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Authors: Murray McDonald

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Critical Error

BOOK: Critical Error
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Critical Error
Critical Error
Murray McDonald



Critical Error
Murray McDonald
Published by Murray McDonald
Copyright 2011 Murray McDonald


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Part One


Chapter 1



Fajr Hotel
Ahwaz, Iran
September 1st 2007


Finally, thought Sam, as a hand clamped over his mouth and the cold steel of the blade pressed into his throat, he was getting somewhere.

“You ask too many questions, my friend!” offered the knifeman. His foul breath hung heavily as he pinned Sam to the small bed.

The Arab use of the word ‘friend’ was not lost on Sam. He had heard them come for him, clumsy, poorly trained. About the only thing they had got right was the timing. At 4 a.m., Sam would have been in a deep sleep had he not expected his visitors.

Sam tried to answer but the hand remained clamped over his mouth.

“Let him speak,” came a different voice from the doorway, calm and authoritative.

The boss, thought Sam.

The knifeman removed his hand from Sam’s mouth but pushed the blade harder against his neck.

“Just trying to find my girlfriend,” choked Sam as the knife pressed on his Adam’s apple. “She went missing about a week ago,” he struggled but persevered. “Perhaps you can help me.”

“Perhaps,” offered the boss. “Can you describe her?”

The knifeman barely contained a laugh as the boss teased Sam. The hold on the knife relaxed slightly, allowing Sam to speak more freely.

“About five seven, dark hair, cute, oh and she had a CNN van and a cameraman with her. Hard to miss really.”

“Piercing green eyes, dimples in her cheeks, a tattoo on her left wrist and far too young for you?” offered the boss.

Sam nodded, although he didn’t quite agree with the too young jibe. He was only ten years older than her.

“Nope, don’t know her,” concluded the boss. “Now, who the fuck are you?” The calm friendly tone had gone. The joking was over and they were down to business. The knifeman pressed the knife harder once more. A small trickle of blood ran down Sam’s neck.

Sam had no intention of telling the boss who he was. At least, not who he really was. As far as anyone in Iran knew, Sam was the boyfriend of the missing CNN journalist, kidnapped a week earlier from the streets of Tehran. She and her cameraman had quite literally vanished. No terrorist group had claimed responsibility nor had anyone demanded a ransom. With the trail cold and the Iranians blocking every request by the US to help, Sam Baker, one of the CIA’s top operatives, had gone in as the grieving boyfriend, desperate to find his loved one.

After two days of searching, the CNN van was discovered near the city of Ahwaz, not far from the Persian Gulf. Sam immediately turned his attention to the streets of Ahwaz, showing the photo of his girlfriend to anyone who would look and listen. The photo showed the pair enjoying a meal with friends. The photo was fake but the CIA forgers defied anyone to prove it. It was one of their finest forgeries and showed the American couple enjoying a meal with Sam’s supposed uncle, the President of the United States.

As the knife cut into his skin, Sam couldn’t help but smile at how well the photo had worked. Ahwaz was surrounded by secret terrorist training camps and the likelihood of the CNN team being taken by terrorists had jumped tenfold as news spread that they were in the region. The subtlety of the link to the President had been key. Sam had touted his picture around the city and it had worked. The mention of the journalist’s tattoo was just the confirmation Sam needed. He had his men. Sam hid the small .22 caliber pistol he had pointed at the knifeman from beneath the covers.

Three hours and a bone churning ride on the floor of a pickup truck later, Sam was being led into a small barracks building. Neither the boss nor the knifeman had uttered a word since they had bundled Sam through the hotel’s main lobby in nothing more than his boxers and a vest.

Sam had counted four guards as they drove into the compound. Knifeman and Bossman made six. A further two stood guard inside the barracks. Eight men that he could account for. At least half again would be resting. A minimum of twelve in total, a little more than he had expected. Actually, it was about eight more than he had expected. Standing in a pair of boxer shorts and a vest, things couldn’t get much worse.

“Who the fuck is this?!” screamed the female journalist at the sight of Sam in his underwear.

Sam smiled at his ‘girlfriend’s’ loss of memory and at how much worse the situation had just become.

“Don’t be silly, Honey, it’s me!” he said, his eyes begging her to realize he was on her side. Bossman nodded to Knifeman and the knife was once again at Sam’s throat.

Sam noticed that the journalist and cameraman were unshackled, free to roam around the small barracks. Not exactly what he had anticipated. Not good either. A bond had been struck between captor and hostage. A bond they were unlikely to break for a stranger in his underwear. Sam prayed she would play along, recognizing a fellow American’s accent.

Sam’s ‘girlfriend’ backed away. “I have no idea who this man is!” she said definitively.

Bossman began to speak rapidly in his native tongue. Whatever he was saying, Knifeman didn’t like it and the blade grew tighter across Sam’s neck.

Sam dropped his chin despondently and shifted onto his right foot. The movement caused a slight separation between blade and skin but enough to ensure Sam’s survival. Plan A was dead. Plan B was Sam’s only option. He just had to work out what that was. Sam swung his hand up and grabbed Knifeman’s hand in a vice-like grip just as the heel of his left foot crushed down into Knifeman’s foot. Sam snapped his head back like a wrecking ball and smashed Knifeman’s nose to a pulp. The combination of actions had all been thought through precisely and executed to perfection, all in the blink of an eye. Knifeman dropped to the ground, immobile. Sam grabbed the knife and spun across the floor grabbing Bossman as he moved and placed the knife carefully across the not so cocky boss’ throat. Plan B was going to have to go with the flow.

The two guards at the door of the barracks had reacted to Sam’s move but Sam was too quick. The knife was at their boss’ throat before either could raise their weapon and get a shot.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed the journalist. Her cameraman grabbed her and tried to keep her calm.

“OK, now nobody needs to die here,” said Sam. “I just want to take these nice people back to their families.”

Neither of the terrorists dropped their weapons.

The journalist burst into tears, gesticulating wildly at Sam. She looked furious at his rescuing her.

“They can’t let us go before 9.30 a.m.!” cried out the cameraman, still struggling to contain the increasingly hysterical journalist.

“Sorry?” asked Sam, incredulous at the suggestion, that after 9.30 a.m., they could quite simply walk out of the door.

“They have no intention of harming us,” explained the cameraman. “That’s why she’s panicking. You’ve put our lives in danger, not saved them!”

“This is not fucking Disneyland! Wake up guys!” shouted Sam. “We’re in fucking downtown central Terroristville! I don’t know which nutters they represent but trust me, they only mean us harm!”

“We…” the boss began but was interrupted by the journalist.

“…they are the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.” She choked back tears as she spoke. “Palestinian fighters. They have given us an exclusive to release when we leave here which, up until you arrived, was about an hour from now!” she added angrily.

Sam couldn’t help but ask. “Why an hour from now? Why not now? Why not yesterday?”

“Because today, in less than an hour, we will bring the Israelis to their knees,” promised the boss proudly.

While Sam was distracted by the journalist and the boss talking, the two guards worked their way closer, silently closing the gap between themselves and Sam. Sam, of course, knew exactly what they were doing and had hoped they would do exactly that.

He had heard enough and the angles were now perfect. Without a moment’s hesitation or warning, Sam drew the knife across the terrorist leader’s throat almost decapitating him and killing him instantly. The action caught everybody by surprise and as the guards began to compute what had just happened, Sam was already dispatching the knife towards the guard to his right whilst kicking the dead weight of the boss into the guard on his left.

As one guard died with a knife embedded in his chest, the other was coping with the almost headless corpse of his boss as it crashed into him. The head lolled wildly as both the guard and the boss crashed to the floor. Before they even hit the floor, Sam was on them to help ensure the guard’s skull cracked as he powered it into the floor.

The gruesomeness of the scene left the cameraman with little hope of quelling the journalist’s screams, ensuring the rest of the camp would be ready and waiting for them.

BOOK: Critical Error
11.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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