Sunday, 3 October 2010

Diary of a glass-half-empty person 17

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.

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