Major General Charles Douglas served 34 years in the Marine Corps before retiring. His wife, Elizabeth, had passed away fifteen years ago while he was a lieutenant colonel stationed at Camp Pendleton. She was coming back from the Santa Barbara Triathlon after competing in the open division. Their three daughters, Erin, Eve and Nicole were in the back seat as she drove Highway 101.
Nielsen Global Construction Company was located in Ventura, California. The yard superintendent responsible who was making sure that all shipments of material were properly secured was off work that day for family business. The second person in charge had been called away to a meeting in Long Beach. Four people down the chain of command were also involved in other tasks. Add to that, the truck from Port Hueneme Naval Base construction jobsite arrived a day early.
The driver had all the necessary paperwork and he pleaded, “We’re already behind schedule on the job. If I can get these supplies, a team of welders won’t be sitting around all day. Remember this too, there will be a significant penalty if we miss the deadline for this phase of construction.”
Daniel Ressler had only been with Nielsen Global Construction six months. He didn’t want to be responsible for the company losing money and even worse, make the wrong decision and get fired. He called his immediate supervisor, Harry Lennox, who had driven his wife to a medical appointment in Thousand Oaks. The dermatologist was explaining to Harry and his wife about her minor plastic surgery to remove the scar tissue from a chemical burn that she sustained several months earlier. Harry’s cellphone phone rang and he answered it, “What is it, Ressler?”
Ressler replied, “Sorry to bother you, sir, but a driver is here a day early for his materials. He says it’s important to get them now. What do you want me to do?”
“Give him what he needs. I can’t talk now, I’ll see you in the morning.” Harry quickly disconnected the call.
Ressler replied to dead air, “Yes sir.”
Fifty sections of Type K copper pipe in twenty foot lengths were loaded on the truck and the driver left for the jobsite at Port Hueneme Naval Base. Harry Lennox would have double-checked the tie-downs on the load, but Ressler thought it was the driver’s responsibility and the driver thought it was Ressler’s job, so it never got done properly.
Elizabeth and her three daughters had just entered the city limits of Oxnard, California and were heading south toward their home on Camp Pendleton. The Nielsen Construction truck was approaching from the other direction and a tractor trailer truck, delivering refrigerators, was driving alongside it. The front driver’s side of the appliance truck blew a front tire, causing the vehicle to lurch to the left and smash into the Nielsen truck. The force of the collision knocked it into oncoming traffic and the driver slammed on the brakes and the truck skidded to a stop. The shipment of copper pipes broke loose from their bindings and one length was propelled forward through the windshield of the oncoming Douglas car. It went right through the heart of Elizabeth Douglas, killing her instantly.
It was a tragic and unfortunate series of events that ended the life of this beloved mother and wife on this day in California.
An insurance settlement of nine million dollars from the trucking and construction company was paid to the Douglas family. After a long discussion with his daughters, Colonel Douglas decided to stay in the Marine Corps. His oldest daughter, Erin, said it best, “Mom wouldn’t want you to quit and we don’t want you to either.”
“What about you three?” Colonel Douglas asked.
“You and mom raised us to be independent,” Eve answered.
“It’s time to prove it,” Nicole sobbed.
Charles Douglas was referred to Mark Buckman of the Family Investment Group, in Carlsbad by a fellow Marine officer, “I’d like to set up trust funds for my three daughters.”
“In which amounts?” Mark Buckman asked.
“Three million each,” Charles replied.
Charles said, “Here’s what I was thinking…tell me what you think?”
“My daughters are responsible individuals. I want to make sure that their future is financially secure. As each one turns 18, they can access five per cent of the money. At 21, they can get ten per cent. And when they turn 30, they’ll have complete control of their money.”
“Sounds like a good plan to me,” Mark smiled, “I’ll put together a perspective for your review. It will be a combination of growth, safety and a guaranteed income stream.”
“I’ll look forward to seeing it,” Charles said.
At the time that the trust funds were started, Erin was 13 years old, Eve was 11 and Nicole was nine. Mark invested well and when Erin started to access her money, it was to attend nursing school. Eve chose computer engineering for a career and Nicole became a chef.
From the time that his wife passed away to when he completed his last duty station as Commanding General of Marine Corps Installations West, Charles Douglas served at Quantico, Camp Lejeune and NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. While in Europe, a MI6 operative gave him documentation of corruption in the Senate Armed Forces Committee about two high ranking senators that were taking bribes from the leader of Albania. General Douglas forwarded the information to the Inspector General, but it mysteriously disappeared and the investigation never went anywhere. It did have three major effects. General Douglas made some very dangerous enemies, he was denied his 3rd star and his military career was over.
After his retirement, General Douglas accepted a position with Lockheed Martin Corporation, the largest defense contractor in the world.
Erin became an emergency room nurse at Palomar Medical Center. Eve was now a software engineer at Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine, California. Nicole started a small gourmet restaurant in downtown Vista, called Nick at Night. It opened at 4PM, closed at 11PM and offered two distinct six course tasting menus with a price of $75 per person.
The three sisters were born athletes and often participated in triathlons together. The one that they never missed was the Santa Barbara Invitational. They did this to honor their mother, and their father was always there to cheer them on. Erin was the fastest on the run and was nicknamed ‘Running Errands’. Eve destroyed the swimming competition and went by ‘Eve of Destruction.’ Nicole, well the name of her restaurant ‘Nick at Night’ stuck like glue to her. The three Douglas girls bought four adjacent condominiums in the new development, River Del Leandro in North Oceanside. There was one for each of them and the fourth was for their father when he wasn’t traveling on business.
Erin asked, “Anybody heard from Dad? We’re supposed to drive up tomorrow.”
“Not me,” Eve answered.
“I’m kinda’ worried. We all know that he’s not the kind of man to leave us hanging,” Nikki added, “I called him this morning and it went straight to voicemail.”
Eve said, “I texted him, but I didn’t get a reply.”
The three Douglas women didn’t hear from their father, so they cancelled their trip to Santa Barbara. They contacted his place of employment several times, and the answer was always the same, their message would be relayed.
A week passed and still no word. Erin called Brigadier General Anthony Harmon, a family friend who had served with their father. He was currently assigned at the Pentagon, “We haven’t heard from dad in over a week. This is not like him…never happened before.”
Brigadier General Harmon inquired, “Has anybody told you anything?”
Erin said, “We called his work several times, and all that we got was they would relay the messages. So far…nothing.”
“I don’t want you to worry, but I know your dad always played it straight with you. He made some enemies when he was in the Corps, not with those he served with, but with those in politics. I’m not saying this is anything nefarious, but I warned him to keep his head on a swivel. These people do not forget or forgive,” Brigadier General Harmon’s tone of voice indicated his concern. “I owe your dad big time. Let me make some discreet inquiries and see what I can find out. Let’s stay positive, your father is a warrior and he can handle himself.”
Erin said, “You’ll let us know when you find out something…I mean anything.”
“You got my word that when I get it, you’ll get it,” Harmon promised.
Charles Douglas was on assignment in Sarajevo. It was a warm evening and he had just finished a dinner meeting with some officials from the Serbian government at the Inat Kuca, a traditional restaurant housed in a historical building, across the bridge from the Old Town Hall. He decided to walk back to the Hotel President, where he was staying and work off some calories from his meal of bosanski lonac, a hearty lamb and vegetable stew.
A Mercedes sedan pulled alongside him and two armed men exited it. One of them said, “Come with us, General.”
Charles Douglas quickly assessed the situation and knew that he had no choice but to comply. The Mercedes drove to a private airfield and the retired General was flown to Tirana, Albania and placed under guard in a deserted and rat infested warehouse. Lockheed Martin received the ransom demand for 10 million dollars. Following company procedures, they notified the State Department who said they would handle the negotiations from this point forward.
The kidnappers’ plan was simple. Collect the ransom and kill General Charles Douglas. The Albanian crime syndicate planned to split the money with the American politicians who hired them.
When Brigadier General Harmon found out about the kidnapping and the ransom demand, he was naturally suspicious when the State Department was assigned to handle the negotiations. He voiced his concerns to the three Douglas women, “I don’t like this at all. Any exchange is going to be bogged down by bureaucracy and hidden agendas. ”
Nicole blurted out. “What are our other options?”
“I know some individuals who specialize in hostage rescue. Do you want me to contact them?”
Eve spoke out forcefully, “Hell yes!”
“If dad is in Albania, that’s where we need to be!” Nicole said.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t any good to tell you that this could be dangerous?” General Harmon said.
Erin replied, “You can tell us, it just won’t change our minds.”
The three Douglas women chartered a private jet and left San Diego the next morning. Their destination was Rina International Airport in the Republic of Albania. They were met at the private hangar by former Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Johnny Bonaventure, twenty-year veteran of the elite pararescue unit. “A pleasure to meet you, ladies. I like to keep things informal, call me Johnny.”
Erin introduced herself and her sisters, then they got into an SUV with Johnny and the driver drove off.
“General Harmon told us that you’re the best,” Eve said.
Johnny smiled, “Let’s just say that I’ve got an excellent team.”
Nicole said, “We’re willing to pay whatever you want to get our father back,” Nicole said.
“Your dad is a patriot,” Johnny then added for emphasis, “We never charge to get one of own back.”
Erin asked, “Have you been able to find out anything?”
“Just who did it and where he’s at, that’s all.”
Their SUV met three other vehicles at the gate to the airfield. They drove for 30 minutes until they reached the rundown area near the warehouse where General Douglas was being held captive.
Johnny said, “General Harmon said you want to be part of this. I have two women on my team so it is not a gender thing. We train regularly so that we know each other’s every move. If you come in with us, we’re going to be out of step and off balance. Any mistake or indecision could cost somebody their life…including your father’s. I know you don’t want that.”
“What can we do?” Eve asked.
“I can find something for you.”
They drove a little further to the warehouse and everyone exited their vehicles. Johnny explained the plan. “I’ll lead the insertion team. We’ll set up a defensive perimeter to cover our extraction. The Douglas women will be part of that perimeter.” Johnny turned to one of the female team members, “Torrey, get some weapons for them.”
“Copy that,” Torrey said.
Johnny asked, “You do know how to shoot?”
Nicole answered, “My dad taught us…it’s been a while, but it will come back to us.”
“I don’t want my people getting killed by friendly fire. Don’t take the shot unless you’re absolutely sure you can make it. I need your words on that.”
“You got it,” Erin promised.
The eight-person team breeched the door and entered in single file. They took out six kidnappers with accurate headshots before reaching Charles Douglas. Johnny said, “Let’s go, sir.”
By the time the insertion team reached the front door for their escape, the rest of the team on the outside, including the Douglas women were involved in a gunfight.
Torrey instructed Erin, Eve and Nicole, “Keep your fire focused on that truck over there.” Several men were firing at them from behind it.
When one of the women’s rounds hit the gas tank, the truck exploded and killed or injured those using it as cover. It took a few minutes but the highly proficient American rescue team eventually killed the remainder of the kidnappers.
Torrey complimented the three Douglas women on their shooting, “Good job…you just might have a career in this kind of work.”
“We got lucky,” Eve said as smoke filled the air.
Torrey retorted, “Luck is the byproduct of skill.”
When Charles Douglas saw Erin, Eve and Nicole, he ran to them and they embraced.
It was a successful mission, but there was still some unfinished business to take care of. Several weeks passed before Senators Jeff Booker and Ed Hirono traveled to Albania, under the pretense of meeting with government officials. In reality, they were there to meet with Aldo Bregu, head of the Albanian Mafia and to get their share of the ransom money.
Jeff Booker laughed, “What did you do with the General’s body?”
“We are experts at this,” Aldo Bregu replied, “We’ve got bodies buried all over this country.”
Ed Hirono reminded the gangster, “You were supposed to deposit five million in a numbered bank account. As of this morning, the money has not arrived. I hope that you aren’t trying to cheat us. That would be a serious mistake. We do too much business together to jeopardize that profitable relationship.”
“I would agree with you, except for one thing.” Aldo said.
Senator Booker inquired, “What one thing?”
Charles Douglas entered and came up behind the two U.S. senators, “I’m that one thing.”
The two corrupt politicians’ faces turned ashen white and they almost swallowed their tongues when they saw the former Marine Corps General.
Aldo explained, “As much as I like the money that we’ve made together, I like staying alive even more. I’ve got new partners.”
Johnny stood up front a nearby table, walked over and shook hands with Aldo. Senator Ed Hirono suddenly realized what was happening and protested vehemently, “You can’t do this to us! We’re United States Senators.”
Charles Douglas slapped Senator Ed Hirono across the face and said, “One of the lowest forms of life is a corrupt politician.”
Charles Douglas and Johnny Bonaventure exited through the front door as henchmen from the Albanian Mafia dragged the American politicians out of the back door.
Erin, Eve and Nicole were waiting in the car for their father and Johnny when they returned.
“How did it go?” Erin asked.
“Let’s just say that there are about to be two vacancies in the United States Senate,” Charles Douglas responded.
When they arrived back in Oceanside, California, Nicole cheerfully exclaimed, “Daddy’s home!”
Major General Charles Douglas was extremely proud of his Three Daughters.