Chapter 288

Thursday morning I was up early at 0500 – it was already 0900 in Bamako. Vicky never moved as I slipped out of bed and quietly dressed in the kitchen to keep from waking everyone up. Crash was sitting at the table drinking a cup of instant Maxwell House, watching.

“Getting an early start today?” he asked.

“The C130 landed in Bamako at 9 last night, they should soon start the second leg. I want to make sure it gets off without a hitch,” I replied.

If Charlie started on schedule, they should be nearly finished. Either way, I was going to call and check on progress. I left a note for the morning cook that I was in my office and what I wanted for breakfast when she started cooking.

I logged into VCATS and my email. My email had several dozen messages, some with large attachments. Four were from Charlie – the first one was still shots from Buddy’s camera. It was a picture book of the flight from takeoff until they were in sight of the air tanker.

The second started where the first left off with the C130 approaching the fueling tanker and ended with it pulling away. The final group of pictures was of the African coast and landing. The video clips were of the complete in-air refueling with another segment on landing at the Bamako airport. It looked like I was the only one sent the emails, so I forwarded them to the rest of the girls.

I answered my ringing phone, “They are test flying the chopper now. The C130 has been refueled. As soon as Glen and the State Department returns and signs off, we are ready to leave for Khartoum,” Charlie said and then he continued.

“You should know Boko Haram has advanced its gorilla campaign closer to the international air route between Bamako and Khartoum. There are reports of aircraft coming under small arms fire. They were low flying small planes and helicopters. Two British and one French cargo plane are making the same flight we are today. The French plane wants to join up with us and fly as a pair. We agreed to that and they are scrambling to be ready when we are. I told them we would wait for a reasonable time on them.”

“The two Brits are leaving either later this morning or after lunch. They are not friendly at all, an independent group,” Charlie said.

“They may be going to detour somewhere along the flight for a resupply air drop. There are a lot of things going on in the area,” I replied.

“What is your plan?” I asked.

“Fly high and fast,” he replied then he asked, “What are the chances of side arms if something should go south on one of these flights?”

“To be honest, I don’t know but I will make some calls to find out. I know I would want one,” I replied. “Keep me informed – more often if you can – try not to get Lorries plane shot up; she would not be happy.”

I called Frank to ask about the sidearm request.

“Technically no; a lot of countries frown on civilian firearms, even when they are at war. You could get some jackets that say U.S. Diplomatic Security on them – that would get you some leeway. It is a gray area,” Frank replied.

At 06:00 Eastern, 10:00 GMT in Bamako, Charlie called again, “We are taxiing behind the French plane and will be airborne in a few minutes. Everyone is thrilled with the 407. I told them to call you. I told FBO, where the old chopper is, that we will pick it up tomorrow afternoon.”

“Be safe, Charlie,” I replied.

MaryAnn brought in my breakfast with another large mug of hot coffee. While I was eating, I looked at a notebook Cindy had prepared for me to work in tandem with the computer file on my computer.

I looked first at the Bamako embassy staff, Ambassador Steven Crow, 52 years old, had served in various diplomatic services world wide for a number of years. Grew up in the Midwest and had attended UCLA before joining a congressional staff as an intern. He quickly moved up and then was appointed as an aid to Ambassador Melvin Mitchell at the Japanese embassy.

I knew that name. Melvin Mitchell was the newly assigned ambassador to Japan. I was one of the military embassy guards on duty for the official ball to welcome him to his post. That was my last night in Japan. At times, it is indeed a small world.

I then looked at the staff list for the Khartoum embassy. It had been a large embassy but recent events in the Sudan had caused a reduction in personnel. I wondered why they had a chopper assigned to this embassy.

Bernie Furnell was the ambassador assigned there. He had been a major-mega fund raiser for the current president. That explained the chopper for sure, a perk that few ambassadors get. But why did he draw such a crappy assignment out of the 180 embassies the US has established worldwide?

I keyed VCATS to the Khartoum embassy and informed Ambassador Furnell that his chopper was on the way. He should expect its arrival at the Khartoum international airport in the six to seven PM time frame and be able to take a test flight in it tomorrow morning.

Even though his politics and mine were different, he received me as an old friend. So much so that I wondered if I had met him somewhere some time.

We spoke for an hour that revealed he had read the information that Amy had sent out and then done an extended search on JBG and me of his own. He had even viewed every part of our website. He asked a number of questions on the college security part of our company and about MAAR. It turned out that he had one of our Fast Tracks customer rental cards.

I spent another hour on VCATS and looking through the notebook as the girls were slowly filing in. Lorrie loved the flight pictures and video. Lorrie, Vicky and Ching Lee were excitedly discussing how to add it to the website.

I filled Lorrie in on the flight, Bamako to Khartoum. It was then that I remembered to send Marcy authorization to start billing the State department for the two choppers.

To set the tone for the M&M colleges, there had been a gang shootout on the main road that went past the Minnesota College last night. The police found three bodies on the sidewalk at 4 AM.

That area was not in the JBG security area, although it did back up a parking lot. The parking lot and sidewalk were separated by a security fence. The college had problems with the student parking lot being used by the section 8 apartment tenants across the highway for party central.

Charlie called at noon Eastern; they had just landed. It was 7 PM Khartoum time. They were going to try to get the chopper unloaded before dark. The flight had been nerve racking but uneventful.

Charlie said that they were going to get an early start in the morning at 6 AM there; that would make it midnight tonight here. I ended the call with instructions for him to call in the morning. I would stay up to take the call on my office phone.

Jake and Mindy came in after lunch. Being able to pull off the surprise appearance at the Christmas party had them pumped up. Tony was still in charge of the J&J Company Pennsylvania Site until the Japanese reactor job was complete and Jake was finished with Japan.

Then they were going to expand the company with a second location yet to be determined. Mom had found a house near the end of Summers Road, only a few hundred yards from the judge’s house. They had an appointment to meet the realtor there to inspect it at 4 today.

Jake came back at the right time; Carson had just called from Morton Field that there was a load of steel plate there. The vault was Jake’s project; he went to take care of it. Luckily the big forklift was still there in the super hangar.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.

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