The Swamp Thing compound was inside a monitored fense. Sure they had some armaments but the real danger was in the computer system. I'm sure all the black bag stuff was not stored anywhere available to the hackers, but still it had to be a concern. They had fifteen different encryption programs. The only non secure phone line in the compound was Betty Jo who never ever talked about black ops on the phone.
From my cabin in the woods I passed through only one town large enough to have a Krispy Kreme donut shop open 24hours a day. I left home at 3am so the donuts were in the car by 5am.
The sugar and caffeine from my only pit stop, woke me up enough to make it all the way to the poorly marked dirt drive which led to the Swamp Thing compound. There was a simple red and blue reflector on a rusty sign post which held a sign which was equally rusted. The sign said Saunter.s ferry lane, but the dirt path of a road was ten yards away from the sign. If one turned at the reflector, as he normally would, he would find himself in a rather nasty ditch. One filled with stagant water and punji stakes make of gutter spikes. It was a sure way to ruin a tire.
The disabled car would be surrounded by armed security guards in a matter of minutes. Nuclear power pants would envy the security of the former boyscout camp. Since I knew the secret of the rusty Saunters Ferry lane sign, I slipped into the poorly maintained dirt drive without indecent. I made it all the way to the compound fence before the gate guard signaled me to stop.
"Ricky, they must be pulling all the stops."
"Oh how so Carlos?"
"I just cleared Jason through. You two in the compound on the same day is something I haven't seen in a long time." He looked thoughtful before he continued. "Should I put a cleanup crew on standby?"
"That would be up to Jason," I replied seriously. I could understand the guard's concern. Janson and I did have a history. The son of a bitch stabbed me, but then I guess it was only fair. I did break his arm with a folding chair once. And he had a mild concussion from the fall from the second story window of a hotel in Panama City. He always blamed me for that.
I could usually tell from the people assembled what kind of job it was. Jason wasn't much of a hint, since he was the kind of guy one would describe as a generic thug. There were more than a few of those in Swamp Thing's inventory. They could cut a guard's throat or lay down covering fire, but they had no real specialty. Without a specialty they were interchangeable. That also made them easily replaced if a mission went sour. They were the kinds of guys in every army who got picked for the rear guard.
I preferred to work alone or with a sniper team. It has been my experience that teams who prepared for a real firefight, usually got into one. In a real firefight your side is almost always going to take casualties. It's just one of those laws of nature.
The quarter mile to the camp was along a dirt road that was a lot better maintained after I passed the gate. Just another security measure. It was easier to hide the compound than to defend it. I did like the way the boss thought.
"Where do you want this BJ?" The forty pound over weight bleach blonde behind the desk looked up.
"On the table with the coffee pot like always," she replied. She also put on a beautifully warm smile. It was a smile I didn't see often from anyone.
After the donuts were in place I turned and asked, "So who all is in the barrel?"
"Here," she said slipping me a duty roster.
"Jason I know, and Eddie of course, but these other two are new to me." I didn't like working with new people.
"They are more muscle," the voice came from the converence room doorway.
"So Miles, who is going to be leading the team?"
"Get a cup of coffee and a handful of donuts and come on in." The old time green beret gone soft suggested. Miles was the planner and logistics expert for Swamp Thing. He probably knew exactly where all the bodies were buried. If the feds over ran the camp, most likely the boss would shoot him.
I had three donuts and two cups of coffee before the strangers joined us. Jason came in with the strangers. He either knew them or didn't want to chat with me. It could have been Miles he was avoiding, but to my knowledge Miles had never tossed his ass from a hotel balcony. In my own defense it was only after he tried to kill me with his beloved world war 2 parachute knife. I had the great pleasure of breaking it's blade, while I dripped blood all over the hotel room.
The hospital in Panama City was so small the same doctor who xrayed Jason also stitched up my thigh. It was all in all one of my more memorable vacations. Most of the time that was our cover. Just a bunch of tourists out drinking and whoring around. The usually held up until the body count got over a half dozen. After that we usually were quietly on our way out of the country. Sometimes with the local government's help but just as often scrambling to find our own way out. The order was find your own way to the extraction point and don't be late.
"Looks like we are all here," Miles said smiling at the assembled I looked around and there were six not five of us. The team leader's name was never on the roster. I never quite understood the logic in that. The leader's name never appeared on the paperwork, but we all knew him by the end of the job. His identity in briefing and paperwork was just a code name.
"The man on my right is Richard." I nodded "Beside him is Eddie, the two of them are the sniper team for this job. Jason, Willie, and Everette," he said pointing to the three of the other operatives. "Will be team security." That mean the muscle and cannon fodder if necessary. Of course after the objective we were all expendable usually.
"The leader for this operation will be code named water rat." We all chuckled. The leader names were always so cornball. "So I will turn this over to Mr. Rat."
The man who stood to address us was definitely european. The cut of his clothing and the look of his shoes gave him away. He was most likely some kind of cold war commando judging from his age. I could guess nothing about the job based on that fact. The Soviets had been all over the world so this guy could easily have special knowledge about almost anywhere or anything.
"I know you all have been kept in the dark, so let me give you a couple of hints," the rat suggested. "If after the hints anyone wishes to leave, that would be the time. Standard rule 7 applies after this morning." Rule 7 was simple after the vague outline, if you stayed, you were in till the very end no exceptions.
"The job is very simple sounding. We go into cuba remove a visiting expert. Extraction is by boat. Not a fancy cruise ship this time Ricky. I'm afraid it is a zodiac."
"You do know I get seasick in rubber boats?" I asked it smiling.
"You will manage, they are still making Dramamine." Miles suggested.
In a very thick eastern European accent Mr Rat said, "The target will be staying at what was once the Cuban version of the Ritz hotel in New York. Soviet Generals and diplomats have stayed there for years. Since the demise of the Empire, the guards are now Cuban." He must have noticed the looks from the foot soldiers because he added. "They are not the revolutionary soldiers from the Vietnam era. They are the soldiers after twenty years of no real military aid from Moscow. Also it is the age of inferiority complexes. There will be very little resistance should the plan disintegrate into an assault."
"The plan is for a clandestine insertion not an assault," Miles quickly added. "The blunt force entry is a last resort"
"But the truth is that it may become necessary. We can not leave without the target. Let's take a break and let you guys get to know each other." Miles made the suggestion. It was the time for each of us to decide whether we were in or out. It wasn't a good mission, but then if it were a good mission Swamp Thing would not be the one with the contract. Swamp Thing took jobs the CIA couldn't. The CIA could not assassinate anyone, but they could pay Swamp Thing to do it, but only if the payment was labeled janitorial services. The boss always said that they could call it macaroni for all he cared, as long as the checks were good. The job as outlined was a simple snatch, not that it would be simple.
"Ricky, I have heard a lot about you," Willie said.
"If it was from Jason, it's all a lie," I laughed.
"The way I hear it you tossed that prick off a balcony. Too bad it wasn't higher," he said.
"I can see we are going to get along fine," I replied. "Anyway that was a long time ago. I have mellowed since then."
"Right," Everette commented. "I hear you do clean jobs. If that is true, then I will be happy to work with you. I am sick of leaving a trail behind."
The trail he meant was collateral damage. "I did my time for the one that went really bad and I learned from it. Killing civilians is bad business." I might as well get it out before someone else did, I thought.
"Plus they don't pay for them," Jason suggested. He had obviously been listening to at least part of the conversation.
"Another good point," I replied. Might as well play nice. Jason was a good man to have on your said and a bad man to have against you. It might come down to the later but no sense rushing it.
There were so many mission launched from the boyscout camp that it make more sense to serve meals. Not only was it easier, it prevented operatives from getting drunk and spilling their guts to stangers in short skirts. From the time of the briefing until the small plane took off, we were confined to the camp. I didn't mind. The food was good and they had a first rate satellite TV package.