Halstead pulled up to the trio of SUVs parked alongside a forest road otherwise devoid of traffic, and killed the headlights of his own vehicle. He waved away the muzzles of the assault rifles pointed in his direction by several of the armed and camouflaged men standing in the vicinity of the vehicles, the several of the twelve who were not smoking cigarettes beneath the snow-encrusted canopies of trees along the side of the road.
Halstead returned the salutes of the guards. “What are you assholes doing standing by the side of the road?”
The nearest of the men pulled his M-16 upward to point at the lightless overcast. “Waiting for you, Colonel.” He spat a stream of tobacco juice into the mixture of snow and mud adjacent to the blacktop. “Everything’s a go.”
Halstead stared at the five men beyond the parked vehicles who were stomping their cigarettes out in a snowbank. “The trucks are loaded and ready to go?”
“Affirmative,” a second man replied as he tugged upward on the zipper of his camouflage parka.
“Good, then let’s do it. We attack at twenty-two hundred hours, and I want everyone in position well before then. Let’s move.” All twelve men and their leader did indeed begin to move, piling into the SUVs and riding off down the otherwise-silent road.