OPEN FOR TERROR

 

As Southwest Flight 770 touched down at SeaTac International Airport, Craig ‘Spider’ Ward smiled and thought, Game on.  In a couple hours, he would be walking through Gate 2 beneath a sign saying, “WELCOME TO THE 115th U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP.” Nearly two years had passed since he had played this very golf course, Chambers Bay, with his good friend Joe, who lived nearby. After two awesome rounds, Joe convinced Spider to come back and attend the Open—a bucket list item for Spider. It was an easy sell. Joe and lovely wife, Terri, included room and board plus taxi service in the deal.  Spider’s wife, Savannah, had planned to come for the social aspect since golf was not on her bucket list, but the recent birth of two grandsons had shifted her priorities.  Spider would miss her. They would be in contact as she was a vital part of the real reason Spider had his game face on.

“Wars and rumors of wars.” That’s what Jesus had warned his listeners of in the Gospel of Matthew. The rumors were what drove Spider.  Following his retirement from the Air Force, Spider became an airline pilot and, unknown to all but a few, a field agent for the CIA.  He worked his way up in the Counter Terrorism Unit to field supervisor.  At that point, Spider retired from flying and dedicated his life to fighting the bad guys. Savannah had joined the effort a few years later when a kidnapping incident enlightened her to Spider’s secret life.  They worked well together. The rumors of a terrorist attack at the Open had gained great traction recently, so his bosses had taken Spider’s scheduled vacation and turned it into a “working vacation.” He would be on-sitewith a large security team while Savannah would be watching DVR replays of the Fox

Channel coverage of the tournament, using the TV eyes to assist the on-site team. His biggest challenge so far had been programming all the record times on the DVR and then covering all the remote buttons with tape except POWER, SELECT, PLAY, PAUSE, BACK, and FORWARD…Savannah hated remotes, and that was her buy-in requirement.

With bags in hand, Spider waved as Terri pulled to the curb in her Ford Escape.  He jumped into the front seat and exchanged pleasantries as she handed him his Trophy Club ticket and lunch. She weaved through the stopped traffic and headed south to the golf course, as Joe had been there since dawn.  Terri said all was going well for this first ever Open in the Northwest.  In the last couple days, massive numbers of police had descended on the area, roads were restricted, and traffic control had been prioritized. Spider liked what he heard.

Terri stopped at a sign that read “U.S. Open Pedestrian Drop Off.” Spider exited and walked the short distance to the entry gate.  After passing through security, a volunteer scanned his ticket and directed him toward the Trophy Club tent.  A man in a ball cap with a Master Card logo said hello and offered free radio earphones to listen to the Sirius/XM broadcast of the Open.  Spider smiled as his #2 man, Alex, handed him his special set, along with normal sets for his friends.  Spider’s radio did pick up the broadcast but also security transmissions from his team. Alex handed him an Official U.S. Open program that included a SIMM card containing a current situational update.  Spider thanked him as he spotted Joe.

“Spider, my friend, great to see you! Can’t believe you actually showed up to enjoy the week with me.”

“Joe, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world…anything to spend time with you and lovely Terri.  The golf is just icing on the cake.”

Following a man-hug, Spider asked Joe if they could check out the course and map where to watch golf the next few days.  Joe agreed and suggested a route that would allow them to see most of the pro golfers who were on the course practicing.  Spider acted excited, but his focus was not on the pros.  He was checking the security arrangements as these practice rounds were not just for the golfers.As the sun neared the horizon, Spider and Joe rode one of the multitudes of school buses hauling fans to an offsite parking location. As they exited the course, Spider noted the police had a man handcuffed by a volunteer entry point.  He would ask Alex for an update.  Arriving at a large field of cars, Joe explained most security screenings were being accomplished at the parking locations before boarding the bus to expedite entry at the golf course—just as Spider had recommended.

Terri had dinner waiting: grilled salmon—what else would be appropriate for the Northwest? The dinner conversation was about the Open, to include sightings of pro golfers and “the famous” around town. Joe mentioned a few neighborhood houses were rented for the week. One was just down his street. This morning, Terri had noticed a large Ryder rental truck in the driveway and a lot of activity in the house. Spider took mental note of this and would be sure his morning running route would head that direction. Spider contacted Alex and briefed him on the house. Alex then confirmed the police had initially detained a man trying to enter the controlled area with a reported lost ticket that had been cancelled.  The man, an employee of a South American sports equipment distributor, was released without charge, as the USGA had requested no arrests for these types of incidences; they wanted to limit negative press. Spider thanked Alex and set up their next contact.

Spider woke early and donned his running clothes. He started his run as the morning began to lighten.  His chosen route would pass the suspect house twice, about 20 minutes apart.  On his initial pass, all was quiet. He noted a small panel van with MaXimize Sport logo on the doors parked in the driveway.  Upon return, Spider saw two men beside the van; both looked up as he approached.

“Morning, gentleman.  Great morning for a run,” Spider said as he slowed to a walk.

“Yes, sure is,” said the bigger man with an unkempt beard.

“You guys going to the Open?” Spider said as he stopped next to them.

“Yes,” replied the smaller, balding man. “We are with MaXimize Sport and will be selling golf equipment this week.”

“Awesome. Do you guys have the new Adams adjustable head hybrid clubs? Can’t wait to get a set of those.”

“They are great clubs…worth the money. Look for us in the Merchandise tent later in the week, and we will have a set,” said Beardman.

“ Gotta run and get to the course.  Nice talking with you.” Spider picked up his run again.

He arrived back at the house to find Joe cooking breakfast and watching The Golf Channel on TV. “Take a quick shower, man.  We need to get to the course and be the first folks in the stands at Hole #12…the drivable Par 4.  That’s where the action will be.”

Spider acknowledged and complied. Thirty minutes later, he and Joe had premium seats to watch the action.  Since the Trophy Club was near, Spider offered to wander over and bring back coffee.

As Spider was creaming the coffees, Alex walked up. “Check on a MaXimize Sport company.  Truck license #245OGL, Oregon.  Said they were selling golf equipment but had no clue that hybrids are not adjustable clubs.”

“Got it. Spider, three more cancelled Trophy Club tickets showed up for entry today. Turned away at gates.  We are getting the videos. All tickets sold same day…checking that, too.”

Hole #12 lived up to its billing—lots of action.  Spider watched and listened to his Sirius/XM earpiece.  Along with “Birdie on #17” Spider would hear security updates: “All trash containers changed to see-through garbage bags,” or “Fan getting belligerent to a course marshal…police responding.” Toward the end of the day, Spider heard, “Security Code upgraded to Red. NSA electronic intercepts indicating definite threat.  All stay vigilant.” Spider looked around.  He and his team could not fail.  35,000 fans, the vast majority loving, faithful folks just like Joe and Terri, depended on them.

The next morning, Joe and Spider again were first in the gate to sit this day at Hole #17, looking out on Puget Sound.  There had been no activity at the rental house.  Alex had passed that MaXimize Sport was a South American company with no history. They had rented a Ryder truck and a panel van in Oregon.  Agents were currently looking for the vehicles.

As the first group joined the tee for #17, Spider’s iPhone vibrated.  Text from Savannah: White yacht with blue stripe. Three days just outside 1000 meter restricted area.  Always turns when Coast Guard approaches.

Spider typed, Thanks…love you, and reached for his binoculars; he located the yacht.  He texted Alex to have the Coast Guard check on it.  He watched as the yacht started heading back toward Tacoma and, shortly, two Guard boats speeding in the same direction.  About an hour later, black smoke filled the Tacoma sky. Spider heard in his earpiece, “Explosion and fire at the marina. MaXimize Sport Yacht. One casualty. Army Delta Force secured area.  Six individuals taken to government facility for interrogation.” Spider closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. He knew his team needed to find the Ryder truck and the van plus get a lead on any perpetrators inside the golf course boundaries. He passed these priorities to Alex.

Sunday, the final day of the Open.  So far all the world news was pro golfers whining about the condition of the greens—Spider liked that.  Local news barely mentioned the marina fire. Spider prayed as he dressed, “Lord, protect us and deliver us this day.”

Joe was going bonkers.  Terri’s Trophy Club ticket was not to be found. After a thorough search, Joe resigned himself to going to the course and pleading for a replacement ticket. Spider agreed and suggested they leave the new ticket at Will Call for Terri who would join them later.  Spider alerted Alex.  At the course, the exchange happened immediately, but the old ticket was not cancelled—the carrier would be allowed entry and followed—which happened at 12:30pm PDT.

Spider, Joe, and Terri had superb seats: grandstands, top row, #18, the finishing hole.  Over 6,000 fans crowded into these stands with many more crowding into the surrounding area.

Spider was tense. The suspect had entered the Trophy Club with Terri’s ticket, and along with a Lobster Roll, he had received a mysterious packet from the server.  Once gone, agents arrested the server and found multiple ‘PHOTOGRAPHER’ credentials. Official photographers with movie cameras had been throughout the crowd filming all afternoon. At 4:33pm Spider heard in his earpiece, “Ryder truck found at Olympia-Lacey AMTRAK Station. Multiple arrests. AMTRAK 516, Cascade Express, delayed.”  Shortly thereafter, “We have lost our man…last seen in tunnel behind Hole #18 grandstands wearing purple golf shirt, white shorts, and safari-style hat.”

Spider rose and scanned the stands around him.  He used his binoculars to view the area behind the stands and all the entry and exit areas. He observed two security guards pushing through the crowd making way for a van, license plate #245OGL, Oregon. The driver looked familiar…Beardman from the house.  Spider engaged SIRI on his phone: “Text Alex—perpetrators with suspect van parking behind #18 Concession Stand. Secure that area immediately.” He pressed send. His phone vibrated—“On it!”  Spider then noticed a man wearing a safari hat with a purple shirt enter the stands to his right. The man removed his hat and wiped his forehead — Baldy, the second man from the house. He replaced his hat and lifted a large video camera to his shoulder.

Spider descended the stairs and said:“Hey man, didn’t know you did photo stuff along with merchandise. Sorry I haven’t been by to check out those new Adams clubs. Selling any this week?”

“Oh…yeah, yeah. Uhh, it’s been a good week,” Baldy said as his eyes darted left and right.

“Hey, I’m Spider. I can show you a superb location for shooting…especially for the last couple groups. Come with me,” Spider said as he took Baldy’s arm and led him back through the exit. Spider leaned close and said, “I’m CIA, and I have a silenced Glock loaded and ready.  One false move, and you join your cohorts in the thereafter. Understand?” Spider saw a head nod to the affirmative.

A volunteer handed Baldy a blue reentry grandstand ticket and then offered one to Spider. Baldy turned abruptly knocking the volunteer into Spider. He sprinted between the back of the stands and a trash can. Spider regained his balance and took up the chase. Two young boys running to show their parents newly autographed golf gloves collided with Baldy, sending him and his camera sprawling to the ground. The crowd started to react, but Spider said, “Check on the boys. My partner just tripped, and I’ll take care of him,”

Spider knelt next to Baldy and whispered, “Lay still like you are hurt, Baldy. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make ‘hurt’ a fact for you.” Two of Spider’s agents approached.  Spider handed his prisoner over to them and picked up Baldy’s camera. He noticed the handle was actually a 30-bullet magazine, and it appeared full.

Alex approached.  He and his men had secured the van and concession stand and were interviewing concession employees.  The van was filled with automatic weapons and highly explosive materials. 10 confirmed assailants in custody.  All folks with PHOTOGRAPHER badges had been authenticated. MaXimize Sport offices had been raided. One ticket sales agent had also been arrested. All security personnel were remaining on high alert, but the current situation was considered stabilized.

Spider smiled and looked skyward. “ Thank you, Lord. We’ll take over now.”He patted Alex on the back—no words needed to be exchanged.

Spider reentered the grandstand as the crowd roared when a young Texan sank his birdie putt to take the lead.  Shortly, the crowd gasped when the 54-hole leader missed his eagle putt for the win. When he failed to make his comeback birdie putt, the young Texan had won his second major. The crowd noise was deafening.

Spider’s iPhone vibrated. Text from Savannah: Good guys win! Your trophy is anxiously awaiting your return! Oh, how Spider loved that gal.

Spider smiled for his team had truly won…at least for this day.

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