Extracts of Collateral Damage
You see, the cut-out system works beautiful as long as nobody breaks the
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
werent going to say that.
Fitchett held Doves photograph in his two hands and studied it carefully. You
silly bugger, he thought. If you get anywhere near Koller hell
spit you out in bits.
He looked again. He wont be expecting you though will he Mister Dove, he
said aloud. He wont 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 shes 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 hadnt come to the conclusion that he had the right
But Kollers different. I want to kill him for all the little people
who dont 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 hes 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 youve given me, Im going to tell him whos killing him
and why. Im going to tell him just for the pleasure of seeing the surprise
on the bastards 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 youve finished
telling him all that hell have barbecued your arse and served it up with
three kinds of mustard. Go and show me youd 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.
Thats what happen when youre mad, said George. Youve
got to be cool. Keep the madness buried deep inside. He banged his heart
with his right hand. Suddenly Dove realised that George wasnt 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
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
was strangely silent. Shes 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. Its
always the same one, he said, passing it to Dove.
The picture showed two planes, childrens 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 Vs 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 childrens war pictures he wasnt
hitting it. The red dashes merely went hopelessly on, between the two
they left the picture. There was something else peculiar about it. Dove
The sun was crying.
The dude doing the shooting is new, said George. I think its
supposed to be me. Obviously she doesnt think I can hit a barn
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 cant know were 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
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 Georges 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 Tamimas 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.