By 6, we were up, dressed, and packed and ready to go. By 0630 we had finished a light breakfast. By 0700 we were in G5 was climbing the great blue sky towards Ecuador. Vicky and I were both working on our laptops. I was replying to the remaining e-mails as fast as my fingers would type. Vicky was dealing with the up coming training schedules at the gym. We worked almost 35 minutes.
At 0745 right on time, the VCATS went off for our scheduled meeting with the JBG home office. The timing for this meeting was intentional to force it to be short meeting. Jenny, Marcy and Ching Lee were glad we were leaving Columbia behind us. I didn’t say anything, but Vicky and I had that very conversation as the landing gear doors chimed that they were closed 45 minutes ago.
We were still on schedule as far as our part of the plan, even after yesterday’s events. Lorrie confirmed that the chopper exchange was going as planned.
At 0756 Vance turned on the seat belt light and announcing that we were in the landing pattern at Quito International Airport- the signal to end the conversation that I had asked him for.
Another Suburban was waiting for us in the general aviation section. The ride to the embassy today was peaceful one with Daniel Hawkins as the wheel man. There were no angry crowds in the streets.
I remembered reading some of his file from the stack that Amy had left at our office.
I had a chance to review Dan’s file before we landed. His file indicated that he had been with Black Water for over ten years and was now the senior JBG employee at Quito. It was reassuring that he did time in the sandbox and had left the Marines after a disagreement with an officer. It was no surprise that he was immediately recruited by Black Water.
The US embassy at Ecuador was a very old embassy by its architectural look. There were large columns with crowns and flare trimmings. The blocks that made up the walls were huge by today’s standards, like the ones in an old historic castle. A winding road led up a hill; this embassy was built on the high ground.
In the front was a circular drive that ended with marble steps that led to a huge door like the ones you would see in the movies. That circular drive was made for horse and carriage or small cars; navigating the Suburban around it would have been a challenge.
Dan drove the Suburban to one of the side entrance gates. This one went into a majestic courtyard that was incased with a high stone fence made from the same type of stones the buildings were constructed from.
In that courtyard were several more buildings. One of them was – without any doubt – an intelligence gathering and communications building. It was bristling with antenna of all kinds.
Another building that I noticed was a garage with apartments above it. This embassy also had a pool, a tennis court and a basket ball court.
Dan pulled to the rear entrance of the embassy, which was as elaborate as the it’s front entrance. As we were getting our bags out of the Suburban, Dan introduced us to Ambassador Andrew Woodman, his wife Sally and his executive secretary Linda Charms, who came out to help us with our bags.
Andrew Woodman was a charmer; it oozed in his mannerisms and how he talked. I thought he was young for an Ambassador; he, Sally and Linda were not much older than I was. What caught my eye as we greeted them was how Sally and Linda were so bubbly. In fact there were signals that Sally and Linda were more than just friends – there was that look or touch that I was familiar with that I shared with my own mates.
Even though it was nearly nine, breakfast was just being set out on the table. Andrew invited Vicky and me to sit down to a feast, to my surprise it was like a morning breakfast I would have cooked at home on a normal Sunday morning. They did their homework on us as we did on them.
The conversation over breakfast was mild and relaxed, and the food was great. Sally and Linda were gently probing about our company. They had a lot of interest in how six girls came to lead such a large company. They were even more surprised that we were the owners and not a front to get preferred status for government contracts.
“If it were a front, I don’t think I would be taking bullets for them,” I replied.
That changed the conversation over to yesterday’s shootings in Bogota. They had watched the State Department provided footage of the events and the newsreel, and had been very afraid that the unrest would spread over much of South America.
I asked about previous threats in the area and if there were any known radical groups in the area. This was my first test on how things operated here, and I did not like what I heard.
“No, we don’t have any problems like that here,” Andrew replied.
I guess the he did not know I could access the department’s alert system or that I understood that all those antennas on the building out back were not there for birds to roost on.
I had looked at today’s alerts before I stepped off the plane. There were several notes of interest for Ecuador; two of them were active. That in it raised red flags; either he was trying to BS me, trying to find out what I knew or someone in high levels did not trust him completely. The other thought was that he simply did not take that part of his job seriously. I would need to look at things in more detail when I had the time.
It was time to move on from the chat and get on with business.
“I would like to take a tour of the site and meet my employees,” I said.
The tour of the place started with Andrew, Vicky and me walking the grounds with him pointing out various sights. There was a winding staircase that went up to the roof observatory. From there we looked out over the city. Andrew pointed out the postcard shots; I wasn’t impressed.
Vicky and I were both still sore from yesterday and the three flights of stairs did not help. I was glad that going down would be easier. Then there was the tour of the parking garage. The security employees bunked there, I was told. I thought it was interesting that in the tour I saw no one in a security role. That was another concern that needed looking into when I had the time.
We went past the building with all the antennas. Andrew calmly told me that he did not have access to that building so there would be no tour of it. I noticed that it had an electronic card lock. I would try my ID card before I left.
It was 1100 before I finally met the rest of my employees in one of the meeting rooms. Besides Daniel Hawkins there were three more men and two other women. Alice Dorsey and Ellen Mills were the two ladies – Randy Thomas, Bill Wilders and Sandy Thompson were the men.
Alice and Ellen were the same ages as Andrew, Sally and Linda an interesting coincidence I thought.
Cindy had been working diligently on the Black Water files for me. In this morning’s email I had a file of all the employees here and for all other assets at each site we were visiting this trip and at all stops from now on. The file was complete with employment history, job appraisals, pay history – even the original job application – and it was now on my laptop.
I was going to interview them together and then I was going to review the files on each one of them again. If I had any questions, I would approach them separately for the answers. I had questions for Alice and Ellen that I had better ask privately.
As a group, I asked what training Black Water had given them in the last year, when their weapons were replaced and when they had qualified with the weapons. I started to get the feeling I had my work cut out for me here.
I saw red flags in their files as I read them and in their answers. Alice and Ellen had been hired at the request of Andrew and neither had anything in their background that stood out. There was no special training or skills in diplomatic or security, so why were they here? If I had to guess it was as playmates.
I could not flag Andrew for a more intense check but I could Alice and Ellen, because I was paying them. The fine print written in the contracts by Fine, Howard and Howard allowed JBG to realign employee assignment and locations as necessary after the full takeover. That also included training as necessary at my discretion. Security at this embassy was in need of a work over.
I sent both Victor and Jason an email that I wanted a full the background report on Alice Dorsey and Ellen Mills, not the cover story that was in the file. Even though I thought I knew the real reason they were there.
I dismissed the group after I asked if they had any questions for me. There were a few basically general questions. As they were walking out I asked Dan to stay.
“What in the hell do those two women do? I see nothing in their files to indicate any security or intelligence training at all. Yet they are listed as bodyguards for Mrs. Woodman and they have no weapons training or certifications. Where do they spend their time?” I asked.
I hated to put Dan on the spot like that but he was the senior JBG employee on site and received a pay grade step as site leader.
“They arrived a few days after Andrew and Sally and we were told they were part of the security detail. When I asked questions, I was told not to ask any questions,” Daniel replied.
“When you have questions or think there is something going on that YOU thinks I need to know about, YOU call me direct,” I replied as I handed him one of my personal business cards that few people get.
I finished the interviews and then made nice with Ambassador Andrew and his wife Sally before dining on another extravagant supper.
By 2100 we were back on the G5 and were fastening our seatbelts as it was taxing towards the runway, waiting our turn to take off. It was a three hour flight to Lima Peru, and then add in over an hour in a holding pattern. It was 0130 when Vance, Charlie, Vicky and I checked into the five star hotel at the Jorge Chávez International Airport just a few miles from Lima.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Joe H.