Code Name Tequila Ch. 21

Amateur

The truck died after five hours of driving down the rutted dirt tracks and muddy river beds of the Colombian jungle. Chambers pushed the truck into the ditch at the side of the road and covered it with branches and foliage from the brush at the side of the road, and then Alma, April, May and Chambers started walking.

“Any idea where the nearest town is,” Chambers asked Alma.

She shook her head. “When I was brought in to the camp, I was in the back of a truck covered by canvas. It was a very long drive, but I couldn’t see out so I don’t know if there were any towns along the way.”

Chambers turned around and put his hands on his hips. “Well, at least it appears that we haven’t been followed,” he said. They had driven the truck off the main road and onto a secondary path as soon as possible, and had been zig-zagging they way through the Colombian jungle since. While in some places the tracks from the truck would be fresh, there were other hard, dusty junctions where any one pursuing them would be at a loss to figure out which way they might have gone.

The four continued walking, trudging through the humid and dense rain forest for another four hours before coming to a small village on a slow-flowing river just as night was falling. The village was composed of only five small houses on stilts, their only source of power a diesel generator run sparingly. The village was comprised of four families, each living in one of the huts, with the fifth hut used as a shared kitchen and mess hall.

As the women treated themselves to a hot water, gravity fed shower, Chambers sat down and spoke to one of the men. The man was named Brendano, and he explained that the families lived here for part of the year, harvesting Brazil nuts from the pristine jungle, piling up the nuts and taking them down river to sell.

“Why don’t they farm Brazil nuts?” Chambers asked.

“They grow best in the wild. They need the other trees and insects of the forest to pollinate correctly,” Brendano explained. “It is a tough living for half the year, but the other half we can live off the proceeds of our labours.”

Chambers nodded and smiled. “Well, my friends and I shall not stay long in your village. Do you have a radio or mobile phone?”

Brendano shook his head. “No, nothing long range. However, about 5 hours downstream there is a larger town with telephones. I was planning to go into town two days from now, but could head into town tomorrow instead, and take you and your friends there.”

Chambers raised his hands and shook his head. “No, no, sir. Please, I can’t impose on you like that. I am sure we can find a way to get ourselves there.”

Brendano laughed. “Please, don’t be silly. It would take you days overland. The river is the best method, and unless you have a boat, you will need to rely on me, I think.”

Chambers sheepishly grinned. He knew Brendano was right, so he relented. “Alright, but at least let me reimburse you for your petrol and your trouble.”

Brendano smiled. “The cost of petrol I will accept, but no more. We don’t get many visitors to our part of the forest, so it is our honour to have you hear.”

The families in the village were more than hospitable to their visitors, feeding them an excellent meal and giving them two rooms to use for the night – one for the three girls and one for Chambers. The next morning, Brendano, the three girls and Chambers headed down river in the smaller of the two boats in the village, the larger boat being the holding area for the harvest of Brazil nuts.

After almost six hours of puttering downstream, the boat pulled into a small town, no more than 2 dusty blocks by 2 dusty blocks, in a small clearing beside the river. After a long goodbye with Brendano, Chambers followed Brendano’s instructions to the building which held the post office, police station, internet cafe and pay phones.

Chambers punched in his CIA issued American Express number, and then an American phone number.

“Anglo’s Butchers,” a voice said in English

“Arthur Millington, please?” Chambers asked.

There was a click on the line, and then the familiar instruction to “Code in.”

“Brown Bear, seven-six-five-one-one,” Chambers said.

“Hold, please,” the voice on the other end of the line said. There was a moment of silence.

“Brown bear?” the question came through Chambers’ ear piece. Chambers recognised the voice right away as Black Oak. “We hadn’t heard from you in five days. We were beginning to suspect we might not hear from you again.”

“I’m heartier than that,” Chambers said with a slight chuckle in his voice. No reaction from the other end of the line, so Chambers continued. “I am with two others you might not heard from in a while. Flowers and Showers are with me,” Chambers said, using the code names from April and May.

“Everyone is all right?” Black Oak asked.

“Yes, everyone is fine,” Chambers reported. “I don’t want to say too much, as I am in a somewhat public bağdatcaddesi escort setting,” Chambers continued, looking suspiciously at the wooden, closet-sized booth where the phone was, “however, myself, Flowers and Showers were doing a little camping with a well-known doctor and some friends of his in the jungle. They had taken possession of the shipment that we had discussed from Chile.”

Black Oak knew that the shipment from Chile was the guns Chambers was tracking, and that the Doctor was Patterson, who April and May were tracking. “The well known Doctor made his way to Santiago after leaving your camp, it would seem. He had a little accident involving an eagle, and unfortunately he has passed on,” Black Oak replied. Chambers’ eyes opened wide in surprise. Dr. Patterson was dead.

“How unfortunate,” Chambers said. “I can’t help but feel that I might be responsible, as I broke the shipment from Chile,” communicating that he had destroyed the weapons shipment.

“The shipment was broken. How badly?”

“Well beyond repair,” Chambers said.

“Yes, that might have caused some concern among the Doctor’s friends. It was a very expensive shipment,” Black Oak agreed. “If you have had enough of camping, why don’t you come and join me and some friends at a party in Cartagena. I’ll be there, along with some friends coming up from Chile. There will be tequila on tap.”

Chambers face lit up and his heart skipped a beat. “Tequila? There will be tequila there?”

Black Oak responded, “Yes. Why don’t you give me a call when you get to Cartagena, and we can discuss our plans in more detail. Have a good-day, Black Bear.”

The line went dead before Chambers could respond. He hung up the phone, and leaned back in the phone booth. Tequila. That of course was a reference to Ria. The thought made Chambers smile.

* *

Chambers was able to charter a small plane to fly them Bucaramanga, and from there seats on a scheduled service to Cartagena. They arrived in the late evening. Upon arrival they were met by “officials” from the US Embassy, who separated them and took Chambers, April and May through an intense debriefing session in separate rooms in Sofitel Santa Clara. After many hours of intense questioning and re-questioning, the three were allowed to go to sleep.

The next morning, after breakfast delivered to their rooms, Chambers, April and May were re-united, brought into a conference room in the hotel. Jarvis Cleethorpe, CIA Analyst was already in the room.

“Chambers, Juarez, Cho. So good to see you all,” Cleethorpe said, standing from his seat. “Please, take a seat. The others will be along shortly. Feel free to speak openly. The room has been swept, and is clean of any listening devices.”

The three agents took their seats. “Where is Alma?” Chambers asked.

“The girl who came with you? She is upstairs, enjoying a nice stay at the Sofitel courtesy of the American taxpayer. A situation that my budget won’t allow for much longer, so we will need to make a decision what to do with her,” Cleethorpe said.

“She saved our lives, Cleethorpe,” Chambers said in a snarl. “The only thing that is going to happen to her is she is released with the thanks of the USA government and a reward.”

Cleethorpe opened his eyes wide with surprise. “Chambers, please, you insult me. I wouldn’t suggest anything less. We just need to decide the best path to achieve her release. We can discuss it in more detail once the Colombians arrive.”

Chambers raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Cleethorpe never got a chance to answer, though, as just then the door swung open and Black Oak entered, followed by a man who Chambers didn’t recognise. Black Oak and the man sat across from Chambers, April and May, beside Cleethorpe.

“Are we ready,” Black Oak asked.

“No, just waiting for Beltran and Ortega,” Cleethorpe said.

Black Oak let out an audible sigh and put his fingers to his temple. The man who had entered with him just sat silently. Cleethorpe buried his face in a stack of papers in front of him, while Chambers, April and May looked at each other with confused looks.

Finally, after a minute of waiting in silence, which felt like an hour, the door opened and in walked the final two attendees of the meeting. Chambers smiled as he saw them walk in. Marisa he recognised from the file on the “Cabo Blanco Ambassadors” that he had reviewed before originally being dispatched to Santiago.

He just gave Marisa a passing glance, though, for it was Ria that caught his attention immediately. She was as pretty as ever, even though the sides of her mouth were cast down and her eyelids seemed heavy over her eyes. Chambers watched her from the moment she walked in, but it was a second before Ria glanced up to see Chambers. Her eyes widened and her lip turned up just on the left the side of her face.

Chambers nodded and mouthed “hello.” Ria’s smile widened, not to a beam, but at least showing some joy beykoz escort on her face. Chambers thought of standing up to greet her, but before he had the opportunity, Black Oak started to speak, bringing the meeting to order.

“All right, now we are all here, let’s begin. First with introductions,” he said, starting with himself and working clock-wise around the table. “You all know me, save perhaps Ms. Beltran. I am Black Oak, the director in charge of the Aguila Roja investigation at the Central Intelligence Agency. To my left is Jarvis Cleethorpe, lead analyst on the investigation. Across the table from me are agents Juarez, Chambers and Cho, who have been following various leads related to the investigation, and have most recently come from a militia camp on the border between Venezuela and Colombia. To their left is Ria Ortega, who is a special agent with the CIA, embedded with the Cabo Blanco racing team. Beside her is Marisa Beltran, agent with DISIP – the Venezuelan security forces. Finally, beside me is Alvaro Gomez from Colombia’s DAS.”

Black Oak and Gomez than gave the entire table a synopsis of what the various threads and investigations had uncovered, as well as the general state of affairs as it stood. The militia camp from where Chambers, April and May had escaped appeared to be one of many camps hidden in the dense jungles and rain forests along the borders of Colombia and Venezuela. The militias, a strange mixture of left-wing communist rebels and right-wing fascists, were preparing to launch simultaneous attacks on Colombian drug farms and Venezuelan oil fields, under the guidance of Aguila Roja. The two unlikely groups had lined up behind the Aguila Roja at the promise of ejecting the present governments and US interests in favour of splitting control of the region – giving parts of Colombia over to the leftists while delivering Venezuela into the hands of the right-wingers.

Thanks to the work that Ria and Carlos undertook in following and questioning Andre Fernandez, Black Oak was able to provide information on the proposed attack on Panama. In Peru, a small armada of gunboats had been commissioned and was now ready to launch an attack on the Panama Canal. Aerial reconnaissance showed the boats in the water and working their way towards the Panama City entrance to the canal. While there is no firm intelligence, Panama and Colombia both believe that any waterborne attack would be accompanied by a land based attack, coming up from the south.

Meanwhile, the Pan-Am racing series was preparing to decamp from Santiago and make its way up to Cartagena. Luis Tabernas, Andre Fernandez and Dr. Hugh Patterson, all suspected of being part of the close inner circle of the Aguila Roja, were now dead. That really only left one prime suspect – Rodrigo Tabernas.

After the long summary, Black Oak took a deep breath and looked around the table. “Now, obviously we are crossing a lot of borders here and have multiple agencies involved. I have spoken with directors at DAS and DISIP as well as contacts within security agencies within Panama and Peru and we have all agreed to have a co-ordinated, cross-agency approach to dealing with this threat. The response will be led by myself, but I am working in close contact with all the agencies to ensure that we have backing from each government.”

Black Oak frowned. “I don’t need to tell you that this is a very tenuous alliance we have here. Colombia and Venezuela don’t generally agree on much. However, due to the seriousness of the threat from Aguila Roja, we have a small window to combine our knowledge and actions to work together.”

Black Oak looked around, and seeing everyone nodding, continued. “April and May, I want you to go back into the jungle and find Clemente. We need to get him to either give up the fight, or either we need to find out from him the movements of all the jungle units so we can prepare an adequate response. You’ll be working with Marisa, as Venezuela is most concerned about stopping any attacks on the oil fields.”

Black Oak looked at Chambers, and then at Ria. “Chambers, Ria, I want you to head up Panama. Our intelligence says that Tabernas is heading towards Panama, no doubt to oversee the attack on the canal. You need to find him and stop him. You’ll take Mr. Gomez with you,” Black Oak said, gesturing towards Alvaro Gomez beside him.

“Mr. Cleethorpe will give further details once we wrap up here. Any other questions?” Black Oak finished.

Chambers spoke up first. “What about Alma?”

Black Oak looked confused. “Who is Alma?”

Chambers sighed. “The girl who saved Cho, Juarez and me. I want to make sure she is taken care of, allowed to go free and given a reward for the brave act she undertook.”

Alvaro Gomez spoke up at this point, “Yes, we will take care of her. In speaking with her, it appears she has no valid ID, it being taken when she was sold to the militia camp. We will get her some valid ID, as well as fifty million pesos, which caddebostan escort is about twenty-five thousand American dollars. I know a good career counsellor as well, who can help her determine what schooling or working she can undertake. Does that meet your needs?”

Chambers nodded.

Black Oak looked around the table. “Any other questions?”

Ria spoke up this time. “What about Emma?”

Black Oak audibly sighed. “Who is Emma?”

“Emma is the American girl who is the other Cabo Blanco Ambassador. Things are getting much too dangerous here, and she is a sweet girl. Can we make sure she is repatriated to the states?”

Black Oak nodded. “Fine, fine. We’ll get her a ticket to the states. Is there anyone else we need to give ID, money and flights to, or can we stop being game show prize announcers and get on with saving the world.”

The table was silent as Black Oak scanned it. “Good,” he said. “Let’s get at it, then.”

Everyone stood. Cleethorpe scanned the table and said, “Thanks everyone. We have the rest of the conference rooms on this floor to work in. Ms. Beltran, April and May, why don’t you go into room B, and I’ll join you in a few moments. Chambers, Ria and Mr. Gomez, you can take a break for 45 minutes, and then I’ll join you in room C.”

The room emptied, leaving just Cleethorpe and Black Oak standing alone in the room. Cleethorpe watched the door slowly close, waiting for it to latch shut. The heavy door closed shut, Cleethorpe turned to Black Oak. “Are you sure you know what you are doing, sir?” he asked. “It is a dangerous game to say that you have full co-operation from other intelligence agencies when that co-operation is…” Cleethorpe paused.

“You can say it, Jarvis. The co-operation is non-existent,” Black Oak said. “I have enough pull with a few middle-level spooks within the other agencies to get some of their staff and intelligence, but if things go poorly, I know that its my ass hanging out on a limb. Some things are worth it, Jarvis.”

Cleethorpe nodded, and left the room. Black Oak stood at the window looking out at the Pacific Ocean lapping against the shore. “Some things are worth it,” Black Oak said to himself. “I just hope this is one of those things.”

* *

Chambers waited in the hallway as Ria spoke to Marisa. After a few moments, Marisa left, making her way to the conference room, leaving Ria standing alone in the corridor. Chambers approached her.

“Hey,” Chambers said.

“Hey,” Ria said, looking up and smiling at Chambers. “I’m glad to hear that you are safe.”

“Really,” Chambers said. “Were you worried about me, Ria?”

Ria chuckled. “Well, without me around to take care of you, sometimes I worry you’ll fall pray to every young, pretty girl that comes along.”

Chambers blushed as Alma flashed in his mind. He wondered how much Ria knew about that incident. He decided to change the subject. “Sounds like you were able to get some good intelligence on the attack on Panama. As your former trainer, I’d like to say I’m quite proud of you,” he said.

Ria looked down. “It came at an awful cost, Robert,” she said softly.

Chambers cringed and his face whitened. “Carlos Sanz. You were close to him?” he asked, his voice breaking slightly.

Ria looked down the corridor away from Chambers, silent. Chambers put his hand gently on her shoulder, and turned her towards him. Ria looked up at Chambers, and he could see her eyes filling. Chambers put his arms around her and pulled her close. He felt her body start to heave in his arms as she sobbed silently into his chest. Chambers held her tightly until her last tear had fallen, and then he released her.

Ria wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry our reunion wasn’t a happier one,” she said.

Chambers swiped at the air. “Ah, don’t worry about, most women break out in tears when they see me again,” he said. Ria laughed, her face breaking out into a smile. “It’s nice to see you smile,” Chambers said.

“Seeing you again makes me smile,” she said.

Chambers hugged her again. “Tell you what, after we finish our briefing, why don’t we grab some lunch. No talk of work, no talk of the Aguila Roja. No spy talk at all. We’ll just sit down and chat like normal people. What do you say?”

Ria nodded. “Yeah, that sounds great.”

* *

Chambers had arranged a table on a patio overlooking the beach and the Pacific Ocean on a peninsula of land to the north of the city. It was a sunny and warm day, with just a hint of a cool breeze coming off the ocean. After placing their orders with the waiter and receiving their drinks, Ria and Chambers settled into a comfortable silence, watching the ocean lap against the sandy beach.

Finally Chambers broke the silence. “What are you thinking about?” he asked Ria.

Ria smiled. “I was thinking of another meal I had overlooking the Pacific Ocean, though this one was in Panama and was at night.”

“When was that?” Chambers asked.

Ria cocked her head and raised her eyebrows. “God, it feels so long ago, but it was.. umm… 11 days ago. Can that be right? Yes, it is. Eleven days ago I was in Panama with Carlos. It was the night before we followed Fernandez to the Miraflores Lock. Wow, so much has happened since then.”

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