The light played up and down his body as the voice behind the light spoke quietly again.
“Who are you? What are you doing out here after curfew? Don’t you know that Martial Law is in effect?”
“I am just a hiker, trying to get home.” He said, his mind racing to concoct a story that would be at least plausible.
“I think not.” said the voice. “I think you are one of the fugitives we have been sent out here to find. Don’t worry, I am not going to turn you in. I think this whole action is wrong, and I am out here only because I had no choice. The National Guard have been nationalized under executive orders, stripping control from the governors of the states.
“Charlie!” called a voice from the railroad tracks. “Hurry up! The Corporal wants to move out in 3 minutes!”
“Ok!” called Charlie. “I’ll be out in 2!”
“Look, I don’t have much time left to talk with you. Stay off the tracks as much as you can. You were lucky tonight. We were issued night vision but the idiots at supply didn’t include any batteries for them! There is a patrol coming east that we will pass on our way west, but we are the last patrol going that way tonight.”
“Why are you helping me?” he said.
“Well, I own some of the contraband myself, hidden away where hopefully no one will find it.”
“Charlie! Aren’t you done yet? We’re moving out! What are you doing in there? Whack’in It?”
“I’m coming, asshole!” said Charlie.
“Who are you talking to?” said the voice.
“I’m talking to you, genius!” said Charlie. He spoke in a low voice, just over a whisper “You wait here for five minutes, and then head down the track. It opens up a bit and the brush is not so thick along the right of way. Stay off the tracks as best you can because I heard that they might bring in a drone to patrol the tracks in a few days.”
“Goodbye and good luck!” and with that Charlie left him behind.
He waited the recommended amount of time, surprised at his good luck, and then moved out keeping to the underbrush as suggested.
It was tough going, what with all the blackberry vines intertwined with the salmonberry bushes, and after about an hour of travel that netted him about a hundred yards of distance, he moved back to the tracks once more, staying to the edge of the right-of-way and walking slowly to minimize the noise of walking in gravel.
Dawn was beginning to creep over the mountains, spreading its light behind the gray, ugly rain clouds that were promising a wet day ahead. He was tired and hungry so he once again moved off the right-of-way and into the thinning trees to find a place to lay up for a while.
He found a thicket of small alders and maples close to the riverbank and setup his poncho to shield him from view of the tracks. He decided to let the patrol that was behind him to pass before he began to travel again. He moved much slower in his attempt to keep noise to a minimum and they were sure to spot him if he stayed with the tracks.
Using the tin can stove, he quickly brought to boil a Heineken pot of water from which he made a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. Looking at his food supply, he wondered if he would have enough to get to C1. He had not counted on having to move so slowly, and he was not making near the speed he desired. He was glad that he had packed the extra rations now, too bad he hadn’t made the other changes to his GHB. The weather was definitely getting colder each day, and he was worried that it might snow before he made it to C1.
While he had the small pot boiling, he took the opportunity to add some water from the river and refilled his water bottles. He wished he had a hydration bladder in the pack so that he wouldn’t have to stop and retrieve the water bottle from his pack when the one in its belt carrier was exhausted.
He had been there for about a couple of hours when the sound of crunching gravel told him that a patrol was nearby. He could hear them talking as they passed by and could smell cigarette smoke from at least one of the members. To his concern, they stopped and took a break not a hundred feet away from where he was hidden. If any wandered into the brush to relieve themselves, they might discover him!
Luckily, the twigs he was using in his tin can stove were very dry, having gathered them from the dead lower branches of the small alders and maples. No smoke would give him away, and since he was long done eating, no food smells lingered.
After 15 minutes, the patrol continued on its way eastward down the tracks. He waited for about half an hour before resuming his trek, following far behind the patrol and moving slowly and quietly through the thinning brush as he entered the outskirts of the next small town.
Now he was faced with a dilemma! The brush had thinned out so much that there was virtually no cover as the tracks passed thru town. He would either have to wait until dark again to continue through town or leave the tracks and follow the riverbank as best he could. He wished now he had included a small pair of gardening shears to cut his way thru the patches of blackberries that tore at him as he moved.
He heard the thrumming of helicopter blades in the distance and decided to crawl deeper into the brush and wait for dark. The chopper passed overhead, following the track from the east to the west. The sky, which had been threatening to rain all day, finally unleashed its threat of wind and rain. The storm blew in from the west, and dumped a half inch of rain over the course of the afternoon. He was sitting cross-legged, with his back against a tree, the poncho acting like a tent. He had a tea candle burning in the tin can stove, and was warm and dry.
Dusty sat lost in thought, staring at the wounded sniper who was securely trussed in such a manner as he could not walk nor move his arms. The man was still unconscious, and would probably remain so for a while. Dusty stood up and walked to the hut where his supplies were stored. He rummaged around inside and emerged with a roll of duct tape. He stripped off 6” of tape and placed it securely across the mans mouth.
He went back to the hut and drew out a pack containing several coils of rope and some rappelling gear.
“I’m coming Eddie…”
He headed silently to the bridge, stopped at the approach and scanned for movement. Seeing nothing, he crossed the bridge to the section where Eddie’s limp body hung by his foot. Dusty rigged up a rope and pulley, and dropped the end over the edge. He then secured his rappelling line to the bridge, and put on his harness.
He attached his harness to the line and dropped over the edge to where Eddie hung. Taking the end of the rope attached to the pulley, he tied it around Eddies torso, just under his arms. Once he had the line secure, he ascended his rope and climbed back on top the trestle. He stowed his equipment and then hauled Eddie’s body up to where he could free his foot and bring his body onto the trestle.
Once Eddie was safely on the trestle, he untied the rope and stowed the last bit of gear. As he prepared to carry Eddie’s body back to camp, several tears rolled down his cheeks. Angrily, he shook his head to clear away the tears. Now was not the time to grieve. He had to bury his friend and then get to work on the murderer in his captivity.
Gently he picked up his friend and loaded him onto his shoulder. He then made his way back to the area near their camp that Eddie had like so well. He set Eddie down carefully and pulled the body bag out of his pack, unfolding it and placing it next to Eddie. In a few moments he had placed Eddie in the bag and closed it up, ready for burial.
He dug the shallow grave in silence, using the entrenching tool that was in the pack. When he had finished digging he drug the body into the hole, with Eddie’s head facing east toward the sunrise. He then spoke out loud.
“You were always the first out into the bush, always volunteering for point. Well now you are manning point on that trail in the sky, and no longer need me to watch your back. Take care my brother, may the sun always shine upon your face.”
Dusty hurriedly covered up his friend and headed back to camp. It was time to get some answers from the man in his custody. Back in camp he saw that his captive was fully awake and had been struggling with his bonds, to no avail.
“Feel like talking?” he asked the man, who lay there glaring at him. “Let me give you an idea of the type of person you have messed with!” said Dusty. Reaching into a small bag laying on the ground next to him, he pulled out several splinters of dry cedar, and taking the mans free hand, drove the splinters under 2 of his fingernails. The man tried to scream out in pain, but his cries were muffled by the tape across his mouth.
“You are going to pay dearly for killing my friend!” Dusty said. He then lit the splinters on fire and let them burnout. The man was trying to scream and talk at the same time, his eyes rolling about and he was shaking his head violently.
The splinters had burned out, their message clear: No foolishness would be tolerated! Dusty leaned forward and pulled off the tape covering the snipers mouth.
“Who are you? Who do you work for?”
“I am ATF agent Cobb” the man replied. “You are in a world of shit! When we get done with you…” Dusty hit him in the mouth with the entrenching tool. Blood and teeth sprayed out the agents mouth as his head was knocked to the side. His upper lip was severed thru in one place, the blood running profusely.
“You are in no place to do anything to anybody” said Dusty. “You will answer my questions and I promise you I will give you a quick death. Fuck with me, and I will make it last for days.”
The agent’s eyes grew narrow as he spat out a mix of blood and teeth. “You wouldn’t dare" he said!
Dusty laughed, and said “Wrong choice of words!” He reached back in the pack and pulled out a pair of garden shears and a pair of pliers. Grasping the mans trigger finger with the pliers, he mercilessly applied pressure until the man groaned in pain and began to curse him. Using the garden shears, he then severed the mans finger behind the second knuckle.
The man screamed out in pain and nearly passed out. “You’re gonna pay for that you mother fucker!” he groaned.
“You don’t get it yet, do you?” said Dusty. “You are not going to make it out of this situation alive! The best you can hope for is that I will kill you quickly!”
Dusty reached into the fire and pulled out the red hot iron that had been resting in the coals. Holding it in front of the mans eyes he said; Which one is your favorite? You only need one to see what I am going to do to you next, so pick one to keep!
The sniper broke down and started babbling and crying, pleading with Dusty not to put out his eye! “If you want to keep the eye, start talking!”
Dusty and the captive had a long talk in which the man spilled all the details concerning the events over the last few days. Dusty was surprised that such a furor was raised over the possession of a little contraband, and questioned the man some more about it. Finally satisfied he would get no more important information from the agent, he pulled out his Ka-Bar and sliced the mans throat with a quick slash. Agent Cobb gurgled and choked as his life flowed from the gash.
Dusty spoke once more before the agent died.
“For you Eddie!
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