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Authors: Jason Halstead

Wanted (10 page)

BOOK: Wanted
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Mike, can you track them?”

Twotrees continued to look around, as though he had not heard the man. Then he nodded his head towards the same wash that the two men were climbing back out of, now that they had disposed of the bodies. “I wanted to get away, I’d use that creek bed.”

That don’t make sense,” Sanchez said with a harsh chuckle. “If they wasn’t with the car, why would they go towards it? Ain’t nobody dumb enough around these parts to expect help from a stranger – especially out here!”
With barely more than an annoyed glance at the man, Twotrees nodded. “I can track them. They’ll be injured and moving slow.”

Marko nodded. He looked at the two of them, then saw the two men from the wash heading their way. He waved them over, causing them to jog through the miserable wind and heat of the California mid-day sun. “Javier, take Kevin and Owen with you. Private Twotrees is tracking some looters-or worse. Give him your support. If you come back without any bodies, you’ll need to take me out and show me what happened, got it?”

Yes Sir!” Corporal Javier Garcia replied, snapping to attention and saluting. Marko scowled at him, causing the man to drop the salute quickly.

Don’t ever let me catch you saluting in the field again,” he warned. “You just put a target on my head.”

A sniper?” Sanchez asked, laughing again at the thought. “Out here?”

Marko wheeled on him. “Maybe, maybe not. You want to take the chance?”

His grin faded as he put together the implications of what Marko had told him. He nodded and said nothing. Garcia also had the good sense to look chastised. Of them all, only Kevin Chambers seemed aloof. He had the least training of any of them, having only been a civil patrolmen at Mexicali for three years. In spite of no formal military training, he had at least been smart enough to keep his mouth shut and not make an ass of himself.

We have three MIA from the crash still, so I need three bodies that will match the passenger list. Sounds like this may be three of them-find them.” Marko ordered, glancing at his men a final time then turning and heading back to the crash site.


* * * *


The squad from Maelstrom made good time through the gully. Michael easily tracked Jessie, Tanya, and Dustin up to the point where Jessie led them out of the wash and back onto the more windswept ground. Here they slowed to a crawl. The Navajo kept double checking the signs, making sure he was seeing real tracks and not making them up in his head.

Jesus Christ, chief, you know what you’re doing or what?” Owen called out at one point nearly an hour after they had left the dried out stream bed behind. The ex-marine was anxious to prove himself better than their tracker, especially after Michael’s hunch about using the wash had proven true.

Michael ignored him, taking a little extra time to push his anger at the man’s belligerent words from his mind. Seeing no trouble brewing yet, Javier said nothing as well. The lack of response from anyone, however, only served to add fuel to Owen’s fire.

Let’s go Pocahontas. You take much longer and maybe we can catch them on their way back,” he said a few minutes later when Michael paused again to kneel down beside some rocks that had been turned over and showed signs of scraping against one another.

The Navajo turned to look at the man, a smoldering anger in his eyes. “You want to do this?” he hissed at him.

Owen laughed loudly, trying to draw in the others to his side. He glanced at them and saw no support forthcoming. “Shit no, that’s your job. Just wish you were good at it is all.”

Sanchez, stand down,” Javier said, stepping up to him and holding out his hand. “We’re on the same team, remember?”

Team? Shit! Ain’t nothing out here but looters and freaks,” Owen grumbled. “It’s hot and shitty, and if Geronimo here could do his job, we’d be back home.”

Michael lunged, surprising everyone. Owen reacted enough to only let the Native American’s fist graze his chin, but it still sent him stumbling back. Twotrees pushed after him, but was held in place by the silent Chambers, who grabbed him awkwardly from behind. Corporal Garcia stepped in front of the former marine again, staring up at him slightly as he tried to push past him to get at the tracker.

I said stand down!” Garcia shouted in his face. “We got a mission to finish and a paycheck to cash. You got a problem, you deal with it off the clock, got it?”

Owen tore his eyes from Michael’s, then stared hard at Garcia for a long minute. Finally he spat on the ground and pulled himself away. “You and me got a date, Geronimo,” he growled.

Kevin had to pull on Michael’s gear to keep him from getting loose and attacking again. Javier turned to glare at him as well. The Navajo stared back, then finally allowed himself some calming breaths before he nodded once, curtly, and turned back away.

Turning around, Michael froze and Kevin walked into him. “Hey, what!” he exclaimed.

The landscape before them was shades of tan and light brown. The colors of a windswept desert. Broken rocks, dirt and gritty sand crunched beneath their feet as they walked. Ahead of them lay swells and dips in the ground, as well as skeletal bushes and random rocks. Two rocks, side by side and less than a dozen feet away from them, had a stick protruding from the top of them, resting in the cleft formed where they lay against one another. The stick only resembled a stick at a casual glance. It was too straight, the twigs and bark on it too scarce and too random. Following the stick back to the rocks revealed another rock behind them, this one softer and made up of varied desert hues.

You got to the count of three to turn around and go away.”

Javier stared, seeing what he saw but still having trouble identifying the shape behind the barrel as a man. He moved, just a little, and it helped him identify the patterns. The corporal realized instantly that he was wearing a gilly suit adapted for the desert. “Who are you?” he asked, stepping around Kevin and Michael quickly to address the man that had gotten the drop on them.

Owen had a few choice words he wanted to share when he saw the man, but the memory of the recent berating he received from Marko about a possible sniper left him speechless.

You’re on my land,” the sniper said with Carl’s trademarked deadpan voice. “Leave.”

Didn’t see no signs,” Owen said, over-compensating for the bladder tightening urge he had felt. He walked up and raised his gun, pointing it at the survivalist.

Javier held out his hands, frustrated again at how the situation was deteriorating. He had to have a talk with Marko about the loud mouthed recruit that caused nothing but trouble. “Nobody wants any trouble, stranger. We’re just tracking some people and trying to make sure everything gets back where it belongs. You see three people come through here? One of them wounded maybe?”

I saw ‘em,” he said. “What’s it to you?”

We need to make sure they didn’t take anything. Got reason to believe they might have stolen something important,” Javier said. “Just tell us where they went and how far ahead of us they are.”

They didn’t have shit with them,” he said. “Not moving too good either, but they was okay. This got anything to do with a plane crash?”

You talked to them?” Javier said, eyes narrowing and his hand gripping his rifle a little tighter.

Let’s just fucking shoot him, we’re wasting time!” Owen snapped.

Who do you work for?” Carl asked, ignoring Owen’s threat.

We’re with Maelstrom,” Javier said, also ignoring the private but vowing to see that he was fired or disciplined when they got back. “Might be something in this for you if you help. Did you talk to them? Did they survive the crash?”

What you going to do with them?”

Javier frowned. “Look friend, it’s four guns to one. Time you started answering my questions, not asking your own.”

The instantaneous crack of the sniper rifle washed over them. Kevin ducked, pulling his own rifle up defensively. Javier spun away and rolled behind some thorny bushes, hissing in pain as they found gaps in his fatigues or poked new ones in them. He distantly noticed Michael throwing himself away as well, while Owen merely collapsed to the rocky desert floor. His body twitched several times while blood ran down his face from the gaping hole just left of his nose that Carl’s bullet had made.

Only three to one now, you still want to talk?” Javier heard the aggravatingly calm sniper call out to them.

Javier stared at Carl’s hiding spot, wondering why they could not see him or his rifle. His voice had come from somewhere different as well, somewhere to the right.

Holy fuck!” Kevin whimpered, staring at Owen’s ruined face. The entry hole was small enough, looking like an angry and exploded zit. The shape of his head and the blood and other gore on the ground showed that the exit wound looked far, far different.

This doesn’t have to go this way!” Javier shouted, looking around and trying to pinpoint where Carl’s voice had come from. He saw Michael was looking as well, peering around a small saguaro cactus with his shotgun held tightly in his hands.

I see him!” Kevin suddenly shouted, standing up and firing his assault rifle in long bursts that drained the clip in a couple of seconds. His bullets ricocheted off rocks and ground, or sailed into the air altogether. Cursing, he ejected his clip and struggled to slam a new one home. He fumbled it against the port on the Heckler and Koch assault rifle and looked down at it.

Kevin never looked up. Javier saw his head explode in a spray of mist that spoke of a high powered slug passing through it. The corporal tried to shoot where the sound had come from, but the sound had left his ears ringing and made him deaf enough to be unable to pinpoint it. All he knew was that Carl was in the same general direction he had been when he had first made them stop.

Wait!” Javier hissed when he saw Michael rise up.

I see him!” Michael yelled, charging the position. “He dropped his gun!”

Any further words of protest were lost as the Navajo fired his shotgun to give himself some cover while he charged. Javier saw him leap over a final ridge of rock and dirt and then saw him land and look around, surprised. Michael looked down, staring at what must have been the dropped sniper rifle, then started to jerk himself around in a panic.

Javier aimed his own weapon but dared not take the shot. He saw the man rise up from where he had hidden. He was without recognizable shape, hidden in some sort of clothing that camouflaged him completely. Michael was spinning to face him, but his rotation caused him to be between Javier and the butcher that was picking them apart one at a time. A glint of steel was followed by the hissing intake of breath and gut-wrenching scream of the tracker. Michael struggled briefly, but the struggle ended when the knife was torn free of his chest, slinging a spatter of blood so fresh and hot it would steam in the evening air.

Javier watched, dumbstruck, and forgot for a moment that his rifle was in his hands. With the Navajo man slumped to the ground he finally had a clear shot – except that the amorphous shape had disappeared again from his view. He had no idea what it was he had a shot at, given the way he so easily killed the trained men under his command. It was clearly a man… wasn’t it? There were rumors of terrifying things in the badlands, things that the radiation had twisted and changed. People, animals, and even other things. Was this what was stalking him, some nightmare abomination caused by the fallout?

The sound of metal on rock alerted him. He turned, identifying the sound even as he was trying to spot the source of it. Lips parting in a silent scream, he tried to launch himself away from the grenade that was rolling and bouncing towards him. He half jumped, half rolled, and felt for the briefest of seconds the explosion that jerked the air from his lungs and sent him crashing into the ground.

His head swimming, Javier found himself blinking at the bright haze of dust overhead. The light faded, allowing his eyes to adjust, and after several moments he realized he was staring at the devil that had destroyed his men. He looked at him, realizing it was just a man with two arms and two legs and only one head. Having the sky as a backdrop, Javier wondered what made the man so difficult to see and fight.

You’re just a man,” he whispered, staring at him.

Carl nodded. “And you’re fucked up. You got five, maybe ten minutes left. You gonna tell me what I want to know?”

Javier blinked. Him, fucked up? He didn’t feel anything. He looked around, noting how loose his neck felt and just a general feeling of warmth and numbness. He tried to roll up on his side and only then felt the agony tear through his right arm and stab into his heart and soul.

Holding up his arm and staring at it, Javier began to shiver. Tears ran down his cheeks at the sight of how his shredded forearm hung from his elbow, the broken bone visible in a few places and blood dripping from it.

Your legs ain’t much better,” he heard the man tell him. The bastard knelt down next to him and pulled out Javier’s own pistol.

I’ll make it quick,” he said to him matter-of-factly, “why you after those kids?”

Kids?” Javier asked stupidly. He stared at the pistol and the promise of relief it offered. He refused to accept it. Refused to believe it. He had been one of Mexico’s finest soldiers; the elite! To die alone and unheard of in the middle of a rocky American wasteland was impossible.

BOOK: Wanted
7.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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