Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
I received my C.I.A. field assignment in the usual way … on a brand new never before used iPhone 6. The phone beeped and I received a friend request from Chicken Little. When I accepted, I received a two word reply: Dark Angel. I knew instantly what my assignment was. Abdul Maalik Ahmed was a jihadist assassin responsible for the Islamic State contracted murders of at least six western diplomats and negotiators. He was rumored to have butchered hundreds of children for sport. His uncanny ability to penetrate even the most heavily guarded targets and eliminate them in a bloody and horrific fashion had earned him the infamous nick-name Dark Angel. Until the killer was stopped, all U.S. and allied interests in the Middle East would be in dire jeopardy.
I fed a few dry sticks to the glowing embers burning inside the Franklin pot-belly stove and then tossed in the new iPhone. I hoped the next phone would be at least an iPhone 9. My itinerary would be waiting in a locker at the Missoula airport. I checked the airport flight schedule hanging on the wall next to a C.M. Russell calendar as I put on my coat. The next commercial flight left for New York City tomorrow and then there’d be another six-hour wait before hooking up with a military flight to the Middle East.
I wanted to visit my old Blackfoot Indian friend Swims the River before I left … and I had time. I saddled Smoke and loped the mare toward the snow-covered Bitterroot Mountains climbing the blue skies in Western Montana. I was wondering, as always, if this would be the last time I rode through the lands that I loved.
Swims the River was hunched down on the grassy bank of a stream staring at the rippling water when I found him. He didn’t look up. “You’re getting old,” I told him. “I could have bashed your head in with a rock … and you wouldn’t have felt a thing.”
“I could smell you and your horse when you were two miles away,” he replied never taking his eyes off the ripples. “You make more noise than a squaw drunk on fire-water. I almost fell asleep waiting for you to sneak up on me.” Swims the River shook his head. “I am ashamed to have you as an enemy.”
“I don’t want to fight you,” I told him. “I have to go far away to face a very powerful devil. This demon has killed many of our best warriors.”
The old Indians hands moved like lightning. A split-second later, a three pound brook trout was flung flopping onto the bank. “You are like a dog that shows up when the hunt is over,” Swims the River said. “I’m too tired to make you leave so you might as well help me eat this fish.”
The old Indian had a fire going while I was still gathering twigs. It was just getting dark. His abilities at wilderness survival had long surpassed the mystical and were wandering deep in the ethereal. “Show me the mark of this demon you seek,” He said as he speared the gutted fish with a green willow branch and positioned it expertly over the fire. “He is called Dark Angel,” I told him.
“I don’t want your worthless white man’s words,” Swims the River said. “You fail to understand your enemies and your foolish chiefs think that names hold no magic!”
I tried to remember the Arabic spelling of Dark Angel as I cleared and smoothed an area of black sand. After a few moments I used the pointed end of a stick to write الظلام إنجيل.
Swims the River tore a piece of flesh from the cooking fish and chewed on it as he studied the marks I’d made. “Your demon has a snake for a spirit guide,” he said as he picked up a flat stone from the bank and then lay it down beside the first curve in the name. “Snakes fear rocks because there they have no grass to hide in. He then pulled a handful of dried grass from the bank and tossed it in the fire. The still-green fibers crackled like gunpowder.
“Can you tell me where this demon hides?” I asked.
Swims the River raised his hand as if to push me away. “Have you no eyes? Does his mark not rest on the sand?”
I had to agree with the old Indian; Abdul Maalik Ahmed was probably hiding somewhere in a sandy place. But there is a hell of a lot of sand in the Middle East. “Can you tell me about the pace he dwells?” The Blackfoot Indian shaman pointed to the horizontal line in the Arabic name and smiled.
Swims the River broke several of the twigs I’d gathered into short lengths and pushed then into the sand around the flat stone. “Your fierce demon sleeps in a rocky field surrounded by a high fence,” Swims the River said. I was thinking about the numerous terrorist training compounds I’d been in scattered across the deserts.
“Can you show me the exact spot?”
The old Indian shrugged his shoulders and then used a forked stick to toss a smoldering coal from the fire high into the air. The rising embers twinkled like stars in the night sky. “The eyes of Heaven see all things,” Swims the River said. “Ask them to guide you.”
I was staring upward in the darkness thinking that the rising embers looked like a constellation but I couldn’t remember which one. Swims the River shook his head. “I show you things … but you close your eyes.”
“I have much to learn …. and you have helped me,” I told him, thinking about the compound he described.
“You are a troublesome child who arrives filled with hunger,” The old chief grumbled. “If you are not also lazy then gather some snow on the tongue for our tea. This fish wants to be eaten and you have been a poor guest!” I wandered away from the fire wondering how I was going to find wild mint leaves in the darkness.
When I returned to the fire twenty minutes later I had a handful of mint leaves thanks to a well-developed sense of smell and a laser penlight. I was surprised to see Swims the River dropping a massive hog-nosed rattle snake onto what was now a pile of rocks between the fence made of small sticks. “Your demon said you were not a worthy enemy … so he came searching for me in the grass,” Swims the River said. “I had no choice but to catch him!”
The snake twisted into a spiral on the rocks and hissed at us.
Suddenly, with an ear piercing shriek, a great horned owl swooped from the trees and grabbed the huge snake in its talons. For three seconds blood and feathers flew before the giant wings lifted the nocturnal hunter and its prey into the night sky.
Swims the River shrugged his shoulders. “I never liked the meat of a snake,” he said. “My teeth are old and I am not an owl. Birds have the spirit of the wind.” after a moment’s silence he went on. “I like the fish … their flesh is soft.” Finally he looked at me and smiled. “I also like beef but your cows are too slow. They are as lazy as you are because you feed them. It would shame my lance if I were to hunt any.”
I laughed as I filled a pan with water and then added the mint leaves before I placed it on the fire. I took my bed roll from the horse. Camping with Swims the River was never dull.
I woke early in the morning and rode back to my ranch while the old Indian was still sleeping. Just after lunch my flight left for New York. I gazed out the window of the Delta Airlines 727 wondering if I would ever see Montana again. Six hours later I was just boarding a military flight to Saudi Arabia when a courier arrived with a telegram. My schedule had been changed. An hour later I found myself in Langley Virginia.
Stanley W. Smith met me in the C. I. A. Mideast Affairs debriefing room. “Our undercover sources inside Syria have confirmed that Abdul Maalik Ahmed the Dark Angel was killed last night in a desert compound eight miles south of Harasta,” he said.
“I thought this guy was some kind of immortal,” I said. “How could this have happened?”
“Eyewitness’s said it was a tornado,” Stan said. “Tore the roof off the compound building he was in and sucked the bastard right up into the sky.”
“I guess there is a God,” I told Smith.
Eight hours later I was on a flight headed back to Montana. The stewardess offered me a drink and I asked for a sprig of mint with the gin. I was thinking that perhaps I’d drag a quarter of beef to the ornery old Indian before the winter snows set in.
THE END ?