Excerpt from The Target: Love, Death and Airline Deregulation by J.R. Hauptman
The hunter stood silently in the predawn darkness. He carefully kneaded the half-frozen toes within his boots by subtly shifting his weight from side to side on the carefully packed snow beneath his skis.
The rifle he carried was designed and equipped to wrench the life from a half-ton bull elk with a single shattering blow. However, it would not spill nor savor the blood of a Sawtooth monarch on this frigid morning. The quarry was much larger game.
Ivan Jasonovich crushed the packet of the chemical hand warmer and slipped it quietly into the palm of his lightly gloved right hand. He curled his fingers around the packet and stuffed that hand into the side pocket of his parka, relishing the soothing warmth. The left hand was encased in a silk inner glove within a cozy down mitten. The fingers of this hand did not require the mobility and delicate touch of the right.
Keeping still in the cold was always the worst part of hunting big game, thought Ivan. Hunting birds or small game, one could always move and stretch the aching muscles and cold-soaked appendages to keep the blood circulating. Even in a lousy duck blind there were ways to keep warm. He smiled as he recalled the wary look in the eyes of the little brown Lab bitch as he pulled her up between his legs and wrapped his arms around her.
“It’s alright Koko,” he remembered comforting the pup, “My intentions are noble. Besides, you’re spayed.”
Ivan’s hunting stand lay just below the crest of a small ridge timbered with blue spruce. It overlooked a fifty yard section of cross country ski trail bounded on both ends by right angle curves. The trail pitched uphill from Ivan’s left to his right.
Farther to his left, the terrain fell off into a somewhat steep gully which led to a small glade supporting a moderate growth of mixed aspen and spruce trees. This was the escape route which led to his truck, parked a mile distant in a copse of spruce off the side of the Forest Service road that provided access to this part of the National Forest. The tracks of his escape would not be readily discernible from the ski trail.
Attached to his boots were army surplus mountaineering skis with cable bindings. The price he had paid for them was not the sole reason for their choice. With the cable loops free of the skis, Ivan could glide cross country style, with ground eating strides and even climb hills. With Ivan’s heels locked down, he could ski downhill fairly well in the deep powder snow of the glade. The skis were designed for an infantryman, to allow him to shoot and to move.
Ivan’s ambush was set for one cold-blooded purpose, which became colder by the minute. Ivan was here to kill Carlo Clemenza.
There would be at least one bodyguard, probably two. Carlo never so much as went to the can without his goons. Chances were, they wouldn’t be very good skiers, since most of them were Texans. Ivan prayed that Carlo had hired no Sun Valley locals to accompany him this morning.
Ivan’s former life as an airline pilot had afforded sufficient time and resources for him to become an expert in both alpine and cross country skiing. He had been good enough to instruct and to race for the company ski team. Even at forty-five, his six foot frame was fit and mostly lean. He was confident that he could wax any recreational skier in the deep powder.
The cold seemed to become most bitter as the rosy glow widened in the eastern sky. It was then that Ivan became aware of another presence within his sensory range. Before his consciousness could register, he felt the hackles rise on his neck and the tingling spread down his back and into his buttocks muscles.
Was there the bare suggestion of a sound to his left rear? Without turning his neck, he deliberately focused his senses in that direction, shifting his upper torso a micro degree. His left ear strained to detect any hint of sound through the earflap of his hat in the roaring silence.
There was no sound, but the primal sensation grew stronger. He had often felt a variation of this sensation in the field in the moments before coming upon another hunter. This, however was a three-bell alarm, like have the radar from a Surface to Air Missile locked on your bird. The last time he had felt this level of intensity was years earlier, as he was on final approach to a quiet helicopter landing zone that was about to become very hot. Ivan was within the range of a human predator. Ivan Jasonovich the hunter, might soon become the prey.