He got up and added wood to the fire once more, breaking free of the past, his thoughts surfacing in the present. He needed to get more water as his water bottles were dry, and he was beginning to get thirsty. He moved to the remnants of the doorway and looked outside. It was still raining but nowhere near as hard as before.
There was a lot of standing water in low places and still some piles of snow remaining. Moving outside, he found a snow drift that was not entirely melted yet. It had formed a pool of melt and rainwater from which he refilled his water bottles. In the distance he could hear the roar of the rain swollen river, growling its discontent at its captivity by its banks. There would soon be flooding no doubt, if the streams and rivers were not already at flood stage. He wished he had his weather alert radio with him, but it was at home in his bug out bag.
He returned inside where he then treated the water with his Polar Pure water disinfectant, just in case. It was noticeably warmer now, and he could no longer see his breath easily, so the temperature must be in the high 40’s to mid 50’s. He knew that with the rising temperatures he would need to do something to preserve the remaining meat, or it would spoil before he could eat it. He took his last 2 bouillon cubes and crushed them into his cooking pot and then filled it with water, creating an impromptu marinade.
He sliced the remaining meat as thinly as he possibly could and then placed it in the marinade to soak for a while. While the meat was soaking, he built a crude drying rack from maple branches off the tree outside his shelter. He strung the rack with the inner strands from a length of para-cord, creating multiple levels to hang the meat to dry. He then leaned the rack against the stone fireplace, far enough away so that it would not smolder, but close enough to get the full benefit of the radiated heat. The trick is to dry, not cook the meat.
It was now about mid-day, so he decided to gather more firewood for the evening. The walls near the bedrooms had surrendered most of their sheathing already, so he began to work towards the kitchen area. Off the end of the kitchen was a small room which appeared to be a pantry. He explored the shelves, but found nothing useful. As he turned to exit the room his foot came up against something solid amongst the leaves blanketing the floor in that area.
He stooped down and brushed away several layers of decomposing leaves to discover a large brass ring. He pulled on the ring and was surprised to find it attached to a door in the floor. He picked up his collection of wood, which he deposited near the fireplace, and then retrieved his Mini-Mag flashlight to which he attached a lanyard in case he dropped it. He fastened the lanyard to his belt and then returned to the pantry to examine further this new discovery.
The door was comprised of most the floor space in the pantry, being about 3 ½ feet wide by 6 feet long. When fully open, it rested against the shelf behind it and was held open by a hook and eyelet. He could see the top of a stairs leading downward into the stygian blackness. The smell of earth and mouldering old things was faintly rising from the cellar, as he correctly guessed it was a root cellar. Shining his small flashlight downward revealed more steps without a railing and little other detail. The little flashlight just was not made for illuminating large areas. Gingerly testing the solidity of his footing, he began to descend into the darkness below.
His greatest worry at this time was that the old steps may have rotted from age and exposure to ground moisture. So far they appeared to be solid. Rather than treading in the middle of the steps, he stayed to the left side, letting the nails bear his weight as he slowly tested his weight on each step. The cellar appeared to be about 8 feet deep as he could now see the bottom.
The stairs creaked ominously with each step downwards, voicing their complaint against his intrusion into their slumber. No one had tread this way for many years, so the event was far from welcome. Even with all the groaning the steps seemed solid enough, so he continued downward in spite of their complaints.
With 3 more steps to go, he relaxed a little and put all his weight at once on the next step. The step let go with a groan and a crack and he was plunged forward into the darkness headfirst. His head met with a hard object that arrested his forward plunge, knocking him senseless to the ground.
And then he was swallowed up by the blackness for a time.
Agent Cobb was an asshole.
He didn’t care that he had this image, in fact he built it up any chance he could get. He preferred to work alone, and by having this image got his wish more frequently than naught. Other agents chided him whenever that opportunity arose, heaping scorn and ridicule upon him. But he shed it like a duck sheds water. His superiors were aware of this, but since it didn’t affect his performance in the field, they were not inclined to interfere with his façade.
Agent Cobb was a real big asshole.
Cobb was a twenty year veteran with the agency, having been involved with both the fiasco at Ruby Ridge and the disaster at Waco. He was remorseful that he had only gotten any trigger time at Waco, at the very end of the standoff. He knew for certain that he had gotten at least 4 kills at Waco, even if they were just women and children they were still kills. He also had other kills there: pets. At least two dogs and one cat while waiting for other targets of opportunity to appear.
Agent Cobb was a Bastard!
One of things that he didn’t brag about when discussing the Waco massacre was the fact that he had delivered the coupe-de-grace to several of his wounded colleagues after noticing that they had been shot by the Branch Davidians’ during the firefight. He was correct in surmising that their death’s would be attributed to hostile fire and that no investigation would follow the incident.
Now his latest assignment was stalking and killing Government sanctioned targets of the latest power grab and treasonous legislation just enacted, over public outrage! Cobb didn’t care that the government was leaning towards totalitarian tactics; he just wanted to kill someone. That was his main driving force, killing. The more targets the better. His dept. head was aware of this desire as Cobb had stated it in clandestine briefings, but it made no difference in his assignments. He was just warned about going overboard in his targeting of non-sanctioned packages.
This latest assignment was a Godsend as far as he was concerned. All options open was the word from his commander. "Unless they are National Guard, they are expendable!" Preparing for this latest assignment allowed Cobb to select fresh equipment to fill out his M.O. His choice for a rifle was the FN SPR A1a suppressed Sniper rifle. For a side arm, he chose his normal choice, the Browning Hi-Power 9mm autopistol with 4 extra magazines, untraceable of course!
He had two days of range time before deployment on his latest assignment, so he spent that time getting used to the new rifle. He was a natural with most weapons so in short order he was printing his targets with smaller than 1 MOA shots. This garnered grudging admiration from his fellow agents, as they were not nearly as proficient at target practice.
His orders stated that he was to be ready for deployment at some hick town north of Seattle in a two day time frame, all options open. He grinned at the prospect of liquidating another unsuspecting target and getting paid to do it. He never felt any remorse for taking the life of a fellow human being. It was all part of the job.
On day two, he rose early and showered, luxuriating in the hot water cascading over his body. He hated the fact that he would not be able to shower until after the target was sanctioned, but that was part of the job. Gathering his kit he left the ready area and headed to the chopper that would drop him near his A.O. As the chopper lifted off he waved at his C.O. who was watching him depart. “Fuck you asshole!” he said as the chopper lifted off.
It only took 25 minutes to reach the primary area of deployment and un-ass the chopper for his selected target area. He had spent the last two evenings going over topographical maps of the terrain to select the area of coverage. There was no guarantee that his primary target would pass his way, but if he did, he was dead! Of course he had secondary targets to watch for, as the area was a known transit area for disaffected veterans and other undesirables.
After a short hike, he arrived at the spot he had chosen for his ambush. A heavily treed slope with light underbrush, overlooking a railroad trestle that any east-west traffic must pass. He set up his camouflage and settled in to wait. This was the most boring part of the whole deployment and assignment scenario. Waiting for a target of opportunity to arrive. He dug his tactical radio out of his pack and checked in with his base of command. Having finished with the niceties of dealing with his superiors he put the radio back, wanting no further contact until “He” felt it was necessary.
Cobb set up his small camp stove to heat up some water for dinner and some coffee. Since it was getting late in the day, with shadows darkening the areas under the trees, he took his night vision out from his pack, tested its operational status, then lay it beside his rifle for easy access.
Cobb was a single man, as no woman would stay with him for more than a few evenings before leaving in disgust. A few of the women agents that he knew had been accommodating until they had gotten their fill of his true nature. They then left in revulsion, questioning their own judgment in associating with this monster.
He grinned at the memory of his conquest of them. He cared not a whit for any of them, using them only to pass the time between his assignments. Sighing with satisfaction over his reminiscence, he resignedly devoted his attention to the target area. Using a range finder, he charted the whole target area and prepared for his mission.
One piece of Cobb’s equipment was a advanced motion tracker. It would pickup motion from as far as 500 yards away, so he deployed it in case he should fall asleep and a target of opportunity pass by. He hunkered down and begin his wait for his human prey.
Cobb was getting bored. He had been in position now for 30 hours without so much as deer breaking the monotony. He got the radio back out of his pack and checked in. His commander chewed him a new one for not staying in contact, and then informed him the interdiction was going down. He was to stay on alert until the target was apprehended or eliminated. Cobb snorted and said a few choice words, then responded in the affirmative.
The radio crackled with activity at the strike site. Agents were in what they thought was hot pursuit of the target! Then they lost him. Cobb’s commander came on the radio and told him that the target was on the move and to be alert. He readjusted his rifles position and then picked up his binoculars and began scanning the western end of the trestle for movement.
There! Something moving at the west end of the trestle caught his eye. He set down the binoculars and picked up his rile, gripped by an adrenalin surge as the target moved into view. He now broke out into a sweat as he followed the movement out into the center of the trestle. Was it his target? He couldn’t be sure, but he was going to take him down anyway.
Lining up his crosshairs he focused on the mans head as he stopped mid-trestle. The man looked around and then it seemed as if he focused on Cobb where he lay! “ What the hell?” he thought and then squeezed the trigger. Half a second later and Eddie was tumbling over the edge of the bridge, his life pouring from the wound in his head. “Oh Yeah!” said Cobb! He then radioed command that he had a kill, and would ID on the trestle as he had no clear view of his victim.
That’s where Dusty saw him.
That’s where Cobb’s fate was sealed.