Monday, 29th May 2023 - 16:57:56 pm

He rapped on the door with the butt of the Beretta. The sound echoed inside. No one came. Kincaid checked which way the door opened. It opened inward. He rapped again, harder and longer. Again no answer. Just as he was about to hit it again, he heard footsteps and mumbling from inside.

Someone spoke to him through the door. Kincaid rapped on it again, easier this time. He was thankful the door had no peep hole. The voice inside became angry. Kincaid rapped harder on the door. He heard a bolt sliding and the door suddenly flew open. An angry, half asleep police sergeant confronted him, still shouting. The only thing in his hands was a ring full of keys. He stopped in mid-shout. His mouth stayed open as he saw the black clad, black faced apparition come through the door at him. Kincaid hit him alongside his head with the barrel of the Beretta to put him down. Then he stuck a dart in his neck to put him out.

He took the ring of keys and stuck them into his belt at the back. He started to look through the building. He was in what looked like a receiving or hearing area. There were rows of benches on both sides of the entryway facing a desk at the back. The desk was on a platform. A metal railing ran the width of the room in front of the desk to keep the people on the benches on their side. The room was deserted.

There were large masonry archways on both sides of the room between the benches and the railing. At the back of the room behind the desk, was a smaller archway.

Kincaid checked out the side openings first. The one on the right was separated from the main room by another railing across the archway. It was about hip high with a gate in the middle. The room was filled with cluttered desks and shelves. No one was in there. The room of the left was just as cluttered with paper and just as empty of people.

Back in the main room, Kincaid stepped over the railing wand went to the opening at the rear. That doorway wasn't blocked.

He flattened himself against the wall before stretching out to look through the doorway. He kept the Beretta and the TranGun ready. There was one room beyond. It was long and narrow, reaching the whole width of the building. There was a steel mesh cage at the far end. It looked empty. Along the walls were half a dozen cots. Two were occupied by sleeping men.

Kincaid put the dart gun away but kept the Beretta ready in his left hand. He covered the men with the pistol as he approached hem silently. They didn't wake up. These darts he placed by hand, one for each man, just below the ear. Now they wouldn't wake up. Not while he was there.

He examined the mesh cage. It had been built over a stairway leading down. The gate was padlocked. Kincaid pulled out the key ring and started trying keys on the lock. The third one opened it.

He heard a commotion outside. It sounded like someone was pounding on the wooden gate. He knew he didn't have much time.

The stairs were dimly lit. He went down. The area below wasn't lit at all. He could make out three figures sleeping on the damp dirt floor. He shook the nearest man.

"Let's go," he said. "We're getting out."

The man opened his eyes and looked at him in horror. He was dressed like a Kurd.

The second man was also a Kurd by his dress. Kincaid shook him awake. He could hear the pounding outside even down there. It had gotten louder.

Kincaid shook the third man awake. He looked like an Iranian.

"Let's go," Kincaid said. "We're getting out."

The Iranian looking man said something he couldn't understand.

"Do you speak English?" Kincaid asked him.

"Yes," the man replied, looking confused.

"I'm getting you out of here if you want to come," Kincaid told him. "Let's go."

Without waiting for an answer he started back up the stairs. He heard the man speaking rapidly to the others behind him. Then he heard them start to follow.

"The horses are out," Kincaid thought. There were five of them now and only three horses. He doubted they could even get to the horses. It never entered his head to leave the two Kurds behind. He had found three men and he would try to get three men out. Nothing else occurred to him.

The banging on the gate had increased as he emerged from the front door. Several men were shouting out there. The light had also increased. It was nearly full daylight. He was concerned for Ahmed. He had left him in an exposed position.

Kincaid's eyes fell on the Jeeps. They were old. There were four of them, all the canvas top, military type. Only one had the top off. If they were military Jeeps... He checked the topless one. It had a switch on the ignition. No key needed.

The three men were coming out of the building. Kincaid waved them to the topless jeep. He checked out the others. He raised the hoods on each of them and took the distributor caps. The three ex-prisoners climbed into the first Jeep. Kincaid threw the distributor caps on the floor of the topless Jeep and got behind the wheel.

A man's head appeared at the top of the gate. He shouted something. Kincaid got the Jeep started. The man at the top of the gate waved a pistol at them. Kincaid backed the Jeep, tires spinning, into a corner of the front wall just as the man fired at them. There was a huge blast as the gate exploded inward, splinters flying everywhere.

Kincaid shifted into low and spun the Jeep through the opening where the bulky gate had been. There was no one outside the wall to try to stop him. Ahmed's missile had taken care of that.

Kincaid spotted Ahmed down the street. The Khan was already mounted and ready to move out. Kincaid waved as he turned the Jeep toward the old airstrip.

Sound of the explosion had brought some people out into the street. Many others were at their windows or in their doorways. They all watched impassively as the Jeep sped by.

He found a semi-clean rag in the glove compartment. He used it to try to wipe the blackness from his face. It left large smudges.

The Iranian looking man alongside him was built round like a butter ball. He looked to be about sixty. His hair was a dark gray. He blinked as they passed through patches of the newly risen sun as if he hadn't seen brightness in a little while.

"What's your name?" Kincaid asked him.

"Ali Saranesh," the man replied. "Why have you done this? Why have you saved us?"

"I was looking for Mohammed Parsee," Kincaid said. "Do you know him?"

Ali Saranesh sucked in his breath. "Then it is true? He is an American agent?"

"I'm doing the driving, old buddy," Kincaid said. "You answer my questions. Do you know him?"

"Know him? He is my brother!"

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