At 23:45 yesterday, there was a series of sharp reports outside. It was a little muffled by the double glazing, but it sounded exactly like someone emptying the magazine of a small calibre handgun into a target with as much speed as is compatible with reasonable accuracy - roughly 1 second intervals between the bangs. It was certainly somewhat unexpected. On rushing to the window and looking out, there was no further noise at all (well, excepting some birds complaining in the trees). There was nothing visible, and I couldn't smell anything.
It could have been a firework. But I'd have expected there to be some other sign, and there wasn't. It was just totally quiet and peaceful again. However, since the centre of a small country town is not where one expects to hear gunfire, I called the police to report it. Not on the emergency number, on the recommended contact number.
About 20 minutes later, there was a knock on the door, and a pair of officers were there, asking questions. The Armed Response Unit had been roused, and were looking around. I described what I'd heard, and explained that though I wasn't sure it was a gun, it had sounded exactly like one, allowing for the fact that it's a pretty long time since I'd last been pistol shooting.
Of course, there'd been no sign whatsoever of anything since I'd made the report.
Then, about 10 minutes later (now about 00:20), another set of bangs happened. This time, I got to the window in time to see a green flash in the sky as the last bang occurred, and see the faint smoke trails drifting in the faint sodium glow of the streetlights.
OK, time to stand down. The policeman in the carpark round the corner has seen the flash too, and was somewhat more relaxed.
What sort of person waits till midnight on an undistinguished Wednesday night, lets off a single mortar-style firework (one that has no fizz, no whistle, no whine, no crackle), waits half an hour or so, and then lets off a second? It's not as though I've not experienced a lot of fireworks - previously living in the W5 area during Divali meant that we got used to World War III every night for a month in the autumn - but normal people don't use fireworks the way this one did. Christmas Eve, perhaps, New Year's Eve, yes, both days when fireworks aren't unexpected. A single fizz, a solitary whine, and I'd have known. But 9 quick *crack*s and nothing else was totally confusing.
(I really didn't think it was a gun being fired at someone, but I could believe someone thinking it was a sensible idea to do a bit of midnight target practice in a back garden. Even though that would have been totally illegal in so many ways.)
Some other time I'll reminisce about how my parents got the local Bomb Squad highly exercised, complete to a half-mile exclusion zone.