Pete couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Prophet had gotten to his man and outsmarted them all. Cooper walked into his airplane without even taking a second look at it, convinced that he had escaped and was out of danger. According to reports from the news, Cooper’s plane went down about an hour after it flew out of the small, private air field. The RPG was a decoy; the real attack was attached to Cooper’s plane. Another thought crossed Pete’s mind, and he ran back out to his desk and desperately dialed the number for the small airport. He waited for a few moments before the line finally was picked up on the other side.
“This is Detective Gibbons.” Pete started, “Yes, that detective… we spoke earlier today. Can you let me know how many private planes have left in the last three hours?”
Gibbons never got a response, just a clicking sound. After what happened earlier that day, there was no doubt they weren’t willing to speak with them about anything, especially after one of their jets just went down.
“What’s going on?” Grosse asked as he saw the look on Gibbons’ face after that airport hung up on him.
“The private airfield is giving me the cold shoulder,” Pete replied, “We’ve got to ground all of those jets right now. We suspect there might be an explosive on one or more of them.”
“I’ll make a call,” Grosse said, “I suggest you do the same if you know anyone.”
Pete slammed the phone down and then picked it back up. He dialed his friend from the FAA and waited patiently for the line to pick up.
“Alan, it’s Gibbons.”
“Jesus, Pete,” Alan replied, seeming stressed. “This is not a good time to call in another favor.”
“This time I’m doing one for you,” Pete replied. “That plane that went down less than twenty minutes ago, we suspect it was a bomb.”
“So do we,” Alan confirmed. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“That man in the plane was the same guy the Prophet fired an RPG at less than six hours ago,” Pete informed him. “We think he planted the bomb.”
“Son of a bitch!” Alan said, sounding like he was running down a hallway.
“It gets worse.” Pete took a deep breath. “We don’t think that’s the only plane he wired to blow.”
There was a long silence on the other end. “Are you sure about that?”
“There were at least a dozen private fliers who were at the same airport this morning, all trying to get away from the Prophet,” Pete answered. “They all got letters, just like Cooper. I’m willing to bet their planes are going to disappear very soon if nothing is done.”
“Thanks for letting me know, Pete,” Alan said, “We’ll handle the planes still in the air. I’ve gotta go.”
The line went dead, but Pete had an idea of what was going on. Just the thought of multiple bomb-laden planes flying along the East Coast was more than enough to ground every plane in the area. A bit extreme, but if there were more bombs, they had to get those planes out of the sky as soon as possible.
Pete crashed into a chair beside his desk and sighed. “He’s escalating faster than we could have predicted. He’s upgraded to bombs. With that in his arsenal, there is no telling who or what he’s going to target next. He’s a man with a plan, and we’re way behind this guy. We have to find a way get ahead of him.”
“What we need is one of those bombs, in one piece, so we can trace parts and try to zero in on this nut ball,” Grozza replied. “The feds are going to take the scene of Cooper’s plane.”
“Let them.” Pete scratched his four-day-old beard. “We have plenty of leads to follow up here.”
“What about the other planes?” Jones asked. “Aren’t they in danger?”
“Not for long.” Pete knew exactly what Allan was going to do. It took the FAA less than an hour to shut down all air traffic in their state as well as two others. All planes were grounded, and flights cancelled until further notice. People at airports were going to be pissed, but it was their safety everyone was looking out for. Police dogs all over the city were called out to all airports and would be sniffing for bombs on planes all night, just to be safe.
Pete had a feeling that all airports in the area were going to be shut down; there was no way they’d focus on just one airport and tip off the press to what they were really concentrating on. Gibbons sent the K9s to the private field first, to look for more bombs attached to private planes. He was sure there were bound to be a few. Not every rich man was going to run on day one, so he was confident that they’d find at least one unexploded device. Pete was working at his desk after sending Jones down to forensics to get an update with the nerds when his cell went off. It was an unknown number but he answered it anyway.