Davies watched through the scope of his rifle as Baker and the others were pushed towards the group waiting in the centre of the car park, their captors grabbing hold of their shoulders and forcing the four men to their knees. With a short motion of his hand, Davies sent Hamilton and Jones through the shifting shadows as he rose to a hunched crouch and made his way slowly forwards.
The illuminated sights of his optics settled on one of Broadhead’s captors. A smooth flick of his thumb set his weapon to automatic. He watched as the black-clad soldiers moved into position around Baker and the others.
His finger grazed the trigger; the need to open fire was stronger than anything he had ever felt in his ten years as a soldier. Grinding his teeth together, he watched as a cadaverous shape appeared behind Rawlings and Bolton. It moved between the black-clad troopers who were standing over the two kneeling soldiers like a pair of daemonic watchdogs.
He wanted nothing more in the world than to clamp his finger down on the trigger, unleashing a storm of death upon those who would cause his friends and family harm. But he knew that for all the good it would do, it would harm those he wished to save tenfold. In an agonising moment of visceral self-betrayal, he pulled his finger out from the trigger guard and watched the events unfold.
Baker stared with contempt and hatred at the man responsible for the deaths of many he had held dear.
The twisted, smirking visage of the blonde man was like a knife twisting in Baker’s very core. The molten seeds of rage burned deep in his soul. He shook and twisted his shoulders, his flesh tearing as he tore at the flex cuffs binding his hands behind him. The hot, coppery smell of his own blood wafted up from the wet floor beneath him as it poured from his ripped skin, soaking the sleeves of his jacket and pooling in the fingers of his gloves.
Motion in the corner of his eye distracted him from his own rage. He watched Kingsley rise, his movements almost feline as he sprang from his knees and launched himself forwards. A glimmer of wet, carbon-fibre-infused plastic ended Kingsley’s efforts as the stock of a weapon crashed into the base of his skull. Like a marionette with no strings, Kingsley slumped to the floor, blood seeping in a thin, diffused halo about his head as the flesh began to bleed.
‘Valiant effort, but alas it was too little too late; once again, Derek, you have fallen short of the last hurdle and failed as you always do.’
Ridgmont slowly stepped forwards, his face now lined and creased, no longer the pale young officer Baker had known twenty years before.
‘Why me? Why us? All we’ve ever done is our job. I can’t be held accountable for the actions of others. You know this isn’t the way an officer does things. Hiring killers… what, are you a coward?’
Ridgmont’s features contorted into a feral snarl as he reeled from the barbed words.
‘You have the gall to call me a coward? Me, the man who pulled you from the fires of hell itself. It is you who are the coward, sir, not me!’
He gesticulated wildly at Baker, the nickel-plated 9mil in his hand glinting in the cold moonlight.
‘Pulled me from the fires of hell? You were the one who sent me in there—me and the rest of Charlie Company! How many of your men died? How many of them begged you to send in armoured support while they were cut to ribbons in open ground? Men with families, men with mothers and fathers; sons and daughters.
‘Begging, all of them begging you for help while those around them died, including your own son. And you call me a coward; you’re the one who marched your men into the meat grinder, all for a handshake and a lump of tin.’
Ridgmont’s eyes went dark as he stepped back, reeling from Baker’s words as the bound and kneeling lieutenant carried on.
‘I was there. I saw him pulling his own men from the field through a hailstorm of lead. I watched as he took round after round and still pulled two of his command team to safety.
‘Do you know what he said to me as I sat there trying to stop him from bleeding out? Do you know what he said as his blood slipped through my fingers? “Tell my father I’m sorry.” His dying words, Ridgmont, were not some grandiose platitude or heroic statement; they were nothing more than an apology to the man who had sent him to his death.’
Baker glared. Ridgmont’s lips curled into a venom-filled smile as he stared into the eyes of hatred. Lifting his pistol, he weighed the implement of death, letting it float in his hand as he brought it to bear.
‘Thank you for sharing that with me. I appreciate the words but, alas, it changes nothing.’
He levelled the pistol at the back of Bolton’s head.
‘And here we have it, Derek, another man’s blood on your hands.’
Baker threw himself forwards, black gloved hands pulled at his combat suit, holding him down. He watched, his heart clenching as Ridgmont’s finger tightened on the trigger. Bolton looked up into Derek’s eyes sensing the sands of his life slipping through the hourglass and smiled.
‘Chief, kill this cunt for me.’
His left eye exploded. The 9mm hollow point destroying the left side of his head as it carved its path through his very being.
The echoing crack of the pistol rolled across the empty grounds around them as Bolton’s body slumped forwards into a puddle of brain and bone. Baker rocked on his knees as he watched the steaming pool of blood and brain matter slowly ooze forth.