An Excerpt from – SALIM MUST DIE
(2009) - by Mukul Deva
as the 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
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
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
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 house.
‘Eagle, we’re going
in hot now,’ the team leader hissed into his headset as they ran
‘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 cacophony.
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 the
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
‘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.’
Hurriedly finishing his examination, the medic motioned to the team
leader. ‘Help me get him onto the stretcher.’
fucking contraption?’ North grabbed at the infusion pump connected to
‘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
‘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 could.
‘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
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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