Chapter 23: Nazi Hunters
The three men crept through the forest, moving slowly and doing their best to remain silent. Jack, with the night vision, took point, with Kyle on his right flank and Tex on his left. They moved in short intervals, walking ten or fifteen paces then taking a crouch, pausing to listen and observe, then moving out again. Jack felt like his senses were in overdrive as he tried to scan every square inch around him and take in every possible sound. Trying to balance the anxiety and adrenaline screaming through his veins and the need for slow, cautious and stealthy movement was almost maddening.
The journey back through the forest was painstakingly slow, but it had to be. While they thought they knew where the skinhead scum was likely to be, there was every possibility they were totally wrong—they could be lying in wait, hiding in the trees, ready to spring their own ambush on them. And, even if the skinheads were where they thought they might be, they still needed to approach stealthily.
Jack wished they had Barry with them to lead the mission—he imagined the old vet had probably gone on search-and-destroy missions through the jungles of ‘Nam that made their mission look like a walk through the park. Up until the attacks, the most experience Jack had with fighting were kali and jujitsu classes and a few firearms training courses. On top of the martial arts classes, Kyle had fought a handful of amateur cage fights. Tex had grown up plinking and hunting. They were not professional soldiers or trained warriors. They’d been thrown into battle and won gunfights over the past two days, but now, sneaking through strange forest in the wee hours of the morning, Jack felt his inexperience more keenly than ever.
As they moved closer to the road, the three men made an even greater effort to keep to the shadows and move silently. With the guns, magazines and support gear, that was difficult enough—add in the forest floor littered with old leaves and fallen branches, and it became nearly impossible. Their stops became more frequent, their observation times longer.
Finally, they spotted one of the enemy—a woman, short, squat, set up in a guard position at the base of the hill that led back up to the road. She was pacing, very slowly, back and forth, looking out into the dark forest for any sign of trouble. Jack saw her first, through the PVS-14, the movement, as small as it was, giving her away easily. Through the night vision scope, he was able to make her out as clearly as day even though fifty or so yards separated them. She was a burly, tough looking woman—the kind you wouldn’t bet against in an alligator wrestling contest or bare knuckle boxing match. She had a 12 gauge, pistol grip shotgun, held casually around the receiver. Jack held up a hand, signaling to Kyle and Tex on his flanks. They froze in unison.
Jack waited a moment, watching to make sure they had not been seen and that the woman’s attention was not directly on them. Satisfied, he signaled to his friends to drop to a crouch. Slowly, smoothly, they did. Once on the ground and well out of view, Jack used hand signals, to explain that he’d seen one of their enemies and identified her location. Both Kyle and Tex nodded to confirm understanding.
Staying there, they paused again to observe and listen. Aside from watching the surrounding forest, the woman also glanced back to the road and then to a big hardwood tree, some thirty or so yards from her position. Jack tracked her gaze and then watched the tree, waiting for any signs of life or movement.
It only took a few moments for him to spot the man crouched behind the tree. Even with the night vision, it was difficult to make out details of the man – he was in the shadows, with little contrast between him and his surroundings, aside from his bare, pasty white, tattoo covered arms. He was wearing some sort of sleeveless vest or tank top, and his white arms, holding some variety of long gun, were all that really stood out against the background. This guy was doing a much better job of holding still, not moving much at all—maybe he was even banking on his stout female companion attracting any trouble that might come their way.
Back up on the road, Jack could make out some hushed sounds—crunches of gravel underfoot, someone stepping off the back of a truck and so on. The forest blocked most of his view of the road, but he did catch a few glimpses of movement—more of the enemy, busy looting their vehicles. He couldn’t tell how many, but there were multiples.
Jack had absolutely zero experience planning something like this, but their plan of attack seemed clear—he and Kyle would sneak in and eliminate the two sentries while Tex waited in the wings to provide supporting fire. If they could do that quietly, without raising alarm, then they could move into position and ambush the group on the road—a simple V-shaped ambush, with Jack on the right flank, Kyle on the left and Tex in the middle laying down heavy fire with the RPD. Maybe lob a flash bang or two in first for some added distraction.
Through more hand signals, Jack relayed the plan to Tex and Kyle. They’d discussed it previously, so there wasn’t any need to try to hash out the details in hushed whispers with the enemy a half a football field away. Jack would take the burly woman, Kyle would take the tattooed man. With a wave of the hand, they were off, their plan set into motion.
Jack crept in closer, moving in a low crawl, almost slithering over the forest floor like a snake. He chose his route carefully, keeping trees and greenery between him and the woman as best he could. He wanted to get close in some of the distance and get at a better angle to get a clear shot. For this to work, nothing less than a central nervous system shot would do—the base of the skull or the center of the face were his best chances. It would be akin to shooting a bull’s eye on a mobile target—no small feat—and this was a shot Jack did not want to miss. The IR laser would help his aim, but still, it was a tricky shot. He wondered how Kyle would manage, without the luxury of night vision or aiming lasers to help.
Suddenly, Jack heard a dry cough from twenty yards to his right. He glanced over instantly, in a near panic. It was a third sentry—one they hadn’t spotted before. Shorter and skinny; Jack couldn’t make out many of the details. They did not much matter. The third guard threw a wrench in their plan; he had little chance of silently eliminating both the woman and the newly discovered threat. Kyle was already moving into place and would be ready to strike soon.
Jack reached for his radio and pushed the transmit button three times in a rapid succession. The three clicks that the others would hear on their receiving radios had been the pre-coordinated signal to call off the attack. The confirmation response was another three clicks. One set of three came immediately. The second—probably Kyle’s, Jack guessed—did not. Where was he?
Jack waited in place, hoping to hear the second set of clicks, hoping that they could back up and adjust their plan. Instead, he heard two slow clicks—the signal that Kyle was in position and ready to attack. Jack tried the call off sign again. Tex’s three clicks came immediately after. Kyle responded instead with another two slow clicks.
Jack swore silently. What was his friend doing? Had he gone reckless, maddened by the loss of his wife and thirst for vengeance? Had he gotten himself into a position he couldn’t retreat out of?
So close in, Jack was hesitant to transmit vocally, but he risked it, speaking as quietly as he could. He hoped the background noise of the forest would cover it.
“There’s a third guard,” he said. He waited for Kyle’s response. Two slow clicks. Jack couldn’t well track his friend down and drag him away kicking and screaming; for whatever reason, Kyle was forcing the attack. Jack couldn’t leave Kyle to spring the ambush alone and get himself gun downed in a hail of bullets. If they were attacking, they were all in.
He lined up his shot, depressing the IR laser’s pressure switch and seeing the dot appear on the woman’s ample chest. Carefully, he tracked her progress as she paced back and forth. He moved the laser up to her head and did his best to keep it there.
Jack clicked the transmit button twice, slowly. Tex’s double click came a few moments later. With three confirmed ‘readies’, they were free to fire.
Jack depressed the trigger, felt the gun buck slightly against his shoulder and heard the muffled pop of the suppressed .45 ACP round. The 230 grain round ball slammed into the woman’s throat—lower than he’d been aiming. Her hand impulsively released the shotgun, but the M3’s second round struck home before it could hit the ground. The first shot’s recoil had driven Jack’s point of aim up slightly, and the second round struck home in the middle of the woman’s forehead. She crumpled.
Jack whirled, turning his aim to the third guard, who was now nowhere to be seen. Jack cursed to himself silently. He chanced a glance back in the direction of Kyle’s target and saw his friend standing over the tattooed man. Kyle had his tactical tomahawk in hand, raining down blow after blow on the man’s face. He was caught up in a blood frenzy.
A shot rang out, ripping through the tree near Kyle’s head. Jack spun, knowing exactly where the shot had come from—a big fallen tree, off to his right. He needed to get around it and flank the final sentry. It was a short run—he hoped Kyle would have enough sense to jump for cover.
“We’re under attack!” someone yelled from the road. A second shot from the sentry rang out. Jack’s blood was pumping so hard he could hear it.
He rounded the fallen tree and saw the third sentry, lying prone, firing through a gap between the log and the ground. Jack was ready to depress the trigger and unleash hot led on the shooter, but hesitated. The third sentry was a kid—a skinny boy, maybe twelve years old.
“Drop it!” Jack started to say, but the kid was already turning to bring his rifle to bear. Jack already had the kid in his sights, the laser painted across his torso, and it seemed like the boy moved in slow motion. Agonizingly slow, giving Jack what seemed like every opportunity to consider if he could avoid ending the young man’s life. He was too far to try to tackle him and wrestle the gun away. There was no alternative.
He pulled the trigger. The grease gun fired, the first shot striking the boy in the chest. Jack could see the shock, the pain register almost instantly. The boy kept moving, trying to swivel his rifle around and aim it at Jack. Jack kept shooting, sending round after round into the boy’s body. In his death throes, the boy triggered off another, wild pair of shots into the forest floor, the bullets ripping through the dirt near Jack’s boots. Jack instinctively moved back, but kept the M3’s trigger depressed, the submachine gun chugging out its murderous song.
The bolt slammed forward as the last round in the magazine fired. The boy was dead, torn up by the spray of gunfire. Jack stood a half dozen paces from the body. His legs felt weak, wobbly. He felt sick.
There were more shouts from the road, sounds of footsteps running across the dirt road. Jack scanned his surroundings and retreated to the far side of the fallen tree’s stump, fumbling with a fresh magazine as he reloaded the submachine gun.
“Jamie! Jamie!” someone yelled out; they were running in his direction.
Jack reached for his radio.
“I am clear. Two down, I have incoming on my position,” he managed.
“Where are you?” Tex radioed back. It took Jack a moment to gather his bearings and senses.
“Twenty five yards to the right of my original position—behind the big tree stump,” he said. Suddenly, bright light blasted out through the night, lighting up the fallen tree and the boy’s body. It was the group he’d heard, moving in. Jack was hidden from their line of sight behind the tree stump. He held the grease gun at the ready.
“Jamie!” a woman screamed hoarsely.
“Don’t go down there!” another yelled, a man.
Footsteps crashed through the forest, the bright light bouncing wildly as its owner ran. The night vision goggles struggled to keep up with the changes in lighting. The owner of the second voice swore and came crashing after.
“No!” the woman wailed sorrowfully. She was right there now, kneeling at the boy’s body, sobbing uncontrollably. Was it the boy’s mother? Would he kill her, too?
“You’ve gotta leave him! We’ve gotta go!” the man pleaded.
They were not staying around to fight; they were running. And Jack wasn’t going to stop them from running—if he didn’t have to kill them, then he wasn’t going to.
Jack caught the sound of movement from a few paces back to his left.
“Hey!” Kyle’s voice cried out suddenly. Jack turned in time to see his friend open fire, holding the Uzi in one hand, blood spattered tomahawk in the other. He sprayed the Uzi wildly back and forth. He emptied the magazine, sending bullets ripping across the forest.
In a matter of a few heartbeats, it was over.
“Kyle! It’s Jack!” Jack said when the shooting had cleared. He emerged from his hiding place behind the tree, slowly.
“You good?” Kyle asked. Jack scanned over the carnage. The woman, no weapon, slumped dead over the boy’s body. The man, with a bald, tattooed head and big bushy white Santa Claus beard, Kalashnikov rifle fallen from his hands, motionless a few paces away.
“They were going to run—“ Jack started.
“I said every last one, Jack. And I meant it,” Kyle growled, slamming the spike end of his hawk into the log for emphasis. He left it there, dashing up towards the road, loading a fresh magazine into the Uzi.
“Moving up behind you!” Jack’s radio crackled with Tex’s voice. He turned to see the former linebacker jogging through the forest in his direction. Jack held up a hand, waving towards the road.
“Follow me! Moving!” Jack radioed back, running in pursuit of his Kyle.
“Get back here you bastards!” Kyle’s voice echoed out, followed by a long stream of fire from the suppressed Uzi. The M60 roared out in return. Jack reached the roadside just to see Kyle get knocked off his feet by the impact of a round to his chest.
“Kyle!” Jack yelled out.
A little 4x4 utility vehicle raced away, back up the road towards Barry’s cabin, the M60 gunner in the cargo bed, facing the rear and firing wildly, a white bearded old man at the wheel. Tracers and bullets zipped across the road. Jack dove back, out of the path of the gunfire. The fire stopped as quickly as it had begun and the UTV was gone, disappearing from view behind the line of the group’s vehicles and a bend in the road.
Jack scanned up and down the convoy of their vehicles. Doors were open, clothing, food packaging and belongings strewn across the road. No immediate threats.
Kyle had already popped back to his feet.
“Dude, you just got shot! Are you alright?” Tex asked.
Kyle whacked his knuckles against the hard armor of his plate carrier, brushing off the fact that he’d just taken a machinegun round to the chest.
“Come on!” he snapped, turning to break out into a run after the fleeing vehicle.
“Wait!” Jack yelled after him. Kyle, slow to a trot, turning to look at him.
“What the hell? Let’s move!”
“I know a shortcut!” Jack said, pointing to the forest.
“Well why didn’t you say so?” Kyle said.
They took off in a run through the forest along the same route Barry had taken him earlier that night. Kyle and Tex fell in behind. The helmet and attached night vision monocular made running awkward—they shifted and bounced around as he moved. They also made it much easier for him to see the obstacles as they came, though the weird lack of depth perception made it less than ideal. With the goggles, he could actually make out a thin trail through the woods—exactly the route Barry must have taken him on. Kyle was two or three times the runner Jack was, but relying only on moonlight, he struggled to keep up.
Jack reached the perimeter of the cabin, falling into prone at the same spot he and Barry had first observed the cabin earlier that night. He was breathing hard. Kyle was hot on his heels, and Jack thought for a moment he would crash heedlessly out of the forest and into the clearing around the cabin. Then he slowed, broke off the trail and took up a prone position to Jack’s left. Tex took up a position on the right.
The Neo Nazi’s had won the race back to the cabin, but they were watching the cabin’s long driveway, not the forest for attack. The M60 gunner and the UTV’s driver, a scraggly old man with a bandana over his hair and the butt of a cigarette hanging from his lips, were caught up in an argument with a third man from the cabin. All were armed—the big, muscular, Viking-bearded M60 gunner had the machinegun, while the other two were carrying AKs. The old man was trying to drag the other two to the cabin, while they were pointing and gesturing back the way they’d come. Jack scanned the rest of the home site briefly and saw no other threats—the cabin door had been left open and boxes and bags piled on the front porch.
“You got ‘em?” Jack whispered to Tex and Kyle, adrenaline pumping through his veins. They had them. Victory was theirs—all they had to do was press their triggers and take it.
Kyle and Tex nodded.
“On three,” Jack said. He pressed the IR laser, lining it up on the M60 gunner and silently counting to three.
Kyle fired first, then, Jack and Tex joined in, the RPD’s chattering fire drowning out the two suppressed submachine guns. Jack immediately saw their mistake—all three had aimed for the biggest, nastiest looking target—the M60 gunner. Round after round tore into the big man, sending him crashing to the ground with a thud.
The other guy turned in the direction of the gunfire, shouldering his AK and getting cut down as gunfire raked across their position. The old man though, used the split second that he had been afforded him to break into an all-out sprint for the cabin, moving with surprising speed and agility. Jack adjusted his aim, tracking after the man, trying to get a bead on him but unable to find the IR laser fast enough. He fired, blind to his exact point of aim, raking the grease gun back and forth. The M3 chugged, recoiling against his shoulder, the bullets kicking up could of dirt and debris as they missed their target.
The old man disappeared through the cabin’s open door.
“Get outta my way!” a voice yelled from inside the cabin.
“What’s happening?” a woman’s voice screeched back, terror clear in her voice. There was no response—at least not that they could hear.
In a flash, Kyle was up and running for the cabin, heedless of any unseen threats. Jack hesitated for a moment, fearing he’d see his friend cut down by an unseen sniper. No shots came. Kyle slammed a fresh mag into the Uzi as he moved.
Jack hauled himself to his feet, dashing off to join his friend.
“Watch our backs!” he yelled to Tex.
“On it!” Tex responded.
Kyle was up on the porch, waiting on one side of the front door. Jack joined him on the same side, reloading the grease gun as he moved in. They paused; Kyle gestured an explosion with his support hand—Jack got the message, retrieving one of the flash bangs Barry had given him. Kyle held up three fingers, signaling the count to throw.
Before Kyle could get to two, gunfire roared out from inside the cabin. Splinters of wood exploded around them as the burst of gunfire tore through the wall. Kyle jumped backwards, crashing into him and knocking him back. Jack felt something thud into his helmet. M3 was suddenly knocked from his hand, sent clattering across the porch.
Kyle fired the Uzi, shooting from his back. Tex opened up with his machinegun, firing through the door and into the cabin. The grease gun out of reach, his friends returning fire, Jack bit down on the flash bang’s pin, yanked it out and let the spoon fly.
“Grenade out!” he yelled, lobbing the grenade through the cabin’s open door and then clamping his eyes shut. Kyle kept firing, Uzi coming up empty before the flash bang went off. From the depths of the cabin, the distraction device exploded with deafening thud. Even with Jack’s hearing protection, the boom rang his ears. He could only imagine what it would have been like inside the confines of the small cabin.
Kyle dropped the expended Uzi and drew his pistol, moving through the cabin door and sending a burst of light out from his Surefire weaponslight. The backsplash from the light washed out the night vision. Jack threw the goggles back, and with the grease gun lost somewhere on the porch, drew his own pistol and followed Kyle in.
A woman’s body, a half dozen bullet holes in it, waited for them, spread out in the middle of the cabin’s living space—a sitting area with a couch, ragged recliner and a kitchen beyond. A handgun lay next to the woman. Kyle fired two rounds into the corpse.
A muffled noise came from the small bathroom off to their right. Jack pointed it out, indicating that he would investigate. Kyle moved forward, creeping towards the cabin’s single bedroom.
Jack moved, slicing the pie around the to the bathroom corner. He saw movement inside the bathtub. He keyed his weaponslight, preparing to fire off a burst of 9 millimeter, the Glock’s night sights already lined up. The LED light burst out, washing over a young boy—maybe seven—who had a hand clamped over the mouth of an even younger girl, maybe four years old. Both were terrified and crying, tears running down their faces. Jack shut the light off, hearing Kyle burst into a stream of expletives.
Jack navigated back through living area and found Kyle leaving the cabin’s bedroom.
“The old bastard is gone,” Kyle said, gesturing with a thumb back to the bedroom.
“Two kids in the bathroom,” Jack said. Kyle let out a deep breath, the adrenaline dump coming to an end.
Jack poked his head into the bedroom, shining his weaponslight over the bedroom. The back window was open, curtains flapping in the breeze. Jack checked the closet and under the bed to be safe. He found a drizzle of blood running across the floor, and a bloody handprint on the edge of the window. Carefully, slowly, he peeked out the window, seeing only a stretch of weeds and grass and then the thick, dark forest. He scanned over it using the night vision and saw nothing. The old man was gone, disappeared into the trees.
“We’re clear in here. You see anyone come around the front?” Jack radioed.
“I’m clear—nothing out here. You guys okay in there?”
Kyle paced back and forth in the kitchen, like a caged animal, breathing hard.
“You okay, man?” Jack asked, holstering his Glock and drawing his flashlight. He used the light to scan over Kyle for any signs of injury.
“I’m fine,” Kyle said. Jack took a moment to confirm that, indeed, Kyle had no visible signs of injury aside from a few scrapes. Kyle pushed him away, angry.
“I’ve got to go after that guy. We can’t have him out there.”
“We got him, Kyle. There’s blood all over that bedroom. He’s not making it far, at night, on his own, and he’s sure not coming back here to look for trouble.”
“It doesn’t matter, man, I’ve got to be sure! I’ve got to go!” Kyle said, turning to head for the cabins door. Jack grabbed him by his plate carrier’s drag handle, hauling him back and off balance.
“Snap the hell out of it, Kyle! You got your vengeance!”
Kyle turned, knocking Jack’s hand loose and taking a wild swing at him. Jack saw it coming, ducked, and then rose up, slamming his knee into his friend’s crotch. The top of his knee found its mark, driving home with brutal force. Kyle’s knees buckled and he collapsed to the floor, gasping for air. Jack crouched over, growling into his friends face.
“Do you even know how many of them we killed, Kyle? Was it enough for you? They’re dead. It’s over. Heck, I just shot a damn kid back there!”
Jack left Kyle, rocking on the floor in agony. His friend reached after him, looking back up at him from the cabin’s floor. Jack could tell the knee to the groin had driven most of the rage out of him. Other emotions raced in to fill the gaping void that was left. Kyle shuddered and began to sob. Jack paced back over to his friend’s side.
“Get yourself right, man! We need you here, now, and on the ball—not running off like some psycho man hunter to track that guy down and watch him bleed out! We’ve got to clear the rest of this place, get everyone back here—hell, we’ve got to get Amy back here so we can bury her!” Jack snapped. Kyle had no response. His sobbing was joined by the frightened cries of the children in the other room, now un-muffled.
A radio transmission broke through the wailing. It was Tex, checking in.
“You guys all right in there? What’s the plan?”