Jim and I were waiting at the RV point, two blocks from the target house. We were both dressed like locals. Jim had gone more traditional, wearing a light dishdasha and a brown coat. I was wearing jeans, shoes, and a t-shirt with a leather coat. I was still a little big for a local, but in the dark it made less of a difference. First glance was all that mattered at the moment; if it went beyond that, both of us had our .45s hidden under our coats, along with soft armor. The long guns were in duffels in the HiLux.

Cyrus and Marcus approached us, similarly dressed, and we made a great show of greeting each other, embracing and shaking hands. From a distance, it would look like any group of men meeting on the street. We moved to the HiLux and drove around the block to an abandoned construction site where the rest of the team was waiting.

Cyrus and Marcus hadn’t been part of my team before. They’d been Mike’s boys, but with the casualties we’d taken over the last few months, with Bob, Paul, and Juan going down, after Malachi had been medevaced, we’d had to even things out a little. Mike was down one already, so he gave me Cyrus and Marcus. Both had been Rangers with RRD, so I’d picked them for the R&S element for this particular raid.

The rest of the assault element was gathered in the shadows of the partially-constructed building. It looked like it was supposed to be another residential house, but when or if it would get completed was anybody’s guess with what was going on in Basra. Granted, I’d seen these people carry on with an almost inhuman disregard for the chaos around them before. It was entirely possible that the workers would be here in the morning, continuing to build. We should be long gone by then.

Larry and Little Bob were waiting at the unfinished doorway, both of them looming out of the dark. Little Bob got his name as a sarcastic comment on his size, as well as the fact that we’d had two Bobs at the time. Bob Fagin was almost two months dead, but Little Bob he remained. Larry, like me, was one of the founding members of the company, and was just big—barrel-chested, tall, and with an enormous, balding head and what he’d started calling his “scary murder hobo” beard.

Nick and Bryan were further back in the darkness of the unfinished structure, watching the other openings. Hassan was crouched against a wall. He wasn’t really a team member, but had sort of attached himself to us, first as our interpreter, but increasingly as a partner. He still had some weird cultural habits when it came to combat, but he was turning into a good shot, a halfway decent fighter, especially compared to most of the militia-turned-Provincial Police Force we worked with in Basra, and had way more knowledge of the tribal, ethnic, and sectarian dynamics of the area than we ever would. Add in that he was far more fluent in English than I would be in Arabic, even if I had another five years to study the language, and he was turning into a hell of an asset. None of us necessarily trusted him to the point of a teammate, of course, but at the moment, we trusted him more than we did Black.

Black wasn’t there. He was back at the Basra Police Station, which had become Hussein Ali’s headquarters for the PPF, under guard. We didn’t want to try to do the hit and keep an eye on him at the same time.

Cyrus and Marcus went straight to the middle of the room and knelt down. Cyrus pulled out a small camera that they’d used to take all their surveillance photos. Jim reached into his duffel and pulled out the small tablet that held our imagery. We had laminated hard copies as backups, but this was simpler for the moment; we could mark the points of interest and concern, then pass the tablet around.