“Are we really gonna do this without her?”
“We don’t have much choice. I’ll just have to figure something out.”
“I know we’re good, but nobody is good enough to rob three buildings with two people.”
“Well, we’re here now. We need to at least talk to the guy.”
I didn’t tell Spike what I intended to do. It was better that way. He’d be annoyed, but he would learn to live with it, like he has all those times before. For now, we needed to focus on the job. Silver had set up the meeting, and now all Spike and I had to do was talk to the guy, get details on the job, and do it. That’s what Spike thought. What I actually had to do required a bit of theatrics.
Spike parked the van around the corner from our destination, and we masked up. We left duffel bags and big guns in the van, but I had my revolver in a holster hidden beneath my suit jacket. If I had to use it, I wouldn’t be walking out unscathed. I just had to hope that didn’t happen.
Spike and I rounded the corner and headed for the first of three apparently abandoned apartment buildings. We entered, passing by two goons guarding the door. Our guy was expecting us, obviously, so his henchmen didn’t hassle us much. We scaled the stairs, all the way up to the thirteenth floor. Spike stopped me just outside of the room we needed to enter, placing a hand gently on my shoulder.
“Medusa, I just wanted to say sorry for what happened between us,” said Spike. “I want you to know that I only went off like that because I’m worried about you. I’ve never seen you get this wild and crazy.”
“Now is not the time to have this conversation,” I said quietly. “But no problem. If I had to be put in my place by anyone, I’d prefer it be you. Now, let’s do this job and reconcile later. We still need to have a drink with Dash.”
I pushed open the door and stepped into a room I could only describe as an office. The wallpaper was peeling in places, and the entire room smelled of gunpowder and marijuana. Directly ahead of me was a guy who vaguely resembled Silver, albeit with a bluish tint to his hair instead of the straight ivory. Also, Silver wasn’t typically seen doing a line of cocaine off of his office desk.
“You alright, or do you need us to come back?” I asked. “You seem busy.”
“Ooh, fuck. Medusa, how are you?” he said, shaking himself firmly. “I’m Thunderlane, and I don’t believe in pussyfooting, so let’s cut to the chase. I need you to clean out those three addresses and burn them to the ground. Don’t fucking ask why.”
“Fair enough. Now, I know that is the job that was offered,” I said. “However… Our team has recently undergone some changes. As of right now, we’re a hair understaffed. I don’t suppose you would accept an IOU?”
Thunderlane jumped up, knocking his chair over as he drew his handgun and aimed it at my head. Spike quickly raised his mask most of the way up his face and surely would’ve burned our potential employer to death if I didn’t hold my hand over his mouth.
“You’re gonna do what I asked, and then I’m going to get the cops off of your trail,” said Thunderlane. “No discussion.”
“I think we should all calm down,” I said. If things went bad here, now, I would really be SOL. “What I meant by that is, as it stands, I can’t do that job exactly as you wanted. I can rob the three houses in the same day, sure. But at the exact same time? Not without my partner.” Thunderlane dropped down onto his chair, tapping his gun against the side of his head. This was clearly more than he originally anticipated.
“Then get her back,” he said flatly.
“Not so simple,” said Spike. He slowly lowered his mask down over his mouth. “Our associate is out of the game for good.”
“I couldn’t get Dash back if I tried,” I said. “Let’s talk about your end of the deal. How exactly would you get the cops off of our ass?”
“I have boys and girls willing to take your place in the box,” explained Thunderlane, pulling his chair back up and depositing himself there. “You do what I need, I have a mare and a dragon who will admit to being Medusa and Hydra. They get their Hazard Pay, and the cops think they caught you already. But I can’t do that if you don’t handle these houses.”
I sighed tiredly. This was the most elaborate performance I’d put on in quite a while.
“Like I said, I’m not the problem. Dash is the problem.” I glanced toward Spike, trying to read him through his mask. “How long do we have before your offer is no longer valid?”
“I’ll get her back,” I promised. Spike tried not to seem surprised, but I could feel him tense up to my right. That was a bold promise I just made, and it wouldn’t be good if I didn’t fulfill it. Luckily, I already had the parts in motion for that.
“Let’s go, Hydra. We have a lot of work to do,” I said.
“Mate,” I said, depositing my queen in her square. Spike flitted out his tongue, clearly deep in thought.
“Maybe we could do some quick recruiting, like what you did with Tiara,” suggested Spike. I shook my head.
“Too risky. There’s no time to train them. How about The Road?”
I spoke, of course, of The Silk Road, a part of the deep web that is equally horrific and useful. It was a way for thieves, murderers, rapists, and drug dealers to conduct their business easily and with little risk. Spike used it to fence some stolen goods, and, if we didn’t have Silver on the payroll and we needed someone of his skillset, The Silk Road would be the first place we checked.
“Nah. There’s no one doing that sort of work right now,” Spike sighed. “What if we have Silver kill the guy, then we walk in and take the gang for ourselves?”
“Hostile takeover isn’t the absolute worst idea you’ve had,” I admitted. “But how do we get them to listen to us?”
“Alright, I’ll just put that in the ‘maybe’ pile.”
We could hear the door swing open, and we hardly had time to draw our weapons before the dryer slammed out of place. Spike was about to shoot, only barely lowering his gun in time when he realized who had kicked open our door.
She didn’t look good. Dash trembled slightly, her fists clenched and her eyes burning red. She sniffled, saying nothing at all. Before I could ask, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a photo. I took it from her, noting the bloodstain on the corner. The photo was of that sister of her’s, Scootaloo, and it was torn slightly from when it was yanked from its frame. I turned it over to see a message scribbled in crude, scratchy handwriting.
Duty calls, Rainbow Dash.
“Dash… What is this?” I asked. Dash locked eyes with me, which let me notice the cocaine on her nose for the first time.
“I’m in,” she said.
“You guys there yet?” I asked.
“Pulling up now,” said Spike. “Apollo was on my tail a few minutes ago, but I don’t see her now.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m pulling up now,” said Dash finally. “I had to stop to take a bump.”
“I don’t think driving while high is a good idea,” I noted.
“I don’t think I give a fuck.”
There’s not much I could say to that, so I just kept my mouth shut and drove. The house I was tasked with was the furthest, and the most heavily loaded, so I took the longest to clean out and demolish. Still, I was only a few minutes behind, and that gave me time to think.
Thunderlane wanted these houses gone for profit. They belonged to an opposing gang, and he wanted to eliminate them by destroying their Headquarters. More importantly, he wanted to show that he was not to be trifled with. He wanted his competitors to understand that, at the snap of his fingers, he could rip apart their carefully constructed empire. A good way to beat a man is to crush his body. A better way is to crush his mind. The best way is to crush their soul. In a way, Thunderlane accomplished all three.
I pulled up to the apartments, parking my van in between Spike and Dash’s. They had situated their vehicles in the parking lot between the three buildings, where Thunderlane and a dozen goons waited. I killed the engine, hopped to the back and collected my three filled duffel bags, then hopped out of my van. My shotgun bounced against my hip (I needed it to bust down the hinges of the house’s door), which made certain thugs uncomfortable. What they didn’t realize is that I was the least of their worries.
Dash was angry. She felt guilty. She had very little to lose. She was high. This was the shopping list for a disaster. Frankly, I was proud of her for not going off. She just stood outside of her van, duffel bags over her shoulders.
“Mr. Lane,” I said. I tossed my bags forward. “Your product, as promised. I can’t speak for the others, but I managed to secure some cash and narcotics. Several thousand dollars of it.”
“Same here,” said Spike. “And a bit of ice, too. If you don’t have the means, I can push it for you.”
“Thanks, but I can manage,” said Thunderlane. “You’re awful quiet, Dash. Got nothing to say?”
“Fuck you,” said Dash quietly. “Give her back.”
“Sorry? I don’t like your tone.”
“I said give her back. Don’t fuck with me. Just give her back.”
“Dash…” I said quietly. Thunderlane chuckled, stepping forward with a grin on his face.
“Look, maybe I’m too out my head to remember, but I don’t think I took anyone,” said Thunderlane. “But, if I did, I wouldn’t give her back to someone with a mouth like yours. Maybe if you ask nicely, I’ll remember.”
I grabbed Dash by the wrist firmly. I slowly moved her arm up and pulled the handgun out of her hand. We locked eyes, and I could tell that the drugs were beating out her logic and reason.
“I need you to calm down, Dash,” I whispered. “Let it go. Go back to the van and wait. Hydra and I will clean this up.” Dash yanked her arm out of my grasp, then slowly started walking back to the van.
“Forgive her,” I said. “The situation is making her uneasy.”
“Oh, she’ll get over it soon,” said Thunderlane with a chuckle.
I hardly felt the jerk on my hip, but I felt the recoil of my shotgun going off. Thunderlane dropped to the ground, swearing in pain. Time froze for about an eighth of a second.
Then, everything sped up to compensate.
“Move!” I dragged Dash out of the way of incoming fire and behind the van. Spike ran behind the other vehicle, then drew his handgun and fired blindly.
“For fuck’s sake, Dash!” shouted Spike. I shoved her gun back into her hand, then cocked my shotgun. I had two more shots, and I needed to make the most of it.
“Shoot to kill,” I said. I rushed forward and hugged the side of the van. Spike managed to off two guys in the interim, leaving ten guys, only a few of them with guns. I fired twice, dropping them to the ground to be dealt with later.
This was a bad situation.
“Spike, I need a gun!” I called. As quickly as he could, he reached into his bag and tossed me an SMG, a Mini Uzi with a supressor. Something he just had laying around, I suppose. I didn’t mind it, because it had bullets.
“Dash, get the lead out of your fucking boots!” yelled Spike. Dash shook her head firmly, then rounded the right side of the van and fired. I didn’t see what happened, because I was too busy picking off thugs.
It had been many years since my last firefight. I never made fighting a part of my general routine, but I was decently versed in gunplay. Still, I wasn’t prepared for this fight, and the worst place I could be is in a tough spot with no plan. All I could think about is how many thugs were left versus how many bullets I had in my gun. At some point, I remembered my revolver, which I drew to aid with the clean up. The thugs barely stood a chance.
“Spike, get her out of here,” I ordered, finishing off the last enemy. “Take her to the safehouse and don’t let her leave for anything.”
“I’m not going anywhere without my sister!” shouted Dash. Spike slinked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her neck and head, putting as much pressure down as he could. When she was unconscious, I lifted her and helped Spike move her to the back of the van.
“I’ll catch up,” I said. “I gotta clean up here, and look for the girl.” Spike nodded, then slipped into the van. As he pulled off, I looked out at the carnage. 13 corpses, 13 men unnecessarily dead. It was a mess.
Well, 12 corpses, I suppose.
“You’re still kicking, hm?” I said. Thunderlane turned on his stomach and crawled forward for a discarded handgun. It was nothing for me to kick it out of the way before he got to it.
“We’ll kill you…” he groaned. “You’re a dead mare walking.”
“I agree. But, for now, I’d like to apologize,” I said. “I didn’t intend for any of this to happen. This was a… A miscalculation.”
“The girl… I swear, the girl Dash was talking about… It wasn’t me…”
“I know. It was me,” I said. I pulled my mask off to wipe the sweat from my brow. “This was a mistake.”
I grabbed my revolver a bit tighter, trying to figure out what to do next. Even though I didn’t want to, I knew exactly what my next step had to be.
“I have to kill you now, understand?” I said. I slipped my mask back down onto my face. “Close your eyes.”
“Fuck you,” spat Thunderlane. I sighed.
“Suit yourself. I’m going to count backwards from five, and then I’m going to pull the trigger,” I said. I levelled my gun at his forehead. “5."
I pulled the trigger, then stepped over corpse number 13. I pulled out my burner, checking a text from Silver.
Third building, 7th floor, last room.
I followed the directions, entering the building furthest from me. The lobby was littered with fresh corpses, but not from me. These guys died before Dash fired my shotgun. I scooped a handgun from the floor and fired it through the open door four times; Once for each body. I marched up the stairs, firing a bullet every time I saw a new body. The girl most likely wouldn’t be coherent enough to recall how many shots I fired in relation to how many bodies there were, but better safe than sorry.
I climbed the stairs all the way to the seventh floor, and down the hall to the last door. It swung open from the inside, and Silver silently walked out of the room. We passed each other, and I entered the mostly empty room. All that was in the room was the girl, drugged and passed out in the middle of the floor. With a tired sigh, I hefted her over my shoulder and headed back down to the van.