All five members of the Brandon team were in Jack’s motel room. Lou and Storm had just arrived. While they were eating a late carry-in lunch, Jack brought them all up to date. The mission was to capture one of the expected al Qaeda team they expected to kill or kidnap Hankins. Kelly briefed them on the layout of the garage apartment where Hankins was living. He was now securely tied to his bed.
Lou asked, “What do we do with Hankins?”
“Good question. We don’t want him. The Feds don’t want him and I don’t think al Qaeda wants him. My first concern is that nobody in this room gets killed or injured. By now I believe even our newest member, Kelly, realizes it is much easier to kill than capture. Capturing a Jihadist is not going to be easy. Better to let them have Hankins than to risk one of us getting killed. According to Kathy’s interrogation of Hankins, the recontact plan calls for Hankins to be in the extreme northwest corner of the Walmart parking lot at the junction of Route 17 and Route 544 in Horry County. We need a plan to get him there like a staked-out goat in a tiger hunt. The people coming for him will be pros. They will reconnoiter the scene before committing. Their attack will be fast and deadly. I really don’t have a plan to capture one of them alive. These people will not surrender and we cannot get into a shoot-out, especially in a public place. The only thing I can think of is to hit one with a long-range shot and then prevent their carrying off or killing the wounded person, and I don’t like it. Too many opportunities for things to get out of control. Comments?”
Lou said, “My comment is, I don’t like the scenario. It puts us in a constant reaction mode. How about we stake out the scene and take the first opportunity to grab one of them before they attack. They won’t be checking out the place in force. One or two will be deployed as scouts. The scout or scouts will seek out the best observation spots and check out the overall area from there. We pick the likely spots in advance and set up our ambush. Leave your perp to deal with al Qaeda on his own.”
Kathy said, “I like the approach. It keeps us in the driver’s seat. Worst case, except for one of us getting killed, is that we get nothing and the bad guys get Hankins. Good riddance. It also gives us the option of doing nothing and following one of them to a place where the odds are definitely in our favor.”
Jack was silent for a long moment and then said, “The truth is that we don’t have the resources for this or the authority to endanger a number of innocent bystanders. There is also the problem of the Professor learning we know something of his operation. I don’t think the Feds would like that at this point. My plan is to set up video coverage of the recontact scene and see if they will provide the surveillance coverage to follow the people that pick up or kill Hankins. Kathy, please deal with your Fed friends. You speak their language. Lou, check out the scene and pick the most likely observation posts. Storm, please select and set up the equipment needed to get coverage of the northwest corner of the parking lot. Lou will help you after he picks out the most likely observation points. Kathy, Kelly and I will move Hankins into position two hours before the recontact schedule of 5:00 PM. Remember, it will be getting dark by 6:00 PM. Okay, let’s go.”
Jack waited until Kathy talked with Frank, who gave his okay and said he would have two surveillance teams in place. The teams would depend upon them for car descriptions, direction of movement and a departure alert. Jack and Kathy went in one car to within a block of Hankins’ apartment. Jack entered the apartment first, Kathy and Kelly followed at three-minute intervals. Jack stepped inside the side door to the garage with his SOCOM pistol in his hand, round chambered and safety off. He moved silently across the garage floor and up the staircase. Hankins was still tightly wrapped on the bed. Tape over his mouth and eyes. Jack checked the small apartment, put the SOCOM under his belt in the small of his back. Taking ear plugs from his pocket, he forced them into Hankins’ ears. He no longer needed to speak, see or hear. Kelly and Kathy arrived and they began prepping Hankins. Jack pulled the tape from his mouth, jerked him to a sitting position and jammed the neck of a bottle of blended whiskey into his mouth. By the time they got over half of the fifth into him, Hankins passed out and reeked of Four Roses.
The three of them carried Hankins down the stairs and into the passenger seat of his own Ford Explorer. Jack could have easily carried him down over his shoulder but didn’t want to take the risk of Hankins throwing up and drowning in his own vomit. It was too soon for him to die. Everyone wore latex gloves and there was no reason to wipe down the apartment or Hankins’ car. Jack drove the Explorer. Kelly and Kathy with Shadow followed in their own car. With all the duct tape removed and the residue scrubbed off, Hankins looked like a sleeping passenger, held in position by the seatbelt.
It was only a 30-minute drive from Georgetown to the Walmart at the junction of routes 17 and 544. Jack noted where Kathy parked and temporarily parked nearby. He gave Hankins two sleeping pills and forced another several swallows of Four Roses down his throat. Then he drove to the nearly vacant northwest corner of the parking lot. He shifted Hankins to a position behind the wheel and left the nearly empty whiskey bottle on the seat. As a last measure, Jack put the loaded .38 revolver Kelly found in Hankins’ chest of drawers in his lap to convince al Qaeda the passed-out Hankins wasn’t part of a setup. He had been in the northwest corner of the lot for less than three minutes.
The lot was filling up with after-work shoppers. On the way back to where Kathy and Kelly were waiting, Jack checked in with Lou on his cell. Lou told him he hadn’t seen any sign of anyone lingering in the observation points he located. He and Storm had a good view of the Hankins car from a less obvious surveillance post and the telescopic camera lens was sighted in. Storm was ready to video the site when the people coming for Hankins were seen.
Jack said, “Great! I’m going to wait here until you spot them. We’ll give them scheduled time plus an hour before we move Hankins.”
Jack climbed in the back seat with Shadow and brought Kathy and Kelly up to date. When he finished, he said, “We might as well relax a bit. We could be here for two or three more hours. With Lou’s experience on the street with the Bureau, he’s not going to miss anything. My main worry is that alcohol and sleeping pills affect people differently. It’s possible Hankins will surface too soon.”