Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Firing Line Part 2

Back on the base, Reilly lay in his bunk, trying to visualise his life back in New York. He could almost see the Hudson River sweeping past his office on West 43rd Street, near the UN Building. How he longed for a cappucino. His cellphone removed him from his daydream. “Hello?” It was Khalid, one of his few trustworthy contacts in Iraq. Far more honest, than that Paul Bremer, Reilly thought. “John, another Humvee has been blown up. I've got a car outside the southern entrance. It'll take you to the El Arab Hotel. Meet me at the usual spot,” instructed Khalid. “Will do,”replied Reilly, stuffing a notepad and camera into his backpack.

The sentries were but Midwestern farm-boys, so Reilly had little trouble making his way past the perimeter fence. He always felt a rush getting into real Iraq, even considering the dangers he faced. Driving at full speed, the driver got him to the El Arab Hotel within ten minutes. As he made his way through the abandoned hotel, he could almost see the battle that had unfolded here between the Americans and Abu Mahmoud's gang. Both sides considered it a victory but were reluctant to really establish control. Who ever ventured might not make it out.

Reilly turned out of the staircase and saw a tall, well built man crouching next to the wall. “Khalid!” he whispered. “Where is it?” The man got up. Carefully, he gestured towards over the wall. “My brother did it.” Reilly peered over the edge. The vehicle could barely be identified as such, more mangled metal than mean machine. He looked back at Khalid. “Please don't tell them!” begged Khalid. “I'll have to tell them sometime, but I'll wait until your brother is gone. Now, I need to get some photos of the Hummer.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed and the other Mosul Muhajadeen got ready for their latest mission. Abu Mahmoud had told them that Reilly would give them away to the Americans and so had to be taken care of. They didn't need telling twice. As they finished asking Allah for courage, they burst out of the derelict barber's shop and ripped a salvo of iron towards the El Arab Hotel. Advancing rapidly, they couldn't see any threat to their livelihoods. But they also couldn't see Reilly and his informant.

Reilly and Khalid had just reached the burnt-out, bullet ridden lobby when the Mosul Muhajadeen has begun strafing the hotel. They had been able to duck behind the counter, but they knew they would die if they lingered. Carefully, they tried to dodge past the flurries of aimless bullets. However, their progress was slow and it took them five minutes to get to the kitchens, a mere fifty metres away. Reilly ripped his army-issue Beretta out of his shoulder holster. The intensity of fire was growing, a sure sign that their assailants were closing in. Suddenly, out of the corner of his, Reilly spotted one of the muhajadeen rushing towards him and Khalid. Without thinking, he spun around and shot their pursuer. The disillusioned warrior lay dead on the marble floor.

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