IS are animals. They’re not human. They have a bloodlust the like of which I’ve never seen—it’s as if they enjoy killing. They revel in cutting heads off—it’s like their trademark.
—Kurdish refugee Ekram Ahmet, on witnessing atrocities in the town of Kobani after the Islamic State rampaged through it
You think you’re safe where you are, in America or Britain. You think you are safe, you are not safe. We are coming for you.
—Florida resident Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, the first United States suicide bomber, in a videotaped speech before his death in Syria
I say to America that the Islamic caliphate has been established . . . and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House.
—Abu Mosa, spokesman for the Islamic State
Jacob Driscoll watched the four men, fascinated that they showed no resistance whatsoever. Completely resigned to their fate. A fly landed on the forehead of the nearest one—the one he was to kill—and the captive let it crawl about, tasting his sweat.
Jacob listened to the spokesman continue to rail in Arabic, a small crowd gathered in the square, outnumbered two to one by the gunmen. He didn’t understand the language but could guess at what was being said.
These men are traitors. This is the fate that befalls all who oppose the Kalipha. Stand with us, or suffer the same.
Far from cheering, the small grouping of people looked cowed, as if they wanted to be anywhere but there. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. They’d rather be on the outside watching than on their bellies with their necks stretched out.
The spokesman droned on, building toward a grand spectacle, his black tunic covered in dust, the AK-47 swinging about with his body language, and Jacob knew it was coming close. Execution time. His first.
In the seven months he’d been inside the cult of death known as the Islamic State, he’d witnessed many, many executions, acting as a gunman on the periphery, but he’d never done one on his own.
Not that he minded killing. It hadn’t bothered him in the past, but the action had always been at the barrel of a gun, and he wondered how this would feel. In a detached, almost scientific way, he wondered if it would be different from carving the carcasses of the rabbits he’d killed in his youth. When he’d literally had to hunt for survival.
He looked at his partners, seeing Hussein fidgeting, the nervous tics growing more pronounced. He wasn’t built for this cauldron, and Jacob thought it ironic that Hussein was the one who had recruited them. Convinced them to come to this faraway land.
Not that they had many alternatives after fleeing the cesspool of “rehabilitation” they’d been placed within. Killing the guard had ensured that.
Carlos and Devon, now known as Yousef and Talib, showed no such hesitation. They had embraced the cult of death completely, changing their names and fervently soaking up the Salafist ideology like a cactus in the rain. They were on board one hundred and ten percent, considering this day a sacred one.
Jacob played the role, but he’d long since lost belief in religion. Any religion. He’d had that whipped out of him by the pious Christian guards in the white house.
No, it wasn’t the religion. It was the power. In this land, from Mosul to Raqqa, all that mattered was the courage of the battle-axe, and he’d found a skill that he didn’t realize he possessed. He knew he would die here, but it caused no angst. In truth, he had died long ago. All that remained was for him to slip the coils of his mortal frame. The difference was a cause. He wouldn’t end up as a page-two news story, caught stealing hubcaps and gunned down in the street. And neither would the men he had brought.
Hussein may have recruited him, and the other two may have changed their names, diving headlong into the myth of the Islamic State, but he was the leader of their small group. Just as he had been inside.
With that mantle came a responsibility.
A man in black, completely covered from head to toe, like something out of a Star Wars movie, began walking his way. Jacob inwardly grimaced.
His name was Abu Yabba Dabba Do, or some other unpronounceable Arabic crap, but Jacob called him Ringo. As in the Beatles. An Islamic fighter from England, he and others like him considered themselves above Jacob and his band because they were of Arabic descent. Ringo was Yemeni. Jacob was a mutt.
“So, Jacob, are you ready for your first kill?”
He drew out the name Jacob, showing his disdain for the Biblical reference and the fact that Jacob refused to take an Arabic one.
Jacob said, “It isn’t my first, you shit.”
Ringo smirked and said, “Death with a gun is not killing. You’ll see. This is absolute control. Absolute. As Mohammad dictated. But your little band of Lost Boys wouldn’t know about that.”