“Good day, gentlemen. I happened to notice that the young lady that was just escorted into the building looked a lot like the daughter of a friend of mine.”
The nearer of the two guards was watching me closely as I walked up to him, his eyes scanned me up and down. I saw his posture change slightly as he looked a bit to my left while tracking his gaze up my chest. He knew or suspected I was carrying.
He grinned a very unfriendly grin. “If you saw her that well, you seem to have missed some other details – the ones that said this is none of your business.” As I continued to walk closer at a casual pace, the nearer guard clearly got more tense. He snapped his fingers twice and the second fellow turned and looked me up and down, then moved a little to the side so his partner wouldn’t be between us.
“So two snaps means incoming, probably armed, huh? You a cutter or a shooter?” I was about ten feet from the closest of the two by that point.
The guard closest to me crossed his arms, his right hand went under his jacket. “You talk like you been watching too many bad cop shows, and you look like an ex-military fat white guy with callous on his ass from a desk job.”
I nodded to him. “That’s right. Except for the gun you saw, I’m not that scary looking am I? You’re still being careful though, and your partner is too. He’s even remembering to check behind him every couple of seconds as I walk up on you.” I stopped five feet from him and looked him straight in the eyes. “I’m between jobs right now. I might be willing to work for someone who hires people who know what they are doing.”
He looked at me hard for about three seconds, then said “Tell the boss we got a visitor, tell him what happened, and see if he’s interested.” The other man looked at me, then walked to the door and started talking low under his breath, but Frank turned up the volume for me. “White guy, ex-mil, out of shape, but ballsy. Just walked up asking for a job. Don’t know him.” While he was talking, the second guard continued to watch the side of the building that he seemed responsible for, glancing back every couple of seconds to make sure all was clear while he talked.
A voice from inside. “Bring him to the door, not inside.”
“Boss’ll talk to him from the door, he can’t go inside.”
“You hear that?” This from the guard that was still watching me closely while still keeping his eyes in constant motion, watching behind me while watching me at the same time.
“Yes, I heard. To the door, not through it.”
“No fast moves. Stand at parade rest while you talk so we can watch your hands.”
Both guards turned towards me as I moved to the doorway with careful slow steps, then turned slowly and stood at parade rest in the doorway. I was able to see both of them in the shards of broken glass of the windows to either side of the door. They were both watching me while at the same time watching past their partner to the other side.
“These two are paying attention, even if they are letting you close. Be careful.” from Frank.
Inside the building I saw a man standing, facing the door. He was well dressed, Hispanic like the rest. Older, pocked face. Cold eyes, whipcord lean. He looked me up and down. “What can you do for me, Gordo?”
“You give me a name and some info, I poke around a bit, tell you a price. If we agree on the price, I put them in the ground. First one, nothing up front, I get paid when the job’s done. After that, half up front, the other half when it’s done.” I was pulling all this out of my ass. Cop shows indeed. Frank must have been doing something because I wasn’t sweating a drop, and no nervous jitter either.
“You got balls of steel Gordo, but it still sounds like hot air. Tell me two of your jobs, so I can be impressed.” He grinned at me with perfect teeth.
I shook my head slowly. “Names will get you killed, no matter how good you are, Jefe.”
“You don’t feel right to me Gordo, you won’t give names, fine. You tell me any city you worked in, last five years.” He reached into his pocket. I tensed.
“Calm, calm Gordo. I need a picture of you with my phone to ask some people if they heard of you.” He slowly pulled out a smart phone and twirled it in front of him so I could see all sides of it. Then his face got stone cold, and the smile disappeared. “Name a city you did work in, within the last five years. Now.”
“Dallas, Gordo? Dallas like Dallas, Texas, right? Not some little town in another state? No confusion?” That stone cold face was telling me nothing. The guy was fucking scary.
“Dallas, Texas, Jefe.”
He relaxed a bit. Then his phone started making a shrill whistle. Frank beeped in my ears, and all hell broke loose.
Jefe went from appearing relaxed to a leap almost instantly. By the time I recognized he had started to move, he was already airborne, starting an impressive standing leap over the countertop next to him. His right hand reaching down to plant on the counter to help balance, while his left hand was reaching towards his right armpit. Then Frank increased my perception speed and he nearly stopped in midair, like the silverware.
Frank started speaking to me. “Don’t move, don’t talk, let me do the moving. Show me with your eyes. Who first? Where’s the big guy and the young woman? There. To the right.” The big guy was walking out of the back corner of the building with the woman held in front of him, pulling a pistol out from under his coat with his right hand as he held her neck with his left hand. His hand was literally big enough to reach all the way around her neck – I had never actually seen someone do that before. He was walking a little sideways, so her blind efforts to kick behind herself had no meaningful effect. His attention was entirely on me.
In the broken glass, I could see reflections of the two behind me starting to pull pistols from their jackets.
Jefe was drawing his pistol faster than the other three, even though he was in the middle of leaping over a counter. He was smiling too, a predator’s grin. I hadn’t moved yet. He knew how this would end. Or he thought so, anyway. I hoped he was wrong.
The big guy had to go first or he might shoot the hostage. Then Jefe, then the two behind me. I looked at them in that order, without moving my head, blinking once for the big guy then Jefe got two blinks, the two outside got three blinks each when I looked at them in the broken mirrors.
“Got it. The hostage holder, their boss, then the two behind us. Blink once to confirm.”
I blinked once, and Frank said “OK”
I saw myself begin to move, crouching and turning slightly to my right. “First thing I’m doing is jumping into the building to get away from the sight lines of the two outside, I will be grabbing the boss’s arm as I pass him, pulling him off-balance and forward over the counter while helping me spin clockwise and slow down from the leap. While I spin, I’ll take the big guy, and continuing the spin while falling and sliding on the tile to line up on the boss.” I watched my body make a lengthy standing jump, my left hand reaching towards Jefe’s wrist, while my right started reaching for the pistol’s clamshell. “After that shot I will be letting go of the pistol with the right hand and grabbing it with the left hand as I line up on the guys coming through the door.”
It was like a slow motion video from a shooter video game. I watched things unfold as Frank controlled the fight. As I leapt towards Jefe, his smile ended, and his expression slowly turned into a wide-eyed stare. Then I was no longer looking at him as I started to spin right. My left hand hit and gripped something. I heard a crack, then I was spinning a bit faster. My right arm curled out with the pistol, using the spin to help it extend while fingers disengaged the safety. The left hand started to pull on something at that point, helping the right to extend by slowing my torso, increasing the spin. I heard another crack. My head wasn’t even tracking at all, it was immobile on my torso, but it didn’t take long before I started to see the big guy appear out of the corner of my right eye and I saw that my right hand was tracking to intercept his head. The pistol fired while I was looking slightly down across the top of it. The bullet was moving quickly, but visibly. At first it seemed that the shot would miss. Then I realized the bullet was moving clockwise at the same speed that my hand and gun were tracking clockwise. I watched the bullet track into a direct hit to the left eye of the big guy while his gun had barely cleared his holster.
I was starting to feel a lot of heat in my right arm as I continued to spin. I could still feel the pull of my left hand gripping Jefe’s twice-broken right arm, briefly, then my left hand released and both arms folded against my chest and gripped the pistol, pointing it over my left shoulder as I spun to the ground, hitting flat on my back and skidding towards the back of the building on the tile. Once I was sliding without twisting, my right and left arms extended, and another bullet left my pistol. Jefe’s face was contorting into a wide-eyed, open-mouthed grimace of pain as he was falling across the counter. His right arm was obviously badly broken from the shape of it, but he was still holding his pistol in his left hand and trying to twist his arm and torso to bring it to bear on me as he fell. When our bullet hit his forehead, his trigger finger reflexively squeezed. I watched the bullet from his weapon ricochet off the floor, grazing my left leg and passing near my ear.
The right arm was even hotter after that shot, the left was warm. Frank transferred the pistol to my left hand as we continued to slide across the floor. One of the guards from outside started to slide into view along the floor, beginning to extend his arms in a two-handed shot while sliding, a lot like we had just done, except he was on his side, I was on my back. The other, a little slower, was getting into a crouched position at the edge of the counter, under full cover. The counter guard’s left arm was extending around the corner, straightening out with the pistol coming to bear on me. The pistol was almost in perfect position for the counter guard already. Frank adjusted a little down, firing a round at the place where the counter guard’s head was beginning to appear from behind the counter.
As the bullet meant for the counter guard tracked visibly towards a connection with the head that was being exposed, my left arm started tracking, firing twice as it moved down and to the right. The first round targeted at the slider hit him in the gut as he moved sideways across the floor, causing him to curl up a little around the wound, pulling his arms out of position. The round he fired back at me hit the top of my boot but hit no meat. Frank’s second shot on the slider took him in the middle of the face. The counter guard’s body crumpled to the floor, limp, as the slider’s body came to a halt. My body stopped sliding as well.
My body felt like it was on fire. Hot. Everything was burning hot. Then the pain stopped completely, and my pistol was raised and fired – at the ceiling? Foul, disgusting water started to pour out of the sprinkler water system – I could smell it before it even hit me. The pistol was moved into the clamshell at a normal pace, safety engaged, as the water poured down. Still under Frank’s control, I stood directly under the stream with my mouth open, throat held open, funneling the disgusting water like beer at a frat party while Frank shrugged off my jacket then held my pants open to the water.
From the corners of my eyes I could see I was shaking my arms and legs under the water, almost like I was doing a chicken dance. Light traces of steam were forming around my arms while heavy red and blue traces barely below the surface of visible skin expanded rapidly. Veins and arteries? Deep red blisters formed and burst, dripping blood, a faint smell of pork and copper made itself known over the foulness of the water. My stomach was full of the terrible, foul water. My hearing turned back on, and Frank was yelling at me “Fuck Fuck Fuck You are losing weight before we even think about doing anything like this again. Period. Fuck. I will march your happy ass away from the next fight you try to start if you aren’t at least a hundred pounds lighter.”
“Love you too, Frank” I managed to gasp out. I fell to my knees and retched, the hot, filthy water tasting even worse the second time around. “Turn off the taste buds Frank, you made your point.”
The taste of the filthy water cuts off. “I wasn’t making a point, I was saving us from the blood in your arms, legs, and hips that was starting to boil. Had to reroute blood all kinds of different ways and push it to the surface of the skin to be cooled.”
I looked around and saw the young woman kneeling, mouth open, staring at me. She had apparently just untangled herself from where the big guy fell on her. “You OK?”, I managed to say, scanning her for blood that might be hers and looking at her face for signs of pain.
“Madre de Dios” she muttered as she stared at me, white-faced. I could barely hear her over the falling water. Fortunately it seemed as if the audible fire alarm wasn’t powered. There was no siren. Abandoned building.
I looked at myself again. Red stained water was spreading away from me. Exposed skin was rapidly changing from ragged, burst blood blisters to normal looking skin under the flowing water. The large red and blue tracings under my skin rapidly disappeared. “Scares me too.” I wasn’t lying. Part of me was in a panic as I looked at my skin.
Her head turned to each of the downed men, lingering on Jefe. After seeing all four were dead, she walked over to Jefe and spat on his face. Then she turned to look at me, paused a moment, obviously working up some courage, and took three steps toward me rapidly, offering me a hand up. I accepted the offer and stood with her help, but did not let her pull me out of the heavy stream of water from the broken sprinkler.
Her hands felt very cold, and she reacted to the touch with a widening of her eyes but didn’t let go, helping to pull me to my feet.
“I have to stay under the water after doing that or I’ll burn up, sorry.”
She swallowed hard, clearly scared shitless of me, but she did a pretty good job not showing it. “OK. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome, but I can’t stay. Someone must have heard the shots. I have to go as soon as I cool down a little more.”
She nodded. “My father was in the drug business. He had to run from the law too, many times, but it was this pig that killed him.” She punctuated the statement with another spit on Jefe.
She walked over to where the big man had been standing over in the corner with her, then carried a briefcase back. “Here. This was the money that my father received from the man he sold drugs to the day before these pigs killed him and took it. It is four million dollars in used $100 dollar bills. The man he got it from always gave clean money. Good business. The combination is 8086.”
“If that was your father’s, it’s yours now.” I was sure I didn’t want that money.
“I do not need this money. They kidnapped me from my house and were going to force me to tell them my bank account numbers where my father put most of the money he was planning to retire with.”
“Stop.” She startled me with the commanding tone, and followed that with a quick shake of her head. “You saved my life. I can tell by your reaction that a few million dollars is a lot of money to you. It is not a lot of money to me.”
She cut me off again. “You can. My father was worth more than four million dollars to me. Seeing these pigs dead is worth more than four million dollars to me. I would almost certainly be dead and not be able to see my little girls again if not for you, and that is worth everything to me. I see all your skin is normal again. Take the money and go. Now. Give it to a charity if you feel you can’t keep, but you will take it from me. I will distract the police and tell them that you ran into the woods.”
“Take it. We have to go. Now. Someone almost certainly heard those shots.” Frank’s voice.
“OK. I have a favor to ask of you before I go though.” I insisted.
“Ask it. Quickly. Even in this place, many gunshots will bring police quickly.”
“When you see your little girls again, you kiss them on the forehead once each for me, and promise them that you will never do illegal business again. Even if they are too young to understand, you promise them.”
“I did almost exactly that when I brought them home from the hospital, my father made me. Then he refused to let me help him any more. I will do it again for you.” She said in a whisper. Then she hugged me hard, quickly spun around, and grabbed my jacket and the briefcase. “The white truck is yours, I think?”
I said “Yes.” She ran out the front door with my wet jacket and the briefcase. I followed out the door, then ran around her to the truck and unlocked the door, got in, and took the briefcase and jacket as she ran up with them, tossing them both in the seat next to me.
As I started the truck, she reached into her back pocket and pulled out a business card holder, quickly sliding out a card and pressing it under the fingers of my left hand where it was wrapped around the steering wheel. “You need help, you call this number backwards, you understand? Forwards this number is not answered, backwards it is me. Lawyers, money, you call me. Now GO!” She turned away and ran back to the building where I had just killed four killers.
I drove out of the parking lot, barely able to stay calm as I waited for several cars to pass. After I finally was able to safely merge into traffic, I did so. Shortly after that, I carefully and quickly got the truck back to the highway, continuing towards Nashville.
“Frank, I’m guessing you are controlling my panic right now, chemically somehow? You can release it a bit if you want. I think I want to feel a bit scared right now after that.”
“Actually I’m not doing anything to control your endocrine system right now, just some pain from unhealed damage that I am holding off on healing until you cool down more. Drink a sports drink from the cooler please, and eat one of the trail mixes. We need the electrolytes, cooling, and bulk energy.”
I flipped the briefcase over, selected 8086 on the combination lock, and opened the briefcase to reveal that it appeared to be full of stacks of slightly used hundred dollar bills. I tossed in the business card, then closed the briefcase, spinning the combination, and leaned back into the seat and sighed, while carefully watching the road.
“Drink. Food. Now.”
“Yes mother.” I reached over to grab a drink and a trail mix. “You turned the taste buds on again. Damn I smell awful.”
“Next time we almost die I’ll try to remember to bring air freshener.”
“Is it too late to change your name to Smartass?”