Denver, Colorado, USA 11 July 2017 1614 Hours MDT “Springtime. I repeat, Springtime.” The phone went silent in my hand as my instincts took over. ‘Springtime’ was our last ditch, emergency evacuation code word.
None of that “Get out now, they’re on their way” junk you see in the movies. Professionals don’t have time for that kind of drama.
Our ‘Springtime’ evac plan called for me to assess my situation while grabbing my essential gear and leaving the hotel as quickly as possible.
Of course, it also assumed that a large and well trained contingent of heavily armed operators was on the way up, so the front door was obviously out.
I pulled up the video feed from the lobby and both stairwells on my tablet as I grabbed my go bag and slung it over my shoulders.
I could see three, no four men in suits crossing the lobby towards the front desk, while both stairwells had tactical teams just beginning rapid ascents.
I drew my Glock 19 from its holster and did a quick press check as I headed for the door.
I switched the camera feeds on my tablet to a pair of cameras covering the eighth floor hallway outside my room.
Everything looked good, so I slipped into the hallway and headed for the north stairwell at a quick walk.
I pulled up the trigger app on the tablet as I reached the stairwell door and pressed the two green buttons with both of my thumbs.
I had swapped out two of the emergency lights on the third floor of each stairwell just after I had placed the cameras.
Inside each of my new phony light assemblies was a smoke grenade, sixty 5.56x45mm blank rounds, a steel ball and some assorted electronics.
The command from my tablet fired the smoke grenades, which would fill the stairwells with sixty thousand cubic feet of black smoke.
I leapt lightly down the stairs and ducked through the door to the seventh floor hallway just as the shooting started.
The smoke would not only trigger the building’s sprinkler systems and fire alarms,
but prevent the advancing tactical teams from seeing that the gunfire they were hearing was just a bunch of blanks, and not an actual gunman.
If you know how the enemy are trained, you can exploit their standard responses. I felt a wicked grin spread across my face as I counted down.
Remember that steel ball I mentioned?
The faux emergency light box should eject it so that it bounces down the stairs while playing a recording of a voice calling “Frag out!"
Trust me, stairs are the worst possible place to have a firefight, and having a fragmentation grenade tossed down the stairs at you is just about the worst turn of events you could imagine.
It wouldn’t fool the tactical team for long, but long enough to let the suited agents in the elevator make it to the eighth floor first.
I pressed my ear against the elevator doors as I buckled the rappelling harness around my hips and tugged on thick leather gloves.
As soon as I heard the elevator car pass the seventh floor I used a special key to unlock the elevator doors and pushed them open.
I already had half a dozen glow sticks cracked and glowing in my left hand,
and I tossed them down the elevator shaft as I clipped my carabiner to the best anchor point inside the elevator shaft. I stepped out into the void and pulled the doors shut.
I walked quickly backwards and down as I let the climbing rope play through my gloved hands. A quick glance down revealed the bottom of the elevator shaft gently illuminated in green.
As soon as my feet hit the floor, I shucked out of my climbing harness and grabbed the large garbage bag lying half behind some machinery.
Inside was an expensive black leather shoulder bag which contained my escape and evasion kit.
I stripped off the light workout jacket, running shoes and athletic socks, leaving me in matching black leggings and sports bra.
I pulled on a pair of tan slacks and slipped my feet into black pumps with a very low heel.
Next came a white blouse, which I tucked into the slacks before cinching the leather gun belt tight around my waist.
I transferred my Glock to an inside the waistband holster already clipped just behind my right hip.
A pair of spare magazines rode in a kydex carrier on the left hip, helping to counterbalance the weight of the gun.
My brown hair disappeared under a red wig of excellent quality, and a string of pearls at my throat completed the look of your average business woman.
I shrugged into a black leather jacket to conceal the weapons strapped to my waist and dumped everything else into the leather bag.
I strode out into the parking garage and headed for the fire exit to my left.
Fire alarms were already screaming through the building, so I wasn’t going to attract any attention by opening this door. This was the most dangerous part of the exit strategy.
If the enemy suspected that I had bypassed the grab teams, there could be another team waiting on the street, or possibly a sniper in a nearby building.
I’d have to trust my backup team to spot them and deal with them, but everything would be better if we could avoid a firefight in the streets.
I pulled my phone from the bag and speed dialed Michael as I crossed the parking garage. “Diamond” I said, using the code word that indicated I was safe and ready to exit the parking garage.
If I had been in trouble and cut off from my primary exit point I could use either “Ballroom” or “Mayday”.
“Ballroom” would have told Michael to pull around the corner and wait while I used a small explosive charge to breach my own exit through the wall,
and “Mayday” meant he should come in guns blazing.
“Clear to move.” I didn’t know this guy, but I liked how cool and professional he was about all this.
Our organization had assigned him to be half my backup team on this operation, and so far, he had saved my bacon. I exited the fire door and quickly checked the street as I crossed the sidewalk.
Michael was sitting behind the wheel of a tan Chevy Tahoe with one hand on the wheel and the other out of sight.
I hopped into the passenger seat and the vehicle was rolling before my door was shut. I noticed that his right hand was wrapped around the pistol grip of a Steyr AUG carbine.
I liked him even more.
“Frank says no snipers and no grab teams on the streets. There’s a CZ Scorpion Evo and spare mags in the back for you.”
I reached back and grabbed the 9mm submachine gun and the sling bag with extra magazines. Damn, but I love a man with firepower.
“Marry me” I sighed, grinning at him as I worked the slide and saw brass peeking out from the chamber. One corner of his mouth quirked up in a half smile.
Michael made a turn into an alley running behind a nearby building, and popped the rear hatch fifty yards in.
Not five seconds later a man rolled into the back cargo compartment, pulling the hatch door closed behind him.
He braced his feet against the back door and did a sit up, bringing his head up just enough to peek over the back window.
His hands flew over a nylon guitar case without a glance, and an AR-10 with a very short barrel appeared in his hands.
Unlike Michael’s short hair, clean cut features and dark suit, Frank was wearing jeans, a heavy green button down shirt and a leather bomber jacket.
Aviator sunglasses and a day’s worth of stubble obscured his features. These two were a pair of very serious operators.
I turned to back to Michael. “What went wrong?” This should have been a simple operation.
“I don’t know Claire. We saw the tactical team arrive and signaled you. Leadership might have something for us once we get to the safe house.”
I leaned back in my seat and sighed. I really hate having to use the escape plan.