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First Chapter of "Intercept", my new Spy Thriller


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#1 thom71gt

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 12:17 PM

I thought I'd kick things up a notch in here and publish the first chapter of my next installment of my short story series, "Covert-World."

 

I know I've got some edits to do, commas in the wrong place, etc... A few wrong tense of verbs, but I'm looking for opinions on if you think it is interesting or not.

 

I'll set the scene. , A former Iranian nuclear guru, who has been off-the-grid for years, has suddenly reappeared. He is traveling back to Iran to take over and reactivate their nuclear weapons program.  The scene opens in Vienna, Austria where an Israeli Mossad agent has been sent to eliminate her mark.  I'll leave it at that and let you read from there.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Vienna, Austria

01:19 (23:19 GMT)

July 18th

 

 

The rain had stopped more than an hour ago, but Solomon could hear the water dripping down the gutters at a slowing pace just outside the open window. It was three in the morning. She was tired, and she’d been waiting for nearly twelve hours. She’d chosen a room on an abandoned floor in the Griechengasse, a small shopping area that catered mostly to tourists. It had small shops and restaurants; the kind that put out spinning postcard holders on the sidewalk and invited you in with the sound of traditional Bavarian music and the smell of fresh pretzels. The conditions weren’t ideal, but she’d definitely been in worse. From her vantage point, she could make out the entire front of the Hotel Austria across the street. The location her mark would arrive.

Her stomach growled. She spit out the last of her fingernails that she’d chewed off, a habit that she knew was bad but had no intention of breaking. She walked over to a wooden crate she’d been using as a table and opened up the Styrofoam container that had been sitting there for hours. Like rigor mortis on a corpse, staleness was setting in on the remnant of her sandwich. What was supposed to be hot was now cool and the cold fruit salad was now room temperature. Her stomach growled again and Solomon started devouring her left-overs.

Born in Tel-Aviv and raised in Jerusalem, Solomon was the youngest of three children. She was supposed to be a boy, at least according to the Dr. that read the ultrasound. He’d predicted correctly the first two times, so who was to second guess him when he predicted her sex early on during her mother’s pregnancy? Her father was the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of her birth and went on to become the Minister of Defense in her early teenage years. Both her brothers served in the military beyond the mandatory three year stint and even though her oldest brother, 12 years her elder, was killed in Afghanistan, she had no desire for military service beyond what was required of her. It wasn’t until her younger brother was killed by a wayward missile attack by the Syrians six years later that she decided to dedicate herself to her country.

With a stature of five feet ten inches and an athletic build, Solomon made a name for herself as a tough and gritty soldier with a keen eye in marksmanship among the ranks of her colleagues. Her reputation preceded her and eventually she was asked to be trained as a sniper in the Nahal Infantry Brigade. After serving three years as a sniper she attended the National Security College and graduated at the head of her class. She then served five more years in the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. After just six months, she was selected for a special battalion, The Nesher, which operated primarily on the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian border. This was an honor, as the soldiers selected for the special units are the best from the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps.

It was a combination of her service that made her an excellent candidate and eventual member of The Mossad, Israel’s institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, where she has been serving for the past six years.

The sound of water being pushed away by rolling tires got Solomon’s attention. She put down her fork as she finished eating the last of the warm fruit. She cringed after washing it down with cold coffee.

Eughh!

She stepped over to the window and picked up her M89SR Sniper rifle. Three vehicles: one black Maybach sedan flanked by two silver Range Rovers. This was it. The wait was over.

 

#

 

Two blocks down and around the corner sat a white Citroën panel van. It had been outfitted to look like a Deutsche Telekom utility truck. It had been decked out with ladders and other tools of the trade and they even laid out orange cones on the road to further disguise their true intent as they waited for their spotter to return. The door to the van slid opened and Marid Kanaan stepped inside-- slightly out of breath and soaking wet.

“They’re pulling up now.”

“How many,” asked Abir.

“I do not know, but there are three vehicles.”

Abir Mammeri was not a tall man, but what he lacked in stature he made up with passion and aggression toward the infidel invaders of the Middle East and anyone or anything that hindered their cause.

Abir backhanded Marid across the face. “You fool! How are we supposed to do this if we do not know what we’re up against?”

“I am sorry Abir, I can go back and...”

“No! It is too late for that. Allah is on our side and he will see to it that we are victorious.”

Abir was the nephew of the leader of the now infamous Ansar al-Sharia and was raised by him since he was just 3 years old. When intelligence reports surfaced that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi had plans to assassinate American diplomats in Rome and Paris, President Reagan expelled all Libyan diplomats from the U.S. in May of 1981 and closed Libya's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. Three months later, Reagan ordered U.S. Navy jets to shoot down Libyan fighters if they ventured inside what was known as the "line of death."  The line was created by Qaddafi and claimed that Libya’s territorial waters extended nearly 100 miles off-shore. However, the U.S. and other maritime nations recognized Libyan territorial waters as extending only 12 miles from shore. As expected, the Libyan Air Force counter-attacked and Navy jets shot down two SU-22 warplanes about 60 miles off the Libyan coast. Abir’s father was one of those pilots.

Abir said a short prayer for the success of their mission and to protect the lives of his four man team. The four men pulled black masks over their heads and chambered rounds into their weapons. Abir tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

 

#

 

Solomon brought the scope of her rifle up to her eye to get a fix on her target; Mohsen Fallahi. Fallahi had been Iran’s nuclear weapons expert and had often been compared to Robert Oppenheimer, who, in the 1940’s was the American Physicist that oversaw the building of the first atomic bomb. Mr. Fallahi had been a significant factor in pushing Iran into its nuclear age over the past two decades. However, according to intercepted emails and phone calls, Mr. Fallahi complained that his work and funding had been frozen by officials in Iran’s government. Iran had “officially” halted its attempts to build a nuclear weapon in 2003. In 2006 Mohsen Fallahi fell off the grid. It wasn’t until a Mossad intercepted a phone call last week; detailing Fallahi’s arrival back into Iran’s nuclear program, that anyone knew he was still alive.

The call indicated that Mr. Fallahi was opening a research facility in Tehran’s northern suburbs that would be involved in studies relevant to developing nuclear weapons. There was also information intercepted indicating that many of the same scientists and military staff that were involved in the previous research nearly a decade ago, would also be involved in the new research. After further investigation by U.S. and Israeli intelligence, it was discovered that many of Mr. Fallahi’s closet colleagues had risen up in the ranks of the Iranian government and now had influence over those that previously halted the development of nuclear weapons.

The re-emergence of Mr. Fallahi and the stall of diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program is what instigated Mossad to act. It was now no longer a secret that Mr. Fallahi had returned. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal spelled it all out. Now, it was up to Solomon to eliminate Mr. Fallahi before he could start.

Watching all three vehicles with her left eye, she kept a fix on the back of the Maybach with her right eye through her scope. Solomon placed her finger on the trigger. Four men exited each of the Range Rovers while the doors of the Maybach remained closed. Two of the eight men approached the passenger side rear door. The back door facing Solomon opened and another man that was not Fallahi exited and walked to the rear of the car and opened the trunk.

Dammit!

Solomon removed her finger from the trigger and looked out across the street. The trunk was now blocking some of her view and a slight wave of panic washed over her as she feared she wouldn’t be able to get a clean shot. The man removed a bag from the trunk and then closed it. Solomon settled down and looked back through her scope and placed her finger back on the trigger.

The rear passenger door opened and Mohsen Fallahi stepped out of the car. Solomon put her crosshairs in the dead center of Fallahi’s head. She took a deep breath, held it...

Machine gun fire shattered the quiet of the night and startled Solomon. Her body’s reaction caused her to jerk at the trigger. The ending result was a shot that went wide left and ripped through the chest of one of the bodyguards. Solomon looked on in disbelief as she watched a lone Citroën van squeal to a stop in front of the hotel. Two of Fallahi’s bodyguards surrounded him and pushed him inside the hotel to escape the mayhem. The remaining guards drew their own weapons and returned fire. The first guard sent a five-round burst up Marid’s chest with four of the bullets hitting him in the torso and the fifth through his head, blowing out the back of his skull.

Abir saw his friend fall and regretted slapping him earlier. “Mahala! Mahala!” Abir yelled to his driver, trying to get his attention. “They’ve taken him inside! Go and get him!”

Mahala got out of the passenger side of the van to avoid the barrage that was being sent their way from the body guards. Abir and Nazir, the fourth man, laid down covering fire so Mahala could get across the street. Mahala reached the sidewalk, just behind where the second Range Rover was parked. He fired his AK-47 and shot one of the guards in the knee and sent him to the pavement screaming in pain, while the 7.62 x 39mm bullets shred through the neck of the other guard. Adjacent to where Mahala was standing and out of his peripheral view was an unmarked door that was a staff exit from the hotel. The door opened and one of Fallahi’s bodyguards stepped out, pulled his .45 pistol and shot Mahala through the head. The bullet exited his skull, shattered the back passenger door window and splattered grey matter on the inside and outside of the vehicle.

Abir watched Mahala fall. “Nazir. Go around to the other side in front of the vehicles! I’ll cover you!”

Seeing the fear in his friend’s eyes, Abir tried to comfort him. “Al-Jannah.” Meaning the garden or paradise was all that it took to reignite Nazir’s courage. Nazir ran across the street and around the front of the small motorcade. Two of the guards, while ducked behind the other vehicles to avoid the suppressing fire laid down by Abir, could see Nazir’s feet coming towards the sidewalk from under the vehicles. They were expecting him. As soon as Nazir rounded the front of the Range Rover, he was showered with bullets from the two waiting guards and fell into a lump of dead flesh onto the sidewalk, the rainwater creating a small red river down the side of the curb as he bled out.

Seeing the last of his team fall, he stepped out from the van door that was providing him protection. He opened fire on the two guards that had just killed Nazir. Abir screamed and yelled in his native tongue as he emptied the clip in his weapon. He managed to kill only one of the two guards that were left outside. The second bodyguard raised his weapon and pulled the trigger. It was empty. He reached into his jacket and retrieved his sidearm. He walked out onto the street where Abir was standing. Abir, frozen in the moment, stood there and looked through his vest for another full clip, but found none. The bodyguard pulled up his pistol and aimed it at Abir’s head. A lone silent shot from across the street tore through the man’s chest and left a gaping hole the size of a grapefruit as it exited his back.

Abir, stunned, turned around and looked in the direction of where the shot emanated from, but saw nothing.

Solomon put down her weapon as she watched Abir run back into the van and speed away. Two more guards came back out from inside the hotel and fired their weapons harmlessly in Abir’s direction as he rounded the corner a block away. Siren’s filled the air as Solomon looked at the carnage that was now on the street three levels down. What in the hell just happened?

 

 



#2 thom71gt

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 07:59 AM

Anyone-- anyone?  Bueller?  Like it, hate it, too long to read?  I'm not looking for a grammatical critique, just an opinion.



#3 CFAmick

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 01:58 PM

I've read your stories before, and I like your world and the detail you offer, but I don't have a compelling need to continue reading. Unfortunately, I can't offer much advice, because I think you're very close; you're not 180 degrees off center, you're 25.

 

For example, I like reading that the AK is firing 7.62x39 rounds, but at that moment, it slows the pace of the action. However, I'd rather know what type of round Soloman's rifle fires, and why she's selected it, because I think that's more interesting in the context of your story.



#4 thom71gt

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Posted 12 August 2013 - 02:13 PM

Ah. Interesting.  Thanks!!



#5 Late Bloomer

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 09:22 PM

The rain had stopped more than an hour ago, but Solomon could hear the water dripping down the gutters at a slowing pace just outside the open window. It was three in the morning. She was tired, and she’d been waiting for nearly twelve hours. She’d chosen a room on an abandoned floor in the Griechengasse, a small shopping area that catered mostly to tourists. It had small shops and restaurants; the kind that put out spinning postcard holders on the sidewalk and invited you in with the sound of traditional Bavarian music and the smell of fresh pretzels. The conditions weren’t ideal, but she’d definitely been in worse. From her vantage point, she could make out the entire front of the Hotel Austria across the street. The location her mark would arrive.

Her stomach growled. She spit out the last of her fingernails that she’d chewed off, (Yuck!  LOL) a habit that she knew was bad but had no intention of breaking. She walked over to a wooden crate she’d been using as a table and opened up the Styrofoam container that had been sitting there for hours. Like rigor mortis on a corpse, staleness was setting in on the remnant of her sandwich. (Nice description) What was supposed to be hot was now cool and the cold fruit salad was now room temperature. Her stomach growled again and Solomon started devouring her left-overs.

 

 

 

Okay, Thom. I get the impression that this could be an interesting story, but I feel that I got that more from your description beforehand, than from the first chapter itself.

 

I know you weren't asking for a critique here, but since I took the time to read it, I kinda feel obligated to give you my impressions, so I hope you don't mind too much.

 

First, I would strongly recommend moving the entire first part to later - like maybe second. Also, so much back story really tends to drag a story down. As writers, we all have a tendency to want to get all this information about our main characters out there right away so the reader knows who they are dealing with, but we need to remember to give that information in dribbles.  And not by telling them, either, but by showing them as we tell the story.

 

Which brings me to my second issue. Even though you had a lot going on, the entire chapter felt slow to me. (And remember we all have our own opinions, so mine is likely very different from the next guy's). I believe it felt that way because the entire time I felt as though you were telling me what everyone was doing, rather than showing it to me.  I know, I know, that dreaded showing verses telling, but honestly, it often makes a huge difference.  

 

Yes, there are times that telling works, and times that it is appropriate, by not in such big chunks, I think. 

 

Hope I didn't put too much of a damper on it for you. As I said, this is just one humble person's opinion. 



#6 thom71gt

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Posted 13 August 2013 - 09:36 PM

No No, don't apologize. Thank you very much. This has been very helpful. Perhaps I can take bits and pieces of it and bring it forward in later parts of the story.  This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

 

So, let me ask you then.  Was the detail about Solomon too long, or the detail about Fallahi? Or both? Or even Abir?  Dang... all three?

 

 

One thing I'd like to add. Solomon is not the MC. Special Agent Blake MacKay is the MC and he comes in in the second chapter.  There was a love interest between Solomon and Blake a couple of years back which makes for an interesting antagonist later on in the story.  :)



#7 CFAmick

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 12:07 AM

As far as showing versus telling goes, you have a tendency to drop a factoid or descriptor into the middle of scene, but it's not from the point of view of a character. For example:

 

 

The bullet exited his skull, shattered the back passenger door window and splattered grey matter on the inside and outside of the vehicle.

 

 

 

Who is witnessing the inside of the vehicle getting splattered? Your story will be stronger if it's from a character's POV.

 

Additionally, not that I'm opposed to graphic descriptions of violence, but don't use them just to use them.

 

Another detail: I feel like the type of guys who guard Fallahi are military or ex-, and would want to put multiple rounds into a target to make sure they're down. Two in the chest, one through the eye, or something like that. They would also know when their magazines were empty. They also wouldn't move into the open without cover.



#8 thom71gt

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 07:46 AM

Thanks. That's where I tend to have a problem; Identifying the POV. I suppose the guard that came out and shot him would see the brain matter spatter inside the vehicle. It's all in a 3rd person POV. No one identified. Just me telling the story.  As far as the magazine being empty. It's the heat of battle. No one is counting their rounds as they exit. Perhaps I can make it a misfire instead of it being empty.  The reason he moved into the open was because Abir was the only one standing. No one knew of Solomon perched in position across the street. The first guard she shot would just be assumed to have been killed by the terrorists rolling up and open firing into the crowd of people.

 

Thank you for your feedback.



#9 CFAmick

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 10:24 AM

Your reasoning makes sense, but I'm not sure that's the professionalism these characters demand. If these guys are less than the best, someone less skilled than Solomon could be sent to do the job. IMO.



#10 Late Bloomer

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Posted 14 August 2013 - 07:11 PM

 

So, let me ask you then.  Was the detail about Solomon too long, or the detail about Fallahi? Or both? Or even Abir?  Dang... all three?

 

 

One thing I'd like to add. Solomon is not the MC. Special Agent Blake MacKay is the MC and he comes in in the second chapter.  There was a love interest between Solomon and Blake a couple of years back which makes for an interesting antagonist later on in the story.  :)

 

 

To answer your question, I'd say, probably only Solomon's part. And knowing that she isn't even the MC makes me wonder why you used so much of your word count to tell us about her.

 

I would suggest cutting that section back to only what we need to know to visualize the scene. Put us in the setting and tell us about her later, when her back story actually has relevance.

 

As for the rest, imagine you're actually watching the scene unfold, narrating it, as it happens. That might help, although without being in anyone's POV, I'm not sure how you will accomplish that without it feeling too far removed, or like you are simply telling us what happened.  

 

Good luck with it.



#11 thom71gt

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 05:53 AM

Okay, I've got a part later in the story where I can throw in more detail about Solomon. I'll move it.  Thanks for your help.



#12 thom71gt

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Posted 18 August 2013 - 08:27 AM

Ok, Thank you all for the advice. On that note, I've rewritten the first chapter. I've eliminated a lot of the background info and moved them to other parts of the story so the first chapter isn't such an info dump. Also, I've gone in and I THINK that I've corrected a lot of the POV issues that I had.  Instead of about 4 or 5 POV's in the first chapter, I think I've got them down to just two; Abir's and Solomon's.  Please take a look.  The rewrite has shortened the chapter form over 2200 words to 1721.  That makes it more manageable.

 

Chapter 1

 

Vienna, Austria

01:19 (23:19 GMT)

July 18th

 

 

The rain had stopped more than an hour ago, but Solomon could hear the water dripping down the gutters just outside the open window. It was late, she was tired, and she’d been waiting for nearly twelve hours. She’d chosen a room on an abandoned floor in the Griechengasse, a small shopping area that catered mostly to tourists. It had small shops and restaurants; the kind that put out spinning postcard holders on the sidewalk and invited you in with the sound of traditional Bavarian music and the smell of fresh pretzels. The conditions weren’t ideal, but she’d definitely been in worse. From her vantage point, she could make out the entire front of the Hotel Austria across the street. The location her mark would arrive.

Her stomach growled. She spit out the last of her fingernails that she’d chewed off, a habit that she knew was bad, but had no intention of breaking. She walked over to a wooden crate she’d been using as a table and opened up the Styrofoam container that had been sitting there for hours. Rigor mortis was setting in on the remnant of her sandwich. What was supposed to be hot was now cool and the cold fruit salad was warm. Her stomach growled again and Solomon started devouring her left-overs.

The sound of water pushed beneath rolling tires alerted Solomon. She put down her fork as she finished eating the last of the warm fruit. She cringed after washing it down with cold coffee.

Eughh!

She picked up her M89SR Sniper rifle and stepped over to the window. Three vehicles: one black Maybach sedan flanked by two silver Range Rovers. This was it. The wait was over.

 

#

 

Two blocks down and around the corner sat a white Citroën panel van. It had been outfitted to look like a Deutsche Telekom utility truck. It had been decked out with ladders and other tools of the trade and orange cones had even been laid on the road to further disguise the true intent as they waited for their spotter to return. The door to the van slid opened and Marid Kanaan stepped inside-- slightly out of breath and soaking wet.

“They’re pulling up now.”

“How many?” asked Abir.

“I do not know, but there are three vehicles.”

Abir Mammeri was not a tall man, but what he lacked in stature; he made up with passion and aggression toward the infidel invasion of the Middle East and anyone or anything that hindered the cause.

Abir backhanded Marid across the face. “You fool! How are we supposed to do this if we do not know what we’re up against?”

“I am sorry Abir, I can go back and...”

Abir interrupted, “No! It is too late for that. Allah is on our side and he will see to it that we are victorious.”

Abir was the nephew of the leader of the now infamous Ansar al-Sharia and was raised by him since he was just three years old. When intelligence reports surfaced that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi had plans to assassinate American diplomats in Rome and Paris, President Reagan expelled all Libyan diplomats from the U.S. in May of 1981 and closed Libya's diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. Three months later, Reagan ordered U.S. Navy jets to shoot down Libyan fighters if they ventured inside what was known as the "line of death."  The line was created by Qaddafi and claimed that Libya’s territorial waters extended nearly 100 miles off-shore. However, the U.S. and other maritime nations recognized Libyan territorial waters as extending only 12 miles from shore. As expected, the Libyan Air Force counter-attacked and Navy jets shot down two SU-22 warplanes about 60 miles off the Libyan coast. Abir’s father was one of those pilots.

Abir said a short prayer for the success of their mission and to protect the lives of his four man team. The four men pulled black masks over their heads and chambered rounds into their weapons. Abir tapped the driver on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

 

#

 

Solomon brought the scope of her rifle up to her eye to get a fix on her target; Mohsen Fallahi.  Fallahi had been Iran’s nuclear weapons expert and had often been compared to Robert Oppenheimer, who, in the 1940’s was the American physicist that oversaw the building of the first atomic bomb. In 2006, Fallahi fell off the grid and had been presumed dead.

The re-emergence of Mr. Fallahi and the stall of diplomatic efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear program is what instigated Mossad to act. It was now no longer a secret that Mr. Fallahi had returned. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal spelled it all out. It was up to Solomon to eliminate Mr. Fallahi before he could start.

Watching all three vehicles with her left eye, she kept a fix on the back of the Maybach with her right eye through her scope. Solomon placed her finger on the trigger. Four men exited each of the Range Rovers while the doors of the Maybach remained closed. Two of the eight men approached the passenger side rear door. The back door facing Solomon opened and a large bald man that was not Fallahi exited and walked to the rear of the car and opened the trunk.

Dammit!

Solomon removed her finger from the trigger and looked out across the street. The trunk was now blocking some of her view and a slight wave of panic washed over her as she feared she wouldn’t be able to get a clean shot at her target. The man removed a bag from the trunk and then closed it. Solomon settled down and looked back through her scope and placed her finger back on the trigger.

The rear passenger door opened and Mohsen Fallahi stepped out of the car. Solomon put her crosshairs in the dead center of Fallahi’s head. She took a deep breath, held it...

Machine gun fire shattered the quiet of the night and startled Solomon.The ending result was a shot that went far left and ripped through the chest of one of the bodyguards. Solomon looked on in disbelief as she watched a lone Citroën van squeal to a stop in front of the hotel. Solomon watched as two of Fallahi’s bodyguards surrounded him and pushed him inside the hotel to escape the mayhem. The remaining guards drew their own weapons and returned fire. The first guard sent a five-round burst up Marid’s chest with four of the bullets hitting him in the torso and the fifth through his head, blowing out the back of his skull.

Abir jumped out of the van and took cover behind the rear door. He saw his friend fall and regretted slapping him earlier. “Mahala! Mahala!” Abir yelled to his driver, trying to get his attention. “They’ve taken him inside! Go and get him!”

Mahala got out of the passenger side of the van to avoid the barrage that was being sent their way from the body guards. Abir and Nazir, the fourth man, laid down covering fire so Mahala could get across the street. Abir watched as Mahala reached the sidewalk, just behind where the second Range Rover was parked. Mahala fired his AK-47 and shot one of the guards in the knee and sent him to the pavement screaming in pain, while the 7.62 x 39mm bullets shred through the neck of the other guard. Adjacent to where Mahala was standing and out of his peripheral view was an unmarked door that was a staff exit from the hotel. The door opened and one of Fallahi’s bodyguards stepped out. Abir yelled to warn his brother. “Mahalla! On your right!”

The effort to warn his friend was too late. The guard pulled his .45 pistol and shot Mahala through the head. The bullet exited his skull and shattered the back passenger door window. Abir could see blood and grey matter as it splattered on the inside of the remaining windows.

 “Nazir. Go around to the other side, in front of the vehicles! I’ll cover you!”

Seeing the fear in his friend’s eyes, Abir tried to comfort him. “Al-Jannah.” Meaning the garden or paradise was all that it took to reignite Nazir’s courage. Nazir ran across the street and around the front of the small motorcade. Abir saw that that the two guards were ducked behind the Maybach for cover. He watched his brother head to the front of the lead car. They were expecting him. As soon as Nazir rounded the front of the Range Rover both guards unleashed a fury of lead that shred through Nazir’s body. Abir watched Nazir fall into a lump of dead flesh onto the sidewalk. The draining rainwater created a small crimson river down the side of the curb as he bled out.

Seeing the last of his team fall, Abir stepped out from the van door that was providing him protection. He opened fire on the two guards that had just killed Nazir. Abir screamed in his native tongue as he emptied the clip in his weapon. He managed to kill only one of the two guards that were left outside. The second bodyguard raised his weapon and pulled the trigger. It misfired. He reached into his jacket and retrieved his sidearm. He walked out onto the street where Abir was standing. Abir, frozen in the moment, stood there and looked through his vest for another full clip, but found none. The bodyguard pulled up his pistol and aimed it at Abir’s head. A lone silent shot, from behind Abir and across the street, tore through the guard’s chest and left a gaping hole the size of a grapefruit as it exited his back.

Abir, stunned, turned around and looked in the direction of where the shot emanated from, but saw nothing.

Solomon put down her weapon as she watched Abir run back into the van and drive away. Two more guards came back out from inside the hotel and fired their weapons harmlessly in Abir’s direction as he rounded the corner a block away. Siren’s filled the air as Solomon looked at the carnage that was now on the street three levels down. What in the hell just happened?






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