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Authors: P. T. Deutermann

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Hunting Season

BOOK: Hunting Season
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Hunting Season
P. T. Deutermann
(2001)
Rating:
***
Tags:
Mystery, Thriller

From the author of the acclaimed thriller *Sweepers*, an explosive return to the world of the top secret intelligence operatives whose job it is to "kill the killers"-and this time it's personal.

Edwin Kreiss, a retired "sweeper" who spent years "retrieving" rogue operatives and making them disappear,finds himself back on the job-if unofficially-when his daughter vanishes in the woods of rural West Virginia. Using his old skills of tracking, hunting, high-tech and low-tech intelligence work, and whatever else he has in his bag of tricks, he mounts his own search and investigation. Suddenly thrown into conflict with people from his murky past, and with a female FBI agent determined to crack the case first, he becomes targeted for retrieval by one of his own kind-a sweeper named Misty-as he cuts a path through political scandal, personal revenge, and high-level corruption.

*Hunting Season* is P T. Deutermann in top form. It is a brilliantly plotted novel that moves from rolling hills to the marble corridors ofWashington, D.C., as it tracks the progress of a man on a mission-and the secret he alone knows.

**About the Author:**
P. T. Deutermann is a retired Navy captain and has served in the joint Chiefs of Staff as an arms control specialist. He is the author of six previous novels, and lives in Georgia.

Hunting SEASON by P. T. Deutermann

 

Also by P. T. Deutermann

Train Man Zero Option Sweepers Official Privilege The Edge of Honor Scorpion in the Sea

 

P. T. Deutermann

ST. MARTin’S PRESS HEW YORK

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents depicted herein are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher. The Ramsey Army Arsenal depicted in this story was modeled on the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, near Radford, Virginia, which is sri ll operational and which is not, to the author’s best knowledge, an EPA-designated toxic-waste site of any kind.

HUNTING SEASON. Copyright 2001 by P. T. Deutermann. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

www.stmartins.com Design by Kathryn Parise

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

Deutermann, Peter T. Hunting season : a novel
P. T. Deutermann.p>

p. em.

ISBN 0-312-26979X

1. Intelligence officers—Fiction. 2. Fathers and daughters-Fiction. 3. Washington (D.C.)—Fiction. 4. Missing persons-Fiction. 5. West Virginia—Fiction. I. Title

PS3554.E887 H86 2001

 

813’.54—dc21 00-045959 First Edition: February 2001 10 987654321 This book is dedicated to the fond hope that, one fine day, the U.S. Department of Justice will once again represent the epitome of public integrity within the government of the United States.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMEMTS

I would like to express my appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, whose Web sites and public information agencies were most helpful in writing this book. Thanks as well to my editor, George Witte, and my agent, Nick Ellison, for their usual fine professional help.

 

HUNTING

SEASON

1

Rip and Tommy hit the leg traps at the same time. Rip yelled and pitched headfirst into the small stream. Tommy grunted, lurched sideways, and then he, too, slipped over the bank. Lynn, a few steps behind them, stopped in her tracks, her arms windmilling to recover her balance. The grass along the stream was high enough that she couldn’t see what was holding the two boys’ legs at such an odd angle while they flopped in the shallow water. Whatever it was, it was hurting them a lot.

Rip was on his back in the water, groaning and sobbing as he tried to sit up. Tommy was white-faced and tight-lipped, his right leg pointing diagonally up as he struggled against the weight of his backpack.

“My God!” Lynn exclaimed.

“What happened?”

“Something’s got my leg,” Tommy said between clenched teeth.

“I

think it’s a trap of some kind. Help me.”

Lynn shrugged out of her backpack, knelt down, and pushed aside the grass. What she found made her swallow hard.

“Stop moving,” she said.

“Let me see how bad this is.”

Rip had stopped crying. As Lynn looked over at him, his eyes were rolling backward as he subsided into the brook. Lynn swore and jumped over Tommy’s trapped leg to get to Rip. She splashed through the stream and snatched Rip’s face up out of the water. He began to choke and splutter, then yelled in pain. She heaved and pulled until his back was partially supported by the opposite bank. Then she eased him out of his backpack straps, tugged the sodden bundle off his back, and threw it up on the bank. A vicious metallic-snapping sound cracked in the grass. She froze.

Oh Jesus, she thought. She stood up very slowly, then tramped back through the icy water to Tommy, being very careful about where she put her feet.

“I can’t feel my foot,” Tommy whispered.

Lynn knelt down.

 

“That’s probably a good thing, Tommy,” she said, trying to keep up a good front. She was supposed to be the strong one, but her throat was dry and her hands were shaking. She picked up a small stick and pushed aside the wet grass to expose the trap. It was two feet wide and gunmetal gray. It consisted of a heavy base that had been chained to some kind of heavy ground screw. The two snapping arms were solid steel bars, and they had Tommy’s leg just above the ankle.

There was some bleeding on both sides of his leg, and the fabric of his jeans was indented at least an inch into his flesh. The skin below the jaws of the trap was already purple. She swallowed again as he groaned. She tried not to avert her eyes.

“Can you get it off?” he asked. His voice was cracking and beads of sweat stood on his forehead. Lynn reached gingerly for the two solid bars and tried to pry them apart, but it was like pulling on the edge of a building:

The only thing that moved was Tommy’s leg, and he shouted in pain.

Rip was still blubbering behind them, and suddenly Lynn wanted to yell at him, to make him shut up. It had been Rip’s idea to sneak onto the abandoned base. She was very scared.

“I can’t move it,” she said. Just then, there was a thump and rumble of thunder to the west; the afternoon storm clouds that had made them hurry down toward the creek, away from the tall trees, were still coming.

Tommy closed his eyes, sighed, and lay back on his pack.

“Let me see if I can find something to pry it open,” she said. She stood up and looked around. They were in a small clearing. The streambed ran down an east-west gully that wound between two broad hills covered in dense forest. Across the stream and up the other side of the gully was another stand of trees, through which she thought she could see a smokestack and the top of some kind of building. The sky above the hills behind them was darkening fast, and a flicker of lightning gleamed wickedly at her from within coiling clouds. Tommy tried again to get out of the stream but couldn’t manage it. She helped him get his pack all the way off, and then she repositioned his upper body against the opposite bank, the pack under his neck. There was a chunky stick a few feet downstream, which she lifted and then used to beat down all the grass on either side of the creek between the two boys. She found no more traps, although she went no farther than Tommy’s backpack. Then the stick broke.

She told them not to move and then retraced her steps up the side of the gully to the edge of the forest, which was about thirty feet back from the creek. Another crack of thunder boomed along the face of the low hills to the west, and the sky seemed to darken again. The forest

ahead of her stirred uneasily, as if the trees knew what was coming. She began working a two-inch-thick limb off a pine tree, when she saw a curtain of gray rain sweep down the gully, pursued by another clap of thunder. Her rain gear was rolled up on top of her pack, but she kept working the branch, twisting it back and forth, swearing at it under her breath as it became slippery and her hands grew sticky with pine pitch. Finally, she got it off and then ran back to where Tommy was sitting awkwardly on the side of the stream, one hand under him. The pain in his eyes nearly broke her heart. Rip appeared to have fainted again. His chin was down on his chest, but at least he was well out of the water.

She took out her camping knife and whittled frantically on the blunt end of the branch, trying to form a wedge point. The rain came down hard and cold, but at least there was no more lightning. And then a single brilliant blue-white bolt punched out an ear-clenching blast that made her scream and drop the knife and the branch. Her ball cap fell off into the stream. The bolt vaporized the top of a nearby tree, showering the gully with naming embers and enveloping them in a pungent fog of crackling ozone. A bolus of fire flared briefly at the top of the tree, then disappeared in a new roar of rain. She scrambled around, trying to find her knife. Finally, she saw it in the creek, retrieved it, and went back to hacking at the end of the branch. She glanced over at Tommy, but his eyes were closed and the rain was running into his partially opened lips. The rain was so heavy, she almost couldn’t see Rip.

When she had the base of the limb cleaned off and shaped into a wedge, she knelt back down by Tommy’s leg. She cut the fabric back away from his ankle. She was appalled at the swollen purple mess that had been his lower leg. She didn’t know how she would be able to wedge the limb into the space between the snapping arms without hurting him. She looked up at Tommy’s face. His eyes were open now.

“Just do it,” he said, his voice barely audible above the noise of the rain.

“Get it off me.”

She nodded and pushed the wedge end of the six-foot-long branch between the two steel jaws as close to the hinge joint as she could get.

Then she stood up and planted her right foot in the stream, which she noticed was deeper now, coming up to the tops of her boots. She put her left foot on the base plate and then leaned slowly against the branch.

Tommy groaned as the trap moved, but the arms did not budge. Not one inch. She relaxed and then tried again, positioning her hands for maximum leverage. She thought she saw the arms move fractionally, but

without her hat, the rain was in her eyes, and then the branch snapped cleanly in two just above the trap and she went tumbling into the grass below where Tommy was trapped. She swore aloud and then realized her cheek was touching metal.

She gasped, commanding every muscle in her body to freeze. Taking tiny breaths of air, she tried to see through the individual blades of wet grass.

“What’s the matter?” Tommy called through the rain.

“There’s another one. Wait a minute.”

She finally mustered the courage to push some of the high grass aside.

Her head was on the base plate, her cheek actually touching one of the snapping arms. But not the trigger, a flat spoon-shaped piece of metal between the arms, which she could just see. Moving very carefully, she pulled her head away from the trap and then sat up in the grass. She reached for the broken branch, stood up, and then jammed it furiously into the trap, which slammed shut hard enough to break the pine branch into two additional pieces and sting her hand. She swore and hurried back to Tommy, who was trying to pull himself higher up on the bank. The water was rising, really rising, as all the rain upstream began to invade the gully. Tommy’s free leg was completely out of sight, and the water was swirling around his hips. Rip was still passed out, but his lower body was quickly disappearing from sight. She looked at Tommy and found him staring at her face. The rain kept coming, plastering her short hair to her skull. He knew.

“Tommy, what do I do? I can’t open that damn thing.”

“See if you can move the chain.”

She examined the chain, whose links were at least a quarter-inch thick.

The chain was about a foot long. The links on both the base plate and the ground screw were solid, welded in place. She jammed the broken end of the pine branch into the screw eye and tried to turn it, but the chain immediately tightened against Tommy’s leg and he groaned. A lightning stroke threw the trees on the far side of the gully into stark relief. She saw the building again.

“There’s a building beyond those trees,” she said.

“I’m going to go see if I can get help.”

“Rip said this place has been shut down for twenty years,” Tommy said.

BOOK: Hunting Season
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