Authors: Eric Meyer
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller, #War & Military
"My master is not joking," Mohammed hissed, "We do not make jokes. The men incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay are essential for us to succeed with this attack. They are amongst the most dedicated men in the world of the Islamic Jihad. There is another bonus, one that will rock America to its very core. Using escaped prisoners from Guantanamo Bay will show America they cannot cage our fighters like animals. The effect on their morale of both the attack and the men who carry it out will be devastating."
"Jesus, Mary and all the Saints," Montez murmured to himself, "Fucking Guantanamo Bay! Damn, that would be something. Yeah, that'd make them shit razor blades." He stared at Hamza.
"You really are serious? You think this can be done."
"I know it can be done," the Al Qaeda leader commander replied promptly. "If you can provide suitable semi-submersible craft, and the two men to make a hole in the perimeter fence, the target is as good as destroyed."
Montez shook his head, still not convinced. He put up a hand to silence the Islamist.
"Hold it there. My semi-submersibles are valuable. They cost me millions of dollars. Señor Hamza, why don't you find other men to carry out this attack? Sure, we'll help you, any way you like, but this...it could cause us a lot of problems. Too many."
"Do you know anything about Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Montez?"
He shrugged. "Not much." He laughed again, "It's not a place I intend to visit."
Yazid Hamza grimaced and took a moment to collect his thoughts. "Our brave fighters are kept in conditions that would disgust any civilized person. They are denied their human rights. Many are refused lawyers or any kind of legal representation. They are force fed when they refuse to eat and tortured almost on a daily basis to provide entertainment for the guards..."
"I know it is no paradise," Montez grunted.
Hamza ignored him and went on. "We have tried to get the camp closed by keeping the world's media informed, and they in turn put pressure on the US government. However, the reply is invariably that because the prisoners are not on American soil, they are not entitled to any redress under American law. Our men are dying, brave men! Some commit suicide, the rest live from day to day, in despair of any possible release."
"That is unfortunate," Montez responded politely. In his mind, he was thinking the conditions Hamza described were virtually identical to those suffered by most women in Afghanistan and many other Islamic countries. There were the hostages held by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, what about them? As far as he knew, their treatment was worse. Even the Americans didn't behead their prisoners or stone women to death for adultery.
Isn't cruelty their culture?
Fucking camel jockeys.
Wisely, he kept quiet.
"Unfortunate!" Hamza blazed, "It is a crime against God!"
"Yes, yes, of course. But still..."
"I can see you are not persuaded, Mr. Montez. Perhaps I can give you another motive to help us. One that will benefit you more than you could imagine."
The Colombian nodded for him to continue. He smelled money.
"How would you like to make a killing on the American stock market? Enough to bankrupt many of their major companies on Wall Street, and make you even wealthier."
"It sounds interesting. How much money are we talking here, how much could I make? I don't deal in small change, Señor Hamza. My business is major league."
"One hundred billion dollars."
His eyes bulged. "How the hell could I get my hands on that kind of money? It's not possible. What do you suggest, we rob Fort Knox?"
"You will not need to rob anything. Do you remember 9/11, the way stocks crashed?"
He nodded. He remembered it well. A large part of his drug fortune was invested on Wall Street, and he'd lost over a billion.
"Fucking crooks, I lost a packet."
"No doubt. But imagine if you had prior notice of the attack. How would you handle your stocks?"
He smiled. "Yeah, I see. Sell short." Suddenly he worked out the numbers. "Jesus!"
Hamza smiled. "Sell short, that is correct. I asked my people to analyze the likely performance of stocks after another attack on the scale of 9/11. They estimate profits on a factor of ten. Every dollar you invest will make ten dollars, maybe more. And in the process, you will bankrupt many of America's so-called 'blue-chip' companies."
"Yes, I see." The Colombian's eyes suddenly squinted in suspicion, "This target you plan to hit, it will be of the same magnitude as the World Trade Center?"
"Bigger. Of that I can promise you. The plans are already in place. All I need is these fighters to make it happen. These men are all sworn to die for Islam, to become martyrs. That combination of faith and dedication is essential if we are to succeed."
"Martyrs? You mean suicide bombers?"
Hamza shrugged. "We call them martyrs."
"Yeah, I get it."
He imagined the double blow to the United States. His best customer and his worst enemy. Abruptly, he came to a decision.
"You have a deal, Señor Hamza, but a word of warning. Don't fuck with me! Don't even think about it." His cold eyes raked the Al Qaeda commander, "Comprendas?"
"I understand." The Afghan held up his hand, and both men shook on the deal. They talked for an hour about the logistics of getting the craft to the coast of Cuba, but they all knew it was a simple matter. Montez and other drug smugglers had used semi-submersibles for years, and what they didn't know about the sophisticated craft wasn't worth knowing . Carlos entered the room, and his boss glanced at him.
Hidalgo shook his head. "Almost. I took care of Manuel, and his wife and son. But the other one, the older girl, she's not there."
"Jefe, before I killed him, Manuel told me she's in New York. She's doing a course at Columbia University. The girl is studying something to do with chemistry."
"I don't give a fuck what she's studying! Find her, and deal with her before she makes trouble."
"You want me to kill her?"
Montez considered. "If it is essential, yes, but I'd prefer it didn't happen in New York. Warn her to keep quiet about our business. When she comes back, then you can kill her."
"There's another problem, Señor Montez. It was no accident Manuel was listening outside the door. He was a spy."
"Yes. He died before I could get him to tell me who he worked for, but I assume it would have been either the Colombian government or the DEA."
"Shit. Any more bad news?"
"There may be. He put the information he collected on a USB stick and sent it to his daughter in New York. It consists of a lot of important data, our offshore bank account codes, lists of suppliers, customers, our contacts in the cops and US Customs. He said he told her to keep it in a safe place, as a kind of insurance in case we discovered what he was doing. But he didn't tell me where she kept it, even though I tortured him."
"That information could destroy us, Carlos! You killed him before he could talk?"
"Heart attack, Jefe. It was an accident."
Montez scowled. "You stupid bastard. Get that USB stick! I don't care how you do it. Go to New York, find her, and retrieve that USB stick. Then kill her, I don't care if you do it in the middle of Times Square. But this time, make sure you have the data stick first. I don't want any more fuck ups."
"I'll take care of it, Boss. I have a cousin who recently moved to New York City. His name is Cristobal. He is from Medellin. He will help."
"Make sure he does. When you have that data, make sure she disappears. Permanently."
"Yes, Boss. Don't worry, I'll deal with it."
"You'd better. Carlos, you missed the important bit. The prison they want us to hit. It's Guantanamo Bay."
Carlos’ eyes widened. "Gitmo! How come?"
"They want us to use one of our submersibles. Apparently, the cage is close to the beach."
"Is that so?" He thought for a few moments and nodded, "Yeah, that could work."
"You think so?" Montez queried him.
"If we treat it like a cargo of product, why not?"
The Colombian smiled, and he looked at Yazid Hamza. "God help the Americans."
"How the fuck did we get ourselves into this?"
Chief Petty Officer Kyle Nolan squinted back at Will Bryce, the immensely strong, black PO1 who was the rock on which US Navy Seal Team Bravo was founded. Normally, Will would be dressed in camo kit and festooned with weapons and equipment, but now he wore a ragged, filthy, cotton shirt and pants that had once been white; the uniform of Taraza prison, situated in the steaming hell of the Colombian jungle. He was also badly bruised and covered in deep cuts and gouges; the scars were also the uniform of Taraza prison.
They'd been assigned a simple kill mission. A prominent politician had decided to augment his government salary by going into business with the cartels. The US government had found out and tried to stop him by legal methods, but they'd failed. The man was too highly connected, and the stream of cocaine that poured into American cities had continued unabated.
It wasn't just the drugs. The politician, Rafael Benitez, cut corners to increase profits. His chemists used cheaper toxic chemicals to refine the coca leaves. As a result, Americans were dying after ingesting his substances. A decision was taken at the highest levels to terminate him before even more young people died. It was a mission for a small unit, four men, a single fireteam. The mission had been handed to Chief Nolan.
He'd entered Colombia with Will Bryce, Brad Rose, and the newest member of Seal Team Bravo, John-Wesley Ryder. They flew in to Cartagena, Colombia, posing as tourists on a golfing vacation. Their weapons and equipment arrived in Bogotá on a separate diplomatic flight, and the local CIA operative met them at their hotel, his trunk stacked with canvas holdalls. They took possession of their gear, HK410 assault rifles and Sig Sauer P226 handguns, abandoned the golf clubs, and drove to Medellin in a rented SUV. The target owned a luxurious complex outside the town, out of sight of the local cops but guarded by the paramilitaries who patrolled the area.
They penetrated his elaborate security systems and entered the complex without difficulty. By a stroke of terrible luck, Benitez had invited a squad to his luxury mansion, men from the Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas, AFEUR. The occasion was a reward for their services in protecting his drug operation. The four Seals, unaware of the proximity of fifty armed Colombian Special Forces operatives, located Benitez and put two neat holes in the center of his forehead.
They almost made it out. They were about to exfil the complex, when the Colombian paramilitaries came across the body and went after the killers of their wealthy sponsor. The four men were good, very good. Navy Seals counted themselves the best in the business. But faced with fifty troops, highly trained and heavily armed, the odds had proved too much. There was a short gun battle, and three of them were taken prisoner, Nolan, Bryce, and Rose. John-Wesley Ryder had vanished during the shooting, presumed dead.
They still hoped their government would find a way to free them. However, the Colombians had other ideas. They bundled the Seals to a remote jail and sentenced them to death by firing squad the following day. At dawn. No trial, no due process. This was Colombia.
"We obeyed orders," Bryce replied with a shrug, "We were just unlucky. At least we got to live a day longer than Ryder."
Nolan went to check his watch, and then remembered they'd taken it from him. He looked out through the barred window at the stars and estimated it was two hours past midnight. The execution was scheduled for 0800 hours. Less than six hours left.
"I've been looking for a way out of here," Brad Rose offered, "There must be something. "
Nolan peered through the gloom at Rose, normally the Team dandy. He was slightly below medium height and powerfully built. Even in prison garb, he managed to look good, like a playboy or a California beach boy with his shaggy blonde hair, although his perpetual smile had disappeared. Like the rest of them, he wasn't happy to go to his death without putting up one hell of a fight.
"I agree, there has to be something. Keep looking."
Until that door opens, and they drag us out to stand in front of a dozen men with rifles.
"I'm beginning to think Ryder had the easy way out," Bryce growled, "A quick death, at least he doesn't have to wait for the end."
"Yeah." Nolan had a sudden thought, "Did anyone see him go down?"
They shook their heads. He was about to say more when he heard a faint sound at the barred window. He held up a hand for quiet. "Any of you guys hear that?"
They both shook their heads.
"I'm sure I heard something outside."
"Just a rat or a scorpion," Brad murmured with a dismissive tone.
"No, I'm sure I heard something. Will, give me a lift up. I need to take a look."
The window was ten feet above the floor. PO Bryce stood next to the wall below the window, and Nolan climbed up to stand on his shoulders and looked out. At first, he saw nothing. Brad was right; it had to be an insect or maybe a rat. There were plenty of them in Taraza prison, and not all of them with four legs. He was about to climb down when a whispered voice stopped him.
"Chief! Is that you?"
His hopes soared. The dead had come to life. At least, the man they'd assumed dead. A weasel face appeared at the tiny barred window, unshaven, sallow, sunken cheeks, and the burning eyes of a religious fanatic. It could only be one man.
"Ryder, how did you manage to escape?"
"When those soldiers surrounded us and we hit the dirt, I found myself over a manhole cover. I dropped down into the sewer. After it was over, I climbed out and hung underneath the chassis of the truck they sent to bring you to the prison. I dropped off just before they came inside. Never mind the details, I have to get you out of there. Apart from the two men at the end of the corridor, what am I looking at here?"
They could see the two guards from inside the cell through the tiny barred window in the heavy steel door.
"You've seen them, the guards?"
A snort. "Stupid bastards, they're sitting inside an open window, drinking tequila. They've got a whore with them too, a painted Jezebel, so their minds are not on their work. How many other guards are in the vicinity?"
"I don't know about any others. Do you have any weapons?"
"I had to ditch my assault rifle, but I still have my Sig and the knife. Here, you take the pistol. I won't need it to take these mothers."
Ryder passed him the black-handled Sig Sauer P226. The barrel was fitted with an effective sound suppressor. The moment Nolan's fingers closed on the butt was the moment when he really believed they might survive to get out of this place.
"What's your plan, John-Wesley?"
From the first, Ryder had insisted on using the hyphenated name. His parents were deeply fundamentalist Christians and named him after the famous preacher, so Ryder took it seriously. Raised in Texas, the family moved to Montana following a disagreement with local fundamentalist Baptists, who they labeled, 'even closer to Satan than Catholics'.
Ryder joined the Navy and graduated to the Seals, after a short spell in prison. He'd single-handedly beat five men to a pulp after they'd insulted his sister. During his prison term, he honed his skills with fists and a knife until they were uncanny. He then found his fighting abilities were valued in the Special Forces. Especially the knife. Men who knew him would sooner face Ryder with a gun in his hand than with his huge, razor-sharp combat knife. And he was damn good with the gun.
"My plan? It's simple, I'm a pastor. I'll tell 'em the commandant asked me to say a few words before you die. They should go for it, but watch my back, and if something goes wrong, use the Sig."
"Copy that. Ryder, thanks for turning up."
"The Lord guided my steps, Boss. Praise to his name."
Ryder disappeared. As soon as Nolan dropped down, he cursed. The girl, he'd meant to tell him to spare her life if possible. She was a whore, even worse, a whore who was entertaining the enemy. In Ryder's book, it made her doubly cursed.
He explained to Will and Brad what Ryder was about to do.
"You up to it, Will? We'll likely need to make a run for it when we get out."
Bryce was still a mass of cuts and bruises.
* * *
The guards gave Will a savage beating when they first arrived at the jail. Afterward,
brought him back to the cell, he was unconscious, his face a bloody pulp. One guard stood back, covering them with a scattergun. The other turnkey, armed with a huge revolver, stood inside the cell, sneering at their weakness.
"Your black friend is a big man. We don't want a black monkey like him making trouble for the firing squad in the morning. A little softening up should keep him quiet."
He'd laughed, a high-pitched giggle, and waited, daring them to try and rush him. The man was a scumbag, unshaven, dressed in a filthy 'wife-beater' vest and stained pants. His pistol belt sagged below his paunch, and even from eight feet, Nolan could smell the sour stench of stale alcohol. He'd fixed the turnkey with a hard gaze.
"Mister, a warning for you."
The Colombian looked puzzled. "A warning?"
"Yeah. It'd take an M1 Abrams to soften up Will Bryce. If he gets the chance, he'll kill you first. And if he doesn't, I'll kill you myself."
The man chuckled. "Very funny. Perhaps we should give you the treatment, make sure you don't make trouble in the morning."
"You could try."
The jailer scowled and eyed him for a few moments. Then he giggled as he left the cell.
"I'll see you in the morning. I just decided to join your firing squad."
* * *
"Up to it?" Bryce eyed him with a puzzled expression on his battered face. "Damn right. Just one thing. Those two guards, they're mine."
He thought about the two guards. They deserved to die, no question. Brutal sadists, they'd long forfeited the right to live; he'd heard them bragging about the number of men they'd physically beaten to death over the past weeks and months. Women too.
But the whore, she's just some poor kid, trying to feed her family. If I can save her from Ryder's blade, I will.
"Sorry, Will. By the time Ryder has finished with them, their own mothers won't recognize them."
"Damn, I was looking forward to getting my hands on them."
"Another time. As soon as Ryder opens that door, we need to move fast. Pick up any weapons you can find, we're sure to need 'em later. As soon as we clear the building, we'll steal a vehicle to get a long way away from this place. There's one more thing." He explained about the prostitute, "She doesn't deserve to die."
"What's she look like?" Rose asked with a grin. An innocent question, except where women were concerned, Brad Rose was anything but innocent.
"She'll look like a dead body if Ryder gets to her," he replied.
Brad's expression sobered. "Roger that. We'll look out for her."
They waited in the reeking, humid cell for John-Wesley to make his play.
It's almost a miracle,
One moment, we were facing death and the next, planning to break out of prison. Even if we only get part way and go down in an exchange of gunfire, it's the honorable way for a Seal to die. Not slaughtered out of hand by Colombians reeking of booze and puking up their breakfast of chili rice and beans.
He looked out the tiny window set in the door. The passageway was dimly lit, but a shaft of bright moonlight broke through, and he could see the two soldiers sitting at a table. They were playing cards and drinking from the neck of an almost empty bottle of Tequila. The whore was kneeling on the floor, attempting to unfasten a soldier's pants. The other man belched, a long, loud noise that echoed along the stone passage. His comrade giggled and responded with a series of farts as the whore worked on his clothing.
Soldiers? Apart from their sadism, they deserve Ryder's justice for the insult to the business of soldiering.
The man who'd belched looked up as a fist hammered on the door. He climbed to his feet, picked up the scattergun, a two barrel sawn off shotgun, and opened the door a few inches.
Nolan heard a man's voice speaking in low, urgent tones. The voice belonged to Ryder. Fortunately, he'd learned Spanish during his upbringing in Texas, and he was able to make himself understood. Nolan heard him say, "He venido a rezar por sus almas. El Comandante me envió."
I'm here to pray for the prisoners' souls. The Commandant sent me.
The guard argued for a few moments then reluctantly gave in, even though the preacher was interrupting their fun. The prison commandant's word was law. Besides, the Americans were due to die in a few hours. What difference would it make, a few words from God?
He opened the door, and a shadowy figure stepped through. The guard frowned. It was strange; the priest wore camouflage pants. His jacket, though black, was ragged and dirty, as if it had been picked up from a garbage heap. The man also stank of sewage.