I was immediately on guard, but there was nothing to indicate an imminent attack. Was that three missed calls in quick succession, a warning to get the hell out, or three ‘I’d like to talk to you’ calls?
“When?” I asked as Mike tapped at the screen.
“Thirty seconds ago. Stupid vibrate.” He held the phone up to his ear. “Jack?”
I moved to the windows. Narrow strips of papered, already-broken glass barred over with crudely tacked-welded rods. Typical for ground-floor Island establishments. It let in a bit of grimy light without any loss of privacy. Bars, were, of course a given.
The paper held the sheet glass together when it had been punched through by the attackers, but where it had failed, or torn from the shattered glass, I got a peek into the street.
Nothing suggested we had company.
Mike nodded, forgetting for a moment the nature of a phone call. Then he looked to me. “Jack’s spotted two groups arriving by car.”
Didn’t see many cars around. The power supply of the island was sketchy at best. The government and electricity companies cut us off decades ago. If anybody wanted power they had to pay a little to the nearest person who did have power and find a friend who knew a little about wiring bodge themselves into what could only loosely be called a grid.
The larger distribution system, transformers and all that – I’m no expert – was pretty much controlled by the mob. They connected to the off-island grid through nefarious means. It was in their interest, they ran this place and they needed the lights on to do so.
Basically if you wanted to draw a lot of power to charge a car, you were going to annoy the hell out of the person who you’re leeching power from unless you drew such a low current it would take an age to get any use out of it. The only people who really bothered were those that needed to move stock and a van made the haste worth it, and those who were high-enough in the chain not to annoy anyone above them.
Back to the situation. I didn’t want to take a step outside this building without an idea of what was out there.
“Where is he? Has he got eyes on us?” I asked Mike.
“Position, Jack. You see the building we’re in?” Pause. He turned back to me. “No. He’s further up the street at his dad’s.”
Danni should be just outside. I got out my own phone.
Eight missed calls.
Fucking vibrate mode. I hit the large letters spelling out ‘Danni’ next to the list of times she’d tried to call.
She answered before the second ring, her voice a whispered hiss, “Holy fuck, answer your god damn phone. What the fuck is the point of all that fucking ‘three rings’ shit if you don’t ever check? Are you guys okay in there?”
“Fine. What about out there? We safe to move?”
“Depends on your definition of safe. And when you start. There’s about eight moving up the alley from our direction. A car’s pulled up the other side, dunno how many there. Your chances of getting out of the front’s dropping by the second…”
“Hey!” I shouted at the guy, perhaps a bit more aggressively than I intended, his kid clutched at his leg with wide wet eyes. “There another way out of here?”
“I would have used it if there was.”
“No. There’s two floors above.”
Could we make another way out? I skipped through the debris in the room to the back wall and gave it a kick. A painful kick. Solid concrete, not even brick we might be able to make a dent in.
“Got anything explosive, that could make a hole in this?”
“Uh. No. I got stuff that’ll make hell of a fire. Might melt through steel, but not crete.”
“Fuck.” I said. “What about the smoke? You did it I take?”
“Yeah. It’s just Potassium chlorate and sugar, pretty much. I got crates of the stuff upstairs.”
“Show me.” I said. He scooped up his kid in a well-practiced motion and started towards the stairs. I turned to Mike. “If we can make enough smoke I think we can get across the street to the building opposite. We know there’s a clear route out. Cover the door.”
“Gotcha.” He kicked over one of the large benches, sending a bunch more objects to hit the floor and knelt behind, sights trained on the one entrance to our little trap.
I followed our host.
I didn’t look too closely at the body in the doorway as I stepped over it. Seeing it out of the corner of my eye was enough for me to note it had been a bullet to the face. I didn’t investigate further.
The room was of a similar construction to the one below, but lacked the double-height. It was considerably more comfortably furnished, however. The walls were hung with rugs and cloth. The colours, reds and oranges, made the place feel warm, even if the temperature was just as chilly. Instead of lab equipment there was a small kitchen set up and two tiny beds.
I felt like I was intruding, it was someone’s house.
He took a key out of his pocket and unlocked one of the doors at the far end of the small room. Guessing the other was a bathroom of some kind, it made for a small apartment.
From what I could see, the room he entered was walled with floor-to-ceiling plastic crates and boxes, but I only got a glimpse before he grabbed a box that had already been torn into and left untidily by the door.
He took a pan hanging from a nail from the wall and slammed it onto the cooker. I watched as he pulled out a bag of white powder and emptied the whole lot into the pan. There was already a few other bags open on the kitchen top, presumably ones he’d been using earlier. He started throwing things in and heating it up.
“Can we throw it?”
“Uh, I dunno. If we can find a way to stop most of it falling out of the pan before it hits the ground.” I started opening and closing the drawers and cupboards until I found what looked like the lid to the pan.
“First drawer on your left.” I opened it with so much force I nearly pulled it out of the cabinet, but was greeted with a role of duct tape. I started pulling lengths off and tearing them with my teeth, tagging them to the top while he worked.
“New pan.” He said.
I pulled the next largest from the nail-hooks and tossed it to him. He placed the other on the side. The holes in the lid were already started to stream out white smoke.
We just had to toss them out, and then make it across the street. Let’s hope they haven’t got a decent perimeter set up.
I approached the window. I had a good look at what things were like from the road, but I wondered how much we could make out now most of the smoke had dispersed. I might be able to get a decent idea of how many people we were against here.
But was it worth sticking my head out there? Maybe not.
Mirror. That’s what I need.
A quick look around the room found a small square propped up on a set of drawers in the corner. I got on my hands and knees to crawl under the lip of the window to get to it. I didn’t feel like taking any chances.
Climbing up to the side of the window and grabbing the mirror, I angled to where I guessed I would get a decent view of below and pushed slowly moved it sideways over the edge of the frame.
Snow. Four bodies in slowly expanding crimson pools, one a long smear where he’d dragged himself before giving up.
But there were others, moving. Dark clothing clear against the muddied-white backdrop. Before I could get a decent count the mirror exploded in my hands. The hot snap of rounds passing too-close filled the room. The ceiling burst with the dust of impacts, and the furniture twitched as rebounded rounds and shattered lead thumped into them. Automatic fire. It didn’t feel like a little gun.
I hit the floor, ignoring the shards of broken glass. The little girl’s scream filled my hearing once the bullets had stopped. Her refuge was sitting at her father’s feet, her hands covered her ears.
“There’s no way out of this.” Ah, back to the shouting at windows. The voice carried up from the street. “You might as well walk out alive and hand yourself in.”
Ha. Nice joke. The voice wasn’t an unknown. It tugged at my memory.
“Yeah. Don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.” Mike replied from the doorway below.
There no immediate response. Silence. I started to crawl along my belly to the other side of the room, pushing the glass with my forearms so it didn’t stick into my fingers and I didn’t have it pressing into, if not my armoured chest, or my knee-padded legs, my exposed thighs.
“Should have known this was your mess out here.” The voice. Hearing Mike’s helped place it. His brother. Fuck him.
“Should have known it was your’s in here.” Mike replied. “It really take five guys to die to take out a little chem mixer and his infant daughter?” He laughed.
That’s it, antagonise the people who had us cornered. I suppose I couldn’t talk. It was oh so tempting.
“How’s it going? We ready?” I whispered as I pulled myself up when I felt safe enough. Our host had three pans lined up on the countertop and was taping the lids down. The first was already smoking violently, the wood it sat on was starting to smell of burning. Hot.
“As much as ever.”
No time to talk with our adversaries then. I wasn’t feeling like a chat anyway. Before Mike’s brother could come up with a witty response I grabbed the handle of the first pan. It was hot, almost scalding, but I wasn’t holding it for long. It left through the window up the alleyway. Against the wind.
The two others soon followed.
“Come on.” I only ran half way down the stairs before simply jumping off the edge to the floor below. Mike hadn’t moved from his impromptu cover.
“Smokes up. We’re moving.” I said.
It was already seeping in through the windows. We moved to the door as a group, with the guy and his kid at the back.
Was it thick enough? I wasn’t so sure. But maybe it didn’t need to be perfect, just enough to obscure identity. We needed a little panic.
“Mike, get him to the other side. I’m going to stir things up a little.”
He nodded. I got my gun ready in one hand, knife in the other, and stepped out.