Lt. Col. Mahmood entered the Evin Prison in the early hours after midnight, after pulling through the checkpoint in his Nissan sedan. He had not obtained clearance to secure Malachi’s release, but every passing day posed a great threat to Malachi’s life and the pivotal role he was to play in Operation Fulcrum. He was dressed in his Quds military fatigues, with shoulder patches displaying twin golden-wreathed scimitars above an eight-point star to indicate his rank. As he approached the front desk at the entrance to the prison he demanded to see Capt. Reza Nemet-Nejat, the man Malachi knew as the concierge. When the front desk attendant informed Mahmood that Nemet-Nejat was tending to a prisoner interrogation, the Lt. Col. pulled rank, and informed the attendant that he was to retrieve the Captain or face reprisals for failing to do so.
About ten minutes after Mahmood made his demands, Capt. Nemet-Nejat came to the prison lobby and greeted him, “Lt. Col. Mahmood, I had not expected to see you for a few more days. To what do I owe the honor of your visit?”
“I understand you have an American that my unit captured some days ago.”
“We have several Americans, sir, which one are you referring to?”
Mahmood answered gruffly, “I think you know the American of which I speak. He was picked up just outside the Haji Omaran installation across our border with Iraq.”
“Ah, yes. You are referring to Mr. Firestone; we are still in the process of interrogating him.”
Mahmood was not sure which alias Malachi had used while he was imprisoned at Evin, so he had to make a quick assumption, “Yes, I would like to speak with him.”
“At this late hour?”
“Yes, he has critical information that my forces need for our Iraqi invasion. I would not have come at this hour if my business with him was not urgent.”
Knowing that he could not refuse a ranking officer, and he was unlikely to find anyone who outranked Mahmood at that hour, Nemet-Nejat reluctantly agreed. He led Mahmood through the labyrinthine corridors of the prison to an elevator that took them several floors below ground level to where Malachi was being held.
Mahmood held no regard for Nemet-Nejat, whose cruelty had become notorious in a prison already renowned for its brutality. There was something sinister about the man that brooded over him like a noxious cloud. Men who did the sort of things this Captain did to other men debased themselves of the divine spark that gave men their humanity. This twisted, sadistic man left a palpable knot in Mahmood’s stomach as they approached Malachi’s whited-out cell.
“We haven’t been able to extract much information from him,” said Nemet-Nejat, as he turned the key that unlocked Malachi’s cell door, “He has proved quite resilient to our interrogation techniques.”
“I see, Captain,” said Mahmood, latching the door behind him. As soon as the door clicked shut, Mahmood pulled out his sidearm from its holster and shot out the CCTV camera. Nemet-Nejat had swiveled, stunned by the gunfire. As he turned, without a word, Mahmood fired two shots into the Captain’s skull. Blood, gray matter, and bits of skull painted the blank white wall behind him as he fell dead onto the cold floor.
Malachi hadn’t even lifted his head during the brief outburst of violence. Assuming he was awaiting more grueling interrogation with the concierge, he kept his head still buried in his knees, fearing that he had returned, feeling that he was out of strength for the next ordeal. When he heard the shots from Mahmood’s pistol crack and echo in the room, he thought that the bullets were meant for him. Seconds passed. When Malachi drew a deep breath, he was surprised, convinced that he had already breathed his last.
“Mr. Brandt,” the Mahmood said.
This was not the concierge. Though his voice was familiar, Malachi could not remember who it belonged to. As he slowly raised his head, his eyes met with Lt. Col. Mahmood. He blinked multiple times, convinced at first that he was hallucinating. He blinked once more, bringing Mahmood into focus, realizing that rescue had finally come. He had abandoned all hope in the violent torments of the prison that had become his own purgatory.
“I am here to get you out of here,” the Lieutenant Colonel said.
Tears welled in Malachi’s eyes as he began to sob. Mahmood stooped down and helped him to his feet.
“We must go quickly. The Russians will have a helicopter waiting for you not far from here.”
Mahmood hoisted Malachi up, stooping his shoulders to help him limp out of the room. As they crossed the threshold of the door, they could see five armed guards pacing down the hallway toward them with pistols drawn. There was no way that the two of them could escape the encroaching guards, not with Malachi in such dire condition. Mahmood pivoted so that his body and Malachi’s were parallel to the hallway, he was facing the incoming guards and shielding Malachi should they fire upon them. Mahmood had raised his pistol and taken aim when a blinding blue light, burning like liquid sapphire wreathed in orange flame appeared from behind him. Malachi was standing face-to-face with the doctor who had treated him in the infirmary, but his appearance had changed into something that defied Malachi’s senses. Retinal echoes persisted in Malachi’s eyes as he blinked them away, expecting the illusion to dissipate, but after each blink the doctor remained before him. The man stood nearly nine feet tall, in place of scrubs he donned a burnished silver breastplate intricately etched with patterns of flame; matching greaves covered his shins. Beneath his armor was an opalescent tunic that shimmered azure beneath iridescent white fabric. In his right hand he held a steel longsword that resembled a Scottish claymore, scrawled with an indecipherable script that appeared to be engraved by the finger of God himself. He raised the gleaming blade to eye level, its blazing point aimed at the oncoming guards. In an instant, all five of the men closing in on Mahmood and Malachi fell to their faces, trembling in terror at the sight that appeared before them.
The two men made their way safely to the elevator. When Mahmood asked Malachi how he was holding up, Malachi could not answer, still astonished by what he had seen. Malachi half-believed, half-disbelieved what had appeared in the hallway. Had the doctor who so mercifully tended to his wounds truly been an angel? If his eyes had not betrayed him, if he wasn’t hallucinating, the answer was an unequivocal yes. When they reached the ground floor and made their way out of the elevator, the same burning blue and orange light shone from behind them, as their rear guard. When the guards on the first floor saw what was behind Mahmood and Brandt, they either fled in horror or fell prostrate on the concrete floor. Mahmood could only see the effect of the light shining from behind him because he was too intent on leading Malachi out of the prison to take even an instant to look behind and behold the miracle that had sprung them from the otherwise impenetrable prison. The doctor proceeded behind them until they had cleared the checkpoint at the front gate, leaving scores of prison guards quaking in fear as he cleared a safe path to the main road at the entrance to the prison.