Enemy Infiltration

By: Carol Ericson

Prologue

He grabbed the barrel of the old Kalashnikov as he took his place around the fire and yanked it away from him and toward the wall of the hut. “How do you expect me to think with that in my face?”

Rafi, the leader of the group, kicked at a mound of dirt in front of the man hoisting the rifle. “No need for that, Mateen. We’ve taken Major Denver’s weapons from him.”

“He’s Delta Force.” Mateen spit into the dirt. “He could use your shoe as a weapon and you wouldn’t even know it was off your foot.”

The other men around the circle laughed and Denver chuckled along with them. Good to know Delta Force still struck fear in the hearts of enemies and frenemies alike, and Mateen wasn’t too far off the mark with his comment.

Denver crossed his legs beneath him and stretched out his hands to the crackling fire. He winked at Massoud, the boy who’d brought him down from the mountain, now crouched behind his father, Rafi.




8


Massoud offered a shy smile in return, his tough-guy bravado no longer necessary in the company of men.

One of the men began handing around earthen-ware bowls of lamb stew, which Massoud’s mother had been cooking when they’d barged in on her. Denver hadn’t seen the woman since.

He passed two bowls along the circle and claimed the third for his own, cupping his hands around smooth clay to warm them more than anything else.

Then he tore off a piece of the flatbread making the rounds and plunged it into the steaming concoction, chock-full of chunks of lamb meat and vegetables.

He blew on the bread, dripping gravy, and then shoved it into his mouth, burning his tongue, anyway. He didn’t care. The warmth and spices in the stew made his nose run, and he didn’t care about that, either.

The other men must’ve been as hungry as he was.

For several minutes, the only sounds from the hut with the dirt floor were slurping and chomping as the men gnawed the tough meat with their teeth and sopped up the gravy with the bread.

When he finished, Denver wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and screwed the bowl into the dirt. “Now, tell me everything you know about Pazir and how our meeting was compromised.”

Rafi raised his finger and then snapped. Massoud scurried around the circle, collecting all the bowls.

He retreated to a corner and soaked up the dregs of everyone’s stew with the leftover bread he’d snatched from the fire.




9

A pang of guilt shot through Denver’s now-full stomach. Massoud’s mother hadn’t cooked enough stew for an unexpected gathering like this. The men had eaten Massoud’s dinner and probably his mother’s, as well.

Rafi folded his hands against his belly. “Pazir was foolish, a talker.”

The other men nodded and grunted.

“He told someone about our meeting?”

“He told many someones.” Rafi waved his hand, encompassing the men sitting at the fire. “We all knew about it.”

“Is Pazir still alive?” Denver massaged his temple with two fingers, the smoke in the hut giving him a headache.

“We don’t know.” Rafi shrugged. “When he found out what happened at the meeting place—an Army Ranger killed, one of your Delta Force team members going over the side of a cliff and you taking off—he disappeared.”

“He could be dead.” Denver drew a cross in the dirt and then wiped it out with his fist.

“No body.” One of the other men spoke up. “Al Tariq likes to send messages. No body, no message.”

“If it was Al Tariq who disrupted the meeting.

And my Delta Force teammate? Did you hear anything about him?” Denver held his breath. He’d tried to save Asher Knight by pushing him out of the way.

His action had spared Knight the bullet, but he’d tumbled over the cliff’s edge instead.

“Don’t know.” Rafi shook his head. “Didn’t hear.”



10


Denver blew out a breath. The others had heard about the death of the Army Ranger, but not Asher.

Maybe that meant he’d made it. “I need to get another meeting with Pazir. Can any of you facilitate that?”

The men exchanged glances around the circle.

One of the men coughed and swirled his hot tea in his cup. “That could be dangerous.”

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