There are three of them. Brown cardboard targets, man size. There’s a fourth figure, slightly shorter, in front of and between the second and the third targets.
His mind tells him a different story. The targets are Thugs One, Two and Three, black-masked and leather jacketed, screaming obscenities and waving guns. The last one is Jane. Sweet Jane with straight dark hair and heartbreak blue eyes.
“Stand by, stand by!”
His heart jacks up, pumping adrenaline through his veins. He’s done this before. He can do it again. When the buzzer sounds he’s springs into a run.
He’s got the art of the draw down pat. Left hand clears his shirt. Right hand grasps the pistol butt. He draws the weapon and brings both hands together, thumbs high and tight against the slide, just as he arrives at the barricade. The first target.
He leans out left and punches out the pistol. His vision narrows down into the crisp green circle that is his front sight, superimposed over center mass. He presses the trigger, feels it break. The Glock bucks in his hand and he releases the trigger, just enough to feel it reset. He fires again. Raises the weapon, sees Thug One screaming, charging at him and he puts a bullet through the yawning mouth.
He runs to the other side of the wooden wall. Brings his gun up again. His eyes find the front sight, and he sends two 115-grainers into the target’s chest. But handguns are anemic killers and Thug Two is still standing. He drives the gun up and hallelujah the front sight is right between his eyes and he presses the trigger.
He confronts Thug Three. Jane, too innocent for her own good, is right in front of Thug Three. No center mass shot. But he’s in pure predator mode and like the big cats of the savannah of his distant ancestors he goes for the throat and fires a double tap. Just in case, he aims a little finer and puts another nine mil into the brain housing group.
He lowers the smoking gun, scanning for more threats. It’s strictly pro forma. They are all dead. And Jane, she’s still standing and the bullets haven’t touched her.
The buzzer sounds. His partner calls the time. But it’s too slow.
He runs the drill again. Again. Again. Shaves off a quarter of a second here, a tenth there, once he takes off a whole second. But it’s still too slow.
Later that night he dreams again. Thugs One, Two and Three are bleeding out on the floor. But Jane, oh God Jane, she’s cradled in his arms, baptizing him in her blood, her liver weeping from the bullet Thug Two put in her back, her neck gushing from the one he’d fired, whispering, It’s okay Daddy, it’s okay.
For more long form fiction by yours truly, check out my Dragon nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons.