You’re Not The Only One
Thomas Calabrese –Reeves McCall had an unusual childhood, his mother was a threat assessment analyst with the National Security Agency and his father was a cryptographer for the CIA. He had lived in 23 different countries by the time he was 14 years old. His parents, Robert and Melinda decided that their son needed a more stable environment so they moved from Monte Carlo to Carlsbad, California.
The young boy held a fourth degree black belt in Tai Kwan Do and spoke six languages including Russian and Mandarin Chinese. His parents prepared him to function in a dangerous world, few people ever imagined existed. It was a world of espionage, political intrigue and covert operations. Even though they were prohibited by their oath of service from discussing top secret information with anyone who didn’t have the proper security clearance, Robert and Melinda routinely discussed their work product with their son. They figured that if they couldn’t trust their own flesh and blood, then they didn’t do a very good job of parenting.
Melinda was working on a report on China’s military expansion in the South China Seas, their capabilities and projected military actions. When she completed the 64-page detailed dossier, she asked her son, “Reeves, would you take a look at my report and give me your feedback?”
Reeves responded, “I’ve got a calculus test tomorrow.”
Melinda was surprised, “You’ve been working on advanced physics problems with your dad since you were in grade school and you’re having trouble with high school calculus?”
Reeves corrected his mother with a sly grin upon his face, “I never said I was having trouble. There’s a girl in my class who is having difficulty grasping a few basic principles.”
“And you thought you’d give her something else to grasp on to?” Melinda joked.
“That would be one approach, but I’ll help her with calculus first and see what happens from there,” Reeves winked.
“I trust you to do the honorable thing.”
“I shouldn’t be more than a few hours, I’ll look over your report when I get back,” Reeves said as he exited through the front door.
Two hours later, Robert returned from playing 36 holes of golf at the Carlsbad municipal course. He walked into the kitchen and greeted his wife, “How’s your day going?”
“Not bad,” Melinda responded, “Did you solve your problem?”
“What problem?” Robert asked.
“You never play this long unless you’re thinking about something.”
“Fresh air and exercise are always good for my thought processes,” Robert smiled, “It came to me on the 27th hole, just as I was getting ready to make a six-foot putt. Where is Reeves?”
“He’s helping a classmate prepare for a test. It appears that it is just you and me for dinner. What do you want, chicken or fish?”
“Fish, I’ll send in my findings, take a shower and then I’ll help you.”
Robert walked upstairs, down the hall and into the bedroom. Inside the large walk-in closet and behind the clothes hanging on the rod was a metal door. Robert used a code on a keypad to open it. Behind it was a small room, sparsely furnished with a desk, chair and several computer terminals. He sat down and sent a coded message, locked the door when he left and moved the clothes back to obscure the entrance.
The McCall family lived in the Bressi Ranch area of Carlsbad. Robert and Melinda were very skilled and valued in their professions and worked remotely from home. They only attended meetings in Washington D.C. once every few months. All other communications were handled over a secure internet connection. Their neighbors knew them as a couple who worked in the import/export business.
It was 2AM and the McCall family was asleep. Robert McCall had installed an elaborate security system around their property. The alarms were red lights installed by the beds of Robert, Melinda and Reeves. When the lights began flashing, the family immediately awakened and automatically went to the appropriate protocol. A few seconds later, Reeves walked into his parents’ room to find his father standing in front of the gun safe. His mother turned on the television and the video feed from the surveillance cameras showed several men moving toward the house. Robert McCall handed his wife and son, HK 416-5.56×45 mm carbines with Aimpoint ACOG red dot sights. “Take your positions.”
Melinda took a position where she had a clear view of the sliding door in the dining room. Robert sat in a chair facing the front door and Reeves went into the garage. The intruders moved into position and simultaneously began to breach three entrances. The four men entered the darkened house. One man saw a red dot on his chest and a split second later, he went down. Melinda saw a man moving across the dining room and shot him. Two other intruders were in the garage, Reeves popped from behind a work bench and eliminated them.
Five hours later, a black van pulled into the driveway and several men got out. Robert McCall approached them, “They’re in the garage,” and used his remote control to open the door.
The man responded calmly, “We got it from here.”
The men went into the garage, placed the dead intruders in body bags, put them in the van and drove off. Reeves approached his father, “What’s next?”
Robert McCall responded, “I’ve got a pretty good idea who sent them, but I need to be sure before I make a move.”
“Anything you need me to do?” Reeves asked.
“Don’t you have a baseball game tonight?”
“Yeah, we’re playing LaCosta Canyon, the winner takes over first place in the league,” Reeves said, “If you need me, I can call the coach and tell him I have a family emergency.”
“Not a chance, your team needs you and besides we’re in no danger for the time being,” Robert smiled, “Your mom and I will see you at the game.”
Three months later, Robert and Melinda were having dinner in an upscale eatery in Beverly Hills. An elderly man entered the establishment, flanked by his entourage of four much younger women and four oversized bodyguards and sat down at their reserved table.
“I’ll be right back.” Robert walked over and stood behind a pillar, which obscured him from anyone’s view. He pulled out three 9 inch sections of a thin pipe from his coat and screwed them together to assemble a blowgun. Robert carefully took a needle from a small plastic bottle that had been soaking in a mixture of curare and cyanide. He carefully placed the needle in the blowgun, took a deep breath and brought it up to his lips. He aimed and exhaled with all his might. The needle hit the man in the back of his neck and Robert quickly broke the blowgun apart and threw it in a nearby trash can. When he got back to the table, Melinda asked, “Everything alright?”
“Right on target,” Robert answered as he gazed over at the man.
When they finished their meal and paid the server, Robert and Melinda walked over to the man’s table, but were stopped by the bodyguards. One of them used an elaborate scanning device to look for weapons or communication equipment. Robert extended a greeting, “Hi Gavin…how are you doing?”
Gavin Schifter was a former United States Congressman who was now a powerful lobbyist with deep and dubious ties to China. When Robert and Melinda began investigating him and Schifter found out about their discreet inquiries, he knew that he had to eliminate them before they uncovered how extensive his unlawful activities were. With each passing moment, Gavin began feeling worse as the poison entered his bloodstream and began shutting down his vital organs. It was becoming harder for him to breath and he choked out the words, “What have you done to me?” In the next second, Gavin Schifter fell out of his chair, dead.
When Robert and Melinda returned home to Carlsbad, Reeves asked, “How was your trip?”
“Everything went well.” Melinda said.
“Got to see an old business acquaintance and clear up some important business,” Robert added.
Reeves continued to work with his parents throughout high school, but after he graduated, he had no interest in attending college. There was nothing he could learn at the ‘so called’ institutes of higher learning that his mother and father had not already taught him, so he chose a different path, “I’m thinking about joining the military,” Reeves told his parents.
His mother was only slightly surprised to hear her son’s decision, “Which branch?”
“The Air Force.”
“What do you want to do?” Robert asked.
“Pararescue,” Reeves answered.
“I’ve worked with them before, that’s an elite unit,” Robert reminded his son, “It won’t be easy.”
“You raised me to face difficult challenges. I love my country and I want to serve,” Reeves said matter of factly.
“That’s a position that doesn’t leave any room for an argument from us,” Melinda embraced her son in a sign of affection and approval.
Reeves McCall enlisted in the Air Force and applied for the elite unit. The process of becoming a pararescue specialist is known informally as “Superman School”. It is almost two years long, and among the longest special operations training courses in the world. It also has one of the highest attrition rates in the entire U.S. special operations community, at around 80%. After serving eight years on active duty, Master Sergeant Reeves McCall transferred from active duty to the reserves and returned home to Carlsbad, California. With the additional skills that he accumulated in the military, Reeves began working as a civilian contractor, where his actions weren’t as closely monitored as those working in the government sector or serving in the military.
An agent from the Central Intelligence Agency arrived by private jet at the Carlsbad Airport and was met by Reeves and his parents. Gunnar Hellstrom explained the situation, “Senator Morgan Wolfe’s daughter was kidnapped in Rome while vacationing with friends. He is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and his knowledge of highly sensitive information is extensive and of vital importance to national security. ”
“Are you thinking that the kidnapping has something to do with the Senator’s position?” Reeves asked.
“You know as well as I do that we have to assume the worst case scenario, then hope for the best,” Gunnar Hellstrom answered, “The kidnappers made contact, but haven’t stated their demands yet.”
“Why are you going outside the agency?” Robert asked.
“I have a personal relationship with the Senator. He asked if I knew someone who could handle this situation quickly and discreetly. You’re the best I’ve ever worked with so this is strictly off the books. If the Director knew I was here, I’d be terminated.”
“He won’t hear anything from us,” Melinda promised.
“I know,” Gunnar agreed.
Reeves turned to CIA agent, “Please give us a few minutes.”
“Absolutely,” Gunnar walked far enough away so that he couldn’t hear the conversation.
“What do you think?” Reeves asked.
“I’ve never been a fan of these off the book operations, too many things can go wrong and there is no back-up,” Robert said.
“I agree with your father, it’s high risk, although it might seem like a simple exchange on the surface,” Melinda added.
“You’re both right, as always, but if I don’t do it then he’s just going to look for someone else. That will just put the girl in greater danger,” Reeves said.
“It’s your call, son” Melinda said, “We’ll back your play.”
Reeves waved his hand and Gunnar walked over and asked, “Made a decision?”
Reeves stated matter of factly, “Give us everything you have, we’ll look it over and give you our answer in 30 minutes,” Reeves said.
Gunnar handed Reeves a briefcase, “I was expecting your request.”
Four hours later, the McCall family was on their way by private jet to Italy. At the same time, in Washington D.C. there was a meeting going on in a restaurant parking lot between Senator Wolfe and another man. The elected representative handed the stranger a manila envelope, “This is what you wanted…now let my daughter go.”
“We’ll need to confirm its accuracy,” The stranger smiled, “Nobody will ever have to know about our agreement. As far as your daughter knows, she was just a target of opportunity, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The stranger received a call on his cellphone, “That changes things quite a bit.”
The stranger hung up and turned to Senator Wolfe, “You neglected to tell me that you told somebody else about this.”
“I forgot! How did you know?” Senator Wolfe asked.
“During our first conversation, we left you a number, remember? Somebody just called it, saying they’re ready to make the exchange,” The stranger reacted angrily.
“What happens now?”
“I’m going to have to tie up some loose ends,” The stranger grumbled, “Now give me the name of the person you told!”
While in flight, Gunnar received word where the exchange was to take place. The kidnappers were demanding 2 million in twenty and fifty dollar bills. The location for the exchange was a neighborhood of tall apartment buildings in the western section of Rome. When Robert researched the location on his cellphone, he immediately voiced his disapproval, “This is not good.”
Melinda concurred. “You’re right.”
After landing at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, Gunnar received another call with additional instructions. He was told to take the money to a large fountain at the top of Capitoline Hill. After driving to their destination, Reeves grabbed the bag of cash and exited the vehicle, “What are you doing?” as Gunnar started walking with him.
“Going with you?” Gunnar said.
“You came all the way to California to get me, and now you want to do it…stay here I’ll handle it. This is a one man operation from this point.”
“Give us ten minutes to get in position before you make your move,” Melinda said and walked off with Robert.
When that amount of time elapsed, Robert radioed from a concealed position, “We’re set…go.”
Reeves walked down the cobblestone street in slow measured steps. When he reached the fountain. His father communicated to him, “Be careful, son and remember your training.”
A sniper on a rooftop killed Gunnar with a shot to his head. Melinda radioed her son, “It’s a trap!”
Reeves dived for cover as machine gun fire riddled the fountain, sending water and chunks of concrete into the air. Moments later, dozens of Italian police cars arrived and several of them were hit by gunfire from various elevated positions. The police surrounded Reeves and arrested him.
Robert turned to his wife and sighed in resignation, “There’s nothing we can do for him now; we need to get out of here.”
When Senator Wolfe’s daughter, Kelli appeared back in America, with no mention of the kidnapping, Robert and Melinda knew that the Senator had given in to the kidnappers’ demands. Reeves was convicted by the Italian court of terrorism and murder, and given a life sentence. He was sent to Pagliarelli maximum security prison in Palermo, Sicily and placed in solitary confinement. Reeves was only allowed to be out of his cell for one hour a day and the rest of the time he was kept isolated.
Robert and Melinda worked tirelessly to free their son, making it their sole mission in life. Five years had passed and Reeves was still locked away. When left with no other alternative, they developed an elaborate prison break plan. Robert and Melinda accessed photographs from various satellites and spent weeks in Sicily where they looked over every square foot of the exterior of the prison with a high powered infra-red telescope. They bribed an Italian government official for blueprints of the structure and examined them for flaws in the security system.
A team of international mercenaries were recruited to carry out the plan. A plastic hose was connected to a fifty-five gallon barrel of powerful sleeping gas, then extended two hundred feet from a warehouse into the street’s sewer system and then to the prison’s ventilation system.
Using a powerful compressor, the sleeping agent was pumped into every corner of the prison. After that was done, the mercenaries blinded the surveillance cameras with accurate shots from their high powered rifles, then cut the front gate with a laser saw. Moving through the prison they reached the solitary confinement unit, where they found Reeves passed out on his canvas bed. An operative injected him in the arm with a special serum and he quickly awakened. The operative said calmly, “Time to go, your parents are waiting.”
It was only 96 miles to the North African country of Tunisia where Reeves was reunited with his mother and father. This reunion took place before the authorities at the prison had even awakened and realized that Reeves was missing. It was now time to proceed to the rest of Robert and Melinda’s plan; to clear their son’s name and hold those accountable for the kidnapping and the death of Gunnar Hellstrom.
It had five long and difficult years since the McCall family had been together. They spent the next 30 days at a friend’s spacious home in the sun-soaked Tunisian coastal town of Sidi Bou Said, located on the north coast and facing the Mediterranean toward Sicily. The town was once a religious sanctuary before it became a private pleasure resort for the ultra-wealthy. Reeves became restless as his health and energy eventually returned. He told his parents, “What do you think? Are we ready to finish this?”
“We haven’t been totally relaxing while we’ve been here,” Melinda smiled, “The wheels of retribution have never stopped turning. We’ve just been waiting for you to tell us that you were ready to go.”
“Your mom and I will pay a visit to Senator Wolfe while Congress is in recess. Our latest Intel is that he’s at his home in Dana Point,” Robert said.
“What about me?” Reeves asked, “What’s my assignment?”
The mercenaries who broke you out of prison will be here tomorrow morning. Your mission is to terminate those involved in the kidnapping and the ambush,” Melinda said.
The family split up once again with their goals clearly defined. Robert and Melinda found Senator Wolfe on his yacht in the Dana Point Marina. They boarded the watercraft and Robert presented the elected representative with an offer that he couldn’t refuse, “We can either save you or we can bury you. It’s your call.”
“Here’s what you need to do,” Melinda handed the Senator a packet of information, “otherwise we’ll notify the FBI about your agreement with the kidnappers.”
The next day, Senator Wolfe made a public announcement, “My daughter was kidnapped in Italy and I was blackmailed. I went for help outside the government because I wasn’t sure who I could trust or who was involved. Reeves McCall, the American who was convicted by the Italian authorities was framed by the people who kidnapped Kelli. He was in Rome on my behalf and I apologize to him and his family for not coming forward sooner. I was afraid of retaliation by the kidnappers who threatened to kill my daughter if I said anything.
There is no excuse for my cowardly behavior. I have already asked the President for his help in clearing Reeves McCall’s name.”
Soon after this press conference became public, Reeves led the mercenaries against the kidnappers, hiding out in Brussels, Belgium. They blew the metal door off the hinges of the warehouse with a powerful explosive charge. They didn’t stop firing until every one of the kidnappers were lying dead on the floor. Reeves called his dad at the conclusion of the battle, “It’s done.”
After the charges were dropped by the Italian authorities, the President gave Reeves a full presidential pardon. The official ceremony took place in the White House rose garden. At its conclusion, the Chief Executive commented sympathetically, “I bet that you are very upset about what happened and what you have endured.”
Reeves answered without hesitation, “Sir, I was raised by patriots to love and respect my country. It has been my duty, honor and pleasure to serve. That fact has not and will never change. I prefer to reserve my rage and frustration for the bureaucrats in our government, sir.”
The President smiled, “Present company exempted, I hope. For the record, you’re not the only one that feels that way.”