A Sniper’s Remorse (Chapter 1)

To kick off the New Year, here is the first chapter in my Novelette I have been kicking around.

 I will be adding subsequent chapters in the coming weeks.

I Hope you like it and let’s all have a Awesome 2017!! -TTH

sniper1

I.

The Bad Seed

Central Texas, 1984

It was mid-summer in the rural rolling hill Country just south of Lampassas, Texas. The green cedar thickets and blue bonnet fields dotted the rocky landscape as flocks of fat, orange breasted robins filled the powder blue sky. The sun was just coming up as two eleven-year old boys made their way across a cow pasture to a barbed wire fence that had seen better days.  As the boys quickly scaled the fence, they both noticed the NO TRESSPASSING sign attached to the fence post, but as always, they disregarded it and once on the other side, quickly took cover in a thicket of small cedars. Both boys were dressed in newly purchased woodland camouflage from head to toe, with the leader of the two, Sean, even sporting some green and brown face paint and a jungle boonie hat. They were both armed with pellet guns, Sean a .20 caliber Sheridan Sliver Streak and Allan, a Crossman 1377 American Classic Pistol with a skeleton stock. For all practical purposes they were there to hunt birds and anything else small enough that came across their path, but another reason, and one that can only be explained in the mind of a ten-year old boys fantastic imagination, is they came here to practice their “army” and “war” skills. Both boys had been fascinated with the military ever since watching the movie “First Blood” with Alan’s father a few months back. It simply amazed Sean and Alan how John Rambo had outsmarted the police in the woods by hand-crafting booby-traps and weapons and using something called “Guerilla Warfare”. Alan’s father, himself an Army veteran, was more than happy to oblige the two boys in their new-found hobby. He dug into his collection of old Army manuals and before long, the boys had a fair collection of books, magazines and movies to both learn from and fuel their active imaginations.

Sean threw back the bolt on his Sheridan and loaded up a .20 caliber pellet, he then pumped the gun four times and applied the push button safety. Alan followed suit. Sean gave a quick look left and right and then whispered to Alan “Hand signals from here on out, I’ll take point.” Alan nodded agreeably. Sean then bolted from his place of cover to another cluster of low cedar trees about 15 yards away. Once the hand signal for all clear had been given, Alan soon followed close behind. This process, including the occasional pot shot at a bird, continued up until noon when they reached a spring fed creek and pond a couple of miles away. Alan unslung his pack and brought out two brown paper sacks containing the boys lunches. As they sat upon a large flat tabletop rock, listening to the sound of the water flowing, the boys conversation varied from topic to topic as most eleven-year old’s always do. “So you gonna be able to go to the movies with me and my dad this Saturday? Red Dawn is playing and my dad says it is going to be really good!” Sean finished chewing his sandwich before he answered. “I think so. You think your dad can pay my way though? My mom doesn’t have much money since getting laid off at the cannery.” Alan smiled back at Sean. “Sure buddy, no problem.” The two boys shared many common threads that often united friends together for life. They both were only children and they both had lost a parent when they were very young. Sean’s father had abandoned them when he was only two and Alan’s mother had passed away when he was five from ovarian cancer.

“So you ready for sixth grade next year?” Sean asked smiling through a mouthful of ham sandwich. Alan smiled back and shrugged. “I don’t know, I guess.  There is gonna be some good looking girls next year, of that I am sure!” Sean responded with confidence. Alan chuckled nervously at the remark “Who you got your eye on brother?” Sean asked grinning with that mischievous smile that had already earned him a place as one of the best looking boys in school. “Nobody. You know I am not as good with girls like you are Sean!” Alan replied sheepishly. “Oh bullshit!” Sean replied.” You just gotta talk more bro, stop being so bashful! Next year, you watch, we are gonna get you a girlfriend!” Alan shook his head at the far-fetched ideal. “It’s not just that Sean. It’s how I look. I mean I am skinny with zits and you, well you play football.” Sean smiled and patted his best friend on the back. “We can fix all of that. We will start working out together a few times a week over at my house, in no time you will start bulking up! Don’t worry about it buddy!” Alan sighed and knew deep down his friend was just trying to make him feel better. Alan looked at his watch. “It is getting near one o’ clock, I guess we better make the circle and then head back, right?” Sean placed his trash in the bag and handed it to Alan and then looked up at the sky. “Before we go back, I have a ‘special operation’ I have been thinking about, you up for it?” Sean asked with that sly grin of his. “Sure, I guess, what is it?” Alan asked as he jumped down off the rock. “Just trust me bro, it is gonna be killer.” Sean replied as he un-slung his rifle and started down the trail.

They had been walking about half an hour, following a well used game trail when Alan heard the unmistakable sound of vehicle traffic. Both boys stopped and listened.” Is that the highway?” Alan asked looking at Sean for confirmation. “That it is my friend and I am glad to say I can now let you in on our next operation.” Alan gave a confused look as Sean unslung his rifle and took a knee in the trail. “We are going to practice our sniping skills bro, but not on tin cans or paper targets, but on real, moving targets!” Sean was almost yelling he was so excited. Alan’s mouth dropped open a little bit and after a minute he finally got the words out. “Are you fucking crazy Sean!” Alan exclaimed. “Shooting at moving cars with real people in them! Somebody could be seriously hurt! We could cause a serious accident!” Sean smiled and asked Alan to calm down and take a knee. “I am not talking about shooting the windows out bro, just the back bumper or something like that.” Alan took a knee, still shaking his head in disbelief. “It’s all in fun Alan, we are not gonna try to hurt somebody, geez!” Sean was now serious in trying to persuade Alan. “Why don’t we go back home and see if your Dad will let us shoot skeet again? That was fun, right?” Alan asked, now practically begging to abandon the ideal. “Skeet? Jesus Alan you are a wet blanket man! You are gonna have to change that if you expect to get a girlfriend this year and be more popular.” Sean let out an exasperated breath and started toward the highway. Alan stood there in the trail, thinking. Sean’s friendship was everything to him and he did not want to lose it. After a couple of minutes of consideration, Alan pepped up. “OK Bro! Wait up!” And with that, Alan trotted after Sean toward the highway.

The two boys squatted in a thick stand of cedar and pin oak behind a barbed wire fence around 15 yards from the road. “The way I see it is if we set up back here in these trees, we are gonna be completely out-of-sight to anyone from the road. I will lay here and you can get down there.” Sean pointed to a cleared space a few yards away. Alan nodded and moved into position, taking a knee. “Now remember, we are just gonna shoot at the back bumper, right, no windows?” Alan looked at Sean seriously. “Sure buddy, no problem. Just the back bumper.” Sean replied. “Let’s pretend we are setting up an ambush just like John Rambo did in First Blood!” Both boys smiled and gave an excited laugh. “And if there is any trouble,we RV at the pond, OK?” Alan replied. Sean nodded in agreement, his mischievous eyes flashing with excitement. Alan prepared to take the first shot. Instead of going prone like Sean, he decided to take a knee and use the cedar tree as a rest. The cars were moving fast. One by one they zipped by in a colorful blur. As he heard one approaching, he clicked off his safety and raised his rifle, getting a solid rest on the tree. As the vehicle passed, the vehicle filled his sights, a red truck. Alan aimed for the back of the truck and squeezed the shot. The pellet gun exhaled air and a small ding could be heard as the vehicle kept accelerating past. “Enemy Down!” Sean whispered excitedly, grinning from ear to ear. Alan gave a nervous smile and then slung his gun. “Now remember, just shoot at the back bumper!” Alan reiterated to Sean as he was setting up for the shot. “Yeah, Yeah, no problem.” Sean grumbled back, irritated at Alan’s worrisome attitude. Sean clicked off his safety and nestled the buttstock into his shoulder. The sound of the shot and the pellet hitting the car’s frame was almost instantaneous. “OK, you got one too, now can we go?” Alan asked Sean, gathering his things. “No Way partner, we still got enemies out there!” Sean replied with a hint of anger. “Dude, we are pushing our luck here, let’s go back to the pond and shoot some turtles or something!” Alan started walking away when Sean grabbed his arm from behind. “Hey man, you cannot chicken out on me! Grow some balls for God’s sakes!” Alan turned to face Sean and was met with his intense stare. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Alan relented. “OK, one more car, but you shoot and I will spot for you.” Sean grinned and gave Alan a slap on his back. He then took a knee, using a small cedar tree as a rest.

Alan peered through the thick cedar and looked up the road. “OK, we got a blue four door car coming up. Get ready.” Alan quickly glanced at Sean to make sure he was ready. As the car passed their position, Sean fired. The sound of the air escaping the gun’s barrel and the explosion of the glass shattering was almost instantaneous. In slow motion, Alan saw the front passenger window explode and at the same time heard a woman scream. There was then a loud and violent cacophony of screeching tires and metal scraping on asphalt. “Holy Fucking Shit!” Alan screamed, his eyes bulging out of his head. “Come On!” Alan was 10 yards down the trail before Sean was moving behind him, laughing hysterically. “Did you see that crazy shit!” Sean yelled as they were running. “God all mighty, that window just exploded!” Alan was running as fast as he could in front him, his lungs and legs beginning to burn. By the time they got back to the pond, both boys were properly winded.. Alan put down his gun and backpack and placed his arms on top of his head to help him catch his breath. Meanwhile, Sean collapsed in a small patch of tall grass, still laughing. “You really think this is funny asshole?” Alan snapped, still out of breath, the words coming out in staccato fragments.”You may have fucking just killed somebody for all we know!” Sean just kept laughing, ignoring Alan. Alan paced, fear and anger simmering and apparent on his face. “I told you we were only going to shoot at the back of the car! Why the hell did you aim for the god damn window!” Sean stopped laughing and got to his feet. He brushed himself off and slung his rifle. “Why did I shoot at the window, I will tell you, because it was fun! It was a rush having something beside a bird or a turtle or a fucking tin can in the sights of my gun!” Sean’s eyes glowed with a strange light that made Alan pause. “Dude, you are talking crazy!  We need to get back to the house and find out what kind of damage you have done, I only pray nobody was killed.” Sean took out his canteen and took a long drink. His gaze shifted to Alan. “Damage I Have done? I think you need to replace that I with a WE my friend, you were there too, remember?” Alan’s eyes flashed and he quickly stood up. “Don’t even try to involve me in your loony scheme Sean! I never said anything about shooting fucking windows out remember?” Alan’s face was turning a deeper shade of red than it already was. “Regardless, I don’t think the cops will care much about what we “Intended” to do while shooting at cars on the fucking highway pal. Point being, we need to agree right now to keep our mouths shut, regardless of what has happened. Agreed?” Sean extended his hand and after a long pause, Alan reluctantly shook it and they both started down the trail back home.

As they crossed the pasture on the way back to the house, the faint sound of ambulance and police sirens could be heard, “Damn must have been serious, huh?” Alan looked at Sean with a worried look. “Get that look off your face!” Sean snapped. “Remember, we don’t know shit, we did not hear shit. We have been hunting on the far side of Grady Pond all day, OK?” Alan nodded with an unsure look, ashamed of even the implication of dishonesty. As they got to the front door both boys kicked off their boots and placed their guns in the corner. Alan noticed right away his father’s Size 13 boots were not there.  As they entered they were met by Alan’s silver haired grandmother, who lived just down the road. “Hey Gran-Gran, where’s dad?” Alan asked as he hugged and kissed her on the cheek. “Oh he heard the sirens down the road and wanted to go be nosy, you know him.” She smiled as she gave Sean a quick hug also. “You boys hungry? I am busy cooking Dinner right now, but I can fix you a snack.” “No thanks Gran-Gran, we are just gonna go watch some T.V.” Alan responded. The boys made their way into the living room and plopped down on the couch. “On Channel 14 the A-Team should be on” Sean said with some excitement as he propped his feet up. Alan looked over his shoulder and down the hall ensuring his grandmother was in the kitchen and out of ear shot.. “I can’t believe you! How can you be so calm?” Alan whispered, giving Sean an exasperated look. Sean smiled back as the A-Team theme music began playing on the T.V. and George Peppard and Mr. T saved the day. “You gotta learn to relax brother, seriously.” A sudden chill went down Alan’s spine as he noted the coolness in Sean’s voice. It was like he could do this every day of the week. Ten minutes later Alan’s father walked in the door. Alan noticed a serious look of concern on his fathers face. “Hey Dad what’s up?” Alan asked. “Been a bad accident down the road a piece, damnedest thing I ever seen…” his father replied. “Whatta you mean Dad?” Alan asked, trying to dig into the details, but not too aggressively. He walked over and sat down beside Shawn, giving him a friendly whack on the leg. Alan’s heart began thumping out of his chest. Oh God he knows! Alan thought to himself. “Well, all anybody knows right now is they was a couple from Dallas heading to Austin for the weekend. For some odd reason,most likely a blowout, the car left the road, hit the bar ditch and then rolled over three times. The man driving only got a fractured arm and some cuts, but the woman was ejected clean out of the car, through the windshield face first. She flew thirty feet before landing in a patch of cactus. She looked in pretty rough shape when they put her in the ambulance, I hope she makes it.” There was a long moment of silence between them as the boys traded nervous glances. Alan was frightened his dad might start questioning them about their day, but was relieved when his grandmother called them all to dinner and the subject was forgotten.

 The next day the boys decided to go into town to the arcade. When Alan’s dad picked them up he had some news. “Well it looks like that woman from that freak accident is gonna make it. I talked to Frank Grimes whose wife is a nurse and he said they had to do emergency surgery to remove her spleen. The Doctor also said she was going to need extensive reconstructive surgery for her face. Terrible thing, but at least she is alive.” Alan’s mind begin racing and an extreme sense of sadness came over him. At that moment he wanted to tell his dad everything, right down to the last detail. But before Alan could open his mouth, Sean spoke. “Wow, that is something Mr. Mead, do they have any ideal how the accident happened?” Sean gave Alan a cold look and slowly shook his head as if he was reading his mind about confessing and clearing his conscience.”No, that is still a mystery. The driver told the Sheriff that the last thing he remembers is the passenger side window shattering and then his wife screaming and all hell breaking loose.” When the boys got back to the house, Sean brought Alan back to his room and shut the door. “Listen man, we already agreed and shook on it to never discuss this or mention it, so why are you acting so weird? You’re dad is gonna think something is up if you keep on like this.” Alan looked at Sean with tears rolling down his cheeks. “Man, we did a terrible thing Sean, we hurt an innocent man and woman for nothing! I mean you heard my dad, they had to remove her friggin’ spleen! Jesus Man!” Alan’s voice was shaking, his hands trembling.”Keep your voice down for God’s sakes! You are gonna have to get your shit together Alan! What good would it do for us to confess? Ask yourself. We go to juvey hall for a few months and have our lives totally screwed before we even get to High School? No thanks bro.” Sean sat down on the bed and grabbed an issue of Soldier of Fortune and started flipping through the pages. “What good would it do? It would get this off our conscience Sean, that’s what it would do! I have not slept since all this happened!” Alan looked at Sean in disbelief. “Conscience? Alan you need to grow up man. Who gives two shits about conscience. And besides, you cannot tell me you did not get a rush from all that!” Sean smiled at Alan, his eyes sparkling with that same mischievous look he had back at the pond. Alan shook his head. “Rush! Hell no I did not get a Rush, I was shitting my pants! And you should be too! There is something seriously wrong with you Sean! Like I am not kidding, something mental!”

Alan sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands and begin to sob. “Man, you need to stop this crying shit. I thought we were both gonna be soldiers?” Sean put his hand on Alan’s back, trying to comfort him. “Soldiers don’t shoot or hurt innocent people Sean.” Alan snapped as he quickly wiped the tears from his eyes. “Innocent people?” Sean replied with a smile on his face as he walked over to the gun rack on the wall and removed his Sheridan. He opened the bolt to check it and then sighted down the rifle pointing it toward the bedroom window. “Innocence is a hazy concept in war. A very hazy concept.” Sean looked over at Alan and smiled widely, his eyes flashing with excitement. At that moment, a chill went down Alan’s spine. The distant look in Sean’s eyes made Alan realize this was no longer play-acting. Sean had become something cruel by definite choice. A feral nightmare born out of the imagination of children. Alan’s heart thumped in his chest. His mind raced. He realized in an instant Sean was something that he was not. Something that he refused to be and something he had to stop, no matter the cost.

To Be Continued……