Authors: Keith Douglass
“Excuse me, sir,” said Murdock. “But if you’ll recall, I said we needed
armored cars. Two reserved for the mission. And two to train with, of which one will be a mission backup and the other I plan on expending for demolition tests. And, of course, three limousines. One of which will be mission backup.”
“And what’s all this backup nonsense?” Berlinger demanded.
“In case one of the vehicles breaks down, sir. We wouldn’t want to postpone the mission while we ordered a new one from the factory, would we?”
Berlinger still wouldn’t quit. “Do you realize that you’re using enough explosives to level a city block?”
“Yes, sir. It should do a really fine job on the warehouse.”
“And you’re not concerned with civilian casualties?”
Beside him, Murdock could hear Razor Roselli grumble, “Is this asshole with the CIA or the fucking Peace Corps?” Murdock quieted his chief with a sharp kick to the ankle.
“Let’s move on, shall we?” Whitbread interrupted. “The rest of us are not about to pretend that we’re concerned about any casualties to the Syrians, Hezbollah, or the good citizens of Baalbek. I, for one, remember that Baalbek was where those same people tortured to death William Buckley, our chief of station in Beirut and a good friend. Lieutenant Murdock, I’m prepared to recommend approval of your plan. Tonight I will
present it to the Director and the … appropriate national authority.”
Murdock hoped the President liked it.
“Don Stroh will be in touch with you when a decision is reached,” said Whitbread. “Gentlemen, well done, and good day to you.”
That did a very nice job of breaking up the meeting. Stroh came over to talk to Murdock, and the admiral moved to corner the SEALs before they could slip out of the room.
“Nice job on the briefing, Blake,” said Stroh. “Love the plan. Berlinger’s just bitchy because yours is light years ahead of the one his boys came up with. And you know,” he said quietly, “the computer only gave his plan a fifty-five-percent chance of completion. Yours has got to be up over eighty percent.”
“Great,” Murdock said, without enthusiasm.
“Oh, I also wanted to tell you. That woman at the villa in Port Sudan? It turns out the French wanted to talk to her about the bombings in Paris earlier in the year. They think she might have planted a couple of bombs herself. Woman and a little kid, you know? You wouldn’t figure they’re packing a bomb that’s going to blow up a few innocent people, would you?”
“I guess not.”
“So if anyone was bummed about tagging a woman, you can let them know they didn’t make a mistake.”
“As far as I know, no one was bummed.”
“Whatever. Our colleagues at the Direction Général de Sécurité Extérieure tell us, on behalf of the French Government, that they’re very pleased not to have her running around anymore. They might even have sprung for a medal, except that it never happened, right?”
“Okay, I’m going back to Langley and start putting your shopping list together. Don’t worry about the big boys approving, it’s in the bag. I’ll see you at Niland, okay?”
Murdock started to walk over to the knot of SEALs that had the admiral surrounded, but George MacKenzie had already slipped away and was waiting to waylay him.
Mac looked around to see if anyone was listening, then said, “You still haven’t told me if you’re taking me along.”
“You want to go?” Murdock asked innocently.
“Hell, yes,” said MacKenzie. “How many ops do you think I have left before I retire?”
“You know I’d take you in a heartbeat, Mac. It’s okay if you don’t give a shit about Razor.”
“What the hell are you talking about? What does Razor have to do with it?”
“The boys would all be looking to you. Really, it’s okay if you don’t give a shit about Razor’s credibility.”
MacKenzie was taken aback. Then he sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I wanted the op so bad I didn’t think about the platoon.”
“So you’re not coming along?”
“You better be careful,
. You go around making too much sense and they won’t let you be an officer anymore.”
“I’ll just have to take that risk. You going to come to Niland and help us out with the training?”
“No,” MacKenzie said reluctantly. “Razor and Kos can handle it. I’ve got to get back to work. But there is one thing I want you to add to the plan.”
“What’s that, Mac?”
“I want you to bring along a semiauto sniper rifle for every man that’s going. I’d say M-21’s, but you’ll want to use sterile weapons that don’t come from the U.S. German MSG-90’s ought to do just fine. Have Magic Brown pack a .50-caliber. Put them in drag bags with one hundred fifty rounds each all loaded up in magazines, and stash them in the trunks of the limos.”
“Okay, Mac. You think we might need them?”
“No, just something that kept me awake last night. On the off chance you get caught up in those hills with some free time on your hands.”
“Consider it done, Mac. You know, we couldn’t have put it together without you.”
“You can get off the dick now,
Murdock laughed and threw his arm around MacKenzie’s shoulders. They walked over to the admiral.
“I asked your boys if they had any heartburn, and they said no,” the admiral told Murdock. “Bunch of lying bastards.”
The SEALs all laughed politely. Anything admirals said was automatically funny.
“What about you, George?” the Admiral asked.
“They’re good to go, sir,” MacKenzie replied.
“If George MacKenzie says you’re good to go,” the admiral pronounced, “then you’re good to go.”
“He’s the man, sir,” said Murdock.
“I want to wish all of you good hunting,” said the admiral. “Now get on out of here and let me talk to your lieutenant.”
The others left, and the admiral said, “Don’t you worry about Berlinger, Blake. It’s just politics. If the mission goes off without a hitch, no one will remember anything he said. But if it doesn’t, he’s positioned himself for the Congressional committees. He’ll say that he had serious reservations about the mission, and was concerned about all the innocent bad guys who might get hurt. I’m sorry, son, but that’s the way they play the game at this weight class.”
The admiral obviously didn’t know, so Murdock wasn’t about to tell him, that he’d had a lifetime education in Politics 101 from the Honorable Charles Murdock, Congressman from Virginia. Blake had carried that albatross around his neck for years. The Congressman had planned on Harvard, Harvard Law, and politics for his son. He’d compromised on Annapolis, since a short stint of military service never did any harm when you ran for office, especially a nice safe job on a staff or in the Pentagon. But Blake Murdock had gone 180 degrees in the other direction and become a SEAL. And he intended to stay a SEAL. He and his father didn’t talk much anymore.
“I understand, sir,” he told the admiral.
“You remember what I said now. Any problems, and I want to hear your voice on the phone.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” As far as Blake Murdock was concerned, the admiral was his father, and his SEALs his brothers. He didn’t need any other family.
Naval Amphibious Base
Murdock wished that moving a SEAL platoon was as easy as throwing sixteen guys into the back of a truck, but it wasn’t. Their equipment alone filled several aircraft pallets.
Their green light had come from CIA headquarters on the previous Thursday, and Murdock had immediately given the whole platoon the rest of the week and weekend off. Even though the majority had no idea about the upcoming mission, such a windfall only convinced them that something major was forthcoming. There just weren’t that many good deals around, and they always had to be paid for.
Murdock had done it because they would be going into isolation until the mission was over, and the married men ought to have some time with their families. And the single SEALs, well …
The chiefs had wanted to move to Niland at night, for a lower profile. Then they couldn’t get transportation on Sunday night, so they had to settle for the wee hours of the morning. The married men had come in with their game faces on.
Murdock didn’t know how they did it, how you told your loved one: “Honey, I’m leaving. I don’t know when I’ll be back, and you probably won’t be hearing from me. If something happens someone will show up at the door, but don’t call the office because the duty might not be cleared for the operation, or might not even know I’m gone.”
It took one hell of a woman to put up with that, which was why SEAL divorces were regular events.
Murdock was in his office finishing up platoon evaluations. The paperwork couldn’t be ignored. Anyway, officers hopping around sticking their noses into things only screwed up an embarkation. Razor would come in when everything was ready, and then Murdock would go out and help the boys lug everything to the trucks.
Razor Roselli did crash into the office, but it wasn’t to tell Murdock the platoon was ready. “Boss,” he announced, “we’ve got a little problem.”
“What is it?”
“Jaybird hasn’t shown up yet.”
“You sure?” Murdock asked. “General mayhem, yeah, but I can’t picture Jaybird Sterling missing a movement.”
“All I know is, he ain’t here.”
“What about Doc?”
“He’s here, but he doesn’t know where Jaybird is.”
Now Murdock was concerned. For Jaybird to miss any action he’d have to be either in jail, in the hospital, or dead. Shit. “Okay, get some people on the phones. Check the brig and the base hospital, then the jails and hospitals out in town.”
“Okay, Boss.” As he went out the door, Razor was muttering, “He’s dead. If he ain’t dead now, he’s gonna be.”
About fifteen minutes went by before Razor blew back in. “If you can believe this, Jaybird just called the duty. He’s at an apartment building in downtown Dago, and he needs a ride.” Roselli’s smile was terrifying. “I’ll take care of this myself.”
Murdock didn’t think Razor was in the right frame of mind to go unsupervised. “We’ll take my truck.”
During the drive downtown, Razor seemed preoccupied, chanting, “He’s dead, oh, he’s dead,” like some twisted mantra.
Murdock was getting sick of it. “Look,” he said. “Would you rather have a pain in the ass who can really operate, or some Little Lord Fauntleroy who can’t cut it in the field?”
There was just a smoldering silence from Razor Roselli.
“I love it when I’m right,” Murdock chortled.
It was a very nice high-rise apartment building. As they entered the parking lot, Murdock aimed his pickup so they could stop in front of the lobby.
For some reason Razor Roselli happened to look up. Then he looked up again. “Wait a minute, Boss. Pull around the side of the building.”
“Park right there,” said Razor, pointing to an open space.
Murdock went along. He turned off the key, then followed Razor’s finger, which was now pointing skyward.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” asked Murdock. Then: “Oh, my God.”
A man was climbing down the side of the building, balcony to balcony.
Murdock rolled down his window and pulled his body halfway out to get a better view. “You know,” he said, “the son of a bitch is either wearing a pink jumpsuit, or he’s bare-ass naked.”
“It is Jaybird, isn’t it?” Razor Roselli asked faintly.
Murdock slid back into the truck cab. “Yup, it sure is.”
“That’s good,” said Razor, with evident relief. “The thought that there might be someone else just like Jaybird running around loose on the planet just bothered the fuck out of me for some reason.”
Murdock went back out the window. “Good climbing technique,” he said conversationally.
Razor stuck his head out his window and immediately regretted it. “I don’t believe it,” he moaned. “He is absolutely stark fucking naked.”
“Actually,” said Murdock, “that ought to help your climbing. You know, you’re supposed to lean away from the rock. If you don’t have any clothes on, you automatically lean away so your Johnson won’t get scraped off.” He paused. “I wouldn’t want to be a tenant sitting out on my balcony right now, though.”
“Am I even here?” Razor Roselli demanded of the heavens. “Why can’t this just be a nightmare? What did I do to deserve this?”
“What didn’t you do?” Murdock retorted.
Jaybird Sterling jumped down onto the second-floor balcony, swung out over the railing, and finished off his trip to the ground by shinnying down a drainpipe. When he hit the ground he spit something he’d been carrying in his mouth out into his hand.
Murdock honked the horn and flashed the headlights.
Jaybird made a loping run to the pickup. He tried the door, but Razor had it locked.
Sterling knocked on the window, grinning good-naturedly. “Hey, Chief, could you let me in?”
“Let him in, for crying out loud,” said Murdock. “I’d like to get the hell out of here before the cops come.”
“Only if you make it an order, sir,” said Razor, while Jaybird waited patiently outside.
“Consider it so,” Murdock sighed.
Razor unlocked the door and slid over. Jaybird hopped in and sat down. Murdock gunned the engine and pulled out.
“Morning, sir,” Jaybird said pleasantly. “Morning, Chief. Sorry to drag you out here.”
Razor began darkly, “You dirty—”
“Excuse me, sir,” Jaybird interrupted. “You wouldn’t happen to have a blanket or something?”
“No,” said Murdock.
“Too bad,” said Jaybird, crossing his legs delicately.
Razor Roselli was talking unintelligibly to himself.
“Your ass is going back out on the street,” said Murdock. “Unless I hear a story right quick.”
“Well, sir,” said Jaybird. “I was in a bar last night, and I met this girl.”
“Imagine that,” muttered Razor.
“This was one in a million, sir,” Jaybird reported. “I was just sitting there having a beer, and this beautiful girl walks right up to me. Brown hair, blue eyes, tits like …” He pantomimed with his hands to give them an idea of the general dimensions. “Before I could say anything, or even buy her a drink, she says, ‘I’ve been watching you for a while. I think you’d better come home with me.’”