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Chapter Two

"Yes, Hamid," Hazzah Bud said, nodding as he talked on the phone. "The delivery has been made on time, on my honor. The shipment will be at your warehouse no later than tomorrow night. We had trouble finding sufficient stock, but at the last moment we found a significant amount and not only have fulfilled the first order but have stock left over to start the second. Yes. Yes, we will ensure that the cargo arrives in good condition. Go with God, Hamid."

Hazzah had been a member of Hezbollah since the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon. A member of the Joharra tribe, he had fought the Amal and the Hamas, the Irish and the American Marines. He had been one of five potential drivers for the attack on the Marine barracks but at the last minute his best friend, Murtaza Batatu, had been chosen for martyrdom instead. Over the years he had waned in his faith in the jihad and these days he was just happy to awake each morning alive. Martyrdom was for the young. But a job was a job and failure in this one would mean martyrdom for sure.

Bud looked up at Abdul Mohiuddin and shook his head.

"Halal is unhappy that it took so long to round up the full cargo and he already wants more. In good condition."

"That means we cannot rape these infidel bitches," Kahf Shishakli said, angrily. Kahf was a youngster among the mujahideen and full of the work of Allah and the chance for martyrdom. A student from the Emirate of Kuwait, majoring in business, his family was fiercely Wahabbist and he had been raised to believe that death in the fight against the Dar Al Harb was the highest of callings. But he was young and the bitch on the floor was pretty. Like all the American whores she went not much more clothed than she was now. All such whores deserved to be raped.

"Are either of them virgin?" Bud said, grinning at the girl on the floor.

"The one who is packaged was not," Abdul said, settling into the open door of the van, then gesturing at the blonde. "These are all whores, are they not? None of them have been virgins."

"He said in good condition," Bud replied, pulling a pistol out of his waistband, and walking over to the blonde. "He didn't say unraped. I think we'll rape this one. If she is in bad condition when we are done, we'll send her soul to Satan and find another."

"In'sh'allah," Shishakli said, reaching down to grab the girl's hair and twist it. "It is as Allah Wills. Women taken in battle are allowed to be raped and these women are taken in the Great Jihad against the Americans. Let us rape them to the Glory of Allah."

As Mike stepped to the side he heard males speaking in what he was pretty sure was Arabic and then a muffled scream from the girl. He stepped around the coffin, at present, and targeted a male holding the hair of the girl. Three rounds to the chest put the target down, the silenced 9mm rounds punching into his chest cavity and blasting blood and bone out to cover the cowering girl.

Hazzah Bud had been fighting one group or another most of his adult life and had the scars to prove it. But it was a long time since he had had to fight for his life and the attack was unexpected. As Kahf's chest erupted in blood, he turned towards the faint "thocks" from the silenced submachine gun, raising his pistol as quickly as he could. In his haste, he actually triggered a round into the floor and he prayed to Allah that it would disturb this djinn who had appeared long enough for he, Hazzah Bud, Allah's servant for most of his life, to live.

Mike shifted to a male holding a pistol in his hand. The male was rotating to the side to fire and actually triggered a round into the ground in his haste. Mike ignored it and serviced the target with a burst, then shifted to the group by the van.

Abdul Mohiuddin grabbed his AK and rolled into the body of the van for cover. If this was an American police assault team they would soon find that those who did not fear death were dangerous to battle! Allah would be with them in this battle!

The one that had been sitting in the doorway was gone, presumably into the cargo area; the other three had reached for weapons that were scattered on the ground. One was raising an AK variant assault rifle and was serviced as was a second reaching for another AK. At that point, an automatic part of his brain told him to cover and reload so he pulled back behind the coffins, ejected his magazine down the front of his shirt, and slapped in another. He wasn't standing still while he did it, but moving counterclockwise behind the cover of the coffins, looking for another shot.

Murtaza Saqqaf was amazed. He had gotten but one brief view of the assailant and it was not the heavily armored tac team they had expected. Indeed, there appeared to be but one American who had already killed many of his brothers in Allah. It was infuriating!

"There's only one of them!" he shouted. "We can trap him! Come around the coffins; he is hiding in there!"

There was shouting from the coffins behind him and he ducked into a space between two stacks, waiting a moment. After shouting the person was trying to move stealthily but it was nearly impossible in this echoing room. Mike followed the cautious movement and then took a coin from his pocket and tossed it over the coffins beyond his present position. The metal coin made a loud bong as it hit, too loud really, but the target sped up, actually passing his position in a quiet trot. Mike waited a moment and then leaned out . . .

There was a metallic sound, like a magazine being dropped accidentally, well down the south wall, and Murtaza sped up, closing on his quarry. Allah was with him and he smiled.

"Allahu Akbar!" he shouted as he spun around the corner and emptied his magazine into the space where the sound had occurred. But there was nothing there and as he realized that, over the ringing in his ears from the firing, he heard a faint sound behind him. . . .

Mike wanted to laugh at the actions of the target but, instead, as the tango turned to check behind him he fired a three-round burst into the "sniper triangle" of the head and upper body, where there were numerous critical blood vessels, then began moving again, heading clockwise to his previous firing position.

Ahmed Rabah nodded as he heard the shout from Murtaza. There had been no flood of police into the warehouse, which meant it was likely to be only one American, thinking he was Rambo and trying to save the Satan's whores. Well, the mission was probably a failure, they would have to pick up and move elsewhere at the very least. But the purpose of the Warriors of Jihad was to spread fear amongst the infidels of the Great Satan and killing the bitch would do that well enough. So he darted out of the cover of the coffins towards the bitch on the floor. Let the American continue to battle, but even if he was victorious it would be as ashes in his mouth. He had just reached her when he heard the squeak of a tennis shoe from among the coffins and looked up into the barrel of a submachine gun. . . .

When he reached his firing position he saw one of the terrorists preparing to terminate the hostage and he put two bursts into the man's chest, the blood flying out onto the already blood-soaked girl screaming into her gag. Since there was a significant threat to the hostage, Mike decided to go for a thunder run and see what he could get directed at himself. He moved to a different opening and then darted into the space in the middle of the room.

Abdul Mohiuddin had considered killing the whore on the floor but even if they moved she could still be smuggled out of the country. So he continued to wait in the concealment of the van, knowing that sooner or later the American would have to come into view. Suddenly a man in jeans and a shirt darted into the open area, moving fast.

Abdul had been waiting for that and opened up the back door of the van, dropping to the ground in a crouch and placing his AK against his hip, firing off the clip in long burst at the running figure.

As the door opened on the van to his left Mike turned, then rolled on his right shoulder, coming up in a kneeling position and targeting the muj as 7.62mm bullets cracked the air around him.

Abdul Mohiuddin felt the 9mm rounds thudding into him as so many punches to the chest and stumbled to his knees. He tried to lift the rifle again but it was far too heavy. He tried to mumble a prayer to Allah, but his lungs were full of liquid and he couldn't get a breath. His vision darkened and all he could feel was fury at this one djinn American who seemed to be invincible. Allah had deserted them. . . .

Mike didn't even ensure the target was down, just sprung to his feet and sprinted across the area, bullets cracking around him, to dive behind the desk, reloading as he ran.

Sidi Al-Radi looked at his friend Khalil Medein in fear. Both were students from Pakistan at the University of Georgia. They had met at a student rally in support of the Palestinian cause and been recruited as warriors of the jihad that same day. At the time it had seemed a great cause and they had shouted with the others that they were willing to die for Allah.

However, now that they faced death, had seen the blood from their fellow warriors staining the floor, knew that death came for them on squeaking feet, all they could do was crouch behind the desk and hope that it would pass them by. . . .

As he cleared the top of the desk in a one-handed lift, he discovered to his annoyance two of the terrorists crouching down behind it and not even looking for him. They were as surprised as he was, and far, far slower. In a second and a half, two more warriors of Allah had been sent to have a conversation with their God. He suspected that it was not going to be a good one.

His position, however, was very exposed and he lifted himself up again, sprinting forward. There was an open gap in view and he headed for it like a goal line, ricochets whining off the floor around him. Suddenly most of the shooting stopped and he heard a lot of reloading which caused him to grin even in the middle of the mess he'd started.

Terrorists, even trained terrorists, used the "spray and pray" technique of combat. Point the gun in the general direction of the enemy, generally held somewhere near the hip, close your eyes, pull the trigger and hope that you hit something. It wasn't just terrorists, everyone in the region except the Israelis tended to use "spray and pray." Which was why, besides body armor and superior training, Western militaries, including the Israelis, didn't tend to take many casualties from rifle fire while, at the same time, racking up kills by direct fire. Westerners could, and would, target their shooting. Arabs didn't. And, at the moment, it was saving his life. He just hoped like hell they wouldn't accidentally, or intentionally, shoot the hostage.

He paused in the gap and counted on his fingers. Started with nine and the two sentries. Sentries down. One with a gun, one holding the hair. One in the back. One in the van. Two behind the desk. Three to go? No. Two. One trying to kill the hostage makes seven.

Rouhi Karim was one of the imported mujahideen, another member of Hezbollah. He had not fought as broadly or fiercely as Hazzah Bud, but he was an experienced street fighter and thought that surely he could kill one Allah-damned American. But twice he had seen the infidel djinn cross the open area in the middle of the room and twice tried to shoot him, emptying two full magazines in his anger to no avail. Now he decided that there was a better way. The infidel feared death and always negotiated for hostages. He reloaded again and left his cover, running into the open area and grabbing the blood-covered bitch by her hair to lift her from the floor. She screamed at the pain but he felt nothing but joy at the sound. Soon the American would be dead and he would give her far more pain. . . .

"American! We will negotiate now!"

Mike peeked into the open area and shook his head at the sight. A teenage muj was holding the blonde by the hair, an AK pointed in the general direction of, well, the floor. Not at her. He shook his head, targeted the terrorist, who was looking in the wrong direction, and put three rounds through his head.

The blonde was in bad shape, covered in blood and apparently choking. He had a choice of helping her or taking down the last tango. Helping her meant exposing himself, and the hostage, to hostile fire. But . . . choking could kill just as sure as a bullet. The gag was a cloth band with, apparently, cloth in the mouth. He looked at it and clicked out his locking-blade knife. Taking it in his right hand he ran to the girl, slid the razor edge under the gag and cut it off. He hadn't taken any fire so but he ghosted over between the coffins again.

Silence. The last target, if he was counting right, seemed to be playing the waiting game. Okay, time to see how stealthy "Ghost" could be. He started to move along the wall, heel rolling to side of the foot and then to the ball, one slow step at a time, checking the gaps between the boxes and occasionally getting a glimpse of the now crying, and still choking a bit, blonde. She at least was keeping quiet and down, other than the crying. She'd probably puked at all the blood and been choking on that, and that sort of choke could take your voice away pretty quick. Whatever the reason, he appreciated her not yelling for help or whatever. It would be distracting.

He smelled him before he saw him, the distinct smell of urine with a hint of shit. There was a fair bit of both in the room, the offal and sulfur smell of battle. But this was close and sharp. As he got closer he could hear the breathing, fast, high panting. Sworn to die or not, this was one muj who was scared as hell.

Karem Majali was an agronomy student who had been born in the mountains of Yemen where his father was a minor sheikh. He had been raised to do battle, showing no fear, a warrior for Allah. But while he had sometimes fired his weapon at other Yemeni, and even participated in one of the numerous kidnappings of foreigners in that land, he had never truly faced death. And he found that his belief in Allah was not as strong as he'd thought. All he could think was that this one American had killed, as far as he could tell, all of the other mujahideen, even Hazzah Bud and Abdul Mohiuddin, who were well known warriors of Allah. He seemed to not be human, but some desert formed shedim, an evil demon. Karem tried to lift himself from his hiding place, to rise up and charge forth, screaming God is Great as he should. But his knees would not support him and he realized that he had shit his pants. He could only crouch in his hole, shaking and crying faintly and wishing that he had never left Yemen, had never agreed to join the jihad, had stayed in his dorm instead of going to that Allah-Be-Damned rally. The hell with the Palestinians, anyway, they were filth unto Allah. . . .

Mike peeked around the coffins and tried not to laugh. The tango was huddled by the coffins, AK gripped with white knuckles, shaking like a leaf, looking towards the open area. Mike leaned forward and gently but firmly pressed the warm barrel of the sub-gun into the back of the subject's head.

"Lie on the ground with your hands behind your head," the former SEAL said in his very best Arabic.

The target froze for a second, then the AK slid into the open area and he flattened himself to the ground, legs spread and hands on the back of his head, fingers interlaced.

"Clearly you've been watching Fox," Mike said, trying not to chuckle. He grabbed the tango by the back of his collar and yanked him to his feet, pushing him into the open area with the barrel of the MP-5.

"Oh, God. Oh, God!" The blonde had slid as far away from the bodies as her bonds permitted her and now was bent in a fetal position. But she'd looked up at the steps and now her eyes were wide. "Oh, thank you!"

"You're welcome," Mike said, kneeing the muj into a kneeling position, then lowering him back face down on the floor.

"Who are you?" the girl managed to gasp between coughs.

"No one of consequence," Mike said, then barked a laugh. "God, I always wanted to use that line. Do me a favor, and be quiet for a second, okay, honey? I need to talk to this young gentleman."

There was a pile of tie-ties, plastic handcuffs derived from cable ties, on the table and Mike used two of them to secure the terrorist.

"Is there any way you could let me go?" the girl asked as he rolled the muj over.

"Not at the moment, I'm in a hurry," Mike said, sliding the barrel of the MP-5 down to point at the tango's balls. "You speak English?"

"Yes!" the kid said, quickly. "I am speaking good English! I am student!"

"Great," Mike said, sliding the barrel down to the terrorist's knee. "Now, here's the deal. The first time I think you're lying to me, I'm going to shoot you in the knee. Now, that really hurts and you'll be permanently crippled. So try very hard not to lie to me. Okay? I'm basically a very bad man and I'd like to hurt you. A lot. But, I'm also an honorable one and if you don't lie to me, if you give me good answers, I won't shoot you. Okay?"

"Okay," the tango said, desperately.

"Where did they take the girls?" Mike asked, mildly.

"I do not know!" the boy said. "All I know is an airport."

"Hmmm . . ." Mike murmured then fired a round through the kid's leg. "Don't believe you."

He waited until the screaming, from both the tango and his erstwhile rapee, died down then pointed the barrel at the other leg.

"Care to go for two?"

"I don't know!" the kid screamed. "They not tell us, tell us not to ask! Maybe is in papers. Hazzah is handling papers! A file, on the desk!"

"Hmmm . . ." Mike said, going over to the desk. "What's your name, Blondie?"

"Ashley," the girl said, whimpering. "Oh, please tell me you're not going to hurt me!"

"Hell, no," Mike snorted, searching through the papers. "I'm one of the good guys. Sort of. I'd like to, mind you. Girls all tied up and covered in blood are a real turn-on."

"What . . . who are you?" Ashley asked, desperately. "What the hell are you?"

"Nobody you want to remember," Mike replied, picking what looked like a bill of lading out of the pile. "Look, the police are going to be on this like flies on shit. I'd really appreciate it, as the guy who just saved your miserable cheerleader ass, if you'd tell them you have no clue who I am. I'm a short, tall, fat, thin, blonde brunet with greenish brown eyes. Got it?"

"You're not with the police?" the girl said, totally confused.

"Oh, come on," Mike scoffed. "I know you're an airhead, but use at least one brain cell. Do the police commonly shoot people through the leg to get information?"

"Well, they beat people up," Ashley said, with relentlessly liberal logic.

"Did those guys beat you?" Mike asked, gesturing at the dead terrorists.

"Yes," Ashley said, sobbing gently.

"Would you like me to shoot you through the knee so you can tell the difference?" Mike asked, puzzling over the load list.


"Then, trust me, police don't kneecap people for information. It's really obvious. It looks like they were taking them to the Atlanta airport," Mike said, dropping the manifest. "Okay, I'm going to cut part of the way through your bonds," he continued, pulling his knife back out. "As soon as you work yourself free, call 911 and report all of this. When they get here, remember . . ."

"Short, fat, thin, tall, blondish brunet?" Ashley said, nodding. "Got it. What about him?" she asked, gesturing with her chin at the gently sobbing and moaning muj.

"What about him?" Mike asked, pulling her upright and applying his knife to the tough plastic. "If he bleeds out or dies of shock, it's no skin off my nose. Let me ask you, do you really care?"

"No," Ashley admitted after a moment's thought.

"Congratulations," Mike said, changing his mind and cutting the bonds on her hands completely free. "You're half way to conservative already. Remember, Vote Cliff."

"I'm not that far," Ashley said, smiling faintly. "Why'd you cut me free?"

"Give me ten minutes," Mike said. "After I'm gone. Then call. And tell them Atlanta airport."

"You're going to get in trouble for this, aren't you?"

"It is not inside my normal mission parameters," Mike admitted without really lying. Let her suggest to the police that he was some sort of spook. "Yeah, if they figure out who it was, I'll be looking at, well, murder one, torture, you name it. They'll probably throw the book at me. So . . . be uncooperative, okay? Just tell them you want to talk to an attorney or, barring that, the news media."

"What's your name, please?" Ashley said, leaning forward to drift a kiss across his cheek as he worked on her ankles.

"Look, killing makes me really horny," Mike said, tightly. "So do tied0up half-naked, damned good-looking blondes. And if you really must know, it's the Dread Pirate Roberts."

"What?" Ashley said, pulling her ankles up to her as soon as they were free and rubbing at the marks from the strips.

"Haven't you ever seen The Princess Bride?" Mike asked, aghast.


"Good Lord, woman." He stood up, shaking his head, and headed for the door. "Rent it. You owe me."

"I will," Ashley said.

"Ten minutes," Mike said, then paused. "Crap."

"What now?" Ashley said, looking around wildly.

"Well, two things," Mike admitted. "No wheels and I need to check on the other girl."

The coffin had not been hit and the girl, who was apparently drugged, was fine. Mike checked her pulse and had to really restrain himself from copping a feel. It wasn't like anyone would know. Then he looked at his hands, which were covered in cordite residue and blood, and shook his head. Okay, so they'd know. He was already looking at murder one. No, down.

He left the top propped up and searched the pockets of the terrorist who seemed to be the boss on the basis that he'd be the most likely to have his own vehicle. Sure enough, he turned up a set of keys, with an electronic opener, for a Ford. He hunted around and found a couple more MP-5 mags and came back to find Ashley collapsed into the station chair that had been rolled away from the desk. It had a couple of bullet holes in it but she didn't seem to mind.

"You okay?" he said.

"Now you ask?" she replied. She'd been crying again, but she tried to smile.

"Yeah, now I ask," Mike admitted. "I'm coming off mission-high. You okay?"

"I will be," Ashley said. "I don't want to wait here alone for the police."

"Five minutes," Mike said, noticing for the first time that she had a really distinct cleft in her chin. It just made her cuter than before and he had to force down a wave of lust that was truly overpowering. On a whim he decided to take the satellite phone; there was a land-line she could use. Satellite phones couldn't call 911 anyway, and if she tried she'd get really confused. "At least. I can't stay, you know that?"

"Yeah," she sighed. "I really want to know who you are."

"Well," he said, grinning, "if you ever see me again, for the first time, be overwhelmed by a wave of lust and need to give me a blowjob right then and there, even if it's in public. Okay?"

"Sure," Ashley said, shaking her head. "Men. Maybe not in public, but we'll talk, okay? This has . . ."

"Don't let this put you off of men, God damnit," Mike said, firmly. "I didn't risk my fucking life to have you go lesbo. All men aren't these filth. And if you decide they are, you're spitting on what I did. Because the good guys want to get laid, too. Understand?"

"Understand," Ashley said, nervously. "Christ, you sound like my dad."

"Oh, that's really what I needed to hear!" Mike said, spinning away. "Five minutes. Minimum!"

"I don't have a watch," Ashley said as he disappeared behind the coffins.

"Plenty of them on the bodies."



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