January 6, 1991
Cool water, smooth as glass as Kelby swam through it. Jesus, he was thirsty. He knew all he had to do was open his lips and the water would flow down his throat, but he wanted to see beyond the arched doorway first. It was huge and ornately carved, beckoning him forward. . . .
Then he was through the arch and the city was spread before him.
Giant white columns built to stand forever. Streets laid out in perfect order. Glory and symmetry everywhere . . .
He was being shaken. Nicholas. He came instantly alert. "Time?" he whispered.
Nicholas nodded. "They should be coming back for you again in five minutes. I just wanted to make sure we're on the same page. I've decided we scratch the plan and I take them out by myself."
"You'll blow it for both of us. You haven't had anything to eat or drink in three days, and you looked like a truck ran over you when they brought you back to the cell."
"Shut up. It hurts my throat to argue." He leaned back against the stone wall and closed his eyes. "We go as we planned. I give the word. Just tell me when they start down the hall. I'll be ready."
Go back to the sea. There's strength there. No thirst that couldn't be satisfied. He could move without pain through the buoyant water.
White columns shimmering . . .
"They're coming," Nicholas murmured.
Kelby opened his eyes only a slit as the door was unlocked. The same two guards. Hassan had an Uzi cradled in his arm. Kelby was so hazy he couldn't remember the other guard's name. But he could remember the toe of his boot as he kicked in his rib. Yes, he could remember that.
Ali, that was the bastard's name.
"Get up, Kelby." Hassan was standing over him. "Is the American dog ready for his beating?"
"Get him, Ali. He's too weak to stand up and face us again."
Ali was smiling as he came to stand beside Hassan. "He'll break this time. We'll be able to drag him into Baghdad and show the whole world what cowards the Americans are."
He reached down to grab Kelby's shirt.
"Now." Kelby's foot lashed upward and connected with Ali's nuts. Then he rolled sideways, knocking the Arab's legs from beneath him.
He heard Hassan mutter a curse as Kelby leapt to his feet. He got in back of Ali before he could get off his knees, and his arm snaked around Ali's neck.
He broke it with one twist.
He whirled to see Nicholas smashing the Uzi into Hassan's head. Blood spurted. Nicholas hit him again.
"Out." Kelby grabbed Ali's pistol and knife and ran to the door. "Don't waste time on him."
"He wasted a lot of time on you. I wanted to make sure he'd gone to Allah." But he was running after Kelby down the hall.
In the front office another guard jumped to his feet and reached for his gun. Kelby cut his throat before he could lift it.
Then they were outside the hut and running toward the hills.
Shots behind them.
Nicholas looked over his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Go on, dammit."
Sharp pain in his side.
The adrenaline was draining away and weakness was dragging at every limb.
Go away from it. Concentrate. You're swimming toward the archway. No pain there.
He was running faster, stronger. The hills were just ahead. He could make it.
He was through the archway. White columns gleamed in the distance.
Marinth . . .
Lacy golden fretwork.
Excerpted from Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen Copyright© 2003 by Iris Johansen. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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