Chapter 1 – He’s dead
La Isla de Aquinas – Chapter 1
“Try to see it my way…” I say to Jack, who’s looking doubtful at me, “I want to do something more with my life. Maybe I’ll…”
I’m interrupted by Kevin shouting at us from the comms tent, holding up the satellite phone, and waving at me. I look at Jack, who just nods, and I hurry over to the tent.
“Hello?” I ask curiously after I take the phone from Kevin.
“You’re mister Scott Harris, correct?” the voice on the other side of the line informs.
“Yes. Yes, I am,” I say, fearing what will come after hearing the formal voice on the other side of the line.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” he says, and after a short pause, “I’m sad to inform you that Mr. Taylor passed away this morning.”
It’s as if time stands still, and I feel like someone kicks me in my stomach. Glenn dead? But how? And what about Audrey? And, what happened? It takes me a few moments, and as I steady myself against the table, I regain my senses.
“Mr. Harris?” the voice says calmly.
“Yeah… sorry… I’m here. It’s just that… I didn’t expect this.”
“I understand. Mr. Taylor died this morning because of heart and lung failure. He was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer just last week. I’m sorry for your loss, Mr. Harris.”
“Thank you. I’m… why didn’t he let me know he was sick?” I hear myself ask, knowing perfectly well that the person on the other end won’t or can’t tell me this, but there were just too many questions popping up in my head.
“I don’t know, Mr. Harris. But it all happened very quickly, that much I know. But… em… the main reason I’m calling you is because of the last will of Mr. Taylor. And, of course, about his daughter Audrey. Are you available to come to my office to take over the testament and settle some urgent matters?”
“I’m currently abroad, but I think I can arrange something for tomorrow afternoon. Is that an option for you?”
“Of course, Mr. Harris. Does four p.m. suit you?” he asks politely.
“I think I can manage that, yes,” I say, a bit blown away by it all.
The man gives me the address and extends his condolences again. I thank him, hang up the phone, and sit down on the nearest chair.
“Bad news?” I hear Jack ask.
“Yeah. Glenn died this morning. I need to get back to the states.”
“Fuck! That’s bad. I’m sorry, man,” he says and puts his hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah. Me too,” I say, fighting to hold back my tears. The last thing I want is to cry in front of the guys.
“Well, the job’s done here anyways. So that won’t be a problem. I’m sure if I ask Mike, he’ll fly you back to the mainland immediately,” Jack says, his hand still on my shoulder.
“Thanks. Appreciate it. You know I’m getting out now, right?” I say softly.
“I know. And we’ll see. It’s been long enough here anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much now. So you get your stuff, and I’ll go ask Mike.”
I watch Jack leave the tent we’re currently sitting in. Right now, we’re in the middle of the jungle, searching for a wanted drug lord and rebel leader. This is our fifteenth consecutive job on this island I have come to love so much.
We’re at a reasonably sized island in the Caribbean called Isla de Aquinas. With its location a bit north of Colombia and east of Nicaragua, the climate is fantastic. But geopolitically, it’s a nightmare. So that’s the main reason my group and me have been here on and off for five years in a row, doing all sorts of covert operations for different reasons and different parties.
We’re currently at a small camp owned by the Colombian army. Our job is to eliminate the drug lord during his inspection of the production fields. These drugs are supposed to fund his campaign against the current, Colombian-oriented leader. Combined with Nicaraguan funds, this drug money would give him a serious chance to overthrow the current leader. Several mighty people didn’t want that to happen, so they called us.
We planned this job for over a month, and we spent more than a week in the jungle. So staying in some form of civilization now is nice, but getting this news by satellite phone sure as hell isn’t.
After high school, I joined the army. I didn’t do it just to please my dad. No. I aimed for the elite forces because I wanted to do all sorts of crazy shit all over the world and be damn good at it. THAT was what I wanted to do and eventually ended up doing.
I’ve done all sorts of crazy missions with our small but close crew. We’re the guys they call when it needs to be done, preferably without anyone knowing. And they almost always deny our presence and existence. This is fine with me. I get to do what I like best, and the pay is more than excellent.
But lately, after another covert operation in another jungle and another briefing by yet another bloated suited guy, I felt tired and fed-up. I wanted to do something more with my life. My entire life, I never really grounded anywhere. And after all this time, I want a place for my own to call home. Despite the fantastic teammates I work with, I have had it with being alone.
Between missions, I always visited Glenn as much as I could. He was more of a father to me than my real dad. My father served in the army for as long as I can remember. He is a high-ranking officer and changes base at least once a year. He dragged my mom and me with him across the world. By the time I turned eleven, I had lived in fourteen different countries around the globe. But when we met Glenn during our time in Seattle, my life changed. My mom and dad became friends with him and his wife, and I stayed over at his place a lot! I finally had a normal place I could go to and feel welcome.
My mom did everything she could to build us a comfy home each time we moved, but it was always on base, and the houses all looked the same over there. So it just never felt like home. But when I was at Glenn’s place, I was home.
And now he’s dead.
I gather my things, lost in my thoughts, hearing Jack yell at me. “Mike’s ready to leave, Scott!”. So I quickly drop the last of my stuff in my bag and walk over to the chopper. Jack waits there with a serious look.
“You okay, man?”
“Yeah. I’m good. Thanks.”
Jack gives me a firm hug, slaps me on my back, and steps aside to let me through. “We’ll talk later. But, first, we need to get you home. Take care.”
I nod, walk over to the chopper, and quickly get inside. Before I know it, we’re airborne and on our way to the big camp on the Colombian mainland, where a plane will take me back to Seattle. As we get higher, I notice a few of the guys looking. I wave at them, and they wave back. But at that moment, I’m sure I’ll never see them in a setting like this anymore.
“Bad news?” Mike’s voice asks, his voice sounding tinny as always through these headphones.
“Yeah,” I say as I keep looking outside, ”my best friend died today.”
“Shit, man. I’m sorry,” he responds thoughtfully.
Like most helicopter pilots, Mike is a strange but very likable guy. He‘s the typical adrenaline junkie, but he’s also the best damn pilot I ever met. He pulled us out of a tight spot numerous times, and I owe him my life. At least three times.
“Yeah. Me too,” I softly say, lost in my thoughts.
Mike drops me off at the large Colombian Air Force base, where a plane is already waiting. This is all very unusual, but the Colombian army is grateful for our help, so they help us out in return. Before I get out, Mike looks at me, pats me on my back, and smiles weakly.
“Take care, man!”
“You too. Don’t crash, okay?” I smile.
“Stay alive, okay?” he smiles back.
We always say this to each other when I exit his chopper. It became a running gag over the years, but we both like it, and it kinda grew on us. We bump fists, and I wave goodbye as I walk over to the plane.
It is way past noon when I enter my Seattle apartment. I shower, shave, and as I browse through my closet for decent clothes, I stumble across an old picture of Glenn and me together in his backyard. I take it in my hand and need to sit down on the bed as tears start forming in my eyes. This sure brings back some memories…
Copyright 2022 – Jason Crow
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Initium novam casus
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