Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:42:07 pm

A few kilometers before Kermanshah, Ahmed Kurtsan turned the jeep off the main road onto a trail. The trail led to a Kurd village. Ahmed and Steve Kincaid were greeted warmly by the tribesmen.

There was no time to lose. Ahmed immediately called a warrior's council. There it was confirmed the Mohammed Parsee was to be executed in the town square at noon. Kincaid knew it was time to play General Whalen's ace. He didn't like using a weapon that he hadn't personally field tested, but in this case he had no choice. Kincaid broke open the two boxes in the back of the Jeep.

"This has been worked on for decades. It was meant specifically for hostage situations," Kincaid explained to Ahmed. "One problem is we only have two gas masks."

With Ahmed interpreting, Kincaid showed the tribesmen how the gas canisters worked. "Break this seal on top. Pull out this lever at the side. The gas comes out of the top. It's under heavy pressure so you must aim it. With no wind the gas will travel up to thirty meters on its own pressure. After releasing the gas, get rid of the canister. Drop it, throw it, anything. Get rid of it and get away if you can. If you can't get away, don't worry about it. The gas will put you to sleep for a short time, thirty minutes to an hour. You will wake up with no ill effects. Except for putting you to sleep, the gas is harmless."

When Ahmed had finished translating Kincaid said, "We need ten volunteers."

Every man in the village wanted to go. The local Khan selected ten of the most reliable men.

Ahmed knew the square. He instructed the men on what to do when they got there. The ten men each took a gas canister and rode off toward the town.

Ahmed went on talking to the rest of them. When he had finished they all mounted up and rode off.

"What the hell was that about," Kincaid demanded.

"I told you this Mohammed Parsee is a complete waste. As long as we're here, old boy, we might as well get the Ayatollah too. Surely there's no harm in that. At least we"ll have something to show for our efforts."

Kincaid didn't like it but there was nothing he could say. It was Ahmed's town. They were Ahmed's men. It was mostly Ahmed's play.


Kincaid and Ahmed entered the town by a quiet side street. Ahmed drove the Jeep by a circuitous route through narrow alleyways and back streets. When they were near the town square he pulled the Jeep into a grain store. The store front closed behind them. After the brightness in the street outside, it seemed pitch dark in there. Kincaid instinctively brought up his assault rifle. He could sense the presence of men around him in the darkness.

"These are friends," Ahmed told him, laying a hand on his arm.

"I guessed that," Kincaid said, but he held the rifle ready anyway.

"From here we walk, old boy."

"How far is it?"

"Not far, about two hundred meters."

A door at the side of the grain store opened, letting in some light. There were three Kurds with them in there.

"These men will guard the Jeep," Ahmed told him.

"And the hardware?"

"Yes. They are dependable."

Kincaid took off his web belt. He put it and the rifle in the back seat. They each took a gas canister with them.

Outside there were more Kurds. Everywhere Kincaid looked he saw Kurds. They were up and down the street, standing around casually. None appeared to be armed.

Kincaid was glad to see their escape route was covered.

Ahmed looked him up and down. "You could pass for a Kurd anywhere, old boy. Just keep your mouth shut."

It was true. Kincaid's perpetual suntan made his skin as dark as any tribesman. He had been concerned about his boots giving him away but then he noticed that even here in town many Kurds had taken to wearing combat boots among other various types of footwear.

They didn't encounter any police or soldiers on the way, but the square itself was crawling with them. Kincaid and Ahmed slipped to the side behind the crowd and joined a knot of Kurds. The group made room for them, absorbing them into the center.

Kincaid checked the rooftops for guards. They were clear.

He elbowed his way nearly to the front of the crowd until only policemen and soldiers were between him and the firing squad. They were taking aim. Two men were talking against the wall in front of the rifles.

Ahmed gripped his arm. "It's Rashad Hassim!"

The soldiers in the firing squad were about twenty five meters away. That was nearly maximum range but there was a slight breeze blowing toward them.

"Get you mask on," He told Ahmed.

The police and soldiers in front of them were watching the show.

Kincaid and Ahmed ducked down and snapped their gas masks in place. When they rose up again, one of the men at the wall was walking away. Kincaid wanted to get closer but there was no time. He held the canister at eye level and released the contents toward the firing squad. The forward thrust of the gas kicked back against his hand, nearly knocking the can free. The canister was empty in less than a second.

The gas enveloped the firing squad. The soldiers and everyone else who had been in the path of the gas fell to the ground. Ahmed pushed a second canister into his hand. More gas was being released all around the square. Kincaid broke the seal on the second canister. He looked around to see where it would do the most good. The people in the crowd were falling to the ground everywhere he looked. Some, on the fringe, were still standing, but they were Kurds. The gas had spread so quickly that no more was needed.

He checked the rooftops again. They were still clear. The square was theirs.

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