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Stone Cold


Harry Finn rose as usual at six-thirty, made coffee, let the dog
out into the fenced backyard for its morning constitutional,
showered, shaved, woke the kids for school and oversaw that
complicated operation for the next half hour as breakfasts were
gulped, backpacks and shoes grabbed and arguments started and
settled. His wife joined him, looking sleepy but nonetheless game
for another day as a mother/chauffeur of three, including a
precocious, independent-minded teenage boy.

Harry Finn was in his thirties with still boyish features and a
pair of clear blue eyes that missed nothing. He'd married young and
loved his wife and three children and even held sincere affection
toward the family dog, a floppy-eared golden Labradoodle named
George. Finn was an inch over six feet tall, with a long-limbed,
wiry build ideally suited for speed and endurance. He was dressed
in his usual faded jeans and shirttail-out clothing. And with round
eyeglasses on and his intelligent, introspective expression, he
looked like an accountant who enjoyed listening to Aerosmith after
a day of crunching numbers. Although he was amazingly athletic,
living by his wits was actually how he put bread on the table and
iPods in his kids' ears, and he was very good at his work. Indeed,
there were very few people who could do what Harry Finn could. And

He kissed his wife good-bye, hugged his kids, even the teenager,
grabbed a duffel bag that he'd placed near the front door the night
before, slid into his Toyota Prius and drove to National Airport on
the Potomac River right outside of Washington, D.C. Its official
name had been changed to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,
but to the locals it would be forever simply National. Finn parked
in one of the lots near the main terminal building, whose chief
architectural feature was a series of connected domes copied from
Thomas Jefferson's beloved Monticello. Bag in hand, he trudged
across a skywalk into the sleek interior of the airport. Inside a
restroom stall he opened his duffel, pulled on a heavy blue jacket
with reflective stripes on the sleeves and a pair of blue
workpants, slid a pair of orange noise mufflers around his neck and
clipped the official-looking ID badge onto his jacket.

Employing a standard turnstile crash maneuver, he inserted himself
into a herd of airport employees trekking through a "special"
security line. Ironically, this line lacked even the cursory level
of scrutiny forced on ordinary passengers. Once on the other side
of the barrier he bought a cup of coffee and casually followed
another airport worker through a secure door to the tarmac area.
The man actually held the door open for him.

"What shift you working?" Finn asked the man, who told him.

"I'm just coming on," Finn said. "Which would be okay if I hadn't
stayed up for the damn football game."

"Tell me about it," the man agreed.

Finn skittered down the metal steps and walked over to a 737 that
was being prepped for a short-haul flight to Detroit with
continuing ser vice to Seattle. He passed several people along the
way, including a fuel man, two baggage loaders and a mechanic
inspecting the wheels of the Michigan-bound plane. No one
confronted him because he looked and acted as though he had every
right to be there. He made his way around the aircraft as he
finished his coffee.

He next walked over to an Airbus A320 that would be on its way to
Florida in about an hour. A baggage train was parked next to it. In
one practiced motion, Finn pulled the small package from his jacket
and slipped it into a side pocket of one of the bags stacked on the
train. Then he knelt next to the plane's rear wheels and pretended
to check out its tire tread. Again, people around him took no
notice because Harry Finn exuded an air of a man perfectly at home
in his surroundings. A minute later he was chatting up one of the
ground crew, analyzing the prospects of the Washington Redskins and
the deplorable state of employment for those toiling in the
aviation industry.

"Everyone except the head honchos," Finn said. "Those bastards are
printing money."

"You got that right," the other man said, and the two did a little
knuckle smack to seal their solemn agreement on the disgusting
greed of the rich and the ruthless who ruled the not-so-friendly

Finn noted that the rear cargo hatch of the Detroit flight was now
open. He waited until the handlers left with their train of luggage
carts to fetch the bags and then climbed up on the lift parked
there. He slipped into the cargo hold and inserted himself into his
hiding place. He'd already picked it by studying interior cargo
schematics of the 737 series, which were readily available if one
knew where to look, and Finn clearly did. He'd also learned from
open source research on the Internet that this plane was only going
to be half full so his added weight in the rear would not be an

While he lay curled in his hiding place the plane was loaded with
fat bags and stressed passengers, and then it was wheels up to
Detroit. Finn rode comfortably in the pressurized cargo hold,
although it was a bit cooler here than in the main cabin and he was
glad of the thick jacket he wore. About an hour after takeoff the
plane landed and taxied to the gate. The cargo door was opened a
few minutes later and the baggage offloaded. Finn patiently waited
for a bit after the last bag was removed before he came out of
concealment and peered through the open aft door. There were people
around, but none looking his way. He climbed off the plane and
dropped to the tarmac. A minute later he noticed a pair of security
officers heading in his direction, sipping coffee and gabbing. He
reached in his pocket, pulled out a lunch bag, took out a ham
sandwich and began eating it as he walked away from the

When the two guards passed him he nodded. "You regular coffee
drinkers or is that half-caf caramel latte with a twist and four
shots of who the hell knows what?" He grinned with his mouth full
of ham sandwich. The two cops chuckled at his remark as he walked

He entered the terminal, went to a restroom, took off his jacket,
ear mufflers and ID badge, made a quick phone call and marched to
the airport security office.

"I put a bomb in a bag that was loaded onto an A320 at National
Airport this morning," he explained to the officer on duty. "And I
just rode in the cargo hold of a 737 from D.C. I could've downed
the plane anytime I wanted."

The stunned officer was not wearing his weapon, so he leaped over
the desk to tackle him. Finn neatly sidestepped this attack, and
the fellow sprawled on the floor screaming for help. Other officers
poured out of the back room and advanced on Finn, guns drawn. Yet
Finn had pulled out his credentialing letter before the pistols had
even appeared.

At that instant the door to the office flew open and three men
strode in, their federal badges held high like the scepters of

"Homeland Security," one of the men barked at the guards. He
pointed at Harry Finn. "This man works for us. And somebody's in a
shitload of trouble."

Stone Cold
by by David Baldacci

  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446577391
  • ISBN-13: 9780446577397