Depressing the magazine release on his M4, Deckard acknowledged two rounds in the mag, plus one in the chamber.
“Grab what you can. We need to go,” Deckard said.
Pat ran back to retrieve J-Rod while Deckard consolidated the enemy’s weapons. The battlefield recovery netted a gold plated AK-47, one FN P90 sub-machine gun, a jewel encrusted 1911 pistol that had belonged to the former drug lord, and a CZ75 pistol with a spare magazine that Deckard shoved in his waistband.
A little cliché for a drug baron, but that was the kind of stuff they’d go in for, Deckard figured. The way things were heading, he just hoped they all went ‘bang’ when he pulled the trigger.
Pat made it back with J-Rod over his shoulder, just as he spotted the key box and flipped it open.
“The Ferrari looks like it’s about done,” J-Rod said, pointing to the Italian car riddled with 30mm craters. “Maybe we can take the Lamborghini out for a spin?”
“Not with your bum ankle,” Deckard said, grabbing a key. “How about something a little more practical?”
“A little more boring you mean,” he groaned back, following Deckard to a white Range Rover.
J-Rod sat in the back, handling his M4 and whatever ammunition they had left for it in addition to the AK. Pat racked the charging handle on the P90, watching a 5.7 round drop out from the bottom to ensure that it was loaded. He shoved the 1911 between the seat and the center console just in case.
Turning the ignition and starting the truck, Deckard hit the garage door opener mounted on the sun visor.
“Hold on,” he said, stomping down on the gas.
The Range Rover hurtled out of the garage as Deckard spun the wheel hand over hand taking them in a ninety degree turn toward the villa’s front gate.
Ornamental plants and jungle flew by as more gunfire sounded, the rear window imploding and sending shards of glass everywhere. The Colombian counter-terrorist team had no idea they were there and assumed they were with Ramirez’s crew.
“Thank the Agency for me,” Deckard grunted, as they drove out the front gate. “I’m sure they sent the AFEU in as soon as an inside source reported your capture. They wanted Ramirez dead and didn’t care how it got done.”
“Nice,” Pat muttered, as Deckard sped onto the winding mountain road.
“No worries,” Deckard assured, cutting around a fork in the road. “All we have to do is fight our way through a half dozen or so cartel checkpoints and we’ll be home free.”
“Shit,” J-Rod said. “How did you get up here to begin with?”
“Took a taxi.”
Shooting down the crumbling asphalt road, Deckard blasted through the first checkpoint, the cartel men manning it screaming and waving their guns in the air for them to stop. On their right side was nothing but a blur of green leading to a sheer cliff face. It was what the conquistadors had called the inferno verde. On the other side, the road immediately dropped off the edge of the mountain, at certain points the mountain actually overtaking the road as huge washouts were created by erosion.
No where to go but down.
Downshifting, Deckard eased them around another bend, not knowing what was around the corner. Straightening out the wheel on the other side, they were greeted by another checkpoint, one of the Colombians manning it speaking into a hand held radio.
While the gunman was still receiving the message about a runaway Range Rover over his walkie talkie, Pat leaned out the passenger side window, easily maneuvering the stubby sub-machine gun. Holding down the trigger, he sent a full auto stream of 5.7 armor piercing rounds into the guard’s chest, sending him tumbling backwards into a runoff ditch on the side of the road.
As they flashed by, the dead man’s partner reacted, firing on the truck as it passed. J-Rod returned fire, getting several shots off with his M4 through the already shattered rear window before running out of ammo and transitioning to the AK-47. He was fairly sure he missed his mark. Firing from a moving vehicle wasn’t easy to begin with, especially on the mountain road, and especially with Deckard driving.
“We’re kosher,” Pat replied.
For a moment the truck was engulfed in a tunnel of green, vegetation spilling into and over the road before they came out on the other side.
The third checkpoint had gotten the word and was on alert. As soon as the truck pulled within line of sight of the gunmen, the Columbians opened fire, muzzle flashes giving them away just an instant before bullets peppered the front of the truck. One shot managed to blast off Deckard’s side mirror in a miniature explosion.
Resisting the urge to return fire, he ducked down and kept both hands on the wheel and his foot on the gas, knowing that he needed to focus solely on driving. Pat leaned out the window again and began squeezing off rounds as they rushed up to the checkpoint, his bullets kicking up little puffs of debris around the feet of his target.
Both continued firing on each other as Deckard watched the speedometer climb to nearly seventy kilometers an hour. J-Rod was leaning out the rear window on Deckard’s side with the AK and firing at the second checkpoint guard. He held his breath and pointed the Range Rover straight ahead, knowing that the seventy kilometer an hour jousting match would continue until some people starting dying.
Just a few meters away, Deckard exhaled; the two gunmen punched backwards and laying still on the road.
Cutting around the next bend, the Range Rover went right through the next checkpoint. He hadn’t expected another one so close, and the guards looked just as surprised as they bolted by them. Clearly they hadn’t expected them to make it this far.
Looking for his side view mirror, he remembered that it wasn’t there anymore and turned to the rear view mirror in time to see the cartel thugs pile into a beige colored Dodge pickup truck. Cranking the engine, they powered up behind the Americans.
“I see ’em,” J-Rod answered.
The pickup was quickly gaining on them as they entered a straight away. Deckard let them, he didn’t want them on his tail by the time they hit the next checkpoint. Letting up off the gas pedal, he let them shoot ahead, leaving the cartel shooters leaning out the windows, fingers on the triggers with a confused look on their faces.
Stomping back down on the gas, he matched their speed, coming up on their right side, allowing J-Rod to rake the Dodge with AK fire. Reaching into his waistband, Deckard pulled free the CZ75 pistol. Craning his neck, he flicked off the safety and began pumping rounds into the gunman sitting in the passenger seat of the pickup while steering with his left hand.
The gunman shouted as crimson blossomed on his shirt around the shoulder and forearm, causing him to drop his MP5 sub gun out the window. Pulling the trigger a third time, Deckard skipped a beat, the expected bang never happening.
A quick look showed him the pistol had stove-piped. An expended casing failing to fully eject from the pistol, it got jammed between the barrel and the slide. Turning the Czech handgun upside down, Deckard wedged the rear sight up against the Range Rover’s steering wheel and pushed the pistol forward.
The spent shell fell between his legs, and letting the pistol up off the wheel, he heard the slide slam home with a satisfying metallic smack as it chambered a fresh round. Crossing his right arm back over his left, he watched as J-Rod beat him to the punch. The 7.62×39 bullets shook the passenger back and forth in his seat as if he were having convulsions.
Deckard was about to try to fire on the driver, but the pick up truck simply wasn’t there anymore.
“Holy shit,” J-Rod yelled, looking back over his seat. “The erosion ate up the entire side of the road right there. They just drove right off the edge.”
“Long way down,” Pat laughed.
The humor didn’t last long as they spotted two black Sports Utility Vehicles parked nose to nose across the road. Three camouflage clad cartel shooters stood in front of the blockade, confident in their plan.
“Lay on everything you got left,” Deckard ordered. “I have to slow down if we’re going to make it through in one piece.”
Ducking down, Deckard aimed the Range Rover directly between the two SUVs. Speeding up, the Delta men opened fire as they closed within a hundred meters. Bullets thudded into the truck, sounding like massive raindrops pounding into and through the vehicle’s metal frame. Over the dashboard he saw one of the AK-47 wielding shooters go down, the other two still blazing away.
A bullet tore through the headrest, splaying it open in a burst of yellow foam. It would have drilled Deckard in the face had he not ducked down, eyes still looking over the dash.
At twenty five meters Deckard eased down on the brakes. The battered truck squealed in protest as the frame twisted back and forth. Meanwhile, Pat drilled a second AK gunner with a two round burst. Deckard almost brought them to a complete halt. If he attempted a break out at high speed, he would destroy the Range Rover, ending their chances of escape, if not killing all of them in the process.
The truck was stitched back and forth, shattering the few remaining windows, a round burning across Deckard’s forearm, causing him to flinch off the wheel for a split second. Pushing the muzzle of his gold plated AK out the window, J-Rod finally put an end to the gunman’s erratic fire.
Just a meter away from the roadblock, Deckard grasped the wheel and hit the gas, powering through. The Range Rover made contact, jarring their molars and pushing the SUVs outwards to clear a path out of the kill zone.
Speeding back down the road, Deckard shook out his arm. The bullet had only grazed him but burned like hell.
“You okay?” Pat asked.
“Yeah, we got lucky.”
“What do you got for ammo, J-Rod?”
“Ten rounds maybe.”
“Shit,” Pat said, inspecting the translucent magazine the laid horizontal across the top of his sub-machine gun. He had about the same left in what had been a fifty round magazine. “Me, too.”
“Maybe fifteen rounds for the CZ,” Deckard added. “Only fire, if it’s a sure thing.”
The road continued to weave its way downhill. Deckard could see his objective in the distance, just passed the two cartel triggermen pulling a Nissan across the road. The ridge line on the opposite side of the checkpoint opened up into a saddle, a thin reprieve from the green hell, and their only chance at escape.
No way were they making it through another half dozen checkpoints lining the road down to the valley floor.
Deckard got them as close as he dared. Hearing the staccato rip of gunfire, he slowed the truck before pulling the emergency break and power sliding to the side of the road. With the Range Rover still rocking on its suspension, Pat and J-Rod threw open the doors and escaped onto the clean side of the vehicle to take cover behind the wheel wells.
Climbing across the center console to avoid coming out on the contact side, Deckard could hear the enemy’s AK-47 rounds bouncing off the asphalt and slamming into the side of the truck with one thump after another.
Getting to his feet alongside the Delta soldiers, he saw one of the enemy collapse under his own weight, one of J-Rod’s shots coming in a little low and knee capping him.
Lining up his front sight post over the next shooter’s face, Deckard knew he had to aim high. A fifty meter shot with a pistol wasn’t easy even on a good day. Holding the CZ75 in a modified weaver grip, he rested his hands on the hood of the truck to steady his aim.
Firing, he let the recoil ride up his arms. The gunman doubled over for a moment, touching his stomach in disbelief until Pat fired a shot that took a chunk out of his neck. Falling to his knees, the wounded man did a face plant in the middle of the road.
The third shooter was a little smarter but not by much. He had taken cover behind the Nissan but not behind the protection offered by the metal and rubber around the wheel well. The two Delta operators triangulated in on the man, bouncing their final rounds off the asphalt under the truck. The ricochets shot out as shrapnel into his feet and shins, causing excruciating pain that sent the cartel shooter wailing to the pavement.
Deckard loaded his only spare magazine before breaking cover and heading towards the dead and dying. The Delta men dropped their now empty weapons, and Pat yanked the 1911 out from between the seat before lifting J-Rod’s over his shoulder to carry him.
Standing in front of the would be killer, now laid out with a neck wound and gut shot, Deckard watched him gasping for breath, knowing from hard experience that it wouldn’t be long. Leveling the CZ, he delivered a mercy shot between the Colombian’s eyes. Approaching the third gunman behind the Nissan, he found him in a similar state and efficiently repeated the process.
There was no satisfaction; it just was.
Grabbing up two of the dead shooter’s AKs, he slung one and carried the other, tucking the pistol back into his pants.
“We’re almost there,” he informed the others.
Picking it up to a steady trot but not fast enough to lose Pat as he carried his partner, Deckard moved the rest of the way downhill to the saddle. Between the break in the cliff face was a small, barely recognizable foot path. Turning as the Delta men arrived, Deckard spotted two more black SUVs racing up the road towards them from below, alerted to their presence by radio or gunfire, it didn’t really matter.
“Follow the path,” Deckard said, handing one of the AK’s to Pat. Sticking the 1911 in his pants, Pat accepted the rifle. “You’ll come out on a spur, just a single finger jutting off the side of the mountain. Take this.” Reaching into his pocket, he handed J-Rod a pen flare gun.
“Fire it when you get there.”
“The pilot should already be overhead somewhere. I’m going to slow them down, but if I’m more then a minute or two, then get out of here.”
Having been gunslingers their entire adult lives, neither of the men were much for goodbyes.
Shifting J-Rod’s weight on his shoulders, Pat began stomping through the muddy trail, quickly disappearing into the foliage. With the sound of his passage fading, Deckard took a knee behind the largest tree he could find. At this altitude the forest didn’t grow into the massive triple canopy normally found in the region, but it would have to do.
The black SUVs continued to speed up the road towards the wasted checkpoint, unaware of Deckard’s position in the underbrush. Flipping the AK’s selector down one notch, the former soldier shouldered the rifle with sweat running down his face and stinging his eyes.
Initiating his ambush on the first truck, Deckard fired, the tinted driver’s window exploded revealing a bloody corpse behind it. Effectively driverless the truck sped out of control, careening off the road and smashing into the cliff.
The stinging in his eyes forgotten, the burn across his forearm no longer registering, he shifted his grip on the rifle and took aim at the second vehicle as armed cartel members unpacked themselves from each door.
* * *
Panting with exhaustion, Pat set his teammate down, trading him the AK for the pen flare gun. He could hear the faint buzz of a helicopter and hoped it wasn’t the Colombian gunship searching for them.
They easily found the finger of dirt and rock that stretched out off the side the mountain. There was just enough open ground for a small helicopter to hover in for a high angle pick up. Screwing a flare into place, he pushed back the spring loaded firing mechanism and released it, firing the red flare up into the sky.
Behind them the sounds of a full on gun battle raged alongside blast after blast of what sounded like grenades detonating in the distance. J-Rod sat in the mud, angling himself back the way they had come, silently pulling security until their ride arrived. Another burst of gunfire. Pat scanned the sky as he screwed another cartridge into place on the flare gun.
Pat fired the second flare as the gunfire grew closer.
J-Rod trained his sights on the path.
The trees and brush swayed as a green colored civilian helicopter buzzed right by, the pilot giving them the once over with a curious frown and a lit cigarette in his mouth, before disappearing from sight once again.
“What. The. Fuck.”
The Jet Ranger III completed an orbit out over the valley before swinging back toward them. The pilot cautiously eased his way closer to the clearing, careful of the distance between the trees and his rotor blades. As the bird came in closer, he could make out the words ‘Amazon Tours’ on the side of the aircraft.
“Let’s go,” he said, picking up J-Rod.
“What about Deckard,” he screamed back, over the sound of the rotor blades beating at the jungle around him.
“If he’s going to make it then he’ll make it.”
The truth was that the younger Delta operator had to come first for him. He hadn’t seen Deckard in years but still hoped to hell he’d hurry up and join them.
The pilot grimaced as he set one skid down on the ground, the other hovering precariously over the edge of the mountain. Pat tugged open the side door and dropped J-Rod inside.
The younger man’s eyes went wide as he spotted something over Pat’s shoulder.
Glancing back he saw Deckard running down the path into the opening. He turned and returned fire with an MP-5 he had gotten from somewhere, or taken off of someone. Bullets swarmed around him like angry hornets, chopping through the wide palm leaves and turning the small tree trunks into splinters.
Suddenly Deckard kicked backwards as if struck in the chest with a sledge hammer and disappeared into the tall grass.
Pat cursed. Grabbing the AK, he thrust the drug lord’s 1911 toward J-Rod.
“If the pilot makes a move, I want you to splatter him.”
Taking the pistol, J-Rod nodded his understanding.
Charging forward, Pat cut loose, sending several bursts down the jungle path as he made his way toward where he had seen Deckard fall. Through the dense vegetation he could see the silhouettes of several sets of gun-totting cartel gunmen.
Aiming at the closest asesino taking cover behind a sapling tree, he fired several rounds through it, dropping the man into a sprawl across the trail. It had to be enough to buy him a few more seconds.
Coming alongside Deckard, he glanced down, seeing the side of his face covered in blood, the MP5 laying absently alongside him.
There was nothing he could do for him now.
Firing another burst to keep the enemy’s head down, he prepared to run back to the helicopter when he noticed the receiver of Deckard’s MP5 was bent, the steel core of a bullet tunneled into the metal frame.
“Deckard,” he said thumping him in the eye with a finger.
Deckard squirmed as if he had just smelled something bad.
Down range, a cartel shooter attempted to bound forward, Pat catching him in mid stride with several well placed shots.
“Deckard! We are leaving right god damned now!”
Coughing he rolled over on his stomach and saw the helicopter.
Stumbling to his feet, Deckard limped towards the Jet Ranger.
Bullets snapped over Pat’s shoulder, causing him to fire back at a muzzle flash deeper in the jungle brush.
Realizing it was now or never, the Delta operator emptied what remained of his magazine, crisscrossing the jungle with automatic fire, the AK heating up in his hands until it went dry.
Throwing the rifle to the ground he turned and ran full speed, catching Deckard halfway to the helicopter and tossing him over his shoulder. His legs burned like they were full of battery acid, but he refused to slow down, not now, not so close.
Bending at the knees, he vaulted through the helicopter’s open door, him and Deckard landing inside in a confused mess.
The pilot didn’t wait for permission and peeled off under a barrage of gunfire.
J-Rod struggled, still holding the 1911 to the pilot’s head as the exterior world swirled, mountains turning into valley and then into sky as he banked away and took them into a dive. The three American’s were weightless in the aircraft for one strange moment before slamming back into the floor.
“What the hell is going on?” Pat asked, sliding the door shut.
They were dumping altitude fast, the valley floor quickly rising up to meet them.
“I don’t fucking know,” J-Rod yelled back. “The pilot speaks fucking Arabic!”
“No,” Deckard sputtered. “He speaks Kurdish.”
Pat blinked, confused, physically and mentally exhausted.
Deckard wiped some of the blood from the side of his face, looking surprised at the sight of it. The bullet had struck his sub-machine gun, the splash catching him in the face and causing some shrapnel wounds.
Trying to untangle himself from the arms and legs of the two other men, he snatched a headset off a fastener from above and slid it over his ears. Readjusting the microphone, Deckard said something to the pilot.
“Fuck,” he muttered, as they continued their decent down into the valley.
“Johnnie says we’re coming in hard. He’s got some weird feedback in his pedals. Thinks we ate a few rounds on the way out.”
Pat and J-Rod looked at each other.
“Hold on,” Deckard said, listening over the head set. “He sees a soccer field he thinks he can get us to before we drop out of the sky.”
J-Rod’s eyes were like saucers.
Sitting up, he began fastening his seat belt, his companions following suit.
“Hold on,” Deckard repeated, looking out the window for the field. “Yeah, there it is.”
The helicopter was dropping fast, the skids passing just meters above some electrical lines.
“Where is that coming from?” J-Rod blurted.
“Where is what coming from-” Pat said turning from the window.
The entire cabin was filling with black smoke.
“What the-” Deckard coughed.
The pilot pulled on the yoke, making a final push toward the soccer field as the helicopter went into free fall.