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Out of Darkness
By Luke Lloyd
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Luke Lloyd
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Changed Man
Sam Flynn had spent the night at the Palm Beach Hotel, not far out of Limassol, Cyprus. The flight from the States had been uneventful, but his London stopover had cost him a suitcase, along with the frustrations that accompanied its loss. His destination was Beirut, Lebanon.
Over the years, he'd made a practice of breaking up long flights by stopping and grabbing a night's rest before reaching his final destination. Unfortunately, the events of the first leg of his trip and a restless night had left him tired and groggy as his alarm shattered a deep sleep and he shuffled to the bathroom.
His bald head betrayed his youth. A closer look at his lean, muscular body would alert any observer to the physical prowess of the man. Splashing water on his face didn't change his sense of weariness. It had been a rough couple of weeks in his Washington office, trying to keep everyone briefed on recent happenings in the Middle East; then, out of the blue came special orders for Lebanon. And of course, he'd been told he was the best man for the job. He had to agree. Experience was important. But the flip side of that was simply there were many men needing to acquire more experience, and they weren't going to get it behind a desk. Nobody really listened to his argument. They'd made up their minds.
Actually, he hadn't protested too much, even when his wife Trudy went ballistic. They had a wonderful relationship but the trip planned to see her aging mother appeared to be falling apart. At this point in her mother's life, delays always carried the old question as to whether or not Trudy would have a chance to see her again. So far, each of her setbacks had been overcome fairly quickly. However, all of her doctors remained noncommittal about any future incidents. Sam had consoled her as best he could under the circumstances. Finally, he'd said, "I don't think I'll be gone more than a week. Why don't you fly up now and I'll take some leave as soon as I get back and drive up to spend a few days with you both?"
This hadn't been the answer she wanted, but as a good army wife, she knew this was about all she was going to get right now. She'd fallen back on her old standby chin high eyes dry motto and said, "Sam, we'll make it work," just before he gave her a big hug and kiss.
Over the years, Trudy had come to learn the simple truth: Sam loved the opportunity of being in the field. Pushing paper was not for him. He'd grab any alternative that presented itself to avoid the mundane of the office. Most of his friends felt the same way. Being in the field always brought unexpected challenges, and he thrived on each one he encountered. His task this time seemed pretty simple. He was to make contact with an informant. Together they would travel to his home in civil war-torn south Lebanon using whatever transportation and infiltration techniques he thought were required. In the process, Sam would assess every aspect of his new friend's personality, character, and reliability while gathering as much firsthand information as he could about the sectarian violence. He'd done things like this on several other occasions. Such missions always came with a sense of adventure, and he was looking forward to every minute of his trip. He loved Lebanon and its people. He couldn't wait to enjoy the food.
After lunch, the flight to Beirut had been short and without incident. His reservation at the Hotel Phoenicia placed him in close proximity to good shopping, and he'd taken the time to pick up a couple pairs of trousers and some shirts before grabbing a nap.
He traveled as a businessman seeking items for his import-export business. Those who needed to know of his activities had been briefed. As usual, he made it a point to avoid contact with any U.S. government officials at this point in his mission. Such contacts had a way of raising the curiosity quotient among onlookers, and Sam wanted to avoid any suspicions as he began his mission. It just didn't make sense to do anything that could spark someone's curiosity about his activities. Rather, arrangements had been made to meet his contact, George Ayoub, at the hotel about eight that evening for supper.
Sam had seen a picture of George before leaving Washington, so they met as old friends and businessmen in the lobby before heading upstairs to the Age d'Or (Age of Gold) rooftop restaurant. He'd also read a file on George that led him to believe he could be trusted. From Sam's perspective, this was the most important information he'd acquired because they would be moving through dangerous contested areas getting to George's home tomorrow.
Sam found George to be very congenial. He had a good sense of humor, and they joked back and forth about their experiences in Beirut as students and Lebanese life in general. George took the opportunity to update Sam on happenings in the south while making certain he understood the dangers they'd be facing. Sam was well aware of his situation and evidenced more concern about George and his family than he did himself.
They'd both left the restaurant with a sense of reassurance about each other and the business at hand. They also perceived the beginning of a genuine friendship. As they parted, George agreed to pick Sam up about three the next afternoon for the trip south. It was hoped they would arrive in George's small village east of Sidon just before dusk. George wanted to avoid any curious onlookers who might spot a foreigner in his company and spread the word. He'd planned a supper meal and meeting with a group of fellow Christians who'd suffered at the hand of militant Muslims in the area like himself.
Most of the guests were already assembled when George and Sam arrived. After washing up, they all sat down together. None hesitated to talk freely about the mortar attacks and murders being committed by his Muslim neighbors from other villages. Sam understood their frustration and anger. He was certain he would have the same reaction if his family and friends came under such attacks.
With their meal over, other Christians straggled in to give Sam a firsthand account of the tragedies they'd experienced: being mortared, machine gunned, isolated in their homes for days without food, water, and medicine, as well as experiencing kidnap, rape, and murder of family members. He listened intently and responded sympathetically, even though he had no meaningful words of encouragement to offer. When things settled down a bit, George asked if he could lead the group in prayer for their friends and families. He no sooner began than a series of mortar rounds fell close to the house. Everyone sought shelter under whatever furniture they could find that looked like it would stop falling debris. Sam dove under a butcher-block table in the kitchen only to find George's son, Thomas, huddling there also.
Suddenly, there was an ear-shattering explosion as the roof over an attached bedroom took a direct hit and collapsed. Smoke and dust filled the air while debris of all sorts went flying everywhere. A scream let all know that someone had been hurt. Sam prayed to himself that these frantic screams came from fear and not severe wounds. Unhesitatingly, he and George both moved to the sounds and discovered George's daughter, five-year-old Hannah, clutching her thigh. A quick inspection revealed a lot of blood and a deep gash that would require stitches. George's wife had also gotten there quickly as a machine gun began to chatter close to the house. It was apparent the insurgents were nearby but no one could figure out what they were firing at. When it stopped, silence engulfed the house except for Hannah's subdued moans.
Without warning, the front door was kicked in and two insurgents jumped through it, brandishing their AK-47s at the group and shouting, "Are you ready to die for your Jesus?" These words instantaneously brought terror to everyone, and a mass exodus of many of George's friends ensued as they ran out the rear door of the house or jumped from windows while the terrorists' eyes adjusted to the light in the room.
Sam had remained cool. He hadn't known what to do. Being totally unarmed and surrounded, his first thought was that he would meet his maker very soon. On the other hand, he owed it to these people to be steadfast and strong in the face of danger.
Around him, a small group remained in prayer as they faced the dragon of death. Sam couldn't help but marvel at their composure. He knew they must be as fearful as he, but their fear did not show. In fact, they were calm and prepared for whatever was to happen. He was overwhelmed with the knowledge that these people knew their Lord and would go to their death for him without recanting their Christian confession. He'd never encountered Christians who actually faced imminent death but stood fast on their beliefs like these.
Sam was amazed at his own reaction. He had suddenly felt a sense pride and awe. He knew he was with them in spirit and would remain so no matter the consequences. As these thoughts sped through his mind, he stood transfixed, watching these two well-armed young men. They shut the door and moved menacingly closer to the small, terrified group. When they were within a few feet, they both lowered their weapons. The tallest one announced that they wanted to become Christians. Quickly, they said they had been reading the Bible and a Christian-focused magazine published in Arabic throughout the Middle East. One had been secretly dating a Lebanese Christian and was desperately in love, and both had the same dream in which they saw Jesus and were convinced to become Christians. They had acted the way they had upon finding the group because they only wanted to admit their desires to true Christians, not those who didn't have strong convictions and would run away. They knew, like Muslims, there were too many who talked about their faith but did not live it out. These people would compromise them, and they did not want them in the room when they confessed their desires.
Somehow, their leader had discovered Sam would be in this village and had sent a group of men to capture him. Fortunately, Ahmed and Ibrahim had been the two who discovered his presence. To demonstrate their trustworthiness and faith desires, they told Sam and George they could lead them out of the village safely if they would come immediately. They suspected a trap, but the situation was so volatile and dangerous both men didn't stop to think twice about accompanying them. The route was fraught with danger. They were fired on twice. During the second encounter, a bullet struck Ahmed in his right leg, and it was obvious he could not go on. Sam and George helped him back to the edge of the village to rejoin his group. When they had done all they could, they proceeded north and stopped along the coast to catch their breath and talk to Ibrahim.
Ibrahim was very worried about his brother. Sam and George comforted him the best they could. Over the next few days, Ibrahim learned through family connections that Ahmed was home recuperating and would totally recover the use of his leg. Ibrahim's disappearance had raised some questions but such things happened in the civil strife experienced in Lebanon in those days. Ahmed did not believe there would be any repercussions, and he let Ibrahim know it was okay to help the American.
The information gleaned from Ibrahim and Ahmed was invaluable. It brought fresh insight into the situation, and everyone was pleased with Sam's results. More importantly, Ahmed had agreed to provide information through Ibrahim and George in the coming months. In the process of all this, Sam and George had the opportunity to finally lead Ibrahim to Christ. Maria, Ahmed's sweetheart, had taught Ahmed about Christ, and he had accepted Christ's gift of salvation. However, both men elected to keep their new faith to themselves. Converting to Christianity could bring death not only to them but also their families at the hands of the jihadists during these volatile times. Both of them still had things they wanted to do to help stabilize life for their families and their community before announcing their conversions.
From this point on in his life, Sam was a changed man. It was as if he had stepped out of the darkness of apathy into the light of revelation. Trudy recognized the difference soon after his return home. Sam had not been hesitant about telling her of this special group of Lebanese Christians. In fact, he told everyone who'd listen. Their faith had been the final marker on his road to a personal relationship with the Lord. He wanted what they had, and as he and George led Ibrahim to Christ, he had sought and received the infilling of the Lord's spirit. With it had come a sense of peace and joy in his life, and this kept his walk sure and steady no matter what he encountered. It was exhilarating, and he now had the sense death was no longer an obstacle to his everyday living.
Chapter TwoTroubling Day
Rick Austin stayed fixated on the TV at his university office as a breaking news report and video clip of a plane flying into one of the New York City Twin Towers flashed across the screen. Then, incredibly, another plane hit the second tower, and shortly thereafter the buildings collapsed. It was an awful sight! Like so many, he was glued to the horror that unfolded before him. Everything seemed surreal; the airplanes hitting the buildings, people jumping to avoid being burned to death, the towers actually collapsing, ghost-like figures caked with dust emerging bewildered from the smoke, and confusion engulfing the target site while the newscasters speculated as to what was happening.
The thought of two airplanes striking the towers accidentally never entered Rick's mind. The probability of that happening in the United States just did not compute. As the stations began to replay their videos and repeat the events that had just transpired, Rick dialed his former neighbor and longtime friend, Sam Flynn, in Florida. He needed to talk with someone who might be more knowledgeable.
Sam and Trudy Flynn had settled in the Tampa Bay area of Florida following Sam's army career. Sam had been an army brat whose highly decorated father was stationed in a number of embassies in the Middle East. Growing up in these countries was adventuresome, educational, and totality absorbing for one of Sam's youth and spirit. He'd never given much thought to his semi-assimilation as he mastered the various cultural peculiarities of these countries. He had done it because he loved to play native and fool the local shopkeepers and others. In this process, he not only developed an affinity for the people and their traditions, but he also decided to attend college in Beirut, Lebanon.
There he polished his linguistic capabilities and mastered the political, economic, and social aspects of the region. His mom and dad had been happy with this decision because the universities there had great reputations; Lebanon was a stable Christian nation, and he would be close to them in Egypt. As his parents expected, Sam absorbed himself in his studies and his Lebanese friends while truly mastering everything he set out to do. The result was a highly polished and effective young man who, upon his return to the United States after graduation, acted more Lebanese than American.
Sam wanted to follow in his dad's footsteps and had enlisted in the army upon his return to the States. He gambled that with his background and hard work, Officer Candidate School (OCS) would be achievable. He wanted to be an officer. When he finished basic training, he volunteered for Airborne and Ranger training as well as a relatively new branch called Special Forces. Nothing excited his imagination more than being on the cutting edge of military operations. He sailed through all his training and was offered the opportunity to attend OCS, followed by an assignment to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he joined a Special Forces A Team.
Excerpted from Out of Darkness by Luke Lloyd Copyright © 2009 by Luke Lloyd. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A Changed Man....................1
Chapter 2 Troubling Day....................8
Chapter 3 Rick Austin....................14
Chapter 4 A Tight Circle....................24
Chapter 5 Getting Started....................31
Chapter 6 Down to Business....................37
Chapter 7 Abe's Key Insights....................44
Chapter 8 Friday Lunch....................49
Chapter 9 Critical Features....................54
Chapter 10 Lebanese Supper....................60
Chapter 11 An Evening Walk....................67
Chapter 12 Trudy and George....................77
Chapter 13 Major Difference....................87
Chapter 14 Sam's Surprise....................94
Chapter 15 Saturday Afternoon....................103
Chapter 16 Beirut Alumni Evening....................116
Chapter 17 First Date....................126
Chapter 18 Ahmed....................137
Chapter 19 Thursday....................145
Chapter 20 Ahmed's Mosque Day....................155
Chapter 21 The Garage and Air Base....................164
Chapter 22 Tan Van....................172
Chapter 23 Take Down....................184
Chapter 24 Ahmed in Atlanta....................195
Chapter 25 Disappointment....................202
Chapter 26 Return to Tampa....................205
Chapter 27 Interview....................209
Chapter 28 Reunion....................215