Red Mist, Chapter 12
Updated: Apr 22
Stimson Park was an ideal meeting place for those who preferred not to be noticed. Located in the middle of an upper-middle-class residential area, the park itself was small—a grassy plot of square real estate just off the main thoroughfare. At its center was a playground for children, complete with a slide, a miniature merry-go-round and a quartet of swings. A solitary wooden bench rested along a walkway, hidden from view from the main road, under dim overhead lights.
Koga walked around the playground, taking in the surrounding area, and took a seat on the bench. A heavy fog had descended on the park, giving the place a somewhat eerie vibe. As he patted his personal SIG Sauer 9mm, hidden under his fleece jacket, the chime of a cell phone broke the silence…only it didn’t originate from any of his devices.
The sound came from below, prompting Koga to look under the bench. Duct-taped to the bottom corner of the seat was an old-style flip phone. Brian must have missed it when he swept the place.
Koga peeled off the tape and answered it. “This is Max.”
“Mr. Koga. I am glad you came,” a voice said in a slight Middle-Eastern accent. “I see that you have rounded up my colleagues in North Carolina. Does that mean you have agreed to my terms?”
“Yes, definitely,” Koga answered. “Do you have the location of Nasim al-Ahmed?”
“Great,” Koga responded. "Then why don’t you come out, and let’s talk.”
Hassan laughed. “And let your fellow agents subdue me and take me in like a criminal? I think not. I know what happens to people like me. We’re taken to Guantanamo Bay, correct? I need to make sure that I am paid that fifteen million dollars with guaranteed immunity and protection. Then I will show myself to you.”
“It’s your call, but that money can’t be released unless we have Nasim al-Ahmed. And the way I see it, you’re probably already in hot water for giving up your colleagues in North Carolina. Al-Ahmed is going to want to know who ratted them out.”
“You would double-cross me like this?” Hassan asked with a tinge of concern.
“No,” Koga replied. “But it was the FBI that raided the hideout, not my organization. And your cousin may have informants inside the FBI who can trace the tip back to you.”
“I am not an idiot Mr. Koga. I have made precautionary arrangements in case things like that happened,” Hassan snapped.
“Look, Abdul, if I may call you that, I will be honest with you. There is a car parked down the road with my colleague inside. He’s supposed to be keeping an eye on me, but because of this fog, he probably can’t see what’s happening here—and I chose not to wear a wire—so it’s just you and me. I have the agreement with me that promises you the reward money if you deliver. I really believe that you want out of your organization, so why not trust me and let me take you somewhere safe. Like Jerry Maguire said in that movie…”
“Help me help you,” Hassan completed the sentence for him.
“Yeah,” Koga responded with pleasant surprise. “You’ve seen it.”
After a long pause, Hassan said, “Please wait there for five minutes,”and ended the call.
In less than half that time, a man approached on an electric scooter. Koga thought about unzipping his jacket for better access to his weapon, but instead stood and raised his arms in a show of good faith. Hidden by the darkness and fog, the man stopped about fifteen yards away, just out of the reach of the overhead lights. Koga could make out the silhouette of a small-statured man with curly hair, and although his face wasn’t completely visible, he was certain that it was the same person who broke the window of his beloved RX-7.
“Abdul?” Koga asked.
“If I am to go with you, I must first see the agreement,” Hassan said.
“You got it. I’m going to slowly turn around and reach in my back pocket to get it. The contract says if you provide us with information leading to Nasim al-Ahmed’s capture or death, you are entitled to the reward money, as well as placement for you and your immediate family into our witness-protection program. It’s signed by the Secretary of State himself.”
“Please do it slowly,” Hassan instructed.
Despite the lack of visibility, Koga was sure that Hassan had taken out a pistol and was now pointing it at him. After turning around to show the white envelop stuffed into his back pocket, he pulled the document out and tossed it in Hassan’s direction.
The terrorist took a moment before dismounting his scooter. Then, taking one step towards the envelop, he bent his body to retrieve it. The overhead light caught part of his head, revealing a surprisingly gentle-looking face with soft features and a thin beard; he looked several years younger than his purported age of thirty-eight.
“You understand, I must take precautions,” he said as he took out a smartphone and snapped a photo of the piece of paper.
“Of course,” Koga answered. “If you’re done, shall we go?”
Hassan wore a troubled expression, as if the hard reality of what he was about to do had suddenly set in.
“We need to leave now,” Koga pressed.
Hassan took a deep breath and stepped fully into the light, offering his pistol grip-side first. “I am ready,” he said.