Mouse and I had barely gotten through the gate when the ground around us geysered concrete chips under a hail of automatic fire.
We dove over the low hedge immediately to our left and ate dirt, flattening ourselves against the well-manicured grass.
Gunfire shredded the top half of the hedge in an explosion of twigs and foliage then stitched a line centimeters in front of us, sending plumes of grass and dirt over our heads.
I started to push myself up from the ground when the grassy patch half a meter to my left exploded under a rolling burst of fire.
Another long rolling burst of fire pounded into the fence wall behind us and I felt plaster bits and dust cascade onto us.
I rolled onto my back, brought the FAL up in the direction of the house and squeezed off a series of short bursts.
Next to me came the sound of a metallic cough.
Then: the dull whumpf of an explosion in the distance.
Craned my head to look.
A plume of smoke near the front of the house.
Turned to my left.
Mouse. On her stomach. Grinning from ear to ear. The M79 40mm grenade launcher in her hand.
I returned her grin.
She opened the launcher's breech, pulled out the spent round, popped in another grenade, and closed the breech.
I rolled to prone, brought the FAL to my shoulder, and aimed in the direction of the house.
And spotted our shooter. On the edge of the roof, popping back up.
Armed with a light machine gun.
I sighted on him and fired. Rounds stitched across the edge of the roof and caught the shooter full in the upper torso and head.
He vanished in a spray of gore.
Got to one knee, reloading the FAL, swung the rifle back up.
Another pair of explosions near the house, dirt and fire spraying upward.
Heard Mouse cackling next to me as she reloaded the blooper and let fly another grenade.
Then: spotted figures emerging from the front door of the house. Small groups, pairs and trios, submachineguns at the ready, shuffling down the steps and fanning out toward us.
At least a dozen.
Half coming around the far end of the low hedge lining the driveway and onto the lawn area, the other half coming down the driveway itself.
I swept fire with the FAL, aiming just short of each group.
Two of the pairs fell back from my fire but the others pushed forward and opened up, the subguns chattering.
Dirt geysered around us.
So much for suppression fire.
I let the nearest trio have it, a series of three-round bursts that caught them full in the torsos.
Mouse let fly a grenade into another trio coming down the driveway and a geyser of smoke and fire engulfed them, the concussions catapulting a nearby pair skyward, limbs flailing.
The last four rounded some bushes and came at us in a skirmish line, subguns flashing.
Took two down with the FAL.
Then went dry.
Mouse got the other two with a well-placed grenade between them. The blast ripped them apart and hurled body parts sideways.
A figure on the rooftop.
With the light MG.
"Roof again," I said to Mouse.
She nodded, raised the blooper toward the roof line, and fired.
The new shooter had barely set up his weapon when he and part of the roof blew apart in a spray of flames and plaster.
"Incoming," said Mouse, reloading the blooper.
Saw another group of muscle file out of the front door. Half a dozen, with subguns. They fanned out when they hit the bottom of the steps, this time staying on the driveway.
I reloaded the FAL but Mouse held up a hand.
"Mine," she said with a grin, aiming the blooper. She fired, reloaded, turned slightly, fired again.
Both grenades hit in front of the six, one after the other and exploded in rapid succession, sending body parts flying amid a spray of smoke and flames.
I finished racking the FAL's charging handle and stood up.
Pan and scan, the rifle swinging left-right, right-left.
"How many grenades left?" I said.
"The blooper?" said Mouse.
"Save 'em," I said. "We go in."
"What about the plan?" said Mouse.
"Fuck the plan," I said.
Mouse slung the blooper and brought the M4 into position. "Wicked," she said.
We fast-walked toward the house, rifles sweeping from side to side. I took point, Mouse two meters just behind and to my right.
I could hear the soft creak of my leather jacket, fabric slaps of the duffle bag at my back, and the light flapping of Mouse's trenchcoat.
But no other sound.
No more muscle came out of the front doors.
We passed a round concrete fountain topped with a grinning, water jug-carrying cherub sitting at the front of the house and reached the bottom of the steps. I checked left, Mouse checked right.
"Anything?" I said, pitching my voice low.
"Nothing here," said Mouse, doing the same. "You?"
"Could be bad."
"Or bad," said Mouse.
"Watch our six," I said and started up the steps, slow, the FAL sweeping.
We topped the steps and got to the tall polished oak double-doors.
The right side door was partially open, fifteen, maybe twenty centimeters.
The hairs on the back of my neck saluted.
Mouse stopped next to me, saw what I was looking at, and turned to me, frowning, her eyes going to slits.
"See?" she said, voice still low, inclining her head at the partially opened door. "Bad."
I signaled for us to go through, I'd hook left, Mouse would hook right.
She made a face but nodded.
* * *
The foyer was high-ceilinged, marble-floored, and about the size of the Red Dog. Ahead of us was a sunken living room with plush couches and a pair of French doors leading out to the back of the house and more manicured gardens. To our right, a closed door and an archway led further inside. On our left, a staircase curved up against the wall to the second floor, and a corridor led toward another wing. Above us, a railed balcony looked down over the foyer.
Quiet, except for the padding of our boots on the marble floor and the splashing of the fountain out front.
The hairs on the back of my neck continued to salute.
Something was definitely off.
Swept with the FAL.
Back to left.
And found myself staring directly into the point of a katana hovering centimeters from an area between my eyes.
My gut dropped.
Beyond the katana was a figure in a full suit of blood-red stylized samurai armor, face covered by a demonic-looking mask.
I craned my head slowly to look.
Another armored samurai stood in front of Mouse, katana pointed at her face.
"See?" Mouse hissed. "Bad. I told you."
Fuck. A. Duck.