Monday, 29th May 2023 - 16:56:12 pm

Bob Douglas' STOL was suddenly in sight. He was coming in from the north, barely above the ground. One of Yasin's Kurds pointed excitedly in the direction of the plane. There were two riders coming from the same direction.

"It looks like your little friend," Ahmed said. "They made good time if it is."

Kincaid had to check it out. The two Kurds he had rescued had jumped out of the Jeep. Ahmed gave them the horses he had been leading. He drove the Jeep to the north end of the strip and into the field beyond to check out the riders. The plane passed low overhead. The horses, unused to such a thing, became agitated. One reared up but the rider held on. The other rider calmed both horses down.

Ali Saranesh was still seated in the front seat. "Where are you taking me?" he asked. "Why are we going here?"

"Shut up," Kincaid growled.

Only when he got very close did he see that it was indeed Sabrina and the Kurd left to accompany her. The Kurd dismounted and helped Kincaid get her down from the horse. Her eyes were in focus but the bruises on the right of her face had swollen and turned black.

"Are you all right?" He asked foolishly. He could see she wasn't all right.

"Probably not," she replied. They both had to help her to the Jeep.

Ali Saranesh wisely moved into the back without being told, leaving the more choice front seat to a lowly Kurd. He didn't want to test the patience of this violent man any further.

Kincaid got Sabrina settled in the front seat and patted the Kurd who had accompanied her on the back. He wanted to reward him but had nothing to give that he could spare. The pat would have to do.

The STOL touched down lightly, bounced once over a bad rut, and came to a stop squarely on top of the plastic panels Kincaid had set. Douglas kept the engine running and opened the door. He got out with his M-16 and looked north to where he had passed over the white Jeep.

Kincaid's stolen Jeep was alongside a few minutes later.

"Whoa!" Douglas exclaimed when he saw Sabrina, "what happened to her?"

"She got hurt," Kincaid explained needlessly.

"No shit."

The two of them helped Sabrina into the plane. Then Kincaid helped Ali Saranesh into the plane.

"It's the wrong man," he shouted over the engine. "We have to try again. Do you know where Shahabad is?"

Douglas, back in the pilot's seat, patted a case at his side. "On the map," he shouted.

"There's a strip nearby," Kincaid shouted. "We"ll be there sometime after noon. Same procedure. Now get out of here."

Douglas swore under his breath and nodded. "Good luck," he said.

Kincaid closed the door firmly. The plane started forward as soon as he had cleared the tail. In a hundred feet, it lifted off the ground and turned away to the hills in the west.

Kincaid drove back to Ahmed. He was already breaking out the missile launchers from a pack horse. "They will have heard that," Ahmed said. "We should have visitors shortly."

Kincaid's equipment was stacked nearby. "Let's organize this load by what we might need. The radio can go on the bottom." He put it on the floor in the back of the Jeep. By the time they had finished, it was a sizeable load.

The Kurdish patrol was starting to reassemble. Yasin was there. Ahmed got into the drivers seat of the Jeep. Kincaid got in the other side.

"Shahabad," Kincaid said to Yasin, "in four or five hours."

Yasin held up a hand in acknowledgement.

Ahmed moved the Jeep out. They hit the main road on the fly. Kincaid grabbed a missile launcher.

They passed the entrance to the army base just before a couple of vehicles came racing out. Kincaid turned in his seat and watched them. The two Jeeps stopped for a moment at the road. Then one turned toward the abandoned strip and the other came after them. Kincaid could see that the soldiers were heavily armed.

"Watch for trouble up ahead," he told Ahmed. "We may have a problem back here." He got the launcher ready.

Ahmed saw the following Jeep in the mirror. "I can steady it a bit. Let me know when you're ready."

"Let's see what they're going to do," Kincaid said. "Right now they're not doing any harm back there." But the problem was that he couldn't be ready in both directions at once. If a threat appeared ahead, they would be in trouble. "Slow down a little. We"ll see what they have in mind."

When Ahmed slowed, the Jeep behind started gaining on them rapidly. Kincaid sighted the launcher, using the top of the load in back to steady his elbows. The soldier alongside the driver stood up and sighted his rifle over the windshield. That took guts or ignorance, Kincaid thought, with a missile staring down his throat. Or maybe just bad eyesight. When the muzzle of the gun flashed, Kincaid let the missile fly. It homed in on the radiator of the Jeep. The vehicle and its occupants disintegrated in the tremendous explosion.

"Okay," Kincaid said, tossing away the now useless launcher and grabbing a loaded one, "step on it." He turned to face front.

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