A. W. Lambert
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
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There were three of them. They had been watching him for the last twenty minutes and the signs were not good. He could tell from the body language; the lowered mutterings between them, the constant hooded glances in his direction. He raised the glass of lemon and lime to his lips and took a slow drink, his eyes flicking toward the bar, quickly assessing the situation before dropping back to the newspaper spread in front of him.
The headline followed a familiar theme; Afghanistan, two killed; a roadside bomb. He read the article from start to finish, but there was little need so familiar was he with the situation he could have written it himself. Maybe not, he thought, not quite. His was a different scenario. Death visited the SAS it was true, but frequently in the world of covert operations where men stalked forbidden areas; it was a death covered with a shroud of silence, such headlines suppressed.
His stomach turned a notch as the scene of only a few weeks before invaded his mind. It shouldn't have happened, of course; the advance bombing, the Intelligence report - area clear. But then they were trained, weren't they? Expect the unexpected and deal with it. And they had. That would be of little comfort to Robbo's family, though. Their only compensation would be they wouldn't have heard the sudden withering, incoming. Neither would they have to live forever with the vision of the human form being sliced in two.
It was the largest of the three that made the first move. Leaving the other two at the bar he approached the table, standing for some moments looking down, the derisory expression saying all.
He looked up, but said nothing. He knew whatever he said would be of little use.
"I said you're army, right?"
More silence, but with the belligerence emanating from the man standing over him he felt the change begin. Green already beginning its move toward amber.
"Cat got your tongue, has it?" the man sneered. "Or are you just frightened to admit what you are?" He looked back over his shoulder, toward the two grinning at the bar. "Don't need to speak, though, does he, lads? We know what he is, don't we?"
He looked back down, shoulders back, confidence growing.
"Well if you know what I am there's no need for me to speak is there?" The words were soft, tightly clipped. Amber overpowering green now.
"Well, well, it does speak. Bit quiet though. Maybe that's because it ain't got its gun, ain't got all its mates to help it out. Or maybe it's because it ain't just facing a bunch of unarmed civilians it can shoot and nobody gives a toss."
He was hanging in there, his breathing slow and deep, but amber was now firmly in control, tinges of red hovering in the wings. "I came in here to have a quiet drink and read the newspaper," he said softly, his voice only just under control. "Whatever I am is no concern of yours. I would really be obliged if you would go away and leave me in peace."
"Peace?" the man snorted. "Your lot don't know the meaning of the word. You go charging into other countries, especially those you know can't defend themselves, and carve them up. Arabs trying to live a peaceful life, never done any of you lot any harm, and you go in with your guns and knock seven bells out of 'em. Big brave boys, ain't you?"
His breathing was becoming less controlled now and he felt the tremors begin. He wished this would stop. It wasn't how things should be. The ignorant moron standing over him had no idea, couldn't imagine. He closed the newspaper, folding it neatly, taking his time, fighting for composure. Finally, standing, he eyeballed the man in front of him.
"You just don't know," he said.
"Don't know," the man spat. "I'll tell you what I do know. I know when you lot went into Iraq it was illegal. I know you invaded a country you all knew couldn't defend itself and was an easy target. And I know you killed thousands of innocent civilians. I know that."
He stood, his face only inches away from the spitting tirade confronting him, his whole body now bowstring taut, his insides in turmoil. Slowly the fear began to creep into him. Not a fear of the man opposite, but a fear of himself, a fear of knowing what could happen. He said nothing. There was nothing to say, nothing he could say. He needed to get away, to leave this place, but the man stood before him, blocking his escape and now red was moving in and fast.