12,000ft above Hieraniony, Belarus
08:00 (03:00 GMT)
Blake stood wide-footed for balance in the doorway of the cockpit. He’d changed into his jump suit and briefed Randy and Chuck on what needed to be done to make it a successful exit.
“When we’re within range, there are some things I’m going to need you to do to minimize me killing myself as soon as I jump out of this plane.”
“All right, what’s your first issue?” Chuck asked.
“The door is in the front of the plane, forward of the wing. I don’t want to jump out and slam into the wing.”
“Yeah, no shit? I know what you’re next problem is too and I know how we handle both of them,” Randy said.
“What?” Blake asked.
“The engine. It’s attached to the fuselage at the back of the plane. You stand a good chance of getting sucked into it.”
“Exactly. So, you have an idea how I can avoid that?”
“I do. Understand that this jet isn’t really conducive for jumping out of, but it’s built to withstand a lot. When we get close, I’ll drop her down to just under eight thousand feet. I’ll make sure the cabin is depressurized and then slow us down to MCA and then cut the port side engine.”
“How much time will that give me before you stall?”
“As long as we want. Although, we’d prefer you to get the hell out of here as fast as you can,” Randy said.
“No—I don’t like it,” Chuck injected.
Blake turned to Chuck. “What’s your concern?”
“I don’t think minimum controllable airspeed for this aircraft is going to be slow enough for you to jump out safely. I think you’ll still slam into the wing. But, I have an idea. Come with me.”
After Chuck got out of his seat, Blake followed him to the left side door where Chuck grabbed a handle on the wall.
“This handle, it’s bolted to the frame. It’s not going anywhere.”
“I already know where you going with this. You’re going to suggest I tether myself to that and let myself out slo—”
Chucked nodded. “Slowly, yes. Until you pass the port side engine and then you let yourself go.”
“I like it,” Blake said as he slapped Chuck on the back.
“And there’s an added benefit too.”
“How so?” Blake asked.
“Since you’ll have a controlled exit, we can fly a bit above MCA and we won’t nearly have the risk of a stall.”
“That is good. Let me know when we’re ready,” Blake said.
Blake sat next to Adriana on the couch in the back of the plane when Chuck said, “One minute, Mr. MacKay.”
Adriana gazed into Blake’s eyes and put her hand on his, “Please be careful.”
Blake couldn’t resist. He leaned in and gave her a long kiss. He took in her scent and felt the silkiness of her hair.
“I will. Buckle up.”
Adriana fastened her belt and Blake stood up and went to the front of the cabin. He inserted his earpiece.
“Check. Loud and clear,” Randy said
The carabiner snapped closed as he clipped it to the handle. “I’m opening the door.”
The roar of the wind rushing by at one hundred and twenty knots became pronounced as the door opened. Several loose pieces of paper were sucked out.
“Cutting the engine now,” Randy said.
A few seconds passed. Randy said,” On my mark; three, two, one, mark.”
Blake eased himself out of the cabin. His body extended out along the side of the plane. Adriana watched him wide-eyed through the cabin windows. The rope slide through his gloved hands until he was next to the left side engine.
The plane started to shake. Internal organs jiggled as the plane lost altitude. His body slammed against the back of the engine. A hard tug against his vest caused him to glance up. Part of his gear was wedged in between the rear flaps of the wing.
“You’ve got to go, Blake,” Randy said.
He could hear the alarms though his earpiece warning of a potential stall.
“One more second. I’m snagged!”
Blake yanked on the vest. He struggled against the force of the wind as it pulled him back.
“Now! You’ve got to go now!” Chuck desperately said.
Blake pulled out his knife and reached up against the resistance of the wind that pushed him back.
“We can’t hold it for much longer. We’ll have to put it in a steep dive if you don’t hurry!”
He reached out and cut out the small pack of gear that held him to the plane. As soon as he was free, he released the tether. His body flipped through the air as it caught in the jet stream.
“Pulling up, now. Good luck Mr. MacKay.” Chuck said.
Blake heard the jet’s left side engine wind up as he fell. “Sitrep,” he yelled.
There was nothing on the radio for a few seconds.
“Engine’s back up, we’ve got control and gaining speed and altitude. Damn, that was close. Remind me not to let you do that again. Good luck,” Randy said.
Blake didn’t reply.
He fell for thirty seconds and released his chute. As he glided down, he identified the area where the castle ruins were supposed to be. He planned to set down about two kilometers to the east of the site and then slowly proceed to the site. The small town was three kilometers to the west.
Blake landed in the middle of a field, near a clump of trees. The buckles on his harness clicked then fell away. After hiding the chute in some brush, Blake peered off in the distance and saw a farm to the west and headed that way.
After hurrying along for half a klick inside the tree line adjacent to the dirt road, a woman’s scream south of his position reached him. He stopped and listened. The rambling of a man’s voice and then another scream came through the trees. It sounded like it was a few hundred meters away. He slowly maneuvered through the thick brush, careful to keep the noise at a minimum.
The cries intensified as he crept closer and sounded desperate. After another fifty meters, he could make out movement through the trees. A woman with her face against the tree, her hands tied around it, bawled. Blake couldn’t make out what she said. Finally he saw the man. His pants were around his ankles and he approached the woman. She screamed again.
The man slapped her on the back of the head and mumbled in Belarusian. “Shut-up, woman. No one can hear you out here.”
Blake crept closer. That son-of-a-bitch is raping her. His hand reached for his Glock. The thickness of good sized branch on the ground snapped his thoughts away from shooting the man. He knelt down, picked it up and carefully snuck to the clearing.
The thought of the fear this woman was experiencing angered him more as he watched the man lift woman’s skirt as she pleaded with him to stop. Okay, that’s enough. Stepping into the clearing behind them, he was only a few meters away.
Blake drew back and sprinted toward them. The branch came down on the back of the man’s head with full force. A loud crack and splinters flying as it broke in half. The man’s body met the forest floor with a loud whump.
The man rolled over and faced his assailant. Blake kicked him in the face. His jaw, now crooked and disfigured. He felt the satisfaction of cracking the man’s jaw and smiled. The man laid on the ground; still conscious, but bleeding profusely from his mouth.
Blake drew his knife and stepped up to the woman. The whites of her eyes prominent, locked on the gleaming blade.
“Are you okay? Can you understand me?” Blake said in Russian, knowing that her dialect might not quite understand him.
Stepping behind her, he cut the rope. Before he could say anything else, the woman darted off and ran through the trees yelling something he couldn’t understand.
Blake turned back toward the coward that now lay on the ground. Anger filling the void from where the adrenaline had left. Behind him was a dirt bike leaning against a tree.
The man said something in a Belarussian dialect.
“Come on, asshole!” Blake said.
Blake drew his pistol. He waived it at the man and told him to get up in Russian. He motioned the man to the tree. With some parachute cord, he tied the man to the tree. He left his pants down and walked around to the man’s back.
“You don’t mind if I borrow your bike, do you?” He reared back and kicked the man in the crotch as hard as he could. The man screamed and slid down the tree to his knees.
“No? Didn’t think so.”
Blake hopped onto the bike, noted his location on his GPS and left the man tied to the tree, still moaning.
Blake spent the rest of the morning getting to know the lay of the land. He enjoyed the rolling hills and wide pastures as he traveled to the site where the meeting was to take place. A small ditch and some castle ruins will make for a good place to stash the bike once he returns to hide until whomever al Hamwi was supposed to meet showed up.
In the early afternoon, he was back in town and got something to eat and filled up the fuel tank on his bike.
He purchased some apples, bottled water and other snacks to take with him back to the meeting site. He wanted to make sure that he was there plenty of time before anyone else showed up. If it were him meeting al Hamwi, he would be there at least four hours before.
At sixteen hundred hours, Blake headed back out to the site and camouflaged the bike with branches and leaves.
The castle ruin was just that, a ruin. There was almost nothing left of it but a few crumbling walls here and there. He found a corner wall and sat down on the inside of a corner and waited. He had almost six and a half hours until the meeting.