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The International Writers Magazine: Fist Chapters
This the second extract from a new completed novel by James Skinner on the Falklands Conflict
The first extract is here at
The Goa File

Chapter 34
The USA reverses course
James Skinner

A large black and bulbous cloud spread across the capital. The temperature dropped abruptly, allowing the midsummer humidity to rise and burst through the front door. Within minutes, the rain was pelting down causing crowds of ‘porteños’ to scramble for the nearest shelter. Shops, cinemas, bars and the odd church gave refuge to soaked customers, the unfaithful and bystanders alike.

The gutters began to overflow as unclean sewage outlets, clogged up with debris added to the mayhem. Cars and buses careering to reach their unknown destination created improvised showers that spewed out at the odd pedestrian, still caught in the downpour. The wind began its own show. Upturned umbrellas, broken twigs and leaves, sodden newspapers and general rubbish danced in the air to the sudden summer storm ritual.

Only one solitary figure was oblivious to the whole affair.

Commander Di Martino had been walking along the Avenida 9 de Julio for hours and although bodily soaked; his mind was stone dry and focused elsewhere. His unperturbed thoughts still glued to the murder case, began to wander. He walked passed a sidewalk bench, stopped, turned around and faced it. After a few seconds staring at the sodden wooden planked object, he slowly sat down on it. He raised his head and continued to stare into space. The water dripping down his face mingled with his tears. A taxi suddenly stopped in front of him. The passenger opened the door and scrambled to pay the fare at the same time trying to open an obnoxious umbrella. A crowded ‘colectivo’ behind it, just managed to swerve in time avoiding a wet collision. Di Martino chuckled, ‘good old Buenos Aires; doesn’t change.’ He drifted back into his madness.

Noel opened the glass pained door with the ‘Director CIA’ inscribed on it, pushing Janet’s wheelchair ahead of him. ‘Hello Janet,’ said Casey as he stood up to greet her. Janet smiled at her boss. ‘Perky as ever, I see.’ He looked at Noel, ‘treat this lady good, Noel; she’s the best we’ve got!’
He turned and walked back to his desk to pick up a file. ‘I’ve been trying to make sense out of Forrester’s murder.’ He turned serious, ‘you know Janet; I never was in favour of using amateurs in this business. Operation ‘Side-Kick’ was a mistake, and now we’re stuck with it.’ He put the file back down on his desk. ‘So, you haven’t come to see me for routine fat chewing, what’s the latest?’
‘Sir, as you know, Jerry Strickland took over from John a few months ago. Unlike John he’s one of the natives, born in Uruguay. The Argentine and Uruguayan accents are undistinguishable and could pass as a ‘porteño’ any day. We made sure this time that his cover was good and secure.’
‘Well, things were going well until one day Jerry has the heat put on him; this time from some obscure outfit run by a naval commander called Di Martino. We checked Di Martino out. The guy was originally a high ranking secret service director in the Argentine Navy fighting the commies…’
‘Well? Go on!’
‘Next thing is, he flips his lid and gets put in a loony bid for just under a year. He’s released and goes undercover, forms a weird outfit, snooping into US affairs. Strictly business and commercial stuff. Nothing exciting.’
Janet asked Noel to get her some water. He complied, irritated at the interruption.
She went on, ‘but one day, he turns up in Jerry’s office and scares the shit out of him. Babbles on about Forrester’s murder…’ she sipped some water, ‘… tells Jerry to get the hell out of Argentina!’ Janet could sense Casey was fuming.
‘Janet, what’re you leading up to?’
Janet went on, ‘a twist! Now the Federal Police pin Forrester’s murder rap on some sergeant at the Presidency concluding that…’
Casey was all ears.
‘….the report said that John and this non-com had been having an affair with the same woman! It was a case of vindictive jealousy.’
Casey burst out, ‘oh for Christ sake!’
‘That’s not all Sir…’
‘What? There’s more?’
Janet turned to face Noel, ‘Noel will brief you on the details.’
Noel opened the folder he had carried into Casey’s office. He had to make sure he painted a solid picture of the most recent events and a strong solution for the future. ‘After Strickland’s meeting with Di Martino, Jerry contacted us and we told him to come back home. Pronto! He then went missing…’ he continued as fast as he could before Casey exploded, ‘but before he did, Jerry mentioned a Colonel Jones at the Presidency as a possible ally. They’d been to school together.’ Casey was on the brink. Noel carried on, ‘we checked Jones out and sure enough, not only has the guy got a clean record, he was for a few years a type of direct link into the White House from the Argentine War Secretariat, keeping the President up to date with their fight against the commies.’
Casey interrupted, ‘OK, OK, stop right there. Let’s see if I get the picture. A crazy naval guy was tailing Strickland chasing clues on Forrester’s murder. The police then accuse some other guy who was screwing John’s girlfriend. Strickland should’ve been here by now and isn’t. You now tell me we have to rely on an Argentine Colonel to keep up the good work…’
‘That’s not all, Sir.’
‘Don’t tell me!’ said Casey, ‘John’s alive and well and in the Bahamas!’
Janet ignored the sarcasm, the real issue here Sir, is…’ Janet tried to bring back some order to the conversation, ‘The bottom line is, John seems to have come across a plot by some sector of the Argentine military, and we don’t know who exactly, to invade the British Falkland Islands. I can’t go into details because it’s a bit vague. The point is that…’
Casey finally blew up,’ the point is Janet that we have a murdered agent and another that has disappeared. I don’t give a shit about the British or the Argentines on their historical fuck ups. All I care for now is that we find out where or what happened to Strickland.'

He went back to his desk. Holding his hand up at the two CIA officers, he spoke over the intercom, ‘Susan, get me Sam. Fast!’

Sam Everton was on the phone to his boss. Noel and Janet kept silent. ‘Sam? We’ve got an agent…one of the ‘Side-Kick’ gang by the name of Jerry Strickland. He’s gone AWOL in Buenos Aires Hm…Yeah…OK, that’s fine. Good.’ Casey put the phone down. He turned his back on Noel and Janet and looked out of the window. He eventually turned round and addressed them, ‘it’s out of your hands now. Good day guys!’ Noel and Janet took the hint.

A coded message arrived at the US Embassy in Montevideo. It was addressed to the Cultural Attaché’s office. It read, ‘RESCUE MISSION SECTOR 3 BUENOS AIRES. NAME JERRY STRICKLAND. INSTRUCTIONS TO FOLLOW.’

The rain had stopped, just briefly. Thunder continued pounding in the distance. The city gradually awoke from the storm. Birds shook their wings amidst the still soaking tress along the avenue. Di Martino was stating into space. He had not eaten for two days. He felt thirsty. It triggered him back. ‘So much water pouring from heaven, and I’m dry inside,’ he thought. The flashbacks started again. His alert mind kept skipping from nightmare to reality. What was it his father had said? ‘Let down? Why, for Christ sake, why?’ And Charlie Gunther, his old submariner friend in Norfolk, Virginia, ‘ah yes. War is war…’ Then Gwen’s image, running towards him, her long golden hair flowing behind her, as he rushed towards her, repetitively flashed through his mind. Di Martino began to shake. He clenched his fists as hard as he would. He was straining to keep his eyes shut. He released the pressure. He slowly opened them. A little girl was standing in front of him; just staring. ‘Come on,’ shouted her mother, from further down the pavement, ‘leave the tramp alone!’ That did it. ‘Tramp! Tramp! Is that what I am?’ He got up, still shaking; he smiled at the girl who immediately ran off. He started walking in the opposite direction.
His senses slowly pulled together.

© James Skinner April 2006

If you want to know more contact the author. See First Extract here The Goa File

More First Chapters


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