Rules of War
The pain of his little girl was all that mattered. He knew he would likely die if he did what they asked, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was saving her.
Chief Inspector Santiago Rojas of the Counterintelligence Direction of the Bolivarian National Intelligence—known as the SEBIN—stared across the rectangular wooden table at the two older men; one he knew, the other he only recognized from Venezuelan television and politics. At thirty-nine and the head of a special domestic unit charged with preventing internal threats, he’d been summoned to the meeting at a clandestine safe house that the SEBIN used for staging operations and other low-level tactical planning on the northern outskirts of the city at the base of the Venezuelan Coastal Range mountains.
An executive to one of the men had approached him at home and notified him that they needed his help in a sensitive, dangerous matter and that they’d be willing to help his daughter in return. She is everything to me. No matter what they want, no price is too high if they can help her.
“If you do this,” the older of the two men now said in Spanish, white hair loosely falling across his forehead, “we will do everything we can to save your daughter, starting this very moment. Do we have an agreement?”
The second man, bald on top with black hair shaved neatly to the skin on both sides of his head, sat quietly, studying Santiago.
The irony is that either one of them could have ordered me to do this, but instead, they’re bribing me. Whatever this is, it’s not for official channels. But he knew better than to raise his questions. Men of power always have their reasons.
“We do, sir,” Santiago replied calmly, and looked both men directly in the eyes. Please, God, let the treatment work. “Myself and my men are at your disposal.”
“No. This is for you alone. Your unit must never know. Ever. Do you understand?” the seventy-year-old politician replied. “This mission is too sensitive, Santiago,” he said, using the chief inspector’s given name. “If you utter a word of it to anyone, you put us, yourself, and most importantly, your daughter, in serious danger. This mission must not be compromised.”
What have I just agreed to? Santiago thought, his black eyebrows furrowing momentarily above sharp eyes and angular dark-brown features that women paid attention to when he was near. Whatever it is, you’re in it now.
“Gentlemen, what exactly is the mission?” Santiago asked, genuine interest in his voice.
The two men looked at each other, and the white-haired man opened the leather bag in front of him, pulled out an 8.5" x 11" high-resolution color photograph, and placed it in front of Santiago.
Looking off to the side toward something Santiago would never see was a figure he instantly recognized as a man of purpose with an indefinable aura of danger around him. Staring into the unknown was a strikingly handsome American with a slightly tanned com
plexion, short brown hair, and a faint scar that ran down his left cheek. But it was the eyes that the hidden photographer had captured that drew him in—bright-green pools of intelligence seemed to dance on the thick, glossy paper in front of the inspector. They shone with calculation, but Santiago sensed there was much more to him, that this formidable man was capable of great violence.
“It’s not a ‘what.’ It’s a ‘who,’?” the white-haired man replied and jabbed a bent, aged finger onto the face of the man. “And he’s now your primary target.”
Santiago was quiet as he studied the photograph a moment longer, before finally speaking. “Tell me who he is,” he said, and committed himself to a course of action from which there was no turning back.
For my daughter, Santiago thought one last time, and proceeded to listen to what the director of the SEBIN and the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice had to offer.