First Bayonet by Steven Hildrith, Jr.



Here’s an excerpt from the First Bayonet by Steven Hildreth, Jr.


Istiqbal-Tora Prison

Cairo, Egypt

3 July 2006

1230 hours local time (1030 hours Zulu)


BEN WILLIAMS COULD FEEL the brute’s gaze bore through his skull from across the football field. He could tell the threat was the big man in the yard, the one others took their cues from. Prison common sense dictated that he ignore the man’s challenge, that he toe the line and not stir up any trouble. That principle was based around the American penal system—Egyptian prisons were not renown for their human rights record, and the guards would just as soon turn a blind eye to a fight between inmates. If one died, it was no big deal—that was one less charge under their care.

“Hey!” the brute called out in Arabic. His entourage stepped back and folded their arms, studying Williams. They could see he was powerfully built, but they had seen stronger men fall. He would pay his dues.

Williams pretended to ignore the monstrous Egyptian. He wanted him to lose his cool.

“I’m talking to you, bitch,” he barked, his hands balling into fists.

Letting out a sigh, Williams wiped the sweat from his brow. The sun was unforgiving, and it caused tempers to rise. Even a man like him, trained to compartmentalize his emotions to prevent them from interfering with the mission, had begun to grow agitated. The bearded ogre was another loud mouth that needed a lesson in the true meaning of pain.

Focus. You’re no good to anybody angry.

“How dare you! I am Fawzan Hamzah Izz al Din! This is my prison, and if you wish to live, you’ll come over here and apologize for your insolence!”

Williams faced Hamzah and crossed his arms, placing most of his weight on his right foot. Adopting a bored countenance, he asked in flawless Arabic, “Are you done yet?”

Hamzah bolted for Williams, his rate of movement far greater than he had anticipated. Once the brute was within ten feet, Williams side-stepped, then threw his leg in a low sweep that connected with Hamzah’s shins. The inmate king took flight and face-planted hard in the dirt, then scrambled to his feet with a snarl. Williams’ posture remained nonchalant as he looked upon Hamzah with pity.

The expression had its desired effect. What Williams hadn’t accounted for was Hamzah cleanly launching himself forward and wrapping him up in a tackle that would drop a talent scout’s jaw. The convict’s first punch rattled Williams’ jaw. The follow-up blows also came much faster than he had expected. He had underestimated his opponent, and he would not live to regret it if he allowed it to carry on much longer.

Williams trapped Hamzah’s left leg with his right and chopped his left arm, which he was using for leverage. This gave him the necessary momentum to improve his position. Hamzah had him in his guard, and squeezed his thighs together. Williams could feel himself growing faint, the sounds of the cheering crowd dimming. With an enraged howl, he grabbed two fistfuls of the convict’s shirt, picked him up off the ground, and slammed him into the field. Hamzah laughed at the escape attempt and squeezed harder. Things started slipping out of focus. The chances of him managing another body slam were as likely as the effectiveness of the slam.

Fuck a fair fight. He brought his elbow down hard on Hamzah’s genitals, eliciting an immediate release. Scrambling forward, Williams dug his knees into his opponent’s sides, clutched his throat with his left hand, and brought his elbow down on his face. The crowd ooohed in harmony with the sound of snapped cartilage, and blood spilled freely down Hamzah’s face. Williams repeated the elbow in measured cadence, and by the sixth one, it was clear that Hamzah was down for the count.

That was not enough. He had to finish it.

Williams left the mount and scrambled to take Hamzah’s back, wrapping his right arm around the brute’s throat and placing the crook of his elbow directly over the Adam’s apple. Using his thighs to immobilize his opponent, Williams arched his back and extended the neck to its furthest limit. Once he felt Hamzah’s neck reach its limit, he threw his entire weight to his right and torqued the neck.

A revolting snap hushed the crowd. Williams stepped away from his enemy and studied him for a moment. The blood flow from the broken nose had slowed to a crawl, and his eyes had rolled into the back of his head. His head was twisted unnaturally, and his chest had stopped rising. The gravity of what Williams had just done immobilized the crowd, with the exception of the deceased’s comrades, who backed away slowly when he made eye contact. Hamzah had been a hardened criminal, had spent his life thieving and dealing savage assaults, and his reputation had only grown within Istiqbal-Tora as he ruthlessly killed his way to the apex of the food chain.

In his first twenty-four hours, Williams had ascended to the penal throne.

His reign was short lived. Men with black fatigues and riot helmets rushed him, seeking his joints with their nightsticks. Williams huddled into a ball, shielding his head, neck, and genitals. He controlled his breathing and endured the beating. It would not be the last he would endure in Cairo, but that was not news.

Enough!” a voice cried out. The guards ceased their corrective punishment. “Look at me, inmate.”

Williams slowly uncovered his face and met eyes with a tall, thin man in the same black fatigues as the guards. His uniform bore gold eagles on his collar, indicative of rank. The two men studied each other for a moment, then the officer broke the silence.

“Who are you, really?”

“What do you mean?” Williams asked.

“You are no petty criminal. I watched your fight. You’re a professional.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The man smiled. “You had to say that. Of course you had to say that. But you’re a professional. You know what comes next. Spare yourself the trouble and come clean now.”

Williams knew what came next. He stayed the course. “Sir, I don’t know who you are or what you want with me. I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about.”

The officer nodded, then motioned to his guards to pick Williams off the ground. “Take him to the maximum security wing.”

The guards hefted Williams unceremoniously and dragged him away from the noiseless crowd, towards an ominously tall edifice. He stole a quick glance at the building before dropping his head to avoid another confrontation.

And he smiled.

About Stephen Hildreth, Jr.

Steven Hildreth, Jr. was born in Idaho, and has been writing since age eleven. An Army brat, Hildreth served as an infantryman in the United States Army and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He currently resides in Tucson, Arizona. Learn more about Steven at or contact him at or

James D. Kellogg

James D. Kellogg is a water resource engineer in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and the author of Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller. His Right Angles opinion column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper.

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