Sunday, August 26, 2007

Two Guns - Chapter 6 - Comfortably Numb

"...I said, are. you. okay?" Mark shouted at Sharon, who slowly lowered her Berettas; the thump of shoes on roofing echoed behind her as Vince switched buildings with a short jump.
"I'm fine," she said. "I'm fine."
"Jesus fucking Christ," he said.
"A little warning," Vince said, shouldering the Dragunov; his white shirt was roughed up beneath the light kevlar vest. "That's all I ask."
"I thought I could take them," Mark replied with an apologetic frown.
"Oh, no doubt, that was some Grade-A killing, seriously impressive. But it won't do ya any good if the principal gets snuffed."
"Hey!" Sharon offered, pocketing the guns. "I happen to be fucking present."

Mark seethed for a second, then released the breath he'd been holding.

"Okay, enough of that. We have to leave, fast."
"I need my suitcase," Sharon said. "All my stuff is in there."
"...including my gun."
"You just took two guns."
"My official issue Glock? The gun you didn't want me to use, presumably because you didn't want CSI to find it?"
"Have to give her that one," Vince admitted.
"You go back to Alex," Mark offered, "we'll figure something out."
"You could just come to the mansion with me."
"I said, we'll figure something out." A tense look darted back and forth between the two hitmen until Vince relented with a smile, shook his head and just walked away. Mark favored Sharon with a glance; she gave him a half-hearted smile.

"Four minutes," he said.


Despite appearances, Mark didn't take her to Manhattan. Well, technically, he did, but they didn't stop on the island. The little GLC puttered along, just another car in the start of afternoon traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

"We're going to Jersey?" Sharon asked.
"Maybe," Mark answered.
"I knew you were..." they both began; Mark's eyes rapidly darted back to the road ahead as he suppressed the beginning of a smile. "...gonna say that," Sharon concluded.

She reached into her jacket, retrieved her pack of smokes and a book of matches, then lit up. The window on her side was half down, and the passing air sucked the smoke outside.


Vincent's hand cradled the gear shift for a moment before he shifted down to second gear, taking a curve not as slowly as he might've otherwise.

Silvestro was nuts, he concluded. Full-on insane, totally out of it. The man had lost more people this week then the Ingues Cartel had in the last five years, and this rate of attrition meant he was bleeding money. He couldn't be that stupid, could he? Vince knew what Detective Collins had seen, and it wasn't worth this much effort. Heck, if anything, what she knew could sink his cartel, and all Silvestro was doing was driving her into their arms. It didn't begin to make sense.

Well, at least not until he stood before the mansion's automatic gate, the Ferrari's engine idling with more attitude than healthy, and wondered why nobody opened it. He was a smart gangster, and like any smart gangster in this situation, he didn't honk. He just killed the engine, grabbed his gun case and hopped out, hurrying to get into the mansion and find out what was wrong.

He suspected, of course. The attacks hadn't been about Collins, or Mark.

They had been about him.


Sitting on the hood of her car, Sharon smoked a cigarette and reflected on the last days. It was snowing, and even though her watch said that it was the still solidly day, the cloudy sky didn't betray anything other than a weak impression of sunlight. She wondered if that was symbolic in a way, when the sun would shine on her again, but then dismissed the thought with another drag. She was antsy and altogether not well, the kind of funk that leaves you with the impression that sitting on the hood of your car in winter is a good idea. It was like she'd switched off some part of her brain to cope with people trying to kill her - not just in an abstract, "get rid of that cop who's after you" style, but trying to murder her specifically. The car - and by extension, Sharon - were stranded at a snowed-in parking lot for a motel, and Mark had left her here to guard the car while he tried to negotiate for a room, which didn't strike her as a sound protection policy but left her with little opportunity to complain. Her right hand cradled the Beretta under her jacket, and unlike Lennon she found that a warm (well, lukewarm) gun didn't elevate her mood greatly.

Then he walked back to the car from the office, and she noticed how vulnerable he looked. In the heavy snow, he was just another guy stuck in bad weather, trying to navigate the half-frozen dirty sludge at his feet without ruining his pants. His face didn't show emotions often - at least not in the few days she'd known him -, but he looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"We got a problem," he said as he drew close, his hands buried in his trenchcoat and his shoulders bunched up to protect his neck.
They've only got one room, Sharon thought, with a double bed. How stupid do you think I am?
"They've got a few free rooms," he continued, "but none right next to each other."
"Oh," Sharon said, and meant That's a marginally more plausible pick-up line.
"There's another one thirty minutes out, we'll try that."

Sharon reactivated her brain and tried to untangle the mess. On the surface, it looked like the "one room" plan had been rejected by implication, but she couldn't be sure. The weary way he'd suggested another motel made her think that he was trying to guilt-trip her into staying here. Then again, maybe she was distrusting him for no good reason; he'd consistently backed-off whenever she'd implied he was interested in her. And yet, maybe that was a shell game, too...

It all came down to whether she trusted him or not.

"I'm tired. Let's just take a room here."
"You get the couch."

He said "Okay", and it was so infuriatingly hard to read his expression through the cold, the snow and his own talent for subterfuge; it became impossible when he walked off again, intent on paying for a room. Had he tricked her after all? Was this just the kind of reasonable agreement it looked like? Or had she just talked him into something; worse, did he believe she was coming on to him?

...was she coming on to him?

Why did nothing make sense anymore?


Vince snuck through the house, his CZ 85 at the ready. The gun in his hands was new, yet to be tested in combat - and truth be told, Vince wasn't looking forward to changing that, because he was the kind of guy who found pistol work distasteful. Why chance the vagaries of close-quarter combat when a sniper rifle offered so much more reach and armor-penetration? Still, the gun was comfortably heavy and solid in his hands, something to rely on.

Dickens was dead, leaking his guts all over the heavy-duty wool carpet in the living room. The mansion was in a part of town where gunshots would draw the wrong kind of attention, so they'd probably come in using suppressed guns. He briefly considered firing his own gun to generate a police reaction, but for all he knew, that could also alert some assassins who'd stayed behind to deal with him.

It's kind of unnerving to slice the pie around the corner to your bathroom, but that's what Vince did. He was a professional, first and foremost, and the whole sentimental stuff could wait. He wasn't quite charmed with the close-range prowess of Mark, and that made him a bit nervous.

Another body - Sam. The redheaded manservant of 57 had been killed by two bullets to the throat, and he didn't deserve that. But these days, it seemed to Vince that he was the only one with enough discretion to restrict his killing to the actual scumbags. You could always find a hatchet man on the street, coked-up tweens with Uzis who'd waste their own mother for a grand, but Vince was older than that. Old enough to think that honor was a good thing, that there were certain things that you just didn't do. Maybe that was why he and Mark were friends: if you believe in the laws of the underworld, you might get cozy with the man who enforces them.

And what about Alexandra? Vince pressed on, followed bloody footsteps to Alfredo's office. He froze when he heard voices.

"Shoot him!" one bellowed; only quiet sobbing followed.
Alexandra, Vince thought and gripped his gun tighter. She's still alive.
"He told you to shoot him!" another voice shouted. Vince moved closer to the door, trying to aurally locate his targets.
"Ah, what's the matter, sweetie? He's as good as dead already."
"Silvestro wants you alive, girl. I don't want to disappoint him."
"No, but he trusts us."
"Yeah, he does."
"So we can do whatever the fuck we want, and it'll all be necessary to bring you in alive."
"Not because we hate girls or something."
"Nah, if you were his son...we'd fuck you up, too. You'd be surprised."
"Tons of shit you can do to someone and leave them able to talk."
"But I guess Daddy told you all about it..."
"...too bad he's having a stroke. Why don't you start thinking about what you can do for yourself?"
"Nothing you can do for your old man..."

It happened very fast. Vince kicked the door, one guy tried to grab Alexandra but couldn't because she ducked, Vince fired twice into the other guy and killed him dead - because that's what Vince did best -, the first killer had a bead on Vince, who hadn't moved, but then Alexandra had her gun to his head and blew his goddamn brains all over the place with a single wet BLAM!

Vince saw the slide on Alexandra's pistol locked back - one bullet. There were no more tears, just a cool and collected voice from the blood-splattered teenager.

"Daddy needs an ambulance."

No comments: