Retribution In Progress
After reassessing the events of the day and making arrangements for Eyan’s transport back to Serenity with Stiles, Dara volunteered to accompany them back and stay with Ara for a period of time. She instinctively knew that Marc needed her to do this.
Marc and Akil went through a mutual debriefing, deciphering the puzzling event as it had played out. They were searching for the single clue that would unlock the secrets of the ill-fated event. Marc was the only one to see the man with the scar, yet he knew without doubt, he was the one commanding the assault.
As the next day unfolded, some of the answers began to float to the surface. Martin had used his vast resources, both monetarily and politically, to dig deep into the events that had unfolded at the compound. Based on his ties with the Swedish Parliament, he was able to retrieve several bits of restricted information about the helicopter and its point of origin. It was noted in the official log that the aircraft had been transported on board a cargo ship. The helicopter had been picked up on radar ascending from the vessel while still in international waters. The ship, after entering Swedish territorial waters, was boarded by the Swedish Coast Guard for a routine inspection. The senior officer had entered into the log that the ship’s Captain had said the Helicopter was of Chinese manufacture. After the satellite pictures had been fully inspected, it was determined that the aircraft was most likely a Harbin, series Z-9. The Coast Guard had logged the ship into the record book as the Suri tuuli, of Finish registry.
Using a Die/Hex Corp. aircraft, Martin, Marc and Akil returned to Stockholm late that afternoon. On the flight, Martin said, “Anything I can do to aid in this, simply ask. I won’t rest until we’ve brought these people down.” Marc had seen Martin in this mind-set once before when his granddaughter had been kidnapped. He was a man of many faces, but in this frame of mind he could only be described as angry, which was also a mirror reflection of Marc.
The next morning, at precisely 10:10 am, Martin received a call from Swedish authorities saying they had located the Harbin helicopter. It had been abandoned ten miles south of Stockholm in a rural area just outside of the suburb of Huddinge. The local police and Europol were both processing the aircraft for forensic information. That afternoon, another call was received; this time the information was more pertinent. They had lifted several sets of fingerprints from the craft and had matched two sets to an international watch list issued by Interpol. The two overtly had no ties, but both had reputations as black op’s guns-for-hire. Martin brought pressure to bear on several international agencies, using his network of ties throughout the European Union. Europol was the first to bring information to the table. Using facial recognition software, Jene Mallette, had been spotted and taken into custody at Oslo’s International airport. He was being held on an International warrant with a non-release clause at the airport’s detention center. Using Martin’s corporate aircraft, Marc and Akil were on route in less than an hour.
Slightly over two hours later, they touched down in Oslo. To no great surprise, they were met by officials from both Sweden and Europol. After being escorted to a security office, the agent in charge simply pushed a document across his desk and said, “A signature is all I need and the suspect will be released into your custody.” Once again, Martin’s influence, obviously. After getting back in touch with Martin, Marc was informed that Stiles was no more than thirty minutes out from arriving at Oslo. The corporate aircraft was sent to retrieve Martin. They were to meet back at Die/Hex headquarters in Madrid.
In flight, Marc, using a Sat phone placed a call Dara on Serenity. After a brief conversation, he turned the phone over to Akil to talk to Ara, his sister. Marc could tell by the expressions upon his face that she was extremely distraught. Marc also knew if it were not for the task at hand, he would also wear that burden, as he temporarily pushed that thought back into the recesses of his own mind.
After Stiles arrival, the aircraft was refueled and made ready for the return flight. They were now approaching cruising altitude for the four-hour flight to Madrid’s Barajas Airport. Martin, as usual, had called ahead and made arraignments for Jene Mallette’s transport via a Die/Hex’s security detail to the corporate security headquarters. Once they entered the complex, they proceeded through no less than three in-house checkpoints before arriving at their destination. Jene Mallette was secured within a 12-foot x 12-foot cubicle. The only furnishings within were two chairs and a small table. His hands were clasped in short chain manacles anchored to the top of the table which, in turn, was anchored to the floor. His ankles were strapped to the front legs of the chair that he was seated in. As they entered the room, Mallette, raising his head, glared at them and then said with a strong French accent he said, in English, “Do not waste your time with me, I will tell you nothing!” Akil, with a pursed smile, said, “Now, why would you say that?” Mallette, still glaring said, “There is nothing that Europol or any of your agencies can do to force me to say anything.” “Ah,” said Akil, “But we are not Europol, or even one of their agencies. So, you see, you will tell us what we want to know. But then, perhaps you would choose the other alternative, being one who does not exist.” Mallette’s glare that had been frozen upon his face suddenly began to fade as his right eye began to twitch. Marc sat down across the table, his eyes never losing direct contact with Mallette’s.
Akil raised his right leg up and placed his foot on the table. He pulled his pant leg up, exposing a ten-inch knife in an ankle sheath. As he was extracting it from the sheath, the man, laughing out loud said, “This is supposed to scare me?” Akil effortlessly flipped the knife from his right hand to his left, and then in one swift motion plunged it through the back of Mallette’s right hand as it rested upon the table. Mallette, staring at the knife now wedging his hand to the table, reached his left hand toward the knife but the manacle stopped his hand just short from reaching it. Akil now placed his other foot on the table, exposing a second knife. “Maybe it doesn’t scare you but, if I were you, I would think twice before I said another word.” Without missing a beat, Mallette looked up at Akil and said, “I will kill you one day—somehow, someway, but I will do it.”
Marc stood up from his chair and took a white handkerchief from his pocket and placed it on the table. He then walked slowly around the table until he was now standing directly behind Mallette. He reached out his right hand to Akil, gesturing for the knife. When Akil handed it to him, he reached out with his left hand grabbing a hand full of Mallette’s hair and then jerked his head back to the left, exposing the right side of his head. He placed the knife blade against Mallette’s ear and began a sawing motion. Blood began to flow down Mallette’s neck as he began to squirm, but Marc tightened his grip on Mallette’s hair and then jerked the knife with his right hand severing Mallette’s ear. Marc, still holding the knife, using his thumb to secure the ear to the blade released Mallette’s hair and walked back around the table throwing the bloody ear on the white handkerchief. He looked up at Mallette and said, “Like the man said, you will talk to us or I’ll cover that hanky with a plethora of your non-lethal body parts. Now do we have an understanding?”
Before any other parts were severed, an understanding was reached. Mallette, as it turned out, was an avid conversationalist. Over the next few hours, they discovered that the money behind the organized assault seemingly originated in, of all places, but not a surprise, North Korea. The man with the scar down the left side of his face was said to be a high-ranking officer in The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea military regime. After some serious digging on both the internet and political contacts, it was discovered that his name and title was Major General Yeon Kwan. He was well-placed in the upper tier politico within the North Korean ruling party.
Once the information trail had been exhausted, Mallette was transported and released to the French authorities. They happily took custody, no questions asked. They had more than a few questions of their own with regard to several of his former wives’ disappearances.
As for the others involved in the fray, they seemed to have dissolved into the woodwork like ghosts. The only real lead was Major General Yeon Kwan. In the next two days, all that could be gleaned about Mr. Scarface was starting to show a pattern. Among other duties, the one that stuck out was the fact he was the head of all Foreign Councils and Ambassadors for the D.P.R.K. This required him to travel extensively beyond the natural borders of North Korea.
The one thing that was chewing on Marc’s insides was who was the Caucasian man with the smarmy smile getting on the chopper? He was sure the man was in charge – he knew it – but what was the connection? The things that they learned from the Frenchman were helpful. However, like most independent black op’s units, virtually every participant used one-word code names for everyone’s protection. The less real information each had about the other, the more secure everyone was.
Early the next morning, Marc, Akil and Stiles boarded Martin’s G280 bound for Serenity. The prior five days had been gut-wrenching to say the least. All four, inclusive of Arnesto Garcia, rotated through the pilot and second seats during the return flight. Three refueling stops and 24 hours later, Akil was shutting the engines down on the tarmac at Serenity.
Marc and Eyan had decided long ago when they first went into business together that if something were to happen to either of them, everything that each owned was passed to the other – both assets and/or debt.
Marc found a perfect spot not far from the house on a rise that looked out upon the south Pacific. After discussing his plan with Mike and Pete they constructed a burial site that would both endure and reflect Eyan’s love of the Pacific Ocean.
Ara had taken the news of Eyan’s demise better than the others had thought she might. After only two days, she resumed her self-appointed duties of computer researcher for the team. Her dedication was now threefold, considering the subject of her search – Major General Yeon Kwan.
CHAPTER TWENTY- FIVE
Time To Act
The information that Ara was able to secure thus far was very scant. North Korea’s utter disdain for other countries built upon democratic freedoms had stunted their evolution both economically and culturally. The internet was rare to the majority of the people, so very little information is available on the World Wide Web. Ara decided to dig deep into the black cyber world of T.O.R. – The Onion Router. Vast amounts of information are contained in this sub level of what is often referred to as the Black Hole. As she probed deeper, she found several links leading her to many underground arms trading sites. After combing through several, she centered in on what seemed to be the central Asian market. She culled through six different sites searching for requests for major military items such as aircraft engines for fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles. Then she came across one searching for specific rocket engine parts for SS 17 Spanker series Russian rockets.
The North Korean military had purchased obsolete Russian I.C.B.M.’s in the mid 1990’s. Now it seemed they were searching for the parts necessary to get the I.C.B.M. back in serviceable condition. North Korea had been the only buyer of the SS 17’s, and Russia would not be searching for parts for their own missiles on the internet. Ara had found an inlet to the inner core of the secretive People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.
After a team discussion, they decided to lay a trap and hopefully find a way to get to Major General Kwan himself. Very few people, even among the higher ranking generals, were allowed to travel outside the confines of the self-described People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. A black market arms sale could perhaps draw Major General Kwan himself from behind this curtain of hypocrisy. He was, after all, the Senior Council Director of Ambassadors and was charged with the responsibility of their positions. After a fair amount of research by Ara, it was brought to light that Kwan traveled outside the country more than any other person within the hierarchy.
The team sat at the table going over the information that Ara had acquired. Marc said, “There are countries that have diplomatic relations with North Korea. I think we should pick one that does, and then find one adjacent that doesn’t – but is virtually next door – to set up the sting. That way, there’s no possibility of things becoming politically sticky.” Ara sat thumbing through a stack of papers until she came upon a listing of countries that had diplomatic ties with the North. As she pulled it from the stack, she said, “More countries than I thought have ties with them,” as she reached across the table handing it to her brother seated next to Marc. As the meeting progressed late into the afternoon they began to realize that the information they had was simply not enough to put a plan into action.
Marc decided to take a break, walking out onto the exercise deck and then around to the point looking out to the vast expanse of blue. Eyan’s death had torn a hole in the very fabric of Marc’s being. Far deeper than even he had thought. As he stood there, he began to dissect the turn of events that had led to the tragic event. Before any reasoning had availed itself, the door opened wide, and Dara called to him saying, “You have a call from Elena Brinson,” handing the Sat phone to him.
After a ten-minute conversation, Marc returned to the Control room joining the others once again. Everybody could tell by his demeanor that something was up. He started by saying, “Elena’s tech group was able to retrieve some footage from one of the compound video cams on the outer fence. They were able to get a clear shot of the end of the building that was blown out for the escape route to the chopper. In the video, several of the men’s faces were visible. She pushed the footage to Martin; he’s doing his usual behind-the-scenes thing. She expects him to call us with whatever he has later today.
After they had taken a break and eaten a late lunch, the phone once again came to life; Marc answered. Martin was concise and very much to the point. It seems that his Europol connections had put a name to two of the perps. The first was found floating face down in a ditch just outside Stockholm and had been laying in the morgue since the day after the event; the COD was a single shot to the back of the head. He was a non-player with a rap sheet to match. The second drew the attention of Marc instantly with a Swedish surname of Viktor Karlsson. It was the smarmy-smiling Caucasian that Marc remembered.
After the call, the team resumed the strategy meeting. Marc was finding it hard to concentrate on the task at hand. The Swede kept knocking on his psyche. Akil, noticing the distraction, turned to Marc and said, “Let’s take this in the order we set out. Once we take out Kwan, we move on to Karlsson. I don’t think any of us will sleep well until we put both of these guys six feet under. Time is on our side. We know who they are; they don’t have a clue we’re coming after them.” Akil’s assessment brought some clarity to the table as they all began brainstorming. The more they looked at the potential sting operation, the more they all realized that it was grandiose. Something simple with precision was more their style.
The next morning as they sat down to breakfast, Marc mentioned that something had come to mind about a way to move forward with the task at hand. It was clear that information was the key to success, so he was going to call Jon Meeks at the Company and call in a debt from the South American fiasco. He thought surely they would have some type of information that could be of use to them. Marc, with Dara’s help, found a piece of paper that Jon had given him in Scottsdale after her injury. Marc had a smile when Jon had handed it to him at the time. It simply said, “Get Out Of Jail Free,” with his contact number on it. He was hoping it would still hold true.
Marc dialed the number and, after several rings, a woman answered saying, “How may I direct your call?” Marc said, “I’m trying to contact Jon Meeks. Is he available?” He could hear the woman typing on a computer, and then she said, “Mr. Meeks will need to return your call,” and got Marc’s contact info. The call terminated.
The returned call was almost immediate. It began blinking as he placed it on the table. Marc answered it saying, “Serenity Group, Marc speaking.” There was a pause then connection sound on the line. Jon came on and said, “Well, didn’t think I would hear from you for a long time. What’s up?” Marc cryptically said, “We need to talk,” and gave Jon a Sat phone encryption frequency, “You know where I’m located. What time is it there?” Jon answered, “2:35.” Marc replied, “Use the first three digits of my time for the key code. I’ll be waiting for your call.” He hit the disconnect button.
About an hour had passed, when the Sat Phone came to life once more. Marc answered, to hearing an encryption sign on, which was a series of squawks and squeaks. He validated the encryption and Jon came on the line saying, “OK. What’s up?” Over the next thirty minutes, Marc recounted the Die-Hex, Sweden incident with the disastrous outcome. He brought him up to speed on the events of the last few days, including the info on both Gen. Yeon Kwan and Viktor Karlsson. Jon had not heard of Karlsson but, as he put it, had volumes on Kwan. He also said that the Kwan files were extremely hot. Marc was quite blunt in his remarks of the two. He flat out said the file may be closed soon. Jon was now understanding the gravity of the conversation and said, “Marc, you do realize that if your group moves up into this echelon, you’re no longer a fly on the wall, you’re the three-hundred-pound gorilla in the room? There’s no way you’re going to just walk away after this is done.” Marc’s reply was, “Can you help or not?” After a brief deep silence Jon said, “I’ve got to talk to some people,” meaning higher ups.; “I’ll call back in the morning, or as soon as I can.” The line went dead.
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