All he succeeded in doing was tiring himself out and aggravating the pain in his shoulder. "Think damn you! what is happening here?" With his mouth covered with duct tape, Agent Cobb was having difficulty in breathing when exerting himself, so he stopped his struggles and settled in to wait out his situation. He was quite unsettled from being trussed up in this manner and wished that something would happen to resolve this mess.
Looking around he determined he was in a campsite, hidden amongst the evergreen trees growing between the river and the railroad right of way. There was a small tent between several of the trees with a brown tarp stretched over to add some protection from the frequent northwest rains. In the area near where he was immobilized, there was a fire pit with glowing coals winking and occasionally popping, a pot of what might be coffee was heating near the edge of the coals.
He heard something approaching and tried to turn his head to see what or who it was when he was smacked up the backside of his head with someone’s open palm.
"So, your awake are you?-- asshole!"
"Feel like talking? Think you are a tough guy, hiding and shooting unarmed people? Let me show you what kind of a person you have messed with this time!"
Sudden fear shot through Cobb's mind as he looked over the man seated before him. The man appeared to be in his late fifties, early sixties -- maybe. It was hard to tell. Years of outdoor living had tanned him deep and weathered him like an old cedar fence post. His short cropped hair had a military cut about it, high and tight. Cold blue eyes burned in a gaze that pierced its target like spears of ice.
"What does he mean by 'show you' " he thought uneasily. Cobb was not afraid of much, having faced death many times. But he had always been in control then, not trussed like a pig for slaughter as he was now. The man was digging through a bag on the ground and set some items out that made Cobb's hair stand on end. He knew what was coming and fear was gripping him, hard!
The man grasped his free hand and drove the first of the cedar splinters under the fingernail of his trigger finger. Cobb screamed through the duct tape and nearly passed out from the pain. He felt a wave of nausea wash over him. "Don't puke, don't puke!" he pleaded with himself, for the duct tape would trap it in his mouth where he would have to hold it or swallow it again. He glanced up into eyes hardened into steel, no mercy or remorse evident in them. The man reached down and picked up the second splinter as Cobb's eye grew wide with horror. Tears of pain rolled down his cheeks as the man drove the second splinter deep under his middle finger. Cobb was feeling faint now, the pain was only just bearable. His body shook with the pain and he let out a deep moan of agony.
"Man up!" Cobb thought desperately to himself. "Look for an opening and gain the upper hand. He will be wanting to talk soon."
"You are going to pay dearly for murdering my friend" said the man as he lit the cedar splinter with a stick from the fire.
The pain from the burning splinters was too much for Cobb' as he screamed and tried to talk at the same time. "Holy crap does that hurt!" thought Cobb as the throbbing in his finger's subsided a little. The man leaned forward an tore the tape off Cobb's mouth with a violent jerk.
“Who are you? Who do you work for?”
Sudden hate welled up in Cobb as he took his first deep breath.
"You just screwed up big time you stupid son of a bitch!" The words spewed from Cobb’s mouth like a stream of venom. "I am Agent Cobb of ATF Predator Team One! My team will be looking for me shortly when I don't check in and when they find you they will have no mercy."
The man threw back his head and laughed long and hard at his outburst. After he finished laughing he reached over and gave Cobb several stinging slaps across the face. His eyes glittered icily as he leaned closer to Cobb. "Nobody is going to find you, COBB!" he said through tight clenched teeth.
An icy chill ran up Cobb’s back. He knew now that life was about to become very difficult. Cobb didn’t like to feel afraid. His method of dealing with fear was to mentally seize upon a target and focus his inner hatred onto it.
"Bring it on" he hissed in a voice dripping with hatred.
The man replaced the duct tape over Cobb’s mouth and began to practice his terrible skill.
Cobb had never felt such pain before. He had always been the one giving, not receiving pain! It was amazing what the human body could endure he thought detachedly to himself. The man had worked him over good. He seemed to be an expert in the art of interrogation.
“Got anything to say now, smartass?” asked his tormentor, ripping the tape from Cobb’s damaged lips.
“Kiss My Ass!” Cobb spit out of a bruised and tortured mouth.
The man laughed once more and then lashed out with his fist, shattering Cobb’s nose and then knocking out some of his teeth in the most savage beating Cobb had ever received, or given!
“Ok, ok. I’ll talk. What is it you want to know?” spluttered Cobb from his damaged mouth.
“Why did you shoot my friend?” said the man.
“If you mean the man on the bridge, it was a mistake”
“I’ll say it was!” the man roared as he delivered an uppercut to Cobb’s jaw.
Cobb moaned and shook his head dazedly. “No more!” he pleaded, “I‘m doing as you asked!”
“Who are you hunting?” the man asked.
“A nobody… he works at the plant west of here. He reportedly escaped being picked up and it was thought that he might pass this way.” Said Cobb.
“Well you are right, he did pass this way, and I helped him get around you!” said the man. “Why are you looking for him?”
“That’s classified info, I wasn’t told. I was just to terminate the asshole!” said Cobb.
The man lashed out again, rocking Cobb’s head back and forth until Cobb passed out. The man then got up and poured himself a cup of coffee. It was going to be a long day.
The man returned to his former place without a sound, surprising Cobb as he struggled.
“No one has ever gotten loose when I have tied them up.” The man said calmly. He sat there upon his haunches, sipping at his cup of coffee. He finished his cup and placed it upon the ground.
“It looks as if we are done here.” the man said and leaned forward towards Cobb.
As the man leaned forward, something cold and hard flashed briefly in the sunlight. Cobb felt the searing agony of parting flesh as the keen blade sliced through the soft tissue of his throat.
Cobb's eyesight begin to fade to black as the blood gurgled in his throat. Panic filled him and he struggled weakly against his bonds. Words tried to form in his throat, bubbling against the flow of his blood. The last thing he saw before death took him was the smile on the man's face.
Dusty leaned back and stared at the limp sack of human refuse that had been named Cobb. What to do with the body was the choice he now had to make. If he left the body as it was, there would be a manhunt mounted right away and he might be caught if he moved too slowly. Burying the body was too dignified an end for the Agent. He decided to dump it in the river instead. That would delay any pursuit for a while as the search went on for a living man, rather than a bloated body.
Dusty knelt in front of the slumping body and cut the bonds that held it immobile. He carefully covered the body’s head and torso with a black plastic garbage bag and secured it with some twine. He did not want to get blood all over his clothes as he disposed of the body. He then lifted it to his shoulder with a grunt and began walking down the trail to the river bank.
It was a five foot drop from the top of the bank to the river’s edge, so Dusty heaved the body off his shoulder and watched it drop with a undignified thud to the ground below. He descended the drop off and rolled the body down into the water instead of lifting it again. The water deepened fast in this area of the river so he didn't have to wade out into it to get the body into the faster moving water. He took a branch from a pile washed up during high water and pushed the body out into the current, watching as it slowly spun around and moved off downstream.
He grunted in satisfaction and climbed back up the bank whereupon he returned to camp. Once there, he began to dismantle it and got it ready for transport. He was going to go retrieve Cobb's gear and then move to a deep woods location he and Eddie had been to before. No one else had been there before, evidenced by the lack of a trail and the inevitable trash that man left behind wherever he went.
He donned his Ghillie suit and headed up the trail to the right of way. He stopped and crouched low in the brush on the edge of the tracks. Dusty listened for a few minutes, and hearing nothing, moved further out into the right of way. He looked both ways and seeing nothing, crossed into the brush on the other side, moving swiftly to a place of concealment far away from where he entered.
Once more he waited motionlessly, listening intently for any sign of discovery and pursuit. Hearing nothing, he headed up the hill to the spot where Cobb had performed his act of murder, gliding silently through the brush with practiced ease. Up ahead was the small depression in which Cobb had made his camp, a camouflage netting covering the hide and a shooting mat laid out on the edge of the depression, just back from the crest.
There was Cobb’s rifle, just as he left it. Next to it lie several boxes of cartridges, which upon investigation, turned out to be 7.62x51 NATO subsonic ammo. Checking the rifle, he saw that it had a full magazine. The rifle was a nice one, an FN A1a SPR with silencer
He set it back down on its bipod and turned to examining the contents of Cobb’s pack. Opening up the pack, this was what he found:
1 pair Night Vision Goggles with spare batteries
Marpat poncho with liner
Original Becker BK-7 combat knife
Color screen GPS with spare batteries
G.I. Tritium Compass
2 quart Canteen with cover
Water purifier with spare filter element
50 rounds of .308, match grade
40 rounds of .308, subsonic
Browning Hipower 9mm auto pistol with drop-leg holster
4 loaded magazines for the Browning
1 picture showing the "mark", taken from a surveillance vehicle
1 Motorola tactical radio with ear piece and throat mic, agency issue
1 Multi caliber cleaning kit
1 pint flask brandy
1 pair binoculars
2 packs of cigarettes, 1 of which was half empty
2 butane lighters
Trioxane stove and a box of fuel bars
8' x 10' camouflage netting
Under a small Sil-Nylon tarp:
A Sleeping bag in a USGI Camouflage Bivvy sack
Dusty grunted his pleasure with his new gear. Cobb had outfitted himself well, and all of the equipment appeared new or lightly used. Everything except the cigarettes had immediate value to him, and he could use the cigs for trading stock. He carefully replaced everything except one of the MRE’s and the binoculars back into the pack and closed it up. He took down the netting and rolled it into a tight bundle which he was able to stuff into the pack. He then rolled up the tarp, sleeping bag and bivvy cover, stowing the bag in its dedicated pocket in the pack, and then stuffing the bivvy and the tarp inside the main pocket.
He also had kept out the radio, which was fitted with an earbud and a throat mic. He donned the radio and fitted the bud and mic in comfortable positions. He then turned it on. There was no traffic at all so he turned it down and turned his attention to the MRE.
He settled in and tore open the MRE. It had been a long time since he had eaten one of these and he was looking forward to a taste of civilization, such as it was. Spaghetti, with Meatballs the container declared. He dug in to the cold meal and looked down the hill towards the bridge, then up the tracks while he ate.
As he finished the meal, he noticed movement coming from the East. Taking up the binoculars, he saw a group of what appeared to be troops, apparently a oversized squad, walking down the tracks in patrol formation. As they drew nearer, he could hear them talking.
“Not very professional!” he thought to himself. Watching their movements and demeanor, he determined that the squad leader, a Sergeant, appeared to be the professional amongst them. The rest were just rookies by their actions. The Sergeant halted the squad and looked around for a few moments and then quietly issued some orders.
Dusty watched the troop fan out in an ambush formation into the brush on both sides of the tracks. They were sloppy, leaving evidence of their presence to the trained eye. Wondering whom they were waiting for, Dusty settled in on the mat and begin plotting the ballistics of targeting the squad for something to do while he waited.
About half an hour passed with nothing happening. Then there came the sound of movement from the brush about 100 feet from where the squad had disbursed into the brush. More crashing some snaps and then a doe and a yearling stepped out onto the tracks and made their way into the brush on the other side. Dusty smiled to himself and wondered if the deer would be around later in the Fall. The homeless along the river did not observe hunting season as did those among the homed. Hunger did not wait for a “season” to need satisfied. About twenty minutes later he heard a scuffling sound, muted by distance coming towards the bridge he was overlooking.
Some scruffy looking people were stepping onto the bridge now.
It was Shifty Pete and his bunch!
Shifty Pete and his gang of miscreants were crossing the bridge from the west. None of the homeless that lived along the river cared much for Pete and his bunch. It seemed whenever they showed up at a encampment, things started to disappear. Fighting and bickering were also a trademark of Pete’s gang. Once they moved on or were run out of a camp, things pretty much settled down and went back to a normal routine. Most of the homeless were trustworthy, and you did not have to secure your goods when absent for a while. They watched out for each other.
Dusty glassed Pete and his crew. “Typhoid” Mary, “Sleazy” Sally, Jack “Flash”, “Moby” Dick and “Brown Nosed” Phil were all with him. All the worst of the homeless peoples of the valley, or so he had heard. Dusty had never had a problem with them, he had only heard the stories that circulated the camps when he and Eddie had visited. Wondering what would happen next, he continued to watch the scene unfolding below. What would happen when they reached the semi-hidden squad to the East?
Five minutes later he had his answer. The Sergeant called out to his squad and they all rose up and opened fire on Pete and the gang. They never stood a chance as they were traveling down the center of the tracks and had no time to jump into cover or concealment. Mary tried to turn and run, but was nearly cut in half when three of the troops concentrated their fire on her torso. Sally dropped where she was, her head tore off by a burst of fire from the squad auto. Pete had gone down first, a massive hole in his chest from concentrated fire. Jack made it to within 5 feet of cover before being brought down. Phil, bringing up the rear, had dropped down at the initial burst of fire and tried crawling off the tracks into the brush. He never made it.
Dusty dropped the binoculars in shock. The scene before him was the sort that had been obscured and buried by the passage of Years! He had not seen such havoc and horror unleashed on civilians since leaving the ‘Nam! Pete and his group may have had no redeeming value to speak of, but they were not deserving of this!
The sick feeling in the pit of his stomach was quickly replaced by a burning desire for vengeance. The troops had not even had a chance to emerge from their concealment before Dusty acted.
"All right you bastards!" muttered Dusty. "Time to pay!" And then the tables were turned upon them as they left their hiding places. Dusty had fired twice before the troops realized that they were under attack. They were all gathering in the center of the tracks to converse as they began to die. The first to go was the radio operator with a shot through the radio, severing his spine and silencing all communication with anyone else. Not hearing, or knowing where the shots were coming from, they spent precious seconds looking for the source of the attack, seconds that Dusty used to get off two more shots, dropping two more troops. Four of the twelve were down without them having fired a shot! In a panic, they deployed back into the brush on either side of the tracks and began firing at random, having no idea where to aim.
Dusty slowly reloaded and looked for his next target of opportunity. Scanning the brush he detected a troop that would pop up from the same spot and fire a burst wildly. He shifted his point of aim to that spot and waited for the next occurrence. Up popped the troop, and before he could fire a burst, Dusty put a round through his forehead. There were now only seven very panicked troopers, crapping their pants as they desperately tried to find a target to focus on!
The Sergeant peeked out from behind the gnarled old maple from which he had sought cover, only to be greeted by a round through his right eye. That was enough for the rest of them. They sprang up from where they had been hiding and began to run eastward up the tracks, shedding any gear that might slow them down as they fled certain doom. Dusty dropped three more as they fled, the rest escaping as they ran around a curve in the tracks.
Dusty again reloaded and gathered up his expended shells and other gear. He then moved down to the troops and began to collect all the gear that he could. He knew he had about a half hour to an hour before reinforcements descended on this position looking for him in force. He examined the unknown patch on one of the troopers sleeve and read: DHS. WTF? he thought. What are they doing here? He stashed all but one of the weapons in a protected area he knew of, all except a silenced MP-5 and six full magazines, then hid the other collected gear in another cache point nearby. Times up! he thought to himself. He gathered his stuff together and then disappeared off the right-of-way into the woods, headed for his camp along the riverbank.
The radio crackled to life and a voice called out for Cobb.
“Cobb, you jackass, are you there?"
"Is that you shooting up DHS?"
"They are reporting an attack with a silenced weapon. It sounds like something you would pull."
"Cobb are you listening?"
"Your ass is going to be in a sling when we recover you."
Dusty chuckled to himself, forgetting about the throat mic.
“Cobb you shithead!"
"You think this is funny?"
"You just wait until the Old Man hears about this!”
Dusty reached around and shut the radio off. It was time to disappear.
Once back in his camp, Dusty gathered up the gear he had left there and began humping off to another remote and hidden location, known only to himself and the wildlife in the vicinity. It was time to say goodbye to this area as it would be too hot for a long, long time.