“It’s an overstamp. You see this all the time in weapons that have been captured or changed hands.” Mayotte produced a jeweler’s lens from a drawer under the register and studied the rifle intently for a minute. “The overstamp says ‘Flieger-Selbstlader-Karabiner 15,’ which I think means ‘self-loading aircraft-carbine, 1915.'”

“So it’s a German gun? From World War I?”

“I don’t think so.” Mayotte said, still staring intently at the overstamp. “The magazine’s a snail type, but it’s all wrong for the Germans. The caliber, 7mm Mauser, sounds German, but the Germans only used it for imports and captures.”

Keith squirmed. “You’re leaving me hanging in suspense here.”

“Ah, here we go,” said Mayotte. “‘Fusil Porfirio Diaz, Systema Mondragon, Modelo 1908.’ That’s what the Germans stamped over. ‘Porfirio Diaz Rifle, Mondragon System, Model 1908.’ It’s a Mondragon.”

After a short blank stare, Keith cleared his throat. “No offense, ma’am, but that sounds like something that ought to be breathing fire in a fantasy movie more so than a long arm.”

“It’s Mexican,” Mayotte said. She removed a glove and touched the barrel; the first tingling sensations and images began to flow immediately. “The first semiautomatic rifle ever adopted into service. They were made in Switzerland by SIG but the Mexican Revolution and the fact that the rifles don’t much like dirt and rough handling got the order canceled.”

“And the Germans?” said Keith, eying Mayotte’s faraway expression with some unease.

The roar of a radial engine, the howl of the wind with the brutal nip of a few thousand feet altitude… “The Swiss sold them to the Germans,” Mayotte murmured. Her pupils visibly dilated as she talked. “They gave them to observers in two-seater biplanes to defend themselves.”


Racking the action, taking aim across the sights and the wind and the world at the French bastards, who’d been good enough to paint a bright target on the side of their plane… “Let’s see what she can tell us,” Mayotte whispered.