The Mullah's Storm

Free The Mullah's Storm by Tom Young

Book: The Mullah's Storm by Tom Young Read Free Book Online
Authors: Tom Young
greater use than a compass.
    He wondered whether he’d ever flown through this valley on a low-level run to an airdrop. The terrain certainly made good cover for a tactical route. Parson had flown dozens of missions to drop supplies to troops, skimming the ground at nearly three hundred miles per hour, deep below the ridgetops. That’s the way he wanted to cross this valley: chart in hand, stopwatch dangling from his neck, turbulence rocking the plane. The copilot’s finger on a release switch, the whole crew waiting for Parson to call “green light.”
    He would have blasted through this valley in seconds, so low and so fast a jihadist could not have seen him in time to punch off a missile. Now they slogged through it for hours, exhausted and hungry like wandering penitents.
    Eventually the valley seemed to widen, though the fog made it hard to tell. Parson guessed a stream nearby fed into the frozen lake behind him, but he saw only an expanse of snow. Its surface stretched before him unbroken by any tracks, a monochromatic world of white drifts and gray boulders.
    He noticed a few brown twigs sticking up through the snow at regular intervals, the remains of some crop planted in rows. Parson brushed powder away from one of the dead plants, the brittle stems crackling in his fingers.
    “Opium poppies,” Gold said.
    “I should have figured,” Parson said. He knew most of the world’s opium came from here.
    The snowflakes had grown smaller and smaller until now they fell like talcum, so fine they seemed just a slight thickening of the fog. Parson held out his hand and watched them collect on his glove. He wondered whether it was true that each flake had its own unique pattern, a geometry never appearing before and never seen again. Not in all the snow that surrounded him, not in all the snow that had ever fallen. He tromped on, thinking maybe lives weren’t much different. Unique, never repeated quite the same way, one among billions, brief in the fullness of time.
    But in the short moment we’re here, he thought, one person can cause so much harm or good. Why would you dedicate your life to destruction and fly a plane into a building or blow yourself up in a crowded market? Parson thought about the jihadists he’d shot back at the shack. None looked more than thirty. Why couldn’t they have been in a university learning something useful? Or raising a young family, or doing anything other than making it necessary for me to drag my ass through this fucking blizzard?
    In the translucence of the snow and mist, the mountains that walled the valley hung blue in the distance. Ghosts of mountains. In the poor visibility Parson could not tell for certain, but he thought he saw some kind of large structure along one slope. He’d seen lots of villages from the air, mud-brick dwellings the exact color of the ground from which they’d been scraped, looking almost like a natural geological formation. But not this thing. As Parson drew nearer, he saw it was a single building, or more like a single ruin. Snow coated crumbling stone walls, and along the front wall Parson saw a wide gap, perhaps an opening for a wooden gate long since burned or rotted away. Some sort of fortress, maybe.
    “You see that?” Parson asked.
    “Yes, sir,” Gold said. “I think it’s an old caravansary.”
    “A what?”
    “Caravansary. A place along a trade route where caravans could stop safely for rest. This used to be part of the old Silk Road.”
    Parson appreciated her professionalism, but he felt off balance that someone beneath him in rank had such commanding expertise of the language and culture while he knew nothing. His briefings on Afghanistan had been all about flying: approach corridors, tower frequencies, runway lengths, instrument procedures. We’re in her element now, he thought. If we were flying, I’d have the knowledge and she’d be the dumb passenger.
    From a distance, at least, the caravansary seemed abandoned. No

Similar Books

Marrying the Millionaire

Sabrina Sims McAfee

Tunnel of Night

John Philpin

Strange Affair

Peter Robinson

The Silent Man

Alex Berenson