Red Mist, Chapter 14
Updated: Apr 27
No other organizations in the world can rival the Mexican cartels when it comes to tunneling. More than a hundred secret passageways of all sizes and lengths, some stretching a full mile, crisscross beneath the U.S.-Mexico border at any one time for the sole purpose of smuggling.
Abdul Hassan explained to Max Koga that Nasim al-Ahmed had used one of these tunnels to cross the border and visit a secret Al-Aqarib cell located in Chula Vista, ten miles south of San Diego. “He is planning a large-scale attack. It seems to be a very important one, or he would not have risked coming into America otherwise.”
“How do you know he’s there now?” Koga asked.
“I am scheduled to meet with him at the house at dawn tomorrow. He plans to unveil the details of the operation to our team, which is his usual fashion. He never reveals a plan until the very last minute.”
“Why didn’t you come to me until after he told you about this attack?” Koga asked. "We could have used that information to prevent it.”
“If I did that, I could not provide you with his location. He will disappear again right after our meeting. This was the only way to know where he was going to be beforehand.”
A part of Koga seriously considered not reporting what Hassan had just told him and go to the cell location alone. Although Hassan had mentioned there would be up to fifteen people there, Max liked his chances, especially if he had the element of surprise. But once he considering the pros and cons of such a move, he thought better of it and called it in.
After briefing Paul Verdy, Koga asked to be part of the operation: “I’d like to be there when everything goes down. It’s only a two-hour drive away from here.”
“Negative,” Verdy responded. “We need to leave this to the government agencies now. Our part of the job is done. I know how bad you want this guy…”
“I don’t think you do, sir,” Koga cut him off.
“Take it easy, Max. Rawlings and I will head there now to keep an eye out. You need to take your personal feelings out of this. Bad stuff happens when you make things personal. When I hear something, I’ll call you.”
Click. End of conversation.
Disappointed, Koga took his leave of The Warehouse and headed home, reaching his Koreatown townhouse in about an hour where he jumped into the shower and went straight to bed. It took a while for him to fall asleep, but when he did, the sound of distant gun shots soon roused him. As the pop-pop-pop of semi-automatic gunfire filled his ears, he calmly glanced at his nightstand clock, which showed four a.m.; he had only been out for an hour. And, just as he had anticipated, at the foot of his bed were his seven dead colleagues—Jimmy Slack, Karla Wilson, Bill Chen, Tim Kochi, Nathan Martinez, Hakim Nair and Tak Snow—all looking at him with blank expressions.
“I really wish you guys would stop visiting, or at least tell me what you want,” Koga said, sitting up against the headboard.
They laughed silently, as if he had made a joke. Then their faces turned grave, like they were trying to tell him something important.
“What’s wrong?” Koga asked, but the ringtone from his smartphone interrupted the seance, causing the apparitions to disappear into the darkness.
It was from Verdy.
After hastily picking up the call, Koga asked, “Did you get him?”
“No, we did not” his boss replied.
Koga cursed quietly under his breath. “What happened?”
“The Feds showed up at the house, but it was empty. The neighbors confirmed that Middle Eastern-looking men rushed out of there earlier in the evening with a couple of moving trucks, but the Feds got there too late. The FBI director thinks we were set up. He wants to meet with us at their San Diego field office at oh-seven-hundred. I need you to take point on this because you’re the one who brought the asset in.”
“I’d be happy to, sir. And I’m sorry.”
“It was a solid lead, Max. We just need to convince our clients of that. You can take the chopper. It’s parked at the Santa Monica Airport. I’ll have my secretary send you the details.”
“Argon has a helicopter?”
“Like I said before, PMCs are a lucrative business,” Verdy reminded him and ended the call.
Without wasting another moment, Koga jumped out of bed, dressed quickly and headed out the door of his townhouse. It was time for a follow-up conversation with Abdul Hassan.