The Desert Ten Miles North of Quartzsite, Arizona
7:30 a.m. Mountain Time
Plunked awkwardly in the valley between two plateaus, the flat, rectangular building stood out in garish contrast to the desert’s natural beauty. Casual observers might have dismissed the structure as being nothing more than an old abandoned warehouse without stopping to wonder what it was doing in the middle of nowhere. The hidden cameras in the eaves of the building and the sensitive electronic sensors scanning the surrounding area might have been apparent to more discerning viewers, however. Those who knew what to look for.
Like the two “hikers” who left Quartzsite, a small town near I-95 and I-10 six months earlier, supposedly looking for buried treasure. They hadn’t returned and no trace of them had been found.
Nearly a city block long, the building appeared to be constructed of reinforced concrete. The southerly winds whipping off the plateau had formed sand drifts against the north wall where half a dozen tumbleweeds had been halted in their journey across the desert floor by the intruding structure. As the early morning sun began to bake the building’s outer shell, a rattlesnake slithered down the single set of tire tracks that led away from the building in an easterly direction.
On a crest of rocks overlooking the valley, a man stood studying the building through a pair of binoculars. His Honda Accord LX was parked on the road fifty feet below. Beside it his hand-picked squad waited in two vehicles: a black van for the dozen who would be the vanguard of the convoys and a large moving van with the words “A Moving Experience” painted on the sides containing the back-up contingent.
It was about to begin. The man could feel his heart beating more rapidly, anticipating the actual moment. He smiled at the familiar surge of adrenalin. No matter how many assignments he’d gone on in the old days at the CIA, he’d always felt this tingle of anticipation. As the nature of the assignments inured him to the danger, the feeling had grown less intense, but it was always there.
It had taken twenty-four months of mammoth effort. The energy required to accomplish each step of the project had been astounding. Only a man of his wealth and power could have done it. He’d spent half his fortune, but every cent had been worth it. The biggest problem hadn’t been the gathering of data or the locating and clandestine procurement of all the necessary weapon systems. It had been the secrecy. Even those he trusted most had been carefully watched, and a number of “problem” personnel had been eliminated.
Now the period of waiting was over. All his anguish and bitterness would soon be vindicated.
“How much longer, Vince?” The man standing beside him, although tall, was a head shorter. He too was staring at the building through binoculars.
The taller man looked at his watch as the second hand approached the six. “Thirty seconds,” he said. Vincent Fazio, Sr. looked back at the valley and slowly raised the binoculars.