An Excerpt from – SALIM MUST DIE (2009) -
by Mukul Deva
third transmission echoed in his headset, the North team
leader turned and signalled to the men crouching around him.
Coming alive almost as one, the fourteen fighters swarmed across
the wall and raced across the garden towards the house lying still
and silent before them. The night vision gear strapped around
their heads lent them an eerie, outlandish appearance.
None of them could have known that one of the
occupants on the first floor would choose to get up and head for
the toilet just then. The man was crossing one of the windows
overlooking the front garden when he spotted the dark, ghostly
shapes rushing silently across the lawns. The man was no genius,
but it did not take him even a second to realize that they could
mean nothing but trouble.
The solitary shot rang out in the still morning
air with extraordinary loudness. Hard in its wake followed the
loud cry of alarm as the shooter alerted the other occupants of
the house. But this was no ragtag bunch of soldiers. They were
superbly trained and reacted with all the speed, skill and
ferocity at their command.
North team raced ahead in sharp, irregular
spurts, returning the fire with short bursts, instinctively aiming
at the pinpricks of light that had begun to illuminate the dark
‘Eagle, we’re going in hot now,’ the team leader
hissed into his headset as they ran forward.
‘Roger that, North. We’re on our way.’ Eagle’s
tinny voice was almost lost in the rapidly escalating thunder of
gunfire as a continuous volley of shots followed the brief lull
after the first one. Every now and then, a scream punctuated the
The first three commandos fell almost
immediately. Two of them were saved by the Kevlar jackets
cocooning their torsos. They stumbled to their feet and followed
their comrades who were racing towards the house. The third one
was beyond caring. The two neat holes near his right eye put him
beyond any help.
Pausing briefly near the window, the first
commando tossed two Flash-and-Bang stun grenades through it. The
strike team counted down the mandatory four seconds before they
slammed against the door, blowing it open just a fraction of a
second after the grenades exploded.
The team rushed in with weapons primed. Figures
in various stages of undress greeted them. They were cut down
almost instantly as the commandos swept through the house.
The man they had come for was on the first floor
of the house. He was still in bed, trying weakly to unhook the
infusion pump attached to him. The man’s disease-wracked face was
pale and he was breathing torturously. He seemed to be in
tremendous pain, but that did nothing to diminish the hate
smouldering in his eyes.
He wasn’t wearing the flowing white robes that
he was always photographed in, nor was his flowing beard as
well-groomed as it appeared in these photographs. But there was no
mistaking the sharp angular features, which for the past few years
had adorned the pages of almost every newspaper and magazine in
For a long moment North leader checked the face
in the light of the small torch as the two others in the room kept
guard at the door.
There was no doubt about it.
‘It’s him,’ he said tersely, unable to keep the
triumph out of his voice. ‘Doc, he is all yours now.’ He nodded at
the medic as he turned and got on to his radio set. ‘Eagle, we
have him. Get your ass here pronto. LZ One.’
‘Great job, North.’ Eagle’s voice crackled with
excitement. ‘We’re already on the way. LZ One. ETA in three.’
The team leader watched as the medic rapidly
checked out the man on the bed. He began with the mouth, checking
for suicide pills. Then he moved on to the rest of the body. The
captive watched with hatred and helpless anger glowing in his
‘Hurry up, damn it, we don’t have all day.’
‘I’m done.’ Hurriedly finishing his examination,
the medic motioned to the team leader. ‘Help me get him onto the
‘What’s this fucking contraption?’ North grabbed
at the infusion pump connected to the captive.
‘Hey, careful! Gimme a moment. Let me check….’
‘Fuck it! There’s no time. We need to get the
hell out of here.’
‘Just give me a….’
‘Move it, doc!’ the commando grated harshly,
chucking the still connected infusion pump onto the bedsheet. ‘You
can do all that shit on the chopper. Grab the sheet from that end
and let’s move him. Now!’
They used the sheet to pick him up and move him
onto the stretcher. Grabbing opposite ends of the stretcher, they
began to shuffle out with their catch, moving as rapidly as they
‘Go! Go! Go!’ North hustled as they went down
the steps and out into the front garden.
In the heat of the moment the medic did not
notice that the nitroglycerine drip in the infusion pump was
running dry. The doctor attending to the sick man had been getting
up to replenish the drip when the assault began. Now he lay just a
few feet away, three bullets embedded in his chest.
By now the gunfire had almost petered out.
Barring a sporadic shot here and there, an uneasy silence had
fallen upon the house.
They were bringing the barely conscious captive
out into the lawns when the SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter swept out of
the now lightening sky and settled noisily onto the lawn. The
North team leader and the medic got into the chopper with the
captive. There was a very brief delay as the body of the fallen
commando was taken on board. The chopper took off immediately. The
remaining commandos of North Team raced back towards their waiting
‘Eagle to Dominos. Get your butts out of here.
Code Red. I say again, Code Red.’
A series of taps acknowledged the transmission
as South, East and West abandoned the positions they had taken up
around the house as a precaution to ensure that no one got away.
Then the wagons pulled back and raced away into the gathering
light. Moving out of the area rapidly, they split up and moved
along predetermined routes, though all of them had the same
destination to reach.
Precisely eleven minutes had elapsed since the
vehicles had drawn to a halt outside the house. In a mere eleven
minutes a handful of men had achieved what thousands of soldiers
had been trying to do for the past few years. The man with a
twenty-seven million dollar reward on his head had been taken.
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