Sunday, May 04, 2008

Two Guns 26 - You Belong to the City

It was the 26th of December, 1989, and the weather was turning for just this night. No snow, no ice, just a clear night - if you looked upwards, you might have caught a glimpse of the stars above. Distant light, cutting through the darkness of the universe - just to be overshadowed by a neon sign for an adult bookstore.

This is worth mentioning insofar as said adult bookstore had made its nest across the street from a hospital, presumably catering to lonely doctors and patients in doing so. As if to thumb its nose at pedestrians with more refined tastes, a hydrant stood in front of the shop, keeping that piece of the sidewalk clear of cars and the store in full view. Its windows were full of gaudy text in harsh competition with the main neon sign, an aquarium of great white sharks in the dangerous business of adult toys. The alpha of the pack, at least momentarily, was a singular ad singing the praises of a pump designed to enlarge a customer's...confidence.

By two to three inches, or your money back.

Combined with the clear air that night, the bookstore's visibility reached a maximum of offensiveness. A maximum of such extent - perhaps comparable with the confidence of the "nubian stallions" advertised in another corner of the window - that a hypothetical passerby would have cheered when a box van risked a hefty traffic fine for stopping on this stretch of the road and blocking the view.

What was inside that box van was, however, decidedly less wholesome than marital aids of any stripe. Witness this fine collection of machines, not of pleasure but of death, both in the human and the metal flavor. Guns, many guns, a rolling arsenal courtesy of the Ingues cartel. Men to handle those guns. And a plan.

"You just keep circling the block, Kyla," Vincent said through the small window between the rear and the driver's cabin. "We'll call you for pickup when we're ready."

The teenage girl nodded, a facade of seriousness covering her face. She wasn't the best driver, just the worst shot of the group, and that didn't sit well with her at all. Mostly because it meant that she'd have to do this while letting Dollar play commando, and that was a thought that troubled her greatly. The good Doctor, by contrast, didn't seem too concerned. With a snappy EMT uniform, a mediocre fake work ID and his attitude, there was no question that he'd be able to do what he had to do. The Colt beneath his shirt was a strange feeling, like hooking up with an old girlfriend after not seeing her for years. He didn't have a problem with that; once a soldier, always a soldier.

Likewise, Boris found himself becoming Lt. Col. Dolvich with frightening ease; now a lefty by default, his grip on the AK might have been steadier once, but he was just there for backup. His right index finger grabbed the handguard as well as it much for the fastest trigger of the East. Stay in the van. Come out blasting if things go wrong.

Vincent was his usual self, classy suit and a bouquet of flowers. Plausible visitor too rich to care about the actual hours. CZ85 under his jacket, lockpicks in his pockets. He fully expected to have to free Mark from something - probably handcuffs, maybe something worse. He had the finesse part covered.

Everything else, it seemed, would be Done's fault. The odd man out with no plausible aliby, Done would just have to stay a few steps behind and keep out of sight. His sports bag held everything from his M16A2 to a large bolt cutter and some explosives. Just to cover the bases; Vincent hoped that this would be a dull night for Done. But better to have it and not need it...

"Everybody ready?"

Nods all around.

"Go," Vince said.

On the negative side, there was nobody there to watch the (quite badass-looking) way the warriors three emerged from the back of the van. On the positive side, there was nobody there to watch three very suspicious-looking men exit a van full of guns, so it balanced out somewhat. Vincent knew it was stupid the second they were doing it, but that couldn't be helped; he set his sights on the front door, Dollar walked towards the ambulance drop-off area, and Done just stuck to the shadows as well as 250 pounds of muscle could.


In a way, it was almost ridiculous. Getting to the nurse at the front desk, easy. Getting permission to sneak upstairs and just leave the flowers for his girlfriend, easy. The hard part? Listening to her life story. From her deadbeat dad to her deadbeat boyfriend all the way up to having lost her favorite pen just this day, it was the most overwrought tale of sadness Vince had heard all week.

"And just last Tuesday, I asked Josh, I was totally like, 'Why do you never get me flowers?', you know?" she asked, both angry and close to tears, somehow constantly so for the last five minutes. Vince just stood there, smiling but slightly dumbfounded, desperately trying to end this line of conversation. Attaccabotina, he thought, shut up. Who knew that flowers triggered emotional breakdowns?

"Che coglione, this Josh of yours. I would never treat my girlfriend like that."
"She's a lucky girl, then."
"That's what I hope, at least. See you."

Walk walk walk walk walk...

"Hey, Vincent!" she called after him. Cazzo!
"What's her name?"
"...her name?"
"Yes, her name." She pointed to her computer's screen. "Or do you know the room number?"
"I can find her," Vince said with a small smile.
"Still, are you going to tell me her name?"
"No, I...uh, I can't."
"Why not?"
"Because if you know, then you will show it when you meet her, and then she'll know."
"Very jealous, she's very jealous," Vince insisted. It was times like these, when he was trying to pass himself off as a normal guy, that all those years of speaking perfectly acceptable English seemed to mean nothing. Every word was a struggle, every sentence a war against the Italian that kept bubbling into his head. He felt like a naive immigrant all over again.

Fortunately, the nurse didn't respond to that; after a short beat, he turned back onto his path, disappearing into the next staircase.


"Evenin', Dollar said to the shift supervisor, a man with a widow's peak large enough to park a Volkswagen Beetle on and traces of dull gray running through his black hair. He looked like there'd been a brushfire somewhere along the family tree, an ethnic grab bag with fifty pounds of surplus value tacked to a last-generation chassis. He didn't acknowledge Dollar as a person, just as a procedure, holding out a clipboard that Dollar could've signed with a pawprint for all the man seemed to care. The off-loading area was quiet, that rare night of statistical abberation when there was nothing but nothing going on.

"Holla if ya need me," Dollar said; the supervisor responded with a grunt, turning the page in his book. For his part, Dollar felt like he'd wasted some good preparation but decided to capitalize on the opening anyway; he slipped into the back, unlocked a service door and beckoned for Done to walk in.

"Sumthin' happenin'?" the supervisor called.
"Just lettin' the funk out," Dollar replied, while Done hurried up the stairs to meet with Vince.


"You could've asked her for Simmons," Done said as he and Vince climbed the stairs to the fourth floor. "Would have saved us some time."
"Bad idea," Vince countered, still cautious from almost being busted at the front door. "One, she would've known that I wasn't a normal visitor because he's under fuckin' police protection, and two, I'm not going to tell this woman that I brought flowers for a guy."
"You can bring flowers for...a friend."
"Uh huh. Say, nurse, I got those flowers here, can you tell me where my best friend's room is? I'm very straight, by the way."
"Get with the times, Ratioli," Done said. "Nobody cares."
"Besides, we don't need it. The cops like to use the fourth floor, top of the hospital. We just look for the cop, I stun him, you stay back."
"The simple plan," Done said, nodding his assent.

Vince grabbed a stun baton from Done's sports bag, then undid the strap on the bouquet and worked the shocker into the middle before retying it. It wouldn't stand up to a close inspection, but it did place the baton in Vince's hand - all he had to do was walk up to the cop and stick him with the prongs at the tip. Doable.

Well, it would've been, had there been a cop to stun. Vince looked left, right, then left again, dumbfounded.

"Either they're incompetent as all hell," Vince said, "or they moved him."
"We came all the way," Done replied. "Let's check."

Lengthy searching was averted when Done spotted one of the doors creaking from the A/C, not quite closed. On a hunch, Vince drew his CZ 85, keeping the stun baton in his left hand for close combat while Done stayed back, ready to cover their retreat. Vince opened the door carefully, stepping into the room. In this manner, he found the cop lying on the floor, moaning softly; Vince gave him a few seconds of 50,000 volts, just to make sure he wouldn't do anything stupid while Vince searched the room. That, in turn, proved to be wildly unnecessary; the single bed had obviously held Mark not too long ago, and the closet was still open, discarded hangers and all revealing a rather hasty dressing process, though Vince couldn't imagine why they'd keep Mark's clothes in the room - probably didn't have room for those in the evidence room after confiscating all the weapons, Vince thought with a wry grin. Inspecting the bed, he found two pairs of handcuffs fastened to the bed's rails, but both were sprung open. On the floor, a dissembled ballpoint pen sprawled, its point still stuck in the lock of the door.

Vincent's grin deepened. Mark hadn't been moved, he had done the relocation by himself.


Half a city away, Mark didn't look very good. In the last few hours, he'd gotten a slap in the face for copping a feel, which was all the more insulting when the bounty of this adventure was a measly ballpoint pen. Then he had spent thirty minutes on picking a lock with the point of said pen, especially difficult when reaching required doing it behind his back and intentionally dislocating his good shoulder. And popping it back in, all the while suppressing the grunts of pain enough not to alert the cop outside. Gotten dressed, found every part of his clothing except for the socks in the closet. (Why the socks? God, why the socks?) Snuck to the door - in boots, without socks, hurting like hell -, picked lock on the door. With a ballpoint. And quietly, again. Surprised cop, put him in blood choke, got elbowed right in the broken rib and stayed quiet. Snuck out, robbed a tourist for cash and felt bad enough to apologize. Grabbed a taxi and felt his wound bleeding through the stitches and bandages, again. A laundry list of small things that all aligned to make his day miserable.

And now he was half a block from the Ingues mansion, and he was walking the last mile, so to speak. He was tired as hell and mad as hell, and somehow this inferno-centric math worked out to letting him stay on his feet without fainting. His gaze was fixed upon his target, locked on with the tenacity of a cruise missile with no taste for the stars above. He took the back entrance, encountering no backtalk from the few mercs that still remained in the house; a sizeable reduction in forces had occurred, it seemed. He was getting tired of all the important things happening without him.

No Vincent, no Done in the house. Took the staircase, mercs let him pass right through. Clear shot to Alexandra's office.

His steps grew plodding, slowed down. It wasn't the exhaustion per se, but his anger was being counter-acted by hesitation. Hadn't all of this started with him being too bold, acting too soon? For a few seconds, he stood and thought, genuine doubt seeping into what seemed like laser-focussed determination on the way here. What had driven him this far, what demanded that he go further, hurtling towards a destination he did not know anymore? There it was, again, the siren song of yielding, giving in for once in his life.

But he pressed on, finally. Like every time he had met one of those little speed-bumps of life, a point of no return, he put the pedal to the metal. And so he stepped forward, through the door, all the way up to her desk. She looked at him all the way through his walk, an expression on her small face that he couldn't identify through the haze of the night, the darkness that followed him into the house.

The door wanted no part of this; what little momentum remained from Mark's charge through was arrested by the coiled spring inside the small lever attached to the door's top edge. It gently drew the door back into the frame, snapping it closed. Outside, the mercs stood in perfect, frozen stances. The stillness of this night had come to an end, finally, the rare, bare glimpses of the starlit sky rapidly fading under a renewed assault of heavy clouds.

No, this night wouldn't be quiet.

No comments: