Bob hadn’t moved his gaze off the trees on the far side of the valley for the past hour. It seemed the sun was coming up excruciatingly slow this morning. The heavy cloud cover was contributing to night’s grasp on the countryside and the wind prevented his voice from carrying to Ty without risk of someone else hearing him. He’d already given up the position once and didn’t want to do it again.
Bob considered moving to his friend’s spot to get a different angle on the sparse trees they’d been watching for hours, convinced that whoever had been there had managed to slip out away from them. Assuming that, Bob thought they should get back to the cabin as soon as possible.
Just down the ridge, Ty was still nestled up under the fallen tree with the barrel of the Sendero sticking out among several dead branches. He was certain nobody had moved out from behind the trees in the darkness, although there had been a good hour of nearly-complete dark after the moon had set. His right eye was getting fatigued looking through the scope and he had a headache, but knew that any less vigilance could be life threatening.
Ty scooted back from the rifle for a moment and rolled over on his back to look up at the sky. The storm would be upon them soon and he was hoping it would force whoever was on the far side to move from his position and possibly provide him with a clue as to who the adversary was.
Bob made up his mind to move down to wherever Ty was and suggest they make a bee-line for the cabin. He slid back away from the ridge’s berm, and on hands and knees, began crawling west towards where he had seen his friend disappear into the darkness hours before.
Korchenko’s heartbeat suddenly accelerated and the long-familiar adrenaline surge which accompanied seeing someone in the crosshairs was upon him. He couldn’t make out anything definitive, but he was sure there had been motion near one of the trees on top of the ridge he’d been watching.
His scope’s vision blurred. It cleared up again, then blurred out where Korchenko couldn’t see anything through his scope. He pulled his head back from the rifle and saw the problem; a small clump of grass swaying in the gusty wind was obscuring his vision when it bent over in front of the scope’s lens. Korchenko was forced to change his shooting position. He pulled himself up to a kneeling position and anchored the rifle against the side of the tree. This wasn’t as easy to hold a steady shot, but at least he could see through the scope. He aimed the rifle where he’d seen motion. There it was again. Someone moving in the trees, still considerably dark where the sun wasn’t reaching yet, on the top of the ridge. Korchenko cursed the wind gusts and clump of grass which had prevented him from taking the shot prone.
Bob reached a big tree fallen across his path. The land flattened out here a little and it would take a long time to crawl all the way around its top. Instead of wasting the time, Bob decided to belly crawl over its trunk and take the short route. But taking the short way was a mistake. Without fully standing upright, he pulled himself up onto the top of the trunk.
Three seconds later, the bullet came screaming in well ahead of the report of the rifle. Ty saw the muzzle flash the instant Korchenko fired, well off to the side of where he thought it should be. But Bob was looking the opposite direction as he shimmied over the log and didn’t know he was centered in a Russian sniper’s scope. When the bullet reached him it was still traveling faster than a thousand feet-per-second.
Pushed slightly off course from the gusting wind, it had drifted a few inches further left than Korchenko had adjusted for, and it nearly missed the mark. In the sniper’s scope, Bob had been a target presenting little more than torso and legs, and at this extreme distance, Korchenko was lucky to get a shot off at all. He was too far away to see exactly where the bullet had struck, but he did see the target react when the bullet arrived, as he had so many times before.