Chapter 1

Author's note:

In New England, a summer cottage by a lake is called a "camp." The camp may be as primitive as little more than a shed or as elaborate as a year-round home.

I had been looking forward to this vacation for nearly a whole year. My name is Donald Bradly, "Don" to my friends and "that vindictive SOB" to my enemies. I was about as ordinary looking as you could expect to meet: the kind of guy who would be lost in a crowd even if you were trying to find him. That was perfect for my job as PI (Private Investigator). I could go almost anywhere and not arouse suspicion.

My best friend, Andrew Hatfield, "Andy" to me and a very few other people had let me use his camp for two weeks. His father had built it back before he was killed in Panama. All I knew about the man was that he was a SEAL. This camp fit about halfway between the extremes, it was single-sheathed and no place to be in a New England winter, but it had a kitchen and bathroom with running water. There was a sitting room and two bedrooms: one for the parents and one for the kids.

Naturally, as a PI, I had to know everything about the place, since it was new to me. It was just my nature to spend one whole day going everywhere there was to go in and around the house. I was amazed when I ran across a cubbyhole that was well concealed: inside was a Colt .45 1911A1, fully loaded and with four extra full clips. I had to know, so I field stripped the automatic and found it to be in perfect condition. The condition was so good that I knew that it could not have been in hiding more than about six months. Now, my question was, should I mention it to Andy?

I figured that there must a good reason for the gun being where it was, so I returned it and went about my business. I was at the camp to fish, something that I had once been very skillful at, but my skill had dropped off as I had spent so much time at my work. Oh, well, I had everything there from cane poles for drowning earthworms to the fanciest of fly fishing equipment, and everything in between. This equipment was not mine, but belonged to Andy, and was a part of the furnishings of the camp.

The first few days, I lazed about and only went fishing to try to get my hand in. However, after those two days, I was bitten by the fishing bug, and I was back to seriously chasing the big one that consistently got away. On my fifth day at the camp, I was out in the lake in Andy's rowboat where I had been looking for likely spots for lake trout. I was slowly paddling toward the camp when I heard a woman scream and a single gunshot that had to come from a hand gun.

That certainly was enough to get my attention, and I began to row as fast as I could back to where I had heard the scream originate. Okay, I'll admit it: I am kind of the Sir Lancelot-type who has to rescue any damsel in distress, and to hope for a little loving in appreciation for my timely arrival. Yes, I had my .40 caliber S&W pistol with me, though it was in my tackle box and not in the shoulder holster where I keep it when I am working. I learned long ago not to wander too far from a handy weapon.

It appeared that the woman was still alive as I got close to the dock because I could hear her crying in what I assumed was in pain. I tied up the boat and grabbed my pistol as I ran toward where the crying was coming from. It was in front of the cabin and could not be seen from the dock. I was not a complete fool and did look before I ran around the corner of the house into what potentially could be a spray of bullets.

A man was lying on the ground near the steps up to the porch, and a crying woman was kneeling beside him. The first thing I saw when I looked closely was that the man had been holding an unfamiliar pistol that I thought must be a 9mm automatic, but it was no longer being held in his hand. The other thing I noticed was the large exit wound in his skull! There was no question that he was dead, and further observation showed that he was my friend Andy, the owner of the camp.

The woman did not appear to be injured, but she was carrying on like she had lost the love of her life. It didn't seem likely, but I did not chance that she, too, was armed, so I stepped back enough to be protected by the corner of the house and called out to the woman, "WHO ARE YOU, AND WHAT HAPPENED?"

As I expected, she jumped from being startled. Her answer was, "DON'T SHOOT! I DON'T HAVE A GUN! WHY DID YOU SHOOT ANDY?"

I stepped out from the side of the house and said, "I didn't shoot him! I'm his friend, and he loaned the house to me for a fishing vacation. I'm Don Bradly. Who are you?"

"I'm Sue Hempsted. Andy was my boyfriend. You are the man we were coming to see."

"Okay, we'll talk about that later. Right now, I need to know where the shooter went. Did you see him?"

"Not really. All I saw was a man jump into the passenger side of a Dark Blue Chevy Caprice and roar off after he shot Andy. He was wearing a Fedora pulled down over his face, and all I know is that he was White."

"Why did Andy have a gun in his hand?"

"I'm not real sure. We heard a car drive up just as we left that Ford over there. For some reason I don't understand, Andy pulled the gun from under his arm and pushed me to the ground. I screamed in surprise when Andy pushed me. He was turning toward the Chevy when he was shot. That's all I know."

"Okay, you go inside and have a seat in the sitting room. I'll call the cops with my cellphone. There's no phone in the camp." The woman went inside, and I made the call to 911. The woman who answered my call was reasonably on the ball and said that she would notify the cops and the morgue personnel. I gave directions on how to get here and went to sit on the steps while I waited for the cops to show up. Andy was my friend, so I was very concerned about catching whoever had shot him, but I figured that I would let the cops handle this part of the investigation. If they didn't cooperate with me, I would have some friends in the county DA's (District Attorney's) office lean on them.

The cops showed up in about 20 minutes and the people from the county morgue were not far behind. The detective sergeant, Sgt. Harold Bains, was very professional about the whole thing, and even asked me to help him hunt for the fatal bullet. He found it buried in a tree trunk and cussed because it was so distorted that forensics was probably going to have a hell of a time doing anything useful with it.

Sue came out of the camp and gave Det. Bains her version of what happened. What she said to him was essentially identical to what she said to me. Bains made sure that he had every piece of physical evidence that he could get from the scene of the murder, but he left shaking his head. He didn't even have a license plate number to work with, so he was doubtful of ever coming up with a solution to the crime.

Now that the details were taken care of and the body removed, I asked Sue why she and Andy had come to talk to me. Sue's answer was a vague as the rest of the case. She claimed that all she knew was that Andy was being bothered by some people, and he wanted to hire me to help him "get them off his back."

We talked for a while, but I did not get anymore useful information. She did give me the address of her apartment in NYC (New York City) and her telephone number. The car they had arrived in was a rental she had picked up at the Nashua airport. She drove it back to the airport and caught a flight to LaGuardia. That left

me at loose ends for a few days until I heard from Det. Bains.

My fishing was interrupted when Det. Bains showed up with some interesting information. Namely, Andy had been shot with a bullet of Russian design. It was a 9x19mm armor piercing slug used by the Russian military and special police units. Furthermore, the pistol that Andy had was a Russian GSh-18 9x19mm automatic pistol that used that type of ammunition.

My immediate reaction was "what was Andy doing with a Russian Army pistol?" I was completely befuddled by that bit of data, and it whet my curiosity to its sharpest. Hell, I knew he had access to virtually any pistol that he could possibly want, so why was he packing that kind of heat?

The issue was made somewhat more personal a few days later. I was out fishing as usual when I heard automatic fire. A couple of bullets tore through the sides of my boat and that woke me up to the fact that somebody was shooting at me from the far side of the lake. Not being a complete fool, I rolled out of the boat into the water on the side of the boat opposite the shooter. The shooting was coming from around 400 yards away, so I was not surprised that I had not been hit. That is a long range for the average shooter, especially with an assault rifle, which I assumed was being used against me.

I guessed that the weapon in question was an AK-47 or one of the multitude of knock-offs that were floating around the world. The bullet could certainly kill at this range, but it would take a very lucky shooter to hit me with such a weapon. Nevertheless, I kept my head down and hung on to the side of the boat as I used my feet and legs to propel the boat and me toward shore. It took a lot of work to move the boat this way, but I finally made it to shore.

I worked my way behind some bushes growing at the shore line and recovered my S&W pistol from my tackle box. For all I knew, the shooting was supposed to drive me close to shore on this side where I could be ambushed. Naturally, my clothes were sopping wet, so that slowed me down a little bit as I ran toward the cabin. I was bent over at the waist while doing this and did not draw fire from the far shore.

However, I reached to open the back door and that drew some fire. I doubt that the shooter could see me, but he must have seen the door open, and he was using the spray and pray firing technique. I managed to get into the house and rose to my knees.

I could see where he was firing from, but I had nothing that I could use to return fire. Now, that pissed me off! Well, I was going to fix that oversight in the next few hours.

Oops! There was a noise at the front door that sounded like someone was trying to break in. Okay, that I had the tools to deal with. The weather was plenty warm enough, so I quickly shucked my wet clothes. Now I was in fighting trim, and I was about to enjoy using some of that skill that I had worked so hard to acquire.

I was an expert in the various "empty hand" fighting techniques. I could kill or I could disable, just as the occasion required. Well, I was not going to kill everybody, but I damned well was going to put some powerful hurt on anybody I didn't approve of!

I kept low as I scurried into the main room and crouched beside the door. I was going to pull in and disable whoever came through the door first; after that, I would see how things worked out. From the sounds outside, I thought I could identify at least two people on the porch.

There is a collection of nerves on the shoulder that could be attacked to cause the most delightfully excruciating pain and paralysis. The effect usually lasted about 15-20 minutes, so I would attack that sensitive place on the first person through the door. That would be the person that I would save for further questioning; any others might or might not survive, depending on the circumstances. One way or the other, I was going to get some answers, dammit!

The person picking the lock was an amateur at best. I was almost tempted to offer him some help because he was taking so damned long. After about five minutes or so, the lock finally yielded to the intruder, and the door was pushed open. I was hiding in a position so that I could hit that person on the shoulder with the side of my hand and jerk him into the room. That was only going to take my left hand, and I was holding my pistol in my right hand. I was well enough coordinated that there was no danger of me firing my pistol by accident, but I was ready to shoot if I had to.

The door had been pushed gently and it slowly swung open. It had opened as far as it was going to move when a man stuck his head through the doorway. He looked me right in the eye, but I struck before he could say anything. I clipped him and grabbed his hair as he started to fall. A quick jerk pulled him into the room and threw him almost 10 feet before he quit moving. He was groaning very satisfactorily as he lay limp on the floor, so I knew that part of my plan had worked.

I jumped in front of the open doorway and pushed my gun into the solar plexus of the man who had been standing behind the lock picker. He folded at the waist, and I hit him in the shoulder the same way that I had hit the first man. This guy fell to the floor and I suddenly had to hit the floor myself. Gunshots rang out, and there was the chatter of another AK-47 on full automatic. Dammit, this poor house was taking a beating!

Well, I had thought to have two men to question, but the man still lying in the doorway was hit by a multitude of bullets. The AK-47 is not the most powerful of cartridges, but it was deadly at close range. I don't know if the shooter was aiming at me or the other guy, but his body was filled with bullets in short order. The AK-47 kept firing until the magazine was empty. As soon as there was a pause for the shooter to change magazines, I rolled over away from the open door. The pistol shots had stopped while the other shooters admired the work of the one with the AK-47, and that gave me the time to make my escape from the open door.

I managed to peek out of a window without being seen because of a strategically placed curtain. There were three men out there, one with the assault rifle and two with pistols. The one with the AK-47 must have thought of himself as pretty damned macho because he was not as well placed behind cover as he should have been. I figured that I had better do something about him before he got more lucky than he deserved.

I lined up a shot on his chest and fired. Even though the bullet had to break through a pane of glass and a layer of window screen, my shot was still accurate enough to put my target out of the game. That shook up the two other men enough to make them run for the car they had left parked beside the road. I fired at them, but I missed, dammit. The last I saw of those two, they were roaring down the road as fast as the car would move.

I managed to get the license number, but I figured that it was a rental car and would not tell us much when it was found. Meanwhile, the first man was getting close to the time when the paralysis would wear off, so I stopped long enough to fetch some cable ties to use as bonds. Once I had him safely packaged, I put on some shorts and some flip-flops. That was enough to let me walk safely in the yard, and I went to check on the man with the assault rifle.

The rifle had a full magazine so I slung it over my back by the carrying sling and went through the dead man's clothing to try to get a picture of what was going on. Damned if I didn't find a Russian passport! I knew that had to be significant, but I didn't yet know why. I picked up two more magazines for the AK-47, his wallet, and some loose money. It was a mixture of Russian and American money, and that was downright peculiar.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Consensual / Violent /