The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Nine

The Ruse

Saturday, March 24, 2007, 4:40 p.m.

Ro spent nearly two hours waiting and watching.

“Watching” the island in slow sweeps through her scope, pausing to study different parts just in case one of them might be where the shooter was actually hiding. She had no doubt he was doing the same in an effort to find her.

And “waiting,” as in also forcing him to wait and wonder, maybe even fret a little about what she might be up to.

Twiddling with the scope, she adjusted it to a fine and sharp focus, zeroing in on what her instincts had said all along was the shooter’s most likely hide, the angled deadfall tree trunk. It offered by far the most advantages for a sniper over any other possible hides she’d looked at.

She was about to execute a ruse she hoped would confirm her suspicions. Of course, if those instincts were wrong and he wasn’t where she was looking, well, then… At best it would be back to square one; at worst she might have revealed her position and that could become her fatal mistake.

“Phase two,” Ro said into the wand mic.

“10-04,” Lt. Pease acknowledged. Then into his handheld radio said simply, “Execute phase two.”

He heard the response, “Executing,” in his ear bud.


Jim Locari had been crouched behind the railroad embankment for thirty minutes waiting for the execute order. According to his earlier instructions from Ro, he had climbed over the railroad tracks using the big SWAT van as cover, then moved west, unseen, along the ditch until he was directly in front of the railroad signal light. The columnar base was two feet across and six feet tall, so it could be seen over the top of the tracks. Sticking out of the base was a pole with a pair over-and-under signal lights at the top.

As per Ro’s directions, with the “execute” order he now took the SWAT tactical helmet she had taped the ketchup packets inside and balancing it on the end of a collapsible baton raised it up sixteen inches above his head, positioning it so it would be just visible at the level of the railroad tracks…and waited…

Ro had explained what she hoped would happen, but after twenty minutes his arm was getting tired and he was beginning to think about calling in to Lt. Pease for instructions about what to do when the helmet was suddenly blasted backward, shattered into a dozen pieces, and a spray of dark red was splattered across the top of the signal light’s base behind him.

“Shit,” he said, as some of the spray splashed across one leg of his khaki uniform.

Even from his close viewpoint and even knowing what he knew about the plan, it still looked for all the world like blood, which he also knew was exactly what Corporal Delahanty had intended.

He was about to inform her, although rhetorically, as she was several hundred yards further west and therefore wouldn’t have heard him, that she was going to be getting the dry cleaning bill for his uniform when he then heard the distant, thunder-like thud of the rifle that had sent the big slug in his direction.

“He took the bait,” Locari announced to no one, grinning that Ro’s ruse had apparently worked.


Modern ammunition is smokeless, so, naturally, Ro had had no expectation the shooter would reveal his position with a telltale puff as the bullet left his rifle. But supersonic bullets, like those from a Barrett .50 caliber, do disturb the air as they leave the barrel, do create a kind of shock wave, that, if you know exactly where to look can be visible as a slight shimmering effect.

Her instincts had been right. She’d been looking directly at the spot where the angled downed tree was lodged in the crook of the larger tree, the spot she’d believed, hoped, was where the shooter was hiding.

There’d been no end of a rifle barrel suddenly visible… No shadowy head pop up… Nothing except a brief flicker against the mottled brown-gray bark of the adjacent tree, which she would have easily missed if she’d happened to blink just then, followed a second later by the deep thud of the rifle’s report.

Since she’d heard the report and wasn’t already dead, and since there had been no spong of a bullet smashing through the metal of the patrol car over her head or the scratchy growl of a slug gouging the pavement nearby, she knew the sniper had not taken a shot at her.

Which meant he must have taken the bait and made the shot at the empty SWAT helmet.

Ro smiled to herself, “Gotcha.”

Except her “triumph” was short-lived, for two reasons.

First, while she now “knew” where the shooter was hiding, it did not by any means result in being ready to take her own shot. She had a location, yes, but no actual target. She did not know exactly where he was in the hide, how far back in, whether positioned a little to the right or left, maybe further down than she assumed. At not quite nine-hundred yards against a brisk wind and her target being unseen, being off on a shot by even a few inches could make all the difference.

But at least her earlier dilemma was now allayed. He had taken the shot… He had tried to kill her… He had intended to kill her. In fact, he was quite possibly under the impression he had killed her, indeed, that had been part of her hoped for outcome of the ruse. So, any lingering quandary she might harbor about being this guy’s executioner was now laid to rest.

She – or at least who the shooter on the island had thought was she – had been fired on; for a cop and warrior, that’s all that was necessary.

The question now was how to use this to her advantage.

Next: A makeshift windsock

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