Tears of the Princess
By Melodie Thomas
Edited by Holly Hart
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The day started early with the teams mustering at police headquarters for final briefings and issuance of equipment. The team at the airport was designated as the Blue team, with Abdullah taking the call sign of Blue one, Sunan was Blue four. Those of us going to the marina were designated as the Red team. Yunram argued that since he was the senior law enforcement officer, he should have the call sign Red one, I really didn’t care, as long as he did not get out of control. Abdullah (who’d caught the same signs I had,) had had that same discussion with the commander of his tactical team that would be at the marina. As long as Yunram behaved, we would let him play his little game.
Charlie, Maria and Lin would be at the hotel waiting. Though Charlie was not happy being on the sidelines, he understood the reasoning when I explained the backup plan to him. Abdullah told me the plan was to bring the Brajoviks and the Chinese guy back to the hotel, instead of taking them to the detention center. With a wink, Abdullah explained that he did not have to follow the rules as closely when questioning suspects in the field, the same reason he’d done the initial questioning of the prisoners from the hotel, at the hotel. We had already picked a room that was going to be their temporary cell, and while we were out trying to catch the bad guys, Charlie and Lin were going to wire the room with cameras and microphones. When I explained my plan to Abdullah, he was in agreement to keep that part of the plan just between the four of us.
At six thirty both teams loaded up their vehicles and headed to their assignments. Sunan had a list of all of the international arrivals for that day. His plan was to be in the gating area, at a coffee shop or other inconspicuous place, for each arrival where he could see the people getting off the plane. Sunan was carrying a two-way radio that looked like an iPod with an iPod headset. Abdullah placed himself in position to watch the car, while the remaining two blue teams were scattered across the front of the airport arrival area.
At the marina we had three teams scattered to cover the four piers, while Yunram, the team commander, two technicians and myself were in the back of a converted produce delivery truck next to the marina service area. The truck had, at one time, been a refrigerated delivery truck and the refrigeration unit had been converted to an air conditioner, which would be a lifesaver inside the metal box when the Malaysian sun hit the afternoon peak.
Cameras had been setup at each of the piers days before and the images displayed on the four monitors inside the truck. A radio receiver was set on a shelf above the monitors that was tuned to Blue team’s channel so we could follow their progress. There were two chairs in front of the electronics panel in the back of the truck, with a technician seated at each. One technician was in charge of the radio, while the other ran the joysticks controlling the cameras. The truck had been packed for a long day of surveillance so there was coffee, tea, various cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks. Jamming all of that in with five men made for a very tight space, and very little personal space.
We had only been in position for about an hour and it was already feeling like a full day. I was sitting between Yunram and Abdullah’s team commander and it felt tighter than the center seat in economy on an airliner, this was going to be a long day.
“Red 1, Red 3, target car is entering the marina,” a voice crackled through the radio speaker.
“Roger, Red 3, we are getting visual now,” the radio technician answered as one of the screens showed the car drive up to, and park, in front of the first pier.
“The seven forty five from Bangkok is deplaning now,” I heard Sunan say over the Blue radio.
“You are aware, McNeil,” Yunram whispered next to me, “if we are successful, my government will want these people brought back to Thailand for trial, and I would like to personally question them before that.”
My first thought was, ‘Yeah, I have seen your form of trials and questioning’; however, I was able to hold my tongue. I knew if that happened, my chances of getting to the bottom of this whole mess would be greatly reduced. From what I had seen, the Thailand authorities were more interested in a public hanging, than they were in finding the truth. However, I had no legal stand to take and my only hope would be in Abdullah.
“I would think that would be between your government and the Malaysian government. I don’t care either way,” I lied, hoping to avoid any level of confrontation right now. The answer must have been the right one for Yunram, as he sharply nodded his head and returned to watching the monitors.
The next few hours passed slowly and with little activity. Teams were reporting on random people walking around the marina, but no activity involving our driver. Sunan was the one getting the workout as he was checking on each international arrival at the airport, which seemed to be the majority of the flights.
“You know,” Sunan’s panting voice came over the radio, “this would be a lot easier if they just had all the flights land at the same freaking terminal.”
“I will make that request for you,” Abdullah chuckled over the radio.
“Okay, I just arrived at gate F44, the ten forty five from Taipei. Passengers are just starting to come out… oh shit, got him. Found our man,” Sunan’s voice rose a bit.
“Are you sure?” Abdullah asked.
“Yeah, positive, he was the third guy off the plane, pulling a small carry-on bag,” Sunan answered, now almost whispering.
“Okay, we thought he might come in early. Follow, but keep your distance. Let’s see what he is up to,” Abdullah answered some excitement in his voice. “His car is not here yet, so if he leaves the terminal we either have the wrong guy, or they have a different plan.”
We had already considered the possibility he could arrive early, and we had talked about the arrival time posted on the web to be some form of code as well. Whatever it was, Sunan said our guy was here, now we see what happens. The Red team commander passed the word to the rest of the people at the marina that identification had been made at the airport, and to keep their eyes open.
“He is not, I repeat not, heading towards the arrival area.” Sunan reported. “It looks like he is headed for the food court area.” No one spoke for a few minutes, “He just entered a restaurant and is taking a seat next to the glass wall looking out into the terminal, and he is pulling out his cell phone.”
“He is watching his back trail.” Abdullah answered urgently, “Do not approach, he is looking for familiar faces or people that tend to hang around there. Move away from him, but stay where you can see the door. All Blue teams, target car is in position.”
Sunan confirmed there was only a single entry to the restaurant, and he could see that door, but could not see our suspect. We had no idea who he was calling. There was nothing we could do but wait. I really got the feeling what it would be like listening to a drama show on the radio, there was nothing happening at the marina, and I could only picture in my mind what was going on at the airport.
“He’s moving again,” Sunan’s voice, a little over an hour later, “looks like he is now heading for arrivals.” Again, there were five or six minutes of silence, “He is now in line at immigration. I am going to move out in front of him at Customs.”
Abdullah had arranged for Sunan to use the immigration offices as a pass around. He could enter the offices from the terminal and exit at customs, thus staying ahead of our suspect. The silence was killing me. I found myself closing my eyes and trying to picture what was happening, and then realized I was not watching my own area, I needed to stay focused.
“Got him again.” Sunan’s voice came back through the radio, “He is not going to baggage claim. He’s heading straight through customs.”
“We have an unknown male coming from the docking slips on pier three,” came a voice over our team’s radios.
“Can you get him on camera?” Yunram asked in an excited voice, leaning forward in his chair.
“Caucasian male, white pants, white shirt, he left slip twenty four and is slowly walking towards the road, carrying a black briefcase,” the surveillance team continued to report.
“Target leaving the terminal now, walking in the direction of our car,” Sunan reported.
“Don’t crowd him.” Abdullah warned.
The technician working our cameras maneuvered one of the cameras to focus on pier three.
“There!” Yunram proclaimed as the screen showed a man, dressed as described about thirty yards from the road, looking at one of the yachts.
“Can you zoom in any?” I asked the technician.
“Target is stopping and haggling with a taxi driver!” Sunan’s voice announced over the radio.
“Stay out of sight and wait!” Abdullah responded, stress sounding clearly in his voice. “He is checking behind him, standard trade craft.”
I was focused on the image on the screen in front of me as the picture zoomed in as best they could. I still could not see the man’s face clearly. As I watched him study the yacht, he turned his head in the direction of the road, and straight into our camera. My heart rate tripled, and my blood turned cold, Robert Brajovik, a face I will never forget.
I hit the key on my microphone, “Red team, target on pier three confirmed, I repeat target on pier three confirmed. Blue 1, it is Brajovik, but I don’t see his wife.”
“Target is moving again, past the taxi stand.” Sunan announced over the radio.
“Blue four, break off tail, we have visual, Red one, acknowledged.” Abdullah crackled through the radio.
A few more minutes of silenced passed as we watched the monitor, “Blue target is approaching the car and has acknowledged the driver. Target is in the car and using his cell phone, driver is closing the trunk.” Abdullah gave us a play by play.
In the monitor, I saw Brajovik take a cell phone out of his pocket and hold it to his ear. “I am here,” came a new voice over a different speaker, the one monitoring the bugs in both cars.
“He put down his cell,” Abdullah announced.
Brajovik did something on his phone that then put it back to his ear. The sound of a phone ringing came through the speaker. “Yes Sir,” the driver of the marina car answered.
“Pier three, now,” came the heavily accented voice of Brajovik.
In the first monitor, I could see the driver get in his car and start driving from pier one of the marina toward pier three. As the car pulled up, the driver got out of the car and opened the back door. Brajovik casually walked up to the car and got in the backseat, pulling his cell phone out again.
“I am here.” Brajovik’s voice came through the speaker again.
The driver got in the car and started to pull away, “Target in the car and on the move.” The red team commander announced into his radio.
“Blue target moving, kill the engines, take them now!” Abdullah ordered.
The inside of the truck became a kaleidoscope of noise as the speaker on the Blue channel was filled with rapid fire instructions and responses, while the Red team did the same on our radio channel. I could hear Brajovik screaming at the driver to open the doors, which of course he couldn’t. In the monitors, we could see the surveillance team converge on the car, assault weapons trained on the windows. Instructions were being screamed at the car in three different languages, to put their hands on windows and don’t move. When Brajovik and the driver complied, a team member used a remote to unlock the doors, and Brajovik was dragged from car and forced face down on the trunk, with his feet spread. The driver got the same treatment at the front of the car.
Yunram almost pushed me out of the way to be the first out of the truck, as we rushed to join the rest of the team. “Get someone to the boat!” I shouted to the team commander as I followed Yunram out of the truck. However, I was surprised when Yunram did not move in the direction of Brajovik, instead started sprinting down pier three towards the yacht.
“What is the meaning of this?” Brajovik screamed as his hands were being handcuffed behind him. “I want to talk to whoever is in charge of this circus!”
The men behind Brajovik grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to a standing position as I walked up behind. “Hello, Robert. It is good to see you again.” I said as calmly as I could.
Brajovik continued to struggle against the bonds, “I want to know who is in fucking cha…” as he turned and saw me his voice stopped, eyes grew wide and his face went ashen.
I smiled, “I see your remember me, that is good. Where is your lovely wife?”
“McNeil! You have no authority here.” Brajovik attempted to get his bravado back.
I nodded, “You’re right, I don’t. Where is Anya?”
“Fuck you, McNeil!”
I nodded to Abdullah’s men, who forced Brajovik into the back of one of their cars and left for the hotel. Abdullah reported the Chinese guy was also in custody and enroute to the hotel. Radio report from the boat was that there was no one onboard. I knew that Abdullah’s team would tear the boat apart, so there was no reason for me to be there. We waited a few minutes for Yunram to return, then loaded in one of the cars and headed to the hotel. Yunram seemed nervous and excited. I don’t know why he was so interested in the boat.
By the time we got back to the hotel, our guests had been taken to their special room and handcuffed to individual chairs. Charlie gave me a slight nod as I entered the hotel, the signal that everything had been set up. Abdullah was already in the hotel lobby waiting for us.
“Well done, Gentlemen,” Abdullah greeted us with a smile, “that worked better than I had hoped.”
“Yes, it did.” I acknowledged as I wrapped my arms around Lin, “When do we get to see our guests?”
“I think we will give them a minute to settle in, and then we will pay our respects. Oh, according to his passport, our Chinese guest is named Chi Fin Wong. I have no idea if that is his real name or not, but we are looking into it,” Abdullah smiled.
Out of the corner of my eye, I was watching Yunram. I don’t know what it was, but he seemed different, withdrawn, and nervous. He just paced back and forth in the lobby. I was expecting him to be very aggressive in wanting to talk to Brajovik and Wong; instead, he had not said a word and was acting like something was bothering him. Suddenly, without a single word, he walked back out the hotel doors, pulling his cell phone from his pocket as he went.
“What do you think, my friend?” Abdullah asked quietly.
“I don’t know, Abdullah, but something is just not right here.” I answered still watching the door.
“That I agree with.” Abdullah answered.
We waited in the lobby for about another fifteen minutes for Yunram to return, which he didn’t. Finally, Abdullah and I decided we needed to pay our initial visit with our guests, as Abdullah called them. Charlie, Lin and Sunan joined Maria in the dining area for lunch, with our promise to be there in a few minutes.
As we approached the door to the room holding our guests, one of the guards handed me an item that I requested. Wrapped in a light blanket, it looked like a three foot long fishing pole. What it was, was a homemade cattle prod, modified to work off of a wall plug. I had no idea if it really worked or not, which didn’t really matter, as long as Brajovik thought it worked, that was all I needed.
The guard unlocked the door and Abdullah led the way in.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Abdullah started, “I am Inspector Abdullah with the Royal Malaysian Police, and as of now, you are my guests.”
“Guests?” Brajovik spat, “If we are your ‘guests’ then your hospitality sucks.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” I said coming in behind Abdullah, “I was your guest once, and my accommodations were nowhere near as nice as this.”
“I want to call my embassy.” Wong demanded.
Abdullah chuckled, “I am sure you do, and in time that may be possible.”
“I know Malaysian law,” Wong spat, “I have the right to contact my embassy if I am arrested.”
“Very true,” Abdullah conceded, “but who said anything about you being under arrest?”
“If we are not under arrest,” Brajovik almost shouted, “what the fuck do you call this?”
“Now, now, calm down,” Abdullah smiled, “at a later time we may talk about whether you are to be arrested or not, but right now you are just my guests and we are going to have some conversations.”
“And, what if we don’t want to talk to you?” Brajovik said defiantly.
“Oh, I think you will talk to me,” I said walking up to Brajovik. “You and I have some unfinished business and I really think you will want to discuss it with me.”
“As I said before, fuck you, McNeil.”
I smiled and removed the blanket from the cattle prod. “Do you know what this is, Robert? I think you have a lot of experience using these on your girls, don’t you?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Brajovik declared, but I could see the fear in his eyes.
“I have seen the videos, Robert. I know how you used these things and where you put them. I would really like to see how you dance at the end of a rope with one of these motivating you.”
“You can’t do that. It is against the law.” Brajovik argued, but with definite concern in his voice.
“As you have already pointed out, Robert, I have no legal authority here, I am just a tourist, like you. So, the only thing stopping me is my fear of the law and my own moral standards. Since I don’t think I have much to fear from the law, and you have already destroyed my moral standards, why not?” I fixed Brajovik with the coldest stare I could muster and a broad smile to match it. “I think it will be fun.”
I could see the color draining from his face as I stood there, and soon he was not able to hold eye contact with me.
“I will tell you what, Robert,” I said walking over to the table on the opposite wall, “I will just leave this here and Abdullah and I will go to lunch. Perhaps you will think about your desire to talk to us and let us know your decision when we return.”
“I think that is an excellent idea,” Abdullah said with a light clap of his hands, “you can think about it while we have lunch. Oh, also think about the fact that you were able to keep victims here for three or four months without a problem, so we can stay here as long as you like. Some of your former victims may also like to have time to discuss things with you, and this would be a great place for that. You think about it and we will talk later.”
Abdullah and I exited the room and started down the hall towards the dining area, when Abdullah put a hand on my shoulder to stop me, once we were out of earshot of the guard.
“My friend,” Abdullah started, “how far are you willing to go with this interrogation? I don’t think those two are going to be easy, so we better understand our boundaries.”
My shoulders sagged as I leaned my back into the wall. “I don’t know, Abdullah.” I sighed. “I have seen the extremes that Brajovik had done to his victims, but I’m honestly not sure I can go that far.”
Abdullah nodded, “I understand, because I am positive that I can’t. I have no problem playing with their minds, stressing them, both physically and mentally, but I know my limits, and extreme physical torture is outside those limits.”
I nodded and laid my head back against the wall and closed my eyes. I have killed before, and I have caused great physical pain to others before, but always during the heat of a fight, in life or death situations. In those cases you don’t have time to think, you react, but to purposely take someone who is unable to defend themselves and…, well, that was something I didn’t think I was capable of.
“So, what do we do?” I asked.
“It is going to take a long time to break them down and we will need a psychological warfare plan, maybe a little drug help. Let’s go to the monitoring room you set up, and discuss it for a bit.”
The hotel had two main hallways off the lobby, one that went to the dining area and conference rooms and one that went to the guest elevators and other common areas. We had selected the interrogation room in the dining room hallway, because it was on an interior wall with only a single door. The monitoring room was setup in an old maintenance room in the other hallway, but shared a common wall with the interrogation room, making connecting the computers and monitors much simpler. Abdullah and I walked through the lobby, into the other hallway and entered the monitoring room.
The monitoring room was truly just a closet that we cleaned out and set up a small table that held two computers and one monitor and some recording apparatus.. There was room enough for two chairs, but nothing else. As we opened the door, a technician was sitting at the table working the computer and monitors. Abdullah asked him to leave, but to show us how to work the system in case we needed to record something. The monitor showed a live video and audio feed, which currently showed Brajovik and Wong sitting in their chairs from a side view, Brajovik in the foreground. Since we had a single one terabyte hard drive to store anything we recorded. We really did not want to record hours of nothing, so the system was set up to do a twenty minute recording and then overwrite the original file, unless the operator intervened. The operator could change to a constant recording if anything of interest happened.
“Why don’t we do the same thing to them they were trying to do to their victims?” I asked after about ten minutes or so of discussion on our options.
“What do you mean, feminize them?” Abdullah asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Why not? Just from my understanding, we would be breaking down their resistance and changing them to our way of thinking. Instead we use the feminization as a punishment for lack of cooperation. I don’t think those two will take to the process lightly, and we would probably find their limit.”
Abdullah thought for a moment, “Dan, that could take months, you realize that?”
I sighed, “Yes, I realize that. However, unless your people find something on Brajovik’s boat, those two men are the only leads we have left to follow. The trail stops … what the fuck is this?” I asked pointing at the monitor.
We could see the door to the interrogation room opened and Major Yunram entered the room, closing the door behind him. I quickly reached over and grabbed the mouse, clicking the record button.
“Yunram,” Brajovik nearly screamed, “what the fuck is going on here? Why the hell didn’t you warn us this was a trap?”
“Hello, Robert,” Yunram answered with a smile, “it is good to see you again as well.”
“Fuck that shit! You let us walk into a trap!” Brajovik continued.
“Yes I did, old friend.” Yunram replied as he walked to the center of the room, between the two men. “It seems you have let your operation become so sloppy that our friend the General and Chaiket, my boss in case you have forgotten, feel there is a very strong risk you are going to blow the cover of some very important people.”
“How is turning us over to the police going to fix that? Also, I have no idea what this is about.” Wong spoke for the first time.
“No, Mr. Wong, you don’t. You are sort of an innocent in this, if there is such a thing.” Yunram said and then turned to Brajovik, “Robert, where did you ever get the idea that leaving your rejects alive was a good practice? I have been following behind you, trying clean up your messes for months.”
“They did not know anything, how could they hurt us?” Brajovik tried to answer forcefully, but I could see his confidence slipping.
“Robert, they led that fucking McNeil right to your fucking front door, you moron! I finally got rid of two of the three you sent back to Thailand, I’m still trying to find the third one. I also got rid of the one sent back from Japan, but I’m not sure how I am going to deal with the rest of them.”
“Why not just kill McNeil?” Brajovik asked.
“He is on my list, but I need to make sure you cause no more trouble first.” Yunram reaching for the small of his back.
“He has a gun!” I whispered to Abdullah as I watch Yunram pull a small, short barreled automatic from his belt.
Abdullah grabbed his cell phone and started pushing numbers as I watch Yunram take a black tube from his front pocket and begin screwing it on the automatic.
“You can’t get away with this; there is a guard just outside of the door!” Brajovik started shouting.
“Well, Robert, you are going to get shot escaping and the guard is still there, but I don’t think he will be caring about what happens from now on.”
Yunram moved behind Wong and shoved the gun into the back of his head, forcing his head to bend forward. “Wong, I am going to undo your handcuffs. When I do, if you move, I will make a mess of your brains.”
Yunram reached down and freed Wong’s hands at the same time Abdullah started talking, “I need security and medics to the interrogation room now!” Abdullah stood and exited the room, still talking on his phone.
Yunram stepped back from Wong, “Stand up and take the key that is still in the lock on your handcuffs, and unlock Robert’s cuffs.”
As Wong moved to Brajovik, Yunram returned to the center of the room in front of them. Brajovik pulled his hands in front of him, massaging his wrists as he stood up.
“How are you going to explain us getting out the cuffs?” Brajovik asked.
Yunram smiled, “I am not even going to try, Robert. I will be seen as an incompetent and sent back to Thailand. I may even lose my job, but I doubt it. I am being paid well enough that it doesn’t really matter.”
The door to the room opened and one of Abdullah’s men walked in. I don’t think he had gotten the message that trouble was brewing, as he casually walked in, with his sidearm still holstered. Yunram did not hesitate as he swung his weapon in the direction of the new arrival and fired. I could hear the soft pop of the round and the guard’s head snapped backward with the rest of his body following. Brajovik’s reactions were surprisingly quick, as the instant Yunram turned his attention to the guard, Brajovik grabbed the chair he had been sitting in and flung it Yunram, catching him center body and with part of the chair striking him in the face. Wong followed the chair, lunging himself at Yunram and driving his shoulder into Yunram’s chest similar to a football linebacker. Wong slammed Yunram viciously into the wall, taking him to the ground while grabbing for his gun hand. Wong was sitting atop of Yunram, delivering pounding blows to his face and head until he was able to force the gun free from his grasp. Meanwhile, Brajovik pounced on the fallen guard, relieving him of his sidearm and belt knife. Both men returned to their feet, armed, and exited the room.
I flew out of the room on a dead run, nearly colliding with two members of Abdullah’s team running the same direction I was. They were armed with bullpup assault rifles, while I was running into a gun fight with just my imagination. All I knew was two armed men were only fifty feet away from a dining area full of innocent people, including Lin, Maria, and a bunch of Cambodian victims. As we passed through the lobby and entered the second hallway, I could hear the popping of suppressed weapon fire. Thought it was suppressed, it sounded like artillery fire to me.
The two members of Abdullah’s team slowed as we entered the hallway and went into assault mode. I didn’t. There was no way I was going to fail Lin and Maria the way I failed Stephanie. As Tennyson so adequately wrote, ’…into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell…’ there was no holding back.
The dining area had two double door width entries, one at each end of the same hallway. I could see three assault team members on the far end, crouched, waving for me to stay back. Not a chance. I ran through the first entry to the dining room and instantly spotted Brajovik on the far side. Somehow, he had gotten hold of one of the bullpup assault rifles and was firing throughout the room and towards the doors. My focus was directly on Brajovik, I had a straight line to him, with nothing in between. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Wong leaning against a wall with blood running down his front, but my target was Brajovik. He spotted me the instant that I entered the room, and with an evil smile turned the assault rifle in my direction. I saw the fired cases ejecting from the rifle as he fired at me, but I neither heard nor felt anything, so I kept running.
Suddenly there was a screeching scream and brown blur behind him as Maria came screaming out of the kitchen area and jumped on Brajovik’s back, clawing at his face and eyes with her fingernails. Brajovik let out a painful bellow as I could see the gouges forming on his face and around his eyes from Maria’s assault. Brajovik reached behind and grabbed her by the hair, flinging her off his back like a rag doll. As Maria crashed through the tables and chairs, Brajovik swung the assault rifle in her direction, just as I hit him at full run, with a forearm directed towards his face.
The force of the impact took both of us off of our feet, and airborne over a table. We landed on top of a group of standing chairs with enough force to throw me over the top of Brajovik, landing on a table beyond. I slid off of the table and scrambled to my feet instantly after hitting the floor. I could see Brajovik still on the floor on the other side of the table, so I leapt over the table, coming back down on top of him, grabbing for the assault rifle. The rifle was laying loose at his side as I grabbed it, spun around into a sitting position bring the rifle to bear on Brajovik.
Brajovik just looked at me with pain and fear in his eyes, but no other body movement. I caught a movement beyond and looked up just in time to see Wong raise his pistol in my direction. I raised the sights on the rifle and tapped off two quick rounds, but the effect was lost in the dozen or so red spots that suddenly formed on his body, from all different directions. I dropped the sights back to Brajovik, who just lay there looking at me. Within moments, two members of Abdullah’s team were covering Brajovik as I jumped to my feet and ran towards the interrogation room. I had one more person to deal with.
As I ran down the hall towards the interrogation room, I saw the body of the door guard slumped against the wall on the far side of the door. As I approached, the door opened and Yunram stumbled into the hall, holding his right hand over a blood soaked stomach area. I don’t remember him being shot when I was watching the monitors, but at this point I did not care.
“Help me…” Yunram extended his left arm towards me as he hunched over.
I never broke stride as I reached him and slammed the butt of the assault rifle into the side of his head, dropping him on his side in the hallway. I brought the sights of the rifle to his forehead and felt my finger tightening on the trigger. I stood there for what felt like a half hour trying to get myself to pull the trigger, but I could not do it. Not this way, as much as I wanted.
Then I felt a hand rest on my shoulder. “Easy, my friend.” Abdullah’s calm voice said behind me. “It’s over and we have him in custody. He has things he needs to tell us.”
I slowly lowered the rifle, and turned away from Yunram. I handed the rifle to one of Abdullah’s men who was with him. I patted Abdullah’s hand which was resting on my shoulder and started walking back toward the dining area when I saw Lin running down the hall towards me.
Lin’s face was a river of tears as she reached me, “Dan, Dan,” Lin cried, “it’s Charlie, Dan, it’s Charlie.”
My heart leapt into my throat as I raced back to the dining area with Lin and Abdullah behind me. My first time through the dining area, I was so focused on Brajovik that I failed to notice the calamity around me. There was blood on the walls, floor and tables and a number of people down, being tended to by Abdullah’s team and other survivors. I could see Sunan standing near the opposite wall, so I pushed my way across to him.
Charlie was lying on the floor on his back, lying in a pool of blood, with his eyes closed. His shirt had been torn open revealing two black holes, one high on his right chest and one a few inches lower. A team medic was already at his side and opposite was Maria, kneeling in what I assumed was Charlie’s blood. My eyes were draw immediately to Maria as she was not there just comforting Charlie, she was working with the medic.
Maria’s face had a constant stream of tears pouring from her eyes, but she was biting her lower lip hard enough to nearly cause blood trying to fight her emotions while she worked. The medic was handing her compresses that she quickly and expertly applied to the frontal wounds and repeated the process on Charlie’s back as the medic rolled him up slightly on his side. The medic was setting up to start a saline solution IV, and Maria quickly stripped off four pieces of medical tape, sticking them to her shirt while the medic started the IV. Once the needle was in place, Maria taped it down with the same quickness and expertise the medic was showing.
I was totally awe struck watching her. Despite fighting the emotions for the man she loved on the ground with bullet holes in his chest, she was able to show the strength to fight her way through it and do what needed to be done. That was a level of strength that I was not sure I had.
A few minutes later, another commotion caught my attention back at the doors and a group of men and women were pushing gurneys through the door.
“Medical evac helicopters are coming in.” Abdullah said behind me.
One of the team commanders was acting as triage officer, directing the gurneys to those needed evacuated, based on level of injury. The first one was directed towards Brajovik, which caused me to nearly explode as I spun around to intercept it.
Abdullah must have read my mind as he put both hands on my chest. “He is still alive and we need to try to keep him that way. The second gurney is coming for Charlie. Let these people do their job, they are good at it.”
I stood there for a moment, looking at Abdullah, realizing he was right, when Lin stepped up to me and wrapped her arms around my chest, I folded mine around her, nodding my assent to Abdullah. Turning I watch Maria and the medics lift Charlie to the gurney. Maria handed the IV bottle to one of the new arrivals, as she could not reach the hook on the IV pole.
Maria stayed at Charlie’s side as they wheeled him through the lobby and out to the front parking lot where two helicopters were sitting with rotors turning. Charlie was wheeled to the first bird and loaded. Maria tried to follow and one of the crew held a hand out to stop her. However, one look at her face told him that was a fight he was probably going to lose, so he changed his mind and helped her aboard. Three other gurneys were loaded on the helicopter with Charlie, and the rotor was spooling up even before the doors were closed. The ground crew barely cleared the area when the pilot cleared the ground, banking hard to the left as it climbed into the sky and roared away, with the second bird lifting off just seconds later. In the distance we could see another helicopter on approach to the hotel.
We headed back into the dining area and past medics carrying two more stretchers toward the hotel exit, though the victims only seemed to have flesh wounds and were not critical. Reentering the dining area I saw six sheet covered bodies on the floor. Sunan and one of the Cambodian victims were sitting next to one of the bodies. The Cambodian was one that I recognized as one of the more feminine ones, as she was still wearing a dress, heels and long hair. She was sitting next to Sunan, with her arm over his shoulders. Sunan had his face covered with his palms.
Lin and I walked over to Sunan and I laid a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes, reached down pulled the sheet off of the face of the body next to him. It was the leader of the dissenting group that had challenged Sunan to join them a month ago. They had become strong friends since that time.
“I can’t let him go home and be buried like this, Dan.” Sunan said recovering the face. “I need to get the implants out and his hair cut. Can I do that? Will you help me? He was only here, hell they were all only here because I talked them into it. I can’t leave him like this.” Sunan turned his face back into his palms and the girl sitting next to him pulled in closer. Sunan did not resist.
Behind me, there was more activity in the hall as I saw another gurney, this one well guarded. As we approached, I could see it was Yunram, with his stomach bandaged and both hands handcuffed to the rails on the gurney.
Abdullah walked up to Yunram and patted him lightly on the shoulder, “Kasem, my friend. You should pray. You should pray to whatever God you believe in that you die from your injuries. You personally killed two of my men and at least caused the death of a third. You know what our prisons are like for killers of the Police. You should be praying that you die.”
“I want to call my embassy.” Yunram said meekly.
“Do not worry, Kasem. I will be contacting your government very shortly and, along with other questions, I will let them know of your troubles.”
Lin and I followed Yunram out to the lobby but as they pushed him outside, we found one of the small sofas in the lobby and collapsed into it. Lin laid her head on my shoulder as I wrapped both arms around her.
“I am sorry for not asking, but are you okay?” I asked, in a low, soft voice.
Lin nodded without lifting her head, “I was actually in the kitchen with Maria when the shooting started, so I was not even around it.”
We just sat there quietly for a few minutes, lost in our own thoughts. Abdullah’s dropping into a chair opposite of us pulled me back.
“What is the final score?” I asked.
“Six dead, including Wong and three of my team, and eleven wounded counting Yunram and Charlie.”
I nodded, “Brajovik?”
“You broke his back and he is currently paralyzed from the neck down. He is currently on life support as he cannot breathe on his own. Doctors are reporting possible brain damage due to lack of air. We will just have to see.” Abdullah paused for a few minutes. “How did you do that, Dan?”
I looked up at him, “Do what?”
“Brajovik emptied half a magazine at you while you ran straight at him in the dining hall. That was point blank range, Dan, even a ten year old could have hit a target that close, but you did not even get a scratch.”
I shrugged, “someone looking out for me I guess.” I answered as Lin tightened her grip slightly. “Abdullah, we need to get to the hospital. Do you have anyone that can take us?”
Abdullah nodded, “I will get one of the team leads to take you. Charlie is in surgery right now. Probably be a couple hours.”
Lin sat up, “Yes, but Maria isn’t, and she is there alone.”
“I will get you there right away.” Abdullah looked down at his hands for a moment, “I have three families I need to go talk to now, and then we have more work to do.”
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