"Load your weapons. If they start shooting, let them have it," Faris whispered quickly to the Sheikh's men in the back of the old Mercedes.
Abdul leaned back against the hood of the car and surveyed his surroundings. The tip of his cigarette glowed sharply, almost matching the sunrise that was beginning to show its face behind him. Somalia was a beautiful country at dawn. Just enough light to instill the surroundings with a warm glow; but not enough light to actually see what a shit-hole it really was. He could almost feel the palpable hopelessness of his surroundings. Abdul had traveled to nearly every war zone in the world at one point or another. They all felt like that. Large empty voids, filled with nothing but the lost dreams of their people.
Abdul felt a cold shiver as he remembered his own experience growing up as a young boy in Nigeria. His childhood was marked by constant war, followed by famine. He was recruited at age 11 to become a child soldier for the local militia. They were nothing but thieves robbing poor people of what little they had. He had finally escaped at age fifteen with an Egyptian diamond merchant who liked to color outside the lines of the law. Had he not gotten out of Nigeria, Abdul had no doubt he would be dead already. And for what? A strip of mud? Abdul had decided long ago, that he would rather die for money.
Abdul heard a low rumble coming from the bay. It was still too dark to see the source of the sound clearly, but there was no doubt in Abdul's mind of what it was. Out of the darkness a thirty-foot black boat approached slowly towards the dock. Abdul could see that the boat was filled to the brim with armed young boys, in rag tag clothes, clutching rusty AK-47s.
Faris opened the car door and stepped out. Abdul dropped what was left of his cigarette on the ground and stamped it out with his combat boot. Faris was wider and taller than Abdul, and Abdul always worried that, maybe, this made him look weak when Faris was next to him. He shoved that thought aside. He was glad to have Faris with him. He and Faris were practically brothers and he trusted him implicitly. As a mercenary, having someone watching your back who wouldn't put a bullet in it was as comforting as a nice, warm blanket. Besides, the other three men with Abdul were all the Sheikh's men, and they were fanatics. Abdul hated fanatics.
The black speedboat approached the rickety-looking wooden pier slowly, until the young Somali thugs were able to jump out of the boat and onto the creaking dock. They approached Abdul and Faris with guns drawn and the cold, slack, faces of killers.
The Somali boys couldn't have been more than in their early teens, thought Abdul. In fact, had they been born anywhere else in the world they would have just been going to the 7th or 8th grade and would have started to wonder why they were suddenly noticing girls. But, in a cruel twist of fate, these boys had been born in the ghettos of the world's greatest toilet. Born in the slums and garbage dumps of a place that nobody cared about; and that no one ever would. These Somali boys for all their criminal malice and murderous intent, were merely making the best of their very bad situations.
One of the boys who looked a year or so older than his comrades made his way up to Abdul. He had the arrogance of a man with many kills under his fake Nike belt. He looked angry. This wasn't a good start, thought Abdul.
"Hey idiot, where fuck have you been?" The Somali boys’ leader yelled to Abdul in broken and hard to understand English.
"Here, where we said we would meet."
"No, fuck, we said the other one, asshole," he said pointing across the bay.
It seemed the boy thought that the more he cursed the better his English sounded. Abdul needed to diffuse the situation fast.
"Ok, ok, our mistake, can we make the deal?"
The boy suddenly moved closer to Abdul. So close that his putrid breath exploded hotly into Abdul's face. Abdul's left hand went to the dagger beneath his shirt. Double edged and heavy, the Jambiya dagger was a long-curved blade, and it was perfect for shoving into the soft stomach of an overly arrogant kid. The boy finally took a step back, but his black, icy eyes never wavered from Abdul's.
"We make deal. Now you pay extra."
Abdul dropped his hand from the dagger and sighed. He hated when he was right. Abdul had seen this coming and had brought another ten grand just in case. These thugs were all the same, once they found a money machine, they would shake it for every last penny they could get. And the difference in price just might mean your life, so he had come prepared. But he wouldn't let the boy know that.
"How much more?" Abdul asked.
This was odd, Abdul thought. He had expected the boy to ask for a lot more than two thousand dollars. Then Abdul realized the reason he hadn't. If the boy had asked for more than that, Abdul might get angry and call Yusuf, the warlord who this boy worked for, and complain. That would probably get the boy a one-way ticket to a gutter somewhere with two shots to the back of his head for cheating his boss. After all, it wasn't hard in Somalia to find another drugged out boy with an AK-47 and a Napoleon complex. No matter, thought Abdul. This didn't change his plans at all.
"Deal," Abdul said.
Abdul nodded to Faris, who pulled out the brushed Aluminum Haliburton briefcase from the trunk of the Mercedes. Faris opened the briefcase, which was stuffed to the brim with cash. Inside were neatly stacked bills, U.S. of course. Even though they were halfway around the world, in a pit like Somalia, cash talked. And only one kind: American. The funny thing was that most people in this part of the world despised the United States; but if you tried to pay in any other currency you were quite simply, fucked. Green was king to every warlord in the world.
The boy quickly counted the eighty thousand dollars and then turned to Abdul expectantly. Abdul realized what he wanted, and pulled the extra two grand from his coat which the boy immediately pocketed.
Abdul, "Is it full of fuel?
The Leader quickly nodded. Too quickly.
"Wait," Abdul said holding the boy in place. "Faris go check it and make sure everything is good."
Abdul knew all too well that fuel in Somalia was nearly impossible to come by. You couldn't just drive up to the local yacht club and fill up your boat. And clean fuel? That was a fantasy. Everything in Somalia was corrupt and fuel distributors had a nasty habit of mixing in water with the fuel to get more bang for their buck. Abdul had brought some high-performance fuel additives to give the gas a little more octane, just in case. The last thing he could afford was to have the motors die on him while in pursuit of his quarry.
Faris returned from the boat and said everything was as good as could be expected. Abdul nodded to his crew in the Mercedes to get out.
The Sheikh's men exited the car while the Somali boys got in. It had been prearranged that the Somalis would get the car to head back to whatever dump they had come from.
Eighty-two thousand dollars for a speedboat with three outboard motors and a top speed of 60 knots wasn't too bad. It was no yacht, but it was fast and exactly what Abdul needed. A speedboat like this wasn't easy to find in Somalia. Eight-two thousand was a steal.
Faris and the Sheikh’s men stood watch and protected Abdul's back as he walked down the dock to the boat. The Somali leader and his crew got in the Mercedes and stared at Faris for a moment as he sat behind the wheel. The leader thought he saw a hint of a smile on Faris's face as he stepped back away from the car. But it could just as easily be the forty hours straight he had been high on Khat, a Somali drug the local warlords liked to use to keep the boys angry and awake.
The leader quickly dismissed the thought and focused instead on his cut of the two grand he had just gained by strong arming these weird buyers. He would spend his lion's share on more drugs and perhaps a new rocket launcher if he could get a good deal. The last of the Somali boys got in the car and closed the door. The leader turned the key.
The car exploded in a huge fireball from the engine backwards. Roaring flames engulfed the boys in the car burning them alive. Their screams filled the night air like the soundtrack of an obscene horror movie. On the boat, Abdul's face was lit up with the orange, red glow of the fire that was now burning brightly. Faris looked at the burning corpses with amusement, then nodded to Ibrahim. Ibrahim, Hamoud, and Jamil, the Sheikh's men, all walked down to the waters’ edge quickly and retrieved the four large fire extinguishers they had hidden there earlier in the night while Faris had rigged the car bomb. They walked up to the burning car and began putting out the roaring flames.
Abdul started up the speedboat's motors and was pleased to hear them running well. He opened the gas tanks and began emptying the fuel additives into them. Only one additive was recommended per fuel tank, but he wanted maximum performance and cared nothing about the longevity of the engines, so he inserted eight cans. This practically gave the fuel the octane of jet fuel, but that was exactly what he wanted.
Abdul walked up on the front deck and looked at the Sheikh's men putting out the fire. This was taking way too long, he thought. He didn't want to raise any attention with the fire before they got away.
"Faris, put out the fire now! And get the briefcase!"
The Somali gang's bodies had now become crisped, and the smell of burning human flesh was excruciating. It was not the first time Faris's nose had been assaulted by the aroma of burning skin and hair but it was certainly something he would never get used to. Ibrahim used a large crowbar to hook the handle of the briefcase that was still clutched in the charred hands of the one of the Somali boys in the back seat. It took a few powerful tugs before the torched boy finally relinquished his grip on the case. The case was scorched but otherwise unharmed.
The case was a Haliburton special; one of those brushed aluminum cases that were designed for fire and flood type protection. In the 5 minutes the case had been in the fire, it had heated up substantially, but it was otherwise fine. It had a manufacturer claim of 1 hour in a raging fire, although Faris wondered how accurate that was. After dropping it in the river water to cool it down, he opened it gingerly. There it was. Their bonus. Eighty-two thousand dollars.
Faris and his crew walked down to the dock and jumped on board the speedboat. Abdul quickly pulled the boat away from the pier and turned the boat’s bow towards the sunrise and the open ocean.
Abdul had never planned on letting the Somali gang live. There could be no trace of where the boat came from or who had owned it. Deception was imperative to their operation and there could be no loose ends. Abdul would have normally thought twice about crossing Yusuf Mucktab, the dangerous Somali warlord who actually owned the boat that he was now driving. But for this particular job, he had no fear of retribution by the warlord. By the time Yusuf figured out Abdul had crossed him, Abdul would be well into international waters and simply not worth the risk to Yusuf. Yusuf would just have to take his loss on the chin.
Abdul pushed the silver throttles down hard and the boat easily climbed up onto a plane. He pulled out of the harbor and headed for the open sea at a nice clip of 30 knots. He had no need to go any faster as his quarry was still hours away.