Monday, 29th May 2023 - 14:58:26 pm

The father of Rashad Hassim, Ahmed explained, was the nephew of a Khan. Their tribe lived in the north, by the Caspian Sea. He was far down the line of succession to the Khan but he had great ambitions.

During World War Two the Russians occupied all of northern Iran. They did it, the Russians said, to secure their supply lines to the south. Much American aid traveled through Iran. Of course there was some merit in their position. Had the war gone badly, the Turks might have jumped in on the other side and cut the Russians off there.

While the Russians occupied the land they recruited among the Kurds. One that they got was the father of Rashad Hassim. He was sent to Moscow for training. He took his family with him.

At the end of the war, the Russians didn't leave Iran. It took more than a year of pressure from the outside, mostly from the Americans, before they withdrew their troops. They finally left, but all the land they had occupied was in the hands of local communists they had trained, among them, the father of Rashad Hassim. When the Iranians tried to move back into their territory, a civil war broke out. Most of the Kurds fought in this war, not for the Communists but against the Iranians. When the Communists tried to take over the whole leadership, there was more trouble. It became a civil war within a civil war. Kurd fought against Kurd.

Somewhere in this strife, the father of Rashad Hassim was killed. The son took his place as a leader of the Moscow backed Kurds.

The Iranians were given much help by the west in this war. With the Kurds split the Iranians were able to recapture the land. The Communists were outlawed by the Iranians and by the Kurds. Rashad Hassim left the country. Many thought he went to Russia.

He next turned up in France where he joined the Ayatollah Khomeini who was in exile there. He was suddenly a prominent Shi-ite Muslim. When Khomeini returned to Iran in triumph, Rashad Hassim was at his side.

"Now he is the Ayatollah Rashad Hassim, the token Kurd leader among the Shi-ites. He is still ambitious but his day is past. He will never lead the Kurds," Ahmed concluded.

Kincaid said nothing. During Ahmed's story his expression hadn't changed and he did not speak. But he had heard. The American agent seemed more and more like bait for a trap. Ahmed didn't even think he was an agent. Had the whole thing been rigged? If so, was general Whalen in on it? Had he made up the story about Mohammed Parsee being Edward Camacho knowing that Kincaid would have to try to get him out?

There was only one way to find out.


The patrol wasn't hit again that night. They made good time but not good enough. They reached the airstrip north of Sanandaj an hour later than Kincaid wanted. It was a precious hour.

Kincaid couldn't tell much about the airstrip in the dark. There were no weeds or brush on it. Grazing animals had probably taken care of that. A couple of places were badly rutted from erosion. Douglas was going to have his work cut out for him. But if anyone could land there, Kincaid thought, it would be Bob Douglas.

"Do you know how to get to where they're holding our man?" Kincaid asked Ahmed.

"That's affirmative, old boy," Ahmed replied. "He's in the police compound. All the prisoners scheduled to be shot are kept there."

"The police compound, huh," Kincaid said. He didn't like the idea of shooting up a bunch of policemen. In an uncivilized world, the police brought the little order there was. They couldn't be responsible for the laws they enforced. Others made the laws.

No. Iran or no Iran, he wasn't going to shoot an officer of the law who was just doing his job. Unless he couldn't help it. This would have to be a soft probe, at least as soft as he could make it.

"You better come along and show me where to go," he told Ahmed. "Yasin and the others can stay here. Have them scout the area but keep out of sight. No shooting. They secure the airstrip when we get back and the plane is overhead. Not before. Make sure they understand."

Ahmed relayed his orders while Kincaid went to his pack horse for equipment. Even on a soft probe he needed contingency equipment. He wouldn't need either of the rifles or the grenade launcher. Instead he selected the Ingram M-11 Autopistol with a thirty two round clip and hung it around his neck from a lanyard. He put extra clips in a pouch on his web belt. He substituted the missile launched grenades he had been carrying for smoke and frag hand grenades. His double-barreled TranGun was in its special compartment. He took it and a dozen of the small, medicated darts that it propelled with compressed air.

He kept the silenced Beretta and the .357 Magnum. His hand hesitated over an unopened box in his pack. That contained the special stuff General Whalen had given him. He decided against using it.

Ahmed finished translating his orders.

"We"ll need a spare horse," Kincaid told him, "with any kind of luck. Bring a couple of missile launchers just in case. We might run into heavy stuff getting out."

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