“Shades of Justice” Chapter Thirty-six

Bobby pulled the Cherokee up to a large log cabin and said, “Here we are. Come in and bring your bags. Jim wants to put you up in the loft, our best sleeping quarters. While we wait a few minutes for Jim, I’ll brew up some fresh coffee. Jim told me your father liked it hot and black.”

Jack said, “So do I.”

Before the coffee was brewed, Kelly heard the door open and looked up to see one of the largest men she had ever seen not on a pro football field. He was wearing Levis and a light leather jacket covered with scratches and oil stains. His presence and booming voice filled the room. He charged over, grabbed Jack in a huge bear hug, lifted him off his feet, and told Jack how glad he was to see him and could he still shoot worth a damn.

Jack said, “Better’n ever. But please let me breathe again.”

Jim put him down. “You haven’t been here in fifteen years. I’m just making up for lost time. Sit down. Bobby, how about a cup for me and when is someone going to introduce me to this gorgeous woman?” he said, jerking his head toward Kelly. “I don’t see a ring, so don’t suppose she is your wife and know you don’t have a daughter that old. So who is she?”

“Look hard, mountain man, and think back.”

Jim looked Kelly over. “Don’t tell me this is a taller and younger Anita Marino.”

“Finally, you caught on. This beautiful young athlete is Kelly Marino, Anita’s daughter. Anita was killed working with me in South Asia about 18 months ago.”

Jim held Kelly by her forearms and said, “I’m very sorry about that. She was a real warrior. Now girl, can you shoot?”

Jack said, “Damn near better than me. Not as good yet as her mother. I want you to sharpen her up while we are here at ranges over 250 yards or whatever you think she needs.”

“Be proud to. Now, let’s sit around this table and tell me why you are really here and about the sketch you emailed.”

“Okay. But first tell me if you know someone who looks like this sketch,” Jack said, sliding the picture across the table toward Jim.

“You know me and the privacy thing. Tell me a little more about the person in this sketch and why you sent it to me first.”

“The person in the sketch is a suspect who I believe shot at least one police officer in Pittsburgh. He used a .22 Hornet with a sandbag rifle support from a well-selected sniper site. Distance just around 100 yards. You always taught shooters that less was often better when pinpoint accuracy was needed. The sand bag is standard but again you always said, make it personal. It will give you confidence and a repeatable routine. Now, do you know this person?”

“More than that. I trained him maybe five years ago as a favor to his father. Around 100 yards he was right on the mark with his .22 Hornet Ruger bolt action, fitted with a 10x scope. He fired hollow points. Said he wanted to hunt deer and vermin with his .22 Hornet and needed the extra killing power of the long rifle hollow points. Not a bad kid. Kept to himself. Didn’t talk much. Good student. Took care of his weapon.”

“When did you see him last?”

“He was here last month. He brought a .22 Ruger Hornet, he wanted to sight in. I think it was a new rifle with a rotary magazine. Fairly accurate to 300 yards. A good shooter into reloading can push it. He used the range mostly by himself. I dropped by to see how he was doing. A nice four-inch grouping at 200 yards. No wind. Using 10x optics and a sand bag support. At those ranges the kid is a precision shooter.”

“The man you call the kid has been shooting cops and firemen with his .22 Hornet in several cities. He gets paid by men running a sex slave operation. They snatch young women off the streets of American cities and sell them in the Middle East and Far East. Your .22 marksman takes a cop or fireman down just when the women are snatched. No cop is going to pay much attention to a woman over 18 who hasn’t shown up somewhere when a cop is down. It is a perfect misdirection ploy and it has been working. Jim, I need your help to find this guy.”

“I’ll help, but why aren’t the cops here? What are you doing this for? You’re not the law are you?”

“No. I’m not the law but am helping with a case my soon-to-retire former homicide boss asked me to look into. My old partner’s son was seriously wounded by the suspect shooter whose name I haven’t heard yet.”

“His name is Jake Mason and he lives two ridges to the northwest in a small log cabin set back against a steep cliff and near a small stream. His dad was a friend of mine. We served together in Hue, Vietnam, in 1968. We were in a sniper unit. He asked me to teach his only kid how to shoot. In two weeks the kid was better than his dad ever was. I think it was the only thing he ever did that made his dad proud of him. The kid was hurting for approval. He was smart enough, but never finished high school. Okay, what’s next?”

“I want to talk to him. He’s the only possible lead we have to the people who are running this human trafficking ring. He’s killed some cops. There is not much I can do for him. But if he really cooperates, I might be able to keep him off death row.”

“Jake can’t stand to be closed up. Lifetime in prison is not going to appeal to him. I’m afraid he won’t be taken alive. He’s good in the woods but he’s not much of a tracker. I think the odds are good that he might shoot any armed man he sees near his place. He can shoot and if he has killed innocent people in the past, that’s a bad combination.”

“Then how about lending Kelly and me a few rifles and letting us fire them in on your range?”

“My rifles are good to go. But you’re welcome to get comfortable with them. The 200-yard range is open right now. Take your pick from the rack in my gun room.”

Jack selected two Remington Model 700 sporting rifles with a 10x-mounted scope. It was a familiar weapon and the bolt-action mechanism was very unlikely to jam. He handed one to Kelly and was pleased with the way she took it and cleared the weapon. Jack asked if the 100-yard range was open. Jim looked at his watch and the range schedule and said, “If you go right now, you can get an hour in.”

Jack said, “That’s good. Thanks.”

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Filed under Action thrillers, Barry Kelly, Books, Spy novels

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