High Tides Preview

 

High Tides

CHAPTER ONE – BEGINNINGS

 

I was sitting at his desk reading a DEA file sent in the form of an encrypted email from his boss Christian Bell. It was the last week of August and I was behind on this particular file. I scroll down page after page using the down arrow key on my laptop keyboard. A small frown forms on my face momentarily as I read several pages that comes across like a geography lesson. The last thing I wanted to read this time of night was a geography lesson on Colombia.

Glancing down at my left wrist to where my dive watch was fastened, I realize it was nearly midnight. Sighing, I bring my hands to my face and rub the grainy feeling from my eyes and once again continued reading. The file was mainly a broad overview of Colombia. I can’t for the life of me understand why Chris would send me a file on Colombia? It was a question I wouldn’t be able to answer for several weeks.

What was truly bothering the veteran DEA agent was that the majority of files he had been reading and analyzing since mid June were all domestic in nature. His boss had asked him to send back his opinions and or suggestions on a weekly basis, even daily when something really caught his attention. Most of the files pertained to the Southern part of Florida and the Caribbean Islands. Which was normal since that was where he was assigned to work as a DEA agent. Only a few of the files dealt with neighboring states of Florida.

Was this file on Colombia an omen of some sort, Simon asked himself several times while reading the file. He had told Chris in no uncertain terms at the beginning of the summer that he would be staying close to home. Home of course meant the Fort Walton-Destin area and Chris had reluctantly agreed to Simons request. When Chris had asked how long Simon planned on staying close to home, his agent shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know.

All Simon did know was that after completing the operation against the ruthless and cold blooded Munoz family was that he was going to take a break. That operation had been a long time coming as far as Simon was concerned. His revenge had been sweet even with the cost of his close friend Darius.

Alexandra Munoz came very close to killing Simon years before when a drug bust went very bad. His chest showed the scars for anyone to see when he took his shirt off. The entire family was like playing with a nest of pit vipers. On top of dealing with the Munoz family, Simon had tracked down the man personally responsible for brutally killing Darius and Ricky. The man had killed both his friends on behalf of the Munoz family.

Physically fighting Ernesto Guerrero in a deadly hand-to-hand knife fight had taken a lot out of him. Ernesto came very close to taking his life that night. Simon would never admit it to his fellow agents, but the fight had been very close indeed. Both of them had been nearly identical in their skills, that whoever made a mistake would die. Ernesto had let his ego get in the way of caution and had paid the ultimate price for his over confidence.

Simon awakened during the night with the cold sweats on several occasions since the fight. He would slip out of bed so he wouldn’t wake Lori and go stand in Florida room and look out at the bay waters to clam himself on those nights.

I was taking a sabbatical, for as long as I could get away with it. My boss Christian Bell and the agency be damned! With Lori’s being pregnant and the strain that was putting on the two of us and still concerned about the Ramirez cartel out for revenge. I was also having weird feelings of people being out in the dark, possible staking out our home. My intuition was working overtime and I knew deep down it wasn’t paranoia. I was too experienced for being a paranoid.

My training was taking over subconsciously and every night I was on the prowl for something out of the ordinary. It was almost time to take a walk around our home again. I pretty much did the walk around several times once the sun went down.

Rubbing my eyes once more I continue to read the file once more, trying hard to focus on the file and not think about what may be waiting outside. If someone was lurking around outside, they wouldn’t like my welcoming reception!

The same Bering Land Bridge that brought Native Americans from Siberia to the peninsula of Florida 12,000 years ago also documented them as migrating as far south as what is now called Colombia. Eventually other indigenous cultures started arriving in the area many centuries later and those people were called Mesoamericans. They came from Central America during the years of 1200 B.C., and then again in 500B.C.Towards the end of the first millennium the Chibchas came to Colombia from other parts of South America along with the Caribs from the Caribbean Islands. These different cultures clashed and war caused the Chibchas to head for the mountain areas of the Andes, leaving the lowlands to the Caribs.

During the 1500’s and lasting till the early 1800’s, Spanish explorers started arriving in different parts of the territory and through war, disease, and eventually conquest of the Chibchas people, took over what would eventually be called Columbia.

An independence movement started by Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Paula Santander in the year 1810. It took until the year of 1819 for the territory to finally gain its independence from Spain and be named the Republic of Gran Colombia with an elected government. The fledging country changed its name again in 1863 to the United States of Colombia and then changed it once more to the Republic of Colombia in 1886.

Two political parties grew out of the fight for independence with Bolivar and Santander having extremely different political views. Bolivar’s followers would start the conservative party and wanted a strong government presence and alliance with the Roman Catholic Church. Santander’s followers would start what is known as the Liberal party of Colombia with a government less intrusive in the people’s lives, but have the state control education and other civil matters not including the views of the church. The liberal party was closer to what the founding fathers of the United States wanted which was separation of church and state.

The main problem with these two political parties is that generation after generation is raised as either a Conservative or Liberal. Due to these non bending ideologies being so ingrained among the people of Colombia, the country as a whole mistrusts the government. Constant bickering between the two political parties would lead to civil unrest.

The two opposite political parties from 1899 until the end of 1902 fought the first of two civil wars which was called “The War of A Thousand Days” and claimed neatly 100,000 lives. And once again from 1947 to 1957, the two parties fought an extremely violent civil war called “La Violencia” which cost Colombia another 300,000 lives over who would run the country. Close to 400,000 people would die before President Gomez of the Conservative Party and President Camargo of the Liberal Party in 1957 sat down together and came up with the “Declaration of Sitges”. The declaration would allow for both parties to govern jointly and stayed in affect until 1978 when it was phased out.

Colombia holds elections every four years to elect its President and Vice president and Congress, very similar to what the United States does with its election process.

Their are two other political parties that now have a small presence in Colombia, but don’t have the strength of the Conservative (PSC) and Liberal (PL) parties. The Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and the 19th of April Movement (M-19) at times have gained seats in the congress and then lost those seats in the next elections. Most Colombians are either conservative or liberal dividing the country nearly equally, and with a Roman Catholic upbringing, it makes it hard for the communist parties to make any headway in political strength, except with the poorer and more rural areas of Colombia.

Colombia is unique in that it has water on two sides. This is because of the way Panama is joined to Colombia it divides the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean with the Pacific Ocean to the West and the Caribbean Sea to the Northeast. It has the best of both worlds with lush rain forest and towering mountain ranges with beautiful beaches on both its coastlines. Brazil and Venezuela borders Colombia to its east and Panama to its Northwest. Peru Chile and Argentina are to the South. It is the fourth largest country in South America covering 1,141,748 sq km.

The western part of Colombia is almost completely mountainous, the Andean Mountains stretch from its Southwest border of Ecuador to about the center of the country where it splits into two mountain ranges with one range ending in the departments of Cordoba, Antioquia, and Bolivar. The second range ends at the Caribbean coastline in departments of Cesar and Magdalena, in which is the coastal town of Santa Marta. Land east of the Andes is vast lowland and it’s divided into two regions, the Amazon to the South and Los Llanos to the North. The land in the North is a huge flat grassland of tropical and sub tropical growth. Land in the South is covered by a thick rain forest, with many rivers winding through it. For administrative purposes the country is divided into 32 departments or states, which are ruled by governors. All governors are elected by vote. The departments are similar to the States in America.

The society of Columbia is divided into upper and lower classes and this division among the classes dates back to Spain’s rule. Family linage, inherited wealth, and racial background continue to be a powerful influence of status with the people. There is very little in the way of a middle class, with a lot of Colombia’s infrastructure still being very primitive, you are either rich or poor. The three main ethnic groups who make up present day Columbia are the Spaniards-Amerindians who make up 58% of the country. The next largest ethnic group, are the whites or creoles who are descendants of the Spaniards without the mixing of any other ethnic group. The creoles are the largest minority at 20%. The mixed races of African slaves and Spaniards are a close second in its population to the creoles with 14%. The three main ethic groups all have one thing in common and that is Spanish blood.

The country operates its economy on a free market system with major commercial and investment ties to the United States. Transitioning from a highly regulated economy has been underway for more than ten years. The government in 1990-initiated economic reform, which lowered taxes, the privatization of government owned companys, and allowed all sectors to become more open to foreign investment. Only agricultural products remain protected.

Present day Colombia suffers from a weak economy due to a lack of foreign demand for products like coffee. Coffee has always been a big exporter for Colombia and the market has become depressed lately. Other neighboring countries have started supplying the world with coffee and have flooded the market.

Oil production is low and new exploration is needed quickly to help bolster the weakened economy. But a strong military presence is needed to keep the oil flowing and Colombia doesn’t have one presently. The terrorists know this critical fact and use it to their advantage.

Terrorist groups within the country have preyed upon the oil pipelines for many years. Each of the insurgent groups as they are known by the Colombian government have either threatened to blow of the pipelines or actually carried out the threat to the extreme. These violent actions have caused major disruptions in the oil supply and wanting extortion payments not to attack the pipelines has turned into a money making project for the terrorist groups. These same groups are in charge of illegal drug operations within Colombia. Their money making capability is alarming to government officials. All groups are importing large quantities of weapons.

Business leaders are calling for government officials and President Uribe to act quicker in putting down the insurgent groups who are preying on the innocent people of Colombia and backing the drug cartels, which all-major groups have financial ties with the drug cartels and take in around 500 million dollars annually in profits for their protection.

 

 

Simon,

I thought the first section was just a good overview of Colombia and how it was founded and the growing pains it’s had over the years. It’s a very violent country and many civilians have died in civil wars and over the drug trade for many decades. This is what the next section deals with. It will cover the start of the drug trade and how the guerrilla and other insurgent groups got started and fund there wars of instability within the country.

All guerrilla groups are now considered terrorist groups since 9-11. Several faction leaders have been caught in raids with foreign terrorist leaders, along with several moneymen. It’s apparent to certain people within our government that terrorist leaders are in Colombia asking for money and safe training areas.

Remember this is just a general overview and if you want more detail about any given group, then you will need to request individual files on the different guerrilla groups or drug cartels.

Chris.

 

Drug smuggling started in earnest during the mid seventies when marijuana and cocaine were smuggled across America borders. Smugglers used suitcases and anything else a resourceful a person could fine to store drugs in. It was easy for them to smuggle their goods undetected into America where it would be sold and profits would be four times what it cost to process the drugs.

Suitcases would be replaced with airplanes and go fast boats once the smuggling became organized and treated as a business. Two different groups became known as the Medellin and Cali cartels, allowing the drugs to really flow into the U.S.

With the ever-increasing demand from Americans who enjoyed the drugs coming out of Colombia, it didn’t take long for the cartels to become rich and powerful. Unlike the Medellin cartel that became power hungry, full of itself, violent in the extreme and turned on the government, the Cali group took a different approach and kept a lower profile and treated it as a pure business.

All through the eighties the Medellin cartel took on the Colombian government in an all out war. The cartel murdered police officers, government officials, prosecutors and judges and any one else who got in the way. No one was safe from the cartel, during their hay days of drug trafficking. At one time in the early eighties Escobar financed the construction of homes for more than two hundred families in Medellin. He did several other projects like this trying to win the hearts of the people in Medellin that would allow him a form of protection. It would take ten years and a lot of deaths to take the Medellin cartel down and many believe that cartel members, who are in jail presently, still control drug trafficking from inside the prison. Pablo Escobar was hunted down by a 1500 man special unit that took 17 months and finally ended with his death in December of 1993 on the roof top of an apartment building.

On the other hand the Cali cartel avoided violence and confrontation with the government. The Cali cartel could actually take some credit in the downfall of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. Groups were formed to attack his businesses, anyone who worked for him and even his homes. Leaders of the Cali cartel even supplied information to the Colombian police and DEA, which was started up in the early seventies by the late President Richard Nixon to help combat the flow of drugs into the U.S.

Taking down their rivals in the drug business was a smart business decision for them and increased their profit margins considerably. They also changed the way they processed the drugs using smaller groups of people with each group’s identity being kept secret from other processing facilities and farming groups. The brothers who ran the Cali cartel hired professionals in engineering and law to them help understand the criminal and judicial side of the law, along with the technical side of communications. Electrical engineers working for the cartel created a state of the art communication system, which was even tough for the U.S. to crack.

They paid off politicians, who included Presidents and congressman in the country and many of them are still being investigated. The biggest scandal as of today was the election of President Samper in 1994. Tapes were released by his opponent from the Conservative party Andres Pastrana, of telephone conversation between Samper and members of the Cali cartel saying they would make donations to his campaign. With the troubles this brought to Samper’s administration, it caused domestic affairs to suffer greatly so guerilla and paramilitary activities increased dramatically. The country suffered its worst economic times and public unrest, since the days of La Violencia.

During the “beginnings” of the drug trade in Colombia, until present time there have been other groups who have become involved with the growing, protection, and distribution of narcotics, and trying to destabilize and take over the government of Colombia. History shows when the people of a country are oppressed, poor, and downtrodden, then it becomes ripe for leftist communist groups to flourish and grow in. Both the FRAC and ELN leaders have spoken the same kind’s rhetoric in representing the rural poor and how the wealthy are evil and oppressing the poor. They also oppose U.S. influence and military aid and the privatization of natural resources, multinational corporations, which could lead to an economic boom and the actual creation of a middle class for the Colombian people.

The oldest and largest of paramilitary groups in Columbia, FRAC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was formed in 1964 as a wing of the Communist Party of Columbia. It has close to 18,000 members and covers nearly 40% of the country. FRAC leaders claim to represent the poor against the wealthier classes in Columbia. Since its founding it has used conventional and guerilla tactics against military political and economic targets. FRAC has used kidnappings, bombings, and extortion as a way to try and destabilize the country to get its way.

Columbian officials over a period of many years have tried and negotiate peace agreements with them, but all have failed eventually. In 1998 President Arango tried to appease FRAC by setting aside 42,000 kilometers of land in the southern section of Colombia as there own safe haven which in turn was used by the guerillas to import guns and export drugs and build up their on military. Colombia’s next President decided in 2002 to end peace talks and put a stop to FRAC territory.

FRAC also opposes the U.S. influence with the Colombian government including its involvement in “Plan Colombia”. They look at the plan as a direct threat against them personally and all paramilitary groups that thrive in Colombia; if the drug crops are destroyed and the cartels are weekend or shutdown, then they stand to lose millions of dollars, which in turn is used to finance their cause of destabilization within the country. FRAC also needs the money to buy weapons in order to maintain the strength needed to protect themselves from other paramilitary groups and to attack the government. FRAC comes very close to equaling the firepower of the Colombian government. This has official with our own government very concerned.

Plan Colombia” was the idea of President Arango in 1999 to help solve the thirty-year civil war in Colombia and bring stability and social and economic change to his country. The plan also included a strong anti-narcotic initiative and this upsets many of the paramilitary groups because of the funding they get from the drug cartels, for the protection they provide. Opponents of the plan argue that the Colombian government should sever all relationships with all paramilitary groups including the AUC. That all paramilitary groups should be prosecuted equally for past offences against the country and its people, to the fullest extent of the law, in order for Colombia to receive the kind of aid it is asking for.

One other part of the plan under fire is the airborne fumigation of suspected drug plantations by spraying herbicides to kill the plants. There is concern that legal crops may be destroyed in the process with possible health concerns for local farmers. Thirdly, as far as complaints go, the guerrilla groups and people in America both complain its oil for money just like the Middle East. The U.S. receives about 15% of its oil from Colombia.

A new phase of “Plan Colombia” is now called the “Andean Regional Initiative” or ARI which encompasses the whole Andean region and not just Columbia. The region as a whole produces the majority of the cocaine and heroin in the world. With an economic aid package of nearly $800 million in the year 2002, hopefully the people of Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Panama, Ecuador, and Brazil can turn away from the growing and processing drugs and have real and productive jobs to make a living from and in turn have a quality of life never before seen in the region.

Bottom line with “ARI” is with the military and especially the financial support from the United States, it will help keep the economies of South America countries from becoming sluggish, which in turn threatens democracy and causes political unrest. Prosperous economies keep the people doing real work instead of working for the drug traffickers. From a military standpoint, U.S. Special forces have trained counter drug battalions, which have destroyed hundreds of cocaine labs. One of the most important things along with shutting down the labs is that innocent civilians haven’t been hurt in the process which makes it harder for the guerillas and paramilitary groups to recruit the locals.

Colombia’s second largest Marxist guerilla group is the Ejericto de Liberacion Nacional or ELN as it is known by around the world. The ELN was formed in 1965 by Fabio Vasquez Castano and his brother. The group has more of a Cuban leaning of Fidel Castro and his beliefs and teachings. Cuba still supports this group with medical care and political consultation.

During the mid seventies the ELN was nearly destroyed by the Anori operation, but manage to survive by extorting money from oil companies in the region, kidnapping and from the drug trade. They were able to slowly gain strength back over the years and have nearly 6000 members In 1999 the ELN started a massive kidnapping campaign that forced the Columbian government to start talks with the group. The talks didn’t go far because they could never decide on a safe place to meet, and led to more kidnappings, bombing and other terrorist acts. The U.S. considers them along with FRAC and the AUC to be terrorist organizations and all three are on the watch list of Secretary of State or FTO “Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Now days the ELN has to worry about both FRAC attacking them and the right wing paramilitary group AUC.

With “Plan Colombia” also in effect, President Uribe has now been going after them with limited success. The ELN mainly thrives in the rural mountain areas of the northern, southern regions of Colombia including the Venezuelan border. Lastly, the Mexican government is trying to get officials in the Colombian government and the ELN to have possible talks again to work out differences, but at present time nothing has come from them. Pressure from the United States is to take down all the cartels and terrorist groups and negotiations are not part of the plan. There is no negotiating with terrorist. It has never worked and never will.

A smaller guerrilla group called Movimiento 19 de Abril, or M19 as its known by most government agencies, was founded in the year 1972 by an ex FRAC members Jaime Bateman and Carlos Pizarro. They were tired of staying in the mountains and wanted to base themselves out of the major cities. Most of the members of M19 come from the unions and universities. In the late seventies they would kidnap drug trafficker family members and hold them for ransom. This lasted until the early eighties when the drug cartels fought back and started hunting down M19 members and executing them, wherever and whenever they could find them. Both sides met and came to an understanding of sorts in 1982. Their style of terrorism was similar to all the others in kidnappings and bombings. President Cuartas in 1984 negotiated a settlement with members of M19 and they became a legal political party gaining support and seats in the house and senate during the early nineties. Eventually their support faded with the people of Colombia and by the late nineties went to fighting among themselves and have just about disappeared within Colombian politics, except for one or two members who still hold an elective office.

The last paramilitary group is called Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia which translates in English to United Self defense forces of Colombia or AUC. This particular group formed in 1997 with its mission being to protect economic interest of the wealthy and combat the left leaning Marxist groups like FRAC, ELN, and M19 and have considerable strength with close to 8000 fighters. They are considered a right wing paramilitary group that encompass nearly 90% of all paramilitary forces in Colombia and are also listed since 2000 on the terrorist watch list because of its massacres of entire villages, which they claimed were either members or supporters of the leftist guerrilla groups.

AUC has strong support by economic elites in Colombia along with many of the drug cartels, who contribute 70% of the money. The rest comes from so-called donations from the elites. There are also many small communities who pay the AUC because the Colombian government is unable to protect them; anyone outside of the main cities is subject to attack due to the limited resources of the Colombian military. All paramilitary groups have been able to prosper outside of the cities. They have clashed with government and police forces over the last couple of years, although when first starting up avoided the security forces. At this time it is unclear as to what this means, one idea being floated around the State Department is they think they are big enough to take on the government. The only group the AUC has not attacked is the U.S. advisors that are in country to help train the Colombian military as part of “Plan Colombia”. Most of the AUC forces are located in the north and Northwest regions. They are also showing a growing presence in the southwestern sectors of the country and clashes with FRAC insurgents are becoming numerous. The only weak link with the AUC is the in fighting between factions over the taking of drug money. Certain members feel they have an undeserved bad reputation by taking money from the cartels and feel they would be considered more legitimate to the eyes of world if they stopped taking the money.

Those members against taking the money of drug cartels represent the Colombian Progressive Party or “CPP” and have been on the outs with the AUC. The party was founded in 1995 by Felix Sabina and two of his closet friends, Mario Rodriquez and Octavio Torres. Little is know of Felix Sabina, he tends to stay in the background and there are no pictures of him at this time. In fact little is known about the man except for his abilities as a field commander. The other two leaders are consistently being seen in the news around the main cities of Colombia. Either man could end up as President of Colombia in future elections according to sources within the Colombian government. They are about 5000 strong and seem to be growing exceedingly fast from what CIA reports document.

It has also been reported that the main leader Felix Sabina parents were killed by members of the FRAC when he was only a teenager and he joined a right wing paramilitary that eventually became the AUC shortly after they were killed. He eventually split from the AUC several years later to start the Colombian Progressive Party. On more than one occasion he has defended villages that were attacked by the AUC, which has caused dissention among some of his backers and followers. The money the cartels offer is hard to turn down. Other sources have mention Sabina has been in secret talks with the President of Colombia and word has leaked out of how he and the CPP could help stop the violence against the people of Colombia and help rid the country of the cartels. The newly elected President wanted to put a stop to all the killing and bombings in the country and get the World leaders on board to help.

President Uribe was elected in a landslide election in 2002 with 54% of the vote by promising to crack down all paramilitary and guerrilla groups in the country. The people of Colombia came out in record numbers even with the threats of death by FRAC and ELN if they voted. Rival groups like AUC made the same threats if they didn’t stay at home and not vote also, which was surprising to many in the intelligence community. Many agency analyst are beginning to believe the only group to actually have a true concern to the country welfare is the CPP. The people ignored both groups and voted, so there voices could be heard loud and clear.

Critics of the U.S backing to President Uribe worry that he will use the AUC instead of the CPP, along with his creating new civilian defense groups to help combat the terrorist groups, and that could lead to them turning into vigilante style groups, and make it hard for the U.S congress to approve aid to Colombia. For the past several years as many as 3500 civilian have been killed in attacks by the terrorist groups in Columbia and many neighboring countries are concerned about the stability of Colombia and its violence spilling over into their prospective counties. Presently Colombia receives the third largest aid package from the U.S. Since 9/11 the United States had shown concern about all terrorist groups and with Colombia being in our back yard, feels it extremely important to keep an eye on all three of paramilitary groups, especially since members of the IRA were arrested and linked to FRAC in late 2001.

 

Simon,

In conclusion, if the drug cartels are taken down or weakened considerably, along with neutralizing insurgent and paramilitary groups. Then stability and prosperity can come to Colombia as a whole, causing hundreds of millions of dollars to dry up for terrorist groups around the world and will in turn make it harder for them to prey upon the innocent people of the Colombia and the world. One last thought if the CPP can be approached by either our agency or the CIA and offered assistance with their cause, then it would be very possible that their party could turn out to be a major help in stabilizing Colombia and South America.

Chris

 

Now that was an interesting file to read and the last statement seemed a little naive, I thought as I moved the mouse pointer to each of the software programs clicking on the X in each right hand corner to close them. I then pressed the shutdown button on my laptop causing the only artificial light in the room to disappear. Now only the moon shown through windows leaving an eerie shadow across the room.

I stood up, which caused my Labradors Trav and Grets to wag their tales and stand, knowing it was time to go out side. They knew their master well and this had become an every night ritual over the past several months. Following the path of light from the moon, I walk out into the backyard. The moon was full and you could see the craters outlined perfectly tonight. It was as if you could reach out touch the moon. There were very few stars out tonight, just the moon shining bright in all its glory. A beach chair lay were one of my daughters had finished with it earlier in the evening, grabbing it as I walked by it, heading towards the dock and my boat Redemption.

It was probably Meg who left it right where she had finished sitting in it. She was bad about leaving things lying around once she was finished with it. Nic was more like me, when you were done with something, put it up. My dad had taught me that very same thing as a child. The one and only time I ever left something of my dad’s out and didn’t put it back up when I finished with it was when he ran over his hammer with a lawn mower. The attitude adjustment I received from his belt over that incident certainly left a lasting impression on me. My dad could have held the title of “professional butt whipper”. Definitely deserved the few I received from him. From that day forward, I put all tools and anything else up that had a proper place to be stored.

Once I came to the end of the dock, I bent down and pulled the line to my boat Redemption closer to the dock so I could step down into the boat easier. The tide was high and my boat sat even with the dock. Opening the cooler and reaching into half melted icy water I retrieved a beer. I guess, I should scold my self, for leaving the cooler in the boat. Lori kept telling me to practice what I preach around the girls.

After popping the top on the can and positioning the chair at the end of the dock, I sat down and gazed up at the moon. My dogs Trav and Grets took up there normal positions, one on each side of the chair. Only after doing their normal turn in a circle twice, lay down with there heads own there feet. I found myself coming out here and sitting more frequently in the last several weeks and the dogs were always with me. It helped me sleep if I came out to the dock and spend a few minutes by myself looking out over the bay and staring up into the sky.

I found myself being more reflective in my thoughts and lately the dreams had me a little on edge. Something I have never done before in my life since becoming a member of the SEAL’s many years ago. People I’d killed over the years were coming back to visit me in my dreams. Not so much them chasing me or killing me or haunting me in some weird way, but like a projector in my mind relieving the scene of their death and they all would look at me with a knowing smile like my time was coming and they all knew it. Ernesto Guerrero was the worst, waving that big hand made knife at me, with a big smile on his face but with no eyes, just dark empty sockets.

I had the scars to prove how dangerous my life’s profession could be. I really never gave much thought to dying until I married Lori and ended up with an instant family. And now I would be starting from scratch with a baby. Maybe that’s what had me jittery all of sudden.

From the beginning of my joining the Navy until I went back to my old hometown in Georgia to take care of those drug dealers that tried to kill Lori, I had always been a loner with no one to care about. There was the team to care about when part of an operation for the DEA, but not family. It made it easier to do the job with no distractions, like a family. I don’t know how the married guys did it and I was beginning to have a new found respect for the men who did have family and put it on the line. I guess now I would find out first hand!

Talk about no clues as to being a father, the years that counted most I wasn’t there for the girls. From the stand point of now with Meg and Nic it was easy. Lori had done the hard part. For me it was almost like being friends with them. We ran together nearly every morning all summer and swam in the afternoon and entered different charity 5K races around the area and had a good time. Both were becoming good shots with a pistol and Lori didn’t seem to complain anymore about me teaching them. We would head to the indoor pistol range own base not far from the house, several times a week to practice.

Because of what happened to my friend Darius, who was killed in our house not to many months ago and where my wife and girls were asleep at this very moment, the memories of that day were never far away from my thoughts or Lori’s for that matter. So whenever Santo is here on weekends, he teaches Meg and Nic the finer points of martial art holds. Both were at a point now where either could take down a grown man if they had too. Recently both talked of signing up with a martial arts studio up the road. Santo went by a few weeks ago and talked with the guy who runs the studio and said he would be a good instructor for the girls. Lori was getting a lot more comfortable about the things I was teaching the girls.

I let Lori handle the discipline end of things, not that the girls really needed any type of discipline. With the girls having cars, computers, and cell phones it was easy to keep them on the straight and narrow path. I just backed whatever she said. Lori called me a chicken at times for my stance and I think it may have bothered her some, for not taking a more active part. My reasoning was if it wasn’t broke don’t fix it and I felt Lori’s raising of the girls was done perfectly. They were great girls and had there heads screwed on straight. I would watch her interact with them constantly and as much as they may argue back and forth, by the time it was all said and done, Lori would get her way with them even if the girls thought they had won a round .My lady was good, it was the lawyer in her.

The summer had been a good one, with lots of parties on the weekends with good friends, food, and drinks. I told Chris after Lori’s announcement of being pregnant, that I wouldn’t take any case until after the baby was born. I wanted to spend the summer being a father, and he had respected my wishes.

My job over the summer months would be to mainly look at files like the one tonight and send him comments and recommendations if any. I even noticed a few files coming from Marty. I’ve seen less of my friend this summer than in past years. Chris had him busy attending meetings and other administrative work. It wouldn’t surprise me if Marty ended up my boss. He would make a good DEA administrator. My friend knew what it was like to be a grunt and in the trenches.

The reason I would never be picked for being a DEA administrator was because of my extreme actions in Rome and Miami. Only Chris knew for sure, but others in the agency assumed and gossiped about it, until the administrators at the top were pretty sure I was the one doing the killing. They just couldn’t prove I was the one responsible, because there was no concrete evidence, only gossip and conjecture.

Marty’s name was never mentioned and even Chris had stated many times to his superiors that Marty had been on a case in the pan-handle of Florida. Meaning of course, Panama City Beach, which was where Marty was assigned to work. So during the time frame of the killings and the eventual take down of drug traffickers in both Rome and Miami, Marty had an iron clad alibi. My friend was squeaky clean and in prime position to become my boss.

Lori was really starting to show, she was only five feet tall and didn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, before she became pregnant. Our baby boy growing inside her was starting to show quite a bit. She had placed my hand on her stomach the other night and I had felt him kick. What a feeling, it shook me up and when Lori touched my cheek to wipe away the tear, she laughed and said welcome to the real word Simon my love. Things had changed very fast in my life. It was almost too much to handle at times I thought.

Finishing my beer I crumpled the can and put it beside the chair. I considered going to sleep right here in the chair, the tense feeling was leaving my body allowing me to relax as thinking of Lori usually did. She had become my anchor of stability since our wedding. I have wonder many times in past months how I had lasted as long as I have without Lori or any woman for that matter when it came to being grounded.

Life could lead a person down strange paths and mine changed drastically in a short amount of time. Maybe that’s what bothered me the most. Knowing how quick your life could change, from good to bad or vise a versa. I know deep down I didn’t want to lose what I had now, maybe it was selfishness on my part. My life now at this point in time was what I wanted. Just like now with Lori and the girls inside sleeping soundly and me out here watching, listening, and waiting for a sound that was different, a warning that the Ramirez cartels killers had come for me. Jesus, that was it, the realization hitting me like a ton of bricks, it wasn’t the damn dreams, it was my sub conscious working on overtime, my training never left me.

You couldn’t survive Hell week during SEAL boot camp and years of training and action serving this great country and it not become ingrained deep down to your very core. I knew it wasn’t over, the cartel was coming, and that was it in a nutshell. They were coming and I was waiting and watching, because I knew they would come after my family first. It was the way of the cartels, the countless files told it all. They killed and didn’t care who got in the way and family members were the ones they like to kill the most.

Walking back towards the house I thought about what Lori and I had talked of, off and on since she first told me of her pregnancy in early June of possibly moving since the house wasn’t big enough. We needed one more room for the baby and so had begun the building of the place in Destin with several friends. When the place was finished and we moved in, then maybe using the information from the file I read tonight and a couple of others over the last few of months, I might just do some hunting of my on. Waiting on the cartel to strike wasn’t a good idea. I couldn’t stay awake every night guarding my family.

With my decision made, it was time to go get in bed with my lady. Standing the chair beside a tree, I walked back to the house tossing the empty beer can in the trash and headed for the bedroom, locking the door behind me. All new deadbolts, sunk deep into the jams with metal plates and a new alarm system installed a couple of months ago, it wouldn’t stop the kind of people coming for me, but it would slow them down and buy me a few minutes or seconds of time. A few of anything was all I needed in order to be ready.

I stopped at each of the girl’s room to listen to there breathing, it had a calming affect on me. This had become part of the ritual on the nights I couldn’t sleep. Stop and listen to them and then head to my own bed. Stripping down to my shorts, I raised the sheet and slide in beside Lori. Like many nights past I gently laid my hand on her stomach. I could feel my boy moving, it was a good feeling.

“You been sitting out at the dock again Simon,” Lori said with sleep in her voice.

“Sorry babe, I didn’t mean to wake you,” patting her hip enjoying the feel of her skin underneath my hand.

“You didn’t Simon, he was doing flips again. I think he may be a gymnast with the way he moves around inside me.” I could tell she hesitated a second and finally she said, “Are we safe for another night Simon!”

“Yeah babe, no bad guys out in the dark tonight, so you already figured out what I finally figured out tonight sitting on the dock as to why I can’t sleep.” My lady was smart and understood me better than I did myself at times.

“It’s your nature Simon and its one of the things I love about you. Now come here and make love to me for a little while and let’s not think about the bad guys.” She pulled me close or as close as you can get to a woman close to six months pregnant. It wouldn’t be long, until a new beginning awaited us.

Kira Machado parents knew they were in trouble when their daughter turned fourteen and yet she had the looks and body of an eighteen-year-old young woman. Kira was beautiful in a sensuous way. She had the typical Latin female looks, brown eyes, and hair with just a tinge of black at the roots, full lips and a body to match. Her skin was lighter than most of her friends due to her mothers side of the family being from Spain.

It was only after spending many hours in the sun did her skin turn to a golden bronze color. By the time she reached seventeen she was drop dead gorgeous and looked twenty-one. Kira would never grow taller than the five feet two inches she was at seventeen and weigh anymore than 100 pounds. Kira though could care less about her beauty or looks for that matter, she rarely thought about her looks. She enjoyed being with her friends and the life of teenager living on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the town of Cartagena. It wouldn’t be long before the cold harsh reality of life would come crashing down upon her world changing her life forever.

The wrong people were starting to notice Kira and her parents didn’t want her to end up as some mistress of a brigade commander or prostitute in one of the guerilla groups. Young girls from the cities of Colombia were disappearing at an alarming rate and ending up in the camps of the guerillas and government officials were helpless to act or in some cases were in cahoots with the different groups and enjoying the fruits of the young girls themselves.

Her father was a fisherman in the port town of Cartagena and her mother was a schoolteacher. By Colombian standards they made a good living and had a modest home on the outskirts of Cartagena, where Kira and her two younger brothers were raised in a strict Catholic upbringing. Both parents had decided when Kira turned fourteen they would have to do something. Besides Kira’s beauty, she was also extremely smart. Her mother made discrete inquiry’s and finally made contact with someone in the U.S embassy and when she graduated high school Kira would go to America as an exchange student.

Life was good to the Machado family in the ancient city of Cartagena. Tourism was at an all time high and the guerillas and paramilitary group tended to stay out of the city or were told by there leaders that it was off limits to them. Founded in 1553 by Spanish explorer Pedro de Heredia, Cartagena has transformed over the years into a city rich in history. From its ports being used to take gold and riches back to Spain to the slave trade and the famed “walled city” which was built in the early 1600’s to the San Felipe de Barajas Fortress which defended the city from looters and pirates for several century’s. It was a tropical paradise and the Machado enjoyed it immensely until Kira’s fourteenth birthday. From that point on it became a prison for Kira Machado’s parents. The last three years became a living hell for them.

Many times in the last few months Kira’s father Jorge was approached by different men getting out of the same expensive jet-black sedan at the dock. Jorge docked his boat at the same marina for nearly twenty years. The carefully manicured and slick looking men would approach him and asked about his daughter and her availability for dances at the different embassies in Bogotá. The men were very polite and respectful when speaking of his daughter, but there eyes scared him.

These were violent men, it was in their eyes. He tried getting to his boat each morning a little earlier and in the last couple of weeks the same man appeared no matter how early Jorge arrived at his boat and on two occasions was there at the end of the day. His crew which consisted of his two younger brothers showed their nervousness each time, and continuously asked him what should be done. Why couldn’t they go to the authorities? Jorge snorted and said, “We can’t be sure he isn’t with the authorities my brothers.”

The brothers talked for several hours once out on the water as to who the man was, and what side was he on, government or terrorist. In Colombia it was hard to tell who the good and bad guys were. This was the way life was in Colombia for the common citizens. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people had died over the years from the many civil wars and bombings by different terrorist groups and there never seemed to be any politician who could or would do anything about it.

Promises were made and promises broke and with the broken promises came misery and death. Jorge made the decision sitting out on the boat that morning; flipping his finished cigarette overboard and telling his brothers with a sad face. It was time to get his daughter out of Colombia. He decided right then and there standing in his boat, in the early summer of ninety-one that he would pack his family up for a visit to his wife’s parents and grand parents in the small mountain town of Valdivia for the weekend and then he would take his daughter to the embassy on Monday.

The brothers embraced after Jorge spoke and with wet eyes began to fish, just as they had always done since the brothers were teenagers. Their oldest brother had always taken care of them, and it would be the last time for them to see him. The department of Antioquia, which also included the city of Medellin in its department, was controlled by the ELN guerillas and the FRAC guerillas wanted that area because the drugs cartels used this area for growing and processing and it meant money to whichever group controlled the area. So armed conflict was a constant in this area and the small towns suffered for it.

Saturday arrived and the Machado family loaded up, packing small presents for the grandparents, including fresh fish from yesterdays catch and headed for Caucasia for a weekend with his wife’s families. The small town was located in the Cordillera Central area of Colombia in the Antioquia department, not far from the Cauca River. The region is known for its two Volcano’s Nevado Del Hulia and Nevado Del Ruiz.

It was a mountainous area and one full of places to hide from government soldiers and its friends that didn’t like the leftist guerillas. Plenty of dark dense foliage, trees and massive rock formations along the tops of the mountains to hide in, it was hard for helicopters or low fly aircraft to spot anyone. The military learned very quickly not to fly low and slow over the jungle anyway, the guerillas had hand held rocket launchers and would use them anytime an aircraft flew over the area. Many had been lost in the last year; and it was not good to be alive if you were shot down. The guerillas would torture anyone left alive.

Jorge always left just as the sun would come up. It wasn’t wise to drive where they were headed into the heart of the San Lucas Mountains in the dark; it was a strong hold of the guerrilla’s and the drug cartels. Darkness was not a friend to the innocent, Jorge shook his head in disgust, and where in this country was it truly safe at anytime of the day or night. The drive would take about four hours if there was no trouble along the way; the entire trip was made on the main highway from Cartagena to his wife’s hometown. But caution was still needed when traveling the roads of Colombia, roadblocks by the Colombian Army or guerrillas from FRAC or the ELN was always a possibility.

Arriving in the late morning almost at noontime everyone went through the ritual of hugs and kisses, but rather quickly from what usually happened when the family came to visit from Cartagena. All were ushered inside very quickly with Grandfather Enrique looking from left to right in the small town main road. It wasn’t until they entered the small but clean house that the grandparents fussed over Kira and how beautiful she was. Kira was always embarrassed by the attention focused on her looks. Only wanting to go to the beach with her friends and school were all she cared about and not her looks. She enjoyed school and the classes she took; Kira would be a doctor some day and help the people of her country. Kira noticed her grandfather speaking to her father in the kitchen area and wondered why the serious looks on their faces.

Kira’s grandparent’s house was laid out in such a way that the living and kitchen area were all one big room. Off to the right side of the living were the two bedrooms. It was built with wood made from the surrounding forest many years ago. It would be considered the slums in America, but was typical of the small towns across Colombia and no one knew any different; things didn’t change much outside the cities. It was a different type of life style from the cities, but the children always enjoyed coming to the grandparent’s house.

The kids always slept on the floor on thick blankets. They smelled of being freshly wash and damp earth. It was very cool in the mountains at night and Kira and her brothers had fond memories over the years of growing up, of snuggling under the blankets with a fire going in the small fire place and their grandfather telling them stories of Spanish Conquistadors and there travels and daring rescues of beautiful senorita’s.

There have been rumors through out the village since yesterday, of the guerillas coming to this area on the run by government forces. It has also been rumored that one of the town’s officials has been found out about, for informing on the guerillas and drug processing facilities near by. There was a terrible battle last week in the village next to ours, grandfather commented to Jorge and his grandsons. Innocent people were killed and several of the young girls disappeared. You must be ready to leave quickly if word comes. My granddaughter would be a great prize for either side; they all take money from the drug cartels, grandfather Enrique spat as if the words were the foulest tasting water ever to be put in his mouth.

Lunch turned into a huge feast because of the tarpon fillet Kira’s father brought along for the visit. Using metal skewers, her father roasted chunks of the filet over the hearth of the fireplace letting the smokiness of the fire flavor the meat along with spices he had mixed up and patted the meat with earlier. The fish would taste similar to blackened fish, and grandmother had started simmering black beans earlier in the morning along with a big pot of rice cooked in chicken broth and finally a big dish of fried plantains. A feast for the Gods grandfather Enrique commented as he raised his glass in a toast to the family.

As Grandfather Enrique finished speaking all hell broke loose in the village. The sound of explosions and automatic weapons echoed thought out the entire village among the screams of woman and children, leaving no doubt to all who could hear the fear and agony in their screams. Jorge and his sons were moving quickly, leaving everything on the table as it was just moments ago, when piece and love surrounded the table, before the sounds of gunfire put fear into their stomachs. He headed to the door and outside into the bright sun, motioning his family to hurry. Fear in the older women eyes was evident by all the children, Grandmother Machado was touching the cross that hung around her neck and mumbling a prayer. Kira was calm though, and was more inquisitive about what was taken place than scared; unlike her parents and grandparents were.

This was first time she was ever a witness to this sort of thing. She was an innocent in this kind of world, a world of death and misery, not sunning on the beach with friends, sailing the small sailboat with her brothers and friends until the sun would sink into the sea each evening. Her father had always been able to shield her from the real Colombia. But not on this day, today would change her life forever and turn her into someone completely different. There would be no doctor for the people of her country now!

Jorge turned the ignition hard revving the engine once loudly and sped away, heading in the opposite direction from the approaching gunfire and then doubling back once he was two blocks away from the grandparents’ house. He had played the scenario of escape in his head over and over again many times over the years, of how to get his family out of the small mountain town, if the town ever came under attacked from any of the groups that preyed upon the people.

On the western side of the town was a small road running north to south and they would head south which would put him and his family in the direction of Caucasia. Jorge thought he and his family was safe as he headed across the small bridge away from town, almost within a mile of the main highway, as he shifted the van into fourth gear grinding the gears of the over worked engine, trying hard to get every ounce of speed he could muster out of the small engine.

Kira’s father made it half way across the bridge when people in camouflaged uniforms started forming across the road with there guns pointed at them as they approached. Jorge looked behind to see if stopping and backing up would be a form of escape and he could see more of the same type of dressed people standing in the road behind them now. He and his family were trapped on the narrow bridge with nowhere to go. At the last second before stopping completely for the roadblock Jorge made a decision that would cost him and his family their lives. Not that stopping to begin with would have saved their lives. Jorge down shifted to second and gunned the engine running over two of the startled guerillas and he headed past them. He screamed for him family to duck down and hold on. His last ditch effort to save his family came to no avail. The other three guerillas that were quick enough to jump out of the way opened up with their automatic weapons and stitched the entire back of the van.

Kira’s life as she knew it changed in a matter of seconds as she watched in horror; her father took a bullet to the head along with her mother when the first burst came though the van. The windows were covered in blood and brains. Her two brothers screamed out in pain as they took multiple rounds in their backs and spines and would die slowly still sitting in their seats.

What saved Kira from certain death by a bullet had been her older brother shoving her down into the floorboard before taking multiple bullets into his own back. Her world went from one of love, family, and friends to sheer horror. She looked at her hands and dress and they were both covered in her brother’s blood, so much blood everywhere. That’s when she started to scream, as the van came to a sudden and painful stop for her.

Moments later hands where gabbing at her. Yanking her out of the seat, at first it was difficult for her attackers because of the blood on her. Eventually a hand full of her dress was grabbed and she was hauled out the van backwards away from the bloody nightmare and now into what would become a new type of nightmare.

When the men who killed her parents realized what a prize they had standing before them. Regardless of the blood covering this young woman, her beauty was apparent to all of the guerillas. Quickly the leader of the three men grabbed several canteens and began to pour water over Kira, washing the blood away from her face and arms, the other men realized what there leader was doing and did the same.

The water stuck to her dress accenting her body and Kira now knew what true fear was all about for the first time in her life. She tried to turn away from the men and rough hands grabbed at her. They looked at her like hungry dogs, licking their lips, and finally the man who was leader grabbed her arm and started dragging her into a sparsely wooded area. Kira suddenly realized that these men were going to rape her? She tried to resist and run for it, but the other two men grabbed at her body taking hold of her legs, Kira screamed for help as the men and carried her into the woods.

They tore Kira’s clothes off her ripe young body, using a piece of bloody cloth to stuff into her screaming mouth. With that small task complete, they roughly turned her over onto her stomach and tied her hands behind her back so she couldn’t claw at them. Hands groped at her body, squeezing hard at her most private places causing her to try and scream out from the pain. She choked each time from the piece of bloody cloth shoved into her mouth. She was fighting with all her might to protect her honor. She was good Catholic girl and this couldn’t be happening to her.

Breaking free of the men, she tried to run further into the wood s and was caught and thrown down again. Her breath was knocked from her in one quick whoosh of air. The one who was a leader raised his hand back to strike her and his face went all funny and she heard something like a cough or spit. The man standing beside him with his pants down around his ankles turned and then he grabbed him stomach and fell to the ground. Moaning and rolling back and forth, asking for help, that he had been shot. The last man turned to run the way Kira had tried escaping to moments ago and then he went down. There was a huge knife sticking in his back and then it was eerily quiet.

A young man, not much older than her she thought, stood partially shielded at the edge of a large group of bushes looking at her with no emotion showing on his face. Some kind of black paint or grease was smeared on his face and it made it hard to tell how old he actually was. He was in the same kind of uniform as the others, but he didn’t approach her, only stood looking at her in all her nakedness.

She stared back at him making eye contact, trying to show she wasn’t scared. He spoke for the first time in a soothing but commanding voice. Kira could tell he was a leader; there was something about him, a very commanding presence.

“One of my people will bring you some clothes shortly. A young lady like you shouldn’t have to suffer this kind of indignity.” He walked towards her and tossed her a military style jacket, standing back enough so that she didn’t feel threaten. “Put this on for the time being, it will cover up some of your body.”

Kira nodded her head in thanks to the young man who had just saved her.

“My name is Felix Sabina; I am the field commander and co-founder for the Colombian Progressive Party. I just happened to be in the Antioquia department this month for hunting down guerrillas or you would be in serious trouble senorita. My party is committed to killing Godless communist like these people, pointing to the dead men lying around her on the ground. The ones we don’t kill in the coming years, we will run out Colombia,” speaking with lots of emotion.

It was apparent to Kira that this man hated communist with a lot of passion. The fire burned brightly in his eyes when he spoke of them.

“Are you ok senorita, um how to say this delicately, rubbing his face trying to find the right words, did they take your honor, these communist are pigs. I would have been here sooner to stop these people from the terrible act they were about to perform on you, spitting out the words in disgust, but I had to make sure it wasn’t a trap. My people have been set up before trying to help a civilian in distress, so we have had to change our tactics and take our time with any rescue attempts.”

Once again Kira could feel the rage and hatred come out of this young man when talking about the guerrillas. What caused him to have such hate at such a young age? Could he have been apart of something like what she had almost gone through. Hearing him talk for several minutes now, she could now tell that he wasn’t much older than her own age. The black paint shielded his looks and age but his voice told a different story.

The next time this man named Felix spoke it was in a kinder voice, “I have some bad news for you. Your parents and brothers are dead, I am sorry for you. It is tragic to lose your family at such a young age, especially by these kinds of people.” He spat the words with such vehemence that it caused Kira to jump. The whole time this man was staring at her he spoke one sentence after another rapidly at her, she forgot for a moment that she was should shivering in the mud and leaves naked and bruised, so close to being raped moments ago. When he talked of her parents it brought her back to the present. She stood up and put the jacket on, pulling it tight to shield her nakedness.

Kira spoke for the first time, looking Felix in the eyes. “Will you help me get back to my home in Cartagena and also take my parents and brothers? They must have a Christian burial; they were good Catholics and must be shown respect by having a proper burial. And thank you for saving me from these people, I have read about them, but never really understood how evil they were.”

Felix was completely taken with this young senorita as he stood looking at her, surrounded by the dark green jungle and its musty smell of rotting plant life. With everything that had happen to this girl she was still so beautiful and composed standing with his field jacket wrapped around her. Even with the blood of her family and mud from the forest covering her body, her presence and poise was starting to consume him! He spoke rapidly again to her, trying hard to focus his thoughts on what needed to be done at the moment and not own her beauty.

“I will see to it right away senorita, my men will cover them and prepare them for transport back to Cartagena. Your parents will have their Christian burial, just as mine did many years ago! They too were killed by people like these animals, when I was seventeen. It is my life’s work to rid my country from them.”

Kira walked over to Felix slowly, looking into his eyes the whole time; the jacket opened revealing her nakedness again. “My name is Kira Machado and I am not a senorita anymore, not after today. It will become my life’s work also, to kill communist and anyone else who wants to hurt the innocent people of our country.”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Felix on the cheek and then lightly on the lips. He felt as if his cheek was on fire, his lips would never touch another females from that point on in his life. Kira would have this affect on him till the day he died. This was the beginning of a long relationship between the two as lovers and patriots; in the early summer of nineteen ninety a young girl became a woman and started down the path as a killer of communist.