Twenty Three: 45 and International in the Afternoon

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Saturday Afternoon, Day 20 – Singapore

They left the shooting boxes open with guns inside on the firing point tables. The picnic area was a dozen yards back and beneath a shade tree.

Lunch was served in folded-top waxed paper containers, one per shooter. Peering inside, Spence saw Hainanese chicken-rice with lots of yellow-brown curry added to make it Malaysian. His eyes stung slightly with the rising fumes.

He knew he was being tested. Waiting until he was sure they were all watching, he scooped up a big ball of curry and rice and stuck it in his mouth.

The fiercest thing he’d ever tried had been in Seoul. The Korean sales manager had pushed the little plate of innocent looking white garlic cloves toward him. “Try one of these,” he’d said with a smile. But when Spence bit down, it felt like an explosion inside his face. Everything inside his body wanted to come out. He grabbed the edge of the table and gasped for air like a goldfish, trying to keep his stomach from launching everything straight out. The software engineer directly across from him had apparently read Spence’s face and guessed what was about to happen. He’d pushed himself back away and out of range as fast as he could. Events were uncertain for several seconds but, eventually, Spence regained control without spewing. As the others laughed, Spence admitted it had been very, very close.

Chewing that first bite at the picnic table behind the Singapore range, the pain was short-lived. He looked up and mumbled, “M’good!” Obviously disappointed, the others turned to their own lunches.

Spence smiled.

The conversation around the table rambled from Spence’s impressions about Singapore to the best and worst targets they’d each fired that morning. They talked about Bullseye versus IDPA and IPSC pistol competitions, and went on at some length about the international forms of handgun competition that were fired in the Summer Olympics.

In his highly animated British, East Indian accent, Mahesh tried to join in, “I am shooting the International many times.”

Spence nodded, “Both International and Bullseye are my favorites but Free Pistol does seems to drag on way too long.”

Mahesh bubbled, “Oh, me too, me too. Sport and Conventional Pistol are same, almost like Bullseye. And Free Pistol is … takes too long. Always I am being bored. But Rapid Fire, yes?”

Spence couldn’t help but grin at Mahesh’s mangled English.

“I love Rapid Fire,” Spence said. “It makes me laugh harder than anything I’ve tried.”

Mahesh furrowed his brow, “You laugh?” He started looking to others. “I don’t understand.”

Spence explained, “I used to shoot it so badly I would laugh at myself.”

“You shoot bad Rapid Fire?” Mahesh asked, his voice hesitant.

“In the beginning, yes,” Spence nodded vigorously. “The first time I shot at four seconds, I missed the last target with both shots. It’s a bear.”

“A bear?” Mahesh’s voice squirmed. He looked confused for a moment but then started laughing.

”Oh, no, no, no,” he said, shaking his head. “You are thinking Silhouette. That is shooting pigs and chickens, shapes of farm animals, yes, but no bears.”

Several smiles broke out around the table.

Spence tried to explain, “I’m sorry, Mahesh. ‘It’s a bear’ is an American expression. It means something is very hard. I think International Rapid Fire is very hard.”

Mahesh nodded slowly, still looking confused.

Spence continued, “In International Rapid Fire at four seconds, it is very hard to aim and shoot all five shots, one each on the five different targets. In the beginning, I shot too slow and ran out of time.”

Mahesh was still nodding but didn’t look convinced. Spence thought perhaps he was doing the Indian “Please tell me more” nod instead of the American “I understand” nod.

Bruce, the Pacific Islander, held up a hand before Spence could try explaining again.

In a crystal clear London accent, he said, “Before this gets any more confused, some other shooters will be arriving about 3:30. We’re going to be working on Timed Fire in the next bay. If you’d like to join us, I’m sure we can find something for you to shoot. Perhaps you can show Mahesh your bear rather than trying to tell him.”

But Spence, slightly hung over and now tired from the morning’s competition with another 900 to go, was thinking how to politely decline when Mickey jumped in.

“If you can facilitate Spence,” he said to Bruce, “I’ll take the dot off my 41 and shoot with you. Is that all right?”

Bruce nodded, “Consider it done.”

Spence realized he’d just been roped in, hangover or not.

#

After lunch, they fired the 45 caliber 900 matches.

Mickey had brought his Masaki wad gun for Spence. The 1911-A1 had been custom built by the most famous Bullseye gunsmith in the world, Ed Masaki in Hawaii. Wait time for his creations were always more than a year, sometimes two or three. And recently, Spence had read in the email Bullseye-L group, echoed in the Facebook Bullseye group, that Ed was no longer accepting new orders, and that he would retire after completing his current backlog. At that instant, the value of each of his expensive creations, Mickey’s included, doubled. And when he stopped completely, they would probably double again.

After verifying that the chamber was empty, Spence turned the relatively normal looking firearm slowly in his hands. To the untrained observer, it was pretty much like any other 1911-A1 in blued steel. But Spence knew what to look, or more appropriately what to feel for. It felt comfortably pliant with the slide back like it would be easy to disassemble for cleaning. But, when the slide went forward, the painstakingly hand-fit parts glided together and seemed to weld themselves into a single piece of steel.

Aiming the empty gun down range and raising it for dry fire, Spence slowly built pressure the trigger. After the short take-up, the trigger started sliding backwards. Spence thought it felt like he was pulling on a string that had a two pound weight on the other end that was riding on water atop a piece of glass. Shooters in other sports called that sliding motion “trigger creep” but, in Bullseye, it was highly desired. Two or  perhaps three expert strokes of an ultra-fine, hard Arkansas white stone with just the right amount of pressure as it was rotated over the tip of the hammer’s hook made it perfect. The hammer broke with no foreshadowing at the end of the long roll and the trigger bottomed out a few thousandths later.

Spence smiled and shook his head looking at the gun. “I hope I can do this justice.”

He did. Over the nine targets, he shot a new personal best in each match.

After scoring Spence’s final target and totaling his score, Yong smiled slightly but said nothing when he handed Spence his card.

873-34.

Spence stopped and stared at the card.

He mentally added up the scores again.

873 was the right total.

He pulled out his cell phone, started the calculator and punched in 0.97 times 900.

Yep, 873 was 97% of the maximum 900.

He’d just fired his first High Master score!

Yong came and sat by him while Akim tallied the final standings for the day.

“You out X’d me. We tied for points but had one more X. You took first place in the 45 caliber 900.”

Yong held out his hand, “Congratulations!”

Spence shook it and said, “Thanks. That Masaki was wonderful to shoot. It shot all those Xs.”

Yong shook his head, “No, the gun shows what you do. You shot those scores. A good gun like that is just a truth-teller. You did good. The gun just showed what you can do.”

A few minutes later as they packed up before moving to the Rapid Fire range, Mickey grinned, “That gun never worked that well for me. It must like you!”

But Spence knew Yong was right. The gun had just shown him what he was capable of doing.

He’d shot the 873-34.

He could do it.

He’d done it.

#

At the International Rapid Fire range, they waited for the other shooters to arrive.

Sitting next to Yong, Spence mentioned he had watched sniper competitions back in the states and that he was in awe of their mastery.

Spence said, “I watched some fellows shooting 300 yards into a mock-up of the side of an airplane once. They were shooting the bad guys represented as moving black targets through the windows of the mock-airplane. Two snipers worked together, the first bullet shattering the glass followed a fraction of a second later by the kill shot.

“After the competition,” Spence reported, “They said it was too easy.”

Yong nodded, “At that distance, you can pretty much ignore flight time and, unless the wind is strong, you don’t need to compensate. Trajectory is flat for that distance so you pretty much pick your aim point, wait for the right thing to walk into the scope and then send it to oblivion. A DRT shot isn’t very hard at 300 yards.”

“What’s a DRT shot?” Spence asked.

“Dead-Right-There. When a shot severs the spinal cord above the shoulders, all the muscles in the body go limp. The body collapses in a heap like a rag doll. Dead-Right-There.”

In his mind’s eye, Spence flashed back to the leaf-covered ridge line in Wuhan where he’d watched the body of the Chinese student crumple to the ground, his head still sitting in the crook of Sartaq’s arm.

He was DRT, Dead-Right-There.

The remembered image brought back his predicament.

Sartaq’s got Megyn right now. Where the hell are they?

If he does anything to hurt her, I will track him down to the end of the Earth.

I’ll make him DRT!

Spence realized Yong was watching him closely.

Spence’s heart pounded in his ears. He took a deep breath to calm himself. He couldn’t remember if he’d mumbled anything aloud or not.

Mickey had also noticed.

To Yong, Mickey explained.

“Spence was in Wuhan a week ago when the bomb went off at the University. He was teaching there and some of his students were killed. Spence was slightly hurt and he’s come here to recover.”

Yong nodded, “A thing like that changes you. Seeing innocent people killed is not something you ever get used to. I won’t ask you what it looked like. I’ve seen more than my share and don’t want to remember.”

But Yong’s words were too late. The vision of what he’d seen strewn about here and there, most of them unrecognizable as parts of human beings, were ghastly. Spence’s stomach threatened to rise up. He gulped air to fight it back.

But even worse was what he’d seen in the forest four days earlier, in the fraction of a second after the fifth cut of the machete and the body dropped. In that fraction of a second, the boy’s eyes in his severed head continued looking about, searching left and right, before mercifully slowing and then stopping. Those eyes and what their final motions said about what was happening inside his mind affected Spence far worse than the bombing. The bombing was general and unfocused but those eyes were personal, intimate, and communicated the Hell of that boy’s gruesome death.

DRT might be “Dead, Right There,” but it was not instantaneous.

Spence knew he couldn’t keep this inside forever. The horror was too great. He’d have to tell someone, maybe a therapist sworn to secrecy and forewarned what might be coming. He was sure if he didn’t let it out soon, all the animal grief would come screaming out against his will. Waiting too long and having it come out that way, he wasn’t at all sure he could ever pull back the raging and clawing he felt inside.

But not yet, he clenched his jaw. Not while they’ve got Megyn.

Leaning over, Mickey said gently, “The Chinese have confirmed it, Spence. Three suicide bombers, students from the University, were in one part of the building. They had 3 or 4 sticks of Dynamite in each of their backpacks. There was a fourth bomber but he left his backpack before apparently chickening-out. He was seen leaving the library a minute or two before the blast. And they’ve now found parts, electronic circuit boards, for what were apparently remote controls. They think the suicide bombers may not have actually committed suicide. It appears their manual pushbuttons were fake and they were blown up from a remote location.”

Yong grew agitated, “That’s … disgusting. Someone first talked a bunch of college kids into committing suicide for some cause, but then blew them up before they could actually do it? What the Hell kind of a person does something like that?”

Spence bit his lip.

I know what kind, he shook his head silently. I’ve met him. And he will be here in a week.

Spence inhaled deeply and sighed, “How do you deal with terrorists? I mean what are the real world things you do to stop them. If they’ve got bombs like that, can you do it or does everyone just die?”

Yong explained that, as snipers, they had very specific things they could, and would, do. First, they’d look for high ground or an elevated firing point where they could get a clear shot. That’s why they knew, and practiced, the DRT shot. It was essential to their business. Failing that, and only as a last resort, he said in a softer voice they might have to clear the view to get a clean shot at the terrorists.

“Clear the view?” Spence asked, his eyes widened even as his mind accepted the terrible necessity. “You mean you might have to shoot people that are in the way?”

After a barely perceptible nod, Yong continued.

“But people usually duck, lay down or run when they hear a shot so, no,” Yong’s voice was almost pleading, “we hope we don’t have to shoot them.”

Pausing a moment, Yong got to what sounded like the bottom-line.

“When bad things happen, good people sometimes do get hurt. This isn’t like Slow Fire in Bullseye where you have a minute to perfect each shot. When the action breaks for us, it’s very fluid. Things change extremely fast. You don’t have time to think. That’s why we train, so we do the right thing.” His voice dropped as he added, “Which may not always be the good thing.”

Mickey added, “If we have time, our Police STAR, Special Tactics And Rescue team, coordinates with Yong’s military team. They train together a couple of times a year. Because of where Singapore is and our financial connections, we’re a target for terrorists. Communications with other agencies around the world are critical. When everything works, we know when and where something is going to happen and we can intervene before something gets to the point Yong was talking about.”

Spence nodded but his mind was on Megyn.

If it comes down to stopping the bombers or saving Megyn, these men would let her die, or maybe even kill her to get to … him!

Spence didn’t like Singapore anymore.

#

They sat in silence until Rajen and Ivan arrived at 3:30PM.

Mickey completed the introductions again and Bruce paired with Ivan, Mahesh with Rajen, and Spence would shoot with Mickey. Logistics were divided into three parts, shooting, scoring and announcing.

Since Mickey and Spence would go last, Mickey volunteered to announce and push the buttons while Spence would help officiate the scoring for the first pair.

The 8 and 6 second rounds went well as they rotated roles for each of the ten-shot targets, allowing each pair to shoot in turn. Spence temporarily forgot his troubles as the immediate needs of the competition filled his mind.

At 4 seconds, the pressure was at maximum.

When the targets faced, Spence knew it would take him almost a full second to bring the gun up from low-ready before it would stop waggling in the center of the black. Three seconds were then left. His five shots, one toward each of the five separate targets 25 meters away, had to go a half second apart.

To get the timing, Spence would look at the seconds ticking along on his digital wrist watch. He’d first count them as the seconds clicked along, “One, two, three, four…”

He’d then double the rate, adding in a half-second “And” to the cadence.

“One, And, Two, And, Three.”

Those were his five shots.

“Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang.”

One shot every half second with the gun moving to the next target in between.

The pace was insane.

There was absolutely no way to think. If you tried as he’d done in the beginning, you’d never make it.

The only way to shoot 4 second International Rapid Fire was by stopping the mind and letting your body do what it had been trained to do.

On his turn, Spence put in a respectable showing with his two 4 second targets. They both scored in the high 80s. Not great but all his shots landed within a six inch diameter in the center of the target.

Just about the width of Sartaq’s head, he thought.

#

An hour later as they drove East on the PIE back to Mickey’s apartment, Spence thought about all the guns and ammo they’d hoisted into the back of the Volvo.

“I kind of had the impression people left their guns and ammo at the range instead of taking them home.”

Mickey nodded.

“For regular citizens, that’s correct. They have to. And it takes two keys to open any of the range lockers. One of the range officers as well as the owner both have to be present.

“Having guns off the range without a permit is a very serious offense. There’s a jail term, at least seven years, and six strokes of the cane.”

Six whacks didn’t seem like much to Spence compared to several years in jail. He decided not to ask how big the cane was.

Instead, he nodded toward the seat back and asked, “So, if we’re stopped, do you just flash your badge or what?”

Mickey shook his head, “No, with this much hardware, we’d have to wait while they call it in and get an Okay from Akim or his boss.”

Sitting at a traffic light close to the apartment, Mickey chuckled, “Technically speaking, you’re not supposed to be in the car with these.”

Oh great, Spence thought. Now I’m going to prison and getting whacked.

“So,” Spence asked, “wouldn’t it be safer to lock up your Bullseye guns at the range rather than bringing them home?”

“What?” Mickey grinned as the light turned green. “And pass up the opportunity to have someone else clean my guns? You must be kidding!”

 

Click for: <<Twenty Two [Table of Contents] Twenty Four>>

5 thoughts on “Twenty Three: 45 and International in the Afternoon

  1. My first Masaki wad gun was built in 1999 and took less than 2 weeks round tip from MA to HI. Ed was not so busy then. I have to take some blame for talking him up thereafter as he soon developed a back log. Second two guns went out in 2004 IIRC and took ONE YEAR!

    You lost me when characters transitioned from running match to the shooting portion.

    • RE: “You lost me” comment. I did some heavy editing (mostly deleting) in that area and, from your description, I may not have done enough to smooth over the rough edges. I’ll work on that. Thank you!

      In 2007, Norman Wong let me shoot his Masaki at the Sunnyvale Gun Club a few days after giving me a most exacting eye exam including final tweaks for iron sights and red dot while “shooting” across Mission St in San Francisco. (Unlike Spence in the novel, however, I did not shoot a Master Class score.)

    • Alas, you are correct. [Sigh.]
      These chapters are pretty close to “first draft” which means there’s still a lot of editing ahead. You aren’t the first to notice this.
      I’ll start making the eraser a higher priority.
      Thanks for the (honest) feedback. It is appreciated. :)

  2. A reader commented by email that the stone used to make the long roll on the trigger is *not* a “sharpening” stone. He suggested I check Brownells for the correct term.
    I did and the text (herein) has just been updated to “an ultra-fine, hard Arkansas white stone” to match the product they sell for trigger stoning.
    Thank you!

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