Fatal Target: Part 1Matthew Rief / Thrillers & Crime
By Matthew Rief
Copyright 2014 Matthew Rief
Don drove the black ’93 Pontiac Sunfire forty kilometers over the limit, along the winding Oceanside freeway. Endless blue to the right, cliffs to the left, and a terrorist buckled into his passenger seat. He’d switched cars three times already, but this one was it, this one would take them the rest of the way. Don kept his dark eyes ahead, winding the car back and forth through the occasional traffic. He glanced down at his watch during a rare straight away. He was running out of time, it’s a bad idea to keep Al-Qaida leaders waiting.
Muhammad Asin sat motionless beside him, neither one of them speaking. He had dark skin, black hair and beard he kept meticulously trimmed, and light brown eyes. An imposing frame of over six feet, but thin, his clothes loosely fitting over his body. It was strange for Don to see an Al-Qaida leader wearing slacks and a button up dress shirt. He’d had to get him out of the prisoner jumpsuit he’d been wearing back in Beirut.
Beirut. Don thought about what he’d done, how difficult it had been. It was necessary, he assured himself.
He brought in a relaxing breath through a Marlboro that burned towards his chapped lips, nearing the end of its life. An exhale of smoke later he grabbed it and flicked it out the broken half-open window. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smoked, smoking was for reckless people who didn’t care about their own lives, but he’d seen the pack when he opened the glove box, a moment later and it was in his mouth - calming his nerves.
2 Hours Earlier
Muhammad Asin sat shackled to the seat of a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter as it flew over the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean, flanked by an AH-64 Apache on each side. The rendezvous was the aircraft carrier George HW Bush, floating just off the coast of Turkey. Once there, Asin would be escorted aboard a C-2 Greyhound jet and flown to the United States Federal Prison in Atlanta, Georgia. It had been less than twenty-four hours since he was captured and already his itinerary was set and rigid.
He kept his eyes down or out the window for most of the loud flight. On either side of him were Special Forces soldiers, two of the men in the group that had grabbed him and thrown him to the ground in the bunker. They were lean and strong, with veins bulging out of their forearms. They sat up straight, wearing sunglasses and holding rifles in their hands.
In front of him sat a man and a woman, both dressed professionally in black suits and also wearing sunglasses. He didn’t know who they were, but would have guessed CIA, and he would have been right. Asin didn’t need to see their eyes to know that each and every one was locked on him.
Muhammad Asin: Longtime member of Al-Qaida. Believed to have played a major role in the 9/11 attacks. He was a global primary target. The missions in the region of Safed Koh in Afghanistan were a longshot at best. From the start, US forces in the area knew the risk to benefit ratio was bleak, that even if they succeeded the mission would yield little more than intelligence. But when a drone spotted Asin leaving a cave and entering an armored truck, they called in a nearby Seal Team and devised a plan of action to take him out.
The man sitting across from Asin reached into his suit pocket and grabbed his phone. With his hands to his ear he spoke. Asin heard nothing over the piercing howls of the aircrafts rotors.
The man then knocked on the glass to get the pilots attention, said something that Asin couldn’t make out. A few seconds later the helicopter turned swiftly around.
A stiff breeze blew in through the half open window, sending Don’s shoulder-length hair flapping around his face. Stupid window was jammed. Didn’t matter, he would be there soon, and hopefully he wouldn’t be killed when he got there. He shook his head. Yep, they’re going to kill me. Try to anyway. He’d dealt with these guys before. They would be fools to follow through with their bribe, and he would be a fool to believe that his bank account would be any larger when he walked out of the building, and that his heart would still be beating.
He floored the car anyway, roaring the engine and shredding the black top. No going back now.
He pictured himself the following day, his life drastically changed. Just for a moment he imagined what it would look like if everything went smoothly. They’d offered him irresistible terms. He would walk out of the building with five million dollars, a new identity and passport, and a private jet to anywhere the world. That was the agreement anyway, but agreements can be altered. They can be ignored altogether.
He ran the plan over and over again in his head until it hurt to think about it. It wasn’t even a plan anymore, more like a hazy cloud of possibilities and outcomes that was becoming more and more difficult to navigate through. He felt like a kid trying to pull a fast one on his parents. When caught, he knew that trying to explain to them that it was all for their own good would be nearly impossible. If, he reminded himself. If he was caught. He also reminded himself that if he was caught, the state of his own life would be the least of his worries. He was, after all, a sworn servant to his people, and his people were in very grave danger.