26 November 2006

In Which Sarge Berates the Unknown and Asks What Is It?...


Was Calrissian behind the debacle that has become Klaipėda? Hardly was Newfield's body cold, guts like torn snakes mixing marrow and sinew from the carved out hollow of his belly, my own ammunition expended and the awful silence and beauty of the world suddenly like a living postcard surrounding me, Newfield's face curiously preserved, his eyes registering nothing until I shut them that I wondered and I ask again: was Calrissian behind this? It was hours later then, the sun almost up, the night a hallucination of violence, despair and rage. What was I to make of this, that was deeper than failure yet not so artistic that it could be called tradgey? Closing his eyes to the rising sun, it was the final gesture of that night of blind swords.

How could "The Carpenter" know the watchword was "Tuesday" and where was Halliday when the noise went down? The weeks of silence have been difficult but I don't know who to trust and I won't lie, I skipped out of Kretinga and hid out in Petersburg for a week before making a trip to Prague to see about the latest from Mercerier. I am afraid he is somewhere in Mexico right now and has already been to Quebec twice this month. Armed with that knowledge I know I must continue to Riga once again, where the demons are and the dangers of the flesh are equal to those of the job. Still, I think the laundering operation has been compromised and if everything runs through Riga and we push there, well...it's only a matter of time before they make a real mistake and we can shake somebody higher on the tree than even Mercerier. The Canuck menace runs hard through the veins of Canada, and the terror that they can bring to bare is awesome to contemplate, but in Riga, in Riga I think we can make something happen.

But who can I trust?

When the longshoreman calling himself Pyotr suddenly ran off leaving Newfield and I alone on the empty piers surrounded by the warehouses of this Baltic waystation, right away it was obvious, but my pleas for back-up yielded only static, and though my guns made souls that night, and my knife marked one more, I could not save that rookie of Banff. That same night, in a fury, I burned four of their delis and though I knew that my lack of subtlety would let them know they had taken the field, I would not give them those platforms and over the following week, though half of Klaipėda sought to erase me, I killed four of the owners who had collaborated so baldly in their infernal schemes. I wanted to make the soft underbelly of the complicit clench and taste fear and pain the way Newfield had. I did not hear him die, the sheer number of guns made a cacophony drowning out that solemn moment, I knew only that suddenly instead of being pinned from the north, I was surrounded, and it was then that I simply chose a warehouse and began to run, several bullets grazed me and I have two new scars, one of which should fade, I used a flash grenade as a diversion and if I hadn't had that? I don't know, but thankfully, somehow, I stumbled upon a platform where I set up a nice field of fire, gained an opportunity to withdraw and since then have seen too much of Eastern Europe with the idea that I was mere minutes away from ambush and death, and from which side?

Am I betrayed from within? Where are Halliday and Stewart? Why has Calrissian tried to call me home through Tallinn when he knows that a strong push now might weaken them to the point of desperation? It's all his people there and none of my own contacts. Perhaps I am paranoid, but the way things stand, I cannot afford to trust him, nor anyone. I have ignored the signs and the commands. I am, as they say, off the grid and it is lonely here. I have grown a beard, my hair is long and I try to look American, wear Nikes and t-shirts that advertise places that don't exist; I take pictures of buildings and eat McDonald's. If I see Halliday and it doesn't look good, do I fire? What if he was drawn away by a feint from some other source? What don't I know? These are trying days my friend. I know you must also dance with the possibilities of betrayal and even now take up a job that offers little in the way of accomplishing what we must accomplish, but I know too a mole lurks, and I know also that what happened at Klaipėda was no slip on our part, but something more sinister. For one needle now I would beg the world, but it is easier to withstand the torment, because I know that if I was to taste bliss, I would be hunted down in a minute. I know if Calrissian or anybody near him is the mole, every supplier of the sweet elixer from Petersburg to Berlin down to Athens has my specifications and promises of rewards if I'm turned in. That they would die like me, like rats, I am sure they are blind to that!

Take care my friend, I am to Riga and there I will begin to make sense of this. That I will see her? Well, if we are to make the Canucks taste fear and desperation, we must make our own plunges, we must be desperate ourselves. Not all my demons come from the sharp edge of the needle...some are sharper than even that, and go much further than the vein!

with regards and brotherhood I am



01 November 2006

A Simple Mountain Guide

It is good to be in the mountains. Here, the wind whistles as ones footsteps beat out the rhythm. Above the tree line, one sees – and is seen – for kilometers in all directions. There is a calm here that one finds only where man’s corrupting hand has not yet groped.

I am guiding a group of four US “tourists.” They call me “Borka,” and believe that I was once a member of the Yugoslavian forestry service, now an unemployed alcoholic seeking a few dollars to trade for vodka. I dutifully smoke unfiltered Russian cigarettes that cause them to cough and lead the way through the mountains of Albania.

HQ wanted me to take these “tourists” over the mountains of Macendonia into Abania. I did not know what they sought, nor do I know why HQ has assigned me to take them to their destination. An odd mission. They are obviously part of some sort of military force. They are pleasant enough chaps. They make crude jokes occasionally at my expense that I pretend to not fully understand. I tend to the fire and listen to snippets of what they say to each other. They keep their guard up. They do not fully trust me, and I respect them for it.

Last morning I stumbled upon one of them cleaning a disassembled rifle. His eyes narrowed and a low growled came from his throat as I approached. “You are wanting to hunting? Mountain sheep I show you. Many.”

He nodded, never taking his eyes off of me.

I lit a cigarette and came closer. “Nice gun.” A sniper rifle. Hunters indeed.

It was an FRF2. A French rifle.

“I hunting many times. Many mountain sheep here. I show you.” Then I walked away cursing the fact that I did not bring a weapon other than a Swiss Army Knife.

But it is easy enough to obtain weapons in Albania.

I begged them to let me buy more vodka in the next village we passed. “Bill,” the one whose rifle I had seen, accompanied me. Descending from the mountains, I led him over some loose shale. I wheeled suddenly around pointed behind him and shouted, “There!”

He twisted to look, lost his footing and his ankle bent awkwardly beneath him. He did not cry out, and for a minute I was worried his ankle avoided injury.

Wide eyed I helped him to his feet. “You have seen mountain sheep?”

He glared back but a flicker of pain crossed his face when he attempted to stand on his ankle. He grabbed my shoulder so hard it hurt and he seemed happy to have inflicted this trivial pain upon me. “Help me back to the others.”

I glanced towards the village. “No Vodka?” He only tightened his grip on my shoulder.

There was a heated but hushed discussion when we returned to the others. I am to continue on with Alan and Henry, while Bill and Gene wait here for us to return. They are upset that they are no longer together, but they are determined to press on. They asked me how much longer until we get to Kukes. They were happy with my estimate of two days.

Now I know where, and that they have a schedule to keep. But what appointment they hope to keep still eludes me.

I will remain vigilant.

There are some beautiful sand dunes near Klaipėda should you need some respite.