Saturday, July 14, 2007

Two Guns - Chapter 1 - Live And Let Die

New York City was cold.

The snowflakes seemed to be the only ones enjoying themselves, dancing on the wind and making the most of their life before being stomped into the sludge over the sidewalk. The wind was the worst part of it; it found the smallest pieces of exposed skin and chilled people to the bone. Well, not all of them - Detective Collins sat in her car (a cheap Mazda with a busted radio) and scanned the area with reddened eyes. The docks were closing down for the day; the few people that still hung around there were all headed home. She took a sip from her coffee and had to fight it all the way. It was lukewarm and too strong for her own good, and taking nervous gulps from it whenever she actually wanted to have a smoke didn't help. Neither did the nicotine gum, for that matter; she seriously reconsidered that investment and felt cheated - a familiar feeling.

Another sip emptied the plastic cup; Collins tipped her head back to drink the last few drops of coffee, then nearly spewed the beverage back out when she saw a delivery truck pull up to the warehouse ahead; the sectional door slid upward, and two men in heavy coats got out, then walked alongside the truck as it crawled into the warehouse.


Collins opened the door; the cold air was like a hammer punch to the face, and her eyes snapped shut out of reflex for a few seconds. Still mostly blind, she pushed the door closed, locked it and folded her arms before her chest, pulling her own coat tighter together. With the initial shock gone, she headed for a side alley and observed the deal going down. She reached into her coat and retrieved a camera, then set to snapping pictures of the men with coats.

"I'll have that film," he said, and then there was a click.

Collins recognised the sound - a hammer being cocked. The Glock 17 in her shoulder holster felt like it was a thousand miles away for all the good it was doing her there.

"You don't want to do that. I'm a cop," she said, and thought she sounded fairly confident. She slowly raised her hands, opening her coat up further. Brr, cold, she thought.
"Let's see a badge."
"Clipped to my belt."
"Take three steps back."

Collins realised that this would take her out of sight from the main road, but there was no arguing with a gun aimed at her back. When she stopped, she felt the man breathing behind her. His gloved left hand pulled her coat back, found her badge and grabbed it.

"Hmm," he said. "Collins...Detective-Investigator Third Grade? Doesn't sound like much of a career."
"Can I have my badge back now?"
"When we're done talking. Now, there's so many beautiful things in the city to take pictures of. Why this?"
"I'm...I'm following up on a tip. About a drug deal."
"Well, DT, you should know that there's none of that in this part of town. Precisely so overworked people like you don't have to wait in the cold and take photos, photos that are just gonna disappear anyway..."
"I'm telling you, it's a drug deal!"
"I suspect I'd know."
"You think I'm stupid, is that it? You think I'm suicidal?"
"Sure lookin' like it."
"Listen to me. Whatever you think is in that truck doesn't matter. I know it's White. If that stuff gets into town, you're all going to have a very bad day."

This time, there was no snappy comeback for a few seconds.

"Give me your gun," he said.
"Your gun. Give it to me."
"I can't..."
"Or I could knock you out and take it, but I'd really prefer not to."
"...shoulder holster, right side."

His hand came back around, reached across her chest and slowly drew the Glock from its holster. He was right behind her now, and the idea of elbowing him in the stomach was a strong temptation. When he moved still closer, she felt something hard behind her - a strike plate. The man was armored, and just as quickly as it had come, the elbow plan removed itself from her options. She heard another click - this time, decocking the hammer - and turned around, catching the man in the process of holstering his weapon, a Colt 1911. The man was tall, decked out with body armor and a large, dark grey trenchcoat that made him look even bigger. From a look at his unshaven face, she placed him at 35 or thereabouts, with a broad and angular face.

"Don't leave," he said as he stuffed the Glock into a pocket on his coat. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Now, remember, don't do anything stupid, I have your badge and gun."
"Where are you going?"
"Checking the truck."

She gave him a searching look; he looked at her, and his small smile seemed to grow more serious.

"You're right, you know. If it's White, this'll be a bad day."

And with that, he took off, leaving Collins cold and confused.


It wasn't every day that Mark Simmons had a run-in with the law, which he put down to being very good at his job. As a professional assassin and underworld enforcer, having a criminal record was frowned upon. Mark liked to keep things low-key: as long as his employers weren't doing anything too outrageous, the cops were perfectly happy letting the crooks operate on their own set of rules. Of course, people occasionally ended up dead, but things were a far cry from the loud street wars of times gone by, back when Mark had just started out and honed his skills.

He moved effortlessly, the rhythm of his footsteps in the snow a soothing melody for an insomniac city as he followed the truck's tracks into the warehouse and came face to face with the two heavies and one driver, all packing the customary amounts of heat.

"Hey guys!" he called out by way of greeting, addressing the guards. He kept his game face even as he saw them flinch. His instincts told him that these men were expecting trouble, but they didn't draw their weapons. Mark didn't know whether that was an inadvertent admission of innocence or merely an attempt to fool him.

"Well, look who came in from the cold," the first thug - Ben - said.
"Our favorite cocksucker in the whole tri-state," the second thug - Roger - said. "'sup, Simmons?"
"Freezing my ass off, that's what's up," Mark replied. "Call came down from the boss, says I gotta watch you boys."
"Waste of time, ain't it?" Roger said. "Four of us for a couple of AKs."
"Man, that reminds me, I need to get me one of those. You think Silvestro will mind if you lose one?"
"You wanna buy it right here?" Ben asked.
"My car's just outside," Mark said. "Come on, man. You can lose one of those."
"I don't know, Simmons..."
"Yeah, I don't know, either, he was like..."
"...real specific."
"Yeah, don't lose those, he said."
"And we're not gonna."
"Hell, I want one of those, too. But we're not gonna lose them."
"No, we ain't."

Mark's look rapidly alternated between the two, but he spotted the driver reaching for his gun.

"Come on, guys. Seriously? I'll pay ya, cash..." he said, opening his coat - and sliding the Glock out of the pocket with his left arm, out of sight from the guards. "Let me just get a look at them."
"Sorry, Simmons," Ben said. "No deal."
"Yeah, sorry," Roger repeated.

The driver grabbed his gun.

"Don't be," Mark quipped.

He snapped the Glock up and fired - five shots in two seconds, killing all three without so much as a single shot against him. By the time he had his right hand on the gun and swept the truck's cargo area for threats, they were all on the ground and as dead as could be. Mark released his breath, then walked up to one of the crates and kicked it open. Bags of white powder stared back at him.


" God!" came Collins's cry - she stood in the door and took in the scene, while Mark still held her smoking gun.
"Looks like you were right," Mark said nonchalantly, then reached into his coat, shifted a small messenger bag to the front and drew from it a bulky electronic brick - a cell phone. "I need to make a call," he said. "And this time, stay where you are, okay?"

Collins didn't feel like arguing.


"Well, this is a fine mess, Marcus," Alfredo Ingues said as he surveyed the scene; Vincent Ratioli, his bodyguard, gave Mark that "Beer later?" look, and Mark managed to break his somber expression for a second to reply with his "Oh, fuck yeah, beer later!" face. "Did you check all the crates?" Ingues asked.
"Cocaine," Mark said, "about 200 kilos."
"A fine haul by any standard," Lt. Whitton said, inspecting the crime scene with two more police officers. Detective Collins emphatically kept her distance from them. "And all thanks to you, Detective. The problem is that your man killed our suspects,Ingues."
"Self-defense," Mark replied tersely. The old Ingues Cartel matriarch nodded. "If Marcus says that they were going to shoot first," the old man said, "it must have been that way."
"It's not that complicated, really," Mark added. "They knew I'd made them the minute they saw me. They were just trying to get me to leave before I had a chance to check the crates. When they realized that I wasn't going to back down, they lost their nerves."

Whitton reached into his coat and grabbed a handkerchief; despite the cold, he was sweating.

"I got that," he said. "But the fact remains that we have the coke, the Detective and three bodies with cartel bullets in them..."
"Actually, Sir," Mark said, "I borrowed the Detective's gun for that."

Whitton shot him a glare at first, but his expression lightened after a few seconds.

"Now that's good thinkin', son. Come here, Detective. The man's trying to get you promoted."
"What!?" Collins said, perhaps a bit louder than she'd planned on.
"The scenario is this, Detective Collins," Mark said. "You get a tip. You come here, weapon drawn, you're all professional and in control, you give them the whole 'Freeze!' thing. The asshole over here tries to reach, you see him, you shoot him, the others pull their heat, you shoot them too. They're a clear danger, you don't have the time to disable, so it's straight center mass, double-tap."
"But...that'll never work!"
"Really," Whitton said. "Officer Berkovitz, what does this look like?"
"Looks like a damn fine police officer doing a textbook raid all by herself, trying to keep the bad guys from escaping. Bit sloppy that she didn't call for backup, but it all happened pretty fast."
"But he shot them!" she shouted, pointing at Mark.
"I've got gloves, you handled the weapon when you holstered it in the morning, your prints. Which reminds missed."
"Powder residue," Whitton explained. "Give her the gun."

Mark held out the Glock for her to take.

"That'll never work," she repeated. "You'''re bigger than me! He's bigger than me!"
"Different stance," Mark said without having to think about it. "You've got it up on your eye level, I shot from the hip. Close enough for government work."

She took the Glock, reluctantly; Mark looked over to Alfredo Ingues, who gave him a nod. "Help her," the old man said, then walked back to his car.

Mark walked up behind Collins, subtly pointing her in the right direction as she raised the gun to fire.

"Don't panic," he whispered. "Just one shot, hit the broad side of the truck."
"I can't do this," she said.
"It's just one shot. Nobody's getting hurt. The worst part is already over. Just one shot."
"They'll know."
"Nobody wants to know anything," he said. "We make it plausible enough, they file it."
"'ve done this before, haven't you?"
"Coached a cop? Eh, not really. The killing part - too often." He paused for a breath. "Look, I know this sucks, but believe me, it'll suck much more if you don't do it. Just aim, pull the trigger and we can all go home."
"I can't."
"...they're not getting any deader. Come on. Do it."

The Glock went *bang*. Collins lowered the gun, dumbstruck.

"All set," Mark said. "Time to go home." In the background, one of the officers was radioing in his response to a "Shots fired" incident. Just another drug bust gone mostly right.

And Sharon Collins couldn't cry.

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