Jessica sighed. She looked at Mac. “Terry sounds all squared away. At least the motorcycle gang is busy with the cops right now.”
“Yeah. Tonight could have gone very badly. But, you can’t anticipate that kind of cluster fuck.” Mac looked her over. “You think you can still drive?” Mac looked concerned.
Jessica took a deep breath and nodded. “I think I can do a few blocks just to hide my car. Then we can call Greg to come and collect it. He can haul it up to his shop.”
Jessica gingerly navigated her bullet-riddled car out of the parking space and followed Mac in the Lopez Caddy. After a couple of blocks, they parked her Land Rover near a development in a dark corner of a strip mall shopping center parking lot. Mac came over and examined the bullet holes in the door panels. He helped Jessica out and into the Cadillac passenger seat. He grabbed her first aid kit and changed the dressing on her side. It had filled with blood but the flow had slowed.
Her head had stopped bleeding and the graze only needed to be cleaned. Mac applied a butterfly bandage and it looked acceptable. The bullet that had gone into the arm and not exited, wasn’t bleeding, just oozing. It was the hip shot that had him worried.
“I think the bullet in your arm was a ricochet and was slowed. I’m wondering what it hit to cause the numbness. Your hip worries me with all the blood.” He poured an antibiotic powder into the wound then pushed in clean gauze. He moved Jessica’s hand down to the spot on her hip and had her apply pressure.
Mac went back to Jessica’s truck and emptied the vehicle. He piled everything into the Caddy including the floor mats and all the carpeting he could remove. He even took the tags. If anyone found it before Humphrey could tow it away, the police would have little to go on. It was left in a quiet spot. While he was giving his Dobermans a chance to stretch, he gazed back at Jessica. It felt like they were still at war.
As he was loading the Cadillac SUV with the contents of Jessica’s truck, he reassured her. “I really doubt the biker gang gave the police a description of your truck. They probably want to handle this all within their club. I’m sure it’s all safe for now.”
Jessica looked at him. “If they do it all themselves, they’ve already contacted Mr. Lopez and he’s contacting other gangs. I’m sure he thought about his wife running off especially after he beat up his kids. I’m sure she could spill the beans on his whole operation.
He’s probably going to keep this search in-house but I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts out a bounty on their heads. I'm sure they’ll want to handle that themselves. I’ll bet before too long other gangs will be out looking for this SUV and my Rover.”
Mac grimaced and gestured to the Caddy. “It would be nice to dispose of this beast anyway. It handles like crap.”
Jessica was closing her eyes. Between the loss of blood and the pain, she was fading in and out. “That sucks. Think of it as a test drive.” She tried to smile through her pain. “Oh yeah. Thanks for rescuing me.”
Mac kissed her lips. He held her head in his hands. She felt feverish.
After making sure her seatbelt was secure, they drove away in the Cadillac. He checked his GPS and made two phone calls.
He looked over at Jessica. She was almost unconscious in the passenger seat. She was mumbling to herself. It looked like she was having a nightmare or was delirious. Her breathing was shallow. Mac figured the pain was pretty bad.
Jessica had her eyes closed tight. The pain in her abdomen was getting worse. Besides the damaged flesh and nerves and the danger of infection or bleeding out, there was a lot more to worry about. They both knew it was only a matter of time until the infection from the bullet lodged inside would cause peritonitis and kill her.
She had done a lot of wrong in her life and could probably do penance for the next hundred years and never be forgiven. She adjusted herself in the seat and let her mind drift back to her days in the field.
James was still called Squeak until he’d been in-country for a month with his Ranger squad. The team didn’t have a lot of downtime between missions. Their eight-man squad worked every day on hit and run ambushes. Their goal was to sow fear.
Today, the four riflemen lay on a hill waiting on their targets to show themselves. Each sniper had their own spotter lying next to him. Each spotter on the team was holding a high tech pair of non-reflective polarized binoculars. Intel had promised them an important meeting. They were to disrupt it and bring hard closure to the gathering.
Their prize was two Taliban chieftains meeting with a pair of Al Qaeda terrorist leaders. Lying on the hill almost a quarter mile away from the meeting, they’d watched the four insurgents enter the building one at a time over a two hour stretch through the afternoon. Now, under cover of the fading light, everyone was simultaneously exiting the building to their vehicles randomly parked in the courtyard behind a low wall. Each leader had a contingent of lieutenants and bodyguards. Their SUVs and trucks were scattered around the building.
Squeak’s target was Black Hat Three. He’d been identified and locked on. After James acquired the target, he nodded and waited for the tone signal in his earpiece. When it came seconds later, he squeezed the trigger. It seemed like forever for the bullet to reach the target, but the sound of the gun took twice that long to be heard. The 50 caliber cartridge tumbled as it struck Black Hat Three through the center of his skull. James couldn’t dwell on watching his Black Hat crumple to the ground. He had more targets to acquire.
Four rifles all firing at the same time sound remarkably like one gun. The enemy only heard one shot but fragments of four skulls sprayed everywhere.
James’s second order was to open fire on anyone in the courtyard full of soldiers to create confusion and increase collateral damage. James acquired another target immediately and squeezed off another round. One member of their team fired a round into each radiator of all the trucks to slow down the enemy’s escape or pursuit.
Now, all the sniper rifles were firing fast and furiously. Men were falling everywhere. There wasn’t enough time for anyone to take cover or to return fire. The American forces rained down shot after shot onto the courtyard on all the enemy forces. And that quickly, it was over.
Before the insurgents could regroup or take cover, more than two dozen lay dead. By the time the enemy was organized and ready to return fire, the eight Rangers had saddled up and were gone.
As he climbed into the waiting Humvee, he pulled the bag out of his pocket. James had a few queasy moments. He’d never seen so many people die so quickly. He barely had time to acquire targets before they were exiting the site. He knew he’d killed at least five more people. He’d watched most of it through his scope.
That night and every night from then on, James lay in bed and saw each mission over and over again in his mind. As the slaughter replayed through his closed eyes tears ran down his face. He wasn’t proud of being a killing machine, but it was his job. He was determined to see it through This is what he signed up for and this is what he was good at doing. He was a murderer in the name of war.
Jade followed orders and the war followed James Jade. He did his job. Each day they’d go out and assassinate more people. Every night, he’d see it all over again as he tried to sleep. It was his personal nightmare. He became an extension of his rifle and he was always responsible for pulling the trigger. It was Jade who did the killing.
He did his job well. So well that he was promoted and eventually put in charge of the squad. His assignment was to keep the seven other men alive to live to fight again each day. He devised strategies, planned thoroughly, and always made sure their orders were executed properly. James Jade became a Sergeant. James Jade hated himself more each day.
Their team was expert at slaughter. As the word spread of their success, they became a legend. They took their name from a Shakespeare quote, ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war’. They were the Dogs. They were the executioners. They were feared.
And as a result, they became pariahs. There were three teams of Dogs, twenty-four men in total all supervised by John MacIssac. The majority of the men living inside the Green Zone avoided the three squads. James heard others refer to them as the mad dogs or the dogs of doom.
At first it was all a source of pride for a job done well. Their team of eight had been turned loose in this crazy world to wreck havoc on the enemy. But, each night they’d return with more blood on their hands and in their minds. Their assassinations created fear and hatred among the enemy. James worked hard rationalizing the taking of lives in such a brutal way was helping end the war sooner. He knew what he did was despicable, but it was his mission. He only prayed that their efforts could end this madness of the war.
But the war never ended and the killing went on. Their missions got more bloody and less strategic. He felt himself becoming an animal, no better than the enemy. He started to hate himself even more.
It was a never-ending task. Day after day, he saw himself being sucked down into the mud and mire. Jade was drowning in the blood of his enemy. While he tried to separate himself from the mission, he failed. He felt doomed as he lived through his personal Hell on earth.
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