Ash is standing in a dark, wet alley holding a piece of plastic with a trigger in it. He is sweating.
Winter is astride a Yamaha V Max two blocks away, waiting for the high to creep into his scalp. He is sweating.
Berlin is driving a solidly built four door sedan. He is carrying four firearms and wearing a Kevlar vest under a Red Wings windbreaker. He cannot find a radio station and very much wants to drink a beer. He is not sweating.
Gabriel is pacing his office alternating amongst trying to read memoranda on his desk, smoking a cigar, looking out the window and polishing a piece of obsidian the size of a high school vocabulary textbook. He is trying to forget about the phone call that led to this and the feeling of searing heat at the small of his back that calls to mind times when he was not ascendant.
An armored car is driving around Detroit on a specially designated delivery and pick up route. The route was commissioned for tonight by Ignotus Via LP. The general partner of Ignotus Via is listed as Jack Savonarola. This is a lie.
The phone call Gabriel received earlier, which he is failing to forget about and which has unsettled him so considerably, was only two words:
The phone number from which the call originated is a pay phone at a gas station within 12 miles of the palatial estate of Jack Savonarola. There was no surveillance footage available to Gabriel. No fingerprints were able to be lifted from the phone or the surfaces surrounding it. Nevertheless, four homeless men found heading towards or away from that particular gas station have been questioned and released by Michigan state troopers. Gabriel and the homeless men have been lied to. Neither of them knows what they have been lied to about. Gabriel cares about this. The homeless men do not.
North of Detroit a dirty brown 1973 Buick Electra 225 is cruising towards the city well in excess of the speed limit. No one has lied to its occupants. Yet.
The armored car pulls up to the building which is third to last on its appointed rounds for the evening. There are two guards in the cab. The back doors open and one guard emerges and surveys his area with insufficient suspicion.
Berlin’s hands grip the steering wheel casually. He is collected and inappropriately calm. He curiously thinks of nothing in particular as he rounds the corner and sees the armored car stopped. He aims the sedan at the left front corner of the bumper of the armored car. His booted foot stabs downward and his shoulders are loose. He is only traveling at forty miles per hour when he collides with the armored car. The shock knocks another guard out of the back doors at the foot of his stunned comrade. The sound is deafening. Berlin has tucked his torso behind the door and is not aware of how sore he is. Adrenalin and a slight concussion are fortifying him.
Ash is trembling in his alleyway. Winter’s hands are spasming towards his knives. Ash cannot stop thinking of his aunt taking him to see Picasso’s Guernica. Ash’s right hand shakes. Ash’s right hand clenches into a fist. His eyes are closed. He hears a series of dull thumps and sharp cracks. He hears one scream. Tears are on his face as he runs down the alley away from the armored car. The image of Guernica fades in his mind as he resolves that he has finally taken the step to actively injuring other people. Ash does not stop running until he realizes he does not know where he is. It will take him hours to meander back to Gabriel’s apartment. He does not remember throwing the large canvas bags he carried into a storm drain. Adrenalin and shock are fortifying him.
Berlin has rolled out of the wrecked sedan. Berlin lies on the ground with his hands wrapped under his Red Wings windbreaker. When Berlin sees feet on the passenger side of the armored car, he produces an automatic pistol and coolly shoots the ankle he sees. He crawls to the front of the armored car, rises to a crouch, ducks around to the passenger side and shoots the guard in the torso three times. Berlin hears little. He is wearing earplugs. He does not see the ruined forms of two guards behind the armored car. He does not see the fifth guard exit the back of the armored car with a radio in one hand and a drawn revolver in the other. He does not know the driver is yelling into a radio while curled on the driver seat with his feet on the floor and his head between his knees. He does not know a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a driver and two passengers is rounding the corner coming towards him.
Winter knows something has gone wrong. He does not know what it is, but through the rising THC and adrenalin, he hears his streets telling him that if he doesn’t start moving now, he will cease to be a predator. Winter twists the throttle and pulls into view of the carnage. He sees the fifth guard panicking behind the armored car. He sees the Jeep Grand Cherokee stop yards away from the action. He sees the large shaggy black hair of the driver. He sees the man with the slick dark hair and the bulky jacket get out of the passenger door. He sees the man in the brown duster hop out of the rear gate.
Winter hears the streets and knows that these are not good Samaritans. Winter tells himself a little joke about these two men taking off their jackets and tearing them in half. Winter has poor recollection of Bible study and an even poorer sense of humor. Winter sees the man in the brown duster cradle something in his arms and spread his legs. Winter stops telling jokes when the fifth guard is cut in half by submachinegun fire. Winter sees the man in the bulky jacket and the man in the brown duster jog towards the armored car’s gaping back doors and the smoke surrounding them. Winter’s pupils dilate, his skin flushes, he screams Berlin’s name and gives his motorcycle free reign timed by his reflexes rather than his conscious mind.
Berlin hears Winter clearly call his name after he hears a dull burst of gunfire. Berlin is a virtuoso. He recognizes the sound of a Mac 10. Berlin’s cheeks draw in on his skull. Berlin’s mouth draws into a tight frown. Berlin still has his earplugs in. Berlin does not question why he can hear Winter call his name louder than he can hear the gunfire. Berlin rises above the hood of the wrecked sedan and begins firing on the Jeep. The man in the brown duster falls back and crouches behind the Jeep. The man in the bulky jacket continues running towards the armored car. Winter sees a glow around the man in the bulky jacket. Winter throws himself from the motorcycle with an odd certainty that it will not be damaged in the spark throwing skid he leaves it in. He cannot reach a knife before he tackles the man in the bulky jacket to the ground. Winter is water and the man in the bulky jacket is a stone. Winter smells vodka on the man’s breath. Winter flails, punching and grasping. Winter is lifted bodily from the ground and dashed onto the pavement in what remains of a guard’s legs. Winter manages to produce a knife before the man in the bulky jacket can reach him with the length of chain he has whipped out from under his jacket.
Winter is interrupted in his brawl by the reports of gunfire and ricochets off the pavement. Berlin is thoughtfully trying to kill the man who is attacking his friend. Berlin succeeds in driving the man in the bulky jacket away from the armored car. Berlin is not yet aroused sufficiently to leave his cover. A burst of fire from the man in the brown duster drives him towards the back of the car. Berlin does not question that the bullets pinging off of the sedan do not leave dents.
Winter snarls and dives after the man in the bulky jacket. They roll away from the armored car. Winter stabs and stabs and stabs. Winter’s mouth is wide with silent laughter. The face of his opponent is feral. The man’s fingernails tear away at Winter’s leathers. His length of chain wraps around Winter’s waist.
The driver of the jeep stiffens behind the wheel. He looks north. He sees bright headlights rising behind the wrecked sedan. Berlin is highlighted from behind as he rises to fire on the Jeep. Berlin has left two pistols forgotten on the ground.
For a moment the battlefield goes silent. The streets whisper to Winter. They tell him to wait. For the first time in his life Winter stops stabbing someone. A 1973 Buick Electra 225 incongruously swerves through a bootlegger turn and spins 180 degrees into the middle ground between the jeep and the armored car.
A gray haired man leans out of the driver’s window and fires a flare gun at the grand cherokee. A scrawny wild haired form in torn jeans dives out of the Buick and sprints into the back of the armored car.
Winter has a moment of clarity and thinks to himself, “Grand fuckin’ central station.” The streets chorus his words in his head. The blood rises in his ears. He begins to stab the man in the bulky jacket again. Blood covers Winter’s left side.
Berlin and the man in the brown duster both begin to fire on the Buick. Berlin’s pistol jams. The man in the brown duster throws his weapon into the back of the jeep swearing. Berlin and the man in the brown duster both grab for additional hardware. Winter hears sirens. The scrawny frazzled blur emerges from the back of the armored car and sprints back to the Buick. Berlin and the man in the brown duster point their arms at him. Berlin’s pistol misfires. The man in the brown duster curses. The streets howl a warning to Winter. Winter hears the man in the brown duster cry one word. It sounds like “rictus.” Winter finds this hilarious until he is punched in the jaw and the man in the bulky jacket races back to the Jeep and it tears off after the Buick that Winter has somehow lost.
Winter stands up. Winter shivers. Winter notices that it is no longer raining. Winter notices that Berlin is leaning heavily on his wrecked sedan. Winter hears the sirens again. Winter rights his motorcycle, throws Berlin over the back and bugs out.
Winter thinks to himself “who the fuck?”
Berlin thinks to himself “Where am I hit? I need a beer.”
Ash thinks to himself “what have I gotten myself into.”
Gabriel, alone and uniformed, thinks to himself “why now?”
Twenty Three (sorry about the hiatus)
7 years ago