by T. Nestor

         Running an errand like this, you can take all the precautions you are taught at the academy and never be sure you're not being followed. To avoid capture or death, trainees are taught to keep their senses on high alert for any person who may be tracking them. The young man with the leather satchel was doing everything he was trained to do to get in and out of the woods undetected after the drop.
         Jordan Bradburn was a fresh face out of the MI5 Training Academy. Known as THE VILLAGE to the trainees, men and women using code names put the "rooks" through a brutal training regiment. There was a 70 percent dropout rate within the first month of training. Bradburn had been a member of the British elite Special Air Service. Some of the Air Service's tactics are used by the U.S. Army's counter-terrorist unit known as Delta Force. Bradburn excelled in the MI5 training and graduated at the top of his class.
         MI5 is the domestic intelligence service for Great Britain. It operates with a high level of secrecy. Charged with protecting the British empire from the enemies within its own borders, The Irish Republican Army was once MI5's top priority. Now in the 21st century, Russian mobsters and lim extremists are the domestic service's most prominent targets.
         Bradburn was 30 years old but looked like he was just out of university. He had been given his first assignment by Special Agent Galliard. No first name, just Galliard. Bradburn was to deliver the satchel to a unnamed contact in the wooded area near West Dean Gardens, a public park in Sussex.
         He did not know the contents of the satchel. There was a sophisticated combination lock used to open it. Bradburn did not have that combination. His mission was to confirm the ID of the contact, give him the satchel and get out of there. 
         Just deliver the goods to our contact like a good errand boy" were the last words Galliard used to explain his mission.
         The park's woods were cold and foggy at dawn. The trees are packed tightly together in this forest providing good cover. It was early fall and the leaves had just changed color. The rich green color that the trees held in the summer gave way to red, yellow and brown. The fallen leaves created a blanket of color under the trees.
         Bradburn had chosen to dress in business attire, just like a barrister going to work at his firm. He was wearing a wool top coat and scarf. He wore leather gloves, dress shoes and socks. After the drop, he was told his exit plan. He was to walk throught he woods until he reached the small business section of the town lying at the forest edge. Blending in with the other young bankers and barristers in the town, he is to be picked up by an agent he knew at an agreed upon rendevouz point.
         Bradburn had understood these "errands" took on a life of their own. He could be waiting for hours until he met his contact or he may have to bail out if he never shows up. Bradburn was an experienced SAS soldier but a rookie agent. He was getting nervous just sitting there waiting in the early morning chill.
         The code used to identify each other was simple enough–even childish.
         There was no photo or description of the contact. 
         "Are you Ivan?," Jordan was to ask the the person.
         The reply was to be,"No, I am Petrov. Ivan is my brother." 
         "What are the names of Ivan's sons?," Jordan's next question was to be.
         "Krista, Anna, and Raisa," was the right reply.
         Jordan Bradburn was then to hand the satchel to the man named Petrov and then leave. No other words were to be exchanged between the parties.
         A tree with a heart carved into the bark and the words "Luv me" inside the carving was the place Jordan is to wait for the contact.  It was now  8:00 A.M. and Bradburn had been waiting there for almost three hours. He wanted a cigarette but he knew he shouldn't. A sudden flame or puff of smoke could alert the wrong person to his presence in the trees.
        Twirling the cigarette pack over and over in his pocket , he dreamed of when he could light up when he heard two quick popping sounds. It didn't sound like a gun but Bradburn immediately braced himself against the tree. His years of SAS training warned him to take cover now. Bradburn then reached inside his right breast pocket to retrieve his Beretta 92 FS pistol.
        Ten rounds of nine millimeter ammo were in the clip. Checking the slide and making sure the next round was in the chamber, he raised the pistol in the direction he heard the sound.
        He waited for any movement or sound from that direction. There was none. He steadied his pulse and breathing. He did not move for nearly ten minutes. It felt like an hour to someone avoiding being shot. He needed time to think and plan his next move.
        Bradburn decided to move and check out what was happening and then get out of there ASAP. He moved from tree to tree ,keeping his back against the tree trunks and keeping his weapon raised and his sight fixed down the gun barrel. If he needed to shoot quickly, he had to make sure he had a target using the sites on top of the Beretta.
        As he made his way through the woods, he saw and heard no one. After he had snaked his way around the trees and moved over 100 meters from his original spot, he saw what appeared to be a body lying on the ground. Bracing himself against the tree, he swept his gun back and forth,all his concentration on the pistol sites. The Beretta was in single action mode to get off a quick first shot. Then he could keep firing the weapon until he was empty.
        The body was lying face down perhaps 20 meters to his left. Was this his contact? Or was his contact followed and the contact killed him?
        Jordan moved to the body, keeping alert for any movement or sound. The body was dressed in workman's tan coveralls and work gloves. He saw two bullet wounds in the back of the head. The hair had been cut to just above the shoulder. Blood was oozing out from the wounds matting down some of the hair. Bradburn rolled the body over onto its back.
        The two exit wounds through the face shattered the left cheek and nose into a bloody mess. The embroidering on the left breast pocket read "Ivan & Petrov Company." The body was wearing red lip gloss and her breasts were pushing upward through the coveralls. His contact was a woman! He estimated that she was in her twenties. His breathing grew more rapid as he realized what kind of people he was dealing with. Nothing was said to him about who these people were or why he needed to make contact in the forests away from London.
        Bradburn knew he needed to get out of there now. Without looking back at the body, he started to jog out of the forest. As his fear grew, he started to run and prayed he would make it to his rendevouz point with the leather satchel still safe in his care.


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