“Alright everything is in place, so let’s talk about what really happened in the Gulf of Aden.” A completely different intelligence officer asked. He wasn’t the only one in the room, there were three men. One was in a Navy uniform, one in a army uniform, and one in a cheap suit. Cheap suit had started it.
“Why, surely by now you have seen the statement by the Man whose mission it was?’ I asked.
“Yes the great humanitarian fiction. Now we want to know what really happened. We don’t care why you did it. We want to know just exactly how you did it.”
“Alright,” I said. Then I told them exactly what is written here. I added nothing and left out nothing, so far as I knew. Okay I didn’t think they needed to know about Mary Ellen’s nude sunbathing or her ‘Spending Time’ with me. Otherwise it was all there.
They picked it to pieces after I finished. In the end the consensus seemed to be, that it was stupid plan and never should have worked. It just didn’t have enough resources invested or any highly dedicated and trained men. It was just a bunch of old men and a couple of women. They seemed to feel that we should all be dead.
“What you don’t seem to realize is that we weren’t fighting the Russian Commandos. We were fighting men, who most often showed their weapons, fired a few rounds into the air, and people just gave up. We obviously had all the resources we needed, and the right men for the job. They were well motivated and proven killers.” I said it, then I spit on the floor and rolled the wheel chair toward the door.
“We didn’t dismiss you,” the one in the Navy uniform said.
“I lived up to my end of the deal. I told you what happened in detail, and I answered your question. We had a man killed, you can think what you want, but he was no amateur. Now I am going back to bed my leg is killing me.”
“We will be in touch,” the Navy man said.
“You can be a fairy princess or anything else you want. there is nothing more to learn from me,” I said.
“Actually there is,” cheap suit said. “You juggled two equally difficult stories, while you got your group ready to fight the pirates. I’m sure there is something we could learn there.”
“The real death blow to them had nothing to do with me. Alex and Alex alone planned and executed the sinking of their boat.” I said on my way out the door.
Nobody got up to push the chair, so I guess they no longer saw me as that helpless old lady, who just got lucky. Well to them I probably wasn’t so old. All of them seemed a few years older than me.
When I got back to the room, there was a nurse standing by my door. “You better try those crutches this morning. I have been told to get you ready to leave for a stateside hospital.” she said with a smile.
“No need to smile so big, a hospital by any other name still smells like Lysol disinfectant.” I said..
The crutches were a pain in the butt, but they did give me some mobility. An hour after I mastered them some technician was in the room with a cart filled with odds and ends. He put together a temporary cast of air bags and Velcro. The cast was to prevent the wound from getting bumped. The padding would save me from being forced to kill the person who bumped me. It did make it appear that I had one elephant leg though.
“Your lawyer made the arrangements,” the hospital administrator said. “You should look them over before we go any farther.” After a moment for me to look at the paper she went on, “The itinerary is as follows: an ambulance will take you to a Civilian terminal at the airport, where you will catch a plane nonstop to New York City. You have a two hour layover there. Then you will board a plane nonstop to your home town airport. At that airport you will be met by an ambulance, which will take you to the local hospital for further treatment and evaluation.”
“This is not a secret itinerary, so expect some press and some lookylews,” she added as an after thought.
“Sounds like a well thought out plan,” I said in agreement.
“We have been getting a lot of press calls. Would you consider a short press conference as you leave. I think it would go a long way to take the press harassment out of the equation during your trip home.
You will be leaving for the airport about 4PM. Your plane leaves at 5PM. You should be home by 1PM EST.” she said.
“Sounds fine and sure get your press ready for one grilling, then I’m not answering any more questions.” I said with a smile.
“Good luck with that,” she said.
I tried to sleep, when I got back to the room. I knew that things were going to be complicated from the time I left the hospital in Germany, until I arrived at the Tryon regional hospital. Sleep alluded me for the two hours, but I gave it an honest effort.
“We found you some utilities in the uniform store,” the nurse said with a smile. “We are going to miss you Maxine,” she said.
“Why in the world would you miss me. I have been nothing but a pain to you guys?” I asked.
“We saw the press conference this morning. There aren’t all that many female peacetime heroes,” she said.
“I’m no hero, but thanks for missing me,” I said smiling.
I waited patently for the orderly to come push my wheel chair to the conference room, then out the door to the ambulance. While I waited I searched the TV for a rerun of Alex’s speech. I found it just minutes before I had to meet the news whores.
I had to give it to Alex. He managed to overcome his natural need to be macho. He told of everyone else’s bravery. Then he told the world that he had stayed with the cargo. It sounded noble, but not really heroic. Then he told the story of the The Missionary and how he died. Then of the Teacher and his death. How the teacher was a real hero. He gave his life to save hundreds of starving kids. He mentioned each member of the security team by name. He included Mary Ellen in with the rest of us. I approved of that, it would thrill her and piss off her sleazy husband. He even had some glowing words for me. I appreciated it but it was probably going to complicate my life. At least he didn’t tell the story of me shanking the last bad guy.
After Alex’s news conference, there were interviews with every member of the crew and our security detail. Everyone agreed that the lesson was, you could fight the bad guys and win. Pirating might never be so easy again.
Alex hinted that he might be planning to start a company to escort ships through The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. He said he hoped to have the same team in place for the new company but wasn’t sure how it would play out.
He stated very clearly that the heroine of the encounter was last seen by him on a US Navy ship in the Gulf of Aden. He expected to speak with me very soon. since my spokesperson had stated that I was in a military hospital in Germany and doing well. As I had said to the CIA agent, they couldn’t have hidden me long. That new conference was the reason I had to speak to the press before I left for the states.
Alex had pretty much made his pitch as the owner of the Plumpy Nut and lessee of the ship. He expected that I would make a statement when I was up to it. He just threw me to the news whore wolves. I didn’t mind one statement and the incident would be over. 24hour news moved quickly and people forgot easily.
I wondered if I could avoid most of the questions about the video by passing it to Gwen. I began to wonder where she might be hiding out.
Gwen showed up at three, just in time for the news conference. “Gwen, I’m going to push all the video questions off to you, since I have no idea what you have,” I said to her.
“Of course you know, but that’s fine. We are going to be under a great deal of pressure to release the film and the audio. I am going to refuse, since it is private property.” she informed me.
“That’s fine with me. If you remember that was my point with Morris. That video belongs to you no one else. So to change the subject are you going to be my escort home?”
“Not officially, but Jen asked me to look after you.” Gwen said.
“Good, then keep Morris away from me,” I said.
“So you found someone who pisses you off more than me?” she asked.
“Looks like,” I agreed. “So you want to roll me to the conference room, so we can blow this pop stand?” I asked. Then added, “The orderly must have gotten lost.”
“No, you can roll yourself Maxine.” She said it with a smile.
“Play nice, or I’ll tell Cheryl,” I informed her.
“Okay, hold on I might run you into an elevator shaft.” Gwen said with a laugh. She had decided that it would be easier to laugh about our relationship, than to try to fix it. I agreed.
Since she couldn’t find an open shaft, she rolled me into the conference room a little after 3PM. The doctor who had kept an eye on me the last couple of days was standing talking to the hospital administrator. It looked like all the suspects were present, so it was time to reveal the guilty party. Since I was the guilty party, I just hoped that it didn’t happen that way in real life
“Ladies and Gentleman, I am Martha Sewell the Hospital’s Assistant administrator. We called this press conference, because I know you are all trying to get updated information on Ms Maxine Stone.
The lady sitting beside me is Ms Stone. You can see for yourself that she is in remarkably good condition considering her recent ordeal. The gentleman in the white coat is Doctor Armand. He has been caring for Ms Stone, since her arrival here two days ago. Dr. Armand will make a statement first, then we will be happy to take questions.”
The doctor’s statement was just a lot of bullshit to cover the day I spent with the CIA. I didn’t give a flying damn, since I had agreed to go along with any story to secure my guarantee of immunity. I still didn’t intend to stray from the cover story in any way.
“And to sum it all up, we have done all that we can do here, so Ms Stone has been released. She will continue her treatment in her hometown hospital. There she will be surround by her family and friends.” He stepped back and the questions began.
“Ms Stone how many of the pirates did you personally kill?” one of the news whores asked.
“I didn’t keep score. It wasn’t a video game. I tried to keep them off the boat to protect the lives of my team and the boat crew. That was my only concern at the time. Not some stupid body count.”
“Would you be surprised if the figure was twenty?” a different whore asked.
“Yes, I would be very much surprised. I don’t know exactly. but I would think it was more like a dozen or less.” I said.
“I understand that you killed them at a distance of 800 yards,” one of the men asked.
“I don’t think it was that far. The first boats came loaded with men carrying RPGs. We shot them before they could pull the trigger and blow holes in the ship or kill a lot of people.”
“And the ones at night,” a woman asked.
“We gave them clear warning that if they tried to board us, we would repeal them using whatever means we had. We were badly out numbered. It is a miracle that any of us survived. God must have been on our side.”
“Oh do you see this as a religious war?” some one asked.
“No, but I think they might have. I saw it as a large force of men trying to take over our ship and likely kill us all. With that in mind, I defended myself and my team. That is my statement and you can ask the same questions ten ways and you are going to get the same answer every time.