Pulling up at the restaurant just before six, the old man saw the same deputy directing traffic in the parking lot. The deputy held up his hand and walked over to the truck as the old man rolled the window down, “Sir, y’all drive around back, there’s parking for y’all there and go right in the back to the room that’s reserved for you.”
Jesse smiled at the deputy as the old man grunted and pulled around to the back. Getting out of the truck, they met Matt and Aaron walking from their truck, both of them were in khakis and red polo’s with the Marine emblem. Jesse smiled, “Geez guys, I didn’t realize it was ‘formal’ tonight.”
Matt chuckled and Aaron blushed, “Ma’am, us Marines are ALWAYS formal.”
Everyone laughed at that, and Aaron held the door for the four of them to enter. Jesse went left through the door, the old man to the right. Matt entered and stepped to the side also, “Mr. Cronin, why do you do that every time you walk through a door? I know we’re trained to do that in our MOUT training, but I don’t normally do that back here.”
The old man glanced around the room and said, “Well Matt the only two times I’ve ever been shot that counted were both coming through doors, so I kinda have an aversion to standing there being a good target!”
“Twice that counted?”
“Yep, once in Nam, and once in a bar in Fort Stockton. Decided not to be a target anymore; sides, it’s harder’n hell to hit a moving target.”
“That counted Mr. Cronin?”
“Well, the others weren’t serious, they were just dings,” and turned away.
Matt just shook his head and followed the others into the meeting room. They were some of the last to enter, and finally found an open table at the back of the room. The old man took a seat facing the door with Jesse on his left. Aaron and Matt took the two chairs and left the last two open. At the head table Kyle was once again standing in front of the microphone scanning the room. He seemed satisfied with the crowd, and bent to the microphone, ”Okay folks, buffet style for dinner, and the bar is open, but it’s a cash bar. Y’all eat and then we’ll give out the awards. Enjoy!”
A waitress came around as the crowd surged to the buffet, so the four of them stayed seated and ordered tea and took their time. Finally the line got short enough to make it worth their while to get up and get in line. Going through they piled their plates high, and headed back to their table.
Jesse picked through her plate and commented, “This BBQ sauce is sure different than what I’m used to, and I didn’t see any brisket at all. But it’s not bad.”
Matt, having grown up in Western Virginia, proceeded to give Jesse and the old man a history lesson on BBQ and the infighting between Virginia, North and South Carolina and Eastern and Western variations within each state that had both Jesse and the old man rolling laughing. Aaron just chuckled and refused to comment, since he had grown up around Boston, and didn’t “do” BBQ until he’d gotten into the Marines.
Finally Kyle got back up from the head table and picked up the microphone while two assistants went over and unveiled two whiteboards standing off to the side of the room.
“Awright, lets get this show on the road. We’re gonna start with third place and work up for military first, then LEOs, and then we’ll hold the drawings for the prizes. Applause is fine, boos are fine, no cussing the winners allowed, we’ve got ladies present.”
Merle chimed in with a cackle, “Who you calling a lady you old fart?”
Over the laughter Kyle responds, “Well, EXCEPTING you Merle, there are a few ladies here…”
More laughter erupts and Merle just waves to Kyle, conceding the point to him.
“Third place, law enforcement, is… Jacksonville PD!, Y’all come on up!” Kyle starts clapping and the crowd joins in as the two officers from JPD come forward. Kyle presents them their plaque and various cameras flash as the three pose for pictures. Kyle points off to the side of the stage and the JPD officers step to the side.
“Second place, law enforcement is Tulsa PD, come on up!” The Tulsa officers come forward, receive their plaques with more pictures, they move over to the side and the four shake hands as they juggle their plaques.
“And in first place, Broward County Sheriff’s Department with a net score of 460 and a time of 51 minutes, give em a big round of applause!” Kyle lead the applause and once the two officers got to the stage, presented them their plaque; gathering all the awardees, they posed for more pictures and shook hands all around to applause and various good natured catcalls from the audience.
Kyle walked back to the microphone and started on the military placing, “Okay folks, for ‘this’ group please do not take pictures, as these folks are still going in harm’s way and we don’t want, nor do they want, their pictures out there. Now having said that, in third place are the Marines out of Quantico! Come on up fellows!”
Matt and Aaron looked at each other and got up and headed to the stage, as they were walking up, Jesse let out a wolf whistle that got every body around their table laughing, and Aaron turning various shades of red.
Once on stage, Kyle covered the mic and whispered a question to Matt, then turned back to the microphone, “Folks our Marines are First Sergeant Matt Carter and Sergeant Aaron Miller from the Weapons Battalion at MCB Quantico. They are both instructors in the Scout Sniper course and former Scout Snipers in the Second Marine Expeditionary Force. And Aaron tells me they are known as ‘Hogs’. Lets’ give them a big round of applause and again, no pictures please. And their score is 459 and 46 minutes!”
Matt and Aaron shook hands with Kyle and walked back to the table as the applause continued along with a few good-natured jibes from the other services. The old man leaned over and shook both Matt and Aaron’s hands saying, “Congrats guys, y’all had some pretty round competition to overcome there, and that’s DAMN good shooting.”
Jesse chimed in, “And pretty damn good running too!”
Kyle started up again, “And in second place we have the Navy SEALS, come on up gents!”
As the SEALS made their way to the stage, Kyle again muffled the microphone and spoke to the SEALS. Shaking his head, he came back to the mic, “Um… Mr. ‘Smith’ and Mr. ‘Jones’ here scored 460 and 43 minutes! Lets give them a hand.”
Laughter, applause and catcalls for ‘Smith and Jones’ continued as the two SEALS returned to their seats.
Kyle waved at everyone to be quiet and said, “And the first place team are our friends from across the pond, the Brits! Y’all, er… I guess I better use proper English, you ‘gents’ please come up to receive your plaques.”
Applause and a standing ovation happened as the two Brits walked to the stage. One of the Brits leaned over a whispered in Kyle’s ear, and Kyle started laughing.
Still chuckling Kyle stepped back to the mic, “Um, Mr. ‘Jones’ and Mr. ‘Smith’ wanted to remind me they are the original owners of those names, going back well before this upstart country ever got started, and they are proud to be the ‘Artists’ from Albany. Their scores were 462 and 40 minutes, and yes they RAN the entire course!”
Kyle presented them with the first place plaque as more applause and laughter ensued. “Okay folks, that’s it for the presentations, we’ll do the drawings in a bit.”
Matt and Aaron got up and walked over to congratulate the other military shooters along with the law enforcement winners, and received the good-natured ribbing from the other military shooters in the room. The old man and Jesse stayed at the table and waved down a waitress for more coffee, as they watched the folks circulate.
Matt wandered over to the whiteboard and checked out the scoring, and was amazed to see that the old man and Jesse had matched the best shooters with a score of 462 points! Merle walked up and Matt turned to her, “Thanks for all the work you did on the scoring ma’am, and we do appreciate it!” Pointing to the scores, Matt said, “Did you see the scores for the deputies?”
Merle laughed, “Yep, all you young bucks might be faster, but that old man can shoot, and the girl is pretty damn good too! Comes down to it, I wouldn’t want him on my bad side, cause I don’t think he’d hesitate to shoot. I watched them on the dots, and they didn’t miss but a single shot; and that girl got right back on it, no muss, no fuss. Oh, and I noticed your buddy has been sniffing around the girl pretty heavy,” she said with a grin.
Matt smiled, “Yeah, but I doubt that will go anywhere, because she’s smarter than both of us, and I’m pretty sure the old man isn’t going to let any of us get close to Jesse. He knows better.”
Matt headed back to the table when Kyle announced they were about to start the drawings for the prizes.
To be continued…