An excerpt from my second novel.
Bob needed a break. One of his many intelligence duties required him to sit at a row of computer monitors and track bank accounts for terrorist cells in the area. After a couple of hours of blinking lights and colored numbers his head was swimming. He leaned back in his chair, took off his head phones and gave his scalp a brisk rub with the tips of his fingers. He shoved his chair back and went to the entrance of the canvas hut. As soon as he opened the door flap, the 115-degree heat and brilliant sun hit him in the face like a champion boxer. Even with polarized, aviator sunglasses, he had to squint. He held his hand over his eyes until they had a chance to adjust. After a couple of minutes, Bob went out into the clearing in front of the intelligence tent and trudged up the sandy berm that helped protect them from bomb blasts, and looked around.
Every time Bob took this little stroll he was always struck by the curious placement of the intelligence tent, right next to a sprawling refinery. A simple barbed wire fence and a sign printed in three languages that read, “Keep out. Lethal force will be used. Operated and managed by Global Energy Resources, Inc. (G.E.R.I.)” was all that protected the refinery from insurgents and terrorists. Hmph! If I were CEO, there would be armed Army outposts every hundred yards. This is crazy!
Bob looked up past the refinery to the little cluster of mud huts just on the other side, “Damn!” the sand was rising high over the roof tops to the northwest, “Another ‘Shamal’. I hate this place!”
He went back down the side of the berm and into the subdued lighting of the intelligence hut and announced, “Better batten down the hatches again. We have another shamal coming.”A unified groan arose from the dozen or so analysts in the small canvas room.
Bob went back to his position of three monitors to pick up where he left off. As soon as he sat down, the phone at his position began to squawk. “Bob Edlestone here.”
“Yeah, Bob, this is Frank. I need something cold to drink.”
The idea of a cold beer brought a small burst of adrenaline to Bob. “You were reading my mind! Same place?”
“Yeah. I’m really thirsty too.”
“Hmmm” This was code from Frank. “He’s come across some good intel.” Bob’s brow furled. “Okay. I’ll see what kind of contraband I can scrounge up and maybe some ice. I’ll be there in an hour.”
Bob closed out his position and went to gather the liquid refreshments before the shamal hit. He got into the beat up, sedan that his intelligence unit had confiscated from one of the Taliban and headed out to their usual meeting spot.
Bob pulled into a small rocky outcropping in the middle of the desert about twenty minutes outside of Bagdad. The shamal had covered the area and hid his arrival. After a minute, he looked up in his rear view mirror. The sand was thick. He could only see about ten feet. Suddenly, a shadow appeared out of nowhere. It was a man carrying an AK-47, dressed in a kameez with a checkered shimagh cloth protecting his face from the sand. The shadow was heading right for his sedan. Bob reached for his .45 semi and sat it on his lap. A second later the man jerked open the door and rushed in.
Frank pulled the cloth from his face. “Damn sand! I’m so tired of this stuff! When I get back to the real world I’ll never live on the beach!”
That brought a grunt of a laugh and a smile. “Every time I see you, you look more and more like one of the locals.”
“That’s the idea. Right?”
“Yeah, but I’d hate to lose a good friend to an accident though.”
Frank noticed the .45 in Bob’s lap. “Yeah. Right.”
“This news you have. Is it going to take more than three beers?”
“Three! That won’t even get the sand out of my mouth! Damn sandstorms!” He persisted. “I’ll force myself to drink slow. What do you have?”
“I was able to get three local beers and a bucket of ice. You’d better drink real slow, because I have a few things to talk about too.”
Frank dropped his head in a show of disappointment. “Anything to get this sand out of my mouth. You know, I can’t help but be amazed at how much booze we find here. I mean, for all their religion, and so-called anti-alcohol life style, there sure is plenty of it around.”
“Yeah. The religious fanatics and area war lords especially. You know, I can’t help but believe that, left up to their own devices, all the common slob here wants to do is live their life peaceably, relax in the evening, and even if it does violate a religious code, they can appreciate a cold brew.”
“It’s the human condition.”
“So what’s this good intel you have?” Bob asked.