Jackknife(10)
Author:William Johnstone


    Parker heard the whoosh! whoosh! of both weapons being fired, followed a heartbeat later by twin explosions that shook the ground under his feet. The floodlights went off as if someone had thrown the switch.

    Parker knew that wasn’t the case, though, because he could no longer hear the steady chug-chug-chug of the generator. The RPG guys had blown it to hell.

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    “Go, go, go!” Parker called in English to Odie, who relayed the order in the local dialect, not that all the tribal f ighters needed the translation. Parker figured most of them would understand the tone of his voice.

    The men dashed toward the gates in the sudden darkness. Another whoosh sounded, and something blew up inside the compound. At least one of the men with the grenade launchers had lived long enough to get off a second shot. But no more explosions came as Parker, Odie, and the men from the village darted through the opening where the wrecked gates had stood and split up around the now-stopped truck. The rifle fire continued unabated, though.

    The compound’s defenders couldn’t see what they were shooting at with the generator knocked out and the floodlights off. Parker and Odie wore night-vision goggles that they had pulled down over their eyes once the floodlights were out. That gave them an advantage. As they hurried past the stalled truck, Parker glanced into the cab and saw the motionless shape slumped over the steering wheel. The odds had caught up to the driver.

    The same was true of the men with the grenade launchers. Both of them were sprawled on the ground, one on each side of the truck. They were riddled with bullets. But they had lived long enough to do their jobs. The building that had housed the generator was a blazing ruin. Parker didn’t look directly at it because the flames would have been blinding through the goggles.

    He spotted several men standing outside one of the other buildings, firing rifles and machine guns toward the place where the gates had been. The terrorists knew that was where the follow-up attack would come. They were just a little too slow in concentrating their fire there.

    Parker snapped his own rifle to his shoulder and began 54

    squeezing off shots. The volley rolled out smoothly from the weapon, and every time it bucked against his shoulder, another of the compound’s defenders folded up or went over backward as Parker’s bullets tore through him.

    He killed five of the goat-humping bastards in a handful of seconds.

    Then, as bullets whistled past his ears and kicked up dust at his feet, he whirled away from the barrage and leaped behind the corner of a building. He reached under his cloak, found one of the grenades attached to his flak jacket, and leaned out from cover to fling it through an open doorway. He heard men shout in alarm, but their cries were drowned out a couple of ticks later by the eruption of the blast.

    Parker had done his part, killing enough of the terrorists so that the odds should now be even between them and the local fighters. But he had never been one to sit on the sidelines, even for a moment. He spotted Odie crouched behind one of the jeeps that was parked inside the compound, and called to his partner. When Odie looked around, Parker gestured toward the largest building, which was probably where the local leaders of Hizb ut-Tahrir lived, along with being the administrative center for the group.

    Parker and Odie darted out of cover and sprinted toward the building, swerving back and forth to throw off the aim of anyone trying to draw a bead on them.

    The battle was going on all over the compound now.

    Muzzle flashes split the darkness, the flames from burning buildings rose higher in the predawn gloom, and the chatter of automatic-weapons fire was interspersed with the screams of dying men.

    The sounds were ugly, even to a man of Parker’s experience. He tuned them out as he bounded onto a porch JACKKNIFE

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    attached to the front of the largest building. The structure was made of wood instead of mud or stone, wide planks of raw, unplaned lumber that must have come from the trees on the mountains that loomed over the village.

    Parker kicked the door open and went through with his rifle held ready to fire.

    He and Odie found themselves in a long, barrackslike room. Give these guys credit, Parker thought. They didn’t live high on the hog, like old Saddam had over in Iraq.

    Their cause meant more to them than luxurious surround-ings or personal possessions. Parker could have almost admired them for their courage and devotion to what they considered their duty . . .

    If that “duty” hadn’t included slaughtering thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and doing it in the name of their god at that. They were death-loving lunatics, and no amount of flowery rhetoric could cover that up.

    Parker held up a hand to stop Odie in his tracks.

    “Listen,” he hissed.

    From somewhere in the building, he heard a familiar whining sound. That was a shredder being worked, Parker realized. Fearing that the compound was under attack by the American military or CIA, one of the group’s headmen was trying to dispose of vital documents.

    Parker knew that, and he didn’t want any more papers to go in the shredder. He pinpointed the sound as best he could, and than ran to the end of the barracks room, where he found a narrow set of stairs.

    He and Odie went up the stairs as fast as they could.

    Parker knew whoever was up there could hear the clumping of their boots on the steps, but that couldn’t be helped. He paused before he reached the top of the staircase and searched under his cloak for another 56

    grenade. Selecting it by its shape and feel, he armed it and tossed it, then ducked his head and covered his ears.

    A couple of steps below him, Odie did the same.

    The flash-bang grenade went off with devastating effect, blinding and deafening anyone who wasn’t ready for it. The eye-searing, ear-numbing blast lasted only a second, and then Parker and Odie were moving again.

    They lunged up the rest of the stairs and came out in a room with several desks in it. Three terrorists were stumbling around, pawing at their eyes, obviously disoriented. Two carried rifles and one had a pistol. The man with the pistol bumped into one of his fellow terrorists, yelled in alarm, and turned and started shooting, jerking the pistol’s trigger in panic-stricken fashion. The unlucky bastard who’d bumped into him flew backward, half his head blown away by the bullets.

    Dumb jackass, killing his own man, Parker thought as he lifted his rifle. That just made it easier for him and Odie. He sent a two-round tap coring through the pistol-wielder’s skull while Odie shot the third and final terrorist in the chest. They stepped over the bodies to get to the desks.

    Parker became aware that the sounds of battle from outside in the compound had slowed down. The firing was more sporadic now. He hoped that meant his team had just about won. “See how the others are doing,” he told Odie, “while I see what I can find in here.” Odie nodded and hurried back to the stairs. Parker started pawing through a heap of papers piled on the desk where the shredder was set up. It stood to reason that the terrorists would have started disposing of the most important papers first, but that wasn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Who knows what might be scattered in this mess?

    Parker read Arabic fairly well, and was able to start JACKKNIFE

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    making two piles as he sorted through the documents, one for papers that were obviously unimportant, just mundane details of running the compound, the other for documents that might contain valuable intel. He scanned the writing that resembled chicken scratches, picking out familiar names and places. Islamic terrorism was like a spiderweb, with strands going every which way and connecting one group to all the others.

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