The Unusuals


HENRY heard them coming, as did the airman sitting at the duty desk. The young man from Arkansas checked the flat-screen monitor. A look of concern spread across his face. Henry knew he was looking at the video feed from the security camera mounted at the main door. Bagram Air Base was a busy place even at 12:21 in the morning, but most of the action was taking place over on the flight line. The Taliban liked to move at night, so the air force and army pilots were out hunting. Forwarding operating bases were being resupplied with bundle drops, Special Forces teams were loading up for insertions, and the wounded were coming in and going out. The base occupied some 840 acres and averaged more than four thousand personnel at any given time. It was a city unto itself, but even so, the building they were in was off the beaten path.

The main internment facility sat near the middle of the base, nearly a half mile away. The Hilton, as they liked to call it, was fully automated, with surveillance devices built into each of the eight cells and two interrogation rooms. All cell doors, as well as the main steel door that led to the cells, had to be remotely opened from the control shack. There were only two ways in and out, and both required the proper ID card and pass code. Henry had given Tapp both in advance.

Henry casually strolled over to the desk and asked, ”Whats up, Luke? ”

The nineteen-year-old looked anxious. ”It looks like weve got some unexpected guests. ”

”Who is it? ” Henry asked, knowing damn well who it was.

”I don know. ”

There was a metallic clicking noise as the locking mechanism on the main door was released. Footsteps could be heard, and then six men wearing olive-drab-and-tan Airman Battle Uniforms, or ABUs, entered the room. Fitch Tapp led the group. He had a black eagle on each side of his collar, which meant he outranked the airman by a mile. As he approached the desk, the airman jumped to his feet and snapped off a salute. Tapp returned it and said, ”As you were. Are you Airman First Class Luke Jackson? ”

”Yes, sir. ”

”Im Colonel Carville. Air Force Office of Special Investigations. ” Tapps right hand shot out to the side. He snapped his fingers and the man behind him placed an envelope in his palm. Tapp retrieved the letter from the envelope and held it up so the young airman could read it. ”This is from the secretary of the air force, ” Tapp said in a commanding, clipped voice, ”authorizing me to take temporary command of this interrogation facility. Do you have any questions, Jackson? ”

The young airman nervously shook his head from side to side. ”No, sir. ” ”Good. ” Tapp turned to Henry and eyeballed him from head to toe. Henry was

wearing an olive-drab flight suit with no name or rank. ”Who are you? ”

Henry grinned. ”Im afraid thats on a need-to-know basis, Colonel. ”

”OGA, ” Tapp said in disgust. The acronym stood for Other Government Agency, which was a euphemism for the CIA. ”You goddamn spooks. You
e more trouble than you
e worth. ” Tapp turned back to Jackson. ”You
e on duty until oh seven hundred? ”

”Thats correct, sir. ”

”Follow me. You too, ” he said to Henry. Tapp led them back through the doorway. There were offices on the left and the right. Tapp opened the door on the left and said to one of the men in his entourage, ”Chief, remove the phone and keyboard from this office and make sure this spook doesn leave until I say so. ”

Tapp walked across the hall and opened the other door. Looking at the young airman, Tapp said, ”Jackson, in here. Im going to assume I can trust you to not make any phone calls… no e-mails… no communication at all. Is that understood? ”

”Yes, sir. ”

”Good. Grab some shut-eye on the couch, and don leave this room unless I say so. Is that clear? ”

”Yes, sir. ”

Tapp shut the door, walked back across the hall, and opened the other office door. Henry was standing on the other side with a big grin on his face. The two men shook hands and then walked back down the hallway past the control room and into a small cafeteria. Four of the five men who had entered with Tapp were waiting. Henry walked up to the oldest man in the group and extended his hand.

”General Randel, thank you for making the trip. ”

At five feet eight the general was four inches shorter than both Henry and Tapp. His most striking feature was the contrast between his black beard and close-cropped gray hair. The former Northern Alliance general slapped Henrys hand away and gave him a big hug. He laughed and in heavily accented English said, ”I would do anything for you, Mike. ”

Henry had been the first American to meet with General Randel after the assassination of Northern Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. He paved the way for the arrival of warriors from the U.S. Armys 5th Special Forces Group and an eventual offensive that dislodged the Taliban from the north. Randel may have been a ruthless warlord, and one of Afghanistans largest exporters of opium, but he was also very loyal to those who had helped him wrest his land from the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Henry regarded Randel and said, ”Even if it means getting you in trouble with the U.S. military? ”

”Your military has more important things to be concerning itself with. It would be wise for them to turn all prisoners over to me. ”

”Wouldn that be nice? ”

Tapp looked at his watch and said, ”General, we
e a little short on time. To be

safe, we should be finished and out of here by oh six hundred. That leaves us about five and a half hours. ” Tapp turned his attention to Henry. ”You want to cover anything before we get started? ”

Henry had put a lot of thought into the best way to utilize their time. He had decided that he and Randel would handle al-Haq, while Tapp would be in charge of interrogating Husseini. Theyd already gone over their strategy, but with Tapp involved, Henry felt one thing bore repeating. ”Remember, no marks. ”

”How do you expect me to get him to talk? ” Tapp complained.

”Be creative. ”

”I can just shoot him in the knees? ”

General Randel nodded enthusiastically at the idea. The two of them made Henry very nervous. ”Guys, we can leave any marks. ”

Tapp smiled. ”Don worry, I brought along something special. ” Tapp looked across the room and said, ”Pedro, did you bring the rats? ”

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