A Midnight Trade
Perfect Bound Softcover
December 2001: Two unrelated but equally devastating events on opposite sides of the globe will forever change the life of young Sara Wyeth.
When American forces invade Afghanistan, Sara leaves her internal medicine residency in London, and with her fiancé, Dr. Khaled Afaq, she joins in setting up a hospital in Kabul, only to have Khaled kidnapped and thrown into the U.S. established Bagram Prison as an accused terrorist. At the same time, Sara’s father, a renowned biogenetics research scientist, has disappeared in Memphis, Tennessee and feared murdered over his ground-breaking research on immunity to anthrax. Sara turns to Memphis homicide detective and former Delta Force Operative Will Howling to help with the impossible: spring Sara’s fiancé from a lawless prison in a war zone and find her father’s murderer. Together they find themselves confronting a tangled web of shocking corruption at the highest levels of power, a plot to unleash a deadly virus, and on a collision course of fated love.
From a notorious black site prison, to a midnight rendezvous with a Voodoo god on a crossroads in rural Mississippi, into the corrupt corridors of pharmaceutical giants who will kill for profit and power, A Midnight Trade explores the opening salvo of the twenty-first century in this story of a young woman whose life is torn apart and whose future is irrevocably altered.
Will had listened spell-bound, watching her, absorbing her words, sensing the raw emotion and naked vulnerability she had to be feeling as she told him these very private details about her past. He felt a powerful urge to reach across the table and take her hand – hold it, hold her – soften it for her somehow. He couldn’t do any of those things. Their eyes were locked in a gaze. The waiter came. He ordered another round for the two of them.
After a silence, “Other than to Sam, Raoul, and Khaled, I’ve never told that . . . not ever . . . to anyone.”
Now Will did reach across the table and put his hand on hers. “I’m glad you told me.”
She nodded slightly, “It was . . . not so hard, once I started.” And she made a wry grimace.
“You could be dead, yourself, you know.”
Her eyes closed for a moment, then opened and looked into his, “I think that he will kill me. Perhaps soon, now that he’s found me again.”
Not if I’m around. Aloud he said, “Then I hope that’s a plan that’s forever foiled.” He squeezed her hand, let it go, and picked up his beer mug and asked, “And the connection between Jake and Bagram?”
“He’s there. He’s with a company called CID Group; they have a contract with the CIA to run the prison. Jake’s in charge.”
Later, when they’d both decompressed over a third drink, Will said, “So the crazy son-of-a-bitch was a SEAL, but now’s a contract mercenary. They’re posting a lot of ads for them, Soldier of Fortune, places like that – security companies, they’re called. The money’s good; almost enough to make me consider it. But this Jake must have some highly specialized skills to have gotten on the front line with the CIA. He’s got to be a heavy.”
Sara nodded. “He does and he is. He bragged about doing all phases of SERE – that’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape, where soldiers are taught how to resist and withstand torture if they’re captured.”
“I know what SERE is,” Will muttered.
She hesitated before saying, “You sound like you’re familiar with Special Ops and security contractors. Most people aren’t.”
“I told you I’ve my own trail of sordid chapters behind me,” and he smiled – or grimaced.
“Were you in the military?”
Will’s head moved in a slow nod. “Army. Then Delta Force, if that means anything to you.”
“You were in Delta Force!” surprise flickering in her eyes. “I imagine that name is known to about everyone. They are touted as being the elite of the elites.” Then quizzically, she asked, “Why did you get out? I thought people who did that made it a twenty-year career – not only for the bene’s but for the adrenalin highs. Jake used to talk about that sometimes, about how he really got off on it.”
“Yeah. Plenty of those. Coming off it . . . coming down to live a day-to-day ordinary life . . . is probably kind of like kicking drugs.” Will took another pull of his beer and was momentarily caught in the wet pools of her gaze resting on him. The table candlelight reflected sparks of gold in their verdant moss, and danced, slow and sensuous, to the somber mood of Brahms Requiem; the German composer focusing on the living; blessed are those who bear pain: for they shall be comforted.
Nodding slowly, “It even sounds kind of exciting and heroic until you’re up close; see what it is you do for God and country . . . and more selfishly in my case, what it’s doing to yourself.”
“And the answer to the question you left hanging,” Sara mused, her eyes probing him. There was something about this man – she felt comfortable with him; liked him, in spite of barely knowing him. His straight-forward style was genuine and honest, she assessed. There were no contrived or calculating motivations detected . . . no manipulation for some ulterior purpose. For the third time, she was instinctively prompted to trust him. That she’d told him all the things she had about herself – had felt all right about it, once she’d started – was out of character. She never shared those things. That past was something she kept out of conversations, concealed behind her reserved demeanor, placed where others were not invited. With Raoul and Khaled, they had a right to know the stain on her past. With this man, there was no testing of love or loyalty or acceptance. It was nothing more than a simple relating of the truth. Without knowing this truth, he could never grasp the dire danger, horror, and wretchedness of Khal’s situation. And for some reason, she wanted him to know and understand it. To enable him to do that required that she trust him with fragile vulnerabilities.
Shifting the attention away from herself, she said, “It’s your turn. I bared my soul. Let’s hear from you now, William Howling. Maybe start with what your specialty was.”
“You also know a little about special ops don’t you,” responding to the probe, while still absorbing all she had shared with him. This woman was full of surprises and contradictions – certainly a lot more than the cool intellectual medical doctor façade would have ever led him to suspect. But it wasn’t off-putting; rather he felt the opposite. He was even more drawn to her than before she’d let him see the foibles under that serene cover.
“I told you, I spent a lot of pillow-talk time with a highly trained military machine.”
“It doesn’t fit, somehow,” he said softly, studying the curve of cheekbone caught in the flicker of the candle on their table. “You, with your pedigree and credentials, with a military man,” before answering her.
And Sara realized he was judging her – evaluating who she was more deeply. Yet it didn’t make her uncomfortable. Instead, since there was nothing to hide, there was no need to muster energy to do that.
“Me?” he began. “I was a crack shot and qualified as a sniper. But I didn’t really like the idea . . . the psychological sensation of killing people . . . like they were ducks on a pond. Couldn’t make that shift where they’re just a target. I did reconnaissance. Although I’d be the first to say, you get in a tight spot, you really appreciate a crack shot taking care of your back. And Delta Force was usually in a tight spot. It’s what we did.”
“In the eighties it was Latin America. I’m fluent in Spanish – trained Contras in Honduras. I know a bit about what’s going on inside that prison, Sara. The CIA has a manual on it. We taught it to the Contras, even brought them to Fort Benning in Georgia for training. You asked why I got out. I got to watch our techniques being used in Honduran torture camps. That, and a lot of other really nasty shit.” He paused, and she could see that his mind had landed on something tr
An international development expert, Janet Wise spent over a year each in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an additional six years in the Middle East. She is the author of The Black Silk Road. Janet is now at home in Denver, CO.
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