Friday, January 25, 2008

Two Guns 17 - Everything is Broken

Sharon stood in a ballet of snowflakes, performed on the windy pathways of Central Park. The ice danced around her, each frozen tear of God on a course more complex than the collected writings of Spinoza. She hummed an old tune and embraced the world, her coat open and her arms spread. With the patience of a deer stalker, Mark moved behind her, softening his steps until they were too faint for human ears. His breath was hot against her neck, his hands like intense sunshine on her belly. While he drew her closer, she reached back and grabbed his head, bringing it forward for a soft kiss.

“Hold me,” she whispered.

He pulled her tighter, and she turned around, resting her head on his shoulder. He drew his coat around her, sheltering her from the cold for a moment.

They danced with the snowflakes.


“I had a lot of fun tonight, you know,” Sharon said with a slight giggle as they walked down the hallway outside her apartment. The jaunt through Central Park had exhausted her - even the best snuggling can’t hold off dropping core temperatures for long.
“That’s, uh, good,” he replied, scratching an itch on the back of his head. “Vince helped me plan that, you know. I’m hopeless with wines.”
“So, how long have you guys known each other?”
“Oh, we go back. Almost shot him in ‘84, back when he was still with the Cosa Nostra…but he could tell that ship was sinking, so he changed teams.”
“Ratioli’s a rat?”
“Don’t say that around him, Shar. It’s been all uphill for Vince to get anywhere after that, but now he’s the boss’s bodyguard. That takes a lot of trust, so when I tell you he’s solid, he’s solid. You get his word on anything, that’s the truth right there.”
“And he knows his wines.”
Mark grinned. “That he does.”

The door was ajar. Mark froze in his steps and motioned for Sharon to do the same, then reached below his coat for a holster that wasn’t there.

Dammit, you get sloppy one time…

Sharon tapped on his shoulder to get his attention, then bowed down and raised the hem of her dress. With a deft move, she removed a small Walther PPK from her thigh holster and readied it. Mark gave her a questioning look; she just mouthed “Daddy” and gave him a small smile. Resigned to his fate, Mark silently stepped behind her, watching the hallway behind them. Sharon put her back against the wall and proceeded towards the door, elbows bent and PPK against her shoulder, ready to let it drop into firing stance in the blink of an eye. Reaching the door, she steadied herself and mentally reviewed her training. She would swoop into the doorframe, take a quick peek and fire at anything threatening. If there were no targets, she’d keep moving to the other side of the doorframe, take a breather, slice the pie around the corner. Piece of cake, literally.

“I’m also good with locks!” came Vince’s shout from inside the apartment. Sharon took a deep breath – cursing under the same – then spun into the doorframe, quickly sweeping the room but keeping her trigger finger in check. Other than Vince – in the process of cleaning her guns –, there was nobody in there.
“Goddammit, Vincent, don’t do that ever again,” Sharon said, lowering her gun and raising her voice. “I could’ve shot you.”
“The thought crossed my mind,” he said nonchalantly, wiping some oil from her Beretta’s firing pin. “But I thought that if I called out, I wouldn’t startle you when you come in – because I know you’re the kind of woman who shoots what startles her.”
“Hesitation kills,” Sharon remarked, switched the safety on the PPK back on and set her boot on the table to holster it again.
“Hey, Vince,” Mark said as he closed the door behind him. “Uh, thanks for the cleanin’, we hadn’t gotten around to that part yet…”
“I know you usually need a poke, and Detective Collins here just spread a couple pounds of half-melted muck on the table…” – Sharon checked the table under her boot, smiled sheepishly and began to take off the boots before she could spread the mess further – “…but that’s actually not what I came here for.”
“Oh. Oh!” Mark slapped his forehead. “Christmas Dinner! Man, I’ve been a total jerk, all this romantic dinner planning stuff and I didn’t even ask if you had a spot. Well, fuck…we didn’t get doggy bags, because we finished our stuff. Even the salad, that was kind of a weird feeling, empty plates and all. It just wasn’t a lot of food, I guess…in fact, I’m kinda hungry enough for seconds. Sharon?”
“I could eat.”
“Right! Chinese cool?”
“Chinese very cool,” Sharon said, wiping the muck off the table with some paper towels.

Mark’s friend just shook his head slowly.

“Still not what I’m here for,” the Italian hitman said. “You forgot your cellphone…”

“…crap,” Mark said, faking surprise quite effectively. He hadn’t forgotten his phone, it was more like ‘deliberately left behind’. What could happen in a few hours?
“Don’t worry, I covered for you. But something came up and I had to see you, because we have to take care of that situation now.”
“We got photos in the mail. Boris in a bed down at Dollar’s, with yesterday’s newspaper.”

That could happen in a few hours.

“That’s all kinds of fucked up,” Mark said. “Dollar is neutral, he wouldn’t do that.”
“Maybe not, but the Russians might do it to him.”
“So it’s a trap,” Sharon threw in.
“That’s the only fact we’ve got,” Vince said, nodding as he put the Beretta back together. “Trap at Dollar’s.”
“Yeah, that…” Mark began, but stopped when Vince pointed to a shoulder rig with two Browning Hi-Power pistols hanging off the chair. “Vince, where would I be without you?”
“Retired,” Sharon threw in. “Peaceful life, blowing your savings to hell with the girl you love.”

Mark gave her a glance, trying to figure out if she was yanking his chain or spilling more than she intended to, but Vince brought down the moment by handing Sharon the reassembled Beretta.

“This is my guarantee, Detective: When you’re rolling with me, you may be up shit creek, but you’ll always have a paddle.”


“I think you’re too trusting, Mark,” Sharon said bluntly as the trio walked down the alley to Dollar’s basement door. “I mean, there’s the family stuff, right? Alfredo was untouchable, Alexandra’s so fresh she doesn’t have her own business cards and you back her, Vincent can do no wrong – I’m sorry, Vincent, this isn’t meant to be a dig at your personal trustworthiness but still, this is messed up. It’s not just that, though, I mean, I can sorta understand that” – Mark knocked at the door – “but then we get to people like Dollar. This guy’s a bastard and yet you’re going in, fully believing he was set up by the Russians? And let’s not forget that the whole reason we’re here is this Boris guy, who’s a Russian but somehow definitely not in league with these guys, who I haven’t even met and who might be fucking dead already…just saying.”
“Are you done?” Mark asked sweetly.
“Pretty much, yes.”

Dollar opened the door. Mark socked him in the gut with a punch like a brick dropped from orbit.

“I can see what you’re getting at,” Mark said as he stepped in. “Sometimes, I’m just too nice.”
“Okay, now that was gratuitous,” Sharon said, wincing sympathetically at Dollar’s squashed guts.
“Just a second,” Mark said and turned to Dollar, who was quite busy writhing on the floor, his jaw locked up too tightly to scream out the pain. “Let’s make this quick. I know you’ve been fucked by the Russians, and I can appreciate that this puts you in a difficult position.”
Dollar moaned incoherently. Mark went on.
“I know that you were going to tell me everything anyway, because I know you are an honest man. However, we’ve never been in a direct conflict, so I needed to show you that I am serious and will do the safety dance on your kidneys if I smell bullshit. Are we clear so far?”
Dollar’s condition was improving – not only could he understand what Mark was saying, he also managed to nod.
“Good. Me and the gang need coffee, so we’re going to help ourselves to a few cups. You just get up whenever, we’ll be waiting in the lounge.”

Without further ado, Mark stepped over Dollar, while Sharon followed more reluctantly. Vince closed the door behind him and looked down to Dollar, shaking his head.

“Woah, that was a damn good punch. You okay down there, Doc?”
“Fuck…you…” Dollar managed to spit out.
“Sounds okay to me. Hey, guys, I’m gonna go black on my coffee, right?”
“Right!” Mark shouted back.
“Hell of a punch,” Vince said, then moved on.

Dollar got back on his feet. Eventually.


“Okay, mo’fuckers,” Dollar said, spreading his records across the table in the lounge. He seemed to take special pleasure in making Mark lift his cup of joe from the surface. “After reviewing my documentation real careful like, I got a theory on how ol’ Boris got into this mess. Though I don’t know why you crackers need that shit, seeing as I gave you the fucking business card…”
“Yeah, yeah, that tells us where the trap is,” Mark said. “We need to figure out what makes it tick, and that means we need to know the people who assembled it.”
“Right, whatever. Let’s start here. December 12th, some Russian guy came in and bought a handful of antipsychotics off me. Haldol, specifically. That’s what they use when crazy people need to go sleepy-sleepy, but it’s got real therapeutic uses and shit at lower doses – plus, honestly, why the fuck should I care? His cash was good.”
“They track down Boris,” Mark threw in, “then they knock him out with this?”
“Possibly. Anyway, loooong hole here. Don’t see any Russians here for a long time, but if they used all the Haldol and didn’t buy none from other dealers, that shoulda given them a week or so of having Boris under control. Enough time for torture, MKULTRA shit, whatever. By the time your meeting rolls around, they’ve broken him. They get him to call in, shit goes down, you end up here. At the same time, somebody does a smash & grab from the Russians, kidnaps Boris, takes him to the pier. Probably to kill him. But he just throws Boris into the water – me, I woulda put a couple slugs through the skull, just to make sure. Anyway, by this time, Nicolai’s there, he kills the kidnapper and rescues Boris, to hear him tell it. They both show up here, I do my thing, Boris gets better over the next couple days. I discharged him just a few hours ago.”
“Wait a second,” Mark yelled. “Boris was here while you treated me, and you didn’t tell me a thing?”

Dollar leaned back and smiled.

“Neutral ground, baby,” Dollar said.
“And how the fuck did he get in when Sharon was here?”
“You really think I have only one entrance, sucker?” Dollar said. “’sides, what were you gonna do to him here? I wouldn’t let you fight here and pickups are neutral, too.”
“Pickup? They kidnapped him and you helped them!”
“You seem to be under tha impression that I’m on their side, or maybe yours right now. Fuck that noise. I’m on the side of green and the Russians had deeper pockets, you hear me?”

Mark considered that a down payment for at least two more kidney compressions, but Sharon held him back.

“This is going nowhere. We need more facts. Who was the kidnapper?” Sharon asked. “And why does Nicolai want Boris alive so badly?”
“Fuck if I know, girl. That’s what makes this such a big fucking waste of time, you guys are trying to play puzzle but I got a third of the pieces here, tops.”
“Very encouraging, Dollar.”
“You want me to put on a skirt and do a little cheerleading dance for ya? Now, guys, lemme just say something here, kind of an Uncle Dollar’s Moral of the story: Screw this investigation shit. You wanna stick your neck out for poor old Dedushka, get the fuck on with it before the Russians cancel him for good. You’re proficient at wrecking shit, so wreck shit. If you make it, hey, you can just ask him to fill in the blanks when you’re having a brew together.”
“Alright then,” Mark said, rising from his seat. He spat out a “Thank you”, his mind still weighing the loss of face over starting a fight here with the satisfaction of caving Dollar’s nose in.
“Thank me with cash,” Dollar said. “Oh, and if you hit me again, I’m gonna hunt you down and sew your asshole shut, got that?”

Mark counted off benjamins from his money clip, noted Dollar’s facial expression and finally just gave him the whole thing.

“You’re the worst person I know,” Mark said.
“Oh, that’s real funny,” Dollar replied with a grin. “Seeing how I’m the only guy in the room who never killed a man…”
“I heard different things about ‘nam…”
That added a glint of madness to Dollar’s eyes, as something broke through the marijuana-addled surface.
“Fuck ‘nam, everybody’s talking shit about ‘nam but I didn’t kill nobody, says so right in my records, zero confirmed kills, and I only ever shot to scare Charlie! ‘sides, we didn’t murder them. I defended my fuckin’ country, unlike you pansies, so don’t you go telling me about fucking ‘nam. That was the will of the people, and we gave it to them good and hard until they cried Uncle! You wanna hear my theory of justice, Simmons? Y’all are DA jackpots waitin’ to happen. I pay my taxes as a medical fuckin’ consultant, my records are all in code, I’m so clean you can run a blood culture lab on my police file. Ask yourself, if a cop car stops you and runs your ID, what kinda judgement is America gonna level on you, as a person? I ain’t afraid of no all-white jury, how do you feel about twelve of your ‘peers’?”

Mark just stared at him.

“Violence is the, uh, the last resort of the incompetent,” Dollar recited. “Now go kill shit, I got work to do.”

Disengaging from that particular trainwreck, Mark turned back to the team, finding Sharon with a worried look and Vince on the phone.

“What’s the matter, Shar?”
“I’m…how do I put this? I’m not sure I should come with you guys. I mean, the Silvestro thing, I knew that was wrong but it wasn't going to stop until we put a bullet in the guy. I’ve no stake whatsoever in this, though, and I am a cop. I can’t just go around killing people.”
“Nikolai had you at gunpoint. He’s been fucking with us all the way. We’re just evening the score.”
“I’m not saying he should be free to do this, but can’t we do this without violence? I mean, we know where he is, I can call in an ESU team.”
“And how’s that gonna be different, Shar? You think there won’t be a gunfight just because those guys have badges?”
“Yeah, I thought about that.”

Sharon sighed.

“That’s what I’m stuck on at the moment.”
“The problem is that I can’t just leave you behind.”
“I’m your assignment.”
“You’re also my girlfriend,” Mark said with a smile, “so I have to protect you twice as much.”
“This is how every crooked cop story ever starts. Rules become inconveniences. And I refuse to play this point of no return game. If I fucked up with Silvestro, if I made a mistake by getting involved with you, that’s a problem, but I won’t keep digging the hole.”

Mark sighed deeply. Say the right thing…

“You know what Jesus told the prostitute, right?” he said.
“Are you saying I’m a prostitute?”
“More importantly,” Vince threw in, “does that mean you’re Jesus?”

There was the glimmer of a smile on Sharon’s face, so he ignored the barbs and continued.

“He said, go forth and sin no more.” Mark lifted Sharon’s head by the chin. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”
"I just can't do this," Sharon said, playing with the strap of her shoulder holster. "DA's office is already on me for the hotel shootout, and this isn't really my fight anyway."
"I understand," Mark nodded. "But I can't leave you home alone."
"I'll just stay here."
"Aw hell no!" Dollar exclaimed, trying to punctuate his expression with an evil stare, but Mark beat him quite squarely at that.
"I don't like leaving you here," the assassin said. "On the other hand, I do like pissing off Dollar."
"So it's settled?" Sharon asked, a small smile returning to her face.
"Be back soon."

Sharon reached out, narrowly missing Mark's hand as he turned away and left with Vincent. Sharon stood there, arms crossed, until the sound of Mark's car faded into the distance.

"Fuck you, bitch," Dollar growled. "Fuck you and the gangster you ride in on."
"I'm thinking hot chocolate," Sharon said.
"Screw you. There, how's that sound? I figure, well, that bitch gets a lot of fucking, maybe she don't even hear that anymore. So, screw you. Wait, he does that, too, don't he? I bet he's all sensitive and goes down on ya real good." Dollar's face switched into a grin, as if somebody had flipped his switch from surly to sweet. "But if you into that shit, babe,you's wasting your time on white boy, 'cause I do like me women who know what they want, your standards can't be that high and we got some time to pass..."
"With marshmallows." Dollar took a deep breath for his next assault, but Sharon quickly continued her line. "If you don't have any, your teeth will do."
"I don't think you can actually pull that shit off, sugar. I'm a trained fuckin' soldier, US Army, I got me a Purple Heart and shit, and you..."

With a stunning economy of violence, Sharon elbowed Dollar right on the nose. He went down with a yelp and rolled around the floor in pain the second time in as many hours.

"No sugar," she said, then went off in search of somewhere to sit down.

No comments: