Colin's tweets

follow me
Colin Smith
About ColinContact ColinHome Books

Extracts of Collateral Damage

“You see, the cut-out system works beautiful as long as nobody breaks the circuit.”

“And if they do?” she asked.

He drained his cognac. “Then a man could find himself playing for a different team without even realising that the colour of his shirt had changed.”

“It seems the Dove has flown then,” said the detective-sergeant. He had been rehearsing the line.

“I was hoping, I was really hoping,” sighed Fitchett, “that you weren’t going to say that.”

Fitchett held Dove’s photograph in his two hands and studied it carefully. “You silly bugger,” he thought. “If you get anywhere near Koller he’ll spit you out in bits.”

He looked again. “He won’t be expecting you though will he Mister Dove, ”he said aloud. “He won’t be expecting you.”

“OK. so he killed your old lady.” [says George, an American Palestinian and Vietnam veteran.] “But it was an accident. Why do you want him so badly? If she’s been wasted in some automobile smash with a drunk driver would you want to kill that guy too?”

“Yes, for a while,” said Dove, “then I suppose the feeling would subside because society would probably punish the driver and, anyway, however irresponsible he ws he hadn’t come to the conclusion that he had the right to kill.

“But Koller’s different. I want to kill him for all the little people who don’t matter to people like him, the eggs sacrificed for his rotten little egotistical revolutionary omelette. For all the happy, decent people with so much to offer who happen to be in the wrong place when some clumsy, righteous bastard decides that he’s got the God given right to kill someone. And if I get the chance, before he dies, before I put a bullet in him with the excellent pistol you’ve given me, I’m going to tell him who’s killing him and why. I’m going to tell him just for the pleasure of seeing the surprise on the bastard’s face. The surprise when he realises that one of those little people whose life he blundered into was so ruined, so shattered, that when he had picked up the fragments of himself and glued them back, more or less, in working order the only thing he had left to live for was tracking him down like a wild animal.”

“Jeesus Christ,” said George. “By the time you’ve finished telling him all that he’ll have barbecued your arse and served it up with three kinds of mustard. Go and show me you’d do to Koller on one of those targets over there.”

Dove took out the Walther and approached three life-sized cardboard silhouettes of charging figures with sub-machine guns, presumably the Zionist horde, which George had planted before an earth bank. He got to within about thirty metres and using a double-handed grip, discharged all eight rounds in the magazine. He hit one figure in his cardboard knee.

“That’s what happen when you’re mad,” said George. “You’ve got to be cool. Keep the madness buried deep inside.” He banged his heart with his right hand. Suddenly Dove realised that George wasn’t all bad.”

They were drinking their third Turkish coffee of the afternoon when into the house came a little girl aged about eight or nine. She was quite classically pretty, her face framed in straight, jet black hair and dominated by huge, sensitive brown eyes which seemed to light up when they registered George.

She ran over to him and he bent down and picked her up, kissed her on both cheeks, threw her up in the air, caught her, kissed her again, and then fished in the top pocket of his fatigues until he came out with a new packet of coloured pencils in a plastic wallet. Throughout it all the little girl. though obviously ecstatic, was strangely silent. “She’s dumb,” the Palestinian explained. “Hysterical dumbness. Her parents were blown away by an Israeli bomb and she was standing right next to them.”

The girl ran off and returned holding a sheet of paper which she presented to George then stood solemnly by while he examined it with great seriousness. “It’s always the same one,” he said, passing it to Dove.

The picture showed two planes, children’s planes with impossible vertical wings, dropping a stick of bombs on two houses. The bombs were not landing on the houses but were marked in vivid red and yellow ‘V’s as landing all around. Two figures with matching stick limbs were lying on the ground. To the left of the picture was a tree underneath which stood a little girl - a triangle with a ball on top sprouting black string hair - shedding torrents of tears marked in much the same way as the falling bombs. Left again of the tree, at the edge of the picture, was the figure of a man in a keffiyeh, holding what was obviously supposed to be a Kalashnikov because the child had equipped his rifle with its distinctive banana-shaped magazine. The rifle was spitting red fire at one of the planes; but unlike most children’s war pictures he wasn’t hitting it. The red dashes merely went hopelessly on, between the two planes, until they left the picture. There was something else peculiar about it. Dove looked again. The sun was crying.

“The dude doing the shooting is new,” said George. “I think it’s supposed to be me. Obviously she doesn’t think I can hit a barn door.”

The planes from the south came in the late afternoon when the fedayeen had almost given them up. For a full minute before they saw them they could hear the engines humming in the clouds gathering for dusk.

They first appeared as two glittering silver darts, falling to earth, one slightly behind the other, before banking into a tight turn, their triangular shape clearly silhouetted against the sinking sun. Dove, crouched in a shallow trench near the Dushka, felt his stomach turn cold and the ice begin to form around his groin. George, squatting besides him with his binoculars, said “Phantoms”.

For a moment it seemed that the aircraft were heading straight for them. “Surely,” thought Dove, “ they can’t know we’re in these woods?” He watched as the Dushka crew and the fedayeen on the multi-barrelled Czech gun frantically swivelled their weapons on them through the gaps in the trees. He studied the gunners’ hands as they tightened over the trigger mechanisms. George had told him that the Czech gun was capable of hitting, without the aid of radar, an aircraft travelling at the speed of sound. “If the crews have the right training.”

“And do they?”

“Only live targets.”

Dove stared at these teenaged gunners now, silently begging them to hold their fire, not to draw attention to themselves. Then George was standing up in the trench, his right hand raised. He dropped it just as the Phantoms, their engine noise practically drowning out the gunfire, had passed them and were beginning their dive into the valley. For seven or eight seconds, as the planes flew across their line of vision, his crews had the chance to get them in their sights. In that time the five barrels under George’s command discharged just over four hundred rounds. The noise was appalling. It sounded to Dove as if someone was turning an enormous coffee-grinder inside his head. There was also the sweet burned smell that lingers when a lot of ammunition has been fired. Yet not one of those rounds, with a muzzle velocity of over three thousand miles per hour, found a target and nor did any other of the anti-aircraft guns on the hillside, let alone the rifles fired as uselessly as the one in Tamima’s picture.

The Phantoms were better. Their bombs kicked up great brown clouds around the village of the Shia tobacco farmers. Because they were about two miles away Dove and the rest experienced the peculiar delayed action effect of actually seeing the smoke and the climbing silver arrows before the noise of the explosion had rippled up the valley towards them.

Back to top
Buy this book from
Andre Deutsch,
London, 1979.

Published in the United States in 1980 by Viking, New York, as “The Cut-Out” and as a paperback by Ace Charter in New York in 1982. ISBN 0 233 97279 X
site by pedalo limited