I have a problem. I've never shot or killed anyone.
Under normal circumstances, for normal people, this wouldn't be a problem, yet while I was writing Nightmares of Caitlin Lockyer and its sequel, Necessary Evil of Nathan Miller, it was for me.
I realised I needed to do more research – of a very different kind.
You see, the problem wasn't just that I wasn't a murderer. I'd never fired a weapon before. I'd never handled a gun at all. No, water pistols don't count.
Given the very strict gun laws in Western Australia and my personal preference not to kill people, the best way to rectify the situation was to go to a shooting range. The Lone Ranger Shooting Complex in Perth.
Actually, when I reached the industrial area where the Complex is, I discovered not only an absence of Johnny Depp but that I'd mistaken the name. It wasn't the Lone Ranger at all – it was the Lone Ranges. I was there for the shooting and not the name, so I quickly recovered from my disappointment as I realised I was spoilt for weapon choice.
It's a hard decision when my usual weapon of choice is a shoe – and I'm pretty deadly with it, when it comes to red-back spiders!
Luckily, there were a number of shooting enthusiasts there who were happy to advise me on the best weapons to try for my first time shooting. They all assured me with a knowing smile that once I'd tried shooting, I'd be addicted for life.
I smiled and thanked them – before selecting two semi-automatics to try. A Browning and a Ruger 9mm.
Safety glasses and hearing protection on, I proceeded to load the bullets into the Browning's cartridge. Backwards. A kindly staff member helped me fix that and I was soon ready to shoot things.
Targets, not people.
A few rounds with the Browning and I found that even a semi-automatic has recoil. I was really glad I hadn’t chosen a rifle or something bigger. The acrid smoke and the noise made the whole complex surreal. I could easily visualise a gun battle in Caitlin's house, for I imagined it would be the same as the indoor shooting complex.
With people shooting at people, not targets, of course.
I didn't like the Browning much, but I had so many rounds left over. Luckily, I'd brought a friend with me – a man who shares a name with one of the villains in Nightmares and Necessary Evil, by a strange coincidence. He was more than happy to use up my spare rounds. Together, we turned that target into a slice of Swiss cheese – holes everywhere.
Deciding it was time to move up a bit, I requested the Ruger 9mm – which I'd never seen. When the staff member brought me the gun, I thought it was a joke. It looked too big – like something out of a movie. I didn't know how a petite woman could handle such a weapon. Hell, I didn't know how I'd handle such a weapon.
I loaded it up and took aim. The damn thing jammed.
Twenty minutes of assistance from a staff member and the jamming issue was solved. I pegged up a new target, ran it out to a decent distance and took aim.
Louder. Heavier recoil that jarred all the way up my shoulder into my spine. A small cloud of acrid smoke that set me coughing and choking. And I hit the star in the middle of the target.
While I caught my breath, my friend made good use of the remaining rounds. But my first shot was still the best.
My throat still sore and my shoulders aching, I led the way back to the counter.
“So how was it?” the enthusiastic lady at the counter asked with a smile.
I shrugged. “I got my research done and I've chosen a weapon for my character.”
“When are you coming back again?” she asked, her smile wider still.
I politely told her I wouldn't be – as my research was complete. I now know what weapons my characters are armed with.
I didn't dare tell her that I prefer cuddling snakes and swimming with sharks. Of course, that might partly have been because I had a sore throat from inhaling too much gun-smoke.
Besides, learning I have decent aim with a big gun probably isn't the best skill to build on. I think I'll stick to writing.