The name was appropriate for this bone-dry region of B.C. that often got hellishly hot in the summer months. Jake and Mallory were exhausted after spending what seemed like forever trekking through the high desert country and hoodoos of the Deadman Valley. The heavy Nosler rifle was slung over Jake’s left shoulder. Mallory carried one of the British assault rifles. The sniper/spotter team had set out from their camp the day before, spending the night in the forests of the nearby mountains.
But now, they were exposed to enemy air patrols in this area littered with cacti, sagebrush, tumbleweed, Big Galleta and Desert Needle. They’d changed out of woodland camouflage fatigues into ones with a semi-desert pattern that featured a blend of different browns, dark and lighter shades of green. Having to be creative and work with what they had, the rebels painted camouflage patterns of khaki, green and tan shirts, jackets and pants they had looted from abandoned homes.
“Remember, shoot and scoot,” Jake said in almost a whisper.
“How long before they start coming after us?”
“Five to ten minutes. Once an attack like this happens, ground forces immediately call in air support. It will most likely be attack helicopters. I can’t see fighter jets.”
Mallory’s body felt weak. Her mouth was dry and not because of the burning desert sun. She was getting nervous having to kill another human being for the first time.
“How exactly do you know this?”
“That was my MOS in the United States Air Force.”
“Military occupational specialty. Combat controller. I was often attached to infantry as well as Special Forces units, especially in Afghanistan.”
On the outskirts of Cache Creek, where two Trans-Canada highways converged, six North American Police troopers manned a checkpoint. Jake and Mallory crouched down in front of a collection of large boulders in the arid hills surrounding the town. The rebels watched as the troopers stood around looking bored, the blistering hot sun ravaging them in their jet-black fatigues, heavy-plated bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets. An armored personnel carrier was parked along the shoulder of the highway.
Mallory’s heart beat so fast she thought it would jump out of her rib cage. Jake set the Nosler rifle, which was attached to a bipod, on a flat boulder. He adjusted the scope to four hundred yards. Mallory crawled into the prone position, securing the rifle butt firmly against her right shoulder. Due to her nervousness, Mallory found it particularly difficult to concentrate through the crosshairs. Shooting at metal targets was one thing, but standing out there on the highway were six living human beings. And she had to make the ultimate decision which one would be returning back to their family in a cadaver bag. Although deep down the devoutly Christian woman knew these were bad people that would kill her in a heartbeat, she still had difficulty psyching herself up to take the shot.
Jake peered through a set of binoculars. He studied the ranks of the troopers. One standing next to the APC wore the single bar of a lieutenant. The man, early forties with salt-and-pepper hair, doused his forehead with water before taking a long swig.
“See that one standing next to the vehicle?”
Mallory moved the rifle around. She fixed the crosshairs onto the upper chest of the man.
“He’s the highest ranking one in the group.” Jake sensed her nervousness. “Mallory, just remember what I told you. Relax your entire body. Take three or four deep breaths.”
Mallory gently squeezed the trigger. Before she knew it, a shot rang out followed by a deafening crrackkk that echoed amongst the nearby canyons and valleys. The lieutenant crumpled to the ground. Two of the troopers rushed to his aid while the others pointed their weapons in all directions.
Mallory, though a bit shaken, was surprisingly calm.
“It’s that time,” Jake stated. “We gotta vacate the premises this second.”
Jake and Mallory slowly slunk away from their position. As the sniper/spotter team began moving at a faster pace through the desert, their adrenaline skyrocketed at hearing the sound of an approaching helicopter.
“We’re not going to make it to the forest in time,” Jake said. “Quickly, take cover.”
The two insurgents concealed themselves as best they could amongst a cluster of juniper and ponderosa pine trees. Jake glanced up as an Apache attack helicopter ripped through the clear blue sky overhead. He was concerned about how long they would be forced to hunker down out there before it was finally safe to get on the move again.