The Sniper Incident from Ro’s perspective: Thirteen

Stone Wall

Monday, August 20, 2007, 10 a.m.

“Deputy,” Sheriff Ballard said, greeting Ro from in front of his desk in his main office in the courthouse in downtown Lee’s Landing, “this is Cora Spencer. She would like to talk to you.”

The woman standing next to Ballard was nearly as tall as Ro, but a good fifteen years older. Dressed in a very professional dark blue pantsuit, her hair in a very unfashionable bob and with very little make-up, she had government-type written all over her.

Having completed her community service requirement as of last Saturday from her guilty plea over last year’s episode with the DEA, Ro had hoped the whole business was behind her.

I guess you Feds never got over a grudge, she thought. What new way have you come up with this time to extract another pound of flesh?

It was no secret Ezra Fisk, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Chicago office, detested Fort Armstrong County Deputy Sheriff Ro Delahanty, having twice humiliated him.

So, you’ve sent another goon, only this one’s in sheep’s clothing, to harass me, she thought, giving him some grudging credit for coming up with a creative way to try to get back at her.

“Sergeant,” – Ro was in full uniform, as she was still on duty, having come from the RLEC at the sheriff’s “request” – “it’s a pleasure meeting you,” the woman said, extending her hand. Her grip was firm but not assertive.

“Ms. Spencer,” Ro said, returning the handshake.

“Why don’t you use my conference room next door,” Ballard said. He tried to make it sound like a suggestion, even though it wasn’t.

Deputies being called to the sheriff’s office was nothing unusual given Ballard’s collegial, “We’re all in this together,” management style. It certainly wasn’t necessarily a sign you were in trouble, especially if he greeted you from out in front of his desk.

Ro’s curiosity was piqued, as it was odd that he was sending them to meet privately and that he apparently wasn’t going to participate. Having been one of her out front champions in previous adversarial encounters with the DEA, she couldn’t believe he was throwing her to the wolves now; that would be totally out of character for Ballard.

The conference room was definitely executive level, with a solid oak conference table – no cheesy plastic laminate here – and luxurious leather swivel chairs.

The two women took seats on opposite sides of the table, Spencer pointedly avoiding the chair at the head. Leaning forward slightly, she folded her hands in front of her. It was clearly a casual gesture Ro interpreted as the woman’s effort to be reassuring and not authoritative.

Okay, so I guess you’re not DEA after all, otherwise you’d have said so right off to scare me, Ro thought. So, then who the heck are you?

“I work for the government. I’d prefer not to be any more specific than that for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. I’ve shown Sheriff Ballard my creds and he’s reassured I’m the genuine stuff.” She raised her eyebrows slightly, as if silently asking, “Is that good enough for you?”

Ro’s eyes crinkled into a slight smile; she nodded assent.

“The wheels of government grind slowly, Deputy, but they do grind on. Recently some information crossed my desk that involved you and your…,” she paused, like she was looking for the right word, “…encounter recently with a former Air Force sniper.” There was no hint she was being ironic. “There are circumstances involved I think you should know about.”

“O-k-a-y,” Ro answered, not having to add, “You’ve got my attention now, go on.”

“Deputy, what I’m about to share with you is highly classified. Quite honestly, I could be in a good deal of trouble for revealing it. Can I trust your discretion?”

Ro straightened up in her chair. “Of course.”

“What do you know about Wade Meese?”

The sniper… So that’s what this is all about, Ro thought.

“The information we were able to get is that he’d been part of the perimeter security outside Bagram in Afghanistan for three years, that he had sixteen confirmed kills.”

Spencer smiled, “And…”

Ro narrowed her eyes, like she was asking, “Where are you going with this?”

“…you don’t think that’s the whole story,” Spencer said, completing the thought.

“You don’t get an Airman’s Medal for sixteen kills over three years,” Ro said, summarizing the skepticism the Grand Island detectives investigating Meese had shared with her, but who had run into a stone wall of silence in their effort to find more.

Next: A soldier’s death

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