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       Vengeance, Book 1: Cutter's Law, p.1

           James Hopwood
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Vengeance, Book 1: Cutter's Law


  by James Hopwood

  Published by Pro Se Press


  A version of this story appeared in Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 – May 2012

  This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters in this publication are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. No part or whole of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing of the publisher.

  Copyright © 2015 David James Foster

  All rights reserved.

  Table of Contents








  Siddiq Compound, Basra, Southern Iraq

  December 15, 2007

  Murphy's Law states, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, and at the worst possible moment. In the theater of war in the Middle East the law translates as, on the last day of your tour, you'll walk into a muckerfucking shitstorm!

  Sergeant Nathan Cutter of the Australia regular army, one of the two-thousand Australian peace-keeping soldiers on duty in Iraq, had twenty-two hours until his tour was over. He had secured his spot on a red-eye DC-10 military transport flying to Rockhampton the very next day. After his debriefing, he planned to head back home to his wife and daughter in Sydney. But Cutter's thoughts on a happy homecoming had to be put on the back-burner. First he had to deal with the shitstorm he found himself in.

  “You are fuckin' shittin' me!” exclaimed Lance Corporal Martin who stood at Cutter's side. Martin lowered his binoculars. “They've come over the wall. The towel-heads are in the fuckin' compound.”

  “How many?” asked Cutter, coolly detached from the situation, swinging his own glasses around.

  “Dunno. One hundred maybe. They're still comin'. We've got to call for backup.”

  “Do it,” Cutter ordered.

  Martin picked up the radio and called it in.

  The intel they received was believed to be accurate. It said twenty armed insurgents were holed up in the Siddiq Compound on the outskirts of Basra. The intel was half right. The insurgents there, but they were outside the compound. And they were waiting for the Australian unit to move in, and there were more than twenty of them.

  Cutter and Martin were positioned on the second floor landing of an abandoned warehouse across the road. Through the broken window they had a clear view of the compound. The compound, in essence, was a rectangular fort, with high adobe brick walls and heavy iron gates at the front. At the rear were four small buildings set in an L shape. Three vehicles, a two tonne truck which has seen better days and two four-wheel-drives—one of which was up on blocks, its rear tyres missing—sat in the yard before the buildings.

  Under the command of Captain Geoffrey Murdock, twelve soldiers swept the compound.

  “Murdock, this is Cutter. You're about to have company. Get your boys to cover. Hostiles are coming over the back wall.”

  “How many?”

  “At least a hundred. It's a trap. We're calling for back up. You boys hold tight.”

  “Roger that.”

  From his vantage point, Cutter watched as Murdock marshalled his troops. As they moved toward the buildings, the fire-fight began. The insurgents swarmed from everywhere with their guns blazing. Two peace-keepers were cut down instantly. The Aussies returned fire on the run. Bullets chased them every step of the way as they ran into the nearest building and took up defensive positions.

  “How long until back-up arrives?” Cutter asked.

  “They said twenty minutes,” Martin responded grimly.

  “Fuck! They'll be dead by then... I'm going down there.”

  “You're not serious?”

  “Somebody has to do something!” Cutter said. “Keep your eyes peeled and keep me up to date,” he added tapping the earpiece of his comm set.

  Martin nodded.

  Cutter picked up his 5.56mm Beretta AR-70 Assault Rifle and left the room at a gallop.


  Cutter moved quickly and silently, taking cover behind a burnt out car in the center of the street. About twenty meters to his left, three armed men stood around a four-wheel-drive Toyota Landcruiser. Cutter surmised a look-out for the insurgents. They weren't doing a very good job. He stood and squeezed the trigger. Caught by surprise, all three men fell to a storm of lead, their bodies jerking like marionettes as the bullets found their target.

  Keeping low, Cutter scrambled across to the four-wheel-drive and the bodies of the men he had just cut to ribbons. They had been better armed than he was. They carried Czech Skorpion Machine pistols. He collected the weapons and threw them onto the front seat of the Landcruiser. Searching their pockets, he found the keys to the vehicle. He climbed behind the wheel and started the engine.

  The quickest and most direct route into the compound was through the front gates. Picking up speed, Cutter threw the Landcruiser into top gear and flattened his foot against the accelerator. The vehicle bucked forward as he closed in on the heavy metal gates.


  There was an explosion of iron and brick as the four-wheel-drive plowed through the entrance. The gates buckled and twisted off their hinges, one of them spinning into the windscreen. Cutter ducked as the glass shattered and the vehicle bounced out of control, grinding to a halt in the center of the compound alongside the two-tonne truck. The insurgents, who had been fixated on Murdock and his unit, turned in shock, not sure whether to open fire on the intruder, uncertain if he was friend or foe.

  Cutter grabbed two Skorpions from the seat beside him and with teeth clenched kicked open the door. He came out firing with a gun in each hand. Hot lead spewed from both barrels, tearing into the gobsmacked insurgents.

  Cutter didn't stay still for long. He spun around the side of the Landcruiser and opened up at a trio of towel-heads on the tray of the truck beside him. Lifeless, their bloody and mangled bodies toppled from their position, landing in a cloud of dust at Cutter's feet.

  Now that the element of surprise was over and they knew he was the enemy, heavy fire was directed at Cutter's position. Bullets chased him, ricocheting off the bodywork as he scrambled beneath the truck. Rolling through to the other side, he stood and took aim at four towel-heads who rushed toward him. He squeezed the trigger and their bodies seemed to explode as they were thrown back under the deluge of fire.

  Cutter scrambled forward. More gunfire came his way. He felt a sharp burning sting as a bullet grazed his right cheek. He turned and opened up on a handful of hostiles who had taken up a position on the roof of the far corner building. The curtain of fire lowered on their position. One man lost his head as he was stitched across the throat. Another man's chest exploded as bullets found their mark. A third and a fourth, fell from the roof as they were hit, landing in a bloody twisted heap.

  Seeking cover, Cutter moved toward the buildings at the rear of the compound. That was where Murdock was holed up. As he rounded the corner, an insurgent loomed in front of him. Cutter mowed him down with a single tap on the trigger, blood splattering back over his face.

  Hot on his tail, a wave of hostiles followed him around the corner. Cutter sprinted along the length of the building, a trail of bullets chasing him all the way. At the other end, he threw himself around the edge and stood upright with his back against the wall, b
reathing heavily. He began to count slowly.

  One. Two.

  On three, he twisted and moved back out into the open but now was facing the enemy. His eyes flashed with anger as he opened up with both guns.

  The enemy soldiers were torn apart in the hell-storm that rained down upon them. An insurgent at the head of the pack was carved across the midriff and as his torso twisted in death, he inadvertently mowed down three men behind him, adding to the bloody pile of death.

  Cutter's comm-link crackled to life.

  “Back-up will be there in two minutes,” Martin said. “Can you hold?”

  “Will do my best,” Cutter responded. “How's Murdock's unit? I haven't been able to get through to them.”

  “He's still holding them off.”

  Cutter was pleased to know he was still fighting for a reason. Pressing forward, he skirted between the wall and behind one of the buildings. He knew he had to move quickly. The thin alley was a shooting gallery if he was pinned down.

  A stray bullet whizzed overhead as Cutter rounded the corner. Three insurgents were setting up an old Italian Breda 37 machine gun. Just what he needed. Cutter fired from point blank range. From that distance he could have been using a machete as the bullets halved the enemy soldiers. A bloody mist filled the air. Cutter threw aside the Skorpion machine pistols and lifted the Breda off its stand. The gun was heavy, but Cutter knew anything that stood in his way would be obliterated. He stepped out into the compound, ready to do some damage.

  All guns seemed to be trained on Cutter as he bounded forward, firing incessantly. The gunfire from the Breda tore away at the enemy force. The insurgents dropped like flies, their bodies riddled with holes.

  Return fire forced Cutter to move. He ducked and weaved like a punch drunk boxer. When he spotted a new threat, he'd stand and shoot, then just as quickly move on. Out the corner of his eye, in the reflection of the truck's windscreen, he saw a trio of men huddled near the entrance. One of them quickly stood with a rocket launcher over his shoulder. Cutter fired, but was a fraction of a second too late. The rocket was launched and heading in his direction.

  Cutter dropped the heavy Breda and ran. The projectile hit the building behind him, erupting in a large red and orange fireball. The heat and concussion wave sent Cutter flying, tossed through the air like a rag-doll. He landed hard in a crumpled heap. With the wind knocked out of him and now unarmed he knew he would be easy pickings. He just hoped he had bought enough time for Murdock and his unit.

  The down draft from the beating rotors was the first sign back-up had arrived. Cutter, never in his life had been as happy to see the American Army. The helicopter gunship swooped in, a soldier hung over the edge firing its M134 minigun. The bullet trails chewed into the earth, through the buildings and into the bodies of the hostile soldiers. Now panicked, the enemy began to turn and run, fleeing the compound. The helicopter arced around and came by for another attack run. More aggressors were torn apart in the stream of fire. In less than a minute the battle had been turned around.

  Murdock and the remaining men in his unit burst out of the building they had been holed up in and began to pick off the insurgent stragglers as they tried to flee.

  Cutter got his feet, and dusted himself off. Murphy's fuckin' law... what a clusterfuck! He was sick of war and death. He had seen enough to last a lifetime. All he wanted was to catch that flight back to Australia and be with his family.


  Riverwood Shopping Complex, Sydney, Australia

  December 16, 2007

  Eddie Conlan WAS the second most feared man in Sydney, but that wasn't good enough for him. He wanted to be number one. And he had a plan to become number one, and that plan consisted of killing his rival, Zheng Li.

  Zheng Li and his triad backed crime syndicate, ruled Sydney's underworld. They controlled gambling, prostitution and drugs. Especially drugs. Li had a pipe-line right into the heart of the Golden-Triangle, which had made him a wealthy man many times over and had given him virtually unlimited power. Conlan intended to relieve him of that power.

  Conlan sat in the back of the stolen beige Ford Falcon with only a driver for company. They were waiting. Conlan looked at odds, dressed in a slick three-piece tailored suit with a pump action shot-gun on his lap.

  Every Sunday, Zheng Li visited Paradise Palms Cemetery to pay his respects to his ancestors at his family's mausoleum. The irony was not lost on Li's enemies, as it was said his rise to power was formalised when he killed his own father in a vicious knife fight.

  “What time is it?” Conlan asked, nervously.

  “It's about quarter past. He should be driving by any minute now,” the driver responded.


  Helen Cutter and her four year old daughter, Charlotte, were returning from the supermarket in their burgundy Jeep Cherokee. Charlotte was in a child's restraint in the back, swinging her legs happily, singing along to a 'Wiggles' CD that was playing.

  Helen glanced at Charlotte in the rear vision mirror. She was growing up fast. She wondered if her husband, Nathan, would recognise her when he returned home. She had changed so much and had become a right-proper boss of the house. But a very cute one, she decided with a smile.


  “That's him,” Conlan shouted as he saw Zheng Li's white Audi turn into the street. “Hit it.”

  The driver didn't need to be told twice. He floored it and the Falcon fishtailed out of the parking space where they had been waiting. The driver nudged a slow moving Holden Calais out of the way and surged forward, tucking in tight behind the Audi. Conlan unwound the window and leaned out, brandishing his shotgun. This was a deed he had to do himself. He took aim and fired. The rear window of the Audi exploded, shattered glass falling to the road.

  As Zheng Li crouched down behind the backseat of the vehicle, his driver responded to the threat immediately, twisting through the traffic. Conlan, flailing out the window trying to aim, pumped wayward shots at the crime lord's fleeing vehicle.

  “Keep up with that motherfucker,” Conlan shouted as the Audi veered away to the left and down a side street. Conlan's driver broke. The sudden braking almost gave Conlan whiplash as he loosed another shot at the disappearing Audi.

  Out of ammo, Conlan pulled himself into the cabin and reloaded.

  “Don't you lose that arsehole. I want him dead,” Conlan yelled.

  The driver threw the car into reverse, spinning its wheels, and then turned into the side street to continue the chase.

  “He ain't getting' away,” the driver reassured his boss.

  “He'd better not or it's your fuckin' head!”

  The needle on the speedometer sat evenly around eighty kilometers an hour as the driver pushed the Ford through the city streets in pursuit. A grim look of determination furrowed his brow as he kept the pedal to the metal. The distance between the two vehicles was closing. Another block and they'd have them.

  “Go. Go,” Conlan urged as he punched his fist into the air.

  Zheng Li's Audi tore through the red light at an intersection, cutting in front of a burgundy Jeep Cherokee. The driver of the Jeep applied the brake but a fraction of a second too slow, clipping the tail end of the speeding car. The Audi was thrown left, bouncing up the curb onto the nature strip. The driver corrected his course and slewed the vehicle back onto the road, racing away.

  However, after the collision, the Jeep Cherokee had been swung around tail first and was flung into oncoming traffic. A bakery van collided almost head on with the Jeep, sending it back into the center of the road, with its airbags deploying as it spiraled out of control.

  Eddie Conlan's stolen Ford was upon the intersection in that microsecond, and the vehicle plowed into the Jeep. The two vehicles connected with an unexpected ferocity and there was an un-Godly rending of metal as the Ford became airborne, slicing the roof off the Jeep, then dipping. Caught together, both cars rolled, twisted, and then exploded. A brilliant orange and red fireball erupted into t
he sky, shattering windows and setting off car alarms and smoke detectors for miles around. Both vehicles were engulfed in flames. No living thing could survive the inferno.

  With the collision, Eddie Conlan's aspirations to become the most powerful crime figure in Sydney died with him. Unfortunately, so too did Helen and Charlotte Cutter. Two innocent victims in a senseless underworld war.


  Australian Military Base, Rockhampton, Australia

  December 16, 2007

  Nathan Cutter arrived in Rockhampton feeling worse for wear. The trip had taken him over thirty hours from Baghdad, with the plane stopping first in Pakistan before flying on to Australia.

  “It's good to be home,” he said to no one in particular, stepping out of the plane door into the cool night air. Dragging his duffel-bag, he ambled down to stairs to the tarmac and then headed over to passport control.

  “Damn good to be home!”

  The military airport wasn't busy at that time of the evening and within half an hour Cutter had been cleared. The official who scanned his documents nodded to a gentleman who had been standing off to the side. The gentleman approached Cutter.

  “Sergeant Cutter, Sir?” the man enquired.

  “Yes,” Cutter responded warily.

  “I'm Sergeant Stone of the Queensland Police.”

  He held out his hand. Cutter took it and shook. Stone was a tall man with a round face and cherubic cheeks, but a limp handshake.

  “I'm afraid I have some bad news for you,” Stone continued. “Is there some place we can talk, sir?”

  “What is it?” Cutter demanded, growing impatient.

  “It's your wife and daughter, sir. There's been an accident.”


  Cutter was silent, shaking his head. He raised his hand to his forehead, pushed his head back, and stared up at the roof toward the heavens.

  “Why? Why? Why?”

  The question was rhetorical.

  “My deepest sympathies, Sergeant,” Stone added.

  Sympathy. Cutter didn't want sympathy. He wanted the people responsible.

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