|:/: SHORTS :\:|
Gunshots, in real life, never sound like gunshots; they sound small, like firecrackers. They don't sound real and that's the kicker. People are so conditioned to the echoing booms of television gunfire that when they hear the real thing, they don't believe it.
Until they see the blood.
Then it's too real to believe.
Two more. Nowhere near her. The bastard was searching. Firing blindly at her through the wall. It reminded her of the old "You Sank My Battleship" game she and Teddy used to play. A-15 . . . miss . . . C-21 . . . hit! He had her pinned down and he knew it. There was no reason to risk coming in after her, not when a lucky shot would do the job. But he was running out of time. A restaurant that serves bullets gets cops as customers, and they're usually pissed.
POP! POP! POP!
Lucy had her back to the fridge. It was warm and solid and its gentle humming made her feel safe, even though she knew she wasn't.
He shouted to her from the dining room. "You're not getting out of here! Ya gotta know that! You ain't getting past me!"
She wasn't so deaf that she didn't catch the "stupid bitch" remark trailing off at the end or the fact that he'd said "me" and not "us", which meant he was alone.
Say what you want about women, no one was more "gabby" than a common killer. They'd just as soon talk you to death as shoot you.
She blamed television, of course, where everyone died with a witty remark ringing in their ears.
Back in the old days, men were men, killers were killers, and either one might whap you upside the head with a meat mallet or shoot you in the face with a smile. But at least you died quick and with dignity, if there was such a thing. The old killers weren't about chainsaws or sticking your tongue up your dead asshole just to send some bizarre "message" through the mafioso gossip network. What the fuck was up with that anyway?
Didn't killers have any pride anymore? Didn't any of them ever just stop and say, "You want me to stick his what in his what? Fuck no! I'm a killer not a bulletin board!"
She muttered, "Goddamit, Teddy. Where are you?" under her breath.
To pass the time away, she counted bodies. There had been four in the car to start. She took one of them down before he ever made it out. The second one went down right behind him on the sidewalk. She might've just clipped his collarbone, which meant he might still be alive, which wasn't good. Shit like that could come back to haunt you. The third was almost certainly sneaking up the alleyway, trying to cut off her exit. She fixed her eyes on the door, stared hard at the narrow stream of light leaking through the crack. She could wait as long as they could.
The asshole taunting her from the dining room started up again. "Goddamit, Bitch! Don't make me come in there after you!" Yeah, like that was going to work. Threatening her was certainly going to make her run out with open arms into the path of his pistol.
He was standing behind the checkout counter. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but the image was crystal clear in her mind.
POP! POP!The bullets shook the wall. Shards of sheetrock split off and crashed to the floor. Showers of white drywall powder cascaded down over her body, clinging to every surface of her sweaty skin. I'm starting to look like a Goddamn glazed donut, she thought. She looked like a child who'd been asked to bake cookies, but had let the flour get away from her. The dust infiltrated her nostrils. She held her breath. No coughing. No giving away her position . . . not until she was ready.
She assessed her environment.
Blue flames danced on the stove top. A hood vent filled the room with a roar like a jet plane. A large pot was boiling over onto the floor. A wok spewed hot garlicky smoke out across the ceiling. A duck was quickly becoming charcoal in the oven. The stink of burning oil, onions and soy hung heavy in the air.
She would never eat Chinese again.
Her only two exits were cut off. If her would-be killers were smart, they were on their cells, planning a simultaneous entry. Her only hope was to stay low and use their crossfire against them, which meant she'd probably have to take a hit.
Goddammit . . . she didn't feel like getting shot today!
Tiny golden dots of light appeared on the cabinet doors before her. She followed the dusty beams of light up to the bullet holes in the wall. Sparkling sunlight from the dining room flooded through. It was so beautiful, it almost made her cry.
She heard whimpering from the dining room. A handful of customers were still curled into fetal positions beneath their tables, too afraid to move, their Kun Pao Chickens with side orders of dumplings congealing.
She sighed when she saw him, her lifelong friend, her savior, his red bow tie loose around his neck looking like some ultra-cool, brat-pack crooner after a Vegas show, a cigarette dangling from one paw.
She whispered angrily to him. "Where the fuck have you been?"
POP! POP! POP! POP!
Showers of sheetrock and splintered wood. There was a fresh bullet hole three inches from her ear. Fucker had shot clear through the fridge. She slumped down.
His voice was low and full of gravel. "I was busy."
Teddy raised a thick eyebrow, his sharp eyes full of hurt. "Thinking! I was trying to think of a way out of this!"
She glared at him, past the brown eyes, past the soft brown threadbare nose. He blanched as much as his corduroy complexion would allow.
"Okay, I was masturbating."
She sighed and slid further down until she was practically laying on the soy stained floor.
He defended himself before she could complain. "Hey, you think how you think and I'll think how I think!"
The narrow crack of light leaking the door flickered. It flickered again. It went out. Someone was there. With people screaming in the streets, sirens in the distance and gunshots in the dining area, no normal person would dare get so close. It was either a cop or a killer, and she was betting on the latter.
She put one high and one low.
Whoever was behind the door let out a moan and went down. Hard, by the sound of it. Skull on concrete hard. She had her exit. She crawled towards it. She wrapped her hand around the knob and started to twist.
Two shots punched through the door. The next thing she knew, there was blood. Her arm and hand were suddenly both slick with it. It took a second for her to realize she'd been hit, and that was only because her arm started to throb.
"That's gonna hurt like hell come morning," Teddy quipped.
"Thanks for you fucking input!" She grabbed a dish towel from the counter top and wrapped it around her arm, clenching one corner in her teeth, pulling it as tight as she could manage. She could see the fucker in her mind's eye, too hurt to move, but not too hurt to park his ass in the alley and wait for her.
She was cut off until he bled out, and with her luck he was a slow bleeder.
She had an urge to put a few more rounds through the door, fire blindly at him. Give him a little taste of what she'd been going through. She checked the clip; it was almost empty. She couldn't afford it.
"Anyway," Teddy continued, grinning with fire in his eyes, "like I was saying. Trajectory."
Her friend from the other room spoke up. "You stupid fucking bitch! I swear to God I'm gonna beat the shit out of you before I fucking blow your Goddamned head off!"
The fear in his voice made her grin despite herself. She looked over at Teddy and they shared a moment. She felt like she was seven again, prone to giggling, fighting off stepfathers and "uncles", foster parents and psychopaths, sharing quiet secrets with Teddy. It was an I-know-what-you're-thinking moment.
From the dining room again.
Bullets punched through the wall again, shook it again. New showers of sheet rock rained down upn her, but this time something went terribly terribly wrong. Well . . . wronger. It was bad. It was nails-in-the-coffin bad. A tiny particle of dust lit down in her eye. She felt it and shivered. It was always the small things that killed you. She was now half blind. She groaned and began to fish around in her eye socket with the tip of her finger, pulling first on the top eyelid, then the bottom.
"You're doing it wrong," Teddy complained. "You're supposed to pull your bottom lid up over–"
"I know how to fucking do it!"
POP! POP! POP! POP!
The sound of a clip clattered to the floor in the next room. He was reloading. She repositioned herself, quietly.
But the good news was her friend in the alley had become gratefully silent.
She rubbed her eye.
"Don't scratch your cornet!" Teddy warned.
"It's cornea, okay? It's fucking cornea!"
She'd said that aloud. Very aloud. Loud aloud! There was a surreal, even serene moment of deafening silence. Then the slap of a hand on the bottom of a clip and the familiar chk-it! of a bullet being chambered.
She was in trouble and she knew it. She'd given her position away. And it was Teddy'f fucking fault!
Teddy's words burst out in a mad rush. "The sunlightcoming throughthe walls, lookit the sunlightcoming! Trajectory! It's all about fucking trajectory!"
Lucy shook her head, dumbfounded.
Teddy sighed. "You got a laser on that thing?"
She looked up at the ceiling at the red dot from the laser sight of her pistol.
POP! POP! POP!
Sheetrock and splintering wood. Choking dust. Sparkling sunbeams flowing through fresh bullet holes. The asshole was giving his position away and he didn't even know it.
"You're a smart little bear, aren't you?
Teddy leveled a sober stare at her. "Ya think?"
He'd wanted to be known as Bob the Butcher, but got pegged with Bobby Boy instead. Never had anyone been so disappointed by a nickname. He complained about it, of course, whined, pleaded, cajoled, but he was Bobby Boy and there was no going back.
This was only his third official assignment as a made man and it had gone to shit in no time. Mike and Val were down. He'd gone through the front while Tony made his way around back, and now he was down. The word, "Fuck!" and the sound of gunfire squawked in Bobby Boy's ears before Tony's cell phone cut out.
He squinted, seeing if he could spot any movement through the bullet holes he'd just put in the wall, but they were too small.
He could hear her sliding across the floor. Then her thin voice said, "Hey, Pencil Dick, was that your friend back there? Because I just put two in his head."
Rage ran through him like a bull. He stood up and had nearly emptied the clip before he could stop himself. He wasn't sure how many shots he had left, but in the quiet he heard the slump of her body as it slid to the floor.
He wasn't sure whether to be excited or relieved. Everybody had been giving him the fucking Surgeon General's warning about this bitch, about how dangerous she was, and hell, she was . . . but he had just taken her out! He suppressed a chuckle. He'd nailed her. Yeah, maybe the others were dead, but now so was she. And it was him, Bobby Boy, or rather, Bob the Butcher, who'd done it. Maybe he'd finally get his Goddamned nick straightened out.
He stood slowly. Nothing. He was just about to move toward the kitchen door when a funny little red light caught his eye. He traced it to a bullet hole in the wall, squinted at it for half a second before his heart sank.
His body wouldn't move! It was moving through molasses! Too heavy. Too slow. And when it finally began to obey, it was too late.
POP! POP! POP!
He was only just now forcing his body down. He felt three little taps on his chest and neck.
Then he was sprawled on the floor and listening to the dull intimate sound of his own wheezing. His pulse hammered in his ear. He felt something warm, wet and sticky matting the hair on his chest, soaking the Italian silk of his shirt.
Spots on his chest and neck burned like infected ant bites. There was the familiar sensation of blood leaking from his body; the feeling made him sick.
He was in shock. His mind raced, half of it screaming WHAT HAPPENED!?; the other half whispering quietly, You're fucked. You're so fucking fucked!
The door to the kitchen scraped open. He heard the scatter of glass across the floor, the crunch of glass under her boots. Somewhere a customer whimpered softly beneath a table.
A red dot appeared on the floor in front of him. He managed to lift his head, managed to finally get a good look at her. Goddamn, she was pretty. Jet black hair cut into sharp bangs, pale complexion, red lips, her skin, soft and inviting. She was younger than he figured, cute, but with something sinister lurking behind the eyes. He'd seen eyes like that before. Fixers. Hatchet men. Men who did things that no one else could are wanted to do. Cold doll eyes. It chilled him, inside and out.
She wasn't smiling, she wasn't frowning, but she seemed satisfied, pleased with herself.
The pistol looked huge in her small hand.
"Sorry about calling you a pencil dick." Her voice was childish and sweet; her tone, flat.
He wanted to laugh. He wanted to say, "No hard feelings," but he spit up a wet splat of blood instead.
She squatted beside him, planted her ass on her raised heels and balanced on the balls of her feet. "Are you scared? Do you want me to take care of you?"
"Who–" He was surprised he got it out. It was choked, full of blood and spittle and bile, but he managed it. "Who were you . . . t-talking to in there?"
"Oh!" She smiled, and looked like a child with the promise of ice cream. "That was just Teddy."
He nodded, though it made no sense.
She pressed the hot muzzle of her pistol against his temple. It was such a clean shot, his head hardly moved. For the briefest second, she thought she saw confusion in his eyes.
She was right.
In the last few disjointed thoughts his hemorrhaging brain could manage, he wondered about the teddy bear that waddled out from behind her pale lean legs, its button black eyes glaring smugly down at him, its voice impish and full of gravel. "Jesus . . . he's a fat one!"
Lucy giggled. "He sure is."