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Daniel Rasic

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Member Since: Mar, 2011

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The Pirates of Aden - Coming April 2011
by Daniel Rasic   

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Publisher:  Wings ePress ISBN-10:  1613099924


Copyright:  March 3, 2011 ISBN-13:  9781613090077

A past can be a terrible thing to remember...

Dr. Paul Alban has tried hard to forget. He’s managed to carve out a quiet and relatively anonymous existence with his girlfriend Ellen while working as a physician in Somalia. But when a Somali pirate is injured during the hijacking of a cargo ship and brought to his clinic for treatment in the coastal town of Bosasso, the demons of his past threaten to destroy the future he’s trying to protect.

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 Dr. Paul Alban has tried hard to forget.  He’s managed to carve out a quiet and relatively anonymous existence with his girlfriend Ellen while working as a physician in Somalia. But when a Somali pirate is injured during the hijacking of a cargo ship and brought to his clinic for treatment in the coastal town of Bosasso, the demons of his past threaten to destroy the future he’s trying to protect.

Paul is not only a physician for a humanitarian agency; he’s also a clandestine operative for the United States government.  His most recent task was to provide a gang of Somali pirates with the shipping manifest of a Ukrainian cargo ship.  According to the manifest, the ship was loaded with munitions. Strangely, it didn’t list the thirteen man portable nuclear weapons in container R-EX 030862.  Even stranger, Langley denies having sent Paul the manifest in the first place.

But when a group of terrorists, led by Kadar Hadad, the man Paul had nearly killed a decade earlier, steal the weapons and kidnap his girlfriend, it becomes clear to Paul that he’s been set up.  Now, considered a traitor in the United States, Paul must decide whether to go into hiding, or settle a decade old score and stop an unthinkable attack on U.S. soil.


The sun descended behind Mount Entoto, casting a shadow over the metropolis of Addis Ababa. Traffic swirled through the city and yellow streetlights dotted the darkening cityscape. At the foot of the mountain, twenty-three miles past the outer reaches of the city, surrounded by overgrown eucalyptus trees, a lone black sport utility vehicle was parked in front of a one story concrete structure with broken windows. At one point in history, the building had served as a schoolhouse.
On this day, it was a torture chamber.
Inside, Dr. Marshall Ramsey led two large men in black leather jackets as they dragged the prisoner through the front door, down a short hallway and into the main room of the schoolhouse. He carried a black briefcase in one hand and a battery-operated lantern in the other, which cast a bluish-white light against the crumbling interior walls. As soon as Ramsey turned the corner into the main schoolroom, illuminating the set-up inside, the prisoner went rigid, but was powerless against the brute force the two men used to lift and then slam him against the pine board. While one of the men leaned over the prisoner to stop him thrashing about, the other threw leather restraints around his legs, torso and forehead, fastening him to the plank. The prisoner now lay prone, balanced between two sawhorses, his feet elevated slightly above his head. They wrapped a black cloth around the prisoner’s head, covering his face.
Ramsey clicked his briefcase open, removed a pulse oximeter and placed the probe on the prisoner’s middle finger. It was the only finger with the nail bed still intact, the others had been plucked (or ‘manicured’ as the men referred to it), one each day, until he cooperated with the interrogation. Nine days later, he still hadn’t spoken a word.
The oximeter beeped and displayed a blood oxygen saturation of one hundred percent and a normal pulse of sixty-three. The bastard’s not even anxious, Ramsey thought.
The older of the two men in leather jackets, the team leader Staff Sergeant Steve Sidwell, tightened the strap around the prisoner’s torso with a good, solid yank and looked up at the doctor. “We good to go?”
Ramsey nodded and watched as the other man, FBI Agent Bruce McCormick, stood a digital audio recorder on the floor. He then placed a towel over the prisoner’s face and poured a steady stream of water from a red watering can onto the towel. Ramsey kept his eyes on the oximeter as water saturated the towel and then the cloth covering the man’s face. Water dripped off the towel and onto the floor.
The three men waited for the moment when the prisoner would no longer be able to hold his breath and exhaled, after which a deep inhalation would inevitably follow. The damp cloth would block air from entering the oxygen-starved airways like a massive wet mitt clamping down on the mouth and nostrils. Instead of sucking in air, water would seep into his nasal passages, down his throat and into his lungs, triggering a powerful gag reflex, which no matter how hard his mind tried, it could not interrupt, and more water would be swallowed. It was controlled drowning and Dr. Ramsey was the controller. He was there to bring the prisoner to the brink of drowning--so that the prisoner believed he was dying--but to intervene before irreparable damage to the body tissues occurred. The magic number was seventy. Never let a prisoner’s O2 go below 70, was the protocol. That’s when they start dying.
For eleven months, the team had one mission: to bring those responsible for the planning and execution of the U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam to justice. They were part of the larger FBI/U.S. army task force assembled as a response to the attacks. Eleven months of reviewing surveillance tapes, following leads, interviewing witnesses and questioning suspects had led them to this man: Kadar Hadad. The amount of evidence they had accumulated was enormous: photos placing him at the embassy hours before the explosion, connections to Al-Fawari--bin Laden’s associate in East Africa, audio recordings of him calling for the ousting of the U.S. from Africa, and extensive military training in demolition.
But none of that would lead to an indictment.
They needed a confession.
A poor audio recording retrieved by a CIA case officer in Kenya one month earlier was the closest thing they had to direct evidence linking Hadad to the embassy bombing. Through the static, Hadad was heard saying--presumably to a group of associates--that “the next target will castrate the United States.” The fact that he had said “next target” implied that there had to have been a previous one, didn’t it? It was enough evidence for them, but not enough to cover the gap between what makes intuitive sense and what gets a conviction in court.
But the very idea that there even was a next target gave the entire mission more urgency. They needed to find out what the next target was, and if it was already planned. Hadad’s choice of words--castration--led the three men to speculate what he was referring to. Ramsey’s mind had immediately jumped to an economic “castration” and thought of the attempted World Trade Center Bombing in ’93. Could Hadad be planning to bomb the towers again? McCormick assumed that meant a military target, and mentioned the Pentagon. Sidwell, perhaps the most concrete thinker of the three, took the castration reference the most literally; he shared his thought that Hadad would go after the Washington Monument. His idea was met with laughter but he did not back down: “Can you think of something that looks more like a penis?”[here too?] The truth was that they had no idea, but had to find a way to get Hadad to speak.
Dr. Ramsey’s role on the team was to: (1) monitor the health status of the prisoner, (2) ensure the prisoner survived the interrogations, and (3) identify potential vulnerabilities in the health status of the prisoner that could be used advantageously during interrogation. It was the last point that had troubled Marshall. It was not that using one’s own health against them was contrary to the Hippocratic Oath that bothered him, as monsters like Kadar Hadad did not qualify for the graces of ordinary ethics. It was that three weeks of investigation had not turned up any vulnerability. He was physically and psychologically healthy. And they were running out of time.
They had been holding Hadad in a prison in the center of Addis Ababa since he had been arrested trying to cross the border from Kenya into Somalia. For two weeks, Hadad was in a four-by-four foot cell, cold at fifty degrees and chained by his neck to the ceiling to force a standing position. At one point, he had stood for thirty-eight hours before his legs gave out. In spite of all that, he did not speak.
Not one word.
But then, Marshall had noticed something in one of the transcripts of interviews with Mohammed Al-Nadir, a childhood friend of Hadad’s. Rebels had drowned Al-Nadir’s parents in a river during a civil war in Sudan. He ended up in an orphanage where he had befriended Hadad. And then he had added, almost teasingly, “Maybe we were friends because our parents died the same way.”
And then the vulnerability was obvious.
Ramsey looked at the oximeter, which was now beeping quickly and flashing an oxygen saturation reading of seventy. Sidwell and McCormick quickly removed the straps, unwrapped the cloth and lifted Hadad up to a sitting position, but as soon as they let him go, he collapsed onto the floor on all fours, coughing rhythmically and spitting a white foam onto the concrete. He heaved and vomited a small amount of water before he looked up at his interrogators, his eyes red and filled with tears. Then, almost imperceptibly slowly, his lips parted so that his teeth became visible and it turned into a smile. He spoke his first words. “That was not very nice of you.” But Marshall then realized he wasn’t smiling at them, he was smiling at him.
A long moment passed, and then three men stared back at Hadad, not so much stunned at what he had said, but rather that he had said something. Sidwell, the team leader, reacted first and spoke. “You’re right, that was not nice.” Sidwell crouched in front of Hadad, who was still on all fours. “But you need to realize that we will not stop until we have a chat about the Nairobi bombing.”
Hadad nodded, and sat back against one of the sawhorses. “I will say that what happened in Nairobi was a travesty.”
“Two hundred and twenty four people died.”
“Yes, but the travesty is that one thousand survived.”
“You fuck--” McCormick pounced forward and kicked Hadad squarely in the face, the force sending him backwards, knocking the sawhorse over. Sidwell placed a hand on McCormick’s chest and pushed him back, telling him to calm down.
Hadad got up slowly, his eyes narrow, the grin still there, beaming. “Officers, you can torture me as much as you want. Hit me as many times as you want. You cannot kill me because then you will not have justice, will you?”
“It would be justice enough for me,” McCormick said.
“But he won’t let you,” Hadad pointed at Ramsey, “even though he wants to kill me, wants me dead, maybe more than you.” He didn’t break eye contact with Ramsey. “But killing me will not bring Dennis back, will it?”
Ramsey stared back at him, the words not registering in his mind initially. He felt unable to break free of Hadad’s gaze. The grin on Hadad’s face widened, seemingly taking pleasure in the surprise his words had evoked in Ramsey. Had he just spoken Dennis’s name? It seemed impossible; surely he had misinterpreted what was just said. But his mind wouldn’t let it go.
The images in the embassy flashed through Ramsey’s mind. They walked through the main foyer wearing their finest suits (maybe the only one Dennis actually owned), towards the main auditorium where their audience waited for them to deliver their presentation on setting up a joint psychiatric-medical clinic for children affected by war to treat both physical and emotional scars. It was a cutting edge proposal and Ramsey’s mentor through medical school, Dr. Dennis Hamilton’s brainchild. The clinic would be up and running within two years and would treat one thousand children annually. The final stage was approval of the international community, whose representatives sat in the Embassy’s main theatre.
Before they had the chance to get out of their seats and make their way to the podium, the building shook. Before anything else, any noise or smells, the ground shook. Next, they followed the mass of officials and delegates running through the hallways. Fire enveloped the walls and concrete chunks rained down from the ceiling. Tarry black smoke rolled in like a thick fog and lingered. The side exit came into view and the crowd filed out of what was left of the building when Ramsey heard a crash and groan behind him. He turned and saw Dennis on the floor, his lower body crushed beneath a concrete slab. When he turned back, the ground shuddered and flames burst out behind Dennis. Ramsey stopped and stared. The heat radiated. It was too hot. It was too late, wasn’t it? He didn’t have time to turn back, did he? No, Ramsey pushed the thought out of his mind again, it was the explosion that killed him. It killed all of his plans for children in Africa with him. It was this man, this devil, in front of him that killed Dennis.
“What did you just say?” Ramsey whispered.
Hadad's response was a grin. That stupid grin. Nothing else.
“Listen, Kadar,” Sidwell said and stepped in between Ramsey and Hadad, “we’re looking for those responsible. It’s our job to do this. But we want to find those that are actually responsible; we’re not interested in forced confessions,” he exhaled. “But we have evidence that implicates you. We are interested in a confession but we would like to know who else you’re involved with.”
“I have four wives and two girlfriends, they keep me busy enough. I have no time to be involved with anyone else,” Hadad waved his hand in the air.
McCormick stepped forward again with his fists balled, but Sidwell stepped in front of him, which seemed to temporarily defuse the Irish-American’s temper.
Sidwell rested his right hand on his chin, the sleeve of his jacket slipping to his elbow, revealing a detailed forearm tattoo of a spider web. A remnant of his early, pre-military days, he had told Ramsey. He turned. “Dr. Ramsey, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Ramsey followed Sidwell out of the room and into the dark hallway.
“How far can we take this thing?” Sidwell said.
“Excuse me?”
“The fucker knows we can’t hurt him, that we need him alive. And he’s smearing that shit in our faces every chance he gets,” Sidwell pounded the bottom of his fist against the concrete wall. “We need to make him think we’ll kill him if we need to. So, I need to know how far you’ll let me take this.”
Ramsey swallowed. Sidwell was right, enhanced interrogation only worked if the prisoner believed he could die. If they believed the interrogators would let them die. Dennis hadn’t thought he would die; he had no idea. No one in the Embassy had. But they did. And now there could be more targets? More good people killed? They had to find out more, and there was only one way to do it. Ramsey clenched his jaw and spoke through his teeth, “Take it as far as necessary.”
Sidwell slapped the wall in approval and Ramsey followed him back into the room.
Ramsey watched as Sidwell and McCormick laid Hadad on the plank and fastened the straps again. Ramsey placed the oximeter probe on Hadad’s finger and stared at Hadad, whose grin never left his face. Even when the black cloth was wrapped around his head, Ramsey swore he could still see the outline of the grin through the folds of the fabric. He has no idea what’s in store.
As McCormick poured the water over the towel covering Hadad’s head-- slowly, as though he were watering a delicate flower--Ramsey kept his eyes on Hadad’s face.
O2: 92%
Hadad’s head thrust forward, his neck muscles straining impotently against the leather strap and then his head recoiled with an audible thud against the pine board.
O2: 80%
His skinny arms tensed against the leather strap around his torso and his forearms twitched. Ramsey imagined Hadad’s eyes widening beneath the towel,
O2: 72%
not of surprise, no, of shock,
O2: 70%
at how the doctor could let this happen,
O2: 65%
because the doctor is supposed to stop it by now,
O2: 55%
but he wants you dead more than anyone else.
O2: 44%...

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