Spear Garden

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Chapter 20

Somewhere over the Atlantic

45,000 feet

08:33 EST (13:33 GMT)

June 20th

After about two hours of on-again off-again sleep, Blake finally forced himself to get up and walk around the plane’s cabin. He went forward to the planes galley and started some coffee. The flight to Qatar was just under fifteen hours, giving him plenty of time to look at his mission briefing. He would also have a briefing once he got to Al Ueid AFB to go over everything again and to notify him of anything new that might be of significance.

He was the only one on the plane, save for the two pilots. While the coffee brewed, he opened the cockpit door and saw two familiar faces, Randy Emerson and Charles “Chuck” Donovan. Both former Navy pilots now worked privately for the CIA. They had flown Blake to countless locations over the past several years and had become trusted colleagues.

“Hey guys, good to see you,” Blake said.

“You too, Blake,” they both said almost in unison.

“I’m just brewing some fresh coffee, would either of you like a cup?”

“No, I’m good,” Randy said, who was sitting in the captain’s seat.

“I’d take some. Black please,” Chuck said.

“Ok. How we looking?”

Randy replied, “Just a little over twelve more hour’s flight time. The weather up ahead looks clear and we aren’t expected to have any rough air. We should have you there right on time.”

Blake stepped back a few steps into the galley to check on the coffee. That’s done enough. “That’s great.” He poured Chuck a cup and brought it to the cockpit and handed it to him. “I’ll be in back reviewing some notes if you need me for anything.”

Chuck took a sip of his coffee and said, “Well, no shit Sherlock. Where else would you be?” They all laughed. Blake shut the cockpit door, went to the galley for his coffee and strolled to the back to read up on the asset that he was meeting in Afghanistan.

The CIA had informants all over the world, called ‘Human intelligence’, or, ‘HUMINT assets’. These are people that either currently work or worked for a foreign government, or other targets of intelligence interest. They might be in a position to observe and report on the sightings or behavior of a particular individual or group; such as how many ships are in a port or where a particular group of people might be staying or working. They report that information back to the CIA. Rafaela Delatam was one such asset.

He was forty-eight years old, married and had three children all in their teens. He and his wife owned a restaurant in Sabzawar, Afghanistan where they all worked extremely hard and managed to make about five-hundred and twenty-five dollars a year, which is above the average annual income for most workers in the country.

Rafaela had once reported information to a U.S. soldier that was on patrol outside his restaurant about an IED, or Improvised Explosive Device, and the location where it was planted. He had overheard some men talking about it in his restaurant that he’d long suspected of working with the Taliban. After the information that he’d given the military turned out to be true, he was recruited into the CIA as a human asset. In exchange, he would be paid and have the opportunity to leave Afghanistan with his family and be brought to the U.S. after several years of productive service. Rafaela had been doing this for nearly six years and had turned out to be a valuable asset.

After reading about Rafaela, Blake studied maps of the region where he would be landing, as well as Sabzawar. Several more hours had passed. Blake picked up the sat phone and called Mike. As usual, Mike answered on the first ring.

“Hi Blake, how’s the flight?”

“It’s fine. You said that our asset was going to hook me up with a team, but I don’t have any information about that team in my packet. Was there supposed to be something in there?”

“No. That information will be given to you once you land in Qatar. There are several ANA Commando and ANA Special Forces units that we use and we just don’t know which one it will be yet.”

At that moment, Blake heard the loud familiar whirling and exhaust notes of a Black Hawk helicopter through the phone and Mike started to shout. “My contact in Qatar is working on that as we speak! I’ll forward you his information and you can call him in a few hours! I’m in Guantanamo getting on a bird! I’m headed to the general’s estate to assess the situation! I gotta run, Blake!” Mike disconnected the call.

Blake put the sat phone back in his bag. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed the stubble on his face as he stared out the window and thought about the validity of this group of Afgans he would be entrusting his life to. Based on history that he’d read, worry started to creep into his mind.

ANA, or Afghan National Army Commandos and Special Forces just did not have the same training or experience as U.S. Special Forces. The Commando units have only been around since 2007 and the Special Forces just graduated its first class in 2010. Even though their Special Forces are trained by and based on U.S. Special Forces, they only require fifteen weeks of training. That, along with the fact that they had limited experience and had about a fifty percent literacy rate, Blake had good reasons to be concerned. Until he received his contact information from Mike and could talk to him, there wasn’t anything else he could do.

Blake fixed himself a ham and cheese sandwich while he thought heavily on his mission. I really thought I was going to be able to review some of the dossiers before I landed. I really don’t feel good about this. He took a bite of his sandwich, walked back and sat down. Well, I can’t do shit until I get there. Might as well watch a movie. He made a selection from the planes extensive library and leaned back to try and enjoy the rest of the flight.

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