Authors: Eric Meyer
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #War, #Men's Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller, #War & Military
He kept his hands wide and clear of his body. "You're absolutely right. As soon as I see that warrant, I'll instruct my friends to come out, and we'll all lie on the ground exactly as you ordered."
Play along with them, whatever they want. Every minute we gain for us is a minute less for them. Provided Admiral Jacks can intervene.
* * *
Daoud Khan was in more pain than he'd believed possible. It was one of those accidents that shouldn't have happened, but it did. He'd stepped in a tiny hole made by a small animal and tripped, fracturing his ankle. He compounded the problem by banging his head against a rock as he fell. When he came to, he was in the camp infirmary, chained to the cot by his wrists and ankles. He had no idea of the extent of his injuries.
He would remain silent. He knew the grim-faced soldiers who loomed over him wanted to know one thing. How they'd got away, and where were they going. No way would he give them anything, not ever. He was a soldier of Allah and would die before he ratted on his fellow fighters. A stab of pain almost forced him to cry out. He admitted even the soldiers of Allah may sometimes need medical treatment.
He resisted the urge to scream in agony and tried to keep his voice steady, although he could feel the sweat running down his face and pooling inside his clothing. They would have noticed it, too. They were clever.
"I need treatment, painkillers. Please, I must have something for the pain."
He recognized the man standing nearest to him, wearing camo uniform, Colonel Robert E. 'Bobby' Shaftoe, the officer in charge of Gitmo. He was a Marine, tall, tough, and erect, with buzz cut graying hair. He was also a fitness fanatic who kept his unusual command running like a Swiss watch. Right now, the Swiss watch had broken. And he only had one man within reach who he could blame for his woes. Daoud Khan.
"Sure, Mr. Khan. You can have all the painkillers you need. Just like your people would give one of our men painkilling drugs if you captured him. Isn't that right, son?"
He understood the irony but ignored it. "I need them now, please!"
Shaftoe smiled. "Yeah, I'll send someone to the dispensary right this moment. It's no problem. You're going to tell us how you got out and where your friends are heading. You wouldn't expect us to give freebie drugs to a man who withheld information about an enemy?"
"I have nothing to say."
His voice was a hoarse whisper, and he was doing everything possible to rein in the terror and agony gripping his body. Colonel Shaftoe nodded, his face calm.
"In that case, son, there's nothing I can do for you. Not to ease the pain." He looked at another man, a medic in a white coat. "Doc, go ahead and inject the drug?"
The physician, a Marine captain, raised his eyebrows. "You sure, Colonel? He’s had a hard time. A dose of this stuff, well, I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end. Not in his condition."
"You're not on the receiving end, Captain. He is. And that's an order, so do it."
He loaded a syringe from a small glass phial and stood over Khan. He swabbed an area on his upper left arm with alcohol and injected the fluid. Then he looked at the Colonel.
"About ten minutes, Sir. It could be less, but I warn you, when it gets into his system, he's liable to go crazy."
Shaftoe nodded. Daoud Khan regarded them with alarm. "What is it, what have you put into my body?"
"Something to help, that's all."
Both men looked at their watches. Waiting. The substance was new, a development of Mescaline. At first, it made the subject drowsy, but when the chemical started to break down in the body, the victim would feel as if wild animals were ripping their body apart with razor sharp claws. The Captain, a qualified medical doctor who specialized in interrogation techniques, had tried it on himself as part of his training. But only once, he'd sworn never again. He still had nightmares.
After the injection the patient relaxed on the cot, assuming he had nothing to fear. After all, Americans had a reputation for being soft and weak. He was wrong. His eyes flicked open as the drug started to take effect, and his body arched in terrible agony, like nothing he'd ever known. His screams echoed around the building, a tortured voice from hell calling for forgiveness. Five minutes later, he started to talk.
"Please, no more. I will tell you. Stop the pain. The target is in New York."
"New York City?"
"Yes, yes. I think so, yes."
"Where in New York City?"
"They never told me."
A minute later, Shaftoe was on the phone to the Pentagon. Another fifteen minutes elapsed before Daoud Khan's heart suddenly stopped and refused to restart, no matter what they tried. The target location died with him.
* * *
The legal row stretched for two hours while they sweated and argued in the Panamanian sunshine. Eventually, the truck returned, and the corporal rushed up to his captain, clutching a faxed sheet of paper.
"The warrant, Capitano."
As the man snatched it from him, Nolan heard a call from inside the bar.
"We're good to come out," Will Bryce shouted.
It meant he'd talked to Admiral Jacks. Provided the Admiral could persuade the Panamanians to hand them over to the Embassy, or one of the few US outposts that remained in the canal zone, they should be okay. Otherwise, they'd be back in the shit.
He glanced through the warrant and was able to understand the relevant parts, which were all in Spanish. It would need a lawyer to make real sense of it, but it looked official. Besides, when you're faced with overwhelming force, legality was moot. The men came slowly out of the bar and lay face down on the street. The Captain climbed out of the Humvee and walked over to them. Nolan knew what was going to happen, and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. The macho bastard had to demonstrate to his men how hard he was.
The heavy boot slammed into his kidneys, and he felt an agonizing stab of pain. The second kick slammed into his head. The Captain spat on him and cursed.
"Hijo de puta! Next time I give you an order, you obey, instantly! You're not in America now. This is Panama. Is that clear?"
He grunted in satisfaction and barked a stream of orders to his men. They grabbed the Seals, pulled them to their feet, and hustled them into the truck. At the rear, two troopers guarded them, both men holding tiny submachine guns, Ingram MAC 10s.
More American-made hardware. Shit!
The truck started to move, and he called to one of the guards.
"Señor, is this barracks nearby? How long will it take to get there?"
They needed time, time for Admiral Jacks to go through the channels and secure their release. The man smiled, and it wasn't just his blackened teeth that made the smile less than pretty.
"Barracks? Who said anything about a barracks? They ordered us to take you to Cárcel Modelo in Panama City. Perhaps you have heard of it?" He chuckled, "In Panama, they call it the 'Cemetery for the Living'. We're arranging for your transfer back to Colombia, but of course that depends on whether you survive Cárcel Modelo. Most don't."
He laughed aloud, and the other man joined in. He looked at Nolan.
"Does that answer your question, American?"
He didn't reply. Cárcel Modelo translated to 'Model Jail'. The building was constructed during the 1920s. It rapidly acquired a reputation for violence and overcrowding that made it one of the most notorious institutions in South America. Will looked at him, his expression stony. Brad said nothing, just sat in silent contemplation. John-Wesley's lips were moving as he regarded the two Panamanians with a calm stare. It was well they didn't know the Texan.
Nolan had seen the far-away look before. Ryder would be murmuring a silent prayer, probably something bloodcurdling from the Old Testament book of Leviticus, and planning how he would kill those two soldiers.
The big Seal glanced at him. "I'm still here."
"We have to figure a way to get out of this."
"Again? We just did that, back in Colombia, and look where it got us. Out of the shit and into the manure."
"Yeah. What did Jacks say?"
"It's going to be difficult, but he knows of a guy in Panama City. Jacks said he'd get him to talk to the right people, and see what he can do."
Bryce shrugged. "I guess. He could be Eagle Scouts for all I care, as long as he gets us out."
"Let's hope he gets to us before they send us back."
"At least we finished off Rafael Benitez."
He nodded, and they both looked at John-Wesley as his voice became louder.
"Yea, you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy."
It was loud enough for the guards to hear. "Shut up, or we’ll shut you up," one of them snarled, gesturing to his Mac 10.
Ryder glanced at him. If he'd known Ryder better, he'd have been wise to start running.
"What're you going to do about him?" Bryce asked, "He's as crazy as a coot. How did he make it into the Seals?"
"He breezed through 'Hell Week' like it was a Sunday afternoon stroll. His scores were off the scale.”
Will raised his eyebrows and looked impressed. The greatest challenge of BUD/S training was during week four of the first phase. Wannabee Seals were in constant motion; cold, hungry, and wet. Medical personnel stood ready for emergencies and to monitor the exhausted trainees. Sleep was rare, maybe three to four hours at the end of the week. Many men gave up, exhausted, beaten by the punishing regime.
"That's impressive. Even so, he's a loose cannon, and you know it."
"Yeah, I do. I watch him like a hawk, and if he makes a mistake, he'll be kicked out of the Seals before he has time to recite the Lord's Prayer. But so far, he hasn't made any mistakes. And he saved our assess back in that Colombian prison."
"He almost killed that girl, the whore. Would you have shot him if he'd ignored the stop order?"
He stared at Will. "I asked myself the same question. I'm still working on the answer."
The truck started to slow, and it stopped. They'd reached Cárcel Modelo.
Bryce shrugged. "I reckon you've left it too late."
* * *
The 'Cemetery for the Living' was an appropriate nickname. The cell was designed to accommodate four prisoners. The walls were mostly bare brick, with a few remaining scraps of plaster that still clung to them. There was no furniture, no beds, no chairs, nothing. For a toilet, there was a foul smelling hole in the floor positioned in the corner. Men were crammed inside, sweating, stinking, cursing, and violent. At first.
They were tossed through the iron door, and it closed with a 'clang' that echoed along the corridor. The key turned, and the lock clicked shut. They stared at their new surroundings. There were seventeen men in that stinking pit, and with their arrival the number rose to twenty-one. In a split-second, the prisoners recognized the newcomers as Norte Americanos. They moved toward them, crowding them. The body language was menacing, and their intent obvious, to attack, hurt, brutalize and maim. To rob the four Americans of anything they may have smuggled in, and then to make clear who ran things inside the cell. And who didn't.
It was their first mistake; they hadn't met Navy Seals before. They gave Will Bryce a wide berth because of his formidable size. The man they went after was John-Wesley Ryder, due to his slight stature. That was their second mistake. Nolan, Bryce, and Rose were content to stand by the door and watch Ryder in action.
He moved like a striking black mamba, closing with his opponents, chopping, punching, kicking, and biting, like a tornado whirling around the cell. All the time his voice was calm, murmuring biblical quotes, his justification the injuries he did to his opponents.
"Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Praise the Lord, and punish the sinner. Be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain. He is a minister of God, a revenger. Wrath upon him that doeth evil."
After a couple of minutes, he stopped. He was breathing harder, and his forehead was damp with sweat. But it was obvious he had plenty in hand, if necessary. The other prisoners stopped, too, and regarded him with awe. Someone muttered, 'El Diablo'. The Devil. A fair comparison, except most men would sooner tangle with the Devil than with John-Wesley Ryder.
He stared back at them, still calm. Then he smiled. "You boys want to repent your sins?"
They stared back at him for several seconds, and then they shifted their gaze. They'd had enough.
Nolan found an empty patch of floor where they could sit, and they waited for someone to come for them. Either it would be from their own people if Jacks came across, or someone from Colombia to extradite them back to the condemned cellblock of Taraza prison. The stench was appalling, unbelievable, urine, feces, stale sweat, and semen. The odor of a vast body of men locked into an insanitary building, where even water was a luxury.
"How long do you reckon we'll have to wait?" Brad asked, to no one in particular.