Breaking FreeTeresa J. Reasor / Romance & Love / Thrillers & Crime
Teresa J. Reasor
Copyright © 2011 by Teresa J. Reasor
To my partner in crime, Tracy Stewart. Thanks so much for the beautiful cover. And to all the members of Lethal Ladies. You are the bomb.
* * * * *
Damn thing fits like a coffin lid. Lieutenant “Hawk” Yazzie eyed the edge of what had once been the outer wall of a building balanced above him. Sweat trickled across his shoulder blade down his side. He thrust aside the claustrophobic pressure and focused on the two lookouts on the roof through night vision binoculars. They weren’t moving. Good.
Come on, come on.
A silhouette appeared in the second story window. The light behind the man gave the impression of broad shoulders and a stocky frame. The rifle slung over his arm, the firearm’s barrel pointed skyward, identified him as another hostile. Hawk squinted but couldn’t make out his features. He’d counted six men upstairs earlier. Was this one of them or someone new?
Three clicks came over the radio. “Doc”, Zack O’Connor signaled he was finished and in position.
Hawk pushed the call button on his radio in answer.
Where the hell were Cutter and Strong Man?
Derrick Armstrong, “Strong Man” broke radio silence. “We have a problem, over.”
Hawk’s muscles tensed.
“C’s a no show, over,” Strong Man whispered.
Fuck. The last assignment of their tour and fucking Murphy’s Law decides to kick in.
Hawk pressed the switch on his belt triggering his throat mike. “Cutter, come in, over.”
Damn it, Cutter, respond.
“Last location, over?” Hawk asked.
“Ground floor. I thought he was right behind me, over.”
Hawk blinked the sweat from his eye.
“Five minutes, over.” Oliver Shaker, “Greenback”, their rear security, came across calm, level, reminding them they needed to get the hell out of here.
God damn it.
He’d never lost a man and Cutter wasn’t going to be the first.
“I’m going back in for him, over.” Hawk shook free of his pack and slithered like a lizard from beneath the slab, pushing his submachine gun ahead of him and kicking up dust.
There was always dust in this dry desert country. God, he was sick of it.
He belly crawled to the cracked wall fifteen feet to his right. The rush of adrenaline pumping through his system thrust his heart into overdrive.
He pushed to his feet behind a half wall still standing and glanced up at the second floor. Everything appeared still. All hell would have broken loose if they’d discovered Cutter. He was either trapped somewhere inside and waiting for an opportunity to escape or something worse.
Hawk drew a deep breath and assessed the situation. He’d have to go up the street out of sight of the lookouts, go across, and work his way back. Keeping to the shadows next to the crumbled wall, he moved east down the strip of abandoned buildings.
Gravel crunched just ahead. He dodged into a doorway and flattened himself against the wall. Shadows closed around him like a cocoon.
A man strode by, a rifle held in the bend of his arm. He clasped a flashlight and projected a small golden circle on the broken sidewalk before him.
Hawk withdrew his SOG knife and fell in behind the tango. Concrete debris crunched beneath his feet. The man started to turn. Hawk slit his throat and any sound he might have made strangled to a gurgle. Hawk caught him as he sagged, dragged the body to a doorway, and rolled it into the shadows.
He took off his helmet, tossed it aside, and peeled off his tack vest. The cloying, coppery scent of blood hit him as he jerked the tango’s shirt free and put it on over his body armor. With his dark hair and skin, he’d pass for one of them.
Hanging the MP-5 down his spine, he retrieved the MK-47 rifle and flashlight.
Seconds ticked by in his head like a metronome. Two minutes thirty seconds. His muscles jerked with his efforts to keep his pace to a stroll when everything in him urged him to run.
A voice called from the second story window asking if he’d seen anything. His heart rate surged.
He formulated an answer in the local Kurdish dialect. Sweat ran in itchy rivulets down his spine beneath the Kevlar vest that hugged his torso.
The man said something about a cold. Hawk grunted an agreement.
He thumbed off the rifle’s safety and putting his finger on the trigger, dodged into the building through the front door. The room opened into a dark, empty hallway. After a moment’s pause, he flipped on the flashlight and trotted down the hall to the fourth doorway on the left.
A voice called from upstairs asking what he was doing.
“Getting my ass blown up,” he murmured beneath his breath. He darted into the back storage room. Crates stacked nearly to the ceiling lined the walls. One crate stood open, straw spilt onto the floor around it. AK-47 rifles lay nestled inside.
Intel was right. They had to get out of here.
Hawk flicked the flashlight back and forth as he worked his way through Cutter’s route.
A black piece of fabric sticking out from behind some furniture caught his attention and he jogged to it. Cutter lay crumpled into a ball behind a heavily carved cabinet, his helmet beside him. Blood coated the side of his head near his temple and pooled on the floor.
Jesus. What the fuck had happened? Hawk bent to check for a pulse. It beat weak and thready beneath his fingertips.
He glanced at his watch. One minute. Fear ripped through him. His breathing grew labored. He laid the flashlight and rifle atop some crates and swung his MP-5 into position under his arm. Bending, he heaved Cutter’s limp frame up and over his shoulder.
Forty-five seconds. Hawk’s stomach and back muscles grew taut as he adjusted to the one hundred and seventy pounds of limp weight with an effort.
He poked his head out. The hall light flashed on. A tango blinked at Hawk in surprise. He shouted an alarm as he raised a pistol and closed the distance between them at a run.
The forty-five automatic’s muzzle looked like a cannon. And sounded like one as the tango fired.
Wood splintered from the door facing close to Hawk’s face. He swung the submachine gun up and pulled the trigger in a controlled burst. Red blossomed across the tango’s chest, the force of the bullets throwing him back against the wall. His body bounced off the surface then crumpled to the floor. Footsteps pounded above.
What a clusterfuck. They were sitting ducks in the hallway. Hawk sprayed the hall light with bullets killing it, then sprinted down the hallway to the front door. The timer in his head counted off the seconds, thirty-five-- He leveled a short burst of fire at the doorknob and it flew open. He struggled through the opening.
Bullets peppered the road and dogged his steps from above, ricocheting off the asphalt around him. Muzzle flashes exploded like sunspots in front of him as his men laid down suppressing fire.
Another shot of adrenaline coursed through his veins making Cutter’s body seem like a featherweight as he zigzagged towards the cover of the crumpled wall he’d left five minutes before.
A foot away from safety, the sky lit and his ears popped. The ground heaved throwing him up and forward. Cutter’s body flew through the air like a rag doll.
The world came crashing down.