“Just be alert.” The advice of law enforcement as it wrestles with a sniper that has roamed the region of the capital of the United States for more than a week and kills at will.
Alert to an invisible chunk of lead the size of a 22-caliber bullet traveling at supersonic speed and arriving well before the sound of its explosive launching? A missile whose launch point may be a hundred or more yards distant, in a truck, a van, or under yonder bushes? Sent by persons entirely unknown and, despite appeals from authorities elected and appointed, unknowable?
Well, okay. Now about that additional advice. To keep in motion while out in the open, a zig zag gait would be good, throwing the sniping scope off. So what if the neighbors think you are drinking during the day? What are they looking at, anyway? And at the gas pump (four victims have been slain at service stations) don’t stand there. If the catch on the pump works, click it and move off. NBC Correspondent Bob Faw advises going into the station while the pumping proceeds. He says he does.
While you are zig zagging into the service station, check the time. If Code Blue remains in effect, you may need I.D. to pick up the kids who have been locked in their classroom all day. They’ll be antsy, having been denied any outside recess time. Next PTA meeting, ask if it is necessary to have all those trees around the playground. Hell, call the principal on that tonight. Hurry home in time to catch the next news alert from Chief Moose in Rockville. Don’t rush. It’ll be fifteen minutes late.
Nothing new? And if there were, he wouldn’t say? It is still a white box truck. But it is also a white Chevy van with a ladder rack on top. You saw five white vans on the way home, two with ladders on top? So did everybody else in the metropolitan area today and so will they tomorrow. Does motor vehicle registration have numbers on how many white vans and/or box trucks are registered in Maryland, Virginia, and the District?
Theories abound. If the perpetrators are two in number, that shoots the single psychopath theory, but the criminologists are coming up with some pair killers in our past. Terrorists? They are that, whatever the cause. But if it is those terrorists then somehow the implications are more sinister. How about a couple of guys with regular jobs whose normal business day takes them around the region in a white truck and they just happen to have an AR-15 tucked under the back seat and when the opportunity presents itself … But why? It rivals who in the ruminations of literally millions. What if there is no white truck, that they are so numerous that there is always one or two somewhere in the vicinity of a crime and the eye of a stunned witness records and remembers it better than the dark sedan that slowly pulls away?
We are counselled to remain calm. Calm, but alert. Ever see a deer in the woods being calm but alert? To go about our normal routine, but zig zagging while in the open and taking cover while pumping gas, and figuring out a substitute for the weekend football game that won’t be played.
I will be especially alert to that moment when Chief Moose arrives at the microphones on time and says, “I have good news …”
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