PART V – Flee The Light
35,000 Feet/Ghana/Togo/McLean, VA
Once they left Camp Unity in Iraq, the Omega Group boarded the same private jet that ushered them into the country a few days’ prior with a destination of Paris, France. The six-hour flight time allowed the team ample opportunity to discuss the mission. They examined every last detail and created contingencies where needed. One of the reasons the Omega group achieved a high level of success directly correlated to their meticulous preparation. No one planned or thought outside the box and anticipated complications like them. It's what kept them alive when so many others would have faltered.
Two hours later with the assigned tasks completed the agency staff departed. Their attention to detail impressed the team. Over thirty people worked tirelessly to assist Troy, Sam and the other members get everything just right. Digger checked and then double checked all the specialized electronic equipment needed to complete the mission and only when he signed off was Troy ready to depart.
While one plane pulled into the oversized hanger three departed.
Troy and Sam were the first to leave in the Falcon 900. The five remaining members of the Omega Group were not happy to see Troy leave without them. Each man took great pride in doing whatever it took to keep Troy safe while on mission, even if that meant risking their own hides. They all knew Troy and Sam would largely be on their own in Ghana, especially the night of the auction and none of them liked the uncertainty of the mission, not one bit.
Thirty minutes after the Falcon left the G450, which carried Sarge, Digger, the Jackal, Jesús and Harry, accelerated down the runway and sliced through the dark night sky. Their final destination also Ghana but they were coming into the country via a less direct route.
Finally, a Citation X which carried the Colonel departed. The events in Iraq outside of Dukan created a quandary. Fully aware someone targeted his team the Colonel decided it prudent to head to Washington, DC and conduct an off the books meeting. If everything went according to the plan, he expected to join the team in Ghana within two days.
The smooth leather seats sucked Troy in and after wiggling around for a few seconds he found his sweet spot. Over the past several years he had been on countless private jets but had to admit the Italian leather seats on the Dassault Falcon 900 exceeded all others. The owners of the plane clearly spared no expense. Even the smell that emanated from the seats reminded Troy of Florence. If only he had a piping hot cappuccino and a generous slice of tiramisu.
“I thought most SF guys roughed it?” questioned Sam as she sat across from Troy and watched as he got comfortable in the plush leather seat.
“Most guys ain’t me,” remarked Troy with a smirk as he rubbed the arm of the chair back and forth. “It pays to be one of the cool kids.”
Sam rolled her eyes, “Whatever,” she replied.
“I’m kidding,” said Troy just to be sure she didn’t take him too seriously. “Trust me, I rough it 95 percent of the time but now and then I get to splurge and act like I’m a big deal. Which I’m clearly not!”
“According to what I hear from group you are a big deal.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear. Those guys lie like the devil.”
“I agree,” remarked Sam, “And I tend to think you might be a bigger deal than some let on, including yourself.”
“Whatever,” answered Troy with a shrug of his shoulders.
“I’m serious Cap, the missions you have led are legendary. Operations Retribution, Scribe, Raptor, Arrowhead, and the list goes on and on. Hell, those are only the ones I’ve even heard about. Only God knows how many are so classified that nobody has ever even heard the names.”
Troy shook his head back and forth, “Lots of teamwork went on for all those ops you mentioned Sam. There’s no such thing as a one-man show. One only finds lone action heroes in fiction novels and they are mere figments of author’s imaginations, trust me.”
“Uh-huh,” she replied.
“Really, I’m just a guy on a fancy plane with a job to do,” he answered with a wide smile.
“To possibly save the world.”
“Trust me my actions alone won’t save the world.”
“If you say so.”
“Just another flight, just another mission,” answered Troy.
“And it may be your last flight,” she replied then gave a quick wink.
“If Ami finds out who we really are…” Troy paused as he pondered what would happen. “Let’s just say his reputation is not for showing mercy. It will be both of our last flights.”
“I’ve read the stories about what happens to anyone that crosses him,” nodded Sam. “They don’t exactly meet pleasant ends. Wood chippers, filleting victims alive, guillotines, and many other gruesome techniques he employs.”
“He seems to like blunt objects to exact his revenge. I read in the intel brief he claimed shooting a person was and I quote, “Was too impersonal, almost inhumane.” Kind of ironic since this guy has sold more firearms and bullets to more dictators and terrorist organizations than we can even fathom.”
Sam stared hard at Troy; a little too hard as he said the last few words.
“What?” he asked. A puzzled expression showed on his face, “Do I have something in my teeth?”
She smiled warmly, “No I think the disguise makes you appear much older, distinguished even.”
“More mature?” asked Troy with a smile.
“On the surface,” she retorted. “The speckled gray they added to the goatee makes you look twenty years older. Although I’m not sure I like you with black hair and glasses.”
Troy turned his hands over with his palms facing up and examined his skin. The agency staff had done a remarkable job adhering the fake fingerprints to his own. With the naked eye, you couldn’t tell where the fabricated skin stopped and his own began. They had assured him the prosthetic skin was fully waterproof and would not break down for at least seventy-two hours.
“How about me?” Sam asked as he looked up, “Did they alter my appearance that much? I haven’t had the courage to look in the mirror yet. I think it might creep me out to see someone else looking back at me.”
Troy nodded, “The changes are remarkable. It’s amazing how a few subtle changes transformed your features so dramatically. The brown contact lenses might be necessary, but I like your green eyes better. Plus, you look good as a redhead. If the Jackal was around … well let’s just say I’d have to beat him off you with a stick. He really digs redheads. I mean, it almost borders on an obsession.”
“Think I can do just fine in that arena,” she said as she balled her fist and pounded it into the open palm of her other hand which made a distinct smacking sound. “But thanks for having my six, Cap.”
“You’re a great soldier Sam, pound for pound you stack up against anyone I have ever served with. I’m honored to have you on the team for this mission.”
“Thanks, and I’ll try to not let you down.”
“You won’t,” replied Troy.
Sam’s face contorted from a wide smile to a concerned expression within a matter of seconds.
“What is it?” asked Troy.
“How about if the intel is wrong?” she questioned, “And they know we’re not Mr. and Mrs. Lapointe? What if the biometrics fail or they test something that we’re not equipped to handle?”
“Then our first trip to Ghana will suck big time, and it’ll be our last trip to the dark continent.”
“I’m serious,” replied Sam.
“So am I,” answered Troy with a nod of his head. “We’ll be as good as dead if we’re caught.”
“But how can the agency be sure neither Ami nor one of his associates know what Phillipe and Madeline look like? Do you really believe there’s no image of them on any database somewhere?”
“Don’t forget one of the other guests as well. There’s always a chance they have met the Lapointe’s over the years and may see right through our flimsy disguises,” answered Troy with a laugh.
“Come on now Cap, I’m not playing!” exclaimed Sam, “Aren’t you at all worried for your own safety?”
Troy stopped ribbing Sam since he could see it bothered her. He got serious as he said, “The way I see it your life is like a novel. There’s a beginning and there’s an ending. Nobody ever knows how many pages lie between the covers. If I’m closer to the last page than I am then first, so be it. I made peace with my Creator a long time ago, and I’m ready for the journey to end whenever He sees fit.”
“How poetic,” Sam remarked as she shook her head.
“And you?” Troy asked.
“I’m not much of a poet. I’m more of a cynic.”
“But are you ready for it all to end if this is our last mission?”
“You asking if I believe in God or an afterlife?”
“Both I guess.”
“What if I said neither?”
“Really? I wouldn’t take you for an atheist.”
Sam shook her head; it was a conversation that made her slightly uncomfortable. She thought for a moment before she replied. “I wouldn’t call myself an atheist per se,” she answered. “There’s still a small piece of me that believes in a higher power. What form that takes I’m not sure I can say with any certainty. What I do know is I’ve witnessed a lot of horrors in my life even though my privileged upbringing would suggest otherwise. Because of what I’ve seen, the depravity mankind is capable of, I’m not sure what I believe most of the time…” Her voice trailed off and she grew quiet for a few moments. “Faith is something I’ve still not discovered.”
“Fair enough,” answered Troy, “And please don’t think I’m judging you. I was just curious.”
“Why don’t you just keep us both safe so I don’t have to find out if there’s a heaven or a hell in the next few days.”
“I’ll do my best,” said Troy, “But I can’t make any promises.”
“If anyone can keep both of our asses safe, it’s the famous Troy Evans,” replied Sam.
Troy rolled his eyes.
A few awkward moment of silence passed.
Sam raised the thick manila folder, “Better get back to my homework. By the time this bird lands I need to be Mrs. Madeline Lapointe.”
“Don’t forget the French accent, and be sure to lay it on real thick,” replied Troy. “Especially when we need to speak English at the auction.”
“Ouais,” answered Sam in perfect French.
For the next two hours the two of them did their best to read and memorize every morsel of information contained in the folders since their lives would depend on not being discovered as frauds. Also, the fate of the world may be in the balance based on whoever purchased the rogue nuke at the auction.
The flight attendant interrupted their research when she brought them both dinner. Served on pastel colored china with a 24 karat gold ring around the outside of the plates the meal included braised short ribs, roasted root vegetables, sautéed mushrooms, and arugula salad.
“You pick the menu tonight?” questioned Sam with a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
“Me?” questioned Troy in mock surprise. “No way! After a few days back in the sandbox all I’m craving is a pepperoni and jalapeño pizza. Throw in some wings and a few bottles of Hefeweizen and I’m good to go! But this fancy grub looks pretty good, so I’m not complaining. The Lapointe’s obviously have exquisite tastes.”
For a little while, they engaged in mainly small talk, favorite movies, stupidest things they had done while in the service. Standard dinner conversation soldiers engage in while passing time on missions. Sam steered the conversation more towards a serious topic after twenty minutes or so.
“So you think you’re right as to where Naseefa stashed the nukes?”
“Makes sense,” answered Troy as he tilted back his head upward, “At least my gut says that’s where the one is that will be auctioned off. I don’t think I could have devised a better location myself. As for the one Ami bought I suspect he moved it already.”
“But how could Naseefa get the weapons there without raising suspicion?”
“A location like that would not be difficult. Especially if you have the blessing of the government, which I’m sure he did at the time of the invasion. The hard part is us proving that’s where it is now. It’s not like we can go in there and start to dig the place up!”
“Yes, you’re right,” acknowledged Sam.
“Anyway, the agency is sending a few folks to poke around down there. We gave them a copy of the blueprint discovered at Dukan Lake, maybe they’ll get lucky and find something. They just can’t draw any unwanted attention. I suspect someone that works for Ami or Naseefa watches the area. Actually, I’m sure the entire region is under surveillance. How could it not be?”
“Hopefully when we recover the data at the auction, my suspicions will be confirmed. Then we can get the nuke before the high bidder has time to retrieve the device.”
“Maybe it is already at Ami’s compound?”
Troy shook his head, “No the intel is clear, the asset said under no circumstances would Ami bring either nuke to where he lived. He has some paranoia about one of the going off supposedly.”
She had been eyeing him intently for several minutes as he spoke. There was a fierceness in her gaze. Troy looked down at the intel packet and ignored the movement before him.
Sam pushed aside her tray stood up and walked over to his seat. She wore a tan pair of capris with a light blue blouse. The pants hugged her firm legs snug, the blouse was loose with the top two buttons unfastened which did little to hide her desirable assets as she learned forward. The outfit came straight from the luggage of Madeline Lapointe. Without saying a word, she got close. Close enough that her legs touched his and her left hand rested on his leg just above his knee. She leaned over, put her head against the base of his neck and gently kissed his skin. Her wet lips caused his skin to react.
At first he thought she must have gotten close to look at something he read but instinctually Troy put his arms out to rebuff the advance as her lips touched his skin. “Sam!” he exclaimed as his body tensed, “What the hell are you doing.”
She pulled back and looked him square in the eyes. A disapproving expression plastered across her face.
“A test,” she proclaimed as she turned, walked back to her seat and sat down in a huff. Her arms crossed under her ample chest.
“Huh?” questioned Troy. “What do you mean a test?”
“You failed,” she deadpanned.
“I’m lost,” he said. His head was spinning. What game was she playing? He thought. Was she coming on to him? Had he led her on somehow?
“We’re supposed to be husband and wife, Cap. If you react that way when we are in Ghana it will get us both killed.”
Troy considered her words. Still confused as hell, he finally got it. It took only a second to realize she was right. He knew now what she meant by a test. Troy nodded his head, “Ok, good point that’s not the way I need to react once we land. But next time just tell me we need to pretend to be husband and wife and I’ll gladly play the part, ok?”
“Fair enough,” she answered, “But mainly I wanted to see how you would react.”
Troy chuckled, “You really are a ball buster, you know that right?”
“Most men would be turned on if an attractive woman started to kiss their neck ...”
“Hold up Sam!” exclaimed Troy thinking he may have offended her. “I didn’t mean to act like you’re not attractive … or … I mean …” His face was now beet red, “Any guy would admit that you’re hot as hell and would be a fool to say otherwise. It’s just that …” he paused for a moment before continuing, “I make it a point to never mix business with pleasure. It’s a sure-fire way to get killed or at the very least in some serious trouble. In public I’ll play whatever part we need, but here on the plane, this is business.”
There was an awkward pause. Sam studied his feature and examined his body language before she asked, “You still love her don’t you?”
Troy was quiet for a moment. His mind raced. There was no way that particular conversation could get started. Not now. Too much on the line at the moment. “I tell you what,” he finally replied. “If we complete this mission without being chopped up into fertilizer and fed to the sharks in the Gulf of Guinea I’ll answer that question.”
“Scout’s honor,” replied Troy as he raised three fingers on his right hand.
The Dassault Falcon 900 touched down at the Kotoka International Airport and taxied to the private jet terminal at the far end of the runway. Several minutes later the door opened, and the airstairs lowered. The humid night air punctured the fuselage.
Troy had to admit he hated the heat of the Middle East, but at least it was a dry heat. The humidity is what he couldn’t stand, and in Accra, the humidity hovered at around 95 percent. Thick enough to cut the air with a Yarborough.
A minute later a custom's official entered the plane and asked for passports from everyone on board. He gave conspicuous attention when he looked over the two belonging to Phillipe and Madeline Lapointe.
Troy didn’t like the man’s countenance, not one bit. When he replied, “Stay here please,” and left the plane Troy decided he needed a gun cradled in his hand, just to be safe. He reached under the seat, removed the weapon from the hidden holster, and wrapped his fingers around the grip of the Kimber 1911. Just the touch of the cold steel against his warm skin calmed his nerves in an instant. With a single motion, he racked the slide, disengaged the thumb safety, and tucked the weapon under his right thigh. He moved the manila folder over top the weapon just as a different man with a fierce expression stepped inside the plane.
The man wore an expensive gray suit. Beneath it a four buttoned vest, white dress shirt, and a matching gray silk tie. His gold-rimmed glasses and oversized wristwatch stood out as Troy sized him up. He looked to be a native of Africa but was dressed to the nines. Clearly he was not employed by any government agency, and certainly not associated with the airport in any way, shape or form. Behind him followed two heavily armed men. They were clearly not friendly’s.
Troy’s body tensed as he looked at the three targets. His fingers gripped the Kimber tighter and he decided in a split-second what order he would shoot the three men if the need arose. The stern look on the man’s face suddenly mellowed as he raised up a charcoal colored briefcase.
“Sorry for the delay Mr. and Mrs. Lapointe but Mr. Sulzer requires biometric verification before you can enter the Republic of Ghana.” With that, the man opened the briefcase which contained an imprint of a hand in the center of the glass surface. “Right hand please,” he said, followed by, “Ladies first.”
“I wasn’t aware our fingerprints were on file?” questioned Troy in English with a heavy French accent.
“Mr. Sulzer has unlimited resources,” replied the man as he turned to Sam. “Mrs. Lapointe, your hand please.”
Sam smiled outwardly, while on the inside her heart raced. The time had arrived to see how good the spooks really were at their jobs. She held her hand on the glass for a few seconds before an electronic beep emitted from the device followed by a green light flashing in the far right corner. “Welcome to Accra Mrs. Lapointe,” he said. She let herself relax, albeit slightly.
Troy was next, and he achieved the same result. “Thank you, Mr. Lapointe,” the man replied before he asked, “So I’m told you came from Paris today?”
“Yes,” answered Troy.
“Well, since you fled the city of light, I hope you enjoy your stay in the jewel of Ghana.” The man spoke the words with the utmost sincerity in his voice. “A car is waiting to take you to your accommodations,” said the man as he gestured to the door with his left hand. “Mr. Sulzer has procured the finest resort for the enjoyment of his most honored guests. I believe you will find it will far outshines what you experienced while in Paris.”
Troy nodded and replied, “We’ll see,” as both Sam and he followed the man off the plane.
A sense of foreboding overtook Troy as he walked down the airstairs and planted his feet firmly on African soil. It was a feeling he rarely experienced, and at first, he didn’t even recognize what was happening. Outwardly he didn’t let the despair show its ugly face, but inside he struggled. It was almost as if a heavy burden weighed on him soon after they landed in Ghana. Not knowing what may have caused such a reaction he pushed the emotions deep down to a place where he could compartmentalize and stick to the mission.
Thirty minutes after Troy and Sam touched down in Accra the rest of the Omega Group, minus the Colonel, landed in Lomé, Togo. A tiny sliver of a country in West Africa the agency chose Togo in the early 80’s as an ideal location for a classified facility. The compound west of Lomé contained its own airfield and served as a central hub for the agencies ever growing presence in Sub-Sahara Africa. Its proximity to Accra made it the perfect location to ferry the team into neighboring Ghana since there were no assurances the team could land in Ghana undetected.
Two members of the agency rode in the cab of the vehicle as it left Lomé about 8AM local time. Inside the back of the vehicle, the team made themselves as comfortable as possible inside the cramped compartment for the three-hour drive to Accra.
As the white Isuzu NPS box truck waited at the border crossing its diesel engine drowned out much of the noise from the other vehicles that idled nearby. Forty-five minutes after arriving the Isuzu, at last, pulled up to the security checkpoint. The sign to the left instructed them to shut off the engine which the driver did reluctantly.
A young man emerged from the rickety shack and approached the vehicle. He looked to be in his early 20’s and very much wet behind the ears. He eyed the two white men in the front of the Isuzu suspiciously as he got close to the driver’s side door. He was not one of the normal border guards who understood not to ask questions and simply accept the white envelope before letting the vehicle go without a second glance.
“Purpose of your visit,” he asked in broken English with a deep frown upon his face.
The two men were ready for this contingency, but already the senior agent who drove didn’t like the young man’s attitude. He handed him a piece of paper that contained a false shipping manifest. “Electric components for the parliamentary building in Accra,” he said as he pointed to the back of the van.
The border officer’s eyes narrowed as he said, “Step out of the vehicle and show me what’s in the back.”
“I just told you what’s in there,” replied the driver forcefully.
The tone clearly provoked the young man who put his right hand on the butt of his holstered pistol as he forcefully replied, “Get out of the vehicle now and step to the back of your vehicle!”
The agent played it cool knowing he needed to diffuse the situation pronto. He stepped out of the driver’s door and walked to the back of the vehicle then pointed to the large brass lock on the rear door.
“Open it,” barked the young man.
“I don’t have the key. Nobody is allowed to open those doors by authority of the Ghana government.”
The young man pointed to the badge on his uniform just above his heart, “I am the only authority that matters right here.”
The situation was spinning out of control.
“Fine,” continued the young man as he turned to walk back to the guard shack, “I’ll get bolt cutters.”
“Hold up,” said the agent, “I’ve got something for you.”
As he turned the young border agent watched as the man reached into his jacket. He quickly withdrew his holstered sidearm and with his right hand shaking and pointed it at the man before him.
“Whoa! Whoa!” exclaimed the agent as he raised his left hand in the air while his right hand withdrew a thick white envelope from the inside pocket of his light jacket. “Hold up now, you don’t need to pull that thing out.”
“What is that?” demanded the young man.
Ignoring the question, the agent asked, “How much money do you make in a month?”
With a sneer, the man replied, “Not enough.”
“Let me change that,” said the agent as he handed the envelope towards the young man.
With his gun still pointing at the man before him, the tremor in his right subsided as he reached out with his left hand and snatched the thick white envelope from the man’s hand. As he kept his glance still at the man he looked down as his left hand pulled open the flap with his thumb. He had never seen so much money in his whole life. All new crisp “C-Notes” as the people in his country called the American one-hundred-dollar bills.
“We good?” questioned the driver.
For a few seconds, the young boy ignored the question. Then he replied in a broken voice, “Yes, we’re good. You may pass.”
“Thought so,” he mumbled quite perturbed the situation had almost spun out of control.
In the back of the vehicle, the five members of the Omega Group breathed a collective sigh of relief. They heard the exchange from the vent in the top corner of the cab that separated the front and rear of the Isuzu. Each member gripped their weapons as the first sign of trouble not knowing if the incident would escalate into a full-blown gun battle. Luckily it didn’t, and they relaxed as the engine roared to life and the vehicle passed through the checkpoint without further incident.
The young man walked back to the guard shack as the white Isuzu drove off. He dropped his ID badge on the uncomfortable wooden seat he so despised. A broad smile clearly visible on his face, not a common sight from border agents from any country. He walked away from his post and back towards the parking lot where his old, worn-out vehicle waited. The next vehicle that pulled up to the checkpoint started to beep furiously as he walked away. The young man ignored the sound of the blaring horn. His boss watched from the far checkpoint booth and when he left started to yell at him. But the young man heard nothing. He climbed into his car, started up the old engine and disappeared. Never to return again.
A couple minutes down the road the driver let out a sigh as he drove down the N1 headed for Accra. “That was close,” he admitted to the man to his right.
“Too close,” replied the man in the passenger seat.
“What would you have done if the bribe didn’t work and the boy had tried to open the rear door?”
The agent raised his Glock 19 which had been in his right hand down by the side of his seat and coldly replied, “I would have stepped outside, shot both of you, and then drove like a bat out of hell for Accra.”
Colonel Marshall knew better than to show up unannounced. After all, it was after midnight on the east coast and the man he flew seven hours and thirty-three minutes to see did not appreciate uninvited guests. The heavily armed men tasked with keeping him safe liked them even less.
The black Chevy suburban pulled up in front of the colonial-style house in Potomac Hills, located in McLean, VA. It parked behind an identical color and style vehicle. As the Colonel stepped out, a lone lamppost illuminated the sidewalk before him. He carried at his side a small black duffel bag. Two stone-faced men stood at the foot of the steps as he proceeded down the brick walkway.
“He’s expecting me,” said the Colonel with authority.
“We’re aware sir,” replied the one.
“Or we wouldn’t have allowed you to get this close to the residence,” answered the other.
The first agent pointed at the Colonel’s hip, “We need your sidearm Colonel.”
Colonel Marshall knew the drill as he withdrew the weapon the distinct sound of metal rubbing against Kydex occurred. He handed the weapon barrel pointed downward to the younger man.
“Go right in,” gestured the agent towards the door, “He’s waiting for you in the study, second room on the right.”
“I’ve been here before,” remarked the Colonel as he nodded and walked past the two men and proceeded up the ten red brick stairs.
A fire was roaring in the study, even though it was hardly cold outside. Its flames cracked and hissed as they danced up towards the flue. The man who sat cross-legged in the leather chair with a glass of brandy in his hand didn’t bother to stand as William walked into the room.
“Drink?” he asked.
“Scotch if you have it,” answered the Colonel.
“Does the Pope have holy water?” questioned the man in a sarcastic tone. “It’s over on the bar,” he said as he motioned towards the exquisite mahogany bar that took up one whole wall in the room.
The Colonel poured himself a stiff drink, a double, and sat down in the chair across from the Secretary of Defense. An ornate marble table separated the two men.
“Well,” said SecDef, “Your message said it was urgent. And the fact you wouldn’t say anything over the phone makes me believe it could be dire. Shouldn’t you be in Africa right now with your team?” he asked with arched eyebrows.
“I should be,” answered the Colonel.
“But?” questioned the SecDef
“This happened,” he replied as he removed from the black bag and laid down a series of photos that showed the carnage that occurred on the roadside as the team made their way to Dukan Lake.
With a meticulous examination, the SecDef poured over the photos. A few moments passed before he asked, “I take it no casualties for your men?”
“Not even a scratch.”
“Why didn’t you call it in?”
“I’m here now,” answered the Colonel in a curt tone.
“And these men that attacked you?”
“Clearly,” answered the SecDef as he held up one of the photos that showed a man with half his head blown off. “But who were they?”
“Not sure yet,” he replied as he removed a gallon sized ziplock plastic bag from the duffel bag and dropped its contents on the wooden table. “But maybe these will give us a few answers.”
“Jesus,” hollered the SecDef as he recoiled from the sight of the severed index fingers. The bottom of the bag coated in thick coagulated blood. “What the hell is that?”
“A finger from each of the fourteen Haji that tried to kill me and my men.”
“Why in God’s name did you cut off their fingers?”
“To identify them if possible,” answered the Colonel in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Did you really need to bring them here?”
“I think sometimes the folks in Washington get too cozy in their nice isolated offices. It’s good to bring a taste of the field work to the powers that be.”
The SecDef ignored the obvious dig directed at him, “It’s Iraq,” he answered, “What do you expect in that godforsaken hell hole that considers itself a civilized nation?”
“Not this,” countered the Colonel as he slapped the next batch of photos on top of the first. They were the photos they had retrieved from the truck that showed each member of the Omega Group.
“Dammit,” replied the stunned SecDef several times as he considered the ramifications of the photos he held.
“Something like that.”
“They knew you would be there? And targeted you?”
“Correct. My team is being hunted. Look at the pictures, one for each of us. Someone has it out for us, big time.”
“But who would want to do that?”
“That’s what I’m going to find out.”
“You’ll have the full cooperation of the DOD and any other intelligence agencies you need. The Omega Group’s mission is too valuable to have them fighting a two prong battle. They must succeed in Africa or we might have a nuclear attack on the United States or one of our allies.”
“I already have plenty of resources at my discretion.”
“Then what do you want from me if not my assistance?”
“I want carte blanche.”
For a minute the SecDef said nothing. He considered what was being requested and thought about the consequences if he consented to the Colonel’s request. The Omega Group operated outside the normal chain of command, but there were still rules in place. Assurances that they must follow a specific framework when they operated outside American soil. The Colonel now asked that all that be discarded.
He considered the appeal and realized if the Omega Group, one of the nation’s most elite teams were targeted he really had no choice but to acquiesce.
“You have it. Take the gloves off,” replied the SecDef before he paused for a second, “With one caveat.”
“Which is?” questioned the Colonel.
“If you find the aggressor is someone inside the government, I need to be consulted before you act.”
The Colonel had a sneaking suspicion who might be behind the attack, but he could never voice those concerns out loud. It would certainly cost him his career if he were wrong.
“Deal,” replied the Colonel.
“Happy hunting,” answered the SecDef, “And woe to any person that merit’s the attention of the Omega Group.”
Colonel Marshall simply smiled then threw back the rest of the liquid in one quick motion. It warmed his throat on its way down the hatch. He placed the emptied glass on the table which made a distinct clunk sound before he stood up then turned to leave.
The SecDef said nothing.
As the Colonel reached the doorway paused and looked back at the man who sat before the fire. “Fire and brimstone will reign down on anyone that attempts to harm my men, make no mistake.”
With pursed lips, the SecDef nodded and raised his thick glass high in the air, “Amen!” he exclaimed.
Up Next ... Part VI