Serenity: Full Circle – Chapters 3 and 4

CHAPTER THREE

The Real Business

Early the next morning, Marc spent two hours on the phone, setting up an offshore banking account.  Just before noon the next morning, the phone rang in Marc’s office.   He and Eyan were pretty much just sitting around, waiting for it.  Marc answered, saying, “Bracken speaking.” He heard a voice say, “Mr. Bracken, McBride here.  Have you rendered a decision on our proposal?”  Marc’s reply was, “Mr. McBride, I believe we have, but there are a few things I need to know in advance.  For instance, how soon does the agreement need to be fulfilled, and what intelligence can you supply?”  After a short silence, McBride said, “We need to get together, say an hour from now at your office?”  Marc agreed, hanging up the phone.

During the meeting, all the questions were answered.  They had a window of opportunity that stretched out four weeks.  As for the intel, he was handed a full dossier on the target.  After agreeing to the terms, McBride reached into his valise and produced a military-grade satellite phone.  He then proceeded to transfer the upfront payment to Marc’s newly-established account.  After the transfer was completed and verified, McBride handed the encrypted phone to Marc for later communications.  McBride then departed the office.

Marc turned to Eyan and said, “Are you ready to go to work?”  But Eyan was already working at Marc’s computer, browsing firearms’ web sites.  Eyan looked up at Marc and said, “You know, we’re going to need some help pulling this off, don’t ya?”  Marc said, “Yeah, I know.  I’ve been putting together a mental list of the possibilities. Once we get a positive location we can figure out what type of insertion will be most effective.  Right now I’m thinking perhaps a night H.A.L.O. (High Altitude Low Open) into position.  I haven’t figured out our extraction yet, but once we have good intel, we’ll know more.  What we need is someone who has the connections in British South Africa.  Can you remember that guy’s name when we worked that protection detail down in Mozambique?  Was it Harold or Henry?”  Eyan chimed in and said, “Harry?”  That triggered Marc’s memory, “Harridan, Harridan Baker.” He said, “We need to get in touch with him if he’s still on the map.”  Marc reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone and began pouring through the recently dialed index until he found a number that had a D.C. area code.  General Thomas, he thought. He seemed to know a lot of people that work in the shadows.  It was as good a place to start, as any.  When Marc was able to get a call back from General Thomas, he was more helpful than he had been previously.  He gave Marc two names and contact information of people who might know Harridan Baker’s current location, or at least a way to contact him.

Eyan caught Marc’s attention a bit later and they discussed what type of firepower they thought they might need to carry out the assignment.  Eyan had put together a list of long-range sniper rifles and also a few potentials for close-quarter automatics, just in case things got “up close and personal.” And last, there were always the old standbys – the Glocks – for their sidearm needs.  He also was searching for military-grade parachutes for the insertion.  There were so many things that were just “there” when working for the government.  Now, they had to find them on the Internet, or through other military contacts. They also had to keep in mind that this was a covert mission, knowing that all their contacts would want to know what was going on.  Eyan was both relieved and surprised to find out that H.A.L.O. jumping was quickly becoming a segment of the elite sports jumper’s market.  There were new rig suppliers popping up on the Internet almost daily.  The new chutes were higher tech, and more reliable, than anything that Marc or Eyan had used while in the service.

The next day, Marc received a package from a bonded special courier service. The package contained the banking papers from the offshore account.  The funds were indeed in the account. Eyan began to acquire the items of necessity for the job while Marc diligently began putting the puzzle together.  One of the contacts that General Thomas had given him turned up “pay dirt.”  Harridan Baker was still wandering around the southern territory of Mozambique.  Harridan was living on the coast, just south of Maputo across the bay, in an area referred to as Catembe.  Harridan ran a small security business as a front to his more vigorous endeavors in the black market and/or its black ops trades.  It really didn’t seem to matter to him, as long as the money was right.  Harridan was an expatriate of Australia and was totally at ease with the choices he had made in life.  He was often prone to bouts of excess – be it women or drugs of choice – but, somehow he was uniquely competent and reliable. Marc had found his web site after only a few minutes of surfing on the Internet and had requested a call back or, in this case, a phone number and time that he could be reached, given the time zone differential.

Marc checked out a second web site to determine the time difference between San Diego and Mozambique.  It was sixteen hours ahead of Marc’s California location. It was now a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. in California, Mozambique was pushing 5:00 a.m..  To Marc’s surprise, within ten minutes of sending his e-mail, a chime sounded on his computer.  It was Harridan, replying to his query.  The message listed his Skype information and invited Marc into his contact group.  A very short message also said, “Open-24/7.”  Marc had been using the Internet video phone system between the two dive shops.  It was an amazing business tool.  Marc pulled up his Skype program and punched in Harridan’s information and hit the call button.  A few seconds later Harridan’s smiling face appeared on Marc’s screen.  Harridan said, “Hello, what can I do for ya mate?” with a deep Australian, accent.  Marc re-introduced himself.  Then Harridan replied, “Yeah, I remember you – and the sandy guy,” referring to Eyan’s blond hair.  Marc went on to tell him that if he were in the market, there was a job he needed help with.  All that Harridan said was, “When do we start, mate?”  Marc explained the general situation and the basic items that they would need to get the ball rolling.  All of this, of course, was rudimentary information.  He did say that an aircraft and a helicopter would be needed and several specialized weapons would also be a part of Harridan’s responsibility in the job.  After about thirty minutes, Marc agreed to wire transfer $20,000 U.S. to Harridan’s account to get things off the ground.  He also arranged for Harridan to meet them at Durban International Airport in British South Africa, about 300 miles down the coast from Maputo, Mozambique.

Over the next few days, they took care of the loose ends of both the dive shop and shipment of the crated supplies they would need to get to Harridan.  Marc had decided that once the obligation was fulfilled, they needed to basically evaporate from the area. This is where the helicopter would come into play.  Both Marc and Eyan had all of the papers necessary for international travel.  The security work that they had done for the federal government had often required commercial travel abroad, necessitating conventional passports.  After landing in Durban and clearing customs, they made their way to the baggage claim area where they were also to meet up with Harridan.  Fifteen minutes later, the three were on their way to a nearby hotel where Harridan had set up shop and procured rooms for all.  As usual, he had been right on the mark.  Harridan was a pro.  The hotel was not something most tourists would frequent and was out of the mainstream, as not to garner any attention.  It was close to the airport and had several avenues of retreat, if it became necessary, to pull up stakes and quickly vanish.

Now that they had physically re-established contact with Harridan, it was time to brief him on what was to be done.  Harridan had several contacts in the region and had procured the necessary aircraft needed for both the insertion and extraction.  As they were going through the plan, there was a knock at the door.  Harridan could see the concern on Marc and Eyan’s face.  He stood up quickly saying, “Relax mates; it’s only Thomas, me sidekick,” as he walked to the door.  When he opened it up, Marc recognized the man’s face from the job in Mozambique a year or so earlier, as did Eyan, as he moved into view.  Marc looked up at Harridan and said, “No more surprises, Harridan, please.”  Harridan looked at Marc and said, “Marc, we’re all professionals here.  Trust me – I didn’t get this old and creaky being stupid – but you have my apologies, mate.  I should have warned you about Thomas.”  Thomas was from Maputo. Like many from the area, his skin was so dark that it appeared to have a slight cast of purple in the bright sunlight, and his eyes were piercing blue.  Marc had remembered him partially because of these distinguishing features.  Thomas was a man of few words.  When he entered the room, he moved swiftly to a chair at the table and quickly sat down saying, “The freight boxes are at the hanger, boss.”  Thomas was Harridan’s “main man” and he did all the heavy lifting when it came to the physical side of the jobs – a bit like Eyan and Marc’s arrangement.  The primary difference was that Marc and Eyan split all proceeds down the middle, and they were sure that this wasn’t the case with Harridan and Thomas.

Marc opened the file folder that he had been given on the principal target.  His name was Samatar Nấdifa.  He was Somalia-born, but had made the East coast of Africa – from Somalia down to British South Africa – his home.  He was forty-four years old and, according to his file, he had been responsible for the death of far more people, than the years he had lived.  McBride had given instructions at the onset of the mission for Marc to contact him on the satellite phone when they were in-country for information regarding Nấdifa’s current location. McBride said the man they had shadowing Nấdifa had just reported in less than three hours previously with current GPS coordinates of the target.

Marc pulled out his maps of the area and pin-pointed the location.  Nấdifa was at his compound in the highlands near the Katse dam water project in central Lesotho. From Durban, that location was approximately 150 miles to the WNW, as the crow flies.  McBride also said the man indicated that the compound had had several deliveries of fresh food supplies such as a beef quarter and live chickens and a truck load of firewood.  He said that in the highlands, fresh supplies like these were indicative of an extended stay, but added, “I’m only guessing.”

Early the next morning, they all converged on the hanger at Durban airport and began going through the hardware that Harridan had rounded up.  All of the crates that had been shipped from the States had arrived, with the exception of the parachutes that had been ordered directly off the Internet from the manufacturer.  Harridan had acquired all the weapons that Eyan had listed.  The only thing he was having trouble getting his hands on was the special ammo for the M107 LRSR (Long-Range Sniper Rifles), but these items were to arrive before noon today.  The airplane was a Piper Navajo, PA-31T3 a modified turbocharged twin.  It had the capability to deliver them to the insertion area in full gear to an altitude of 25,000 feet, nearly five miles up.  The craft had been fitted with oxygen cylinders for the pilot.  This was necessitated because of the depressurization prior to insertion.   Both Marc and Eyan would be outfitted in their “H.A.L.O.,” equipment that had full-face oxygen masks.  They had extra cylinders available for the mid-flight high-altitude portion of the insertion, and they would switch out their cylinders, just before the jump.

When they were fully suited up for the insertion, each would have nearly one hundred pounds of gear when they exited the aircraft.  They split up the items needed for the mission.  Marc would be carrying an automatic rifle and a LRSR, along with his side arm, plus survival gear, and food and water for several days. Eyan had a similar load, sans the sniper rifle, but carried a single M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) and most of the ammo for the excursion.

Unlike when they were in the service, real-time satellite information was not available.  But thanks to on-site GPS information from McBride, and the added use of Google Earth, they were able to pin-point the location of the compound in its rural environment fairly easily.  The Kingdom of Lesotho is a rather poor country.  It has little to export and even less commerce to support its nearly nonexistent infrastructure.  Very few roads in the rural areas were paved.   This necessitated a helicopter for extraction; otherwise, getting out of the country would take a day or more over washed-out mountain roads.  The border check points could become a problem after the necessity of commandeering a vehicle.  The chopper could be out of the country with all aboard in twenty to thirty minutes.  Marc had Harridan acquire two black-market satellite phones so that once they were ready for extraction, they had reliable communications.  Harridan had been a pilot in the Australian military and had piloted both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft in Vietnam.  He would fly the chopper to a location just outside the border of Lesotho, bringing along extra fuel canisters.  Once at the location, he would refuel the aircraft and wait for a call on the satellite phone from the insertion team for extraction.  At this point, he would only be about forty miles from their location by air.  He could be on station for pick-up in about fifteen minutes from the extraction request.

About 6:00 a.m. the next morning, Marc, Eyan and Harridan drove to the airport and filed a flight plan for JBM Hertzog airport in Bloemfontein, about three hundred miles to the west, over-flying Lesotho’s watershed high country.  They got aboard the Piper Navajo and were wheels up ten minutes later.  About twenty minutes later, Marc asked Eyan to hand him his camera bag. He retrieved a 300 mm. lens and then affixed the lens to the camera and began taking pictures of the compound, and an area about a mile and a half to the east.  Once this was achieved, Harridan radioed JBM Hertzog and filed an amended flight plan back to Durban, citing a low oil pressure reading on his left engine.  Once back at the airport, Marc left both Eyan and Harridan finishing up the installation of the oxygen cylinders for the pilot’s seat in the airplane.  He returned to the hotel, and then fired up his laptop and downloaded the pictures he had taken of the compound.  Using Harridan’s computer next to his, he pulled up his Google Earth program and began to compare the locations. Google Earth is an amazing program and the amount of information one can derive from it, is pretty much limited by one’s ability to use it.   Once Marc zeroed in on the area to the west of the compound, he ran the curser along a ridge line allowing him to see the varying elevation of the ridge, then checked the elevation of the compound. The ridge was several hundred feet above the compound.  He opened the ruler function and checked the distance from the ridge to the back side of the large building at the center of the compound. The distance was a bit over three thousand feet.  As he moved the curser down the back side of the ridge about three hundred feet, he saw a rectangular area on the screen that had a variation in color.  As he moved the curser over the surface, the elevation remained constant, it appeared to be flat.  It was an old agricultural field; it was obvious.  More importantly, it was a perfect target for the insertion and a potential extraction point.  Marc began to locate other potential extraction points on the photographs, numbering them and verifying them on the Google program after marking them.  As Marc looked at the new pictures, he noticed several variations from the Google program.  There had been two new buildings constructed on the compound to the right of the main building.  They appeared to be for storage or perhaps a barracks for men.  Marc tweaked the photo on his laptop increasing the size of the image. As it enlarged, it was clear that the buildings were for personnel.   He could see a well-worn path between the two buildings and the main house, and, also at least eight or ten men in the courtyard around the compound.  There were several vehicles on the compound – two trucks, a couple cars, and what appeared to be an older Army jeep with something on the back that Marc couldn’t quite make out.

An hour later, Harridan arrived back at the hotel.  As he walked in, Marc asked him where Eyan was.  Harridan’s reply was, “The other stuff we’ve been waiting for arrived.  Eyan was inspecting the chutes when I left.  He said he was going to cut off the registration tabs and repack the chutes before returning to the hotel.”  When Eyan finally returned, he walked in and threw his jacket on the chair next to table.  He turned and reached into the mini refrigerator on the counter for a beer, asking the others if they cared for one.  Harridan raised his hand, motioning for Eyan to toss him one.  Marc looked up saying, “Yeah, I’ll have one.”  As they were drinking their beers, Marc asked Harridan, “Are you familiar with this general area?”  He replied that he was.  Marc asked, “Are there any places that we might be able to sight in the Sniper Rifle without drawing too much attention?  I need to have it zeroed in before we hit the ground.” Eyan said, “By the way, I checked all the weapons for serial numbers, they were clean.”  Harridan said, “All you needed to do was ask, mate.   I would never supply traceable weapons for a job.”

The next morning Harridan made a few phone calls and, after finishing the last, he said, “Want to take a ride, mate?  I think we’ve got a spot ya can exercise your trigger finger.”  They stopped by the hanger to pick up the rifle and drop off Eyan.  He wanted to finish up loading the spare weapons magazines and recheck the list of items for the mission.  It was a forty-five-minute drive to the location Harridan had picked out.  When they arrived, the conditions were nearly perfect. The wind was maybe two miles per hour at their backs; Marc pulled out the Nikon spotting scope and began to search for a visible target near 1,000 meter in distance.  After finding a large flat vertical rock, he pulled out his range finder and sighted the stone face.  He was surprised that the stone face was closer to 1,066 meters.  After a moment of thought, he decided to use it, regardless of the extra distance.  He assembled the M107 and dropped to the ground after asking Harridan to spot for him.  He snapped in a ten-round magazine loaded with eight .50-caliber DU (Depilated Uranium) rounds.  He had previously had fully-loaded ten round magazines malfunction on occasion with this type of rifle and ammunition. As a result, he only used eight rounds from then on.  Having a magazine malfunction after the first round was fired was a recipe for disaster!  He chambered the first round and adjusted his prone position; Marc had a systematic method before firing. He briefly closed his eyes; then slowed his breathing, taking notice of the cadence of his heartbeat.  Once he had them all under control, he squeezed the trigger, just after a heartbeat.  The fifty-caliber rifle produces a resonating guttural sound when fired. When Marc’s bullet struck the stone-faced object just 1.3 seconds after exiting the barrel, Harridan’s reaction was, “WOW!”  The rock he had fired at was approximately five feet wide and maybe seven feet tall.  The bullet had struck the stone causing a fracture about two feet down from the top.  As the dust cleared, a sizable chunk slid off.  Harridan could see this as it fell to the ground.  Harridan looked at Marc and said, “That’s a bloody cannon, mate, not a rifle.”  Marc said, “It’s the DU round that makes the difference.”  Harridan replied, “What the hell is a DU round?” Marc said, “The projectile’s jacket is steel, not copper, it’s mixed with titanium and the body is composed of depleted uranium.  Harridan said, “Does it really matter where you hit with that thing, as long as you’re close, mate?”  Marc laughed, saying, “The object is to hit what you’re aiming at.  But it doesn’t hurt to have this much kinetic energy on impact.  Harridan asked, “Where were you aiming on that stone, mate?” Marc replied, “Center, center.” Harridan said, “You hit about 18 inches high.”  Marc adjusted the scope, and said, “Center,” and then chambered another round and began his sighting procedure, and then fired.  This time the stone stayed intact.  Harridan said, “I can see a cavity, looks to be slightly right and a few inches high.”  Marc fired three more rounds using the cavity as target, adjusting after each shot.  The last shot had just made the hole larger; that was good enough for him.

CHAPTER FOUR

The Lesotho Mission

It was 3:00 a.m. and, as usual, Marc’s luck was holding; it was a clear and moonless night.  The drone of the engines had just changed pitch as Harridan had gone into a climb mode setting, altering the prop-pitch.  They were now moving up from 8,000 feet to 25,000 – the insertion altitude. They each activated the oxygen flow as needed as they passed the 10,000-foot mark in their ascension.  As they passed over the border between British South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho, Marc and Eyan were putting on their final items for the jump. As they completed this, each checked out the others rigging, front and back.  Marc moved to the mid-section of the cabin behind the pilot’s seat and raised the modified hatch on the floor of the aircraft, exposing a square opening.   Marc sat down with his feet through the hatch; Eyan was spread-legged behind him.  Harridan watched his GPS device with an air horn in his left hand, as they approached the coordinates.  He pushed the button twice in quick secession warning them, and then pressed it hard and steady, as they arrived over the drop coordinates.

As soon as they had cleared the aircraft, both activated their night vision goggle display that was snapped to their helmet face shield.  Quickly after exiting, Marc spun around, orienting his vision back toward the aircraft as he plunged into the abyss. Doing this brought Eyan’s image on to his NVG display.  He put both hands out palms first, with his thumbs pointing at each other forming a box with his head in the middle.  This indicated to Eyan that he had visual contact with him. Eyan returned the gesture as his verification.  They had decided not to use the voice-activated radios until they were able to check the frequencies for chatter.

They had exited the aircraft about a mile west of the compound.  It was a very dark night, but the night vision goggles would allow them to see anything that emitted light on the ground once they were below two thousand feet.  A little more than one and a half minutes later, they deployed their camo-printed parachutes and began jockeying for the preferred landing zone they had hoped to hit. They landed sixty feet apart, on a sloped grade about one hundred and fifty feet to the west of the field that Marc had pointed out on his photograph of the area. When they touched down, both remained in audio-stealth mode, using hand signals.

The parachutes fell limp upon the ground and the air was crisp, and very still. They turned their backs toward each other and began a systematical search using their NVGs.  The area was devoid of activity.  Using hand signals indicating that the area was clear, they quickly began repackaging their chutes into manageable bundles.  They moved to a craggy rock outcropping, about a hundred yards to the east, and found several small divots that would easily conceal the discarded chutes.  They moved up the hill about fifty yards, to the ridge that overlooked the compound.  It was about four hundred feet below and nearly three thousand feet away.

The area near the ridge line was riddled with scrub brush from three to five feet high in clumps. They began setting up the position; Marc separated out the ammunition by the colored-coded tape indicators.  They had used this method for years to facilitate their security assignments.  White was the DU armored rounds, blue was anti-personnel and red were tracers.  Marc assembled the M107 sniper rifle and inserted a blue-indicated magazine, then dropped the bipod assembly and lowered it to the ground position.  Eyan set up the night vision binoculars on a mini-pod and began his observation of the compound.

Marc pulled out his contact packet from his vest, being careful not to disturb the disposal pull-ring near the top of the spline.  He opened it up to the photograph of Nấdifa.  Everything in the quarter-page sized pouch would incinerate within four seconds if the ring were pulled from the spline.  The only other things they carried on their person was local currency; it was a fail-safe that had served them well in the past.

For the next two hours before sunrise, they assessed the terrain around the compound and immediate area.   Marc pulled out the Sat phone and called Harridan to brief him on a possible extraction LZ and to pinpoint their exact ground location.  The first choice LZ was to the east side of the field they had photographed from the air.  The field itself had too many dead trees protruding upwards of ten feet or more – a deserted orchard most likely. They had been lucky not to have made it to their targeted LZ during their insertion. A night-time drop into a wooden spiked field would have been a deadly misfortune.

He went on to tell Harridan to approach from the east behind the ridge, up the valley.  He would most likely not be seen, nor heard, from the compound using this method of approach.  The sun was beginning to push the night away as they made quick work of their morning rations, a power bar and a swig of water.  Eyan said, “We’re on,” as he spotted the first movement at the camp. They both moved into the prone position, with Eyan peering through his Steiner 10×50 laser range-finder binoculars and Marc, through the electronic powered scope on the M107.  In the newborn daylight, Marc could now see in detail the items around the camp.  One of the trucks from the photos he had taken was no longer there. Then he saw something that sent a chill down his spine and puckered his back-side.  The military-type Jeep that he had seen in the compound pictures had a M106 recoilless rifle mounted on the back of the vehicle.  He had remembered seeing them in pictures and action footage of the Vietnam war and also once in Utah at Alta ski resort.  There, it was used for avalanche control.  It fired a single 105 mm rocket-propelled projectile about two feet long.  It was a crude weapon by today’s standard, but was amazingly accurate and efficient in the hands of trained individuals.

As they observed the compound, they began to realize that picking out the primary was not going to be as easy as first thought.  None of the men at the camp wore anything that resembled a uniform.  Eyan doubled-checked the range to the compound from their location; it was 984 meters, or just over six-tenths of a mile.  Even with the high-powered visual equipment, getting a good look at the men’s faces was not easy – Marc’s scope was better suited for this function. As they were searching for Nấdifa, Marc saw the small orange light blink on the Sat phone even before it buzzed softly.  He knew it was Harridan, picking up the handset and answering the call.  Harridan reported that all was well, and that he was on station at the prearranged border location.  After the call, Marc resumed his surveillance, but something in the back of his mind kept tickling his senses.  Eyan looked at him quizzically, as Marc removed the magazine from his rifle and began stripping out four rounds.  He noticed Eyan looking at him and said, “I’m going to load this mag with the second and third rounds DU armor-piercing.  After taking out Nấdifa, I want most of all to put that recoilless out of action.”  Eyan said, “I’ll vote for that.”

Ten minutes later, the compound was buzzing with activity. There were at least ten men moving around the camp going through their morning ritual of cleansing.  A few moments later, two other men appeared at the back of the main house; the flurry of activity seamed to halt.  One of the two men raised his arm pointing at one of the smaller buildings at the back of the camp.  Marc using the scope, could see the man’s mouth moving, apparently shouting orders.  The men, dropping what they were doing, started moving in the direction of the building.  Eyan, working as Marc’s spotter using the binoculars with a much wider range of view, saw a white pickup truck approaching the camp from the opposing direction.  He alerted Marc, knowing it was out of his range of vision. Marc had been concentrating on the two men on the steps at the back of the house; neither seemed to be Nấdifa, as he compared them to his picture on the ground next to him.  He repositioned himself to allow the scope to move to the truck.  It appeared to be the one which had been missing earlier.  There were two men in the cab that he could see, and something in the bed that appeared to be covered with a canvas.  The truck pulled in to the compound, and then around to the rear of the main building and then came to a halt.

As the dust cleared, and the men exited the vehicle; everyone else in the camp turned their attentions toward the truck.  Marc, observing the first of the two men, was sure he was not the primary.  The second man emerged from the passenger side of the truck with his back facing Marc, as he once again adjusted the scope’s focus.  As the man turned to walk around the back of the truck, he hesitated just slightly and looked up toward Marc and Eyan’s position on the ridge.  Marc dropped his head down slightly, and then quickly realized the man could not see him at this distance, caught-full vision of his face and steely gray eyes.  It was him.  Marc was still taken by Nấdifa’s action of looking up, nearly straight at their position on the ridge, as if he knew they were watching.  Marc spoke to Eyan saying, “Target acquired,” as he flicked the safety switch off on the rifle.  As Marc adjusted his index finger to the trigger, he began his ritual routine of breathing and heart cadence.   Eyan said, “Hold,” as he saw a man pulling the canvas from the bed of the truck, and then reaching down and pulling a man, bound and gagged, from it.  The man was Caucasian, well-dressed, and in his fifties.  As he hit the ground, several of the men began to cluster around him and some kicked and spat at him.  Marc switched to binoculars to observe the event saying, “This could be a speed-bump.  Now what the hell do we do?”

They watched as the men dragged the man across the court yard to the building the other man earlier had pointed out.  While Marc and Eyan were busy watching elsewhere, the men had pulled out what appeared to be the contents of the room, preparing it as a holding cell.  They pushed the man inside and shut the door, and then forced a retaining peg against the handle, locking it.  Marc resumed his position behind the sniper rifle and said, “It’s tea time somewhere; let’s do this.”  He once again relaxed into his modus operandi and began to count his heartbeats, as he brought the hairlines of the scope on Nấdifa’s right center chest, and began to squeeze the trigger.  Nearly as quickly as the bullet exited the rifle, it struck Nấdifa in less than a second at this range. It nearly severed the left shoulder from his body as it continued on taking the leg off a follower, standing close behind Nấdifa.  Before the ejected cartridge had fallen to Earth, Marc had acquired a second target.  It was the man giving orders earlier from the main house, assuming he was also a person of rank.

Two of the men ran toward the Jeep with the recoilless rifle mounted upon its back, as Marc began to re-acquire it as a target.  Before he could bring his weapon to bear, one of the men had jumped into the vehicle and began to move it toward the main building for shelter.  Marc once again changed his target back to the pickup truck that had just arrived.  He aimed at the engine compartment and fired. The DU round passed through the hood and struck the engine block; it showered all the men in the immediate vicinity with metal fragments.  Several of the men ran toward the remaining pickup truck, as Marc noticed movement at the side of the house.  The rear of the Jeep came into view, but before Marc could react, the recoilless fired a rocket in their direction. It hit the ground about fifty feet below their position on the ridge, as they tried to melt into the ground they lay upon.  The Jeep rolled forward, seeking cover once again to reload.  As Marc took stock of the event unfolding, he saw the truck, with several passengers in the cab and bed, spinning its tires in the dirt as it moved swiftly toward the road that exited the property.

Marc re-grouped mentally, thinking that as long as they were retreating, it was just fine with him as he allowed them to escape.  Eyan said, “I have three bogies on sight; two with the Jeep, and one near the holding cell at the left side of the building.  Marc ejected the magazine, knowing that he had a DU round in the breach.  He reached for one of the magazines marked with white tape.  He now had nine DU rounds available.  He fired at the corner of the building that the man was using for cover.  A millisecond later a large chunk of clay crumbled, spilling onto the ground.  He saw the man drop his gun and begin to run erratically in the opposite direction. The Jeep appeared once more at the same corner of the building and was preparing to fire again.  Eyan with the Law rocket launcher on his shoulder squeezed the firing mechanism very quickly, sending the rocket toward the jeep, but the range was beyond its capability.  It fell fifty meters short. The recoilless fired once more but not before Marc had made a mental note of its firing position.  Once again they huddled close to the earth as the round struck to their right on the ridge right above them, showering them with rocks and debris.

Marc heard Eyan say, “SHIT” rather loudly.  As he glanced at him, he could see him grasping his right hand, already covered in blood.  Marc returned his thoughts to the task at hand.  He adjusted the M107’s scope to the position he had noted seconds before, and made ready to fire, when the Jeep and its weapon reappeared.  He suddenly said, “Hell with this,” sighting back to the right at the building, as he began pulling the trigger, firing repeated rounds into and through the building, guessing at the position of the Jeep concealed behind it.  When he had fired his sixth round, there was a secondary explosion and the entire corner of the building collapsed in upon itself, the jeep and its occupants had been transformed into a mangled pile of rubble.  They both stayed still and watched for several seconds, Marc reached for his binoculars to aid in a wider search for anything that was still animated.  A minute later, they began to collect any items that could indicate their identities or origin and began to move off, down from the ridge.

Marc once again pulled out the Sat phone and hit the redial button.  As Harridan answered, Marc said, “Change of plans, land as close to the compound as you can, we’ll be waiting.  Oh, by the way, we have a passenger, so get rid of any extra weight you can and we’ll do the same here,” as he disconnected.  When they reached the compound, the only thing remarkable was the stench of death; both Eyan and Marc knew the odor well.  Once there, they approached with caution, with the smaller automatic rifles at the ready.  After a quick recon, they moved to the building with the holding cell and knocked on the door, saying, “Anybody home?” After a few seconds, a voice from inside said, “Yeah.” Marc opened the door, a man sitting on the floor in the corner said, “I hope you’re the good fellows?” Marc replied, “If not, you’re in a world of shit, buddy.”  The man had a remarkable sense of humor considering the circumstance, and said, “Been there, done that, no thanks.”  Marc helped him to his feet and out the door into the stench-laden fresh air.  He looked around, with squinted eyes and said, “So, where’s the rest of the army?”  Marc said, “You’re looking at it,” and grinned.  The man, regaining his sight in the bright daylight, peered around in disbelief at the destruction and carnage and said, “I’m glad we’re on the same side.”  With a more serious look on his face, Marc said, “We’ll get out of here as soon as the chopper gets here.  Until then, I think we should take cover and stay vigilant,” they moved to the perimeter of the compound where a culvert afforded some protection.

Harridan flying an OH-6A-LOH-series helicopter seemed more like a crazed bumble bee, zigzagging down from the upper ridge to the west, than the extraction vehicle they were waiting for.  Marc had to grin as he watched Harridan; he was one-of-a-kind – amazingly qualified and dependable as hell. Then Marc and Eyan, with his hand now bandaged, piled up the equipment they couldn’t load on the chopper because of the extra passenger.  He strategically placed three incendiary grenades in the pile and fired it off as they ran to the chopper.

Ten minutes later, Marc was pointing out the border of Lesotho, as they swiftly crossed over it into British South Africa.  After landing in Durban, Marc turned to the man as they were walking to the terminal and said, “Oh, by the way, do you have anything for identification?  These guys can be rather sticky about these things, you know.”  The man smiled saying, “I think I have it covered.”  Marc, being curious, but respectful, said, “OK, just trying to give you a heads up. How’d you get into that mess in the first place?”  His reply was, “I was walking back to the office from lunch.  The next thing I remembered, I awoke, hands tied, with a dark sack over my head.”

As they entered the terminal, almost all of the people in the immediate area turned toward the door as they entered.  They began whispering among themselves.  Marc and Eyan looked at each other, as if to say, “What the hell’s going on?”  Just then, a local magistrate approached and said, “Sir, are you, OK?”  Both Marc and Eyan looked at each other as he said, “Yes, quite all right, thank you.”  A second magistrate approached.  This one had stripes on his sleeve and said, “Governor General, sir, may I be of assistance?”  At this point, both Marc and Eyan were looking for a quick avenue of escape, but people were beginning to mass around them.  Marc turned to the Governor General and said, “Sir, may we have a private moment alone?” The Governor, with a quizzical expression on his face, said to the magistrate, “We need some privacy; please find it for us.”  A few moments later, in a room off the concourse, the Governor said, “Now, what can I do for you?”  Marc replied, “Governor….”  The Governor interrupted, “It’s ‘Malcolm,” he said. Marc continued on, “We have many reasons to remain anonymous.  It’s not because we’re wanted by law enforcement.  Actually, it’s more because we need to be anonymous to do what we do.  So, if it’s just the same to you, can we just disappear?”  The Governor reached into his inside pocket of his tattered suit coat and pulled out his card.  He wrote a private phone number on the back and handed to Marc, saying, “Nothing more be said except, thank you!  Oh, and if you are ever in need of assistance, just call,” as he pointed to the side door and said, “Good-bye and thank you once again.”

When they arrived back at the hotel, they all began packing their things and, as they were finishing up, Marc said, “Harridan, I certainly don’t know how we could have pulled this off without you and your contacts, so maybe this will say thanks better than words,” as he handed him an envelope with a bonus of twenty thousand dollars – cash U.S. – in it.  Marc looked over at Eyan and said, “I’ll take that out of my…”   Eyan cut him off mid-sentence, saying, “Marc, when a job like this happens, and it all works, I have no problem in sharing the wealth,” as he turned to Harridan, putting his left hand out (the right hand was a bit sore at the moment), and said good-bye.  When Harridan looked inside the envelope, he was a bit overwhelmed but, like any other person in their right mind would, took the money with a smile saying, “Working with pros is always a pleasure, mates!  And, if you get back in this part of the world, I’d love to do it again, aye!” as he moved toward the door.  He and Thomas were driving a pickup truck with the leftover debris of the job, back up to Mozambique.

Two Days Later                                           

As Eyan and Marc were walking down the jet way from the aircraft, Marc’s e-mail chimed on his Smartphone as it began to come back to life with the trans-Pacific segment of their journey completed.  While they were traversing the concourses en route to the baggage claim area, Marc was filtering through the backlog of messages, when he came across one that was unique. It said:

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome of the event. This will be reflected in our previously discussed remittance.  Please accept it as a token of our gratitude.” 

Marc read the message to Eyan as they were approaching the area. Eyan said, “If we’re lucky enough to get this far, I’ll take what we get and run to the bank.” They both were laughing about it as they approached the turnstiles.

Copyright © 2016; All Rights Reserved

Published by

Laura Brooks

Published author of four books. See more about me on Amazon's Author Central.

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