Author Archives: starediting

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-two

Lying in his ambush position, Jim looked at his watch. He had expected Jack and the girl to arrive sooner. Something must have held them up. He was pleased with his position. He could cover any approach from the West.

He was in a bad situation. But he needed the money and he had to take care of his family. He had made the back mortgage payments and was in the black. If only Jack wasn’t so damn persistent.

The only thing he could think up to get rid of the three bodies was to put them all in the cabin and set it on fire. Just then he heard a sound. Looking around, he saw two people on the hillside behind the cabin. One was on the ground. Jim thought someone fell. Damn, the girl is there. It looks like she has Jake. Both are out in the open. Once he had them in his sights, he was completely focused and relaxed. Control your breathing and squeeze. He took the best shot first.

******************************************

Jack was just coming out of the streambed when Jim fired. He knocked Jim’s rifle aside and hit a glancing blow with the butt of his rifle high on the left side of his head. Jim dropped his rifle and Jack kicked it aside and said, “Jim, you are a dumb son-of-a-bitch. I don’t want to hear a word. Right now I’m very close to killing you. Roll over and put your hands behind your back.” Using another of his two-foot pieces of nylon line, he tied Jim’s hands securely, searched him for weapons, took his sheathed Buck knife, used another piece of line to tie his feet, and then charged across the stream to where he could now see Kelly and Jake on the ground.

When Jack reached them, he saw Kelly was desperately trying to stop the flow of blood from Jake’s chest. Jim’s shot hit Jake in the back and went on through his body. Jack started to help her and said, “Kelly, he’s done! Nothing we can do. Are you okay?”

“Yes! We were in good cover. Jake fell, I think on purpose. As I was bringing him to his feet, he was hit in the back. I dove into the pines, expecting to hear another shot. I used the scope on Jake’s rifle to locate the shooter when I saw you take him down. Boy, was I glad to see you. I guess I knew Jake was gone but had to try.”

“You done good. Here, wipe Jake’s .22 Hornet and leave it with him. Untie his hands. Make it look like he was climbing this slope when he was shot in the back. I don’t know if we’ll leave him like this, but for now it will do. Put his prints on the Hornet in a normal pattern. When you’re done come down to the cabin. I’ll go down and get Jim inside the cabin. He has some things he’ll want to tell us.”

Kelly finished setting the hillside scene and smoothed over some boot marks made near the body and went down to the cabin where she found Jack tying Jim in the same chair Jake had been in. She heard Jack saying, “Jim, you were planning to kill us. You shot at Kelly and Jake. Jake is dead by your hand. I guess you know how much sympathy I’ve got for you. I’m angry enough to go back to your camp, kill Bobby, and burn your house with her inside. If you have anything to say now would be a good time.”

“Kill me if you want to but leave Bobby out of this.”

“Not a chance. It doesn’t work like that. You should have thought about the danger you put her in with your greed. I hold you more responsible for the killing of innocent people than I do that young dumb kid you killed on the hillside. I’m not making any deals, but if you tell me the whole story and all the details, I’ll not hurt Bobby. Now tell me!”

“I need some water.”

Jack held a tin cup so he could drink. “Okay, now start your story.”

Leave a comment

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

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-one

Kelly nodded and Jack was gone, just like that. She left the door open to keep anyone watching believing they were all inside. When she started to hobble Jake’s legs he tried to kick her. Kelly walked around behind him and put pressure on both carotids. In 30 seconds Jake was out. When he regained consciousness his legs were hobbled and a brown paper bag was over his head. He started to struggle and Kelly said, “You want another treatment? The timing is tricky. Sometimes people do not wake up. So be a good boy.”

Jack moved from the back wall of the cabin into the scrub pine and sagebrush on the slope. From there he made his way to the site he used to watch over Kelly’s encounter with Jake. Jack settled down in his temporary hide and began scanning the terrain to the east. Jim could shoot and marksmanship is important in the sniper world, but Jim was no sniper. A decent woodsman and hunter of game, but hunting people is very different, especially those who have been well-trained as snipers. Jim wasn’t expecting to become the hunted. He would have picked a stand with only one thought: Did it have line of sight to where he thought the target might be? No thought would have been given to light changing during the day, multiple escape routes, shooting and moving, or whether his position had defensive vulnerabilities. Jack had commanded a counter-sniper team in the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. He was working hard not to underestimate his opponent but he had to speed things up. He didn’t want Jim to get a shot at Kelly because in 40 minutes Kelly would be leading Jake back over the ridge to their rendezvous. She could be vulnerable moving up the slope to the ridge line with a prisoner. Jack decided he would search for ten more minutes then move aggressively to find Jim’s shooting stand.

Moving his search pattern in closer to the cabin he saw a small movement not caused by the wind or wildlife foraging. Searching the spot slowly he gradually made out a boot and the straight line of a rifle. Jack wondered why he had set up in there with his back to the cabin. True, he was on high ground provided by a small knoll. It must be that although he can’t see the front door of the cabin, he is positioned to cover the usual route from the cabin to the parking area Jake used. Also, he probably feels that he is high enough to see any movement toward him. He has to turn to cover the trail Kelly used to approach the cabin. They were lucky to be inside the cabin before Jim arrived. He was probably just making his way from the fire road and looking for an ambush position. So he doesn’t even know we are here already, Jack thought. He will be concentrating on his back trail waiting for us to show up. The cover is not great down the slope but approaching from the front is the safer way. Jack planned his route down the slope and into the streambed. Its high banks would cover him until he was nearly on top of Jim’s position. Slowly and patiently Jack began his crawl down the slope.

In 15 minutes Kelly would leave the cabin with her captive and move up to the ridge line. If he turned, Jim might see them and have a shot. Moving up a creek bed quietly is not easy. The sound of the fast-moving current masked some noise, but Jack had to be patient. He couldn’t see the small knoll where Jim was waiting from his route tight against the east bank of the stream. A small cottonwood with its roots exposed and lying partially in the water marked the spot where Jack planned to come out of the stream bed and confront his father’s old friend.

Kelly would be starting out any minute now. At his slow pace he wouldn’t reach his marker before she left the back of the cabin.

Leave a comment

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

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty

Jake finished his breakfast and carried his coffee outside to sit in the sun and plan his day. He didn’t notice Kelly at the brook until he heard water splashing and saw a young woman splashing water on her bare upper body. He called out to her and she turned, covering herself. Kelly called out, “I hope you don’t mind sharing your water. I needed to fill my canteen and freshen up a bit.”

Jake began to walk down the slope toward the stream and said, “No, I don’t mind. Might even offer you a cuppa coffee.”

By the time he got close to her, Kelly was buttoning her flannel shirt. She pushed her sports bra into a side pocket on her pack. Kelly had a full figure and it was obvious she was not wearing anything under her shirt. She was damp and the flannel clung to her breasts. Jake was fixated. He stopped within touching distance. Not knowing quite what to do next, Kelly raised her left hand to her hair and began to playfully twist her hair, keeping her eyes locked on Jake. She couldn’t see or hear Jack but she knew he would be there in the next 30 seconds. She stepped swiftly toward Jake with her right foot while thrusting the web of her right hand into Jake’s throat. Before Jake could make a move, Kelly’s right leg whipped into the back of his right knee. He went down hard on his back with her hand still fastened on his throat. Kelly looked into his eyes and said, “Be still or die.”

Jack rushed up, put his knee on Jake’s chest and turned him over. Taking a two-foot length of nylon line, Jack tied Jake’s arms behind his back and pulled him to his feet, saying, “If he yells, tries to get away, or does anything you don’t like, hurt him badly. I’m going to check the cabin. Jake, your first chance to cooperate. Is there anyone in the cabin, including a dog?”

Jake looked at Jack, spit at him, and said nothing. Jack said, “Wrong answer,” feinted a jab toward his eyes and slammed a knee into his crotch. As Jake started to scream, Jack pulled him forward in the direction he was leaning and drove his face into the stony soil. Rolling him on his back, Jack asked again, “Is there anyone or a dog inside the cabin?”

Jake mumbled, “No.”

“See how easy that was? Keep cooperating and it won’t be so painful.” Jack nodded at Kelly and said, “Bring him up. I think he understands.”

Jack checked the interior of the cabin. He found two rifles, one a .22 Hornet and a .270 caliber. A couple of hundred rounds of ammunition, a month’s supply of food, and a satellite TV hook up and a cell phone. The cabin was neat and well kept. Jack called out to Kelly, “Bring him in.”

Kelly brought him and tied him to a chair and stepped back. Jack paced around the chair and said, “Same rules apply. Cooperate and you may be here tomorrow. I don’t have much time, so neither do you. I know your name. The police have your sketch. Here, look at it. Now you know we know, so no holding back. Police in several states are looking for you. All of them have murder warrants. Cop killers don’t usually live very long. Your chances of seeing the sun tomorrow are slim. None, if I think you are holding back. Let’s get started. How were you contacted for the sniper role?”

Jake looked down and in a nervous voice said, “A guy contacted me and said I would receive $10,000 in a package. He knew my mailing address. When I received the money he gave me a number to call.”

“Keep talking.”

“The same voice said ‘Thank you for calling. I’m putting my associate on the line. Talk to him.’ The second voice had an accent and gave me a city and a date and time to shoot a cop or a fireman. They didn’t care if I killed the target or wounded them. But the timing had to be exact. I needed the money and thought I might as well make some easy cash.”

“How did they know to call you?”

“I asked the guy why he called me. He said ‘we were told you could shoot and could use the money.’”

Jack motioned for Kelly to follow him as he walked outside. Jack said, “Stay close to the wall. Jim may’ve been the man who gave the kidnappers Jake’s name. Who else would know he could shoot and needed money? Jim can’t let us walk out of here with Jake. Jim will expect us to take the short route back to his camp. Maybe using Jake’s truck. Someplace out there he’s set up and waiting. Here’s the plan. But first we casually move back inside.”

Once inside, Jack and Kelly held a whispered conversation. Jack said, “Jim is working alone. He can’t set up in a place where he can guard both the east and west exit routes from here. But he can try to take the three of us as we come out the front door and at the same time stop us from getting to Jake’s pickup. I’m betting he is set up to the east of us. I’m going out the small back window on the west side and will circle around to the east to come up behind him. Give me an hour and you push Jake out the same window. Hobble his legs first and put a bag or blindfold on him so he can’t even think about getting away. I’ll leave my rifle with you. I’ll take Jake’s Hornet. If I have to shoot Jim, it’ll be with Jake’s gun. Our rendezvous point is the camp we just left. Wait there or nearby for me. If I don’t show up by dark, kill Jake and make your way back to the plane. Give me another day to show up there. Dump Jim’s rifles in the deep woods. Okay?”

Leave a comment

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

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Thirty-nine

Jack woke just before first light, dressed, and put water on for instant Starbucks coffee. He could see Kelly sleeping the sleep of youth. God, she is quite a woman, he thought. Don’t worry Anita, I’ll take care of your daughter. I’m sorry you couldn’t see her as a mature woman. You gave birth to a warrior.

Jack touched Kelly’s shoulder. As she sat up, he handed her a cup of coffee and said, “Well are you ready for another day at the office?”

“Coffee first!”

Coffee, trail mix, dried apples and they were on their way. Jack was on point. They walked quietly on the damp ground strewn with pine needles, talking softly and only when necessary. Jack stopped and checked the map. He kept his eyes forward and said to Kelly, “Get ready for your girl strut. His cabin is just over this ridge. Twenty more yards and we can see down the slope to the cabin. I’ll move left and get in position to see everything in front of the cabin. Try to stay 30 feet in front of the cabin so I’ve a good shooting angle. Keep your eyes on me and when I signal get into your hiking stride and move down the trail.”

Kelly let her hair down, put her light jacket in her backpack, and opened the top three buttons of her flannel shirt. The sun was just coming up but it wasn’t cold, she judged in the low fifties and no wind. Perfect day to play mountain girl on the loose.

Her cover story was simple. She was trekking with some friends and she had a fight with them and left on her own. She was headed east until she found paved roads and civilization. Her cell phone was dead. They had trekked for three days from a campsite in Yellowstone. Her car was in a lot in the park. She was going back there as soon as she could find a highway and get her bearings.

Kelly saw Jack’s signal, eased her double-edged boot knife in its sheath, and started down the path through sagebrush in her best mountain girl flirting walk. She could now see down the slope to the cabin. No one was outside. A thin column of smoke threaded its way up to the ridgeline where it met the slight wind aloft and vanished. Kelly noted the small stream running swiftly in front of the cabin 40 yards from the cabin door. She thought, It would be natural for me to walk down to the stream for fresh water. I might even wash up a bit.

Leave a comment

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

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Thirty-eight

When they stopped four hours later for a quick lunch, Jack said, “Until you and your feet are trail hardened, you must, repeat, must stop every four hours for a foot check and whenever you feel the slightest twinge of foot discomfort. So off with the boots and socks.”

Kelly had a small red spot on her left heel that Jack covered with a piece of tape right over the red spot. Fifteen minutes later they were back on the trail. So far Kelly was able to follow the trail Jack had marked on the map. There were several places when the route required trail changes and one where they needed to make their way cross country to connect with another trail. Kelly paused before moving off the trail and asked Jack for help. He said, “Good. Never be too proud to ask for help. Shoot an azimuth, estimate the distance, and then just follow your azimuth. If the terrain causes us to deviate, keep track of the paces we moved off the azimuth and then count back to the planned route. Orienteering is simply about trusting your compass and keeping track of where you are.”

An hour before nightfall, Kelly led them to the small valley Jack had marked on the map. Jack refused her first two choices for a campsite. When she asked what was wrong, Jack said, “The first site you picked was too close to the trail. People besides us may be using it. The second site is an excellent campsite. It is too good. Several people may know of it and use it. Pick a place off the trail that most people would not even consider.”

Kelly picked a site Jack liked and asked, “Should I gather some firewood?”

Jack laughed and said, “No fire. The wind is steady west to east, smoke and sound will move toward our target, Jake’s cabin. The smell of smoke could easily be picked up as far away as his cabin. People who live in isolated places like this will notice the smell of smoke and its direction while city dwellers would be oblivious. But you can go down to the small stream we crossed and fill our canteens.”

Jack gave Kelly a ten-minute start, then shucked his pack and started after her. He wanted to see if she had any of her mother’s uncanny ability to be aware of everything going on around her. He hadn’t yet decided on the role he wanted her to play to tomorrow. The east slope of the tiny valley caught the afternoon sun and mixture of stunted cottonwoods and larger pine trees was thick enough to give good cover. From his concealed position, he watched Kelly pause before she walked from cover to the bare creek bank. Keeping her rifle in her right hand she filled both two-quart canteens, dropped the purifying tablets into each canteen, looked around carefully, and moved back into the cover of the scrub growth. Jack left his position and hurried back to the campsite. He was sitting, leaning back against a tree when Kelly moved quietly into camp.

Kelly handed Jack his canteen and said, “You followed me. I heard movement in the bush a few times. You weren’t resting here. Your breathing is faster. Like maybe you hurried up the slope to keep ahead of me.”

“You are amazing. I made very little noise.”

“I had an advantage. When Kathy was teaching me about surveillance. She followed me once without my seeing her. I swore that wouldn’t happen again. So I expected the trip to fill the canteens was a test of some sort. Right?”

“Yes.”

“Did I pass?”

“Yes. Very good. Only one observation. When you are out in the open, like filling canteens from a creek bank, pick a place where you don’t have to bend down and reach. Pick a spot where you can squat and look around while filling the canteen. You still get an A+.”

Jack produced a small can of sterno, a jellied substance, that burned without giving off much of a smell or light. “We can have some hot soup and tea with our trail mix while we talk about tomorrow.”

Jack mixed up the soup and gave Kelly a cup. Jerky and dried fruit with the trail mix would keep them going. When the soup was replaced with a cup of Lipton’s tea, Jack said, “We need Jake alive. I don’t know any other way we can find a link up the chain to the people behind this ring of snatchers.”

Kelly said, “Before we left McLean, Kathy said to keep my eyes open for the tracks of someone powerful and rich enough to control an international ring. I think she is right. Just look at the organization that is required. People in several cities to spot and report on likely victims, watchers to provide the snatchers with information about the victims, the snatchers themselves who are not easy people to control, the people who move the victims to some international transportation. Add to that the marketers who find the buyers and deliver the product. A large, efficient logistical organization is needed. Lastly, where do you find people with all the skills required? Some training is necessary. They would even need bookkeepers and bankers. To manage the individual pieces takes management abilities. Just think what it would take to run the whole thing. What Kathy said started me thinking and I’ve a strong minor in business from Pitt.”

“Again you amaze me. Your mother would be so proud of you. She hated big-picture thinking. It bored her. You’re a natural at it. I have believed from the start that law enforcement officials had to be part of this group. Recruiting cops, especially those who have a bad reputation or are in deep debt to gamblers or drug organization, can be done. But to get back to tomorrow. We leave at first light and slowly work our way toward the ridge behind the cabin.

“Jake is an exceptional shooter. I don’t think he is skilled or experienced in dealing with people who are probably better shooters than he is. Our weapons give us a distance advantage. But if we get into a firefight things can go wrong very quickly. A lucky shot or ricochet could hit one of us. The mostly likely outcome of a firefight is we will have to kill him. Our chance of using Jake to work our way up the chain is gone and the cops are not going to cut us much slack. Our badges are gone and our ace backup in Pittsburgh has retired. One more problem. We don’t know if he has a dog. If he does the scene gets even dicer. We will not be able to sneak up on dog and I don’t want to kill an animal doing its job. I have an idea but want to hear you first.”

“I don’t think he has a dog. He has to travel so much he would have to have some place to leave the dog or someone to stay in his cabin. If he’s responsible for all the shooting for the kidnappers, he would be gone more than half time. And Jim said nothing about a dog. You think if he walked over to Jim’s shooting camp he would have brought his dog with him. Maybe he doesn’t live alone. Another unknown.

“I think to capture him we have to fool him. Take away his fear of armed strangers by showing him an unarmed young girl with a plausible story why she is there alone.”

“You will be taking a big risk. Do you think you can handle him?”

“Not if he just shoots me. But I can handle him in hand to hand. We don’t know anything about any training he’s had except shooting. I doubt his martial arts skills can match mine. Jim said he was about 5 foot 8 inches and 150 pounds. I’m as tall and probably stronger. So, yes, I can handle him. I won’t let him take me inside the cabin. I assume you will have him in your sights and I’ll be careful to stay out of your line-of-sight.”

“Okay. Not a bad plan but it needs some refinement. You can carry a knife but not the SOCOM. You got a good body. Let’s show him as much as we can. Nothing like the scent of sex to put a young man off his game. You’ll hang back out of sight until you see my signal. Do not move before I’m ready. Your signal to me that you want me to move in is to use your left hand to fuss with your hair. If you need me to shoot, put both hands to your hair and keep them there. When you signal me to move in, pick your opening and put him down. I’ll be there in seconds. Got it?”

“Got it. Sounds good.”

“Okay. Get some sleep. We need to be sharp tomorrow.”

Leave a comment

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

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Thirty-seven

On the way to the range, Jack said, “I know you haven’t fired this rifle before. But it is a simple, workable sniper rifle. The militarized version is a little different and heavier. The weapon has a good reputation for accuracy and reliability. Anything under 300 yards is doable from a good shooting position.”

“I’m not concerned about the rifle and an hour is plenty of time for me to get comfortable with it,” Kelly replied. “I’m concerned about being left behind while you go and collect this perp. I want to go. I promised Kathy I would bring you back. I intend to do that. I’ll do what you say. We made a pretty good team in the past against tougher opposition. You may need backup and I’m it.”

“Put that way, how can I refuse? Yes. Please come with me. We may be out four or five days. It will be tough going. This job will take patience. The suspect is young but his shooting and killing ability are formidable. We have our rifles and handguns, trail clothes, and good boots. Dried rations, canteens, lightweight sleeping bags, a basic medical kit, and a plastic tarp, less than 40 pounds each. Once we locate his cabin we’ll set up our own hidden camp and move it every day. You can go into town when we’re done shooting and pick up the gear we need. Check with Bobby, she may want to go with you. She liked Anita.” With planning over, the two turned their focus to the range and the weapons.

Twenty minutes of shooting and Jack was satisfied with the accuracy of the weapons and Kelly’s consistency in shooting tight groups at 100 yards. Jack took off his ear protection and said, “We bored enough holes in the air. We’re good to go. Is the 700 okay with you?”

“Yes, at this range I feel good with it. I’m ready.”

While Kelly and Bobby were shopping for the things Jack said they would need on the trail to find Jake, Jim said, “I’ve some questions about your going after my friend’s son.”

“I thought you might.”

“It looks to me like you and Kelly are prepared to kill Jake. And I don’t like that.”

“Jim, we won’t shoot him from an ambush the way he shot and killed policemen for money. We will act in self-defense if he starts shooting. As long as he is willing to talk and come along peacefully, he’ll not be hurt. Jim, please don’t think about warning him we are coming and stop anyone else from trying to warn him now or later. Do you think his father would be proud of his son for shooting and killing police and firefighters he doesn’t even know? People who have done nothing to him? One of the firefighters was a woman. She is still in a coma. She is a single mom with two kids. It’s hard for me to work up any sympathy for him using his skill and training to kill for a bunch of kidnappers of young women. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who knowingly gives him any assistance will be charged with as an accessory to murder. Does that answer your questions and concerns?”

“Yes. Is there any chance he is innocent?”

“That’s why I want to talk to him. If he can prove he wasn’t in or near the cities when and where the sniper shootings took place, then we are not looking for the right person. My personal opinion is that the circumstantial evidence is very strong. The weapon used, the sketch, the sniper MO convince me he is a person of interest and a suspect. The police also have a vehicle description they haven’t released. They have no license number and can’t tie the suspected vehicle to anyone. The vehicle several people in the area remember was a tan or sand colored pick-up truck. Do you know what kind of a vehicle Jake drives?”

“I’m afraid it’s a four- or five-year-old Ford 150 pickup. Tan color. He usually shows up here on foot with rifle and backpack. It’s a twenty-mile walk on intersecting faint trails, some better described as game trails. And about a fifty-mile drive after a three-hour fast hike out to a one-lane fire road where he leaves his truck.”

“Can you loan me a map with trails, fire road, and log cabin and anything else you believe is important marked?”

“Come with me,” Jim said. He walked over to his office, opened the bottom drawer in his desk, and pulled out a well-used map. He spread the map out on a tabletop and for the next hour sketched out the trail network, camping areas, places to get good water, and areas where grizzlies occasionally roamed. He talked as he marked on the map. When he finished Jack realized Jim had given him the best pre-op briefing he had ever received. This man knew his stuff. Jack toyed with the idea of asking Jim to come with them but decided it was not a good idea.

Taking Jim’s advice, Jack and Kelly started off the next morning at first light on the trek to Jake’s cabin. A light rain was falling. The weather forecast was for overcast skies and intermittent rain. Using a Jeep to save time was tempting but a strange vehicle parked within a few miles of the cottage would be noticed by someone who would pass the information on. Such was the way of remote mountain people. Jake had lived in the mountains all his life. If he was apprehensive or just had a bad feeling he would set up to watch approaches to his cabin from car parking areas. After studying the topo map, Jack decided to take the time to circle west beyond the cabin and carefully work their way back. Following his instinct not to trust anyone you didn’t need to, Jack let Jim think he liked the approach from the east. It was a shorter route and provided better cover.

When he and Kelly walked out of the camp, no one was there to see them off. Jack sensed that neither Jim nor Bobby wanted anything to do with bringing Jake in. As well as Jack and his dad knew Jim, Jack knew he couldn’t count on any more help. He and Kelly were on their own. He missed Kathy, but when it came to killing, Kelly was the better of the two. There was no hesitation or second thoughts in her and no long periods of remorse. She was her mother’s daughter. It is what it is.

Jack and Anita had shared the warrior’s code when the two of them killed a room full of armed al Qaeda operatives in Kathmandu. Anita lost her life in that small room filled with blood and gun smoke from the 12-gauge pump action shotguns they used in the attack. No way was he going to lose her daughter in another firefight halfway around the world from the shadow of the Himalayan mountains.

After an hour on the trail they settled into an easy rhythm. There was no hurry. He wanted to be within a few miles of the cabin when they camped for the night. Jack stepped off the trail and sat down, resting his pack against a fallen tree. Kelly, who was trailing him by 50 feet, settled beside him and said, “What’s up boss? Getting tired already?”

Jack laughed and said, “Listen kid. I’m just giving you a chance to catch your breath.”

“Come on Jack. You know I don’t need a rest. You’re talking to a Marino. We never get tired.”

“I’ll admit that I had to push to keep up with your mother on the trail. Her pack was always as heavy as mine, yet she seemed to float along. But this isn’t about a rest. It’s about your training. You’ve not had much if any wilderness experience. The first thing we’re going to do is repack your backpack. I can hear the rattling in your pack from 50 feet. Also, the weight in your pack is too high. It’s top heavy. More weight has to rest on your hips. Makes the pack easier to carry and gives you much better balance. So empty it and we’ll repack it.”

Following Jack’s instructions, Kelly repacked her backpack to cushion the loose items that might rattle and put the heavier items on the bottom of her pack. The ammo went in the bottom right-hand side pocket of her pack where she could reach it while moving. When she finished, Jack said, “Put your pack on and trot down the trail for 30 yards and come back.”

“It feels much lighter and the balance is better,” Kelly said when she got back. “Is the lesson over?”

“Just beginning. Here’s the map. You take the lead. I want to be on the east slope of this small valley before nightfall. You decide when and where we stop for lunch and anything else.”

Jack gave Kelly a chance to study the map and to orient herself using her compass and then said, “Okay. Point, let’s move out.”

Leave a comment

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

“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.”

Leave a comment

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