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.
At least the helicopter pilot hadn’t hit the fuel tanks or any of the control wires.
Because of the holes in the fuselage, we couldn’t fly any higher than between two and five thousand feet or go as fast as Davies would like, but the plane settled into a routine and got us where we wanted to go.
Just a few miles from the base, fuel almost exhausted, we got a fighter escort.
At first, I thought the base commander thought we were an unidentified flying object, mainly because something else had been hit, our communications. We couldn’t tell the base we were coming, and they only had the Colonel’s transmission of an approximate arrival time, much earlier than the actual time we were supposed to arrive.
On the ground, we were met with fire trucks, and a military escort, with weapons that could take out a mouse at one thousand yards. Just in case we were terrorists, I suppose.
We were parked in a bay away from the main terminal area and had to wait for a half-hour before we were met by Lallo. Monroe’s comment, that he was probably finishing his lunch which would be more important than meeting us, had kept us waiting.
The two abductees were the first to leave the aircraft, then Shurl’s body was removed after the doctor certified he was dead.
Then the rest of us were allowed to leave the aircraft. A bus was waiting, and everyone bar Monroe and I had boarded and been taken away. Under guard. Perhaps their service had not mitigated their prison sentences. I didn’t ask Lallo why; I’d probably not get the truth anyway.
“Good job,” he said, after watching the bus depart. “Pity, it wasn’t done right the first time.”
A compliment followed by disparagement.
“Next time you can do the job yourself,” Monroe said. “And until you’ve been in the field and actually got shot at, you’d do well to keep that trap of yours shut.”
“May I …”
“…remind me you’re my superior officer? No. I’m sure that status won’t last much longer. I’m applying for a transfer.”
He looked at me. “What about you?”
“Nothing to say, except I don’t blame her. Now, since all you’ve done is prove to me you’re an idiot, I’ll take my leave.”
In the distance I could see a large American car, the sort that proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s before petrol prices were a problem, cutting across the runway at speed. Was it the owner of the DC3 coming to see the damage?
No. When it got closer I could see Bamfield, cigar in mouth, beaming. I suppose no one felt they had the authority to tell him not to.
The car stopped behind Lallo’s jeep and Bamfield got out, then leaned against the driver’s side door and looked at us over the roof.
“James, Monroe. Still alive I see. Pity about the plane; I know the chap who owns it. He’s going to be pissed when he sees the cannon holes. What happened?”
“Bad guys,” Monroe said.
“Of course. Get in, I’ll give you a ride back to the terminal. We can talk on the way.”
Neither of us moved. If Monroe wasn’t going to suffer fools gladly, neither was I.
“I’d rather walk,” I said.
“We’d rather walk, sir.” With a heavy emphasis on the ‘sir’.
“Look, you did a great job, minimal losses, and we got two assets back. Everyone is happy. But, we have a small problem down in South America…”
© Charles Heath 2020