"Stop. Look up ahead." Lt. Jane Hewitt, the senior officer, was the first to spot the problem. Barely five feet tall and 100 pounds. Short dark hair. Nicely shaped under her camouflage uniform, not that she ever shared it with any of the soldiers. Well, not the male soldiers, certainly. The rumor was that she preferred her own kind, but that was just a rumor. And she was far tougher than anyone would imagine looking at her. She'd earned her first black belt in Hapkido when she was 15. Ten years ago. And she'd been in the Army since she was 19.
Sure, enough, up ahead a section of the dusty road was covered with small stones, about two feet wide. All three soldiers in the jeep knew that this was how the Iraqi opposition disabled American vehicles. The stones might hide a deep rut in the road. The jeep might get through it, but it might also bend an axle and disable it. They had their mission, but orders for this war were always first not to endanger their lives.
None of their choices were appealing. Bear straight ahead and hope. Turn back and be safe. Or drive up to it and have one of them examine before making a final decision. The third option was of course the most prudent. But the Iraqi opposition was also known to wait in ambush should the soldiers make that decision ... or should their vehicle become disabled after trying to drive through.
"Odds are it's a complete decoy," Hewitt immediately continued. She had to make a quick decision, since the jeep was a sitting target while standing still. "And, if not, that they are not waiting nearby. They don't have the manpower to do that."
"I volunteer to examine the situation, if you're asking for a volunteer," Cpl. George Alexander offered. Had Lt. Hewitt preferred his kind, she certainly could have done much worse than Cpl. Alexander.
"You know that we will do whatever you decide, Lieutenant," the third soldier added. Pvt. Kristie Childress did not have the same reputation as the Lieutenant. No, not with her red hair, tall and firm body. And ample chest. In fact, the rumor was that the Private and the Corporal were having quite a bit of, well, private corporal.
"No," Hewitt had decided. "There's something wrong here. We turn around. Now." Her decision had been made within 20 seconds. Childress, the driver, immediately spun the jeep around.
And then they saw them. The Iraqis had finally learned not to wait right where they blocked the road, but several hundred yards in front of that spot, having determined that most American vehicles turned around. Childress saw them, and instantly tried to spin the jeep back around again, figuring that heading through the stones was a better chance than fighting the half dozen Iraqis whose rifles were pointed at them. They were fortunate that the Iraqis had no heavier weapons.
But, in hastily spinning the jeep to try to head back in their original direction, she lost control of it, and it tilted to its side, throwing the three soldiers out of it and onto the side of the road.
* * * * *
Hewitt didn't know for how long she had been unconscious, but, when she came to, she found herself alone at the side of the road, her wrists tied behind her and her ankles tied together. Glancing across the road, she saw that her captors were focusing their attention on Childress. They were standing at the back of the large truck that had apparently brought them to the site and had been hidden not far from away while they waited for an American vehicle to pass. Hewitt remained still, not wanting to let them know that she was again conscious.
The Iraqis spoke to Childress in English, to make sure that she knew her peril and heighten her fear. Two were holding her arms and one was standing in front of her, while the other three watched. Hewitt could see that one of the Iraqis was wearing an American army camouflage uniform. She instinctively looked back in the direction of the jeep, and took in a deep breath. There, lying on its stomach, was Alexander's naked body. Blood was still oozing from under his head, which was turned to face her. Executed with a single bullet, Hewitt concluded. And then stripped of his uniform.
Hewitt looked back toward Childress. "We are a civil people," the man standing in front of her was saying. "While war is war, and true soldiers must be killed, women who only play at being soldiers are not really true soldiers. Natural women, I mean." Childress looked puzzled, but his meaning soon became clear. He tore open her shirt and bra, and pulled them down behind her to her elbows. The men standing behind her then finished their removal, dropping them onto the ground at her feet. They then forced her to stand fully upright, her pants sliding down her hips.
Childress screamed as one of the men looped a noose around her neck, and threw its other end over a high bar across the back of the truck. Hewitt shuddered as she saw that a second rope had already been tossed over the bar. There was only one other person for whom that rope could be meant. The men tied Childress's wrists behind her back and moved away. The Iraqi wearing Alexander's uniform checked to make sure that the noose was secure. [see Childress pic] He too then moved away.
"Now here's what is going to happen, American. We are going to see if you are a natural woman. If you are, then you will be taken prisoner. If you are not, then you will be executed, as was the real soldier." He nodded toward Alexander's body. The man moved up to the shaking Childress. He pulled her pants down to her ankles. As he pulled down her panties to join them, he could see that the triangle between her legs was dark black, not red like her hair.
"Not a natural woman." He turned. Without a word two of his men pulled hard on the other end of the rope. The noose drew tight around Childress's neck and her body, kicking, rose into the air until her feet well above the ground. The men secured the rope to the side of the truck, and joined the others to watch as Childress continued to kick and twist, her face growing red as her lungs screamed for air that was not to come.
After what seemed to Hewitt to be an eternity, but could not have been more than two minutes, Childress's kicks lessened, then stopped, and her body hung still, her wrists tied behind her back. Naked except for her pants and panties pulled down and over her boots.
"And now let's see about the other one." Hewitt heard the words and her racing heart began to beat even faster. She watched as the men started toward her. She thought about closing her eyes and feigning continued unconsciousness, but decided that they would see through that and not appreciate her attempt to deceive them. So, as they reached her and pulled her to her feet, she stared at them, but said nothing.
Two of the men carried her over to where Childress's body remained hanging, and held her by her elbows as a third man looped over her head the second noose that she knew was there for her. The men didn't realize that she had heard the conversation with Childress, so that Hewitt knew what to expect. The speech to her about being a "natural" woman was nearly identical to the speech she had heard delivered to the dead woman now hanging naked next to her.
Hewitt took in a deep breath as the man standing in front of her reached to the neck of her shirt, tore it open and pulled it down to her elbows. He seemed surprised that she, unlike Childress, was not wearing a bra, just an olive green t-shirt. He also seemed disappointed when he ripped the t-shirt open and pulled it down to join the shirt, and saw that her breasts were much smaller than his well-endowed previous victim. The men holding her elbows pulled the garments off completely and they dropped to the ground.
Seeing Hewitt's dark hair, the man standing in front of her knew what he would find below. Still, he pulled down her pants and panties to her ankles in one motion and confirmed the fact. Hewitt felt her wrists being tied behind her back. Two of the men walked up to her and removed her boots and the pants and panties that had been pulled over them. Hewitt was now completely naked.
The men released the end of the rope tied to the truck that held up Childress's body, which collapsed to the ground. Then two men dragged Childress's body across the road to the jeep. In the meantime, the man wearing Alexander's uniform walked over to his dead body and dragged it back to the jeep. The men then dressed Childress back into her torn clothes, and the man wearing Alexander's uniform removed it and put it back on him.
And then Hewitt saw another man carry an unconscious woman out of the truck. No, a dead woman. Another man walked toward Hewitt and picked up her clothes from the ground beneath her. "She was killed in a recent American bombing of our village. She is close enough to your size." He walked over to the jeep, where the woman's body had been carried, and put Hewitt's clothes on over her own. He then helped the other men pull all three of the bodies -- Alexander's, Childress's and the Iraqi woman's -- into the overturned jeep.
The leader of the group now walked back to where Hewitt still stood, naked and noosed. Just as he reached her, Hewitt could see, over her shoulder, the jeep burst into flames. "That's right. I'm sure you've figured it out," he began. "Your soldiers will find your jeep with three uniformed dead people in it. Two women and a man. No one will bother to investigate that the third body is not yours. It will be sent back to your family, which will actually be grieving over the body of a dead Iraqi woman. What would you call that? Oh,. yes. Poetic justice. That will be poetic justice."
Yes, Hewitt understood. She also understood that this meant that no one would be sent to rescue her. Her compatriots would not know that she had been captured. They would presume that she was dead.
By now the other men had returned to encircle Hewitt. One threw the other end of the rope off the bar, and then. leaving the end already looped around neck, ran it down her back, between her buttocks and up between her legs. Then he wrapped it around her waist and secured it to the rope holding her wrists behind her. There was still enough rope left hanging down for one of the men to hold and walk behind her, making sure to pull on it if she didn't walk fast enough, which would force more of it up between her legs. Finally, a white cloth gag was thrust into her mouth, and tied behind her neck.
The leader signaled the men to begin their walk. Hewitt could feel the thick rope between her legs chafe roughly with every move that she made. [see HewittMarch pic] Within a few yards, her feet began to bleed as sharp stones in the road cut into her bare feet. She stopped and the men holding the other end of the rope immediately pulled on it so it dug deeper between her legs. She forced herself to continue walking, trying to hold her pain inside her, her stomach muscles shaking with every step. As they moved past the stony area that had caused them to stop, she could see that there was no ditch in the road. They easily could have passed without any problem.. She closed her eyes. Her decision had costs two lives already. And, she knew that soon it would probably would cost her own. Even if she was a "natural" woman.
The leader moved up to walk beside her. He could see the tears in her eyes. She refused to look back at him. "I'm afraid that I have bad news for you," he knew that she heard him, although she continued to look down. "It is three miles to the village. All on a road like this. By the time we are halfway, you may envy your comrades." Hewitt was beginning to think the same thing now, after only several hundred yards. But what the leader then added sent chills throughout her already trembling body. "But when we get all the way back, you are going to wish that your hair had been blond."
* * * * *
Nearly two hours later, her feet cut and bloody, her thighs chafed raw, and her body dehydrated and reddened from the heat of the sun on her naked skin, the group reached the village of about 50 Iraqis. The first few who saw the group approach ran to tell the others. By the time the group stopped in front of the remains of a recently bombed large building, everyone in the village had gathered to view their captive. There had been a few captives before. But never a woman.
The men let go of their grip on Hewitt's elbows and her body collapsed. With no fear of her escape, the men untied and removed the ropes around her and then lifted her to a standing position, her knees still buckling.
The leader addressed the villagers, but no longer in English so Hewitt had no idea what he was telling them. "This woman who wore the uniform of the American murdering soldiers," the leader said in Arabic, "appears to be a natural woman, and therefore not a true soldier and not responsible for their actions. We have therefore brought her back to you for the final test."
Two men reached down, pulled apart and held her ankles. Another grabbed her hair and forced her to bend over. Two others grabbed her wrists and held them on the ground. Hewitt raised her head as much as she could and saw standing in front of her a very large man. Over 300 pounds. No doubt the largest man in the village. He was naked from the waist up. And below his waist he wore loose trousers. With a large bulge near their top. He leaned down and grabbed Hewitt's chin to stare into her eyes, then released it. Hewitt dropped her head, and tried to prepare herself for what she knew would happen.
The man moved behind her, bent down over her until his chest pressed against her back, one hand circling her waist. His other hand removed his penis from his pants, and directed it until its tip pressed into her anus. Worse than she had thought. No way to prepare herself for this. As soon as the man had found his target, he moved this hand too around her body to squeeze her breasts.
Then, slowly, he began to push himself into her. She grunted loudly, then even more loudly as he forced himself deeper into her. Finally, when she thought that he was going to tear her in two, she screamed in pain. She could not feel exactly when he had released himself into her, but, mercifully, he soon withdrew, and the men holding her wrists down pulled her back to a standing position, white liquid dripping down her leg.
The leader continued, still in Arabic. "Was there really any doubt? She is not a natural woman, even though she tried to fool us. You could hear her. She grunted and screamed in ecstasy. A natural woman would not. A natural woman would have been detested by the unnatural act performed upon her. But not this one. This one enjoyed it. So she too is responsible for the death and destruction to our village by the Americans, and must pay the price !!"
Hewitt could only understand the cheers of the crowd when the leader finished and that they were following her as she was dragged to the side of the building. Where she saw two vertical wooden poles that she knew was her destination. About ten feet tall. Six feet apart. The wood streaked in dried blood. Ropes hanging from near the top of each pole. And on the ground near the bottom of each pole.
She felt her body being lifted, and a man standing on the shoulders of another man tied her wrists to the upper ropes. Obviously the poles were not designed for someone as small as she was, as her arms were pulled nearly out of her shoulders. Two men then tied her ankles to the lower ropes, again pulling them so far apart that she knew that this must be the vertical equivalent of being stretched on a rack. [see HewittTort pic]
The villagers formed a line and, one by one, moved by her taut, naked, sweating body, some stroking her thighs, some probing between her legs, some staring at the cuts to her feet. Only after all had passed did the leader give the signal to begin. A man holding a small burning torch moved into her field of sight. Hewitt took one look into his eyes, and screamed at the top of her lungs.
The leader explained to the crowd in Arabic, but most already knew. "Her bombs brought flames of destruction to our village. She must repay us in the same way."
The man walked behind her, and moved the torch, just for a second, close to her back. Hewitt tried to move away, but the rope had no give. He then flicked the torch down to her buttocks, and then to the back of her thighs. Only for a second. Only enough for Hewitt to feel the heat singe her skin. Then he walked around in front of her. Just under her breasts. Against her stomach. Down each thigh. Under her feet.
Each time Hewitt prepared to scream, but each time the man moved the torch away just before she would have been forced to. The man smiled at her, her body shaking in fear. Her small chest heaving. And then he again moved behind her.
This time he repeated his motions, but held the torch close to her for several seconds. And this time, with each movement, Hewitt screamed, then recovered, then screamed again. When he finally moved a second time to stand in front of her, she was sobbing and pleading for him to stop. This only incited the crowd further.
"No time for tears," the man said to her in English. "Time to pay for your crimes."
Her relief when he stepped back was short-lived, as another man, this one holding a small knife, moved forward to take his place.
"Do not ask for mercy," this one too spoke English, and he pressed his knife just below her right breast, "because you gave no mercy." He slashed it down about four inches to her side, not deep, but drawing a thin line of blood. Deep enough for Hewitt to scream. Without another word, he moved the knife to just above her belly button and slashed horizontally, then down to the middle of her right thigh, then high up on her left. The man finally stepped back to examine the lines of blood that now traced the paths of his knife.
Hewitt's screams were now continuous, her chest heaving, as a third man now stepped forward, this one saying nothing but holding a heated iron, it's end shaped in the form of the letter Q. Holding the iron away from her body, he whispered in her ear. "It stand for Qatal. It means murderer." He moved behind her and jammed the iron directly into the middle of her back. Hewitt's screams now began to grow raspy as her throat hoarsened.
The villagers just stared at the twitching, sweat-drenched, stretched and naked body of their captive as she continued to scream in pain from the burns and cuts over her body. Finally, her energy completely drained, Hewitt dropped her head to her chest, which continued to gasp for breath. The leader sensed that the villagers were growing bored with the scene, and that it was time to move to its climax. He nodded to the man holding the torch, and, once again, he took his place in front of the screaming Hewitt. "I brought on those screams. Now it is time for me to end them." But his words this time were in Arabic. She raised her head to look at him.
This time he did not move behind her, but raised his torch so the flame licked just under Hewitt's left breast. He held it there. She screamed her raspy scream, which quickly became desperate and incoherent. He watched as the flame first reddened her breast, then started to char it black before he moved the flame to just under her right breast, holding it there until the blackness of that breast matched the other. He then moved the torch down, directly between her legs, its flame immediately singing off the triangle of dark hair that had brought Hewitt back to the village as a prisoner. The sounds from Hewitt's throat now sounded more like a wounded dog. A severely wounded dog. The urine that flowed between her legs did nothing to ease her pain. Most of it evaporated from the heat before it hit the ground.
When the torchbearer finally stepped away from her, it was obvious to the villagers that her mind had snapped to protect her as much as possible from the horrible pain. They watched her body spasm uncontrollably, listened to the strange sounds escaping her lips, and then slowing began to walk away, back to their daily lives.
The leader ordered that Hewitt be left hanging for the night. Temperatures drop to 40 degrees F at night. They would check on her in the morning. But they would leave a small fire burning nearby. Not because it would provide warmth for her, because it would not. No. Because it would draw the night insects to the scene. Insects that loved blood.
The next morning Hewitt was still alive. Barely alive. Her head remained slumped against what remained of her chest. Dozens of small and several large purple bite marks now joined the burns and cuts covering her body.
The leader called the villagers together again. "Help send her on her way to hell," he ordered them. Each of the villagers had known the reason for the summons, and had carried several small pieces of wood. One by one, they walked up to Hewitt's hanging, naked and disfigured body and placed the wood on the ground under her, between her roped ankles. After all had done so, the pile of wood was a foot high.
Finally, the leader signaled to the man who the day before had wielded the torch, which he still carried. He lit it and moved toward the helpless woman, leaned down, and held its flame against the pile of wood until it ignited in flames that leaped upward to surround Hewitt's body. Her head suddenly rose, her eyes opened wide, and she screamed a last hideous and incoherent scream before her head slumped back to her chest amid the flames that quickly consumed and blackened her body, as the villagers shouted that the earth now had one fewer, and hell had one more, American heathen.
At about the same time, an American rescue team reached the jeep and found three burned bodies inside it. "All three are here," the team leader announced. "Call off the search."