by John Nation
One of the richest men in the world declares war on Sheriff Johnson and the Pack.
|'Where do you think they could be?' Igor asked.
Alex answered, 'Who can say for certain? There is a possibility they were unable to obtain the Sheriff and decided to leave the area instead of returning. There is just as good a chance they were captured or killed.'
'It would be most unfortunate if they are imprisoned and decide to talk with their captors.'
'Most unfortunate indeed. I suggest we move your workshop to a location the missing gentlemen are unaware of.'
'An excellent idea.'
'How long will you need to pack?'
'I can be ready to move in only a few minutes. All the items on the wall are for show and can be replaced from any hardware store. All I really need is my tools which are already packed and my worktable. It is designed to fold up and be easily portable in case I should run into a problem like this.'
Fifteen minutes later, all of the equipment was loaded onto the truck and Whitingham drove away.
He was silent as he thought on the situation. The Sheriff was proving to be more difficult than he should be. He could not understand that. In his career, no one had ever eluded him for long. He had removed the heads of state of some third world countries, bypassing all of their guards and security measures. He had killed presidents of large companies, wives complaining too much about their husband's mistresses and husbands who discovered their wives lovers. Once, he had even taken out a ninja, a member of Japan's outlawed ancient warriors. That had been a feat that cost the lives of six of his men and almost gotten him killed. Still, he had not failed. There was only one person on earth he would not hunt down and kill if the price was right. He did not know his real name, only that he went by 'The Assassin.' Ninja were like minnows against a Great White compared to him. He would never even consider going against him.
Robinson gave him access to sixty million dollars to complete his task. He wanted to get the job over with quickly and remove a large percentage of that amount, telling his employer it had been needed to accomplish his mission. It seemed as if he would have to dip into those funds to acquire the people with the expertise to get the job done right. He knew a group he could get. They would be expensive, but they had a proven track record, storming and capturing a mansion at the center of a fortress in Columbia five years ago for him. This would be a piece of cake compared to that. He would make contact with them after setting up in his new location.
'Viper Leader, this is Cobra Three. We are in position. Waiting on confirmation from Cobra One and Cobra Two before closing on target.'
'Roger Cobra Three. Cobras One and Two have targets acquired. Proceed with Phase Two.'
Pete 'Colonel' Guyer was pleased with the operation to this point. His teams had moved in and surrounded three separate groups without being spotted. That was the easy part of the maneuver. Phase Two would require moving those three groups together. The goal was to herd them into one spot. At that point one burst of gunfire could kill all of them at the same time. He could have his teams take out the targets where they were, but he believed having them do it this way would hone their skills to a greater degree.
He looked at the map on the table in front of him. He had the location of each team marked. They were approximately three miles from each other. The area they were to move them was four miles behind the center target.
Pete had the men of his band of mercenaries call him Colonel, even though he had never been a Colonel in any military service. The highest rank he ever achieved was corporal. That had been over forty years ago in the army. He left the army with a dishonorable discharge. He was still confused about that. The army was supposed to go out and kill the bad guys. That is why he joined. He was elated when he received orders to Vietnam. He entered the country in 1968. Within six months he had one hundred nine confirmed kills. By month seven he was in the brig when it was discovered that many of his kills were the Vietnamese, not the Vietcong. When questioned, his response, 'Kill them all. Let God sort them out,' sealed his fate. While the presiding officer silently agreed with him, he realized he would never get that second star if he let him go. They kept his court martial out of the news, not wanting to give the antiwar demonstrators any more fuel. In his cell, the prosecutor told him in exchange for keeping silent about the whole matter, they would only give him a dishonorable discharge with no prison time. If he ever made a statement to the press about the affair, he would spend the rest of his life in Leavenworth.
Eight months after stepping off the plane in Vietnam, he was stepping off the plane back in the States. Instead of looking for a job in a factory or store, he decided to put his natural ability to its best use. Three months later, he was in Africa, helping one of the Third World dictators crush the frequent rebellions to his harsh rule. The people paying him had no objections to a high body count and did not look to see what side they were on. From there, it was to South America where he aided the highest paying drug lord remove the competition.
Throughout the years, he came across likeminded people. People, who like him, had no compulsion against killing if the pay was right, or occasionally just for fun.
They started having contests. One month it would be who could make the furthest kill. That is where he found his sniper. The next it would be who could make the quickest kill by hand. He collected the martial arts expert.
He loved his explosive expert's technique. Most people in his profession placed a small amount of explosive in a car engine or perhaps in the home. His bomb maker had a better method. He would get a truck and cram it full of dynamite or maybe C4 if he had any. The truck was parked on a street where the target was known to pass and set off when the target was near. Not one of them ever survived his attack. They did not let the dozens of bystanders killed in the blasts deter them.
He now had forty-seven men in his unit. Unlike many groups similar to his, they did not have to rob banks to have money. They were actually good at what they did and the people interested in such groups knew it. They had a standard rate they would not waver on. Seven million dollars for two weeks. Many potential employers balked at the fee. Guyer would explain that was a small amount in exchange for a guaranteed success. In the forty years he had been doing this, he had never once failed to take out the person or persons he was after.
Sometimes the person making the inquiries backed out because of the cost. In those cases, Guyer visited the target and explained what was going on. Within days, the person that first called him was dead and he received his fee from the intended victim. After a few of times of that happening, when a person contacted him, they paid.
'Colonel, we have made contact with Target Three.'
The Colonel left his memories and came back to the present. 'Acknowledged. Move them out. Cobra One, Cobra Two, get a move on. Do not allow Cobra Three to get a big lead.'
Barry Vineland was celebrating with his family his recent graduation. As the youngest son in the family, his parents were glad their days of paying for books and tuition were at long last over. Besides his parents, Barry's two older brothers were with him.
Dad was grilling the hamburgers and hotdogs and Mom was sitting in her chair, supervising all the activities.
All of them jumped when there was a loud bang and one of the trucks had a tire blow out.
'What the hell,' his dad said. 'Was that a gunshot?'
Before anyone could answer, there was another bang from a rifle and a tire from another truck blew out.
Barry's brother's began waving their arms over their heads and shouted, 'Hey, there are people out here!'
In response, a windshield exploded as a round passed through it.
Four members of the family had cell phones and each of them dialed 911 at the same moment. All they got was static.
'They are trying to use their phones, but I'm able to block the signal,' one of the technicians with Cobra Three stated.
'How long can you keep them from making contact with the outside world?' the team leader asked.
'As long as we stay within five hundred yards of them, forever.'
'Excellent.' He turned to the other members of the team. 'Okay, start moving them to the staging area.'
Half a dozen members of the team opened fire into the engines and tires of the vehicles, making them unusable. Another half dozen started shooting into the earth, each round moving a foot closer to where the targets were scurrying around looking for cover.
'HELP MOM!' Barry shouted to his brothers. He stayed next to his father and his two brothers each took hold of one of their mother's arms, helping her stay in front of the advancing rounds.
'There is an animal trail going deeper into the woods,' Barry stated while moving in that direction. 'We have to lose them in the forest.'
They moved at their best speed down the trail. When one of the brothers tried to leave the path and move into a thicker area of trees, more rounds peppered the ground in front of him. He turned back to the trail. For almost an hour, they moved. Occasionally they would slow down to allow their aging parents to catch their breath. After about five minutes at the slower pace, they had to pick up speed when more shots were fired at them.
The trail ended at the edge of a lake. They moved along the water a hundred yards before rounds began to slam into the lake. They turned back. They moved a hundred yards in the other direction before the same thing happened.
'Whoever is out there wants us to stay where we are,' Barry said.
'Who could be doing this to us and what do they want?' his mom asked.
None of them had any ideas.
A few minutes later, they heard more rifle fire in the distance. Barry knew this was not from the same people holding them hostage at the water's edge. The sounds were further away and in a different direction. A short time later, four teenagers darted out of the forest. They raced to Barry and his family.
'There's some crazies out there shooting at us,' one of the girls said.
'We know,' Barry answered. 'There is another group that moved us here.'
One of the teenage boys tried his cell phone again. 'I can't get a signal out,' he said.
Everyone with a phone tried one more time. None of them could make a call. One of the teenage boys threw his phone into the lake in anger. The ripples from the splash did not have time to reach the shore when three more men ran into the clearing. At first Barry was alarmed, thinking it was some of the people that shot at them, but it did not take him long to determine they were fishermen that had been herded to this part of the lake in the same manner the rest of them had been.
'Colonel, all three groups have been moved to the collection site. What are your orders?' the commander of the Cobra Two team asked.
Back in the command tent, Pete 'Colonel' Guyer had to make a decision. There was really no need to kill the people. The entire goal of the exercise was to see if his men could move divergent groups to a common area. They had just proven they could. The targets had no idea who it was that had moved them together, so he was not concerned with them revealing his identity. Then again, he was not elated with the idea of people coming out of the woods telling the local authorities about being rounded up like cattle. He weighed the pros and cons and made his choice.
'Cobras One, Two, and Three, withdraw. Make sure they do not have a clue about you leaving. They'll stay there at least another two hours before working up the courage to venture out. We will be five counties away by the time that happens.'
The three team leaders gave the withdrawal order to their men. The groups silently began to leave.
As the rest of his teammates turned and started away, Vic 'Buzzsaw' Masters fumed. As the newest member of the group, he had not yet been with them on any paying mission. He had not proven himself and several of his comrades teased him about it, wanting to know if the three men he claimed to have killed were only a figment of his imagination. He would prove to them they were not.
As the others moved away, he fell behind. When they were no longer in sight, he returned to the edge of the forest and peered at the people huddled together. He turned the selector on his M16 to full automatic and flipped the safety off. He sighted in on the center of the group and pulled the trigger. He moved his weapon back and forth for the three seconds it took to empty the forty round magazine.
By the time he ejected the empty magazine, had a full one in his rifle and pushed the first round into the chamber, he heard his teammates as they raced back to him.
'Just what the hell are you doing?' his team leader shouted at him.
'Doing what we should have done to start with,' Buzzsaw explained. 'Removing any possible witnesses.'
The team leader turned to one of the men with him, 'Witherspoon, make certain all of them are dead,' he ordered.
While Witherspoon hurried to comply, the team leader called the Colonel and told him what happened. There was the sound of a .45 going off as he talked. Witherspoon was back a few seconds later. 'The mom was still alive. She's not any longer,' he said.
Back at the command tent, the Colonel had to decide what to do. He could not allow his men to disobey his orders, but then again, Buzzsaw may have been correct about not leaving any witnesses. He decided on the punishment. It would set an example for the rest of the team. 'Tell Buzzsaw I am docking him ten dollars out of his pay.'
That done, the Colonel leaned back in his chair, satisfied that would teach his men a lesson about needless killing.