Mazatlan, Mexico 30 July 2017 1547 Hours MDT
The plane’s tires chirped on the asphalt runway, announcing our return to earth. I stood and stretched, while Frank and Michael blinked the sleep from their eyes.
The guys started grabbing bags while I headed up the aisle of the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan to see the pilot. I laid my hand on the pilot’s shoulder just as the plane rolled to a stop.
Our pilot was a man in his late sixties with thick steel grey hair and a Magnum P.I. mustache. I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thanks Hank. You’re a lifesaver."
He grinned at me. “Always fun to play cloak and dagger again. Besides, you know I’d do anything for you Sarah.”
His face grew serious. “Be careful out there.”
I flashed him my most impish grin and turned towards the door. “Always am.” I tossed over my shoulder at him. I joined Frank and Michael as they started down the stairs.
Frank jogged off towards the parking lot to collect our rental SUV, while Michael and I started unloading duffel bags and pelican cases from the luggage compartment.
“So, Sarah…” Michael began with a mischievous grin, “Who’s your pilot friend?”
“He knows me as Sarah. Met him on an op several years ago. My first op after I got out of the military actually.
He used to fly for Air America, the tail end of Vietnam and then a ton of stuff in Central America. He retired a few years ago, but still flies.”
Michael nodded, impressed. “Seems like he took a shine to you.”
“Yeah, he pulled me out of a real shithole in Venezuela. We had dinner once we got back, and he gave me a few tips.”
“Well, I’m glad you were able to come up with air support. Frank and I have used the organization’s air assets, but we don’t have any contacts of our own.”
We pulled the last two pelican cases out of the plan as a dark blue suburban pulled up. Frank hopped out and we quickly piled our gear in the back.
I gave Hank a thumbs up and blew him a kiss before we pulled away.
Frank pulled over less than a mile from the small airport. He hopped out of the driver’s seat and opened the rear hatch.
I heard latches popping, but couldn’t see what he was up to with all the gear we had stashed back there. Frank appeared in my window, and I opened the door for him.
He handed me a rifle case and a plate carrier. Michael joined Frank on the side of the road and shrugged into his own plate carrier. I finished strapping my armor on and unzipped the rifle case.
The AR-15 had a short barrel, a Surefire Scout light and an EOTech XPS-2 holographic sight. I ran my hands over it lovingly. “Guys, you shouldn’t have!”
Michael unzipped his own rifle case and extracted an AR-15 that matched mine exactly. He hefted the rifle and looked at me sternly. “It’s my personal backup rifle. Don’t break it."
I gave him a hurt look and he grinned at me. Frank pulled his own AR-15 from a rifle case and locked a magazine into the magwell. His AR-15 matched mine and Michael’s with one exception.
Instead of an EOTech sight, Frank’s AR had a scope that I recognized as a 1-6 power scope.
Considering that his usual weapon was a scoped AR-10 and his background as a Scout Sniper, I supposed that his choice of optics made sense.
Michael opened a duffel bag and started passing out thirty round magazines for the AR’s.
I grabbed ten magazines, loading my carbine, slipping three into the pouches on my plate carrier and dropping the last six into my backpack.
We got back on the road and headed for our first temporary safe house, a villa in the hills north of Mazatlan.
I had rented the villa yesterday and we would use it to begin staging our upcoming operation in Culiacan.
After we shifted our base of operations closer to Culiacan, we would retain the villa as a fallback safe house and rally point.
I was sure that our upcoming attacks against the cartel would stir up a hornet’s nest of activity. I heaved a weary sigh.
I really hate having to use an escape plan, but we would definitely end up using it on this op.