DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 8B
September 22, 2011
With some gear in a backpack, he rode the motorcycle out of the safe house and headed toward the countryside. He drove along the highway toward La Boca, something of a tourist destination for Cubans. He’d been told in his briefing that it wasn’t really a spot tourists outside of Cuba visited that much – too rustic. In the off-season it was pretty quiet.
Leaving Havana behind, he found the suburban areas stretched out, leaving more smaller homes, farms, and what could probably be described as wilderness areas – Derek was hesitant about calling it jungle, although Cuba had its share of mountains and rain forests.
Half an hour outside Havana, Derek spied a long line of cars backing up. He eased up on the throttle. A half a mile ahead or so he thought he saw flashing lights. An accident? Or some sort of roadblock? Heart hammering in his chest, he wondered if it was a roadblock.
He pulled to the side of the road and pulled out the small map of Cuba he had found in the safe house. Glancing at his watch, he saw that time was running out for meeting his exfil deadline.
Wheeling the bike around, he turned around and took a right at the first road. The next thirty minutes was a blur of gravel and dirt roads winding through foothills and forest and suburbs, before he finally worked his way back into La Boca, which was a sleepy village, although there were many beautiful colonial-era homes.
Derek drove to a wooded area near the beach about a quarter mile from his rendezvous point. He hid the motorcycle behind trees, then rummage in his backpack and pulled out the night vision goggles. Donning them, he started a slow and cautious recon to the rendezvous site, keeping to the shadows. From house to house, from tree to tree. Mosquitoes swarmed around him in a cloud, buzzing in his ears.
Finally he was near a secluded area of beach. Cupping his hand around his watch, he checked the time. He had fifteen minutes until the boat was supposed to arrive.
He settled in next to a date palm and became motionless.
The seconds ticked by. Looking out at the water, he thought he saw a small boat out on the water, but couldn’t be certain.
Something caught his attention further down the beach. Some movement of some sort. He trained the NVGs on that area, the world lit up in green and black, but filled with shadows. Nothing showed up. Maybe it had just been a bush or tree moving in the breeze.
Shifting his gaze back out to the water, he saw the boat growing closer. Yes, right on time.
Taking out a small flashlight, he aimed it toward the boat and flicked it on-off-on-off, waited ten seconds and then flashed the light three times. After a moment, a light on the boat flashed once, hesitated, then flashed three times quickly.
Derek waited in his hiding place for the boat to draw closer. He would be glad to get the hell out of Cuba, but he was totally dissatisfied with how things had gone – he had not accomplished his mission.
The boat, a Zodiac inflatable with a sound-dampened engine approached the shore. A soft breeze tugged at the trees. Crickets chirped and other insects whined. The mosquitoes were terrible, feasting on any exposed skin. Otherwise, all was quiet.
Derek stepped out from the treeline and headed for the boat.
Suddenly spotlights lit up from three different directions, pinning Derek in its harsh glare. Voices shouted in Spanish and English: “Halt! You are under arrest! Don’t move!”
The Zodiac was still thirty or forty yards off shore.
Half a dozen uniformed men rushed toward Derek. Somebody fired a rifle at the boat. With a roar, the Zodiac spun in the waves and headed back out to sea.
Derek turned on his heels and sprinted into the trees. Bullets chewed the air around him. More shouts. The soldiers thundered after him.