So, as something of a recap – we got a tip from the rebels about a secret hideaway where the leader of the cartel was hiding out. We verified the location with satellite imagery, and created a risky but doable insertion plan. When we went to execute it, the rebels waited until we had just arrived on-site to send a white-hot missile directly to our location.
Have I mentioned that the rebels are supposed to be the “good guys” in this situation, and specifically requested our help in toppling the cartel? Taking risks and dodging explosions is part of our job, don’t get me wrong, but I am not used to taking fire from the people who hired me. Gaz and I, bloodied and shell-shocked, managed to crawl away from the wreckage, toward the river at the base of the mountain. We didn’t want to provide any antsy rebel snipers with opportunity to finish the job, but our injuries and the terrain conspired to make it as difficult as possible for us.
As part of our little operation we’ve had opportunity to wade through Bolivian rivers before, particularly when taking out a few of the cartel’s transports and gunboats. To say the least we weren’t enthusiastic about having that water touch our open wounds, but the possibility of future infection sure beat out the possibility of being shot to death today. Into the water we flopped, half-swimming and half-floating downstream, away from the site of multiple explosions which had likely already drawn the attention of the military.
About half a mile downstream we managed to find a little dinghy moored outside a tiny shack. We weighed our options – I wanted to take the boat and keep going down the river but Gaz convinced me that stopping here and using the phone would be a better plan. Both of us were in poor shape and getting help quickly was worth a little risk.
I almost can’t imagine what went through the house’s owner’s mind as we kicked in the door. Two blood-covered, sopping wet, haggard-looking Americans with drawn guns, demanding to use his phone. All of our good munitions were lost in the missile attack, and I wouldn’t have wanted to rely on my swamp-water-filled sidearm, but luckily the owner wasn’t of a mind to make it an issue. He held up his hands, slowly, pointed to his phone, nodded, and carefully eased himself out of the building.
We called our handlers and let them know where we were – neither of us were in a condition to give a full accounting over the phone. I think I passed out because the next thing I remember is two of our superiors coming in to collect us for transport to a local doctor.
Once we were in the jeep, I definitely passed out.