Trust No One
“Lieutenant Helion,” Zanetti interrupted, “Colonel Loyola will conduct an interrogation of Mr. Wu when we reach the safe house. Let’s not compromise that discussion by asking questions now.”
Perry nodded. They drove on towards Philadelphia International airport in silence. Instead of going to the terminal, Zanetti told Perry to drive to the airport perimeter road.
“We’re going to a open area near the control tower,” Zanetti explained. “Colonel Loyola is sending a chopper to pick us up and transport us to the safe house.” Zanetti then directed Perry on a twisting path through the drab, decaying brick buildings along the Delaware River. Formerly a thriving light industrial zone, the area was now in full retreat; everywhere marsh grasses grew through cracked pavement. In the distance, the airport control tower was intermittently visible through tall stands of cattails.
“Pull over to the left and stop the car,” Zanetti said. “We’ll wait here until the chopper arrives. Then we meet it on foot.”
Perry pulled over and put the automatic transmission in park.
“Turn off the car, Lieutenant,” Zanetti said again. “We’ll open the doors for air.” Zanetti popped the back door open.
“It’s sweltering out there, Captain,” Perry protested. “ It’s better to leave the car on and we can run the AC.”
“I can see why you’re still a lieutenant. You never take an order without some back talk,” Zanetti said.
Perry wasn’t going to let that remark pass. He turned to look at Zanetti and saw the captain bring his 9mm Berretta up to the back of Wu’s head. Even with one of the doors open, the report from the pistol was deafening. Wu gurgled and drooped forward, prevented from collapsing by his shoulder belt. Perry froze in disbelief.
Then he reacted.
He slammed down on the accelerator and dropped the transmission into drive as Zanetti swung the 9mm toward him. When the forward gear engaged, the engine was already racing. With a scream of rending metal, the transmission delivered power to the wheels and the car lurched forward, slinging sand and pieces of broken asphalt out in twin rooster tails. The sudden acceleration caught Zanetti off guard. As he pulled the trigger he fell out the open door. The bullet shattered the windshield in front of Perry as the car bounced through the tall grass and emerged on the open field that edged the runways.
Zanetti got up quickly and tried for another shot, but his view was blocked by the tubular cattails. He put his 9mm back into his shoulder holster and reached for his cell phone. Too busy dialing the number, he didn’t realize that the sound of the car was getting louder. He looked up to see the grille and the cracked windshield of the car emerge from the grass curtain. Zanetti was fast. He had already turned and started running by the time the car reached him. But he wasn’t fast enough.
Perry felt the impact in the steering wheel as he ran Zanetti down. He stomped on the brakes and tried to turn but he was going too fast and fishtailed into an ancient pile of sand half-covered by weeds. The rear end of the car slid up the pile and the car came to rest with the hood pointed down and the trunk near the summit of the pile. Perry tried to drive the car off the pile, but the wheels dug into the sand and wouldn’t budge. He gave up, turned off the car, and got out.
He didn’t need to worry about getting away from Zanetti. The captain lay in a bloody mess near the line of grass and cattails. Perry went around to the passenger’s side of the car and opened the door to check on Wu. Zanetti must have been nervous about trying to pop two guys at once, he hadn’t put the bullet cleanly through Wu’s skull. Instead, he had shot the hacker in the neck. Even with the screech of airliners overhead, the world had suddenly gotten very quiet. Perry could hear the low sucking sound of Wu’s labored breaths. Wu’s eyes were opened, but were glassy and unfocused.
Perry was horrified at Wu’s bloody body, but somehow he forced himself to stay detached. He leaned close to Wu and spoke to him. “What’s the name, Tony? I need the name.”
At first, Perry didn’t think Wu heard him. Then Wu feebly raised his left arm and touched the frayed collar of his sport shirt. Perry lifted the bloody collar. Stuck to the inside was a piece of paper. Perry opened the paper and out dropped an airport locker key—no. 71645.