Spear Garden

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Chapter 26

The White House

07:30 (12:30 GMT, 15:30 Afghan time)

June 23rd

Director Slocum, along with Director Brennan and Director Thomas sat in a conference room in the White House with the Joint Chiefs and waited on President Pennington. The agenda was to review the daily threat assessment for all things related to terrorism and the security of the United States. Veronica opened her folder and perused the topics to help calm her nerves.

First on the agenda was a report on any home grown terror threats. There are over six hundred militia, terror and hate groups that they kept their eye on. The Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, Skinheads, The Nation of Islam, and The New Black Panthers to name a few. Every state in the country had them and they were all being watched.

After the domestic terror groups, they talked about International groups such as Hamas, al Qaeda, and The Taliban. However, if there were any imminent threats, domestic or foreign, those went to the top of the list and today; al Hamwi had won that honor.

Veronica remembered all too clearly what unfolded in the last meeting. An annoying tingle crept into her nerves. She wanted to give the president exactly what she needed. Her anxiety grew with each ticking minute the president was late. The tingle intensified when the door finally opened.

“Sorry I’m late,” The president said as she hurried into the room. “Jezebel threw up and I accidently stepped in it, so I had to change my shoes and call to have it cleaned up.”

Veronica tried her best to stifle her amusement when she realized the story eased her anxiety. Jezebel was the president’s beloved Cocker Spaniel. It either slept or barked and if you barely touched it, it would squat and pee all over the floor, a trait common among the breed.

President Pennington turned to Veronica and said, “So Veronica, tell me what you have on al Hamwi, and it’d better be good.”

Oh-oh. What did that mean? “Well, Madam President, our asset has been inserted into Afghanistan. However…” she cleared her throat and swallowed “…he ran into trouble immediately and his contact was murdered.”

“Murdered? When?”

“Almost instantly after he landed. Within a few minutes, at least. He was shot by a sniper from less than a kilometer away,” Veronica answered as her anxiety rose again.

“And our asset?” The president asked.

“He’s fine.” Thank God. “He was able to eliminate the threat and make his way into Sabzawar. He has been surveying the last known location of al Hamwi for the past two days. Unfortunately, there has been no sign of him.”

When the president turned to her with narrowed eyes and a blush creeping up her neck, Veronica mentally braced herself. The president asked firmly, “How the hell did our asset in Afghanistan get killed and how the hell did they find out where he’d be and when?”

There was a pause in the room and everyone looked at each other for some kind of an answer.

I’ve got to say something. She is not going to like this answer. “We don’t know Madam President,” Veronica said.

The president slammed her palm down on the table and looked around the room. “Well pardon my French, but that’s not fucking acceptable! Someone is feeding these sons of bitches information! Find out who the hell it is and deal with them! What’s the next move on al Hamwi’s men?”

Mike Brennan stepped in for the rescue. “Madam President. Our asset has met up with his team of Ghanni Special Forces. As Director Slocum said, they’ve been monitoring them and have gathered enough intel to make their move. They plan on striking tonight at approximately nineteen hundred, our time, or oh three hundred tomorrow Afghanistan time. I should be receiving intel from the mission by twenty-one hundred tonight. If you like, I can order up a satellite and we can watch it live.”

Veronica’s jaw tightened as she gritted her teeth. Although she didn’t like the interruption, she somewhat welcomed it. It was good, detailed information and Mike did a fine job of delivering it without a shake in his voice. Something that, at this point, she thought she might have. The last thing she wanted to do was show any fear or insecurity to the president. She was still going to let Mike have it at the end of the meeting.

“No, that’s not necessary. I’m not going to waste money and resources on a basic terrorist raid. Had it been al Hamwi, I’d do it. This mission now is to just gather intel in the hope that we find out where al Hamwi is and what he’s up to. Just call me when it’s over and let me know if they got anything worthwhile.”

“Yes Madam President,” Mike responded.

The meeting continued with the discussion of other potential threats at the top of the threat list. As the meeting adjourned and the Joint Chiefs and president had long been gone, Veronica leaned in toward Mike, “For fucks sake Mike. Will you let me finish my own goddamn report? Between you and Julian, I don’t know which one of you is trying the hardest to make me look bad. Just shut the hell up. If I need your fucking help, I’ll ask you for it!”

Before he could respond, she gathered up her Samsung tablet and briefcase and left the room.

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