His daughter was thirty-one.
Sometimes, Ryan would have trouble remembering how old the kids were supposed to be. He never forgot but like he'd occasionally call one of them by the wrong name, he'd sometimes forget how old they were. That Ryan Jr. and Chris' birthdays were so close didn't help.
They just grew up so quickly.
It was easier then, and less embarrassing than asking, to remember that Chris had been born when he was twenty and go from there. She was twenty years younger than him, his son a year younger than that and Caitlin several years younger.
Except the math didn't work anymore. The clock had stopped for him at forty-eight. He was now seventeen years older than his daughter right now, not twenty.
The first time he'd realized this he'd been more than confused. Time had passed and even though he didn't miss his life as much as he once had, there was still that sense of loss as life had moved on without him. His youngest was now twenty-four. Ryan had a granddaughter that he'd never met who would be four in November.
Sometimes, Ryan wondered if he'd be here long enough and if enough time would pass outside that the day would come that his daughter was the same age he would be forever. Maybe even older.
It was easier then to try to keep up with what was happening outside so when the time came to remember little things, like how old his children were, it wouldn't be such a shock. He didn't follow the news as much as he once did but every once in a while he'd ask for a newspaper. Like today. Just something to make him feel more connected, though sometimes it only served to remind him of the gulf between his life and now.
The bar had given Ryan a copy of the New York Times
from July 6, 2012. The front page was dedicated to the same stories. At least 33 people died and dozens were hurt in a suicide bombing in Houston on Wednesday. The blasts occurred at two supermarkets, Kroger's and Whole Foods Market, located near downtown Houston. Both attacks took place during the late afternoon when stores are busiest.
It was a bold attack. More low-tech than anything that had happened before (that he knew of) and more dangerous for that reason. It was easy to do, easier than hijacking a Soviet nuke or engineering a lethal virus and both of those had been done. Harder to detect when it could be anyone in a crowd of hundreds or thousands. When he'd been at CTU, this was always one of the scenarios they had discussed when trying to imagine future attacks and how to stop them. Law enforcement officials have identified Derek Murphy and Ziyad al-Fawzaan as the men behind one of the attacks.
Unlike all the close calls before, all the almost-similar incidents, this wasn't an isolated event. The man they quoted, some idiot from the FBI who would surely get a dressing down from his boss if not a demotion for giving too much information, said they were investigating the possibility it was a copycat.It's the third attack in as many days, with the attacks in Chicago and Boston claiming 164 lives.
This most certainly was not
a copy cat attack. Ryan had combed through the papers (he'd ask the bar for two more, to compare the information) and was certain it was a coordinated effort. Might be Second Wave or al-Quaeda, both groups favored coordinated attacks. He'd have to get out encyclopedias, maybe ask for a laptop to find out the significance of the dates. The Fourth of July had it's obvious connotations but there might be something more. September 11th had been the anniversary of the Camp David Accords as well as the day when international forces left Beirut, among other anniversaries. Victor Drazen had chosen the two year anniversary of Nightfall for his strike. September 20th marked an attack on the MI-6 building in 2000 and the date of David Palmer's first speech in front of the Senate on the need to intervene in the former Yugoslavia. June 10th marked the end of the Six Day War and Syria's surrender.
Dates had meaning. Years could pass and the numbers could blur but there was always someone who remembered.
It was well into the afternoon, hours after he'd received the paper, that Ryan realized how useless his research was. Whatever he found, someone out there new already (he hoped) and even if they didn't, he had no way of telling anyone. There was nothing he could do here but wait and worry.
Much later, Ryan returns to the bar to ask for sleeping pills. When he finally falls asleep, he remembers
twisted metal frames against a red sky, the constant sound of sirens in the background and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh.
He tells himself it's a dream, his worried mind playing over memories. Maybe it was really just a matter of time.