The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Four

Ro finds something interesting

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 11:55 a.m.

So, placing the rifle across the roof of the patrol car in front of its light bar, she began examining the shoreline, looking for somewhere more advantageous from which to survey the island in more detail and eventually take her own shot. But the catch was she was feeling lots of time pressure. For one, the SWAT unit would arrive in a little while and expect at least a preliminary assessment of the scene. Of greater concern to Ro, though, was the Makuakeeta County sheriff’s seeming impatience. She was afraid he might decide on impulse to send an assault team across to the island in a boat. If this shooter was as good as she suspected, it meant the sheriff would lose people unnecessarily in that kind of encounter.

She started at the near end of the river bluff behind the railroad embankment. It varied from thirty feet to maybe double that height above the river, with houses visible every few hundred feet near the edge, which she imagined had great views of the river. The bluff side itself was steep and heavily forested, with some mature trees as thick as a man’s body. While there could be possible hides near one of those, she could also see the underbrush was a tangle of nettles and thorny locust trees, not unlike the woods in the back part of the state park where she liked to run, which would make finding and getting to any hide difficult and time consuming.

At the base of the bluff behind the embankment a few hundred yards from her position was some sort of signal light on top of a concrete anchor. Way around the curve of the bluff, not far from the sheriff’s position on the west, she could see a stand of pampas grass that had grown down the side of the bluff and up against the railroad. But she discounted either as possible hides because they were at too severe an angle from the island, restricting her field of fire.

What she needed was a position almost exactly perpendicular to the island, partially to give her the widest view, but mostly to minimize the distance from which she had no doubt she would have to take her shot, now suspicious this was boiling down to a sniper vs. sniper duel.

The railroad embankment was several feet higher than the highway, its face covered with ballast stone the size of a small child’s fist in multiple shades of white, gray and black. The ditch behind it, at the bottom of the bluff, had to be at least five feet deep: Okay, perhaps some potential hides back there.

Swinging the scope back to a near position, she began to inspect the ditch between the highway and the embankment eventually leading to where the two deputies were pinned down. It was six feet wide by at most a couple of feet deep, so didn’t offer very favorable cover in and of itself; the deputies were probably safe as long as they kept their heads down and stayed behind the disabled cars.

But then she saw something interesting. Fifty yards up the ditch was a round metal culvert that looked to be close to three-feet wide, apparently designed to keep drainage coming off the bluff from building up behind the embankment. Because of its low profile, to someone looking across from the island it would be virtually invisible. Swinging the scope farther along, she found several more culverts spaced every few hundred yards.

Although not able to see it because it was too far around the curve, she thought if this spacing continued, there had to be one in the vicinity of the disabled patrol cars. It gave her an idea.

Next: Operation Copperfield

From the Ro Delahanty novel Twists and Turns © 2019 Dave Lager

The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Three

Not Some Whack Job

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 11:40 a.m.

Knapp held up his hand, then touched his ear bud as if receiving a message. He unclipped the microphone from his uniform epaulet and spoke into it. “It’s Corporal Delahanty from the SWAT unit, Sir.”

Then, after a moment said, apparently in answer to a question from the other end, “About twenty minutes or so.”

Handing the mic to Ro, he said, “It’s Sheriff Dahlgren. He wants to talk to you. Hang on.”

He fiddled with the radio on his belt, activating the speaker embedded in the microphone so they could all hear.

“Delahanty?” The voice was abrupt and authoritative. “You’re the SWAT sniper, right? So, when are you gonna take out this maniac before he gets lucky and actually hurts somebody?”

The situation was touchy. Nominally, Makuakeeta County Sheriff Dahlgren was in charge, since they were in his jurisdiction, however, he had called for help from the joint multi-county SWAT unit, which meant as they arrived, operationally it became their scene. Except she was “only” a corporal, even though she was SWAT, so couldn’t confront him directly.

Instead, Ro tried to moderate her voice and carefully select words so there was no hint of argument.

“Sheriff,” she said, “we might want to consider this isn’t some whack job plunking away at random. From what your deputies tell me about the damage to the patrol cars, my guess is he’s had sniper training, probably military. And from the distance he’s shooting at, I’d bet he’s using a Barrett.”

Effective at a mile or more, the .50 caliber Barrett was the sniper weapon of choice for long distance U.S. military shooters. Re had been able to fire one as part of her own sniper training.

She wanted to add, probably with a tinge of sarcasm, “And I have no doubt he hit exactly what he was shooting at,” but thought better of it. Which, of course, begged the question: Then why didn’t he choose to kill either of those deputies, which he easily could have?

“I think you’re exaggerating, Corporal,” Dahlgren protested. “This guy fired on my deputies four times and missed every time.”

Ro had to bite her tongue to keep from interrupting, “Did he?”

“You’re a sniper,” Dahlgren said, “so all you see is another sniper. Who’s the officer in charge of your unit?”

“Lieutenant Pease.”

“I want to talk to him when he’s on scene.” She was being dismissed.

“Will do.” Ro handed the mic back to the Makuakeeta deputy with a raised eyebrow, as if saying, “We’ll see who’s right here.”

Looking around, she said, “I’d like to check the scene a bit more.”

Moving to the back of her traditional black-and-white motif patrol car, she opened the trunk and withdrew her scoped Remington from its’ carrying case.

This was turning into an interesting challenge. In every shootout situation she’d been involved in, she knew where the “bad guys” were, which, in turn, had pretty much dictated where her position needed to be. Here it was the other way around; the shooter had already established his position out on the island, it was now up to her to find him.

But also knew this was not the place from which to do that; she was at too severe an angle from the island and the grove of trees to the left obscured much of the view.

Next: Finding her spot first

From the Ro Delahanty novel Twists and Turns © 2019 Dave Lager

The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Two

Shooter

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 11:12 a.m.

Picking up her mic, she checked-in, “Fort Armstrong One-Nine.”

“One-nine go.”

“I am 10-23” – on scene – “on Rt. 20 in Makuakeeta County. Any update?”

She was asking if there had been any new developments since the initial shooting report.

“Negative, One-Nine.”

Ro frowned, That’s kind of odd, no more shooting… Someone doesn’t just fire on cops and then lay low for over an hour…what’s he waiting for?

“10-04. What’s the team’s 10-77?” – estimated time of arrival. She was talking about the SWAT van and the rest of her squad.

“Twenty-five” – twenty-five minutes.

“10-04.”

Ro recognized the cream-white Iowa State Police car with Five-Thirty-Seven on the rear fender parked across the highway; it belonged Sgt. Jim Locari, who Ro had known for years. He had likely been the first responder to the east end of the scene and established a roadblock to keep civilians from blundering into an active shooting situation; there would be a counterpart roadblock somewhere to the west.

The two other patrol cars parked on the right shoulder were gray Makuakeeta County Crown Vics with a wide red stripe down the side. Makuakeeta and Fort Armstrong Counties shared a common border, appropriately enough called County Line Road. It ran north and south and literally straddled the line. Whenever there was an accident on the road, a deputy from each county responded and once on scene sorted out who would take jurisdiction and cover the necessary paperwork.

Ro swung her patrol car around so it was also crossways on the highway and parked it beside the state car. Climbing out, she took a quick glance around. While having driven down this road more than a few times before, which ran roughly in a southwesterly direction to Makuakeeta, the county seat, she wanted to orient herself to this particular section.

Rt. 20, a two-lane blacktop, curved gently around to the left, hugging the Mississippi River, which in this area ran mostly east to west because it was at the top of the western Illinois bulge. There was a single-track rail line – the mainline of the Grand Island Road – on a raised embankment immediately to the highway’s right, with the river bluff rising behind that. The three patrol cars were parked next to a thicket of trees and shrubs between the highway and the river’s edge; the shoreline beyond was open mudflats for close to two miles.

She did a mental shrug, thinking, A wide-open fire zone.

Two gray Makuakeeta cars sat at odd angles across the highway a mile ahead – most likely the vehicles of the pinned down deputies – while the flashing lights of another cluster of first responders were visible three-fourths of a mile beyond that, probably the Makuakeeta County sheriff.

There was a long, thickly wooded island across an open water chute that looked to be close to a thousand yards from the Iowa shore where the shooter was presumably hiding; it certainly offered plenty of good cover.

Hmm, a thousand yards, she wondered, only military snipers get trained for that kind of distance.

She was also aware a thousand yards was at the upper end of the effective range for her Remington, the most widely used police sniper weapon, and had a niggling feeling these facts might not be coincidental.

Ro nodded to the state police officer, “Sergeant.”

He smiled back, “Corporal.”

It was the only acknowledgement they knew one another, the circumstances not calling for small talk.

Then, turning to the two Makuakeeta deputies, she recognized and nodded to the taller of the two, his name badge identifying him as T. Ruiz. She’d worked with him on an accident on County Line Road a couple of years ago involving of all things drag-racing tractors. She didn’t know the other deputy, whose name badge said he was C. Knapp.

Ruiz nodded back, “Corporal.”

Looking at Ruiz, Ro asked, “Neither deputy was wounded?” She wanted to get this fact confirmed.

“That’s affirm… Their vehicles were shot-up, but neither was hit.”

“Where are they now?”

Knapp pointed at the disabled patrol cars, “They’re still hunkered down in the ditch behind their vehicles.” He glanced at his watch, “They’ve been pinned down for almost ninety minutes.”

“I’m curious about what you mean by ‘shot-up’? Can give me any specifics?”

Knapp and Ruiz exchanged glances, like wondering where she was going with this.

Ruiz continued the narrative, “What we’ve been told is the shooter took out the engine of the first deputy’s car, then put a slug through the back doors, tore fist-sized holes in both. After it’d been stopped, he then shot out the light bar.”

“When the second deputy got to the scene, he took out that car’s rear end,” Knapp added. “Shot out both tires with a single bullet.”

“And the second car was responding at high speed?”

Knapp nodded, “Yea.”

“Just one shooter?” Ro asked.

“As far as we can tell,” Ruiz said.

“What’re you thinking, Corporal?” Locari asked.

Ro glanced at Locari and then at the two Makuakeeta deputies, “That your guys are lucky to still be alive.”

Next: This isn’t some whack job

From the Ro Delahanty novel Twists and Turns © 2019 Dave Lager

The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: One

The following chapters are from “Twists and Turns” and will tell story of the sniper incident from Ro’s perspective.

Shooter

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 10:45 a.m.

Ro’s studying technique honed earning her online bachelor’s degree, acing the corporal’s exam and qualifying for an EMT Basic – emergency medical technician – certificate was to read the textbook once, go through it again, only the second time highlight important concepts and definitions, then later concentrate on the highlighted material. That was the stage she was in for the sergeant’s test upcoming in April; the goal to be among the top scorers and receive her stripes as soon as she was eligible in July – the sheriff’s department policy was you needed to be a deputy for four years to become a sergeant.

As she often did, right after finishing her shift at seven in the morning she’d had a light breakfast, gone for a run on the bike path adjacent to the apartment complex – a strange reek she’d never noticed before still bothering her – taken a shower and was just now getting ready to open the two-inch thick exam manual when her cell phone screeched; it was the irritating ring tone programmed specifically for SWAT notifications.

“This is a priority-one alert; I repeat a priority-one alert,” the dispatcher announced in a professional monotone; priority-one meant an active shooting situation.

Ro closed her eyes and blew out a quick breath, pushing away the swell of anger she still felt at the DEA goons who had blundered into a hostage exchange her SWAT unit had negotiated not quite a year ago that had resulted in both of the hostages being killed. Although she’d been involved in more than a few priority-two call-ups since then – like executing search warrants – that was the last “active shooting situation.”

From time-to-time, usually at night when her mind wasn’t occupied with the day’s activities, questions about that situation swirled around in her head, questions that had no answers because there was nothing to go on, but that nonetheless persisted.

She forced her attention back to what the dispatcher was saying, “The Makuakeeta Country sheriff reports two of his deputies have been fired on by an unknown shooter or shooters along Iowa Rt. 20 about ten miles from the Fort Armstrong line. They are pinned down beside the highway, but no injuries. He’s requested Joint SWAT assistance. 10-25” − report to − “HQ ASAP.” SWAT HQ was at the Regional Law Enforcement Campus (RLEC) on the north edge of Lee’s Landing; it was in the opposite direction from her apartment than the shooting scene.

“Dispatch,” Ro said, “I’m closer… I’ll gear-up here and meet the team on site.”

It was not an unusual request. Since quick response time was essential for priority-one calls, SWAT officers carried a set of tactical gear and their weapon – as the unit’s designated marksman (DM), Ro’s was a Remington 700P LTR – in the trunk of their patrol car. She could be ready and on her way to the scene in a few minutes.

“10-04.”

Not quite twenty-eight minutes later, Ro spotted three patrol cars a couple hundred yards ahead, blocking Iowa Rt. 20, their lightbars flashing. She switched off the siren that had helped her make the run from her apartment on the west side of Lee’s Landing, across the southwest corner of Fort Armstrong County and ten miles into Makuakeeta County in a little over thirteen minutes.

Next: Only military snipers get trained for targets at a thousand yards

From the Ro Delahanty novel Twists and Turns © 2019 Dave Lager

Sniper’s Day Chapter 40

40

End Game

Saturday, March 24, 2007

So, he continued his search of the shoreline. An hour passed. The sun dropped to a diffuse glow riding the tops of the trees on the island far to the left.

Perhaps, he thought, they’ll wait me out, leave me here until I pass out from lack of sleep or am tired of the game and surrender.

But he doubted it. They’d already closed-down a busy state highway and well-used railroad mainline for almost twelve hours, it seemed unlikely they’d allow that kind of public and commercial inconvenience to go on much longer.

He knew he could force their hand by taking a shot at one of the crowds or even toward a house up on top of the bluff; both were within the realm of possibility, if not likelihood of hitting anything, But even if he didn’t hit anything, it would still scare the hell out of them.

But he waited: The next move was theirs.

“They” did let him stew for another forty-five minutes, like an opposing coach calling a timeout before a crucial field goal attempt, so the kicker has time to fret over making the kick.

It started with a loud “whump” way off to his left, hidden behind the trees of the island. Checking, he did see the sheriff, the nearby bevy of cops and the crowd of onlookers all staring behind them, as if they, too, were surprised by the noise.

A moment later a thick column of black smoke appeared above the trees, carried away from him, back toward the bluff, by the strong southerly winds. And a few moments after that he could faintly hear multiple sirens, like several emergency vehicles responding. While it didn’t represent any immediate threat to him, he nonetheless had to keep an eye on what was happening by twisting around far to his left, which was both difficult and uncomfortable to accomplish.

He had no doubt it was another diversion, but a distraction to what end? A water assault from the opposite side, off to his right perhaps? Which meant he would need to frequently rotate between the two extremes of his visual range to make sure he wasn’t taken unawares.

Except the sound he heard a few minutes later off to the right wasn’t the whine of a big outboard motor like on a Zodiac, but the very familiar thwump-thwump-thwump of an approaching Huey helicopter. He couldn’t see it though, as it seemed to be coming in low over the river, straight toward the head of “his” island.

Oh, yes, Skassa was well-familiar with the sound of a Huey. It was ubiquitous in the skies of Afghanistan. It could carry more than a dozen heavily armed troops to a combat hot spot, or, as in his case, ferry him to a remote drop point for a mission.

Had the assault begun? But this didn’t make sense; from only one direction wasn’t strategically smart, it worked to his advantage rather than theirs. Were they now trying to distract him to the right, so they could come at him from the left in a classic pincer attack? That seemed more plausible.

He twisted back to his left, expecting to see or hear something coming from that direction: Nothing.

The helicopter was getting closer… Was it about to drop eight or ten SWAT assault types on the end of the island?

The end game was unquestionably now in motion.

If he was lucky, he might neutralize three or four of his adversaries, but in the end probably more than a few of the 5.56 NATO rounds from the ARs used by the SWAT commandos he didn’t get would find him and he would be dead: Tajikistan redux.

But that was not his regret. Indeed, it always had been the inevitable final outcome of this scheme. His disappointment was it wouldn’t be R. Delahanty who had prevailed against him.

As he swung the heavy Barrett around to the right to bring it to bear on what he now presumed would be his new targets, there was a series of bright flashes from above his head, like lightening, followed by sharp and loud “bangs” and pressure waves washing across his back, not enough to dislodge him from his perch, but felt nonetheless.

Flash bang grenades!

Where in the hell did those come from? Is there someone already on the island behind me I didn’t hear coming?

With an effort to overcome the stiffness of nearly twelve hours without changing position, he pushed himself up on his left elbow so he could twist around to his right and glance over his shoulder because he had to; he had to learn if he truly was under assault.

That’s when he heard the cherry bomb-like “crack” from the direction of shore.

He meant to smile as he addressed what he was now sure was the unseen but still very much alive R Delahanty…

You took the impossible shot for a Remington, almost a thousand yards against the wind!

…except it didn’t have time to reach his lips because not quite a second later he heard the hiss of a bullet passing his left ear on its downward arc…

I made the mistake…

…and felt a slight pressure in front of his left collar bone, like someone had pushed a thumb hard against his skin, as the slug entered his body. In the millisecond before it reached his heart, he had concurrent thoughts, not fully formed words or phrases, only fleeting impressions…

Relief – it’s over… Serenity – dying like a sniper… Respect – by a better sniper…

Skassa was finally happy as he crossed into the darkness.

The heavy Barrett, now over-balanced because he had pivoted it so far to the right, slid from the side of the hide and dropped to the ground as the strength that had been holding it in place left his lifeless right hand.

The End

Next: The Sniper Incident chapters from Ro’s point of view in the novel “Twists and Turns”

© 2019 Dave Lager

Sniper’s Day Chapter 39

39

Is She Really Down?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Skassa blinked several times, then stared at the dark smear for a long moment, confounded. He’d pulled the trigger because he had to, because every instinct screamed at him not to hesitate; if you can take out your adversary, you do it without a second’s thought, because your life depends on it.

But this was different. This wasn’t a nameless, faceless enemy somewhere in the wilderness, it was personal. He’d never met or even seen R. Delahanty face-to-face, yet their relationship over the last few days, the last few hours, was still intimate and profound – when it’s based on mutual life or death, of course it’s intense.

Now what? he thought. Did you make a fatal mistake, R. Delahanty? Are you really sprawled at the bottom of that ditch with the top of your head gone, sightless eyes staring at the sky?

The idea he might have killed her was disappointing, it was too easy, he’d come to think of her as a more worthy adversary.

But then his mood brightened.

Uh oh, what if this was another ruse? The white flag ploy with the van was brilliant – you are a wily one, aren’t you? He respected the idea she’d might have faked him out. It was like he’d made a move on the chessboard and now she’d countered.

Okay, he thought, what are the options here?

While he had to consider it was a feint, because to assume otherwise could be a serious mistake on his part, he also needed to make sure it wasn’t. He needed to check the reaction to his shot, see if he could get a feel for whether the “theys” over on shore really thought she was down. But it was no longer as easy as it might have been a few hours ago, because throughout the afternoon a dozen additional cops had arrived at the east and west roadblocks – local county deputies and state police officers – in order to help control…

The crowds of looky-loos now numbering in the scores, watching what was going on in the voyeuristic hope of witnessing an honest-to-goodness cop shootout – there were even kids for god’s sake…

And the dozen-plus media types, with their coiffed on-air personalities holding mics in front of cameras, “his” island as the backdrop, their van-mounted satellite dishes pointing skyward…

Virtually every one of the faces he saw in his scope was staring at the island, eyes wide and mouths slack, everything about their demeanor suggesting they were both shocked and frightened. What’s he shooting at? Is he shooting at us? Their alarm seemed real.

A couple of the SWAT officers among the trees had even raised their carbines to their shoulders, but for cops it was practically an automatic reaction if there was even a chance they’d been fired on.

He focused on several of the SWAT types near the step van, including the one he thought was an officer, who instead of looking toward the island were all staring down the highway toward the railroad signal. Of course, they would have been aware of her plan to find a hide, perhaps even which hide she’d selected, so it was not surprising. To the degree he could tell through the narrow view of the sight at nearly a thousand yards, their expressions looked genuinely stunned.

So, their next move would probably be to send someone to retrieve the body. But they would undoubtedly scramble over the railroad embankment using the step van for cover, probably just as she had done to move unseen to her position, he wouldn’t see them make their way to the signal site.

R. Delahanty: Out of sight, out of mind… Well, maybe…

What his always switched-on planning mode was telling him now was he needed to consider the reaction if, in fact, R. Delahanty was truly out of the picture. There was no doubt it would sooner or later come down to an assault on the island.

He grinned ruefully at a fantasy image of calling in a couple of formidable Apache attack helicopters to strafe the island with devastating rotary cannon and rocket fire – not unlike his experience with the HIND birds back in Tajikistan – taking him out with massive and overwhelming force; no fooling around here, just blast the shit out of him: done!

But he also knew it was not going to happen. For one, it was against the law to use military personnel and equipment for a civilian police matter. To say nothing of the island was likely part of some sort of federal or state wildlife refuge, so blowing it all to hell could easily turn into a press nightmare.

And he pretty much discounted a water-based approach; too open, too easy for him to pick-off the attackers.

The most likely scenario, he reasoned, was a helicopter-based offensive, sending in SWAT teams from both directions, dropping them on opposite ends of the island. Yes, they’d need to find their way through timber and underbrush to find him, but that could be to their advantage as it would provide some cover, to say nothing of the difficulty he would have simultaneously defending opposite flanks. Plus, while they didn’t know it, he had not brought enough ammunition to sustain any kind of serious firefight.

But he couldn’t completely let go of the possibility – the hope – R. Delahanty hadn’t been taken down at all; that she was still lurking out there, hunting him; that they still had a final encounter ahead.

Next: The End game

© 2019 Dave Lager

Sniper’s Day Chapter 38

38

The Shot

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Well, turnabout is fair play.

He began his own scan of the shoreline; a painstaking process, literally scrutinizing every foot for anything that didn’t belong, suggesting another sniper might be looking back and him…

A shape hinting at a human figure rather than a nature form.

A sudden, furtive movement.

A glint from a scope’s lens or rifle’s barrel.

A gap in the solid and unwavering profile of railroad tracks, perhaps because a gun barrel was positioned across them.

So far, he was impressed by R. Delahanty’s savvy; but she was still a relative rookie and capable of making a mistake. And that, of course, was the basic canon in any sniper versus sniper face-off, you do not want to make the first mistake because it will likely be your last.

A little over two hours passed, adding to his respect for R. Delahanty; she had not taken a shot at him; she was being very patient.

Like a horizontal metronome, he swiveled methodically back and forth, left to right, right to left, trying to maintain a balance between focusing on the four possible hides he’d identified long enough to detect any changes, yet needing to move on for fear of missing activity at another, while also keeping an eye on the two clusters of LEOs to the far left and right.

The first potential hide he’d spotted was some sort of train signal on the east, a few hundred yards from the SWAT-based gathering of cops; it would be at the right edge of her effective arc of fire. A round concrete, column-like base was anchored behind the railroad embankment, the upper section visible above the tracks, with a metal pole and what appeared to be a pair of over-and-under signal lights at the top. Depending on how close the pad was to the embankment, it could offer a solid barrier she could crouch behind.

The next, near the center of the arc, were the two disabled patrol cars sitting on the highway. While they had offered the hostage deputies decent cover, they seemed to him the least likely hide for R. Delahanty because she would have to lay on the highway’s surface to peer at him under the cars, making it difficult, if not impossible to disguise her prone, black-clad silhouette on the pavement.

Further to the left was a large, dead tree at the base of the bluff. In a sense it was similar to his own position; she could hide among its branches and with the proper camouflage be practically invisible.

Near what he considered the western edge of her field of fire was a wide clump of broom-like pampas grass that had grown down the lower third of the bluff and across the intervening ditch, close to the backside of the embankment. While the wispy stems offered zero protection from one of his slugs if he found her and took a shot, hiding back in the grass probably offered the best opportunity to search for him undetected, especially if she was wearing a ghillie suit.

Skassa found the whole process exciting, as it was a new challenge for him. He had always been the one choosing the zone of fire, then waiting for his targets to arrive at that spot, not even knowing he was there – well, except for that last encounter in Tajikistan.

Now, though, instead of one location to keep an eye on, he had four possible target sites, plus the east and west ends, stretched along a nearly two-mile crescent, each separated from the other by several hundred yards, each potentially an existential threat.

It was the trial by fire he’d intended.

***

A heavy downpour passed through between two-thirty and three o’clock that, despite the poncho and tarp, still found openings to get him wet…

The stiffness of now having laid in the same position for more than eight hours, unable to stretch out the kinks…

And the jitters from adrenaline continuously pumping through his veins…

…were all simply ignored, dismissed as trivial anxieties.

Wait. Be patient. Don’t force it. She will come to you.

***

Shadows lengthened as the wan light from the cloud-shrouded sun moved into its late afternoon position on his left, changing the look of things, making possible hides appear more ominous. He frowned, trying to focus as he shifted the scope from one position to the next, afraid he was starting to see things that weren’t there or miss things that were, it was hard to tell which.

The pampas grass looked as if something might be pushing it aside; a human-size body creeping to another position, or maybe only the brush-topped wands shivering in the gusty south winds.

Twigs near the base of the dead tree appeared to have moved from where he remembered them being the last time he’d looked, or perhaps it was only the changing light playing tricks on his eyes.

The shadows under the disabled squad cars deepened, making it appear like the gravel embankment thirty feet behind was closer than it should have been, or probably it was only the foreshortening effect of his scope.

Finally, as he checked the railroad signal base, a round, dark shape appeared above the line of tracks; it was curved exactly like the crown of the kind of SWAT commando’s helmet R. Delahanty had been wearing before she disappeared.

There was no time to think, no time to consider whether this was another figment of his imagination or really was R. Delahanty giving away her position, making a rookie mistake.

There was no option; Skassa had to take the shot.

He adjusted the crosshairs for an inch above the tracks and squeezed the trigger.

In the scope a second later he saw the helmet disappear and a dark, reddish cloud splatter across the concrete post behind.

Next: Is she really down?

© 2019 Dave Lager

I Wish I’d Known #2

“I’m glad I figured out there is no secret. Writing is an art and a craft. We’re born with a certain amount of one, and we can learn everything we need to know about the other. The best way to learn is on our own words.”

Bonnie Hearn Hill (1945- ) – Novelist, teacher, writing conference presenter

– From her essay “What I Wish I’d Known” in the August 2019 issue of The Writer

Sniper’s Day Chapter 37

37

What Are You Up To?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Placing her elbows on the roof of the patrol car in front of the light bar and resting the end of the weapon on its bipod, Skassa watched with both surprise and approval as R. Delahanty positioned herself to begin inspecting the highway, the railroad embankment, the disabled squad cars and the cornered cops through her rifle’s scope, rather than immediately pointing it at the island and him. It’s what he would do in this situation, check the lay of the land for your side of the encounter, only later focusing on discovering the position of your adversary, that is, as long as you weren’t under direct fire, which she wasn’t.

Her movements were slow and methodical; he liked that; if you hurry you miss something.

He was conflicted, though. On the one hand, he was fascinated by R. Delahanty and wanted to keep watching her, to see how patient and thorough she would be, to see if she would make any rookie mistakes he might turn to an advantage. But, at the same time, he needed to keep an eye on the sheriff far to the left, in case the cop decided to take the initiative, like sending deputies with automatic weapons charging across the open water in Zodiacs – a fool’s move – or having a couple hunter-types start randomly plunking away at the island with high-powered rifles in the hope of getting lucky – a desperation move.

The oversize black SWAT step van arrived at the east position a few minutes after noon and five figures in tactical gear jumped down from the rear. Four were armed with the ubiquitous AR-style carbines in the across-the-chest ready position; the fifth only carried a sidearm, probably a command officer. But instead of assuming defensive or assault positions, they, now joined by R. Delahanty, the state cop and the two local deputies, gathered at the back of the truck for a briefing.

While the command officer and several of the others were all involved in the exchange, it sure appeared to Skassa like R. Delahanty did much of the talking. As before, there was lots of pointing down the highway and over at the island, speaking into a mic by the SWAT commander, and a good deal of nodding and agreeing; they seemed to have come up with some sort of plan, and it seemed to him to be pretty much R. Delahanty’s plan.

What are you up to, my friend? he thought.

He watched as the four SWAT members, but not R. Delahanty, took-up positions behind patrol cars or crouched down among the trees, all looking in his direction, keeping their weapons at the ready, but not actually raising them to their shoulders. Both he and they knew they were no immediate threat, as their carbines had at best a seven-hundred-yard range, well short of the distance to his position. Rather, their job was simply to keep an eye on him.

Every few moments he did swing the scope to the west to check on what the sheriff was doing, which turned out to be pretty much limited to observing the island through binoculars…and waiting. In fact, he had the impression they were making a show of their nonchalance, which, of course, raised a little red flag of suspicion.

Something’s going on…

He watched through his scope as R. Delahanty then met with only the state cop and the two Makuakeeta deputies, apparently sending them back to their patrol units to fetch something. When they returned, they all disappeared out of his view behind the big step van, a moment later the three reappeared, but without R. Delahanty.

What’ve you got up your sleeve, R. Delahanty? he thought.

He had no doubt she was up to something and was rather enjoying seeing where this was going.

He knew what needed to be done. She had to first identify at least a couple of good possible shooting positions along the highway, except they needed to be within a roughly a forty-five-degree arc in the center; anything much to the left or right would put her at too severe an angle and at too much of a distance from his position, significantly reducing her effectiveness. Then she needed to move to one of those positions undetected, and only then start a detailed survey of the island to try and pinpoint exactly where he was.

Thirty minutes passed: He could not find R. Delahanty.

His suspicion level ratcheted up.

Another forty minutes passed: No R. Delahanty.

Where have you gone?

On one of his frequent checks to the west, he spotted activity. A white, fifteen-passenger van had come up behind the roadblock, on its side it said it was used for Makuakeeta County Sheriff’s Department Prisoner Transport.

As far as he could tell there was only a lone driver; although obscured by the dimness inside the vehicle, it looked to him like it might be a female behind the wheel. Yes, there could be a half-dozen cops hunkered down inside, out of sight, but what were they going to do, drive out to the middle of his field of fire, jump out and blindly start blazing away at the island?

To his surprise, as the van started rolling slowly forward past the roadblock, the driver deployed a white flag, holding it up so it was clearly visible over the van’s roof. It moved at barely above walking speed, taking many minutes to reach the two deputies. The driver turned her head to the left, as if saying something to the cops, who quickly scrambled out of the ditch, ran to the rear and climbed in, taking seats at the back, but remaining visible.

The van continued forward, swinging over onto the highway’s riverside shoulder to get past the disabled squad cars, finally stopping behind the trees nearly a mile to the east. Skassa watched as several of the cops gathered around its rear, welcoming the now freed “hostage” deputies with smiles and handshakes. He searched the area for the tall, slender figure of R. Delahanty: Nowhere to be seen.

“That’s because you’re not there anymore,” he muttered to himself with an appreciative nod. “A diversion…Cool move.” He liked to think it was her plan all along…

What he now thought of as The Van Bluff had taken nearly two hours to unfold, plenty of time for R. Delahanty to move several hundred yards out into the field of fire. He knew where he would have gone, somewhere behind the railroad embankment, and what he would have done once there, start inspecting the island inch-by-inch.

Next: There was no option; Skassa had to take the shot

© 2019 Dave Lager

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