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.”