Wednesday, May 14, 2014

WIP: Chapter 3 of 'Dragonslayer'


     As Morgan settled back in his chair, Carlton Raine began to demonstrate that he was, in fact, very good at his job.
     “I suppose you’ve heard the dirt on this guy, Joshua Saidu, the former head honcho in Naganda,” he said. Morgan nodded and made a sour face. “Yeah, he’s that bad, and more. Rumor has it that he kept a stable of underage girls in the basement of his mansion to satisfy his twisted desires. That, though, wasn’t the reason the army guys moved on him.”
     “I understand the coup was really accidental,” Morgan said. “Gweru and his men were really in the capital to complain about pay and living conditions, and Saidu bolted.”
     Raine smiled and nodded. “You’ve been doing your homework. That’s precisely what happened.”
     “Well, if they didn’t want to take over the country, why didn’t they just press their case with the second in command?”
     “First, Saidu didn’t really have a second in command,” Raine said. “The man didn’t believe in sharing anything. He used the National Security Service under the control of Julius Bongo, who was also chief of staff of the army, to keep the military under control. That was as close to a number two as you can get. Bongo feared that if he moved against the young officers after Saidu flew the coop, he might suffer for all that he’d done to them before, so he also went into hiding. The senior officers of the military decided to back the young Turks, figuring that if things went wrong, the young guys would take the fall, and they could move in. The international community’s recognition of the junta caught them off guard, and as often happens in these little jerk water countries, these guys liked being in charge.”
     “Afflicted with the Big Man Syndrome, eh?”
     “Big time. The top leaders in the junta convoy to work at State House every morning in high-speed convoys of Land Rovers and pickups with guys carrying machine guns and RPGs all over the place, and they strut around with armed bodyguards like Roman legions.”
     In Morgan’s mind, images similar to Dagastan after the coup formed. When those on the bottom took over, he knew, they tended to emulate the ones who had previously been on top.
     “Has the situation improved any?”
     “I don’t know what it was like before, but I doubt it,” Raine said. “The poor are still scratching for a living. Oh, the army has it better, now that one of their own is in charge – at least, that part of the army that’s loyal to Gweru. He put his uncle, Gideon Banda, in charge of the Nagandan National Security Service, and made him chief of staff of the army. But, the double-N, double-S, as the security service is affectionately known, is still as ruthless as ever, and anyone in the army who steps out of line, is still likely to disappear.”
     “I take it you’re declared to the security service,” Morgan said, referring to the agency’s normal practice of having its senior man in an embassy known to the country’s top spies. “With the head of security also being in charge of the military that must cause some jurisdictional disputes with our defense attaché.”
     Raine chuckled. “It could, but our attaché, a sharp army colonel named Liam Brennan, is a savvy guy, and pretty easy to work with – at least, that’s been my observation during the week I was there. They don’t have much of an army – about six battalions – so he spends most of his time keeping an eye on the Soviets. The GRU has about five guys under cover in their embassy.”
     “Shit, and here I’d thought by going to Africa I’d get away from our Russian friends.”
     “Oh, it gets better,” Raine said. “We got a ton of Chinese Communists prowling around as well. I can promise you, your tour will not be boring.”
      “What can you tell me about the foreign community in Naganda?”
     “Not a lot. You have a few Brits who stayed on after independence, mostly in the capital, and a large Lebanese community that has been there for a century or more. Out in the countryside there are American missionaries, and some of them have been there since the 1800s, too. The Chinese are doing aid projects, which means the Chinese community is growing. That’s about it, except for the diplomatic community, and that’s about what you’d expect – a lot of guys running around interviewing each other for their dispatches back to the home office, and bored wives with nothing to do but play bridge and drink.”
     In a mere week’s time, Raine had catalogued Naganda, and Morgan knew that he was only scratching the surface. As one of the first blacks to be recruited by the agency for field duty, he’d had to be better than good to succeed. It helped that he was just naturally good at the business – he could be charming and affable one minute, and a cold-faced killing machine the next, and he had an encyclopedic memory. He was also a good judge of people, and if he thought well of the defense attaché, Morgan knew that his intelligence team was first rate.
     “I guess,” he said. “That just leaves the embassy family. What’s your take on our people?”
     Raine frowned, and the muscles in his jaw tightened. “Most are pretty good. The DCM’s a racist prick, but I hear he’s asking to be curtailed. You’re lucky to lose him. You have a pretty good political chief, except he’s a bit full of himself. I already mentioned Brennan, the DATT. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get to know most of the others. All in all, though, I’d say you’re inheriting an outfit that you can whip into shape.”
     “I just hope I don’t have to whip too hard.” They shared a laugh.
     There was a polite rap on the door, and Wells opened it and stuck his head in. “Lee Kennedy and Alison Chambers are here to see you,” he said.

     “Hey, Blood,” Morgan said, using Raine’s nickname, a label he’d achieved because of some of the dangerous field missions he’d been on. “I have to meet with these people. Let’s get together for a drink before you head back.”