Three more Seals piled into the room. They began whooping when they saw the dead man on the bed. Croft clicked on his radio mic. ‘For God and country — Geronimo, Geronimo.’ His breath came in ragged gasps, the adrenaline still coursing through his system. He took a deep breath to steady himself before clicking the mic again. ‘Geronimo EKIA.’

EKIA. Enemy killed in action. The most hunted man in the world was dead.

Croft turned to look at his colleagues and punched his fist in the air. ‘You do not fuck with Navy Seals!’ he shouted. ‘Who do you not fuck with?’

‘Navy Seals!’ they chorused, then began whooping and pumping the air with their fists.

Shepherd stood in the doorway, his Heckler amp; Koch cradled in his arms as he watched the Seals cheering and slapping each other on the back. Henderson came up behind him and put a gloved hand on his shoulder. ‘We should go, Dan. It’s over.’

The woman who hadn’t been shot tried to get over to the dead man but Seal Bravo pushed her back down on the floor. ‘Stay where you are, bitch, or I’ll shoot you too!’

‘Stand down!’ shouted Croft. ‘I want the place searched from top to bottom. We want computers, papers, photos. . Anything that looks like intel we take. And let’s get his body into a bag.’ He saw Shepherd looking at him.

Shepherd took off his night-vision goggles. There were thin curtains over the windows and there was enough moonlight filtering in for him to see. There was a big-screen television on a table in one corner of the room, along with a video recorder and a stack of tapes.

‘What’s your problem?’ asked Croft.

‘Dan, come on,’ said Henderson, trying to pull Shepherd out of the room. Shepherd shrugged off Henderson’s hand.

‘What the fuck did you do?’ shouted Shepherd.

Two Seals pushed by Shepherd and headed for a cupboard on which there was a laptop computer and a stack of DVDs. They knelt down and took off their backpacks.

Croft pushed his goggles to the top of his head. ‘What do you think happened?’ he growled at Shepherd.

‘I think you shot an unarmed man, that’s what I think.’

Croft pointed at an AK-47 leaning against the wall by the bed. ‘What do you call that?’

‘I call it murder. He didn’t make a move for the weapon and yet you double-tapped him.’

‘Yeah, well, I wanted to make sure he was dead. That bastard was responsible for Nine-Eleven. He deserved what he got.’

Seal Delta appeared in the doorway, with Seal Echo close behind him. Seal Echo was holding a tube of rolled-up white plastic. ‘Got the body bag,’ he said.

‘You and Pete put the body in it,’ said Croft. He nodded at Seal Delta. ‘Are they searching the rooms downstairs?’

‘We’re on it,’ said Seal Delta. ‘They’ve already found a stack of porn.’

‘Make sure they take it with us. We need to show what degenerates these bastards are,’ said Croft.

Seal Delta disappeared out of the doorway and thudded downstairs. Seal Echo and Seal Charlie went over to the bed and unrolled the body bag.

Croft realised that Shepherd was still staring at him. ‘What the fuck are you looking at?’ he said.

‘I’m here to observe, remember?’ said Shepherd. ‘That’s what I’m doing. Observing.’

‘Get back to the chopper,’ said Croft. He pointed at Henderson. ‘You’re supposed to keep him out of trouble, Guy, and at the moment you’re not doing a great job.’

‘This isn’t over,’ said Shepherd. ‘No one told me this was a kill mission. I was told that we were here to capture and remove for interrogation.’

‘Yeah, well, maybe you weren’t in the loop,’ said Croft. ‘Now get back to the chopper. We’re leaving as soon as the body’s bagged.’

‘Who authorised you to kill him?’

Seal Bravo came up behind Shepherd. He elbowed Henderson out of the way and jabbed the barrel of his weapon against the side of Shepherd’s neck. ‘Do as he says and get the fuck out of here,’ he growled. ‘You won’t be the first Brit to get caught in friendly fire.’

Shepherd slowly turned to face Seal Bravo and stared at him with unblinking eyes. ‘If you want to pull the trigger then you go right ahead,’ he said. ‘But, just in case you’re wondering, that hard thing pressing against your leg isn’t my cock, it’s my Glock, and if you do shoot me my gun’s going to go off and blow away your nuts. To be honest, I’d rather be dead than live the rest of my life with no balls, but maybe you’re okay with that.’

Seal Bravo took a step back. Shepherd’s MP5 was hanging on its sling and he’d taken his Glock out of its nylon holster and it was now pointing at the soldier’s groin. Shepherd’s finger was tightening on the trigger.

‘Stand down!’ shouted Henderson. ‘Both of you.’

‘Tell him to take his gun away from my neck or I will shoot him,’ said Shepherd.

‘Eddie, stand down,’ said Henderson.

Seal Bravo snarled at Shepherd, but he took another step back and lowered his weapon.

‘Shepherd, if you’ve got a problem with what happened, you take it up with your bosses,’ said Croft. ‘You’ve no jurisdiction here. You’re an observer, you observed, now get back to the chopper or so help me God I’ll leave you here for the Pakistanis to find.’

Shepherd holstered his Glock and walked out of the room.

Henderson followed him. ‘Dan, you’ve got to watch it with these guys. In a war zone they’re a law unto themselves.’

‘So they can get away with murder? Is that what you’re saying?’

‘I’m saying this is their mission; you’re a passenger. If you’ve got a problem with anything you’d better stow it until you’re back home.’

‘What’s his fucking problem?’ growled Seal Bravo. ‘I thought the SAS were special forces, but he’s behaving like a crybaby.’

‘He’s an observer, that’s all,’ said Croft. ‘The Brits insisted he was on the team because they supplied the intel. I told them it would be like mixing oil and water but the top brass said he was in so he’s in. Doesn’t mean we have to like it.’ He looked at his watch. It had been just thirty-four minutes since they had entered the compound. In all the rehearsals they’d done in North Carolina and Afghanistan they’d been in the air and on their way home within thirty minutes.

Seal Echo rolled Bin Laden’s body into the body bag and zipped it up.

‘Take it down to the helo,’ said Croft. Seal Echo and Seal Charlie picked up the body and carried it out.

The Seals by the television had stashed the laptop and the DVDs in their backpacks and were working their way through a stack of magazines and newspapers they’d found in the wooden cupboard.

‘Take it all,’ said Croft. ‘They’ll want to know what he was reading; it’ll give a clue to what he was planning.’ He nodded at Seal Bravo. ‘Five more minutes and we’re out of here,’ he said, then hurried down the stairs.

More Seals were searching the bedrooms. The walls were all concrete and the floors were tiled, which cut down the number of possible hiding places, but they tapped everything with the stocks of the M4s to be sure. They smashed cupboards and tables and used their knives to rip open mattresses.

‘Come on guys, the clock is ticking, mover it!’ he shouted before hurrying down the stairs to the ground floor, with Seal Bravo hard on his heels.

Shepherd stood and watched as four Seals brought half a dozen children out of the compound. They were all barefoot and wearing shabby nightgowns and their hands had been tied behind their backs with flex cuffs. Two of the children were girls who couldn’t have been more than six years old and they were crying uncontrollably. ‘They’re just kids,’ said Shepherd.

‘Kids are as dangerous as adults in this part of the world,’ said Henderson. ‘We have to make sure they’re not a threat.’

The Seals pushed the kids along the perimeter wall to where a group of women and children were sitting. One of the women tried to get up but a Seal pushed her back down with the barrel of his weapon. ‘Stay on the ground!’ he yelled.

The woman screamed at him in Arabic and the Seal prodded her again.

The children ran towards her and sat down around her. The younger ones were crying but one of the boys,

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