Exigent (Chapter II)

A Logan Chandler Thriller

 

 

II.

Kabul, Afghanistan, 2016

Logan told Greta to forego any makeup and wear a drab afghan hijab.”Remember, bland and forgettable is what we are going for. Meet me at the back gate in 20 minutes.” Logan then went to the closet in the spare bedroom where he kept some of his clothes and chose a business casual outfit with a brown sports coat. He then took the elevator down to the armory to load out. In addition to his Glock 17, He chose a Heckler and Koch MP-7 with a 40 round magazine and an Aimpoint micro T-1 red-dot sight. The combination made for a very compact sub-machine gun that could easily be concealed under a jacket with a single point sling connected to a H harness. He then strapped his “BUG” or Back-up gun, a Glock 26, in an ankle holster and mounted a Strider tanto fixed blade knife horizontal on his belt at the 11 o’clock position. He also grabbed two M-67 Frag Grenades. After the armory, Logan went to the carpool and instead of the Yukon, checked out a smaller, more agile grey Range Rover. By the time he pulled around to the back entrance, Greta was waiting anxiously. As she climbed into the backseat, Logan adjusted the rear-view mirror to look at her.”You remembered your IBA ?” Greta shot a glance up at Logan and although she was wearing her Ray-Ban’s Logan could feel her piercing brown laser beams. “Yes General, I have my body armour on.” Greta replied with a frustrated smile. As Logan smiled back his brain was in hyper-drive. He was reviewing all the precautionary security measures. Beginning in 2012, after the Benghazi disaster, All Foreign service personnel were required to have GPS implants. These implants were the size of  grain of rice and actively pinged every two minutes.

The Marine at the back entrance gave Logan a strange look as he rolled up to the gate. “Off the book trip Mr. Chandler?” The Marine asked looking in the back seat at Greta. “Yeah, real quick, something the Ambassador needs.” The Marine stared at Logan for a minute.and then waved his hand for the barriers to be lowered. Logan nodded and rolled through the gate and turned toward town. Watching his rear view, as he left the embassy, Logan saw no tails, but that did not mean anything in this day and age of drones. The Russians and Chinese were known to monitor the comings and goings of Embassy personnel, but that had not occurred in some time. The weather was cloudy and cool, with the sun staying hidden behind the clouds. Traffic was light and they arrived at the shop four minutes ahead of schedule. Logan decided to make the block just to get a lay of the land and check for anything out of the ordinary. The shop sat nestled in the middle of a residential neighborhood, away from the hustle and bustle of the commercial district. As per protocol, Logan used the side entrance in the alley versus the front, but considering the off-chance of being boxed in inside the alley, he parked as close as he could to the street to allow a quick exit if needed. As Logan and Greta quickly entered the shop, the owner, a short, bald afghan with round glasses, met them with a confused look on his face. Greta, always quick on her feet, explained they were tourist and had got turned around and thought this was the only entrance. The owner smiled understandingly and kindly offered chai tea while they shopped. After a quick check of the small shop, Logan took up position where he could cover both entrances and let Greta do her shopping. After close to forty-five minutes, Greta had found three items and was ready to check out. Relieved that this was going to indeed be a painless shopping trip, Logan got ready to carry the purchases, a small rug, a painting and an afghan tea set to the SUV. The items were not heavy but were bulky, requiring Logan to have both hands to carry them, something that was frowned upon in the protection racket. The owner, seeing the difficulty, kindly offered to help carry the items out to the car.

Before walking out the door with the owner, Logan kindly ask the owner to lock the front doors and told Greta to wait in the shop and he would come back and escort her to the car when they were done. Greta gave a mock salute and then sat down and took out her phone. As Logan opened the door, bright sunlight flooded into the dark shop, blinding him momentarily. Logan slipped on his Oakley’s and once the spots in his vision disappeared, quickly glanced left and right and then stepped out toward the vehicle with the owner following. Once the packages were loaded, Logan shook hands and thanked the owner for his help. The owner then turned around to go unlock the front entrance while Logan returned to the side door to retrieve Greta. As Logan held the door open for her, she exited still looking down at her phone. As Logan shut the door, Greta was a few steps ahead of him heading to the SUV. He did not hear the shot before he was spun around to the ground on one knee. Instinctively, Greta hit the ground and laid flat. “Make yourself as small a target as possible” he had told her that day in training. Logan did likewise and from his vantage point, looking underneath the range rover, Logan could see the shooters feet. He was in cover behind a truck parked directly across the street. The narrow alley was protecting Logan’s flanks, but it also prevented him from seeing if the shooter brought any friends to this party.”Greta, Stay Down and Do Not Move!” Logan said in a low voice. As Logan brought one knee underneath him, the pain in his shoulder shot through his body like a stabbing electrical current. He gritted his teeth and  tried to replace the pain with anger. “Now I’m gonna kill you motherfucker.” Logan whispered to himself. In one smooth motion, he brought MP-7 up and while bringing the red dot to his eye he flicked the safety off with his thumb, putting the selector switch to full-auto. Instead of firing over the vehicle, Logan fired around it, keeping the engine block between him and the shooter. As the red dot centered on the back of the shooters car in the street, Logan let off a burst. The MP-7  belched and Logan could see a blur of activity as the shooter’s feet scrambled away from the impact. Logan wasted no time. He duck walked over to Greta and grabbed her arm. “We gotta move now!” Logan kept his voice low but stern not wanting to tip-off the shooter. Greta got to her feet and duck walked with Logan to the side door of the shop. As Logan opened the door three rounds impacted a half an inch above their heads. “Son-of-bitch!” Logan yelled as he pushed Greta into the building. Logan then spun around and without aiming, raised the MP-7 and fired another burst toward the parked truck. As He bolted the door closed, he found the owner and Greta both huddled together behind the marble counter.

As he joined them, Logan was relieved to see Greta already on the phone with the embassy QRF or Quick Reaction Force. “I call Police!” the owner said hysterically in broken English. “Not a bad ideal.” Logan replied calmly.”First things first, did you re-lock the front door after coming inside?” The owner nodded and then began crying. Logan patted the man’s shoulder. “Keep it together sir. We are gonna be alright.” Logan peeked around the counter. No sign of anybody yet. “Bloody amateurs. They are trying to decide what to do.” Logan told himself. Greta, who was slowly coming out of a daze, suddenly came to life when she saw all the blood on Logan. “My God Logan! You are bleeding!” She screamed. She quickly took of the hijab and began applying pressure. Logan grimaced. “I think the bullet went in and out clean.” Logan said as he was trying to examine it himself. Suddenly the unmistakable sound of fully automatic AK-47’s and a cacophony of breaking glass broke the silence. Rounds impacted wildly inside the shop. Logan could hear the bullets hitting the marble counter with a dull thud. Logan brought the MP-7 up and tucked Greta behind him with his arm. Tucked in a small  ball the owner began to whimper like a wounded animal. When the shooting stopped, Logan peered around the counter and saw three men in all black wearing balaclava’s. Since they had shot out the front plate-glass, Logan could hear them talking. It was ethnic Pashto. They were trying to decide which one would go inside. “Jesus Christ, this is amateur hour!” Logan said to himself. Just as Logan was about to open up on them from twelve feet away, he heard the police sirens. He then heard the unmistakable sound of a deuce and a half coming from the other direction. It was the  Marine QRF Team. The three shooters, realizing they were boxed in, dropped their weapons and laid flat on the ground. Logan could not believe his eyes. Surrendering? This was not SOP for terrorist. Immediately Logan was suspicious and told Greta and the owner they needed to move to the back of the store in the event one or all of them has a suicide vest. After a lengthy standoff where the three shooters were required to strip butt-ass naked on the street to ensure they were not suited up to explode, the QRF team got Greta out of there and back to the embassy while and ambulance took Logan and the store owner to the hospital.

Three hours later, Logan woke up in the ICU feeling groggy and sore, like he had been run over with a cement truck. His mouth was so dry his tongue was permanently attached to the roof of his mouth. An Afghan nurse sitting beside him saw him struggling and gently put a straw in his mouth and let him take a long drink of cold water. Logan looked at her and nodded a thank you. With his throat moist, Logan was now able to speak. In a hoarse whisper Logan asked “How did the surgery go?” The nurse fluffed the pillow behind his head and helped him sit up straighter in bed. “The neuro-surgeon was able to repair the nerve damage with your shoulder. With some rehab, You should have complete function return in three to six months. Are you in Pain?” the nurse asked. “Yeah, I am sore as hell.” Logan replied with a grimace. The nurse nodded and turned up the morphine drip on his IV. The nurse said something else to Logan but he did not catch it. The lights dimmed and Logan was floating away. Looking down, Logan realized he was on a raft made of balsam wood and vine cordage. Similar to the rafts built by the natives in Southeast Asia.The river he was on was wide and fast and had a strong current. The water was luminescent and had a purple and red tint. As he was steering the raft, Logan suddenly realized he was not alone. Greta was there, She was dressed in a shiny black bikini with dark Jackie Onassis shades and a wide brim straw hat like the Mexican fishermen wore down in Baja. “Isn’t the fishing great today Logan!”Greta said as she fought an Eight foot Blue Marlin. “Where the hell are we?” He asked as the huge fish broke the surface of the luminescent water. “Don’t you know anything Logan? This is the River Styx.” Greta replied laughing. Logan woke himself up clutching at his clothes looking for a coin to give to the Ferryman, Charon.

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Nangahar Province, Afghanistan – 4am

The small Tajik village sat dark and quiet in the pre-dawn hours. The drab brown mud buildings were stacked one upon another in neat rows, as if they had been carved into the side of the mountain by an expert sculptor. Tribal leader Hassim Mannoud was fast asleep when he was awoken by a dog barking in the village below. The old tribal leader sleepily reached over beside him and found his radio beside his Kalashnikov. “What’s the fuss down there?” he asked in Pashto. He had begun posting guards at the top and bottom of the village ever since the attack last month when two villagers were killed when bandits robbed him of the Two million dollars the CIA had paid him for his intelligence on the whereabouts of a certain Taliban commander. Mannoud released the talk button on the radio and heard nothing but silence. Again he hailed the lookouts. Nothing. “Shit” He said to himself. He reached over and pulled back the bolt on his AK and checked their was a round in the chamber with his finger. He then slid on his sandals and got a small flashlight laying by the door. Quietly, he opened the door to his house and crept out to the terrace. There was no moon and the village was pitch black below him. He sat on his haunches and carefully listened to the night. The dog had stopped barking. The wind was blowing out of the north and rustling the trees that grew on the eastern side of the mountain. Suddenly, like the crack of a whip, Mannoud heard a crash! Pottery breaking below him, about seventy-five yards away. Again Mannoud whispered into the radio, hailing the lookouts. Nothing. Carefully, the 75-year-old goat herder made his way down off the terrace and onto the path leading down in the village. He moved like a ghost, the way he had been trained by the CIA in the Eighties while fighting the Russians. Every five steps he would stop and listen. The wind had died down and very faintly he heard voices coming from the village below.

There was three of them and they sounded as if they were coming his way! Mannoud quickly got off the path and laid down in the tall grass by a large pine tree. He quietly moved the safety lever on his AK to the middle position to fully automatic. His palms were sweaty as he grasped the rifle, his finger resting on the top of the trigger guard. He saw the first man moving up the path, skirting the flanks, never exposing himself in the open. Mannoud was taken aback when he saw the intruders profile. The man was wearing  Night Vision Goggles. definitely not Taliban or a bandit, Mannoud thought. The man moved slowly and deliberately up the path, taking each step with precision. The rest of the team trailed close behind, following the point-man’s exact steps. When the men were about forty yards away, Mannoud centered the point-man in his sights. Suddenly, all three men went flat to the ground. Mannoud’s target disappeared out of the rifle’s front aperture like a vapor. The last thought that went through Mannoud’s mind was “Pull the trigger!”

The old Tajik warrior had not taken into account the CIA Kill team had a sniper in an overwatch position on top of a house 125 yards away. A seasoned Delta Force professional with a Suppressed SASS rifle with a thermal sight. The 168 grain thirty caliber bullet entered just right of Mannoud’s left eye, piercing his brain like a hot splinter, stopping all neurological function in the body instantly. “Tango Down” was heard in the earpiece of the kill team. The team leader carefully made his up to Mannoud’s body, turning him over for ID. Holding a phone with a digital picture beside what was left of Mannoud’s face, the team leader confirmed Mannoud’s identity. “Yep, this is him. Breaking that Pot brought him out into the open like a moth to a flame. Good job everybody. Let’s go home.” The Team made their way to a clearing one click southeast of the village where a Blackhawk would pick them up. Once on the chopper, the team leader made a note for his AAR or After-Action Report. “Beside HVT (High Value Target), seven Enemy KIA. Two Lookouts and five insurgents” The report, of course was a lie. Those five “insurgents” were a family: A 45 year-old man, a 32 year-old woman and two children, a four year-old girl and a seven-year old boy, who had been sleeping peacefully in their beds until they were executed with a suppressed pistol at close range because their house was needed for the sniper position.

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Greta awoke at 8am the next morning at the embassy with her head swimming with anxiety. She and Logan were about to be de-briefed like suspected enemy agents by the DSS, the State Department, The White House and eventually, if these three terrorist began talking, the Justice Department. Greta’s doctors had taken mercy on her and given her a week’s bed rest, prescribing xanax and ambien, so almost all of these de-briefs were going to take place from her bed via secure Skype. As Greta’s aides were helping get ready for the day, there was a knock at her door. Francesca, Greta’s aide-de-camp, went over and answered it. It was Charles Carson, the Deputy Ambassador. “The Ambassador is getting dressed and will not be taking visitors until after lunch.” Francesca curtly informed him. “Well please, give her these and my sincerest wishes she get’s better soon.” He handed Francesca a box of premium swiss chocolate with a get well soon note. Francesca took the package and quickly closed the door. “That bitch is not known as the ‘Gatekeeper’ for nothing.” C.C. thought to himself as he walked away smiling. Francesca walked over to the bed and handed the chocolates and card to Greta with a sour look on her face. Opening the card, Greta rolled her eyes. “Should have known that old shark would be the first to come around. When there is blood in the water, or any sign of distress, he will always be the first on the scene, without fail.”

Greta’s Skype interview with the DSS post-incident investigation team (or PIT) was cut short by her Doctor after she started feeling anxious and short of breath while recounting details of the attack. “This is Dr. Matthew Stone, The Ambassador’s attending physician. Due to the Ambassador’s anxiety level, we are going to reschedule this interview for a later date. Please contact her office tomorrow to set that up.” The Doctor then abruptly closed the laptop, not waiting for a response. “Damn  bureaucrats! They just do not understand the meaning of bed-rest!” The doctor smiled as he used his stethoscope to listen to Greta’s heart and take her pulse. “Definitely elevated.” The Doctor said as he reached into his bag and took out a bottle of pills. “Take one of these now and another in four to six hours if needed. I will leave the bottle and instructions with Francesca.” Greta nodded and thanked him. As the Doctor was packing up his gear to leave, Francesca came in and announced that her State Department one o’clock appointment was waiting to see her. The Doctor frowned and shot Greta a disapproving look. “I promise to keep it short Doc.” Greta said smiling. “OK, but this is it for today. No more visitors or interruptions, period!” The Doctor said with a stern look. Greta nodded and smiled as Francesca showed the two men into the room. As the Doctor passed the two men on his way out he gave a friendly nod and then done something very odd: He touched his right ear. What was that? Greta wondered to herself. Since all this happened her senses were in overload and she wondered if she was just being “hyper-vigilant” and reading more into things than what was really there. Still though, was he just scratching his ear or was it some kind of signal? Before Greta could ponder it further, The two men were in front of her.

Both men were dressed similar in light grey suits with no tie. Both had dark hair, dark eyes and olive complexions, a pre-requisite for field work in the middle and near-east desk at the agency, Greta assumed. One man stood around six feet while the other was much shorter, around five seven. The taller of the two spoke up. “Richard Grant and Chad Daniels, State Dept. Madam Ambassador.” Greta nodded her head and waited for Francesca to leave the room. As soon as she shut the door behind her, Greta sat up straight in bed, fully alert. “Talk to me gentleman.”  The taller of the two cleared his throat and walked closer to the bed. “Right now the three of them are not saying anything. They have not claimed membership in the Taliban or ISIS, which lends credence to the ‘lone wolf’ ideal, which we have been playing up in conversations with Operations.”  The man then sat on the edge of the bed, next to Greta. “Have they alluded that they work for or know Hassim Mannoud?” Greta asked with concern. The man shook his head. “No. They are keeping tight-lipped about their employer, for now at least.” The spook answered. “Well don’t you guys have facial recognition files on people like this? Won’t your analyst be able to connect the dots when they discover these guys work for a Tajik Tribal Leader who is on the CIA payroll as an informant that was recently ripped for a whopping Two Million Dollars?” Greta asked, her face now more animated with concern. “No. Whoever hired these guys was smart.They used outside help. People who have clean records and are not on our radar. The down side is that these two guys were very green. In fact I think this was their first hit, which explains why they missed killing you and just wounded your Security man.” The spook answered. Greta noticed the man was agitated as he spoke, as if what he was saying genuinely pissed him off.

The spook got up and walked over to the window. “Greta, this situation is a potential shit storm for all of us, and it is just a matter of time before it starts raining down on our heads.” Greta stared at the two men for a moment, then leaned her head back on the pillow.”OK, so what can you do to fix it?” she asked. The man laughed. “If you are suggesting what I think you are, absolutely nothing. This is not a Jason Bourne movie Greta. We are already too close to this thing.” Greta let out an exasperated gasp and her face turned red. “Too close to it?  Richard, Me, you, Chad and Logan Chandler and his team are standing smack dab in the middle of it! Need I remind you, you two clowns came to ME a year ago telling me how your positions in the Agency gave you ‘unfettered access’ to otherwise compartmentalized information regarding large CIA Cash payouts to informants, remember? And I certainly did not hear you complaining when you both got two fat envelopes last month.” The man  stared out at the Embassy grounds for a long while, watching two birds fight over a piece of bread somebody had left from their lunch. “Greta make no mistake, we think we can continue this arrangement, but Counter-Intelligence is already all over this. If we continue to fuck around with these guys, they are gonna get suspicious and start looking at things forensically.”  “So if you can’t take care of it, do you know somebody who can?” Greta asked. Greta saw the two spooks glance at each other and smile. “Don’t worry Greta, we already have things in motion to tie this thing off. Now get some rest like your Doctor ordered.” As the two men left, Greta got an uneasy feeling. She needed to warn Logan she thought to herself. She looked around for her phone but could not find it. Suddenly she felt the pills take effect. “Wow, this is some strong shit.” she said out loud to nobody in the room. She leaned her head back on the pillow and began cycling through the day’s events in her mind. Thirty seconds later she was fast asleep.

In the ground floor lobby of Greta’s building, Doctor Stone and the two spooks got out of the elevator and talked briefly. “How long will she be out?” Smith asked. “I gave her a strong dose of Propofol, so with her weight, I would say twelve to fourteen hours minimum.” Stone replied looking at his watch. “That should be plenty of time.” Jones replied looking at Smith for confirmation. “Oh and here is her phones, as requested.” Stone handed Jones Greta’s iPhone. “Perfect. Thank you Doctor.” Jones said. “Remind me Stone, how long you been with the Agency?” Smith asked as they all began walking out of the building. “Thirty long soul crushing years. Retiring in four months.” Stone replied smiling. “You gonna miss it?” Smith asked. The Doctor laughed. “About as much as I would miss a colonoscopy with no lube.” The Doctor replied. “Ouch!” Jones replied as all three men let out a laugh while walking out of the building.

Charles Carson, the Deputy Ambassador, was never one to snoop, but when he heard three men talking outside his apartment door in the lobby, one of them Greta’s doctor, his curiosity got the better of him. As he stood by his door and listened to the conversation of the three spooks, Carson’s jaw hit the floor. Words and phrases like “Propofol” and “That Should be enough time” made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Why the fuck had this so-called “Doctor” given Greta Propofol and What did they need enough time to do? Carson’s mind raced. He could not go to the Undersecretary with this. He had to keep it out of the main channels because, after all, this was the CIA. He simply did not know how deep the corruption went. His only option was to get in touch with Logan Chandler or his team immediately.

 

To Be Continued…

 

 

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