Mike sat in the cramped conference room. Across the table was an amazing-looking man. He was almost a giant, probably over 6’10”. His skin was bronzed beyond anything sunlight could do, yet his hair and beard were fierce red. A lined face with deep green eyes gazed back at Mike.
Mike spoke first. “Where is everyone else?”
The man cleared his throat “There’ll be no one else, Laddy.” He had the decency to look slightly embarrassed by the statement.
“My name is Angus MacFadden,” he said in a Scottish burr. He extended a bear-like hand.
Mike stood slightly to extend his own and was grateful the massive paw did not crush his fingers. Thick calluses and strong tendons felt like they reached to his elbow. Mike then noticed that the man’s arms were so long he did not need to leave his chair.
“Colonel Hickey, the powers that be sent me to consult with you on this rather sensitive matter. I fear they chose a rather poor diplomat in me so kindly be patient if I speak candidly.” Angus’ eyebrows raised almost in a question.
Mike nodded and MacFadden continued.
“I am a retired Sergeant-Major late of her Majesty’s Special Air Service.” Mike immediately paid attention – SAS suffered no fools. A Sergeant-Major from SAS was an elite of the elite. MacFadden watched Mike closely before he resumed. “I’d still be in service were it not for family obligations. None the less, the government felt I could be of assistance to you in this matter.” MacFadden reached inside his vest, pulled out a silver flask and offered it to Mike. Mike declined but wished he could accept. The Brits were much more civilized in their rules about drink in his opinion. MacFadden took a hard pull from the flask, re-stoppered it, and placed it back inside his vest.
“Colonel, were I in your shoes on your mission I would have done exactly as you did. A long story for another day, but, I did do fair close to what you did.” MacFadden looked wistful for a moment then spoke again. “Mayhaps that is why Her Majesty’s government asked me to speak to you on this rather delicate matter. In short, Colonel, I know what you found across the border and what it could mean. I also know that no one in your or any other chain of command wants to know about it. Therefore, you are now persona non grata. Your career is over. As we speak, your team has been scattered to the wind with very direct threats of breaking big rocks into little should they dare speak on this.”
Mike started to stand and answer, but MacFadden shushed him with his large hands.
“Colonel, I know how you feel. I have felt the same way, and in your shoes I would be outraged. I give you my word your men will not face adverse consequences. You do not know me, Sir, and you have no reason to trust me, but I promise you your men will be fine or someone will answer directly to me.”
Mike somehow believed the man and sat back down. I’d not want to cross him, he thought to himself.
“Thank you, Sir. What you found in Syria will be handled. I will not tell you how.”
“Now to you, Sir. No matter how brave, and frankly smart, it was for you to bring back those drums, you have become as radioactive as they are. No one wants anything to do with you, Sir. Few leaders, be they civilian or military, wish to own up to the mess that the world really is. It does not good news make.”
MacFadden regarded Mike for a long moment. Then he removed an envelope from his other vest pocket and slid it across the table.
“I, however, seek out men with your qualities, Sir, and invite you to read this over after I leave and consider its contents. You may find it rewarding.” On that, MacFadden reached back in his first pocket and withdrew the flask. Again he offered it to Mike.
Mike stared at the envelope, up at MacFadden, and down to the container of liquor. Then he accepted and tilted the flask to his lips. After the burning nearly made his eyes water he returned it.
MacFadden rose, smiled and said, , “It’s a hell of a thing.”
Mike picked up the unopened envelope and looked at it for minutes after MacFadden left.