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High Country Crosshairs
By: Wayne Brown
The blast from the high-powered rifle echoed off the rock face of the mountainous high country terrain of western Colorado. Through the lens of his scope the shoot watched as the target fell quickly out of sight.
“Damn, you got another one, Huck!” shouted Billy Quints, “that’s two today,” he added.
“I sure as hell did. Got him right in the back of the head,” Huck shot back as he rested the rifle across his legs. “Some folks like to hunt deer, some elk, you know,” Huck says, “I like to shoot people. I find it challenging. It’s what I did in the army” he grinned as he looked over a Billy. “You stick with me Billy, I’ll teach you to shoot like this” Huck added. Billy nodded his head in approval and grinned at Huck. “Come on, Billy,” let’s head down the hill and get back to the cabin,” Huck said and motioned in the direction of the trail.
Hank Sherman, Sheriff of Boulder County Colorado, looked at the photos lying in the folder on his desk. He looked up at Game Warden Cecil Price sitting across his desk.
“Cecil, there’s no way this guy shot himself in the head. He was a hunter and he had a gun but this was no accident, no way,” Sherman said.
“You think someone intentionally shot this guy, Hank?” Price asked.
“Yeah, I do Cecil. There’s no other answer that makes any sense based the evidence. We don’t have a clue as to why or who right now. There’s nothing at that site but a body with a head wound. Otherwise, we got nothing” Sherman replied.
“Gee Hank, this is not the sort of place that kind of stuff happens is it? Cecil asked
“I hope the hell it’s not, Cecil. We ain’t the kind of people who are set up to deal with it. I sure hope not,” Hank replied shaking his head.
Huck Stokes shoved splintered wood into the stove sitting in the corner of the small cabin hidden back in the tree line. The cabin was far enough into the mountains to be secluded yet well below the snow line. It was a hunting shack that allowed the hunters to trek up into the higher country to hunt elk and deer. The cabin had been abandoned as hunters began to seek the large group settings offered by professional hunting guides. Huck and Billy stumbled upon it when they began to try to make themselves scarce. Some of their criminal exploits had made hanging around populated areas a bit risky. Here, no one knew they were here and no one was looking for them. It was a good situation. Now that Huck had gotten his hands on a rifle things had become a bit more interesting out here in the woods.
“Hey Huck, how long you figure we can stay around here shootin’ at folks before somebody starts lookin’ for us? Billy asked as he pulled a Marlboro from the pack lying on the table and lit it. Billy leaned back in his chair and blew a smoke ring toward the ceiling.
“Well, I reckon we can stay about as long as we want to, Billy,” Huck said with a grin. “Who do you think is gonna stop us. It sure as hell ain’t that tin-horn sheriff down there in Boulder,” Huck added.
“You’re right about that, Huck,” Billy replied blowing a large plume of smoke off the Marlboro into the air. “But I sure wish you’d let me shoot. It’d be a lot more fun for me,” Billy added.
“I’m gonna let you shoot, Billy, just give me a little more time to make sure the rifle sights are lined up. I want you to nail one on your first shot,” Huck grinned. “It looks like we’ll have to dig the truck out of the brush in the morning and head into town for some supplies. Then we can get back to huntin’,” Huck added.
Game Warden, Cecil Price, kneeled down over the body as Sheriff Sherman and two of his deputies looked on. “One of the hunting guides found this guy early this morning while he was picking out hunting sites. It looks very similar to the others,” Price said as he stood erect and looked at the sheriff.
“Yeah it does, Cecil. I don’t like the looks of this at all. Do you realize that if someone is up here intentionally shooting people how difficult and dangerous it is going to be to stop them? Hell, I can’t risk these boy’s lives hiking around up here looking for killers,” Sherman said as he pointed at his deputies. “We just aren’t geared for something like this, Cecil,” Sherman added.
“I understand sheriff; neither is the Game & Fish Department. Heck, I’m not even sure the FBI is geared up for it short of just saturating the area with manpower. This is rugged terrain up here above the snow line. Finding a man is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But, I tell you what. I got an idea that just might work,” Cecil said looking down at the body of the dead hunter.
“Okay, boys, let’s get our pictures and scour the area for evidence. We need to get this body down to the morgue,” Sheriff Sherman instructed. “Let’s get workin’ on it and then we will head back into town and talk about your idea, Cecil,” Sherman added.
“I am going to have to contact the regional FBI office on this, Cecil,” Sheriff Sherman said to the game warden as he sipped at the black coffee in his cup. It was late afternoon and the sheriff had no evidence, just two hunters; both shoot in the head with a high-powered rifle.
“I don’t think the FBI is just going to run right over here, Cecil. They are going to want more to go on that a couple of guys shot in the head up in the woods is my guess,” Sherman added.
“I’m with you, sheriff. That’s the reason I want to run my idea by you. Maybe we can still get something done without the FBI,” Cecil Price replied.
“Okay, Cecil, what you got” Hank Sherman queried as he poured another cup of coffee and sat back in his desk chair to put his boots up on the desk.
“Well, the way I see it, if someone is shooting at people, we have to beat them at their own game if we are going to put them out of business. A few months ago, I met up with a guy who had been a Navy Seal for a time and then graduated to some contract black ops operations that he still will not talk about to this day. He is a good guy, Hank, but let me tell you, he’s one bad dude.” Cecil Price said. “You don’t find him, he will find you even if you are looking for him. I know where he lives and I think I could get him to help us if you are willing” Cecil added.
“Hell yes, I’m willing,” Hank snapped back. “Get him up here and let’s talk it over. And do it quick Cecil. I don’t want a stack of bodies down here at the morgue before we catch these guys. Hank added.
Billy Quints pulled the last branches off of the cover that had been thrown over the old Ford pickup truck. He climbed in behind the wheel and Huck slid into the passenger side. “Don’t let me forget to buy some smokes, Huck,” Billy said, “I’m getting’ low.”
Huck slipped his baseball cap forward over his eyes as if he were going to nap. “Don’t you know that damn smoking is bad for your health, Billy?” Huck grunted.
“I know it,” Billy shot back, “But so’s shooting at folks.” Both of them laughed and Billy pulled the truck onto the highway blowing cigarette smoke out the window as he drove down the mountain toward Boulder.
Cecil Price parked his Game & Fish pickup on the narrow path leading up to the cabin setting back in the tree line. He could hear a dog barking but did not see one. That gave him some relief as he did not relish having to fend off a dog. “Josh, Josh Logan, do you hear me, Josh?” Cecil yelled as he cupped his hands to his mouth. He stopped walking and fell silent listening for a reply or some movement from the house. Just at that moment he heard the dog bark again in the distance followed closely by the familiar clicks of a high-powered revolver being cocked near his head.
“Don’t turn around” a voice said and then fell silent. Cecil got a bit weak in the knees in the ensuing silence.
“What the hell are you doing up here, Cecil” came the question that broke the silence. With a quick hand motion Josh Logan spun Cecil Price around to face him.
Cecil grinned real big. “Damn Josh, it’s good to see ya!” He said. “As always, you found me before I could find you,” He added.
“Hell Cecil, a deaf man with a blind dog could find your ass,” Josh chuckled. Come on up to the house and let’s get some coffee.
Cecil smiled and said, “Sounds good to me, Josh. There’s something I need to talk with you about.”
Cecil Price sipped coffee and reviewed the situation revealing all the information regarding the two hunters who had recently been shot. “We are trying to keep a lid on this thing for now, Josh. The Boulder Sheriff, Hank Sherman, is going to be briefing the FBI this afternoon but we don’t think they are going to do much until we can get more evidence. At the same time, if the news boys get a hold of this, we are going to be swimming in reporters, equipment and given plenty of visibility. Hank doesn’t have the resources or the capability to get these guys without putting his deputies at a high level of risk as they wonder around out there looking for clues. He really does not want to do that but he also knows the media will pressure him to do something quickly once the word is out.” Price said. Josh sat at the table holding his coffee cup in both hands and resting his elbows and forearms on the table. For the moment, he said nothing. He just sat contemplating what he had heard.
“You guys in a bad spot, Cecil” Logan finally remarked. “I guess you are here because you want something from me in this regard,” He added looking at Cecil for a reaction.
“Yeah, Josh. That’s why I am here. You have the training and the experience to outsmart this guy or guys. You are the only one I know who does. You also know this country. We need your help to get this stopped before it gets totally out of hand,” Cecil responded. “Will you help us, Josh?” He added.
Josh Logan took a long sip on the coffee cup, looked at Cecil and said, “Okay, Cecil. I can help you. But you need to understand something up front. I do this my way and everyone else stays the hell out of the way. I am not putting my ass on the line with someone sitting down there in Boulder trying to instruct me in how to stay alive. Are we clear on that?”
Cecil smiled. “You’re damn right we are clear on that Josh. We’ll stay out of your way and we’ll get you whatever you need. You just ask,” Cecil said. “Can you meet me down at Sheriff Sherman’s office in Boulder tomorrow morning to work out the details,” Cecil asked.
“I’ll be there” Logan shot back without delay.
Huck Stokes threw the last bag of groceries into the bed of the pickup. “You got your smokes, Billy? He asked with a grin.
“Yeah, you got your ammo?” Billy grinned back.
“Yep, I got enough to hold us over for a week or two if we get some targets. Now let’s get back to the cabin” Huck said pointing to the truck.
“Let’s go!” Billy replied heading for the driver’s side of the cab.
Once back up the mountain, Billy and Huck covered the pickup and then began to rebuild the camouflage with the tree limbs. The truck was parked beneath some trees in an area of underbrush so the limbs gave the effect of a natural growth to the untrained eye.
“Come on Billy, let’s get back up to the cabin and bust the top out of that bottle of whiskey we bought. I could use a drink,” Huck said handing Billy a handful of grocery bags to carry with him. “We’ll have a drink or two and then get some shut eye. Remember, you got to hike your butt back up to our perch in the morning and start scanning for targets. You’re my spotter, Billy, and it’s important that you do a good job. So get your butt up and get up there. Those hunters are going to be locking down their hunting sites soon so we need get a look at what they are looking at so we will know where to find them,” Huck lectured.
Billy nodded his understanding. “Don’t worry, Huck,” I’ll do a bang up job” He said.
The Jack Daniels bottle sat on the old kitchen table. Billy puffed away on his Marlboro too drunk to do anything else. Huck sat sipping the whisky slowly from the shot glass in his hand. “Was you a sniper in the army, Huck” Billy asked as he failed miserably at an attempted to blow a smoke ring into the air.
“I was gonna be,” Huck replied, “I would have been a good one too. But that damn red-neck drill instructor. He couldn’t leave me alone. He had a real hard on for me, Billy. Sons-a-bitch did everything to get me thrown out of the army all because I fired off a few rifle rounds one Saturday. Shit! Can’t a guy have a little fun?” Huck said as he stared at the glass of whisky and then gulped it down. “I wish his ass was here right now. I’d shoot it off of him. The bastard!” Huck added. “I’ll show ‘em how I can shoot. When they start stacking the bodies, they’ll know.” Huck sneered as he poured yet another shot of whiskey. Billy had passed out and the Marlboro slowly burned toward the two fingers clasped about it.
Josh Logan showed up at the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office as he agreed to do with Cecil Price. Josh and Cecil sat across the desk from Sheriff Sherman sipping fresh black coffee from Styrofoam cups, the CountySheriff’s Logo Badge emblazoned on each cup.
“Josh, Cecil here has told me all about you and I must say that you are extremely well-trained for what we need here. Do you think that you can help us find this killer?” Sherman asked gazing over the lip of his coffee cup directly at Josh.
“Sure I can help you and we will get him but there are some conditions, Sheriff,” Josh replied.
“Conditions,” Sherman responded, you mean money?”
“No, not that. I mean that I will stipulate how I work, where I work and the methods that I will use. You have my promise that I will not intentionally break any laws but I might get out on the edge. I don’t need anyone up there with me. I don’t need to worry about getting anyone else killed. You just keep folks out of that neck of the woods and I will do the rest, Sheriff,” Josh replied.
“What about money; your fee for doing this,” Sherman said holding up his finger and tracing a dollar sign in the air.
“I tell you what Sheriff,” Josh replied, “I promise my fee will be well within your budget and I won’t charge you anything unless I bring the guy in. Is that fair, Sheriff Sherman?” Josh added.
“Yep,” said Sherman, “Mighty fair, son, mighty fair. Now let’s review the information we have and work out the details.” Josh and Cecil nodded agreement.
Billy Quints made his way up to the rock ledge that he and Huck had labeled “The Perch". It was a great spot. You could see down to the floor of the forest in many spots from up here. There were openings wide enough to allow you to spot your prey and then get the shot lined up before they got back to cover again. Today Billy was here alone to do some spotting trying to see where the guides and hunters might be setting up their still-hunting sites. He would watch and then mark them on his map. Tomorrow, he would use the spotter scope to help Huck line up the shots. They were far enough out not to be detected by anyone in the area that they would be shooting into from up here. If he got lucky, maybe Huck would let him shoot one too. Billy crawled up over the rocks and into "The Perch" and began to scan the country side for targets.
Sheriff Sherman finished up his review the Cecil and Josh. The plan was to have Josh hike back into the area this afternoon and began to try to locate this guy. In the meantime, Sherman, Price, and all the deputies were going to have their hands full just manning checkpoints around the area and keeping the press at bay once word of these shooting began to get out. Sherman knew that would not be long now that the county coroner had made a positive identification on all three bodies in custody. He would be contacting the next of kin soon and then information would begin to spread. Cecil Price was going to contact all of the hunting guides in the area and ask them to hold their camps for a few more days rather than to start spreading their hunters into the woods for the hunts. That one was going to be hard to keep a rein on since the guides made their living for the year this way. This whole thing needed to be over very quickly or it was going to play havoc on the local economy.
Josh pulled his Jeep into a small clearing allowing him to hide it from view in the surrounding trees. He got out and went to the rear and began to assemble his equipment for the trek into the high country. He needed to be up there by morning ready to begin the hunt for this killer. He assembled his sniper rifle and packed ammunition into his small backpack. Ammo, food, water, and some basics for survival was all he needed for this run. He did want to look around a bit down here in the low country for clues before he began his hike to the high side. He locked up the Jeep. As he neared the main road, he noticed vehicle tracks running up into the woods on the old logging road. He thought it a bit odd because this road did not get much use. It did not go up to the hunting lodges and logging in this area had long since shut down. It was probably nothing but he was headed that way anyway so he would look a bit more closely. Josh stopped briefly and crouched down near some brush to apply his camouflage smear to his face and hands. It would be night soon and he wanted to use the cover to remain undetected.
Billy Quints had just returned to the little cabin as the sun set behind the surrounding trees. He had busied himself making a cold bologna sandwich and sipping on a bottle of beer. Huck was back in the Jack Daniels and ranting again about the sorry bastards who had run him out of the Army. Billy had decided this was a touchy subject with Huck and thought it best to just let it go. One thing was for sure, Huck would not be on his game tomorrow if he drank too much of that Jack.
“You see anything up thar’, Billy,” Huck mumbled as he tossed a shot of the whiskey.
“It was dead up there, Huck,” Billy said lighting up a Marlboro. “I spotted two guys right after I got there and then nothing for the rest of the time. Tomorrow’s the first day of the season so they are bound to be there, don’t you think?” He added.
Huck nodded his agreement and hit another shot of the Jack. “We’ll be there too, Billy, we’ll be there too,” Huck added with a slur.
Josh crawled slowly through the brush toward the dim light that he could see through the window of the old logger’s cabin that had been abandoned when operations ceased. It didn’t make sense. No one would be living here and it definitely was not the logging company or any hunting guides. Something was not right about this. Where was the vehicle, Josh wondered? He had seen the tire tracks. It had to be here somewhere. One thing he knew for sure, he was not moving in on this cabin tonight especially without knowing what he was up against. It might be nothing but it was worth checking out. For now, he was going to move around a bit and see if he could locate the vehicle.
Huck was drunk but still talking. “Look Billy, there ain’t no use in me going up there first thing in the morning with you. You take the spotter scope and head up there. I will sleep off this whiskey and then catch up with you about noon. By then you should have some targets lined up for us,” Huck slurred rolling onto his cot.
“Whatever you say, Huck,” Billy replied pissed off that Huck would be getting to sleep in.
“Oh and Billy, I’m gonna let you shoot one tomorrow,” Huck added before passing out. Billy was ecstatic. He was gonna get to shoot at last. Huck was a pretty good guy after all. Billy lit another cigarette and reached into the cooler for a Budweiser.
Josh spotted the limbs piled up in the grove trees. That must be the vehicle he thought. He was about a half-mile from the cabin back down the logging road. Guess he had overlooked it on the trip up. He slowly worked his way toward the pile of branches. There was enough moonlight tonight to see for some distance so he had to be careful. This guy could show up at any time. Finally reaching the grove, Josh lifted some of the branches enough to make out the outline of the old truck. He quickly located the driver door and crawled inside. He snapped the switch on a small flashlight and looked over the inside. Nothing much here but trash and beer cans. He thought for a bit. This old truck might just work into the plan. Josh got back out of the pickup and covered it with branches once again. He slowly moved away and into the nearby tree line. He reached into his side pocket and pulled out a cell phone and quickly punched in a number.
Cecil Price was just about ready to get some shuteye when the phone on his night stand began to ring. “Cecil Price,” He spoke into the mouthpiece as he lifted the phone to his ear.
“Cecil, Josh here,” said a whispered voice through the line. “I need a little help up here,” Josh added.
“What sort of help you need, Josh?” Cecil replied.
“I need you to go up to my place, look in the old shed out back and bring me the metal ammo box marked ‘7th Cavalry’,” Josh replied. “I will meet you where the old log road splits off the highway at Elkins Fork. Pull down past the log road and set the box in the woods directly in line with the sign that marks the deer crossing. You got that, Cecil?” Josh asked.
“Got it, Josh and I will get it done. Give me an hour” Cecil responded.
“That works” said Josh. “Oh, and Cecil, once you place the box, get the hell out of there, okay,” Josh warned.
“Count on it,” Cecil replied. Josh hung up the phone and put it back in his side pocket. Looks like it was going to be a busy night, he thought.
It was 7:00 AM when the front door of the little cabin opened and Billy Quints stepped out on to the porch. He paused just long enough to light up a cigarette and then stepped off the porch and headed up the trail toward the high country. Josh watched Billy through his spotter scope. He needed to follow him and see where he was going but he had to stay out of sight in the process. Luckily he knew this country well and could move in a manner to stay near the trail and keep Billy in sight. If this was the guy doing the shooting, he did not have a gun right now so it must be hidden up in the high country. Josh grabbed his gear and proceeded to trail Billy.
Cecil Price sat in Sheriff Sherman’s office drinking coffee. He had dropped the metal box in the woods the night before as Josh had requested. This morning, he had received another call from Josh asking for his help.
“So what is it that you and Josh are cooking up here, Cecil?” Sherman asked flipping through papers on his desk.
“Josh wants me to gather up some hunting clothes and then get the makeup folks over at the funeral home to dress a cantaloupe to look like a human head, hair and all. Then we are going to shoot it full of red food coloring with a syringe. We are building this shooter a target, Hank, trying to lure him out and show us his perch,” Cecil replied.
“Not a bad idea, Cecil, not bad” said Sherman with a chuckle.
Josh trailed Billy in silence. Billy was oblivious to his surroundings and seemed intent on just walking and smoking. Billy came to a point on the trail known to the locals as “White Rocks Ledge”. The name was apparently a reference to all the chalk deposits visible in the rocks structures that surrounded the trail. Billy left the trail here and headed up the ledge. Josh found a secluded area in the surrounding vegetation and watched Billy make his way up the ledge. Billy was fairly easy to track even when he was not visible. There was always a trail of blue smoke drifting up from his cigarette.
Josh continued to catch glimpse of Billy in his scanner scope as he moved upward. Finally, Josh changed his position to get a better view and realized that Billy had now stopped. Apparently he had reached the destination. If Josh was right about this guy, this would be the shooter’s perch. The thought occurred to Josh that maybe there was more than one shooter but he couldn’t deal with that right now. He had things to do.
Cecil Price’s cell phone rang just as he was reaching to open the driver’s side door of his pickup.
“Cecil, it’s me, Josh. I made my way back down the mountain a ways to get a phone signal. How are you coming on that decoy?” Josh asked through the receiver.
“I just loaded it into the back of the pickup, Josh. It looks dang good. I would say it would fool anybody from a distance.” Cecil replied.
“Okay Cecil, I need you to pack that stuff up to the White Rocks Ledge point on the trail. Do you know where that is?” Josh asked.
“Yeah, Josh, I know exactly where that is on the hill. What do I do then? Cecil asked.
“There’s a clearing down the hill off the trail to the right. Hunters occasionally will use that area to set up for elk. I need you to set up the decoy in that area so that it is partially visible from above, Cecil,” Josh instructed. “And Cecil, be damn careful. I have my eye on a guy up there who could be the shooter. I need to draw him out but don’t get yourself shot in the process of setting up the decoy,” Josh added.
“I got it, Josh. I’ll keep my head down, you can count on it,” Cecil replied with an obvious nervous twinge to his voice.
Josh had just slid back into his cover of vegetation when he heard a noise out on the trail. Peering out, he saw the form of a man with a scoped rifle over his shoulder cutting off the trail toward the high ground on the same route that the previous guy had used. Now he had two of them up there and he knew at least one had a high-powered rifle. It was time to assemble his rifle and get serious. He also needed to assemble a backup provision which would require a trick or two that he had learned in Vietnam. Josh set to work assembling his rifle which he could easily do blindfolded. That task out of the way, he took out his knife and began to cut small sapling trees in order to get the sticks he would need for the punji trap. He had wire in his pack for the trigger. He worked steadily knowing exactly what needed to be done and how.
Billy sat on one of the rocks in the perch smoking on a Marlboro. Huck came sidling in through the brush and sat down on an adjoining rock. He still looked hung-over from all that Jack Daniels he had consumed last night Billy thought.
“Listen Billy” Huck said, “I feel like warmed-over dog-shit. I think I am just going to prop up here against a rock and get a bit more shut eye. You keep looking around. If you see something, wake me up for the shot, understand?” Billy nodded that he did.
Huck propped the rifle against a nearby rock and lay down in the shade pulling the cap over his eyes. Soon he was gently snoring in restful sleep. Billy picked up the spotter scope and began to scan the area for potential targets.
Cecil Price had carefully packed the decoy in pieces into a bag. He had hiked up the trail as instructed by Josh. Now he stood on the trail at the base of White Rock Ledge and looked off to the right for the clearing. Sure enough, there it was. He would just need to work his way down the hill a bit and he could start setting up the decoy.
Josh finished his work on the punji trap and weaved his way back to his concealment on the far side of the trail. He looked into his spotter scope up to the perch where he felt the shooters would be. He could see the thin wisps of smoke rising into the air from Billy’s cigarettes. They were there all right. Now, he needed to decide how this thing was going to play out. Hopefully Cecil would get that decoy in place quickly and send him a text to confirm. He had not seen him come up the trail but could have easily missed him while he was working on the trap.
Billy Quints scanned for a target. He was getting tired of all this especially in light of the fact that Huck was not letting him shoot the gun like he had promised. Suddenly, as he looked down to the clearing directly below the perch, he saw some movement. Oh yes, there was someone down there. He could see him moving about. He laid down the spotter scope and eased over to pick up the rifle. Pushing off the safety he quickly aligned the scope to the area where he had spotted the movement. There he was. He couldn’t see his head but he had a shot. He might not get another chance. Billy aimed and slowly squeezed the trigger.
Cecil Price was just about to set the head onto the decoy when the bullet hit him. It tore into his left shoulder like a train running at full speed. Cecil was spun around and then down to the ground. Blood was rushing from the wound. The pain was unbelievable. Cecil let out a scream of agony which echoed off the surrounding rock faces time and again.
Josh heard the shot followed by the scream. Damn! I hope that was not Cecil Josh thought to himself. Minutes ticked in silence. Josh scanned the perch but could not see movement. He felt his cell phone vibrate and quickly pulled it from his pocket. The text read “Been shot…CP”. Damn! It was Cecil! This was a turn of events that he had not planned on. He had to get to Cecil. That was the priority for the moment. The rest would have to wait.
The shot and the echoing scream jarred Huck out of his comfortable sleep. Raising his cap from his eyes, he saw Billy still standing peering through the rifle scope.
“What the hell you doin’, Billy?” Huck asked.
“I was just takin’ my shot. I figured you wouldn’t mind if I shot just one,” Billy replied relaxing the rifle and turning to face Huck with a grin.
“I think I wounded him, Huck. I couldn’t see his head but I know that I hit him” Billy added.
“Aw shit Billy! You never take that kind of shot!” Huck said in a whisper realizing someone could be close by. “Give me that damn rifle. I’ll see if I can find him and finish him off. Billy handed Huck the rifle and pointed in the direction of the clearing below. Huck began to scan the area feverishly looking for the target.
Josh had worked his way down the slope toward the area where he thought Cecil would be. He was moving slowly and carefully trying not expose his movement to the shooter. He worked his way to the edge of the clearing. Ten yards out on the ground lay Cecil with a bloody shoulder wound. He was still conscious but laying still.
“Cecil,” Josh said in a high whisper, “Can you hear me?” Cecil nodded his head ever so slightly to indicate that he could. Josh had to move. The longer Cecil lay out there the more blood he was going to lose. Worse yet, if that shooter got off another round, he could just finish him off. This would be risky but Josh had to do it. He lay his rifle and pack down in the brush and prepared to go after Cecil.
Huck had spotted movement in the clearing through his scope but only briefly. Now he swing the rifle to and fro looking about the clearing for the target. He had to finish this guy off. That dumb cluck, Billy, had really made a mess of things. There, a quick blur in the scope! Huck aimed and fired one round, reloaded and sent another just to the right of the first one.
Josh breathed a sigh of relief. He had managed to roll out and grab Cecil then roll quickly back into cover. The first shot had missed them. The second had been a bit better. Josh rolled up his jeans and slide down his sock to check his ankle. Blood was already flowing. The bullet had cut a deep trench into the side of his lower leg. It was clean and not that big-a-deal but it was going to slow Josh down a bit. He tore a piece of his undershirt and fashioned it into a pressure bandage and tied it off.
Cecil lay groaning with blood still seeping from his shoulder wound. Josh quickly grabbed his cell phone from his side pocket and check the signal. It was weak but at least he had one. He quickly dialed Hank Sherman’s number. With Sherman on the line, Josh ran down the chain of events, briefed Hank on how to find Cecil and how to get to the clearing from the back way. He told Sherman that he was going to put some pressure on these guys and see if he could flush them out before they overtook his position. Sherman indicated that he was on his way.
Josh worked as quickly on Cecil's shoulder as he could. He did his best to quell the bleeding and fashioned a compress from Cecil’s jacket which Cecil could hold against the wound to keep pressure on it. He told Cecil to be quiet and wait for the Sheriff. Josh planned on leading these guys away from his position. Cecil nodded his understanding.
Josh made his way to his feet and limped toward a group of trees in the clearing. He could see the rocks jutting out from the shooters perch up above. He took his rifle and quickly fired three shots into the general area of the perch. He listened and could hear voices. He fired two more shots. This time he used nearby rocks attempting to glance the bullets into the perch. He heard screams.
Billy Quints was going nuts jumping all around. The bullets had careened about the landing nearly hitting him.
“That’s it Huck! This guy is on to us and he can see us. My ass is out of here,” screamed Billy as he turned and ran down the rock face toward the trail. Billy was scared out of his mind. No one had ever shot at him before and he prayed they never would again. He rounded a clump of trees and saw the trail out ahead. Suddenly there was a whooshing sound and Billy was clipped off his feet with wild pain shooting through his body. Billy had tripped the wire on the punji trap constructed with a sapling bent back under pressure. A large wood stake sharpened to a point was mounted on the sapling shaft. Billy could now see the source of his pain. The stake had pierced completely through the large muscle of his upper leg. He was trapped and he screamed to Huck for help.
Josh loaded another clip into his rifle and fired two more glancing rounds into the perch. The screaming continued but it seemed to be down at a lower level now. He began to wonder if these guys were on the move. No time to wonder. Time for him to take the offensive he thought as he raised up and hobbled into the underbrush leading to the trail.
The last two rounds and the screaming from below were more than Huck could manage. He decided that it was time to get moving. He would backtrack down the trail to the truck and make his getaway. He leaped from the perch and half fell down the rock face to the area where Billy was trapped and screaming. Quickly sizing up the situation and realizing there was no saving Billy, Huck jacked a round into the rifle chamber and shot Billy in the head. Ejected the round, he quickly ran off down the trail leaving Billy in a pool of blood and brains.
Josh heard the shot and heard the screaming abruptly stop. That seemed strange. He moved slowly toward the trail and came upon it just in time to see Huck down it some 100 yards ahead of him. With this wound, he would do good to just keep up with him he thought. Josh walked across the trail far enough to see all that was left of Billy. Now he understood why the screaming had abruptly stopped. This other one must be running for the truck he thought. There was only one thing left….he headed for his short-cut through the underbrush.
Huck was running full out down the trail trying to keep his footing. He had to put as much distance as possible between him and whoever was after him. There was no way that guy was getting him in the cross-hairs of a rifle scope. He could see the old cabin just ahead. He had to hold out for just a little longer if he was going to make it to the truck with the lead that he needed to make his getaway. He ran past the cabin and kept pushing on to where the truck was covered in the cluster of trees.
Josh could feel the blood running into the sole of his boot. He must have broken the bandage. The wound was starting to bleed again. He couldn’t worry about that right now. He was already going far too slow to catch up to this guy. All he could hope for would be a visual on him then maybe he could shoot to wound him and bring him in. Josh kept pushing hard through the underbrush. To his right he began to catch a glimpse of the little cabin. The truck must be straight ahead. It couldn’t be too much further.
Josh finally came to the edge of a clearing that stood between him and the cluster of trees where the truck was hidden. He stopped and looked. The limbs were scattered in all directions. Too late, damn it, he was too late. Just then, he heard the noise of the pickup engine as it came flying out of the remaining cover in reverse. Josh reached for his cell phone. He flipped it open and dialed the number. The pickup had now changed directions and was quickly speeding away. Seconds passed then the pickup erupted into a gigantic fireball followed by an explosion that knocked Josh to the ground. The pickup coasted to a stop on the road and continued to burn.
Josh Logan sat in a chair beside Cecil Price facing Sheriff Hank Sherman in the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. They sipped coffee with the familiar sheriff’s logo emblazoned on the cups. “Well, I need to get on up the hill and give the all clear to those hunting guides. They are going to be really glad to salvage this season and make a little money,” Cecil said as he rose from the chair to leave for the mountains.
“I’ll go with Cecil, if you don’t mind,” Josh said still sipping the coffee. “We’ll see ya’ Sheriff,” Josh added.
“Wait a second,” Sherman said, “Aren’t we missing something here?” Josh and Cecil looked at each other and shrugged not sure what the sheriff was referring to with his question. “Don’t I owe you some money for your work, Josh?” Sherman added.
“Oh, that,” Josh replied. “No, you don’t owe me a thing. If you remember, you agreed to pay me if I could shoot these guys. I didn’t shoot anybody did I, Sheriff?”
Sherman looked puzzled then began to laugh, “I reckon you didn’t Josh, I reckon you didn’t” He smiled and shook Josh’s hand.
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