Sniper’s Day: Chapter 6
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
He frowned, asking himself, What the hell are Russian soldiers disguised as ordinary Afghani smugglers doing out here?
Meese knew Tajikistan, once part of the Soviet Union, was now an independent nation. He also knew the Tajiks had “contracted” with the Russians – probably at Russian insistence – to still patrol their common border with Afghanistan.
The answer, of course, was obvious: Shit, they’re after me.
At first, he wanted to dismiss the idea. Why would the Russians commit a squad of men to aid the Afghanis, as there was little love lost between the two former enemies? Ah, but when a typical convoy carrying opium was worth tens of millions of dollars on the world market, and a bribe that might equal half-a-year’s pay for a Russian soldier was offered to let a caravan pass unmolested, or, in this case, eliminate a meddling American annoyance who wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place… Well, it was an easy bargain to make.
The whole operation had been a trap, the realization prompting grudging respect for how effectively they’d pulled it off, had suckered the Americans with the prize of nearly three dozen donkeys loaded down with hundreds of pounds of drugs. While they may not have known exactly where the sniper would be, they had been sure he would be stalking them somewhere along the trail and were ready. And, yes, there was a bit of pride in they had decided he was such of a pain in the ass.
The few seconds of hesitation while he had worked this out had given the… They were no longer targets, but now serious adversaries… Time to retrieve their rifles and start firing. While the Druganov didn’t have quite have the range of a Barrett, in this situation it was certainly more effective than an AK. While their first few shots hit the cliff well below his position, they had clearly figured out roughly where he was and were much closer than they should have been.
But he was back in the hide, well-hidden, no barrel sticking out for them to spot, covered by a tarp with the dark brown, pale green and beige of the desert MARPAT (Marine Pattern) camouflage – what soldiers had nicknamed “coffee stain camo” – that blended almost perfectly with the mottled flanks of the mountain. Contrary to most people’s offhand impression, mountainsides are anything but a monotone gray, they have dark grays and light grays, blotches of tan and brown, smears of burnt orange and darkish green.
Meese was not at all rattled by the turn of events; quite the contrary. While he’d not had a problem taking down targets before, targets never considered as equals, this was exciting; a challenge; these were more worthy opponents.
He returned fire, but needed to be take more careful aim, as the enemy was now hunkered down, partially hidden behind the donkeys. While the poor animals were no match for the Barrett’s powerful slugs, it meant he had to use up more time between shots.
And, of course, their return fire was now zeroing in, hitting the rocks to his right and left and even above his head.
They traded shots, the reports echoing back and forth in the river gorge.
In the first few moments he took out three more of the eleven, but the remaining six proved harder to hit. For one, they would take a shot, briefly exposing themselves, but then roll to the right or left unpredictably, still hiding behind a donkey, so his aim had to be on the fly, reducing accuracy.
A sniper of Meese’s caliber is deadly accurate at stationary targets even at distances approaching a mile; but hitting a moving target at anything close to that distance is ten times more difficult because you need to anticipate where they will be several seconds after pulling the trigger.
The shooters who were left soon revealed their strategy: The two in the center alternately fired to keep him pinned down while the other four broke for cover – two each in opposite directions. He may have hit one on the fly, but wasn’t even sure of that, and knew he’d missed three shots at the others.
But now they had secure positions for themselves and were more sure of his, and so started methodically zeroing in. Slugs gouged chunks off the ledge only a few inches below and to the right or left. Still relatively secure from a direct hit, the bigger danger was being struck by a rock shard, even a slight wound could be serious, to say nothing of possibly losing an eye.
He’d already expended half of a second ten-round magazine. For a sniper, who’s whole ethos revolved around one-shot-one-kill, swapping out the first magazine and being half-way through a second was not a good thing. Needing to get into a third was unthinkable, since he only carried five ten-shot magazines in the first place.
This is turning into a class-A shit show, he thought.
And it wasn’t a fight he could win. They still had at least five good shooters to his one, and while confident he might get a couple more, it still left him in a hopeless situation.
Meese and his enemies exchanged fire, but with long pauses in between, as if they were waiting…for what?
© 2019 Dave Lager