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Calling it quits at five o'clock, Mark exited the front of the Chilvati building, anxious to get home for his meeting with Paul. Being Friday, he knew there would be news from Bruce.

His cell phone beeped. Fishing it out of his pocket and seeing the notification labelled GINNY had him grinning ear to ear. He crossed the street before stopping to read it.

Screeching tires and the metallic grind and thump of a sliding door being thrown open pulled his concentration away from her typed words, and he glared over his shoulder at the interruption. There was just enough time to catch a glimpse of the van before a cloth hood dropped down over his head while rough hands grabbed at his arms. He managed to yank one of them free.

As he went for the hood, a massive shock hit into his lower back and spread in every direction from the point of impact. Blindly, he grappled for the phone as it fell from his hands, his grip loosened by painful pulses. He heard it hit the pavement as he was being dragged, his abductors handling him like a sack of potatoes. When his back made contact with cold, hard metal, he knew he was lying on the floor inside the van. He tried punching his arms out to hit bodies but couldn't move. He tried yelling but couldn't speak. He tried tracking their conversation, but there were too many voices and he couldn't concentrate. What did register was the throbbing pain in the back of his head.

"He's fighting it. Christ, he's going to give himself a concussion," a male voice called out over the rest.

"Do what you have to," was yelled from farther away.

Without warning, there was a pinch on his upper arm.

Mark strained to remember the few words in her text he had managed to read, staunchly fighting against the pull of unconsciousness . . . losing the battle by the third blink.


Bruce started jogging to keep up. The tank was far ahead now, but he could still hear the metal tracks ripping at the dirt road beneath it. It had yet to fire and was unlikely to—just the sight of a tank was enough to send the Taliban into a retreat.

Unfortunately, retreating didn't stop them from shooting. Mortar rounds had already done their damage, aimed without accuracy or remorse into a village filled with innocent people.

As the tank took care of what was in front of it, the real mission went on behind it. Mark and Steve were up ahead, about to turn a corner and go down the road where intelligence had last placed their target. Adam and Ben had turned down the street they had just passed to make their approach from the rear.

The one-story mud building on Bruce's right had been hit, a corner section of it gouged away like a filched piece of cake, the rubble tossed about like scattered crumbs. As he passed, he glanced inside and saw children lined up against the far wall, their faces wet with tears as they clung to each other. It didn't take long to find the source of their despair—a woman lying on the ground near the gaping hole, her legs and lower back covered in what had only minutes ago been a wall.

Bruce stopped, his feet refusing to take another step despite the fact that the adrenaline kept flowing and he needed to catch up. An explosion rang out from further down the street. The woman's hand moved. She was alive.

He started toward her.


If he could dig her out, the medics might be able to help her.


He stepped over the rubble, ducking his head to fit through the opening. A hand on his shoulder swung him around. Mark was right in his face. At least it looked like Mark—with the helmet and ballistic glasses, identification was somewhat restricted.

The Silent Ones [✔️] (#2 in the Chilvati Series)Where stories live. Discover now