This story is by ross perkal and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
CLOSE, BUT NO CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR
It was March, 2017 when the POTUS abruptly called me, Jordan Hunter, out of retirement from the Agency. He was not my favorite, but I was his choice for the “plan.” Expressing my fact-based reservations to him and both his Secretaries of State/Defense was lost on them. The mission unfolded quickly and I was his “hand-picked” point man.
My active career in the CIA had ended with a whimper, not a bang. After twenty-two years I felt lucky to escape to Santa Fe with my subsistence pension and most of my limbs intact. My quiet, new life was a drastic comparison to my overly-active career. I got the job by default, when after college I had no direction. Once on the roller-coaster of international intrigue, it was hard to jump off. It never occurred to me I might be asked back.
No one would question the tactical importance of this “urgent” plot to assassinate North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. His threats emanating from Pyongyang, North Korea, to use its newly tested nuclear weapons against the U.S. were known by all.
Un was heavily guarded, even more now that his brother had been assassinated earlier in 2017. His daily polemic bespoke a global doomsday. His well-publicized testing of advanced nuclear devices was terrifying. I could not refuse the hero’s journey call to action now.
My part was to pretend to be security for a former pro basketball player, self-appointed as a diplomat. He arranged to travel to North Korea in June, for the purported purpose of bargaining with Un for the release of four American citizens, imprisoned for various alleged “crimes.”
Due to his outlandish dress and affect, the player would distract Un and his security detail. The others on the team would cause to be delivered an explosive that would curtail this lunatic’s reign of terror. It was to be delivered by a U.S. drone from an offshore aircraft carrier, as we were fleeing the country.
I felt like James Bond as the new Agency Chief demonstrated the device for me. I was shown how I would know when it had been deployed and how I would arm it before escaping. The detonator which I carried was made of a synthetic polymer, with no metallic parts. It was able to evade state of the art weapons’ detectors when we arrived at the airport.
“Hello Mr. Rodman,” I said as we boarded the plane. He ignored me on the flight over the ocean. He knew nothing of my assignment. He was to follow the script of the meeting with Un. Our immediate departure thereafter depended on it. In the case of surprise, he was to follow the Agency team’s advice. This scheme was riskier than anything I had ever attempted.
All were strip-searched in a private room at the Airport, one by one. This included stomach/rectal exams. Even Rodman was humiliated by the invasive touching/probing. I had rehearsed this part with TSA for six weeks. If discovered, I would be shot on sight and the team would spend the rest of their lives in a dungeon.
At a modest hotel near Un’s majestic palace/office complex we all slept off our jet lag. Each of us ate breakfast in our own rooms. We met at 11 a.m. in the lobby for the trip to Un’s office.
Heavily armed guards were on every side of us as we walked the two city blocks to his fortress. I had survived my career in the CIA by assuming that every mission was my last. Making sure my personal affairs were in order before leaving the US was mandatory each time.
The metal detectors at the front of his office building put the TSA to shame. It felt like every atom in my body was examined. By the grace of some higher power we all made it through.
Rodman’s “security force” of two, me and a former NFL lineman, were left in the waiting room under armed guard. Rodman and his band of negotiators were granted an audience with Un. The plot was unfolding per the plan.
On cue, I asked to go to the bathroom about thirty minutes after we arrived. I could not bring anything into the building. The detonator for the bomb was sewn into the skin under my left armpit. It worked remotely, like blue tooth.
Once armed by me, it would go off sixty minutes after our group had left the palace, assuming we made it out. Making sure the bathroom cameras could not see me, I used my sharpened fingernails to extract the trigger. I grimaced as blood and the detonator trickled out.
Using NASA adhesive tape I attached the waterproof device to the inside of the commode tank. I then hastened back to the office, under guard. My absence consisted of 89 seconds. The explosives would be maneuvered over the palace by the non-metallic drone from an aircraft carrier offshore.
The only miscalculation was that of our intended victim’s precautions. Boarding Air Force One we heard the device explode. But Un, his paranoia raging, had constructed a concrete, steel-lined structure around his offices inside the governmental palace. The building itself was destroyed. Many outside the palace died. Inside, however, the steel lined cubicle remained intact and prevented any major harm to Un or his minions.
Mission accomplished, sort of. We were able to get airborne before the North Korean Air Force attempted to shoot us down in flight. They were thwarted by USAF jets who scrambled from the aircraft carrier to protect us.
As is his habit, the POTUS blamed all of us, though not by name, this time. My life as I knew it now seemed finished. I slunk back to the Plaza in Santa Fe and spent the rest of my days in seclusion. This story would be retold by my adult children to my grand-kids, twenty-five years from now.
But then, I never liked cigars much, anyway.