El Soldat, el soldat, the terrible one.
Tariq offered a final prayer to Allah as he mounted the sweeping steps to the big double doors of the church. This ‘simple’ operation had cost him eight good men, but that wasn’t what he was worried about, the men could always be replaced, there were so many willing recruits to fight Allah’s war now. What worried him was the girl.
El Soldat had made it perfectly clear that he wanted that girl back, alive and unhurt. Tariq had given the corresponding orders to the men, that they be careful not to harm her, but somehow the trigger-happy illiterate fools had gotten carried away, particularly that motherless imbecile Ibrahimo who had been made unit commander by mistake. The fool had brought his unit in through the back gates as ordered, and then opened fire on the cathedral with the truck’s mounted heavy machine-gun!
Tariq felt the coldness of fear in his heart. He knew that if anything happened to this girl he would be lucky to keep his head on his shoulders. He had never seen El Soldat so worked up over a woman before as he was about this particular girl, but then, when one considered the incredible beauty and rich body of the girl, it was very understandable. And she was Arab like him too, wasn’t she?
As soon as Tariq reached the big double doors, he saw two of his men hurrying forward with the girl held between them and he sighed with relief. At least she wasn’t dead.
“Is she hurt?” he asked at once, looking the girl over quickly.
“No, she’s fine.” replied one of the men.
“Good, take her to El Soldat at once,” commanded Tariq.
The two men dragged the girl past him, out the doors and down the front steps.
Tariq stood there in the doorway of the big doors and watched them hurry across the compound to the Cherokee Jeep. El Soldat himself got out to meet them and looked the girl over carefully. Satisfied, he made her get into the Jeep and then got in after her. The Jeep started up and drove off quickly, followed by an escorting pickup jeep full of armed terrorists.
Tariq sighed again with relief and gave final thanks in his heart to Allah above.
“We captured one of them alive,” said his lieutenant close by his side. “A whole Captain.”
Tariq began to smile. “Send the other commanders and their men back to the town at once, I will deal with that fool, Ibrahimo, later. Let’s see what information we can get out of this Captain and, perhaps, find out how loud Nigerian Army Captains can scream.”
Alex drifted out of unconsciousness slowly.
He became aware of the screams even before he reached full consciousness, they seemed to be reaching his ears from very far off. Alex dragged himself to the surface of full consciousness, and then the screams became deafening. Even before he opened his eyes, he knew the screams were that of a man being horribly tortured.
The pains in his chest and stomach were terrible, but the one in his head felt worse. He was unhurt, the big .45 slugs from the revolver had kicked the hell out of him, but they hadn’t gotten through the thin bulletproof vest he wore. Falling clean backward off his feet, he had hit the back of his head on something hard and that was what added up to knock him out cold for so long.
Alex took just a few seconds to gather up what was left of his strength and condition his mind to ignore the pains in his body, then he opened his eyes and looked around carefully without moving too much.
The cathedral was empty now except for a group of seven armed insurgents standing around one of the big pillars off to one side, close to the altar. They had Rufai tied up against the pillar in a standing position and one of them was busy torturing him with a knife while he screamed in agony. All the insurgents were armed, but not all had on their masks now. Alex recognized the big man he had seen earlier at the filling station through the binoculars and then again with El Soldat when the terrorists first came into the cathedral. He was the one doing the torturing and he wore no mask now, the red cloth that was the mask was tied loosely around his neck.
The girl was nowhere in sight.
Moving his right arm carefully and slowly, Alex reached for the pistol in his side holster but it wasn’t there. He suddenly realized that all his weapons and personal effects had been taken away, even his boots had been taken too. Alex realized that they had assumed he was dead and stripped his corpse of all valuable items as usual.
Alex started struggling weakly to get to his feet and the insurgents saw him at once.
“By Allah, look at that corpse rise from the dead!” said one of the insurgents, speaking in Arabic.
“I thought you people said he was dead?” said the big man angrily in the same language. He was also the only one that wasn’t carrying an AK-47 rifle, but he had a big new revolver stuck in his belt, Rufai’s revolver.
“He has three big bullet holes in his chest, Tariq. Look,” replied another one, gesturing over at Alex.
“And yet he is still trying to stand up on his feet right now,” said Tariq’s lieutenant, starting towards Alex.
“This infidel must have more than three lives,” said another adjusting the sling of his Ak-47 rifle over his shoulder as he followed his second commander over to Alex.
“Bring him over here let me carve him up,” ordered the big man, ready with the knife.
They all spoke in Arabic and Alex heard and understood them. Now on his hands and knees, looking weak and badly hurt, he watched the two men come.
The two terrorists walked confidently over to the injured man and caught hold of him. As they dragged him roughly to his feet, the man suddenly came alive with an incredible speed and agility that took them all completely by surprise, catching them off guard.
Alex hit the man to his left with an iron right fist to the throat, smashing his Adam’s apple and killing him instantly on his feet. In the same fluid motion, Alex lifted a leg and stamped down hard on the other man’s knee from an odd angle.
The man screamed in agony as the leg broke, the sudden pain immobilizing him.
In a flash, Alex caught the man by the arm, jerked him forward and around as he moved in swiftly behind him, wrapping a powerful arm around his neck and pulling backward to keep him upright, using him as a shield to face the other five terrorists across the cathedral.
The man clawed desperately at the arm around his throat as breathing became difficult and the rifle hanging from his shoulder dangled freely at his side.
In a split second,
Alex had a good grip on the rifle with his free hand, lifting and point it over at the other five terrorists. He fired a short burst, killing the two standing to one side of the pillar before any of them had time to react.
“Shoot him!” screamed the big man, waving the bloody knife frantically at the other two men who had their rifles at the ready, but hesitated to fire back for fear of killing their important comrade being used as a shield. He was Tariq’s lieutenant.
At Tariq’s screamed command, they started firing spontaneously, riddling their comrade’s body with bullets, but never got a clear shot at the Alex.
Alex fired another burst and killed them both at once. As he pushed the dead body of the terrorist away from him, the big man suddenly hurled the bloody knife with incredible accuracy despite the distance.
Alex leaned quickly to one side to avoid the flying knife, then brought up the rifle fast and fired a warning burst into the floor at the big man’s feet as he reached quickly for the pistol stuck in his belt.
The big man leaped backward several feet and held up his arms at once in surrender.
Keeping the rifle pointed, Alex walked quickly forward towards him, darting glances around to make sure there were no more terrorists left lurking anywhere.
“You are Tariq the Executioner, are you not?” asked Alex in fluent Arabic as he came up to the big man. “Killer and molester of women and children, second-in-command to El Soldat himself?”
“Yes, I am,” replied the man with a sneer. “I kill and destroy everything that walks or talks contrary to Allah’s will. Are you going to kill me in cold blood? You will only be making me a martyr and so my place in paradise will be assured.”
“I’m going to give you a private firing squad and the only place that will take you is right into the depths of hell where you and your kind belong.”
Alex lifted the rifle swiftly to his shoulder and opened fire from eight paces away, emptying the last of the magazine at Tariq.
The bullets tore into the big man’s chest and abdomen at a terrible speed, the sheer force of it all, throwing him violently backward and clean off his feet. His body landed on the floor with a heavy thud and lay still as the blood began to ooze freely from it.
Alex tossed the empty rifle aside as he walked quickly over to the bleeding corpse and tore out the pistol from the belt. He took a quick look around, taking stock of the bodies. He saw Samuel’s body and then Garko’s across the cathedral. He couldn’t find Efosa at first, but then looked out through one of the large windows and saw his body out in the courtyard or what was left of it at least. He couldn’t find the girl anywhere.
What a big mess and all because of one fool, thought Alex as he turned to the fool. He moved over and examined Rufai.
They had stripped Rufai completely of his military uniform and he was now a mass of blood and mutilated flesh in blue colored boxers’ shorts, tied systematically to the pillar with thin wire ropes. He was still alive, but in very bad shape.
They had cut open his belly so his intestine half spilled out, sliced off part of his nose, his ears too and even one breast. There were many deep cuts and wounds all over his body, but none of them could explain the large amount of blood pouring out of his shorts. Alex guessed his manhood had already been cut off, he glanced around and saw the swollen piece of black flesh on the floor close by to one side.
Rufai lifted his head slowly and stared at Alex with the glassed eyes of a man in mind-bending torment, one who had been in it long enough for it to start affecting his sanity. Alex knew the look when he saw it in a man’s eyes.
Rufai looked very weak, too weak. It was more the ropes that kept him in the erect position against the pillar than his legs.
“Please… help me” rasped Rufai in a barely audible voice. His mouth and nose were bloody and his breathing was labored.
Alex shook his head. “There’s no more help for you in this world. These ropes are what is keeping you alive. Once I cut them away, you will bleed out very quickly and die.”
“Then cut them …. let me die… please… kill me.”
Alex shook his head again. “Not until I get some straight answers out of you. El Soldat came back personally for the girl, didn’t he?”
Rufai nodded weakly, a slight movement of his head.
“What were the documents you wanted her to sign?”
Rufai lowered his head and didn’t answer. Alex glanced around, saw the black leather folder on the floor off to one side and went quickly over to pick it up. He opened it and read swiftly. He went through the first document, the second, and then he knew.
The knowledge brought Alex swift anger and he walked furiously back to Rufai.
“You bastards lied to me from the beginning,” shouted Alex angrily, waving the folder in Rufai’s bloody face. “This was not a legitimate rescue mission at all, it was a mission of murder! That girl’s father is the real owner of the entire Goldfield Holdings and with him dead, she inherits it all. Your boss is just an exalted caretaker and he hired me to get the girl back so he could force her to sign over her inheritance to him. It wouldn’t surprise me if you people had a hand in tipping the terrorists off to kidnap her in the first place, what better way to get rid of a billionaire heiress without raising a single eyebrow than to get a bunch of no good terrorists to do most of the dirty work for you then publicly pretend to play the hero that goes to the rescue only finish the job properly in your own way. What you really came here to do was to force the girl to sign these documents and once she did, you were going to kill her right here. It was the perfect plan, the ideal place to get away with murder because no law exists. We all become well-paid accessories to the murder and no witnesses will ever come forward. No wonder you people were coughing out so much money left and right, the profit margin was in the billions of dollars and you couldn’t afford any mistakes. The official story you people would’ve put out would be that the terrorists killed that girl despite the ransom being paid in full. Wasn’t that the plan? Answer me, god damn it!”
“Yes…yes,” breathed Rufai weakly. “Please, just… just kill me and get this over.”
Alex stared at him furiously for a moment, then shook his head and stepped away. “No, I won’t give you an easy escape, you sadistic bastard. You will live and breathe raw pain until you die, and that should take a good amount of time.”
“No, no, please… have mercy” Rufai gasped pleadingly.
“If that innocent girl had cried ‘please’ a thousand times, would you have spared her life?” Alex inclined his head and started to back away. “Of course, you wouldn’t.”
“Please, for god’s sake, have mercy!” rasped Rufai desperately.
“You killed me, remember? Dead men are incapable of showing emotions such as mercy, particularly not towards their killers. You need to save your strength and try to make yourself very comfortable, these bastards are really good at what they do, you’re going to stay alive for at least three hours”
“No, no… please… Pleeeaassee.”
Alex turned his back on Rufai for good and walked over to where the terrorists had gathered up all the weapons and loot from the ‘dead Nigerian soldiers’. Their boots, their new rifles and pistols, ammo, grenades, commando knives, watches, radio coms and even the phones, the two phones that had been in his pocket, everything was neatly laid out on the floor by another pillar and the terrorists would have split it among themselves once they got through with Rufai. It was the way things worked in this war. Stealing and stripping dead bodies was standard procedure for the insurgents, it was how they got most of their stuff.
Alex picked up the GX-2 at once and checked to make sure it was fine, then put it back in his pocket along with the other phone he had used to reach out to El Soldat. He found his boots among the five pairs and put it back on, then started re-arming himself quickly for war. He tossed aside the revolver and picked up one of the better Gloak automatic pistols, checked to make sure it was fine and fully loaded before putting it in the leather holster at his side. He picked up one of the new AK-47 rifles and checked it too, got the commando knife in its leather sheath and strapped it back in place on his belt.
The ammo was much and he would need them all where he was now headed. One of the dead insurgents had a good-sized Army backpack with him. Alex went quickly over to the corpse and got the bag, emptying out the useless contents onto the floor and packing up all the available ammo and grenades. He smashed up the communications devices and left all the other things behind, the rifles, pistols, boots, and uniforms, he didn’t need them and couldn’t destroy them easily.
Fully ready, Alex ran over to an open window and leaped easily through it, landing lightly on his feet in the open compound. He stood perfectly still for a full minute, surveying the area for any signs of life but saw none. The whole place was dead quiet, nothing moved anywhere and there was definitely no one around.
The black pickup truck the terrorists had come in was parked a short distance away, but the Mitsubishi bus was gone.
Alex crossed the compound quickly to the pickup jeep, thrust his rifle and the bag in through the open window and dropped them on the front passenger seat. He went to check the open back of the truck and found two full ten-liter gallons of fuel there. He got one of the gallons and carried it towards the parsonage, picking up a big granite stone along the way.
Alex went straight to the prayer chamber and proceeded to drench the bodies and severed heads of the two nuns with fuel, using up nearly three-quarters of the gallon’s contents. Once done, he recorked the gallon, placed the stone on one of the bodies and retreated to the door.
Standing just outside the doorway, Alex got out his pistol, took careful aim at the stone and fired a single shot.
The metal bullet smashed into the solid granite stone with a tiny spark that instant blossomed into blue flames. The fire spread swiftly to engulf the two bodies and the entire room itself.
Alex pulled the metal door half closed to give the inferno maximum effect, then headed back out into the compound.
He went straight over to the rotting corpse of the priest, emptied the last of the fuel over it and tossed the gallon aside. In a minute, he had the decaying corpse burning furiously too. Standing back, he made the sign of the cross over himself before turning away. He had fulfilled his promise and done the best he could. He had given them what was considered a king’s burial in many European lands, only he’d done it with fuel instead of well-placed firewood.
Crossing the compound quickly back to the pickup jeep, Alex got out the GX-2 from his pocket and switched it on.
The black Toyota Helix pickup truck was fairly new with dark tinted windows. From the partly scratched-out markings on its body, it had obviously been stolen from a police station down in Adamawa state. Alex got in behind the wheels and keyed up the GX-2 quickly. The high-tech phone locked onto a network and boosted it to proper service levels but couldn’t find any trace of the tracker anywhere.
He placed a call in to tactical center at Military Intelligence Headquarters, Abuja. He gave his code name to the agent who answered and in a second Colonel Iyang came online.
“I’ve been trying to reach you for the past ten minutes, Lieutenant,” said the Colonel urgently. “What the hell is going on down there?”
“The exchange was a setup. We got ambushed and all the people with me got killed. The terrorists now have both the money and the girl.”
“What shape are you in?” asked the colonel at once.
“One hundred percent and good to go, El Soldat is not getting away with this one. Requesting tracker coordinates, I don’t seem to be getting any signals from it directly.”
“The signal of that tracker separated from yours precisely twenty-eight minutes ago. It headed due south and east, most of that time, but went dark about ten minutes ago. We got confirmation from our inside men that the briefcase blew up right at the same time the tracer’s signal went dark.”
Alex sat bolt upright. “El Soldat and the girl were in the same vehicle with the briefcase. Are they dead?”
“Negative. Neither of them were anywhere nearby when the explosion occurred. You will have to go in and get him.”
“Give me the last known coordinates for the tracker.”
“It should be up on your screen by now, same as the contact info of our inside man. A meet will be arranged for you with him, you’ll need it. He may be able to help you get around a bit easier, but he’s too low down to render any major assistance. I’m afraid you are completely on your own from here on in, Lieutenant, and for all it’s worth, good luck.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The line went dead.
Alex checked the GX-2 again and saw all the information he wanted. He keyed the coordinates into the phone’s GPS and punched in a few more commands. The phone’s GPS instantly triangulated a position due southeast of his location and laid out the route the tracker had followed there. As Alex expected, the position was right inside Sambisa forest, the headquarters of the whole Boko Haram terrorist army.
Alex checked the time on the phone, cross-referenced it with that of his digital wristwatch and saw that they were a match. It was just 9.15 a.m. He put the phone back in his pocket and started up the Helix, the keys were already in the ignition. He turned on the air conditioning, saw that it worked well and activated all the dark windows to roll up closed.
Alex checked the fuel gauge and saw it was over half full. He gunned the powerful engine and it let out a deep roar as the big pickup truck shot forward like an angry bull, tires spinning up dust and sand like crazy as it made a tight U-turn and charged for the gates at speed.
The big pickup truck tore through the open gates and swung sharply left as it hit the flat terrain of the Maiduguri-Bama road. It accelerated rapidly to top speed and went racing south on the empty road like a bat out hell on important business.
Very important business.
THE END of Part 1
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Eze Eke [AUTOUR]
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