Saturday, 4th February 2023 - 3:23:09 am
One of the Kurds came to the top of the bank and spoke excitedly down to Ahmed. Ahmed appeared to question him while casting glances over at Kincaid.
"I've got to check something out, old chap," he told Kincaid. "Won't be a minute."
Kincaid rose to his feet.
"Take a breather," Ahmed told him. "I"ll be right back."
The hell with it, Kincaid thought. He sat back down. He did need a rest.
Ahmed was back in less than a minute. "Seems we dug one of those graves for nothing, old boy. Your little friend is still alive."
"What!!!?" Kincaid could barely believe his ears. "How could that be?" He was up the bank to see for himself.
"It seems assumptions were made, old boy. He certainly should be dead. He certainly looked dead. Then someone said he was dead. And there you have it."
Sabrina was sitting up. The top of her head was still bleeding. She had a bad bruise and some scrapes on the right side of her face.
"The horse must have thrown him," Ahmed said. "It didn't see the bank. It flopped down, over the bank head first, and threw him clear across to the other bank, where he landed on his head. Good luck for him, actually, otherwise he'd be dead. Exceptionally fortunate."
She had lost a lot of blood. One of the Kurds was wrapping the wound.
Kincaid had a small flashlight in his cartridge belt. It was an item he had seldom used before. He brought it out and shined it into her eyes. They were not quite in focus.
"Are you all right?" he asked. He knew she wasn't.
"I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine," she repeated over and over. Then she asked, "Where's my horse?"
For Ahmed, shooting a badly wounded comrade, who might endanger the patrol, was always an option. But he had seen an attachment between these two, so he dismissed that.
That option was the farthest thing from Kincaid's mind, but he was at a loss. "What do we do with him?" he asked Ahmed.
As if to emphasize the problem, Sabrina threw up.
"We could leave one man," Ahmed said. "I don't think we could spare any more, old boy. Sanandaj is the objective. They could come on to Sanandaj at their own pace while we go on ahead. Do you have a better idea?"
They buried the dead Kurd. The other grave they left empty.
They were ready to move again. A great deal of time had been lost. It was hopeless to proceed as before.
Kincaid had a new plan of attack He explained it to Ahmed and Yasin. "We can't count on those people to do anything logical. They might hit us anywhere. From now on we send a man out about half a click. He goes out as fast as he can ride. Then he stops and waits for us. When we get near him, we send another man out. No point. No rear guard. From now the rest of us just stay together and keep moving. We've got a lot of time to make up."
One of the Kurds galloped ahead.
"Yasin can lead the rest of us," Kincaid said. "He knows the trail."
Then he told Yasin, "Keep a good pace."
Yasin led off followed by the others. Kincaid purposely held back until he was last in the column.
When the head of the column neared the first man who had ridden ahead, the second man started out. He was quickly out of sight. Yasin stopped the column and peered ahead into the darkness. The sound of the horse galloping away was also swallowed up in the night. After a moment Yasin started ahead again.
He said something to Ahmed. Ahmed pulled his horse to the side of the trail and waited for the column to pass. Then he joined Kincaid at the rear.
"Yasin says we"ll come to the next difficult section soon. Do you want to do anything differently?"
Ahmed shrugged and spurred his horse, starting forward through the column.
"Wait a minute," Kincaid said.
Ahmed stopped until Kincaid was alongside.
"How sure are you that our man is in Sanandaj?" Kincaid asked.
"So now you doubt everything."
"It's a fair question. The Iranians have a showcase trial if they want one. Mohammed Parsee is an American agent. We've all but admitted it. It would make more sense for them to try him in Tehran. Put him on television. Invite the international press. Make a big show. Instead they send him to a little, out of the way town. Why? How sure are you that he is there?"
"He's there, old boy, to answer your last question first. At least he was there three days ago. They made no secret of it. Exhibited him, as a matter of fact. But I don't think he's the man you're looking for."
"Remember, old chap, our agreement was only to find the whereabouts of one Mohammed Parsee that the Iranians were holding. We have done that. He is in Sanandaj. You never asked us to confirm who he was. The man in Sanandaj answering to the name of Mohammed Parsee is an Iranian. All Kurdistan knows that. The Iranians are trying to pass him off as an American but they have fooled no one but you Americans. Perhaps that was their intent. That's why there was no show trial. The international press is harder to fool than you people."
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
"You never asked me, old boy."
Kincaid had to think over his options again. One thing was sure: getting to Sanandaj before dawn would give him a certain amount of freedom. The nearer they got to the rendezvous with Bob Douglas, the more free he felt.
"You didn't answer the other part of the question," Kincaid said. "Why would they try someone they're trying to pass off as an American agent in Sanandaj?"
"It's a matter of politics, Kurdish politics. Iranian politics. They're trying to make their man look good.
"You see, the Iranian regime has been trying to unite the Kurds under one leader, one that they chose. He's a renegade Kurd known as the Ayatollah Rashad Hassim. We Kurds don't take him seriously as a leader. He can't travel anywhere without the army to protect him. Sanandaj is about as far as he can go into Kurdish areas.
"Under this regime he has conducted many trials in Kermanshah and Sanandaj. He has sentenced hundreds of Kurds to death.. Not exactly the way to win friends and influence people, but logic seldom influences those people.
"The family of this Ayatollah Rashad Hassim goes back a long way as mischief makers."