THE BLOG
08/29/2013 04:15 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2013

Operation Hopeless

An excerpt from The CIA Life, a tentatively-titled book by Lisa Spinelli:

An unease grew in John Spinelli, deputy chief of station for the CIA in Mogadishu. His stomach knotted itself into a giant wad of apprehension. Something didn't feel right, but there was no turning back now. He had to move on -- his career depended on it.

The car rounded the last turn, and there it was -- the last checkpoint before a straight-shot to the meeting. A far cry from the silent streets inside the city, Checkpoint Pasta -- aptly named because of its proximity to an old pasta factory -- looked like a riot scene. A hundred Somalis were gathered, screaming, as black smoke billowed from the checkpoint all around them. A Black Hawk helicopter, loaded with Delta Force men and other Special Forces personnel, was ready to fire at the crowd. Spinelli, code-named Leopard, couldn't fully see what was happening past the black plumes of smoke ahead of him.

Unbeknownst to Leopard, earlier that morning, the Italian forces had turned the checkpoint over to the Nigerian contingency. During the handover, guerrilla forces had ambushed the Nigerians in a predawn attack, and a two-hour gun-battle had ensued. The Somalis had killed seven Nigerians that day and wounded seven more.

Delta Force servicemen tried their best to protect what was left of the Nigerian troops from above. As Leopard's SUV emerged through the smoke, it was as if time took a breath. He finally saw the raw scene ahead of him. The knot in his stomach rose to the point of near suffocation in his throat.

"Let's get the hell out of here," he nearly shouted at the Snakes.

The driver protested, "No! I can make it through! I can make it."

Inching slowly forward, the driver tried to maneuver around the crowd and debris. Leopard yelled again, "Get the fuck out of here! Are you crazy? Turn the car around!"

The Somali crowd stared at the Isuzu, hungry for more blood. Like a crouching lion waiting to spring on its prey, the group held off their blitz until the caravan's most vulnerable moment.

The driver turned and was halfway around the roadblock, nearly cloaked in smoke, when the clansmen began firing. Bullets whizzed through the windows and cascaded glass onto Leopard. The hammering sound of metal being torn open was all around him, leaving Leopard confused as to which way to duck. His hands instinctively went around his face.

The driver screamed like a little girl about to be beaten by her neighborhood bully, the confidence he'd had 10 seconds prior now completely gone. He ducked, as if he could somehow stop the bullets if he just didn't look. The car swerved, and the other agent in the front passenger seat threw himself down, his chin almost bouncing off his knees.

"Turn it around!" the passenger bodyguard yelled.

Bullets came at them from every angle. Leopard bent to his left, but on his way down to kiss the black pleather seat, his body was thrown backward. A burning sensation traveled from his upper left chest down his arm. Blood gushed around him, and he involuntarily slumped over.

The driver finally got the car turned around and stepped on the gas. They sped back down the dusty road that brought them to this bloodbath.

Leopard's blood was pouring out of him like oil from the desert sand. His salt and pepper hair had turned a dark maroon as the blood pooled around him, warming his face. He didn't dare move.

"Where do you want us to go?" asked the driver to Leopard, zipping back through the city streets.

Leopard could hardly believe his ears. "Get me to the hospital," he sputtered to the driver, the word "moron" lost in his throat.

It was as if someone had lit the left-side of his body on fire and then beaten him with a hammer. "This is an incredibly stupid way to die," he thought. "I survived the NYPD in the '70s for this?"

As the car plowed down the streets of southern Mogadishu, Leopard began losing consciousness -- and his sanity. "Ack! My watch, it's ruined," he thought indignantly about his father's Rolex submerged in his own blood. "Wonder what will be for dinner. "

He closed his eyes and saw his dead father with the often-seen white light glowing behind him. His sister, who died when he was only seven, stepped out next from the light and took their father's hand. "If I have to go, at least it won't be that bad," Leopard thought.

The hot wind of the Somali dessert lightly stroked Leopard's blood-soaked hair as the Trooper pulled up to the U.N. compound.