“Vic, I think we’d better get over to the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) headquarters and give them a heads-up on what we’ve learned,” Flynn said.
“That’s not easy. They’ll want to know where we got our information. They’ll also ask about how Babue Dostrem died and why,” Russell said.
“Dostrem? All we’re asking about is why Nichols released men who were caught stealing from a U.S. Army warehouse,” Flynn said.
“Boyd, go back to the detachment and try to get a nap. If anything turns up, we’ll call you. Otherwise, check in with the Sergeant Major tomorrow before you go on duty,” Russell said.
After Boyd departed, Flynn and Russell took a Hummer and drove to the battalion headquarters of the Army CID for the region.
Within a half-hour they pulled into the CID parking lot and saw an Army sedan with the flag of a two-star general, parked next to a plain black car with U.S. Government plates.
“Must be having a big confab here today. The Special Agent I talked to said he’d clear some time for us. I hope he hasn’t been pulled into a big meeting,” Flynn said.
Inside the plain, frame building, they were directed to the office of Special Agent Hatfield. Flynn tapped on the door frame.
“Steve, good to see you, even in Afghanistan,” Flynn said.
“Bobby Flynn, my old Sergeant Major from Fort Bragg! How the hell are you?” Hatfield said.
Flynn introduced Russell and after a few moments of social chatter, the Special Agent closed the door.
“Major, Bobby Flynn helped me with my application paperwork to become a CID Agent. I owe him. How can I help you?” Hatfield said.
Russell and Flynn told the story of having apprehended a trio of thieves and turning them over to the MP detachment, only to see them released by Lieutenant Nichols. They did not mention either the elder Dostrem or the deceased Babue. They
also didn’t breach the subjects of Nichol’s early morning visit to the Village Elder’s compound. They had cast the fly and waited for the Special Agent to rise to the bait.
“Bobby, Major; there’s more to your story than you know. I’m not at liberty to discuss ongoing investigations. Not that there is one, of course.”
Hatfield wouldn’t have made a good living playing poker. Either that, or he wanted to make it clear that Nichols was the subject of a probe. Russell guessed that it was the latter.
“Gentlemen, please excuse me. I have to get to some paperwork and see if the boss needs me for anything, there’s a heavy-duty meeting going on, as you may have noticed from the cars in the parking lot. Bobby, come back and visit when you can. Bring Major Russell. Our club here is as good as anything you’ve got down your way,” Hatfield said.
They started down the hall leading to the front door. Flynn and the Special Agent were chatting about old times when they were at Ft. Bragg. Russell was only peripherally aware of their conversation, but a sight suddenly pulled him more quickly toward the building’s reception desk. There stood an old buddy standing by an acquaintance.
“Excuse me, guys, I’ve got to catch up to General McCaskill before he gets out the door. He was my commander when he was a colonel and I was a young captain,” Russell said.
He rushed down the hall toward the group surrounding the General. His C-Leg prosthesis gave him only a minimal limp. As he neared the group, the General looked up.
“My God! It’s Vic Russell. I haven’t seen you in three years. I heard you’d been wounded but were back on duty, what’re you doing here?” McCaskill said.
The group consisted primarily of CID officers and Special Agents. Their looks were protective and curious, as an outsider had interrupted their audience with the two-star. The general obviously knew the intruder and approved.
Their smiles could have been painted on by a beginning apprentice makeup artist.
“Sir, I’m commanding a supply and services battalion in the 54th Sustainment Brigade. I’m sorry for the interruption, but I couldn’t let a chance to say hello get away from me,” Russell said.
“Gentlemen, Major Russell was my operations officer when I commanded a… Special Forces unit. He put together some of the most imaginative covert actions I’ve ever known.”
The group around the General made polite mumbles and shook Russell’s hand tentatively. One of the senior men from the CID command nodded and engaged McCaskill’s attention again.
Russell turned to the civilian standing beside the General. “How are you doing, Mr. Bruce?”
“The General and I were just leaving, major. We have another unit to visit today,” Bruce said.
Obviously the spook didn’t want to have old times remembered in this venue. He was probably also using a different name.
“Bruce is right, Vic. We have to go. Give my aide a number where we can reach you. It’d be great to share a couple of brews and reminisce,” McCaskill said.
He put a hand on Russell’s shoulder. His blue eyes fixed on Vic’s. “I’ll be in touch,” he said.
The General, the civilian and their retinue drove away.
“So where did you know the General?” one of the CID men asked.
“Ft. Bragg, in a Special Forces unit, just as he said,” Vic said.
Since the Major was obviously not going to expand on the relationship, the group dispersed, leaving Flynn, Hatfield and Russell.
“So, where did you know General McCaskill?” Hatfield said.
“At Ft. Bragg, where the Delta Force has its headquarters. Don’t ask more than that, Steve,” Flynn said.
“Well that wasn’t a part of the post I was familiar with. I’ll let you know when we have anything I can tell you about the thieves,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield went back to his office and Russell and Flynn headed back to their headquarters. They’d been traveling for less than a half-hour when their vehicle’s radio squawked. Flynn answered the call .
“Sergeant Major, is the Battalion Commander with you?” a clerk from the office said.
“Roger, what’s your message?”
“We just got a call from General McCaskill’s Aide. They will be coming to your headquarters at 2000 hours. He requests the Major meet with the General then.”
Flynn glanced at Russell, who nodded.
“Roger, we’ll be waiting,” Flynn said.
“Damn, Vic. That was fast. What’s up?”
“Don’t know. General Mac doesn’t like delays. If he has something he wants me to do, he’ll tell me tonight. He won’t pussyfoot around.”
“Who was the asshole civilian?”
“CIA. He must be using a name other than Bruce at the moment. Maybe that’s why he looked like he had diarrhea and was looking for a toilet. You’re right in your assessment, though. He is an asshole. If he’s tagging along with General Mac, there’s some smelly shit about to hit the fan somewhere. You want to meet with the General?
“Sure, if he’ll accept me.”
“We’ll see. The man isn’t like most generals, and he loves senior NCOs.”