Hasani always followed orders. This time he couldn’t. He knew the Professor was wrong. Even he wouldn’t be able to protect the Professor’s friend and kill all the other people. How many, he didn’t know. At least three people with guns would be protecting their side of the meeting. He would have to move after every shot or two. Any sniper, no matter how good, is vulnerable when moving. He would play the main role but he needed help. Hasani, two of his trained snipers, and another recent recruit to drive the stolen panel truck, were now approaching the drop-off point.
It was 3:30 AM. If he was operating by himself, he’d have been in his hidden shooting position before midnight. He doubted his team members could get in position and stay quiet for seven hours. Numbers of players always affected the outcome. In this case, he had had no choice. As he defined the mission, the highest priority kill was the Professor’s friend. The others didn’t matter. If his friend had to agree to this meeting, he was already compromised. Hasani believed he was following the Professor’s implicit order. His friend’s usefulness to Jihad was over. Death would be his reward for past loyalty. Dead men cannot give up secrets.
Kelly was working on keeping her focus and trying to get to the state of mind Jack said would come. He said she would know it when it happened. He described it as becoming part of the environment. You were aware of everything happening around you. The noise of the night predators, the movement of insects, the flight of bats and owls and, worst of all, the sound of snakes slithering through the brush. Like her mother, Kelly hated snakes. Somehow she felt close to her warrior mother who must have spent many, many nights in a sniper hide, waiting for her targets to appear. Kelly knew Jack was counting on her to even the odds. She liked Sam Richfield and hoped he would survive the next half-dozen hours. If Jack didn’t spot the back-up shooters before they were ready to shoot, Richfield wouldn’t have a chance. Jack told her even experienced snipers sometimes expose their positions by being careless with the movement of their rifle barrels or being too aggressive in shifting to a better shot-making position. He told her to look for unnatural forms and lines. Straight lines weren’t part of nature.
Struggling to hold her focus, she nearly jumped when Jack’s quiet voice echoed in her ear. He said, “Be alert. A vehicle slowed and stopped on Route 193. I saw car lights pause and then move on. The action is behind us. The shooters may move through our positions to find their own shooting hides. If you think they have seen you, shoot and move and keep shooting. If you see them and have a sure killing shot, take it. I’d just as soon kill them before they get set and hidden.
“More than one shooter will be looking for a place to set up and wait. At least one will have some night vision capability. They will outnumber us. We will still have the advantage. We’re already in place and know they’re coming. The leaves are dry and no one can move at night within 30 yards of our position without one of us hearing them. We should hear something in the next few minutes.”
Kelly thought, my God, this is really going to happen. Mother, I hope you’re watching over me.
Jack shielded his watch dial, now on the inside of his wrist, and looked at the time, 4:00 AM. If Hasani is here, he will place the shooters, so I expect a fair amount of movement. He won’t set up his own position, until he is satisfied with the others. Because of the short-range shooting, less than 70 yards, and limited targets, it will be one man to a hide, no sniper/spotter teams. He whispered to Kelly, “Unless you are in danger, don’t shoot. I expect three shooters. We need to spot them before Richfield gets here. If we kill them when the light is good, the chief sniper won’t have the cover of darkness to shoot and move. I think he will stay in his hide until Richfield and maybe Frank show up. Copy?”
Hasani could not believe his two men could be making so much noise. True, the night was very dark with overcast skies, and he was the only one with night vision optics, but they just didn’t believe there was any danger in the park at this time of night. The paths would be quieter, but he didn’t like the confining nature of a path. It was too easy to predict the position of an enemy if they followed a path. They were also very easy to trap with sensors or explosives. Making your way through the brush was safer, if noisier. At least these American Muslims weren’t talking or smoking. If one of the US counter-sniper teams was in the area, these two men wouldn’t be leaving the park alive. Their clumsiness would provide cover for him to do the killing. All he needed from them was a distraction.
Kelly heard something moving through the brush. She froze and slowly turned her head in the direction of the sound. Through the greenish world of her night vision optics, she saw three armed men 30 yards above and west of her position. One of them was wearing night optics. They were spread out at ten yard intervals. Waiting until the sound disappeared, she alerted Jack and gave him her report.
She could still follow their green forms slowly moving up slope and now north of her. Fifteen minutes later, she could make out only two men, moving higher on the slope above the parking lot. She couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the two men moved 20 yards up the slope and then separated. Kelly searched with her glasses but could see no further movement. Kelly adjusted her earpiece and checked with Jack.
He said, “I was also able to follow them for a while. I lost them when it looked like they all paused for a minute or so. I believe the leader is Hasani. I’ve seen him before with my night vision gear. When they paused, he was placing one of the shooters in the point position. Guiding on his position, the other two will move up the slope and then split, forming a triangle of shooters above the meeting site. Keep a watch on the area. Especially locate the shooter in the point position. He is your primary target. Locate him when the light gets better and plan your shot. If you can find the man farthest from you, take him next. I think Hasani is somewhere near your ten o’clock position. I’ll take him. I expect him to move at the first shot. Remember to compensate for the downhill shooting. If you move, move quickly and burrow into the leaves and brush, and stay still until you have a shot. Patience, patience.”
Hasani settled into his hide and made some improvements in his concealment and view of the parking lot and picnic tables. He was glad he opted to leave his .50 caliber Barrett rifle at the log cabin. It was too heavy to move through brush and wasn’t optimum for shooting at this range. He selected the Dragunov SVD. Half the weight of the Barrett, it had been a main sniper weapon in the Sunni Triangle. He was very familiar with its performance and optics.
Kelly now appreciated the discipline her mother and Jack developed by remaining motionless in a concealed sniper hide for hours, and even days, waiting for a shot that may or may not come. It wasn’t patience that was required, it was super patience. For her, the hours dragged by. It was just after 10:00 AM.
An hour ago, she noticed movement in the area she had been searching since the light improved. Focusing on the area, she made out the outline of a body and a poorly concealed rifle barrel. Jack said, “Good. Plan your shots. I haven’t found Hasani yet. So when you shoot, roll behind the log you’re snuggled against and don’t move. If you’ve hit the second sniper, stay behind the log with your head down. If not, I’ll talk to you. Count on Hasani firing on your location.”
Jack checked his watch. It was time for Richfield to show up. Using Google shots of the park, Jack had Richfield set up behind a large tree trunk to shield him from downhill shots. Only when and if Frank arrived at the actual meeting site, was he to expose himself. When Frank got out of his car and into the open, Kelly would start shooting. In a perfect world, the snipers would all be down before Richfield was in the open. Jack thought, we might get two of them, but Hasani was a special case.
At 10:15, Richfield drove into the parking lot in one of the Brandon cars. A few miles away, Kathy was checking the back door of Frank’s house. Storm and Kathy saw him leave five minutes earlier. Kathy took the time to examine the back door with a magnifying glass, searching for very thin wires or a hair across the door opening. Seeing nothing, she got her picks out and started on the dead bolt lock. It was a well-known brand and not difficult to pick. Frank knew if someone with professional skills wanted in, they’d get in.
Kathy wasn’t hunting for a safe. She knew Frank’s philosophy, the best hiding place was in plain sight. Something he could get to in a hurry and small enough to move if he had to. What she was looking for would not be on paper, but most likely on flash drives or DVDs. DVDs fit in with his theory about hiding things in plain sight. Frank had a large collection of DVDs on the bookshelves in his living room. There was a DVD player in his study, as well as the living room. The largest collection was in the living room. She would start there.