Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Two Guns 16 - Sweet Dreams

The streets of Manhattan were busy on Christmas Eve, but Mark and Sharon didn't seem to acknowledge that. They walked down 5th Avenue hand in hand, little snowflakes dancing around them.

"So what did you want to be?" she asked.
"Astronaut. I thought it was gonna get me closer to God."

Sharon smiled.

"Okay, you're smiling," Mark acknowledged. "But I'm still confused. This is your 'Keep talking' smile, not your 'I'm about to mock you' smile."
"How many smiles do I have?" she purred.
"Quite a few, but shouldn't you know?"
"I rarely practice my smiles in front of a mirror," Sharon explained. "That's like asking me about the hairs in the back of my neck, how am I supposed to see that?"
"I thought being a woman came with full control over all the little details that drive men insane."
"Maybe it does, but I traded my wiles for soldier's hands and sailor's tongue. Now I can cuss with the best of them, but strangely enough it scares them off when it comes to dating."
"Oh, come on. You're smart, you're hot, don't tell me I'm your first guy."
"Would you want to know if there had been others?"
"Of course I would! A good relationship can stand up to honesty and comparisons. Mind you, it's pummeling exes and potential rebounds with a baseball bat that really makes a couple tight."
"It figures I date a hitman just after the shrink lays my revenge fantasies to rest."
"You see a shrink?" he asked; they stopped at a pedestrian crossing waiting for the signal to change.

Sharon snuggled up closer.

"Many cops do. Police work is stressful, even when people aren't trying to kill you in particular. Why do you think I smoke?"
"Because you want to sound like Clint Eastwood?"

She gently elbowed him in the ribs, fortunately not on the injured side.

"Okay, message received, funny time is over," Mark said, trying not to wince. "So there's a lot of stress."
"I never wanted to buy into that 'thin blue line' bullshit. We're all just people, we're all trying to get through the day. I figured, hey, everybody knows the rules, occasionally they gamble and occasionally they lose their shit, but we're all human, right? That's what I used to think when I started, but around here, idealism seems to get you kicked harder. I get people like Silvestro, or even Nikolai, they're ruthless and it's all about power for them, but every now and then you go after a really sick bastard. I used to be in Vice, you know."
"Ooh..." Mark drawled, but Sharon interrupted him.
"Not undercover, don't get your hopes up. Anyway, we were crackin' down on this guy in Queens...well, long story short, child pornography."

Mark's hand tightened as they crossed the street.

"And it wasn't even that he had raped those kids, made photos and sold them...no, that was his fucking hobby. He sold them, but just to cover his costs. He wasn't even making any fucking money off it, and best of all, he'd been doing it for years. The only way we were able to track him down is because he'd lost his job, so he tried reaching out to new customers and got one of our informants."
"That's fucked up."
"We got a conviction on three cases. Three cases. That was all we could prove. He'd been doing it for God knows how long and we barely got him locked away for ten years. Now, that was extreme. I'm not trying to go for moral panic here, okay? Most of the time, we nailed those guys, we had a decent percentage of convictions, and he was like a whole different level, a freak accident. But if you ask me, even one's too many. The whole thing tore me up pretty bad, I asked for a transfer to Organized Crime. I figured, hey, at least these guys have a proper motive going on. The Mafia doesn't kill people because it gets them off."
"What would you have done to him? I mean, if you could've done anything you wanted."
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel like breaking his face, good and hard, but I wouldn't have acted on that. I'm a cop, I enforce the law and sometimes you just gotta be better than you'd like to be. Paperwork, gunfights, forget it - being a cop is doing it the hard way, every time."
"Character is what you are in the dark," Mark said with a rigid face.

Sharon pulled back and gave him a distrustful look. Mark shrugged.

"I read books, too," he said, and smiled.


Ded wasn't dead, and that was a crying shame. Sure, there was a basic gratefulness for being alive, but nothing compared to the feeling of sucking icy water into his lungs, the panic, the fear...and the knowledge that it was possible they'd do it to him again, just for kicks. Ded was too old to develop new phobias, or so he tried to tell himself. No more swimming for this Russian.

Then he opened his eyes. Bad move.

"All yours, chief," he heard Dollar say. Dollar...what was he doing here? His eyes managed to dial down the illumination from searing photon daggers to a more reasonable dimness, and he spotted Nikolai at the side of the bed, counting off cash for the underground doctor.

"You..." he managed to say, but found his hands chained to the bed. Even if they hadn't been, he was in no shape to fight.
"You'd best start sucking my dick now, old man," Dollar said. "Hypothermia, water in your lungs, no heartbeat, not to mention all the shit that happened to you before you stumbled into Superfund River - you were a mess when you came in, a big stinking mess. Thank your lucky stars that your pal here jumped in after you and dragged you out of there. By all rights, that shoulda killed him, too."
Ded looked over to Nikolai, who gave him a curiously friendly nod. "He's not my pal," Ded said.
"3000 bucks says he is," Dollar said, counting his bounty. "Oh, and I managed to set that finger right. No piano sessions, but you'll have some mobility."
"Why are you doing this, Nicky? Berkovitz was about to rid you of your biggest problem and you shoot the guy?"
"I never meant to kill you, Boris," Nikolai said. "I respect you. When the war is won, I will gladly return you to power - and keep you on the right path. Now, I had an agreement with Berkovitz that he would keep himself and his Captain out of this, but he thought he could make his own play. Instead, he suffered the fate he had laid out for you. It seems fitting, somehow. Anyway, we will keep you in a safe house until this blows over and we have eliminated Marcus Simmons."
"Simmons? What happened to the kid?"

Dollar looked to Nikolai.

"I patched him up," the doctor said. "I don't play favorites."
"I respect that," Nikolai answered. "You take the Hippocratic oath seriously."
"I also got me an accountant, tells me that makin' money is good."

Nikolai smiled, but Ded grinned.

"Nicky, I got news for you. You fucked it up. Simmons will wipe his ass with your moustache."
"You have been unconscious for the better part of a week, Boris." Nikolai scratched the back of his neck. "We have not heard a peep from your 'kid'. He is clearly marshalling his forces for a decisive strike. But rest assured, we are working on the problem. This time, we will tackle him at a location of our choosing."
"I won't help you, Nicky. If you think I'll trick him again, you'd better just shoot me now."
"Fortunately, this trick does not require your active participation. You remember Sasha, yes? He is my trusted lieutenant, and he likes you, too. Why, he was visiting you just yesterday..."

Dollar gulped, while Nikolai reached into his coat and produced a handful of photos.

"He thought it would be great if you had some...what is the word? Ah, yes...memento of your stay here. We will see to it that Marcus Simmons receives copies of these. He should recognize the place..."
"Hold on there," Dollar said. "3000 bucks one-time doesn't make me your accomplice, Commissar Backstabsky."
"I have considered this," Nicolai said, then handed a business card to Dollar. "I do not require you to lie for me. When Marcus Simmons shows up, simply give him this. I can pay you for the service, if you wish it so."
"I ain't leading Simmons into no trap of yours."
"Please do not torture yourself with the notion of choice, Doctor Walker. The photos are on their way already, which means Marcus Simmons will come here and ask you about anything you know of Boris's location. I suppose you could refuse to give him this address, but I believe he is rather liable to just beat it out of you. Feel free to protest that this was not your idea or that it will lead him into a trap. He is unlikely to care."
"The patient's ready to move," Dollar snarled. "I suggest y'all move before I develop a conscience and schedule you for brain surgery with my four-four."
"No hard feelings, Doctor Walker," Nikolai said with a smile. "I'd hate for a good man like you to start picking a side - especially the wrong side..."

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