Three U.S. Marine security guards are gunned down by unknown assailants at an outdoor café in Guatemala City, far from Afghanistan and the world's attention. Could it be terrorism, or backlash from the war on drugs?
Welsh is sent down to Guatemala to investigate, for the most mundane of reasons: the father of one of the dead Marines was a major political contributor. No one expects him to find out anything, least of all himself. But, as soon as he arrives in Guatemala City, he falls into a series of discoveries, each one more disturbing than the last.
The attack on the Marines seems to stretch from events as far back as the dirty guerrilla wars of the 80's to the mountains of drugs making their way along Central American pathways from Colombia to Mexico today. Circumstances force Welsh together with a mysterious American woman whose motives are unclear. She may be his ally, or she may regard him as a sacrificial pawn in pursuit of her own agenda. When the final crucial piece of information comes into Welsh's hands it will take every last bit of luck and skill for him to make it out of Guatemala alive.
Because, strangely enough, it seems that as many people in Washington as in Guatemala want him dead.
There are many jungles, from the tropical rainforest to Washington back rooms. But in each case the most dangerous predator is always the same.
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About the Author
He commanded 2nd Platoon, Company I, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines from January 1985 to April 1986. This included a 6-month deployment to the 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan from July 1985 to January 1986. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in April 1986, after graduating from the Marine Corps Winter Mountain Leader Instructor Course at Bridgeport, California.
He next served as executive officer (2nd in command) of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. He was then assigned to Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines as the Heavy Machine-gun platoon commander from July 1986 to August 1987.
During this period, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines deployed aboard ship to the Mediterranean as the ground combat element of the 26th Marine Amphibious Unit (Special Operations Capable) from January to July 1987. Current practice is to call these units Marine Expeditionary Units.
Leaving the Marine Corps in August, 1987, he began writing. THE WARRIORS OF GOD was published in January 1992. MERCY MISSION was published in August 2000. THE BLOOD WE SHED was published in January 2005.
Read an Excerpt
By William Christie
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2011 William Christie
All rights reserved.
There were four Marines drinking beer. They were United States Marines, though the imbibing took place on a late summer Saturday afternoon in Guatemala City.
That Marines might be found having a few brews in the capital of Guatemala was not so unusual. Every U.S. diplomatic mission around the world was protected by a Marine Security Guard detachment, as few as six Marines or as many as fifty, depending upon the size of the post.
With the prospect of travel and life in a foreign city, being a security guard sounded like a great deal. But the first thing every Marine learned was that every great deal had a catch. In this case the catch was that after screening and a six-week training course at Marine Security Guard Battalion Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, a security guard spent only half of a three-year tour of duty in an "easy" post, which in South America might be Buenos Aires or Mexico City. The other half had to be served in a "hardship" post. Guatemala City was a hardship post.
The Marines were taking their ease at a sidewalk table of a restaurant in Zone 10, the southeastern corner of the city. Guatemala City was divided into fifteen zones, ostensibly to make it easier for visitors to find their way around. However, the practice of giving streets in different zones the same names and numbers effectively canceled out any advantage to the system. Zone 10 was the upscale part of town, with the fanciest homes, luxury hotels, restaurants, and the U.S. Embassy.
The sidewalk tables were mainly occupied by the Marines, obvious groups of tourists, and only a few hardy Guatemalan families. Most Guatemalans preferred to leave open-air dining to their visitors. It wasn't just the rampant street crime, which made U.S. cities seem safe by comparison. Guatemala City's air pollution was considered to be far worse than Mexico City's, which meant that it was only slightly better for the lungs than standing downwind from a fire in an auto-tire storage yard.
The temperature was in the mid-seventies, a benefit of the 4,900-foot altitude. Guatemala City sprawled across a mountain range and precariously contained a population of nearly two million. It didn't have the residual architectural charm of many Central and South American capitals, since over the years most of the Spanish colonial buildings had succumbed to a series of earthquakes. Concrete was the order of the day.
The Marines had stopped at the restaurant to map out their Saturday itinerary, and it was thirsty work. Their table was littered with empty bottles of Moza, a good dark Guatemalan beer. Their waiter had grown increasingly nervous at the prospect of handling drunken, shaven-headed gringos, even though the Marines were quite docile and made no complaint about bottles of beer that arrived warmer than room temperature. After the fourth round he worked up his courage and presented a bill with each order. This was highly unusual for a Guatemala City restaurant, but the Marines kept paying and drinking.
Sergeant Perkins, Sergeant Wentzel, Corporal Costa, and Corporal Richardson were busy discussing their plans for the evening, which basically revolved around getting laid. Since the State Department picked up most of the tab for the Marine Security Guard program, and was not eager to pay for moving and housing families that were not its own, Marines below the rank of staff sergeant were required to remain unmarried during their tour of duty. The effect of this policy was to unleash packs of twenty-something single American males, brimming over with semen, upon the unknowing citizens of the world. In diplomatic circles the Marine House and Marine bar in every U.S. Embassy compound was known as the place where taxpayer-subsidized booze and a major-league party could be found virtually every night. The Marines' collective inability to keep their flies zipped was just as well known. In the past, this had led to sexual compromise by foreign intelligence services, or much more frequently, run-of-the-mill sexual scandals that resulted in the culprits being court-martialed and sent home.
As the Marines sat drinking, the sidewalks were filled with pedestrians. South American pop music was pounding out from somewhere. Horns were blaring on the street. A city bus packed solid with passengers and sporting no window glass or paint job, with smashed lights and most likely no brakes, rumbled by, leaving a cloud of noxious black smoke in its wake. The Marines coughed and cursed.
Then something caught Corporal Costa's eye. "Check it out," he said to the others.
Two young men were making their way down the street. One carried a guitar, the other a tattered black porkpie hat. The sound of loud, enthusiastic, and utterly incompetent guitar playing reached the tables. It provoked an undertone of angry voices.
The Marines listened attentively. "Jesus," Sergeant Perkins exclaimed. "This guy sucks."
"What the hell is he playing?" asked Corporal Costa.
"I doubt it he knows," said Sergeant Wentzel.
"It sounds like they found the fucking guitar in a shit-can on the way over here," said Corporal Richardson, who tended to become touchy and ill-tempered after too much to drink.
Corporal Costa, a born peacemaker, tried to defuse his friend's mood. "I don't know, I feel sorry for the poor bastards."
Sergeant Wentzel made the decision for all of them. "We'll throw a little coin their way when they come over."
"If they make it in one piece," said Sergeant Perkins. "I think they picked the wrong crowd."
The two minstrels were having little success, other than at annoying the natives. Just as Americans were easily identifiable when abroad, these two had the unmistakable angular shabbiness of Englishmen far from home and down on their luck. Both were in their early twenties. The guitarist was dressed in black jeans and T-shirt. He twirled on his heels and thrust the guitar to and fro, his face to the heavens, eyes closed, completely caught up in his performance. It looked much better than it sounded. The one with the hat, obviously the brains behind the operation, bowed grandly from table to table, soliciting funds in terrible Spanish. He closely resembled the later, ascetic John Lennon, including the wire-rimmed eyeglasses.
The two Englishmen proceeded through the tables, collecting only angry looks and traditional Spanish insults. The Marines, by now no strangers to the ways of Latin America, waited tensely for the panhandlers to respond to one of the challenges. This would provoke the inevitable explosion of machismo, and all the men in the vicinity would begin dueling each other with their table utensils for the honor of killing the two troubadours.
But the Englishmen took no offense, the one in the hat thanking everyone profusely. Except for the music, which wore on the nerves, the two were so blissfully placid that they gave no excuse for violence. There was still tension in the air, but the restaurant patrons and passing pedestrians now chose to completely ignore the minstrels' existence.
The minstrels reached the Marines' table, and the guitarist broke into what could have been a flamenco. His comrade offered the hat around. It held a few lonely centavo coins obviously thrown in to salt the claim.
Sergeant Wentzel, as senior in rank, took charge of the situation. He held up a hand, and the guitarist obediently halted in mid-chord. "We'd like to hook you guys up," Wentzel told the one with the hat.
"Many thanks, my friends," the Englishman replied, offering him the hat. The guitarist stood by silently, trying to feign artistic detachment, but a little too desperate to pull it off.
"How much," Sergeant Wentzel inquired, "for you guys to hit the road?"
"I'm not quite sure I follow," the Lennon-esque one replied.
"He wants to know," Sergeant Perkins added helpfully, "how much money you want to go someplace else."
"Like another restaurant," added Corporal Costa.
"Across fucking town," said Corporal Richardson.
"Well, now," the one with the hat said brightly, trying to calculate an obtainable amount that would not alienate his benefactors. "What say one hundred sixty quetzals? It was slightly over twenty dollars.
"What say we ram that guitar up your ass?" Corporal Richardson offered.
"Then I imagine whatever you could spare would be more than generous," the Englishman replied with a tentative smile.
"Sixty," Sergeant Wentzel decided, to groans from the others.
"Are you kidding?" Corporal Richardson demanded. "Get it up," Sergeant Wentzel growled. "Fifteen each."
Grumbling, the Marines dug in their pockets and tossed money into the hat.
The Englishman scooped out the notes, folding the wad carefully before placing it deep into the pocket of his jeans. He dumped the centavos into his hand, put the hat on his head, and tipped it to the Marines. With good reason, since they now had enough money for a steak that, even though it might be a little tough, would still be the size of a car hubcap. The guitarist slung his instrument behind his back, eager to leave and eat.
"You might want to think about pawning that guitar," Sergeant Perkins suggested. "No offense, my man, but the way you play it, you could wind up getting hurt."
The guitarist pouted, but his friend smiled broadly and tipped his hat once again. The two Englishmen turned and strolled from the square. The nearby tables applauded the Marines for getting rid of them. The Marines laughed and took a few sitting bows. Everyone smiled in cheerful good fellowship. Except Corporal Richardson.
"They're probably laughing their balls off right now, calling us suckers," he said sullenly.
"For Christ's sake," Sergeant Perkins said wearily, "would you just pull the bug out of your ass? Can't you even enjoy a nice day and a few brews?"
The others clearly agreed with Sergeant Perkins, but said nothing. Corporal Richardson grumbled something unintelligible and slunk down in his chair.
The shrieking noise of yet another motorbike without a muffler was nothing out of the ordinary. The Marines were really too drunk to be cautious, and too young to worry much about it. The only took notice when everyone around them began to scatter in a screaming crashing of tables, glasses, and chairs. Two motorcycles had pulled up to the curb, and the four riders in crash helmets and tinted visors were pulling rifles out from under their jackets.
The Marines stared dumbly at the bikes for a very long moment. Then, as if on cue, they turned back to each other, expressions of absolute amazement on their faces.
Corporal Costa was looking across the table at Sergeant Perkins. There was an explosive puff an instant before the sound, and Perkins's face split apart like a balloon blown up too fast. Beside him, Corporal Richardson screamed, and the white of the table splashed red. Costa pushed himself backward and rolled out when his chair hit the ground. He was showered with broken glass. A string of piercing cracks split the air just above his face, so close that he could feel the shock waves. He'd pulled enough targets on the rifle range to know that these were bullets breaking the sound barrier.
The drivers of the motorcycles sat atop their machines, covering the action. They fired short bursts over the heads of the crowd and into the nearby buildings. Not much more was needed to create the desired level of hysteria. Their passengers had dismounted, and were advancing together on the Marines' table, firing as they came.
Costa's backward momentum took him across the sidewalk and close to the restaurant entrance. He scrambled along on his hands and knees. All he could hear was screaming and the relentless bap-bap-bap of automatic-weapons fire. Then the sound suddenly closed off inside his head. The elemental instinct for self-preservation took him over, and demanded flight. In the firm grip of panic, Costa plowed through the swinging door and into the restaurant.
The customers and staff were lying flat on the floor. Their white-faced, wide-eyed gazes matched Costa's own. Unable to see past the tables, Costa lurched to his feet and whirled about, looking for escape. He caught sight of the service door to the kitchen. A burst of fire came through a window and Costa dropped back to his knees, scrambling like a beetle for the service door. Each heaving intake of breath came out, "Ah ... ah ... ah." The rough wood floor ripped both his trousers and the flesh of his knees. He didn't even feel it.
Through the swinging service door, Costa sprang up and sprinted across the narrow kitchen. He burst right through a screened wooden door, tripping and landing in a reeking, garbage-strewn alleyway. The sound of gunfire was loud and clear from the end of the alley leading back to the square. Sobbing, Costa regained his feet and lurched the other way. He was positive the shots were getting closer, that the killers were right behind him. If he broke stride to look they would surely catch him, so he ran even harder. Thirty yards down, the end of the alley was blocked by a seven-foot cinder-block wall.
Sprinting, Costa launched himself at the wall. He got a grip on the top, but all the strength in his arms had drained away. He dug at the wall with his feet, but couldn't get a toehold.
Back on the street, the two gunmen were right on top of the Marines. Corporal Richardson was still alive, trying to crawl away an inch at a time and leaving a wide track of blood behind him. A long burst at point-blank range cut his chest open like a saw. The other gunman started into the cafe after Costa, but halted when the first one shouted. His partner took a photograph from his jacket and hurriedly compared it to the faces of the three corpses. He nodded, and both backed toward the motorcycles, firing in the air as they went. When their magazines ran out, they dropped the rifles onto the cobblestones and pulled pistols from their belts, brandishing them to discourage any intervention. They boarded the bikes, fired a last few shots, and sped out of the square at high speed.
In the alley, Costa hung limply from the wall, moaning loudly. Then the pistol shots spurred on a last spasm of effort. An uneven joint in the cinder block gave him enough leverage to get both arms over the wall. Broken glass cemented into the top slashed his forearms. Costa felt the impact of the glass, but no pain. He swung his hips, hooked a leg on top of the wall, and scrambled over, ripping his pants and shirt. He dropped heavily to the other side, forced himself to his feet, and broke into a frenzied, limping run.
Costa ran aimlessly down the narrow streets, bleeding from his legs and arms, clothes spattered with the blood of his friends, not knowing where he was, but only that he would surely die if he stopped.
A Guatemalan military police patrol found him two miles from the restaurant.CHAPTER 2
At 10:00 in the morning, in an office suite on the third floor of the Richard B. Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., Richard Welsh sat at his desk fighting to keep the expression of polite interest on his face. Seated on the other side of the desk was a lobbyist representing one of the nation's largest aerospace corporations, pitching away with all his might.
Welsh was the legislative assistant for military affairs to the Honorable Warren Anderson, junior United States Senator from Kentucky. He was meeting with the lobbyist for the simple reason that the lobbyist's firm had paid enough in campaign contributions to rate a meeting, but the Senator didn't want to attend. Like all politicians, the Senator only enjoyed talking to people he could say yes to. Or who would say yes to him.
Albert Wozluski was a very large, pink, apple-cheeked gentleman closing in hard on retirement age. He was a longtime Washington lawyer who had gotten his start with the Chicago Machine. It was said of Albert, as he was known to everyone in town, that he would lobby for the Devil himself as long as the Lord of the Flies' check cleared promptly. A point of view that few on Capitol Hill found out of the ordinary.
Albert was there because the system of defense against nuclear missiles had experienced shifting fortunes in recent years. The expense had grown so horrific, and the results so negligible, that even the Pentagon had become nervous about taking responsibility for it. But no program involving that much money could ever die in Washington. Every time the Iranians, Indians, Pakistanis, or Chinese tested a new missile, the contractors and those members of Congress who belonged to them came roaring out of the gate to get the funding increased.
It didn't take Albert long to get into his pitch. A hazard of the lobbying game was that you never knew when you were going to be either interrupted or asked to leave.
Excerpted from Mercy Mission by William Christie. Copyright © 2011 William Christie. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I believe Christie knew what he was doing when he set out to write this book. It leaves you in suspsense the entire time, yet gives you enough information to keep you reading. I had started the book, then taken a break from it in order to finish 'Blackhawk Down'. I kept wanting to come back to it while reading 'Blackhawk Down', and only got back to it recently. However, The book kept me up to date on everything going on, and I wasn't lost when returning to it. The characters in the book come to life with mind boggeling events they must overcome. If you're in the military, or ever were in the military you'll appreciate the things they do on their quest to escape Guatamala. In all, this book get's 4 stars because they never tell you what happens to a character at the end. You get the idea of what has happened to him by reading on, but there are just a few things left un-told. I'm not going to give away that part of the book, but you'll understand this when you read it!!