Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:07:18 pm

He slipped down the bank to the side of the Kurd. He cut the rope that bound the man's hands and used it for a light tourniquet around his wrist. The third and fourth fingers of the left hand were lost but the middle finger might be okay. He cut some cloth from the blouse of the man who had wielded the knife and used it to bind the hand. That done, he pulled the Kurd to the edge of the bank and cut the ropes on his feet. After a moments thought, he also took the gag out of his mouth so he wouldn't choke to death accidentally.

The story of what had happened was there in the sand of the creek bed for Kincaid to read. A party of six had come from the north and surprised the Kurd. There were signs of a brief struggle, hardly a struggle at all. The Kurd was thrown down in the sand. Two of the party were left to play with him while the other four continued to the south.

Kincaid started following the trail. The bank of the creek varied in height from two to four maters. Every twenty five or thirty meters, one of the party of four had climbed the bank to find where they were. It was obvious what they were doing. They had been looking for the best place from which to attack the Kurd camp.

Kincaid realized he was up against a better class of soldier. So far they had done everything right, almost. The guard had been jumped without raising an alarm. Sentries had been posted to cover their rear. Too bad the sentries had gotten distracted. Too bad for them.

Kincaid didn't need to look to know where he was in relation to the Kurd camp. He was counting the paces as he went.

As he neared a bend in the creek he suddenly threw himself low against the bank. As always in combat, instinct came first, intellect second. When he dove for cover he really didn't know why he was doing it. That kind of reaction had saved his life many times. Do it, then think about it.

The reason came to him: smoke; cigarette smoke. What kind of fool, he wondered, would smoke on a hot probe"

There was no one in sight behind him. Te smoke couldn't reach him from above. The smoker could only be around the bend. Kincaid knew from his pacing that he was almost opposite the Kurd camp. He smiled grimly. The hostile patrol had done something else right. They had left someone to cover their backs. Trouble was, they had left a smoker.

Kincaid advance cautiously to the bend of the bank. He unslung the HK-91 and pushed it ahead of him in his left hand because there was a chance he might come on the full patrol. He pulled out the little Beretta, keeping it in his right hand. That would do for one or two men. If the situation were perfect, he could still switch to the stiletto or garrote, but that was unlikely in daylight.

As Steve Kincaid eased around the corner of the bank the first things that came into view were the feet and black clad legs of a Kurd. From the angle that they were sprawled out on the creek bed, he knew the Kurd was dead. He silently released the safety on the Beretta and eased farther around the bank. The head of the Kurd came into view. His throat had been cut.

Just beyond the dead Kurd was a lone Revolutionary Guard. He sat leaning back against the bank and gazing blankly at the water or at something on the far back. The man wasn't smoking.

Kincaid double checked to make sure no others were around. It was clear. He backed off to where he wouldn't be seen and stood up. Then he strolled casually around the bend, the rifle still in his left hand and the pistol in his right.

The thought suddenly came to him that he might be a very sick man. He enjoyed moments like these so much, there had to be something wrong with him.

A half smile was on the lips of the Revolutionary Guard as he daydreamed, his eyes focused on nothing. Kincaid was nearly standing over him before the man was aware of his presence. He gazed up at the grinning black clad man. The Iranian's rifle was across his lap but he made no move to use it. His eyes remained blank for a moment before he wrenched himself back into the present. An expression of surprise spread over his features followed by one of fear.

Kincaid gestured with the silencer of the Beretta across his lips in the universal sign for silence. The man nodded rigidly that he understood.

"Do you speak English?" Kincaid asked him quietly while leaning the HK-91 against the bank. He kept the pistol aimed between the man's eyes as he moved.

The man nodded again, his eyes followed the muzzle of the Beretta like a chicken's eyes followed the swaying head of a snake.

"What are you doing here?" Kincaid asked him. He took the M-16 from him without resistance and leaned it beside the HK-91.

"We look for an American. A Colonel Steven Kincaid. Is that you?"

Two meters away a cigarette was still smoldering in the sand.

"Do you smoke?" Kincaid asked suddenly.

"What?" The man's eyes did not leave the muzzle of the pistol.

"Quiet!" Kincaid snapped. "I asked you if you smoked. Do you smoke cigarettes?"

"No." The man looked confused. "Sometimes," he added. "Why?"

"Is that your cigarette?" Kincaid pointed with his left hand.

The man had difficulty looking away from the business end of the pistol but he finally did. "No," he said. He looked back at the little round hole as if hypnotized.

The air was filled with the sound of agitated flies. They formed a solid layer on the dead Kurd's neck. Other flies fought to get in. The losers settled for his face.

"How many are looking for this Colonel Kincaid?"

The Revolutionary Guard didn't answer.

Kincaid kicked him hard on his ankle. The guy didn't try to yell or Kincaid would have finished him before he could have gotten it out.

"Many," the Iranian said, holding his bruised ankle.

"How many?"

"Very many. We look everywhere."

Kincaid knew he would have to be satisfied with that answer. "Why do you look here?"

"Our leader told us to look for this." He waved a hand over his shoulder to indicate the direction of the Kurd encampment. "A camp with tents up in the daytime and with guards posted."

Kincaid nodded grimly. He glanced about for tracks in the sand. It was a muddle where he was standing but there were clear tracks to the south. Three or four men had come that way and joined the men from the north here. One group had to wait for the other. They had scaled the bank leaving this sad specimen to cover their backs.

He pointed to the camp with his left hand. "How many men went up there?"

The guy didn't hesitate. "Six," he said.

Kincaid wondered if they had left the Kurd alive with this character.

"Who killed him?" he pointed to the dead man.

"Oh sir," the man started earnestly. Kincaid noticed that his hands were shaking badly. "A very bad man did that, sir. I tried to reason with him."

"Quiet," Kincaid reminded him again.

"Yes, sir," the man resumed in an impassioned whisper. "It was a terrible thing to behold, sir. I resolved, sir, when this thing happened, never to join with this kind of men again. When this day is over, I will desert and go home, where I will take care of my widowed mother."


"Yes sir. As Allah is my judge, it is true, sir."

"Yeah," Kincaid said. "Sure."

"It is the truth, sir."

"Let me see your knife."

His hands shook worse. "I have no knife, sir."

Kincaid kicked him in the same spot as before. He could see part of a knife hilt in the sash around the man's waist.

The guy made a low sound. It sounded like a cross between a moan and a religious chant. He held his shin. "It is true, sir, I have no knife." He chanted some more.

Kincaid drew back his foot to kick him again.

"No, no, sir, here." He pulled out the knife with two fingers on the hilt.

It had been wiped but not clean enough. Kincaid could see fresh blood stains on the blade.

"I can explain that, sir. I can?"

"Say hello to the virgins for me," Kincaid whispered. The Beretta spoke softly. The killer looked down dumbly at the small hole in his chest before falling over sideways. His head came to rest within inches of the Kurd's. A flight of flies settled on the open wound. Others found his staring eyes.

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