PART II - The Anguish
Black Site – Mediterranean Sea
At 2AM (GMT+2) the G650 touched down on the remote island of Linosa.
Only a speck of an island, Linosa’s location between Sicily and Tunisia in the middle of the Mediterranean made for a short flight for the team. The fact that it was isolated, sparsely populated, and only slightly developed made it the perfect location for a secret facility that technically didn’t exist.
In 2002 several hundred acres of the northwest portion of island were leased by an international conglomerate directly from the Italian government. The secretive lease agreement stipulated an exorbitant amount of money be paid each year to keep the Italian government from asking any questions about the use of the land. Each year the funds arrived and Rome acted like a part of Linosa didn’t exist.
In 2005 a runway was installed and planes frequently landed in the dead of night. Locals never saw what went on within the remote property and only heard the planes land in darkness. Those citizens who mustered up the courage and asked questions about the mysterious comings and goings received visits from the local magistrate, which never went well for the person who asked the question. After a while the inquiries ceased. The local population got the message. That part of Linosa was off limits.
Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil.
Stepping out of the plane, Troy and Terrance were the last to depart. Arjun, now awake, shuffled between them with his ankles shackled together. The hood over his head was a technicality. It was so dark he couldn’t see anything if he tried. After a few harsh words were barked into his ear he followed the commands.
Two black SUV’s waited by the side of the plane. Arjun was loaded into the rear car, sandwiched between Troy and Terrance. Four heavily armed men occupied the vehicle as well. The lead SUV held the Colonel, and the rest of the Omega Group.
It was less than a half mile drive from the remote runway to the string of five concrete buildings that lined the base of the dormant volcano. During the day it looked ominous, at the dead of night there was nothing to see.
Several men awaited their arrival. The one clearly in charge stood closest to the vehicles as they came to an abrupt stop. The Colonel was the first to get out. He immediately recognized the man responsible for the facility and approached him with a smile and outstretched hand.
“Mr. Smith, good to see you once again,” said the Colonel as he shook the man’s hand.
“Likewise,” said Mr. Smith. “The room is ready just as you requested sir.”
“The interrogator has been briefed. He realizes the delicate nature of the situation.”
“My men are tired, it’ been a long day.”
“We have accommodations for them.”
With a gesture from Mr. Smith the men moved towards the door of the building.
Troy and Terrance guided Arjun, who about to hyperventilating under the dark hood. He began to visibly tremble and they pretty much had to carry him as his legs resisted moving forward after a few steps. They were directed where to go and quickly all the men disappeared into the building.
Ten minutes later, with Arjun secure, the Omega Group members were escorted to another building which served as a bunkhouse for guests. They were told to make themselves comfortable. It was a spacious facility containing all modern conveniences. The beds were comfortable, and each man had his own private room. They were told the pantry was fully stocked, and the facility contained a media room and game room with a pool table. The seven men were all exhausted and decided to forego food or showers in exchange for sleep. None of the Omega members, including the Colonel, had slept in over thirty-six hours so sleep came quickly to each man.
Back in the main building everything was in place.
The hood was quickly pulled off Arjun’s head. The coverings over his eyes had been removed prior to him waking up on the plane. A bright light greeted his petrified eyes and it took a minute before they adjusted to the bombardment of white light.
“Arjun Shakir?” asked a gruff voice directly before him.
“Yes,” he replied with a trembling response as his voice cracked.
“Welcome to hell,” said the voice in a detached tone.
“Help me Allah!” cried out Arjun in despair. His voice sounded pitiful.
“Allah can’t help you in here,” replied the voice, “You’re all alone.”
“And all mine,” added the voice after a few seconds.
For the second time in less than a day Arjun pissed his pants involuntarily.
Twenty-four hours later Troy found himself sitting across a table from Arjun’s interrogator. Troy’s eyes narrowed as he sized the man up.
It appeared the man did likewise.
Several moments passed without words.
“So what do I call you?” asked Troy,
“Harvey,” replied the man with broad shoulders and grey streaks running through his thick, black, hair. His face was wrinkled, the crow’s feet around his eyes indicated he had spent many years under a blazing sun when he was a younger man. With a sharp nose and chiseled jaw, the man had an intimidating look about him.
Troy smirked, “As in the white rabbit?”
Harvey smiled, “I would think a Jimmy Stewart movie was a little before your time.”
“Nah, my Dad and I watched old movies together all the time growing up, every Friday night in fact. Pizza and movie night. We loved Jimmy Stewart. Hollywood doesn’t make actors like that anymore.”
“And what do I call you?” asked Harvey.
“My name is Troy, Troy Evans,” he responded.
Harvey’s expression changed, his features, which only a second before were hardened, suddenly softened. He appeared to be surprised by the name that was uttered. “As in Captain Troy Evans of the Green Berets?”
“Guilty as charged,” replied Troy. His eyebrows raised slightly before he added, “Have we met before?”
“No, but I’ve heard a lot about you over the years.”
“From whom?” asked Troy curiously.
Instead of answering Harvey extended his hand over the stainless-steel table. Troy was surprised by the action, but reached across and shook Harvey’s hand. Both men had exceptionally strong grips.
“It’s not often you get to meet a real, honest to goodness, American hero,” proclaimed Harvey.
“Trust me, I’m no hero,” said Troy somewhat embarrassed as he sat back in his chair. The handshake and statement caught him off guard, which was not too common of an occurrence.
“I know someone that would beg to differ.”
“And who would that be?” questioned Troy.
“Dawson Phillips,” replied Harvey in a matter of fact manner.
The name startled Troy. It was one he had not heard in a while. Now he knew why Harvey called him a hero. Troy commanded Dawson in his previous unit, and saved his life during an operation that become almost mythical among the Special Forces community over time.
“How do you know Dawson?”
“He’s my nephew”
“Small world,” replied Troy.
His mind went back to the incident that almost cost Dawson and most of the team, including Troy, their lives. Troy suddenly felt at ease with Harvey. The connection they shared put his mind at ease to talk freely, which was not the norm for him.
“How is he?” asked Troy.
Harvey smiled warmly, “Dawson is good. He speaks of you often when I see him.”
“He was a good soldier with a big heart. I miss our talks late at night. Dawson always had something to talk about, and even if you disagreed with every word he said somehow you would see his side by the end of the conversation. I was sad to see him leave after our last mission went all to hell.”
“You’re his hero,” said Harvey. “You know that, right?”
“Look Harvey, I’m proud to have Dawson think so highly of me, but like I already said, I’m no hero…”
“Yes, I know, I know. You just do your job. Nothing more, nothing less. Dawson told me about your humility.”
“It’s not humility Harvey. It’s the truth,” replied Troy, before he continued, “Anyway, I’ve always contended that true heroes never make it back home. They are buried in an unmarked grave, at cemeteries around the world, or in sacred locations like Arlington National Cemetery.”
“I respectfully disagree,” said Harvey. “We have walking, talking heroes amongst us.”
Troy ignored the sincere compliment, “Give my best to Dawson next time you talk to him. Tell him to call me sometime. It’s been too long and we need to catch up. In fact, if you have a pen I can give you my number and email address if you would like. Although I must admit I’m rarely stateside to answer the phone I do most my communication via email nowadays.”
“Please do,” Harvey said as he handed Troy the paper and pen.
“Here you go,” said Troy as he jotted down his number and email address and slid the piece of paper back to Harvey.
“I heard rumors you got out a while back,” replied Harvey, “No longer part of Special Ops.”
“I even tried looking you up as at Dawson’s request last year. Got nowhere trying to track you down with the Army brass. One person tell me you moved over to the Agency and worked for the Special Activities Division (SAD) under their Special Operations Group (SOG).”
“Bald faced lie, I could never be a spook. I’m still Army, and still Special Ops it’s just that …” Troy paused and took a moment to consider his next words, “Let’s just say I have been reassigned and my new group falls outside the typical Army hierarchy.”
“Black ops?” asked Harvey.
“I didn’t say that,” replied Troy with a wry smile.
“Your new group have a designation?” asked Harvey.
“Classified,” remarked Troy in a coy tone, “You know the drill.”
“Most things are in the military,” commented Harvey who motioned with his arms, “According to the United States military this facility doesn’t exist. Neither do the countless others littered throughout the world.”
“At least you’re not in Diego Garcia,” replied Troy. “That place is in the middle of nowhere.”
Harvey nodded, “Don’t I know it. I spent three months of my life there last year. You been?”
Troy’s eyebrows raised before he replied, “Once or twice.”
The two men chatted like they had known each other for years. The brotherhood worked like that. Men who seemingly had little in common could suddenly find out just how much they were alike when they put on the uniform.
“Do you like being an interrogator,” questioned Troy.
“I do,” replied Harvey, “And I’m pretty damn good at it if I don’t say so myself.”
“No issues with…” Troy hesitated before he chose his words carefully, “The methodologies you use on those you question.”
“Are you implying we torture our guests here at this facility?” asked Harvey with a quizzical look. “Or use enhanced interrogation techniques?”
“Well don’t you?” asked Troy.
“Not me, but I can’t say it never happens here. Speaking only for myself, I‘ve found over the years that psychological methodologies work better than anything that could be construed as physical torture. I like to call what I put my subjects through as mental anguish. It allows me to extract valuable intel in a timely manner.”
“And if you can’t break them using your psychological tricks?”
“That’s not a common occurrence,” replied Harvey in a matter of fact tone.
“But when it happens?” asked Troy.
“Then I bring in someone else who may have better luck at the extraction of intel.”
“And what tactics do they use?” asked Troy.
Instead of answering Harvey replied, “Ever lose sleep over the people you have killed Troy?”
“No,” Troy replied without hesitation.
“Really?” questioned Harvey.
“Never. The men I have ushered into the afterlife deserved what they got. I have no doubts about the times I have had to pull the trigger for my country. Each and every person we go after are either confirmed enemies of the state or those that protect them. I don’t make a distinction when someone has a gun in their hand and intends to take my life or the life of my men. My conscious is clean. Men with clean consciences sleep soundly in my experience. And I sleep like a rock.”
“So do psychopaths, according to most experts,” replied Harvey.
“Touché,” acknowledged Troy, “But I feel confident my actions are on the side of justice. I don’t get sent after car thief’s or tax cheats. We go after the worst of the worst and they deserve what’s coming. Besides, when our boots are on the ground I have complete operational authority. If something doesn’t smell right, I can pull the plug at any time.”
“Ever had to do that?”
“Yes,” replied Troy, “More than once.”
Harvey nodded his head. “The techniques I use work. I have done what was necessary to defend American interests and her citizens lives. The average person can debate torture all they want and what they think can be construed as such, but I know the intel I have extracted has saved lives without question.”
“I agree,” replied Troy.
“I look at it this way. Most people want to eat chicken, but few people are willing to work at the processing plant. Or even raise chickens on their own and kill them with their own bare hands. It’s a brutal business and not for the faint of heart. Same thing with the War on Terror. Everybody thinks our government should prevent the next 9/11. However, when it comes down to extracting the intel needed politicians want us to treat these detainees with respect and play by Washington’s rule book. That doesn’t fly out here in the real world.”
“You’ll get no argument from me on that.”
“America is different and we don’t stoop to the level of these animals, but we also need to have some flexibility and be able to bend the rules every now and then when we have a tough nut to crack.”
“Agreed. So how long you been doing this?”
“Thirteen years as an interrogator, thirty-one years with the Army,” replied Harvey.
“That’s a long time. You have a family?”
“Been married for 28 years. My wife and I have three grown kids.”
“You gone a lot?”
“I pull ninety day stretches overseas, then home for the same amount of time before I head back out.”
“The family know what you do?”
Harvey smirked, “My wife has a pretty good idea. That’s a hard thing to conceal from someone you sleep next to every night you’re stateside. Plus, she swears to God I talk in my sleep,” Harvey said with a chuckle, “But God I hope not, who knows what may have slip out. As for my kids, they just know I’m in Army intelligence. They never really asked and I never really told.”
“How Bill Clinton of you.”
“My version of don’t ask, don’t tell is slightly different from his,” responded Harvey with a laugh. “So how about you? Married?”
Troy shook his head, “Military life isn’t always conducive to having a family in my opinion, and certainly not with the path I chose. No offense, since it seems to work for you.”
“It’s hard to have a normal relationship when you are gone for six to twelve month at a time with little notice,” said Troy.
“Hmmm, sounds like a lonely existence if you ask me.”
“There was someone,” acknowledged Troy, letting his guard down slightly, “But that ship sailed a long time ago.”
“She marry someone else?”
“No, nothing like that,” replied Troy. “She’s single, works for the Bureau in the counterterrorism division.”
“And?” pressed Harvey.
“And I made the choice a long time ago for this life instead of that one.”
“You make the right call?”
Troy was out of his comfort zone, way outside it. He didn’t answer and instead turned the conversation away from himself and back towards the mission.
“So about Arjun. How long will it take you to break him?”
“Pffttt,” responded Harvey with an audible sound as he threw his head back slightly. “I broke him already.”
“What?” questioned Troy in an incredulous tone.
“Like I said, I broke him. He was one of the easier ones I’ve been given in a long time. He told me everything he knew, and then some.”
“Then why are we still here? And why didn’t you tell us this before now? A girl’s life is at stake for God’s sake,” replied Troy in a suddenly irritated tone.
“I’m well aware of what is at risk Captain,” replied Harvey with a serious look upon his face, “Just because I know I broke him doesn’t mean I’m right. I rarely allow what they tell me during the first session to be the gospel truth. I let them rest for a few hours and then hit them hard again. See if the story changes. This one won’t though. Arjun is weak. He may be a brilliant banker, but he is scared to death right now.”
“So when do you start back up on him? Confirm what he told you?” asked Troy anxiously.
Harvey looked at his watch, “In about thirty minutes. It should take me less than an hour, two at the most. Mr. Smith should be able to de-brief you by breakfast. Then your team can be on your way soon after that.”
Troy pressed him, “Tell me, does he know where the girl is?”
“He does,” replied Harvey with a nod.
“You’ll know in a few hours.”
“Look Harvey this is …”
Harvey cut him off, “Look … don’t tell me how to do my job Troy cause I wouldn’t assume to do that to you. Let me do what I do best. You’ll have your intel soon enough. I’m not dragging my feet here, but I must be sure what I provide you is spot on. I’m fully aware what is at stake.” He paused for a moment before he added, “Deal?”
Troy thought for a moment, and knew he was wrong to question Harvey’s expertise. He swallowed his pride and said, “Your right Harvey, sorry I snapped at you.”
With a warm smile Harvey replied, “No offense. You have skin in the game and I respect that. I’ll get you the intel once I’m one hundred percent sure it’s accurate, but not a minute before that.”
“Agreed,” replied Troy.
“Why don’t you join the rest of the guys and get a little more rack time. I’ll wake you up after the next session concludes.”
“Thanks,” replied Troy, “I’ll try to get some sleep.”
“I have a feeling you’ll need it soon.”
“Always do,” countered Troy as he stood up and extended his hand outward.
Harvey shook it enthusiastically.
“Thanks for the talk,” replied Troy, “I really respect what you and your team does for our country.”
“And I yours,” responded Harvey.
Four hours later the debrief had concluded.
The Colonel thanked Harvey and Mr. Smith for their time.
“What’s next?” asked Digger. “Let’s say Arjun is correct about the city where they’re holding her. We still don’t know the exact location. He gave us details but how are we going to initiate a rescue mission to get her before the deadline passes? We just can’t waltz into that country and start kicking in doors looking for her. If we go in there it won’t be sanctioned by their government. Plus, they could move her at any time, and there is no way Arjun would be aware now that we have him at this facility.”
Before the Colonel could answer there was a knock at the door.
“Enter,” said the Colonel slightly irritated at the interruption.
A man who worked for Mr. Smith entered, “Sorry to disturb you Colonel but your pilot asked us to deliver this to you.”
He pulled out a cell phone from his right pocket, “The pilot said it has not stopped ringing for the past ninety minutes. We didn’t want to disturb you during the de-brief.”
The Colonel took the phone and before he could thank the man for delivering it, the device started to ring. The man took his leave as the Colonel looked down at the screen. His expression changed.
“I better take this,” he said as he turned his back slightly to his team. “It’s him.”
The six men of the Omega Group could only hear one side of the conversation.
“What it is?”
“Glenn slow down…”
“Take a breath…”
“Did you recognize the voice?”
“Hold on, start from the beginning and don’t leave out a word of what the kidnappers said…”
For almost five minutes the Colonel said nothing. He listened as the other man on the phone recounted the entire phone call he had received. Besides a few grunts and sighs the Colonel was silent.
Troy and the others could do nothing but wait and listen. It was agonizingly long.
Finally, the Colonel started to speak.
“No, I’m not sure it’s a good idea, but what choice do we have?”
“Yes, I heard what they said.”
“Only bring ten million with you.”
“You were smart to ask for proof of life.”
“Of course, we can be there within two and half hours.”
“We’ll leave within the hour and begin to scout the drop location.”
“Call me when your plane starts to cross the Atlantic.”
“Stay strong Glenn. We’ll get her back. I promise.”
“Yes, you have my word on that.”
As the call concluded the Colonel fell silent. He was lost in his thoughts.
Troy pulled him back, “What the hell was that about?”
“The kidnappers,” replied the Colonel, “They pushed the date forward. They want half the money delivered tomorrow at noon or his daughter dies. They said this time they would send back more than one piece of her if their demands were not met. The physical exchange of her and the rest of the money won’t happen until the deadline they originally demanded.”
“Ten million?” questioned Troy.
“Yes, in Euro’s.”
“Glenn already has the money?” asked Troy.
“He has the full twenty. He’s bringing only ten.”
“Paris,” replied the Colonel, “At the restaurant on the first platform of the Eiffel Tower.”
“Tomorrow at noon?”
“Yes,” answered the Colonel, “If he doesn’t come alone they’ll kill her.”
“Of course they said that,” sighed Troy.
“You familiar with the tower?”
“Yes,” said Troy, “Been there several times. My first time in Paris I was twelve.”
“How about recently?”
“Within the past two years.”
“Tough place for us to operate. We won’t be able to ensure Glenn’s safety. Too many civilians for my comfort. On the ground would be better, anywhere in the structure will be a logistics nightmare for our team.”
“Any place for Digger to set up shop? Give us an eye in the sky?””
“Not that I recall,” answered Troy, “But I really need to see the tower to give an accurate assessment.”
“If Glenn goes there alone with all that money they will kill him,” interjected Jesús, “And then kill his daughter when they have the money.”
“I agree,” added Terrance.
“Glenn won’t be alone Sarge,” countered Troy as he looked at Terrance. “I won’t allow that. Plus, they won’t kill the girl.”
“You know that how?” asked the Jackal.
“Trust me, they want the full twenty…”
Troy didn’t finish. He became lost in his thoughts and his trailed off.
The Colonel watched and smiled as his men talked back and forth. The efficiency of his team and their problem resolution skills were something to behold. He felt confident that between the six men who sat before him any situation could be resolved.
“Earth to Cap,” said Digger as he snapped his fingers trying to get Troy out of his daydream.
“Give me a few minutes’ guys,” replied Troy as he stood up and walked to the corner of the room.
“I think Cap is formulating a plan,” replied the Colonel.
“Are you?” inquired Harry.
“Of course he is. Right Cap?” questioned the Colonel.
“Well I have the start of one,” said Troy with a slight grin as he turned around. “And I think I know how to have a tracker placed on the money that can’t be detected if anything goes south.”
“We gonna like this plan?” questioned the Jackal.
“Do you ever like my plans?”
“Good point,” answered the Jackal.
“The question is, will Glenn like the plan?” asked Digger.
Troy thought for a moment before he answered, “Probably not.”
“Wonderful,” added Harry.
“We can discuss Cap’s plan on the flight to Paris fellas. And if anyone has a better plan I’m all ears,” added the Colonel
They all nodded.
“Collect your gear, we won’t be coming back to Linosa anytime soon,” added the Colonel.
“How about Arjun?” asked Jesús.
“He’ll leave Linosa tomorrow night and be a guest at the Iron Lady,” replied the Colonel, “Until this whole incident is resolved.”
“And then?” questioned Jesús.
“Then he’ll likely be tried for his part in the kidnapping.”
“Floating out in the Indian Ocean on board the Iron Lady will make his stay in Linosa seem like a visit to Club Med,” said the Jackal.
“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time,” added Troy.
“You and your dad watch reruns of Baretta growing up Cap?” asked the Colonel.
“All the time,” answered Troy with a nod of his head, “All the time…”