Delta Force Die Hard

By: Carol Ericson

Prologue


The boy, who’d introduced himself as Massoud, prodded his back with the old rifle as they made their way over the last of the rocks down the mountain.

The Afghan kid didn’t seem to know much English beyond the words he’d used to threaten his life, or maybe his elders had ordered him to keep his mouth shut in front of strangers—especially American soldiers.

He didn’t have any intention of harming the boy and hadn’t taken the kid’s earlier threat of bodily harm seriously. If that old Russian rifle could even shoot, Massoud barely looked big enough to hoist it and take aim. It worked well as a prop, though, giving his captor a false sense of courage.

He’d rather wind up wherever Massoud was leading him than lay waste to the kid in the mountains and be stuck making his way down by himself. He didn’t lay waste to children anyway, despite what the US military believed about him.

Massoud had actually helped him navigate the terrain, which would’ve been difficult to do with his bum leg. Probably saved his life. Of course, he could’ve been saving it just to have someone else take it later.

He drew up and tripped to a stop, the boy’s rifle jabbing him in the hip. He pointed to the huts with smoke rising from the center and a few goats tied up outside. He asked in Pashto, “Is this your village?”

The boy answered in English with the only words he seemed to know. “You die now, American soldier.”

“Okay, okay.” He held up his hands. “But you can call me Denver. I told you that. Denver.”

The boy patted his own chest. “Massoud.”

“I know, Massoud. Thank you for taking me down the mountain.”

A flush seeped through the dirt on Massoud’s grimy face as he pushed past him and greeted one of the goats with a scuff beneath its chin, his prisoner momentarily forgotten. “My home.”

“Food?” Denver straightened his shoulders. He could eat one of those goats by himself—if Massoud’s family didn’t kill him first.

Nodding, Massoud pushed through the flap that functioned as a front door and waved him inside with the rifle.

Denver blew out a breath and shrugged his own weapon off his back. He leaned it against the side of the hut, leaving his sidearm strapped to his thigh. Massoud’s family had to realize that if he hadn’t used his weapons to kill their son, he didn’t plan to use them against the other family members, either.

He ducked inside the dark, smoky room, and his eyes watered. A pot of something savory hung over a fire, bubbling with a thick concoction that made his stomach growl.

A small woman hunched over the fire, stirring the contents of the cauldron without looking up from her task.

Massoud rattled off something in Pashto, too fast for Denver to catch all the words except American, but whatever he said had an instantaneous effect on the woman cooking.

She whirled around, the spoon in her hand dripping hot liquid onto the dirt floor. She swung the spoon at Massoud, the words tumbling from her lips and droplets flying from the utensil. When she stopped to take a breath, she scuttled into another room—probably the only other room in the structure.

Massoud pushed Denver in the direction of the flap at the front, and he stepped outside again, breathing deeply of the fresh air. The woman didn’t seem too happy to see him, but at least nobody had shot him between the eyes...yet.

Massoud put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Less than a minute later, a middle-aged man appeared at the door of another hut. He squinted at Massoud and his...guest and then jerked back. He said something over his shoulder and strode forward.

When he was halfway to Massoud, the boy ran to him, waving his arms and pointing back to Denver.

The man put his hand on Massoud’s shoulder and walked him slowly back to Denver. He dipped his head in Denver’s direction and spoke in slow, careful English. “I am Massoud’s father, Rafi.”

“Major Rex Denver, United States Army.”

The man nodded. “I know who you are. The American traitor...and I know why you’re here.”





Chapter One


The chill bit into Hailey’s cheeks as she slid from the taxi. She hunched into her coat, crushing her ticket to Alcatraz in her pocket. Even on a chilly January evening, you needed to get a ticket in advance for the ferry to Alcatraz.

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