Thomas Calabrese –Captain Richard ‘Rick’ Malloy was nearing the end of his military career. He had been in the Marine Corps for twelve years and hoped he could at least make his twenty then retire and get a job in the civilian sector, but a sniper’s round to his right thigh while he was on an operation in Syria did enough damage to his quad muscles to throw a monkey wrench into that plan. He had volunteered for a special counter terrorism unit after spending five years as an infantry officer and knew that there would be increased risks with this new assignment so it would have been inappropriate and totally out of character to hold any bitterness toward the Corps for the unfortunate turn of events. To quote Staff Sergeant Gary Myers who also sustained career ending injuries from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) during the same mission, “It is what it is and that’s just the way it is.”
“When you put things so eloquently, how can I disagree?” Rick responded and like a football player who knows that every time he sets foot on the playing field that any play could be his last, a seasoned combat veteran is also aware that his career can end with a misstep or a bullet from an enemy combatant.
After two surgeries and rehabilitation at Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany, Rick returned to Camp Pendleton. Not having much to do while his discharge was being processed, he signed up to attend a job fair for transitioning officers that was being held at the Staff Non- Commissioned Officers Club. Rick checked in at the front counter, got his name tag and entered the main ballroom. He was a Naval Academy graduate with a degree in Operations Research and Middle Eastern languages, had an excellent military record and a top security clearance, so there were various opportunities for a man of his qualifications. He was casually strolling down the aisles of job recruiters when a man’s voice called out to him, “Captain Malloy!”
Rick turned around to see a middle aged man in a three piece suit, thinning hair and horn rimmed glasses standing before him, “Do I know you?”
“Not yet, I’m Mr. Jones and the important thing is that I know a lot about you,”
“Are you a job recruiter?” Rick asked.
“I may be the ultimate job recruiter,” Mr. Jones smiled and handed Rick a business card, “Call me, I have a job that you will be interested in.”
Rick looked down at the card and the only things printed on it were the words, Mr. Jones and a phone number, no first name, no company and no address and when he looked up, the man was gone. He waited until the next day to call the number on the card and just for the hell of it he turned off the caller I.D. on his cellphone.
“I’m glad you decided to call, Captain Malloy,” Mister Jones took the call on the first ring.
“I’m curious about your job offer.”
“Why don’t you join me for dinner and I’ll tell you all about it,” Mister Jones offered.
“I can do that, where and when?” Rick asked.
“How about tomorrow evening, nineteen hundred hours, I’ll find a nice place locally and text you the name,” Mister Jones suggested.
Two hours later Rick received a text; 333 Pacific.
333 Pacific was a high end eatery near the Oceanside Pier with an extensive wine list and chic décor. Mr. Jones was already seated at the table and waved to Captain Malloy as soon as he entered the establishment. Rick looked at his watch to make sure he wasn’t late and and saw that he was two minutes early then walked over to the table.
“Have a seat, Captain Malloy,” Mr. Jones called to the waiter, “Another daiquiri please,” then turned his attention back to Rick, “I hope this place is alright with you.”
“Yeah, it’s fine,” Rick replied, “Several people I know have eaten here and really like it..”
“I hope you brought your appetite with you.”
“I seldom go anywhere without it,” Rick answered.
“This is a business meeting which means my company is paying for it and they are extremely generous,” Mr. Jones said.
The young female server walked over and flashed a big smile, “Good evening gentlemen, are you ready to order yet?”
“Captain, let me do the honors,” Mister Jones asked.
“Sure,” Rick answered.
“Two shrimp cocktails and the seafood platter for appetizers and for the entrées, Angus New York Strip Steak, cooked medium well for both. We’ll also have a lobster tail each and my companion will have the mash potatoes and broccoli and I’ll have the sautéed cauliflower. For beverages, a bottle of Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 for me and a large glass of ginger ale with a twist of lime for my associate.”
“Yes sir,” the server replied and walked off.
Mister Jones asked, “Did I get your order right?”
“You got my preferences correct, but I would never order the most expensive items on the menu even if somebody else is paying for it.”
“That is why I ordered for both of us,” Mister Jones replied, “You don’t find many men in the military that don’t drink. My dad told me to never a trust a man who doesn’t drink.”
“My dad used to warn me to be careful around those who do drink,” Rick responded.
“I never listened to my father.”
“I did,” Rick smiled.
“Have any questions?” Mr. Jones asked.
“You would like to know who I work for, right?”
“That would be a good place to start,” Rick answered.
“I am employed by a company,” Mister Jones tasted his wine and nodded his approval to the server, “that provides an extensive range of services to a variety of government agencies.”
Rick knew that Mr. Jones was being purposely evasive so he decided to cut right to the chase, “You said you had a job that I would be interested in. Let’s start there.”
Mr. Jones began explaining the parameters of the job to Rick as both men ate their meals, “How is your steak?”
Perfect,” Rick replied.
Mr. Jones pulled out his pen, wrote something down and slid it across the table. “What’s this? Rick asked.
“Your starting salary.”
“Very generous,” Rick commented as he gazed at the mid six figure number.
“When my employer wants somebody or something, they don’t mind paying top dollar. That is just your starting salary and you can expect frequent raises if you work out. Remember, that doesn’t include an expense account and other perks.”
The price of the meal including two more bottles of wine amounted to sixty hundred and fifty dollars. Mr. Jones gave the server his American Express Centurion card. This card has no limit and wealthy cardholders have been known to purchase multi-million dollars items with it, then pulled out a large wad of hundred dollar bills from his pocket and peeled off three of them and handed it to the female server, “Excellent service.”
If this man was trying to impress Rick, he was doing a damn good job. Both men exited the restaurant and no sooner did they reach the sidewalk that a black sedan with heavily tinted windows pulled up and Mr. Jones got in, “You’ve got twenty four hours to make your decision, not a minute more.”
When Rick got back to his quarters on Camp Pendleton, he decided to call a friend, pulled out his cellphone then had a slight change of plans. He walked down the hall and knocked on the door of Lieutenant Josh Bowen, “What’s up?”
“You think I could use your cellphone?” Rick asked.
Rick took out his phone and pulled up a photo of Mr. Jones on the screen, set his phone down and took a photo of the man with Josh’s phone then sent it to someone with the text; I need to know everything about this man.
Mr. Jones called an undisclosed location from the backseat of the sedan, where a group of men were sitting in front of computers and high tech surveillance equipment, “Has he called anybody?”
“No, nothing,” The operator responded, “We’ll contact you if he does.”
Twenty three hours later, Rick called the number on the card, “I accept your offer.”
“Wasn’t sure you were going to call,” Mr. Jones responded.
“You said I had twenty four hours.”
Six weeks later, Captain Rick Malloy separated from the Marine Corps and one week after that, he was on a flight from San Diego to Heathrow Airport in London, England. Upon arrival, a man about the same age as Rick approached him as he waited by the luggage carousel, “Follow me.”
Rick complied and followed the man outside the terminal where his single piece of luggage was already being loaded into the trunk of a steel gray BMW 750iL sedan, “Get in,” The man said.
Once again Rick complied without question, and the man drove for thirty minutes before pulling over to the side of the road, “You drive now.”
After Rick got behind the wheel of the vehicle, “Where to?”
“Straight, I’ll tell you when to turn.”
The man reclined his seat, closed his eyes and fell asleep. For the next three weeks the two men journeyed through France, Spain, Germany and Italy and met various individuals to deliver or pick-up packages and envelopes. When they were required to stay in a particular location for an extended period of time, the two men checked into an expensive hotel, stayed in separate suites and never socialized or acknowledged that they knew each other. They had been at the St. Regis Hotel in Rome for two days and Rick received a text to meet his traveling companion in the lobby. “You’re on your own from here,” The man left without waiting for a reply.
Two minutes later, Rick’s cellphone rang and he immediately recognized the voice on the other end, “Your first probationary period is over, be expecting further instructions.”
Six months passed and Rick was now traveling through Europe by himself and stayed in first class accommodations wherever he went. On this particular evening Rick was eating in a small café in Antwerp, Belgium that was recommended by the desk clerk at his hotel. Mr. Jones suddenly sat down, but the unexpected appearance had little effect on Rick.
“Surprised to see me?” Mr. Jones asked.
“Don’t I look surprised,” Rick replied without changing expression, “Want me to order you something?”
“You’ve done such a good job that I have been assigned to tell you that the time has come to move up the chain of command.”
“No thanks, I’m happy doing this,” Rick answered.
Mr. Jones pulled out a folder with two dozen photographs, “Take a look, these are foreign operatives that you have been exchanging sensitive information with over the past few months. The company has already put together a convincing backstory complete with offshore bank accounts to make it look like you have been part of a worldwide espionage ring ever since you were in the Corps.”
“So you must want something from me” Rick asked, “that you failed to disclose in my job interview.”
“Now that you have some skin in the game, you’ll be more inclined to follow questionable orders. Your other option is to quit and go public, plead your innocence and hope for the best, but I can guarantee you that won’t work. Picture in your mind a solitary confinement cell in a Supermax prison for the rest of your long long life.”
“So you set me up?” Rick said, “Why?”
“Patriots like you are extremely valuable assets to us once they’ve shifted their sense of loyalty.”
“You don’t leave me much choice,” Rick responded.
“That’s the spirit!” Mr. Jones exclaimed, “Now that we’ve got that out of the way, maybe I will have something to eat after all. What do you recommend?”
For the next two months, Rick continued with his assigned duties as an international courier until he received an order to meet Mr. Jones in Belgrade, Serbia.
“You wanted to see me?” Rick said with this displeasure.
Mr. Jones slipped a large manila envelope across the table, “It’s time to put that degree in Operations Research to use.”
“Do you ever speak in specific terms? Just tell me what the hell you want!” Rick snapped.
“I can do that,” Mr. Jones smiled, “The company had an arrangement with an individual who violated the terms of the agreement and I need you to correct the discrepancies.”
“You just can’t do it, can you?” Rick shook his head in disgust.
“Speak clearly!” Rick iterated.
“This individual is a major human trafficker and he has 100 women and girls locked away on his property. We want those women; make the plan and get the men that you need to carry it out.”
“Do I have a budget on this mission?” Rick asked.
“Just get it done Malloy, because you’re starting to get on my nerves with all your negativity. Marine or not, you don’t want to go down that road… and one more thing, don’t contact me until this is over…understand?”
“Understood,” Rick answered.
Rick contacted Clearwater Global Securities and talked to retired Army General Sean Carter, “I need twenty men with combat and hostage rescue experience and equipment too.”
“I’ll need half the money upfront before I do anything and the balance will be due upon completion of the mission,” General Carter answered as if he received these kinds of requests on a regular basis, “I’ll need the details to put together a cost analysis and a threat assessment before I put my men in harm’s way.”
“I’ll send everything you need and the contact number to call for the money,” Rick said.
If we decide to take the job, I’ll call you.”
Clearwater Global Securities accepted the job and one million dollars was wired to an offshore bank account and a chartered jet took off from Tijuana International Airport.
Captain Rick Malloy was far too qualified to be a high priced delivery boy and the job was interesting for a while; seeing the sites, meeting new people and learning new languages, but there was no satisfaction for a job well done because it presented zero challenge. Rick had grown increasingly tired of the routine so when Mr. Jones gave him this new assignment, he couldn’t help but feel a tinge of excitement even if he didn’t like what he was ordered to do.
The men of Clearwater Global Securities were former Marines, Army Rangers, Delta Force or Navy Seals and Rick was finally back in his element. There was a mutual respect among these trained warriors that Rick’s soul had been starving for and it rejuvenated his dormant spirit. When the plan to breech the compound had been developed, Rick led the force with methodical precision. They eliminated the eight perimeter guards almost simultaneously then focused their attention on a 10,000 foot, four story structure. Ten men waited outside the front entrance while the remainder of the team climbed to the roof.
On Rick’s signal, “Now!” the front door was blown off its hinges with an explosive charge and the men on the roof broke through a skylight and rappelled down. There were nine guards inside, but they were caught off guard and while they attempted to fight back, they were no match for Rick and his trained warriors.
There were ninety three girls and women ranging in age from eleven to twenty-three years of age under guard on the top floor and being kept six to a room. They were taken outside where three Red Cross buses were waiting and were quickly taken away.
Fifteen minutes later, Mister Jones arrived and approached Rick, who was sitting on the front steps of the building with several members of his team, “Where are the girls?”
“Gone,” Rick replied.
“I gave you specific instructions that you were supposed to turn the girls over to me. I told you what would happen if you decided to go rogue.”
Rick stood up and got within two inches of Mr. Jones’ face, “Now you’re starting to get my nerves, so if I’m going down for treason I might as well go down for murder. In for a penny, in for a dollar,” and pointed his Heckler&Koch MP 5 at his supervisor’s face.
Mr. Jones laughed out loud and extended his hand, “The name is Frank Chatfield, and it is a pleasure to meet you.”
“What the hell,” Rick responded.
“Did you really think that I recruited you to drive around Europe and deliver correspondence?”
“I don’t know what the hell you thought,” Rick snapped back.
“I knew that you had your suspicions about me from the very beginning, that is why you called your friend at Naval Intelligence after our meeting,” Frank said.
“He told me that he didn’t have anything on you.”
“We ordered him to play along, he had no choice but to lie to you,” Frank continued, “I’ve learned from past experiences that you don’t ask a Marine like you to betray his country or turn his back on the innocent and defenseless. The company needed to be absolutely sure that you would do the right thing, no matter what the personal risks or threats that you were faced with.”
“You are one crazy and strange dude, Frank Chatfield, or whatever your name is,” Rick responded.
“That’s my name, really. If we’re going to get down to the business of killing bad actors and saving lives then we need to play it straight from here on,” Frank said, “You know what they say about trust?”
Rick and Frank looked at each other with newfound respect and spoke at the same time, “Trust Is Earned, Never Given.
This is a work of fiction and the product of the author’s imagination.