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It was cold and David wanted to move and stretch and rub his tired muscles or do anything to restore his circulation, but right now any movement might be his death knell.
How long had he and Murray been in place? He could see for miles and from his perspective, with or without his scope he could see any movement of anything, animal or man. It wasn't like being in the Rockies. Here in Afghanistan, in mountains that were bleak and filled with dust they seemed to resent any stranger. Perhaps this was in a land that showed its dislike to anyone who otherwise interfered with the warlords and people who scraped a living from a sterile land. Hadn't the Russians discovered that their only reward was death? The British one hundred years ago, had been defeated by the wild tribes. No, in Afghanistan people like Murray and himself were the ones who were foreigners. No matter how well he had been briefed, he'd never really understand people who continually fought among themselves; subjected their women to primitive treatment that was not much better than slavery. Now after the attack on New York, the Americans were here with other allied nations trying to track down the perpetrators of the September 11th attack on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon.
He had to stifle the need to massage a cramp that was now in his leg. He looked again and beyond his camouflage covering he saw movement at last. In a crevice, 1500 feet away someone was awake. Murray had seen it too. So they had a target. Should they wait and see if someone else was around or was this a lone Al Qaeda member?
A touch to his head was the signal and he knew the answer. His fingertouched the trigger and the sniper rifle was almost a part of him, as he squeezed the trigger. His target even from behind the little stonewalls, crumbled. It was a good kill and a bullet to the head was fatal. His team, the Canadian JTF2 had another terrorist accounted for.
Events that shook the world to its core seemed a long way from the cold mountains, but the Americans were now here in force and the mountains around them were being pummeled by the B52 or whatever was up there just a speck in the sky. If anyone were within the drop zone, the shattering effects of the bombs would probably collapse tunnels that honeycombed the area.
Yet it was up to teams like theirs who cleaned up. Waiting like a fox waits for a quail or rabbit to break cover was part of the routine of assassination or sniping. Now they would wait a little longer before calling in the grovelers.
He laughed at the name 'grovelers', but that was a job that took guts crawling into a cave where death might be lurking. He had read accounts back in the Vietnam war where the Viet Cong had elaborate tunnels barely wide enough to slither through and it was usually the smallest member of the army patrol who inspected the tunnels watching out for booby traps or die hard Cong waiting in the darkness. Here up in the cold rocks it was something similar, although the caves were not as elaborate.
They had already had some success and these people who were allied to those who had flown planes into the World Trade Towers were better equipped than one could believe. Some caves had produced more than one or two dead, but it was what surrounded these bodies that was really important. Laptop computers, papers, and any sort of arms or equipment were what the intelligence people craved. You had to admit that no one had foreseen the events of September the eleventh. Now it was a battle to find out those responsible and put them down.
Well the grovelers arrived and he'd go with them. Perhaps he'd crawl past the sign of his success and see for himself what a tunnel complex looked like.
• • •
Kim Novik walked into her grade six class and looked at the waiting children. She felt her heart pounding and knew that today was not just like the others. For three years she had taught at the A. Wyer Elementary School in Washington D.C. For three years she had grown to love her job and perhaps it was because she cared for her students and wanted the best for them. She wanted them to succeed. Now the children looked fearful. They too had heard the news. Bad news always had its own form of transmission. Four of their classmates were dead.
The principal Malcolm Sack phoned her at 6:30, 30 minutes before she normally got up, but when she heard the news she understood.
There would be grief counselors coming to the class and the school. Perhaps tomorrow there would be an assembly and when the funerals were scheduled she, her fellow teachers and students would attend. Some might find it too stressful. Some might not be able to go. What had caused four of her students to die like that?
Right now, no one had the answers. She looked at the frightened faces that greeted her. The empty desks were strangely enough scattered evenly throughout her grade six class. Amos Sheen, Billy Deaver, Clyde Thompson and Miguel Pios, they were not unusual kids, some had problems, but she had succeeded in getting their interest. She knew that it was vital to make a student feel good about themselves and planting the kernel that was vital for any student to love learning. That was a gift that she had been given by one of her teachers so many years ago and she knew it was one of the most precious gifts a teacher could given to a student. She had never lost a child before and the quadruple effect was almost beyond her own understanding.
She noticed that there were several police cars in the parking area and one police van, which probably was specially equipped, were parked near the front door.
She didn't know what had killed them. The principal had said it wasn't like a murder, some random shooting or stabbing, but it seemed all the children had been found dead in their sleep. That sounded like some type of disease and if it were contagious no wonder the police were here in force. She noted a car with the Washington Coroner's logo on the side. Was it unsafe to be here at school?
No one had answers and since the answers were not coming the rumours started to spread. The victims had contracted a new disease like the West Nile Virus or perhaps some adolescent disease that somehow had come to light.
The police chief called in Patrol Officer Burt Ravnor. "Sit down; I understand that you knew these kids?"
Ravnor right away felt uncomfortable. "Yes sir, I knew of them; sometimes I saw them on my beat."
"Well, the coroner is upset and wants you to find out what they were doing the days before they died. He's not been able to pin point a cause and you know our dear coroner get a little ornery when he doesn't have the answers.
"Tell me what you know of them. You were called to Amos Sheen's house?"
"Yes, I was the first uniform on the scene. I saw him up in his bedroom. Why a kid just at the beginning of his life dies is beyond me?"
"Amen to that, and that's why I want you to work on this exclusively. Find out if the other boys were doing something questionable. Don't try and paint them whiter than white. Any kid who lives in that area between the hookers and the primps, the druggies and the honest citizen soon learns that the street is a jungle and you have to know the rules to survive."
"Yes sir, they weren't bad kids. Oh, they tried to look tough, but looking tough at thirteen isn't always that easy."
Copyright © 2007 George Laidlaw.