The second team had to take a detour to meet up with the courier, who handed them the keys to a pair of utility vehicles loaded with equipment, in addition to the small arms and limited surveillance equipment they had taken out to follow the plane from Washington. They drove in a single column at standard operational speed on Jasper’s orders.
They were joining a hunt in progress.
Olivia Niven had been a former FBI agent before she left for the private sector. She had worked in Behavioural Science and CIRG with distinction before a pending investigation into a previous investigation prompted her to leave. Jasper had found her and kept her on retainer, enjoying the access and skill sets she brought to his operations.
She had been awake for 36 hours, sat in the passenger seat of the new vehicle, putting things together based on what she had been told versus what she had found. This was supposed to have been a sweep and clear, but the change in operational tempo had raised questions especially when they had taken on additional equipment and were moving to support the second team.
Olivia checked the load on her side arm and opened the window to smoke. Her eyes burned with fatigue but she could not show it amongst these men. Olivia was forever apart, and never more so than when she had to go out into the field. She kept up because it was how she lived her life, and the chaos intrigued her.
She almost tasted it.
Olivia and the three others – Fleury, Hobbes and Vincent drove to the cabin and met up with Grant and Gregor. Two of the guys had brought it when they triggered a fail safe and cooked what looked like an underground bunker. Olivia left the men to unpack the equipment and looked around.
The fire had been brief and intense. She found the telltale patterns of magnesium switches and the stainless steel had warped into shimmering patterns against the concrete, wondered why there had been an airlock installed. Grant told her the briefcase had been in here, open and she whistled under her breath with disbelief before she went to look in the cabin.
Little to no personal effects aside from paperwork made out to Walden Inc which she read through and took photographs of on her phone before emailing it to a contact and ringing Jasper from the site.
‘There’s money here, Jasper. Nothing with a single name on, but papers saying this place is leased through a private company. I’ll have it checked out.’
Jasper gave a dry chuckle which broke up over the connection.
‘You’re still going out with the others, love. I need that big beautiful brain of yours on this.’ he said.
She disliked the estuary affectations he put on when he spoke to her. Olivia was not intimidated by him, and she saw his nervy bursts of overestimation as signs of weakness. Still, he was the boss and she knew how to play well with others. It never stopped her asking questions though, even if she seldom liked the answers.
‘It’s a waste of time unless we’ve got aerial coverage. Did your friend come through?’ she said.
Jasper tutted and chuckled.
‘Skenny put together a full spectrum package. You’ll have to tag along but it’ll give you god mode reach, yeah?’ he said.
Olivia cringed and said she would call him when she got anything to report.
Outside they were zipping up goretex clothing, checking the sights on the rifles and opening up the suitcases and unloading the drones for deployment.
The sky filled with the hum of spinning propellers as they twisted into the air. They had been fitted with solar panel arrays which increased the available deployment time and with stronger communications so they were able to cover more ground with better accuracy.
Olivia looked at the delighted faces of the men and rolled her eyes as she picked up the last jacket and zipped it up. She looked towards the trees and wondered who they were hunting and how long it would take before they brought them down.
DB Cooper had moved past forty years but most people were found, even if they took great measures to avoid it.
She had not seen much in the way of guns at the cabin. It was a fact which stuck in her forebrain like a thorn in a lion’s paw, begging to be pulled out. The lease deal had the stink of a cut out operation to it, but it was, to her mind, too sophisticated to waste on infiltrating a militia so she kept returning to the possibilities the evidence offered. It was better than pretending to be in awe of plants and dirt.
The burned out bunker suggested narcotics but it was too small for any decent volume.
All these different pieces turning in her head. Her mind was unpleasant but functional and she set it to work as her body followed the hunt as it moved into the woods.
She looked over the bones and organs. A section of rib drew her attention and she picked it up, held it to the light and turned it over.
It did not look like a bullet groove or even an arrow, it was too deep and there was a jagged quality to the incision which made her smile with surprise.
‘Didn’t see any sign of a dog back there, did you?’ she said.
No one answered and she picked up the rib.
A good shot for a deer is to aim for the lungs. An arrow would require more conscientiousness in terms of placement than a firearm and she had not seen much in the cabin. A big dog, trained to attack from the broadside, she imagined would be feasible but there’d have been hair or a kennel, even dog toys but nothing.
‘We need to be aware they might have an animal with them.’ she said.
‘Scooby Dooby Do’ he said.
Olivia sighed and lifted the bone to his eyeline.
‘Have you ever been attacked by a dog?’ she said.
His jaw tightened as he looked away and gave a short shake of the head.
She laughed at him and rolled her eyes with contempt.
‘Dogs don’t attack without reason. You can train an animal to attack a human, but mostly they’re responding to a threat to themselves or their territory. They go for what’s on their level. So with kids -‘ she gestured to her neck with the rib and grimaced before she continued.
‘Now you, they’d go for the crotch or the stomach. They can knock you over, i mean shit, I read about this one dog, 179 pounds but trained to be gentle and it understood its role in the pack which is all dog behaviour ever is.’ she said.
She walked over to Grant.
‘Imagine it running at you, leaping up and knocking you on your ass. See, once you’re on the ground, your throat is exposed, or you can train it to go for certain areas.’ she said
Grant sighed and adjusted the rifle where it was slung over his shoulder.
‘This is where you mention it chewing on my balls again, yeah? It’s a woman thing, I get it.’ he said.
Olivia shook her head and pointed the rib at him.
‘No, I would train it to go for the inside of the thigh. Some good arteries there, but if you’re on the ground, you’ve got the insides of the forearms or the throat which are good places to bite someone. Simple conditioning and you’ve got something which will die to protect you so long as you show it love and fear, Grant, love and fear.’ she said.
He sighed and picked up his radio.
‘Be on the lookout for a dog out here. On thinks he might have something trained running with them.’ he said.
Olivia tossed the rib bone to the ground and wiped her fingers on the jacket as she raised her eyebrow.
‘On?’ she said.
Olivia Nixon. O.N.
On. She almost liked it but decided to fix him a withering stare and walk into the woods.
A dog would smell them before they got close. Better hearing too, which was a smart move to have if you thought someone was coming after you. It was an interesting possibility, especially if it had been trained to attack or incapacitate on command.
It was starting to become interesting. She had a nickname and an unusual situation to work with, which raised her mood a small degree as she looked into the forest, wondered who or what was out there and how far they were behind them.
John followed the doe further than he intended to. Kelly was safe and the prospect of good meat meant it was worth the detour.
Plus he wanted to move sometimes and the time he spent transformed allowed him to experience a set of perceptions and attributes which he had come to enjoy now he had some measure of control over himself.
John let his enthusiasm fuel his chase and the doe had started to flag, which meant he could charge it, bite into the lungs and let it suffocate without tainting the meat. Dragging it back was a slower affair but he could do it without exhausting himself.
It frightened him sometimes, not knowing what his limits were.
The doe turned her head and looked at him with a final acceptance. He started to leap, ready to push the doe onto its side and bite down.
Which was when he saw the man lifting his rifle as his mouth opened in surprise.