combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 03 Number 02 Spring ©Apr 2005

Taking a Hostage
excerpted from The Butcher and the Calf

          It was a winter's night in Ohio, with a full moon. The secluded Tudor-style mansion was dark and still. But it was not lifeless, only asleep, and the five men hiding in the dark belt of fir trees were ready.

          They had studied the house and the man in detail. Recently there had been much coming and going, for the new owner, who was famous, had been busy bringing in furniture. Tonight, though, was quiet. The owner had not left and his sole visitor had been a shapely young blonde who arrived at eight p.m. It was now three a.m. and her red sports car remained at the top of the circular driveway.

          Cautiously, one of the five emerged from the trees. This man, wearing olive drab and military jump boots, carried a carbine. His face was covered by a ski mask. Moving rapidly across the grounds to the driveway and looking up at the top floor of the tall home, he called softly back to the others, speaking in French.

          "Allons. Let's go. Bring the coffin."

          Quickly and quietly two masked, khaki-clad figures came out of the firs, carbines slung over their shoulders; then two more carrying the long rectangular box. As they made their way in silence to a door, it was apparent that the first man was a head taller than the others.

          "No sound," he whispered, now in perfect, unaccented American English. Deftly he picked the locks, opened the door, and with expert precision disabled the alarm system. The others then slipped inside.

          They passed through an alcove and paused. Nothing could be heard but the soft intake of breaths and the ticking of an unseen clock. Now the tall man struck a lighter and they discerned the outlines of sofas and tables. A huge stone fireplace was lined with ash, and the room smelled of it. Off the room's end was a foyer leading to a spiral staircase, toward which the tall man went. He climbed the steps lightly, stopping when one creaked. He listened, heard nothing and continued on to the top.

          There, he peered down a long carpeted hallway. He noticed a half-dozen closed doors and one that stood ajar. He went to it, pushed it gently back and looked into the room. Two forms lay curled together in a canopied four-poster bed, breathing rhythmically. Swiftly he checked the other rooms, verifying their emptiness. On the lower floors his companions did likewise.

          Now the man above went to the staircase and called down. While the others ascended with their burden, he returned to the sleepers' room and flicked on a table lamp beside the bed.

          The woman's long yellow hair flowed like a river across her pillow. She turned beneath the red satin sheet, murmured, but did not awaken. A second man entered the room. His eyes darted between the sleeping forms and came to rest on the male, who was dark-haired, in his twenties, and well-muscled, his bare shoulders and arms out over the sheet.

          "The same looks as on the television," the second intruder whispered, then laughed. "What a swine. His athletic days are done, eh?" He went around to the woman and with the barrel of his carbine lightly drew the sheet down exposing her nakedness.

          "Saladin, look," he said in wonder. "She is beautiful, this infidel whore." Slinging the weapon, he reached down and placed a hand over her breast. "Wake up, whore," he said loudly.

          The woman and man awoke together. Wild-eyed, the woman shrieked, but before she could rise the hand moved from her breast and slapped her across the face. On the other side of the bed the carbine of the intruder called Saladin pointed at the young man, its blued barrel pressed against his neck.

          "Stay still, outfielder," Saladin said.

          The young man lay rigid. But the dazed girl clawed at the bed sheet attempting to cover herself. Her captor ripped it away. "The whore could move a little, no?" he laughed, and again fondled her breast. The girl began to cry.

          "Leave her alone," his companion said sternly. "I have not journeyed all the way from Kabul to indulge your perversions." Positioning the carbine with one hand, with the other he removed the ski mask and rubbed his face.

          Both victims stared at him in the lamplight. They had never seen him before. Handsome as a movie-star, his hair was sand-colored and cut short, his lean face lined and tan, and he had large round serious deep-set green eyes. His nose was slender and straight, and just above his chin to the left of his mouth was a small red birthmark.

          "Execute her," he said now to the man holding her. "Quickly. Neatly."

          The girl shot up frantically. Her captor hit her on the jaw with his closed fist and pinned her down.

          "God no, please leave us alone," her bedmate said, glancing sideways at the carbine. "Don't hurt her. We're going to be married. I have money, lots of money. I can pay you. You know I'm a baseball player, so you know I can pay. Please let me pay."

          "You think to bribe me?" the tall man, Saladin, said, and shook his head in disgust. "You people, you think money can buy anything. But the lives of our people are worth far more than the riches of Croesus. Comprendre?" Nodding to the other, he repeated, "Execute her. Then bring the drill. And the coffin."

          "A pistol, Jalil," the man holding the girl called to one of the three at the door.

          "But why?" the third man said in a thin voice. "We have our hostage and so prove to America the length of our reach. Killing the girl is an excess, a useless extravagance."

          Saladin glared at the objector. "Give Hassan your pistol," he commanded.

          Reluctantly the objector crossed the room and handed over a Russian Makarov with attached silencer. As the one named Hassan took the gun, the girl grew hysterical and heaved up her legs to shove him off. But before she completed the maneuver he backed away, cocked the pistol and fired two short muffled shots into the chest. Her legs jerked spastically, then sagged to the mattress as the killer pulled the sheet across her, hiding the work that the 7.62 bullets had done.

          "Ohh Lauren," the man in bed sobbed. His face was contorted and all four limbs trembled.

          "Hassan, the drill," Saladin said. The other left the body, brought in the electric drill and snapped a long bit into place.

          "Why?" the young man sobbed. "Why??"

          Saladin replied evenly, "You must come with us. But I have to hobble you to prevent any difficulty. Also," he added, his green eyes glinting, "as a mark of the beast. For your crimes against humanity."

          "But ... I've never committed a crime against any one!"

          "No? Palestinian children are dying of hunger and disease in Zionist concentration camps. Your armies of occupation defile our lands, desecrate our sacred shrines. With all your fame and wealth — you earn what, twenty million per year? — have you once housed or fed a child? No, of course not. But I am not here to debate. Hassan," he said.

          "Yes, of course," the other said. "Time to brush up my carpentry skills." He laughed through his ski mask. "Where do you want the hole?"

          "Le genou, Hassan. Make it in the knee."

          "For the love of God," the young man cried as the drill commenced to whir, "no! For the love of —" He was cut off by two blows to the head from the stock of Saladin's rifle.

          When the work was done, they lifted the bleeding, naked, semi-conscious man and placed him on his back inside the wooden casket. There were air holes in the lid that permitted him to breathe. The five moved down the stairs and out of the house as stealthily as they had entered, then vanished into the quiet, moonlit winter night.

by Christopher S. Baldwin
... who is a transportation director interested in history, with numerous cultural and political articles published in The American Spectator, National Review, Chronicles, The Leading Edge, and elsewhere. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines; and while Night of the Barbarian is making the rounds with publishing houses, this story is excerpted from his second novel, The Butcher and the Calf, a book in progress.