I seem to have lost the formatting on this, but I did promise to post it, so here it is - page one:
Iraq - Present day
Thursday 3.37 pm – local time.
The road through Hit had been quiet, too quiet for Sergeant Jack Chandler, but the city was almost behind them now. For two months, he and his corporal, Robbo Banks, had made equipment runs along this sixty mile desert corridor and today was their last duty. In a few minutes, if he could pass the old truck in front of them, he’d put his foot down and get back to base at Hadithah in readiness for the unit’s return to the UK.
The truck slowed, a light behind a broken indicator glass pulsing as the vehicle blocked the road to turn into an alley between dirty white buildings. Jack touched the brakes on the Snatch Land Rover and looked across at Robbo resting his SA80 assault rifle against the passenger door as he wiped sweat from his face with his sleeve. An internal smile at the thought of them having a beer together in Plymouth in a couple of days dissolved as the prospect of becoming a civilian occupied his mind, again. The truck reversing brought him out of his thoughts and he glanced into the door mirror at cars slowing behind them and no room to back up. He gave a toot on the horn and the vehicle jerked to a halt three metres in front of them.
‘What’s he doing?’ asked Robbo. ‘Give him a blast.’
‘And let everybody know we’re here?’ Jack directed a nod back behind the seats at cases of ammunition and two Rocket Propelled Grenades. ‘Just keep your eyes open,’ he said scanning their position. Further along on his right, to the rear of a large open space, people threaded their way past a three story building toward the road. Fifteen metres ahead on his left, behind two concrete pillars a bustling street market – he guessed this was where they were going. He looked back and traced the path of a young girl, her long dark hair bouncing as she ran across the wasteland. A man in a white robe and a woman in black walking after her shouted and she stopped. The hand she held up was quickly grasped by the woman who walked with her to join others at the kerbside.
The truck finally juddered its way into the alley and Jack waited as groups of people hurried across the road. He glimpsed the girl turn, frown a look back across the wasteland, and tug on the woman’s sleeve as she pointed. He followed the direction of her outstretched arm. Behind the roof parapet of the building a head and shoulders shimmered in the afternoon heat. The silhouette next to it tightened his gut. He punched a fist at Robbo. ‘Machine gun! Three o’clock.’
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