Richard Wagner's Tannhauser, a brooding German epic, was playing at the time. The fact that Rudolph, a 9th grade dropout, would even take time to tour New York while planning his next bombing was surprise enough to federal agents. But then Eric Rudolph has been surprising lawmen for three years. The only surprise left now, they fear, is what happens next?
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How this will all end has been the subject of intense speculation by investigators. Is it possible that Eric Rudolph will simply walk down from the North Carolina mountains where he is believed hiding and give himself up? No one here really believes that. Is he dead? Maybe. But where's the body?
Instead, senior investigators believe that the beginning of the end of this saga will start when Eric Rudolph walks down from the hills and tries to bomb the very people who are looking for him.
Senior FBI agent Jack Dalton, for one, believes Rudolph is now stalking federal agents, just as doggedly as they are hunting him.
"The Centennial Park Olympic Park bomb could have easily killed a hundred people the way that device was packed. That is just evil - malicious. And frankly, there's no reason to believe he wouldn't do it again," Dalton said.
He certainly has the means. When he abandoned his truck and took to the hills last year, agents believe Rudolph took with him a half a case of dynamite, an assault rifle, two pistols, a shotgun and several hundred rounds of ammunition, maybe much more, says senior ATF agent Jack Killorin.
"We believe he is alive with explosive devices based on our contacts with where he had been last July," Killorin said.
What he might do with them is addressed in to classified, and somewhat differing, FBI profiles of Rudolph. Sources tell CBS News one profile says Rudolph has a "death wish" and is "suicidal." The other, however, predicts Rudolph is on a mission and will "never give in."
For the moment, federal agents tend to believe the latter. "He knows those mountains very well. He spent a lot of his life up there - and I don't think he's gonna go that easy," FBI agent Jack Dalton said.
And neither, frankly, do most residents of the clannish North Carolina community where Rudolph grew up. Eric Rudolph, they say, was a sullen, solitary figure even by mountain standards. A boy who denied the Holocaust ever happened, grown into a man who cursed the "new world order."
Tina Hyleman believes her childhood friend's life will end in a "bloodbath."
"I think if he's ever cornered there'll be somebody loose their life. I don't think that if Eric's ever cornered he'll ever come out alive. They'll have to kill him. And, you know - I'm sure he'll take a few with him," she said.
It is a vision that no one who knows Rudolph disagrees with.
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