Fear filled Singer's face, and shaking his head, he glanced around to stare into Ethan's eyes. "I gave the bitch ten American dollars so she would let me fuck her, and her father caught us bare-assed naked ten minutes later. He was going to cut me in half with a machete, so I shot him. It was self-defense. The whore lied. When the old man arrived, she yelled I was raping her."
"You joining me, then?" Ethan asked.
"Sure," the cook replied. "What have I got to lose?" He laughed dryly but quickly sobered.
Ethan handed Singer a grenade. The cook's fingers curled around it, and his eyes changed him from a helpless prisoner to a bloodthirsty predator.
"You slide behind the gunner on this side and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. All you have to do is pull the pin and show him you mean business. I'll handle the pilots. I don't want anyone dead. Remember, this is going to keep us out of a military prison. If anyone dies on this flight, it will be a cluster fuck, and they'll never stop hunting us."
Fear returned to Singer's simple, baby face. Damn!
"We're a team." Ethan smiled to reassure the boy. "You and me, buddy." He patted Singer on the shoulder. "You'll do fine." He took another grenade from the bag and handed that one to Singer too. "Put this in a top pocket as a backup."
The cook did as he was told, then pulled the pin from the first grenade, careful to keep his fingers wrapped around the spoon so it wouldn't pop free and arm the weapon's short fuse.
"We are not going to prison." Ethan pulled a shoulder holster and harness from the bag and strapped it on. Then he slipped the automatic Colt forty-five into the holster.
"If you accidently let go of that spoon, toss the grenade out the door then use the other one in your pocket."
Ethan looked at one of the gunners and watched him shake another cigarette out of a soft pack of Camels. The second gunner had closed his eyes and looked as if he might be napping.
Ethan stared at the pack of cigarettes.
His father had smoked Camels, and he remembered a magazine ad he'd seen with John Wayne in it saying, "More people smoke Camels than any other cigarette!" Not that long ago, John Wayne had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Ethan hated cigarettes and, as a child, he had sworn he would never smoke. Because his father had been an alcoholic, he hated booze too, but now he didn't mind an occasional glass of beer with a whiskey chaser—a habit he'd acquired while stationed in Okinawa for several weeks after his first tour in Vietnam. The booze helped numb his combat demons.
He pulled the pin from his grenade, stood and moved along the cargo deck toward the entrance to the high cockpit where the pilot and copilot would be flying the HUS. It was time to toss the dice. There would only be one chance.
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