PART II – Sam I Am
Crystal City, VA
Sam’s father was an investment banker on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs, while her mother worked as a neurological surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Born into a life of privilege she experienced an upbringing only the top one percent realize. Her parents maintained a weekend home on Long Island while their main residence was a three story brownstone located in the SoHo district of Manhattan.
Her mother had enrolled her little “Sammy” as she loved to call her, which she very much despised, in gymnastics as a young child. She was a natural. Her agility and speed were beyond most children her age. Her mother tried to keep her polished, refined, and well-mannered but Sam rebelled. Much to her mother’s chagrin she possessed an interest in contact sports at a young age and loved hand-to-hand combat. The tomboy within her continued to come out while her mother did her best to subdue those tendencies. It was a losing battle. Several boys her age paid a hefty price when they crossed her. Her dad encouraged the behavior behind her mom’s back. He wanted his little girl to defend herself when she grew up.
After several years of pleading with her father, he allowed Sam to do what she wanted and take up the martial arts. Her mother resisted initially but relented after some time passed. Like gymnastics she proved to be a natural. Sam received her black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu within six years. An achievement reached faster than the eight to ten years it took most students.
Even though she could be rough around the edges Sam maintained a sweetness about her, a kindness that shone through no matter who she was around. She possessed a quick wit and ranked amongst the tops students in her class every year. Several ivy league schools recruited her, but she rejected all the full scholarships offered. After her graduation from one of New York City’s elite private schools, she followed in her father’s footsteps and attended New York University (NYU) where she majored in finance. She had a numbers mind like her father. The first three years went by fast, and she availed herself of every opportunity she could. Her Junior year she studied abroad and spent most of that year in several European countries. Languages came naturally to her, and besides English she was fluent in three other languages: French, Spanish and German by the time she turned twenty-one.
Life could not have been better for Sam. As she began her senior year back on the NYU campus things seemed perfect, that was until Tuesday September 11, 2001 at 8:46 AM EST.
The day before, her roommate, and best friend, Chloe left NYC for Boston. Chloe and her parent departed on American Airlines Flight 175 from Logan International airport in Boston bound for Los Angeles to attend her grandmother’s funeral. Shortly after takeoff terrorists hijacked the plane and flew it into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 AM EST.
Sam was in her dorm room alone when the first plane struck the North Tower at 8:46 AM. She had been fast asleep, but the explosion awoke her. Like many other students she got up as word spread that an incident had happened in lower Manhattan which involved a plane. Sam went to the roof of her dorm building and watched as the smoke billowed from the upper floors of the North Tower. At that moment, while she stood mesmerized at the apparent accident, she saw the second plane fly into the South Tower. All around her screams erupted as students watched the hellish events unfold before their eyes. Panic set in for most of the students, but not Sam, she never screamed like the others. In fact, a resolve within her welled up, a courage in the midst of uncertainty took over. A still small voice within her said it would be all right.
It wasn’t until later during that horrific day she discovered her closest friend had perished on Flight 175. She had seen her friend pass from this life to the next with her own eyes. After hearing the news Sam fell into a deep depression that lasted for several days. Nothing would shake her from that state, not even the tender embraces and words of encouragement from her loved ones.
A week later she attended the funeral service for Chloe and her parents back in Boston. Sam’s family joined hundreds of others to pay their last respects. An empty casket memorialized her friend. As she passed by the casket something inside Sam changed. A button was pushed, a lever thrown, one that couldn’t be put back in place. The next day she returned home with her parents but didn’t go back to NYU. Without telling anyone Sam got up the next day and took the subway to Times Square where she walked into the Army recruiting station. Her life was never the same again.
Sam leaned against the mahogany table and her mind briefly thought about that moment so many years ago. The group assembled around the table brought her back to the present. Sam cleared her throat and glanced at the SecDef, “May I sir?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” he replied, “Tell them About Division S.”
She spent the next five minutes giving the people in the room a brief history of Division S. It was concise but informative even though what she told them would still leave unanswered questions.
“So you you’re telling us Division S is essentially the Omega Group?” asked the Jackal. Before he added with his trademark sarcasm, “Except with estrogen?”
It elicited a few smiles from the team although the Colonel didn’t find the question funny.
Sam shook her head and in a sarcastic tone said, “Yes moron! That’s exactly what I said,” as she visibly rolled her eyes.
Troy smiled and thought, This is gonna be fun.
The Jackal just stared, his head half-cocked. A slight smile formed at the corner of his lips.
“What’s the S stand for,” asked Terrance.
“Division S references the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, the goddess of war and destruction. She was also closely aligned with healing. Those of us within the Division believe it’s an apt description of our responsibilities. Since Division Sekhmet doesn’t roll off the tongue, and can be difficult to pronounce” she looked towards the Jackal as she added, “We decided Division S may be a better moniker.”
The SecDef looked at his watch, stood and then spoke, “Look for the sake of time I believe we need to move on. In particular we need to discuss your targets and mission parameters.”
“I agree,” responded the Colonel.
The SecDef reached down for the remote and clicked the button that activated the screen mounted on the wall behind him. A single photo appeared on the screen. The image appeared dated, it had a grainy look.
“The man behind me is Naseefa al-Majid. He is Iraqi by birth, a second cousin of Saddam Hussein. During the 1980’s and all the way until our invasion in 2003 Naseefa maintained the nuclear program in Iraq.”
“The King of Clubs on the Iraqi playing cards,” responded the Colonel who recognized not only the name, but also the image. “One of only six men we never captured or killed.”
“That’s correct,” said the SecDef.
“I was involved in several covert ops where we had intelligence that indicated his location. Each time he slipped through our net.”
“We’ve been searching for him since the invasion, but over the past several years the trail grew cold,” said the SecDef.
“And you believe he snuck the nukes out of the facility near Dukan Lake?”
“We’re sure of it. From what we have pieced together over the years it was Naseefa who was responsible for their removal. Even Saddam didn’t know they were removed from the facility until after the fact.”
“So he’s the one offering one of them for sale on the black market?”
The SecDef shook his head, “No he’s not.” Then he switched the images on the screen behind him and a different face appeared. “This man is.”
As the SecDef changed the image, the Colonel let out an audible sigh as he recognized the person.
“Dammit, that is not someone I want to have a nuke,” he said in response as he slammed his balled fist into the solid table and then gave an icy stare at the person who sat to Sam’s right.
“Clearly you know who Ami Sulzer is,” said the SecDef.
“I’ve met him several times,” said the Colonel as he then pointed at the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI), “And if wasn’t for this jackass’s having him on the Agency payroll, I would have put a bullet in his head.”
“Hey now!” exclaimed the DCI in an angry retort, “I’m not the one that made the call on Ami. This stuff always rolls downhill! Don’t take you anger management issues out on me William!”
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI), raised his arms to quell the voices. “Everybody calm down. The President alone made the decision to let Sulzer be...”
“Well that was one God awful, stupid decision. One of many he’s made,” interrupted the Colonel, “Since he’s been in office.”
“Everybody stand down and shut the hell up!” yelled the SecDef. “Raising our voices and getting in a pissing contest over Ami Sulzer won’t help us realize our objective. And for God’s sake William show some respect when you are talking about our President.”
“I respect the office, not the man currently in it,” said Colonel Marshal in an angry tone. He pushed his chair back from the table forcefully, stood up, and walked towards the outer wall. His right hand started to tremble. If he could have gotten away with it, he would have walked over and strangled the DCI with his bare hands.
“You need a break Colonel?” asked the SecDef in a stern tone. “A few minutes to compose yourself?”
The Colonel turned and shook his head and took a deep breath, “No, I’m fine,” he said and took a seat at the table once more. “So what’s the connection between Naseefa and Ami?”
“Good question. Our intelligence indicated that Naseefa fled Iraq around the time they executed Saddam. We believe Syria provided him asylum. By all accounts he lived a quiet life and tried his best to disappear. That is until recently when he re-emerged.”
“And the nukes?”
“I’ll get to that,” answered the SecDef.
“Why did he come out of hiding?” questioned Troy.
“Naseefa was a Ba’ath party loyalist. Even after they executed Saddam he believed they would restore power one day and he could go home. After many years he realized Iraq would never return to the country it once was under Saddam. So he changed tactics. He approached Ami, via a surrogate, about selling a nuke several months ago according to recent intelligence.”
“And you know this how?” asked the Colonel.
The SecDef visible squirmed, he shifted in his chair before he stared at the DNI.
“Because the Agency had an asset inside Ami’s inner circle. We might have made a deal with the devil Colonel but that doesn’t mean we haven’t watched the devil like a hawk.”
“What do you mean you HAD an asset close to him?”
“Our last correspondence with the asset was six weeks ago, then it stopped.”
“Ami suspected he had a leak.”
“And he closed ranks?”
“Yes, out of the eight people in his inner circle four were found in various locations around Accra, the Capital City of Ghana.”
The DNI shook his head, “Well if you consider being ground up in a wood chipper dead, then yes I’d say they were dead!”
“The asset was one of those killed?” wondered the Colonel.
“We don’t know yet. He was a long-term source but even his handler had never seen his face. If he survived, he clearly went dark to save his own ass.”
“And Ami lives in Ghana?” asked Troy.
“Yes, he has a vast compound about 50 miles northeast of Accra that borders the Shai Hills Resource Reserve,” answered the DNI. “It is completely off the grid, own power source, water supply, a farm that supplies all his food. You get the drift. It’s his fortress, his solitude. He is untouchable behind those walls.”
“Why Ghana?” questioned Digger. “Of all places?”
“From what I recall Ami is half Israeli, half German,” added Troy. “Isn’t Africa an unusual place for someone with his background?”
“Ghana is one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. The President of the country gave Ami full immunity. Let’s him come and go as he pleases and do what he wants while placing his own army at Ami’s disposal.”
“In exchange for?”
“Money, weapons, drugs, you name it. Ami takes care of whatever needs the President has.”
“So we can’t offer a better deal? Buy him off?”
“No, The Ghana President is not a fan of the United States. Which is ironic since he completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his master’s at Wharton.”
“We could bomb them all to the stone age,” retorted Terrance. “Drop the full power of the US Military on their pathetic ass-backwards country.”
The SecDef ignored the comment, “So back to the nukes. Naseefa approached Sulzer to sell one on the black market.”
“And the other?” asked Troy.
“The asset said Naseefa sold it to Ami personally three months ago.”
“You heard me, Ami bought one, while the other is being put up to the highest bidder in one week.”
“How much did Ami pay for his?”
“We believe the payment was in the nine figure range, lower end.”
“Ami has that kind of cash?”
The SecDef nodded, “Unfortunately yes.”
“Why not do what Terrance said? Just bomb the compound to kingdom come, kill Ami and destroy both bombs at the same time. Ghana can’t do squat to our military.”
“It’s not that simple. According to our asset the bomb Ami purchased is not kept at the compound. In fact, he swore it’s not even in Ghana.”
“Then where are it?”
“That’s why you’re here,” said the SecDef with raised eyebrows. “We need you to find both nukes.”
“Plus,” added the DNI, “We can’t kill Ami because we have reason to believe he has protocols in place if something were to happen to him.”
“What type of protocols?” asked Troy.
The SecDef interrupted, “The nuke Ami bought will be used against western interests if anything happens to him.”
“You know this how?” questioned the Colonel.
“Nothing is for sure, but we have several other sources. One of them is Naseefa’s son Jalal who, unlike his father, remained in Iraq during and then after the war. The interim Iraqi government arrested and held him in prison for several years because of his family lineage. Eventually they released him and he led a quiet life in the outskirts of Kirkuk until recently.”
“What happened to change that?”
“Our intelligence operatives in Iraq intercepted a phone call between him and his father. It was cryptic but eye opening.”
“So what did you do about it?”
“We moved in and apprehended him. He has been forthcoming in our...” he paused and considered his words, “Conversations that have been ongoing.”
“So you’re torturing his ass and trying to squeeze out every drop of intel you can?” asked the Jackal.
The SecDef ignored the question.
“Where are you holding him?” asked Troy.
“At Camp Unity, it’s a …”
“We’ve been to Camp Unity Mr. Secretary last fall. It’s east of Kirkuk and it’s an absolute shi…” he saw the senior officers gathered around the table as they stared at him and thought better of his word choice, “…Dump, which is saying something considering the condition of most Camps in Iraq.”
“That’s a fair assessment,” said the SecDef.
“Do we know where Naseefa is now?”
“Our asset,” answered the DNI, “Indicated he’s in Accra at a house Ami owns located in downtown.”
Sam had stayed quiet. Besides knowing she would be temporarily assigned to the Omega Group she was still not sure what would be expected of her.
Sam cleared her throat, “So what do you need us to do Mr. Secretary? Lots of details so far but I’m not sure where this is going? Plenty of teams could get pulled into this, Seals, Delta, Force Recon, why us?”
“The Omega Group and you in particular Ms. Martin have skills not always found in other teams. Ami is holding an arms auction at his compound in Ghana one week from today. He has these types of sales yearly but they are rarely done face to face. In this day and age most transactions can be facilitated online. This one is different, our intelligence indicates the nuclear weapon will be the crown jewel of the auction but there will be lots of other weapons and other commodities for sale. The whole affair is by invitation only. A who’s who of international criminals and despotic leaders will be in attendance bidding for the items.”
“Not many nations, let alone criminals, could afford to buy a nuke,” said the Colonel.
“Agreed,” replied the SecDef, “But this gathering will have a lot of heavy hitters. People with deep pockets.”
“Lots of ballers I bet,” added Jesús.
“And what do you expect us to do Mr. Secretary?” asked Troy.
With a wide smile on his face the SecDef said, “You’re going to attend the auction Troy.”
“No, not just you. Sam will go with you.”
“I don’t understand; how will Sam and I get in? We’re not exactly on the international criminal who’s who list to use your words.”
“But you both speak French.”
Troy looked at Sam, and she looked right back at him. They both raised their eyebrows acknowledging that it was an accurate statement. In unison they both said, “Oui.”
“Two of the invited guests are from Montreal, they are a married couple and the largest arms dealers in all of Canada.”
“And?” asked Sam.
“And you’re gonna take their place at the auction.”
“I’m pretty sure Ami will know Sam and I are not this couple,” stated Troy. “Surely he knows what they look like?”
“No he doesn’t. They’ve never met. This couple are ghosts and always remain in the shadows. There’s no known image of them in any government database. We have already confirmed Ami has never met them.”
“Why did Ami invite them?”
“They are Ami’s ticket into North America and he had done sporadic business with the couple over the years. He is rewarding his most faithful buyers with this once in a lifetime invitation to meet face to face. Plus, they are looking for a dirty bomb, and Ami is offering one at this sale.”
Troy had a skeptical look upon his face, “Ok, say you are right and nobody knows what they look like. I’m sure Ami will have some sort of way to verify everyone’s identity. They won’t be checking passports at the front door.”
“Correct, there will be biometric verifications.”
“That could create a problem,” said Troy.
“We have it covered,” replied the SecDef.
“And the couple? Where are they?”
“Their private jet left Montreal yesterday headed east. We placed an agent on the flight crew. Smoke filled the cabin which forced the plane to make an emergency landing in Newfoundland.”
“And when it landed?” asked Troy.
“Let’s just say regular customs officials did not meet the plane. We detained the couple and they are now in a secure facility we maintain outside St. Johns.”
“Hold up,” interrupted Troy, “So we take on these people’s identities, go to this arms sale at Ami’s compound in Ghana, and then what? If the nukes aren’t there what do you expect us to do?”
“Besides not get caught,” added Sam.
“Ami is paranoid about being spied on. So much that he has no internet at the compound. He doesn’t even allow cell phones on-site. Even for himself.”
“I sense a but coming,” said Troy.
“A big fat one,” added Sam as she winked at Troy.
“But he runs one of the largest illegal arms business in the world. You can’t keep track of all that with a pencil and a paper. He has a computer system, a high tech one at that. It’s just not connected to anything outside the compound.”
“So we are supposed to get in and steal files from a hard drive?” asked Troy. “Files that may help us find the nukes?”
“Essentially yes,” answered the SecDef, “But there’s a little more to it than that.”
“There is always more to it than that,” added Digger.
“Here’s our plan…” stated the SecDef.
Two hours later the meeting ended. It was midnight on the east coast. Exhaustion had set in but the Colonel and the rest of the team stayed another hour after the SecDef and other government officials left. They had to figure out where to go first. As always they had full operational authority. After much back and forth Troy recommended the course of action. The Colonel agreed on the fact finding detour Troy suggested since they needed more intel.
As they left the conference room and made their way down the hall the Colonel, Troy and Sam led the way. Directly behind them the Jackal nudged Harry. A wide grin upon the Jackals face. As he walked he crouched a slight bit, his hand held low like he was about to catch a football. His gaze squarely on Sam’s pert derrière.
“Now that’s nice,” he commented as he looked at Harry.
Harry nodded and chuckled. The kick came at him lightning quick and the next thing the Jackal knew he was on the floor. Stunned with his head spinning, the Jackal never saw the roundhouse kick that struck him in the solar plexus.
As he gasped for breath Sam was on top of him, a full on straddle, with her left foot on his throat.
In a stern but direct tone she said, “If you ever disrespect me like that again I’ll kick you directly in the balls.” She let the words sink in for a moment, “Nod if you get my drift.”
The Jackal, still dazed by the severity and speed she possessed, nodded after a few seconds passed.
Sam pulled her foot off his throat, climbed off him, then offered her hand to help pull him up. It took a second, but he reached up, felt the tender, smooth hand within his own as she yanked him to his feet. The strangest part occurred when she leaned in close, kissed his cheek then turned and walked away.
Harry stood near his friend and patted him on the back, “Dude!” he exclaimed. “You just got your ass handed to you by a chick!”
The Jackal grimaced slightly, “I think I may be in love,” he mumbled.
Sam heard the comment but kept her gaze straight ahead. A moment later she shook her head and smirked.
Troy walked next to her, “You’re gonna fit in just fine with the boys Sam,” he said.
The Omega Group climbed the air stairs of the same Gulfstream G450 that brought them to Virginia earlier in the day. They would have to sleep on the flight east. It was 6,215 miles to their destination which would include one stop to refuel. Flight time alone would be close to thirteen hours.
As they settled into their plush leather seats, the stewardess came by and took their drink orders.
“What will you have Cap?” asked the attractive woman as she reached the row where Troy and Jesús sat.
Troy smiled, “You don’t have Bushmills Black Bush do you?” It was Troy’s favorite Irish whiskey but not a standard drink you would find everywhere, especially on a plane.
The woman smiled warmly, “I do,” she said with a subtle wink, “Just for you Cap. Courtesy of our pilot.”
With a broad smile Troy replied, “Thank Captain Messick for me, I should have known he would hook a brother up. And better make mine a double ma’am.”
“I’ll do just that,” replied the woman.
A few minutes later she returned with both men’s drinks.
“That looks almost like a screwdriver Jesús,” said Troy as he saw the glass his friend held.
“It is Cap,” he replied with a grin, “She just held the vodka.”
The two men clanged their glasses together, “Bottoms up,” said Troy.
“Back to Iraq yet again,” replied Jesús.
Troy shook his head, “Yup, back to the damn sandbox!”
Up next ... Part III