tagRomanceEast Meets West Pt. 01 Ch. 02

East Meets West Pt. 01 Ch. 02


When we reached my house, I was shocked to notice that less than an hour had elapsed since getting the phone call from Colonel James. It seemed like hours and hours had passed.

I put Jiao to work loading canned food into boxes, and had her start taking them out to my SUV. Meanwhile I went back to the basement, and grabbed as many weapons and as much ammo as I could carry with one arm. I had to make several trips, and finally had to ask Jiao to help me.

Within a few minutes the SUV was loaded, but I still needed to do one more thing.

I grabbed my sat phone, and called the colonel once we were on the road.

"Ghost here Sir. I have extracted. I repeat, I have extracted," I told him.

When the colonel asked about collateral damage, I knew what he meant.

"Three custodians and two sitters are down," I said. We often called the members of the debriefing team "sitters."

"Plus six members of Chinese MSS," I added, and waited for the explosion I knew would follow.

I didn't have long to wait.

"Jesus Fucking Christ, Jac . . . Ghost," he yelled. "Did you say six MSS members?"

The Colonels near slip of using my real name instead of my code name told me exactly how angry he really was. Normally, even on a secure line, we never used anything but code names, and never discussed anything that could in any way identify either of us.

After I answered affirmatively, the colonel had a few more words for me.

"What fucking part of 'no fucking unnecessary fucking risks' don't you fucking understand Ghost?" he yelled.

I didn't even bother responding, but looked over at Jiao and grinned. The colonel was easily yelling loud enough for Jiao to hear as well.

She looked back at me, pointed a finger at me and silently mouthed, "Stupid, stupid man," then gave me a small grin of her own.

"What is the situation at the house now?" the colonel finally asked.

"I blew it to hell and back," I told him. "The safe house, and all evidence of what happened here tonight, is gone."

"At least you did one thing right tonight," he grudgingly admitted.

But when the colonel said he needed to call NSA and find out where they wanted me to take the target, I told him that would not be a good idea.

"Colonel, MSS knew the names of all five people there. Both the debriefing team, and the guards. And not only names, but their schedules, and when a replacement team would be coming in," I told him.

For the second time that night, the colonel took the Lord's name in vain.

"Jesus Fucking Christ, Ghost," he said, "that means we, or at least NSA, has a traitor."

"Looks that way, Sir," I agreed.

"In fact, about the only person I trust right now is you, Colonel," I added, "and I don't even know what you look like."

When the Colonel asked if I had any info on the MSS members, I handed the phone to Jiao. She introduced herself, and was able to tell him Colonel Shin's full name and which office he worked for, since Shin had boasted about that. She was also able to provide good descriptions of four others, and a couple of names as well. She had never seen the outside man until after she helped drag him into the house.

When Jiao handed the phone back to me, Colonel James had a question.

"How are you going to play this, Ghost," he asked.

One of the things I most liked about the Colonel was he didn't try to micromanage his field agents. Once he had given me an assignment, while he might have suggestions about how to proceed, he left the actual details to me.

He trusted me to do what needed to be done.

"In two weeks I will contact you Colonel," I informed him, "hopefully that will give you time to find the traitor, but until then I am officially off the grid."

"Uh, one final thing Colonel," I added, "let everyone know if I see anyone, or hear about anyone trying to find us, then I will assume they are NOT friendly. In fact, I will assume they are working for MSS."

"And I am still the best damned sniper you have!"

Let someone else worry about that damned word "assume!"

"Understood, and agreed, Ghost," the Colonel said. Like I said, the Colonel pretty much gave his men free reign to conduct operations how they best felt it should be handled.

A few minutes later, the several thousand dollar sat phone lay at the bottom of a small creek, and I had both turned off, and removed the battery to my cell phone. I knew that NSA would have been able to track my location if they could get the number to the phone, unless I removed the battery.

Six hours later, just as dawn was breaking, I pulled into a convenience store in the outskirts of Frankfort, Kentucky.

Jiao had actually slept most of the way. I could tell it was not exactly a peaceful, relaxing sleep since she would frequently jerk or gasp out loud while sleeping. Each time she would wake up and look wildly around her until she realized where she was.

Then she would look over at me and give me a smile, then close her eyes once again.

I went inside the convenience store and got a couple of cups of coffee, and a cold six-pack of cokes along with a cooler, and a variety of snacks, as well as eggs, bacon, bread and a package of both coffee and tea. Jiao stayed in the SUV, but took the opportunity to clean herself up more with some sanitary wipes I always keep in the glove compartment.

Although I had several thousand dollars in cash with me, I deliberately paid for a fill-up with a credit card in my . . . well Jack Collins' name.

Then I turned around and started driving back to North Carolina.

I wanted everyone to think we were headed someplace up north to hide, when in reality I planned on backtracking and would be staying less than 50 miles from the now destroyed safe house. With a little luck, they might even think I was heading for Canada, and would concentrate any search for Jiao and me somewhere along the U.S./Canadian border.

I knew it would not take long for the intelligence community to find out that I had vacationed several times in Canada in the past two years, and they might think I was headed there again.

That someone would be searching, I had no doubt! The Chinese apparently wanted this girl awfully bad -- bad enough they took the chance on sending a six-man hit squad into the United States. That could be construed in some quarters as an act of war!

By now, my right arm and shoulder were hurting like hell but I was afraid to take any pain pills since they might make me drowsy. I was also already tired enough, and hungry.

Jiao opened some of the snacks I had bought, and I quickly downed both cups of coffee. Jiao didn't drink coffee, but she did have a soft drink and ate some of the snacks.

We had been back on the road about an hour when Jiao turned to look at me.

"I love my country," she said, "I want you to understand that. I love China.

"I didn't defect because I hate China . . . but I do hate the old men who now run China."

Then she begin telling me her story.

Oh, one thing I also need to explain. While at the safe house, Jiao spoke English with a very heavy Chinese accent. She would also drop words such as "the," and "a" and even drop adverbs and sometimes verbs.

Now, she was actually speaking better English than I was -- at least more proper English. With virtually no trace of an accent, other than a very slight London-type inflection.

When I asked her about that, she explained that during extremely stressful moments, or when she was really scared or excited, it was difficult for her to remember to translate everything in her mind, before actually saying it.

Jiao's parents had both been respected scientists in China. Her father in chemical engineering, and her mother in bio-chemistry. Her father was also a high-ranking member of the Communist Party, and served on a number of science committees.

As such, their life was very different from most others in China.

"I had never really thought much about it," she explained, "I somehow thought everyone lived as we did."

Their family had the best in housing, the best food, and the best vehicles -- the best in everything.

Then one night, when she was 14, the internal division of the Ministry of State Security broke down their door.

"They arrested my father," she said, "and wouldn't even tell us why."

She never saw her father again. She still does not know why he was arrested, if he is still alive in a prison somewhere, or if he is dead.

I reached over with my right hand, very painfully, and patted her hand.

The next night, MSS came back.

Her family was given 30 minutes to take what they could carry, and then they were escorted out of their high-rise apartment.

"We went from having everything, to having nothing. We became what you call homeless people," she added. Her mother now had no job, and no way of raising her family.

None of the people she and her family had known all their lives would have anything to do with them. Except one family.

That one family put their own lives in jeopardy, giving them food and a place to sleep at night.

But finally that had to end as well. It was simply too dangerous for that family to continue helping Jiao's family.

They did offer to take Jiao in, and see that she continued her education.

"My mother then had to explain some things to me," she said.

Jiao had one of the highest IQ's ever recorded in China. And while she had always been near the top of every class, she rarely really applied herself since she could excel without trying very hard.

"They can take everything from us," her mother said, "but they can't take our will, they can't take our determination, they can't take our minds!

"It is up to you to restore our family's honor," her mother said. Jiao had not seen her mother since then, and only seen her two older brothers once. Her brothers had told her that their mother was alive and well.

Jiao did move in with that family, and really started taking her education seriously. Soon her grades were so high, a lot of the doors that had been closed starting opening again.

She was selected for one of the most prestigious universities in China, which enrolled her when she was only 16.

On her 18th birthday, she was married to an "older, but wonderful, brilliant man." The marriage lasted five years until he died of a heart attack.

Ten months after the marriage, she gave birth to a daughter.

She paused for several minutes.

Then one night MSS came back. But not for her husband. They came back for her.

"I was taken to the hospital," she explained, "and forced to undergo sterilization."

I had read that China had a one-child policy, but never really thought about how they might go about enforcing that policy.

"I can never have children again," she said, and then started sobbing.

I pulled into a rest stop, and walked around to her side of the SUV.

I opened the door, then climbed in and just picked Jiao up and put her in my lap.

She leaned against my shoulder and cried and cried -- for at least 15 or 20 minutes.

I really couldn't say anything. Am I supposed to say "Don't cry, everything will be okay?"

I knew in her mind, it would never be okay.

She actually cried herself to sleep in my arms.

As gently as I could, I put her back in her seat and fastened her seat-belt, then continued driving. She slept most of the rest of the way back, but much more peacefully now.

Five hours after leaving Kentucky, I turned onto a one-lane, deeply rutted dirt road in the mountains of Tennessee, just over the border from North Carolina. About a half-mile from the turnoff I had to get out to unlock the padlock holding several huge log chains blocking access to the road.

The chains were attached to steel beams that were anchored in concrete deep into the ground.

I moved the SUV forward, then got out again and tried to relock the chains, but my arm was hurting so much I had to get Jiao to help me. After we had locked the gate, I continued to drive.

Due to the winding, twisting dirt road, I actually crossed the state line several times in the next three miles.

The road we were on ran parallel to a creek. The further down the road I drove, the higher the mountains became on both sides of us, and the closer in they came to both the creek and road. At the narrowest point, the opening for the road and creek was no more than 75 feet across and half of that was taken up by the creek.

Soon I drove the SUV into an old, abandoned chicken house. At least two-thirds of the chicken house had collapsed, leaving a section about 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep inside where you could park vehicles.

Before driving inside, I had to get out to open one of the swing doors. It was barely still attached to the rest of the building, and when I opened the door I could hear the chickens starting to squawk at being disturbed. I knew from other visits there were actually several hundred chickens living inside what was left of the derelict chicken house.

I assumed they were what was left over from when the chicken house had collapsed decades before, and the chickens probably ate bugs in the house and surrounding woods. By now they were totally wild, but their presence always meant you had fresh eggs.

If you were really hungry, you also had fresh chicken to eat as well.

I closed the door to the chicken house, then Jiao and I walked through the woods until we came out into a small valley between the now towering mountains on all sides.

I was very curious to see her reaction when she saw what lay ahead.

Jiao actually gasped when she saw the valley.

I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

The valley was about a half-mile wide and perhaps three-quarters of a mile long. Most of the valley floor was filled with wild flowers, with a number of fruit trees, including apple, pear, peach and cherry trees.

From where we were standing we could see at least a half-dozen deer calmly grazing on the valley floor. A creek meandered through the valley, and on one side sat what looked like an old abandoned log cabin. The cabin was located beside the creek, but on a bank about 10 feet higher than the creek.

The only real sign that anybody still used the cabin was an enormous stack of split firewood beside the cabin.

Jiao just kept looking around at the secluded valley, and asked if it had a name.

"I have always just called it the 'Valley,' or 'Meadow'," I said.

"It is so beautiful and peaceful," she said, and again grabbed my hand and held it.

The abandoned looking log cabin had a lot of surprises in store.

For starters, it had a solid steel door almost two inches thick. If anyone could have seen inside the walls, they would have discovered that the entire cabin was clad in two-inch thick steel plate, underneath the exterior logs. The roof also had steel plate underneath the shingles, but that was only about an inch think.

The windows were also an inch-and-a-half thick bulletproof glass.

After unlocking the door, we walked inside, where I lit several candles, and then a kerosene lantern, and told Jiao this was our home for the next couple of weeks.

The cabin had one room, with a wood-burning kitchen stove supplying the only heat. There were a couple of rickety old chairs scattered around, one small bed and a small dining room table.

There were no electrical outlets, no lamps, no TV, not even a radio. Also no microwave, and not even a refrigerator.

Jiao did not seem to be very impressed, but rather stared at the only bed for a minute or two.

When she asked if it would possible for her to get cleaned up, and get some of the dried blood off, I walked over to the kitchen sink and showed her how to operate the old style faucet. You literally had to pump water up from a well using a hand crank.

I told her that if you wanted hot water, then you started a fire in the stove, and heated the water.

She REALLY looked less than impressed.

I also showed her where the bathroom was. There was no tub, no shower, not even a sink in the bathroom -- it was literally, just a toilet, inside a small closet.

Jiao nearly looked like she was about to start crying, at the thought of spending the next two weeks in this primitive cabin with none of the amenities we take for granted -- such as electricity and running, hot water.

From what Jiao had told me, I knew she was a "city girl," and not used to roughing it.

I finally decided I had had enough "fun" at Jiao's expense.

There actually was a lot more to the cabin than anyone would ever expect.

The cabin was located on nearly 100 acres of land, but the land itself was nearly useless. Other than the valley we were in now, there were very few level spots, and while it was covered with hardwoods and pines, most of the land was so steep it would have been nearly impossible to harvest any of the trees.

I had bought the cabin and land 12 months earlier, paying nearly half-a-million dollars for it.

And no, I wasn't crazy.

I told Jiao I wanted to show her something and reached over and took her hand.

We walked over to the bed, and Jiao was really looking at me very strangely.

I let her hand go, then felt behind the headboard and pressed a small lever I knew was hidden there, then pushed the bed to the left. The entire wall opened up, sliding outward on a hinge, revealing an opening about four feet wide and about eight feet tall.

Carpeted steps led downward, and I reached into the doorway and turned on the lights.

Jiao had gasped when the wall opened, and now seeing actual lights brought a smile to her face.

I again reached for her hand, and we walked down the steps together.

Underneath the cabin was another world.

It wasn't a huge space, but contained a combination kitchen/living area. The kitchen contained all the modern amenities, including a refrigerator and a large sub-zero freezer. I knew the freezer was completely stocked.

There were also two small bedrooms, and a modern bathroom, complete with a large walk-in shower.

And as I told Jiao, "plenty of hot water!"

We were still holding hands, and when I mentioned "hot water," she squeezed my hand in gratitude, and told me she was desperate to take a bath.

I told her to go ahead, that I was going to just sit down on one of the chairs and rest for a few minutes. I showed her where the towels were, along with some robes, although I didn't have any robes small enough for her.

I woke up about two hours later, hearing Jiao say she needed to change the dressings on my wounds.

I gasped when I saw her. I already knew how beautiful she was from watching her through my sniper scope. Later, when I first saw her close up, she was still beautiful but covered with sheetrock dust, blood and brains.

Now her face was just a foot or so from mine, and she was freshly washed, and her long, long jet black hair was shining.

She was, without doubt, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

She was watching me, watching her and she actually blushed a little from how intensely I was studying her face.

She helped me remove my jacket and t-shirt, and soon she had the old bandages off and was washing the wounds. Her hands were quick and sure, with no wasted motion.

Soon I had new bandages in place.

While she was changing the bandages, Jiao told me that while I was sleeping she had gone upstairs and emptied everything out of the SUV, including all my weapons and ammo. She had brought everything downstairs, then locked the cabin and had finally figured out how to close the wall opening, containing the bed upstairs.

By now, I could barely keep my eyes open.

I had just been getting ready to go to bed the previous night when the Colonel called, alerting me to the situation at the safe house. I had already been up nearly 18 hours at that point, since I had been at the beach just two days ago.

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