A Killing to DIE For, p.1P Gaseaux
A KILLING TO DIE FOR
A tale of death and revenge in the civilized world
By P. Gaseaux
Copyright 2013 P. Gaseaux
Cover design copyright 2013 P. Gaseaux
Cover by Caligraphics from a concept by the author, drawn by ‘Stu’.
P. Gaseaux asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either of the authors own imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the various products and brands mentioned in this work of fiction which have been used without permission. The publication use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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“All the old knives that lie rusted in my back, now I drive into yours.” Phaedrus
Small arms rattled on and on, the strip burned, columns of smoke rose up from fires, flaming tires and strafing from the skies. Firing blind against the might of the air force, jets circling above like ravens over a dump; essentially that’s what it had been turned into: a scorched landscape searing under a setting sun overlooking a spread of masonry complexes. Stretching like a spray of brown and fawn cinder-blocks. Children growing up here on the Gaza Strip never even knew what a tree looked like. Nature, waterfalls only existed in paintings and decorations. The place all believers call paradise.
The holy lands bordered the deserts to the south, an area laid waste by the Roman Empire so long ago. Nothing ever changed; different conflicts and new armies wearing different badges. Only the deserts remained, that was after the Romans left. If peace ever came, it would not be in this lifetime.
To the east a military vehicle crawled to a halt. First thing that greeted the man behind the wheel was a tank straddling the road, the turret swung a little as he came over the hill but they were expecting him. A Merkava tank out of place, on the road like a hippo on dry land. Beyond laid the crime scene. The ‘mount’ as they called it was more a sand dune, a vantage point for the media circus but they closed it off -- sewn up tight, nobody allowed in or out. Except the ground forces occupying the area and the man in the vehicle, the place cordoned off.
The driver rolled to a stop, he dipped his lights and waited until the tank lowered its turret gun. Slowly and respectfully past the tank and off the sealed surface, down a track and that’s where he needed to get to.
When a tank blocks your way, don’t push your luck. Even one of ours.
The site wasn’t hard to find, he alighted and stretched, he took a good look around the area before approaching the barrier, a sentry saluted him and he hopped over. Been on the road several hours after receiving that call; instructions to get down south, quickly.
‘Drop everything and go,’ they’d said.
The ground controller, a major, spotted him and approached, saluting him. He needed to clear his throat: “Colonel Hirsch, I presume. Sir…” Had a lot on his mind…agitated, aggravated…not a good day. Not a good week, the second combat helicopter down, the first one made the headlines and the crew made it out but now this one…the pilot and operator dead on impact. Not so lucky, this time around. “Good you could make it at such short notice. Thank you for coming,” he added.
Fumes of Jet-A1everywhere and the crushed remains of a combat helicopter lay broken in two before them. No fire though; only crushed fuselage and peripherals. The cockpit destroyed…no chance.
Colonel Abraham Hirsch spotted some field dressings blowing in the desert breeze. He frowned. It didn’t look good. “The crew?”
“Both KIA, sir.” The controller shook his head. “They’ve been removed and repatriated to field section…”
They walked around the area, careful not to touch or disturb anything, more like a crime scene. Some bloodstained field dressings contrasted with metal parts strewn all over and the area not safe with the panels and armaments still hot. The bandages fluttered in the wind like prayer-flags. Hirsch scanned toward the west with his field glasses focusing on trails of smoke and fires, flashing lights and other movement; an eerie sight, especially at sunset.
A duo of F16s screamed overhead at about five hundred feet; the jets a fraction under the speed of sound, they ascended sharply as they approached the target. Like a whip crack. By instinct the troops ducked and a moment later came a double flash with a fireball that followed on. It billowed up high, maybe a thousand feet and kept on going. Everybody brought their fingers to their ears -- one second, two, three, four -- it came on the count of six.
The shockwave from a pair of bombs hit with a thunder that followed on for several seconds more. The heaviest ballistic ordinance the jets could carry. Any personnel standing around flinched except for Hirsch who turned his back in time; he knew his ranges. The heat touched his face when he turned to face the fireballs rising, the apartment blocks no longer there. Like spectators at a carnival some of them cheered, one raising his fist as the rising column of flame changed; white, orange then fading to a dull red and finally a gray cloud.
The colonel was still a man in uniform, although these days attached to research and manufacturing so he felt out of place in a conflict area. He wondered: Why had he been called in? Just do as they say, don’t be insensitive.
“So what brought her down?” Hirsch asked the controller. “This is the second in nearly as many days…” He scratched his head. The odds of a chopper taking a hit from an RPG were miniscule. But twice? So soon? The Apaches were an invincible thing like an armored hornet the size of a truck, improved further before local deployment. He focused on some cannon shells on the ground, still whole, he was careful not to step on anything. More bloody bandages next to the fuselage.
“She lost a rotor blade,” replied the major. He was uneasy, frowning. “Sir…”
The colonel was closer to the upper gearbox. Something caught his attention. He bent down and ran his fingers over the alloy fuselage. Something had damaged the upper cone, possibly a projectile. No explosion, no flames. The first one several days ago; tail rotor hit but the crew survived. They’d put the chopper down offshore. The ocean landing saved them; a patrol boat picked that crew up. The wreckage went to the bottom, deep-down off the shelf.
“Colonel Hirsch…I think you’d better check something out, once you’re done…” The major motioned towards the vehicle. “If it’s okay by you we could drive. It’s about half a mile away. Just the two of us…need-to-know-basis...you understand, Colonel.”
“Loud and clear,” Hirsch replied as he followed the major. “What is it?”
“We hoped you might tell us, sir.”
Five minutes later they arrived at another place, this time empty and open except for dried weeds and plastic bags tumbling in the hot breeze, early fall and still parched. They walked past another secure barrier and the item lay upon the sandy surface. A scorched metal cylinder seven feet long with a diameter of ten inches or so; it was in good condition except half way along the tube it had been gashed and bent.
It was getting dark. Hirsch donned a pair of examination gloves and kneeled next to the metal tube -- he was careful, potentially a UXO. His heartbeat rose, more s
The ground controller called out over the colonels’ head: “It was fired from inside where the airstrike was just now…”
“Tell me this is nothing to do with the helicopter!” Hirsch sputtered as he hauled his frame up. “This one’s made in a workshop somewhere. But how-”
The area controller was a nervous fellow. Beads of sweat were forming in his forehead. He dropped his eyes. “They were on patrol. Chasing ‘Technicals’. The rocket came up from over there.” The major shot his head back toward the strip where the area now burned and a large crater remained. “It hit and took a blade clean off at the base. The helicopter shook apart and fell out of the sky.” He pointed to where the tube was gashed and bent, halfway along.
“These things can approach Mach one sir, at least the ones hitting our towns.”
Hirsch kept shaking his head -- it was like an explorer finding a tomb but different -- the discovery was an ugly one. This new find had a curse that came with it. The second in as many weeks. The first one, they said, was a rocket propelled grenade…a one-in-a-million shot…no way, it couldn’t be done.
Hirsch reached and placed his hand on the major’s shoulder, moved up close. “They’re building guided weapons,” he said. “We have to be really careful about this -- if word gets out they’ll have a field day. You must get all the choppers away from the area.”
“Leave that to us, Colonel. We’ve moved the smaller things back and anything we feel is vulnerable. Only airstrikes and fixed wing.” He motioned to the east. “They’re placing a mass roll-out of Iron Dome.” The nervous major nodded toward the remains of the helicopter. “Officially speaking its most definitely mechanical failure.”
“The guards, sentries…”
“Given ‘em the riot-act, sir; only you, me and these two.” He checked, they stood impassively, rifles muzzle-down, they overheard.
Hirsch squatted again for a long look at the forward fin setup clicking it gingerly. What remained of the rear fins was static, fixed by symmetrical welding beads. Perfection. Better than anybody could do; better than a Korean ship-builder. More suited to an expensive motorcycle frame. Each of the militants who fabricated these things had their own signature: cutting tools, angles, welds and folds. He had seen this particular design before but this time it was no longer ballistic.
They’d figured out how to fit a guidance system. The militants…damn the lot of them. Hirsch cursed under his breath before speaking to the nervous major, the ground controller with a lot on his mind. “I’ll send in my section to collect this. I reiterate: this cannot get out. Nobody is to hear about this; if they do it’ll be a terrible propaganda victory for them.”
He tossed his head toward the west. Gaza was in flames. Burning but defiant, not finished by any means. The most heavily populated hornet’s nest on earth.
But when would it ever end? The world was always watching. Nobody could learn of this…the state had taken an enormous blow. So many hated them, so many denied their existence and wanted to see them removed from the face of the earth. Tonight the gunships were useless. Grounded…toothless. Not good!
Hirsch drove to the north. They’d had pulled him from his desk job back into active service. Overnight. They had chosen him: put together a team and stop the missiles…stop them before it was too late.
A discrete apartment, crammed above a tea shop nestled in Gaza City. Several miles to the border, where the action was. Attacks escalated of late. War. Maybe invasion. The streets were vacant after dark except for small groups of armed militiamen and the occasional car. Risky for everybody, the city was being watched from above. Miles above.
Seven in the evening and the group convened -- real designer jeans and original shirts with European football club logos, not a beard or turban among them except the Imam, the spiritual leader. Sweet tea was served and after a short pause for prayer the cleric spoke and three of the young men rose, they approached their leader and embraced.
“We have struck at the very heart,” said the Mullah. “The eyes of the entire Arab world…indeed all believers have seen.” He extended his hand and clutched the man nearest him and spoke as if giving a sermon. “Lo, you have the mind of a scholar, the grace of old and the heart of a lion, Yusuf my son!”
The tall one Yusuf bowed, visibly blushed. Only a tiny group, including those in the room knew of his true exploits but he carried himself in Gaza City like a true hero; they all knew. Even the fierce men who ruled the dusty streets with their Kalashnikovs, they nodded their heads and stood aside when he came. Yusuf was a living legend. The young militant was a hand-picked member of a minority Shi’a splinter cell, funded by wealthy backers from the east, they wanted value-for-terror, they insisted on the best. The ruling authority knew of them and countless other dedicated cells but this one was unique, they chose technology over ideology.
“This is just the start, My Father,” replied Yusuf. “There will be so many more to come.”
Outside somewhere a blast and not so far away followed by a report of small arms fire. Fighter jets raced across the night skies. The cleric glanced at the window…blacked out and the lights in the room were low but they had to be careful.
“The gunships are gone now,” said Yusuf. “The Zionists only cower from afar and send their warplanes.”
“The world watches on,” piped up another in the room. “Not only the enemy.”
“Our brothers in the Caucasus have had a major victory over Russian crusaders with the new design,” said the cleric. “God willing, soon all the oppressed and occupied territories worldwide shall gain their ability to fight back. The sword of oppression shall be made dull and fall into the sands of time.” He once more cast a nervous look at the covered window, it shook and rattled. A Hellfire struck not too far away.
“We should depart and check on our loved ones; it is very dangerous out there.” The Imam picked up some papers and read them. “Can you tell me our next move, Yusuf?”
Yusuf nodded. He trusted them with everything, like his brothers, maybe more so. Distracted; however, he had to be on his way. His mother had type-one diabetes and he clutched a brown paper bag with insulin, valuable medicine like gold but he had all the contacts….
“More to come, my mentor. Have patience. The items are over the border and shall enter the tunnels by week’s end.” Upon reflex he crinkled the paper bag; everything was smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt, including the precious vials and syringes. Yusuf stood. “I must be gone now.” He hugged the spiritual leader and the others one by one before stepping out, down the narrow stairs and on the street.
He walked quickly. It was a hot evening; hot but dry. Two blocks to go, he quickened his pace. In front of him a vehicle, a cat dashed out under his feet, a black cat. He didn’t give it much thought. As he turned into another alley he was grabbed from behind. He never felt the needle go into his right arm and in seconds he was limp, and sagged to the ground. Two sets of rough hands hauled him into the car where a third waited. Yusuf had no chance; he was a lover of sports, just under six foot but the owner of the hands over his mouth and round his throat was a specialist.
Thirty milligrams of pharmaceutical grade Diamorphine -- the kind of drug only given to terminal cancer patients -- surged through the Palestinian’s veins, he slumped in the back seat. The dru
“Move it!” One of the men in the back seat leaned and tapped the driver on the shoulder. He checked on Yusuf who was limp. Even in the dark they could see his eyelids were turning gray, then a shade of blue. So were his lips.
“Watch him, especially his breathing” whispered the man once more. “Have the Narcan ready as soon as we hit the beach.”
He pulled a device from his pocket, and pressed some buttons as the vehicle roared away. One mile above them a fixed-wing was circling, waiting for the coordinates.
“Okay, that’s done. Step on it. Go, go, go…”
In the tiny room above the teashop, the remaining militants rose and hugged their spiritual leader, and then they stood back. The Mullah stroked his beard. He felt goose bumps on his neck for some reason. The covered window hummed and rattled, just a touch. He turned and gently, ever so cautiously brushed the drapes and peered outside.
The Maverick missile was moving faster than the jet it had been launched from, it entered the window on a steep angle, through the first floor and exploded at ground level -- took out the room and its occupants, some neighboring buildings and the teashop underneath. In a millisecond the complex of rabbit-warrens was reduced to a crater. Hundreds of feet away windows shattered. The splinter-cell no more; they had become splinters. Nothing, not even an ounce of flesh to wrap up in a flag and parade through the streets.
In the vehicle, the specialists and their trophy jumped by reflex. A little close for comfort. Never mind, only a few more streets to the beach and the frogmen waited. Missions like these usually went to plan; their training was much more dangerous. Only if they got caught…the man on the back seat leaned and touched Yusuf’s neck and nodded silently. Still breathing. The driver gunned the car, turned a corner and skidded to avoid some junk on the road.
“How’s the patient doing?”
“Away with the pixies,” replied one of the men in the back.
“He’s going away somewhere, alright,” said the driver. He chuckled. “For a long time, where the pixies aren’t so nice.”
“Amen to that.” They laughed. In the distance was the beach, the foreshore was briefly vacant tonight following a strafing-run an hour earlier.
A black Mercedes turned into the driveway and paused briefly and the evening shift guard gave a halfhearted salute before raising the gates. A secure facility; a center of veterinary research. A place where breakthroughs were made, vaccines developed and lives saved. It was late, about ten or so. The compound was well lit but empty and there were two car parks, one for the general staff and another for deans, professors, academics and the like. All staff had been warned off that evening; a memo had circulated at close of business warning of a suspected low-level ammonia leak within the biohazard unit and quarantine area. A minor safety issue, sufficient to get the evening staff locked out without having to touch the animals.
In the vehicle nobody spoke bar one, a Palestinian in the mid-section of the rear seat who had been complaining non-stop since his rendition two days earlier. They tended to do that, especially after a shot of pure heroin and an antidote chaser. In the front was Colonel Abraham Hirsch and in the driver’s seat a civilian, who had not changed that day, gave him a disheveled appearance. The captive was flanked by two burly prison officials who had come on shift two hours ago when the vehicle had collected the unwilling passenger, wrapped in an orange jumpsuit and was shackled, his ankles and wrists behind his back. No rest since being sandbagged by their group inserted in Gaza then bundled on a decrepit fishing vessel bearing an Egyptian flag, onward north into their base rather than back to the Nile delta.
The vehicle drew to a halt and reversed into a space nearest a secured façade at the front of the building and one of the guards in the rear tore a piece of silver gaffe tape. He lifted the ski mask and slapped the tape it over the captive’s mouth leaving the nostrils clear. The Palestinian wriggled and attempted to make noises.
“Breathing okay Yusuf?” The man in the crumpled suit leaned over to the back and spoke in surprisingly good Arabic to the struggling man. He leaned closer, almost a hand span from the Palestinian as if concerned, in a way he was. He made a movement with his eyes to the guard on the man’s right. “Let’s do it.”
The civilian held a card and swiped it, then he pulled the auxiliary door open and the group entered. The latch clicked behind, they turned to an elevator and used the same card to open the stainless doors. He smiled at Hirsch. “No worries,” he quipped.
A moment and two floors later the elevator arrived and the first thing everybody noticed was the smell. All throughout, enclosed animals. A corridor, laboratories, offices and a complex of cages in another room. Stable temperature. Deserted, except for caged animals of all descriptions: rabbits, dogs, cats and even a section with Rhesus Macaques. The intruders set the menagerie off, squawks, screeching, barking everywhere. Every time they turned a corner or moved the Palestinian was dragged with his slippers sliding behind him. He was bound and could not move save futile attempts at struggling, making grunts and wheezing sounds from underneath the strip of tape over his mouth.
They halted at a metal door at the end of the floor and tore off the ski-mask. A conspicuous warning sign: ‘BIOHAZARD LEVEL 3’ with menacing black circles over yellow.
“That’s it for you two,” said Hirsch. “Wait here.” Curiosity in the guard’s eyes and the apprehension on the Palestinian’s face. “Keep him still. Won’t be a moment.”
When they did return they could see the prisoner recoiling, the protective suits were frightening enough, even more so with the face mask and breathing filter, thick gauntlet gloves, waterproof boots and zips everywhere. Another card reader and the metal door clicked. An airlock. They unwound it and took the captive through, past the biological waste disposal, personnel showers and the second entrance. A blur as they dragged him past an array of cabinets and all manner of medical items incubation closets and finally they stood before a Plexiglas enclosure surrounding a mesh cage within. Separate from everything else.
“Read that, Yusuf?”
He shook his head wildly; his grunts and vain attempts to struggle free more desperate. Escapades with laboratory animals were something the trainers had never touched upon. The lords and masters back in Teheran had instructed Yusuf on every kind of horror he could expect to face if ever captured…but not like this. On a white board before him was a scrawled message in black marker:
‘CAUTION! SUSPECT WILD RABIES’.
He could read, alright -- besides his own language and Persian he could read English very well and some Hebrew. Took Yusuf a whole second to work it out…madness and hydrophobia. Choking on your own saliva. Attempting to swallow like ingesting scalding tea. A slow agonizing end that could linger for weeks. Locked in a padded cell to die a horrible death just like the wretched stray in the cage. His blood froze. He started struggling. Frantic struggling, his life depended upon it. The prison guards tightened their grip. Yusuf was being pushed in.
They hated dogs, the Arabs. This critter was only small and half-starved; not exactly the kind one would cross the street to get away from. The light in the secure cage was on a low level but all of them could see and they watched as the dog circled around as though drunk, staggering, before approaching. Closer and they could see it was drooling, spots of infectious fluid on the cement floor, the animal seemed innocuous, curious and as it moved closer almost pathetic -- the fur was matted and patches of mange and infection covered its torso. It faced them from the other side of the transparent screen, its tongue hanging, head lowered and tail down. Then it moved side to side for a few seconds and turned slightly as if to waddle to the other side of the cage. They hit the floodlight
The civilian shot a glance through the goggles at Hirsch. “In he goes. I’ll unlatch it-”
Yusuf lost it completely. If they were sending him to the electric chair or a firing squad he would have handled it; he would have been prepared. Water boarding…Syrian thugs had put him through days of mock-torture to prepare him. Out of a helicopter or over the side of a patrol boat, but not like this. He was ready to talk. When his captors tore the gaff-tape away from his mouth he talked all right. He talked non-stop. Talked, all the way back, to the holding place then on to Ayalom, where he’d be locked up indefinitely. That’s if he was of any assistance. Maybe, just maybe if he did talk he might be allowed to live. Or he could go inside the cage and play ‘catch’ with the dog.
The breakthrough had come by matching the quality of the TIG welding on the rocket. They knew exactly who they were after and this particular militant was one of the few who worked in alloys. Locating this target was easy; the entire strip was bursting with collaborators once the reward money was high enough, that was the easy bit.
Such dedicated nationalists, all willing to die for their independence. Sell their souls for a song.
Every single one of them had their price: a few greenbacks here and there or an even bigger reward for good Intel. If the spooks got lucky they’d get a high level collaborator; these guys ended up in Sweden or the Irish Republic on humanitarian grounds where they could live in quiet solitude, always peering over their shoulders for the rest of their days on this earth.
Colonel Abraham Shimon Hirsch was feeling a little better as he drove home just before dawn. It had been a very long day at the end of an even longer week. The mission had landed at his feet out of the blue; over the past week it had turned from a standard spot-and-check operation to a priority, especially following the capture of the militant…the bomb-maker himself. The service had put him in charge, any budget he wanted. Militants had been sending the Qassams over the borders for years, now the rockets had been turned into a deadly precision weapon, even better than a Stinger.
Snatching the culprit was a good start but their guys were the best. A fugitive could go hide inside a timber box, then mailed to Buenos Aires and they’d still get him.
Nowhere to run. Anywhere. Anytime. Anyone. Didn’t matter who…
A Killing to DIE For by P Gaseaux / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.6 out of 5 / Based on37 votes