By David R. Stookey
Copyright 2016 David R. Stookey
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Phillips leaned against the rock wall, shielding a cigarette from the icy blast of wind with both hands. From his secluded vantage point he had a clear view of the only trail through the pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan for miles in both directions. He could not say precisely where the border between the two countries ran, and he really didn’t care.
Krauss, the other CIA operative, stood quietly behind him. A Special Ops team of eight uniformed soldiers had blended themselves into nearby rock features, awaiting the signal from Phillips. If their intel checked out, they had positioned themselves to directly intercept about twenty insurgents crossing back from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
Phillips and Krauss had spent many long hours in similar circumstances over the last several years, but this past few weeks marked a significant change in their overall strategy. Walt MacEndroe, their boss, had been working on this new idea for nearly a year.
“When faced with a multiple adversary scenario,” MacEndroe advised, “don’t directly engage all of your enemies at once. That unifies them against you. If they can effectively collaborate; you’re done for. Whenever possible, get your enemies to fight with each other instead of with you. That’s how we’re going to win this thing.”
As he finished his cigarette, Phillips had to admit the new strategy seemed to be working pretty damn well. They would hit a patrolling insurgent squad hard, leaving no survivors. They’d leave the bodies and carefully plant evidence that indicated the attack was carried out by fellow Jihadists from a rival faction. A day or so later they would leak an untraceable “credit claim” for the attack by this same faction to a Jihadist website. A week or so after that, they would strike another faction and claim responsibility by yet another Jihadist group. MacEndroe predicted that by the end of the month the various insurgent factions would be at each other’s throats.
“That’s where we want ‘em,” MacEndroe had said as they finished their conference call early this morning. “Sapping each other’s strength and resources while we conserve our own. I call it ‘Punch and Parry.’ Why fight a battle yourself when you can have someone else fight it for you? Right out of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War,’ eh Phillips?”
Phillips couldn’t believe MacEndroe had the balls to gloat so openly in front of him. He had approached MacEndroe with the original concept for this very strategy over a year ago himself. This new approach had already earned his boss a stateside slot and a promotion, and Phillips didn’t get so much as a footnote of credit. MacEndroe now called the shots from his cozy office in Langley, Virginia, and went home to his wife and kids every night. Phillips had just as many years in, but remained stuck in this craphole of a country freezing his ass off and getting shot at. The thrill of field work had lost a great deal of its appeal over the last few years, especially since he now had a wife and kid of his own.
He lifted his binoculars and scanned the pass and the trail for movement, but saw none. The sniper high and to his right confirmed the all quiet signal. Phillips snorted with impatience. If this turned out to be another bad intel call…
His thoughts turned back again to MacEndroe. It seemed like solid field work didn’t really count for much anymore. The only way to get ahead in the company these days was to develop your own successful policy for furthering the cause or saving money. He probably should have made a bigger stink about his boss taking credit for his idea, but that could’ve easily backfired, too. After all, he could really put the brakes on any stateside plans Phillips had, promotion or otherwise, with a simple stroke of the pen. MacEndroe certainly wouldn’t tolerate any of his subordinates making a move for his job.
To be perfectly honest, Phillips had to admit that he’d stolen an idea or two over the years himself. Most notably, the one that just might win him a ticket home was his “Stinger with a Sting” counter-scam. Phillips had just proposed a clever solution to a potentially messy problem. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and a virtual buffet of stolen weapons available across the Middle East, a number of shoulder launch surface-to-air “Stinger” missiles had fallen into the possession of several terrorist organizations. Anyone could foresee the nightmarish possibilities. Once in position near any airport, even a civilian with almost no training could take out one or more commercial aircraft with very little risk of detection. No one in the company had come up with a practical solution for recovering or destroying these missiles.
Phillips suggested that they release several booby-trapped Stingers into the black market through nested contacts. These “Stingers” would look and feel like the real thing, even to an expert, but would explode on launch. As word of these temperamental Stingers got around, usage of the “real” Stingers should drop off sharply.
“Even Jihadist martyrs don’t want to die for nothing,” he had explained.
He looked back at Krauss, arms crossed on his chest and shivering. The one thing that Phillips had not explained when he pitched the idea was that the “Stinger with a Sting” scam had actually been conceived by Krauss. Despite the fact that MacEndroe had shamelessly stolen from him, he did feel genuine remorse for taking Krauss’ idea. After all, he and Krauss had known each other since Operations training at Langley. They’d trained together and often ran field ops together, especially these last few months. In fact, Phillips had almost conceded to pitch the Stinger idea as coming from both him and Krauss, but he worried that sharing the credit might dilute the glory too much to profit either of them.
Phillips glanced again at Krauss, noticing for the first time that he had switched his standard issue Beretta sidearm for a Glock. All the Special Ops guys had Glocks. Pulling off the illusion of the fake Jihad hit required using the correct weapons and ammo. If any of the dead insurgents turned up with US bullets in them, they’d compromise the whole ‘Punch and Parry’ scam. Technically, he and Krauss were only advisors, so they really didn’t participate in much of the shooting. The equipment these Ops guys used nowadays would knock out most of the targets before they could even see them, so he and Krauss hadn’t bothered to switch weapons. That is, until now. Maybe ol’ Krauss just wanted to feel more like part of the Special Ops team.
The sniper from the outcrop above them clicked his rifle stock twice against the rock, jarring him from his thoughts. Phillips snapped up his binoculars and scanned the pass. He could make out the heads of two insurgents bobbing their way along the trail. The lead man casually scanned the rock walls, but the second man just plodded happily along. Neither appeared overly watchful. This should be a turkey shoot. One by one, about a dozen more targets followed the first two along the trail. Faint laughter echoed up the trail towards the Ops team.
He signaled the lead sniper and turned to Krauss. “Looks like they’re finally h—“
Krauss had pulled his Glock and had it leveled at Phillip’s head. Just as the Ops team engaged with their first volley of shots, Krauss shot Phillips in the neck. He fell against the rock wall, utterly shocked. He tried to move his arm to reach for his Beretta, but Krauss pinned it with his boot in less than a second.
“Hey Phil,” spat Krauss bitterly in his face. “MacEndroe told me you pitched a really shit hot scam. Something about stinger missiles? Yeah.”
“Krauss,” he choked. “Listen, I know it was yours. I just really need to get stateside. I’d do anything! It’s MacEndroe. The fat bastard stole my own scam and cut me out.”
“Yeah, I’m real sorry to hear about how he screwed you, Phil. In fact, he told me you’d say something like that. Like it justifies what you did to me. You think I don’t want to get out of here, too? You think you’re the only goddam guy that wants to go home?”
Phillips turned his head to see if any of the Special Ops guys could see them. They were all deeply engaged in selecting secondary targets.
Krauss snorted, realizing what Phillips was thinking. “Don’t you worry about me, buddy. It’ll look like you just took a stray shot from one of the ragheads in the pass. We’ll all be real sorry, but it happens, you know?”
Phillips coughed up blood and glared at Krauss.
“One last thing. MacEndroe wanted me to tell you something.”
“What?” Phillips sputtered as blood ran through his fingers.
Krauss raised his Glock for one last shot. “Punch and Parry, Buddy. Punch and Parry.”
Other titles by David R. Stookey
Bad at Math
The Helpful Neighbor
The Last Survivor
Dead Man’s Shoes
A Curse Eternal – The Tragic Account of the Flying Dutchman
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