This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
The mantra, pounded into his head during basic training, ran through his brain automatically as he sighted through the Kahles 10X scope, the reticule resting on the front door of the building over four hundred yards away.
My rifle without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will.
He made a slight adjustment to the scope to compensate for the wind, blowing from his left at what he gauged to be fourteen miles per hour. It was always windy in San Francisco.
My rifle and myself know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our bursts, nor the smoke we make. We know it is the hits that count. We will hit.
He shivered slightly as he lay in his "hide" on top of the building. It was a late Sunday afternoon in October, and the sun had already set behind the coastal hills. What little warmth it provided was gone as the shadows crept over him. He was secure that he could not be seen, even from above. He had constructed his "hide" to resemble the heating and air conditioning apparatus on the roof. Made of reinforced cardboard, it was painted exactly the same and was the same size and shape as the others. It would burn nicely, once he was done with it.
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life.Thus, I will learn it as a brother.I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights, and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will.
He chuckled to himself at that part. Clean and ready? Of course he kept his rifle clean and ready, but there were times he could hardly stand his own stench from the days spent stalking his prey, days during which he hardly slept or ate. Bodily functions were ignored. He would not eat, and drink only small quantities of water to minimize the waste his body would eliminate. When he had to dispose of his waste, he did so where he lay, not moving from his position.Moving meant dying, and he had no intention of dying. Urine dried soon enough.
But his rifle, that was another story. The SIG SG 550-1 sniper rifle was one of the finest weapons for its purpose in the world. Manufactured in Switzerland by Schweizersche Industrie Gesellschaft, it was a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .223 Remington caliber, using the 556 mm x 45mm cartridge.
First manufactured in 1989, its design is based on the SIG 550 military assault rifle, the main issue battle rifle of the Swiss army, with sniper specific features developed in close co-operation with police special units. Its design concept forgoes many of the requirements a military sniper might need, such as the simplicity of a bolt action chambering system to prevent malfunctions and jams, and a smaller caliber rather than the long range capability of the typical .308 caliber. Police snipers typically operate under 100 meters, though the accuracy requirements for the SIG SG 550-1 are the same as for military sniper weapons. It can be deadly accurate up to 500 meters, and in the proper hands, targets up to one thousand meters are not safe.
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but PEACE.
He lay on his stomach, feet spread for stability, rifle butt snug against his shoulder. The plastic stock felt so smooth against his face, the cheek piece seemed almost form-fitted to his cheek. He gently rubbed his face against it, loving the feeling of power that emanated from the rifle. He lay perfectly still, knowing his quarry would be emerging from the building very soon, knowing it would be the last thing he ever did.
The Forty-Niners had barely pulled out a win over the Saints, thanks to a 43 yard field goal in sudden death overtime. Vince and his two sons were stuck in the mass of traffic trying to get out of the Candlestick Park parking lot. Other fans walking to their cars through the lot were still whooping it up, flush with their team's victory.
"Great game, Dad," Tony, his oldest son, said."Thanks. It was great!"
"Yeah, great!" his younger son, Scott, chimed in.
"It was a good time, wasn't it boys? And the Niners winning is just the icing on the cake."
"Yep. When can we go again?" Scott asked.
"Well, the team is on the road for the next two weeks, but maybe I can score some more tickets for the next home game. Anybody know who they'll be playing?"
Both boys spoke at the same time, "The Rams!"
"The HATED Rams, right, boys?"
"Right, Dad, the HATED Rams!"
Traffic was moving slowly toward the exits, and it took over three quarters of an hour before they got out of the parking lot.Vince took the frontage road by Candlestick Point, then drove up the on ramp for Highway 101 heading north.Traffic picked up a bit and Vince was able to speed up to 45 miles per hour. The boys had settled down once they were on the freeway and were looking out the windows at the passing scenery. Vince tuned the radio to the post game show to listen to the re-cap and catch the stats for the teams. Tony was reading the game program and Scott had slouched in the back seat and was starting to doze off. It had been a good day, and Vince was in a happy mood.
Taking the Highway 280 cutoff to avoid some of the traffic on Highway 101, Vince got off at Third Street, then turned right on Bryant and got back on Highway 80 at the foot of the Bay Bridge. Traffic on the bridge was moving at the limit and Vince guessed they would make it to their home in Concord in less than half an hour.
Maggie looked at her watch and saw it had been almost an hour since the game ended. She knew Vince and the boys wouldn't be hungry so she decided not to make dinner. She knew their routine at the games, and knew they would be thoroughly stuffed with hot dogs, nachos, cotton candy, ice cream, and anything else they got the urge to eat. She had watched the finish of the game on television, but wasn't much of a fan and didn't mind not going with her husband and the boys. She went into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator just as the phone rang.
"Hello? Oh, hi, Bobby. No he's not home yet. He took the boys to the football game. Should be home in a half hour or so. Yes, I'll tell him. Yes, Bobby, as soon as he gets in, I promise. Bye." She hung up, smiling to herself and shaking her head.
The call was from Vince's new partner, Robert Mattox, for the third time that weekend to remind Vince to come by his house in the morning and pick him up. It was his first day in the Homicide Division and he was very nervous.
Maggie thought about Bobby's upbringing and his past experience with the police department. From what Vince had told her, she felt he would be a good partner for her husband. Knowing that relieved some of the worry she felt every time her husband left for work. She knew Mattox had grown up in the Bayview-Hunters Point District, located in the southeastern portion of San Francisco, an economically depressed area that was the site of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard. When Bobby was growing up, residential development was slowed due to the large industrial sector there and because of the problems with pollution from the shipyard, including radiation. A lot of the housing was the old military housing built fifty years earlier. It was one of the poorest and most crime-ridden areas of the city, with the majority of the population being African-American. She felt Bobby's street knowledge would be an asset to him and would help him and her husband in their dangerous work.
Vince had told her that Mattox was able to work his way out of the ghetto through his love of learning. He enjoyed school and was an enthusiastic student who was always at the top of his class. Though his family was poor, both his mother and father worked hard at low-paying unskilled jobs, making barely enough money to provide the necessities for them and their two sons, with nothing to spare. The day Bobby graduated from high school was the last day he lived in Bayview-Hunters Point.
Vince said he would tease Mattox about his first job as a bicycle messenger in the financial district. She knew that Bobby had enrolled at City College of San Francisco. He continued to work as a messenger for a few weeks until he was hired as a campus security officer. After he received his two-year degree, he applied to and was accepted by the San Francisco Police Department.
When she first met Bobby, he told her he had been with the department for nine years. She had known that eighteen months earlier he had been a patrol officer assigned to a task force headed by Vince, investigating a series of vigilante killings. The local paper had dubbed the suspect the Retribution Killer because his victims were the worst type of criminals who had committed the most heinous crimes and, for one reason or another had escaped justice. They did not escape the Retribution Killer.
Mattox had been assigned to one of many two man search teams looking for the murder scene, and had found a seemingly insignificant piece of information that ended up leading Vince to the location of the murders and, ultimately, the suspects. Because of his involvement with the task force and the interaction with the homicide inspectors, he had found what he really wanted to do. He wanted to be a homicide inspector.
Two months after the killer had been caught he took the test for inspector, finishing third on the list. It took another six months before he was promoted and assigned to the auto theft bureau. He was happy there, glad to be an inspector, and quickly earned a reputation as an enthusiastic investigator, with good skills and common sense, and seemingly blessed with better than average luck. In his first seven months, he located and shut down six auto chop shops, recovering twenty-three stolen autos in various states of being dismantled and arresting seventeen suspects, from the actual auto thieves to the dismantlers and chop shop owners.
The information he wrung from the suspects during his skillful interrogation lead to the Coast Guard and Customs officers boarding a ship due to sail to Mexico with thirty five stolen autos and more than two thousand auto parts on board. It was the biggest recovery in the history of law enforcement in California and shut down a major buyer and distributor of stolen cars and parts, ending a five million dollar a year fencing operation.
Vince had told her Mattox had stayed in touch with him ever since he left the task force, asking for his advice and guidance while preparing to take the inspector's test, and as soon as he found out he had received his inspectors badge, Vince was the first person he called to tell the news. Vince said he was amused by Mattox's enthusiasm and somewhat flattered by his admiration, and made it a point to follow his exploits. Vince felt Mattox would make an exceptional homicide investigator and told him he would put in a word for him with his boss, Lieutenant Simons.
Between the publicity Mattox received about the auto theft case, Vince's talk with his boss, and the request for Mattox's transfer by Lieutenant Simons, Mattox's paperwork was expedited and his transfer pushed through without delay. He was assigned as Vince's partner at Vince's request.
Vince was just driving onto the Highway 24 on-ramp off Highway 580, heading toward the Caldecott Tunnel, when the newscaster announced a breaking story. "This just in, folks. We have received word that the Consul from the Jordanian Consular Office in San Francisco, Khalid Habash, has been shot and killed while exiting the Consulate on Mission Street. He was shot immediately upon leaving the front doors of the five story building. Habash was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where he was pronounced dead a few minutes after his arrival. San Francisco Police are on the scene, but have declined to provide any further information at this time, claiming it is too early in the investigation to issue a statement. Stay tuned for further news as we receive it."
"Shit," Vince muttered, knowing his cell phone would be ringing any minute. He called Maggie and asked if the Department had called him. "No, why do you ask?" Maggie said. He told her of the shooting and that he figured he would be called in to help work the case. Just then, his call waiting beeped.
"Got another call, Babe. I'll be home in about ten minutes." He clicked over to the incoming call and found it was the on-duty homicide supervisor. He was ordering Vince to report to the office as soon as possible.
Vince called Maggie back and told her he had to go in to work and asked her to get his stuff ready. He then called Mattox and told him what had happened. "You feel like getting an early start, Bobby?" he asked.
"Absolutely, Vince. Want me to meet you downtown, or can you come by and get me?" Mattox lived in Pleasant Hill, a small city just west of Concord.
"I'll be by in a half hour. Be ready." Vince disconnected the call as he took the Treat Boulevard exit off the highway and headed to his house.