over from the blast. He was surprised it wasn’t incinerated like the rest. He turned and looked up at the Royal Box and found it gone. Even up higher, the upper decks did not appear to exist.
He turned his head back toward the pitch and walked gingerly. People tried to stop him, but he shoved them aside, the pain still not registering. He got to what had been the Americans’ dugout and he shouted his son’s name again.
Once again, he received no answer.
He tried to climb the wall, but a wave of pain finally brought him to a halt. He finally noticed his hanging right arm and felt his back blistering from the flames. He leaned against the short wall.
He caught a glimpse of a white shirt upon a small child several yards away. The shirt had scorch marks, but the child’s arms were askew in such a way that the father had no reason to doubt that the child’s arms were broken.
The father dug deep and pushed himself up and over the wall, dropping down on his injured shoulder. He felt the pop knock his shoulder back into place. If he had anything left in his stomach, he would have thrown it back up. He pushed himself up to his knees and felt another wave of pain go through him. It would have knocked a lesser man to the ground, but he was a man possessed with finding his son. His son’s safety was the only thing that mattered to him at that moment. He ignored the pain.
He got to his feet and walked toward the broken child. It was only a few feet away. He kept his eyes on the child’s back the entire time and had a horrible feeling begin to sink into the pit of his stomach as he got closer. The child’s hair was the same color of his son’s. The shorts looked identical, though burned. The shirt, where blackened, had melted into the child’s skin.
“Oh, Tommy,” he said. “No, please don’t be dead.”
He hit his knees again and turned the child over.
It was Tommy. He looked like he was sleeping, but his mouth was slack. The father’s eyes became wet, and heavy sobs rattled his frame. His heart broke, and he didn’t care about a dislocated shoulder or broken ribs or that he had nearly been incinerated by the fireball. His son was dead because of that explosion, and he did not care about his own body. At that very moment, his world had ended.
He had no idea how he would tell his wife that her youngest child was dead.
The father grabbed his son in his own damaged arms and looked toward Heaven, crying, “Why, God? Why my son?” His eyes closed as tears cut rivulets into his face.
Jafar did not know if the explosion took place as planned. With the BBC on a commercial break, there was no way to know what happened. He looked to the CCTV monitor that showed the north side of Wembley Stadium as well as the area of Wembley Park surrounding the building.
At first, Jafar could not see anything different. Wembley’s floodlights were on, but after about a minute or two, the lights at the top of the stadium began to cut out as smoke rose into the sky, blocking the light from the CCTV cameras. A minute later, the BBC came back to the studio:
“We’re supposed to go back to Wembley for comment, but we have to shift gears as an explosion rocked the stadium just after the players left the pitch for halftime. These pictures tell the story,” the studio host said.
Jafar held his breath.
The cameras inside Wembley told the tale. Black smoke rose into the air, dissipating slightly. Bodies littered the pitch, and people from the south side flooded it. The scenes were chaotic, and Jafar tuned out the pundits who tried describing what occurred.
Then they showed the explosion, taped and taken from the wide angle camera that followed the action during the first half. The loge level went first. A fireball lifted fans into the air, the rolling inferno swallowing bodies whole. A second explosion took the next deck. A third followed. The BBC, in a fit of stupidity, then added the audio.
The screams sent goose bumps running up Jafar’s forearms and caused a smile to drift across his face. He heard the shock in the broadcasters’ voices. He wanted to see that replay, the replay of Wembley’s north side exploding, over and over and over again; he had heard that an American broadcaster, after seeing one of their space shuttles explode on replay so many times, demanded his producers stop showing it.
The terrorist could tell that many died from the blast he created, and with so many rushing to help, he knew those people would have nightmares until the day they died. He wanted to lord over that knowledge, the knowledge that he gave them those nightmares – payment for the nightmares that echoed in the ears of Afghani children, his young brothers and sisters in Allah, after the Americans struck his country in 2001. It was a vengeful slap, one that Jafar wished he could have seen live.
He prayed to Allah and asked for an announcement on the death toll soon, for he craved to know how many people perished.He wanted to know before he took credit for what the world saw.
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For Sample Sunday today, I give you ROGUE AGENT. I'm breaking the post up into two parts.
Wembley, London, England
30 July, 2012 — 19.30 GMT/2:30 p.m. ET
Hand in hand, father and son rode the escalator from the platform all the way up to the gate of the Wembley Park Tube station. The sun licked their faces, much as it had before they melded with the crowd and surged underground at Bond Street. Sweat covered their brows before they stepped back outside.
The father was in his mid 30s, with black hair on the road to receding. His rather long, hawkish nose was prominent on his face, one that would have made the late Robert Helpmann jealous: It was so much like the one Helpmann’s most famous character, the Childcatcher, used to sniff out children in the old Disney movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He wore a faded red Liverpool F.C. jersey with Fowler 9 printed on the back. He had pulled it on so much on the weekends and for midweek matches that he feared he would tear it on accident if the Reds came close to winning their 19th First Division title or their sixth European Cup.
Of course, like a true Liverpool supporter, he did not like to walk alone and never did when it came to football: His 8-year-old son, who loved Liverpool just as much as he did, was with him, the little boy’s left hand firmly clenching his father’s right. The son had looked forward to this Olympic football tournament match between their home country, the United States, and the Great Britain team, which, while it carried the moniker of the Home Nations, primarily consisted of Under-21s from England. His father told him that his hero, Steven Gerrard, would not play in the match. There was some disappointment to be sure, but the boy, holding onto his father’s hand for dear life, shed his anger as soon as the glass northern side of Wembley Stadium came into view.
The boy was not old enough to realize that the stadium he looked at was not the original Wembley; that stadium came down some four years before he was born. But to him, this was a fabulous place to watch a match; it was so much better than Gillette Stadium back home in Massachusetts. Even though it was his first time in England, he had watched several matches online, and he was excited at the prospect of reaching out and touching the famous pitch. As it so happened, he wore a small, youth-sized England jersey his father bought him. It was unadorned with name or number, even though the father knew the son would not be happy unless Gerrard 4 was on the back.
“But daddy,” the boy said when he opened the dirty parcel, “I wanted a Captain Fantastic shirt. That way, when he sees me, he can smile.”
“I know, I know, but I have to tell you something: You’re supposed to root for the badge,” the father said with a smile of his own, pointing to the Three Lions crest that would cover his son’s heart, “not the player wearing the badge. I think I’ve told you that before, especially after your uncle’s obsession with Brett Favre.”
The boy sighed in their living room and begrudgingly put the shirt on. Now, some five months later, with the greenery of Wembley Park sprawling to either side of him and the Home of Football approaching dead center, that conversation was dead within his past, the memory forgotten.
The son was wide-eyed, and to the father, who looked down every so often at his offspring, his son’s happiness was truly all that mattered. He would give his life in exchange for his son’s, and he sacrificed countless times to make sure that his son, while not spoiled, had anything his heart desired. Seeing his son’s expression caused his heart to leap taller than the arch that soared high above Wembley. He had to admit it to himself, albeit quietly: He was looking forward to this match just as much as his son.
Even though it was warm, northwest London was somewhat free of the smog that usually covered the city. Father and son could take a deep breath without choking on bad air, even though they slowly walked with the sweat-stained crowd toward the pedestrian walkway. The father had made this walk before, when his New England Patriots demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here in 2009. That was nearly three years ago, and he had flown to England on business; that same day, Liverpool played Manchester United at Anfield, and the Reds beat the Red Devils, 2-0, in a match that he had to watch at a nearby pub instead of on The Kop. The photos and the souvenirs he brought home to his son, coupled with his son’s excitement, confirmed to him that he wanted to bring him over for the Summer Olympics.
They continued walking along the brick-lined Wembley Way.
“Daddy, I see the arch!” the boy exclaimed, pointing at the 133-meter tall structure the way all boys do when excited. His eyes were brighter than his father had ever seen them. “Can we climb it, daddy? Can we, can we, can we?”
The father chuckled, and so did the two small boys walking nearby with their own father. Their father shushed them and apologized.
“No, Tommy, we won’t be able to climb it. It’s not like the Arch in St. Louis. This arch is like one big Erector set, and I don’t think the security team would like it if they found us hanging onto it.”
The boy gave an “aww, shucks” in return, which reminded the father of the jersey incident. The father simply shook his head, smiling all the same.
“Let’s get into the stadium and find our seats, okay?”
Mere seconds after passing Currys, father and son walked up the walkway and came to the statue of Sir Bobby Moore, the defender who led England to its only World Cup win in 1966. The father made sure he got a picture of his son next to the statue, the souvenir of all souvenirs.
At the gate, both of them went through security, each given a cursory pat down and waved over with one of those electro-magnetic wands they had at Logan Airport before they hopped on the Emirates Airlines jet to Heathrow a few days before. The father wasn’t concerned for himself, since he wasn’t carrying a gun and had no reason to be detained. He was more concerned for his son, who had never gone through a pat down before.
He looked to his right and saw the security guard give his son a grape flavored lollipop after the wand passed over him.
“Daddy, why were they doing that with the stick?”
“It’s security, Tommy. This is a big event. They don’t want people coming in with stuff to hurt people, so they make sure that anyone who tries can’t get inside. They had guns, and there are police officers nearby. Remember that the police are here to help people.”
“Except when they give you a speeding ticket.”
“You still haven’t told your mother, right?”
“No daddy, I want a PlayStation 4. I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
The father grinned, for some reason proud of the boy’s deception.
I trained him well, he thought.
They bought two sodas and hot dogs at a concession stand — the son poured mustard all over the hot dog and nearly on his jersey, but the father caught him before he stained the lilywhite shirt — and then entered the stadium proper. The green pitch of Wembley, re-laid for what seemed like the one hundredth time after the FA Cup Final two months ago, met their eyes. Red seats unfurled like the Red Sox’ 2004 World Championship banner and spread into every nook and cranny of the stadium’s lower bowl. Aisles of golden tipped concrete broke the monotony. Other supporters were sitting, while over in the corner, a chorus of God Save The Queen broke out among those who stood.
While the father grinned, the son was just as wide-eyed as he had been a few minutes ago.
“Wow! It’s so green!” he said.
“Yes it is. Just wait until I take you to Fenway in a few weeks. That will be a lot of green; green all over the place.”
“That is a lot of green. Wait,” the son replied after a moment. “We’re going to Fenway?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you?” the father said with a touch of fatherly sarcasm. “It’s Part 2 of your ninth birthday present. This is Part 1.”
The grin on the son’s face was brighter than the day. He launched himself into his father’s waist.
“I love you, daddy!”
The father simply wrapped his arms around his son, who would turn 9 in two weeks’ time. He took a deep breath. He knew these moments would grow few and far between as he got older.
“I love you too, Tommy. Let’s go over here; we’ll get to see the players come out for warm-ups soon.”
Eager to watch the players come out onto the pitch, Tommy and his father walked over to the area behind the dugouts and waited. Security did not step in and intercede, which surprised the father — all he had heard about coming into this Olympics was how they would be safer and more security-conscious. It had been sixteen years since Atlanta and the bombing of the Centennial Olympic Park, and there were no incidents in Sydney, Athens or Beijing, nor in Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin or Vancouver. It may have been a fool’s hope that terrorists would spare London 2012, especially in this post-9/11 world, but organizers and the International Olympic Committee were taking no chances. Security was to be top-notch.
The father noticed that truly was not the case.
Once the game began, they took their seats behind the United States dugout, despite wearing jerseys of England and rooting for the young Great Britain stars they watched every Saturday and Sunday on Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and ESPN2. The United States Under-23 team, many said, were lucky to qualify for these Olympics, despite the rather easy qualifying schedule of CONCACAF. Great Britain, however, were not the favorites of the tournament despite being the host nation: That fell to Italy, which was currently playing its final group stage match against Argentina at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Even though the players on the pitch were different, many were calling this match a rematch of the USA-England World Cup match from 2010, where the Three Lions drew the Yanks, 1-1, during their opening match in South Africa. Now, without the big stars of the English Premier League in the match, there was a level of anticipation on the other side of the Atlantic that the Americans could quite possibly upset the Britons. It led ESPN to break out and dust off the “Over There” commercials it had played during World Cup qualifying in 2009. Speculation on who would score first was heavy in Las Vegas. NBC, the American television rights holder of the Summer Olympics since 1988, showed the match live.
As it turned out, Great Britain scored first as young Donnie Rhodes, an Everton F.C. first teamer, scored on a blistering shot from distance in the right channel, easily beating the American keeper after 25 minutes.
A cacophony of verse rose from the English supporters’ section:
He wears a Lion on his chest, Donnie, Donnie
We know he is the fucking best, Donnie, Donnie
He punched his bird, he burned his house
But we don’t care, he fucking scouse
Donnie Rho-odes, Great Britain’s Number 9
The father grinned as the faithful began jumping up and down, reminiscent of the Kop when the Liverpool supporters once serenaded Fernando Torres. The entire southern side of the stadium swayed while chants of “Nah nah, nah nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah” echoed off Wembley’s roof.
The Americans’ resolve was great, though, and without prompting, they brought the match to level terms as Steve Membrino, a virtual unknown from Wake Forest, used his pace off the center kick and blazed and spun through the Brits’ defense like Diego Maradona had in Mexico City 26 years earlier.
Tommy leaped to his feet, jumped on the seat cushion and applauded Membrino as his right-footed strike beat the English keeper on the right-hand side. He wanted to tear his shirt off and swing it over his head like Membrino did at the near corner flag along with a little two-step dance to match. The American supporters chanted the intro to Chelsea Dagger while the referee brandished a yellow card Membrino’s way.
The noise inside Wembley was deafening, and although Tommy and his father were rooting for Great Britain at the beginning, the intensity shown by the American youngsters caused them and many of the others in attendance to rise to their feet and applaud the underdogs.
That’s what the Olympics was about to them. The possibility of a huge upset was in the making — a tie would have sent the Americans through to the knockout stages and left the Great Britain team watching at home, scratching their heads — and they all felt an excitement not seen at Wembley since Blackpool were promoted to the Premier League following the 2009-10 season.
“Wow daddy, this is fantastic!” he said. “I really hope we win.”
“A draw is as good as a win right now. Do you see what happens when you play attacking football? The hockey team did that in 1980, and look what happened? They beat the Soviets and they ended up winning the gold medal. That could happen if we end up beating or drawing with the Brits today.”
The wonder in the son’s eyes showed as the father explained the Miracle on Ice. This match, a Miracle on Grass, still had a long way to go, though.
And as they said on television, anything could happen in football.
Something would happen.
It just wouldn’t be what anyone expected.
The West End, London, England
30 July 2012 — 20.10 GMT/3:10 p.m. ET
In the middle of his evening prayers — with the television on — the shouting BBC announcer distracted Jafar Abdullah Mohammed.
“And the Yanks have brought this Olympic group stage match to level terms! What a beautiful strike by Steve Membrino!”
Jafar’s eyes flew open. He turned his head toward the television.
This is the sign, he thought.
Jafar felt the anticipation running through his skin as he lurched from his prayer cushion, his prayers incomplete. He stumbled slightly, but that was because his knees did not bend properly. He grimaced hard and bit back a Muslim curse.
“I am sorry, Allah. Forgive me for not finishing,” he said, looking toward the ceiling. “I will offer you my blood in penance. But I must cleanse the world of infidel filth.”
He sat down on his couch with his laptop in front of him. He intently watched the match and waited for just the right time. The minutes ticked off, and every second was unbearable as the last. Fear began to creep into Jafar’s conscience.
What if the Brits reclaim the lead? The operation would be for naught, he thought.
He shook his head.
The operation can continue. The West is the West is the West. Just because the Americans are unsuccessful and the British win does not mean the months of planning go up in smoke. This is why we’ve had all those meetings and spent Allah’s money on weapons and explosives. This one event is what it’s all about! Great Britain is just as much an enemy to us as the United States! We can deal a crippling blow to their morale with this act today. Allah has blessed our endeavor. I cannot waste this opportunity!
A smile crept along Jafar’s lips as he thought about this, just as the Americans’ defense dispossessed the Brits’ striker as he surged into the penalty area. The cheer from the American fans was sickening, and it mirrored the groan coming from the British supporters.
Jafar wanted to vomit. The West places so much importance on sport, especially football and American football and — the thought made him gag — baseball.
Baseball is a children’s game, like rounders, compared to our cricket, the game of men, he thought.
Jafar spat his disgust.
The West should care about things that are more important. Staying out of Middle Eastern affairs would be a good start. Allah will punish these non-believers for plundering our land and not letting our leaders command our people. If the criminal Bush hadn’t stuck up for his daddy, mighty Saddam would still be in command of Iraq.
He looked at the television again and saw the Americans sprinting up the pitch, casually moving the ball between players, playing an incessant game of keep away from the Brits. Two touches later, the Americans were into the attacking third, looking for an opening in the home side’s defense. Surely, the Americans wouldn’t go with a shot from distance again.
The Americans pounded the ball right into the heart of the penalty area, a thumping volley by the right side midfielder. Jafar watched as the players closed in on Membrino, who stood near the penalty spot, staying onside. The tall American striker bent his knees, leaped and beat the Brits to the ball. Membrino nodded the ball low. The keeper dove.
The keeper pounded the grass with his gloved hand as the ball tickled the back of the onion bag.
Jafar looked to the upper left-hand corner of the screen and smiled maliciously as the score line now read GBR 1-2 USA.
There was still less than an hour to play, still time for the Brits to come up with an equalizer. Was time on their side? Jafar could not tell. They looked disjointed.
Jafar wiped the sweat away. Even though the sun was down, his flat continued baking. It was after 20.30 now, which meant he could eat; Jafar maintained the strict rules of Ramadan and fasted from sunrise to sunset, and would do so for the next 20 days.
Another thing for the infidels to pay for, Jafar thought. The Olympics fall during our holy month, and they knew it would cause our Muslim athletes, those who follow the tenets of our religion to a tee, to fast during the day and put them at an extreme disadvantage against everyone else, their American and Canadian and British heroes. They must pay for this breach of etiquette!
They do not care about Muslims. They do not care that our athletes will be shunned and crucified for this. Why can’t the IOC be mindful of Muslims’ needs?
No, they can’t do that. The West wouldn’t want to compete fairly — that would be too much of a stretch, even for them — much like they want to completely eradicate us from the face of the Earth. It is why we must fight back with vengeance at every opportunity! We must not let the West win!
Jafar seethed now, his anger palpable. His heart rate rose as the fist-sized muscle pounded against the inside of his breastbone. He did not care what the scoreline in the match was now. It was not an issue any longer. The Brits could win. The Yanks could win. It could have ended a draw. Jafar did not care.
It was time for him to carry out his plans, his turn to do his part in Allah’s Grand Scheme.
He opened a browser window on his laptop. He punched in his commands, his fingers flying across the keyboard so quickly, they appeared to be a blur.
He pressed enter.
He turned his attention to the television screen, and kept another eye on the CCTV link on his laptop. It showed Wembley Stadium from the outside. There were some people in Wembley Park watching the match on large monitors, much like the ones that were in Trafalgar Square for the announcement of London’s winning Olympics bid.
The CCTV view had no audio, so Jafar could not tell who was boisterously happy and who was glum. The wide-angle shot was perfectly serene.
To continue reading Chapter 1, click here.
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Buy ROGUE AGENT on Smashwords
- Current Mood: excited
Kent is a pretty cool guy; he helped out with a scene in MODEL AGENT. I'll let you guess which one. Kent is the author of the cryptozoologist ENIGMA novels as well as the publisher of several great books under the company name Seven Realms Publishing. I'm hoping Kent and I can hook up on a project one of these days.
- Current Mood: hot
When the 2012 Summer Olympics opened in London, security was at a fever pitch. They said it was going to be the safest Olympic Games yet.
They were wrong.
Heightened security did not stop a terrorist attack on the final group stage match of the Olympic soccer tournament between the United States and the host Great Britain, played at the fabled Wembley Stadium, the home of British football. And when an agent of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, it sent both the United States and the United Kingdom into a heightened state of alert.
There is only one problem for the terrorist: Outbound Eurostar service to Paris and flights out of Heathrow have been shut down – but flights into London continue to come in.
The president calls upon the one CIA agent he can trust – Jaclyn Johnson, a.k.a. Snapshot – to seek the killers of countless American citizens and bring them to justice.
But the events that occur during Snapshot’s mission in London leads to political maneuvering – and Jaclyn going against everything she knows.
ROGUE AGENT. It's coming soon to Amazon Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.
- Current Mood: excited
Today's sign that I made a smart decision in publishing MODEL AGENT before ROGUE AGENT, especially since I wrote MA after I wrote RA: There is a scene in ROGUE AGENT where a Queens Park Rangers F.C. fan tells Jaclyn and her partner that he doesn't follow the Premier League, since QPR is in the Football League Championship, the level below the Premier League in the English football pyramid.
A quick glance at the current Championship table indicates that QPR is about ready to secure promotion to the Premier League for the 2011-12 season.
That means a quickie edit is called for -- of course, I could leave it the way it is and hope QPR gets relegated after a year in the Premier League, since the book is set two weeks before the start of the 2012-13 season.
That's what I'm asking you all to do today, except I'm not going to ask for 300 ebooks. No, I'm going to go smaller.
I only want 19.
Why 19, you ask? Simple. As I write this post, it's 1 a.m. on March 29, which means I have nearly three full days until the end of the month. I'm currently in my best book sales month (for the second consecutive month), and I want to reach, at the very least, 350 book sales for March. I'm at 331 right now.
Why not shoot for a higher number? you ask. Simple: I don't know if I would get that amount. I'm setting a simple, easy-to-reach goal, a number I can hit; a number I know I can hit.
Nineteen books in three days. It can be done. If I go over it, sweet. If I don't hit 350... at least I gave it the old college try, right? I can't get there if I don't try.
It can be any of my books. Baseball season is on our doorstep: Try TURNING BACK THE CLOCK. Like a pulse-pounding thriller that keeps you riveted on the edge of your seat? MODEL AGENT is for you. Both of those books are $2.99. Need a quick, inexpensive read? AMBER TWILIGHT or THE MASTERMIND would be perfect for you, and both are 99 cents. And don't forget about my brand new young adult fantasy novel THE RIDE OF THE DARK FALCON, which is also 99 cents. Many choices for little money.
So here's what I'm asking: Please reTweet. Please post on Facebook. Having lunch with a friend who has a wifi/3G capable eReader? Please tell them about my books. Have an iPhone/iPod Touch/BlackBerry/Android and you have a reading app? Please download a book through the Kindle Store or the NOOKBooks store.
Word of mouth is huge in this business. Hitting 350, to me, would be huge.
Please.... spread the word. And thank you.
- Current Mood: anxious
Last weekend, I started doing some serious edits to the remaining two Obloeron prequels. Of course, Estee was finishing up the first. I managed to get the next two books edited for voice, the second one sent to Estee for a full edit after she sent me the first, and with the exception of ROGUE AGENT and ROYAL SWITCH, I can declare my editing backlog cleaned out. I'm still awaiting beta reader notes on ROYAL SWITCH, but there's no rush on those.
To me, that means I can get ready to start working on new projects.
I start brainstorming Vam Yankees tomorrow.
In the past few weeks I've also written a couple of short stories, including a horror short story that will be featured in an anthology this November, as well as a baseball flash fiction (500 words) story that will appear on Karen Wojcik Berner's Bibliophilic Blather blog on April 8, which is Opening Day at Fenway Park.
And last but not least... drum roll, please... THE RISE OF THE DARK FALCON, the first Obloeron prequel, is now live on both Kindle and Nook! It's published under the name Sean Sweeney, not John Fitch V. Keep that in mind.
Until next time, happy reading.
- Current Mood:accomplished
But how did Jaclyn actually become Jaclyn? A great question that deserves a great answer.
The answer is simple.
After I finished writing ZOMBIE SHOWDOWN (also forthcoming), I had a dream of a leggy blonde walking down a street toward a building; in truth, the building was a college building here in my hometown. She went in, kicked ass, then walked out with the intention of going to a modeling job afterward. At first, I envisioned Jaclyn -- then unnamed -- as an antagonist. A conversation with an old high school friend, named Jaclyn, made me switch gears and envision her as a protagonist instead. I just needed a story to go along with her. This was November 2009.
Getting her onto paper, or the computer monitor, took a while. Two months after conceptualizing the character, I exchanged e-mails with British author Steven Savile on the subject of thrillers; he was in the process of releasing SILVER. He told me I should write a thriller, so I told him about Jaclyn. I developed Jaclyn from there, giving her a rare eye condition, which in turn made her more dangerous, especially with her Heads Up Display in the form of Foster Grant sunglasses. I proceeded to write the manuscript that is ROGUE AGENT first, sending her across the Atlantic to London.
MODEL AGENT came next, also in a dream. I pictured Jaclyn in an office building firefight. And knowing that I need to put her in the United States for her first adventure, I chose Boston as the setting. Los Angeles and New york had been overdone. I chose Boston because I could easily get to it for little money, and do research while in town. Jaclyn came, she saw, she kicked ass.
Jaclyn has developed into a special character for me. Where will I take her from here?
You'll have to keep reading, won't you?
Model Agent US Kindle
Model Agent UK Kindle
Model Agent Nook
Model Agent Smashwords
John Fitch V US Kindle
John Fitch V UK Kindle
John Fitch V Nook
John Fitch V Smashwords
- Current Mood: thoughtful
Hope you enjoy.
City Hall Plaza, Boston, Mass.
Saturday, July 17, 2011 — 2:26 p.m.
With the speed, agility, and grace of a high school track star, Jenny Wilson bounded the stairs leading from Government Center’s Green Line platform to the outside world above. She checked her watch and saw she had a few minutes to spare. She vaulted the stairs two at a time, bouncing off the front half of her feet. She tried slowing her pace as she walked toward the subway station’s open doors, taking a deep breath. Her heart thumped madly.
She didn’t want to seem that excited to see him.
Jenny staggered as a harsh wave of hot air smacked her in the face once she stepped back into Boston’s blast furnace. She couldn’t help releasing the breath, which appeared like a flame emerging from an enraged dragon. For most of the past week, she had baked, roasted and suffered through blistering temperatures in the high 90s. Today, she saw, was no different than the last six.
She stopped just outside the subway station’s headhouse and hoped her sneakers wouldn’t melt. While other riders jostled past her, she shielded her eyes as she looked out across the breadth of City Hall Plaza. She saw shimmering haze as the ground reflected the sun’s unforgiving heat. She watched tourists walk past her, wiping sweat from their brows as they headed toward Faneuil Hall, off to Jenny’s right, or toward Cambridge Street on Jenny’s immediate left. The stately towers of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building stretched for the sky above her, while its base, a squat four-story section, reached for the heart of the old city; she could see the towering exhaust vents from Haymarket station adjacent to JFK. A line of trees on the upper level in front of JFK gave modest shade, and as a bead of sweat danced down her spine, she wanted nothing more than to rush toward them and sit underneath for hours. Boston’s City Hall, a concrete structure that looked more like an inverted pyramid than a city government building, stood opposite the federal.
A not-so-fertile crescent filled the gaps: Three-foot high concrete pylons dotted a wavy sea of red bricks stretching here, there and everywhere. Granite steps served as seats during these summertime concerts, and she noticed a small crowd had already gathered by the stage on the northern side of City Hall, waiting for the free oldies show. City Hall Plaza was, in essence, a wide open-air amphitheater in the heart of new Boston, long before land reclamation formed the modern peninsula.
Jenny checked her watch again. It read 2:28 p.m.
“Right on time,” she said.
She walked straight ahead to the vendor booths, where she saw Chuck Norton pulling cases of Nantucket Harbor bottled water from the back of a beat up green van. Chuck was the one guy she hoped she could get to know a little better, ever since she first laid her baby blues on him at Northeastern University. She watched his biceps bulge under the strain. Jenny’s eyebrows twitched, and her mouth curled into a soft grin as she observed the stud’s bodily nuances.
“Let me help you there, handsome,” she said, her eyes twinkling.
Chuck turned and smiled when he saw her.
“Hey, pretty lady. Could you help fill those buckets with ice? We need to get this water cold in a hurry; those people,” he said, jerking his head toward the crowd in the lower bowl, “won’t want to wait. They love their free samples, especially on a hot day like today.” He grabbed another case and threw it on top of the other two. He grunted his exertion as he brought them over to the booth.
“Anything to help,” she said, reaching into the truck to grab several bags of ice before she said to herself, “get you out of those clothes.”
The way Jenny bent over to grab the ice caused another smirk to slip across her face. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Chuck had paused to check out the curves that molded her luscious backside. She felt his eyes roam across her form-fitting white shorts. She pulled the ice to her and felt the condensation from the bag seep through her green Celtics t-shirt. For the briefest of passing moments, she was glad she didn’t wear a white top; she didn’t want to give Chuck too much of a show.
At least not yet, she thought.
Jenny hefted the bags and brought them over to where Chuck indicated. She made sure she brushed her arm against his as she walked past him. She caught his eye every time, and her stomach quivered under his gaze.
They bustled about — and tried keeping the heavy-duty flirting to a minimum — while other vendors began setting up shop near them. Within a few minutes, she caught the sweet smell of sausages on the air. She gouged open bags of ice with her nails and dumped the frozen contents into plastic buckets. Another helper shoved small bottles of water into the icy prison as she moved to another bucket. Once they had them full, they waited a few minutes for the bottles to chill.
Jenny finally fanned herself as she felt the day’s heat get to her a bit. She grabbed a bottle of water that she bought at a Tedeschi’s before she hopped on the T nearly an hour ago. She leaned against the van and drank deeply, trying to stay hydrated in this oppressive heat. Trickles of water spilled from the corners of her mouth while she wiped the sheen of sweat that gathered on her face. She wiped her hand on her white shorts, smearing it to gray.
“Yuck,” she said, grimacing. “I hate the heat. I’m moving to Oregon when I graduate.”
She looked at Chuck as he walked up and leaned next to her. Heat radiated off him.
“You look like you could use a drink,” she said, offering her water to him. His shrug brought a pout to her pink lips until he relented.
To be the bottle, she thought as he drank.
She looked out toward the plaza and saw several people, all wearing light, summertime clothing, bursting forward with quick strides, making their way toward the vendors in search of freebies. There were vendors with small cups of ice cream to try, as well as free can koozies emblazoned with the concert logo and other things Jenny wished she had the time to check out.
She never expected such a cornucopia of thriftiness at a concert before.
“How long do we have to wait?” Jenny asked as she pulled the bottle back toward her. “We’re about to get slammed.”
“Only a few minutes more,” Chuck said as he inhaled. “I smell sausages.”
Jenny sniffed the air, too, but instead of sausages, the scent of Chuck’s sweaty body met her nose. The smell of perspiration overwhelmed her. She swooned slightly. She tried to hold her breath, but she couldn’t do so without offending Chuck. She knew he had labored hard over the past half an hour, and she figured she sweated a bit from her own exertions, too.
For a specimen like Chuck, she thought with a sly grin she camouflaged by lifting the bottle to her lips, I can put up with the smell for a bit. I wouldn’t mind also putting up with some heavy breathing, too.
She felt a tingle south of her tummy. She bit her lip for a brief moment as she looked into his green eyes. Her thighs wanted to slam shut, but she restrained them from doing so.
“I think you can wait a little while, can’t you? We could have one together after we serve these people.” Jenny’s eyes danced.
Chuck tried holding back a knowing smirk.
“Let’s serve the people, then.”
Together, they walked back to the booth and started pulling water from the buckets, standing them on the metal counter before Jenny and Chuck dove for more. Melted ice covered their hands as droplets raced down their forearms. Chuck tossed a towel to Jenny, but it rested, unused, on her shoulder for quite a while. They set a few more bottles on the counter. Within seconds, Jenny saw her “customers” scoop the bottles up two at a time.
She looked on with great interest as they unscrewed the caps away, snapping the plastic rings aside and doused their hair with one full bottle. They twisted the cap off the second and began chugging the cool, clear liquid. Several people came back for more samples, and Jenny thought this was the only way for them to feel adequately cool in these stifling conditions. She saw the other workers re-filling the other buckets with more bottles. Water splashed out and nearly sizzled on the brick. She looked to the bucket on the right hand side of the booth, where one bottle of water remained submerged.
Jenny noticed that she and Chuck had exhausted the bottle of water she brought earlier. She noticed her mouth needed replenishment. A trickle of sweat maneuvered down her neck, making a beeline for her chest. She reached for the lone bottle.
The coughing parade, though, made her forget about quenching her thirst. Jenny looked up and saw her customers’ eyes leak only a few feet away from the booth. They couldn’t stop themselves. Their coughs turned into violent hacks, and Jenny recalled the bronchitis episode she experienced last winter. Their coughs were too identical for her liking. She felt her chest tighten at the memory. She watched helplessly as their bodies shook in rapid convulsions. Some hit their knees, doubling over. People walking out of the subway station paused as they saw these people writhing on the hot bricks.
Jenny looked on in horror as they began vomiting blood, their upper bodies lurching forward as they spewed their insides out, using City Hall Plaza as a makeshift toilet. She saw several people lose their hair, even though they didn’t touch it. They started moaning and screaming. More than one plea of “Oh God, help me!” sprang from their panicked voices.
Jenny didn’t realize that only a few moments passed between the plaza going from calm and peaceful, to chaotic.
She thought fast.
“Chuck,” she said, “call 9-1-1. These people are sick.”
Chuck didn’t answer. Instead, Jenny turned and saw him chugging a dripping bottle of water, one fresh from the ice bucket — the one she was about to grab.
She repeated herself.
He didn’t hear her. Chuck hit the ground and writhed, too, dropping the bottle. His moans came quick as he grabbed his gut.
Jenny looked at the bottle and then out toward the sea of sickness that unfolded before her. She saw empty bottles next to the ill. She added things up in her nimble brain. Her eyes widened as she realized what had happened, and how quick things had turned.
“Don’t drink the water!” she screamed, her feet carrying her away from Chuck and toward the booth. She swiped the counter clear of bottles, startling several people as her arms slashed across the drenched metal. She even grabbed one from the grasp of a 10-year-old boy before she turned to one of Chuck’s friends. “Don’t give out any more samples, do you hear me? Don’t give out any more.”
“But our boss said —”
“I don’t give a damn what your boss said,” she said tightly. “These people aren’t feeling well, and it’s because of the water. Hell, they may be dying.” She watched the realization — the utter fear — unfold on the young man’s face. “Stop handing the samples out. You,” she barked, “call 9-1-1 right now. You, get the water into the van and shut it.” They hesitated, but they soon realized she had taken control. They did as she asked.
Jenny turned back to the crowd and saw several of the concert goers clutch their stomachs. They heaved once, twice, and then a third time. Half a heartbeat later, they began projectile vomiting mucous and blood. Jenny recoiled; her face contorted between disbelief and anguish, between pity and disgust. She prayed silently to a God she stopped believing in some five years ago.
Her feelings twisted by the sight in front of her, she remembered Chuck had fallen ill, too. Realization sharply passed through her as she turned her head to where her friend lay in the fetal position.
Her eyes widened at the sight.
Jenny hurried over to him, her sneakers pounding away. She pulled him over and saw blood pouring out of his mouth, dripping from the corners while the remnants of his breakfast, too, splattered on the bricks. She saw him look up into her eyes, his eyes desperately pleading with her for things she would never know. His breath was shallow for several seconds before it ceased entirely.
The light, Jenny saw, had left him moments later.
“Chuck,” she said, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her. Jenny ran her fingers through his coarse brown hair. She closed her eyes and fell backward on her butt. She covered her eyes and tried to grieve, but nothing came out. She sat there for a few minutes, trying to force the tears out.
She glanced to her right and saw the bottle Chuck had drank from laying next to her. The bottle she had wanted to drink from before everything escalated into this nightmarish situation. She looked at bottle again before she looked back at the bucket. She felt her eyebrows arch, comprehension coming to her. The coughing had prevented her — had saved her — from grabbing that bottle from the bucket.
She didn’t want to face that, at least not now. She flicked the bottle aside. She didn’t see it skip across the bricks. She wanted to go pick it up and heave it toward Cambridge Street.
Maybe a car would squish it as it hurried past, she thought. She didn’t grin. Water lined to the bottoms of her eyes.
Jenny then realized the moans had stopped, only replaced by confusion and panicked screams from passersby headed to and from the subway. Hurried footsteps approached her from her right-hand side.
“Jenny, they said they’re sending ambulances. They’ll be here soon.”
“Call them back,” she said, tears finally rolling down her cheeks, the awareness of what happened in between her wanting a drink and now finally reaching her eyes. “Tell them to ready the morgues. I think they’re going to be quite busy.”
Their friend staggered as he saw Chuck’s prone form. “Oh my God,” he said.
Like it? Want it for your very own? Here are the links:
Amazon Kindle US
Amazon Kindle UK
Barnes & Noble Nook
Have at it.
- Current Mood: restless
Earlier this week, I clicked publish on MODEL AGENT (formerly A Drop To Drink), my debut thriller written under my real name, Sean Sweeney. It is available from all e-Tailers specializing in digital books: Amazon Kindle US and UK, Nook and Smashwords, and for the low price of $2.99. It also has a snippet from the start of ROGUE AGENT, the sequel. I'm planning on putting the book out in trade paperback in the near future. Stand by.
The human body consists of two-thirds water.
As concertgoers on a steamy day in Boston find out, water can kill as much as it gives life.
A terrorist attack at City Hall Plaza has the authorities perplexed. The government, in response, sends in a capable but young agent – an agent born from the ashes of terrorism itself – to handle it.
But as her partner dies and the terrorist strikes again, Jaclyn Johnson – code named Snapshot – finds herself in a situation she has trained a decade to face: She’s up against a man with enough money to finance a war against his competition. With a deadline in place to stop him – and with a car holding enough hidden tricks to evade capture – Snapshot infiltrates his hidden installation and finds out her target’s true end game, a secret that could have the world fighting over water.
Now... who is Jaclyn Johnson?
Jaclyn is a pretty, vivacious young woman. She can turn the heads of both sexes. She's a model, after all.
She's also a dangerous entity, a highly-trained counter-terrorism agent for the CIA. Partially-blind, the United States government took in the orphaned Jaclyn, schooled her, trained her at the famous Farm, and for 10 years molded her into a force that terrorists would quail when they saw her. Dressed in her black Lycra jumpsuit and carrying six Walther P99s, she becomes Snapshot, the top female operative in CIA director Alexandra Dupuis' stable.
Where to buy MODEL AGENT:
Amazon Kindle US
Amazon Kindle UK
Barnes & Noble Nook
After three days on Amazon, it has two five-star reader reviews.
What say you?
The books of John Fitch V
- Current Mood:accomplished