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.
With Cyrus holding the camera, Marcus took the tablet and started pointing things out. “They’ve got security out all the time, even at night. The night post looks like it’s only about four guys for the block, but they’re definitely there. They tend to cluster together and smoke most of the time, so their night vision’s going to be shit, but they do occasionally wander out to the street corners. There isn’t really a pattern to their roving; it just happens as they feel like it.”
Cyrus flipped through several photographs, showing at least ten different individuals entering the green gate. “These are the guys we saw go in, but did not see exit.” He looked up at me. “Is Mike’s team in place?”
I nodded. “They have been since just before you guys pulled off. They have eyes on the street; they’ll let us know if anybody else comes or goes.”
He nodded, satisfied. “From what we could see, there are at least fifteen people in the house and grounds. They’re not showing a lot of weapons on the outside at the moment, especially since a PPF patrol passed through about four hours ago. They looked like Daoud’s men, and they were armed to the teeth, so nobody fucked with them, even in here.
“No signs of IEDs set up in the street, and believe me, we looked. Usually in setups like this, if they do have an IED screen, they don’t have them hooked up during the day. We didn’t see anybody do any sort of hookup or shutdown, either yesterday or today. My guess is, from what Black told us, that this guy’s relying on family connections and the threat of his security goons to keep the unwanted away.”
“These guys rarely have IED screens in cities, anyway,” Larry pointed out. “That’s usually a rural thing. The ones living in cities still have to live with their neighbors, and there comes a point when fear no longer outweighs blown up local kids.”
Looking at the overheads, it was apparent that this was going to be a tough hit, even without the heightened resistance. Getting to the target fast was going to be paramount, as well as timing the hit with Mike’s guys, four of whom had climbed onto nearby rooftops with their rifles. No sniper rifles this time; the distances weren’t such that the .338 Lapuas would be in their element. But they were placed to sweep the street just before we moved in.
Most of the time, in these sorts of urban situations, I preferred to move in on foot, converging from multiple directions, keeping the footprint small until it was time to breach. The sentries on the street were kind of fucking with that model.
I ran through how we were going to make the hit. This involved going over it with the four of us in the middle of the room, then going over to each of the four guys on security at the doors and empty windows, and going over it with them, trading off so they could look over the tablet and the pictures. It took longer than I would have liked, but I told myself that the later at night it was, the less likely the bad guys would be expecting anything.
We finished prepping what little gear we had, which was mostly belt kits, plate carriers, lightweight helmets, and NVGs with thermal attachments. This was probably going to be the last raid we made that we used the .300 Blackout SBRs. Ammo was becoming a problem. We’d been able to resupply earlier, but it was next to impossible down here in Basra, and the .300 BLK wasn’t a caliber commonly found outside the US. NATO standards were, thankfully, more and more common in the Third World, especially in the wake of US “nation building” efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, but the more specialized cartridges were still plenty rare.
We were about as ready as we were going to get. Time to dance.