TEC: Chapter 41: A Double Bombing’s Waiting for You

Murphy’s cell phone began to play a musical tune.

Ten pages earlier…

It was one o’clock when Murphy heard his cell phone playing a musical tune.

Does nobody proof these?  Seriously.  Also, this is just a silly detail that tells us nothing about Murphy’s character.  How about we find out what tune it is?  Is it a hymn?  His college fight song?  A movie theme?  SOMETHING that would tell us more about him than…he has a phone?

Pfft.  Anyway, it is now the next morning.  Murphy is driving out of LaGuardia, having dropped off Isis for her flight to D.C.

“I decided to drive back to Raleigh.  I need some alone time to think.”

Does Phillips understand that it usually costs money to cancel a prepaid flight because you “need some alone time“?  Doesn’t seem like it.

Also, think about what?  Moar Arabs?  The apparent incompetence of Mossad agents?  The incompetence of Talon in killing him?  The incompetence of himself in keeping track of the papers he was entrusted with by a dying man?  The possibilities are endless!

But never mind all that!  Levi has called Murphy to warn him about the whole George Washington Bridge thing.  Apparently, an actually competent agent found a Moar Arab and got out of him that the attack will be today.

Oh, and there will be two bombs.

Two bombs?” [asks Murphy]

He might well be surprised.  Why two bombs?  More importantly, why two bombs in the same place?  Wouldn’t it be more efficiently terroristic to set two bombs in two different cities?  Yanno, since you have two and all?

I guess two bombs in the same spot are just twice as scary as two bombs in two different spots.  Which makes me wonder why Phillips didn’t have the Moar Arabs have TWENTY bombs.  Because that would be WAY scarier than just one little bomb.

Levi asks Murphy for help.

“We need to do everything in our power to stop them.” [said Murphy]

Well, everything except involve any military or spy forces from the United States or Israel who could handle things in a professional manner.  Levi found all this out between one and two o’clock a.m., remember.  Assuming it’s now about nine a.m. when Murphy drops off Isis, it’s eight a.m. for Levi in Presidio.  He’s had six to seven hours to get his plan into action.

I mean, geez, imagine James Bond or Jason Bourne or Aaron Cross or the gangs from Mission: Impossible or Leverage.  They would have had this whole mess solved before sunrise.  And again, there is no reason in the world why the proper authorities wouldn’t have been alerted hours ago.

But nope, it’s down to Murphy.  And his only assignment for helping is to keep his eyes out for a particular type of U-Haul truck that they know is carrying the bombs.


We then cut to two security guards (semi-retired cops) at the George Washington Bridge.  We actually get a page of their history, which I would consider a positive change in these books but for the fact that Norm and Jim are not differentiated from each other in any way at all.

Well, except that when Jim sees some rollerbladers, he gets a “hinky feeling about them,” because they’re Arabs, you see, and “he had never seen any Arabs skating before.”

Yanno, even leaving aside the obvious part of the racism, I find it bizarre that Jim apparently keeps a mental count of which people of which races skate near the bridge.  Hmmm, two whites and three Hispanics today, four whites and one Asian yesterday…


As Murphy approaches the bridge, Levi calls with an update:

“The news media has gotten ahold of the possible bombing of the bridge.  Someone from the FBI must have leaked it.”

Sure, Levi, because you and David have proven yourselves so competent, it couldn’t possibly have been someone from your team.

Also, the FBI knows???  Then why the hell is Murphy involved in any of this?  Why is Levi wasting his time with an archeology professor when he could be helping the actual professionals deal with this?  Idiot.

Oh, but never fear:

“The FBI, other police units, and the military are mobilizing just in case our suspicions are correct.”

They’ve had like SIX HOURS to mobilize.  What is the deal here?  SERIOUSLY.

Oh, and I guess security (by which I assume Levi means just Jim and Norm) are going to try to close down the bridge.  An objective I imagine would have been easier to accomplish had they started SIX HOURS AGO.

Sorry.  Just annoys me, is all.


Oh, and there’s a pregnant woman currently driving over the bridge.  Just in case you might be worried that we wouldn’t have anyone to…worry about.


Posted on September 7, 2016, in The Europa Conspiracy. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Is everyone incompetent in this book? It sure seems like it. The “good guys” like Murphy and Levi and his Mossad agents are dumb, so the Moar Arabs have to be even dumber for Murphy and co. to defeat them. And the actual authorities like the FBI have to be dumb too so it’ll be up to Murphy to stop the bad guys himself.

    • Seriously. The writers have a clear difficulty imagining anyone actually exceptional in any way. They rely on overplayed thriller tropes and scenes to make their “heroes” seem like Men Of Action, only they don’t know how to really use those properly so the tropes come off as ridiculous and horribly fumbled. And I’m sure they’re not actually smart or imaginative enough to write someone smart and imaginative, so all they can write are their own self-absorbed personas and then act like they’re somehow exceptional. Except, to make such banal and awful people seem exceptional, they have to make everyone else dumber and worse.

      Take Jim the racist racially profiling ex-cop. He could have easily been a cliche but moderately interesting character by making him someone who really does people-watch obsessively. He then doesn’t have to identify the Moar Arabs because they’re Arabic, but because they just did something to stand out in his mind… like rollerblading, for whatever reason, and then musing to himself that he doesn’t see many people rollerblading anymore. Anything that isn’t just X race because NYC is probably the most ridiculously cosmopolitan city in the country, and trying to mark anyone by just race is completely idiotic unless you’re actively trying to promote racial profiling as an effective prac-

      Oh well duh. Of course they are. Got to shove in another racist right-wing meme.

    • Reminds me of Hellboy 2. A contest between allegedly good and evil about who can screw their own plan up the hardest and most often, which evil just barely wins.

  2. Oh, and there’s a pregnant woman currently driving over the bridge. Just in case you might be worried that we wouldn’t have anyone to…worry about.

    Yep, good thing there’s an unborn there, that’s about the only life besides his own and maybe his supermodel girlfriend our Christian hero would really care about. The woman, and any kids that’ve been born (especially that’ve been first born) can go die for all he cares.

  3. Setting off two dirty bombs in the same location is a colossal waste of time. Their whole point is to spread radioactive material over a certain area. There’s no need to spread that stuff twice over the same area.

    Just put all your explosives and radioactive material in one bomb that spreads its payload wider. If you only need to spread it over a small area but want a higher radiation dose, pack all the radioactive stuff around half the total explosives. If you want two bombs to increase your chances of success, send them to different locations, which gives you an even greater chance if they’re guarding one of the places and a chance of hitting two targets instead of one.

    This plan only makes sense if they really, really need to hit that specific target. Which they don’t, as far as we’ve been told. They just need to cause some panic. And there’s more than one valuable target in the whole US that they could hit to get that.

  4. “Murphy’s phone began playing [MUSIC], by [POPULAR CHRISTIAN ROCK ACT].” Just as soon as the check clears, guys.

    (Are there un-musical tunes?)

    Of course, the terrorists could cause nearly as much disruption merely by calling in a credible bomb threat and letting the authorities panic and overreact, without any of that boring “going out and getting arrested” stuff.

    Nerrin – there’s a trick to writing characters smarter than the writer. Take a while to work out what they’d do, consult your knowledgeable friends, and so on – and then show the character coming to the right decision in a matter of seconds. Of course you do need knowledgeable friends, and indeed to admit that things other than your edited version of the Bible are worth knowing about.

    Ivan – blast and fragmentation radius goes up roughly with the square root of explosive mass, so it might well make sense to have two bombs slightly separated. Though permanently contaminating a steel bridge, as has been pointed out, is really challenging anyway – it can just be pressure-washed, where brick or concrete takes a lot more work.

    • Yeah I still consider that they didn’t do that as a point for how unimaginative and not-terribly-smart they are. LaHaye and Phillips were and are mired in how awfully banal (and banally awful) they are that they can’t be bothered to try even that much. Heck, remember that Phillips’ idea of consulting someone more knowledgeable is apparently to quote Wikipedia.

    • Of course, the terrorists could cause nearly as much disruption merely by calling in a credible bomb threat and letting the authorities panic and overreact, without any of that boring “going out and getting arrested” stuff.

      Or call in a bomb threat at location X, so that the authorities start evacuating people towards location Y. Where the *actual* bomb is. You don’t need any imagination to come up with this and plenty of other bombing scenarios – just read up on what real terrorists have done.

    • But the area of the fragmentation radius goes up with the square of the radius, so the area covered stays the same. You just change the shape of the area.

      Which might be useful, if they are very small bombs, since their target is a long, narrow bridge. But I’d think a “typical” dirty bomb’s blast radius would be larger than that, since contaminating an area only a hundred feet or so across doesn’t seem too useful. Your enemy will just tear or dig up the ground in the area and cart it off to a desert somewhere.

      But as has become abundantly clear, we can’t expect these Moar Arabs to plan their shit properly. Or anyone else in the story. Or outside of it (Hey, wasn’t this story supposed to be about a biblical artifact at some point?)

  5. I’m used to the horrible morality and the generally horrible writing in big ways (Rayford being annoyed by the bodies he has to walk past). I was unprepared for LaHaye and Dinallo to call out that the ringtone is music and not say which tune.
    Seriously, it’s like one of those cheesy movie scenes with a time traveler from the 20th century. “Oh wow! This phone plays music instead of making a ringing noise!”

  6. InquisitiveRaven

    If I were planning on using a dirty bomb in New York, the New York Stock Exchange seems like a much better target. Okay, it probably has better security, but if you do it right, you might not need to get it into the building, just sufficiently close. Even if you need to get it into the building, any security can be gotten around with sufficient planning.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for September 9th, 2016 | The Slacktiverse

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