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Authors: Gamal Hennessy

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Smoke and Shadow

BOOK: Smoke and Shadow
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Smoke and Shadow

Gamal Hennessy

 

Smoke and Shadow

A Novel of Covert Warfare

By Gamal Hennessy

 

Dedication

To Alysse:

People could learn a lot from the
fluid strength of our friendship.

Definition

Operator
(noun): a soldier trained
to perform unconventional missions, including covert operations,
hostage rescue, intelligence operations, and the hunting of high
value targets

Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated
Terms

 

Prologue: Unfair
Fighting

 

Summer 2014

 

Nikki admired the two operators
waging war down on the beach.

Their fight
struck her as graceful with brutal intentions, cunning with primal
simplicity, and playful with lethal consequences. The scene made
her think of wolf or tiger cubs in the wild, acting out playful
kills on each other in preparation for a real hunt. But Harrison
Trent and Hamilton Chu didn

t practice to kill innocent animals.
They hunted soldiers, terrorists, and other men who made violence
their profession.

Chu and Trent
manipulated the environment to increase the difficulty of their
training. While Nikki sat on the balcony of
Baker

s luxury
suite, sipping white rum cocktails and basking in the afternoon
sun, Chu and Trent struggled knee deep in the rolling surf. In one
moment, waves knocked them off balance. In the next second, the sea
sucked the ground out beneath them. The sun threw blinding rays and
sweat into their eyes. The tropical heat tanning
Nikki

s skin baked
the men, and made their exertion painful to even imagine. But they
didn

t shy away
from the harsh conditions. Nikki watched them thrive in
it.

She
didn

t know much
about martial arts or any kind of fighting. She knew the difference
between boxing and MMA. She had an idea of what karate looked like
relative to judo. She knew hundreds of fighting styles evolved from
various parts of the world, but she had no training or experience
in any of them. Nikki faced violence more than once in her life.
False friends and angry lovers often felt the need to threaten her
with Tasers, guns or other tools of malicious intent. Nikki saw it
as an occupational hazard, but she still didn

t have the same comfort and command
of brutality as Chu and Trent.

The moves they
employed didn

t
appear to fit any specific pattern or style she could recognize.
They used their hands, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and heads to
attack and defend. They grappled, pushed and pulled each other
trying to gain an advantage. They attacked each
other

s limbs,
heads, bodies, and throats from the front, back and the sides. Even
the ocean became a weapon for them. A new wave might be used to
choke and drown an opponent underwater. Lost balance provided an
opening for a throw into the wet sand. Anything and everything
became a weapon for these two.

But Nikki sensed
something else in their chaos. Every movement contained a measure
of control. Every strike, trip and throw revealed one
man

s momentary
advantage and the other

s vulnerability. But the blows didn

t do permanent damage. There was
fierceness in their combat. At the same time, Nikki saw friendly
encouragement between them. They didn

t spar to wear each other down. They
tried to raise each other up. Nikki felt herself smiling at their
violent expression of affection. Nikki thought she could sit and
watch the men struggle for hours.


Isn

t that
the stupidest thing you

ve ever seen?

Nikki looked up from her reverie to
see Rose Mendoza slide into the lounge chair next to her. The
operations manager of RSVP wore a vivid dress of sea foam green. It
highlighted the rich color of her curly blonde hair, but her
vacation image did nothing to improve her disposition. Nikki
glanced back at the two men, forcing herself to engage the hostile
woman without being defensive.


What do you
mean? They look like they know what they

re
doing.


What
they

re doing is a
waste of time and energy.

Rose bent down to pull off her heels. Her grimace
of pain in her movement made her look even more
disagreeable.

Our
business is intelligence. We gather and analyze facts for our
clients. That business requires skills those two
don

t possess. We
need thinkers, not fighters.


I have to
disagree with you on two levels, Ms. Mendoza.

Warren
Baker

s voice
washed over their conversation with a smooth baritone in harmony
with the laid back setting. Nikki turned to see him leaning on the
door frame with a grace that ignored his injured leg and summer
cane of blond rattan. He rolled up the sleeves of his crisp white
shirt, admiring Ria Marlen

s ass as the small woman slipped
past him and onto the terrace. He spoke without taking his eyes off
his lover

s
body.


First, our
business includes taking advantage of actionable intelligence for
the benefit of our clients and their causes. We need Smoke and
Shadow to do things other people can

t or won

t do. Second, those boys
aren

t fighters.
They really don

t
know the first thing about fighting.


They look like
fighters to me.

Ria plopped down in a chair next to Nikki, stuffing a lime
wedge into her bottle of Corona and not bothering to toast with
Nikki before she took a sip.

I certainly
wouldn

t want to
face them in the ring.

Warren took his
time crossing the open space. His cane struck the hardwood deck
with a slow even rhythm. The glass of whiskey in his other hand
dripped with condensation.

You could face either one of those
guys in a regulation match and win every time. It would probably
take you less than thirty seconds to do it.

Nikki struggled
to understand. The words didn

t match what she saw.

What do you
mean?


No matter what
fighting sport you put them in, those two jokers would be
disqualified before the first round was over. Their technique
doesn

t adapt to
rules. That

s not
how their brains work.


What

s the
difference?

Rose
shot up from her chair and stormed towards the bar.

A fight is a fight. We
could get a dozen guys from any boxing gym and teach them to do the
same moves in a couple weeks. It

s not that
serious.


The difference
lies in application and mentality.

Warren didn

t sit. He leaned against the
railing, looking down at the fight with a swell in his chest Nikki
associated with pride.

Men fight as a form of social positioning, especially in
combative sports. The goal is to display skill, establish dominance
and earn the respect of their peers. Winning those games requires
conforming to the rules and mastering them. Those two
can

t do any of
that shit because they don

t conform to any
rules.

Rose turned her back on all of
them, pretending not to hear him as she mixed her drink. Ria let
the awkward silence hang in the air while she sipped her beer.
Nikki took it upon herself to keep the conversation
going.


Did you teach
them how to do that?

Warren shook his
head without looking away from the men.

No. Shadow spent two tours with a
recon division in the Marine Corps Special Operations Command.
Smoke worked as a close protection and counterterrorism agent for
the Diplomatic Security Service.


And both those
units taught them the same kind of fighting?


Yes and no.
Both of them received formal combat training, but most of what they
do now they stole and adapted from other systems. Chu spent some
time learning Filipino boxing and JKD during his time in Manila.
Trent studied more informal stuff like taijutsu and parkour. Once
we started working together in the private sector, we stole each
other

s moves and
made it a part of our overall tradecraft.


I bet
you

d love to be
out there with them.

Rose sat back down with an abusive grin on her face. Nikki
understood the insult behind the bland statement. They all did.
Warren didn

t have
the option of training with his friends. The injury to his leg made
it impossible for him to run or even walk without his cane. Combat
with those two men would never be an option again. Nikki considered
throwing her drink in Rose

s face as payback for the insult,
but Warren took the sting out of her attack.


Now why would I
want to be rolling around in the ocean with those two knuckleheads
when I could be spending an afternoon with you lovely
ladies?

Warren

s
words dripped with relaxed charm, but Nikki could see the anguish
in his gaze. He stared down at the two men fighting in the surf
like a dream he could never attain.

Ria banged her
empty bottle on the table either to get everyone

s attention or to frighten
Rose.

So what the
hell did you boys do together when you weren

t playing Enter the
Dragon?


We served in a
fire team called Nightwatch. Officially, we were a Tactical
Response Team tasked with both the investigation and acquisition of
select persons of interest.


What does that
mean?

Nikki tried
not to sound naive, but the military doublespeak made her head
swim.


It means that
they were a rendition squad.

Rose still soaked her words with acid, but
Ria

s unsubtle
gesture made the bite less severe.

They were tasked to find, fix and
finish targets of the administration either by shipping them off to
secret prisons or burying them in unmarked
graves.

For the first
time in the conversation, Warren looked over his shoulder at them.
For the first time since Nikki met the smooth intelligence officer,
he made her limbs shake and her breath stop. Baker
didn

t say
anything to deny Rose

s accusation, and the menacing look in his eyes told Nikki he
could be just as cruel and just as violent as all those men who
came after her with guns and Tasers.

BOOK: Smoke and Shadow
12.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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