U.S. Marshall John Jay, JJ to his friends, just plain J to his wife, did not want the
assignment, but he had little choice. He had just finished a compulsory seminar in New York on
terrorist bottle bombs and was hoping to play tourist for a day, maybe get out to the Statue of
Liberty. He had flown over the monument many times but had never seen it up close. But then
the call came. Some Italian Mafioso had booked an early flight from Newark to Austin and
nobody knew why or what for, and on such short notice, JJ was the only available marshal in the
So there he was, sprawled in the aisle seat next to his clueless quarry. JJ had barely had
time to read the dossier on the way to the airport, but his fish, one Carrado Cimino, was hardly a
soldier. More of a glorified errand boy for Donatello Fraioli, a Mafioso who hid his criminal
activities beneath an umbrella of ostensibly legitimate businesses, many of which involved
There were numerous FBI investigations over the years, with particular scrutiny given to
some sort of battery replacement program for various federal agencies, but no one had
managed to make anything stick. The guy was smoother than a shot of Jack Daniel’s Single
Barrel and slicker than the scum on a pre-Gustav Louisiana swamp.
JJ suspected that this was another dead end, but at least he could chow down on some of
Rudy’s barbeque in Austin. Rudy’s had the best damn barbeque you could find at any gas
station anywhere in Texas.
There was a ripple of turbulence as the flight took off and climbed to altitude. Nursing a case
of redeye from a short night and the quick hike from New York City to Newark, JJ put his seat
back and closed his eyes.
He needed to rethink his investments. Only five more years to retirement and he still couldn’t
make up his mind between Savannah, Georgia, and Cary, North Carolina. Both places were ripe
for a Barney’s Gourmet Hamburger franchise, but try as he might, he couldn’t concentrate on his
retirement plans. His mind kept returning to the seminar and this whole thing with liquids. It
wasn't the three-ounce bottle stuff. It was worse.
Just a few days before, the Brits stumbled on multiple purchases of hot water bottles in
London, and the boys at Langley had come up with an ingeniously simple rig consisting of two
hot water bottles coupled together with a plastic tube. Each bottle contains a different chemical
solution. Keep the bladders upright and the connecting tube clinched, the liquids remain apart
and the device is safe, but upend the bottles, mix the solutions through the common tube and
boom, you have ignition.
Problem was, the only way to detect the bladders other than a hands-on search was to use
back-scatter x-rays to see through clothing. Since randomly frisking passengers was not a viable
option and only a few backscatter x-ray machines were in service, sky marshals were told to
watch for sloppy dressers, pudgies and pregnant women.
Slobs and heavyset folks were everywhere, but JJ spotted no obviously pregnant women on
this flight, although there was a woman suckling a whelp in the window seat directly across the
aisle. She didn’t appear to have gotten her shape back yet, but he doubted she was a carrier.
Nice rack, though.
With this preying upon his mind, and his mood admittedly dour, JJ was instantly annoyed
when Carrado deliberately bumped his shoulder. And it was deliberate. No doubt about it. Maybe
the fellow recognized JJ as a federal marshal. Maybe the third-rate Mafioso was just an a-hole.
“Excuse me,” Carrado said in an unusually tight voice.
“What?” JJ was irritated. “You need to go to the head?”
“I need to get an attendant,” Carrado said. “I think the woman sitting next to me just peed
That woke JJ the hell up. His eyes darted to the woman’s lap. She was trying to conceal
herself with a canvas tote bag but JJ saw what Carrado had seen, the edge of a telltale splotch
of not just damp, but wet fabric.
Damn, he thought, leaping to his feet. Water bottle bomb. He grasped Carrado by the lapels,
ripped him from his seat and tossed him like a limp salami across the aisle into the laps of
some extremely shocked passengers, including the woman breastfeeding the infant.
JJ barely had time to scope the mother’s breasts and register relief that the baby was safe
as he spun around to confront the woman by the window. “U.S. Marshal,” he yelled, grabbing her
tote from her lap and tossing it into his empty seat. Somebody screamed. Another man
appeared, vaguely familiar, and flashed a star. Thank God, JJ thought, another marshal.
“Water bottle bomb,” JJ sputtered. “Grab her arms.” Something snapped. Another scream. A
flight attendant rushed to the scene. “Terrorist,” JJ said. The woman in the window seat went
ballistic, turned wildcat and dug sharp nails into JJ’s cheek. He pulled her hands away and bent
her arms back. “Tell the pilot to get this plane down, now,” he commanded over his shoulder.
The attendant sprung back like a rubber band and launched herself down the aisle.
The second marshal crowded into the row of seats in front and leaned over the back. He looped
one of the woman’s arms with a plastic tie. Another flight attendant crawled over a man in the
next row and seized the woman’s other arm. A man dodged up the aisle from first class, yelling
Jesus, FBI in first class, JJ thought enviously, shoving his hands in the woman’s armpits.
How the hell did the FBI rate? JJ lifted the woman up and bent her backwards over the middle
seat. The G-man grabbed the woman from behind. She kicked the seat back, pushing with her
feet and flailing her legs.
JJ grabbed her legs, forced them down and pulled them apart. No time for propriety. He
yanked up her skirt. A passenger yelled, “Rape.” JJ didn’t have time to answer the idiot. He was
looking for signs of bomb. There were no water bottles, but her panties were soaked through
and he could see a lumpy rectangular outline clinging to the underside of the fabric. He gripped
the object. It felt hard, yet flexible, bending slightly to follow the curve of her crotch. No time to
waste. He snatched the panties from her body. There was no question about it. The rectangular
object embedded in the panty liner was definitely a device of some sort.
JJ backed out into aisle, yelled to the other men to tie the woman down, and headed for the
galley at the back of the plane, holding the rectangular object wrapped in panties at arm’s length
in front of him. The aircraft abruptly tilted, banked sharply and pitched forward. JJ slammed into
one of the passengers who was leaning out of his seat to get a better look. JJ pushed away and
scrambled up the aisle. Damn, JJ thought. Go ahead, scare the crap out of everybody.
In the galley area at the back of the plane, JJ slammed the damp panties on the counter,
ripped out the liner, and used his pocket knife to slit the liner down the edge. A flat blob of clay
inside looked familiar. It was Semtex, not the new composition with the embedded metallic
particles and scenting agents, but the old stuff from Czechoslovakia. A thin, goop-covered ribbon
of white metal stuck out of the top of the plastic explosive. The detonator. He started to pull it out
but stopped. The goop that covered the metal had started to turn from gel to liquid. “Damn,
damn, damn,” he muttered. “This is going to be tricky.”
“What is it?” A flight attendant had materialized behind him.
“Magnesium ribbon,” he said, “grafted into a plastic explosive. The ribbon is covered with a
low temperature goo, protects it from premature ignition. The urine dissolves the goo, comes
into contact with the magnesium ribbon which reacts with water, and it instantly bursts into
flame. That triggers a detonator embedded in the plastic explosive. Doesn’t take much. Hell,
even a wad of gunpowder would do the trick.”
“Holy shit,” the attendant gasped. “That was between her legs?”
JJ grimaced. There was no time to waste. “I need a blanket fast.”
The attendant nodded and scurried down the aisle, yelling, “Blanket. Somebody give me a
JJ glanced around the counter. He was looking for napkins but nothing had been set out yet.
A flight bag sat on the floor. He pulled it open. A white blouse and blue skirt were folded neatly on
top. He tugged the blouse free, wrapped it around his hand, and pinched the magnesium ribbon
through the cloth. It was really stuck.
“I found a blanket.” The flight attendant was back with her prize. "Promised the passenger a
double refund, but I got it."
JJ took the blanket with his left hand, doubled it over and pressed it against the sheet of
explosive. The aircraft hit an air pocket, jerking him up and slamming him against the counter as
the plane dropped and shuddered into a sharp descent. He braced himself and padding his
fingers of his right hand with the blouse, he yanked the ribbon as hard as he could. The metal
strip and a dime-sized disk on its end pulled free. The faster he could get the ribbon and the
explosive separated, the better their chances of survival. Using the blanket like a potholder, he
rolled up the explosive and started to hand it to the attendant. Her eyes widened in terror as she
stumbled backwards. "I can't," she shuddered, waving her hands.
“Wait. Listen. It’s our only chance. We have to get the explosive away from the magnesium.
The plastique won’t explode if we can keep it isolated. Wrap it tight. And get another blanket. The
government will pay the refund. Keep it wrapped and dry and it won’t detonate. And buckle it into
a seat.” The attendant stared at him, her eyes wide. “Damnit, do it,” he shouted.
The attendant swallowed and took the blanket-wrapped blob. She was angry now. No
pissing bitch was going to blow up her plane. She swathed the explosive in layers of airline
blanket and whisked it down the aisle.
JJ was still clutching the magnesium strip in his right hand and he sensed a growing
warmth through the fabric of the blouse that was padding the metal. His fingers were tingling. He
stared at the would-be detonator. Small remnants of plastic explosive clung to the unstable
metal ribbon. Magnesium ribbon, liquid, detonator. Jesus, God, he thought. He had to get rid of
this shit and damned fast. He looked around. The lavatory was directly across from the galley.
Oh, hell. He yanked the door open and tossed the magnesium ribbon with its bits of explosive
clinging to the detonator disk into the stainless steel toilet. “Fire in the hole,” he yelled as he
slammed the door shut. He just barely made it. White hot flames erupted in a fiery explosion that
blew the shit out of the commode and the holding tank in its belly.
Seconds later, the plane slammed into a regional airfield in West Virginia, a hard landing on
a short runway. The aircraft plowed through the asphalt, taking out landing gear, a piece of tail,
one wing, two cow pastures, four rolls of hay, a prize-winning heifer and a moonshine still.
Thanks to the quick-witted action of the crew, assisted by a two seasoned business fliers
and a savvy traveling couple manning the exit rows, the jet was evacuated in record time. The
aircraft was wrecked, the crap jacket shit-canned and the toilet totaled, but other than a few
scrapes and bruises, there were no significant injuries. Except for a cow mysteriously powdered
by a clump of blue ice.
The explosive in the bomber’s panty liner was later identified as twelve ounces of Semtex,
an amazingly stable compound of cyclonite and penaerythrite tetranitrate manufactured prior to
1988. Semtex shares one thing in common with C4, its American cousin. It is invisible to airport
X-ray machines. As JJ told an author writing a book about the incident later, the estimated
worldwide stockpiles of Semtex top 40,000 tons, with most of the supply in Iran and North Korea.
Several tons are also readily available on the black market in Iraq, Indonesia, Thailand and in
several Russian cities. Cheap. JJ also mentioned to the author that George Clooney would be a
perfect choice to portray him in the forthcoming movie. Of course, Clooney would have to gain a
Copyright 2009 by Daniel E. Speers - All rights reserved.
|Why the hell didn't the NSA read this?
|Master Spies Die
Laughing is just
None of that stuff in the
book is really true, is it?
Like the title of the book,
the answer to that is a bit
loosely based on certain
events and characters I
have known, the story
line is mostly made up,
but the settings, spy
agencies, tools and
techniques, spyware and
certain cloak and dagger
operations are all true.
Every last word.
Including the details on
the massive data bases
and personal data
collection systems being
set up and manipulated
by your government.
And Yes, There Really
Are Pany Bombs