Chapter 26

October 23, 2011 at 11:06 pm (The Job)

Ingram woke with a massive migraine and a raging hard on.  At first he couldn’t determine which hurt worse. His mouth felt gluey. He’d lost count of how many drinks he’d had. Whatever they had been laced with didn’t wear off well.

Rolling over in bed, he saw that the woman was gone. He had no idea when she’d left. The movement caused his head to start crashing. Stumbling from the bed, he made his way into the bathroom. Flicking on the light, he stared at himself in the mirror.

His eyes were bloodshot. His skin was sallow and bleached looking. Swishing some warm water in his mouth, he then turned on the shower. It would take a cold one to lose the hard on, but he didn’t want to wake up that way.

Half an hour later he felt mildly human again. Leaving his room, he noticed that Leland’s door was closed. Idly, he wondered who, or what, was in there with him. He didn’t want to focus too closely on that thought. He had a vague recollection of the events of last night and instincts told him to leave that one alone.

He’d lost his phone. It was nowhere in his room, he was certain of that. Wandering through the halls, he managed to find his way back to the lounge. The place was pristine. He couldn’t remember exactly what it had looked like the night before, but he did recall drink glasses crowding several surfaces. He looked under seat cushions and on the floor, but couldn’t see it anywhere.

Heading back to the hallway, Ingram began searching for their host. He found two of his guards instead. He’d positioned them outside the house, their attention focused on every access point to the cliff top. A chopper would not be given clearance to land on the upper helipad. Any chopper trying to land anyway would be fired upon. A warning would be sent first. If the pilot didn’t heed the warning they would be shot down.

Two of the guards had come into the house, but without any way of knowing where Ingram and Leland were staying, had waited in the foyer. Ingram approached, sensing trouble before they opened their mouths.

“Donovan is on the island, sir,” the guard, Patch, said without preamble. “Graff has split the teams in two. One is in the jungle going after a Hinckley and they’ll hit Donovan, too.”

“Where the hell is Hinckley and why has Graff split the teams?”

Patch explained what had occurred during the night. He mentioned that Graff had attempted to contact Ingram on several occasions, but couldn’t reach him. Patch knew exactly why Ingram had been incommunicado. They’d been told to allow the chopper full of women to land.

“I’ve lost my phone. Give me your radio so I can talk to Graff.”

Patch pulled the ear bud from his ear and removed the battery pack from his pocket. Ingram attached the device and immediately hailed Graff.

“Sir, I’ve been trying to contact–”

“Where is Donovan?”

“He’s near the centre of the island, sir. Caputo’s team is looking for Hinckley in the same area and will take care of Donovan as well.”

“Donovan is the only man I care about. If you have to leave Hinckley behind to get Donovan, do it.”

“Sir, some of the members of Caputo’s team aren’t aware of this particular directive.”

“Then tell them to split off.” Ingram growled to drown out Graff’s complaints. “I don’t fucking care how they do it, just get it done. Donovan cannot make it up here alive.” Ingram cut the connection with Graff. He led the way outside and motioned Patch away from the house.

“We only have a couple of hours left. Once the vote is passed, it won’t even matter if Donovan turns up alive. That being said, I want the fucker dead. If he makes it past Graff’s men and whatever the hell is in that jungle, then you be ready to finish the job.”

Patch nodded and loped off to procure another radio. He would update his team and make certain they were apprised of their directive. All of the men on the cliff top were aware of the hit on Donovan. He would not get past them.

Ingram returned to the house and went in search of their host.

***

Their host, a man not a party to the Wagner killing, a man called Leinster, sat in front of a wall of television screens. Twelve screens in all, they cycled through various CCTV feeds from cameras placed all over the island. One of the servants had brought Ingram’s phone to him. He’d not known the man’s name; hadn’t been interested in learning it. He’d thought to give it back to the man, but as he listened in on Ingram’s conversation with his guards, he changed his mind. Ingram’s radio would have to be enough.

Leinster’s gaze sharpened as he noticed three people trekking toward the crocodile pond. He recognized Donovan instantly. What was Leland doing at the house if Donovan was still alive? He knew that some members had supported Leland’s arrival when there had been no conclusive evidence of Donovan’s demise. Leinster had not. If Donovan was making his way through the jungle, knowing what was out there, then he must have known that his approach via helicopter or airplane would have been contested.

That would explain all of the men that Leland had brought with him. The watch on the beach had amused Leinster. Leland was clearly not aware of the inhabitants of the jungle, thanks in large part to all of Wagner Pharmaceutical’s illegal drug testing. Drug testing that had, admittedly, made the board very wealthy. If Leland was offered a spot on the board, to replace Wagner, he would not offer them anything in the way of new money.

That was a problem for Leinster. Not because he’d run through all of his money. He had accounts in several major banks around the world. Fully three-quarters of his true financial wealth was not known to anyone. New money was needed to add to the old. He fully believed that a man could never have too much money and the power that came with it.

Lately there had been several upstart organizations trying to horn in on the action, cutting away a significant portion of the agency’s gross profit. The agency had a tremendous amount of overhead. Their training program alone cost them in excess of twenty million per year. It was a costly business trying to train the latest round of bloodless hit men. Casualties were high, particularly in the early stages. No new money meant they would have to find other ways to make it.

That meant bigger jobs. There was only one other tier of job that the agency had yet to tackle with any sort of consistency. They had been boiled down into a catchall category; political assassinations. They didn’t necessarily consist solely of political targets, however. If Wagner hadn’t been on their board, he would have fallen into that category. The fact that Parker was successful in pulling off that hit without being caught, without even being seen, amazed him. It told him that she would be a perfect candidate to complete future jobs of such a caliber.

Leinster pitched forward in his chair as he watched Donovan’s man get stomped on by a croc. His mouth dropped open when Parker leapt at the thing and stabbed it through the head. There had been no hesitation in her; no worry of the risks to her own safety. Leinster continued to watch them as they headed into a dense part of the forest. He might not like Leland, or think he added much value to the board, but he worried that Donovan wouldn’t make it much further. His current path was taking his team straight into the heart of the gorilla’s village.

The board would have to go through with the vote as planned. Leinster hoped that Donovan would make it. There was little else that Leinster could do for him at this point.

***

Graff kept expecting Billis or one of the others to call in saying that the Donovan job was a done deal. His men were all on the common channel and the chatter was minimal. They hadn’t encountered any more gorillas yet, but knew they were out there. Billis had no chance to lag behind and then disappear into the woods. Caputo was too aware of what his team was doing and didn’t allow anyone to get left behind.

Graff’s team had rounded the bottom curve of the island and now headed down the long straight stretch to the helipad/landing area. They could see their destination, but it was still over ten miles away. Their speed was hampered by the wounded. Graff’s shoulder was throbbing and he thought the blood had soaked through the bandage again.

The men were taking turns assisting the wounded, so that no one person got too tired to continue. Graff had ordered the two-man teams closest to the boats to head around that way and secure a couple. They should have arrived by now. Their silence was ominous. There was still no word from the men stationed near the elevator.

With not even the snapping of a branch to warn the soldiers of their presence, gorillas leapt from the jungle and swarmed them. Graff’s first instinct was to run, but there was nowhere to go. Men opened fire, cutting down several of the advance guard. The gorillas in behind used the bodies of their fallen pack to ward off the bullets and close in on the soldiers.

The soldier hauling Hager’s litter dropped like a stone as a gorilla pounded its fist onto his head. Picking him up as though he weighed less than a feather, the gorilla turned and headed back into the jungle. Hager still had his MP-5 and sent a volley aimed at the head of the retreating gorilla. Several of his shots hit their mark and the gorilla dropped the soldier. Stumbling awkwardly, it swayed a few times and then crashed to the ground. The gorilla’s eyes were still open and aware, but he wasn’t moving. His breathing started to slow down until, with a small exhalation, it stopped entirely.

Several of the soldiers ran straight into the water hoping to evade the beasts. The gorillas followed them in. One man, Bruner, turned and hammered the closest gorilla with a tremendous barrage to the chest. It had almost no effect and the gorilla kept coming. Remembering Hager’s warning from earlier, Bruner aimed for the head just as the gorilla leaped on him and pushed him under the water. The rounds blew the gorilla’s head apart and the body dropped down on the soldier, pinning him beneath it. Struggling with only a half a breath left, Bruner dug himself into the sandy bottom to wiggle out from underneath the gorilla’s body. As he felt the blackness starting to set in, he finally got his legs out from under the body and pushed his way to the surface.

A quick glance at the battle showed the gorillas winning. Setting his rifle to 3-round shots, the soldier carefully picked his targets.

“Winters, duck!” he called over the radio. When Winters instinctively obeyed, Bruner fired, hitting the gorilla full in the face. He picked his next target, a giant even among his own kind, who was trying to carry off two of their soldiers. Three rounds to the back of its head did nothing. Bruner shot it again. Lowering his aim, he hit the gorilla in the back of its left knee and watched as it overbalanced and fell to the ground.

Splashing out of the water, Bruner ran right past the battle and into the jungle. The giant had landed on one of their men, partially crushing his left leg. Bruner walked around to face the front of the gorilla. His eyes were filled with pain, but he wasn’t releasing his hold on his captives. Bruner placed the muzzle of his rifle within one inch of the gorilla’s eyes and pulled the trigger. Three rounds exploded from the end and carved through the beast’s brain. His hold finally relaxed. Bruner and the second soldier rolled the gorilla off the first soldier and assessed his leg.

“Stay with him and keep watch. I’m going back out there,” Bruner motioned to the battle on the beach. Taking up position at the edge of the jungle, he meticulously lined up his next shot and fired. The gorilla whipped around, but didn’t fall. Bruner fired twice more before the gorilla fell.

“These guys are stronger,” he whispered over the radio. “Three rounds aren’t enough to cut them down, even head shots.” Bruner focused on the gorillas nearest him, but they were spreading out over the beach. Some had already made it safely into the jungle with their captives. Several of the soldiers lay on the ground, unmoving. They appeared to have been stomped on. The gorillas left them alone, going for the ones that were still up and fighting.

Bruner narrowed his eyes and analyzed that theory. He could see that two of the soldiers he’d thought were dead, weren’t. They were severely wounded, but he could see that they still breathed. But the gorillas ignored them.

“We need to play dead! They aren’t going for anyone who isn’t moving!” Bruner continued to take his shots as, slowly, the soldiers comprehended what he’d said and started dropping to the ground. As actors, they were terrible, but the gorillas didn’t seem to be critics. Nudging the men with their hands, when they received no response the gorillas turned away. Bruner crouched down at the base of the tree as the last of the gorillas swept past him. They carried their dead away. Bruner had watched as one gorilla waded into the water to retrieve the beast that had attacked him. None were left behind.

Bruner returned to the two soldiers in the jungle. The second soldier, one of their junior medics, had already found sticks that were straight enough to use as splints. Using bandages from their first aid kits, the junior medic bound the leg tight. Picking the soldier up off the ground, they helped carry him out to the beach.

The soldiers who had played dead were now assisting the wounded. Bruner confirmed that the third man who had gotten stomped was in fact dead. One of the other two had also since died. The last was hanging on with a gash in his chest and a crushed right knee and shin.

Bruner turned to Graff, who appeared to have gotten away from this battle unscathed. The man had a haunted look in his eyes that worried Bruner more than the physical wounds did. Physical wounds healed up. If they left a scar, it was visible. Bruner turned to Hager who was still lying on his litter.

“There are two in the jungle, just over there,” Hager whispered. “I don’t think the gorillas took them when they cleared out the body.”

Bruner charged into the brush to find the soldiers lying in a heap on the ground. A quick check showed a strong heartbeat in each. He dragged one and then the other out onto the beach and placed them next to Hager. Studying the faces of the surviving soldiers and adding in the names of the dead, Bruner realized that the gorillas had taken four of their men. Of their twenty-two-man force they had five men who couldn’t move under their own steam and three dead. Add in the four missing and that left ten able-bodied soldiers to see them safely to the boats.

“Caputo, the gorillas made off with four more soldiers. I’ve got five wounded and three dead out here.” Bruner couldn’t afford to send anyone in after their missing.

“Roger that. Make for the boats. We need our exfiltration secured. We’ll take care of the missing.”

“On it.” Bruner addressed the remaining men, issuing orders to assist their wounded and make way for the boats. They had a ten mile hike ahead of them and they couldn’t afford another encounter with the gorillas, so they would have to double time it as best as they could.

“Let’s get our exfil secured so we can get the fuck off this hellish sand spit,” he muttered.

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