These are the top three stories in the short story competition to wina asigned hardback copy of my third Joe Hunter book - SLASH and BURN - please read them and vote for your favourite at the poll in the right hand bar.
The way Gallance felt, he could’ve put holes in all these scumbags the minute he’d set eyes on them. But being a pro’, and not wanting to tempt fate, he’d given them the respect their actions had merited, albeit begrudgingly. They’d not earned his respect as such, but their sheer evil rep’ had warranted a cautious approach. And besides, he didn’t wanna piss three months surveillance down the drain.
Gang rape is such a primal act, but Gallance wasn’t even sure cavemen would have stooped so low. The poor victim being just a piece of meat to be chewed and spat out by the pack of baying animals; or in this case, Carlos and his cronies.
Gallance shook the torturous images and accompanying screams from his mind.
Time for focus.
Time to act.
He took out his pocket binoculars and - call it instinct if you will - the first face he saw was Carlos. He was gesticulating to the throng of fuckwits before him, his goatee twisting with his face as he spewed bullshit, his gold incisor flashing with each sneer.
Gallance flicked the binocs’ around the attentive group, recognising most of them… Mido, Two Shots and Dogger Dave… to name a few. Good… four out of his five targets, the rest were hangers on. But if they got in the way then they’d know about it. However one question still nagged Gallance: where the fuck was Granite? So-called because of his formidable fists and chin, the giant of a man should’ve been there. Gallance was adaptable and knew that no plan, however meticulous its detail, was perfect. So Granite had a reprieve, for now.
His vantage point was a quiet foothill with a backdrop of the sun disappearing behind The West Pennines, a hundred metres high above the decrepit farmhouse. He could see reservoirs dotted about in the distance; nature’s beauty unaware of the invading poison therein. The wind howled in his ears as if Mother Nature Herself was geeing him up to cleanse and protect Her beauty. He checked his Hi-Power Browning 9mm; his right hand and loyal friend. It’s 13 round magazine, as they say, unlucky for some.
Moving down through the woods now, stopping every twenty or so paces behind a tree to reassess, head pivoting, eyes darting, Browning pointing up clutched two-handed tight to his chest.
Forty metres now - within shooting range. He could hear their voices carrying in the wind as he eased forward, careful the crunches of foliage underfoot didn’t betray him. He rolled down his dual-hat balaclava.
They wouldn’t expect him as they planned their next armed blag away from the buzz of the city. No expense spared on this mission, he’d already bugged Carlos’s Subaru, hence his discovery of this meeting place miles from their mutual patch in gun capital of the North, Manchester.
Thirty metres and closing - Browning pointed leading the way, the falling dusk his ally. He saw them retreat from the wooden veranda into the ramshackle farmhouse.
Good. Contained. His ‘reccy’ of the house yesterday would now come in handy.
Movement on the veranda. He halted, side-stepped, turned, seeking sanctuary behind a sycamore’s trunk. He heard a trickling sound and sneaked a look. It was Dogger Dave taking a leak. His cock was tiny, but Gallance was a good shot.
Tempting, very tempting, but he needed to be closer before any shots were fired. He hadn’t felt the need for a silencer out here and didn’t like using them anyway as they made the Browning more cumbersome. Dogger Dave had a handgun protruding from his belt buckle. Gallance considered his options.
He stooped and withdrew his Boar Hunter knife, its nine inch blade winking at him in the fading light as if to confirm the right choice of weapon. The pissing sound became a trickle. Dogger Dave was still vulnerable, both hands shaking his tiddler.
Gallance took aim then the Boar Hunter cut through the air with a whoosh. It caught Dogger Dave in the throat and he dropped like a bag of shit onto the decking. As usual the Browning led the way and within seconds Gallance stared down at his blood-gurgling prey whose eyes still managed to muster surprise at Gallance’s presence.
A quick scan of his surroundings and he crouched and withdrew the Boar Hunter from Dogger Dave’s throat with a squelch. The rapist wheezed and wriggled, his cock still exposed like a discarded Cheesy Wotsit. Pathetic. How could something so small cause so much damage? Gallance eased the knife into Dogger Dave’s heart, stopping all movement, preventing many future crimes.
After wiping the blade on the dead man’s jeans, Gallance slipped the blade into its sheath, strapped above his right ankle under his combat pants, and reverted to stealth-mode.
Emanating laughter. Good. They hadn’t heard their friend’s demise. Complacency: the silent enemy of man.
With his back against the farmhouse’s rugged, stone wall beside a broken front window, Browning at the ready, he leaned slightly to peek inside. A snapshot… the room illuminated by a powerful Dragon Lamp… Carlos holding a map as he explained some master-plan, while sitting on an old tweed-style armchair… Mido and Two Shots standing either side…. three others squashed onto a matching settee. A hint of cannabis smoke drifted out through the hole in the window. Gallance smiled knowing the effects of the depressant.
His smile swiftly uncurled when he spotted Mido fiddling with the Uzi sub-machine gun that hung from his neck, thus making him the priority target.
They’d soon be suspicious of Dogger Dave’s absence so Gallance took a deep composing breath. He had enough shit on these pretenders to get them a ten stretch apiece… not nearly enough…
He briefly replayed the cine film he’d formed in his mind of how this damn thing would play out. Creative Visualisation: something Major Spears had engrained in him. ‘Know your aim as well as you know your own good woman, but always be prepared for the worst and adapt accordingly, as some women will stab you in the back,’ the Major had said in his own inimitable way.
He kicked the rickety door in and faced another snapshot of six startled faces. Before Mido could blink he dropped in slow motion as the 9mm bullet entered his forehead, the Uzi clattering on the stone floor. The three on the settee near on shit themselves as Gallance surged forward, manically pointing the Browning at moving targets. Bizarrely the three seated men’s wincing-back-weight tipped the settee backwards and six legs wiggled in the air. Carlos legged it into an adjacent room and Two Shots reached inside his jacket.
Gallance popped a slug into Two Shots midriff and he keeled over, a look of disbelief flashed across his once smug face. ‘One shot…’ said Gallance.
One of the three settee boys charged at Gallance who pistol-whipped him to the floor in an instant. The other two ran out of the front door. Sensible move.
Gallance turned back to Two Shots who was staggering about like a pissed up zombie. He cracked another bullet into his forehead. ‘Two Shots…’ He then stepped over the dead zombie and headed for the next room where Carlos had fled.
He entered, Browning primed, senses heightened. A swift sweep of this much darker room revealed nothing. He checked behind in case the settee boys had had an unexpected surge of spunk. They hadn’t. The third one had bottled it too. A noise of furniture scraping alerted him and his eyes pierced the gloom spotting a wooden door at the far end.
Gallance edged over and pushed the barrel of the Browning against the door, easing it open before stepping back. This room wasn’t as dim as the previous one, fading light still radiated through a generous window to the right, casting shifting shapes on the disused furniture within.
Gallance was greeted by three loud cracks from what he guessed was a revolver, the door frame splintering. He returned fire twice and stooped into a forward roll which took him into an alcove to the left. Chunks of plaster were blasted off the wall in front of him as Carlos chanced his arm again.
“Who the fuck are you, man?”
“That a Type 26 revolver you got there, Carlos?”
“Huh? What the fuck…?”
“A six-shooter…one round left, Carlos.”
“That’s all I need, dickhead. You’re a dead man walking, fucking with us… you hear me?”
Gallance knew he could now take a quick glance and what he saw confirmed his suspicions. Protruding from behind a wardrobe in the corner was a crude Japanese revolver based on the Smith and Wesson. He knew its rate of fire was low and the alignment was poor.
But Gallance wasn’t stupid and tried to extract that last bullet by goading. “One round, Carlos...a shit shot and a shit gun…”
The sudden punch hit Gallance on the temple. A sharp flash in his mind’s eye then his head bounced off the wall. He collapsed onto the wooden floor, the Browning clunking out of reach.
In a daze, Gallance felt himself being lifted up by the throat. The constricting pain jolted him from his stupor. The rape victim remained at the forefront of his mind, spurring him on. He opened his eyes and saw Granite’s glaring back, his huge forehead rushing toward Gallance.
“Ha-haaah, you’re fucked now, you prick!” shouted Carlos emerging from the shadows.
Despite his waning strength, Gallance raised his left knee into Granite’s balls. The head-butt still impacted, glancing off his cheek. Granite grunted and released his grip enough for Gallance to scramble free. He looked up and saw Carlos sneering over him, pointing the cheap revolver, gold tooth sparkling.
“Can’t miss from ‘ere now can I, dead man?”
Gallance froze on the floor. He’d fucked up big time. Complacency: the silent enemy of man…
“But first let’s see who this cheeky bastard is…” Carlos leaned down to remove Gallance’s balaclava.
Gallance withdrew the Boar Hunter and jabbed it upwards into the head rapist’s crotch, the scream was vintage falsetto. The sixth bullet from the crap gun hit Granite in the shoulder and the giant staggered back. Gallance retrieved his Browning as Carlos danced around like a pimp on acid.
Granite wiped the blood oozing from his right shoulder as if it was a bee sting and thundered forward. Gallance shot him in the belly and he buckled. Carlos tried to dance out of the doorway, but Gallance blocked his path, shoving him back.
“Pleeease, man... I’ve got cash…” Carlos said, pathetically clutching his cut cock.
Gallance took off his balaclava.
The gangster’s eyebrows nearly hit the timber beams above. “YOU?”
“Yes, it’s me… Gallance…” he said, before stopping Carlos’ heartbeat with a bullet.
Granite surged forward arms out-stretched, brick-fists swinging, and Gallance backed-up firing his last volley of shots until the big man collapsed atop of him with a thud, those dark eyes finally closing. He rocked the twenty stone corpse off his aching, blood-stained body, stood up and took in a calming breath.
Outside the farmhouse he took out his mobile phone and dialled the number. There would be no fee for this mission, but it meant more than any before.
Her relief was tangible and he fought to suppress his emotions.
“I love you, too…” said Gallance.
- a Nathan Storm short story
I shot the Russian in the forehead just as the black Hummer blasted into the service alley behind the restaurant. Jordan Lane brought up her own gun and fired, just as the passenger started shooting at us. The car hit a green dumpster and stopped. We ran in the opposite direction.
A yellow cab screamed into the opposite end of the alley from 9th Avenue. The driver stopped and leaned out the window, opening fire as we ran towards it. Jordan screamed, and I grabbed her arm before she started shooting at him.
‘He’s with me!’ I yelled, yanking the back door open, just as the Hummer passenger started shooting again. The cab shot back in reverse, only slowing down as we hit the main street.
‘Aren’t you going to introduce us, Storm?’ the cabbie said, smiling in the mirror.
Jordan’s breath was starting to return to normal, and a line of sweat creased her forehead.
‘Jordan Lane, this guy works with me. Mickey Ridge.’
‘He works with The Phoenix Group too?’ she asked, skepticism in her voice.
‘Yeah. Me and Mickey worked with Harvey, back in the day.’ I looked at her. ‘Your husband was a good man.’
She nodded and looked out through the window as we drove past the new pedestrianised area of Times Square, a tear rolling down her left cheek.
Me, Ridge and Harvey Lane were in Delta Force together. We were in Helmand Province on a black ops job, sent in to rescue an American hostage. Things went awry when we bumped into a troop of British soldiers from the Parachute Regiment. Good guys, but a fire fight broke out with a group of insurgents, and Harvey died, along with four of the British guys. The mission was classified, so Jordan wasn’t told he was killed by friendly fire.
‘Tell me what this is all about, Jordan. Like, why you wanted me to meet you there today.’
She took a deep breath. ‘You know about the Faberge Winter Egg going missing.’ It was more of a statement than a question. The story was all over the news. “Russian artifact stolen from exhibition in City hall”.
‘Yeah, I saw on TV.’
‘Since I last you saw you a few years back, I started a business with an old friend of Harvey’s, Joey Mancuso. Manny. Our business is private security, just like The Phoenix Group, only on a smaller scale. On the night the Egg went missing, we were there as Close Protection for Marcus Smith, one of the President’s advisers. He was there for the exhibition.’ She looked at me as we sped downtown. ‘Apparently, Putin wanted the Russian government to buy the Winter Egg when it came back on the market last year. He wanted Russia to show off all the stuff they have, and the Egg is going to be the showpiece in the Kremlin museum.’
‘Somebody wants it bad enough to try and kill you over,’ Ridge said from the driver’s seat.
‘Understandable. It was bought for $12 million and it’s covered in 3000 diamonds.’
‘And somebody thinks you know where it is?’ I said.
‘I don’t know why.’
Ridge looked at her in the mirror. ‘Who were those guys?’
‘Russian mafia,’ I told Ridge. ‘I heard that guy threaten Jordan, just before I shot him.’
‘How would they know you were going to be there today?’ Ridge asked.
‘Manny said that somebody wanted to meet with him regarding the Egg. He couldn’t go, so he asked me to go along.’
‘Who else knew you were going to that restaurant today?’ I asked.
Jordan looked at me, then looked at the back of Ridge’s head. ‘Nobody.’
* * *
MANCUSO & LANE was situated in an office above a bookstore in Greenwich Village.
‘Stand to one side,’ I told her. She stood beside Ridge in the dimly lit corridor while I knocked.
The door opened. A balding man of about forty answered the door. ‘What?’ he asked. Jordan stepped into view. He tried slamming the door but I chased him into the large office. I caught him before he climbed out onto the fire escape and slammed him down onto the floor.
Ridge walked in behind Jordan. ‘Didn’t expect to see your partner back, obviously,’ he said. Jordan kicked Mancuso in the balls. Ridge and I both winced.
‘You tried to have me killed today. So now I’m guessing you have the Winter Egg,’ she said.
We waited a few moments for an answer, Mancuso’s voice a bit higher than when he had started his day. ‘I…don’t have it,’ he said, looking like he was going to puke.
‘Where is it?’ I asked him, taking out my Glock 19.
He shrugged, his face turning red.
I pointed the gun at his right eye. ‘You sent Russians after Jordan so they’d kill her. Unfortunately for you, I was meeting her there, and they tried to kill me. So you’re going to tell me where that Faberge Egg is.’
Mancuso struggled into a standing position, still slightly hunched over. ‘You wouldn’t shoot me,’ he said, smiling.
I shot him in the left arm. He screamed and fell back onto the desk. Ridge looked at his watch. Held up three fingers. Three minutes was the average response time by the NYPD to reach the location of reported gunfire.
‘Where is it?’ I said to him.
‘The St. Francis Apartments on 42nd. Ritch Brady lives there. He’s the one who took it.’
Jordan looked at me. ‘Brady’s the Mayor’s assistant.’
A man suddenly stood up outside the window on the fire escape and started firing through the glass. Three things happened; Jordan dived onto the floor, Mancuso’s head erupted and both Ridge and I blasted the guy off the fire escape.
‘Out the front door!’ I shouted, just as it crashed back on its hinges. Ridge fired at the intruder as I changed magazines fast and two of my bullets hit the guy’s chest, following Ridge’s head shot. He changed magazines and I grabbed a hold of Jordan and followed Ridge out. Two minutes later, Ridge’s yellow cab sailed past a fleet of New York’s finest.
What had once been the St. Francis Hotel was now a block of rental apartments, up for sale.
‘Help you?’ an old man asked from a small office near the elevators.
‘We’re looking for Ritch Brady,’ I said. ‘You know him?’
‘I’m the super. ‘Course I know him. A bunch of guys came looking for him earlier. Five minutes later, they left with him.’
‘What did they sound like?’ Ridge asked.
‘Russians. Why you asking? You cops?’
‘No. We’re friends of his,’ Jordan said.
‘Come in then.’ We went into his small office, which was pretty bare. ‘Want a coffee?’ he asked.
‘No thanks,’ I said.
The old man walked over to the table where the coffee pot was. When he turned back, he was holding an old 9mm automatic. ‘Just show me your hands. All of you.’
‘If it means that much to you, I’ll take a coffee,’ I said.
‘Don’t smart mouth me, sonny. I’m seventy-nine with nothing to lose.’
I smiled at him. ‘Just give me the gun. We’re not here to harm you.’ I walked over and took the gun from him. The safety was on. I turned away and ejected the mag, giving him the gun back.
I remember my grandfather telling me about this place, and how the subway cars would stop at a platform below when it was a hotel. I mentioned it to the old man.
‘Sure I remember that,’ he said. ‘I used to sell tickets to the hotel guests down there as part of my duties when I was a porter. The station closed down over thirty years ago. Me and my friends used to ride the subway down to the City Hall stop before they closed that too.’
‘Did you ever talk with Ritch Brady?’ I asked him.
‘No. I’m invisible here. I’m losing my job. No pension, nowhere to live. Today’s my last day. I’m leaving town. They can all whistle from now on.’
‘Can you still access the platform below?’ I asked.
‘Sure. It’s through there,’ he said, pointing to a doorway.
‘You got your iPhone?’ I asked Jordan.
‘I want you to look something up on the net,’ I told her, explaining. ‘Mickey, come with me.’ I opened the door and felt the rush of air coming up from below. .
Four flights down, we reached the old platform. Shoe prints in the dust told us somebody had been here not so long ago. It was dark but a couple of lights still shone.
‘What now, Nate?’ Ridge asked.
‘Mancuso set Jordan up to get the Russians off his back, but they took him out anyway. Brady was taken away by them. They think somebody has it, and if it wasn’t Manny or Jordan, then Brady must have it, right?’
We both heard the subway train coming into the old station. I looked at more footprints. There was also a trench in the thick dust, as if something had been thrown onto the ground and skidded.
My cell phone rang. I was surprised we still got a connection down here, but that was technology for you. Jordan spoke to me.
‘The Lexington Avenue IRT number six still loops around the old City Hall station. It goes through 42nd Street but doesn’t stop.’
I thanked her and hung up.
‘Come on, Mickey, I think I know where the Egg is.’ Upstairs, the old man was leaving the office with a sports bag.
‘Leaving so soon?’ I asked him.
‘Got a train to catch,’ he said.
‘Give me the bag.’
He pulled the gun out. ‘Can’t do that. I need to go now.’
I smiled at him and pulled the magazine from my pocket. ‘I told you next time check the safety’s off. Maybe you should check it’s loaded too.’
He knew it was over then. ‘I just wanted a retirement package,’ he said, handing over the bag. ‘I worked here all my life and now there’s nothing.’ Inside was a twelve million dollar artifact that was going to be back with its owner very soon.
‘Jordan, call Marcus Smith. I’m sure there will be a healthy reward for the safe return of the Egg.’
‘Tell me the story of how you got this,’ I said to the old man.
‘I heard Ritch Brady talking about it with his brother. He’s a subway driver. Ritch would get the Egg before the exhibition, take it down to the old City Hall station. The brother would pick it up, drive it up here, throw it onto the platform from his cab, then Brady would pick it up. I went down and picked it up instead.’
Jordan looked at me. ‘How does a couple hundred thousand sound?’
‘Sounds like a lot of Tequila’s to me,’ the old man said, smiling. ‘And protection from those Russian Gorillas.’
‘I don’t think you’ll have to worry about them. They’ll lay off when they know the Russian government has their property back. I don’t think we’ll hear of Ritch Brady again though.’
Fifteen minutes later, a squad of black Suburban’s pulled up. A Russian diplomat came in with a bag full of money. They could have shot us all and just took the Winter Egg back, but with Marcus Smith in the background, I didn’t think that was going to happen. Men in suits and no smiles took the bag away without a word.
‘Thank you for helping me, Nate,’ Jordan said.
‘You going to reconsider coming to work for Phoenix?’
‘Yes, I’ll talk to you later about it.’
I nodded and watched her leave the building. I just hoped that she would never find out that five years ago, I picked up a fallen British soldier’s handgun, sighted it against an insurgent’s head, seconds before Harvey Lane poked his head round a wall and I accidentally shot him.
Ridge was there that day. He saw what happened. ‘Come on, bud. We can’t help Harvey now, but we sure as hell can help Jordan. Speak to the boss. Make sure he brings her onboard.’
Jordan turned at the doorway and smiled at me.
I couldn’t smile back.
A LONG TIME COMING
Throwing my half smoked cigarette on the pavement, I ground it under my heel as I watched the car drive through the gates and into the gardens beyond. Before it disappeared out of sight up the gravel drive, I made out two occupants, both male and both sitting in the front.
One of them was my target, the whole reason I was standing in the pissing rain in the middle of the night, but the other was an unknown, either a driver or bodyguard.
My target went by the name of Peter Ferris, a big-time cocaine dealer and self styled crime boss. Apparently he thought this also gave him license to do whatever he wanted, including touching little girls, but tonight he was going to find out just how wrong he was.
My right hand drifted under my jacket and touched the comforting weight of the Glock 17 holstered beneath my armpit. Inside it were seventeen reasons that Ferris would never touch anyone again, and I shivered with a mixture of fear and anticipation as I crossed the deserted road and vaulted over the high wall.
Landing lightly on the far side, I froze as my eyes swept the sculpted gardens for any sign of guards or devices that might warn Ferris that I was coming.
Seeing nothing, I eventually moved on, creeping through the topiary like the vengeful spirit I felt myself to be.
Normally, I keep my business professional, down to earth and as impersonal as possible, but tonight things were different. The moment I’d found out who the target was I realised that nothing would stop me from bringing him to justice.
Even if I hadn’t been asked I would have done this. I’ve spent the last five years of my life hunting down scum like Ferris and dealing out the justice that the courts refuse to give, and I’ve never said no to a job, not once.
But it’s never been personal before.
Slipping the pistol out of its holster I screwed on the silencer and half crouched, half ran across the lawn towards the stand of trees that hid the house from view.
I paused at the edge of the woods, my ears straining to catch any hint of noise but all I could hear was the hissing of the rain as it soaked me to the skin.
As I moved through the woods, one slow step at a time, I could smell the fresh scent of the trees and it felt strangely at odds with my mission.
A snatch of conversation reached my ears and I froze, tilting my head to one side to pinpoint where it came from. It came again, a man’s laugh followed by the low murmur of conversation from somewhere in front of me, and I slowed my pace even more, creeping through the trees with the pistol held loosely in a two handed grip.
Moments later, light began to filter through the branches and I saw the outline of the building, a renovated Georgian mansion that Ferris called home.
The conversation was coming from two of his guards, both middle aged and going to fat, dressed in the dark gangster style suits that their boss liked them to wear.
One of them was carrying an MP5K, a nasty little SMG that could tear me in half in a few seconds, while the other carried a pump action Remington slung casually over one shoulder. They were less than thirty feet away, but the rain and the darkness made me all but invisible in the trees.
The one with the Remington had his back to me, a plume of smoke from his cigarette battling valiantly against the rain while his colleague leaned against the car I’d seen a few minutes before.
I’d done my homework, and I knew that all of Ferris’s guards were either ex-cons with a capacity for violence, or dishonourable discharges from the armed forces.
No one would miss them, and by taking them out I’d be doing society a favour.
Turning thoughts into actions, I dropped to one knee and took careful aim, pulling the trigger twice and switching to the second target before the first one fell.
Another double-tap, and the second man was sprawling back against the car, one half of his face covered in blood as the rounds struck him in the forehead.
The soft noise of the silenced pistol was lost in the pouring rain, and the sound of my harsh breathing was louder by far as I waited to see if anyone else was nearby to raise the alarm.
When no cries came, I left my cover and sprinted for the car, dropping to my knees to check that both men were dead.
A few seconds later I moved on, ignoring the glassy-eyed stares that seemed to follow me as I passed above them.
Looking at the house, I saw that about half the lights were on, and those mostly on the top floor.
Having watched the house for almost a week, I knew that Ferris wouldn’t be entertaining tonight, instead doing whatever it was he did when he was alone.
Slipping up the steps to the front door, I turned the handle and found it was unlocked. Typical of Ferris, he was relying on the efficiency of his guards instead of on physical security, and tonight it would prove to be his undoing.
Moving inside, I found myself in a long hallway that was tastefully decorated with oil paintings and gold plated candelabras. Tasteful, that is, if you’re a coke-fuelled drug dealer with delusions of grandeur.
A sweeping staircase led up one side of the hall, with three doors leading off the far side and one at the back.
Guessing that my target was upstairs, I sacrificed thoroughness for speed and chose the stairs, taking them two at a time.
No one challenged me as I ascended, and I wondered for a moment where all his guards were. I’d counted five in total, and with two lying in their own blood outside that left three more to contend with.
At the top of the stairs I paused, looking right and left to make sure that the corridor was deserted. Nothing moved, but from somewhere on the right I heard the sound of a television blaring, so I drifted down the corridor in that direction, stopping at the first door and pressing my ear to the wood.
No sound came from inside so I moved to the next one, this time rewarded with the sound of theme music coming from the other side.
Taking a deep breath, I turned the handle and moved quickly into the room, seeing two of the guards sitting on a sofa watching JedWard butchering a love song.
As the door opened the nearest one looked up expectantly, then his face dropped and his expression turned to one of horror as he saw the pistol pointed at him.
He opened his mouth to shout a warning, but I put two bullets through the opening before he could utter a word, slamming him back into his seat as the rounds pierced his brain and shut him up forever.
To give him credit, the second man was fast. He leapt to his feet, grabbing the pistol that he’d left on a nearby table. He’d almost brought it up into a firing position when I fired, two shots hitting him high in the chest and turning his white shirt crimson as he toppled lifeless to the floor.
Ejecting the magazine, I slapped in a full one and turned to leave, intent on finding my target and getting out of there as fast as possible.
Had I not turned, I would never have seen the last guard, pistol raised and aimed at my head.
I ducked just as he fired, the round flashing past my face so close that I could feel the hot wind of its passing. The noise almost deafened me and I cursed as I realised that the element of surprise was lost.
Too close to fire back, I dropped my gun and grabbed his wrist with both hands, forcing the pistol upwards and curling my finger over his to fire the rest of the rounds into the vaulted ceiling as we struggled in our grisly dance.
Aside from the shots that thundered through the night, we fought in silence, our laboured breathing the only sounds we made as we fought for control of the weapon.
Finally, the last shot fired and the slide locked back, so I dropped one hand from his wrist and slammed it into his stomach.
It was like hitting a brick.
I looked up in surprise and my opponent grinned, showing a row of uneven teeth as he twisted his wrist out of my other hand and jabbed his stiffened fingers into my throat.
Gasping, I fell back, my hands flying to my throat as I struggled for breath, but my opponent followed, his hands lashing out and striking at my ribs, my face, anywhere he could reach. He kept grinning as he came on, clearly enjoying his work, and I fought desperately to block his blows as they rained down on me.
Realising that I was outclassed and outmatched, I dropped to the ground and lashed out with both feet, kicking him in the groin as hard as I could.
His face went white and he dropped to the floor with a high pitched keening sound, both hands cupping his damaged goods.
Climbing shakily to my feet I retrieved my pistol and pushed it against the back of his head, pulling the trigger twice.
Hot blood spattered my face as he fell twitching to the floor, and without another thought I turned and staggered from the room, desperate now to get this done with.
Out in the corridor I moved towards the only door left unopened, approaching warily in case Ferris was expecting me. After all the noise, there was no way he couldn’t be, and I slowed as I reached the door, stepping to one side and trying to slow my breathing so that I could listen.
It took me almost half a minute to calm myself down, adrenaline still flooding my system and making me want to move, but eventually I forced it aside and concentrated on the door in front of me.
It was the same construction as the others, plain wood with a carved centre panel, and I pressed my ear to the wood carefully.
Nothing moved on the other side, or if it did I couldn’t hear it, so with a silent prayer I flicked the handle down and swung the door open, ducking back just in time to avoid the hail of pellets as the roar of a shotgun blast split the air, making my ears ring.
“Come and get me you fucking bastards! Think you’re tough, huh? There’d better be a few of you!” A voice called, and I immediately recognised it as Ferris despite the drugs that slurred the words.
“Give it up Ferris, put the gun down and come out slowly, or we’ll have to come in and get you”, I called back, pulling a police-issue flash grenade from the back of my belt.
“Fuck you!” He shouted, firing again and taking chunks out of the wall and doorframe, “just fuck you!”
Crouching down, I pulled the pin on the grenade and counted to three before throwing it inside the room and covering my ears.
The first bang went off accompanied by a flash of light, then another, then a third and as silence descended I rolled around the doorframe and into the room to see Ferris sprawled on the floor at the end of a four poster bed wearing only a shirt and a pair of Y-fronts. His hands were over his ears and his eyes were screwed shut as he rocked back and forth with the effects of the grenade, a shotgun discarded at his feet.
Forcing my battered body into action, I ran over to him and kicked the shotgun away before placing my pistol to his forehead.
As the cold metal of the silencer pressed against his forehead he went very still, opening watering eyes that stared at me with shock and disbelief.
“Y… You!” He managed to gasp as his brain tried to cope with the shock.
“Yes, me. Hello Dad, I think we’ve got a few things to discuss”.