Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two Guns - Chapter 13 - Mr. Policeman

"Are you sure you're okay, Boss?" Sasha asked; Nicolai ignored him as he stalked through the hotel hallway, his bullet wounds hastily bandaged. His eyes burned with the fearless intensity of a man on way too many painkillers.

Better living through chemistry.

"Where are the guards, Sasha?" he asked, passing the last corner to their room. That was a good question, seeing how they weren't standing in front of the door.


"Christ, not this joint..." Mark managed to babble even while the two assistants dragged him into the basement; Sharon followed a few meters behind them, scanning the alley for more surprises. She didn't feel anywhere close to safe until they were behind a locked, steel-reinforced door. The basement had seen better times, even by backalley clinic standards - the walls were held together by a colorful assortment of unsavory movie posters, as if to impress upon the patients that their bullet wounds could be much worse. The surgical instruments were stood up in small, transparent water jugs filled with some moonshiney concoction.

But the pièce de résistance was Doctor George Washington Walker, otherwise known as Dollar. His ivory teeth shone in the darkness, his skin held the shade of a particularly bitter chocolate, and his long hair was all bound back into a ponytail, swaying like a thunderstorm in the darkest night. He looked like he had only truly lived in the 70s, then shed his velvet cocoon and tamed his afro into something marginally more practical. A blunt hung from the corner of his crooked mouth, uncomfortably like a cigarette might stick out of Sharon's.

"What'd he do this time?" Dollar said, strolling like a jaguar after a night of heavy drinking. "Sucka gets painted more often than my mama's house."
"Your mama's so fat..." Mark began, but Dollar shushed him and helped the assistants lay Mark on a table in the middle of the room.
"Aww, hell no! They did not put bullets through my everlovin' stitches! Kyla, get your ass over here!"

Sharon had held onto some small degree of respect on account of Dollar's supposed medical degree, but even that was gone the minute she laid eyes upon Kyla. As it turned out, Dollar's surgical nurse was a punk rock girl on the wrong side of 16 years, with mascara'ed eyes that promised trouble and little hands ready to deliver the same.

"'scuse me, comin' thru," Kyla said as she carried a tray of fresh surgical instruments to the operating table. Sharon realized she was standing in the way and took a few steps back until she had her back to the wall. "Ran into bullets again?"
"Get his clothes off!" Dollar said. He popped fresh gloves out of a dispenser box and wandered off to grab a surgical mask - without realizing that this would require putting the blunt down.

A small leather holster dangled from the waistband of Kyla's cargo pants, riveted to the same in lieu of conventional attachment methods; she popped it open and drew a pair of small scissors from it. Mark was too weak to put up an effective defense, so she managed to cut both his shirt and the side of his ballistic vest open with little difficulty. She couldn't help mouthing a "Woah!" as she swabbed the blood away with cotton.

"Three entries, three exits!" she called out. Dollar rushed over, grabbed the scalpel from her waiting hand and started slicing Mark's belly open. Surprisingly, Mark didn't like that. The assistants rushed over and held Mark down. Sharon circled the table and crouched down next to Mark's face.

"Look at me!" she shouted, then yanked his head around to face her. "Look at me, I'm here. I'm here. Look at me!"

Mark had no better reply than renewed screams of pain. Kyla jabbed him a syringe with a synthetic opiate into his veins, but even that was of questionable use considering Dollar's speed. By the time it hit Mark's brain and cascaded up to the "don't feel" stage, Dollar was already putting the first stitches in. Thanks for nothing, painkillers.


Mark laid on his side, unconscious but stable, with Sharon sitting by his side and holding his hand. She was fully prepared to wait out Mark's long sleep, as long as it might take, much in the manner of a particularly loyal (if chain-smoking) dog. However, Dollar strode in, blew marijuana smoke into her face and called her a bitch. Presumably, that last one wasn't about said dogged approach to bedside company.

"Bitch," he said, but then went on with "what are you doin'? You should be arresting this fool."
"What? Why?"
"'cause you's a cop. Cops, robbers, that shit ring a bell?"

She looked at him. Dollar understood and laughed into his next cough.

"Aw, shit. You guys playin' cops and robbers on the side, eh? So who gets the handcuffs? Or do you trade?"

Sharon fixed Dollar with a wayward glance; with no intent to her stance, she let go off Mark's hand and righted herself. Dollar suddenly realised that Detective Second Grade Sharon Collins had a few inches on him and the attitude to match. His habit of mentally undressing women and his knowledge of anatomy combined to impart an important fact even through Sharon's clothes - that woman was tensing her muscles for a brawl. Suddenly, Dollar felt inspired to add "Go far, but not too far" to his New Year's vows.

"You'll have to forgive me," she began, dropping the room temperature by several degrees, "but I don't find Mark's friends very endearing. Most of them seem to think that I'm some sort of walking target for all their little in-jokes. I get it. I'm a cop, I'm supposed to be all law & order, you are the only smart people in this city - enough already, I fucking get it. I don't agree, but I get it. You, however, you're a whole new level of jackass. The way you dress, the way you smell, the way you talk - obnoxious. In my dark moments, I want to take that big pearly smile of yours and grind it to dust against a block of concrete. Two things protect you: you saved Mark's life and I'm patient by nature. But Mark will be out of here in a few hours, and my fuse is not getting longer."
"...can I offer you something?" Dollar asked meekly. "Hot chocolate? Decaf?"

Sharon suddenly leaned back and smiled.

"Hot chocolate would be great, thank you."

Dollar hurried out of the room, intent on evacuating his vital points from Sharon's striking range. Sharon turned around and sat back down. The things you can achieve with a little civility...


"You've been awfully quiet," Berkovitz said, gently feeling the idling engine rumble through the gear shift. The red light didn't seem to be in a particular hurry. "About all of this, I mean," the officer went on. "It's a shitstorm alright. The best we can do is hunker down and wait for the bastards to finish each other. After that, everything will be dandy, don't you think?"

Ded didn't say anything. His mouth was covered in too much duct tape for that.

"I've known Russians all my life," Berkovitz explained. "My family's from the Ukraine, you know? My mother and my uncle got out in '67. My uncle was a fast thinker, I get that from him. You know what they call all the people who wanted to emigrate after him? Refuseniks. Refusenik. You have to game the system, Boris, I've learned that much."

The signal switched to green.

"My father was a honorable Soviet citizen. No way out for him. Too important to let go, too Jewish to make something of it. He believed the whole crap to the end. You and me, pal, we're the refuse of the cold war. War, you know? Shell casings, dead bodies, plastic packages that held food, all of that is just trash. Dead weight. We're the trash, Boris. We're the trash. So don't think I don't sympathize with you, really, I do."

They drove on in silence for a few more minutes; Ded knew where they were going. The docks loomed outside the window, barely in time for lunch break. A few twists and turns later, Berkovitz stopped the car, breathed silently, then turned off the ignition. He left the car for what seemed like a minute - not enough time for Ded to free himself, though God knows he tried. He squirmed and he struggled and he stretched for anything that might be sharp enough to cut his bonds, but it was no use. Berkovitz came back, opened the back door and hauled him out. Berkovitz was muscle, Ded thought, in the truest sense of the word - big, burly, not too bright, or at least he didn't look like he'd ever seen a college from inside.

They walked to the end of a pier; the weather was beautiful for the season, a bright sun up above and only a soft wind instead of the harsh bite one would expect from this location. Berkovitz lowered Ded onto a bollard and lit himself a cigarette; after a moment's hesitation, he took out a small, weather folding knife and cut a slot in Ded's gag, then lit a cigarette for the Russian and put it in his mouth.

"It's fucked up, Boris. You don't have to tell me, I know. You want to hear my opinion? That Nicolai kid sucks. He doesn't know what we know. He ain't seen what we've seen. They feed you this code of honor bullshit long enough, you start to shit it right back out. I'm glad for you, Boris. Glad that you got away. Glad that you had a good run. But this is where your story ends."

Berkovitz crouched down next to the Ded. Ded calmly smoked his cigarette.

"We're gonna sweep the streets, Boris. Sweep 'em clean when we've got the trash out of the hiding holes. But a little piece of shit like you" - Berkovitz grinned - "we just flush you down the toilet."

He fished a Makarov PB from his coat.

"You know those docks, right? Your place is just upstream. Makes no difference to the Hudson. This place, your place, all the same. We'll be searching for you further down. We'll find you. You'll get a decent burial. So, yeah, sorry about that. Nothing personal."

He aimed the gun at Ded's head.


A whisper, a word, a last beat.

And then Ded went under.

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