Texan Hunter, Cuban-American Heart
State, Peninsula, Washington
Thursday, 13th November, 2008
1125 Hours, PST
“You’re lagging, El Jefe, there’s a gap opening between you and Nikki.”
Stephen Reyes paused, glancing around as Hafidha’s voice whispered into his earpiece - trees, more trees, hanging moss shrouded trees, and nothing but trees, the only plus side was that for once it wasn’t raining. A double flash of fluorescent orange in the distance showed him where Nikki was escorting the local sheriff, all attempts to shed her having failed, but Hafidha was supposed to be another hundred yards beyond Nikki, with Chaz filling the gap between them. None of which stopped Hafidha being right and he upped his pace to close the gap in the skirmish line. They’d called it a search line to the extended line of thirty-odd Washington state troopers and local cops who were pushing through the woods a hundred yards behind them, but the WTF agents knew the truth, knew that a Gamma would die today.
“How are you doing that?” he demanded.
“GPS chip in your cell,” she admitted.
“Let’s add my cell’s GPS to the list of things Hafidha has been ordered not to hack,” he said, “but put that order on hold until we’re out of this damn rainforest.”
“Si, Mi Generale,” the slightly mocking voice whispered. “Platypus, watch out, you’re coming up on a brook according to Google Earth.”
“Found it,” Chaz’s voice said, “More a bog than a brook, not deep enough for her to hide in – watch your footing.”
“Too late,” Hafidha said, “I’m in it up to my calves, which considering I’m wearing two hundred dollar ankle boots isn’t ideal. I don’t think antique leather and foetid pondweed really complement each other.”
“You people need to be quiet,” the voice of Sheriff Marion Lacombe demanded, “This isn’t the city and a stalking line is no use if you make enough racket to scare away every critter in the woods before you ever see them. People are no different, particularly those who spend as much time in the woods as Janey does.”
“Nikki,” Reyes said.
“On it, boss-man,” Nikki’s voice said, followed by a breath of half-heard whispers as she reminded Lacombe that they weren’t stalkers, they were beaters.
“Possible contact,” Chaz whispered, “I’ve got a boot-print still filling with water, angling slightly right I think.”
“Hafidha, up your pace slightly in case she’s trying to slip past us to the right,” Reyes ordered, “I’ll do the same to the left. Chaz, Nikki, Sheriff Lacombe, keep to the same pace. No one fires without identifying your target, no one fires to the flanks except Hafidha or me.”
Reyes grimaced, wishing he hadn’t had to send Sol off to points New Mexican, but hugged the MP5 tight to his chest and darted ahead through the trees.
“Contact,” Chaz called, echoing his call with a rapid series of single shots, “I missed, she’s rabbiting.”
“Chaz stay with her, Hafs, guide us on Chaz.” Reyes ordered, upping his pace and switching his heading to cut across the line.
“Chaz, we’re coming up from behind and left,” Nikki yelled, “I can see your jacket,”
“Still moving, fifty yards to my front,” Chaz panted, “browny-red shirt, brown pants.”
Reyes’ heart froze as the sharp report of a rifle echoed through the trees, started again as Chaz answered with more shots.
“She’s armed,” Chaz reported redundantly.
“Fire-trail coming up fast,” Hafidha warned, “I’m coming in on your right, Chaz.”
“I’m on the left,” Reyes panted, trying to make up the distance, Nikki and the Sheriff momentarily visible before the trees swallowed them again.
“Fire-trail, 100 metres,” Hafs called, “75, 50…”
Another rifle shot echoed through the woods, deeper, more piercing than the first.
“Target down,” Danny Brady’s laconic Texan accent reported.
Reyes broke out onto the trail as Chaz and Nikki cleared the body. Both kept their MP5s locked on the body as Chaz hooked the rifle clear with his foot, but there was little chance of even a Gamma walking away from the large calibre bullet that had all but obliterated the skull of the Skokomish Cannibal, AKA Janey Walters, 23 year old kindergarten teacher and church volunteer.
“Damn it, Agent Reyes,” Lacombe protested as soon as she saw him, “we could have brought her in. But you had your goddamned sniper gun her down without even a word. You set me up!”
Reyes looked past her to where Danny Brady was jogging steadily towards them along the trail. His outline was blurred by the ghillie suit he wore, but the .50 calibre sniper rifle he’d borrowed from the Seattle Field Office’s armoury was all too apparent.
“I seriously doubt anyone could have brought her in alive, and she did fire at us, I’ll remind you. I said I had another task for Agent Brady, I just didn’t tell you what it was.”
“Lurking ahead of us at every fire-trail,” Lacombe said, proving his estimation of her intelligence. “The one spot he would have a clear line of fire across our front with that monster he’s carrying. Now I understand why Agent Gates kept counting down the distance as we came close to every break in the trees. You never planned on bringing her in alive, did you?”
“I would far preferred to have brought her in alive,” Reyes told her, absolutely truthfully. But once they had found Janey Walter’s hidden diaries, the ones in which she had meticulously documented her experiments as her body changed, her discovery that her stomach could no longer tolerate anything but fresh human flesh, he had known that they could not take her back to Idlewood. They could catch her, they could hold her, but they could not feed her, and slow starvation was as cruel and unusual as it came. Casey Ramachandran and Amrita Srinivasan would have a field day with the diaries, the body would go to Frost, but for the WTF away team the job had finished the moment Danny Brady’s finger caressed the trigger.