The Real Estate Connection Ch. 03bykiwiwolf©
This chapter contains violence. I have tried to tame it down as much as possible out of deference to those with tender constitutions. I have kept it to a minimum but thought it would be better to warn you in advance. Thanks for your patience in waiting for this chapter.
Breakfast next morning was a festive affair completely lacking in any of the awkwardness that I thought might surface after the previous night's activities. The girls were chatting happily as I dragged myself downstairs after a long shower. I had slept in and figured that it would be a while before my body clock had settled into my new civilian routine. Matt appeared a few minutes after me and coffee's were poured and consumed as we planned our day. Today was the day I had to do some explaining. I couldn't put it off any more.
Bacon, eggs, hash browns and tomatoes were sizzling in the pan. It was a far cry from cold lima beans and ham scraped in a gelatinous mess from a can in the jungle. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why I hadn't tried civilian life sooner. The chatter continued as we wolfed breakfast standing at the breakfast bar. I was reminded that I had to do something about more seating and furnishings in the near future. It could wait for a few more days I concluded as I used a slice of bread to mop up the last vestiges of egg yolk from my plate.
"Okay kids, today I was thinking you could show me the rest of the property and we could do a bit of talking... among other things. Anyone got any other ideas?"
Stevie gave me a kiss and said, "We're here to serve master." This earned her a swat on the butt which today was clad in the briefest and tightest pair of Daisy Dukes I'd ever seen. I figured if they lost 5 more threads she could be arrested for indecent exposure. Her t-shirt was similarly ragged with strategic holes showing hints of, but not quite exposing, the luscious breasts underneath. Becky was dressed a little more sedately in a pair of hugging Lycra bike shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top.
"No problems here Craig. I think we should take Stevie's truck. It's got better clearance than yours and will be better off-road. You up for this Becky?" asked Matt.
"You just try to keep me away." She replied with a grin. Again I had the feeling that I would be fighting a losing battle if I tried. I grinned, and went to get the items we would need on this little excursion. My plan for the day was simple yet could change the dynamic of my relationship with these incredible people. We were going to find a nice quiet place to sit and talk then I was going to find out what these folks knew about shooting. If they still wanted to be around me, then I had to know they could at least do the minimum needed to safeguard themselves. It all seemed very dramatic but I could see no other logical way out of this problem. We were going to have to be ready.
Matt had followed me and as I dragged the bag of weapons from the utility cupboard where I had stashed it he spoke.
"Craig, are we going to be doing what I think we're going to be doing?"
"Well buddy, I guess that depends on what you're thinking." I said logically.
"Sorry man," He laughed. "Stupid question wasn't it? We're going to be shooting today aren't we?"
"Yep. I need to know what my allies can do if the big bad wolf comes tricky trotting over the bridge."
"It was the Billy Goats Gruff that did the tricky trotting across the bridge man." He said with a grin.
The security company was on time and it didn't take long to figure out that this crowd knew their onions. The two guys they had sent promised we would have a security system second to none by the end of the day so I left them to it.
It took another hour to get on the road, or more accurately, on the track. The ladies had decided that a picnic lunch was a vital part of any target shooting exercise, and the kitchen had been a hive of activity as they laboured to provide the feast. The aroma coming from the box in the cargo area of Stevie's truck got my juices flowing again as we left the house and headed out to survey my property. After explaining the day's activities to the girls, Stevie said there was an ideal shooting range in the southern corner.
Sitting up front with Stevie I marvelled at what I now owned. The land was lush, green, and open with only the occasional fence line to break up the fields that stretched out before me. Dotted around the land were stands of mature pine trees further breaking up the gently rolling contours, and off in the distance there was a large block of trees nestled at the base of what looked like a sheer cliff. That seemed to be where we were heading.
Bird life was abundant but I noticed the complete lack of livestock. There was more than enough room here for a herd of cattle and some horses. I'd noticed a couple of outbuildings near the house in the last couple of days but so far hadn't had the time or the inclination to explore them. Maybe one could be converted into a stable. Maybe I already had a stable. As I sat and watched my land flow past the window I was a bit overwhelmed by the scope and quality of my investment. Not for the first time since I had moved in, I was having trouble coming to grips with the massive change in my circumstances.
Stevie broke into my chain of thought. "We're heading for that bluff there. Your land stops just a couple of hundred yards over the rim of the bluff. What do you think of it so far baby? Is it everything the photo's had you thinking it was?"
Stevie was referring to my unorthodox method of real estate purchasing. My mind flicked back to the days spent sitting in a ramshackle hut in our jungle base, poring over images downloaded over the internet on my laptop. Stevie and other real estate agents had emailed me dozens of files of properties based on a set of criteria I had literally dreamed up over a period of years sitting in countless ambush positions or in observation posts. The sort of warfare I had been involved in gave an operator plenty of time to think and dream. Days spent staking out landing strips in the middle of the jungle waiting for a drug carrier to land, or time spent watching a drug lab waiting for the chemists to arrive left lots of time for you to plan your retirement carefully. I was no different than the rest of my men. I had my 'after combat' future planned down to the last detail with no room for deviation or error. A stupid move on my part as it turned out on reflection. Stevie, Matt and Becky definitely counted as deviations.
"Baby, this is better than I dreamed it could be." I murmured.
Moments later we were pulling up to my own private slice of paradise.
The cliff face stretched vertically for about 200 feet and had sparse patches of vegetation dotted here and there on its surface. Small shrubs clung precariously to ledges that logically shouldn't have been able to support them. At the foot of the bluff was a large crystal clear rocky pool fed by a stream that bubbled out of the cliff face. The pool was large enough for swimming and I could picture myself spending a lot of time here. Set back from the pool, the trees I had seen on our approach gave shade to the area without blocking off light on the pool.
The cliff face curved gently to the right and it was away from the pool and to the right of the trees, that Stevie led us. The area was perfectly flat with a lush growth of grass. A perfect shooting gallery.
We sat on the grass as I gave them a run down on shooting safety procedures. There was no joking around now. Everyone knew the seriousness of what we were trying to accomplish here. I pointed out that they had probably worn ear protectors and shooting glasses in any previous training sessions but that today they wouldn't have that luxury. In a firefight the last thing you worried about was whether or not the gunfire was going to do damage to your hearing. I couldn't see Montoya's boys stopping and waiting while we put ear muffs on and found our safety glasses. Realism was a key to any combat training and I was going to give them as much as I could with the resources I had available to me. Once the lecture had finished I laid the weapons out on the blanket from Stevie's truck and started showing themselves the basics. I wanted them to be able to handle these weapons with confidence and skill if the shit ever hit the fan, and you can only do that if you are fully familiar with every aspect of the weapon. I taught them how to strip, clean and re-assemble every gun we had. Then I taught them how to load the magazines and finally how to load the weapons. A quick reload was essential in a firefight; it could mean the difference between life and death. They had plenty of questions which I answered as I went. Finally they were ready to do some shooting. Matt and I hunted around and found some old logs around the same size as a man's torso and set them up at the foot of the butte. It was senseless trying to teach them pinpoint accuracy when the target they would be trying to hit would be man sized.
Before we started shooting I figured I owed them the explanation I had promised them. I needed them to understand exactly what they were getting themselves into before the bullets were flying for real. As it was nearly noon I suggested we stop for lunch.
We sat on the grass down by the pool and munched in silence as I tried to figure out how to talk about things I would rather forget. Finally I thought I had it together.
"I joined the mercenaries straight from a career with Special Forces. Mercenary units worldwide are always on the lookout for guys like me; clean record and a bunch of skills you can't pick up at your local community college. The work was something I was used to and the pay was more than attractive so I didn't argue too much when I was offered a job."
"My first posting was a bodyguard job in Panama, looking after a local industrial kingpin and his family. I was in charge of a security team of 12 guys providing round the clock security for him, his wife, and his two daughters, both in their early twenties. They were nice people... loaded with more money than you could ever hope to spend in one lifetime, but without the attitude that sometimes comes with mega bucks. They treated us all with respect and friendliness." I paused for another mouthful of coffee and to gather myself for what I had to get out. "The oldest daughter, Carmen, was a lovely lady. She was also the hardest to look after. Every night she would do the rounds of the clubs and party way into the morning. By comparison Luna, the youngest was plain and quiet. She never seemed to go anywhere... seemed the more introspective of the two. I used to play chess with her in the evenings. She had friends, but hardly ever went out with them." My friends sat silent, just watching me and listening. Now that I had started I didn't want any interruptions until I had finished. This story had been a long time coming and now that I was finally telling it I don't think I could've stopped if I had wanted to. I took a deep breath and continued.
"Luna went out one night. It was short notice and I was short handed... two of my normal roster were out sick... so I escorted her myself. She wanted to go to a nightclub in one of the better areas of town to meet up with some of her friends, so we got all dressed up and off we went. When we arrived something just didn't feel right. Her friends were all hyper-agitated and sucking back water like it was going out of fashion. Every few minutes one or two of them would head off to the toilet. Blame it on my naiveté but I never realised that they were in there snorting coke. I never realised that Luna was into it as well. Not until it was too late."
Stevie leaned over and put her hand on my leg and gave me a reassuring smile. I carried on.
"We'd been there about an hour when it happened. One minute we were standing there... just one happy group... the next we had five guys surrounding us. They were going off their nuts at one of the guys in Spanish. I was still learning the language at that stage and I could barely keep up but the general take of it was that Luna's friend owed these guys for some coke he'd bought. A lot of coke... a lot of money. That's when the trips to the toilet and their attitude made sense. All of a sudden there was a knife and Luna's friend was down, blood pumping from a gaping wound in his throat and Luna was reeling back into me. I shoved her onto the deck and went for my gun... I actually got it out and was bringing it up to bear when the lights went out. When I came too Luna was dead. So were two of her friends and the bad guys had got away clean. The knife man had got her with his follow through when he slashed the first guy. She never had a chance."
I stopped and just sat there for a while. This was the first time I had ever told this story and I hadn't realised how hard it was going to be. Stevie, Becky and Matt just sat and waited.
"I was in the hospital for a few days with a cracked skull. The five bad guys had actually been six... the extra dude got me from behind with some sort of club. While I was in the hospital Luna's family came to visit. There were no recriminations of any sort. In the middle of their grieving for their daughter they were concerned for me. From what the cops had put together, Luna's group were small time recreational users only. None of them were dealing but the group only had one buyer... the initial target. The cops told me when they interviewed me that the chance of catching these guys was next to zero. During the interview the head cop kept on talking about the drugs flooding in from Colombia and how the drug pipeline needed to be plugged or deaths like Luna's would become commonplace. That's when I knew what I had to do."
I got up and started pacing. My whole relationship with these people depended on how they took my explanation of my previous life. To say I was nervous was the understatement of the year. They just sat and listened, faces impassive which was encouraging.
"As soon as I was out of the hospital I requested a new assignment. I explained my reasoning to the family I had failed and to my boss. Luna's family tried to talk me out of it saying it would be too dangerous, while my boss jumped at the chance of getting me situated in Colombia. We had teams down there working with the government as well as British S.A.S. 'advisors' who were there to offer training in search and destroy missions. The C.I.A. was also down there but initially I had next to no contact with them."
"I was immediately given command of a platoon of 30 men plus support staff... medics, signalmen and a couple of locals who would be my guides. All of my intel was to be sourced straight from either 'head office' in Bogotá, or from the Colombian Army. I was given targets to start with... just grid locations on a map. I would go in with a force of fully trained mercenaries and wipe them out, killing the personnel and destroying the labs and the coke. It was a slaughter... and I didn't care. All of my men were ex-Special Op's from one army or another. They were all highly skilled, well armed, and highly motivated. The men we killed were nothing more than peasants who had been given a weapon and shown how to fire it. They knew nothing of small unit tactics. They had no idea. We mowed them down brutally and efficiently. How did I feel about it personally? I felt nothing... no satisfaction and definitely no remorse. I felt nothing. I slept like a baby at night... no bad dreams at all... they came later. We started to get a reputation for getting the hard jobs done. That attracted the CIA. Simmons walked into my compound one day, walked up my steps and into my hut. I hated him on sight. What I did like was his offer of more up to date intelligence. I took him up on his offer. All I had to do in return was run the occasional operation for him using my team. In hindsight I should have put a warning shot through his head and walked away, but I was so eager to make a difference in the drug war."
I stopped and poured myself another coffee from the flask. I was scared of what effect this was going to have on my relationship with the three people in front of me. The worst was still to come. I didn't know if their silence was a good sign or a bad one. I guessed there was only one way to find out. I carried on.
"Simmons didn't ask for much in the beginning and the intelligence he gave us was first rate. We were able to hit bigger targets including airstrips and planes used for ferrying the coke out of the country. The labs we were hitting were more sophisticated but the level of opposition we encountered wasn't any better... to start with. What you have to understand is the bosses of the Cartels didn't get to be rich by being stupid... just by being immoral. They have access to mega bucks probably comparable to the economies of some Third World countries. They started hiring mercenaries. Guys with the same sort of training as me and my guys. We used to have a huge advantage in the fact that we had the skills the opposition didn't have. That was wiped out almost overnight. Now the only advantage we had was the surprise factor and mobility. We started taking casualties. That's when Hemi and Sam joined us. They worked in nicely with the rest of the team and soon I was able to give them missions to run themselves. Then Simmons popped up again. He wanted to up the ante by targeting Cartel members in Bogotá and Cali. I couldn't see a problem especially since the quality of the intelligence he was giving us was allowing us to get bigger and better results. Also I wanted to make a bigger impact and what better way to do it than target the bastards directly responsible for all the death and misery we were dishing out and taking. So we became hitmen."
I paused and looked around the faces of my three new friends. To my surprise they looked back with faces totally devoid of the disgust and revulsion I had expected to see there. Instead they looked fascinated. Still it was too early to believe that this discussion would go without adverse consequence... or was it?
"For maximum impact we had to make the hits spectacular. We had to hit them where they typically would have felt safe. We had to show them that they had no safe haven. My teams operated solely from intelligence courtesy of Simmons. He fed us the names, details, locations and everything we would need to whack these guys."
"The hits went well. We had bad guy's dropping left, right and centre, and they were getting the message. We found that they were beefing their protection up with mercenaries brought in from the States. In a couple of cases we found ourselves up against guys we knew. That wasn't wonderful but if they had chosen the wrong side that was their problem. We hit them hard." I stopped and took a big breath, readying myself for the next part. This would be the make or break chapter of my tale.
"Nine months ago we hit a small camp in the highlands. The baddest of the bad, Pablo Montoya was supposed to be in residence. He'd been very vocal all along about how he was never going to take a backward step in the face of our hit campaign. He'd publicly dared us on many occasions to come after him and he was the jewel in the crown. We were going to make this one a very spectacular hit."
"It took us two days to move into position around his camp and set up. We were going to hit the camp at dawn on the third day. We were all in contact by headset radio and maintained a complete watch on the camp. Comings and goings were recorded and sentry routines were mapped. Then at about 4am on the third day I lost contact with a whole section of my team. Four men just went off the net. They just disappeared from radio contact. They were covering the southern end of the large clearing that Montoya had set up in. It was my call as to whether we would keep to our schedule or withdraw until we knew more about our guys. I made the call to hit Montoya at dawn. The guys who were missing were the covering element... they would have mopped up any surviving bad guys that tried to make a break to the south. Guys I know this sounds cold, but I couldn't afford to worry about my missing men. This was the best shot we had at putting Montoya down, and my men all knew the risks going into the job. If the situation had been reversed I know they'd have done the same as I did."