Edge of Madness – Prologue

EOM Front Cover PROF

This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun,
that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the
sons of men is full of evil, and MADNESS is in their heart
while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

Ecclesiastes 9:3

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© Keith Hoar and Zhetosoft Publications, 2015-2018. All material on this website is copyrighted. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Short excerpts and links may be used, provided full and clear credit is given to Keith Hoar and Zhetosoft Publications with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Prologue
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday, March 20 – 10:58 a.m. Central Daylight Time

North Calvert Street

Baltimore, Maryland

Paul Duniven would be dead in two minutes. Was he the target or was it for no other reason than he was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or was it that he was in the right place at the wrong time? Those questions would never be answered. History would only record that he died at precisely 11:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The forty-one-year-old executive vice-president of Government Procurement Services, Inc. was walking toward Baltimore’s Penn Station, on his way to a meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss serious issues affecting a government contract his company was overseeing.

Waiting to cross North Calvert Street, Duniven was standing less than twenty feet from Abdul Suhaib Hadad. For the past two years, nineteen-year-old Hadad had listened to the radical extremists in his neighborhood. His mind had become so saturated, and influenced, by the hate-filled rantings of his mentors, he had lost touch with reality. He no longer dreamed about the things other nineteen-year-olds dreamed about. His sole desire was to become a martyr for his new-found cause. The marvelous glory he would receive for sacrificing himself was all he thought about.  That image of glory filled his mind as he waited for the signal that would ignite the fifty pounds of high explosives stuffed in the vest hidden under his heavy coat.

Paul Duniven never saw or felt a thing. He simply ceased to exist. Storefronts were blown out and windows were shattered for five blocks in all directions.

Local law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fire Arms, and the FBI sifted through the debris for days looking for evidence that would lead them to the perpetrator or perpetrators of the despicable act. Two tiny scraps of the detonator, too burnt and mangled to provide any usable information, were all that was found. Hadad was identified using surveillance photos and a small bone fragment embedded in a shredded piece of the vest he had been wearing.

Hadad’s mother, Amsah, was horrified when she was told her only son had blown himself up. She argued with the FBI, insisting her son would not do such a thing. Amsah was unable to tell the FBI agents anything because Hadad had been careful to never mention the extremist names in his mother’s presence.

Numerous interviews and many hours of research only yielded a tenuous link to a group of dissidents in Europe. The extremists had been meticulous in eliminating all evidence of their connection to Hadad. After Hadad left his apartment for the last time, someone planted phony travel documents where they would be easily found. The extremists sought no credit for the bombing as it was not their plot. Someone else had provided the explosives, the detonator, the exact location, and the phony materials, promising to pay them a very large sum of money.

The first time Hadad showed up at one of the meetings, he was identified as a naïve and eager follower. Da’ud Amin Bahar and his accomplice Khalil Jawdah Amari skillfully molded the gullible Hadad using fanatical rhetoric and promises of glory to come. They felt absolutely no guilt over using the immature teenager. He was nothing more than a tool to be used in their war with the infidels.

The day after Hadad blew himself up, Da’ud Amin Bahar called the number that had been included with the explosives. Bahar was uneasy but the promise of money, a lot of money, overrode his anxiety.

“Hello. What do you want?” a distorted voice asked.

“It is done,” Bahar answered.

“Everything? The materials as well?”

“Yes. Everything.”

“When I am certain, the money will be transferred.”

Before Bahar could ask how soon the money would arrive, the man broke the connection.

The man felt no remorse for the lives that had been snuffed out.  He would rather not have sent those seventeen people to their deaths, but when you were about to orchestrate the death of millions, a few more really did not matter.

Chapter One
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sunday, March 22 – 11:42 p.m. Central Daylight Time

Offices of Microwave Services, Inc.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

Zachariah James Templeton (Zach to close friends and family) was bone tired. More tired than he had ever been in his entire life. Not just physically tired, he was emotionally drained.

Overwhelmed, he gave in to the frustration rising inside him. Snatching the papers he had been poring over for the last three hours, he hurled them off his desk. The papers swirled in the air and floated to the floor in wild disarray. Rubbing his tired, gritty eyes, he glanced at the digital clock sitting on the corner of his desk. It was nearly midnight and he had to meet his wife, Angie, at the airport for a flight to Miami in just six short hours.

No matter how much time and effort he put into trying to solve the problems plaguing the Department of Defense (DOD) microwave system, his company’s prime client, not only could he not come up with an answer, he did not even have a clue where to start. The DOD was demanding a resolution, and soon, but he had to get home and get at least a few hours of sleep before meeting his wife.

The DOD procurement office had made explicit threats that they were going to cancel their contract with his company if the problems were not corrected soon. Without the DOD contract, his struggling company would be doomed. Owning his own business had been his lifelong dream. From its inception, the company had consumed an increasing portion of his time and energy. Despite his best efforts, his dream was dying right before his eyes.

Adding to the immense strain he was under; his marriage was teetering on the brink of collapse. Three months earlier Angie had moved out and said she wanted a divorce.

After Angie moved out, Zach spent every moment he possibly could with her, or more truthfully, every moment she would allow. He often worked late into the night to compensate for the time spent with Angie. He was determined to save his company and his marriage.

Angie’s decision hit Zach like a steamroller. They had been madly in love from the first day they met. Zach was certain of that. They loved the same foods, the same books, the same recreational activities. They agreed on nearly everything except the importance of church. Zach attended occasionally at Angie’s urging. He sat and listened but it just did not have the same draw for him as it did for her. What had happened to the deep love they had shared? Another question that Zach could not answer.

The tremendous emotional strain and the long hours were affecting him both mentally and physically. He was becoming increasingly irritable and was having trouble concentrating. His life was in shambles. It was at moments like this he considered giving up. But he could not just give up. There was far too much at stake.

Only Zach knew the reason he was so driven to succeed and be respected. It was deeply personal and impossible for Zach to talk about. If forced to admit the truth, Zach knew he was trying to convince himself as much as anyone he was a success. Success would be a substitute for the affirmation he never received from his father. He believed his father loved him, but never once had he heard his father say that he was proud of him.

Five years earlier, on a beautiful, clear day, Zach’s parents had sailed from San Francisco on their beloved sailboat Tipsy, lovingly named after his Aunt Clara’s habit of over-imbibing during family gatherings. His parents disappeared without a trace. No one ever knew why. The authorities assumed the sailboat had some kind of mechanical problem and had sunk without a trace. After agonizing weeks of waiting, Zach was forced to accept the fact his parents were gone. A profound emptiness settled upon him, knowing the affirmation he longed for would never come. Unconsciously, he transferred that longing into his craving to succeed and be respected.

Pushing his chair back from the desk, he stood and stretched to relieve the pain and stiffness in his muscles, the result of sitting so long. He glanced at the papers strewn about the floor. Simply too exhausted to care, he shrugged, turned his back on the mess, and headed for the door.

As he closed the office door and shoved the key into the lock, he stared at the company name and logo stenciled on the door, remembering how satisfied he had felt the day the painter completed the sign. He had been so enthusiastic and full of hope the day he started Microwave Services Inc. Sadly, that hope soon faded as the demands on his time and energy drove a wedge between him and Angie. He desperately wanted to open up to her and share the pain of past events. Every time he tried to open up to her, he simply could not bring himself to explain to her why the company was so important.

Was he going to have to give up his dream and walk away from the company he had struggled so hard to start? Would that be the ultimate price he would have to pay to prove to Angie she was the most important thing in his life? Would he be able to walk away from his lifelong dream?

Zach hoped and prayed he would not be forced to make that choice. Deep down inside he already knew how he would choose. Zach locked the door and headed for the elevator completely unaware of the horror that lay ahead.

 

* * *

 

Monday, March 23 – 1700 Eastern Daylight Time

USS Providence, SSN 719, (Los Angeles class submarine)

US Naval Submarine Base, Groton, Connecticut

 

Commander Samuel Chandler hurried down Pier Seven toward the last-minute activity in progress on the deck of USS Providence. He glanced at his watch. Providence’s crew had less than one hour to complete their final preparations and get under way.

Commander Chandler rushed up the aft gangway, turned aft toward the national ensign, and saluted smartly. He turned and saluted the Officer of the Deck then hurried down the aft access hatch.

“Attention. Officer on deck,” Radioman First Class Daniel Sabatino announced, recognizing the Commanding Officer of the boat stepping off the bottom of the aft ladder. “Good morning Captain,” Sabatino said.

“As you were,” Commander Chandler called out. “Get these provisions stowed quickly. We’re due to get under way in less than one hour.”

“Yes, sir. We’re just finishing up, sir,” Sabatino answered.

“Very well,” Commander Chandler acknowledged as he exited the mess deck and headed forward.

“Okay, men. You heard the Captain. Let’s get this stuff stowed. On the double,” Sabatino hollered.

Chandler entered his cabin and pulled the door shut. The next thirty minutes passed quickly while he busied himself finishing up last-minute paperwork. He shoved the papers he had been working on into a wall safe, exited his cabin, and hurried toward the command and control center, the nerve center of the boat.

Upon arriving at the command and control center, he stepped up on the one-foot high platform in the center of control, known as the Conn, and turned toward the Chief of the Boat, “COB, is the boat ready to get under way?”

“Aye, aye sir. Everything is stowed and secure. Power plant is online, all systems indicate green, and all maneuvering watches are manned and ready,” Master Chief Michael Mazetti responded.

“COB, assign lookouts to the bridge,” Chandler instructed.

“Aye, aye sir.” Master Chief Mazetti turned toward the two lookouts who were standing nearby and barked orders. The two lookouts responded immediately, scrambling up the ladder to their lookout positions on the sail bridge.

“Mister Graham you have the Conn. I’m going topside to the sail bridge.”

“Aye, aye Captain,” Lieutenant Commander Leroy Graham, Providence’s Executive Office, responded crisply.

Commander Chandler climbed the ladder behind the lookouts and took his position on the sail bridge for the process of getting underway. He leaned over and watched as the crew members on deck preparing to cast off the mooring lines. Pride filled his mind as he surveyed the sleek, black boat. He took a deep breath and smiled. He loved the ocean, but even more he loved the sense of fulfillment that came from commanding one of the most powerful warships in the world. Not just for the awesome power of destruction it carried, but also for the satisfaction derived from commanding the best trained crew of any ship in the United States Navy.

USS Providence, commissioned on August 4, 1984, the fourteenth Los Angeles class nuclear powered attack submarine, had been built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. Providence was one of the most advanced undersea vessels of its type in the entire world. Her stated mission was to hunt down and destroy enemy surface ships and submarines. The three hundred sixty foot, sixty-nine-hundred-ton ship was extremely well equipped to accomplish that mission. Faster than her predecessors and equipped with highly accurate sensors and weapon control systems, she was armed with sophisticated Mark 48 ADCAP anti-submarine torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles. Fully manned, Providence carried a total crew of one hundred forty-five; fourteen officers and one hundred thirty-one enlisted men, all very highly skilled specialists.

Providence was previously home-ported in San Diego, California. After a two-year overhaul in Kittery, Maine, her homeport shifted to Groton, Connecticut, where she became the lead boat of Subron12 (Submarine Squadron 12), attached to Submarine Group Two. It was from that homeport Providence prepared to sail on her latest assignment to keep the oceans of the world safe.

Commander Chandler did indeed have much to be proud of. He was the officer the Navy had selected to shoulder the responsibility of commanding one of the most lethal killing machines ever devised by man.

Commander Chandler heard the crew complaining and saw their disapproving glances as he passed them on the boat. The crew was very distressed after learning their shore leave had been cut short. For unknown reasons, COMSUBLANT (Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic) had ordered Providence to get underway earlier than scheduled. Commander Chandler just accepted it as part and parcel of being the world’s peacekeeper.

Commander Chandler’s attention focused on the final preparations for what he thought was just another routine patrol.

 

* * *

 

Tuesday, March 24 – 0500 Eastern Daylight Time

Navy Executive Corridor

Pentagon – Corridor 9, E Ring

Washington, D.C.

 

“Soon. Very soon. They would be dead. They would all be dead,” thought Vice Admiral Harlan Beckwith as he approached the door to the Pentagon. Smiling slightly, he pushed the door open. Yes, very soon the vengeance he longed for, the vengeance he dreamed of, the vengeance he lived for would finally be his.

Beckwith headed down the E-Ring Corridor, his footsteps echoing loudly as he hurried down the deserted corridor. Despite the early hour, there was much activity in the Pentagon, mostly concentrated in the underground communications and intelligence sections. Passing the intersection with Corridor Ten, he turned right and walked down Corridor Nine, the Navy Executive Corridor.

He shoved his security access badge into the card reader next to the door to his office. Deep in an underground bunker, a massive computer searched the Pentagon’s information center database for his security clearance level. With a loud clunk, the electronic locking mechanism withdrew the locking bar. Beckwith pulled the door open and walked across the small interior office of his deputy assistant, stopping in front of the door to his personal office. He thumbed an access code into the cipher lock mounted next to the door. Once again there was a metallic clunk as the electronic mechanism accepted his access code and withdrew the locking bar.

Walking across the room in the semi-darkness, he switched on a small brass desk lamp. He unbuttoned his uniform jacket and hung it over the back of the chair. The soft glow from the lamp illuminated the shiny, brass name plate sitting on the front edge of the desk that read Director, Joint Staff.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had personally selected Admiral Beckwith, a three-star, senior Navy officer, to assist in managing the Joint Staff activities. Under the Chairman’s direction, Admiral Beckwith assisted other JCS members in carrying out their responsibilities.

The Chief of each branch of military service appoints an operations deputy who works with the Director, Joint Staff, as part of the Operations Deputies or OPSDEPS in the world of military acronyms. The OPSDEPS members meet to consider issues of lesser importance or to review major issues before they reach the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Director, Joint Staff is the only OPSDEPS member that is officially a part of the Joint Staff.

Beckwith had sacrificed much to rise to the high-level, Pentagon assignment he currently occupied. During his career in the United States Navy, he had endured many long separations from his family, serving in faraway places. His stellar rise up the ranks had been due, in part, to his graduation from the United States Naval Academy at the top of his class. At the pinnacle of an exemplary career, he was slated to soon receive his fourth star. Despite that, Beckwith felt no sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. There was no longer any purpose in his life except the blind rage and all-consuming desire for revenge that boiled deep inside him.

A horrifying incident four years earlier had robbed him of his entire family. Beckwith had been assigned as Commander, Navy Region, Europe, billeted in Naples, Italy. It was a rare overseas assignment where his family had been allowed to accompany him. He and his family had been in Italy less than six months when a radical Chechen terrorist annihilated himself and twenty-two other people.

On a cool spring day, while he was busy with administrative duties related to the arrival of a U. S. Navy carrier task group, his wife and two daughters had decided to go shopping along the Spaccanapoli, a long, straight, narrow street, bisecting the old, historic center of the city of Naples from east to west. Spaccanapoli literally meant “Naples splitter” since viewed from above, it seemed to divide the city in half. The street, officially named Via Benedetto Croce, starting at the Piazza Gesù Nuovo, was the main promenade for tourists; lined with many interesting churches, shops, and other historic buildings. On most days, the Spaccanapoli was literally teeming with tourists and locals searching for souvenirs and bargains.

On the ill-fated day the terrorist had chosen to detonate his vest, crammed with high explosives, Beckwith’s wife and two daughters were standing less than ten feet away, according to the investigators. However, it was never more than an opinion because the horrific blast had literally obliterated everything within two hundred feet. All that was recovered were some small scraps of clothing and a few bone fragments, later identified through DNA analysis. His beautiful wife, Janie, and his two adorable girls, Gabriel and Amy, were gone in an instant.

There had not even been enough left of his family to bury. A small memorial service was held in Richmond, Virginia, mostly for his wife’s parents’ sake. Beckwith was left completely alone, being an only child. Both his parents were dead and he had long ago lost contact with his few distant relatives. The Navy had granted him an extended leave to grieve. The two weeks following the memorial service were absolute agony for him as he wandered around the large house they still owned in a suburb of Washington, D.C. He ate very little and drank too much, sleeping on the living room couch to avoid entering the bedroom he and his wife had shared. Never once had he so much as opened the door to his daughters’ bedrooms. He seldom left the house and talked to no one.

The overwhelming grief ate at him like a cancer. Adamantly refusing to talk to anyone, his grief grew deeper and deeper, finally morphing into a white-hot, burning fury. At the end of the third week, he realized he would soon have to return to duty. Through sheer willpower, he pushed the burning anger just below the surface. The single thing that drove him was a growing desire for revenge. Without that hope for revenge, the rage smoldering inside him would have consumed him. As the last day of his extended leave arrived, a plan for revenge had formed in his mind.

Beckwith sat in his dimly-lit Pentagon office and stared at the photograph of his wife and two girls stolen from him on that dreadful day. Sliding open the center drawer of his desk, he pulled out an old Bible, which showed the wear that only came from years of frequent handling. He laid it on the desk and opened it to the book of Ecclesiastes. Slowly he read the verse he had read hundreds of times before, his finger tracing the words as he read. As he reached the middle of the verse, he began reading aloud, “. . . the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and MADNESS is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

Beckwith reached out and picked up the photograph of his wife and daughters, ever so gently caressing the smiling faces. No matter how hard he tried to forget, the gut-wrenching images from the day they were murdered were indelibly burned into his mind, inescapable, impossible to ignore. Images just as raw and vivid in his mind as the day the horrendous event had occurred.

His mind seethed with hatred for the evil that had murdered his family. Not only the man directly responsible but for anyone remotely associated with him. Only an evil born out of madness would deliberately murder innocent women and children.

Exacting revenge only on the Chechen rebels would be like picking at a scab on a leg infected with gangrene. It would be pointless and would only spread the putrid disease. The source of the disease was the country that funded the rebels and provided them weapons, instigating them to greater violence. It was more than a disease. It was a horrible cancer eating away at the world. It must be stopped. He vowed he would be the one to stop it.

Four long years his tortured soul had hungered and cried out for righteous revenge. That longed-for revenge was the only thing keeping his grief at bay. A grief so painful and crushing he could not even speak of it. A brilliant military career destroyed by one despicable act of violence.

He gently set the photograph back on the desk and read the Bible verse again, silently mouthing the words. As he closed the Bible and laid it back in the drawer, he promised himself he would “send them to the dead”, no matter the cost.

 

© Keith Hoar and Zhetosoft Publications, 2015-2018. All material on this website is copyrighted.

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