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book 1 in The Hunt Trilogy
The metallic hum of a million bee’s wings thrumming was the only sound piercing the quiet, cloudless night as the Hercules C-130 stood idling at the end of the runway. Whilst the Captain spoke to the tower the runway lights flickered on. He carried out his final take-off checks before nodding at his co-pilot, then, taking a deep breath he put his hand on the throttles. A final scan of the instruments and he moved the throttles forward. The heavy aircraft, its props chewing at the air, lurched forward against its brakes as it eagerly waited to start its mission. Its passengers felt the airframe vibrate through their seats as the power came on.
“Ready?” the captain asked. His co-pilot nodded as the brakes were released and the aircraft started its run.
Barely clear of the ground, the hydraulics groaned as the undercarriage came up clunking into place. The aircraft climbed steeply to avoid the mountain range in front before turning towards the first waypoint. After a few minutes, the captain settled the aircraft at its cruise height and sat back. The first part would be easy, the last hour in enemy airspace, wouldn’t!
The four-man team sat back and relaxed as much as they could, chatting about the beers they were owed by their CO back at base and the leave they were going on when they got back. The Air Load Master sat waiting for the ready signal and smiled at their calmness.
The contact they were meeting was already in position, squeezed in-between two rocks at the bottom of a shallow gully. As he sat listening for the aircraft he rubbed his hands together to fight off the cold and thought about the fire lit in his home. He cursed as he sat shivering in the dark. He didn’t have to wait long. Although he couldn’t see it in the darkness, he could hear it. He looked at his watch, then in the direction of the low whistling drone coming from the aircraft’s tell-tale turbo-props and smiled. As instructed, he went forward and lit his flare then retreated quickly back to his little hole and waited for the first man to land.
The captain spotted the flare, pointing it out to his co-pilot. He nodded at the switch above him, the co-pilot flicked it on, changing the colour of the warning light in the cargo bay. The Air Load Master had already moved over to the control panel that operated the huge loading ramp doors when he felt the aircraft start to slow. He watched as the signal light changed, then checked his safety line before opening up the back of the aircraft – it was a long way down without a chute. Once they had clunked into position he turned and beckoned the four jumpers forward. The four men held on to each other to steady themselves as they stood in silence looking out into the dark. They watched the desert floor, three kilometres below, pass slowly by, only just being able to make out the ghostly grey shapes of the dunes. One of the soldiers checked the bag attached to the front of his jumpsuit, again – this was the payment for the exchange and to leave it on the aircraft now would just be unprofessional.
When the captain was happy with the position of the aircraft, he looked at his co-pilot and nodded, he reached up again, this time flicking the switch that told the men in the back to jump. In the cargo bay, the Air Load Master tapped the man closest to him on the shoulder and gave him the thumbs up. The front two stepped off into the dark void, a fraction of a second later the second pair followed.
Once they had controlled the initial tumble from the slip-stream, they took a last look at the aircraft as it started its turn to head back home before scanning the ground. They eye-balled the flare, adjusted their flight path, and waited for their chutes to open automatically. Reaching terminal velocity, they were still over ten kilometres from where the exchange would take place, but with the night sky being so clear and the land so flat, and now free from the restriction of the cabin fuselage, they could see the lights and the outlines of the Mosques which defined the skyline of Baghdad so clearly in the distance.
The contact watched as the first canopy opened and marvelled as the soldier landed within a metre of the flare, the other three touching down within thirty seconds of him. They quickly bundled their chutes up and disappeared into the darkness.
“About time,” he grumbled to himself as he watched them disappear into the rocks. He pulled himself out from his hiding place and approached the dying flare. He stood for a moment, nervously looking around, before one of the soldiers approached him, and said, “The sand is hot here.”
“Not in England,” he replied.
There was a pause, then they nodded.
“Follow me, we don’t have much time,” the contact ordered.
The soldier watched him scurry away to a waiting car, he then put his hand up and signalled to his men. Once in, the contact sped off, driving them towards the city’s lights the soldiers had seen on their free-fall through space.
After a few minutes, the contact asked, “Do you have the goods?”
“That’s no concern of yours,” one of the soldiers replied. “Your job is to drive us to the other contact.”
“I am the other contact. The other man was not to be trusted, so I took care of him!”
The soldier that had spoken looked at his team, the one in the middle nodded. He turned back to the contact, “Yes! Do you have the case?”
“It’s in my house,” he nodded, smiling.
As he drove through the streets, he noticed the soldiers were shuffling around in their seats. To try and calm them, he said, “A lull in the fighting for a change.”
The four soldiers nodded and looked around – the silence, the empty streets, and now the death of the other contact, making them nervous. Arriving at his house the contact beckoned them inside quickly. Two of the soldiers followed him whilst the other two took up positions outside – they stepped back into the shadows and melted into the dark. As the two soldiers walked through the little house they could smell something cooking. The contact noticed them sniffing the air. “Dinner, for when you’re gone,” he said. He went over to the far side of the room and shifted a wall unit aside, revealing a door. Opening it, he motioned for them to follow. The soldiers watched him disappear, they looked at each other, scanned the room and followed him in. Stooping to go through the undersized door, they had to stay stooped as the ceiling was at the same height. They crouched behind a small table and looked at the contact as he watched them. Once they were in the contact motioned towards a safe up against the far wall, and said, “The case is in the safe.”
One of the soldiers removed the package that was attached to his jumpsuit and placed it on the table, setting it squarely in the centre. The contact looked at it and smiled as he went to pick it up but the soldier took his handgun out and pushed it into his face.
“First the case!” he demanded.
The contact, his eyes widening, swallowed and looked at the handgun. “You English are so untrusting!” he said, taking a pace back.
The soldier flicked his weapon at the safe and ordered, “Case first!”
The contact, starting to sweat from the heat in the confined space, took a small piece of cloth out of his coat pocket and wiped his face, he then removed his coat and laid it in front of the safe to kneel on. As he knelt, he breathed in the sweet smell of the lamb cooking in the other room, his mouth started to water with the anticipation of the meal to come. He used the cloth to wipe the saliva out of his beard whilst nodding at the two soldiers. Once the safe was open, he removed a small metal box from the space inside and placed it on the ground behind him, in full view of the two soldiers, he then turned back to the safe and lifted the floor the small box had been sitting on – earlier that day he had positioned a small mirror inside the safe for the sole purpose of being able to see what the soldiers were doing while he was turned away. Pausing for a second to say a quick prayer, he leant in and put his hand on a revolver. He took another look in the mirror, on seeing the two soldiers were talking and pointing out the door, he turned and shot them. They fell back against the wall, one of them toppling over to the side, the other staying crouched. As they stared blankly, the contact smiled. He hadn’t worried about the noise as he wanted to draw the other two soldiers inside.
Outside, the two soldiers hearing the shots cautiously approached the house. They waited a few moments to see if their comrades emerged. When they didn’t, one of them called their names. When there was no answer they looked at each other, nodded and went in. The contact was already waiting in the dark. He allowed them to enter the small entrance hall before opening fire. The first part of his plan had worked smoothly, the second part would be easier – to leave with the fee. He pulled them into the small room with their colleagues, dumping them unceremoniously in the corner and then opened up the box that had been placed in the centre of the table. He smiled as the stones sparkled. He shared them out and placed them into four pouches, binding each with a leather lace and placing them in his box, he then put it in the safe. Once finished, he pulled the wall cabinet back, ensuring the entrance to the room was invisible again.
The contact, having been educated in America, missed the freedom and openness shown to him whilst living there, also, he liked the women, especially the one who’d shown him a kindness and closeness that he would never find in his home country. He had put his plan into action, killing the second contact two weeks prior. Now he had the money to retire and buy the beach house in California that he would share with the woman who he had fallen in love with. What he hadn’t planned for, was the fifth member of the team.
The lone soldier had parachuted down after the first group. The now slaughtered soldiers didn’t even know about him. He wasn’t there because they couldn’t be trusted, he was there as a back-up in case things went wrong. He had hidden out on the flight deck, sitting in the engineer’s seat. The captain, the co-pilot and the Air Load Master had all known about him. As soon as the four soldiers had jumped, he had been called to the back of the aircraft and stood on the edge, ready. He’d watched as they completed their freefall and their chutes had opened before judging it was safe. He had hoped for a cloudy night so he could have jumped sooner – an overcast sky would have given him the cover he needed. Instead, he’d had to wait until the soldier’s chutes had deployed so they would be concentrating on the landing spot, not watching their aircraft moving off into the distance.
The captain, much to his dislike, had turned the aircraft and put it into a huge circular holding pattern to give the first set of men time to move off before the fifth soldier had to jump. This delay cost the soldier over two minutes. Once he landed, he hid his chute and opened his backpack. Inside was a small, two-stroke, fold-up motorcycle he would use to follow the soldiers. It took him less than three minutes to assemble and get it running, he then set off in pursuit.
Following them had been made easier because he had slipped a locating beacon into one of the soldier’s backpacks before they’d boarded the aircraft, but by the time he was mobile he was already eight minutes behind the team. Riding into the city he adjusted his direction left or right if the receiver made a buzz or a beep. What worried him, though, was that it only had a range of fifteen kilometres, so he was relieved when he’d picked up the signal so quickly. He made his way through the narrow alleys, trying to stay hidden, but as soon as his locator showed he was within half a kilometre from their position he ditched the bike and set off on foot. When he was within one-hundred metres, he heard two shots fired in close succession. He dropped behind a wall and waited a few moments to see if anyone responded. When there was no movement he set off, this time at a faster pace, then he heard another two shots. He’d had a bad feeling about the mission from the start. With the weather being against him, delaying his jump, his anxiety had started to rise. As he got closer to the team’s position, he stopped and scanned the area to see if he could spot them. Not being able to see them warned him that something had gone catastrophically wrong! He waited a few minutes and then went forward to the house the signal showed them to be in. Peering through one of the windows, he saw a man he recognised as the first contact putting a handgun in a drawer. He scanned the room for his team but couldn’t see them. He decided he had to get the man out of the house. “Out in the open would be easier, and safer,” he thought. He made a noise to draw him outside.
The contact removed his weapon from the drawer, reloaded it and went to investigate. Nervously, he peered into the darkness. The soldier blinked as a torch flicked on, the beam-catching his eyes as the man scanned his front yard. On seeing nothing, he came out of his house and walked toward a gap in the wall around his yard that was used as an entrance. When he was halfway down the path, a soldier stood and raised his handgun. The contact hesitated for a second, then raised his weapon. The soldier fired one aimed round at his shoulder, intending to wound him so he could question him inside, but he twisted and the bullet hit him in the chest. The soldier tutted at the contact’s stupidity. He looked around quickly as he went forward, checking no one had decided to see what all the noise was about. He felt for a pulse, it was slight. “Good,” he thought, as he stood and kicked his weapon away. He took another look around before going inside to see if he could find his team.
Entering, he smelt the telltale odour from a weapon that had been fired over the smell of something cooking. He called out quietly as he searched the rooms. Going back to drag the contact inside so he could question him properly, he shook his head at his stupidity for not pulling him in with him in the first place. When he got outside, the contact, who he thought was unconscious, was now standing up and leaning against the building. He’d found his weapon and fired, emptying it into the soldier. The contact staggered back into the house and collapsed, slipped into unconsciousness and then death.
End of sample
Scavenger Hunt can be found on the author’s Amazon page here. Before you look at Scavenger Hunt click here to have a look at The Hunt Trilogy. You get all three books plus a bonus book, Barracuda Jewel in one easy downloadable pack.