I readied myself. I imagined knocking Jack clean out, the instructor’s favorite fighter laid out on a gymnasium mat, eyes closed. Worried soldiers would fan his face while desperately trying to find a pulse. Then they’d look back at me shaking their heads. The stretcher would come in. Forevermore they’d call me “Killer” in the regiment. People would avoid me at lunchtimes. They’d give me a wide berth in the corridors. And so I readied myself. Jack was going to get knocked out.
I never got to hear the whole of that bell. I think it was on the “n” of “ding” that Jack’s gloved fist hit my nose with force. Jack then delivered a few more expert blows, one of which managed to punch my head guard around so I was now trying to see through the earpiece.
It was at this moment one of the instructors took pity on me and halted the fight. I thought it was over, but no: “A display of moral courage, aggression, guts and determination is required.” So I was to be sent back in after my head guard had been corrected. Unluckily for me, a South African instructor who hated me more than he hated the Taliban was in my corner. He barked, “What the fuck are you doing in there?” I replied, “Fighting, staff!” as if I was still very much up for it. That was the “guts and determination” part. “You call that fighting?!” he barked again.
At that moment in time, seconds before he threw me back in with Jack, I couldn’t give a crap what anybody would call it. You’d probably call it survival, but I don’t think that would have gone down well with the South African. He fixed my head guard and somewhere in his heart of stone something cracked. He looked me straight in the eyes softly; at first I thought it was compassion, but he was only looking for early signs of concussion. He didn’t find any. His eyes hardened, as did his grip around my head. He leaned in and shouted, “Now kill him!” and pushed me back in the ring. Kill him? I knew the South African had a sense of humor. I survived the last thirty seconds, after which the referee raised Jack’s hand. Jack was elite forces material. I was on my way back to my unit. After that day, I never heard from Jack again.
People such as Jack—and there are Jills, too—find themselves doing interesting and arduous work.
Daniel James is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence, after which I’m sure his services as a spy/salsa teacher will be much sought-after. Earlier this month he was asked to pay back his legal fees, which are around a quarter of a million pounds (over $400,000). Luckily, Daniel was caught before he could do any damage in Afghanistan.
He was caught by real spies—people like Jack.
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