Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two Guns 19 - Hammer To Fall

There was no perception of time in Dollar's underground clinic, but Sharon just sipped on her coffee and felt the mucous membranes of her mouth suck up the caffeine; it was the only thing that kept her going through the wee hours of the morning. The shivering was getting worse. She drew the blanket over her shoulders closer, trying to trap the warmth. She could've asked Dollar to turn up the heat - but that would've involved talking to Dollar. She freed a pack of smokes from her jacket, flipped a cigarette into her mouth and dug back into her clothes in search of a lighter.

"Hey, wuzzat?" Dollar hollered from across the room. He was there much faster than it should be possible to move and snatched the cigarette from her mouth.
"Do you mind?" she said, angry from being tired and tired of being angry.
"Girl, you's all wired and shit. You don't wanna light up that cancer stick, that'll kick you to hyperspace. You gotta smoke somethin', I'ma hook you up with some fine cheeba so you don't start trippin'."
"I'm fine. Can I have my cigarette back now?"
"That ain't right..."
"You're already down two beatings for the evening; wanna go for a hat trick?"

Dollar dropped the cigarette onto the floor and ground it under his shoe. Sharon met his glare, then calmly fetched another smoke from her pack and lit it.

"That's it. Move over, bitch. You wanna smoke, we's gon' smoke together."

Sharon gave him a strange look but moved over almost by reflex. Dollar sat down next to her on the couch, grabbed a joint from his shirt pocket and fired away. Within seconds, an intense smell pushed the tobacco smoke away, and a sweetness formed in Sharon's nostrils as if they'd been sugar-coated.

"Now this is some bangin' reefer, lady, not the dirt they sling to the preppies. Purple haze, baby."
"You ever try to quit?" Sharon asked.
"Nah, girl, this is what keeps me going."
"I've been quitting for two years now. Gums, patches, whatever, it doesn't work."
"I got a rehab cage in the basement, you know," Dollar threw in.
Dollar laughed. "Girl, how do you think I met Kyla? Little crackhead snooping around for things to fly with, I knocked her on her ass and then we did the cold turkey therapy."
"How long did it take?"
"Shit...three weeks like."
"And you had a cage in your basement - why?"

Dollar took a deep draw from his blunt and cackled.

"Well, I don't get to fuck assassins. Gotta get my kicks somewhere."
"I have to stop asking these questions."
"Don't get it twisted: I never got biblical on my lil' girl. I don't go for spun up jailbait. Rehab ain't sexy, I'll tell ya that for free."
"If I say I believe you, can we talk about something else?"
"Ah, white chick mode: first you squeeze me for details and then you raise your purity shields. Whateva, girl, that's cool with me. You ever get the itch, you know where to find me."

Sharon had to concede that this was one of the most effective arguments for abstinence she had ever heard.

When Kyla entered the room seconds later, Sharon involuntarily had to imagine what she had looked like as an addict. The image wasn't pretty; Kyla didn't seem the type to lose weight gracefully, and Sharon could picture her as a teenage skeleton, rummaging for something worth stealing from the medicine cabinets on the walls.

"Your squeeze on line two," Kyla said, reeling Sharon back into reality. She acknowledged the sentence with a curt nod, got up from the couch and took an extra drag off the almost-finished cigarette as she followed Kyla around a few corners. A wall-mounted telephone (the kind that should probably be in a booth) had its receiver lying on top, with the steel links of its heavy-duty cord still softly clanging against the phone's body. She picked the receiver from its resting place and forced it against the side of her head.

"...Sharon? Hey. Listen, I..."
"How did it go?"
"Are you watching TV?"
"No. Why?"
"Uh...we're in a bit of a mess right now. Things got loud. But we've got Boris, and Nikolai is history."
"Where are you now?"
"Payphone. Listen, I need some help."
"Tell me where you are and I'll be there."
"No, no, not that kind of help. I've got this Detective's shield, and..."
"One of the Russians had a badge with him."
"I've got the number here. 4-7-4-4. I need that run ASAP."
"...you killed an undercover cop?"
"No! No, I'm pretty sure I..."
"You're pretty sure."
"Look, if you just run the number, okay? Go to the precinct and run it. I'm not immune to fuckups, but I think there's something going on here."
"And if it comes up as undercover?"
"That would be...bad."
"No shit."
"I'm going to drop off Boris at the next emergency room, he obviously doesn't want to go back to Dollar...and then I'll come and drive you to the precinct."
"No, no..." Sharon said, brushing some hair away from her ear while she tried to think clearly. "I'll head over to the precinct myself. Not a good idea for you to show yourself there now. Wait at my apartment."
"You got it."

And then he hung up. Perfect.


By the time Sharon reached the precinct - via Kyla's moped, no less -, she was well and truly beat, tired beyond all recognition and with the fondest wish for only her own bed to sleep in. Almost on autopilot, she fed some cash to the coffee dispenser, waited the requisite 15 seconds and grabbed a plastic cup with barely liquid caffeine in it. A sip of that brought her back from the brink, and the elevator ride to the third floor gave her five more sips. By the time she walked into her office, she was almost awake.


She ran it and it didn't take long enough for suspense to build, it just told her that this was Berkovitz's badge.

She tried his home number, but nobody picked up. Her brain wanted to give in right there and then, sort this out tomorrow, but her fingers were already punching Captain Whitton's number into the telephone pad. It rang a couple of times and she realized that this wasn't the right time of night to be calling anyone, but Whitton picked up before she hung up.

"Captain, I'm sorry to disturb you, but..."
"Collins? What's the situation?"
"I need to find Berkovitz. I think he knows something about the ambush at the restaurant."
"Yeah...that's not gonna happen. He's on assignment."


"Oh. Sorry to wake you, then..."
"Actually, I've been following the coverage."
"The coverage?"
"Didn't you hear? There was a firefight in Brooklyn. They just about levelled the old Army Terminal, and if we can trust the investigative prowess of the Channel 7 graveyard shift, there's a ton of dead Russians."
"How's your boyfriend, Sharon?"
"I have to go now."

Sharon slammed the receiver onto the phone, switched the computer off and hurried outside. Her gait was unsteady, her feet more searching than finding, and she felt the typhoon in her guts as soon as she barely glimpsed the sign at the women's restroom. With one palm on the frame and a swift kick, she entered, blundered into the next stall and sank to her knees. Tears streamed down her face while she grappled her hair, forced it behind her head and bowed down over the toilet bowl.


One hand on the seat, the other still holding her long red hair, Sharon knelt over the porcelain and breathed heavily, her eyes almost sewed shut as more tears streamed down her cheeks. The sickness clung to her throat; all that came were acidic belches and gagging. She hovered for a minute, her mind blank, and then she rose up again, slowly walked over to the sinks and opened a faucet. Her hands splashed cold water onto her face, then she help them under the stream and collected some water in her cupped hands. Small, measured sips.

That thought again. Sharon Collins, your boyfriend kills people for a living. How do you feel about that?

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