Ho, Ho, Ho, Hold On
On April 14, 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the government secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria by Boko Haram fighters. Officials from the capital city of Abuja repeatedly tried to negotiate for the release of the young girls, but the terrorist organization was adamant about their demands. They wanted the release of 276 prisoners, a one for one exchange and as much as they wanted the female students back safely, the Nigerian government also did not want to set the precedence of negotiating with terrorists. After several botched attempt to rescue the girls, the Nigerians contacted the United States to ask for their assistance. Washington took this as an opportunity to re-negotiate a trade agreement and renew oil leases with the African nation, contingent on the safe return of the girls. Now it was up to the bureaucrats to either put up or shut up so they contacted Marine Corps Lieutenant General Mike ‘The Mauler’ McGonigle to discuss a rescue with the promise to increase the military counter terrorism budget if the mission was successful.
President Abubakar Buhari of Nigeria was having a difficult time staying in power, his regime was ripe with corruption, poverty was rampant and numerous terrorist organizations had found a safe haven in his country. Buhari was so desperate to improve his popularity among his people that he made a secret deal with American politicians.
General McGonigle flew to Israel to meet Colonel Rudy ‘Rowdy’ Yates of Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, who was currently in Tel Aviv with members of his command and working with Israeli commandos on a plan to take out a major ISIS stronghold in Libya.
The two Marines had served together in the past and were good friends as well, “Hey Rudy,” General McGonigle said.
“How are things going?” Rudy replied.
“Alright,” General McGonigle answered, “Enough of the pleasantries, I’ve got a mission for you…that is if you’re interested.”
“And here I thought that you flew all this way because you missed me,” Rudy smiled.
“That’s a given.”
“You are pretty familiar with Boko Haram?” General McGonigle commented.
“We’re not on a first name basis, but I’ve killed a few over the years.”
“I’d liked to keep this in house, so I’m giving you right of first refusal for old time’s sake,” General McGonigle quipped.
“Your generosity is only exceeded by your charm and good looks,” Rudy replied.
“Remember, I can always go to the Navy Seals or Delta.”
“You know what you can do first?” Rudy said
“What’s that?” General McGonigle asked.
“Tell me what the damn mission is!”
“That would probably affect your decision making process, huh?”
After General McGonigle explained the situation in detail, Rudy responded, “I don’t want to leave the Israelis hanging, so let me see if I can fast track what I’m working on and I’ll get back to you.”
“I’m on the clock,”
The Israelis were agreeable to expediting the attack and no sooner did the Marines and Israeli commandos destroy the ISIS stronghold that Rudy and his men were on their way to Africa. When they touched down in Lagos, Nigeria, General McGonigle was waiting with members of his staff and a group of Nigerian officials. They immediately went to a secure building and two days later, they had a plan.
Rudy said, “Lift off, tomorrow at zero three hundred hours.”
General McGonigle pulled Rudy aside, “Are you sure that you’re not too exhausted for this?”
“A little late to be asking me that question,” Rudy responded.
“You’re the only field grade officer under my command who leads the mission instead of staying in the rear and commanding it.”
“This is a different kind of unit and I need to be the tip of the spear, not the handle,” Rudy responded.
“You are a vanishing breed,” General McGonigle smiled.
“Look who’s talking, we’re both a couple of old dogs and you know what they say about old dogs?”
“You can’t teach them new tricks,” General McGonigle smiled.
“Arf, Arf,” Rudy echoed the sentiment, “besides who do you think I learned the philosophy of first in and last out from?”
One hundred Marines from Colonel Rudy Yates’ elite regiment parachuted into the dark of night over the remote mountainous area of Ondo, Nigeria and hiked two clicks (one click equals one thousand meters) to where satellite surveillance determined the girls were being held.
Rudy was a military historian and knew from his past experiences as well, that there was a lot to be learned from prior military operations. In this particular instance, the Raid at Cabantuan seemed like an appropriate one to draw from. Army Rangers carefully attacked a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines on January 30, 1945 and rescued almost 500 POW’s.
When the one hundred Marines got within two hundred meters of the terrorist stronghold, they launched mini surveillance drones, which transmitted video Intel back to their position. Once Colonel Yates determined the size of the enemy force and their exact fortifications, he made final modifications to the plan and ordered his second in command, Major Joe Coogan, “Take fifty men to the west flank and move in as close as you can get without being detected, then radio when you’re in position. I’ll keep the rest of the men with me and at sunrise we’ll go on the first shot. Leave twenty men behind to provide cover fire and I’ll do the same. We need to move quickly so they don’t have a chance to shoot the hostages, any questions?”
“No sir,” Captain Coogan replied.
“See you on the inside,” Rudy replied, “Good Luck.”
At daylight, Rudy took aim at the guard at the front gate while other Marines found other targets. Colonel Yates fired and a split second later, a dozen other terrorists also went down. Sixty Marines charged into the compound, killed the remaining terrorists and rescued the hostages.
While taking the girls to a designated extraction point, Colonel Yates ordered the long column to hold up and get off the trail, “Captain Westwood, front and center.”
The word got passed down the column until Captain Westwood came rushing up, “Sir.”
“The extraction point is about a thousand meters away. I don’t trust these Nigerians; take two squads and recon the area, I don’t want us walking into a trap.”
Thirty minutes later, Captain Westwood radioed in, “Heavy lifter, this is treadmill.”
“This is heavy lifter, go treadmill,” Rudy responded.
“They’ve got the LZ surrounded, definitely an ambush,” Captain Westwood reported.
Colonel Yates knew he had to get the girls to safety and he didn’t want anybody dogging his trail so he kept twenty Marines with him and sent some of his men to get behind those waiting at the landing zone and left the rest to guard the female students. When he arrived at the LZ area, a Nigerian Army officer demanded, “Where are the girls?”
“Safe,” Rudy responded.
“We were sent here to take them from you,” The Nigerian Officer stated.
“Those are not my orders,” Rudy responded.
“Your orders have been changed, Colonel Yates.”
“So you know my name,” Rudy said, “This is beginning to feel like an old fashion double cross instead of just an ambush.”
The Nigerian Officer waved his hand and dozens of armed soldiers stood up from their hiding positions, “Do you and your men want to die here today?”
“We never want to die, but are always prepared to,” Rudy answered, “It is hard for me to distinguish your rank from all the garbage stuck on your chest.”
“I am a general.”
“Walk away, General and take your men with you,” Rudy warned, “before you make a serious and irreversible error.”
“I will count to three and if you haven’t told me where the girls are, I will give the order to kill you and your men” The General smiled menacingly, “This is our country and we know how to bury bodies where nobody ever finds them. You will be forever listed as missing in action, is that what you want for you and your men?”
“You make an interesting offer, General. In my country, you don’t sleep in the fast lane of the freeway, you never take yourself too seriously and most important of all, you never threaten an armed Marine,” Rudy shot the General between the eyes and his Marines immediately opened fire on the rogue Nigerian soldiers.
The Armed Forces Oversight Committee initiated an investigation into the incident and Colonel Rudy Yates and Lieutenant General Mike McGonigle were both called to testify. In order to protect diplomatic relations with the corrupt Nigerian government and to hide their own nefarious business dealings, two heroic Marines were sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
Senator Bernard Cranston released the following statement; “There was a total breakdown of leadership in this military operation and those in command acted recklessly and unprofessionally in the performance of their duties. The United States has issued a formal apology and will provide financial compensation to the families of the deceased Nigerian soldiers. The commanders have been officially relieved of duty, pending disciplinary actions.”
Mike McGonigle met Rudy Yates in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt in Washington DC later that evening, “Sorry I got you into this.”
“We both know that any mission can be our last,” Rudy smiled, “I don’t know about you, but it was time for me to move on.”
“Not like this.”
“Like they say in country western songs, “Happiness is bureaucracy in my rear view mirror.” Rudy quipped.
“Where to now?” Mike asked.
“Oceanside, I’ve got a house near the San Luis Rey Gate,” Rudy answered, “and you?”
“When I told my wife that I was retiring, she started planning our travel itinerary to visit relatives that I barely remember. It’s not exactly my idea of relaxing in my ‘so called’ golden years, but I owe her for hanging in there all these years, so I’ll suck it up, adapt and overcome.”
“Stay in touch,” Rudy said.
“Always,” Mike replied.
The two Marines shook hands and went their separate ways. Rudy saw Senator Bernard Cranston getting off the elevator and when the politician saw him, the Senator gave him the thumbs down gesture and laughed.
When Rudy got to Oceanside, his first stop was Clint Wolfe’s house. The two men met when they were both young infantry officers. Clint got married soon afterward and decided to purchase a home in the new housing development in the Arrowood subdivision. “It is a good investment and if you ever do get married you’ll have a place to go and if you don’t, you can rent it out until you’re ready to retire.” Clint advised, “One more thing, if you don’t buy now, you may not be able to afford it later. Think about it, property values in California are only going to go up.”
It was great advice and Rudy had paid off the mortgage in less than twelve years. Since the house was located within two miles of Camp Pendleton, it was a prime location for Marine Corps officers. It was four thousand square feet and had five bedrooms and three full bathrooms and big enough for most families. Rudy listed the property with the base housing office and it stayed occupied from the time Rudy purchased it. Colonel David Huddleston and his family were currently residing in it and would not be vacating for seven months when he would be retiring. Rudy planned to move in after they left. It would be the first time that he ever lived in the house.
“Stay here, we’ve got that attached guest suite and you’d be doing me a favor, it will keep my mother-in law from visiting,” Clint offered.
“You better run this by your wife before you get yourself into trouble, “Rudy replied.
Catherine Wolfe was agreeable and once Rudy settled in, he made it a point to keep a low profile and not take advantage of the couple’s hospitality. Clint adamantly refused to accept any monetary compensation so Rudy found a different way to re-pay his friend and wife. He would go to the base commissary every week and purchase food and other essentials so his hosts would not have to do so.
Finally Clint had to warn him, “If you’re going to keep filling up my refrigerator and pantry, you’d better start eating some of it!”
Clint Wolfe had reached the rank of Major before he was injured during a truck accident while on deployment to Afghanistan. He medically retired from the Corps and was now working as the Assistant Director of Environmental Security on base.
Rudy had not decided what he was going to do next in his life and he felt no sense of urgency to make a decision. The current slow pace fit his relaxed mood and a normal day for him consisted of going to the fitness center on base, seeing an afternoon matinee movie and picking up an extra- large teriyaki bowl from the local Japanese restaurant.
It was late afternoon and Rudy was watching television in his room when Catherine Wolfe knocked on the door, “Do you mind coming inside?”
“On my way.”
When Rudy entered the living room, three couples were sitting on one side of the room and Clint and an attractive dark haired woman were sitting on the other. Clint shrugged as all eyes turned to Rudy.
“These three couples are members of our church,” Catherine said.
Rudy smiled and nodded as Clint pointed to the empty seat between him and the woman. Rudy sat down as one of the men stood up, “If it’s not too much of an inconvenience, we would like to tell you something, Colonel?”
“You can call me Colonel if you choose, but I’m sure Clint told you, I’m retired,” Rudy answered.
“We each have a daughter and they grew up together through grade school and high school and were inseparable,” The man got too emotional to speak so a woman stood up and continued, “They wanted to go to Europe so after their high school graduation, we took a vacation to Europe and our last stop was Milan, Italy before flying back to the states.”
“What happened?” Rudy asked.
The woman continued, “One of the young employees at the hotel told us about a club where the fashion models liked to socialize. He gave us some VIP entry passes and our daughters begged to go so we all went, but the music was so loud and lights were flashing and it wasn’t really a place for middle aged people.”
The third woman interjected, “So we told our daughters to dance and socialize then call us in two hours and we’d meet them at the front door. We made it perfectly clear to not the leave the building and we went across the street and sat in a quiet café.”
The second woman jumped back in, “We could see the front door from our table and two hours passed and they didn’t call, so we called them and none of their phones were active.”
“When we went back into the club, the girls were nowhere to be found. We extended our trip by three weeks while the Italian police and the state department searched for them,” A man explained, “with no luck.”
“How long ago did this happen?” Rudy inquired.
“June 17th, it is now December 19th, so a little over six months ago,” a woman replied as she choked back her tears, “We’ve been taking turns going back every month, showing photos to everyone we see and talking to the police, and talking to the State Department and talking, talking and then doing even more talking and we still don’t know any more than we did on that first night.”
“I don’t know what Clint told you about what I did in the Corps, but it sounds to me like you need a good investigator. There were a lot of highly qualified Marines who worked around the clock to get me Intel so I could do my job effectively, so if you’re asking me to find your daughters, I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
The dark haired woman finally spoke, “That is why I’m here, my name is Luciana Romano and I live in Italy.”
“You’ll need to elaborate,” Rudy suggested.
“She’s a psychic and she saw our daughters in a vision,” A woman cried out.
Rudy looked at each person in the room and saw that the three sets of parents were barely holding on to the slimmest thread of hope and he didn’t have the heart to voice his reservations, “Tell me what you have.”
It was December 22nd, 2017 and the San Diego Airport was filled with holiday travelers. The parents and Clint and Catherine Wolfe were there to see Rudy and Luciana off on their flight to Italy. One of the fathers pulled Rudy aside, “We don’t have much money left, but we’ll sell everything we have to get our daughters back.”
“I’ll do my best,” Rudy replied.
Clint approached, “I hope you’re not mad at me for getting you into this,”
Rudy laughed, “Hell no, I was getting kind of bored anyway, the only thing I am not looking forward is coming back without those girls and having to tell these families.”
“I think they know it’s a longshot, Godspeed my friend.”
The families were willing to pay for first class tickets, but as much as Rudy wanted to accept their offer, he told them that coach would be good enough. While sitting next to each other in the cramped seating, Luciana said, “Are you ever going to talk to me, Colonel?”
“I’m retired, the name is Rudy, what is there to talk about?”
“Don’t you want to know about my visions?”
“You can tell me what I need to know when I need to know it,” Rudy replied.
“I grew up in Varese, Italy. My parents owned a restaurant and panetteria, that’s a bakery.”
“I know, I’ve been to Italy a few times,” Rudy replied.
“I was fourteen years old and was with my father helping him with a delivery when we had an accident and I hit my head against the windshield and sustained a serious concussion. Afterward, I started having premonitions and when I saw the flyer of the three missing girls on a pole in Milan, I began having visions of them. When I went to the police, they weren’t interested in what I had to say, so I called one of the parents and I told them personal things about their daughters so they bought me a ticket to come to America and I met with all of them, then we went to meet you.”
When Rudy and Luciana landed in Milan, they rented a car, drove by the club where the girls were last seen, then drove 256 miles to Cortina d’ Ampezzo, a ski resort frequented by the jet set, located in the heart of the Dolomitic Alps in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. The town was blanketed with snow and elaborately decorated with Christmas lights and ornaments. Tourists rode in horse drawn sleds as holiday music was broadcast from speakers throughout the town.
“They take Christmas very seriously in Italy,” Luciana commented.
They checked into a local hotel and while going up to their rooms, Rudy saw Senator Bernard Cranston with a group of men laughing and socializing in the hotel bar. It was too much of a coincidence to be ignored and the former Marine filed it away for future reference.
Three hours later, four men arrived at one of the hotel rooms of Rudy and Luciana. Rudy introduced them to Luciana as Interpol agents that he had worked with in the past. The group left the hotel and followed Luciana’s directions to a palatial estate outside of town, “The girls are in there.”
One of the Interpol agents shook his head, “That place is a diplomatic compound and a dozen countries have residences in there. It is sovereign land and even if we could get permission from one country to go in, we would still have to get the other countries to agree. They have so many layers of diplomatic immunity and bureaucracy that they have made it impossible to gain entry. ”
“You mean impossible for law enforcement,” Rudy asked, “I’m just a civilian and I’m starting to hear voices about a personal invitation.”
Back at the hotel, Rudy and the Interpol agents were preparing for the breech. One agent was filling small bottles with gasoline and putting a rag in each one to make Molotov cocktails. Rudy was calmly checking a nine millimeter pistol as Luciana looked at him with amazement,” You are not even scared, are you?”
“I’m really scared, but being scared is just a reminder that there are things worth fighting and dying for, being fearful is a different story, that just means you are unsure of your abilities.”
“You’ve done this before, haven’t you? Luciana asked.
“Every mission is different, but I have done similar things in my past.”
“They will kill you if they catch you,” Luciana warned.
“Or I will kill them,” Rudy replied, “That is why you need to be absolutely sure that this is the place.”
Luciana hesitated than responded, “Maybe I’m not so sure after all.”
Rudy knew what Luciana was trying to do so he responded, “Do you really want to go back and tell those parents that we came this close then lost our nerve, I sure don’t.”
Rudy had a backpack filled with Molotov cocktails and was dressed in all white to blend in with the surroundings. The white snow was blown up against the perimeter wall and Rudy had little trouble breeching it. He made his way to the main electrical room on the property and started a fire in the building. The compound went black and Rudy disabled the back-up generation before it could take over. When a security guard saw him, Rudy shot him and took his heavy coat and stocking cap and put them on. He made his way from building to building and lit them on fire. When he got to the main structure, he entered the lobby and yelled to the people inside who were having a party, “Fire! Fire! Please evacuate immediately!”
Fire causes extreme panic and that was Rudy’s intention and he knew once the girls were off the property, Interpol agents could legally intervene. Since most predators are cowards at heart, they were more concerned with their own survival than the safety of their captives. Rudy had little trouble pulling the girls aside and when two guards got suspicious and walked over, Rudy shot both of them. A gunfight ensued with other security personnel that only added to the chaos of people that were already running for safety and screaming in fear. Rudy recognized one of the missing daughters, “Your parents sent me, get all the girls and run off the property, there are people out there to help you. Go! Run!!”
Rudy saw Senator Cranston among the crowd and rushed up to him When the corrupt and deviant politician recognized him, “Colonel!… and before he could finish his statement, Rudy knocked him unconscious with a crushing right hook and tossed him over his shoulder. Dozens of girls were rushing for the front gate and they needed a distraction. There was a carriage and horses decorated with lights and ornaments tied nearby and the animals were desperately trying to break free. Rudy shot a guard, took his weapon and when he got to the carriage, he tossed Senator Cranston in back, untied the horses and got in, “YAAY, GO!
The skittish horses needed little incentive to race off, and while holding the reins in one hand and his weapon in the other, Rudy began shooting armed guards as he headed for the front gate. When two men stepped in his way, the horses trampled them and the carriage bounced over their bodies. The guards at the entry point had no choice, but to open the metal gate as the carriage beared down on them with the men and girls right behind it. Once the men were off the property, they were arrested and the girls were quickly taken away.
Rudy left Senator Cranston in the trusted hands of two Mossad agents at the Innsbruck Airport, “I’ll be back after the holidays for him.”
As a personal favor, Interpol made a private jet available to Rudy and since it was nine hours earlier in California than Austria, the three girls made it home on Christmas Day for a joyous and emotional reunion with their families.
Rudy and Luciana had a wonderful time as guests of the Wolfe family during the holidays and left on January 3rd for Rome to meet with leaders from several organizations that combated human trafficking. This was the next chapter in Rudy’s life and with Luciana Romano’s psychic abilities and his specialized skills, they soon became a force to be reckoned with in the world, rescuing victims and bringing predators to justice.
During his trial, Senator Cranston took a plea deal and implicated dozens of politicians and powerful executives from around the world in return for a seventy five year sentence instead of three consecutive life terms. In the process, an international human trafficking syndicate was destroyed and dozens of evil and despicable individuals were arrested.
On that fateful Christmas Eve in 2017, the greatest gift of all was given to a group of kidnapped and imprisoned young girls. It was the gift of freedom and legend and lore will always remembered it as…Rudy’s Slay Ride.