Unknown Day, Unknown Time of Day, 2014 Somewhere in Afghanistan
“You can go home if you help me, Sally. Don’t you wanna go home?” Cole asked over his shoulder.
“Shut up!” Sally barked loudly, pushing the barrel of the rifle into Cole’s back. The couple walked slowly across the massive room and when they were within meters of Mike and Doctor Nuristani, Sally leaned in toward Cole and whispered. “Get ready...”
Cole nodded in understanding.
“Take him!” Sally commanded to the men in Pashto and pushed Cole away from the rifle’s barrel with an open hand. The two men shouldered their weapons to take the CIA agent as Sally smiled.
“You have done well, my dear,” Feda said, grinning at the American doctor.
“Anything for you, master,” Sally said as she lifted the rifle and fired, hitting the evil doctor in the shoulder, sending the man stumbling backwards. “Here, Cole!”
Cole turned and snatched the AK-47 from the air. He dove to the ground, rolling behind a red velour sofa to avoid a handful of rounds zipping past.
“Sally, you bitch! You will die for this” the Physician shouted. “Kill them!”
Sally darted behind a marble column, barely avoiding the bullets that were now carving out chunks of the stone structure.
Vick glanced over at the bodies of Dr. Nuristani’s guards as he extracted a sniper rifle from his backpack to assemble it. He hated to kill that many men, but he could not take the chance that these blundering idiots, including that maniac, the Physician, would screw everything up. And evidenced by the current situation, they were doing a splendid job of just that...screwing it all up. Not to mention, whoever this CIA agent named Cole was, he was evidently someone to be reckoned with. Thankfully, this guy and his CIA cadre had managed to do what he was unable to by himself, locate Dr. Sally Cao. Vick slowed his breathing and eased the rifle around the corner to sight in the doctor on the rifle’s scope. “Okay, just a bit more, honey...just...a...bit...more!”
Cole popped up like a prairie dog and squeezed the trigger on the AK dropping the guard to the left of the Physician. His response came in the form of plumes of cloud-like stuffing ejecting into the air as the other assailant’s bullets ripped into the sofa. Cole scrambled behind a large ornate desk to dodge the onslaught. That was when he saw him, a Caucasian man dressed in black and peeking around the corner at the doctor. The barrel of a sniper’s rifle slowly emerged, rising to line itself up with Sally’s head.
Doctor Cao, unaware of the threat, noted that Feda’s remaining security guard was preoccupied with Cole and fearlessly made a beeline for the other rifle lying on the marbled tile. She grabbed the weapon from the floor and slid behind another column, narrowly escaping several rounds fired her way. Unfortunately, it placed her directly in the assassin’s line of sight.
“Sally, get down!” Cole shouted as he squeezed the trigger on the AK, blindly firing at the potential killer’s barely exposed body parts. Whoever this man was, he was no stranger to this sort of activity.
Vick dropped his weapon and screamed as his shin exploded from the bullet’s impact. He fell to his back in excruciating pain. It was going to be everything in him to maintain consciousness, now. How could he have been so careless as to leave any part of himself vulnerable, especially when his adversary was so well trained?
Cole, satisfied that Sally was no longer in danger, took a deep breath and rolled from behind the desk to take down the final guard. Cole landed upright and fired. The target’s body fell backwards landing at the Physician’s feet. “It’s over!” Cole shouted at Feda, who had now produced a pistol and was pointing it at Mike’s bloody temple.
“Yes it is! Stay where you are, American or I will kill him...”
“I’m sorry, too, Mike,” Cole said as he lifted the rifle and squeezed the trigger.
Sally gasped as a hole appeared in Mike’s forehead. His body sagged in the restraints and head fell forward, the FBI agent’s tortured existence finally ended.
Cole then fired once more, this time removing the pistol from Feda’s grip along with part of his hand.
Feda stumbled backward, screaming and clutching his profusely bleeding appendage. He fell to the floor as Cole loomed over him. “No, stop! Please!”
“I warned you, you sick bastard! I said you should just let us go, but you didn’t listen...well, sadly this is a lesson you won’t get to learn anything from.” Cole raised the machine gun and fired. “See you in hell.”
Sally crossed the shiny marble floor and eased up beside Cole, who was standing over Feda’s body with his head hung down, smoking rifle in hand. She lightly placed her hand on his. “Cole?” she said softly. “It’s over.”
Cole glanced up at Mike’s body and then crumpled to his knees, tears cutting trails through the dirt and blood on his face. “I’m sorry you had to suffer for so long...I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, buddy. I know I said I would kill you, but you know I didn’t mean it...why? Mike, why?”
Sally knelt beside Cole and lifted his face to look in his eyes. “It’s not your fault, Cole. Both of those men would have killed us. You did what you had to do and you saved me. For that, I will forever be grateful.” The woman wrapped her arms around his neck and they both cried, together.
“What do you mean the Director’s dirty?” Chris asked, glancing over Cole’s shoulder at Mike’s body. He winced and looked away. “God, that’s awful. Poor Mike, I just can’t believe he would be willing to kill someone innocent for his sister. I mean family’s family and everything, but this?”
“Yeah, it seems this whole operation was a setup to assassinate the doc. It wasn’t about human trafficking...I mean, it was, but...well, you know what I mean,” Cole added. “And honestly, I am actually concerned about how deep this goes.”
Saint Nick shook his head in annoyance. “I just hate I dragged poor Delinda into this...”
“No one knew,” Cole said. “Hey, did you guys see a man dressed in black around here. He was a white guy wearing all black and looked like an assassin.”
The group all shook their heads. “No.”
Cole shrugged. He supposed he would never know who it was.
Aaron inhaled and looked up at the exquisitely painted dome ceiling above him. “You know, I suppose that evil witch picked me because she thought I was expendable...that I was a screwup. Goddammit! I bet she was going to hang me out to dry after the op was over. I can see it now. She would call a press conference and throw me under the bus...I should’ve known better, she’d say, he already screwed up once before...blah, blah, blah!"
“You ain’t the only one with a target on their back, my friend.” Cole walked over and put a hand on his supervisor’s shoulder. “What in the world do you think she had planned for me? In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t get pinned for murdering Sally when it was all said and done.”
Aaron nodded. “Yeah, I can see that.”
“Hey, gotta a sec, boss?” Cole asked.
“Sure, anything for you.”
Cole leaned in, voice low, and said, “Listen, I need your help, Aaron. In fact, I need your expertise now more than ever. You want to kill those ghosts from your past, right? You said you wanted this job as a way to make amends...then help me. We know something is going on in Virginia. I don’t know what it is, but it’s related to some Chinese weapon and whatever it is, they’re building it in Thompsonville. I hate to tell you, boss, but that’s awfully close to D.C.”
“I know you’re right, Cole.” Aaron scratched his head. “But I hope you know, this is not going to be easy. We need to find out whom that we can trust and we are going to need a plan...a good plan. Because, taking down the Director of the CIA is going to take all the talent and energy this team can muster...So, where do you want to start?”
“First, not that I’m afraid she can’t take care of herself, we gotta get Sally somewhere safe.”
“Doctor Cao says she is going where we go,” Aaron replied. “And I agree. She’s safe as long as no one knows she’s still alive...and I will make sure everyone thinks otherwise.”
Cole nodded in agreement and glanced over at the woman seated next to Delinda . “After what she’s been through and the bravery she showed...I would never forgive myself if anything happened to her.”
“I agree,” Aaron added. “So, what now?”
“I need you to give me a headstart. I’m headin’ home to find out what’s goin’ on in Thompsonville.”
“Let me see what I can do about getting you a transfer first, okay? I’ll tell them you need to take a break from the field.”
“Fine, but if they tell you no, I’m gone, Aaron.”