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TIME: 6:13 A.M., TODAY

A gentle fall breeze whispered through the trees. Empty branches and dying leaves sometimes brushed against each other and created a rustling in the woods. Throughout the forest squirrels chattered and chased each other, birds sang, a creek bubbled and a raccoon slipped in the mud and splashed into the creek.

At the base of an old, gnarled, lightning-struck oak there lay a pile of leaves and twigs. A bluejay fluttered down and landed on a branch sticking out of that pile.

Benny Ray looked out from his sniper's nest, down the barrel of his Remington 700 at the bird who was perched on his gun. Eventually the bluejay took flight and Benny Ray continued scanning the clearing up ahead for his target.

Three hundred or so yards ahead, on the other side of a clearing, the trees thinned where a walking path followed the curve of the creek. According to all of the observations done by Benny Ray and his teammates, his target left his hotel at 7:30 every morning to walk this path. At the pace he normally walked, he would cross that opening at 7:53.


"OK folks, we have a mission," Matt Shepherd called out. Margo Vincent set down the weights she had been using, grabbed a bottled water from the refrigerator and hopped onto a stool. Benny Ray Riddle gave Nick Delvecchio a hand off the floor where he had been flipped - again - and they flopped onto a nearby couch. Deke Reynolds uncurled himself from a yoga position and sat down in front of a laptop.

"So, what's with the Star Wars stuff," Nick cracked. Everyone in the room gave him a quizzical look. "You know - Yoda."

"That's yoga you idiot," Benny Ray said, stressing the last two letters. As he said that he reached out and shoved Nick over the arm of the couch so that he landed on a heap on the floor.

Their attention was drawn back to their leader as Matt tossed a manila folder onto a table. Across the top was printed the words "Operation: Squish The Lizard." This brought some laughter from everyone until they saw the look in Matt's eyes. Immediately they knew that this would not be an easy operation.

Matt began explaining what they were expected to do. "An operative the United States knows as 'Lizard' has been spotted and confirmed staying near a small town in southern Utah. This wouldn't be a problem except that Trout found out that he has been working for the Russians . . . and the IRA . . . and the Libyans. Heck, he's even done operations for Ethiopia and Australia."

"Sounds like he's been putting a few too many poles into the lake boss," Benny Ray
drawled. "Do we get to play the part of Conservation Officer?"

Matt nodded in agreement, "Well, if he's brought to trial it will be an embarrassment to every country. All the leaders have discussed it and we get the honors of revoking his fishing license. As a matter of fact, we are revoking it with extreme prejudice."

TIME: 7:47 A.M., TODAY

The sun was drifting down through the trees as Benny Ray continued to relax. As he laid there his mind ran through the song "Thump Factor" by a group called Smokin' Armadillos. Going through songs helped him pass the moments as he spent the time blending into the environment.

Anyone walking by would not have noticed Benny Ray lying there. It wasn't just the fact that his ghillie suit blended into his surroundings. Like any other good warrior, he had the uncanny ability to simply fade into the background. Only about half an hour before, a rabbit had nibbled on some of his camouflage, found it wasn't very tasty and hopped on it's way. At that particular moment in time an ant decided to crawl across his nose.

These were the moments Benny Ray lived for. Some people needed to hear or play music to relax, others would go for a run or hit the gym. Relaxation to some meant meditating, hunting, reading or watching television. For Benny Ray, though, the ultimate relaxation was lying in wait for however long it might take to complete a mission that ended with one shot being fired.


Matt Shepherd entered the room and in a calm voice gave out the assignments. "Benny Ray, you'll set up to take the shot and I'll be nearby. You concentrate on the target and I'll keep an eye out for any unplanned visitors. Once the target has been eliminated, we'll pack up and head back here immediately."

"Sounds good to me major," Benny Ray drawled. A 50-caliber shell twirled in his fingers as he perched on top of a stool. Laid out on the table in front of him were several guns broken down to their smallest parts. Benny Ray had been in the process of stripping, cleaning and rebuilding all of his "toys" - again.

"Margo, you'll be the lookout near where the Lizard is staying. Find a comfortable spot somewhere that you can see Walker as he heads for the woods. Nick, you'll be on the path but make sure you maintain radio silence," Matt continued. Both of them nodded in understanding.

Turning to the figure lounged across an armchair, Matt addressed the final member of the team. "Deke, you'll stay here in the room and coordinate communications. No, don't give me that look. In case you haven't figured it out yet, people tend to notice you and that's not something we need on this trip."

Deke Reynolds shrugged and mumbled something that sounded like, "Sure thing baby, whatever."

TIME: 7:53 A.M., TODAY

A bird took to the air nearby with a sharp cry. Benny Ray had spent enough time with his father's hunting rifle growing up in Alabama to recognize the noise as one of frustration in being disturbed. That meant that the Lizard would be coming onto sight very soon.

Some inborn instinct must have kicked in, though, because the target paused behind a group of white pine. Benny Ray could see flashes of colors as the Lizard slowly worked his way forward. Within a few moments, a head could be seen coming into view. Just as the silhouette came into view, Benny Ray caressed the trigger and a bullet sped out of his sniper rifle. The next sound he heard was a splash following the vision of the head exploding.

TIME: 8:30 A.M., TODAY

Matt, Margo, Benny Ray and Deke gathered around the table in the center of the room and sipped their drinks. Deke had his special protein drink that he enjoyed, Matt and Margo sipped on fruit punch Gatorade and Benny Ray twisted the top off a bottle of water. On the table a Diet Coke sat waiting for Nick.

Nick entered the room carrying a short dowel rod with the remains of a mannequin's
head on it. Without waiting for his teammates to start snickering, he started good naturedly complaining, "All right, ha-ha, very funny! I hope everyone is enjoying themselves while I'm out there watching my life flash before my eyes. Who's idea was it to come all the way up here so that I could carry a target for Alabama's version of William Tell?!? And what was all this about terrorism?"

"Well, compadre, let me take those in order," Benny Ray said seriously. "First of all, the training trip was the major's idea. Secondly, we drew straws and you lost. As for the part about acts of terrorism . . Delvecchio, have you ever really listened to your stories?"

Anyone walking by the room would have heard five voices laughing loudly.

The End

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