The stand-alone sequel to Sniper Shot, Return Fire follows SWAT sniper Ben Geller as he defends his family against a highly motivated well-financed stalker, who is determined to exact revenge.
SWAT sniper Ben Geller and his family have a lot on their plate. They were victims of a recent hostage siege (as seen in Sniper Shot), their debts far outweigh their earnings, and they're trying to adopt a troubled young African-American boy. So the last thing they need is to be stalked by a madman with a grudge, a creative imagination, and fifteen million dollars.
Ben has other problems as well. Of the three ladies in his life, the only faithful one is his eight-year-old daughter. The other two, the wife he thought he knew and his badge-wielding girfriend who's maybe just a little too possessive, are both full of surprises. When the stress gets to him, and his job is threatened by an excessive force complaint, Ben realizes he's lost all control of his life.
Then things begin to change for the better, leaving Ben back in full control. But is he really? Ben discovers that better isn't everything it's cracked up to be, and control isn't just something he's lost, it's something he never had.
I stare at the computer in disbelief, wishing I had never decided to check my email. Nearly three months have passed since I got one of these, and I had begun to think it might be over.
But clearly, it is not. Jesus.
“Ben! Come on!” shouts my wife. I hear her put on Christmas music in the living room, and I am beginning to smell the first batch of cookies. Glancing at the screen again, I try to decide if I should show it to her.
Just as I’m about to call her in, the sound of sirens in the distance gives me pause. My ear, trained by nineteen years on the job, picks the sounds apart and identifies them individually. Two, maybe three, police cars, an ambulance, and the old-school mechanical windup of a firetruck, all going somewhere fast. Idly, I wonder what has ruined someone else’s holiday. But as the sirens fade to the west, toward the tracks and their inevitable other side, I dismiss them. Not my problem, right?
Some questions are better left unasked.
“Hang on, Sharon, I’ll be right there,” I yell. She has every right to know about the email. It is my responsibility to tell her, but on the other hand, I don’t want to do that to her. I especially don’t want anything to ruin tonight. Sharon wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that something’s wrong, and Leah, our eight-year-old, would pick up on it immediately.
No. Can’t do it. I delete the email, close the program, and hit the power button. Not tonight. Not on Christmas Eve.
I go to the living room and pause, looking, before I enter. I am the worst kind of schmuck, and I do not deserve this, but here it is, and it’s mine. Looking around the room, I take a mental picture of it all. Not just of the sights, but of the sounds and scents, too. It’s as if I have an instinctual knowledge that all this might change, and I want to preserve it forever in my mind as it is now.
Having already experienced just that, I tend to follow such instincts.
The lights of the tree cast a soft red and green glow about the living room, which smells strongly of natural pine. Beautifully wrapped presents are piled a little too high for a family of only three. Sharon has put on the Charlie Brown Christmas CD, and we listen to their version of the traditional carols. Seeing me at the door, Leah begins dancing the silly dance of the Peanuts characters to the tune of Linus and Lucy, and we all laugh.
Like roughly a third of American Jews, the Geller family celebrates Christmas, minus the Christ part. I just can't bring myself to deny Leah the experience of it all. It’s Christmas Eve 2007, and all seems right with the world. Welcome to this side of Stratton, Oregon’s proverbial tracks, where white, middle-class working stiffs thrive.
I am Officer Benjamin Geller, a veteran of the Stratton police department; a former corporate tax attorney who left the good life to fulfill a boyhood dream of becoming a police officer; one who has learned that we all live by the choices we make.
I am also a SWAT sniper. Originally, the Stratton SWAT team was known as SERT, or Special Emergency Response Team, but after a little incident involving me, the team was disbanded for a year, and when they brought it back six months ago, it came with the name change. Out with the old, and in with the new, I guess.
I don’t like to think about that little segment of my life, and though I am sure I’ll have to recount it at some point, for now all I will say is that about a year-and-a-half ago, I shot another cop during a SWAT incident. He was a fellow sniper, and I nailed him a total of four times with my .308 sniper rifle from a distance of about 120 yards, smashing his legs and hips like dry twigs. I guess I can’t say it was an accidental discharge. He was my partner, and he shot himself in the mouth after I was done with him. ‘Nuff said.
It is raining outside, and the forecast calls for snow. Snow is a rare treat in Stratton, which is only about fifteen miles east of Portland, but a white Christmas... Well, that's almost unheard of.
I am lucky to have the holiday off. My normal days off are Sunday and Monday, and Christmas happens to fall on Monday this year. This means I will also get New Year's Eve off.
It is going on ten thirty p.m., and Leah is fading fast. She doesn't believe in Santa Claus, or anything she can't see, touch, or otherwise experience; a characteristic she has learned from me. Nevertheless, she has made it a goal to stay up until midnight, just in case, but she will not make it.
Sharon is baking cookies. Not Christmas sugar cookies, but real, gooey chocolate chip ones. Is there another kind? The first batch is due out of the oven in four minutes.
And then, as if preordained by The Great Destroyer of Holiday Cheer, my department Nextel phone goes off, and I roll my eyes. Guys with families like to be with them on holidays, so there's almost always a last-minute outbreak of the flu on Christmas. The department has to maintain minimum shift staffing even on the major holidays, so when I happen to be off duty on Christmas, I get called first, because I'm the Stratton Police Department's token Jew, which is supposed to mean I won't mind coming in. Well, tonight they will be surely disappointed.
Sharon’s eyes plead with me, and she says, “Ben, you're going to tell them no, aren't you?”
“Of course I am, honey,” I say, opening the phone and revealing the little color screen.
But it’s not a sergeant’s pleading text for overtime. Not just my Christmas, but that of about twenty-five or thirty other families, has just been ruined. I look at the words and wish they simply weren’t there. Not tonight.
SWAT callout. Domestic hostage/barricaded suspect. Attempted murder/kidnap/assault. Command post Rockledge Pizza Hut. Safe approach from the south.