Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Firing Line Part 4

Khalid's office overlooked the Tigris. Midway up the building, looted for all its worth, it was the snipers dream. It was perhaps five hundred metres from the main avenue in Mosul, Shalia al Hussein – not so far that accuracy was diminished, yet not so close that the coalition troops could pick them up. Khalid turned Reilly. “I take it you know what happened where we stand, John?” Reilly hesitated. “You mean the Ba'ath Party thing...oh wait, no. I know what you mean. I was down there when it happened,” said Reilly, gesturing towards the far side of the river. “ Colonel Schaefer went down like a sack of potatoes. So this is where it happened?” Reluctantly, Khalid began to explain. “Ahmed – my brother – killed him. I was coming up the stairs when I heard this great crack, like a whip on the rump of a horse, so I ran towards the sound. I saw Ahmed throw the gun into the river, but you could smell the gunpowder. He's a big man, and he threw me aside and ran. Ran to Abu Mahmoud. Satan himself pales in comparison to the bastard. I can't even begin to thank you for what you did earlier.” Khalid cast his gaze at the floor. “So what's our next move?” asked Reilly. “Knowing Ahmed and those MM crazies, they'll just try and go for us again. We'd better get going. But first...follow me.” Reilly followed Khalid through a series of linoleum-floored corridors. Despite the aura of an hospital, Reilly had to remind himself of the terrible things that had gone on in this very building. Khalid drew to a halt outside what looked like an ordinary, non-descript cupboard. Checking for bypassers, he opened the cupboard. Reilly looked inside. Black polished metal lined the space. Black polished metal with wooden handles. “Wha..?” Khalid cut him off. “In today's Iraq, it is unwise to be unprepared. Here,” he said, grabbing a rifle and a few clips of ammunition. “Catch.” Khalid proceeded to pick up his instrument of choice – an Uzi sub machine gun. Just as the door swung shut, a shot zipped past. “Looks they've brought the war to us,” Reilly muttered. One of their assailants from the hotel stepped out from the corridor, dressed in a kafiyeh, the traditional headdress of the Middle East. The Mujahideen were determined to succeed now.

Ahmed has been tipped off as to the journalist's presence at the Ba'ath building just after Abu Mahmoud had dealt with him. Little did he know his brother in cahoots with the journalist. He had rounded up the the other mujahideen and sped through the back alleys of Mosul. The Americans wouldn't find them. They had pulled up at the building gate half an hour previously, but had slowly filtered in to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Five men scampered up each stairwell, before pouring down the sixth floor corridor, pulling to stop out of site of the American. Ahmed was the first to step out and shoot towards the bastard.

Reilly jammed the button on his Thuraya sattelite phone that brought the US Army running. “Shouldn't be long now,” said Reilly to a crouched Khalid. The informant fired a covering burst as. the pair ducked into an open doorway. A scream rang out. Reilly leant out of the doorway and fired a further salvo in the direction of the scream. More bodies could be heard thudding to the floor, but the danger had by no means passed. As if to prove a point, a bullet scythed through Reilly's trouser leg, just grazing the flesh. Reilly, shaken, dove into the empty room. A tremendous thud shook the building, followed immediately by a flash of light. Then the chatter of machine gun fire ebbed back into the minds of dazed Reilly and Khalid, sprawled on the cool floor. After a couple minutes of furious gunfire, the jarring crack of bullets rescinded and was replaced by the patter of boots.

Reilly managed to crawl out of the room he had sheltered in with Khalid. It was not a pretty site that met his eyes. Abu Mahmoud lay prone on the floor, identifiable only by his bandaged foot. His minions had suffered a similar fate. A stream of blood flowed down the corridor. They had been brutally, mercilessly outclassed. They had paid the ultimate price. The Army Troopers rushed towards him. “Wait there,” one of them barked. They filed into the room the pair had hidden in. A shot rang out.

Reilly leapt to his feet, adrenalin surging through his body. He ran towards the room. Khalid lay dead, a bullet wound between his eyes. Reilly rounded on the soldiers, struggling to control his hatred. “That man saved my life. You stupid, cold-hearted, blood-thirsty bastards. That is how you choose to repay him? By killing him? This will come full circle, just you wait.”

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