I was driving along a never-ending deserted road. So long and dusty I thought I would never reach the end. It was my bridge to nowhere. After the dust cleared I could see them. Their expressionless faces, hundreds of them, some dark, others even darker. Staring at me with eyes full of pain, staring at me like I had the answers. Who was hurting more in all of this?
It had been 7 years since peace had graced these harsh lands. What would I tell my daughter? Of what world would I tell her stories of? If she knew where her father was it would break her heart, break both of ours. But I had another heart on my mind as of late…one of immense darkness. One that had cloaked the region in fear for so long, many people had forgotten which way was up.
They never told me of the unique emotions that would rush over me. Pounding at my soul like careless ocean waves…this was never in the manual. As dictators screamed vengeance and generals barked orders from soft chairs I drove headfirst into the unknown. In a luxury car nonetheless, a solitary pawn in a wicked game of undying treachery.
If I was caught I would be tortured. Or killed…or both. I would deny my true identity along with my country of origin. And my leaders would do the same. They continued to stare. Was it me or the Mercedes I was in? They seemed so transfixed on me, I almost felt like I knew them somehow. The car continued on, barreling across a country that time forgot, and so I wish my government had too.
In for a penny in for a pound, oh she was a harlot. Our great nation in bed with no one, in bed everyone. I felt safe when my tail finally arrived. She was a rich one though. I could see the metallic grey helicopter streaming overhead in my side mirror. A hawk of death, sent to protect, sent to kill.
“Burn it. She said. Light up the whole region in a fiery blaze”.
Our director was a feisty one. First female head of a department…ever. Never mind the CIA. If it was the wrong time of the month you can bet some poor soul in a far off place was suffering. She was fired shortly after what happened. I resigned as well, after the horrors in Africa had followed me home to Connecticut. I could accept the possibility of my own death, but not a loved one.
It was supposed to be straightforward. Dangerous…but simple. It’s always risky when trying to manipulate a country from afar. Isn’t that what the British learned? Whoever said history repeats itself must have been burned…twice.
The attack chopper raced overhead as I neared my destination, in a nation of destiny. Plenty of people around, local villagers moving about. Who are the terrorists I asked myself. Which ones were plotting to bomb us or shoot at us? It always seemed they were waiting for exactly the right moment to strike. Innocent people get killed, a sad reality everyone knows all too well. As I neared the so-called safe house I noticed a playground in the distance. The helicopter veered off towards the coastline. I could no longer see it. I received one last radio transmission from my superiors back home. The mission was still a go. I had to mark the target. I pulled up to the building. With my heart racing I clicked the radio on and off a few times to verify that this was the place. I was growing impatient because they were supposed to respond right away…no matter what. Tapping on the steering wheel with my sweaty palms I anxiously gazed around. In my rearview mirror I saw a flash of light up on a hilltop. We’re taught early on that most likely it’s a sniper, the reflection of the sun off a scope. I waited a few more seconds for them to verify my position via GPS. They never verified it…as far as I remember. I then pulled away quickly with dust and sand swirling up around my car. I thought of my family right then and there as I raced across that strange continent. An image of my wife’s hair moving gracefully filled my mind. I could almost touch it, I could almost smell it. I have never felt so disconnected. So many years of dancing a dance of death in far off countries. So many years of lies to people I met, friends and enemies. So many years of lies to my family, and the biggest lie of all was the one I told myself. The fact that putting myself in harm’s way would save my family and countless other American families. But all along our relationships were badly strained because of the very protection I tried to bring them.
A few minutes later after I was a good distance from the target when I received a radio message…they were trying to contact me. “Can you verify the position? The chopper had to turn back due to the threat of RPG attacks. The heli is now in route to your target”. Thinking of my wife and child I could only look down at the radio. I was numb. I had seen enough, and I didn’t want to be apart of the masquerade any longer. I looked up slowly and I could see a bunch of villagers running towards the target building. That was when I heard the chopper. The villagers were running because the small school 50 yards behind it was just letting their kids out for recess. I froze. The helicopter came screaming in and fired off several missiles that blew up the target building as well as part of the school. I ran from my car crying and yelling. But the sound of the chopper was too loud and the cries of the villagers and mine were never heard. Only the cries of the children were heard after the horrifying whizzing of the missiles subsided. God how I wish I could have saved those children.
When I had come back home, it was all over the news. I was undercover in another country so my name was not released. But my superiors were held accountable for war crimes. The military court found that the target was never completely verified. But the Director and Deputy Director still went through with the strike. They claimed the loss of those civilian children as collateral damage. Their lawyers argued that there was a bigger picture. And the killing of the terrorist in that safe house saved thousands of lives. Too bad my wife was not one of those.
Four weeks ago I murdered my wife in our Connecticut home. The horrors of that war and others had come home with me. An uninvited guest if you will. My rage had become a malevolent force that I could no longer contain. My wife had told me I was different when I first got back. She said I seemed…older. I write this letter to you from my cell, because I have no one to talk to. My daughter hasn’t spoken to me since the night before I killed her mother. I still love them, I do. I just am a sick person. I don’t know if I’ll ever get better. But I do know one thing that if you don’t take this letter to heart you may end up just like me.
Corporal Reed Stevens…to all future agents.