Huxton and his team felt a strain in their hamstrings and lower backs as they trekked up a steep hill. All wore heavy Kevlar jackets and carried an assortment of weapons. Corporal Stephenson gripped the black leather leash attached to the collar of Bo, a large German shepherd. The party had been tracking Jake’s scent for close to an hour. As soon as they crossed the bubbling creek, it began to dissipate.
The NAP pilot and observer scanned the canopy of the thick forest of spruce, birch, pine and Douglas fir below.
“Air Three to command centre,” the pilot spoke into the radio on his helmet. “We’ve lost sight of the enemy combatant.”
Toombs and Mullen looked on edgily as another female operator with a robotic voice responded to the pilot.
“Air Three, enemy combatant has changed direction. He is now moving northeast.”
At that moment, Frank Carragher burst into the communications centre. Toombs could sense the furious vibes emanating from the stocky, arrogant administrator.
“Major, I thought you told me you had this entire situation under control!”
Toombs maintained his cool as Carragher came aboard him.
“Sir, I can assure you that this is merely an unforeseen circumstance that will be dealt with swiftly.”
“It goddamn well better be.” Carragher noticed Mullen standing there quietly. He quickly regained his composure. “Lieutenant Colonel Mullen. My name is Frank Carragher.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you Mr. Carragher. I hear you’re from Montreal. Wonderful world-class city. Been there a few times myself,” Mullen said.
“It is definitely a wonder to behold. Colonel, I am sure you and your officers will find your accommodations most fitting.”
“We haven’t really gotten a chance to get settled in yet Sir,” Mullen replied.
“It’s a lovely old home. Big too,” Carragher said. “Over a century old. Located right close to downtown.”
The information the NAP operator had relayed to the pilot was in turn passed on to Huxton. As the team moved in a north-easterly direction through the dense forest, the sunny afternoon sky was quickly giving way to cloud cover.
As the pilot steadied the chopper in the air, his observer could barely make out the shape of a figure below moving briskly through the woods.
“Is that Jake Scribner down there?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Who else it would be?” the pilot replied.
On the ground below, a chill permeated the late afternoon air. The troopers began to feel colder.
“Ground leader…” the pilot’s voice came through the small radio attached to the lapel of Huxton’s vest. “Target has stopped moving. He’s directly ahead of you about fifty meters”
The NAP troopers checked over their automatic weapons to ensure that everything was ready to go. They believed Jake Scribner was resting on the other side of a large hill. Huxton looked over at Stephenson and another trooper named Marrs.
“I want you two to go in first. He’s probably played out. Even if that piece of garbage wants to surrender, we won’t be giving him the option.”
Stephenson and Marrs nodded. Stephenson gripped the leash in one hand, a .45 ACP in the other. Moving ever-so-slowly, the two troopers and Bo moved up to the top of the hill. All of a sudden Stephenson and Marrs found themselves face-to-face with a massive grizzly bear that stood fourteen feet tall on its hind legs. Bo started barking viciously at the bear as his handler went numb with shock. With the full force of his left paw, the grizzly crushed Stephenson’s face.
Horrified, the troopers unloaded a dozen rounds into the beast’s solid body as it advanced toward them. The grizzly moaned in agonizing pain. Its body riddled with bullets and thick, furry coat drenched in blood, the bear took one step forward before collapsing onto the ground.