Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand - Part 12

The rain slacked off a bit on my walk back, allowing me to actually enjoy my cigarette. Exhaustion was starting to take it's toll on me; even with chemical enhancements nobody can keep going forever. I had left Phebe to finish struggling with her improvised water filter and slogged off as soon as I had gotten my trade goods in order. The air was bitingly cold now, and I wondered how long we had before the rain started freezing and added more shit to the mound that was already piling up over our heads. The weight of the .45 in my waistband felt good, as the sirens in the distance and the rain washed over me in receding waves. I was beginning to regret never buying a holster though-the fucking hammer was scraping my lower back to shit.

In truth I felt better about the knife, a 9 inch pakistani bowie knife I had bought at a flea market when I was 14. It wasn't the best quality-the steel was notched and spotted with rust, and god knows I wondered about the strength of the handle sometimes-but it had the advantage of being the only weapon I had ever been trained with and successfully used against another human being. It rode on my belt and I found my right hand drifting to it frequently, especially when the sirens were very close.

The two shots that rang out-the flat dull crash of shotgun blasts-almost made me turn around and go back home. But damnit, I had promised Phebe beef jerky from the bodega, and I mean those shots could have come from anywhere, right? The concrete buildings made the sound come from anywhere, though the frigid slug of Akvavit in my gut seemed to say that it had come from one block up, right around the corner at the bodega. I tossed my cigarette down into the gutter with a hiss, and pulled my pistol from my waistband.

My choices were either go back empty handed like a coward to face the girl of my dreams, or go forward and face certain death and possible gang rape. The Jon Mackey from 72 hours ago would have said "Fuck it, theres always more pussy," and really, he would have been right. But knowing that that he would have said that, not to mention my own already battered ego, somehow had my feet moving again towards the corner of the block.

Mackey went a courtin' and he did ride, knife and pistol by his side...

(Also, he might want to lay off the adderol)

I poked my head around the corner of the block first, hugging the brick sides of the dairy queen as I peeked into the street. My stomach lurched at the sight in front of me, grey figures moving through the freezing rain-at least a dozen of them, many visibly armed. They were shouting-in English, I suppose, but it all blended together into a sort of frenzied mob babble that conveyed exactly two thing-fear and anger.

The shotgun blasts had come from Cristobol, who was standing in the doorway with that sawed off over a corpse with a face like ground flank steak, blood and brains rushing towards me down the sidewalk with the rain. "Get back, putas!" he was snarling, banging his machete on the door frame with a series of loud pings. And the crowd, though they were armed and outnumbered him, were retreating, with terror in their eyes. He stood in the open, shouting for them to come and take it, while his shotgun barrels smoked and his machete clanged out a primitive morse code for "Don't fuck with me, assholes" clear as day. I made a note that if a firefight broke out, I could probably take cover behind his giant brass balls.

Like all good things, it was bound to come to an end. I saw him spin around and curse almost before I heard the crack of a rifle round from some coward in the back of the mob. Seeing him stagger back into the doorway gave them courage again, and all twelve people surged forward into the melee, waving knives and clubs and shotguns...even a giant fucking broadsword. Seriously?

More shots were going off by then; the storefront glass shattered with an apocalyptic crash and then they were scrambling forward across the rainy streets, Washington crossing the Deleware, only pissed off and psycho and dying to take Jon Mackey's rightfully entitled beef jerky. That got my blood going (I'm sure the heart that was pounding like a three day bender headache in my chest had nothing to do with it) and I found myself moving forward again, approaching them from the side. Stupid fucks didn't even look at me, they were picking through the glass and looking inside for shit to steal.

Let me reiterate that under no circumstances would I normally assault twelve armed motherfuckers. But that was my beef jerky in there, and more than that, my ticket to winning the first woman I ever actually respected. So sure, it was suicide. But I had the drop on them, and I damn sure wasn't going to go back empty handed and say "April fool's babe-so how about we shack up for awhile?"

Now is a good time for another pearl of wisdom from the Jon Mackey Handbook for Assholes-whenever a man does something stupid, his pecker has a stake, unless he's a eunuch.

There was a guy at the end of the mob, standing there fingering a wood stocked rifle like a jr high prom date and staring inside. He was young, maybe 17 at the outside, spotted with a veritable roadmap of acne along the back of his neck. His hair was slicked back from the rain and he shuffled his feet absently, as if afraid to step inside. Nobody else was even looking back, but I figured that he was the most likely to notice me so I stepped up to him first.

Let me tell you, it is a strange thing to mark a man for death and walk up behind him. He was right at the edge of the shattered window, cringing as more shots zipped around inside-apparently Cristobol had some fight left, and good on him for it-and I just walked forward doing my best solid snake impression holding tight to the knife with my right hand and keeping the pistol loose in my left. I can't really credit my stealth ninja walk with anything-the noise and the rain did all the work for me, and I just put one foot in front of the other until I was right up on him, clipped him hard with the barrel of the .45 so that he staggered to his knees, and drove the knife down hard into the back of his skull.

I remember there was a dull crunch. I couldn't really hear it, but I could feel it (a sudden shock in my arm) and my brain manufactured the sound. He stiffened, started to squeal, and I drove it in further and twisted it, and the poor stupid fuck twitched and his slack, zit spotted face fell to the pavement.

"HEY!" I heard, an unfamiliar voice from my right, and looked up to see one of the mob, the one in black with the broadsword, his arms full of Little Debbie cakes. That was all it took; suddenly they were all looking at me. Fear held dormant by the rush of adrenaline suddenly burst free in my stomach, and I stepped back, leaving the knife in Zitface's skull while I scrambled backwards.

I hadn't realized I was firing until I was empty; the gun had been barking in my hands during my entire backwards scramble and I didn't notice it until it stopped with the slide locked backwards. It was then I could smell the blood and gunpowder, vague and indistinct in the wet air but definitely there. Three or four of them-including the stupid prick with the sword-were laying on the sidewalk practically on top of Zits, curled up like shrimp with gutshots and moaning. Little splashes of water at my side told me I was being fired upon, and once that channel opened up in my hearing I noticed rounds zipping by all around me.

Bravado expended, I kept retreating. There was a culvert on the other side of this bodega, with a six foot ditch in front of it where the water collected. I had often stopped to smoke a joint there away from the watchful eyes of the public. It was a bit of a drop but I figured it would be no problem; of course, I wasn't really thinking of all the water runoff at the time. So as I dived clumsily backwards over the edge of the culvert, windmilling my empty gun in one arm, I recieved quite a surprise when I found myself neck deep in frigid water, shots still zipping overhead and the current tugging desperately at my legs to drag me into the drainage pipe. I swayed unsteadily, hearing rounds crack into the concrete above my head.

My fingers trembled with the cold, and I couldn't get my spare mag out of my wet pocket. I saw a head poke over the edge of the culvert and pointed my empty gun at him, and he ducked back quickly, but I could hear him shout my location in a hoarse voice. I knew I didn't have much time.

As I said before, I often used this place to smoke a doob on my way back. There was a small footpath that led into some guy's garden right behind his small house just behind me; I had always planned that as my quick exit should the pigs show up when I was getting high. I think he used it to throw his trash away. There was a large privacy fence there that would hide me from the view of the mob for a moment. So after a few torturously slow moments of wading through the raging flood of brown water I managed to scramble up the incline and hop this guy's gate, hoping frantically that he wasn't waiting on the back porch with a shotgun to pop me as well.

First thing I did was get out my spare mag and fumble it with numb fingers into the .45, releasing the slide with a cold oiled snap. Did bullets work when they were wet? Or was that some bullshit artifact when they were loaded with loose gunpowder? Either way I was about to find out.

It had been a long time since I really prayed.

I dared a peek over the back of the privacy fence, standing on a bench at the back of the property, which looked abandoned-the windows were all busted out and covered in police tape. There were about five motherfuckers all staring over the culvert with weapons. The douchebag that had spotted me was saying "I saw him duck down right here."

"Piece of shit," I muttered, still thinking of the beef jerky over in the bodega just across the street. I racked my brain for the area's layout, coming up mostly successful. There was a side alley between this guy's house and the next, one that led right back to the street I was on. I decided to move around and blindside them from the other side. I guess I should have run...but at that point, I was so pissed at them for fucking up my chances that the raw gut wrenching terror was subsiding somewhat.

Along the way I walked by a firepit, with a long, hooked fireplace poker resting against it slowly rusting in the rain. I picked it up, hefted it experimentally. It would do.

As I stepped up to the mouth of the narrow alley between the two houses, dripping with water and shivering, I heard a rusty voice from the street. "You aren't done yet, cabrones!" Then I heard two more shotgun blasts, one right after the other, and screams. Then a few more shots. I poked my head out of the alley and saw Cristobol, blood soaking his white t shirt, but standing tall anyway and firing the sawed off again. There was another guy slumped over the culvert dripping pinkish gore into the water below, and the others were scattering rapidly.

No time to strategize now-I raised my pistol and jammed the trigger. I got lucky this time; one of the guys that was running my way caught the round in the right temple. A bright crimson flower blossomed from his skull and he sagged forward bonelessly. His buddy next to him was on top of me in a second-he was running really fast-and he swiped a baseball bat at my head.

I ducked-nobody needs to lecture Jon Mackey on duck and cover; he knows that one well-and my Escrima training took over from there. He had thrown himself way off balance, even stumbling in the direction of his swing-but I didn't. I straightened quickly and swiped a #2 angled strike towards his face. I could hear his teeth crunching in his mouth like a glass breaking inside a sock. His scream was hardly intelligable as he writhed backwards, the bat clattering to the concrete. At point blank I put two in his chest; that shut him up right quick.

You know what they say; never bring a baseball bat to a pistol and fire poker fight. Or at least, I'll be saying that from now on.

The others were running down the street with Cesare shouting after them to come back and fight-but his cries were growing a bit weaker and he was sagging against the door from again. As I approached he was coughing into his fist, and I could see pink flecks flying from his mouth. Oh, shit.

He looked up at me, and managed a grin through his bloody teeth. "You got my mota?"

I looked from him, to the now broken open and looted store, and reached for my shoulder bag. I tossed him a fat sack of Indiana's finest, which he caught with ease despite the wounds. "Let's get inside, man. You look like you need to smoke a bowl."

He coughed a few more times. "Fuckers got me in the lungs. I don't think I'm going to live to smoke it, ese."

I am unaccustomed to remose, and the sudden throat seizing touch of it surprised me. I couldn't think of what to say as he sniffed the bag and started coughing again. "Smells good," he says, grinning. "I'm sorry I won't get to smoke it."

Finally I found my voice. "No, man, you'll smoke it, dude, we'll grab a blunt wrap, you'll smoke a thousand blunts man..." As I babbled I dropped the poker and started to help him inside, put my arm under his, but he shoved me away roughly.

"Stupid pendejo," he said, with surprising fondness. "I took six in the chest, man." Blood was running over his stomach and down into his pants and out his pants leg into the street, blending with the blood from all the other carcasses now littering the area. "Take it...take it back, man. And take whatever from...the store.." He grinned again, his teeth white and bloody. "I'm just...glad to would have kept the deal, meng. You're straight man. All straight"

The wetneses on my face was not just rain when his eyes fluttered shut and he fell. 72 hours ago I wouldn't have cared if this guy lived or died...but now I found myself pulling his body inside and covering it with, of all things, a crispy creme donut cart cover. Looking down at the mound, sticky with blood and glaze, I struggled with emotions I couldn't find a word for-a dawning understanding of the concept of obscene, where I had never really considered it before. Even with my man purse bulging with beef jerky and sundry crap (including two more cartons and some blunt wraps) I just didn't want to leave him there.

"I'm sorry Cristobol," was all I could think of, and with that I would have to be satisfied-I didn't know if the mob was coming back or not. "I wish we could have smoked a blunt together." I stepped out into the rain again, letting the cold water baptise me anew, wash the gore from my clothes, my hair, my sinful carcass...and the new weight of his sawn off twelve gauge that I had taken from the door frame.

Even the new Jon Mackey is no fool.


  1. Bad ass. Real fights, I suspect, are like this- more desperate and frenzied, with simple TV mistakes getting you killed. Have you ever read Count Zero, by William Gibson?

  2. I read neuromancer some time ago, and even that I don't remember that well. But that is the only gibson i've ever been exposed to.