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"Dust Up" - Part Four

Sweatshirt scrambled out of the driver's seat, hood falling back, revealing a twentysomething male with short curly hair, his broad face creased with panic. He took another look at me and shuffled north on Lenora, dragging the case with him.
   
Goddammit.
   
I hated footchases.

"He got away?" said Mouse, coming up alongside me.
   
"You okay?"
   
"Five by five."
   
"He's on foot," I said, lowering the Twins and inclining my head. "With the case."
   
She looked up the street.
   
Sweatshirt was on the next block over trying doors. That stretch of Lenora was all two- and three-story office buildings with well-locked doors not likely to provide much in the way of cover or escape. A motion-sensitive lamp above one door flashed to life as Sweatshirt first yanked on a door handle then gave the door a few solid kicks. It held.
   
"Is he for real?" said Mouse.
   
"Not sure," I said.
   
"Amateur."
   
"Yep."
   
"Wannabe."
   
"Don't go there."
   
"Is he carrying a club?"
   
I squinted to look then shook my head. "Flashlight. Long handle."
   
A flap of leather and she held up a throwing blade. "I can wing him. Save us a chase."
   
I looked up the street, trying to gauge distance. Sweatshirt was now trying to shoulder open another locked door and bouncing off harmlessly. I fought back a laugh. "Kinda long distance, isn't it?" I said. "I make it at least forty, forty-five meters."
   
"Yeah," said Mouse, eyes narrowing and studying the distance. "My best was thirty meters. I can get closer."
   
"When was that?" I said.
   
"That time in Southside with the chicken guy."
   
The memory flashed through my mind and I turned to Mouse. "His name was Rooster."
   
"Chicken guy," said Mouse. "Anyway, I tagged that one ganger at about thirty meters. Nailed him in the leg. He screamed like a little girl."
   
I looked back at Sweatshirt. He was now at yet another locked door on the left side of the street screaming at it to open, then kicking it to make his point.
   
"So wing him?" said Mouse.
   
"Let me try something else."
   
"Buzzkill."
   
"Just wait."
   
"Fine."


*   *   *
   
By the time we had jogged across the intersection of Front and Lenora and got to the same block, Sweatshirt had already tried five doors and was now three-quarters of the way up the block, standing in front of a set of windows, the case on the ground next to him, the flashlight loaded back for a swing. My right leg throbbed slightly and again  I shook it off.
   
"You can end this now," I said as we closed the distance to fifteen meters.
   
Sweatshirt spun toward us and dropped the flashlight. "Stay back," he said, jabbing a finger in our direction. He scooped up the fallen flashlight, grabbed the case, and started walking backwards.
   
"We just want the case," I said, still following.
   
"Over my dead body," said Sweatshirt.
   
"That can be arranged," said Mouse.
   
Sweatshirt went saucer-eyed and raised the flashlight defensively. "You wouldn't dare!"
   
"Try us," I said.
   
"Don't you know who I am?"
   
"Don't care."
   
"The old man's already dead. Least he can do is make it worth my while."
   
Mouse looked at me. "Bored now. Wing him?"
   
"Wing him," I said.
   
Mouse hefted the throwing blade she'd been holding and loaded for the throw.
   
Sweatshirt's eyes widened even more. He stopped, dropped the flashlight, and held up his hand as if to ward off Mouse. "Okay, wait!" he said, stopping, his voice going up several registers and cracking. "I'll pay you double what you're already getting."
   
Mouse stopped in mid-throw, the blade still in her hand, and looked back at me.
   
I stopped and looked at her, then at Sweatshirt. "Double?"
   
Sweatshirt nodded so hard I thought his head was going to fall off. "Double. Swear to Christ. Just let me keep the case and don't kill me."
   
"Double," I said. "Now. And we take the case."
   
He gave a start, as if he'd been slapped. "What?"
   
"Pay us double now," I said. "Or she"--I inclined my head at Mouse--"ends you."
   
"Don't pay now," said Mouse.
   
"Couple of hours, tops," he said. "You'll get it."
   
"Nope," I said. "Pay now or give us the case and bounce or I let her skewer you a lot."
   
Sweatshirt gave a yelp, turned, and hobbled north toward Canal Street.
   
Dammit.
   
"Mouse," I said.
   
"Done," said Mouse.
   
Leather flapped and the lone throwing blade arced out, spinning, and impaled itself into Sweatshirt's right buttock with a meaty thunk.
   
Sweatshirt screamed, a high-pitched keening wail that echoed off the surrounding buildings, stumbled forward, and went sprawling on his stomach, the case clattering away from his grasp.
   
"Good hit," I said and we started toward Sweatshirt at a jog, my attention starting to focus on the fallen case.
   
Then a black SUV roared through the intersection of Walnut and Canal and screeched to a halt ten meters from Sweatshirt.
   
The hell?
   
We skidded to a stop.   
   
The SUV's rear door swung open and a dark-suited wall with legs and a buzzcut stepped out, looked down Sweatshirt, and gave him a toothy grin.
   
A memory struck.
   
"There you are, Rowley," said Buzzcut, striding toward him.
   
Rowley?
   
Sweatshirt Rowley yowled again, put his face to the concrete, and covered his head with his arms.
   
Buzzcut reached into his jacket.
   
Mouse said, "Hey! That asshole shot me!"
   
Buzzcut looked up at us and gave a start, as if suddenly noticing we were there.
   
Time enough.
   
A subvocalized command, and the world slid into slo-mo.
   
Sidestepped right, the Twins rising, tracking.
   
Buzzcut's pistol was just clearing his jacket when the Twins  roared, spitting fire and death in a booming staccato. Six rounds slammed into Buzzcut's torso and he crumpled.
   
Turned toward the driver's window, the Twins tracking, then checked fire as a throwing blade plunged through the middle of the window. Then the SUV reversed out of the intersection, tires smoking, the rear door still open and flapping against the door frame, heading east on Canal, finally disappearing down the street.
   
The Twins tracked them until they were out of sight then went to low-ready.
   
Dropped boost, sucked in a long lungful, blew it out, waited for my pulse rate to slow.
   
Then looked back at Sweatshirt Rowley.
   
He was still on the ground on his stomach, fists clenched near his head, and whimpering, the throwing blade still lodged in his buttock, blood staining the back of his khaki pants.
   
Mouse stood nearby, hands on her hips, watching him.
   
The case sat on the ground past Sweatshirt Rowley, a few meters ahead and to my left.
   
Beyond them, lay Buzzcut's limp, bullet-riddled corpse.
   
Things clicked into place.
   
I holstered the Twins, walked over to the case, and picked it up.
   
Popped optic clock.
   
21:14:10
   
Still time.
   
Walked over to Sweatshirt Rowley and turned my head slightly to look at his face. He was still face down, one hand next to his head clawing at the concrete, but I saw enough.
   
"Trying to steal from Daddy?" I said.
   
He craned his head to look up at me with baleful eyes. "You stabbed me in the ass, you shits," he said through gritted teeth.
   
I was right. He looked like a younger version of Rowley. "You didn't answer my question."
   
"You fucking stabbed me in the ass," he said again, his voice rising in pitch until he was screeching.
   
In the distance, sirens wailed.
   
"Let's bounce," I said to Mouse and started back toward the Royale at a jog.
   
"Fucking ass stabbers!" Sweatshirt Rowley called out in a screeching voice. "That's mine, you hear me? Mine!"
   
Shot a glance back.
   
He had pushed himself up on his elbows, his face a mask of rage.
   
"Nice doing business with you," I said.

(to be continued...)


"Dust Up"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 5

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