Rogue Elephants

Chapter One

They’d stopped the car on an old logging road that overlooked Bear Valley from the north at a place where they could look down into the largest of the three canyons the topographic map showed cleaved the foothills below them.  They were an hour or so south of John Day and from this vantage point they could see, even without binoculars, all the way across the valley to where the foothills rose up on the other side.  They were looking for a particular house… and the man who owned it, and when they found him they would kill him.  They’d already inspected those other two canyons, a mile or a bit more to the west.  Both were occupied with mobiles in various states of disrepair, but neither by the man they were hunting.  That meant he had to live in this one except in the two previous times they’d studied the valley from this exact spot, they’d seen no sign of human habitation.  Rocco LaPone, the leader, was convinced the house was here.  That’s why they kept returning.

Rocco was convinced there must be a house in this canyon because of what he’d learned from a secretary in the county clerk’s office he’d bribed with two crisp new C-Notes.  She told him someone named J. E. Tyne paid the property tax levies on a quarter section in this part of the county but exactly where the property was located she could not say.  Somewhere along Hay Creek Road, she’d said, otherwise known as forest service road 2195 but you’d have to find the surveyor’s monument to know exactly where.  Well, they were on 2195 and even if they could see a house, there was no road leading down to it.  An unsigned spur road led down to those other two but it dead-ended at the second.  If they could find the house, then they’d also have to find the access road, probably to the east of where they were, that led to it.  Living here would appeal to some because of its solitude; another reason Rocco was convinced there had to be a house in this canyon, that and how beautiful was the view.  It was just the sort of place he would choose if he wanted a rural lifestyle – isolated, unspoiled and inaccessible. He did but his idea of that life was somewhere in the south of France.

“We’re wasting our time.  He’s not here,” said Vinnie.

“No, he’s not there, but he could be here.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means, asshole, that we confirmed absolutely that he doesn’t live in any other part of the county, but here we’re still not sure.”

“Come on Rocco, we’ve been over this road five times already.  We’ve looked at every house on both sides of the road, and Tyne is not here.”

“Are you sure we looked at every house, because I’m not?  All we’ve really done is look at the houses we could see, but what about the ones we can’t see, because of all this timber?”

“So what makes you think there is a house here, in this spot, and not some other part of the county?  These fucking trees are everywhere.”

“’Cause as we looked at each house I been checking them off this list of 9-1-1 addresses we got from the county clerk, and there’s one that doesn’t match.”

“Well shit, if you know that, why don’t we just go find it?”

“It’s not that easy.  Yes, I know for certain the unmatched address is in this drainage along 2195, between Izee Road and forest service road 470, but the distance between those two points is more than four and a half miles and it could be anywhere along this stretch of road.  We know there are four ranches in this canyon.  We’ve seen three of them; two at the western end and one at this end and all three are south of the road.  We know none of those are Tyne’s and I think two of those properties adjoin, so Tyne’s must be to the north.  That’s why we been over this road five times.  Somewhere, amongst all these switchbacks is a house.  I’m sure of it and we’re not gonna quit until we find it.”

“Let me see that map?” said Vinnie.

Rocco passed two maps to Vinnie, one a USGS topographic map and the other a forest service map, and explained his notations.  He then resumed scanning the canyon with the 8 power binoculars he wore around his neck.

“This forest service map makes no sense.  How can the same fucking road have two numbers?  At one place it’s 554 and at another it’s 539, but it’s the same road.”

“’Cause it connects to two numbered roads and I think they assign numbers based on the connections.  If you look at it that way, it sorta makes sense.  But don’t waste your time on the forest service map, use that only for orientation and look at the topo.”

Vinnie studied the map for several minutes, and finally said, “Rocco, the topo makes it clear that all the land north of the road is in the Malheur National Forest.  Shouldn’t we be looking for Tyne’s house south of the road?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too but the two big ranches border each other.  If that’s true, doesn’t that mean Tyne’s place must be to the north?”

“You said if, which means you’re not sure Tyne’s ranch isn’t to the south.”  Rocco did not respond to this.  “Well, okay, the map and the list tell the same story, but just driving along this road isn’t working.  We have to try something else.  That point you made about the timber shielding the house from the road; what if we could see the canyon from the air?” said Vinnie.

“Yeah, I been thinking about that too.  John Day’s supposed to have an airport.  Why don’t we see if we can rent a small plane or better yet, a helicopter, and have another look?  Even if the house is right in the trees some part of it should be visible from the air.  And we know he has horses, which means he probably has a barn.  You can’t hide all that stuff from a plane.”

“Well, I haven’t heard anything better so let’s do it.”

*  *  *

His name wasn’t really Rocco LaPone, although that’s the name he used with the Italians.  He was born Floyd Emrick Beddoe, in Kentucky, and he was Welsh, from a long line of hard-rock coal miners.  When he worked for the Irish mob in Boston, or that one time in Belfast, his name was James Patrick Devlin.  He’d also done a job for some Mexicans in Sinaloa where he went by the name Federico Antolín Ramón.  He had other names too, or at least other sets of personal identification, all legitimate except they were the names of children who died in their first year of life.

He had dark hair, dark eyes and a swarthy complexion and could pass for Italian, Irish or Hispanic.  He could speak Italian and Spanish reasonably well and was fluent in French, enough to pass as a native speaker.  He learned those three languages primarily so he could understand what native speakers were saying, especially before they knew he understood their lingo.  The Mexicans didn’t really care whether he was Hispanic or not nor did the Irish care whether he really was Irish.  The Italians were funny about it though and since he wanted the work, and it paid really well, he’d made an effort to master the idioms and argot of southern Italy and Sicily.  He’d done this so well and his cover was so good that he’d been made in a blood ceremony after he popped a guy named Coyne in New Jersey.

He never wanted to be a miner even though his father, and his father’s father and his two brothers had all been miners.  To get out of all that he’d enlisted, right after high school, in the Marine Corps, and the Corps exploited his talent as a sharp shooter.  Long before he could afford to buy his first telescopic sight he could pick off squirrels with headshots so as not to spoil the meat at fifty yards with a peep-sighted single-shot .22.  The family liked to eat squirrel and since he was such a good shot, it was his job to keep the larder full.  He ate a lot of squirrel growing up.

After boot camp and advanced infantry training he showed so much promise that the Corps turned him into a sniper, one of its best.  He was so good he’d even finished second in the 1,000-Yard National High-Power Rifle Championship – the Wimbledon Cup – at Camp Perry, Ohio in ’84.  But it was in Lebanon where he came into his own.  Thirty-four kills with thirty-five shots and his record would have been perfect except his spotter wasn’t as good at reading mirage as he.  He knew this to be fact because his spotter’s record as a shooter, with him doing the spotting, was twenty-eight kills with the same number of shots.  He’d pulled his twenty and retired as a Gunnery Sergeant.  Along the way he’d earned enough credits for an AA degree and two years as a recruiter in Santa Barbara near the end of his service allowed him to get a B.S. in International Business from Cal Poly.  When he wasn’t on a job he lived quietly in Aulus-les-Bains, France near the Spanish frontier.

This job would be a piece of cake, if he could find this Tyne.  This logging road gave him excellent sight lines into the canyon, shooting down at thirty-degrees or so.  Of course, the Italians wanted Tyne killed in a particular way, to make an object lesson of him for others.  They’d even offered him a special bonus over and above his usual fee; one hundred big for the man himself plus an additional twenty-five, for photos of the man killed exactly that way.  They wanted him killed with his dick in his mouth, which was problematic since Tyne wasn’t exactly your average Joe Sixpack – he’d already killed several of theirs.  The bonus they were willing to pay was another indicator that this Tyne had to be handled with care.

LaPone was proficient with most weapons, including his hands and feet but taking Tyne alive so that he could be castrated would expose him and his crew to unnecessary risk.  He didn’t care about Vinnie but he did care about Sal.  He liked Sal, as much as you could like anyone in this business.  He was pretty sure Sal was Italian; he’d heard his last name once but now couldn’t remember it.  He didn’t look Italian; he looked Puerto Rican or maybe had some Black in there.  He could never be a made guy, not being all Italian, but that was okay since it was easier to work with the guys that would never be made, the good ones that is, who had accepted that fact.  Mostly he preferred to work alone but sometimes an extra pair of hands or an extra pair of eyes came in handy.

He liked working with Sal because he kept his head, kept his emotions in check even when they were whacking a guy, and he kept his mouth shut, mostly, not like this fucking Vinnie who couldn’t keep still for five minutes at a time.  But mostly he liked working with Sal because he didn’t have to be told everything what to do.  He’d partnered with Sal on the last four jobs he’d done for the Italians and wanted to continue the partnership but Vinnie was an asshole, was getting on his nerves, and Rocco was thinking he might pop him too when this job was over and blame it on Tyne.  And he didn’t need the special bonus.  With nearly two million stashed in anonymous offshore accounts in four different tax havens, all earning interest, he was already rich.  He’d quit in another year or two when he reached his goal – three million.  The upfront fee they’d paid plus the standard bonus was more than enough.  He knew greed could get you killed.  He wasn’t about to let that happen so he’d do Tyne from long range and tell the Italians it was impossible to get close.

*  *  *

Sal started the engine of the Buick and continued along the road looking for a place wide enough to turn around.  Rocco resumed glassing the canyon to the north looking for any sign of human habitation.  Sal had to go more than a quarter of a mile to find a place to turn.  It was an outcrop at the top of a hogback ridge and the road from that point curved to the north into the timber but at this precise spot it exposed canyons on both sides of the ridge.  As they turned Rocco realized that the view he now had to the west exposed another canyon that opened to the south they had not seen before.  He studied the topo and saw almost immediately why.  Only in this exact spot and only by maneuvering the car to turn back towards Seneca could you see into that canyon.  They’d driven past this spot five times and missed it each time.  If Vinnie was right, that all the privately held land was to the south the missing house just might be visible from this spot.  He ordered Sal to stop the car and he got out to get a better view.

He went right up to the west rim and sat down so that he could brace his elbows on his knees to settle the slight tremor induced by his breathing and heartbeat he could see through the glasses.  He slowly traversed the rugged terrain from left to right and saw – nothing.  Unwilling to give up he tried right-to-left, even slower than before.  Half way through the arc visible from the overlook he saw something move.  It was just the flash of something brown.  He adjusted the fine focus of the glasses to sharpen the image, and he saw it again.  It was a horse, and the movement that caught his eye was its tail switching to ward off flies.  The horse was feeding on the short bunch grass and slowly moving from left to right.

He held the glasses exactly on the horse and pivoted slowly left.  He saw no other living creatures, so he tried the same movement to the right of the horse.  And no more than what he judged to be thirty yards in the direction it was moving he saw another horse.  Two horses; Tyne owned horses, and these two were right where they should be if he was right about there being an undiscovered house in this canyon.  He now began sector searches centered on the horses, moving the glasses upward until he reached the horizon, then downward, until he was looking at the rim.  This took many minutes to do conscientiously, but Rocco was a patient and methodical hunter.

As he scanned the canyon the sun passed the towering western ridgeline putting the terrain to his west in shadow, the ridge to his east and the canyon’s floor still in full sun.  Looking beyond the horses the canyon seemed to corkscrew, first to the right and then to the left, the twisting sides shielding the very bottom of the canyon from view.  As the shade enveloped the canyon Rocco noticed an eerie glow, as if the sun had found a hole in the trees that gathered its rays to that very point, like a prism with it’s own source of light.  He scanned the tree line to the west and found no opening to explain that light.

And as he studied the glow, and as the dusk grew deeper towards twilight, it seemed to get brighter.  It seemed as he watched that some conscious force had thrown a switch and the glow went from low to high.  Whatever it was, it had to be man-made.

He studied the ridge behind him.  It was steep but broken, covered with towering second growth Douglas fir, volunteer blackberry bushes growing between the trunks with many ledges and some down timber.  He was sure he could climb it. He started up, zigging and zagging as he went, using the stouter bushes for handholds, following the ridge’s natural contours.  Every minute or so he stopped to catch his breadth and looked back keeping the glow roughly centered in his path upward.  Only once was his ascent blocked by the massive trunk of a tree lying on its side.  He backtracked and found his way around the shallow-rooted fir blown down by some previous big wind.  He ascended about three hundred feet and to his surprise struck a poorly maintained gravel road.  His first thought was that he had struck forest service road 2195 higher up.  A careful inspection of the topographic map and several compass bearings revealed that it was actually an unnumbered logging road.  It appeared to intersect with 2195 – the connection was omitted but it was obvious it had once been there – but essentially went nowhere; unless you thought a clearing where years ago cut timber had been skidded and staged was somewhere.

Peering at the glow below through his binoculars he walked along the edge, first to his right and then his left.  The wind was very strong and it cut through his damp shirt.  He shivered involuntarily and it made the jittery image in his binoculars almost unviewable.  His eyes were tearing from the wind and the strain of the effort, and he was about to give up and warm himself in the car when fifty yards or so from where he reached the road the glow came into full view.  It was a greenhouse and the glow came from the supplemental lighting the grower was using.  And not far from the greenhouse he saw the barn.  It was right where it should be.

He lowered the glasses and squeezed his eyes tightly shut, to give his eyes some relief from the wind, then took another look to make sure he could find it again, and this time had no trouble locating it.  Funny, he thought, how something could go unnoticed until you just happened on it, but once you knew where to look, it was easy to see.  He studied the barn for several minutes.  From its size relative to trees near it, it seemed to be about a kilometer away.  It looked to Rocco like a steel, pre-fab, utility building.  He could see it was L-shaped and to its south was not just one greenhouse but a cluster of greenhouses, perhaps four, the kind with semi-circular roofs covered with clear-plastic fabric.  Both were situated where two creeks merged.  On the topo they looked like two branches of Hay Creek.  But where was the house?

He scanned the building from side to side.  After several moments it occurred to him he was really looking at two buildings, not one, and they were joined at the hip.  The smaller of the two was a two-story, possibly over a daylight basement, with a shed roof, dormer, a stone chimney on one side and rock columns supporting a wrap-around deck on the other.  The walls appeared to be logs, not round but rough-hewn, square with notched corners and contrasting caulking.

The metal siding of the larger was painted light beige; both had green metal roofs that blended with the Douglas firs that surrounded them on three sides.  The smaller was built on a foundation while the larger was on a slab.  The larger looked like buildings he’d seen throughout rural America.  Apparently, perhaps because of the severity of the winters in these parts, the man had connected the smaller log structure, obviously his home, with one wall of the barn.  Undoubtedly, he thought, there was access to the house from the barn.  As remote as this house is, he thought, it was unlikely the man locked his doors at night but if he did, he probably didn’t lock the door that connected the house with the barn.  Rocco concluded the utility building must have something to do with those greenhouses.  It was just too big for two horses.

He was certain this was not a property they had previously checked.  He marked the spot by building a rock cairn and began jogging downhill along the road.  Several minutes later he emerged on the other road where Sal and Vinnie were waiting.  He whistled them up and when they joined him with the Buick he directed Sal up to the cairn.  He insisted that each of them look through the glasses and see for themselves that he had found a house.  All that was left to do was verify whether it was Tyne’s.

Rocco took a compass reading to the buildings and carefully marked their location on the topo.  Looking at the contour lines he now saw why they had missed it.  It was not actually on the road but on a jeep trail that followed the course of Hay Creek and a ravine that was cut by the road and between the road they were on and the buildings were a series of ridges that were higher than the land on which the buildings were sited and thus masked them from view.  In fact, Rocco now knew that only because they were at least five hundred feet higher than the buildings could they see them.  From lower down none of them would be visible.  They had driven right past that jeep trail five times because they thought it was too rough to lead to a house.  Had he not seen the horses and the strange glow they would again have missed finding it.

“Okay, now we know there’s a house down there we haven’t checked out.  These glasses aren’t strong enough to make out a lot of detail.  It’s getting late and will be full dark soon and I’m hungry.  I want a steak and a hot shower, so let’s pull the plug, but first thing tomorrow I want to go into John Day and buy a spotting scope and a window mount.  I think with more magnification we can judge from here whether Tyne’s down there.  And if he is, then we can take him out tomorrow night and get out of these miserable fucking mountains.”

“Sounds like a plan to me, let’s go, I’m freezing my ass off in this wind.”  A bitterly cold wind, with just a trace of snow, was now blowing up the canyon.  Rocco noted the hogback on the map and penciled in the connection to the unnumbered road so they could find this exact spot again in the morning.  They then returned to the car.  Sal started the engine and turned the heater up to max.  As they descended the snow got heavier and the windshield wipers could barely keep the glass clear.  When they reached the place where the road and the jeep trail intersected Rocco ordered Sal to stop and he stepped out into the snow.  He thought he would walk the trail with the expectation of finding a driveway but the snow had already obliterated any tire tracks that might have been present so finding one would be a long shot at best.  He got back in the car and Sal drove to the motel.

*  *  *

Early the next morning after breakfast they went into John Day and at Jake’s Tackle and Gun Rocco purchased a 15-45x Leupold spotting scope, a digital camera adapter and a Bushnell car window mount.  During the night several inches of late season snow had fallen and Sal drove the Buick cautiously back to the hogback and then the rock cairn where they had discovered the house the day before.  It was almost noon when they reached that spot.  Most of the snow had blown off the exposed parts of the road and the sun was making quick work of what was left.  Sal parked at the rim so that the passenger side had a good view to the west.  Rocco lowered his window and attached the Bushnell mount to the glass.  He then threaded the Leupold over the tripod screw and set the power ring to 15.  With his binoculars he scanned the canyon for the house and easily found it, even without the glow from the greenhouses, now that he knew where to look.  It was a simple matter now to align the Leupold with the binoculars and he quickly centered the house, then twisted the handle to lock the scope in place.  He adjusted the power ring all the way to 45, then back to 15, finally settling on 30 for the best view of the house and its immediate surroundings.

It was a log building; a two-story built over a daylight basement with a covered porch that ran nearly the full width of the facade he could see.  Instead of wrapping around the corner as first he thought he could just see the beginning of a flight of stairs that rose to what must be a deck over the entrance to the daylight basement.  He counted two evenly spaced stone and wood support columns, which meant that porch was about twenty feet long.  Rocco judged he was looking at the backside of the house because of that porch.  A door partially masked by the porch looked like a utility door rather than a formal front entrance.  Because they were looking down on the house Rocco could see that it faced south.  From where they were parked he couldn’t actually see the main entrance or the face of the daylight basement but he guessed it too held a walk out, probably a sliding glass door.  That meant at least four points of egress and almost certainly access to the living quarters from inside that utility building.  On the edge of the metal porch roof, sitting side by side and also facing south were what looked like two satellite TV antennas.  He loosened the handle and panned left and right to see if there were any other buildings.

In an area cleared of all grass and brush to the left and beyond the house he saw the greenhouses.  They were attached at their northern ends to a metal-sided shed similar to the barn but smaller that stretched their full width.  He counted four connected bays.  With the sun high in the sky and not a cloud to be seen, the unnatural glow that caught his eye the previous afternoon was absent.  He’ll turn the lights on towards dusk, Rocco mused.  Had he not I’d never have found him.

Two pickup trucks were parked in front of the shed, an older full-size Ford and a smaller, newer import.  Rocco noticed one other small building, and after cranking the power ring to 45 he concluded it was probably a well house.  He made a sketch of the shape and orientation of the buildings on the map.  Then he brought the power ring back to 30 and centered the scope so the view included both the house and the greenhouse.  Twenty minutes or so later his patience was rewarded when three men and two women emerged from a door in that shed attached to the greenhouses.

The two women got into the smaller pickup and drove away to the south while two of the men followed in the older truck.  Sal was watching as well with his own binoculars, standing on the driver’s side sill with his forearms resting on the car’s roof, so Rocco said, “Do you see those two trucks?”

“Yeah.”

“Watch them and see if you can see how they leave.”

Rocco watched the man that stayed behind disappear behind the smaller building.  A few moments later a dog and this same man emerged from a door near where the smaller building joined the larger.  The dog looked like a terrier, but a big one.  Rocco could not remember the names of big terriers, so he said, “There’s a man down there and he has a dog.  Looks like a terrier.  What are the names of the bigger terriers?”

Vinnie said, “Irish, or wire-haired, or Welch, or Airedale…”

“That’s it, he has an Airedale.  If this is the man, we’ll have to deal with the dog too.”

“What’s the man like?”

Rocco cranked the power up to 45 and studied the man.  “He’s a big man, not too tall but big in the chest and shoulders.  Looks strong.  He’s wearing a plaid shirt and jeans with red suspenders and has on a cowboy hat.  He’s throwing a ball and the dog’s fetching it.  Damn, he’s going back towards the house.  He went inside, but he left the dog outside.  Hand me that camera case.  When he comes out again I want to get some pictures.”

“Is there a woman in residence?”

“Napoletano said he had a visitor a few months back but now she’s in California, so no, he’s probably alone… after these people who work in the greenhouse go home for the night.”

“What if he’s not?”

“We’ll do her too.”

“If it’s the one he was with last year, she’s a mighty fine piece.”

“Her bad luck.”

Rocco screwed the adapter he bought at Jake’s onto the eyepiece of the Leupold and attached his Nikon digital camera to the adapter, turning the spotting scope into a telephoto lens.  He carefully centered the house and now studied it through the camera’s LCD viewfinder.  In a few minutes the man reemerged from the house and over the next several hours he took at least two-dozen photos of him engaged in various ranch chores including trimming the hooves of his horses.  At one point he took off the hat to wipe sweat from his forehead and Rocco got a good shot of his face, almost looking directly into the camera.

“Did you see where those two trucks went?” he asked Sal.

“I saw them and their dust a couple of times, headed west and then south, but I lost them behind some hills.”

He handed Sal the topo and told him to mark the map where he last saw the trucks.

Rocco separated the camera from the spotting scope and reviewed once again the images and finally was satisfied they had found Tyne.  He attached the scope to the tripod that came with it and handed it to Vinnie in the back seat then opened the passenger door and stepped out into the cold air.  “Sal, open the trunk.”  He bent forward and back several times stretching his stiff back and walked around to the rear of the car.  Sal stepped out and followed him around and unlocked the trunk.  Rocco unlatched the heavy aluminum gun case.

“What kind of a rifle is that?”

“It’s a Marine sniper rifle, an M-40A1.  It’s really a Remington 700 but modified and fine-tuned for accuracy, with a heavy precision Atkinson barrel and this Unertl 10 power telescopic sight.  The adjustment cam in the scope was cut to match the ballistics of this ammo,” holding up one round between his thumb and middle finger.

Rocco took the rifle out of its padded case and loaded it with five rounds of Lake City 173 grain 7.62mm match ammunition.  He cased his binoculars and walked to the west rim and assumed a prone position with a tight sling.  Vinnie now got out of the car and both he and Sal followed Rocco.  They dropped down beside him one on either side, Vinnie watching through the spotting scope and Sal with his binoculars.

“How far of a shot is it?” said Vinnie.

“Tyne’s almost six feet, so comparing his height with the horizontal graduations on the reticle, it’s at least 1,100 meters but no more than 1,150 meters,” said Rocco after a long pause.

“Can you really hit a man at that distance?”

“I did even better in Beirut in ‘83 but I worked with a spotter who was even better than me.  Do you see how the mirage is running from left to right?”

“What’s mirage?” said Sal.

“That swirling and tearing of the image along the bottom of the view through the glass.  That’s really the wind blowing the heat waves that are radiating off horizontal surfaces.  If Sergeant Sanchez was here I could compare what I’m seeing with what he would be seeing in his binoculars, which you can see but which you’re clueless to interpret.  Shit, now it’s running from right to left and it’s even boiling straight up.  How the fuck can I judge how much windage to lay off when the mirage is so erratic?  Sanchez and I were so good working as a team I can count the first-shot misses on one hand.  Sal, when we get back to New York I’m just gonna have to teach you how to read mirage.”   Rocco set the crosshairs high and to the left, flipped off the safety and started squeezing the Shilen match trigger.  It was set to break crisp as glass breaking at exactly three pounds.  Rocco was so familiar with it he could apply less than three pounds and then it took only a few more ounces to fire the shot, better for him even than a set trigger.

“Rocco, this is not the way we were told to do it.  Jimmy told Napoletano he wanted an example made of Tyne.  He wants to see before and after death photos, preferably video, of Tyne with his balls in his mouth,” said Vinnie.

“If I can kill him from here we can still cut off his nuts so Jimmy can have his picture, and I’ll just tell him I spoiled the before photo.  You’d back me on that statement, wouldn’t you Vinnie?”

“Sure, sure Rocco, anything you say.”

Rocco relaxed the pressure he was applying on the trigger but continued to watch the man through the riflescope.  “The problem isn’t the distance, it’s this fucking wind.  It’s blowing like hell up here and look at those trees?  It looks like it’s blowing even harder down there.  It’s probably this canyon, causing the wind to swirl around.  I need two shots and possibly a third.  It’s almost impossible to hit him with one in this wind.  If I did it would be mostly luck.  I need to try a sighting shot and see the bullet strike, then adjust and fire again.  Tyne’s in the open which is good for me, cause Sal will see the dirt fly.  But Tyne’s in the open, which is bad for me, cause he’ll hear the impact and see the dirt fly too.  He’s been in combat in ’Nam so as soon as he knows he’s being shot at, he’ll drop down and there’s plenty of cover.  It looks kinda flat but it isn’t.  The terrain is rolling with lots of rough ground and the sage brush and rocks give a man good cover.”

“What if it isn’t Tyne?  If you kill this man and we go down there and it isn’t him, then what do we do?  Do we smoke every rancher in the canyon to make sure we get the right one?” said Vinnie.

“Goddamn it, it is Tyne; big, strong guy, athletic build, short dark curly hair, exactly what Napoletano described.  How many guys that fit that description have we seen since we started?  Exactly one other and he was a Mex.  Look at those buildings.  There’re all in good repair not like some we’ve seen that are falling down.  He’s a consultant so he makes enough money to keep up with the maintenance.  And there’re no cattle, only those two horses.  He has that greenhouse, with four bays and they look big enough to be commercial.  Napoletano said it was not a working ranch; just a place to get away from the city except the guy grows vegetables he sells to restaurants.  Do you really think he’s growing flowers or weed in those greenhouses?  Notice, there’s no power or phone lines.  He must have a generator, and look at those two satellite dishes.  They both look new and are about the same size except one is oval while the other is round.  Now why would someone need two satellite dishes, of nearly the same size, to receive TV signals?  If one dish were a big one, say four to six feet across, then you might be able to convince me they are both for TV but they’re not, so one of them is for the Internet.  And the man lives alone but has two horses and a dog.  That’s Tyne and if this wind wasn’t blowing so fucking hard I would nail him, just like that, and we could get out of these fucking mountains.”

“Well, if you aren’t going to shoot him, what are we going to do?  I’m freezing my ass off and I want to get out of this wind.”

Rocco now knelt and used the butt of the rifle to rise and said, “Let’s get back to the motel.  I want to send Napoletano e-mail with some of these pictures.  If he confirms that guy is Tyne, we’ll come back tonight and that will be the end of Mr. Tyne.”

Rocco returned the rifle to its case and they all piled back into the car.  All the snow had long since melted so Sal drove smartly off the mountain.  On their way back to the motel they stopped at the wash marked on the topo as a jeep trail and as he did the previous night Rocco got out and studied the ground.  He saw the tire tracks almost immediately and followed them for about half a mile until they ended at a locked gate.  The gate itself was set into the trees in such a way that you could not see it unless you were right on top of it.  The wash wasn’t as rough as he first believed and a car, if carefully driven, could pass over it safely.  Rocco walked back to the Buick more convinced than ever they had found Tyne.

Before returning to Mt. Vernon they did one other thing that added to Rocco’s confidence.  At the junction of Izee Road they turned right instead of left and drove slowly west until they came upon two gates into the Pierce Land & Cattle Company.  The signs said Northern Division and Southern Division.  He could see they were close to where Sal had marked the topo, where he had last seen the two pickup trucks.  The road to the northern gate wasn’t on the topo but from the contour lines it was obvious to Rocco where it should be.  The ranchers in these parts made their own roads, he mused, wherever they needed them.  He drew a road on the map from where he judged they were along Izee Road to where he’d seen the metal buildings.

Both gates had cattle guards as well as smaller gated openings that could be used to let cattle through one at a time.  The northern one was closed with a two-panel gate and secured with a stout chain and a serious padlock.  Rocco stepped out of the car and inspected the chain.  He judged they could cut it with the bolt cutters they’d brought with them.  He was already planning how they would do Tyne and decided they would enter from the north and leave by this gate, closing the chain with a clevis, so as not to alert anyone the chain had been cut.  They then did a U-turn and headed back to Mt. Vernon.

At the motel that night after dinner, using the graphics editing software on his laptop computer, Rocco selected four images of the man and carefully cropped them to head and torso shots, enhanced the already high quality images and saved them as JPEGs.  While he was doing this Vinnie attempted to call Peter Napoletano in Oakland to alert him that e-mail was coming.  When the JPEGs were ready Rocco sent an encrypted message to Napoletano and followed up with a nag message every fifteen minutes.  Vinnie tried repeatedly for an hour to reach Napoletano and when well after eleven P.M. there was still no answer, called Jimmy Tosca at his home in Marin County.

“Yeah, what’s shakin’?”

“Mr. T., this is Vinnie.  I’m sorry to call you so late but I’ve been trying to reach Peter Napoletano in Oakland regarding the Tyne matter and his phone doesn’t answer.”

“Napoletano’s not available.  He’s in New York but he’ll be back tomorrow night.  Have you found Tyne?”

“That’s what we wanted to discuss with Peter.  We think we’ve found him and we have some photos but we aren’t sure.”

“Send me the photos.  Do you have my e-mail address?”

“Yes sir,” and the phone went dead.

Rocco again dialed his ISP and it took almost a half hour to transmit a second time over the 56K phone line the e-mail containing the JPEGs as attachments but within twenty minutes they had an answer from Tosca.  They had finally found Tyne.  “Well, I was hoping to take Tyne tonight but it’s too late so we’ll do it tomorrow night,” said Rocco.

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