“FINAL CHECK,” Mike Swanson, co-founder of the Alpha Defense Agency, called through the com links in the agents’ earpieces.
“Approaching guest house,” Eric Bishop, one of the Defenders responded back. He and his partner, Megan Wells, stepped closer to the small building.
They both had their guns drawn but had them lowered in front of them. The criminals involved in the weapons purchase had all been apprehended. The final walk-through was something all the ADA agents did. It was a time to double-check for any evidence needed for the criminal cases the legal system would need. With all the perpetrators now in custody, evidence collection could be done more smoothly.
Eric and Megan had been part of the Alpha Defense Agency, ADA, since the very beginning. Mike Swanson and Keith Johnson, both former military officers, had created the agency as a black ops organization. The Defenders, as the agents were called, were called in when law enforcement needed help with apprehension. Most of their missions were highly classified and extremely dangerous. The agents were made up of former military, like Bishop, some former law enforcement, and even one who was a former Russian assassin, Megan Wells, Eric’s partner.
As Eric and Megan stepped closer to the cute little white bungalow guesthouse, it looked like a place for relaxation. No one would suspect that it nor the grand main house a short distance away was used for criminal activity. Probably why the owner and man that had been eluding capture for years had bought the place.
The front door to the small house was locked. Eric looked inside the side window to the door. “Looks empty.”
“Doesn’t mean it is,” Megan responded as she took out her lock picking tools and began on the door.
Eric watched as she effortlessly went about her task. They all dressed in their tactical gear. Megan didn’t look much different when she was out of that gear. She had long, jet-black hair that was currently pulled into a ponytail and reached just past her mid-back. Her eyes were just as black and menacing. Their bulletproof vests couldn’t hide her small stature. She was no more than five-foot-four and maybe one-ten soaking wet. She had delicate features with her small hands and thin face. But Eric knew what you saw with her was not accurate at all. The woman was as lethal as you could get. As a former Army Ranger, he knew what it took to be a Defender. They’d sparred numerous times. In the beginning, he found himself taking it easy on her. Didn’t take long for him to learn the hard way how quickly she could take him down.
As the lock clicked and Megan turned the knob for them to enter the building to make sure all the bad guys were accounted for, Eric saw something he wasn’t expecting.
“Sniper!” he shouted for all his team to hear as he grabbed Megan and pulled her back. Just as they fell on the small porch, a bullet hit the doorjamb. Had he not grabbed her, the bullet would have gone into her head.
“Bishop!” Keith called out. “Report!”
More shots came their way as Eric and Megan jumped over the small railing and fell to the ground.
“Shots fired! Shots fired!” Eric responded.
“Winters, you still in your nest?” Swanson called out to the team’s sniper, Dean Winters.
“Still nesting Chief,” Dean calmly responded.
“Bishop! Wells! What the hell is going on?”
“We’re on the side of the white guest house,” Eric reported in. “I can’t see anyone.”
Eric crept forward to the corner of the porch to try to get a bead on their shooter.
“Shit!” Eric shouted at the same time Megan yelled “Bishop!”
Eric fell back against Megan, grasping his upper arm.
“Bishop’s been hit!” Megan called out. “Shots coming from east-northeast!”
“Winters, locate that shooter!” Swanson ordered.
“On it.” Dean lay on his stomach in his nest on a nearby hill. Scope to his eye. He looked east and began his search. Up in a tree a glint of light reflected. He zoomed in with his scope. Sure enough, he had himself a sniper. He pressed a button on his scope as he continued watching. The sniper hadn’t taken eyes off his teammates. Time to get his attention.
He squeezed his trigger. His shot went where he wanted. Right on the large limb next to the shooter. Surprise would be an understatement. As Dean continued watching his adversary search for him, his left hand pressed another button on his scope. He watched as the sniper began looking around. Knowing a kill shot would not be appreciated, he continued watching and taking photos with his specialized scope. The shooter pushed the black knit hat off and raised up to look around.
Dean continued watching as his adversary looked through the scope of the gun. He knew just when he was finally noticed. He smiled as he continued watching.
“Go ahead,” he said low. “Take the shot.”
“Winters, report!” Swanson’s deep voice ordered.
“Just a game of chicken Chief,” he answered.
“Stop playing! I want that sniper!”
Just as he saw the finger twitch on the trigger, he took another shot. This one just a little closer on the same limb. His adversary jerked hard enough to fall to the ground.
“Sniper in trees just beyond perimeter,” Dean spoke into the com link for his team. “Bugging out.”
Other agents converged on the area Dean indicated. As they approached, they saw the sniper dressed all in black just like them running further into the forest.
While Defenders pursued their adversary through the wooded area, Spencer Adams and his partner Jaime Shaw made their way to Eric and Megan.
“You guys alright?” Jaime asked as they squat down next to them. Megan was protectively hovering over her partner.
“Bishop’s right arm,” she answered not bothering to take her sights off watching her fellow agents converge onto their suspect.
“I’m fine,” Eric told them, his left hand covered in blood as he held onto his upper arm.
“Let’s just take a look anyway,” Spencer said already ripping Eric’s sleeve away.
While Spencer cleaned up Eric’s wound, the women kept their eyes out for the sniper returning and wreaking more damage.
“Sniper got away,” Kate Hemsworth reported to their team.
“Dammit,” Eric cursed as Spencer was finishing up wrapping his upper arm.
“Get Bishop into the medic,” Keith Johnson ordered. “And for God’s sake, keep alert.”
Spencer looked at Megan and Jaime and rolled his eyes.
As Eric sat on the bumper of the ambulance, the rest of the Defenders walked toward them. A group of a dozen agents stood around Swanson and Johnson as Eric looked on.
“Sit!” Megan chastised Eric when he went to stand up.
“I’m fine,” he growled.
“I let you over there and my ass is on the line,” she shot back.
Spencer smirked before turning and making his way to the group.
The agents all sat or stood around the large conference room at ADA headquarters. Mike Swanson, the more intense of the two leaders, was addressing the teams when Eric walked in.
“You good?” Mike asked.
“Yeah,” Eric answered as he sat in a chair vacated for him. The white gauze in stark contrast to his tanned skin on his bicep. “Flesh wound.”
Megan looked skeptically at Eric. He looked back at her, eyebrows raised in challenge. He smiled as she looked away first.
“What do we know?” Keith asked.
“Whoever this sniper is, he’s fast,” one of the agents answered. “He also knew the woods and was able to get through it. Got himself to a motorcycle and took off before we could even get within shooting range.”
“This is not what I want to hear,” Swanson said as he paced near the head of the table. “What I want is to know who this guy is! Dammit, he’s been more than one step ahead of us for months! Who the hell is he?” he shouted.
The door to the conference room opened and HP, the computer genius of the agency entered, followed closely by Dean Winters, ADA’s best sniper. Dean took his usual stance of leaning up against a wall in the back of the room, arms crossed at his chest.
“Thanks to Dean here,” HP began nervously. When Swanson was irritated like this, HP was always nervous. “We have more than we have since the beginning. Well, since Spencer started digging into things anyway.”
“What do you have?” impatience showing through Swanson’s voice.
HP activated his iPad, bringing to life the video equipment on the wall behind Mike. “I ran ballistics on the sniper rifle Dean was able to retrieve from the sniper’s nest. I can confirm with one-hundred-percent certainty that this is the weapon used in the suspicious shootings this past year.”
Mike and Keith looked back at Dean. “Seems when our sniper bugged out, didn’t grab the rifle.” He told them and the room. “While the others were on the chase, I climbed the tree and took it.”
Mike and Keith looked back at HP. “No fingerprints on the rifle. I didn’t expect them. Gloves, obviously. No DNA on any part of the rifle that I’ve uncovered as of yet.”
“So, we know without a doubt this guy is responsible for shooting two of my agents and attempting to take out a third?” Mike’s shout again filled the room.
“Three agents?” Kate asked the question that was on the faces of most of the agents in the room. “Who besides Bishop and Wells was shot at?”
Mike and Keith remained abnormally quiet.
“Me,” Spencer Adams finally spoke up.
Kate’s head spun around to look at him across the table. “What?”
Spencer took in a breath. “When I was shot during the takedown of Ramirez last year, it was because of our sniper.”
Megan shot to her feet and glared at him. “Are you kidding me?” she yelled at him. Then she turned to face their superiors. “You lied to us about one of Ramirez’s men getting in a lucky shot?”
“And that was the working theory until Adams and Shaw uncovered the truth about that shooting and numerous others,” Keith said.
“What others?” Megan demanded.
Keith nodded to Spencer to continue filling in the group. “The head of that baby farm ring in Mexico. The shot I thought I diverted at the warehouse in the abused women prostitution ring.”
Megan glared at him with such anger in her eyes. “You were all over my ass for shooting that baby farm woman! Dammit Spence! You threw a knife at me to keep me from shooting the head of the prostitution ring! What gave you that right?” she demanded.
“Megs,” he tried.
“No! I told you,” she scanned the room, “all of you that I wasn’t taking those shots! I was put on desk duty! For what? Because I used to be an assassin!”
“Wells, enough,” Keith warned.
“No! You knew, didn’t you?” she asked her superiors. “You knew when you called me off desk duty about this.”
“We did,” Swanson confirmed.
“This is a conversation for another time. Now that we know we have some sort of idea who this guy is, let’s work together on that.”
Megan slammed herself down into her chair. Her anger was off the charts.
Keith signaled to HP to continue.
“Um, yeah. So, also thanks to Agent Winters and the camera device I installed on his sniper rifle, we now have a face to go with our sniper.”
All eyes turned to Dean who continued standing stoically. Dean was a very black and white operative. His former Navy SEALs days caused him to leave no areas of gray. Right. Wrong. Black. White. He also didn’t show emotion. He showed up to work and got the job done.
Attention returned to the video as HP began showing the pictures Dean had taken. At first, the sniper was positioned looking through the rifle scope. Obviously aiming for Eric and Megan still trapped at the side of the house. Then the head lifted, and a collective gasp went through the room.
“Yeah, it’s a girl,” HP said. He continued scrolling through the photos as the sniper removed her black skull cap and showed her golden blonde hair. The black and white photos showed pale eyes, presumably blue. The photos continued as she went back to look through the scope and found Dean. They could see her finger at the trigger as she looked and aimed right at Dean. Photos appeared when Dean took the shot right next to her, causing her to abort and bug out, as Dean had called it.
Eric could see the discomfort Megan was hiding from the rest of the team. He’d been partnered with her for almost eight years. He never told her when he noticed anything. Let her believe she was as unreadable as the day she began.
Swanson looked to HP. “Anything on identity?” he asked him.
HP hoped Swanson’s temper was cooling. The man did not like his agents in danger. “The system is still running through facial rec. Nothing yet.”
Another agent sat up. “So, you guys are saying this little filly is a sniper on the same caliber as our Winters here?” Mick, a former marine from Texas, jokingly asked.
Dean, never breaking from his cool façade, looked at his team member. “Never assume a sniper is on my level.”
As agents around the room kept talking on learning the history of this female sniper, Eric noticed Megan remained exceptionally quiet.
“Anything to add there Meg?” he said loud enough for the group to hear and quiet down.
She huffed as she looked at all eyes on her. “You men are all alike.”
“Please, enlighten us?” Eric pushed.
She stood and looked at them all. “Just because she’s a woman, you think she’s not good enough. Hell, I can probably outshoot Winters.”
“Anytime you want to try Sweetheart,” Dean responded in his monotone.
“Defenders!” Keith shouted. Once everyone quieted down again, he continued. “Fighting amongst ourselves is not going to solve our problem.”
“What problem would that be?” another agent asked.
“We have a sniper of unknown origin at our missions,” Keith answered.
Eric noticed the briefest of facial movement from Megan, though he couldn’t quite interpret it.
“She’s been wreaking havoc with our missions for almost a year that we know of now,” Keith continued. “Now we have a face. We can use that.”
“But who is she after?” another agent asked.
“She’s taken shots at Adams and Bishop,” Swanson answered.
“Sir, when I noticed the sniper, it was from the unmistakable red dot on Megan,” Eric told the group.
Megan stiffened at the news.
“My getting hit was because I got her out of the way,” he added. “I don’t think I was her intended target.
“Alright, what is the connection between Adams and Wells?” Johnson started to get the team brainstorming.
“Is there something you’d like to share with the class?” Swanson asked at a look that passed between Kate and Eric, the agents that had been part of the agency from its conception along with Dean and Megan.
“No sir,” Kate answered for them.
Spencer Adams had started in the beginning as well, just not the very beginning. As much as Megan tried to hide it, she had a major crush on Spencer. Spencer never seemed to notice, so it was one of those water-cooler topics.
“Good, now can we get back to figuring out who this woman is?” Swanson said, looking at Megan.
After an hour, it was determined HP would continue running the photos through his systems. While he was doing that, other agents would reach out to connections they had to see if anyone had seen or heard of this sniper.
“You sure you’re okay?” Eric asked Megan as they made their way to their personal cars.
She gave him her famous eyeroll. “Bishop, I’d be more worried about you. You didn’t seem able to get out of the line of fire.”
“You are such a pain in the ass,” he shot back.
“Yeah, I know. I’m the little sister you’re glad you never had,” she said with a laugh as she climbed into her Challenger.
As Eric watched her drive away, he wondered if she’d ever take something like this seriously. He’d been in combat more times than he cared to remember in countries that just didn’t care who they shot at and killed. She thought her former life as an assassin made her bulletproof. Well, she’d have learned the hard way if he hadn’t pushed her out of the way earlier.