Army Intelligence Detachment A
LTC Spence’s Mission, Over-Eye
Library, City of Alpine, Brewster County, Texas
1000 hours Sierra
Comment of the Moment: “Why would he have a bomb out here in the middle of nowhere?”
Spence acknowledged, “Okay, I sent the e-mail to the General, explaining the situation. I’ve asked him to send a new satellite phone via USPS. I have asked him to send it next day delivery to general delivery at the post office here in town.”
Harvey exclaimed, “Great! Now, how do we handle the Satphone that you have now?”
“Well, in order to carry out my intent to recon the Big Bend area, we’ll have to reactivate this phone, lay a false trail through a made-up conversation. Then the unknown listener can hear it and will get the wrong information. Then we’ll find a way to disable the phone that will allow us to take out the battery without arousing the listener’s suspicions, and then continue our mission.”
The three stood thinking quietly for a few seconds. Then Harvey asked, “How about this?
“We need to get started toward the Big Bend, but the listener may have a GPS tracker homed in on your phone. So, I suggest we reactivate the phone, have a conversation about going to visit the Woodward Ranch.
“That ranch is twenty miles south of town. When we get to the turn off, we can claim that something is wrong with the satphone and then dismantle it.”
Williams offered, “I once had a phone that I was charging start smoking on me. I was afraid it was going to catch on fire.”
Spence agreed, “That’s a great idea. Then we can dismantle it and hold it, maybe, for later use.
“But what reason, could we give for going to the ranch that would be consistent with what they know about our mission?”
Williams offered, “Sir, with all due respect, I think the idea of going to the ranch is an idea whose time has come and gone.”
“No offense intended. If we are already headed toward the Rio Grande, why should they believe that suddenly we’ve decided to give up? They would already believe we’ve figured out their plan.
“But, on the other hand, we can have a conversation in Alpine that tells the listener that we’ve checked Alpine and can’t find any terrorists. We can say; therefore, we’re suspending the search and heading back to Fort Bliss. That way they’ll have a different mind-set.
“Then we can start driving west and claim the phone is smoking and about to catch on fire. Then dismantle it, turn around, come back to town and head south.”
Spence and Harvey looked at each other. Then they looked at Williams. Spence grinned, “That’s damned good, Williams. That’s perfect. You are another brilliant selection by the General for our team.”
Williams laughed, “Just my humble point of view, Colonel, de nada.” He finished with a Spanish phrase.
They climbed into the pickup. Williams reassembled the satellite phone. They had their decoy conversation. Williams drove west out of Alpine. They acted out their emergency exclamations of dismay over a smoking phone. Williams dismantled the phone.
They turned the pickup around, headed back to Alpine, turned south on State Highway 118, and headed for the Big Bend.
After traveling 30 miles of the 78, to Study Butte near the entrance to the Big Bend National Park, Spence’s first comment was, “My God! How desolate can one area of Texas be?”
Harvey laughed, “Sir, even in the desolation there is beauty.”
Spence sarcastically asked, “Really? Where is the beauty?”
Harvey replied, “It’s all around. You just have to know a little about the land.”
“Well, eons ago this place was covered by a large sea. I think it was called the Permian Sea. Fossils are everywhere. Then there was the active volcano period. You can still see the cones of the extinct volcanoes. You remember the Mount Paisano I showed you? Well there are two extinct volcanoes over there...” He stopped talking.
He said to Williams, “Williams! See that car ahead off to the side of the road? It’s parked at an odd angle. Better pull over there and let us check it out.”
Spence asked, “Why would we want to check it out?”
“Well, Colonel, with the temperatures as hot as they get year-round down here, if someone is experiencing a medical problem, the heat could very well kill them.”
“I didn’t know the heat was that bad out here.”
Williams pulled over and they climbed down from the pickup.
Williams said, “I don’t see anyone in the vehicle.”
Harvey pointed, “There’s a flat tire on the left front.”
Then he pulled the driver’s side door open.
He said, “Nothing in here that would tell us where the driver is.”
He reached under the dash on the left and pulled the trunk release.
He asked Spence, “Sir, would you look in the trunk?”
From the rear of the vehicle, Spence offered, “Nothing here but a tunic. Oh, and on the tunic is a radiation monitor.”
Harvey said, “Let’s have a look at it.”
The three gathered around the rear of the vehicle.
Williams said, “It looks like the pin-on badge that hospital technicians ...