Here I sit, in glorious isolation in my teepee on the Sidlaws, being served Earl Grey by Consuela (my Tejana maid). I allow myself only two hours of internet time per day, because I’m a recovering addict. Time was I did not sleep. But a lot of time has passed since those days, and now my period of connectivity – my willing participation in the virtual social community – is severely rationed.
Recovery took a long time, I have to confess, but I needed to get myself mentally and physically fit again. I did it, I’m proud to say.
Why do I mention this? I don’t know. Maybe just as a preamble to saying that one person I chat to fairly regularly on line lets me know whenever she hears a gunshot outside. I invariably start to hum James Blood Ulmer’s ‘Are You Glad To Be In America’ at that point (click the pic), but what she’s trying to tell me is how regular an occurrence a gunshot is in the urban US.
There are currently two items struggling to make it into the news over the past few days:
The first is that a large group of armed, white, right-wing ‘Patriots’ have occupied a Federal building in Oregon. Who knows, it may yet end in a bloodbath, but I’m sure that if they had been brown it would have already ended in a bloodbath. Cinical? Oh really?
The second is that a Norfolk farmer by the name of Tony Martin was in hiding after police had found a ‘possibly illegal’ air-rifle at his home. Tony Martin had been in the news several years ago for shooting dead a teenage burglar. At the time I recall a comment thread, under an article on a newspaper web site, in which dozens of American readers were saying this wouldn’t have made the news over in their country, as he was only doing what any freedom-loving person would have done to protect his property. “You Brits,” ran comment after comment “ought to live in a free country!”
He shot the kid in the back, guys, in the back.
Y’know, I would get all this guns-equal-freedom thing totally, were it not for the fact that the people who shout loudest about it regularly vote for people who want to take all their power away and give it to rich guys.
Consuela has just looked over my shoulder and called me ‘a rank hypocrite’. She reminded me of what we had done in pursuit of a stalker, five years ago.
“Back home in Texas,” she said, “I could own a gun, even though I’m Raza de Oro. Here in Scotland, the arsenal we have down in the cellar could get us banged up for life!”
‘Banged up’? Consuela is really getting the hang of Britspeak. Anyhow, what she was talking about was the following episode, recorded in my Journal of a Glass-half-empty Person, back on the 3rd of October 2010:
Consuela (my Tejana maid) and I were up several hours before dawn yesterday and quickly into our camouflage clothing[*] and face paint. It was still dark when we slipped out of the tepee. We were on our way to a knoll where there would be, come sun-up, a perfect view of the hilltop from which we have long suspected we have been under surveillance.
We took a long and circuitous route, not wanting to appear in the line-of-sight between the hilltop and the tepee even in the dark. I was hauling my Accuracy International AS50 sniper rifle, which is quite a load at 14.1 kilograms plus ammunition, but I prefer it to the only-a-smidgeon-lighter Barrett M82. It’s my weapon of choice; I like the gas-operated, semi-automatic action, I like the way the muzzle brake gives a lower recoil, I like its accuracy at up to a mile and a half. Consuela was travelling light, carrying only an AK47 – marginally her first choice over an ArmaLite M16A4 – as I required her for non-sniping duties[**].
On reaching the knoll I selected a dry place to lie down, settling like a cat, moulding my body to the ground and silently shifting pebbles and bits of twig from under me. A sniper has to remain still. I trained my AS50 on the hilltop and clicked on my specially-adapted night-vision sight. Consuela was on my six about ten yards back and out of sight. Normally on missions we communicate by hand signals, but as I did not want to move any more than was necessary we broke our normal radio silence and used a pre-arranged series of brief clicks of our handies’ PTTs.
Daylight came slowly, and I flipped from night-sight to day-sight. I thought I could see the watcher. It was difficult – he was good – but there is no way you can disguise the flat lenses of binoculars, and it was that which had given him away in the first place. He was there, I was sure of it.
Early morning mist rolled in, and I decided to risk a hand signal to Consuela, directing her round to the East of our position and of the hilltop, and she made her way, moving like a shadow. Y’know, that young woman really has her grandfather’s genes – he was the legendary Gato Negro, who led many groups from Mexico across the border to the USA and was never caught.
I waited. Half an hour. Forty-five minutes. The mist rolled back again and the sun came up. An hour had gone by, and suddenly I heard two clicks on the handie – Consuela was in position to the East of the watcher. I checked in my sight and – yes – he was still there.
If he moved I would stand a chance with my rifle. I needed to spook him somehow. I made a pattern of clicks on the handie for Consuela’s benefit, and a few seconds later I heard the eerie whirr of her Navajo tsín dī’nǐ – the “groaning stick” as they call their bullroarer.
The watcher moved, rose a little. I fired! He dropped.
Instantly I called Consuela on the handie. “Move in. Secure the position.”
I heard the bullroarer stop, and her voice came back – a terse “Roger!”
I moved the AS50 to my back and set off at a yomp for the hilltop. I was only a couple of hundred yards on my way when I heard Consuela’s voice on the radio again.
“Position clear. Shall I pursue target?”
“Negative,” I replied. “Secure and hold.”
It was another half an hour before I reached the hilltop. Consuela was crouched low in some bracken, watching the treeline to the West, her AK47 resting lightly in the crook of her arm.
“What have we got?” I asked her.
“Nothing much. Chocolate wrapper here. Slight blood spatter. I think you winged him, but he’s legged it now. I think he had a motor down on the Newtyle road.”
“Damn. I’m getting old. Time was I could have taken someone in the throat at that range.”
“Don’t beat yourself up, Marie. You chose to shoot while he was moving, and I’m sure he kept very low.”
Crouching with Consuela, I looked down at the flattened bracken where the watcher had been lying. There indeed was the chocolate wrapper. Snickers. How anyone could bear to touch that product since the clever-dicks in marketing decided to stop calling it Marathon I just did not know. Death was too good for him. Next time, pal… next time…
[*] I have a suit in Flecktarn which I acquired from a friend in the Bundeswehr. Consuela likes to wear state-of-the-art CAPDAT digital camo.
[**] Consuela is actually much more expert at urban warfare than open-country work. She handles a Brügger & Thomet MP9 like it was an extension of her arm, and carries a Glock as a back-up piece.