Heart of Terror (extract)

Before reaching the village, Marlow stopped the squad and sent Ramirez ahead to check for wires.  He found four tripwires at varying heights, set by Charlie before sunrise, and he dismantled them easily.  The squad entered the village silently and fanned out.  They searched the huts and found the trap-doors leading down into the tunnels.  The easy part had ended and the carnage was about to begin.  The weapons were slung across shoulders butt-upwards except for the M-60 which was left at the clearing entrance with the gunner Tyrone and his loader Jones, and the shotgun held by Ramirez.  The helmets and rucksacks were left above ground. Sergeant Schwinn handed out the wooden stakes and the men drew their fighting knives. Six men were enough underground so two men stayed at the trapdoors – the medic O’Neill and Schwinn himself, who would lead the squad if Marlow was killed.  They stacked phosphorous and fragmentation grenades next to the trapdoor.  Marlow went down with the fighting patrol.


Their plan was to kill as many of the sleeping enemy as they could before the alarm was raised.  The drill was well-rehearsed: two teams of three, hand over the mouth, slit the throat to the bone with the silvered knife, shove the stake through the heart.  Marlow worked out they had killed a dozen before he heard the roar of Ramirez’s shotgun as it discharged its silver-pellet load.  Time to exfiltrate. 

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