Much to my surprise, Mas’ud was waiting for me. Well, he was waiting for someone anyway. He’d found a decent sized piece of timber and was holding it like a baseball bat, ready to brain anyone he didn’t like the look of who crawled through the hole. Looks like he had some fight in him after all.
He realised he was safe and lowered the improvised weapon. “Where now?” he asked.
I looked around. We were on a flat roof with a huge, shiny water tank to one side. Buildings surrounded us offering no way down to the ground. The only way was going to be up.
A balcony was just out of reach to our right, but was low enough that a jump from the water tank should get us onto it. I pointed. “Up there”.
The tank was against the wall, so I managed to clamber up and grab the rim on the tank’s top to pull me up in next to no time. The metal was hot, but not unduly so thanks to the shade offered by the surrounding buildings.
I leant down and offered Mas’ud my hand. There was just enough room for us both to stand on the top.
From this small standing start, I swung my arms and leapt up, grabbing the edge of the small balcony. It was surrounded by a metal fence and I used the posts to slowly pull myself up to the top railing and over onto the balcony proper. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried pulling yourself up metal tubes with sweaty hands, but it’s not easy.
Again, I leaned over and helped Mas’ud once he’d made the jump. As he landed on the balcony, the first of our tenacious gunmen appeared on the roof. I expected a shot, but it seemed his wild shooting had left him with an empty gun. His surprise at the dry click as he raised his arm and fired was matched by my relief.
Not one to look a gift horse in the unarmed mouth, I made the most of the extra time we’d been granted. The balcony we were on only had a louver door on it, and this was securely locked. A swift kick didn’t even make it rattle.
A few feet away was another balcony, this one with shuttered windows. If all else failed, they would be breakable. I climbed onto the rail and jumped over, easily covering the distance.
I turned and urged Mas’ud to jump. As he did so, the second gunman appeared and this time there was no click. An un-silenced crack was followed by a dull thud as the bullet smacked into the wall an inch ahead of Mas’ud’s face.
He jerked in reflex and closed his eyes. Not a good thing to do just as you’re leaping across a gap with fifteen foot drop underneath you.
Mas’ud fell short, thumping into the rail with his chest. He scrabbled for a grip as I jumped onto him and gripped his shirt. Keeping him pressed to the railing so he wouldn’t slip further, I grabbed his belt and hauled him up to safety.
No second shot rang out and it seemed that both the men chasing us had expended all their bullets. Definitely amateurs. Maybe the Iranians hadn’t had the chance to send someone out and had had to make do with some “staff” who happened to be in the area at the time.
Lady Luck would catch up on me one day, I’m sure. Right now, I grabbed all that she was offering and tried the door handle.
Oh, boy. I did owe her a lot. The handle turned and the door opened, revealing a humble room. A couple of small tables and some sleeping mats rolled up in the corner made up the furniture, while a solitary picture of a Buddha hung on the wall with some incense smoking on a shelf under it.
The room was lit only by the light coming in from the open door – nobody was home.
Pushing Mas’ud in front of me, I glance to the side and saw that our escape route was being mirrored by the Iranians.
Now I felt comfortable to make a stand. If these guys were as amateur as they seemed then the odds had just tilted very much in my favour. Plus, Mas’ud had shown that he knew where safety lay. I didn’t have to worry about him disappearing while I took care of business.
As I entered the room, I directed Mas’ud to a doorway opposite. “Get through there and wait. This should only take a minute”.
I turned my back on him and sidestepped to the shutters covering the window we had passed to get to the doorway. I unfastened the flimsy latch and paused.
There! The sound of the first Iranian landing on the rails as he jumped from the first balcony. A scratching and a huff of breath as he heaved himself over…
I leaned back and kicked the shutter with the flat of my foot. It swung out at a hell of a speed and I heard it hit him full on. If I’d timed it just right then he would have been on the railing when it made contact.
Just over a second later I heard a wet smack. That would have been his head hitting the roof below. I guess he wouldn’t be climbing the water tank again in a hurry.
I was just about to head back out and confront the second man when I heard a yell behind me. I span round and ran through the doorway where I had sent Mas’ud.
It turns out the apartment hadn’t been as empty as we’d thought. A very angry-looking Vietnamese man armed with one of the sharpest kitchen knives I’d ever seen had Mas’ud cornered. The local was yelling an awful lot of words that I didn’t understand – I speak four languages fluently, but none of them are of the tonal Asian variety. Over here I’m pretty much limited to “please”, “thank you” and a handful of foods. Our upset resident was certainly not bothered about being polite and his conversation wasn’t geared towards offering cuisine.
This time the đồng I threw were of the paper variety and his eyes widened. Forgetting the two strange men in his kitchen, he lowered the knife and started clawing the money from the floor. Hey, nobody who threw money in your face could be bad, right?
At this point, Lady Luck decided she’d had enough of me and I flew forward as the remaining thug kicked me hard in the spine.