Spear Garden

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Chapter 43

Hieraniony, Belarus

22:49 (19:49 GMT)

June 30th

Blake remained hidden in the confines of the castle ruins. Gravel popped out from beneath the weight of tires. A large truck was approaching. The driver gunned the diesel engine and pushed the truck through the woods. He sat up and peered over the old wall. One hundred meters through the trees he saw the headlights slowly bounce as the truck trundled over the bumps and through the potholes in the road.

A set of headlights flashed to his left, sixty or so meters down the road. The truck closed in on the parked cars. The airbrakes hissed as it came to a stop ten meters from the waiting car. He heard the voices of several men as they exited the back of the truck. Two more cars pulled up behind the Mercedes truck.

Blake left his position and moved quietly through the woods. Thirty meters later he positioned himself behind a large tree and pulled out his night vision goggles. The forest turned into a greenish hue and revealed much more than the thick brush. Twenty meters ahead, an elbow jutted out from behind a tree.

Blake scanned the forest to his left and right and saw no less than eight more men concealed in the woods; all with automatic weapons. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a pair of night vision binoculars with an integrated digital camera. Next, he took out a parabolic microphone with a set of ear buds. With the earbuds inserted in his ears and the microphone pointed towards the truck, he lifted the binoculars and focused them.

A car door slammed and Blake panned to his left. Two men in dark suits had exited the car facing him and walked toward the truck. Well, hello there. Who might you two be? Blake zoomed in and snapped several close-ups of each man. He reached into his pack and pulled out a cable and attached the binoculars to his phone. Once the pictures were downloaded, he connected to the CIA’s facial recognition database.

Voices came from his right and Blake looked through the binoculars and saw al Hamwi. There you are you sneaky bastard. He adjusted the microphone until he heard them speak.

“I am your contact,” al Hamwi said.

“I know who you are. Let’s get on with it,” said one of the men.

Blake’s eyes shifted down to his phone. The first person identified was the man that just spoke. Oleg Shorets, Prime Minister of Belarus.

What the hell? He did a search for the second man while he listened to them speak.

“Very well. Your packages are in the back of the truck. Transfer the remaining balance and the truck is yours,” al Hamwi said.

The other man stepped forward. “No. You need to show them to us first and how they work.”

Blake snapped several pictures of all three men together. A glance at his phone revealed it was still analyzing the image of the second man.

al Hamwi turned to the man behind him and spoke under his breath. The man ran to the back of the truck, and with the aid of another, removed one of the smaller units. He brought the box to the front of the truck and sat it on the ground. Another two men brought a wooden crate and opened the top with a pry bar.

“This is one of the smaller units. It fires five point five six by forty-five millimeter ammunition.”

Blake zoomed in on the unit and snapped more pictures. He checked his phone again. Aleksandr Roshenko, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus.

What in the hell are these guys doing with a man like al Hamwi? And what are they doing with these weapons?

Zahmir bent over and flipped open the back of the box then retrieved from the crate a long tube. He held it up and said, “These are the preloaded barrels. This unit holds thirty-six of them.” He slid the barrel in until snapped it into position.

“After you’ve loaded the unit, close the back and press this button on top. Then your computer does the rest.” He snapped his fingers and someone approached him with a stack of binders. He handed them to Aleksandr. “Those are the programming instructions. All of the rest are in the back of the truck. You’re free to inspect them if you wish.”

Oleg turned to face two men dressed in assault gear. He waved his hand and the men jogged to the back of the truck.

“While your men inspect the truck, we can complete the transfer of payment.”

Oleg smirked. “What is preventing me from just killing you and your men and taking the truck right now?”

An arrogant smile creased Zahmir’s face. “I’ve built in a safeguard.”

“What kind? What are you talking about?” Aleksandr asked.

“These weapons require a thirty-six digit password to access the firing program. I will give that to you after we receive payment and we are at a safe distance.”

Through the binoculars, Oleg studied Zahmir. He put his finger to his chin and shifted his feet. “No. I think you have the password on you.”

Defiantly, Zahmir said, “I do not! Do not take me for a fool prime minister! I will email it to an address of your choice. I have nothing to gain by lying.”

Oleg stepped toward Zahmir and pointed his finger at him. “Do not speak to me in that tone again. You are lying to me.”

“What is it that you think that I am lying to you about; that it takes an encrypted password or that I will send it to you after we are at a safe distance?”

“Neither. I think that you have the codes on you now.” Oleg snapped his fingers.

The rustle of fabric and the click of safeties switching off came from both sides and in front of Blake. Over a dozen men emerged from the woods and opened fire on Zahmir and his men. They were cut down before any of them had a chance to return fire.

Wide eyed and jaw agape, Blake continued to watch and listen.

Aleksandr stepped back and threw his arms in the air. “What the fuck did you do? Why did you do that? Now we don’t know the codes!”

Oleg waved his hand down. “Calm down. He was lying.”

“Calm down? How do you know he was lying? Does the weapon not need an access code?”

“It most certainly needs a code. He wasn’t lying about that. He was lying that he didn’t have the code on him.”

“How do you know?” Aleksandr asked.

“Have you forgotten your interrogation techniques from the old days in the KGB?”

“What?”

“His tell. Everyone has a tell when they lie. Some can master lying and learn to cover them up. Our friend here hadn’t. He looked down and to the left when I asked him if he had the codes on him. Very simply—he lied.”

Oleg kicked Zahmir’s dead body and said, “Contumacious little prick! I’ll find those codes.”

A soldier ran up to Oleg and handed him something. “Sir, I found this tablet in the front seat of his car.”

Oleg smiled and handed it back to him. “Excellent. No doubt, the codes are in this tablet. Find them and get this weapon working as soon as possible. I want to see a demonstration no later than tomorrow afternoon. Search the other bodies for anything that might be useful as well.”

“Yes, Sir.” The soldier jogged off toward their motorcade.

“I hope, for your sake, you are correct,” Aleksandr said.

“Trust me. Those codes are there. Besides, I saved us over twenty million dollars by not having to pay him the balance.”

Oleg casually walked away and shouted, “Take pictures of the bodies. We’ll use them as evidence of our revenge on the terrorists that dared to attack Belarus.”

“What do you want us to do with the bodies, sir?” a man asked.

“Dump them in the woods outside the power plant. Feed them to the wolves. Take the truck up to the plant. Minister Litwin has provided a place for us to store it for the next couple of days.”

He stepped back to Aleksandr and said, “Come Aleksandr, we have much to plan before Independence Day. Operation Spear Garden is in full swing now.”

Oleg and Aleksandr strolled back to their car and left while their entourage of vehicles stayed behind to be loaded with the weapons. Blake remained in the shadows while the rest of the men picked up the bodies and tossed them in the truck.

All of the cars had left ahead of the truck. I’ve got to get on that truck. Kneeling on the forest floor, Blake kept a watchful eye on two soldiers as they loaded the last two bodies into the back. The soldier closest to Blake went to the front and stepped up into the cab while the second one stood and faced the woods. What the hell is he doing?

The splash of urine hitting the ground answered his question. Blake hoped that the crackle of the fluid hitting the leaves would help to mask any noise he made. He slipped in behind the truck and slid under it. Unfastening his belt, he wrapped it around the undercarriage and buckled it. The last man stepped up into the cab and the diesel engine roared to life. Blake pulled out the remaining parachute cord he had and pulled it around his back to support his shoulders and tied it to the frame. The truck lurched forward as he finished tying the knot.

After an hour, they had traveled more than seventy kilometers. The muscles in Blake’s legs burned from keeping his feet up. He would only get a rest when the truck stopped. As soon as Blake heard the engine rev, he pulled them back up and stuck them into a part of the trucks frame.

Thirty minutes later Blake’s muscles were on fire. He didn’t think he could hold on any further and was thankful when the truck slowed down and turned off the main road. Blake held on with one hand and pulled out his phone. He thumbed the GPS application and waited for it to load. It showed that he was two klicks from a nuclear power plant site.

He unstrapped himself and fell. Wincing a bit as he hit the ground, the truck passed over and he rolled off the side of the road on to his belly. Braving a glance, he sat up. The taillights faded out of site, as did the rumbling of the heavy diesel, replaced by crickets and an occasional owl.

With his night vision goggles, he peered into the woods to a thick growth of young sycamore trees. Eyeing a sufficient place for cover, he stepped into the woods. From his pack, he retreived his satellite phone and called Mike.

“Mike Brennan.”

“It’s me.”

“Where the hell are you?” Mike asked.

“Belarus.”

“Belarus? What in God’s name are you doing there? Last time I talked to you, you were on your way to Slovenia. What happened there to send you to Belarus?”

“Long story, but listen. Lots of things have changed.”

“Such as?”

“al Hamwi is dead and the Prime Minister of Belarus killed him.” There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. “Did you hear me?” Blake asked.

“Yes, I’m here. I’m trying to figure out what the Prime Minister of Belarus and al Hamwi have in common? Why would they be doing business?”

“The prime minister hired al Hamwi to get the weapons and bring them to him. The question I have now is what is he planning on doing with them?”

They threw ideas back and forth at each other for a couple minutes.

“Blake, this is going nowhere. Get some rest. It’s still early evening here so I’ll make some calls and see what I can come up with. You’re sure it was the prime minister?”

“Affirmative. I took pictures and used the facial recognition database. The PM was there and so was the First Deputy PM.”

“Ok, is there anything else?”

Bake thought for a moment. “Yeah. He mentioned operation spear garden.”

“Ok. Well keep an ear out to see if there’s any chatter that mentions that. I think you need to find transportation and get to Minsk. First of all, get yourself some rest and I’ll call you as soon as I have something.”

Blake studied his GPS and scanned the area for the nearest town. Astravyets was a small town of about ten thousand people, twenty-six kilometers away. Blake decided to make that his destination for the night. He would worry about transportation to Minsk in the morning.

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