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Introduction:

Complete
I was seventeen when I graduated from high school. My mother had died two years before and dad had just not been the same, he died a day after I graduated. I think he held on that long only because of me. The doctors said it was of natural causes. I think it was because he could not stand being without my mother. I was young and angry, so I joined the Army.

While I was waiting for the recruiter to do the paperwork I had a visitor. He did not say who he belonged to but I had the idea it was CIA. It seems that since I did not have any living relatives it flagged some program they had. He asked a lot of questions and I think he realized how angry I was. When he left he said they would be in touch. Since I was not eighteen someone from social services had to sign for me.

The branch of the Army I joined was the Infantry. I should have read the contract, it seemed that the CIA had added some things into it. Like Airborne school, Ranger school and then sniper school. How they managed the sniper school I will never know, you have to be assigned to a regular unit before they will accept you.

So nine weeks for basic, nine weeks for advanced training for Infantry and then four weeks for airborne school. After airborne school the fun began, seventy two days in ranger school. I can not even describe what that was like, think about being wet and starving all the time and then doing physical stuff that put a quarter of the class out because of injuries.

After ranger school I thought I was ready for anything, I was wrong. Do not get me wrong Sniper school is not extremely challenging physically, it challenges you mentally as well. The physical part deals with how you move and if you want to be a successful sniper you do not move fast, you move slow and carefully. You learn about ballistics, you learn how to notice things out of place.

You learn how to read the wind, how to stalk your target but most importantly you learn how to shoot. A sniper’s motto is, “One Shot One Kill.”

Out of fifty two men, five of us graduated. In fact, I was at the top of the class in every one of the schools. Before I left advanced training, I was promoted to private second class. Not that it mattered, I was still a private. I was promoted again before graduating from Ranger school to private first class.

I thought I was done and finally headed to a line company. I had requested a unit that was already deployed. The sergeant in personal frowned when he saw my orders and said I was being sent to a cushy division job. I was going to wait until I got to my new division to request a transfer out when a civilian in a suit stopped me outside the personal office and handed me a new set of orders.

My first thought was, CIA. What was Special Operations? I got my answer when I got off a C141 that had flown me into Iraq. SOG operated at the direction of division commanders but in cooperation with the CIA and other covert groups. I had become a CIA sniper!

My first challenge was a shooting competition with a Staff Sergeant. We used three different weapons, the closest range was ten feet. The longest? Well lets just say a fifty caliber bullet goes a long way. I won so I was in. I had spent over eight months training and suddenly I was on the line.

My first mission was not in support of our military. The CIA had one of the private mercenary companies raid a house and I was to take out anyone that tried to leave. My spotter was an old man that never spoke until he had to. I was using a silenced Armlite 7.62, that is basically an M16 chambered for 7.62 NATO. Only I was using 168 grain boat tailed hollow points.

I had been given three pictures to remember, they were primary targets. I was on top of a one story building six hundred meters away. All three were confirmed dead as well as four others. That was how I started, every time my tour was up the CIA offered me a bonus to stay and I did. They gave me more than a quarter of a million to extend my enlistment three more years. I stayed through four tours and was getting burnt out.

Not that I killed anything that moved, it was just that I had finally gotten over my anger. That last time they had a very specific target and really wanted me. I told them I wanted out, that I was going to find someplace quiet in the middle of nowhere. Well they made me an offer I could not resist, a ten thousand acre ranch in the middle of nowhere and a million dollars.

I will not tell you how many I killed, that is classified and I do not really want to talk about it. Most of the targets were never identified by the military. They gave me a name though and it should give you an idea of how good I became. The name came from the line units I supported from time to time, they called me Thantos. I was the ghost that appeared in the night after insurgents died suddenly during an attack.

I had spent six years in the military and five of those were in combat. With ninety days of leave and ten days travel allowance, I left the Army in the last week of March. I went from the airport to a car dealer I had contacted online. I paid in cash and drove off with a large flat bed truck.

When they had said the ranch was in the middle of nowhere they were not kidding. The nearest town was twenty minutes away, if you called it a town. The population was only fifty three. It had a diner, a gas station with a garage, a general store and finally a feed store for cattlemen. If you really wanted something they did not have you drove the other way for just over an hour.

The ranch backed up to public lands and I had a large ranch on each side of me. The ranch house was larger than I expected. It was a single story with four bedrooms and two baths. The kitchen was very large and the living room had a stone fireplace with a deer head mounted over the mantle.

It looked serviceable, even if it had not been lived in for awhile. There was a long open shed and a big barn. On the side of the barn I found three vehicles that had been left by the last owners. Two old Willey jeeps, and a 1947 ford pick up. Inside the barn, were trailers used for plowing and bailing hay. There were two trailers in a field behind the barn that looked like they were for hauling cattle.

In one end of the shed was an old tractor and at the other a large pile of wire. I frowned as I looked at the wire and moved closer to discover an old medium size bulldozer under it. Now all I had to do was fix everything, sell the cattle already on the ranch and buy some calves. Oh, and buy a horse and learn to ride.

By the end of April I had fixed the tractor and both jeeps, dug a ditch from the road to the house and laid a new phone and power line. I had bought twelve horses and had the woman I bought them from teach me to ride. By the end of May I had repaired the 47 ford pick up and the bulldozer. In the beginning of June I plowed a thousand acres and seeded it for hay, I also planted my own garden.

My estimate of cattle on the property was around one thousand head, three quarters of those I would sell. I made it a practice to go into the nearby town and eat a breakfast or dinner at least once or twice a week. That way the locals would see me and get acquainted. I had one incident over breakfast one morning, a ranch hand was smarting off and decided I was fair game.

They had all heard that I had just gotten out of the Army. He kept making comments and I had just gotten up to leave when he stepped in front of me demanding to know what I had done in the Army. I looked at him and then around the room at the rest of the people. I looked into his eyes, “I killed people, I was a sniper.”

I pushed him out of my way as the room went quiet and I walked out. I had stayed in contact with several people over the years, one was my first spotter. I wrote to him once or twice a week, his name was Nelson McBride and surprisingly he lived only a couple of hundred miles away. Two things happened because of that incident in the dinner.

First, the older men started nodding to me or stopping by the house to talk. Second was something strange, someone from the Sheriff’s office had tried to access my military file. The day after high school got out I had a visit from two girls. Both had red hair, one short and the other long, down to her lower back in fact. They were twins and got out of an old beat up pick up.

I had been working on the engine of an old water truck I had been given. The owner had said that if I got it running I could have it. The twins looked around the place and walked over to me. The one with short hair cleared her throat, “we are looking for work.”

I smiled, “ladies, all I have out here is hard work.”

They grinned and the one with the long hair held out an envelope. I looked at them and took it, when I opened it I saw it was from Nelson.

William

These are my granddaughters. For some reason they do not want to continue with schooling YET. They can both ride and know what to do on a ranch. You can trust them.

P.S. You have rustlers so keep the target in sight.

I looked up at the girls, “Nelson is your grandfather?”

They nodded and I sighed, I really could use the help. I started bargaining with them and ended up providing both room and board as well as paying them a respectable amount. I had cleaned out the house, mostly by throwing everything away and replacing it. I gave each girl her own room and then sent them out in one of the jeeps to check the four water tanks and pumps.

Three days later we started rounding up the cattle. They both laughed at my attempts at roping and other things cowboys were supposed to do. The round up seemed easy until Sarah, (that was the one with the long red hair), said to wait until we had to go into the brush for the rest. We put four hundred head in a holding pen beyond the barn until we could separate the calves and young heifers from the bulls.

That is when things started happening. I still was not sleeping at night and had been out walking around the holding pen. I heard the vehicles before I saw them. I had acquired a lot of things from the military besides sniper rifles. I carried a .45 Kimber, that night I also carried a set of thermal night vision glasses. What came into view were two semi trucks and two hummers.

I stayed in some brush and watched them drive past. Several men wore inferred night vision goggles. I carefully followed them to the corral where they had already started putting up ramps for the cattle. The men had spread out around the pen and I moved to the unattended vehicles. First I removed the valve stems from several tires on the semis.

I slipped under the hummers and cut the starter wires. When I was done with the vehicles, I started on the men. I could have done it the easy way and just killed them but I had already done enough of that. I slipped up behind them one at a time and put my gun to their head before disarming them and tying them up using leather string I carried for the cattle.

After I had taken the last one, I led them back to the barn. Sarah and Lynn had a habit of making hangman knots to hang up all the small bits of rope. Well, they came in handy. There were six men and I lined them up, put a noose over each man and threw the rope over a low beam. I tied it off and left them while I went into the tack room and called the sheriff.

While I was still on the phone the dispatcher put me on hold and then I heard her voice on one of the radios I had taken from a rustler. She was telling them to get out of here because I saw them and had called it in. When she came back on the phone I did not say anything while she told me a deputy was on his way. It was over twenty minutes before a deputy arrived.

He thought he would just be taking a report and was shocked to find the six men lined up in the barn. As the men were being taken into custody several made threats. One of the things I had done was to take each man’s picture and another of their ID. The other deputies that showed up later and looked things over said they would leave the vehicles where they were.

They also dismissed my report that their dispatcher had called the rustlers and warned them. After the deputies left I went into the house and downloaded the pictures onto my computer. I made a one page poster for each man. It said, “CATTLE RUSTLER.” It had both a picture of the man and of his ID. There was also a brief description of what happened.

When the girls walked sleepily into the kitchen I told them we would be eating breakfast in town at the diner. After everyone showered and dressed I handed the posters I had printed out to Sarah as we got into the ford pick up. In town we spent several minutes putting the posters up and went into the diner. The room went quiet when we walked in and an old ranch hand turned to face me “Is it true? Did you catch the rustlers?”

I nodded as we sat at an empty table, “Yes. I turned them over to a sheriff deputy.”

I handed the waitress the stack of posters I had left, “If you could find someplace to post these.”

While everyone talked and gossiped around us, we ate breakfast and left. When I got back to the ranch I had a message on my phone. The men had been released, the message said they had been released because of lack of evidence. I called the sheriff’s office and got a run around so I called the state police.

I ended up being passed from one person to another before I was finally put through to a captain. He kept explaining that it was the sheriff’s jurisdiction. I told him about the dispatcher and the threats and told him I would be calling them the next time something happened. When he tried to tell me about jurisdiction again I gave him my full name and asked him to check my service record and hung up.

I told the girls they were not to go out without a rifle. I had them go to the tack room to clean the saddles and mend a couple of fences around the barn. I went outside to work on the tanker truck engine and a half hour later two state trooper cars pulled into the yard. It was the captain I had talked to and a sergeant. The captain was frowning when he got out of his car and started towards me.

I used a rag to clean my hand and shook his when he reached me. He grinned, “You got my attention.”

I grinned, “Who called, the FBI or the CIA?”

He grimaced, “NSA.”

I shrugged, “same thing. Captain, they were caught in the act. They had my cattle on their trucks and the sheriff let them go saying there was not enough evidence. I believe they will be back, next time they will take the time to make sure I am out of the picture.”

The captain shifted, “I finally got a copy of the report. It did not say anything about your cattle being on their trucks.”

I shrugged, “I heard the sheriff’s dispatcher call them and give them a warning. I do not know who else may be involved. Their trucks are still parked by my corral.”

The captain frowned, “those should have been impounded at the least.”

I looked at Sarah and Lynn as they came around the barn and looked back at the captain, “if they come looking for me I will use whatever force necessary to keep my people safe.”

The captain looked at the girls and finally nodded. He looked at the sergeant, “keep a car in the area.”

The captain turned towards his car and had only taken a couple of steps before stopping and looking back at me, “I never did see your record.”

I grinned, “US Army sniper. Five consecutive tours of combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of confirmed kills is classified.”

He blinked, “five tours?”

I nodded and he turned away and I heard him murmur, “god help us.”

Lynn called me a few minutes later from the barn. She said someone from the state attorney’s office was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. I wiped my hands clean, grabbed my rifle as I went into the barn and picked up the phone. It seemed that the captain had called them and reported the possible corruption in the sheriff’s office.

I told the person on the phone everything that had happened and he said he would get back to me. After I hung up, I heard a car pull into the yard and walked out to see who it was. It was a plain black sedan and two men in suits got out and started walking towards me. I knew right away they were probably from the government. I was right, one was from the homeland security or (CIA) and the other from the FBI.

They were here in response to the call from the state police. Sarah and Lynn had started walking from the barn while I talked to the agents. They had almost reached me when I saw the glint of sunlight from a scope. I yelled for everyone to get down as I dropped and moved behind the sedan. As soon as I dropped a shot rang out and I looked at the girls first, checking to make sure they were okay.

Both were fine and were crawling quickly towards me. Both the agents were on the ground with guns drawn. The FBI agent looked like he had an ugly red gash along the side of his neck. I crawled to the side and bought my rifle around as I looked around the edge of a tire. I saw the three men through my scope right away and fired three times in one long continuous moment.

I glanced back to see Sarah and Lynn facing out, looking through the sights of their rifles. I looked at the agents, “those three are down. I do not know if there are any more.”

I rolled and rushed towards the barn. I made the door and continued moving on through to the back door. There were several men around the vehicles at the corral. I put my scope on one and shot the receiver of the rifle he was carrying. Everyone froze as I called for them to put their hands over their heads and start walking towards me or my next shot would be into someone.

When one man rose up from behind a hummer and pointed an AK-47 at me, I shot him in the shoulder. That was all it took for the rest of them to put their hands up and start moving towards me. Sarah appeared suddenly, “Nothing else out front.”

I let her and the FBI agent take the seven men and moved out to find the three men who had taken a shot at me and hit the FBI agent. I found them a few hundred yards away trying to make their way to the road. I had hit all three high in the muscle of their shoulders. I walked them back to the barn where the others were sitting against the side of the barn with Lynn sitting on the front tire of the tractor pointing her rifle at them.

I had the three hold pressure on their wounds and checked the other one I had shot. His wound was a little worst but not really life threatening. Lynn told me Sarah was in the barn with the FBI agent calling the state troopers and asking for a medical evacuation of the wounded. I asked where the other agent had disappeared to and she shrugged, “he said something about checking the place out.”

I grunted and murmured almost to myself, “great, now we have bugs.”

Lynn laughed and went back to watching the men. A few minutes later I heard a siren and a deputy sheriff pulled into my road and started for the house. Sarah and the two agents walked to us as the deputy stopped and stepped out drawing his weapon. I was not really surprised when he pointed his pistol at me and Lynn. The FBI agent flipped open his badge, “FBI. I am in charge here deputy. Put the weapon away.”
The deputy hesitated and Sarah’s rifle came up pointed straight at him, “put it away now!”

The deputy looked at her and I could see him thinking. I cleared my throat and looked at the FBI agent, “this was one of the deputies that was involved in the arrest of the rustlers.”

A second vehicle pulled into the road and as it pulled into the yard behind the deputy I saw that it was a state trooper. The deputy holstered his weapon as the state trooper stepped out of his car. The trooper looked at the deputy and I saw that it was the sergeant that had been with the captain. The sergeant walked to the deputy, “what are you doing here deputy?”

The deputy’s face went red, “I eh… heard there was trouble here.”

The sergeant kept looking at him, “this was not put out on the radio. How did you hear abut it?”

When the deputy did not say anything the sergeant reached out and pulled his weapon out of his holster. “We will talk about this later.”

The sergeant looked at me and then the two agents, “which of you is the FBI agent that called for back up?”

The FBI agent stepped forward, “agent Johnson. How long before an ambulance gets here?”

The sergeant walked towards us, “a life flight helicopter is on its way.”

The agent nodded to the men seated against the barn, “they attacked us while we were talking. I will be charging them with attempted murder of a federal agent.”

He put his hand up to the bloody gash on his neck, “I am lucky they were seen.”

The trooped reached out to turn his head while he looked at the wound. I looked at the road as two more state troopers came flying up the road. Sarah sighed, “I will go make some coffee. I think it will be a long day.”

The sergeant grinned at her and looked at the deputy as he moved toward the door to his cruiser, “you do not need anything inside the car deputy.”

The deputy looked at him and snarled, “I do not work for you.”

The FBI agent cleared his throat, “if that is your problem I will place you under arrest as a conspirator in the attempt on the life of two federal agents.”

The deputy stirred, “Jamison is not paying me enough for this crap.”

The sergeant started as the other troopers got out of their vehicles, “Peter Jamison?”

The deputy nodded and one of the men by the barn snarled for him to shut up. Lynn fired into the side of the barn scaring the hell out of everyone. She was looking right at the man that had spoken, “you have the right to be silent and I suggest you do so or you might piss me off.”

Everyone was looking not just at her but at the rifle she was carrying. It was a 45-70 lever action that looked like it had been used a lot. The sergeant cleared his throat and nodded to his men, “we can take custody of them.”

Lynn smiled at him, “they are no trouble. Sarah will have coffee if you want to walk the agents and the deputy inside for it. These are just sheep, it is probably a woman’s job to watch such lambs anyway.”

The sergeant looked at her for a long minute and then laughed as he waved his grinning troopers towards the men, “search these men and call for transport.”

He looked at the agent, “did you call your people for the crime scene?”

Agent Johnson nodded, “and another team for support. Some should be arriving shortly in a helicopter.”

The sergeant nodded and looked at his men, “I will be in the house talking to the deputy and these agents. Keep everyone here and away from the crime scenes.”

His men grinned and moved to those by the barn and started searching them. They were not real gentle about it either and when they finished, they placed them in plastic handcuffs. That was when the captain arrived with two more troopers behind him. Behind the captain was the life flight helicopter. It settled to the ground beside the house quickly.

As the captain was getting out several men rushed from the helicopter and one of the deputies gestured. The captain walked to us and kept looking at the men along the wall of the barn. He finally looked at me, “they moved faster than I expected.”

I shrugged, “your sergeant is inside with two agents and a sheriff deputy. The deputy is talking to them about being paid by someone named Jamison.”

The captain blinked and looked at the house, “I… I guess I should go speak with the sergeant.”

He looked at me, “nothing is easy with you is it?”

I shrugged and he grinned before taking a breath and heading towards the house. The four men I had shot were being helped towards the helicopter with two deputies following. I watched as the helicopter took off and Lynn bumped me, “you could go inside.”

I grinned at her, “and listen to that deputy whine?”

She grinned back and turned to looked at the men being lined up along the wall. The distant glint of a reflection had me pushing Lynn towards the barn, “we have another sniper. Get in the barn and warn the troopers.”

I began a drunken walk towards the house as Lynn walked quickly towards the barn. I reached the frontyard and bent as if to tie my shoes. The troopers were quickly pushing the handcuffed men into the barn behind Lynn. I stopped pretending and sprinted to the front door. I closed the door behind me, “we have another sniper.”

The men around the table looked up and the captain stood, “where?”

I gestured to the side of the house, “about six hundred meters out under some brush on the slight rise.”

The caption started talking into the mike on his shoulder as I headed for the hatch up into the attic with the sergeant behind me. I pulled the ladder down and careful moved up to look at the end of the attic. Unlike other attics this one was covered with a plywood floor. I left the light off and crawled to the vent. I pulled on one side of the frame holding the screen and the sergeant pulled on the other.

I moved back and scanned the far rise through the vents. It took a minute to find him because he had moved. It looked like he might have had some training. He was wearing a gilly suit and held what looked like a military sniper rifle. I shifted and quietly handed my rifle to the sergeant. It took him a minute, even with my directions.

He lowered the rifle and handed it back, “the captain called for SWAT.”

I shook my head, “I suppose I could slip around him.”

The sergeant just looked at me and I looked back, “Lynn is still out in the barn.”

He finally nodded and I handed him the rifle, “keep an eye on him.”

I moved back and went back down into the house. Everyone was on the floor and the captain looked at me. I grinned, “I will be back.”

I stayed down and went to the other end of the house. I slipped out Lynn’s window and dropped to the ground. I started crawling and a few minutes later dropped into a narrow gully. I was able to move a little faster and made the trees without anyone seeing me. I moved deeper into the trees and then made my way past the rise before turning and heading out.

I was moving carefully as I closed with the lump under the brush. The cocking of my pistol was loud in the still air. The lump shifted slightly and I spoke, “you can try.”

He went still and a moment later the right hand held out the rifle to the side. I ignored it and kept watching the man, “drop it and place both hands behind your head.”

There was a long pause, “this is just a…”

I kicked one of his boots, “if you speak again I will shoot you.”

He slowly put his hands behind his head. I nodded as I saw a couple of troopers headed towards me from the barn, “cross the feet.”

He hesitated only a moment before doing as I told him. I waited for the two troopers and moved to the side as they moved his hands to the middle of his back and handcuffed him. When they lifted him and turned him to face me I saw the pistol where his chest had been. Although I did not recognize him, I knew what he was, Marine sniper.

I smiled, “does the name Thantos mean anything?”

His face went pale and he glanced at the two troopers. I nodded, “if you come back…”

He hesitated and then nodded before the troopers led him away. I walked back to the house as a couple more state trooper cars pulled into the yard. Sarah and Lynn both came out as I walked into the yard. It was a few minutes later that another helicopter landed and a half dozen FBI agents got out. More state trooper cars pulled in and I led both girls back to the house.

We sat in the kitchen and I made some soup for lunch while the girls watched all the troopers and FBI through a window. It was a long afternoon with cars coming and going. The vehicles the rustlers had left were towed away and finally it was silent. I thought it was finally over when the captain came back. It seems Mr Jamison had been ready for them.

He had a large group of men and a couple of heavy machine guns. There were already lawyers raising hell in the capital. The captain sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee, “Anyway, I wanted to ask your help.”

I sipped my coffee as Sarah moved around the kitchen making sweet bread, “Lynn said she was bored.”

“What can I do?”

He smiled and turned away from watching Sarah, “how good were you?”

I looked at him for a minute and then looked into the other room, “very good. I… I do not want to kill anyone though, not if I do not have too.”

He laughed, “that is a relief.”

He took a sip of coffee as Lynn walked into the room drying her hair from a cool shower. The captain looked away and caught me staring. I grinned, “they may be my ranch hands but they do look good.”

He grinned and then it left his face, “I want to hire you to… neutralize the armed men Jamison has. You do not have to shoot to kill.”

I looked down at the table top as both Sarah and Lynn came to stand beside us. I finally sighed and nodded, “I will need a spotter and someone to provide security.”

Lynn cleared her throat, “Sarah and I will be doing that.”

I looked at her but before I could say anything Sarah shook her head, “grandfather taught us.”

I closed my mouth and nodded before looking at the captain, “give us an hour.”

He nodded and I grabbed the girls and led them back to the bedroom, “this is not like working on a ranch.”

Lynn nodded, “we know, grandpa showed us how you work.”
I was doubtful but took a breath, “which one of you…”

Sarah smiled, “I am your spotter and Lynn is security.”

I nodded, “change into neutral colored clothing.”

It did not take me long to change and pull out a long case. In it was an M110 sniper rifle with a silencer. In my hall closet I pulled down another case that held an HK 416. In the coat closet by the door I got the case that had a modified M16A4. I pulled the ammunition for all the weapons down from the shelf as the captain and girls watched.

I handed the M16 to Sarah and the HK to Lynn, “load the magazines.”

The last thing I got was a fifty power thermal spotter scope that was over the kitchen doorway. It did not take long and then I nodded to the captain and he escorted us out. I used the old pick up and followed the captain. Both girls were quiet as I went over what I wanted them to do and how they should do it. There were dozens of cruisers along the dirt road as well as several unmarked cars of federal agents and a couple of ambulances.

We pulled in behind one of the last cruisers and the captain pointed to a low ridge the road went over. “The ranch buildings are over that ridge. Be careful, Jamison has a couple of men using hunting rifles.”

He handed me a radio, “let me know when you are in position and I will tell you if you have a green light to shoot.”

I nodded and loaded and chambered a round. I slipped a soft scope case into my small butt pack. Both girls followed my example and loaded their weapons. I handed Lynn the spotter scope and walked straight away from the road with Lynn behind me and Sarah behind her. I walked for almost a mile before kneeling. I listened to the night and then used a small thermal monocular to look around.

It was not powerful but all I needed to see was heat sources. I finally stood and turned to start toward a distant ridge. When we got close to the top I went to my belly. I could barely hear Lynn and Sarah as they followed me. I hesitated at the top and then slithered over. I used the monocular again and moved twenty meters down and to one side. I rolled onto my side and looked back at Lynn.

I signaled for her to move up and waited for Sarah. Lynn stopped beside me and I brought Sarah up between us and turned her around. I pulled out the scope case and opened it. Inside the case was a small thermal scope that slipped onto the rails in front of the regular scope. I adjusted it and turned it on, I started a slow scan of the area and finally the ranch that was in almost complete darkness.

I pulled out the radio, “State police this is Thantos... in position.”

The few people that had been on the radio went quiet. “Copy Thantos, stand by.”

I handed the radio to Lynn and whispered, “Range to the barn, the house and the bunk house.”

Lynn shifted and started using her spotter scope while I started checking the ridge and low hills around us. It seemed that Jamison was not very smart about were to place his people. Lynn whispered the range and wind values to each target.

The radio came to life, “Thantos, you are green for anyone using one of the heavy machine guns or acting as a sniper. Do not engage anyone else.”
I nodded to Lynn and she acknowledged the call. I focused on my rifle, “the loft in the barn and the position by the corral next to the road. After that we will look for the snipers.”

Lynn called off the range and wind. It took exactly five seconds and then Lynn called the troopers. I focused on several rifle flashes that were fired towards us and picked out three that were hunting rifles. Two seconds later it was quiet as the men at the ranch scrambled to find cover. Lynn called the troopers and I watched the machine gun positions.

When all the troopers sped into the ranch yard only a couple of men fired at them and even they stopped when I put a bullet beside their heads. Ambulances followed the troopers and I felt better knowing the men I had wounded would be getting medical attention. As things began to calm down Lynn received a call for us to come in. I had been trained to well to just stand up and walk away.

I nodded to Lynn and tapped Sarah’s boot before whispering, “we go back the way we came. Sarah leads, Lynn follow her and I will bring up the rear.”

They did not ask questions they just started crawling back the way we came. Once we were back over the ridge and down a little way Sarah stopped. I did a careful check with the thermal monocular and then stood and took the lead. My truck was the only vehicle left beside the narrow dirt road. We unloaded the weapons and put them away before I drove down the road and into the ranch yard.

When we stepped out of the truck the captain and several federal agents were standing nearby. The captain smiled and took my hand, “it worked and none of the men you shot were seriously wounded.”

I nodded but watched the federal agents, one seemed more interested than the others. The captain had me write out a report and then we drove home. I sent the girls to bed and sat at the kitchen table and began cleaning the sniper rifle. I was not surprised when Sarah came out a few minutes later in a long tee shirt and started a pot of hot water.

I smiled as Lynn walked in dressed in one of my long sleeve shirts. She took the cups out of the cabinet while Sarah pulled out the tea. I shook my head, “Aadd another cup Lynn.”

She looked from me to the three cups and then reached in for a forth. As expected there was a knock on the front door. I walked to the door and opened it to find the federal agent I was expecting. I walked back to the kitchen and he followed me. He looked from me to the girls and cleared his throat, “can we talk in private?”

I shook my head, “I doubt it. One of your… friends was in here so I probable have listening devices all over the house.”

He nodded but kept looking at the girls. I shook my head, “believe me they are safe.”

He finally looked at me, “we had word a covert kill squad was looking for you. We were not worried until you broke cover and used that name.”

I shrugged, “better now than later.”

He nodded, “we want to bring in a couple of teams to catch them.”

I looked at the girls thinking. I finally turned to Sarah, “can you and Lynn move everything out of the tack room?”

She did not look at Lynn, “Yes. We can move everything into an empty stall and stack it.”

I looked at the agent, “get with Lynn and Sarah and ask what and how to dress the teams. They can also tell you what type of vehicles will not draw attention or stand out. Have the teams bring in cots and use the barn to sleep in. The tack room has a phone so you can set up your command center. Sarah and Lynn will stay and I will do the close in security patrols.”

He blinked and looked at the girls, “their…”

I smiled, “their grandfather trained them. The only thing you should worry about is one of your agents trying something they do not like.”

He looked at the girls and then grinned, “that might be worth watching.”

Sarah laughed, “we promise not to break anything.”

Lynn grinned, “just their hearts and feelings.”

I smiled and looked at the agent, “what is your name?”

He smiled, “David Whiteman.”

I put the rifle together while he watched and the girls sat sipping their tea. I looked at Mr Whiteman, “bring them out in the morning.”

He nodded and stood before walking towards the door. I glanced at Lynn and Sarah, “you might want to get some sleep.”

They nodded and I headed to my room. I put the rifle away and then hesitated before getting HK 416 and dressing. I stopped at the hall closet and reached into the umbrella stand to bring out a suppressor. I threaded it onto the HK and quietly slipped out of the house. I moved around quietly and found the few places I could use. I finally lay in a shallow rut on the small rise overlooking the ranch house with tall grass around me.

I relaxed in a kind of half sleep that I had become used to in combat areas. I listened to the night noises and waited for any changes. I had coffee going and fresh croissants for the girls when they staggered into the kitchen sleepily. Sarah headed for the coffee as if it was the only thing in the room. Lynn startled me by kissing my cheek as she went past me.

It was an hour later when Whiteman arrived with a small convoy of black SUVs. I shook my head and headed towards the woods for another check of the area. Lynn and Sarah were back to carrying their lever action rifles. It was only an hour before all the SUVs pulled out. I was just coming back in and glanced at Sarah as she walked across the yard, “where are they going?”

She grinned, “we frightened them.”

I grinned, “that does not surprise me.”

She waved towards the distant road, “a few are setting up equipment in the tack room but the others went to get some used clothes and change into vehicles that might blend in.”

I nodded, “I was going to get that big pot out and start a slow cooker meal.”

Sarah smiled, “great minds think alike. Lynn and I were thinking the same thing. I was just headed in to make a shopping list for all the new mouths to feed.”

I looked back, “I think we can spare a steer for the cause.”

She looked at me and then got a huge grin on her face, “we can get some fresh corn and Lynn and I can have a proper barbeque.”

I shook my head as we continued into the house. It was early afternoon when I saw the car sitting beside the road. I was in the trees and used a thermal scope to see the two men inside it. I slipped back and moved around to come back into the ranch yard from a covered route. I entered the barn silently and was several feet inside before two agents looked up from cots they were setting up.

They jerked in surprise and automatically reached for weapons. I smiled as I continued on towards the tack room, “a little late. We have watchers on the road.”

They stopped and then moved to follow me. I stepped into the tack room to see Whiteman watching a monitor. I nodded, “two men inside watching with telescopes.”

He glanced back, “if we take them the rest of the team will get away.”

I shook my head, “no, they will just move and try another way. Warn the other men.”

I turned to head out and Lynn appeared at the door, “did you know…”

I grinned, “Yes. I am headed back out. You and Sarah try to keep something between you and that car.”

She nodded and turned and headed for the corral. I slipped out and used a low ditch to crawl to a line of brush before moving deeper into the woods. I slipped around quietly until I heard the faint noise of a vehicle coming from the back of the ranch. I moved quickly until I stood overlooking a line of trees across a large open field. The three trucks held probable twenty men.

I was laying in the prone watching as they began unloading. Each man looked like they were carrying AKs. I glanced around before bringing the 416 up, the suppressor reduced the sound of the shot but not completely. The men looked around at the sound and one fell back. I shifted and shot another through the side of the head. The whole group was suddenly scrambling behind the trucks and I shot two more.

As they started firing I began picking them off. They still did not know where I was and were firing blind. I knew the sound of gunshots would alert everyone back at the ranch house. I did not even glance back when I heard the reports of gunshots behind me. From the sound both Sarah and Lynn were doing most of the shooting. Finally the men scrambled to get away.
Two Apache helicopters suddenly popped over the far ridge and drew fire as they were seen. The helicopter fired long searching bursts with its main gun and it was quiet. I stood and began moving towards the trucks as one of the Apaches turned and the gunner looked at me. I ignored him as I continued to move closer. I did not have to worry, everyone was dead.

I lowered the rifle and looked up before nodding and the gunner returned my nod before the Apaches turned and headed away. I headed back to the ranch house and found trucks and cars everywhere in the yard. Sarah and Lynn both were in the house with agent Whiteman. Everyone turned to look at me as I walked through them and into the house.

Lynn turned when I came in and Whiteman cleared his throat. I ignored him to check the two women. I finally turned to him, “they rushed things.”

He nodded, “next time they will be more prepared.”

I shook my head, “they will wait and send watchers.”

He sighed, “we can not wait. I will arrange to have you moved.”

I shook my head, “I am not going anywhere. If they want to come after me they better get used to losing people.”

Whiteman walked out and I turned to the girls, “It is not going to be safe.”

They both blew raspberries and I grinned before reaching for the coffee pot. The clean up and removal of bodies took all day. The agents stayed in the barn and I did a few patrols just in case. The trucks had been towed away and the scene cleaned up. When I came in at midnight Lynn was waiting. She smiled and stood from the big chair she had been sitting in and crossed to me, “bed time boss.”

I looked at her and she winked before pulling me back to my bedroom. I woke as my door quietly opened and Sarah peeked in. She grinned and closed the door before I carefully moved away from Lynn’s warm body and climbed out of bed. I can not remember when I had slept that good. I pulled clean clothes out of my dresser and went to the bathroom before showering and changing from the sleeping pants I had been wearing.

Sarah was fixing breakfast when I came in. She grinned, “now we know how to make you sleep in.”

I grinned as I crossed to the coffee, “make me run patrols all day and half the night?”

She laughed and slid two large pancakes onto a plate and pushed it down the counter towards me, “somehow I do not think you did more than sleep with Lynn.”
I glanced at her as I picked the plate up and headed towards the table. She leaned against the counter, “grandmother said Granddad was the same way.”

I sat down and looked at her, “just having her beside me did help keep the ghosts away.”

She nodded, “maybe if we take turns you can reassure us too.”

I smiled into my plate before I started eating. By the time I finished Lynn had come in rubbing her eyes. Mr Whiteman knocked and walked in which made Sarah growl quietly, I smiled as he sat down tiredly. He looked across the table, “the rumors are thick. They think we used your name to draw them out and this was just a trap.”

Lynn snorted as she set a cup of coffee in front of him, “well it sure turned into one.”

He nodded, “it seems we might not have to stay.”

I finished eating and washed my plate and cup. I bent to kiss Lynn’s cheek, “thanks.”

I looked at the two of them, “see if you can get the water truck going and throw some hay to those cows in the corral behind the barn.”

They nodded as I headed out, I moved away from the building before beginning a large circle. I moved carefully just as I had a thousand times in combat. I did not find the trail until I was way in the back of the ranch. Whoever it was stayed to low ground and used cover. I carefully began following it as it led around and up the back side of the low ridge that looked down on the ranch buildings.

I paused as I knelt and scanned every possible concealed position. When I moved it was sudden and a second later the shot rang out. I rolled and moved forward in a rush before dropping and rolling the other way. Another shot went off and a low piece of brush sudden rose up. I came to my knee with my forty five in hand and fired twice.

The brush covered man jerked with the impact of the shots and fell back. I moved forward and stood to look down on the body of a man that I had seen once a couple of years before and a world away. When Whiteman appeared he looked from the body to me. I turned towards the ranch house, “his name was Abula ben Sulda. He was a sniper for the Iraq Home Guard.”

Sarah and Lynn both met me as I walked into the ranch yard. Several agents had been packing and now they were moving out towards Whiteman. I gestured to the barn and led the way in. I turned to face them both, “I need to order a few things. I want you two to watch yourselves. Call Henry Davis in town and have him come out to butcher a steer. Tell him I will trade another one for the job.”

Sarah grinned, “softy... we told you we could do it.”

I smiled, “maybe later. This way I get it packaged too.”

I looked out the door as Whiteman came into view, “I will be gone most of the day.”

They nodded and I hesitated before removing my gun belt and handing it to Lynn. I headed towards my truck as the girls moved to distract Whiteman. It was a long drive and the surplus supply store had everything I needed. I also went to a large computer supply story and purchased dozens of small wireless cameras and a computer with several very large hard drives.

When I pulled into the ranch yard Mr Whiteman was waiting and so were several others. I ignored them to pull the large box out of the back of the truck. I headed towards the house and Lynn opened the door. She looked pissed and Sarah was not happy either. I carried the box into the kitchen and the front door opened behind me.

I guess Whiteman was feeling frisky and I turned, “this is my house Agent. If you want to come in you knock.”

He stopped and glared, “you left without…”

I turned towards the kitchen table, “I am what I am. They will not stop. The next ones that will be sent will be professions like that sniper I killed. They are going to be very good at what they do. They do not care if this is a trap until they see nothing and no one they send comes back. That will be when they stop sending people.”

I set the box on the table and turned to the two girls, “my gun?”

Lynn grinned and undid the belt from around her waist. I smiled and took it from her before putting it on, “I have a desktop computer and several flat screen monitors in the truck, would one of you unload the truck and set them up in the living room?”

I pulled a large bag out of the box and turned to Whiteman, “anyone that stays needs to wear only ranch clothes. Any weapons they carry need to be something besides military. Lever action, bolt action or ranch style rifles.”

I headed towards the door and past him as he stood there confused. Sarah hurried to catch up and followed along as I walked into the forest. The last hours of sunlight were spent digging and placing the early warning devices. I returned to the ranch house to see Whiteman and another man in the living room where Lynn had set up the computer in a corner.

Five monitors had videos running and the sixth had the monitoring program. I nodded as I went through the room with Sarah. Lynn pulled dishes out of the refrigerator to reheat them as Sarah and I washed in the sink. After eating I went to change into dark clothing and left. It was just before midnight when I came back in the house.

Sarah was the one waiting this time, I had thought to just get a cup of coffee but she stood and pulled me back to bed. Sleeping beside a woman was more relaxing than I knew. I woke to light in my window and Sarah smiling at me. I smiled as I rolled out of bed, “you two are spoiling me.”

She laughed as she slid out and headed for the door. After a shower I dressed and went to the kitchen. Lynn smiled and poured a cup of coffee, the knocking at the door reminded me of my… guests. I opened it to see Whiteman in jeans and sheepskin jacket. I smiled as I headed back to the kitchen, “that is much better.”

He followed me into the kitchen, “We mirrored the camera signals so someone will be monitoring them constantly.”

I nodded as I sat down beside Lynn, “I will be placing them this morning. Did you pick up the pews signals?”

He nodded as he poured himself a cup of coffee, “do you have a device map?”
I pulled a sketch out and slid it across the table, “I will match two cameras to each device.”

Whiteman nodded and sipped his cup of coffee, “everyone is in proper clothing. All our vehicles have been switched out and we have a sat overhead watching the whole ranch.”

I nodded and finished my coffee before sighing and standing. I went to the box of cameras and small mounts. Sarah and Lynn both followed me out and I spent the morning setting up the cameras. Each one had a nine volt battery good for three days. When we got back Whiteman was grinning, “your butcher brought out the meat. Lynn and Sarah said something about a barbeque?”

I nodded, “did you find the freezer?”

He nodded and I went into the house and began the long task of setting up the cameras in matching pairs and labeling them. Sarah and Lynn fed the cattle and moved some hay around. When I finished with the cameras I grabbed Sarah and took my truck. I went into town to the feed store and did some looking around. Everything about what had happened at Peter Jamison’s was being talked about and I kept getting slapped on the back.

Sarah thought it was funning and kept saying I needed protecting from the beatings the people were giving me. I was also looking for anyone I did not know. I grabbed a few things from the general store and we headed back to the ranch. It was fun cooking for everyone even if one of them was always watching me, most of the night I sat in the living room watching the cameras.

Lynn came to pull me to bed just after midnight. I woke to an alarm coming from the living room and rolled out of bed grabbing my pistol. One look had me running to get dressed and calling for Lynn and Sarah to dress. I had them go to the barn as I slipped into the darkness. I was moving quickly and wore thermal night vision goggles.

I was behind the house and on the other side of the woods when I stopped. I went to my belly and crawled to a tree before slipping the goggles off and turning the scope on. One look told me where they would enter the woods. I moved back and around until I was in position. The four men crawled into the woods and froze as I clicked off the safety on my rifle, “you can surrender or try it.”

They did not move and I continued to wait. Finally one slowly turned and raised his hands. I guess they thought that would distract me and two others rolled and tried to bring rifles up. The four shots that killed them sounded like one long explosion. The two remaining were frozen, one standing and the other halfway through a roll. I waited and the one on the ground released his weapon.

I moved away from the tree, “stand up and put your hands behind your head.”

I walked them both back into the open and then started them around towards the ranch house. I had not gone far before several agents converged on us. They searched the two men and handcuffed them before leading them away. A couple more agents followed me back to collect the two men I had killed. I slung all the weapons and headed back to the house.

Sarah and Lynn were waiting when I walked into the yard where several vehicles had appeared. Their headlights lit the scene as I smiled at the two and headed towards the house. I checked the four rifles and cleaned everything before joining Lynn and Sarah both in my bed. There was not anything sexually in it they both just needed to hold someone and I guess it help me too.

That was the last time we had visitors and the agents left a month later.
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