Once Jen had left we had our first short meeting. I let Martin carry the ball, since he was the only human in touch with the source of our intelligence. His was for sure pretty much filtered. I expected that Eve’s would have a different set of filters, but filters none the less. I expected hers to be more electronic. Whereas th the intel from Swamp Thing might likely be more in depth stuff. It was going to be my job to balance it all. I hoped there would not come a time when I had to over ride Martin’s decisions..
“You have gained some weight, since I saw you last,” I said to Martin over a cup of really awful coffee.
“You seem to have lost some,” he said.
“Well I have kept busy, since last we met. You look as though you have gone to seed,” I said.
“Gone to seed is it?” he asked with a grin. “When this is over, I will show you gone to seed.” I knew that true pros kept there screwing around till their minds were clear. After the mission was finished all bets were off. As they used to say, “Lock up you women and children.” Now that there are so many women like me, I guess it should be “Hide your virgin sons. as well.”
“So we are all freelance operatives here for a reason. When the mission goes we need a single commander. One to point out the obvious and make decisions which will effect us all. It is no secret that I have access to black bag intel.” Martine said it as if it were all a positive thing.
“But that also obligates you to the source of that intel. I vote we use your intel and make our own decisions on the ground. Too many bad decisions are made in an air conditioned office, then phoned to the battle,” I said. “So Martin can you do that?”
He knew that I wasn’t questioning his ability, but where his loyalties lay. “No, I work for Swamp Thing as you guys call it. I am loyal to them above all else. But I have been told to put everything I have into this mission, That’s how important they see it.”
“It is my opinion this is a first response mission. The guys uptown don’t want to let the fact that we know about Estavante’s plan to challenge and corrupt our local governments to go unanswered. To them we are the first of many messages. The message is simple, you are never going to be totally safe again. It is my opinion that they don’t care if we live or die, so long as we create hell on earth for Estavante for a few minutes,” I said.
“I agree with Maxine, seal missions take serious planning and training, This thing is just a thrown together operation,” the new boy Smith said. “I don’t doubt you Martin or The Admiral. I just think she is right, we are a throw away. I don’t mind raising hell for this guy, but let’s keep our options open as a team.”
“Martin, I think you are going to lose this one,” Vlad said.”If you will be our intelligence operator and coordinator, I think that would be for the best. Almost all of us have been operational with Max. I for one trust her judgment.
I know she is more than willing to put her life on the line for the team. I also know she owes her allegiance first to the mission, then to her friends and thats good enough for me,” Anya said. “She has my vote. By the way hello there Max good to see you again. I was beginning to think you were just a ghost voice on the phone.” Since I didn’t want to break the anyone,s chain of thought, I just nodded.
“Then Max to make the decision and me to provide the intelligence and logistics,” Martin said. He didn’t appear to be upset and that was good. Do you want to take over?”
“Hell no., you know a lot more at this point than I do please go on,” I said. “As a matter of fact why don’t you lead all the briefings and we will all just toss in shit as we go along.” Martin nodded.
“Basically Estavante operates from a walled villa outside of a fishing village on the gulf coast of Mexico. It is back in the interior about three miles into the jungle. He has a yacht anchored off shore and a speed boat at the dock to take him to it. Those two are easy targets and low risk targets.” Martin said.
“But what would be the purpose?” Vlad asked before I could. “If we are after the the head of the snake why chop of the tip of the tail just because it is easy.”
“Ah if we attack Estavante and he escapes, he will head to that yacht to escape. It has always worked for him before.” Martin said.
“From other thugs maybe, but what will he do if a real, in force, attack were to take place.” Smith asked.
“There is a small landing strip cut out of the jungle,” Eve whispered to me. I passed it on to the others as if it were my own information.
“Yes there is,” Martin said a little surprised. He might well fly out, if he thought he was under serious attack. Since he has an army of mercenaries surrounding him, I just don’t see him running from six people.”
“We are going to need a hell of a lot of air support for a real attack,” I suggested. “I expect we are going to be rather limited there.”
“Very limited,” Martin agreed. “What we do have going for us is Estavante will run at the drop of a hat, if he is under a real attack.”
“So if we can just make him think he is under attack, he will leave the villa.” I suggested.
“He will also no doubt have a large contingent of Mercenaries with him,” Vlad said.
“So since we can’t chopper in the first air calvary. We just have to make him think that we are the 1st Air Cavalry, then catch him on the road?” I asked. “Is that the plan.”
“Yes it is pretty much that,” Martin said.
“Let’s sleep on that,” I suggested.
Once everyone else had gone Martin said to me, “Look I know you have access to intelligence I don’t, so let’s try to pool our resources and come up with a plan.”
“Martin we are asking all these people to risk their lives, we need to let them in on the planning as much as possible. I know you agree that we need to go with the plan that gets us maximum bang for the buck. But lets at least try to give us the maximum chance possible to survive it. I expect that the admiral and Langley has written us off already.” I said.
“Yes of course, but we can’t share everything with them,” he said. “As for written us off, we have all been looking for our place to die for years.” I nodded.
“The others don’t need to know where all the information comes from, but they deserve to know what goes into our decision making.” I said.
“Alright I’ll call the Admiral and let him know where we stand.” Martin said. “If you want you can make phone calls off the grid as well.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.” I left the cabin where the meeting had been held without a goodbye. It was unnecessary since I would be seeing Martin in a few hours for the next meeting anyway.
“So Maxine, you are going to be the leader,” Eve said to me.
“Get this in your mind Eve, we both have those people’s lives in our hands. We have to be right when we make a decision. Don’t shade facts from above to make it seem better, let me have it straight and we might get everyone home.”
“That almost never happens, that everyone comes home,” she said.
“I know, let’s go for a ride.” Sure Eve could make a call that could not be traced by the bad guys, and Martin could make one nobody could trace except really high powered intelligence services and they would have to be extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time to intercept the random call. Even then they would need some first class code breakers. However the call I was going to make, I didn’t want to share with any of them.
It was 2AM when we reached the truck stop on the interstate highway north of New Orleans. It was as much subterfuge as I planned to use for a simple call. I put the battery back into the burn phone, then dialed the number from memory.
“Hello,” the voice said cheerfully. “How the hell are you Maxine.”
“Better all the time Alex. So, how is the pirate chasing business?” I asked.
“You know, it’s too damn good. Takes all the fun out of it, when they run from us. The ship owners insist that we fly our flag on their ships. The bad guys see that and just go to someone else’s ship.” Alex said.
Alex had gotten into the pirate chasing business for the adventure, not the money. At that time he was making the money, without the adventure, he was not a happy man. “So Alex are you ready for some life and death adventure?” I asked.
“With you any time at all,” he said. “So what do you need, and when do you need it.”
“I don’t guess the old crew is around?” I said it just for the walk down memory lane.
“No, but all my crews are like those men. I hire them because the money is alway secondary. They take the job just to get in amongst the bad guys. So what do you need?” he asked.
“I can’t tell you on the phone, and I have to ask you to do something that no sensible person would do,” I said.
“So shut up and ask,” he demanded cheerfully.
“Bring three of your buddies with a desire to become commandos in the war on drugs,” I said.
“Now Max I got half a dozen men who would pay me to do that, but it’s because their kids are lost to dope. None of them can hump a pack through the jungle.” he said.
“If they can sail a boat and are willing to mix it up when the odds are long, then they are for us. If not I’ll find another way.”
“If it’s like that last little job, these are your men. Speed boat up, raise hell and then get the hell out they can do.” Alex said.
“Thats close but it might be a little more to it. I promise they won’t have to hump a pack through the jungle.” I said.
“Got a number I can call, when I get the three men?” he asked.
“Put a note on line in the New Orleans Craig’s list. Advertise a speedboat for sale, give the contact phone number as the date and flight number you will be on. You have to be here no later than day after tomorrow. If you can’t do that, put the speed boat in and say no phone calls please. So name me a boat that is unusual, so I can look for the advertisement.”
“I will list is as a restored 1950 Chris Craft cruiser. There won’t be another one like it on Craigs list I promise.” He said.
“I look forward to seeing you Alex. I’m gonna owe you,” I said.
“What’s walking with a cane for the rest of your life worth?” he asked.
“Alex stop beating yourself up for that. It is what it is. Besides I have some pretty cool canes,” I said.
“Okay,” Alex said as he broke the connection without a goodbye. I removed the battery from the cell phone while I finished the dreadful coffee.
“It’s a long drive back to the black bag headquarters,” I said as Eve and I headed back to Biloxi. The admiral had chosen Biloxi for the large tourist traffic in and out and the Air Force Base there as well. When we had our list of tools, they would be coming in by military aircraft. It had to be one of the perks of being a contractor as opposed to a pure freelance operative.
It was almost sunup when we arrived back at the motel. I hit the bed more dead than alive. The leg was aching, but it was a subdued pain. I fell instantly asleep.