Lou and Storm arrived early the next morning and agreed to Jack’s proposal during breakfast. They said they knew four or five good people to start with and would ask them to come to McLean. “I know what kind of a place we need for work,” Lou said, his wheels already turning. “Can Kathy make arrangements with a real estate person to help us find a standalone townhouse or building we can rent or buy?”
“I’ll call someone I know,” Kathy said. “Renting with an option to buy is the way to go. Storm’s analysts and your surveillance unit and techs can share a building or be separate. It’s up to you.”
Jack, seeing that everything was getting taken care of, said, “Kelly, get your bag. We’re flying out of Dulles in the Learjet in an hour.” Shadow knew Jack was going and came over to see if he could go. Jack held the dog’s head in his hands and said, “Shadow, you need to stay and guard. You also need to help Kathy with Gideon. He needs about 30 minutes a day on basics: sit, stay, and down. That will be enough until I get back.”
Kelly appeared with her bag and got into the back of the Suburban. Jack sat up front with Kathy, who was in her customary driving role. Secretly, she hated for anyone else to be driving. A secret nearly everyone knew.
Forty minutes later, Kathy pulled into the private parking lot for owners at the Lear’s hanger. She got out and kissed Jack goodbye and told Kelly to take care of him. She wanted him back in one piece.
Once Jack and Kelly were settled in, Buck Dawson and his co-pilot, Elliott, who was also his nephew, taxied out to his assigned position and waited for takeoff. It was a short wait and the Learjet 45XR was airborne to Montana at 30,000 feet. Kelly poured each of them a cup of coffee and sat across the aisle from Jack. “Okay boss. What’s going on?”
Jack handed her a file and said, “Read this. There is police sketch in the file of a suspect in the sniper shootings of several police and firemen. Captain Shorer believes all the shootings were to cover up the kidnapping of young women in the sex slave business. Kathy and I agree with him. The Pittsburgh police used several witnesses to put this sketch together. The sketch was digitized and I sent it out to an old friend who runs a shooting camp near Montana. Serendipity stepped in and he believes he has trained this man or someone looking very much like the sketch. He didn’t want to say much more over the phone so I said I would come out. You are here not only to help catch this sniper but you are the cover for this trip. You are a personal friend of ours who wants to join the Marines but wants to learn to shoot well first. I will say I don’t have the time and my friend Jim Marshall is much better than I am. He and his wife own and run the camp. You may meet several people here. Use the cover story with everyone. True names are okay.”
“What made you decide this suspect had been trained to be sniper?”
“I don’t know that he was trained to be a sniper but I believe he was trained to shoot by an expert. A number of the shootings were with a .22 Hornet rifle. Several were over 150 yards. Being precise with your placement at that distance with a .22 Hornet is not easy. Remember, each time he was shooting from a new site with no practice or deep knowledge of the environment, especially the effect of wind channels between buildings at the actual shooting site. I also believe he had to shoot before or very near the kidnapping time. So rain, wind, sun angles, and light were sniper variables he couldn’t control. He had to shoot on time. He also showed skill in picking his sniper ‘hide,’ including in and out routes. The clincher is that he brought his own bag of sand to steady his rifle. Only serious shooters carry their own sandbags.”
“So I have much to learn. Last question, where are we going?”
“To a shooting school outside of the town of Big Timber. It is a very small town and so nearly everything is outside Big Timber. It is hard to get to. Bobby, Jim’s wife and partner, will pick us up at the airport which has a 5,040 foot runway and no IFR. Which means no night or bad weather operations. Our plane will use most all the runway on takeoff. We’ll be going out light so there will be plenty of runway.”
Kelly sensed the Learjet was beginning its approach. Jack told her the mountains she could see are part of the Absaroka-Bear Tooth and Crazy Mountain Ranges. Sam announced they would be on the ground in 15 minutes. There was a five mile an hour wind from the West, visibility was excellent, and their ground transportation was standing by. The landing was so smooth Kelly wasn’t sure they had touched down. The Learjet taxied off the runway to a parking area. Kelly saw a blonde, cute woman standing beside a Jeep Cherokee. When the plane rolled to a stop, the woman moved the Jeep up close to the plane. The co-pilot let down the stairway and Kelly and Jack deplaned. The woman ran over to greet Jack. Jack hugged her and said, “Nice surprise. This young lady is Kelly Marino, Anita’s daughter. Kelly, this is Bobby, Bobby Marshall, Jim’s wife.”
“Really, my God, I see the likeness,” Bobby said, shaking Kelly’s hand. “What a pleasure. Your mother set some records up here that no one has broken yet. That woman could shoot.”
“Please show me what she did at your camp!” Kelly said excitedly.
“Be proud to.”
Jack said, “I thought your sorry husband might be here.”
“No, he had a couple of high-paying clients he had to spend the morning with. He told me you were in a hurry so climb in and we’ll get moving. It will be about a 40-minute trip. The last two miles are a bit slow. The road is constantly washing out and needing work. A normal passenger car would have to turn around, only there is no place to turn around.”
“Okay. Give me a minute to talk to Buck and we’ll be ready to go.”
Bobby was right, the last two miles were hard. The road finally opened up into a narrow valley no more than a half-mile wide. The camp was at nearly 6,500 feet. The valley and a good part of the surrounding mountainsides were part of the ‘End of the Trail’ camp. Kelly asked him if he had been here before.
“Yes, when I was in my middle teens, my father brought me here to learn how to shoot targets at over 250 yards and how to track elk and other animals, as well as humans. Actually, Jim Marshall did most of the teaching. He is an outstanding tracker. Just before I went into the Marines, I came here to get my marksmanship improved. My shooting ability helped me get into Marine recon training early in my tour. While we are here I hope you can get a few sessions with Jim on long-range shooting. If he can’t fit you in, I’ll be your instructor.”