Wednesday, August 05, 2009

“Bloodsport,” Part III:
A Never-Before-Published Samuel Carver Tale

(Editor’s note: The Rap Sheet concludes its exclusive posting of the first Samuel Carver short story by pseudonymous British novelist Tom Cain. Click here to read the opening installment of “Bloodsport,” along with the author’s disclaimer. Click here to read Part II. And if you click here, you’ll find an interview with Cain that includes some background on this short but suspenseful yarn.)

“Bloodsport” © Tom Cain

The U.S. Army regards the Heckler and Koch 416 assault rifle, a development of the standard M4 carbine, to be the best gun of its kind in the world. Its elite Delta Force actually helped develop the 416’s design. So Uncle Sam is happy to pay up to $1,425 a unit to provide his top troops with such an outstanding weapon. Samuel Carver, like the men of Delta Force, was armed with an M4 variant. It was called the RAP T68 Avenger, and in the custom specification he required it had cost him just over $4,000, roughly three times as much as a 416. It really was a very, very special piece of kit. The T68 was much quieter than a conventional weapon. It emitted no muzzle flash, making it much harder for any opponent to spot. Its rounds were of a much larger caliber than standard ammunition, exploded on impact, and were virtually guaranteed to take out anyone they hit. The T68 was a game-changer.

For every ladder, however, there must be a snake, and the slithery reptile in this particular case was that the maximum range of the T68 was just 300 feet. For anyone interested in marksmanship--anyone, for example, intending to take out a target with a headshot--the effective range was reduced to a mere 150 feet. Carver was aiming for the body, but even so, he had a lot further than 150 feet to cover. And it wasn’t an easy shot given the downward angle at which he was shooting, the breeze off the lake and the mass of men and women, armed with cameras and microphones, who were standing directly between him and his target. Carver was no great fan of the journalist classes. But he didn’t want to hit one of them.

Overhead, a police helicopter was sweeping the area. It would be gone by the time the couple reached the gate of the property: no one wanted the noise of a chopper to interfere with the audio quality of the prime minister’s interview. But its presence provided a welcome distraction for Carver. It made him forget his moral qualms and worry about a practical issue: the degree to which he was shielded from any thermal-imaging equipment the helicopter or the officers aboard it might be carrying. It was a warm day, with bright sunshine. He was counting on them trusting their own eyes to do the job.

The helicopter made one last pass over the scene of the photocall and the surrounding area, then clattered away across the lake. The air fell silent. Now Carver had nothing to take his mind off his self-appointed mission.

He nestled the butt of his rifle against his shoulder and went into the standard routine of slow, deep breaths, preparing to shoot after he had exhaled, at the calmest point of the cycle. He visualized the process: the smooth, easy trigger action; the repetition as he went for his second and third shots.

Through the T68’s Super Sniper 3-12x50 Scope, he could see every line on the prime minister’s face.

The green crosshairs moved downwards, past the open collar of the PM’s shirt to a point directly between the narrowest parts of the lapels of his casual, holiday jacket, smack in the middle of his chest.

Carver kept the sight there as his target--a man, he reflected, who had done him no personal harm: who could not even raise his taxes, since Carver had long lived in a flat in Geneva--proceeded through the gates of his rented lakeside villa, and up to the mark where he and his wife would stand for the photocall. The mark, Carver knew, was 247 feet from where he lay, at one corner of a right-angled triangle. The ground formed the long, horizontal side. The tree formed the short, vertical side. The line of fire was the hypotenuse.

Basic geometry.

The prime minister reached his mark.

Carver could not shoot.

For the first time in his life, his will, or maybe his nerve had deserted him. He had sabotaged planes and helicopters and condemned their inhabitants to terrible, screaming deaths. He had sent cars spinning across motorways into the paths on oncoming trucks. He had set houses alight, along with everyone in them. He had shot, stabbed, and strangled. But this, for some reason, he suddenly could not do.

He gave a single sharp shake of the head, as if physically trying to dislodge his uncertainty.

Carver settled back into his routine: slow, deep breaths; mental images of smooth, easy trigger-pulls; preparation for subsequent shots.

The prime minister was posing for pictures. He was smiling at his wife. He was, as Carver had predicted, pointing at something across the lake. His wife appeared to find this utterly fascinating. The green crosshairs were still pointing directly at his chest: the fourth button down of his shirt, to be precise.

Still Carver did not shoot.

Now the prime minister was taking a question. It seemed to be a very entertaining question, since he was smiling and even chuckling as he answered.

Carver knew the schedule. There would be three questions. At the end of those questions, the PM and his wife would turn around and walk back the way they came. His chance would be gone.

There was a second question, a second smiling answer.

No shot.

Then the third question was asked. The prime minister nodded thoughtfully and brought his hands up in front of him to emphasize a point he was making.

Carver fired.

He shot three times, and they all hit.

Three crimson explosions burst upon the prime minister’s chest. He staggered backwards, stunned by the force of the blows. Blood erupted over his body, his hands, and the shocked woman standing beside him. As her husband fell backwards to the ground, she began to scream as she saw that the blood was on her too. So much blood, spattering over her pretty summer dress.

The media onlookers were split between those too horrified by what they were witnessing to be able to function and those hardier, more experienced souls who kept their cameras running, tightened the focus, grabbed every second of footage that would now be flashing around the world as a small, domestic photocall became a global phenomenon.

All the policemen, MI5 agents, and counter-terrorism specialists, in and out of uniform, were shouting at one another, looking round to try to find the origin of the shots, desperately calling for medical attention. They were giving in to the momentary loss of control that grips even the best-trained operatives when the unthinkable occurs.

So it took a few seconds for people to notice that the prime pinister was slowly getting back to his feet, rubbing the back of his head where it had hit the tarmac. He was drenched in blood, but he was, as he tried to assure his poor wife, completely fine.

The cameras kept clicking and rolling. The news reporters changed the tone of their coverage from horror at a death to bafflement at an amazing resurrection. And at that precise moment an e-mail arrived at the Press Association in Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, copied to the BBC news headquarters at Broadcasting House and CNN’s European headquarters in Great Marlborough Street. It was signed by a number of former officers in Her Majesty’s armed forces and it revealed that they had donated the blood with which the prime minister had just been covered. He now, they observed, really did have the blood of British soldiers on his hands.

Carver, meanwhile, had taken advantage of the total confusion at the scene of the hit to slip out of his ghillie suit, scramble down the tree, and slide into the water of the lake. He swam away underwater, using a standard Special Forces rebreather system.

He left his gun behind in the tree, carefully wiped down to remove any fingerprints or DNA traces.

The RAP T68 Avenger bills itself as the finest paintball
weapon in the world.

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