Red Mist, Chapter 1
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Seven agents dead. Their bodies, some of them torn to pieces, littered the warm concrete floor as the stench of burning flesh and gunpowder hovered in the thick, wet air.
After being promoted to Senior Specialist with the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Special Operations Division, Maximilian Koga had just finished setting up a base of operations in a warehouse in Topolobampo, a port city in Sinaloa, Mexico, to monitor arms and drug shipments being smuggled into and out of the country. As he made his final preparations, a compact Mitsubishi pickup packed with C-4 explosives hurtled itself into the east side of the building, taking out the entire wall and setting fire to nearly everything inside of it, including the people.
Then came the gunfire.
With little time to respond, the DEA agents who survived the blast were inundated by 7.62x39mm caliber bullets flying at them from seemingly every direction. Despite a wounded leg, Koga was able to crawl to the side of fresh recruit Jimmy Slack, whose right side of his body was charred black from the blast.
“Sir, I don’t want to die,” were Slack’s last words, when one of the attackers, dressed in fatigues from head to toe, entered the facility, and casually walked to where both men lay. He pointed his AK-47 at Slack and put a bullet into the kid’s head.
The dark-faced intruder then looked down at Koga, sliding his mask down to ensure that the last thing he saw before leaving this world was his long, crooked face half covered by a bushy black beard. The patch on his chest indicated that he was a member of the Eldorado Cartel.
“You son-of-a-bitch” was all Koga could think of saying, as he looked him in the eye, waiting for the hot metallic slug that would end his life. But before the soldier could squeeze the trigger, another man, with a bald head and wearing an eye-patch, appeared on the scene, barking orders in Arabic. Koga recognized him right away: It was Nasim al-Ahmed, the leader of the Aqarib terrorist group, short for Al-Aqarib min Allah, “The Scorpions of God,” and one of the most wanted men in the world.
What on earth is the leader of a radical Islamic terror organization doing in Mexico?
Before Koga’s question was answered, the soldier responded to al-Ahmed with a curt nod, flipping his rifle around and sending the butt of his weapon into Koga’s face. All Max could remember was feeling a violent jolt followed by complete darkness.
When he awoke, he was no longer in the warehouse, but sitting half-naked in a cold empty room that looked and smelled like a medical clinic; his wrists and ankles were zip-tied to a metal chair, and a cloth gag kept his jaw from moving. Standing in the corner of the room was Ramin Madani, the Aqarib’s number-two man, a medical doctor born to affluent parents in Iran, educated in the U.S. and radicalized in Libya. Also in the room was a younger man, arranging several tools of torture on a metal tray, making sure that Koga had a good view of the three metal rods, two bone saws and what looked like a set of wire cutters.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Madani said in perfect English when he saw Koga’s eyes open. He rolled an office chair directly in front of his prisoner and placed his thin body on the seat.
Koga looked at him with a blank, silent stare.
After removing the gag from Koga’s mouth, Madani gestured for his assistant to bring him a separate metal tray from a shelf next to a sink. On it were two syringes, one of which Madani stuck into Koga’s neck.
When the needle pierced the skin, Koga’s vision blurred and everything he saw became tinted in a deep red hue. Then came a brief sensation of euphoria and relaxation, followed by an intense pain in his arms and chest that squeezed his lungs empty.
“I have just injected you with a little cocktail of Anectine, sodium pentothal and a few other psychotropic goodies,” Madani said proudly. “The pain will become worse, and you may die of respiratory failure unless you tell me who you have inside the Eldorado Cartel working for you.”
Gasping for air, Koga managed to spit out, “I don’t know crap.”
Madani frowned. He then said in a more forceful tone: “We know you’re with the DEA, and that you’re here in Mexico to spy on the Eldorado Cartel. Give us the names of those who have provided you with information.”
“Like I said, I have no clue, and I am not the DEA. Sorry, but you got the wrong guy.”
“I don’t believe you. Talk or I will cut off your fingers one by one, and then castrate you in the most painful way.”
“Be my guest. Cut away. You’ll get nothing from me,” Koga said through a forced smile.
Madani burst out in laughter, reaching for the other syringe and sticking the needle into the other side of Koga’s neck. This time there was instant pain that started in his chest, before spreading to the rest of his body. He saw his entire arms and legs engulfed in flames. Although he suspected that it was a hallucination, the hot searing pain he felt was not.
“Tell me the names of your informants,” Madani repeated.
“Go screw yourself,” Koga grunted through gritted teeth before blacking out.
Not knowing how much time had elapsed when he came to, Koga found himself still in the medical room, but alone. His body, thankfully every bit of it intact, was drenched in sweat and any attempt to move was countered by the zip-ties that still held him to the cold chair.
Looking for some means of escape, he heard automatic gunfire crackling in the distance. He then noticed a group of people standing in front of the door; it was his team, the six men and one woman who he had thought had perished in the warehouse. Jimmy Slack stood near the front.
“Hey, what are you guys doing here? You guys okay?” Koga asked.
They stared at him blankly without saying a word, then dissipated into the air as the door burst open. Two U.S. Navy SEALs wearing full body armor and carrying Colt M4A1 assault rifles entered the room, as one of them stepped forward and said in a clear voice, “Agent Koga, we’re here to take you home.”