Time to breach the target and make entry…
Time to breach the target and make entry…
Good news, the draft and first edit of the novel are in the can. Now it is with a proof reader/editor for review! In the meantime, I will be posting a few excerpts…
The Iridium satellite phone was picked up on the first ring.
“Nam?” the man answered in his native language. For a moment he was confused as to where he was and who he was talking to.
“It is a Gulfstream V. The paint job is gray but there are no commercial labels or official seals. The tail number is N44982,” the caller told him.
“Good work Arturo,” the Arab thanked him while committing the information to memory.
The Mexican intelligence official had become his go between with the Jimenez cartel and himself. It was now clear that the CIA would be of no use to them. They were perfectly happy to see the Jimenez cartel liquidated. The Arab worked for vested interests who were determined to ensure that this never happened. If Jimenez went down, there was no telling how many of the drug corridors would collapse if the American set off some kind of domino effect. They had to nip this problem in the bud.
The Arab smiled. He was good at troubleshooting these types of problems.
“You are sure he is on this flight?”
“Yes,” Arturo said. “My contact in the federales personally saw him board this plane just before the pilots made an illegal take off from Cancun. I would have left the problem in your hands but before I could intervene our air force sent up a couple fighters.”
“Did you have them stand down?”
Fear clenched the Arab’s gut. On one hand if the Mexican Air Force shot down the jet it would save him the trouble, the job would be complete. On the other hand, he would be stuck with seven mad men that he would need to find a way to get rid of.
“No, I was too late but somehow they managed to avoid the fighters. The Air Force is still trying to figure it out. It may have been some type of radar cloaking.”
“But you are sure they are returning to Gran Cayman?”
“Almost certain. My sources indicate that the island was their stop off point on their way to Cancun and they were heading back in that direction when they dropped off the radar.”
“I will call you when it is finished.”
“I would appreciate that my friend,” the intelligence agent sounded uneasy. “Jimenez grows…impatient.”
“This ends today. You will hear from me soon.”
The Arab terminated the call and set the phone down.
In the muffled interior of the garage he could hear his seven charges initiating their prayers. The chants to Allah reverberated off the walls, filling the garage with their religious incantations. The Arab winced, his fingers tracing the thick scar tissue on his forearm. In the Caribbean heat it felt like the scars were tightening up on him. Soon it would be time for more plastic surgery to relieve the pain. The scars were a constant reminder of who he had been in a past life.
The Arab packed away his satellite phone and edged around the side of the Toyota van towards the prostrated Muslim extremists.
123k words. Glad I was able to knock it out before the end of the summer. Now comes the proof reading and editing. Marc is nearly finished with the cover. I’m looking to release the book before Christmas! Stay tuned for excerpts and more…
The Stewmaker followed a specific recipe.
In his line of work, he found that it helped to develop a consistent schedule, almost turning it into a professional ritual. Some of his fellow cartel members worshiped Santa Muerta, the Black Madonna, Chupacabras and all manner of nonsense. He was raised a strict Catholic without all the added window dressing that the working poor had ingratiated into their religion but these days the Stewmaker didn’t have much of anything to believe in other than the six hundred dollars a week that the cartel paid him.
The money was good, but the work was somewhat time consuming, depending on how busy the cartel was. Last summer Jimenez had decided to heat up the plaza and wipe out some rivals. The Stewmaker had to dispose of so many bodies that his family had hardly seen him over the span of a couple months.
With a sigh, he dropped down to his hands and knees and poked the wood fire under the giant metal vat that he had started an hour ago. The recipe called for two hundred liters of water, brought to a slow boil, followed by two entire sacks of sodium hydroxide. Setting the metal poker aside, he swatted at some of the flies buzzing around, giant black fuckers that went straight for his eyes and ears.
It was the corpses that attracted the flies. Two of them lay besides the vat, their skin having gone gray, their eyes sunken. Sometimes the bodies came in with obvious signs of torture and mutilation. Sometimes they came in with one clean gunshot through the head, sometimes they were riddled with bullets from head to toe. These two had severe cuts across their arms, signs of putting up a defense before they died from deep stab wounds in the abdomen. It looked like they had gotten into a sword fight but it wasn’t the Stewmaker’s place to ask questions. He worked disposal while someone else worked termination.
Lighting up a cigarette, he watched the stew slowly come to a boil. He moved to put on some protective gear before dumping the bodies into the cauldron. First there was an apron, followed by heavy plastic gloves, and finally a face mask and goggles. Safety first.
Rubbing out his cigarette, the Stewmaker lifted the mask in place and hefted the first corpse over his shoulder. Handling dead weight was much more difficult than carrying someone who was still alive. Slowly, he eased the corpse into the bubbling stew. He dreaded what came next. The other corpse was the fat one. Grunting and straining, he managed to slide the second body into the vat.
The stew would cook for eight hours before he would extinguish the fire. He would stir the contents periodically and experience told him that all that would be left by the end was fingernails, toenails, and teeth. The stew would then be poured into 55 gallon drums, hauled out by pickup truck, and the contents burned at some remote location.
The fat one bobbed to the surface.
The Stewmaker used his fire poker to try to sink the body back into the acid mixture, but to no avail. He should have known better. Before dumping the body, he should have used a butcher’s cleaver to slice open the stomach cavity and let the air out. No way would he be thrashing the corpse with a machete while it floated in caustic soda.
Discarding the gloves, mask, and goggles, the Stewmaker looked over at the two dozen drums stacked in the corner of his yard. It had been a busy month. He lived up in the hill country towards the border of Oaxaca and Chiapas where his activities could fly under the radar. The cartel would drop fresh corpses at his front door in the middle of the night and he’d get to work when he discovered them in the morning. Once a month, an envelop packed full of cash was slipped under his door. It was a nice arrangement.
The Stewmaker grew frustrated as he watched the fat body float across the surface of the acid vat. He knew better and should have take precautions. Eventually, the acid would eat through the body and deflate it but it was still irritating.
Deckard woke up underwater.
Bubbles escaped around the SCUBA regulator clenched in his mouth as he checked the glowing hands on his wrist watch. Time sometimes seemed to stand still while submerged. Maintaining neutral buoyancy he floated, his wet suit insulating him against the cold that threatened to creep in even while in warm waters.
Pulling the rubber sleeve of the wetsuit back over his watch, he breathed evenly, if a little to fast, recognizing the first signs of pre-combat jitters. He was burning through oxygen faster than normal.
In the darkness, the mercenary could feel, rather than see the presence of his team. They floated alongside him in silence, waiting.
* * *
Samantha Diaz struggled against the handcuffs, rubbing her wrists raw.
“How about we play a little game.”
Jose Ortega stood in front of her, his arms folded across his chest. The ratty black mustache on his upper lip wiggled as he suppressed a laugh.
“Yeah, let’s turn off the lights and play a game of whose in my mouth?”
Ortega’s crew broke out laughing, anticipation in their eyes. They lounged around the master bedroom, wearing flamboyantly bright t-shirts with different stenciled designs, all from designer labels. Their hair was all identically slicked back with the same product, jeans with the same prefabricated tears and wear marks that came pre-worn from the store.
“Try not to cry like a little bitch,” the cartel leader demanded. “We already suffered enough of that from your father.”
Samantha lunged, the handcuffs digging deeper into her wrists.
Ortega bent down and grabbed her by the hair.
“You were stupid to come back,” he said with rotten breath. “Now you pay the price.”
Reaching into his pocket, he flicked open a switchblade. Running the blade under the inside of her shirt, he began slicing through the fabric to the cheers of his lieutenants.
“Everyone will know that the Diaz family produces nothing but whores.”
Several of Ortega’s men got to their feet, their hands moving towards pants zippers.
The explosion was deafening.
Two walls immediately collapsed followed by smoke and what sounded like thunder strikes that were sent skipping through the bedroom.
Gunfire erupted from the multiple breach points created through the cinder block walls, screams cut off by short controlled bursts of gunfire. New voices filled the room, speaking some strange language that Samantha was unfamiliar with.
When the smoke began to clear, she saw Ortega laying on his back with splotches of crimson staining his over-priced shirt. Attempting to speak, a strained gurgling sound was the best the cartel don could manage.
The heel of a combat boot came down on his throat.
Grinding his boot into Ortega’s neck, a large black clad man snarled, his lips curled back, bearing teeth like fangs.
“Get security up,” the man ordered in English. “Nikita, get those bolt cutters over here.”
A brown skinned man with Asian eyes moved forward, slinging his rifle over one shoulder, gripping the cutters in his hands. As he maneuvered the chain links of her handcuffs between the shears, she noticed that he was wearing a wetsuit, dripping wet despite the fact that they were no where near the ocean.
With the grunt, the commando severed the links with a loud snap, freeing her from the bed post she had been chained to.
Muffled shouts sounded from outside. One of the soldiers cracked open the bed room door, peering outside before pulling the pin from a fragmentation grenade. Rolling it outside, the grenade exploded, the voices suddenly going silent. Taking another glance outside, the grenadier turned to the large gringo with his foot still on Ortega’s throat and said something in what sounded like Russian.
Looking up from Ortega’s lifeless eyes, he replied in a similar rapid fire manner in the same language.
The man who had cut her free dropped the bolt cutters and took a knee next to one of the gaping holes created by the breaching charges, his rifle at the ready, waiting for targets to present themselves.
The gringo undid a waterproof bag that had been riding over his shoulder, producing a stack of papers before moving towards her.
“Ms. Diaz, I need you to-”
“Need me to what?” she asked pressing a .357 magnum into Deckard’s cheek.
“Uh,” the mercenary paused. “Where did you get that?”
“Ortega kept it in his waistband under his shirt.”
“I didn’t see you reaching for it.”
“You should be more careful or are you another dumb son of a punta?”
“Ma’am, I just need you to sign the-”
“Don’t tell me what to do jackass. I-”
Her words were interrupted by Nikita cutting loose with a staccato burst of gunfire, the wall he was taking cover behind chipping away under enemy return fire.
“I don’t think we have time for this.”
The ground shook as an explosion rattled somewhere in the drug lord’s compound.
“What the hell was that?”
“My boys blowing the front gate,” Deckard informed her.
“You know, my outfit. Your father contracted us but with him being killed seventeen hours ago, I’m afraid we are now here illegally, which is why I need, I would like, for you to sign the-”
“The contract, extending it’s duration until we can finish the job we were originally hired for.”
Nikita lobbed a grenade through the breach and resumed firing.
“What job?” she yelled over the noise.
“To take care of your drug cartel problem.”
Outside it sounded like the fourth of July back stateside where she had attended university.
“What the fuck is going on out there?”
“My platoons just drove their assault trucks into the compound. They are in the process mopping up the rest of Ortega’s men.”
“I can’t sign a contract with mercenaries, I’m a deputized police chief, not the provincial governor.”
“Actually, he was killed twelve hours ago.”
“The provincial judge?”
“He was with the governor,” Deckard said looking out of the corner of his eyes towards the door, with the massive revolver still stuck in his face. “The chief prosecutor too.”
“Yeah, so if you could just sign here,” he said handing her a ball point pen.
“And you work for me?”
“That’s the idea.”
“And we clean these motherfuckers out?”
“Precisely what I had in mind.”
Samantha snatched the pen out of Deckard’s hand and signed on the dotted line.
Another explosion sounded.
“Okay,” Deckard said flipping through the stack of papers. “Initial here.”
Samantha grimaced, sketching her name all over the papers.
“Right, and one more time right here.”
“That should do it,” Deckard said sliding the papers back into his bag. “But do you mind getting the cannon out of my face?”
Samantha looked at him long and hard before lowering her newly acquired pistol.
The mercenary posted next to the door leaned out, sending a barrage of gunfire down the hall.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” Deckard said, taking her by the hand and helping her to her feet. “We’ve got work to do.”
The tentative title is “Target Deck”
Deckard came awake with a start.
“We’re on final approach,” the co-pilot said.
“DC to Kabul in twelve hours, baby. You slept right through landing and take off at Nassau. We picked up a package from the Agency for you,” the middle aged CIA pilot pointed to the closet built into the fuselage of the aircraft. “Might want to change into something else. You will scare the squares out in this tourist shit hole in the Soldier of Fortune getup.”
“Thanks,” the mercenary replied as he stood and stretched his back. It felt like a dozen joints popped all at the same time. His knees and lower back creaked, the joints were sore, and his quadriceps threatened to seize up due to dehydration. The two mercenaries he had brought along with him remained sleeping in their chairs. The Gulfstream was outfitted to transport fifteen passengers so there was plenty of room for them on the aircraft. Their body armor and weapons lay in a pile on the floor.
The co-pilot disappeared back into the cockpit and Deckard got to work. When you are completely exhausted and going into the drone zone a few hours of sleep feels like you just woke up after hibernating for the winter. Although his body was still recovering from the abuse, his mind was moving a mile a minute.
In the Gulfstream’s small bathroom he threw water on his face thrn used the squirt bottle of liquid soap to wash his hands, arms, and face. Wetting down his hair he used the same soap to wash the dirt and debris out. Silently, he cursed the CIA agents in Oaxaca. They gave him an out but they sure as hell gave it to him on short notice.
The digital camouflage uniform he wore was stained with streaks of white. It was salt deposited in the fabric from sweating through the uniform several times a day. Stripping out of it he discarded the pants, blouse, and t-shirt the corner of the bathroom and continued wiping himself down as best he could. Somehow, he had to look like an investment banker when he met Bashir.
Ignoring his nudity, Deckard stepped out of the bathroom and went to the closet. Inside a garment bag was a gray Hicky-Freeman suit that had clearly been tailored to his measurements. He knew that the CIA kept an extensive file on him but this much information was ridicules. Bracing himself against the wall, he felt weightless for a moment as the jet began dumping altitude.
Quickly, he pulled on the pants, threw on the white button down shirt, and shrugged into the suit jacket. He left the fruity colored tie in the bag, leaving the shirt collar open. Sitting back down he began tying the shoes that came with the suit.
In the side pocket of the garment bag was the identity package he’d been promised. There was a smart phone with touch screen, a wallet packed full of credit cards and cash, and a US passport with his picture that bore the name Granger Black. The package was professionally done. The phone was pre-loaded with an address book full of phone numbers leading to various CIA front organizations. There were previous phone calls programmed into the call log and bullshit text messages stored in the memory all to make it look like it was used if anyone looked it over. The wallet included various business cards, including Granger Black’s. The passport was stamped up from London to Rome to Zurich.
He’d scanned the documents that Grant had given him in Oaxaca and then read them more carefully prior to take off. Bashir traveled with a Personal Security Detachment, or PSD wherever he went. They were former Lebanese Strike Force members from Beirut, trained by US Special Forces Soldiers. There was no time to plan the logistics of a large scale Direct Action strike with a platoon of Samruk mercenaries. In hours, if not days, the Mexican Marines would be raiding Samruk’s compound and hunting them down like dogs if he didn’t do something.
In order to get close to Bashir he would have to go in undercover. The two mercenaries he brought along were backup and would probably have to wait for him in the Gulfstream. If everything went pear shaped he would be on his own for the foreseeable future. His weapons and equipment would have to be left on the aircraft. Once again he was flying by the seat of his pants and cursed the the CIA for it. A bunch of Mormon accountants and Jesuit Lawyers from Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, it was no wonder that a Special Operations soldier like Deckard never got on with them very well.
When the wheels touched down on the tarmac the two mercs shook awake, looking around for a moment before collecting themselves and reaching for Kalashnikovs.
As the Gulfstream taxied onto the parking apron on the airfield, Deckard checked himself over in the mirror one last time. Running a hand through his hair he found it course and thick despite the impromptu washing. His face was drawn, he had lost some water weight over the last few days. His eyes were sharp even if his body wasn’t back to full capacity. Grabbing a bottle of water from the on board refrigerator, he downed half of it in one gulp.
When the plane halted the co-pilot came forward and dropped the folding stairs down to the ground.
“Good luck bud. We’ve done of a few of these that turned out to be one way trips for our passenger.”
“Just keep the engines running,” Deckard said dryly. “This shouldn’t take long.”
Tell us about your book:
After spending eight years in Army Special Operations units, I wrote a book about the kind of mission I had always hoped I would be a part of. In this regard, Reflexive Fire is written to answer the question, what would be the ultimate Special Forces mission? The plot of the book is a modern take on a real life coup attempt that almost took place on American soil before it was exposed by the heroic General Smedley Butler. In my novel, I speculate on what such a coup would look like today. The Wall Street gang tried to get General Butler (a two time Metal of Honor awardee) to lead their coup but if it took place today, what kind of person would they approach? What would happen if, like General Butler, that man decided to turn the tables on his employers?
I probably won’t offer this Issue for free again so snap it up now!