Keith never thought he’d start to hate snow.
He’d always been a huge fan of the powdery white stuff since he was a kid. Not even months spent training in the harshest and coldest conditions during his Army days had dampened that love for snow.
But with the almost zero visibility and hidden dangers on the mountainside, he could feel himself beginning to wish that they had ended up somewhere warmer. Even a few miles further down the mountain would’ve meant a world of difference.
But warmer also meant they would be more vulnerable. It was only a matter of time before the plane was traced to the Himalayas. They needed all the help they could get. If they were struggling to find their way to the temple, then the terrorists wouldn’t have an easy time either.
It would’ve been better if they had more men with them; splitting up into two groups would not have been so hard. He’d sent Lance with the pilots and three Secret Service men down the mountain. He only took one other man with him to help protect Rafe.
He stood still for a moment as he heard a noise above the wind. It was a steady humming sound. It only took him a few seconds to realize that it was a chopper coming closer.
“Down!” he called out, but his voice was drowned by the wind. The two men in front of him kept going. Keith broke into a run, but he kept sinking into the snow, causing him to fall over. The third time he picked himself up, he saw the chopper rise over the side of the mountain, and it soared almost on top of them.
A stream of bullets rained over them. He watched one of the men in front of him go down. For a minute, he was not sure if it was Rafe. They were all dressed in similar clothes. His first thought was to rush towards his companions, but his training kicked in.
He would be no good to the President if he was dead. He crouched down and felt the adrenaline rushing through his veins. It took all his willpower to stay still. When the bullets stopped, he risked a look up. Both men in front of him lay on the snow. Neither was moving.
Keith heard the helicopter slowly flying away. He had to move fast…those men would not give up so easily.
Rafe heard the chopper only seconds before he felt bullets hitting the ground next to him. His first instinct was to find cover, but he saw the man in front of him fall. He knew the last thing anybody wanted from him was to be a hero, but he was done hiding and running while everyone else around him took a bullet. But he also knew that it was useless to fight a losing battle. He lay flat on the ground waiting for a chance to get to the other man who had apparently been hit.
The bullets stopped. He knew they were far from done. He had to move before the second wave of bullets started. He made his way quickly to the other man whose white jacket had begun to show an alarming patch of red.
He was still alive. Unconscious, but alive. Rafe expected to hear more gunfire, but he was damned if he was getting to take cover and leave the other man to die out there. If he didn’t get hit again, the elements would certainly finish the job.
A sudden movement behind him startled him. He turned around ready to fight. He had been itching to hit something for the past few hours. But it was just Keith who had also dropped down to his haunches, checking the man who was sprawled on the snow.
“Are they gone?” he shouted. The chopper was no longer in sight, but they could still hear its engine in the distance.
“No.” Keith opened the injured man’s jacket to check the bullet wound. “They’re probably looking for a place to land. We’ll have company soon. We have to go.”
“No! We can’t leave him,” Rafe protested.
“Phil knew the risks of this job. He expects nothing else from us.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Keith shook his head. “There is no way we can carry him. Those men will be after us.”
“Then we take care of them first.” He looked around and saw a shallow cave nearby. “There! We’ll get him there.”
Rafe expected to hear more protests from the blond man in front of him, so he was surprised when none came. He leaned down to lift Phil’s shoulders while Keith went around to the man’s feet.
Together they half carried, half dragged the unconscious man to the safety of the cave. When they got there, Keith reached for Phil’s gun, which was still in the holster. “Here!”
Keith had such a sour look about his mouth that Rafe didn’t know whether to feel thankful that he was worried or insulted that the young man didn’t think he could protect himself.
“The sad part about being President is that people suddenly believe that you’re made from a combination of marshmallow and glass.” Rafe stood up and checked the gun he had been handed. It was a .45 caliber semi-automatic. It had 15 rounds. Hopefully, that would be enough
Keith reluctantly grinned. Rafe grinned back. Before he became President, he was a senator, so people always thought of him as a regular politician. They forgot that in college he was an All-American. His football playing days were long over, but he had kept in shape. He had also enlisted and gone on two tours. He was definitely not a helpless paper pushing statesman.
“I do know how to use this,” he assured Keith.
“Rock and roll, then?” Keith stood up and walked out of the cave.
“Lock and load, you mean?”
They went in opposite directions. The only way they would survive was to lure whoever was following them into a vulnerable position. Rafe searched for high ground where he could shoot without being seen.
Keith signaled that he was going to circle back down the mountain. Once Rafe started shooting, those bastards would be busy looking up and ahead of the track. He could pick them off one by one from behind.
Between the two of them, they didn’t have a lot of bullets, but that chopper had not looked big enough for more than 5 passengers. They may be outnumbered, but it was not impossible to come out on top.
Thankfully, Rafe did not have to wait long where he crouched. He could feel the blood pumping in his veins. His eyes were so focused on the trail that he barely felt the cold wind.
He saw them as soon as they came up the trail. There were four of them. They would have been easy pickings if they weren’t wearing military grade protective suits. The only vulnerable spot was their necks, and shooting from a distance with a pistol may not have the best results.
He took a deep breath and calmed himself down. He waited… biding his time until they were closer. “Bastards,” he whispered and pulled the trigger.
Keith heard the first shot. One of the men fell on the snow. Rafe was a good shot; he was able to hit the man right below the chin. It might not be fatal, but the terrorist had gotten hit where his suit couldn’t protect him.
He leaped from his hiding place and took advantage of the surprise Rafe’s shot had caused. They were equipped with high-end weapons and armor, but it didn’t seem like they were military. Three against one didn’t sound very optimistic. Keith wished the odds were better.
As he had anticipated, all three men had taken cover to protect themselves from the attack coming from the front. They didn’t have enough experience or training to prepare for anybody coming from behind.
Keith slowly walked behind the man closest to him. His movements were deliberate and efficient. The terrorist never saw his attack coming. In a matter of seconds, he had the man in a chokehold.
He was thankful for the sound of the wind blowing; the other two men didn’t hear their comrade struggling. Keith tightened his hold until he felt the man go limp. One down, two to go.
He wasn’t quite so lucky with the second terrorist. The man turned around and quickly fired his gun. Keith had no idea how the bullets missed him as he launched himself on the other man. He felt the breath get knocked out of him as they landed on the ground.
He felt a blow on his side and barely managed to stop himself from crying out. But it would take more than that to take him down. Keith managed to land a punch, but it wasn’t as hard as he wanted it to be.
Before he could throw another blow, he was yanked up. The other terrorist was clearly eager to get into the action. The second man held his arms so the first could attack. Keith looked around for his gun, but he had lost it during the struggle.
All he saw was the gun that was aimed at him, but oddly the man didn’t fire immediately. It seemed like he was uttering something. For the first time in his life, he was thankful for religious fanaticism, because instead of shooting him, this idiot was reciting something.
He had always marveled at how the bad guys in action movies spent a long time explaining why they had plotted their evil plan. That never happened in real life. Or did it? Oddly the man in front of him had a dialogue too.
Keith couldn’t quite hear what he was saying. The only words he could catch were ‘infidels’ and ‘Allah.’ When he finally heard the gunshot, he was prepared for the hot searing pain of the bullet piercing his skin. But nothing came.
Did the idiot actually miss? They were barely three feet apart, how could he miss? Keith had looked away when he heard the shot, but now he looked back to where the man had stood.
He wasn’t sure which of them was the most surprised: Him, the man holding him or the one who had been aiming the gun at him. The latter stood in front of him with a comically surprised look on his face. Keith saw the telltale sign of a gunshot wound on the man’s chest.
He felt the arms of the man who was restraining him begin to tremble. The bastard had probably wet himself. The way the terrorist held him, there was no way the man could draw a weapon, Keith thought.
He could feel the man’s breath on the side of his face. His mouth was so close that Keith could smell a garlicky odor each time the man exhaled. Idiot, he thought, as he threw his head back with as much force as he could muster.
The sound of bone breaking was like a heavenly song to Keith. He hoped it wasn’t his skull cracking. He was able to swivel as the other man’s hold on him loosened. He grinned when he saw blood trickling down the terrorist’s nose.
Finally, having a hard head paid off. Before the man could regain his wits, Keith threw a punch that landed on the recently broken nose of the now panicked man in front of him.
He heard one more shot ring out and watched as the man fell to the ground. Keith looked up and saw Rafe standing a few feet away from him, gun still raised and aimed.
The President was definitely not made of marshmallow and glass.
Keith never thought he’d start to hate snow.