The roads were deserted and I watched the rain fall as I considered her question.
“We’ve never taken a job that required a reading list, Lisa”
El rolled his eyes and hit the accelerator again.
“I understand, but Garrow represents a significant investment and we understand that countermeasures are already..”
I gave the nod to El.
“How many are coming?”
Lisa paused for a second, I heard the rattle of keys and a moment later, it came.
“Three, possibly four. On bikes from a moving location, supposed to be the second escort but you beat them to it..”
They were relying on speed over manpower, and subtlety over firepower. Which meant that they didn’t have the budget for anything comprehensive, nor did they have the means to keep police and emergency services away if it became messy. Bikes meant fast, but commercial models so there would need to be a large amount of firepower delivered in close. Animals tearing at the haunches of a larger, slower prey came unbidden and I had a good idea of what was coming. Visualising something is key to overcoming it.
I thanked Lisa and handed El his phone back.
“Three, maybe four. Bikes and SMGs, nothing too fancy. Light enough to fire one handed without stopping or having the recoil push you over”
I knew Lisa was asking because she was trying to stress to me that Garrow was Important, that He Knew Things and yet she failed to realise that we didn’t especially care, unless it impacted on the job. Garrow might have built monsters or designed a virus that would reduce mankind to a single man in a bunker somewhere, but until we were paid, he was a parcel, an objective.
All that empathy shit is so a film can show Jason Statham shooting people in the face, and have you feel okay about it. El and I, we come for the money and we leave when we get it. Which is why I have songs on the Ipod that provoke El into blind rage if I play them. And that his wife won’t listen to.
El looked at Garrow, now asleep and then back at me.
“You need to drive, and I need something from the boot.”
El drives because he likes it, and he is good at it. I drive when El doesn’t wish to, and when he has to do something that he is slightly better at than driving. With an ambush, we played to our weaknesses. They might have been fast and able to move, whereas we were, for all intents and purposes, a relatively sedentary target but you made it work.
We pulled over, and after I spent a moment keeping Garrow in trance and having the hemisync loop running through the Ipod, I got my phone out of my jacket, slipping a bluetooth headset into my ear. I looked at the phone as it synced, and I felt El looking at me.
El shook his head.
“That phone, no offence, is a piece of shit. Its embarrassing when you use it in public.”
I grew defensive, I seldom took calls and rarely sent messages, plus I had the netbook for email and web, so I never understood the borderline fetishism he had for the sleek, touchscreen objects of desire that he seemed to always have since I have known him.
“Can we do this another time?”
“You know I’m right, though”
I took the suppressor off and popped it into my pocket before slipping in a fresh magazine, racking the slide and thumbing the safety off and returning it to the holster.
“Yes, you are. I promise I will buy a decent phone as soon as we are done here. Not entirely sure why it offends you so much..”
I ended the conversation by getting behind the wheel, but I could see El shake his head in disbelief.
“You have a moisturising routine that most women would consider extreme, you live off fish and vegetables and I mention getting a phone that doesn’t mark you as old the moment you whip it out and…”
He couldn’t keep the indignation up, and started laughing to himself, which cracked me up too. I was still smiling when we set off again, good to go for whatever was coming.
We had been driving for a little over five minutes when I heard them. The low thrum of the engines blending until it felt as though a wave of sound was converging on us. I heard the sound ebb and wane, then finally it started to sound closer.
Two of them shot forward, I caught sight of one on my left, full crash leathers and helmet, and the glint of a harness with something squat and shining there, waiting.
I took a deep breath, and held it as I slipped my gun from the holster.
I heard the first burst of gunfire, and moved it to second, as the biker on my right opened up. Trying to tear flanks, with the third and possibly fourth bikes waiting in reserve. Charging ahead, I heard the boot kick open and as I checked the rear view mirror, I saw the third and fourth bikes falling, their riders beginning to slip.
I brought my gun up, and fired blind, as the biker on my left was raising their arm for another round whilst looking at the open boot.
I accelerated and brought the bike into El’s range and line of sight, just as…
The biker on my right, looked behind them to where their backup had gone, and was about to fire when he lurched back, as he took two to the chest…
On my left, I heard the bike brake, and then more fire, I kept firing blind, drawing until I heard the scream of metal on asphalt, and looking behind me, I saw the flames licking at the shadows and I stopped the car.
I got out, El was stood there, his back to me, gun down by his side as he watched the bikes begin to burn. I didn’t see his face until he got back into the car, but inside, he sat for a moment, closed his eyes and I know what he was thinking of. I envied him that.
I checked Garrow, who was almost pressed into his seat, headphones still on but clearly out of trance, his face drained of colour as he looked around in sharp panic.
“What the fuck am I listening to?”
El snatched the Ipod back, and popped it on his lap.
I turned in my seat, and looked at him.
“We’re close now, so if you can just sit there and be quiet, we will have you somewhere secure within the hour.”
He seemed ok with that, so I turned back in my seat. El was looking at me again, his eyes clear and sharp but with the faintest smile alive on his face.
“The money is worth it, isn’t it?”
It had to be.
I eased up and we listened to ‘Three Dollar Bill, Y’All then I pretty much let him play what he wanted. Anyone who kills four bikers with a handgun from a car boot deserves a little leeway.
I called Lisa and she gave us new co-ordinates, which turned out to be the car park of a boarded up Chinese buffet restaurant, long since abandoned. Garrow was ushered into a Mercedes by a trio of young guys, suited and sleek but struggling to keep the nervous energy under control whilst El and I got shown a new car, which had our papers and payment details in the glove compartment. As we got in,clutching my netbook, I could feel the fatigue wearing away at me, I could smell the gun, the smoke and oil and I felt the aches and the tension that adrenaline and discipline had held at bay. I dozed once we were on the road, until we found a decent cafe, as we were both starving.
We never wondered who Garrow was or where he was going. On things like that, El and I have been as sentimental as whores, our job was done and so was our involvement. There were six bodies and those were people just doing their jobs as well. I ride the crash that you go through after a job because pain and fatigue remind you that you are alive and you get to go home.
Well, El does.
He rang his wife as I stood outside smoking, I didn’t check my phone, but I did turn away, seeing him smile as he spoke to her made me feel as though I were intruding on something so I looked out as the sun came up and took it all in.
He came out, smiling.
“Yeah, she asked when you were coming over again. Misses you, apparently.”
“What’d you tell her?”
I promised myself I would, but I didn’t say it out loud. El insisted on driving me to the airport, although when he offered to hang around until my flight came in, I had to tell him to go home. He came in for a hug, and we made arrangements to update the message board we used to communicate in between work.
I watched him walk away, going home to a wife and children, and part of me envied that,so I settled on a few drinks and a hard flirt with a divorcee who was going to Rio on business. Cosmetics, although I was more interested in that the fresh mark where her wedding ring should have been.
There might have been a whole hour that I didn’t think about the next job.