As a treat while I'm on the road here's a never before peek at a scene I originally wrote as the opening to EDGE OF SURVIVAL, but then removed from the submitted book.
Which means we start from a very dark place for poor old Daniel Fox without much of an explanation. Here's the scene that started it all...
Unedited and deleted scene of EDGE OF SURVIVAL...
Sweat glued Danny’s shirt to his back. Even though it was nighttime, the summer heat in this part of Iraq was like a solid wall of resistance that slammed into his body like the shock wave from an IED. Adrenalin blazed through him, heightening his senses, evaporating the fear, wiping his mind free of everything except the mission.
Training took over.
Gripping his MP5 low, Danny exchanged a look with Maggot and nodded. Frenchy and Pete were right behind them. The other four-man squad was entering from the rear of the building. Their brief was to secure the hostage, some peace activist who was scheduled to have his pacifist head removed from his pacifist neck at oh-seven hundred, unless 22-SAS did something to save him. Unfortunately, from the pacifist’s point of view, Danny’s training did not involve cooperation, negotiation or hand holding.
The radio transmitter in his ear clicked once. The signal to go. Maggot eased the door ajar and lobbed a stun grenade, and in they went.
Danny moved fast and low, caught the first kidnapper with a double tap to the chest, followed by another two to the head. The guy’s gun clattered to the floor. The noise of gunshots exploded off the walls and ricocheted inside Danny’s head. His ears went numb. His teeth hurt. The taste of gunpowder hit his mouth with easy familiarity.
Maggot slotted the other guard as they struck left to clear the house, Pete and Frenchy protecting their rear. Into a lounge area.
Classy place, Danny thought, with a quick look into the room and nod at Maggot. Whoever operated this little band of insurgents had plenty of cash. One of the ironies of the insurgency was most of the weapons had been bought with the ‘food for oil’ fiasco run by the UN, which hadn’t been secured by the invading forces back in 2003.
In went another stun grenade. Down low, rush in, take out the bad guys and move on. He didn’t glance back. His team wasn’t just good, they were the best. Gunfire shattered the night to the rear of the house. The second team had made contact and was under heavy fire. Danny’s team raced for the hostage before one of the kidnappers malleted him out of spite.
Danny fired. Another terrorist down, a shouted oath as Maggot missed another bastard who took a sweep at them with his MP5K, but miraculously missed, probably because the accuracy of the weapon made them as useful as a fork in a bowl of soup, and insurgents couldn’t shoot for shit.
Tap, tap. You’re dead.
Down the corridor where the thermal sensors indicated the hostages were held. Only one left. The other three hostages had been beheaded, mutilated and left in various parts of the city the morning before. Americans. Two nuns and an aid worker.
He’d seen the video. His stomach churned even as he ran.
They’d been ready to go, waiting on orders. But the orders hadn’t come and they’d been told to stand down. Danny cleared his head, concentrated on finding the last man, however misguided the poor bugger was. He stood to the side and tried a doorknob. It was locked. He kicked it in, cleared the room. Nothing. An empty bedroom.
Further along. Another door. Locked again. Shot the lock off this time, just in case there was someone with a gun on the other side, wanting to slot him.
They went in. There was a woman sitting on a bed. Black kohled, intensely pretty eyes, most of her face hidden by a veil.
Maggot went in and grabbed her arm. Dan glanced down the hall checking for terrorists. He heard the shot. Whirled back in slow motion, though everything happened within a split second. Met the woman’s eyes as she turned the pistol from Maggot’s falling body, toward him, at his head, her fingers squeezing as he tapped two into her heart without even raising his weapon from his hip. Her eyes flared, but she was dead before she hit the floor. He ignored the reaction of his gut. Walked over, fired two into her skull to be sure and leaned down to grab Maggot, who was bleeding from a wound above his vest.
From under the bed a movement caught his eye and he spun, squeezed the slack off the trigger, and stopped a fraction of a second from putting a bullet into a small boy, who was watching him with huge black eyes streaming with tears.
Danny reached under and dragged the little tike out. No explosives, no weapons.
“Man down.” He rattled information into his radio. Let the boy crawl to the dead woman while he put a field dressing on Maggot’s shoulder to stop the worst of the bleeding. He kept an eye on the kid. He was three, maybe four. Old enough to pick up the semi-automatic she’d used and hurt someone.
“We’ve secured the hostage.” Frenchy was in the doorway, checking out Maggot with a quick worried glance. A gray-faced old man hung between him and Pete, a sack of old bones.
“Ten seconds.” Danny tore the bandage package with his teeth and bound Maggot tightly. Should stop him losing too much blood before they got to the rendezvous point.
“What do we do with the kid?” Pete asked staring at the little boy nervously. Pete had a kid of his own that age. All of them avoided looking at the dead woman and the growing pool of blood.
Dan dragged Maggot to his feet, where he wobbled unsteadily as he shouldered his weapon. Danny exchanged a look with his friend, saw the pain and the determination.
He shrugged. “We take him with us.”
Danny bent over and grabbed the boy, who screamed and started to haul ass back beneath the bed.
“Maamaa! Maamaa!” The kid’s screams might have hurt his ears except he was already deaf from gunfire. Danny swallowed and blinked hard to clear the grit from his eyes. Slung the kid over one shoulder. He covered their rear, Maggot in the centre, the kid screaming his fucking lungs off, little arms beating softly against Dan’s back, each contact feeling like a knife to the heart.
He ran steadily, every sense on alert for hostiles. The guys went ahead, across a small sandy square.
High up, he spotted a shadow moving deep within a room with blown out windows. Shit, shit, shit. His team was exposed. The hostage barely able to walk and slowing them down. Maggot wounded, dripping blood. It was a classic insurgent position to launch a hand-held rocket grenade attack or just Swiss cheese their asses.
Danny fired, sweeping the bullets through the open windows, the boy flinching with every round. Danny couldn’t risk anyone getting off a shot at him and wounding the kid.
There was a scream. A woman’s scream. Jesus. Two in one day. He stopped firing, his chest hurt so bad he felt like a tank had dropped on him. He checked to make sure he hadn’t been shot through his body armor.
No bullet holes.
“Press! Press!” The cries brought a chill to his soul. English voices. Shit. Bloody media. Even before she crawled to the window Danny knew he was fucked. He closed his eyes for a split-second and wished he could turn back the clock.
He threw the boy to Frenchy, sprinted up the stairs as the guys took cover just inside the doorway. The reporter had soft brown curls and blood all over her chest. He recognized her from TV.
Why the hell were the press here? They were way too close to the hot zone.
Inside the bare room a cameraman lay dead, a bullet hole piercing his forehead, eyes staring at the ceiling with a satisfied gleam, as if he’d got the exact shot he was after. Danny doubted it.
“You killed him!” The woman was shouting, but Danny could barely hear her. She was leaning over the dead man checking for a pulse. Danny grabbed sterile swabs and eased her shirt down as far as he could past her body armor and plastered the gauze to her chest. Did the same to the exit wound. Sweat dripped in his eyes. This war had seen more dead reporters than any other conflict since World War II.
“Come on, Danny boy!” Frenchy shouted. Time to pull out.
He tossed the woman over his shoulder. Could do nothing for the man he’d killed.
“The camera!” The reporter struggled and squirmed desperate for the camera, for the picture the cameraman had died for. He paused. Knowing he shouldn’t. Knowing nothing good could come out of it. But he reached down and snatched the camera from the dead man’s fingers and shoved it behind his back where the reporter grabbed it and held onto it like life itself.
It was a small act. The only thing he could do. And from that moment on his life was over.