6.2 Reindeer Games

by Matt P.

The phone call had been from the Marshal, and had been asking if he’d any further information. Walter brought him up to speed about the discussion with Reverend Morrison, and they had agreed to meet to discuss the case further.

The Border Police Department maintained a training facility on the edge of town, a building they owned for practicing room clearing and SWAT tactics with an attached shooting range they had built. The training building had been in the opposite direction of dropping Siobhan off, so as he pulled up in to the parking lot she was still riding shotgun with her boots up on the dashboard.

Walter pulled the car in to the parking lot near the shooting range, and hopped out after parking. “You wanna see a whole lot of cops shooting guns?” Walter asked, leaning on the roof of the car. In an instant, Siobhan was out of the car and shoving her cell back in to her pocket.

“Aww, Daddy, you do know what I like,” Siobhan answered with a cheerful smile as she locked her door and closed it. She walked around the car, and held her arm out to him. “Best mental health day ever!”

Walter snorted, but took the arm and began to walk toward the shooting range with her. “Well, after fifteen years I try. I’ll have to think what to offer Annie and Ryan to be just as good, so they don’t think I play favorites.” But Siobhan squeezed his arm, and kept grinning.

“It’s OK, I won’t tell them who the favorite its,” she offered magnanimously as they walked. There were two shooting ranges at the facility, an indoor and an outdoor, and Walter walked with his daughter toward the outdoor one. Fishing in his jacket pocket, he pulled out a pair of earplugs wrapped in plastic and held them out to her.

“We’ll grab eye protection from the range officer. We’re allowed guests, as long as they’re shooting our own firearms and ammunition, and I’ve got my own gun on me too and some ammo in a locket.” At that, Siobhan positively glowed with excitement.

The outdoor shooting range was vastly similar to the indoor one, except the lines of shooting lanes were receiving some afternoon sunshine, and it had a much longer rifle range. The range was set against large hills and backstops designed to stop stray bullets from going anywhere, and high walls to try to contain the noise. But what Walter noticed first was the large group of officers around a couple of the shooting lanes with fairly awe struck expressions, and the sight of Master Sergeant Hernandez at one of the lanes examining the target he had been shooting at. As the crowd shifted he could see Ashland, Gavin Neill, and Ryan Aquino standing there as well. Ashland was swapping out magazines on a small pistol, with several officers glancing at it with newfound wariness.

“Who’s that, and what gun is that?” Siobhan asked, motioning to the CIA cum FBI agent and the firearm she held.

“That’s Ashland,” Walter explained, sotto voce. “And that’s her favorite gun. Pistolet Makarova Modernizirovannyy, called a Makarov pistol—technically the modernized version. Soviet,” he explained, although she offered a roll of her eyes at the obviousness of that piece of information given the name was obviously in Russian, “Designed with much of their philosophy about being pretty hard to destroy. I have no idea where she picked up the preference for it, but she’s always had it.”

Apparently something of their conversation was audible to the woman in question, despite the distance and the crowd. Ashland smiled wryly as she set down her gun and turned to face the two of them. “I preferred it for a long time for the same reason I know you don’t carry pack a shotgun for an operation,” she explained. Walter nodded, and at Siobhan’s glance offered a shrug.

“Easier to procure on site. The Makarov is still incredibly common in Russia and a lot of former Soviet countries,” Walter explained, “And I never brought a shotgun because if I needed it I could probably take it off someone there. It’s cheap and easy to procure, so a lot of guards end up with one.” Walter watched Siobhan process what it meant that he could take it off a guard, as he turned to Ashland warily.

“And this must be…” Ashland began, considering Siobhan for a moment. “Siobhan,” she pronounced. “Given the clothing and hair. Unless the two of you switched motifs,” she asked with a raised eyebrow. At Walter’s scowl, she smiled and held out her hand. “No, I must have gotten it right. A pleasure to meet you, I’m Ashland. Your father has told me positively nothing about you.”

“Charmed,” Siobhan drawled wryly, taking the offered hand and shaking it. “And the same, although I suspect for different reasons.”

“So I don’t break character, stay away from my children,” Walter said, seriously, before he looked at the others. “Impressing you with some shooting?” He asked, to nods as Marshal Alexander and Ryan Aquino came over.

“I have to say they’re fairly impressive, Major,” Alexander offered. “Even to a jaded old infantryman like me. They mentioned something about a game you used to play?” He asked, a little bit of a twinkle in his eye. Siobhan blinked and curiosity bloomed across her face, while Ryan and Ashland both raised eyebrows in invitation.

“Shit…” Walter said with a sigh, and reached for his wallet. He fished through it, and pulled out a single one hundred dollar bill that he kept primarily for emergencies. “Fine, I’m good for it if you two are.” Both Ashland and Aquino reached in to their pockets and pulled out matching money, while Hernandez smirked. Neill blinked, and looked between them.

“What, are we showing off? I want in,” he commented, and had the good fortune to wince a little at how petulant he sounded as the three apparent competitors went to the range.

“You have to be invited to play the game,” Hernandez explained. “Cause you have to be good enough to be able to make it interesting, and have the money to play.”

“Speaking of,” Ryan asked. “Three teenagers, you good for the overages?” He asked with a grin. He took a pistol he had apparently been using, a standard issue Border PD 1911, and ejected the full magazine.

Walter pulled his own service pistol out and did the same, before working to remove the slide. “The competition is simple. Everyone starts with their gun with the magazine out and the slide off. First person to assemble, load, and fire their gun at the target wins. Any bullet that hits the a target zone but isn’t a kill shot disqualifies you, and you owe an additional hundred bucks for any bullet that missed. We call that overage.” Walter took an empty magazine and set it down on his money, before going to get his own ear protection and protective glasses for both himself and Siobhan. “And Ryan, how long have we been playing this game?”

Ryan actually paused to consider, thinking about it. “Well, you and I did it for the first time like twenty years ago,” he answered. “Christ, that’s depressing.”

Walter nodded. “It is,” he agreed, as Ashland chivvied a matching pistol out of one of the nearby cops. “In all those years, I’ve never had the money in my pocket to cover any overages. Ready?” He asked, looking to the others. At their nods, he looked to the range officer. “Give us a go.”

The Range Safety Officer made sure that the targets were set and the range was clear in their area, before turning back to the three waiting shooters. “Range is clear. Normally I would say ‘Fire at will’, but we’re being loosey goosey with not being stupid today, so…” he paused dramatically, “Go.”

All three shooters moved at once, reaching out and grabbing their pistols. Slides came on, then magazines into pistols and the rounds were chambered. Walter didn’t have to think about the motions as he brought the pistol up and sighted down range. Almost without conscious thought he squeezed the trigger seven times, and set the pistol back down. Almost simultaneously he heard two other pistols being set down, and all three of them stepped back to roll their shoulders and consider the targets.

“Holy shit,” Siobhan sputtered, her eyes wide as she looked at the three of them. “That was…I mean, holy shit.” The sentiment was shared in mutters up and down the group of officers, and even Alexander shook his head.

“It looked like it was the Major who had it, by a little bit?” Alexander asked, and the RSO nodded. The targets were pulled in, and everyone leaned forward to consider the shots. “Jesus,” he confirmed. All three of them had put neat groupings in the head, each one of seven holes neatly packed next to each other. Except for Walter’s, which only had six. “Did you miss one?”

“No,” Ryan and Ashland both answered simultaneously, glancing at one another. “He’s done it before, because he’s a show-off or lucky. He put two bullets through the same hole, probably his first two. Patton did the same thing, and it cost him an Olympic medal. First time one of us did it we had to check the cameras.” Both the former soldier and the alleged FBI agent held their money out to Walter, which he took and pocketed.

“Now,” Walter said, as he took his pistol back up. “Didn’t we have some case information to discuss?”