Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.
The hut was a barracks, with bedding and ablutions for twenty men. Since this was one of two, I assumed the other hut housed the twenty soldiers that the Colonel had alluded to. There would be no more than one or two others including the Captain.
Hopefully, there were not more in Nagero.
The two hostages had been taken to the Captain’s office where I assumed there was probably a brig for them to be locked in. Not quite what I was expecting, but no plan was ever perfect.
I went to the rear and sat down at a table that could accommodate about ten.
Davies and Shurl joined me.
I looked at Shurl. “Good work, and glad they didn’t shoot you.”
“So am I. Monroe had joined the others. I had to make a lot of noise before they found me, so I don’t think this is a crack troop.”
“The Captain, or whatever he is, looks sharp,” Davies said.
“New command perhaps. Can’t believe his luck, I’m guessing. Did you get a look at the plane?”
“As much as I could without looking like I was looking at it. It’s been well maintained, and I have no doubt we can get it off the ground. It just depends if we need help to get the engines started. It’s possible they don’t, though it’s not usual for this type of plane. We shall see when the time comes.”
“Can you take off at night?”
“It’s a bit dangerous without lights. I see they have a lighting system, so I suggest, if and when we break out of here you get someone to find the switch.”
“Any idea when that’ll be?”
“I’m sure we have people working on that as we speak.”
The door at the entrance to the hut opened and the Captain stood next to his officer, with a gun pointed loosely in our direction, just in case we got the idea we could escape.
“Mr. James. Time to tell me all about your escape plans.”
“I’m not so sure they could be called that, now.”
His tone hardened. “Don’t keep me waiting. I have people waiting for my report.”
I shrugged and got up. “Just make sure everyone is ready to move when the time comes. Tell Baines that I expect him to find the generator and get the lights working.”
The Captain’s impatient look told me not to keep him waiting any longer.
The Captain led the way, and his officer kept the gun pointed at me, just in case of what I’m not sure. Inside his office, rather spacious, and with a door which likely led to some form of accommodation and the brig where the hostages were being held. The door was closed so I couldn’t see, so it had to be an assumption.
The officer remained in the doorway, while the Captain sat behind a large desk, and gestured for me to sit the other side. It didn’t look like a comfortable chair.
I thought I’d start the ball rolling. “I’m assuming that there isn’t always an army guard on this airstrip?”
“No. When we heard you were coming for the prisoners, a detachment was sent. Fortuitous wouldn’t you say?”
“For who.” Time to sow some seeds of discontent.
“What do you mean Mr. James?”
“Your mate back at the militia camp just pocketed two million US dollars’ worth of diamonds for those two men. What was your cut?”
A shocked look, one that eased back into benign slowly. No cut from that look, I’d say.
“We pride ourselves on being above bribery. That was the old way of doing things.”
“Clearly the militia don’t agree. Are you going to give them back to the commander so he can raffle them again?”
The Captain didn’t seem to understand the word ‘raffle’.
“Sell them back to us for another two million. Maybe you should talk to your superiors and see what they think. If you left us go, I can arrange for five million, for you and your friends to share.”
Disdain, or disappointment.
“What did I just say about bribery.”
“That it’s not the way things are done. Maybe not in the capital, but this is the boondocks, and you’re the man in charge. Five million can go a long way, but I suspect if you tell your superiors, you won’t get to see any of it. Or perhaps you should take a few men over to the Militia commander’s camp and demand your share, or just take it. After all, Captain, who is in charge of this sector, him or you?”
At least he was thinking about it. Five million was a lot of money, but in US dollars, that could take him anywhere.
I remembered my old instructor saying, one, ‘every man has his price’.
I just had to find the Captains.
“Aside from trying to bribe me, Mr. James, what were you hoping to achieve here?”
“A rescue. I know we tried once before and not succeeded, but you know how it is, if you at first don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”
“That it failed before should be a warning that we are not as weak as you might think we are. The US Army is not necessarily the best in the world.”
“So I’m beginning to discover. Did we train you?”
“No. I spent some time in England, training with the British Army.”
So that was where he got his accent and ramrod stiff never a crease out of place posture.
“But,” he said, “this not about me, but you. And your so-called film crew. How did you expect top escape through this airstrip, flights are restricted, and you can’t possibly fly in a Hercules? The runway is not long enough.
“No, we were hoping for something a bit smaller than that, but we’ll find out tomorrow what it is. I’ll be standing on the patio looking as surprised as you are when it arrives. Now, let me ask you a question. Do you know who those men are that you have in detention?”
“For doing what?”
“I don’t ask questions. I obey orders.
“Then I’ll tell you. They were trying to set up a trade agreement for some precious metal you have in abundance here. Good for the country for income, and employment. Might even help you get on better terms with the rest of the world. Unless of course, you don’t want to.”
“I am a soldier, not a politician. That’s their problem. I was told to hold you until my superiors arrive.”
“Who told you?”
“The Colonel. He’s based in Ada.”
So, we had a leak. Surprising given the limited circulation of the plan. It might be down to Jacobi, but somehow, I didn’t think it was him. He had several opportunities to turn on us and he didn’t.
“So, you’re saying we basically drove into a trap?”
“Yes. So much for the smart Americans who have all the technology and answers.
I could understand his contempt, especially when the attempt had failed so badly. Pity then he didn’t understand what was about to happen to him.
© Charles Heath 2020