When a captured spy reveals the presence of a mole inside Pakistan’s intelligence institution, a race towards time ensues to
When a captured spy reveals the presence of a mole inside Pakistan’s intelligence institution, a race towards time ensues to unearth the double agent. In a world of shadows, the place mendacity is an artwork, will these on the hunt get to the mole in time? Eos presents an unique excerpt from Omar Shahid Hamid’s fifth novel, Betrayal
Jor, close to the Iran/Pakistan border
The ends of the earth. That’s what this place seems like. The sting of the trendy world, a junkyard the place the detritus of a post-industrial society is dumped. The air itself appears infused with diesel fumes. The person wipes the gritty mud from his eyes and rouses himself from the flatbed of the traditional Tata truck. It’s the factor he hates most about this place. The mud, fixed and coarse, that will get into every part. It flavours his meals, it corrodes his gear, and permeates itself into his garments. He’s not unused to mud. In any case, his native Bihar is a dusty place as effectively, however it’s nothing like this. The mud on this desert has a bodily presence, always pushing and prodding, on the lookout for a method in.
The mud isn’t the one factor he hates. After two years, the monotony and isolation of this place is attending to him. The work is boring, consisting of infinite remark of Chabahar port and its surrounding areas. It is a deep cowl impartial task, so there are not any colleagues to share his burden. None of his erstwhile ‘co-workers’ within the delivery firm the place he has been positioned are conscious of his actual job. To them, he’s merely a barely underqualified logistics coordinator who, based on the hearsay mills, has gotten this task as a result of the corporate chairman is a distant relative. He tends to remain away from them, thus additional cementing the idea that he’s a sifarshi with nothing in widespread with the remainder.
He jumps off the truck and circles round to the aspect of the filth observe. The driving force has sat himself down on the bottom and opens a Tupperware container which has a easy breakfast of flatbread and cottage cheese. The driving force seems at him and affords him the container, however he declines. He can’t eat when he’s this tense. Moreover, he hates the meals on this nation. All the things tastes so bland. He longs for his spouse’s cooking, the aloo bhujias and daal with tarrka, with a aspect of do-it-yourself spicy achaar, ready so lovingly by her personal hand. His mouth salivates on the considered it. He hasn’t had achaar for 2 years. He hasn’t even spoken to his spouse for 2 years. Management’s directions. They really feel it could be finest for all involved if his spouse didn’t know his precise whereabouts. Receiving any form of communication would danger blowing his cowl. Management is obsessive about the truth that Chabahar is flooded with Pakistani spies. Due to this fact, his spouse thinks he’s on secondment to a scientific analysis mission, on a ship someplace within the distant recesses of the Indian Ocean. His ex-Navy background blends into that story effectively. As soon as each two months, Management drafts and forwards a message to her from him, assuring her that each one is effectively, alongside along with his wage cost. He himself has grow to be so immersed in his cowl that typically, late at evening, he recites his personal title to himself, simply to ensure he nonetheless remembers it. Rabinder Kumar, Lieutenant Commander, Indian Navy (retired), now with the intelligence service, husband of Shalini and father of two stunning daughters.
It has taken almost three hours to get from Chabahar to Jor on the rickety previous Tata truck. The final hour has been spent on previous nation tracks, to succeed in their present remoted vacation spot in the course of the desert. Huddled within the again, with the wind piercing the tarpaulin cowl and licking the flatbed of the truck, he feels numb with chilly. In January, the complete space is a freezing desert. Kumar has by no means beforehand travelled so removed from Chabahar, however this time, he has been compelled to come back all the best way to the sting of the border. It’s positively a danger, so near Pakistani territory, however, contemplating the character of the message, it’s one he feels is price taking. Moreover, for a change, he has some again up. The driving force is dependable. He has been utilizing him as a courier for the previous yr, ferrying messages and directions to varied belongings in Pakistani Balochistan. The driving force is aware of these again roads effectively and has earned his belief. It might be troublesome for the Pakistanis to attempt something as brazen as an incursion throughout the Iranian border. No, his most important concern is extra about preserving his cowl with the Iranians. Management has knowledgeable him from the start that he’s an unlawful, an undeclared agent in nation. Though there’s a normal understanding with the Iranians that various cowl brokers will likely be deployed within the area as a result of its proximity to Pakistan, if something untoward had been to occur, he is aware of he can be on his personal. No less than for some time, until Management labored the again channels with the Vezarat-e-Ittelat. The Iranians wouldn’t be joyful if something controversial got here to mild in Chabahar.
He drapes the regionally purchased keffiyeh extra tightly round his neck and rubs his fingers collectively for heat. The solar has solely simply began to rise, pushing again the shadows over the panorama just a bit. He seems questioningly in the direction of the driving force, who has completed his breakfast and is placing away the Tupperware container. The driving force nods and factors to the bottom. He was the one who introduced the message throughout yesterday. The contact will meet them right here. However, as the sunshine will increase and the rolling expanse of desert turns into clearer to the attention, he can see no motion for miles round, simply the occasional swirl of mud, dancing within the air.
The driving force approaches him and affords him black tea from a flask. He raises his fingers and factors to his watch. ‘When is he coming Agha?’ His Farsi is simply barely accented after two years.
The driving force shrugs his shoulders and replies ‘He’ll come when he’ll come. Have some tea, it should maintain you heat.’
‘However you’re positive it was him? The Deaf Leopard? He desires to fulfill me himself?’
As soon as each two months, Management drafts and forwards a message to her from him, assuring her that each one is effectively, alongside along with his wage cost. He himself has grow to be so immersed in his cowl that typically late at evening, he recites his personal title to himself, simply to ensure he nonetheless remembers it. Rabinder Kumar, Lieutenant Commander, Indian Navy (retired), now with the intelligence service, husband of Shalini and father of two stunning daughters.
‘That’s the message I used to be given in Taftan.’
In two years, he has run dozens of belongings in Pakistan, sending couriers with messages and cash backwards and forwards, however he has by no means met any of his prices nose to nose. The truth that crucial asset of all has requested for a direct assembly, can solely portend one thing of big significance. It excites him, makes him really feel alive. The monotony of the previous two years is drained out by this second.
Kumar decides he may have that tea in spite of everything. It is going to give him one thing to do and the driving force is correct about one factor, it should maintain him heat. He pours the black tea from the flask into the cup and sighs. They’ll’t even do tea proper over right here. How he longs for the flask cap in his hand to be full of a hearty cup of milky, candy, cardamom-scented combine chai. However he nonetheless raises the cap to his lips and sips deeply.
It takes about thirty seconds for the drug to start out working. He hasn’t totally lowered the flask cap from his lips, when his imaginative and prescient begins to blur, and his legs really feel like jelly. The very last thing that he remembers specializing in is the tea because it falls on the desert sand. The driving force appears to be in no hurry, and waits for a few minutes earlier than going to examine the physique. He checks Kumar’s pulse, the best way he has been taught to do, and as soon as glad that he’s nonetheless alive, picks up the fallen flask prime. Immediately, out of the darkness of the horizon one other man seems, driving a bike. He too checks Kumar for a pulse, after which, with out exchanging a phrase, each males elevate the inert physique on to the flat mattress of the truck. The physique is roofed with a sheet of soiled tarpaulin and the bike can also be fastidiously loaded on to the flatbed. Having worn out all indicators of their presence within the space, each males get into the truck and drive in the direction of the border.
George Mueller shudders as he steps out of the heat of his Ford Explorer into the chilly air. The temperature have to be ten levels beneath, he thinks, as he walks previous mounds of shovelled snow piled subsequent to the dividers within the huge parking zone of CIA headquarters. The straightforward act of strolling to the entrance entrance turns into a lesson in endurance, because the icy wind, undeterred by surrounding buildings, blows onerous throughout the open expanse of the parking zone and cuts into Mueller’s pores and skin like a thousand needles.
Mueller curses to himself as he lastly reaches the heat of the foyer. Headquarters is empty, correctly presently, at one AM on a Sunday, in the course of the worst ice storm to hit the East Coast in 25 years. It’s his personal fault, actually, for having volunteered to be assigned to the Counter Terrorism Centre. He bets the North Korea desk guys are sleeping comfortably of their heat beds. Dictators respect the sanctity of the weekend. It’s solely the jihadis who select Fridays and Saturdays to do loopy shit.
It takes about thirty seconds for the drug to start out working. He hasn’t totally lowered the flask cap from his lips, when his imaginative and prescient begins to blur, and his legs really feel like jelly. The very last thing that he remembers specializing in is the tea because it falls on the desert sand. The driving force appears to be in no hurry, and waits for a few minutes earlier than going to examine the physique.
The skeleton safety crew on the entrance desk appear to sympathise along with his predicament and provide him their commiserations as he rides the elevator as much as the seventh ground. The ground itself is a particularly restricted entry ground however, even by the requirements of the seventh ground, the Counter Terrorism Centre (CTC) stands out for its restrictiveness. It’s primarily a windowless vault, decked with three rows of labor stations and a video wall protecting one complete aspect. Guests are always shocked to search out the CTC to be so small, contemplating it has been the CIA’s most excessive profile unit up to now twenty years, liable for the monitoring and concentrating on of the largest and baddest terrorists. The CTC has been the CIA’s most public face, or no less than the face most ceaselessly portrayed by Hollywood and the media. It’s the unit that a complete technology of officers who got here into service after 9/11, have aspired to affix. However the people at CTC take satisfaction in remaining unique and elite, and decide solely one of the best of one of the best.
George Mueller is considered one of this elite group. Recruited a yr earlier than 9/11, he can’t declare to have been impressed by the assaults on the Twin Towers, however he did volunteer to be one of many first boots on the bottom in Afghanistan. He was chosen as a result of he knew Farsi and Arabic, which was the subsequent neatest thing to realizing Urdu or Pashto, because the CIA on the time had an excessive shortfall of native language linguists. Mueller managed to connect himself with a Northern Alliance faction and had ridden into Kabul with the primary wave of fighters. He moved to Iraq when the conflict started over there and did a full tour in Baghdad. He had additionally managed stints in Jordan and Pakistan, and so turned a pure match for the CTC when he returned to Washington. A extra bold man would have ridden on political coattails to seize a administration place throughout the company. However climbing the greasy pole of the CIA paperwork by no means George Mueller. He enjoys being an analyst, a form of Sherlock Holmesian detective, tracing clues from probably the most obscure particulars, attempting to seek out probably the most harmful males on the planet. He’s the epitome of what the youthful analysts name ‘a Jihadi Junkie’. However it’s this high quality that makes him such a pure for the CTC, as a result of a lot of the analysts listed below are precisely the identical. They wouldn’t be any good at their jobs in the event that they weren’t.
‘Did you get it? Please inform me you bought it?’ Tom Wolfe, a younger analyst who has been with the CTC for the previous yr, and stands out for each his geekiness and his analytical brilliance, seems expectantly on the brown paper luggage that Mueller is carrying. George is keen on the youthful man, and normally enjoys his eccentricities, however finds himself getting irritated by Wolfe’s pleading tone.
‘Jesus Christ, Tom, have you ever been exterior? It’s a fing ice storm, I don’t assume there’s a fing Taco Bell open at one AM between right here and New York. So no, I didn’t get you a plate of sentimental tacos. I acquired you one thing from residence, my spouse’s personal, leftover meatloaf sandwich. And a few espresso.’
‘Oh thank God for espresso. The commissary’s shut and I’ve been consuming that sludge from the merchandising machines for the previous ten hours.’ Wolfe grabs the brown paper luggage and demolishes the meatloaf sandwich in 4 bites, whereas pouring himself a cup of espresso from the flask that Mueller has introduced in. ‘And no, I’ve not been exterior as a result of issues have been getting fairly scorching in right here.’
‘So what’s happening? What’s so essential that you simply dragged my ass off the bed, within the chilly?’ George pours a cup of espresso for himself from the thermos. It’s his personal particular brew, combined with a pinch of salt and a smattering of cinnamon. The primary sip sends a jolt by means of his physique, eliminating the remaining cobwebs in his mind.
George Mueller is considered one of this elite group. Recruited a yr earlier than 9/11, he can’t declare to have been impressed by the assaults on the Twin Towers, however he did volunteer to be one of many first boots on the bottom in Afghanistan. He was chosen as a result of he knew Farsi and Arabic, which was the subsequent neatest thing to realizing Urdu or Pashto, because the CIA on the time had an excessive shortfall of native language linguists.
‘The asset made contact a couple of hours in the past, met him direct within the compound that he had recognized, and confirmed that it’s our buddy. He’s additionally confirmed that he’s on the transfer. We’re monitoring stay and his convoy is nearly to hit the Khost-Paktia freeway.’
‘Why is he transferring so freely? We haven’t heard a peep about him for 11 months, and now he’s driving down the f***ing freeway?’
‘The asset did say there have been rumours of an essential shura assembly within the subsequent few days. This have to be it. That’s the one factor essential sufficient for Mufti Bungalzai to take such a danger.’
‘Was the asset in a position to ship the tracker to the car?’
‘Yeah. He messaged an hour in the past. He was in a position to throw the SIM card at the back of one of many Toyota double cabins.’
‘However how do we all know Bungalzai will trip in that one?’
‘We don’t. His normal safety protocol is that he doesn’t select which car he will get into till the final second. And there are three of them. Solely method to make sure is to take all three out.’
‘What about collateral harm?’
‘Anybody doing a trip together with Mufti Bungulzai ain’t man George. F*** em.’
‘The boss is comfortable with us blowing up the complete convoy? There have to be like, twenty, twenty-five individuals in these automobiles. You known as him?’
‘Yeah, simply earlier than you bought in. He mentioned it’s your name. He says he’ll again you both method. Nobody is aware of Bungalzai higher than you George. So, what’s it gonna be?’
‘You bought eyes on the goal?’
‘Two Reapers within the space, with 4 Hellcat missiles. They’ll be over the goal in…5,4,3,2,1…voila.’
Immediately the video wall on the far finish of the room, that had been operating newsfeeds from around the globe, goes clean, and the feeds are changed with one giant black and white aerial picture of three Toyota pick-ups on a mud street, heading in the direction of a much bigger, metalled street. There are empty crop fields on both aspect of the filth street, the place George assumes the locals should have simply sown the seeds for the poppy crop that will likely be harvested within the spring.
‘How positive are we in regards to the asset?’
‘Come on George, we’ve been by means of this like, 1,000,000 instances. He’s asset. Been working with us for nearly a yr now. The Pakistanis handed him over. He was the one who introduced in intel on Bungalzai after the path had gone chilly. All the things he’s advised us up to now has checked out. He advised us in regards to the compound, he advised us in regards to the shura assembly, he mentioned Bungalzai couldn’t afford to not attend. And now we’ve got a extremely suspicious convoy of three automobiles with armed gunmen leaving the identical compound on the time that the asset mentioned they might. It’s acquired to be Bungalzai, George.’
George Mueller scratches his beard contemplatively. The considered killing such a Excessive Worth Goal excites him. He has been looking Mufti Bungalzai for a really very long time, accumulating any and each scrap of details about him. He’s the worst of the worst, a Taliban commander with a penchant for the macabre, a person who fortunately killed half a dozen American interrogators by detonating a bomb that had been hidden in a captured militant’s anus. What made it much more grisly was that the detainee in query had been his personal nephew. Bungalzai was the person who had not flinched in taking little one hostages from a military faculty in Pakistan and slaughtering them on nationwide tv. Sure, George Mueller thinks, it could be so scrumptious to blow the one-eyed bastard to bits.
‘George, what do you need to do? I’ve acquired the drone pilot on the road. In the event that they hit the freeway, they’ll scramble and we might not get one other likelihood like this one.’
‘Is the asset protected? Or is he travelling with them?’
‘He’s protected. He managed to get away undetected from the compound. He’s heading in the wrong way.’
‘F* * * it. Let’s nail the son of a b* * * *. It’s a go.’
‘Inexperienced mild. I repeat inexperienced mild.’ About thirty seconds after Tom Wolfe utters these phrases into his headset, the video wall exhibits three explosive flashes, and three plumes of smoke stand up from the place the three automobiles was. Tom Wolfe’s plump face breaks into a large self-satisfied grin. ‘Gotcha, m***********.’
‘How lengthy until we get a affirmation of the kill?’
‘Effectively, the asset continues to be within the space, he can stroll throughout and ensure it and message us. We’ll know within the subsequent forty minutes.’
George Mueller takes one other sip from his espresso. ‘Good. Whether it is Bungalzai, give the asset a bonus. It doesn’t harm to pay additional in the event you get a goal as huge as Bungalzai.’
‘Good considering George. Man if that is Bungalzai, then that is my first HVT.’
‘You probably did good, Tom.’
‘Congratulations George. I understand how lengthy you’ve needed this man.’
‘Thanks, however let’s not be hasty. Let’s wait until the affirmation earlier than we begin popping the champagne over right here. Oh and Tom, yet one more crucial factor we have to do as soon as the asset calls it in.’
‘Give a heads as much as the Islamabad station chief. The Paks have had a fair greater h*** on for Bungalzai than we did. Islamabad station can decide up some main brownie factors by letting the Pakistanis know we simply did them an enormous favour. And inform her to ensure to tell their Nationwide Safety Advisor.’
‘Oh yeah, cuz he masterminded the military faculty bloodbath, proper?’
‘Yeah, that too, however Bungalzai was liable for murdering the Nationwide Safety Advisor’s spouse and child. He’s been on the lookout for him even longer than I’ve. He’s gonna need to know.’
The author is a police officer and the writer of a number of internationally celebrated novels. Betrayal is his fifth novel.
He tweets @omarshahid
Printed in Daybreak, EOS, August 1st, 2021