Authors: L. T. Ryan
Tags: #(Retail), #Adventure, #Action
THE GOOD SOLDIER
JACK NOBLE EARLY YEARS BUNDLE
BY: L.T. RYAN
Jack Noble Series in Order
A Deadly Distance
Noble Intentions Season One
Noble Intentions Season Two
Noble Intentions Season Three
Never Go Home
Beyond Betrayal (Clarissa Abbot)
Noble Intentions Season Four - Coming May, 2014
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The Recruit: A Jack Noble Short Story
A JACK NOBLE NOVEL
BY: L.T. RYAN
PUBLISHED BY: LIQUID MIND MEDIA, LLC
COPYRIGHT © 2012
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner and publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.
Baghdad, Iraq. March, 2002
I leaned back against a weathered stone wall. Muffled voices slipped through the cracked door. The night air felt cool against my sweat-covered forehead. A light breeze carried with it the smell of raw sewage. Orange tinted smoke from a distant fire rose high into the sky. Wisps of smoke streaked across the full moon ahead of the mass of artificial cloud cover, threatening to block the moonlight I used to keep watch over the sleepy street while the CIA special operations team did their job inside the house. The smart team leaders kept me involved. The dumb ones left me outside to guard the entrance.
Eight years on the job. Best gig I ever had. Then Bin Laden attacked the U.S. Forty-eight hours later everything had changed. Most teams were deployed to Afghanistan. Bear and I were sent to Iraq. We'd spent six months raiding houses just like this one inside and on the outskirts of Baghdad. And just like tonight, we were kept outside the house.
The only connection we had with the Marine Corps was the ten Marines over here with us. We only saw them a couple times a week. I had no idea where the rest of our Marine brethren were, and I didn't care. They didn't consider us Marines any more than we considered them brethren.
"Jack?" Bear said.
Bear had been my partner and best friend since our last day of recruit training. A recruit training experience cut four weeks short.
"Yeah," I said.
"I'm tired of this."
I turned my head, keeping my M16 aimed forward. Bear stared out into the distance. The faint orange glow of the fire cloud reflected off the sheen of sweat across his face.
"They just keep us posted outside," he said. "Ain't never treated us like this."
I shrugged. He was right. But there was nothing we could do about it. Bear and I were on loan to the CIA and had to do whatever we were told. Before 9/11, we were part of the team. But the CIA agents we normally worked with stayed behind in the U.S. and Europe. The teams over here weren't used to having two Marines with them and they weren't receptive to the idea.
"What do you suggest we do?" I said. "Quit?"
Bear shook his head and straightened his six foot six body. He shifted his M16 in his hands and walked toward the end of the house. Beyond his large frame I spotted a group of men. Figured that was why Bear went on high alert.
There were six of them huddled together. They spoke in whispers and appeared to look in our direction. Another three men walked toward the group. From this distance they didn't appear to be armed, but they had the cover of night on their side. Best to assume they were prepared to wreak havoc on our position.
"What do you make of that?" I asked.
Bear looked back at me with narrowed eyes and a clenched jaw.
Trouble lingered everywhere in this damn city. No one trusted us here. Every time I turned a corner I worried someone would be standing there waiting to take me out. The only person I could trust in Iraq was Bear. The CIA spec ops teams we'd been attached to looked down on us. They all seemed to be waiting for the right moment to drop us. Hell, for all I knew, they were inside that house negotiating our arrest.
Bear cleared his throat and then pointed toward the group. The nine men fanned out and began approaching our position. The sound of their voices rose from a murmur to light chatter. I made out distinct sounds. Despite being in Iraq for the past six months, I had a weak grasp on the language.
"What are they saying?" I asked.
Bear held up his hand, fingers outstretched. He cocked his head like he was looking up at the moon. His body crouched into a defensive position. The barrel of the M16 rose to waist level. He reached out with his left hand to support the heavy gun. I did the same. We both preferred the M16A3 because of its fully automatic firing capabilities in addition to single shot and semi-automatic options. The A3 was a much better option for security teams than the Marine standard issue A4. We could drop the entire group of men in under five seconds if we chose to do so.
"Talk to me, Bear," I said.
He took three slow steps back, blocking my view of part of the street. He yelled something in Arabic.
The group stopped their advance. One man stepped forward. His tall, gangly body stood out from the short stocky men in the group. He lifted his arms, a handgun clutched in his right hand. I tensed and tapped my finger against the M16's trigger. The harsh sounds of words spoken in Arabic filled the air. They echoed through the street. Then silence penetrated.
Bear turned to look at me, then smiled, then looked back at the men. He shouted in Arabic again and lifted his M16 to his shoulder.
The tall Iraqi raised his arms once again. He had put his gun away. He turned his back to us, said something to the group of men and started walking away. The mob held their positions for a moment. The tall man pushed past them. He spoke in an authoritative tone, his voice rising to a yell. They turned and followed him. A few looked back over their shoulders in our direction.
I exhaled loudly. Cool, calm and collected when others would panic. Now, however, I felt my hands trembling slightly. A deep breath reset me to normal. It was a typical sequence of events.
"Christ, Bear. What the hell was that about?"
He chuckled. "I think they're on our side, Jack."
"What makes you think that?" I used my sleeve to wipe a layer of cold sweat from my brow.
His smile widened. "They didn't shoot."
"What did you say to them… ah, forget it. You're a crazy SOB. You know that, right?"
He shrugged, ignoring me and scanning darkened windows.
I leaned back against wall, joined him. "You think this is what Keller had in mind when he shipped us off to the CIA?"
I had kept in touch with General Keller since he took us out of recruit training and placed us into the CIA sponsored program some eight years ago. I knew this was not what he had in mind.
Bear said, "Beats what we'd be doing otherwise."
I threw my head back and nodded over my shoulder toward the door. "You sure about that?"
Bear shrugged. His big head shook slightly. He wiped his face and then looked at me.
"I'm not sure of much anymore, Jack. This is what I know. They ship us somewhere. We do our job. Pretty simple."
I nodded. It was pretty simple. Eight years now and we knew the routine. We do our job. Only here, our job had been castrated down to nothing but a security detail while they did the work that would get the glory. Hopefully they'd get it soon and ship us back to the U.S.
We stood in silence. I stared at the orange glow of the cloud that covered half the sky.
The voice ripped through the air like a mortar arcing over our heads. The door whipped open. Bealle stood in the doorway.
"We need you two inside."
I turned to face Eddie Bealle, fourth man on the totem pole of the four man CIA spec ops team. "We're ready to go, Bealle."
* * *
We followed Bealle through the narrow doorway and down an even narrower hallway. The smell of burned bread filled the house. I looked over my shoulder and saw Bear shuffling sideways behind me, his broad shoulders too wide to fit square between the thin plaster walls. We turned a corner to another stretch of hall that opened up to a dimly lit room.
"What's the deal here, Bealle?" I asked.
Bealle said nothing. He just kept walking. His rank on the team was too low to justify acting like a prick. I had wanted the opportunity to beat it out of him for weeks now. He stepped through the opening, walked across the room and rejoined his team.
I followed, stopped and stepped to the right. Bear stepped to the left.
Scott Martinez looked over and nodded. He said something in Arabic to the Iraqi man sitting on the floor. The man's arms and legs were bound with the thick plastic ties we carried. Martinez rose from his crouching position and walked toward me. He ran a hand through his sweat soaked short brown hair and wiped blood spatter off his cheek. He stopped a few feet in front of me. Like most spec op guys, he was a good four inches shorter than me and a head shorter than Bear. There were exceptions. My eyes drifted across the room and locked on Aaron Kiser. He stood six foot two and could look me directly in the eye.
I scanned the room, my eyes inching along the yellow stained walls and ceiling. Paintings and family photos hung crooked in obvious spots. The furniture had been pushed to the far end of the room. The captive family huddled together at the other end. The man stared blankly at the floor between his bound feet. His wife sat behind him, her black hair frizzed and disheveled. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. Her hands rested in her lap, bound at the wrists. Hiding behind her were two small children, one boy and one girl. Their scared faces peeked over her shoulder. Their eyes were dark with fear and darted between the men holding their family captive.
I hated this part of the job. If we had something on the man, fine. He likely did something to bring us here. But why keep the family held up like this? It seemed to be the MO over here lately, at least when working with Martinez. And I had no choice but to go with it.
"Your job here," Martinez said, as if he had read my mind, "is to provide support. No different than any other day. I give an order, you follow. Understand?"
I shifted my eyes to his and said nothing.
Bear coughed and crossed his arms across his chest.
Martinez dropped his head and shook it. A grin formed on his lips, but his eyes narrowed. We'd butted heads more than once, and I figured he had become as sick of me as I was of him.
"I'm so tired of you two Jarheads."
I looked over at Bear and mouthed the phrase "Jarheads" at him. He laughed.
The bound man on the floor looked up. His glassed over eyes made contact with mine. I felt my smile fade and my lips thinned. The man's eyes burned with hatred and desperation. He took a deep breath, and then looked down at the floor.
"Follow, Noble." Martinez turned and held up his hand while gesturing toward me. He walked across the room and stopped in front of the Iraqi man and then kicked him in the stomach.
The man fell forward into Martinez's legs. His face contorted into a pained expression while he struggled to fill his lungs with air.
"Get this bastard off of me," Martinez said.
Kiser stepped forward, grabbed the Iraqi by the back of his head and dragged him to the middle of the room.
Martinez moved to the middle and crouched down. He looked the Iraqi man in the eyes.
"I want you to see this. See what your failure to give us any information has led to."
Martinez stood and walked over to the man's wife. He reached under her arm and yanked her to her feet. She gasped, and her children cried out. They grabbed at her with their tiny hands. Bealle and Richard Gallo led the woman by her elbows to the wall across from me. Martinez followed. He stood in front of the woman, leaned in and whispered in her ear.
Her eyes scanned the room and met mine. A tear rolled down her thin face. Her mouth opened slightly. Her lips quivered. She bit her bottom lip and then mouthed the word "please" to me. Martinez brought a hand to her cheek, and she started crying.
Martinez moved to his right and looked over his shoulder at the man on the floor.
"Isn't your wife worth it?" His face lit up as he said it, and his eyes grew wide and the corners of his mouth turned upwards in a sadistic grin. I noticed his respirations increased fivefold. The spec ops leader appeared to find the exchange exhilarating.