Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:08:57 pm

"Get in the Jeep," Kincaid said. "I"ll guide you through."

He wanted to avoid a flat tire. They didn't have time to clear the debris out of the road. Ahmed drove the Jeep slowly with Kincaid in front, directing him.

When the Jeep was through, Kincaid climbed back in the passenger seat. He pulled up a fresh missile launcher and put a new clip in his assault rifle as Ahmed picked up speed.

"Something about those check points, old boy," Ahmed said after a while. "They bring out the worst in me."

"Don't you mean, old boy," Kincaid mimicked his accent, "that they bring out the real you?"

Ahmed grinned. "I really couldn't say. I don't know which is the real me any more."

"Ask me," Kincaid told him. "I know."

Ahmed's grin grew broader. "See through me do you, old boy?"

"Like an X-ray, old boy. Like an X-ray."

An army truck appeared on the road far ahead. It was coming toward them.

"Shall we have some sport?" Ahmed asked.

Kincaid put the missile launcher down alongside him. "Just drive by," he said. "Smile and wave."

"Really old boy. Here we are, two Kurds in a police Jeep. It will never work."

"We"ll be long gone before they figure out something's wrong. It"ll work. Soldiers are the same the world over."

Kincaid saw Ahmed's knuckles whiten on the steering wheel. "Relax," he said. "We're just out for a morning's drive."

"It wouldn't hurt, old boy," Ahmed said, "to throw a missile at them."

"If they don't bother us, we don't bother them," Kincaid said coolly.

There were four soldiers crowded in the cab of the truck. They stared at Ahmed and Kincaid as the vehicles passed. The driver returned their wave. Kincaid turned to watch. The truck appeared to slow for a moment then it picked up speed again. The back was filled with boxes.

"They weren't looking for trouble," Kincaid said. "Why should they? They might not even mention seeing us. Even if they do, it will be too late."

After a while the road they were on ended at a road that ran east and west.

"Shahabad is a little way over there," Ahmed said, pointing to the west. "But we go this way. There's a small town up ahead." He turned to the east.

"Will we run into any more check points?"

"I haven't the foggiest, old boy. But we might see more military traffic. This road goes to the Iraq border."

They saw the town ahead.

"No side streets here, old boy," Ahmed said. "It's what you Americans would call a one horse town."

Kincaid got his rifle ready across his lap. "Just drive through as if we belonged here."

They entered the small town. When Ahmed didn't slow down, Kincaid looked at him questioningly.

"It's what anyone would do, old boy," Ahmed explained. "If we slowed they'd think it strange."

Kincaid spotted a gray clad policeman up ahead, his back to the road. He shifted the HK-91 on his lap to cover him, keeping it down. The policeman didn't turn as they sped past. No one in the town appeared to take any notice of them. They were soon through. Kincaid expelled a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He looked behind for signs of pursuit. There were none. "So far so good," he said.

There was a check point on the outskirts of the town. The wooden crossbar was pointing up at the sky. The small gatehouse was empty. The checkpoint wasn't manned.

"Nearly there now, old boy. I've been thinking. We could take the town, you know. Wouldn't be much trouble. I have the men."

Kincaid checked his watch. It was after eleven. They were cutting it close. "A lot of people would get killed and you couldn't hold it after you took it."

"True, but think of the fun. And I would like to get that Rashad Hassim. You remember?The Kurdish Ayatollah."

"The mission is to get Mohammed Parsee." He had no interest in Rashad Hassim.

"A complete waste, old boy. I told you before, this Mohammed Parsee is a nobody. One look at him will tell you that."

Kincaid didn't reply. Ahmed could be right.

"As long as we're there we ought to concentrate on Rashad Hassim. This man is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of my people."

"You know the mission. If you want that equipment you had better remember who it is we're after."

"All right, all right. What's your plan? Or do you have a plan?"

"Find out where our man is. Think you can do that?"

"Assuredly," Ahmed said. "What will we do then?"

Kincaid outlined his plan.

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