Chapter 48

Desert Camouflage

Parker pressed the large back binoculars to his eyes and peered over the boulder, watching as the weirdly flickering blue light continued to pour out of the cavern and spill out across the red sands and green, tangled bushes that stood between him and Oliver Lucas. The swirling, undulating patterns of light washed out of the cavern with a weird, voluminous physicality that reminded him of the northern lights, or of a drifting fog flashing with lightning.

He lowered the binoculars and ducked back behind the rock. Whatever was happening in that cave, he didn’t like being pulled into it. Parker considered himself a man of the corporate battlefield. He was thoroughly in his element when browbeating a subordinate in a cubical farm or manipulating the political atmosphere of a boardroom, and he wasn’t above personally kicking some ass in the dark corners of a warehouse, or at least grinning as his bodyguard did the kicking for him, but being out in the field with a team of mercenaries at his back was another thing entirely.

“Is it time yet?” the mercenary captain asked in heavily accented English.

Parker turned and looked up at the man, who was a full head taller than him, and succeeded in keeping his eyes coldly fixed on the man’s deeply tanned face as he replied, “Five more minutes. We want to give them a good head start.”

The captain, Parker hadn’t bothered to remember his name, shrugged and turned away to whisper an order into the microphone clipped to his collar. Parker turned away from the captain and watched with a smile as fifteen mercenaries, also dressed in desert camouflage and armed with Kalashnikovs, emerged from the rented tour bus and began to creep across the landscape towards the rock bluff.

“I thought I said to wait,” he said.

“You said we would have a go for entry in five minutes. It will take nearly three minutes for my troops to reach the cliff face without making noise or exposing themselves unnecessarily.”

“Ah, well, I’m glad that I hired such a competent team.”

“You just tell me the objective and I will ensure that my troops achieve the objective,” the captain said. He hesitated for a moment, choosing his words carefully, then said, “I do question the necessity of such a large force. We risk exposing the operation and our political connections will only go so far. Your insistence on so many troops for such a small operation also makes me question whether you have accurately described our objective.”

“Are you suggesting that I am not paying you enough?” Parker said, his face slipping easily into the scowl he used when addressing a contractor who failed to deliver. “I hired your firm because of our previous mutual successes in Ghana, but if you are going to welch on this deal I can look elsewhere next time. What do you think? Maybe Blackwater would like our money. Or Leonidas.”

The captain’s face remained impassive as he replied, “Money has nothing to do with it. I just want to know whether you are just a desk jockey who over-estimated the need for force, or if there is a credible threat within that cave. I’ve never seen anything like those lights.”