Red Mist, Chapter 15
Updated: Apr 25
If the “No Trespassing” signs didn’t keep visitors clear of The Warehouse grounds, the armed guards posted around its perimeter certainly did. After driving through the main entrance, Koga parked his Lexus in the lot and walked quickly to the hidden entrance, where he put his thumb on a round scanner on the wall that unlocked the door.
On the other side of the doorway was a bald muscular man, probably in his mid-forties, wearing a tight black T-shirt and black jeans. He looked Koga over from head to toe.
“Is there something up, sir?” the man asked.
“Where’s Brian Panackia?” Koga asked.
“He’s probably home sleeping. I’m the night manager. The name’s Jay Spence.”
“I’m Max, the new guy. I need to speak with my guest, urgently.”
“This way,” Spence said, leading him to the interrogation room. “I’ll bring him right away.”
“Thanks, and don’t bother to restrain him,” Koga instructed.
Several minutes later Spence returned with Hassan, who wore a New York Yankees baseball cap, faded Levi jeans and a Boston Celtics T-shirt.
“Oh, it’s you Mister Koga, what can I do for you at this unholy hour?” Hassan asked, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
Koga ignored him, instead turning his attention to Spence. “Can you leave us alone for a few minutes?”
“Would you like for me to turn the cameras off?” he asked.
Koga paused. “That’s against company policy. That won’t be necessary.”
“Understood,” Spence replied before stepping out of the room.
Judging by the way he moved, Koga guessed that he was either a Ranger or perhaps Delta Force in his former occupation.
“Sit down,” Koga said, turning to his guest.
Hassan strolled slowly to the metal chair and took a seat. “Well, what is it?”
Koga positioned himself behind Hassan and knocked the baseball cap off his head. He then took a handful of his curly hair and pulled his head back.
“What are you doing?” Hassan cried.
Lowering his own head so his mouth was an inch from Hassan’s right ear, Koga said, “We just visited your so-called secret cell in San Diego, and guess what? No one was home. Now, I need to know, have you been playing me?”
Hassan raised his hands in a show of surrender. “Please. I told you the truth, everything. I’ve been there a few times myself. I swear to Allah.”
Koga eased his grip on the hair. “Then why wasn’t he there? Why wasn’t anyone there?”
“I do not know. Maybe one of you tipped him off?”
“Impossible,” Koga answered. “This mission was classified to the highest degree.”
“Then I do not know. You must believe me.”
“As you can understand, I am very dissatisfied with our little arrangement, and I am considering other options.”
Hassan’s body froze.
While some PMCs and rogue governments around the world still resorted to what the CIA called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or EIT, Koga never believed in torture because not only did it violate the rules of human decency, but befriending a captive and winning their confidence often provided better results. The operating manual at Argon, which Koga read the day before, prohibited EITs, such as waterboarding and sleep deprivation, but it was clear that Argon wasn’t opposed to slapping around an uncooperating guest from time to time.
Hassan clasped his hands. “Please, I beg you. I told you nothing but truths. Do not hurt me.”
“Who said anything about hurting you? I’m thinking of letting you go.”
Hassan gasped. “Nasim knows by now that I have betrayed him. I will not last a day in the open.”
“Not if you wear that Celtics jersey in this town.”
“I have done everything you asked. I have told you everything I know. I am still entitled to the reward money, yes?”
“Not a chance. You’re worthless to me now,” Koga said, facing one of the cameras and pointing at the door.
“What have I done to deserve this?” Hassan cried, looking up at the heavens.
A minute later, Spence stepped into the room. “All done, sir?”
“Yes. Take him back to his quarters, and thanks.”
Spence nodded and held the door open.
Hassan slowly made his way to the exit, then stopped when he reached the doorway. “I detest what my cousin is doing. I love and respect America. I love and respect all good people. I hope you believe that.”
“We’ll see,” Koga said and turned away.
When they left the room, Max lifted himself out of the chair and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He frowned in displeasure at his five-foot-ten-inch frame, pinching a small gut that had formed on his otherwise lean one-hundred-and-eighty-pound body. The meeting with the FBI awaited, and he wondered if the only reason he was being asked to attend was because they needed a warm body to throw under the bus.