We had parked on Stanley, a block west of Double Deuce, geared up, put the Shelby in active defense mode, and were jogging east toward the building along Marshall, rifles on a three-point sling and at the ready. I had the FAL. Mouse had the M4-A.
I took point. Mouse was just behind and to my right, her black leather trenchcoat flapping as she jogged.
I tried to think back to what Murphy had told us about Winn Town. Like the other towers, Double Deuce was composed of two square buildings, one a story taller than the other, that had been joined at one corner and sat roughly in the center of each block. Both buildings had a light-well in the middle that ran from the top floor down to ground level. The entire ground floor served as an indoor strip mall complete with an E-Z-Shoppe, a laundromat, and several other businesses that catered to building residents. The ground floor, where not occupied by a business, was encased in glass walls and the main entrance sat right where the two buildings met on the south side of the block, facing Marshall Avenue.
I glanced up.
Eddie had traced the call to Jade to Double Deuce's taller building--the high block--and a unit on the top northwest corner.
Which corroborated with Michelle's info of Jade's safehouses.
Light burned from the windows of a unit in the approximate location.
Most of the other windows were dark.
Back to ground level. Pan and scan.
Except for a burned out streetlamp on our side of the street, there was no movement in the night.
So far so good.
Took a deep breath, flexed the fingers of my hard-knuckle gloves, and adjusted my grip on the FAL.
"Ready to do some damage?" I said to Mouse.
"Hell yeah," she said.
* * *
We crossed Ardendale and were almost to Double Deuce's front entrance when I spotted movement to our right, across Marshall. I dropped to one knee, turning toward the movement, the FAL coming up to bear.
Saw Mouse to the same, the M4 sweeping up.
The four figures burst from the darkness just beyond the far sidewalk. Men. Clad in furs and leather. Two brandished spiked clubs. Another, a wicked-looking sword. The last, a double-headed axe.
They barreled toward us in a skirmish line, uttering a howling battle cry.
The FAL chattered.
The Trog with the sword caught a burst full in the torso and went down in an explosion of scarlet and gore.
The axe-wielding Trog took the burst in the chest, staggered a little, and kept coming.
I shifted aim, walked the next burst up his torso, and took off the top of his head.
He went down in a spray of pink mist.
Saw that Mouse had taken down her targets.
Then spotted two more rounding the corner to my left at a dead run. Female. Armed with swords. Long hair plaited in a thick braid that flapped out behind them as they ran.
Pivoted and swept fire, catching them in mid-stride. They both crumpled, hit the ground, and went sprawling.
Reloaded the FAL just as another bunch came around the same corner and cut them down just as easily.
Something flew past my head, missing me by centimeters, and shattered the glass window behind me.
"Throwing axe," said Mouse and pointed across the street.
Looked, spotted a Trog across the street with a short-handled axe getting ready to throw.
I plugged him three times in the chest and he folded.
Then two more axes whipped past me and crashed into the window at my back.
"Too close," I said and gestured to the entrance. "Get inside."
"Too many," said Mouse, dropping two more Trogs only to have them replaced by another foursome.
I slung the FAL, reached into my right cargo pocket, and pulled out a frag grenade, yanked the pin, and lobbed it at an oncoming group of Trogs. Pivoted, pulled the front entrance open, grabbed Mouse by the back of her trenchcoat collar, and we ducked inside.
The grenade went off, taking out half a dozen Trogs, the concussion blowing out the windows on that side of the building and sending us sprawling.
Rolled to my back, sat up, and pulled out two more frag grenades, tossed one to Mouse. Yanked the pins in unison and hurled them through the glass-less front doors.
They bounced across the concrete once, twice.
Then successive explosions, taking out another group of Trogs trying to charge the building.
Reloaded the FAL, rocked forward to one knee, brought it up to bear.
Felt my heartbeat pounding my chest. Heard only the low humming my ears as my audio compensators cycled from screening out the triple explosions.
Otherwise I'd be deaf.
Thank god for implants.
Two seconds passed.
Only smoke outside the entrance.
Still no Trogs.
Had they gone?
Or were they trying a different approach?
Never would've heard it after the three grenade blasts if not for the hair on the back of my neck standing at attention.
Whirled, still on one knee, just as four figures leaped nimbly down into the open space of the light-well to our left.
(to be continued...)