As the mujahideen reeled in shock, Reilly and Khalid ducked past a set of double doors and scampered out the loading bay next to the kitchen. But they weren't out of the woods yet. The infamous Abu Mahmoud lay between the pair and relative safety. Rifle slung at his waist, the imam had the same air of overconfidence as the swashbuckling marines that went into Fallujah and well...didn't come out again. He brought his rifle up to his shoulder. It never made it. He lay on the floor, writhing in agony, blood pooling around his left foot. “Thank you, Mr. Reilly,” said Khalid. “Gut reaction,” came the response, brushing aside the compliment. “Where now?” “My office. Nobody knows where it is. Couple clicks over, on Tigris Shalia.”
Running out of steam, the pair pulled into the gate of the derelict Ba'ath party headquarters. A Humveee rolled slowly past. Reilly waved his press credentials at the fresh-faced soldiers. “You work here?” enquired Reilly. “Not so much work as hide out, but yeah,” came the response. “C'mon.”
In the Imam's quarters, Abu Mahmoud was in a furious temper, and Ahmed was bearing the brunt of it. “You fool! You yellow-bellied idiot! You see one of us go down and you freeze? Yes, that's what you do!” said the stricken cleric, in a voice laden with sarcasm. “I had a good mind to turn my Kalashnikov on you, and I will if you let him slip through your greasy fingers again. Do you hear me?” demanded Abu Mahmoud. “Yes, master,” replied a submissive Ahmed.