Solemn Vow: Chapter 7
“And how do you come to know all this?” T.C. asked.
“You know me. My motto is always have a backup plan. Seriously though, I looked over some satellite images before we left. That area the airfield sits in is pretty desolate country. Small outpost with just a few buildings at the airfield and probably just a mechanic or two.”
“And I’m sure they’ll be delighted to see us.”
“Not us. Just me. Not to change the subject, but I will. Who did you speak to at HQ that told you about the chopper being grounded?”
“Didn’t recognize the name. Major Thomas. Someone new maybe?”
I felt tension building in my neck at the thought and my brow line tighten. “Seem odd to you?”
“Not at the time. Now that you’re asking, I’m beginning to wonder,” Canton sighed heavily. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Yeah. I damn sure don’t like it. Why don’t you check on the boys. I’m sure your pearly whites will lift their spirits. I need to have a talk with the colonel.”
I hated to rouse him from his siesta. The colonel looked pretty comfortable. I’m sure he did not get much sleep at the Arab polka festival. Speaking of polka. His face made me shiver with dread. The bruising on his swollen face matched every color in the rainbow.
“Colonel.” I said, tapping his foot with my boot. “Wakie-wakie, eggs and bakie.”
He looked up through those puffy slits and croaked, “Yeah?” He rolled over grunting and pushed himself into a sitting position.
“Got to ask you a few Qs,” I tossed out, kneeling down beside him. “I’ll get right to it. I’m troubled about this op. Didn’t like it from the get go. It’s been dogging me like a thrombosed hemorrhoid. Too many things aren’t adding up. So what’s the real scoop on you being hung out to dry?”
The colonel swallowed hard. I offered some water which he drank greedily. Shifting his gaze to his feet, I could see his wheels turning as he chose his words carefully.
“Was looking into some things and got too close. Nothing for you to worry about.”
“What things?” I countered, feeling a budding anger begin to simmer.
“I’m pretty certain it’s out of your league, Captain.”
“You mean above my pay grade.” He nodded his affirmation. “Let’s get something straight.” I didn’t bother with the sir part. “I lost a good friend back there and got shot up to boot. I’m not in any mood to put up with any crap.”
“Whoa, calm down son.”
“I’ll tell you this just once, so get it straight. I’m not your son and I expect answers.”
“Captain,” he fired back. “I won’t tolerate your insubordination.”
“For the moment you don’t have a lot of choice. I’m your cab driver. Remember?”
I felt a raging fire grow and I shot a laser like glare back at the colonel. I waited, prolonging the moment, knowing I wouldn’t let myself speak before him. It was a game of will and mine was way stronger.
Nearly a minute passed until he finally relented. “I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Kyle Owens died trying to save your ass. I think you’re in his debt.”
The colonel pulled in a weighty breath. “I found out after getting orders for my mission that an informant of mine turned toes up. The people responsible have a long reach and will do whatever it takes to protect themselves.”
“Who are they?” My words popped out in a snarl and he knew I meant business.
“Never got that far. I have no reason to doubt my informant’s info wasn’t solid. It involves a multimillion dollar network of drugs running through the Middle East all the way to Bangkok and who knows where else.” The colonel paused to drink some water. He dabbed a crusted lip before continuing. “Never got close enough to get names. Just enough to fan the flames which made these people want me out of the picture. I put it all together after we got sucker punched.” He swallowed the last of the water before going on. “These individuals are well placed.” I opened my mouth to ask, but he beat me to the punch. “Wondering who the players are?”
“Yeah. Something like that.”
“You sure you want a piece of that pie?” The colonel saw the resolution in my eyes and went on. “Involves the Agency, halls of government, private contractors. The cabal also includes defense contractors. Big money, too. For all I know, military could be involved.”
“How did it go down?” I ask, closely watching his reactions.
“My orders came from the top. They sent me and my team on a covert mission. We were set up. It was a one way ride and all bogus.”
“So who set it up?” I asked.
“I can tell you who gave the initial order or who at least they say did, but they’ll have their bases covered. And I can guarantee they weren’t the top echelon. Probably not involved in the decision making. Just following orders from someone else.”
Nice thing about the chain of command. Kind of like shuffling cards. Go up or down in the deck and your ass is covered by the catch all of following orders. “So you were a loose end and they meant to see the knot tightened around your neck?”
The colonel gave a quick nod. “Sounds accurate. Somehow they found out I was tracking them. There’s more. I have reason to believe,” he hesitated.
“Much bigger things.” His tongue flicked across his dry lips and I could tell the difficulty he had divulging what came next. “Goes back as least as far as September 11th and the need to continue world chaos. 9/11 was not as it appeared on the surface. My source was saving his ace in the hole until our next meet.”
“A false flag operation?”
“Don’t have confirmation, but given the current situation.” He just stared back silently at me.
I instantly felt gut shot. I searched his face for any trace of deception. It wasn’t easy considering it looked like an eggplant. “And that’s why we were sent out to get you. Make it seem they did everything feasible to bring you back but all of us were expendable.” I thought about what I just said. The implications were clear. “That’s how the hajis knew we were coming.”
“You’re quick, McGann. You ought to know this. We all get back, they’ll give you some medals. Hell, you might even get a promotion, but you’ll end up on their shit list.”
“Cheery thought, colonel.” His words tumbled in my head as I muttered, “I think I can take care of myself.”
“Word of advice, captain?”
“And that would be?” I tossed around possibilities and did not like the outcomes of any of them.
“You might be a clever guy, but their tentacles have a long reach. You can count on whoever they are having a long memory.”
“Advice taken, colonel.” I stood up to walk away and left him with this thought. “But I have a job to do and I mean to see it to the end.”
(To be continued...)
Solemn Vow © 2016 by William Beck. All Rights Reserved