Adam searched the darkness for his robe and slippers and stumbled against the night table. He cursed. Thinking of the accident chilled him even more than the temperature in the bedroom and he preferred sleeping in a cold room. “How long have you lived in Denver, Robert?” Juggling the phone with both hands, he slipped on the robe knowing he should hurry. Confidence in his commanders, trained to handle preliminaries, eased his mind.
“Just over a year, sir,” Robert said. “Had to have in-residence status before I could get transferred into the Denver Fire Department.”
“FYI, Lieutenant, the Arsenal was the government’s research, development and manufacturing facility for chemical weapons — nerve gas. Sarin production stopped a few years ago, but, over the past forty years, thousands of 55-gallon barrels were produced. Those metal drums are stored above ground, getting older every day. Any idea what could happen if an airliner plowed into one of those storage structures?”
“We could have a bigger problem than just an airliner crash.”
Jean flicked on the lamp and reached for her robe.
“Exactly. Get my Commanders to their stations.” Adam arched his back and stretched his arms outward, the phone cradled against his chin and shoulder. “Have you got the R.E.D. Team rolling?”
“The call’s already been made, Captain.”
“Has the Arsenal Commandant been alerted? Is the Arsenal Emergency Reaction Team rolling? Does the media know about this yet?”
“Jack’s monitoring media — nothing yet. No word from the Arsenal Commandant. The E.R.T. would have gotten the alert the same time we did, sir, but here’s something weird-my second, Rick Mann, is on the phone right now with a motorist stopped on I-70 near Stapleton, The guy’s saying there’s all kinds of debris where the old Stapleton Airport tunnels used to be. Said he saw a plane on approach, landing lights blazing. Swore he was seeing things at first.”
“Can’t be right, Robert. I-70 is 48th Street, way south of 85th or 75th… and DIA. Why would a commercial be that far south?”
Adam stepped to the window and peered outside. Snow fell heavier, gathered in the corners of the window before shrieking wind whipped it past, buffeting the panes. “You’re certain the motorist said that plane tried to land on the old Stapleton runway? There are no landing lights there anymore, no lights of any kind.” Realizing he was almost shouting, he turned to look at his wife. She questioned the phone call with furrowed brow. “If that’s the case, we’ve now got two problems.”
He took a deep breath, bowed his head and swore before returning his attention to the phone. “One commercial in is Basin F pond, the other is down on Stapleton’s old runway… how in hell?”
“We’ve getting more reports right now,” Robert interrupted. “It’s confirmed, a red-eye tried to set down on Stapleton’s north-south runway, just before the spot where the highway department took out the runway bridges. He skipped it over the highway, hit the embankment on the north side… lots of wreckage all over the westbound lanes of I-70.”
Adam leaned against the window, head in hand and spoke softly; “The pilot must’ve realized where he was at the last minute, tried to get it out of there. Do we know if there are two fatal crashes… or just one?”
“DIA confirms only one commercial went off their scopes,” Baines answered. “South and west of DIA. They have no way of knowing exactly where.”
“I mistakenly assumed he was attempting DIA, crashed on an east-west heading, not a north-south heading… and definitely not the north-south runway of Stapleton.” Adam stared past the snow as the howling wind drove it through the branches of the pine trees. “If it’s down on the north-south runway, we’re screwed. Two huge nerve gas bunkers are just north of the end of that runway. Could he have hit them?”
“I only know he hit the embankment on the north side of the highway.”
“OK, Robert, keep me informed.” Adam said in a hushed tone, “I’m leaving for the station as soon as I get dressed.” Pushing the [end] button, he slipped the cellular into the pocket of his robe. The floor creaked from his weight as he flipped on the hallway light, intent on listening to the police scanner as he dressed when his thoughts turned to the Code R.E.D. alert system. He’d designed the Rapid Emergency Deployment system with the sincere hope it would never be used, but several years ago, it was determined his department and companies had better be prepared just the same. Right now it looks like it’s a damn good thing we are.
The phone rang again, “Captain, I’ve got reports of cars stopped right on the highway already. This snowstorm is getting everything screwed up.”
“Not much we can do about that, Robert.”
“I’ve called the Denver Chief of Police, informed him. He wanted to know where you were. Told him you’re on your way.”
“Standard Operating Procedure, Robert. Anything else?”
“I can’t find Captain Ross or Captain Doyle.”
“Find their Lieutenants, they can handle pre-lims,” Adam said. “That it?”
“Yes sir. You’re on your way?”
“I’m getting dressed.” Adam passed the photos hanging on the hallway wall as he talked. He glanced at his younger brother, Dan and his new wife, smiling in a happier time — their anniversary celebration. Too bad it didn’t last. “I’ll be there shortly, Lieutenant.” and fingered the [end] button. Seems like only a few weeks ago Dan resigned his position as Senior Chemical Analyst at the Arsenal. Adam recalled he’d quit right before their divorce. Unfortunately, Dan’s wife… now ex-wife, Donna, wasn’t willing to stick around to find out what Dan was like out of the Army.
He stopped at the first doorway. I’m going to need every resource I can get my hands on right now, including Dan and his team. Sure as hell looks like this could turn into a major problem, what with the weather and not knowing if anything is damaged at the Arsenal. He opened the door to look in on his children before getting dressed and leaving.