“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 70

Kathy was in the office at seven. Jennifer was already working but had taken time to get JWM Serializationa cup of coffee for Kathy. Kathy said, “Thanks, Jennifer, a hot cup of coffee is always better than an apple. Now I’ll expect one tomorrow.”

“You got it, boss. Every day, especially since Mr. Batcher stopped in and told me I was working with a legend.”

“Frank’s the legend. I’m just another worker bee. Okay, let’s find the bad guy. I want him! Go to the whiteboard and write what I tell you and anything else you think should be on the board. We’re going to gamble and take some intuitive short cuts.

“We have seven officers who have visited Arab countries. To keep anyone from seeing the board, the door will be locked at all times, and we’ll use a simple code for the people of interest. Take them as I call them. First gets ‘A’ as an identifier and so on.”

Two hours later, the board was covered. Of the seven, Kathy rejected four names and put them in a lower priority. Her top suspect had been to Pakistan three times, twice by himself. He had a long list of foreign national contacts. The names were all sent out for extensive investigation of databases. Her second suspect had family in Egypt. He, too, had a number of contacts that were also sent up for checking. By lunch time, 75 names had been forwarded for checking and cross-checking.

Jennifer said, “You asked me about the marital status of these seven officers. Five are married, one is single and one is divorced. What do we do now?”

“We check all the wives, lovers, live-ins, and significant others as far as we can. Anyone married to a foreign national, a Muslim, or to a partner with close relatives in any Arab country gets looked at. We don’t have time to put surveillance teams on everyone. For now, we can only do data checks.

“I’m including bank accounts, debt loads and any off-shore accounts. Frank has someone that will take on the money stuff according to the priorities we assign. We need to look at three or four years of performance reports. They are usually not very revealing. We’ll be looking for any dramatic changes in performance rating levels. There is always a reason for big changes. Finish your sandwich, and we’ll get back to the whiteboard. I love working on a board. It seems as if a picture is being painted or the dots connected in a way that tells a story not there before.

“Tomorrow, I want you to continue to check the files for more names, check the bank data Frank should have by then, but don’t take any action or ask anyone for information. I’ll be late tomorrow. Probably come in after lunch. Oh, in case you’re interested, quitting time tonight is six. I need some down time with my fiancé.”

At dinner Storm gave a report on Lou. She said, “Dad is out of the ICU, eating well, and moving around with help. He is very tired and will be until his body makes the adjustment to the oxygen output from one lung. His spirits are good. He doesn’t remember much, and I don’t think he wants the full story yet. By the day after tomorrow, he can have visitors, and I think he’ll want to see you. He’s probably tired of my face and nagging. He wants to come back to work, but I don’t see how he can. This outfit’s missions are too tough for a man with one lung.”

Jack said, “Storm, as long as he’s willing to work, he has a job here. We need Lou for more reasons than his work as a shooter. He has an operational head that is one of the best I have ever seen. Kelly is stepping up to more field work, and we need Lou to take over the important support roles. Storm, you also have your choice of work. Your computer skills and organizational knowhow are impressive. Our inside guy was impressed with your work in identifying and laying out targets. We have more of that to do. The snipers aren’t done yet.”

Kathy said, “I have a job for Kelly tomorrow, helping me with some investigative work.”

Kelly said, “Super, I need to get out of the house for things besides picking up a smelly guy and his dog from a highway crossroads. Both of them went to sleep in the car. I still don’t know what happened.”

Kathy said, “Jack, you like to tell stories. Let’s hear it. The complete tale, no politically correct dodges. I thought it might make a good bedtime story but now is better. The floor is yours.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 69

In his log cabin on the south slope of Mount Gilead, just outside Leesburg, the Professor JWM Serializationwas having a critical planning session with Hasani, who was devastated by the loss of three more of his sniper team members. Hasani was talking about his own martyrdom and trying to get the Professor to allow him to go into battle for the last time. The Professor said, “My most experienced and devout warrior cannot think of his own path to glory. We must make the Americans pay a much larger price for our lives.

“We are the first to bring a sustained battle to the Land of Satan. We must show the way for devout Jihadists to follow. Our ranks no longer depend upon warriors from the land of our forefathers. As the Muslim warriors of the past established the Muslim cultural center and stronghold in Cordoba, Spain, we must lay the ideological foundation for doing the same in America. By using American-born warriors in our battles today, we are placing the first cornerstones in that foundation. You and I and the rest of your American warriors will soon be gone. But we must not sell our lives too cheaply. The goal of battle is to inflict losses on the enemy, not seek ways for our own premature deaths. Now, how many men do you have ready to fight?”

“I have four more sniper teams.”

“The longevity of our campaign is now my major goal. By spreading out our attacks, we will continue to gather publicity here and in our world. The Arab Spring is turning former American lackey dictator nations into true Islamic lands governed by Sharia Law. We must provide a worthy example of carrying the Jihadist War to the American homeland. We will provide a way for others to follow. We will give hope, where there has been no hope.

“I want you to give me a plan that will keep our war alive for another two months. Use one team at a time. Your attacks do not have to be on high value targets where the Americans with their technology and rapid response can cause us such losses. I don’t understand how they found, followed and attacked our last team so rapidly. They even captured or killed our men, while they were going into hiding. I hope to learn more about their response. I’m also concerned how one man and a dog tracked and wiped out the entire team of highly trained fighters on ground they knew well.”

Hasani said, “Remember the Sunni Triangle and our sniper teams there? The tactic the Americans used there is the model for their destruction of our team yesterday. We learned that there was a Marine Lieutenant leading their counter-sniper operations in the Triangle who developed a rapid response attack strategy, using in-flight helicopters carrying counter-sniper teams over any sector where our snipers might be used. They cut off our snipers from their escape route. First, a rain of fire from the helicopters, and then the insertion of teams in pre-planned tactical positions. Once they had eyes on a team, it was very hard to escape. In Ramadi, they deployed in a few minutes after sniper action. I think they are now using the same tactic.”

The Professor said, “I have a method to defeat this tactic. The helicopters with their hunter teams can hover over 10 or 20 potential targets. But not hundreds. We will attack small unprotected targets. To spread terror we do not need so-called high value targets. Terror can be brought to the people of Satan’s capitol by hitting unprotected targets that no one could pick to defend in advance of our attack, and our attacks will be over in seconds, not minutes. Use this strategy to develop your plans. Don’t worry, my friend, you will have your opportunity for everlasting glory.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 68

Kathy had just left Frank’s office. Being inside seemed different. Even though she had JWM Serializationonce been an inside player, she now felt she had little in common with the bureaucrats manning the work stations. They just didn’t live in the world she and Jack lived in. The only risk here was political. Political correctness ruled the roost. When she told Frank her approach to finding his mole, even he swallowed hard. He did say that was why he needed her help. She had a ruthless efficiency that was increasingly rare on the inside. Anyway, he agreed, and gave her a small office and an assistant who was hired and given a clearance only a few weeks ago. She wanted no one else, especially someone that had been in the office for more than two months. Their heads were already screwed up. Kathy had been happy in the field but could barely stand working at Headquarters. It was without lethal risks, but the process was mind-numbing.

You can’t ferret out moles by being afraid to break rules or correctness barriers – both can be real obstacles. Profiling was a no no. Kathy planned to use her own profiling system to narrow down the search for the mole in CTC. If she didn’t tell anyone, who was to object?

Kathy shared her office with her assistant. She liked having the people she was working with to share the workspace. She knew only what the file told her about Jennifer Collins, a graduate of Connecticut College with a major in Criminology. She seemed to have a rare ability to eclectically extract the essence of information and to organize it quickly in her head. Her file alluded to this ability and, after talking to her for a few hours, Kathy agreed. You didn’t often find personnel evaluation with such insight. Kathy was ready to start breaking eggs.

“Jennifer, wheel your chair over here. We’re going to begin. Are you ready?”

“Yes, I now know what the problem is, but how do we start?”

“Any good investigator starts with a process to narrow down the search field. It means analyzing relevant evidence. First, we must collect the pieces. Only Frank can know all the areas we are poking into. All our requests for data are for his office only. We’re merely helping him. That’s our story. No deviations. Got it?”

“Yes. But why so much secrecy?”

“That’s one of the reasons I picked you to help me. You’re so new, you don’t know looking for a mole is the most sensitive work any intelligence organization does. You don’t want the mole to know anyone is looking for him or her. Also, no one wants to participate in such an investigation. A mole hunt is the same as a witch hunt. Often, innocent people have their careers ruined. In the intelligence business, it’s better to punish a few innocent employees than to be so careful of individual rights that you fail to find the mole.

“In this case, we have a time and a date when a piece of sensitive information was created and when it was passed on to the enemy. That’s a big deal. Frank gave me a list of all the people who heard him talk about the pursuit of a pair of snipers.

“We want all those personnel files. We want to find out where all those people were in the following hour and what they did. They are professionals and shouldn’t have passed Frank’s comments on to anyone. Let’s hope one of them is our mole. Otherwise, we have to widen our search. That, I do not want to do.

“I hope we’ll find our mole in the 14 personnel files on this table. These are the only people with first-hand knowledge. Get over any prejudices you might have about profiling. Profiling is what we do, but we don’t call it that.

“You get half of the personnel files. Look for anyone who is an Arab or has an Arab name, anyone who is a Muslim, anyone with a spouse who is Muslim or Arab. Anyone who has made a trip or trips to Pakistan or Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Gaza, or any other Muslim country. Especially if they have family or friends from those places.”

After two hours of reading files and taking notes, Kathy said, “C’mon, Jennifer, let’s get a cup of tea or coffee. The stuff they make here is hardly drinkable. I’d forgotten how bad it was. Before we go, we put everything in the safe Frank moved in here. Only the two of us have the combination.”

Over a corner table in a nearly deserted cafeteria, Jennifer said, “I only have two files to go, and I have three people with extensive travel to Muslim countries.”

“I have four. I’ll give you another hour, and then we’ll start to compare notes. I plan on breaking at ten o’clock and picking up at seven in the morning. I hope I’m not messing up your life, love or otherwise. What we’re doing is incredibly important and could end up saving a number of lives.

“I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I will anyway. Do not tell anyone what you are doing or who you are working with. This is dangerous stuff, and I don’t want to wonder what I could have done to protect you.”

It was nearly eleven o’clock when Kathy pulled into the Brandon house. She heard Shadow using his happy bark and knew Jack was home. She met a bounding Shadow halfway to the front door, and Jack a few steps closer. Both gave her a welcome that nearly knocked her down. She hugged Jack and had a brief but good cry on his shoulder while Shadow leaned against her.

Kathy said, “Easy, big guy. I’m still sore and the headache is hanging on. Not as bad as it was.”

Jack said, “If I had known about your helicopter crash landing, I would have dropped the chase and raced to be with you. It scares me to think I might have lost you.”

“Give me your arm. I feel in need of a stiff scotch on the rocks, a long bath and a good sleep. I have to be in the office at seven tomorrow. And, if you think you were worried, I worried more. My man and his dog going after three armed and trained snipers. Thank God, Shadow was with you. That dog is your good talisman. When I learned about the leak in Frank’s office, I was really angry. These missions are tough enough without the bad guys having access to our plans and actions. I’m going to find and fry that bastard. This is now personal, very personal. Be prepared to give me some slack, because you may not see much of me until I find and deal with this mole. What’s the latest on Lou?”

“Lou is still critical but Dr. Green told me he will probably be moved out of ICU tomorrow morning. We need to find another recruit. Lou is through with hard action. I want both him and Storm to stay. Even so, we need at least one more experienced recruit. Kelly is coming on fast but needs time for more training. Relying on OJT is not only unfair to her but dangerous for us. Let’s move inside. You need some food and rest. Until you find the mole, we are all at risk. You remember what happened once in this house. It ain’t going to happen again.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 67

Finally, the two men took their boots off and went to sleep. The rifles were kept close. JWM SerializationLeaning against one of the boulders, Jack felt it shift slightly. He put his weight against the boulder and it moved a little more. Quietly, he went to work stacking boulders he could carry around the much larger loose boulder. When the pile looked big enough, Jack put his back against the key boulder and pushed. At first it budged and, pushing harder, he felt it begin to topple. Then it went with a crash, picking up speed as it bounced down the steep slope, gathering smaller rocks in its wake. The mass of the rockslide went right through the camp, smothering the fire and continuing down the mountain. As the dust settled Jack could see the men still on the ground begin to stir. Both rifles were gone. Charging down the hill with his handgun ready, Jack released Shadow who bounded past him and, with a growling roar, pounced on the nearest man. Jack had his handgun pressed against the head of the other sniper. Calling off Shadow’s attack, Jack told him to watch. Shadow stood over the downed terrorist, growling softly.

In the darkness compounded by lingering smoke and dust, Jack knew the two killers couldn’t see what was happening. He had his man securely tied with the nylon line from his pack and moved over to tie Shadow’s victim. Neither man seemed to be badly injured. Jack, with his SOCOM pressed into the man’s forehead, told him to be still and he might live. Shadow leaned in close to his victim’s face. The man said, “Okay! Please get that bear out of my face. He was biting me.”

“Yeah. Too bad about that. He was just getting started. Are you carrying any other weapons besides your rifles? Don’t lie. You’ll be very sorry. Now speak up!”

“We each have a knife and a 9mm Browning. But I don’t know where they are.”

“Never mind. Keep quiet and no talking.” Jack dragged him 20 feet from his partner. Jack turned to Shadow and said, “Gun.”

Shadow immediately began searching the area. Jack found two K-Bar military sheath knives inside the scattered boots. With both men securely tied, Jack helped Shadow search for the other weapons. Shadow barked softly indicating he found something. In a short time, he found both rifles. Jack found one of the Brownings partially covered by debris. After ten minutes of searching, he called Shadow off. With the rockslide, the second Browning could be dozens of yards down the slope. A nearly impossible search at night, even for Shadow.

Back at the campsite, Jack searched for identification documents. Neither man carried any documentation. He found two loaded magazines for each rifle, matches, cigarettes and a half dozen Snicker bars. Neither had a cell phone.

Kneeling beside the man Shadow had attacked, Jack said, “I’m going to ask you some questions. I don’t want any questions from you, no pauses, no thinking and no, I don’t knows. I’ll know if you’re lying and punishment will be immediate and severe. My dog is waiting patiently for his reward. One word from me, and he will make you very sorry. I may not be able to pull him off in time. Okay, let’s start. Understand?”

“Who the fuck are you?”

Jack softly called Shadow and pointed to the downed terrorist. Shadow leaned in close, baring his teeth and growling. Even in the dark, Shadow’s intentions were clear.

“Okay!! Call the dog off.”

“I told you no questions. What didn’t you understand? This is your last chance before we make an example out of you for your friend. What is your name?”

In the darkness Jack turned on the recording function of his iPhone.

“My name is Lawrence Parry.”

“Place and date of birth?”

“Jacksonville, Florida, June 22, 1980.”

“Who are you working for?”

“A Jihadist named Hasani.”

“Who else?”

“Hasani is the only person who gives us orders.”

“How were you hired?”

“I volunteered in a mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, and was trained in a camp in Pakistan.”

“Where are you going on this trail?”

“We’re going to a pickup place on Route 70 west at the intersection of State Route 295 just east of Hagerstown, Maryland.”

Jack continued with the interrogation for another 10 minutes, then shifted to the second killer who was suffering from a broken or dislocated shoulder and numerous cuts and bruises. One of the larger boulders must have hit him. Beyond his personal identification, his answers contained nothing new.

Moving out of earshot, Jack left Shadow on guard and called Frank. When Frank picked up, Jack told him he was sending the results of a preliminary interrogation of the two bridge snipers. Taking a few minutes to listen to the forwarded information, Frank said, “You never fail to astound me. How you trailed and captured two killers without firing a shot is incredible. Too bad I must shield you from the media. Every once in a while, we need some good results in the public media. Actually, the two live jihadists makes it easy for me to keep you under cover. I’ve got the GPS data and will send one of my teams to take them into custody. I’ll send them to Gitmo, if my management can stand the heat from the Attorney General. We’ll also ambush the pickup on Route 70. Send me pictures of the two captives and I’ll arrange for two ‘lookalikes’ to approach their ride.”

“Question, how are you going to prevent your internal leak from finding out about these arrangements?”

“I’m going to use a team from outside my office. No one, except Kathy, will be informed until we nail this damn spy.”

“One more question. Can you make arrangements to have me and Shadow picked up somewhere? If Kathy is wrapped up in an investigation, send Kelly. She’s resourceful and the only member of my team that’s not hurt or unavailable. Also, I won’t be here when your team arrives. I’m leaving these men firmly tied. They’ll be okay for a few hours but will suffer some damage, if they aren’t untied before nine or ten o’clock. Also, it’s cold here and getting colder. My weather data states a storm is possible before afternoon. Not that I care, but these shooters will die if a storm prevents a team from getting here. I’m leaving their empty weapons several yards below their position. I’ll mark the weapons site with a white handkerchief on a four-foot stake. Incidentally, there’s a missing 9mm Browning, Shadow and I have not been able to find. It may be buried under the rockslide that swept through the campsite. A metal detector may be useful. I’ll hang out until you tell me about my pickup place. Phone reception here, on this high point, is good. See you.”

Jack and Shadow ate the last of their food while waiting for instructions. Kathy called as Jack was getting ready to move out. He asked how she was.

Kathy said, “Other than worrying about you and Shadow, nursing a splitting headache, numerous bumps and bruises, and figuring out how to help Frank, I’m fine. Oh, I forgot. Lou is still in the ICU and Storm is worried sick. Jack, please be careful. We can’t save the free world by ourselves. Tell me someday we can have a normal life.”

“Kathy, yes, you are the love of my life and I will be careful. I never even fired a shot or struck anyone in capturing these guys. Please tell me how I get out of here. My battery is running very low and I need to save some for any emergencies.”

Kathy relayed Frank’s instructions identifying the meeting place along Route 70 and a direct azimuth to the site from his current position. She told him Kelly would be driving. She felt lousy and her headache was getting worse, reading the personnel files she had ask Frank to provide.

Jack knew Kathy was rattled but didn’t know how to fix the problem. He was following the road he promised his father he would take. The risks were higher than he had counted on. Much worse than the Marine Corps or police had provided in his past. Mulling the problem over, he checked the tied up terrorists, gave them each a long drink, motioned to Shadow and set off toward his meeting site.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 66

The fifteen-minute break with some water, trail mix and kibble for Shadow was over. JWM SerializationNow they were back on the trail at an increased pace. With Shadow following the scent of the snipers with ease and the faint moonlight helping him see the trail, the pace he set was as fast as they could move without making much noise. Jack was counting on Shadow’s reaction to tell him they were getting close. Another hour on the trail and Shadow wanted to speed up. Jack stopped him and attached his leash. Their quarry had to be close. Were they stopped or still moving at a slower pace? The trail opened crossing a steep slope and Jack saw a faint moving light maybe 50 yards ahead. When he stopped, he could hear low voices and occasional footsteps.

Jack had no night vision gear and was thinking about shooting now. He was sure he could hit one but didn’t want to give up the element of surprise for one kill. The other sniper would be a hard problem. You wouldn’t find him strolling along a mountain trail using a flashlight. More likely, he would try to set up an ambush. He let the light move ahead and checked his cell phone. Signal strength was low but he had service. It was after 9:00 PM but he called Frank’s office. No surprise! Frank was there and anxious to hear from Jack. He gave his coordinates and asked Frank not to act on them until he explained a problem.

Frank said, “Go ahead.”

“We have a problem. I recovered one of the snipers’ cell phones from the truck. At 7:25, I felt it vibrate. I didn’t answer and the caller, with a foreign accent left a voice mail. I’m in a place now where I can play it for you.” After playing the message, Jack said, “The most likely explanation, given the timing, is you have a spy or an electronic leak in your office.”

Frank said, “I’ve been in this business too long to say no way. You’re right, the timing is very suspicious. I don’t recognize the voice. What other thoughts do you have?”

“My speculation is that someone with access to the results of our helicopter chase called the Professor. I doubt the Professor would pass on that kind of information to a couple of throw-away snipers. He’s a pro and knows he could lose an invaluable source by passing the information over a cell phone and leaving a voice mail. No way he would do that. But, if he told someone else in his group with a purely tactical mindset, that person could have passed it on. Also the foreign accent was easily heard. You told us his American English was flawless.”

“Jack, let’s set a trap. Suppose I tell the same people who knew about the helicopter event that your dog broke a leg and you had to turn back, but we have the coordinates and are deploying teams. We know the snipers on the trail in front of you probably do not have a cell phone or radio. If the information is passed on, it will be to the phone in your pocket. I’ll arrange monitoring of any cell phones from here and tell all my staff that I’ll need everyone to stay for a few hours.”

“I assume Kathy got Lou to a hospital.”

“Yes, Lou is in the ICU Ward in Frederick. He’s lost a lung and has other damage to his shoulder. The chopper was hit in the firefight with the truck people. It ran short of fuel and made a real hard landing near the hospital pad. Kathy and Sam are being held overnight for observation. Both had concussions. They are up and walking around. Kathy called me 30 minutes ago.”

“She’s tough, but I think she should take a break for a while.”

“You know what she will say.”

“Yeah, I’m afraid so. She won’t like my current plan either. If the State Police can figure out where these guys are headed, they could set up a block and maybe ambush any attempt at a pickup along some highway. Just tell them I’m the guy with the black dog. Before we started talking, they were less than 100 yards in front of us and using a flashlight. Maybe Shadow and I will just keep trailing them to a State Police trap. I’ll call if I can find another service window. Gotta go.”

The trail was getting steeper and covered with areas of shale. The snipers were moving more slowly and Jack and Shadow rapidly caught up, maintaining a 100-yard interval. The trail reached its high point and ran northwest paralleling the ridge line. Cover was sparse and even with the cloak of darkness, Jack slowed their pace. He could have sworn Shadow looked back at him in disgust.

Concentrating on the party ahead, the vibration of the captured cell phone startled him. When the vibrating stopped, he checked for a message. Shielding the light from the cell phone and turning down the volume, he heard the same accented voice saying, “The man and dog on your trail have turned back. Several teams are entering the area to search for you. Before the man turned back, he sent your coordinates to the police. Change to destination B.”

Jack switched the phone off and called Frank on his own cell. This high cell service was stronger. When Frank answered, Jack said, “I have a message I received in the last few minutes.” He played the message for Frank.

Frank said, “Case is proven. We have a mole. He or she is very good. I haven’t noticed any calls leaving here and no one has left the area.”

Jack said, “Maybe it wasn’t a cell call from your office. Could have been land line, text message or an email. Even a posting to some website or obscure Facebook identity.”

Frank said, “With your permission, I need to borrow Kathy to help me with this mole. I’ll hire her as a consultant to give her cover.”

“Sure, as long as she agrees. Tell her also that Shadow and I are still safe and not going to do anything heroic, although Shadow sorely wants to attack. Oh, are you going to share the change in destination with the State Police? I know while the fugitives never got the message, it does indicate that they were heading to one destination and now are instructed to go to another. The pickup vehicle, if that’s the plan, will now go to destination B, wherever that is. I see a light moving. Have to go.”

The light was moving but very slowly. Jack settled down to watch. Shadow stretched out and was taking a nap. Jack sniffed the air. He not only smelled cigarette smoke but wood smoke as well. He thought, well, our fugitives are hunkering down. They must feel safe and have decided hurrying over this terrain at night is not a good idea. In daylight they can safely move a lot faster. They believe there is no pursuit. They could have water. It was SOP to carry water on a sniper mission. Almost for sure, they have no food. Maybe a few candy bars. It’s getting cold, and they don’t have a big dog to curl against or a light blanket roll. I’ll bet they won’t even take turns staying awake.

We could easily sneak up and take them prisoner. Then we have to watch them, while traveling for several hours. I don’t like that. Taking prisoners at night is not without risk. I could easily kill them and end this chase. The law would call that murder and these guys maybe are US citizens. While I’m carrying a badge, it won’t cover the shooting of two citizens without giving them a chance to surrender and maybe kill us. There’s a reason people on real world operations don’t like a mission to take prisoners. Always more risk in capturing versus killing.

There is also more risk in following armed men in daylight. So, Shadow, we have to make a decision. I vote for giving them an hour to sleep then rousting them. Maybe we can get them to abandon some of their gear. If they shoot, we can shoot. Okay, in two hours, we move. Jack found a place to wait and rest 30 feet off the trail.

Just after midnight, Jack and Shadow crept up the slope to a point higher than the campfire. The footing was good, wet from a recent melted snow. He could hear the men talking. With his hand on Shadow, Jack stopped to see if he could make out the conversation. They crept closer. Now the words were clear, especially one voice that was louder than his partner’s. The louder voice said, “Tell me again where you think that damn helicopter came from. Man, it was right on us. They had some good shooters in that bird. Thank God, they only had bolt action rifles. I know we hit it and I think it touched down but then it flew off to the East.”

“I think it was watching the bridge and when the shooting started, it searched for us. It ain’t hard to see two guys jumping into a pickup truck near a possible shooting site and figure they should follow the truck. But they had to be sure to open fire. Another half mile and we would’ve been under a canopy. Jake was hit bad. Think he had a chance?”

“Maybe, if the cops got there in time. Hasani will be pissed. He told us never, never leave a live teammate behind. I just couldn’t do it. I’ve known Jake a while. My worry is or was that the copter dumped off a team to run us down. I’m sure we’re free and clear now. Tomorrow by lunch time, our ride will be waiting for us. I wiped the truck down before we left. The cops don’t have a clue who we are. These al Qaeda guys are smart and tough.”

Jack heard enough. He moved up the slope, behind a grouping of waist high boulders. Peeking over the boulders, he could see into the camp a good 60 feet down the slope into the camp. The fire was bigger than they needed for warmth and lighted the whole scene. Shadow relaxed and settled against Jack’s leg. He decided to wait until they went to sleep.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 65

Storm had just arrived and was in Kathy’s room asking questions about her father whenJWM Serialization Dr. Green came in. Kathy introduced him to Storm who immediately asked him, “Is my father okay?”

“He has a very serious wound. It will take some time for him to recover. His right lung was too damaged for us to save. His vest saved his life. The 7.62 round veered upward and smashed into his clavicle. He will need more surgery to improve shoulder function later. We got the bullet and fragments out. The bleeding is stopped. Your father is now in the ICU Ward. You can see him, but he’s still sedated and will be in considerable pain for several days. He was lucky you brought him here. Including myself, we have two other surgeons and a few critical care nurses that have had experience with gunshot wounds from serving in the Iraq and Afghan theaters. Your father’s wound was not a new thing for us. He’s in good shape and will make an almost full recovery. I don’t think he will be up to gunfights from a helicopter anymore.”

Storm said, “Thank you, Dr. Green. How long do you think he will be here?”

“At least a week, maybe longer. Now wipe your eyes and go see him.”

Kathy said, “What about us?”

“We like to keep patients with concussions overnight. You should be able to leave in the morning. I must say your group has some real clout. We’ve received several calls from an important National Security Officer who told us to spare no expense and to get you the best treatment possible. The government would move you anywhere for treatment right now.”

Kathy said, “I need my cell. The nurse told me I need your approval.”

“You have it and whatever else you want. The weapons the crash crew took off the helicopter are being held for you. The man who called me at least three times said when you wanted your weapons to give them to you without any delay. So, when you check out, you can pick up your weapons. Your helicopter is not going to be able to fly out of here. As landings go, that one was hard. I’ll check on you in the morning.”

Kathy buzzed the nurse and asked her to bring her cell phone. When the nurse said, it would be a while, Kathy lost it. She said, “Look, if that phone is not here in five minutes, I’m coming out to get it. You don’t want that to happen. So move it now.”

Sam, who was still sitting with Kathy, said, “Wow! I thought you were a laid back lady.”

“Call me ma’am one more time, and you will see laid back. When my cell shows up, please go somewhere for ten minutes. Okay?”

“Sure. I think the nurse is coming now. I’m out of here.”

The nurse came in and put the phone down on Kathy’s bedside table and said, “You didn’t have to be so nasty.”

“It’s a personality flaw. I can’t stand pompous, unhelpful people. You are definitely in that category. If I want to talk to you again, I’ll buzz you and we’ll start over.”

When the scowling nurse left, Kathy called Frank.

He said, “Glad you’re awake. How are you doing?”

“I’ll be better when I get out of this place. Just a slight concussion, bumps and bruises. Lou is in the ICU Ward. Doctor says he will be okay, if no complications. He lost a lung and his shoulder is messed up. It will require further surgery. Dr. Green is good. What do you know about what happened?”

“Start from the beginning.”

Kathy told him the story and asked what he knew about Jack. Frank said, “The State Police found the pickup truck just where you said it would be. A dead man was on the ground on the driver’s side. He was shot three times in the chest with a very tight grouping and had been hit earlier in the abdomen, probably when you fired at the truck from the chopper. I believe he was left behind because of his wound. Even with prompt medical attention, the State Police said he would have died. There were three bullet holes in the windshield on the driver’s side and signs that the man was dragged out of the car. I assume Jack was the shooter. There were big paw prints on the seat. Again, I guess Shadow was acquiring the scent of the two men who left the truck. The state police said they found the tracks of the dog and a man moving swiftly after the fugitives. Reluctantly, they followed my wishes and did not send their team on the trail. Is Shadow a trained tracking dog?”

“Shadow is incredible. He has all the tracking honors. Jack keeps him current by playing find-it games. By the way, Jack is also a very good tracker. I can’t believe what he can tell just by looking at a trail. Change of subject. Have there been any intercepts in the search area from cells or radios?”

“None so far. Reception in that area is very poor. Maybe you could get a signal from some high points. I don’t want to risk a call. It could be a distraction or give Jack’s presence away.”

“Frank, I don’t think the pickup truck turning into the State Park was a random thing. Before the turn, Sam said the truck is slowing down, like they’re looking for something. If that’s the case, they may know the turf, have a cache of supplies, a hideout or a pickup point they are moving toward.”

“Good point. I’ll ask the State Police about cabins, camping sites and access roads they could reach on foot in two days. Call me tomorrow. I’ll send Sam’s partner in another helicopter to pick you up.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 64

Jack told Shadow to heel and headed up slope to get above the wrecked truck. He glancedJWM Serialization over his shoulder before entering the thicker bush and saw the helicopter speeding off to the East. Putting Lou’s condition out of his mind, he concentrated on moving unseen to the truck. There was a chance one or more of the killers were in ambush nearby. He didn’t believe the chopper had set down more than a couple of hundred yards from the damaged truck. Moving quickly but quietly, he and Shadow moved through the scrub pine growth. Either a past fire or logging operation had cleared the slope of the taller pines and deciduous hardwoods. The footing was soft, making it easier to move at night without making noise. The temperature was dropping. He was dressed for the weather and had enough gear in his 40-pound pack to easily survive the cold climate for a few days.

By his dead reckoning, Jack was sure he was very near the truck. An east to west wind carried the distinct smell of gasoline. He stopped, put his hand on Shadow and crept down the slope. He saw the gravel road first and then saw the truck. Settling down with Shadow curled against him, they watched the truck. Jack expected that one person wounded or not would be left behind to slow pursuit.

After 15 minutes, he smelled tobacco smoke. Shadow looked up at him as if to say, what took you so long? Jack couldn’t believe a professional would do something as dumb as smoking in an ambush site, unless he was dying and needed the nicotine. Well, we can’t wait any longer and,leaving his rifle and pack concealed, gave Shadow the hand signal to follow.

Using the excellent cover of the pine growth, Jack and Shadow moved closer to the truck. Jack now had a clear view of the front of the Chevrolet pickup truck. Its gray color blended in with the surrounding edge of the forest. His SOCOM automatic was now in his hand. Watching the windshield from 25 feet, he saw the ember of a cigarette. Jack swung up the SOCOM, fired three times and, keeping low, charged the truck. Reaching up from his position below the door, he ripped the door open and pulled the man slumped against the door out of the truck. Turning the man face down Jack felt for his carotid pulse. Finding none, he rolled the man over. The cab interior lights came on with the opening of the door. This was no Arab. This guy looked American all the way. His wallet held only a few hundred in cash and a driver’s license that was probably false. Jack’s three shots caught him in the chest. The windshield showed a tight pattern. He had another wound in the abdomen that had to be from shots fired from the helicopter. His companions knew he would not live to talk. He might be able to slow pursuit.

Making a final check with one eye closed to preserve his night vision, Jack found a cell phone on the floor. He put it in his pocket and motioned to Shadow who followed him back to where his pack and rifle were temporarily cached. Going back to the truck, Jack opened the passenger door and motioned for Shadow to check out the scent. Shadow knew the drill. He had hours of tracking training five years ago that Jack kept current with games for finding people and objects. Shadow found a pair of black leather gloves on the floor under the passenger seat. He spent almost a minute nosing the gloves before jumping out of the cab and waiting for Jack to tell him to start tracking.

Jack pulled Shadow’s leash out of his pocket and motioned for Shadow to come over and get his leash snapped on. Jack knew Shadow wanted to run loose on the trail but tracking two snipers was different. They would see the dog as their main problem and set up for a long shot to kill the free-ranging tracking dog before his handler could get in position to cover the dog. While that wasn’t a problem at night, it would be when the sun came up. It was better anyway to work a tracker on a leash at night. Shadow would help Jack keep to the same trail as the snipers.

After the first hour they came to a small mountain stream with steep banks. After watching Shadow for a few minutes and listening to the forest sounds, Jack was sure the snipers were not close by and shielding his flashlight he examined the stream bank. Sure enough, Shadow was right on the trail. He could see the marks in the steep bank where they crossed the stream. In a few places, their boots sank into the soft mud along the stream. Water was still seeping into the boot indentations. Jack judged they were less than 30 minutes ahead. After studying and measuring the boot prints for a few more minutes, Jack rubbed the Bouvier’s head and said, “Okay, big guy, let’s go.” Shadow scrambled up the bank, tracking the snipers.

So far Jack had learned quite a bit about his prey. They must be using a light, for it was too dark to follow the narrow game trail they were using without some illumination. The trail led almost due west. One man was much heavier than the other. The lighter man with the smaller boot was leading. Using his mute flashlight sparingly, Jack had seen by the length of the strides that they were hurrying. Good, that would wear them out and, with luck, maybe a sprained ankle. They didn’t appear to be woodsmen but might have some tactical smarts. Like doubling back to check the back trail and set an ambush. They didn’t know a trained tracker dog was on their trail. Jack knew Shadow would alert him to any ambush. The snipers were moving west and downwind. Jack doubted Shadow even needed the scent from the trail. They were close and getting closer each hour.

The dead man’s cell phone that Jack found in the truck vibrated in his pocket. When the vibration stopped, he snapped his fingers, and Shadow stopped and sat down. Jack checked the phone. The screen told him he had voice mail. He tapped the voice mail icon and tapped again for the message. Putting the phone to his ear, he heard a foreign voice saying, “You have a tracker dog and an American sniper on your trail.”

Jack turned the phone off and thought, the plot is thickening fast. How could anyone know Shadow and I are following these killers? Only one way. There has to be a leak close to Frank and his organization. No wonder the Professor is so hard to pin down. I don’t want to risk using my cell to call Frank. I don’t want anyone to know just yet there is a mole lurking around. The good news is the bad guys we’re tracking didn’t get this message, so we still have the advantage. I’m sure they feel they have at least a six- or seven-hour head start on any pursuit. Wish I knew where they’re going. Their steady pace tells me they have a destination. Pulling into this park was not a random turn. The question now is, will they bed down on the trail or keep moving in the dark. Checking his own iPhone, Jack noted he had climbed 800 feet since the start of the chase. We’re still going up. The trail will probably get steeper and more dangerous to travel at night. Question, are these guys on home turf and do they know this little used trail? They must have a map.

There is a little moonlight filtering through. I can make out the trail. Okay, Shadow, let’s take a break, drink some water, eat and then pick up the pace.

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