Solemn Vow: Chapter 3
We covered ground quickly. Halfway to the colonel’s oasis retreat, the sound of large trucks approaching along the road we needed to cross signaled potential trouble.
The great thing about being in this business is they let you play with a lot of toys. We all sported the latest night vision devices. Older models cast the world into a realm of green images, giving an unrealistic appearance and making it difficult to make out certain details. The black and white images in the newer models were a vast improvement, painting targets with vivid clarity.
“Looks like we have a parade of hajis coming our way,” I whispered into the mike. “No contact. Everyone keep their cool.” I did a quick headcount of the locals driving past before wishing them a bon voyage as they disappeared into the night.
“Someone’s in a big hurry to get somewhere, T.C.”
His voice came back through the headset. “Appears so.” T.C. has always been short on words. Succinct is the term that comes to mind and he did not disappoint.
“That all you have to say?” I chided. His silence told me everything I needed to know regarding his thoughts on my irreverence. “Hey, did you hear the one about the horse who went into the bar?” I knew from the look on the big man’s face he wasn’t going to bite, so I continued on anyway hoping for a more positive response from the boys. “The bartender asked why the long face?”
I heard several of the guys chuckling in my earpiece. A lopsided grin curled the corner of my mouth as I turned toward T.C. I clearly saw him shaking his head and him mouthing the words. “Really sad.”
Anyway, back to the business at hand. The rest of our jaunt was uninterrupted as we drew to within a couple hundred yards of our objective. Taking up a position behind a low rise, T.C. and I surveyed the grounds while the rest of the guys covered our six. Surrounding the compound were a number of mudbrick low walls in a bad state of disrepair. Five buildings of the same material were scattered over an area about two acres in size.
“I count three guards on the right,” T.C. said, his eyes glued on the compound.
“Nice to see they’re sporting the latest in haute couture. What do you think, T.C.? Keffiyehs by Armani? Saville row perhaps?” I nudged him with my elbow as he opened his mouth and closed it wordlessly. “I count six hostiles on the left.”
“Intel says there are a total of eighteen. Nine walking about and nine curled up with no idea what is about to happen. That adds up to eighteen unless you figure the intel was bad and there are more camel jockeys than we know about.”
“Should be easy. Right?” I kept my eyes straight ahead and did not reply to T.C.’s question. “Your gut?”
I nodded. “Too easy, T.C.” I rolled onto my left shoulder and stared at my friend. “None of us knows this paid informant. For all we know he could be working with any number of entities from foreign intelligence, terrorist groups, or Salim’s rent-a-camel. “We’ll pick you up. Catchy phrase, heh?”
“You really can be a pain in the ass.” Canton’s annoyance with my antics depicted itself on his face in the form of a knotted brow. “Alright, so you’re edgy. Everybody gets that way. Been down that road. Comes with the territory.” The big man let his gaze rest on me a moment longer.
“You don’t look too shook up about our night out on the town. I’m thinking they won’t be serving champagne and caviar as we saunter in. Don’t you find that a little inhospitable?”
He did not bite. “Well, only one way to get over the jitters. Jump in and get your feet wet. We’ll split into two groups. I’ll take my team right.”
“I bet that puts me on the left,” I wisecracked. “Ok. Done with the jokes, T.C.” My attitude shifted immediately as I went into combat mode. There is nothing funny about the idea of people you don’t even know wanting to kill you. “Once we’re in place, we move in quickly. Take care of business. Run it by the numbers and get the hell out.” Canton began to move away when I pulled at his sleeve. “Seriously. Keep your head down and watch your six. And don’t forget you owe me a beer.”
T.C. moved off into the darkness to join up with his squad. I watched him disappear into the black veil surrounding the compound. Once again I fixed the night vision device, lighting up the darkness while searching for targets. The men in my squad knew their assignments and they moved off approaching the area from the left. We had not even covered fifteen yards when the first volley of automatic weapons fire rang out.
(To be continued...)
Solemn Vow © 2016 by William Beck. All Rights Reserved