Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Guns 24 - Who Wants to Live Forever?

All the way through the taxi ride, Sharon Collins hadn't looked at the driver. She had asked him to turn off the radio, she talked to him - well, mostly he talked and she listened. He was Polish, of all things; they talked about Sunday Mass for fifteen minutes. Sharon didn't ask him where she could find God again. There was nothing Sharon could do to help Mark, but Detective Collins might find a way. Manhattan drove past her, taking her all the way back to her apartment. It seemed like the snow was letting up a little bit now, though the sky was still overcast. Probably too much to ask for good weather at a time like this. The Beretta beneath her jacket tugged on the holster straps, heavier than before. In a perverse kind of way, she longed to feel the grip of her issue Glock again. Surely, she couldn't show up back for duty without it, and that's exactly what she was going to do - back on duty, try to get this mess fixed from the inside.

"I'm going back home soon," the driver said. "Sell my things, my taxi, go back."
"What for?" Sharon asked, not paying attention.
"There are new leaders now," he responded; Sharon couldn't see his smile.
"But it'll still be in shambles."
"Maybe, maybe," he said. "But I will be with my son. He is a man now, big strong man. My wife, my neighbors...letters are not the same. This not my home. I lived here for fifteen years and it is not my home. What did you do, Woytja? What did you do in the free West? I drove a taxi. My apartment smells like cabbage soup, every day."
"Not good for honest people, is it?"
"This city," Sharon said, with more emphasis. "It's not good for honest people."
"It's not," the driver agreed.

Sharon's foot touched a small duffel bag on the taxi's floor. One of ten she had found in Mark's house, filled with bundles of cash.

A duffel bag. Full of money. And he had ten.

Crime does pay.

It was enough to pull over, get a coffee, buy new clothes, try to call Mark and hang up after ten beeps. The driver waited for her, thanked her for his coffee. She'd barely broken in one bundle of money from the bag. All the way to her apartment, she counted the bundle, again and again, in lieu of putting it back into the duffel. She figured Mark might need it to make his exit, but now that the taxi was pulling to a stop in front of her home, she thought about that.

"This is for you," Sharon said, handing the bundle to the driver. The man turned around as she tried to open the door; she froze when she saw his face.
"Is this...?" he asked, his voice shaking.
"It's plane ticket money," she replied, and he nodded, understanding.

Random acts of kindness, enabled by blood money. Her moral compass was starting to look like a clock.

She shouldered the burden of the duffel bag as she finally got out. Somehow, she had expected her street to look different, but it didn't. She'd left it snowed in and she returned to it snowed in. Here she was, standing in the snow with hot money and a cold gun. She grabbed a different piece of metal from her pocket and unlocked the front door; a grey cat rushed past her for reasons of its own. Her house didn't have an elevator, so she took the stairs. The wood groaned under her steps, which would've been an insult if they weren't old enough to get away with it; keys still dangling from her hand, she tried to unlock the door but found it already open. Stepping into the apartment confirmed her suspicion.

Mark was there. Sitting on her couch, surrounded by dirty plates and sporting a healthy growth on his chin from lack of shaving. He looked at her with tired eyes.

"You look good," he said.
"You look like shit," she gave back, smiling for him.
"So much for my plan, huh?" he asked, forcing a small laugh through his clenched throat. "I'm tired."
"Did you sleep at all?"
"No...not really."
"You should've skipped town."
"This is the only thing I could do," Mark said, monotone again. "Try to draw the heat, give Alex more time to disappear."
"Falling on your sword, then?" she replied with a bitter undercurrent. "They should've called you Samurai."

No reply; Mark just stared at the ground.

"Did you hear the BOLO, Mark?" she asked. "If anybody finds you, they'll shoot first and ask questions later. This isn't just covering for Alex, it's suicide by cop."
"...maybe," he conceded.
"Do you want to die? Do you want to give your life for the cartel? Alex could have left town at any point, why is she still here?"
"I don't know, but..."
"But what?"
"But I have to."
"No, you don't. You've done enough for her, Mark, more than anyone could expect. But you're done. You're out. They'll kill you if you keep fighting. I couldn't live with that...that happening. Please, if not for you then for me...turn yourself in. We can go down to the station, nobody will lay a hand on you, I swear..."

Mark cut her off by standing up. He turned away from her, slumping his shoulders.

"I love you very much, Sharon. I don't know if I ever told you, but I love you with all my heart."

He took off his trench coat; she saw the suppressed .45 in its shoulder holster.

"But I can't do this."
"That doesn't matter anymore," she said. "I wouldn't be a very good person if I didn't try everything to save your life. I wouldn't be a very good cop if I didn't arrest you. Either way, you're coming with me."
"You came here to get your gun," he said. She nodded, and he knew it without seeing it. "So it's settled. You're the cop."
"And you're the killer."
"If that's how it's going to be..." he said, trailing off.

If Mark hadn't been facing away from her, or using a quick-draw holster, or maybe not wrecked with guilt, he might have managed to draw first. But he was, he wasn't and he was, so she had the Beretta out and aimed at him when he was still moving. In a split second, she had to make a choice.

She didn't.

He brought the Colt up, matching her Beretta with a well-oiled equalizer. Their eyes met, for the first time since she'd stepped into the apartment. Her fire was matched by his ice.

"Fancy meeting you here..." he drawled.


Two guns. Good versus evil, wrong versus wrong, right versus right.

Two worlds. Old versus new, 9mm versus .45, cop versus criminal.

Two shots. Loud versus suppressed, fire versus ice, love versus calculation, flesh versus Kevlar.

Two guns. Mexican stand-off, duel of will, duel.

One. One look of regret. One last breath.

Not two. Two never again.

Just one.

Last Man Standing.

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