Authors: Richard Herman
Tags: #Fiction, #Suspense, #Thrillers
A FAR JUSTICE
San Francisco Los Angeles
Also by Richard Herman
The Last Phoenix
The Trojan Sea
Edge of Honor
Against All Enemies
Call to Duty
Force of Eagles
This is a work of fiction and all characters, incidents, and dialogues are a product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or events, is entirely coincidental.
© 2010 Richard Herman. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.
First Edition by AuthorHouse 5/26/2010
ISBN: 978-1-4490-7542-2 (e)
ISBN: 978-1-4490-7540-8 (sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4490-7541-5 (hc)
Printed in the United States of America
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Designed and produced by
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Janice Hayes Perkinson,
whose friendship and wisdom
made this possible.
“Law stands mute in the midst of arms.”
Gus Tyler stood in the dark and took a deep drag on the cigarette, ratcheting
up the flood of nicotine and caffeine coursing through his body. A line from Shakespeare came to him. “O! withered is the garland of war.” It seemed the right thing to say.
Where had he first heard it?
That time Clare sweet-talked me into seeing ‘As You Like It’
at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
He had been a fan of Old Will ever since. He couldn’t remember what came next so he fast-forwarded a few lines. “And there is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon.” On cue, an almost full moon filled a break in the overcast. He reached out and held it in his hand, only to slowly crunch it in his fist, willing it into darkness. He opened his hand and it was still there, hanging in the cloudy night sky. The war was exactly forty hours old.
A sergeant bounced out of the bunkered entrance into the command post. “Sir, Colonel Cannon is looking for you.”
Gus Tyler stubbed out his cigarette.
These things are going to kill you.
He marched back into the command post, leaving the moon to watch over the airbase at Al Kharj.
The wing commander, Colonel Jim Cannon, was on the secure line in the glassed-in mission control cab, and waved Gus to come inside. At thirty-one years of age, Captain August “Gus” Tyler was the best of Cannon’s pilots, a true combat leader, and at the top of his game. He was lean and stood exactly six feet tall. He had a full head of dark hair cut short, and his brown eyes were close-set. He had the required straight teeth and crooked grin required of all fighter pilots, and could have served as a poster boy for the tactical Air Force. Women considered him very attractive but he had no trouble refusing the not infrequent offers for a few innings of extramarital sport that came his way. He was on the promotion list for early promotion to major but hadn’t pinned on his bronze oak leaves yet, which to his way of thinking was a good thing. Field grade officers flew desks, not jets. Gus Tyler was a happily married man doing exactly what he wanted to do – flying the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Cannon mouthed the words “Black Hole” as he listened on the phone. The Black Hole was the name given to the Special Planning Group in Riyadh that directed the air campaign to help drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait. “How many jets?” Cannon asked. He listened for a moment. “You got it.” He punched off the connection.
“Gus, Saddam’s trying to extract his army and they don’t want the bastards to regroup north of the Euphrates. The Iraqis have got the mother of all convoys moving north out of Kuwait City. We told the Saddamites that anyone movin’ in a military formation is a legitimate target, and only deserters on foot would be safe. But they don’t seem to believe us.”
“Their brains haven’t kicked in or they’re slow learners,” Gus said.
“Both,” Cannon replied. “Latest count shows over a thousand vehicles beating feet north out of Kuwait City. The Black Hole wants us to bomb the livin’ hell out of the bastards. You want it?”
“That’s why we’re here.”
“Just remember what they did to a lot of innocent women and children in Kuwait. That should put some hate in your heart. Who you want on your wing?”
“Skid, with Woody in his backseat.”
“You got ‘em. And in your pit?”
“Who else? He hates flying with Armiston and will wet himself at the thought of doing something productive. I think he’s in mission planning. You and Skid launch ASAP and bottle ‘em up while I get jets coming your way.” Cannon’s eyes followed Gus as he walked quickly out of the command post. He took a deep breath and looked at the master clock on the wall. It was exactly 22:04 hours, February 25, 1991.
“Shit oh dear, Gus,” he murmured. “Do it right. This is gonna be a biggy.”
Mutlah Ridge, Kuwait
The Belgian’s knuckles turned white as he clenched the truck’s steering wheel and stared into the dark. He strained to see the tank carrier they were following, and desperately wanted to turn on the headlights to avoid another rear-end collision with the huge, low-bed vehicle transporting a T-72 main battle tank. But the Iraqi sergeant had made it very clear what would happen if he did that, or delayed the convoy because of another accident. “How much farther, Hassan?”
The young Palestinian sitting next to him clicked on his penlight to check the odometer and study the map. “Six kilometers to the border.” Hassan held the map for the Belgian to see. The Belgian’s heart raced. Six kilometers – just under four miles to the promise of a new, and very rich life. Not that Hassan knew what was in the truck. For some reason, that was important to the European. They were almost there.
The Belgian reached out and held Hassan’s hand near the instrument panel, directing the penlight onto the temperature gauge. It was almost pegged, all because of the collision. The radiator had been pushed back onto the electrical cooling fan, creating a horrendous scraping noise. Luckily, the radiator was still intact but he had to disconnect the fan before it did further damage. As long as they kept moving at a decent pace, they didn’t need it. He listened with a trained ear to the diesel engine of the big truck and gave silent thanks it was a Caterpillar. No one made better diesels than the Americans.
The tank carrier loomed up in front of them and the Belgian stomped on the brakes, dragging the heavily loaded truck to a grinding halt inches short of the stopped vehicle. “What now?” the Belgian muttered. Hassan switched on the hand-held radio the sergeant had stolen from the Kuwaitis. Arabic filled the cab. “I didn’t understand that,” the Belgian said.
“There’s an airplane in the area,” Hassan explained. They waited.
Panic ripped at the European. “Go!” he shouted at the huge truck in front of them, pounding the steering wheel in frustration. He knew the temperature gauge was off the scale. In front of them, the tank’s auxiliary motor hummed as the turret slewed around, pointing the 125mm cannon to the southeast and to their deep right.
“There!” Hassan shouted. Well to the east, the distinctive rocket plumes of two surface-to-air missiles reached up and streaked towards an unseen aircraft. Two explosions marked their target. “Allah be praised!” Hassan shouted, his voice filled with triumph. “They got the kafir.” The tank carrier started to move, but the tank’s cannon didn’t return to the aft travel position. Instead, it swung around and pointed in the direction they were going, to the north and safety. The Belgian eased the shift lever forward and slowly let out the clutch. The cannon fired and the tank carrier rocked from the recoil as the radio exploded with shouting voices.
“What are they firing at!” the Belgian shouted.
“The plane!” Hassan shrieked. “They keep missing!” More tracers cut the dark sky. Suddenly, three explosions at the head of the miles long convoy ripped the night apart. Then a fourth, much larger explosion pounded at them. Again, the tank carrier slammed to a stop, and again, the Belgian was barely able to stop in time. Now the tank was firing a round every 10 seconds. “There it is!” Hassan screamed. “There! There!” He pointed to their left at a low-flying shadow. Then it was gone, hiding in the night. Seconds later, the rear of the convoy erupted in a red cloud closely followed by three rolling explosions. The Belgian’s head twisted around and he caught the distinctive shape of a jet fighter as it pulled off its bomb run. Tracers from the convoy reached out but crossed far behind the jet. More voices were yelling over the radio.
“What are they saying?” the Belgian demanded.
“The kafir bombed both ends of the convoy!” Hassan shouted, his panic matching that on the radio. “We’re trapped!”
“Get out!” the Belgian ordered. He kicked his door open and the dome light came on. He bailed out of the cab.
The sergeant was there, waving his AK47. “Get back inside!” There was no doubt he was going to pull the trigger and the European scrambled back into the cab. The Iraqi stared at the two men, not sure what to do with the Belgian. However, the Palestinian was not a problem. He hurried around to Hassan’s side of the truck and jerked the door open. With a few well-practiced moves, he strapped Hassan’s right wrist to the handgrip mounted on the dashboard with a plastic tie-tab. “If you want him to live, stay in the truck and drive.”
“Oh no,” Hassan sobbed. He pointed to the head of the convoy with his free hand. Burning trucks highlighted the jet fighter as it rolled in for a bomb run, coming straight down the road and directly at them.
Panic ripped through the Belgian, and he threw a pocketknife at Hassan to cut the plastic tie-tab. “Get out!” He jumped out of the truck and rolled on the ground as the fighter roared directly overhead, two hundred feet above the ground and leaving a trail of bright flashing sparks in its wake. “Hurry!” he yelled at Hassan who was still fumbling with the knife, trying to open the closed blade. The Belgian scrambled on all fours and fell into a shallow depression as the twinkling, popping lights reached him. The flashing sparks were exploding grenade-size bomblets and the Belgian threw his arms over his head as a man-made hell washed over him. He felt a sharp pain as shrapnel cut his forearm. Then it was over. He raised his head. His truck was in engulfed in flames and he could see Hassan jerking at the plastic tie-tab, still trapped in the truck. It wasn’t in an effort to escape but involuntary spasms as he slowly cooked. The tank fired a round at the jet and the Belgian’s eyes followed the tracer into the sky. He saw the twin plumes of the fighter’s engines as it climbed safely into the night.
“You fucking bastard!” he screamed. A killing rage coursed through his body and soul, and, for the first time in his life he truly hated.