Chapter 26

The day Dragon had selected for releasing his toxin finally arrived. He went to Energy Solutions Arena once again, just as he had for the past three days, cleaning toilets for free. This time, however, he took along a plastic bag that held high-quality rubber gloves, a protective mask, and a Big Gulp cup.

He went to a custodian closet, retrieved a pail and a sponge, then went to the nearest men’s restroom. He pulled on the gloves and the mask, then took the lid off the Big Gulp cup and gently pulled the metallic canister out.

“At last,” Dragon muttered as he twisted the lid open to reveal a goopy mixture that could have been mistaken for a grape Slurpee.

He carefully poured a portion into the pail, then added a gallon of water from a sink. He dipped a rag into the water and then began to wipe down the sink handles and toilet seats. He repeated the process in the adjoining women’s restroom, then worked his way around the entire concourse.

He found an open door to the main arena, where a crew was putting the finishing touches on the stage for that night’s pro wresting event. He dipped the rag once again in the water and began to slide it down a railing toward the stage.

“Hey, what are you doing?” a woman’s voice rang out.

Dragon jerked around in surprise. It was Jasmine Bradley, the woman who had agreed to let him clean the toilets.

“Uh, hello Jasmine,” Dragon said. “I finished cleaning the restrooms, so I thought I’d clean up in here. I heard someone threw up in this area last night. I’m just sanitizing everything.”

Jasmine gave him a funny look. “Who told you that? We didn’t have an event here last night.”

Dragon acted surprised. “Really? Oh well. By the way, have you been happy with how I’ve been doing this week?”

“Yes, but you can’t just roam around the building. You need to stay where you’re assigned for security reasons.” Jasmine stepped closer and looked into the pail. “Whoa, that water is filthy. Go change it out immediately and get back to cleaning the restrooms.”

“You’re right,” Dragon said, looking into the pail. He slipped past her and headed down the concourse to the custodian closet where he had stashed the canister. Once he was inside the closet, rather than emptying the pail he dumped more of the toxin into it and got ready to sneak back into the arena. However, as he turned to leave the closet, he came face to face with Jasmine.

“I need to know exactly what’s going on here,” she said angrily. “What were you pouring into the bucket?”

Dragon couldn’t believe this was happening. In an instant he grabbed her around the neck and slammed her head into the wall. As she cried out in pain, he smashed his fist into her temple, causing her to slump unconscious to the floor. 

Dragon quickly stepped over her and shut the closet door behind him. He knew there were security cameras throughout the concourse, so he casually walked to the nearest exit and back to his hotel, not wanting to draw attention to himself.

He soon entered his hotel room and let out a sigh of relief. He changed out of his custodian uniform and stuffed it into a suitcase before changing into business attire. He then parted the room’s curtains, which gave him a decent view of the street in front of Energy Solutions Arena. He paced back and forth, knowing he’d made a foolish mistake by leaving the canister behind. He desperately wanted to retrieve it, but he sensed doing so would only lead to him receiving a long prison sentence.

“Why did I go into the arena?” he cried out. “I was basically done with the job. Those restrooms are going to be toxic for several days and thousands would have died.”

Moments later the first police car came screaming down the street, followed by six other emergency vehicles. They all squealed to a stop in front of the arena. A few people then climbed out of a van in protective suits.

“They found the toxin,” he thought.

Dragon knew he needed to leave the area immediately, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the drama that was unfolding. Dragon saw someone being carried out of the building on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance, which then sped away with the siren blaring.

Dragon spotted a KSL-TV news crew doing a live report from on the street below him, so he turned on the TV to see what they were saying. The female reporter was nearly hyperventilating as she said, “Details are sketchy at this point, but apparently a bioterror attack was made today at Energy Solutions Arena. An anonymous source told us that a maintenance worker encountered an Asian man spreading some sort of toxic material throughout the building. When she confronted him, he attacked her and stuffed her in a closet before fleeing. She was severely beaten, but she was able to crawl from the closet and alert other workers about what happened.”

Dragon shook his head. “I’m such a fool! I should’ve made sure she was dead.”

The reporter continued, “Authorities have in their possession the canister the man had used, and it is being tested to see exactly what type of toxic material it contained. They are also examining surveillance footage that may provide clues to the man’s identity. Needless to say, all upcoming events are postponed until further notice so that bioterror teams can check the entire building.”

A sharp pain shot through Dragon’s head and down his arm. He wasn’t sure if it was an aneurysm or a heart attack, but something had snapped inside of him.

He turned off the TV, gathered up his belongings, then tore up his ID cards before flushing them down the toilet. He then walked slowly down the stairway to the lobby, where he calmly checked out of his room. From there he proceeded across the street to a TRAX train depot, where he joined several other passengers on the platform. They were all watching the activity surrounding the nearby arena. Suddenly several policemen exited the building and hurried toward the hotel where Dragon had been staying.

“Uh, when’s the train supposed to arrive?” he asked a man standing next to him.

“It should be here any minute,” the man said. 

Dragon was worried about being caught by the Americans, but he was more concerned about his countrymen’s response if his connection to the toxin was discovered. His Chinese superiors would deny any knowledge of Dragon’s plans, leaving him on his own to face a long prison sentence.

Within moments three policemen exited the hotel and began working their way to the TRAX station. The train was now making its way down the tracks. A ray of hope briefly filled Dragon’s heart that he might escape, but deep down he knew it would only prolong the chase.

“I’m a disgrace,” he said before stepping onto the tracks as the train approached. The train engineer had no chance to respond, and Dragon’s life was over in an instant.

n

Salt Lake City. Anyone who had been within two blocks of the arena was urged to go to a local hospital and be tested, although the doctors didn’t dare to admit what they were looking for.

The problem was that the residue in the canister was a chemist’s ultimate nightmare. As the results came through showing a variety of diseases, U.S. officials knew they weren’t dealing with a lone homegrown terrorist. This mixture could only have been produced in one of the world’s finest laboratories.
 
Once Jasmine Bradley’s identity was released, she was hailed as a national hero. She was in quarantine at LDS Hospital, though, because she’d been in contact with the toxin. Doctors were anxious to see if she developed any illnesses, and she soon developed severe pneumonia. She passed away within a week, but not before she became a media darling for having saved thousands of people from a similar fate.

In all of the commotion, it took police a few days to make the connection between the Asian man killed by the TRAX train and the one described by Jasmine. Since Dragon’s body didn’t have any identification, the police sent his remains to the state medical examiner’s office in hopes of finding out who he was, but he didn’t have the chip, and his fingerprints didn’t come up in any national databases.

However, officials had found the custodian clothes among Dragon’s scattered belongings, and traces of the canister’s toxic residue were found his lungs. Officials assured the nation that the TRAX suicide victim was indeed the perpetrator, and they proclaimed that this was an isolated incident.

n

The Chinese leaders watched the news reports coming out of Salt Lake with some amusement. Yes, Dragon had failed to complete his assignment, but the media circus surrounding the attack was actually a blessing in disguise for the Coalition’s plans. The media was keeping careful vigils on a dozen Energy Solutions Arena employees who were in varying degrees of sickness, as well as a well-known pro wrestler who had gone to the arena early that day, contracted the disease, and was now the face of the bioterror attack.

America’s health officials had expanded their testing to include anyone who had been in Salt Lake that day, and they encouraged travelers to avoid passing through the state. Meanwhile, Dragon’s partners Rain, Wind, and Fire had all succeeded spectacularly in their missions and were already out of the country, enjoying their financial rewards. 

As the nation’s health officials focused on keeping infected people from leaving or entering Salt Lake, the toxic microbes multiplied across the nation, spreading from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco like an invisible tidal wave. As they were passed from person to person—-then through entire families-—America’s social fabric began to unravel from within.