Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Guns - Chapter 3 - Never Let Me Down Again

This time, Mark drove.

"Okay, I have to ask," Sharon began. "What did you do to him?"
"Tied him up on the fire escape."
"That was nice of you."
"Eh. Not really."


Gary "The Gun" Winthrop woke up on one of those days where it just wasn't worth it. That had been two hours ago, when he got "the call". "The call" had directed him to "the place" to get rid of "the target", an adventure which had concluded with Gary being "fucked".

Now he was suspended from a web of duct tape, that same tape being haphazardly wrapped around the cast-iron handrail of a fire escape. He wanted to scream but couldn't, figured he'd been tape-gagged and thought that it was going to hurt removing that...then he saw the drop, which was merciful only in the sense that it would leave him to tumble down several flights of metal stairs in lieu of a direct route to the ground three levels below. He swayed lightly in the Manhattan wind, every tug of Livos - thanks for that piece of trivia, NYU! I still want my money back! - stressing his attachment further. He couldn't quite turn his head all the way back - his neck was hurting like hell -, but he thought he heard something tear above him.

Yeah, definitely pain.


"You see, I'm not a nice guy," Mark said and shifted the gearbox with a quick yank, producing an unhealthy groan and mostly ignoring it.
"We've established that," Sharon said, "I think. You don't have to, like, impress me."
"I'm not trying to."
"Seriously," he said, shifting again. Sharon popped the last nicotine gum into her mouth and bit down on it, hard.
" done this before?" she asked.
"Yeah, I answer stupid questions all the time."

She pulled her lips apart, giving him a brief look at something like a sneer - with just a bit of tongue sticking out.

"I bet you're really popular."
"I get the job done."
"Oh, I get it. You're in hardass assassin mode now."
"What?" he said, more focused on the curve than on what she was saying.
"You switch it on, don't you? This whole super-confident 'been there, done that' swagger? When you sang to me barely an hour ago? That was cheesy. Now I know it's fake."
"You want what everybody wants," she said. "Control. When you have it, you make it look easy. When you don' look like you're working."

He gave her a look.

"Hello?" she said, holding up her badge. "I'm a cop. I read people."

Mark read people too. He had a speech for that, all ready to go. He was going to tell her that she was disturbing him (no mean feat), and that the whole unreasonably "cool" 80s routine everybody was giving him these days wasn't working for an old school guy like him. Oh, how he was going to tell her. He'd say that she shouldn't be so blasé about having two attempts on her life within the hour. He wanted to tell her that it was okay...that it was okay for her to be afraid. And maybe admit that he was a bit afraid, too.

But they were already at the hotel.

Mark killed the Mazda's engine. It was interesting how he could even make turning a key look & sound like strangling someone to death. Sharon had jumped out, amped up on the fresh nicotine finally hitting her bloodstream, and collected her luggage from the subcompact's trunk. The place was not a dive, not the kind of cheap motel on some godforsaken Interstate where you go when your man's been pushin' your face into walls. It was a perfectly nondescript hotel in Queens, with Venetian blinds on the ground level windows and a sign from before the days of neon. Someone poked the phrase "family business" into Sharon's head; she let a quick laugh escape from her lips, but her case was heavy - hey, what if you never see that apartment again? - and Mark wasn't about to help her. In fact, he gave her a specific "Feminism cuts both ways" face that she reckoned had seen some practice time with a mirror on a slow weekend.

He did hold the door open for her.

When he entered the lobby behind her, he caught a pair of room keys tossed at him without really trying; experience helped. The guy at the reception desk didn't actively acknowledge them, but Sharon saw the bulge under his windbreaker - more heat than a microwave oven. She didn't feel safer.

"No elevator music?" she asked when they stepped into the same; Mark shrugged and pointed to a patched-up panel in the side of the elevator cab.
"Yeah, somebody voted against that," he said. "Or I could sing."
"Ah, you feel back in control."
"No, I just really like singing."
"That's not a fucking mantra."
"Everything's a fucking mantra."
"Okay. Control. Happy now?"
"Well, happi-er. Relative."
"We're safe here," Mark said.

Due to some unspecified surplus of karma - no doubt accumulated for helping old ladies cross the street or buying "raging addiction" amounts of Coconut Girl Scout cookies -, the universe didn't bitchslap Mark for saying that. They did, in fact, reach the top floor without any mechanical or electrical hiccups. Mark led the charge all the way to the end of a hallway, then motioned for Sharon to set down her luggage.

"Your room," he said as he handed her one key. "My room," he said, dangling the other.
"Yeah, I've heard of this 'key' thing."

Mark unlocked the door to his room; Sharon took a look inside and surveyed a well-stocked weapon storage facility, a mess of racks and lockers with a single bunk in the middle.

"You said we can't deal drugs," Mark explained.

No comments: