Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Guns 27 - The Queen & The Soldier

Mark made no move to leave the center of the room or to say anything; in response, Alex slowly rose from her chair, grabbed her cane and walked over to Mark. A brief pause, then she let the cane drop free and embraced him. He returned the hug reluctantly. When she took a step back and their eyes met, Mark spoke.

"There's something I need to ask you."
"Does that have something to do with your dramatic entry?" she asked, a small smile on her lips. "And where's Vincent?"
"Vincent? Haven't seen him yet."
"I thought he was going to put together a few guys to break you out..."
"I'm sure he did," Mark said. "But I got bored waiting for him."
"I was wondering what kept you. Now, first thing, I need to make some phone calls, we have to get you out of the city."
"No," Mark said, and left it at that for five seconds. "The question first."
"Well?" she replied. "Out with it, what's so important?"
"Did you have an agreement with Silvestro?"

Their eyes locked for a second, then Mark turned away and took a few steps towards the south wall of the office. The decor was still mostly the same as in Alfredo's time, warm hardwood floor and a collection of souvenirs and doodads in display cases. Mark's path led him a few steps closer to the weapons of the small collection.

"What do you want to hear?" Alex shot back from behind his back; in times gone by, Mark would've found it immensely rude to turn his back on his boss, but he was focused on other matters.
"I want to hear whatever you're willing to tell me, Alex." He opened one of the display cases, but kept his hands away from the contents. "Ayers showed me a file on Silvestro's activities in Colombia. I've seen photos of you two together, I've heard a confession from his driver that he drove you to his mansion and back to the hospital."

He paused for a second.

"All that proves is that you were at his mansion and talked to him. For all I know, you smuggled yourself in to steal the yacht prints and told him to fuck off. I mean, that's kind of a scenario that makes sense to me. So, was it like that?"

His hand snaked out for the scabbard of a half-forgotten broadsword, so close but not touching it, so close...

"No," Alex admitted. Mark's hand snapped closed around the scabbard like a bear trap.
"Then tell me what happened."
"...I fucked up," she finally said. "I thought I could trick him, but I..." she said, then stopped, biting her lip. The more her hands trembled, the tighter Mark's grip on the scabbard grew. "Between you and Vincent, I thought...I thought we could take an attack. That it would get Daddy to move again. It was only a matter of time until something hit us...yeah, I talked to Silvestro. Fed him enough info that he'd be tempted to risk an attack, and it got me into his house for the blueprints, you know, just as insurance..."
"Clever," Mark conceded, his knuckles turning white.
"And then the Sharon thing happened, and he hired the mercs to hit the hotel and I didn't see it coming until you were out and Vince went to help you and..."

A small creek of tears carved its way down her cheeks, even as she kept the sobs under control. Everything in Mark wanted him to turn around, look her in the eyes, comfort her. Everything else kept him frozen in position.

"They killed everyone, Mark. Everyone. And I was here, holding Daddy's hand. Watching him die."

He turned around, finally. The sword travelled with him.

"I did a bad thing," she whispered, almost choking on her words. "And then you killed Silvestro but the Russians came and you killed Sharon and...I don't know. I don't know anymore. Everything happens so fast now."
"Alex," he said, almost self-consciously moving the sword behind his back when he saw her stare at the ground. "I want you to look at me."

He took a step toward, then another as she involuntarily shrinked back. His left arm shot out, and she closed her eyes. She didn't know what it felt like to be choked, but she called upon every bit of steel in herself. It didn't happen. Instead, she felt his rough hand on the soft skin of her cheeks, lifting her chin. Slowly, she dared to open her eyes, releasing another set of tears.

"I can't forgive you," Mark said, his voice sounding like it was trying to tear itself free from his throat.

A chaste peck on her cheek, a taste of her bitter tears, the heavy breath of his nose wheezing past her ear. When she opened her eyes again, he had already turned away, his footsteps unsteady but aimed for the exit.

"Where are you going?" she asked, still unsure. He froze, a few seconds between him and the door. His hand twisted and turned the scabbard, fidgeting for something to do. But he said nothing.

And just like that, he walked out of her office.


It wasn't fair.

Whatever other reasons there were, John Done was the first to try to speak to Mark as he descended the stairs. That was it, in a nutshell. No annoyance, no specific antipathy, no attempt to hold Mark back. Just a "Hey, Mark..."

And then the lightning Mark had bottled inside discharged.

With a wallop that would've impressed Mike Tyson, he bunched his empty left hand into a fist and struck Done's face square in the middle, a hammer blow that sent the hardened mercenary straight to the carpet - conscious, but bleeding profusely from the mass of meat, skin and cartilage that had been his nose two seconds ago. Mark didn't even stop to gloat, his steps growing more confident again. Dollar rushed past him, wordlessly ducking down to help Done; Vincent chanced standing in Mark's way.

"What the hell, Mark? Where are you going?" he asked.
"8 AM tomorrow, Lincoln at Prospect," Mark replied, sidestepping his friend.

Mark rounded the next corner, not looking back. Vincent just stood there, caught in the headlights.

"What the fuck just happened?" he asked nobody in particular.


Karen Ayers wasn't having a particularly good day.

She unlocked the front door of her apartment at 11 PM and stepped inside, her handbag dropping from her shoulder like a burden with her eyes half closed. When you don't have a lot, simple things become precious. Karen, at this moment, wanted nothing so much like a warm shower. And maybe to wake up tomorrow before her alarm. Not so much to ask.

Fumbled for switch. Hands. Found switch. Switch. Lights, please?

"Good evening."

Voice. Eyes opened.

Mark Simmons stood in her living room, between her and the telephone. She felt a wave of something rise inside her, at the horizon. Fear, anger, relief, she didn't know.

Simmons. That bastard.

And just like that, Ayers's day got worse.

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