Part Fourteen: Wolf Trap
[A/N: This chapter beta-read by Lady Columbine of Mystal.]
The technically-abandoned warehouse was anything but abandoned right then. People were arriving in dribs and drabs, filtering in a few at a time. This was partly to reduce the chance of law enforcement spotting a large gathering, and partly because trying to get them to arrive all at once was probably fucking close to impossible at the best of times. Far more men showed up than women did, though the chicks who turned up had that same hard-edged look in their eyes that the guys did. There was something deeply visceral about watching two finely-honed killing machines trying to tear each other's throat out in the ring, that no other sport could really match.
He'd left word for his door guys to keep an eye on the women coming in, making sure that they were accompanied by men he knew or that he knew them himself. There'd been that one fucking debacle that he hadn't been there for, where Bitch of the Undersiders herself had walked in as bold as brass, sat near the dog cages, then when everyone was watching a match, had made every single dog in the place grow to monster size. That had been early in her time in Brockton Bay, and she hadn't done it since, but the injury count had been horrific.
He didn't think she was going to try to hit the dogfights tonight, but it was a good idea to keep the precaution going. Nobody knew when the cops might try to infiltrate the place, no matter how bad an idea that might be. If the PRT took a hand—they still wanted to stuff him in the Birdcage, after all—things might get a little problematic. But when it came down to it, 'problematic' was what he did best.
A tall, bulky figure passed nearby, and Bradley frowned slightly. The guy was wearing Empire ink, and in fact Bradley thought he recognised him, but the girl at his side couldn't have been any older than sixteen. She was also wearing a hideous purple top that did absolutely nothing for her, but he wasn't there to hand out fashion advice. He wasn't the morality police either; if the guy wanted to get busted for banging an underage chick, that was up to him. But in public like this, it kinda made the Empire look bad.
At least he knew for a fact that it wasn't Bitch; that girl would make three or four of this one. She wasn't drunk or drugged, from the way she was looking around with alert interest. As Bradley moved toward the pair, he caught a flash of ice-blue eyes and the hint of a calculating stare. It wasn't interest in him so much as asking and answering the question, 'could I take him'? And he couldn't be certain, but he could've sworn she was looking directly at him when she asked herself that.
The last time he'd had someone look at him in that manner was Cricket. This did not make him feel any better.
As he moved up to the pair and put his hand on the guy's arm, he went through a mental list of the capes in Brockton Bay who could pass for skinny teenage girls and had the stones to think they could take him. The only one that came to mind was Circus, which also didn't make him feel any better. Though what that androgynous freak would want at one of his dogfights, he wasn't sure. The only think he could think of was the money, and Bradley didn't think the take would be worth getting on the wrong side of the Empire.
"Hey," he said as the guy turned to face him. Bradley knew him alright; he guarded stash houses from time to time. Couldn't think of his name, and he couldn't be fucked asking. "Mind telling me what you're doing bringing your side piece in here tonight? She couldn't be out of fuckin' high school."
He was more than a little surprised when the girl put her hand on her companion's arm and spoke up in his stead. "It's okay. He was just showing me where the restrooms were."
Oh. Well, that was okay, then. Bradley nodded. "Sure. No problem."
He turned away back toward the entrance, totally missing the glance at his back, and the tiny grin on the girl's face.
I sat in an inconspicuous area of the stands, pushing my blue bubble out as far as it would go. Everyone who saw me sitting next to Frankie, eating the hotdog that he'd gotten for me, only got so close before they decided that everything was okay and I didn't need to be bothered. The dogfights were ongoing, though I didn't care about what was happening in the arena. Dogs were dogs. That is, they weren't me, or anything I owned.
Frankie nudged me and I looked down toward where the bookies were still gathering cash. He'd clued me in that they took the money and stashed it out back once a certain amount came in, so nobody got tempted with itchy fingers. The way it was arranged, there was always two sets of eyes watching the money, and each load had an itemised list with it. If a load was light, or missing its list, there were only a couple of guys to question. Hookwolf had struck me as someone who was probably good at questioning people. People who weren't me, anyway.
And there they were, working their way down the back of the line of bookies, even as fresh money came in. Bulging satchels went into plastic shopping bags; one carrier, two guards. The carrier just had to worry about the money. The guards worried about people trying to take it.
Frankie and I slipped out of our seats, ducking down behind the stadium seating that had been hastily erected for the dogfights. We had privacy here, or as close to it as people could get in a building full of neo-nazis drinking booze and watching blood-sports. Moving as quickly as I could, I delved into my bag and pulled out the container of greasepaint. Frankie didn't have anyplace he could carry one easily, so I handed mine over. He took two big globs on his fingers and started applying it as I took the wig out and began to stuff my hair under it.
By the time Frankie was done covering his head and arms with the greasepaint, I had the wig and the bio-powder finished; he handed the container back over and I began to apply it to my own face as he pulled on the gloves I'd given him. We'd decided not to go with the jackets, because that made us too conspicuous, but I had my Anaconda in my bag and he was carrying a pump shotgun under his arm, wrapped in his Empire jacket.
The whole exercise took about thirty seconds, mainly because we'd practised. I was congratulating myself as I put the last touches on the greasepaint, knowing we still had time to catch up with the money guys. But then Frankie, in the process of putting on his clown nose, froze and looked past me.
"Okay, Circus, end of the fucking—" I would've known those gravelly tones anywhere. Turning, I looked into Hookwolf's metal-masked face. He broke off what he was saying and stared back at me, no doubt taking in my glowing pupils and lips, then blinked. "You aren't Circus."
"No shit, Hookworm," I retorted with a giggle. Stretching my lips until my smile was at its full width, I let him see my teeth as they glowed in the semi-darkness. "I was going to leave you 'til later but hey, gift horses and all that."
"What the goddamn fuck are you?" To my everlasting—well, not joy, exactly. More like mild satisfaction—he took a step back, then started sprouting blades out of his everywhere. I took a moment to wonder if it hurt, then decided that I just didn't care.
Gliding forward, I linked my grey field to the white bubble just as he lashed out at me. I got my arm up in time so he only shredded my sleeve and not my whole top. Metal screeched and blades snapped off against my skin, clattering to the concrete floor. Then I pushed out the grey field.
It was a pity he was wearing that wolf mask, because the look on his face when all the metal retracted into his body again would've been amazing. Well, mildly amusing, anyway.
I stepped forward again and swung at him with my fist, aiming somewhere around his gut area. All of a sudden, my combat sense lit up, showing that he was going to knock my arm aside and try to get me into a lock. I was a lot stronger than I had been before, but was I strong enough to overcome a big tough guy with leverage on his side? Maybe, but this wasn't the time or place to find out. At the last second I pulled the punch back and watched him settle into a combat stance.
"Nice trick, girlie," he grated. "You missed one detail, though. I was fighting long before I got powers. I can tell you've never been a fighter. An' I got ways to deal with people who can't be cut."
There was motion behind me, then a sharp red line cut past me to the middle of Hookwolf's chest. I glanced over my shoulder to where Frankie had his shotgun, still wrapped in his jacket, aimed at his former boss.
Giggling again, this time in a deep bass, I stepped in the way of the shot, hoping Frankie got the hint. While mayhem was definitely the order of the day, I didn't want gunfire this early in the piece. Dipping my hand into my bag, I came up with my trusty length of rebar. It had served me well in the past, and beating down some piece of shit racist trash asshole was exactly what it was made to do. Then I let the bag slide off my shoulder and fall to the ground as I moved forward.
"That's cute," I said. "You want to know who I am?"
"Don't know, don't care," he retorted, but I knew he was lying.
My grin got wider. "I'm Jack Slash's kid." Then I pounced.
I'd like to say that the fight was like a ballet, a deadly sparring contest between the grizzled veteran and the enthusiastic newcomer. It's tempting to relate a series of feints and jabs as we felt out each other's strengths and weaknesses before true battle was joined. Mano a mano, expressing the true art and science of combat.
It was nothing like that.
I went in without finesse or grace, aiming a punch to his 'nads with my left hand and utterly ignoring his defences. He blocked the punch and smashed me in the face with one of his own. I saw it coming, so I was able to brace for it. My head rang a little, but my right arm was still moving. The bar, in my right hand, smashed into the side of his left knee with enough kinetic energy to entirely destroy the joint. It bent sideways so fast that it hit his other knee, and he promptly fell over with a scream that was only half an octave away from being 'girly'.
As he went down, I kicked him in the face then kept kicking until he stopped moving. Heavy hard-toed boots are good for that sort of thing. I heard several snapping and crunching sounds while I was doing this, and the mask was bent all to fuck, so I figured that he wasn't going to be getting up for awhile, if ever. Either was good for me. If by some bizarre chance he survived and wasn't stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his natural life, I'd be happy to kick his asshole up through the top of his head any time he felt like it. We could make it a weekly event. Put it on pay-per-view.
Picking up my bag and dropping the bar back into it, I turned to Frankie. "All righty then," I said with a high-pitched giggle. "Let's go see about that money."
"Holy fuck," muttered Frankie. "You just fucked up Hookwolf."
"Oh, was that who it was?" I flicked him a glance to let him know I was kidding, and giggled again. "Well, he's roadkill now. Let's move."
"What you told him back there," he said as we moved toward our target. "Were you fucking with him, or are you really …?"
I gave him my creepiest grin. "What do you think?"
He shuddered. "Wouldn't fuckin' surprise me in the slightest."
The rest of the heist was almost an anticlimax. As the money guy went out through into the back area with the guards, Frankie and I went straight after them, with my blue field telling them everything's fine, we're all good here. I clocked one guard with my iron bar and Frankie butt-stroked the other in the back of the head with his shotgun. They both went down, and I grabbed the shopping-bags full of money from the third guy.
"Hi," I said with a giggle, grinning as widely and creepily as I knew. "Just making a withdrawal, kaythanksbai."
The money guy was at least six feet tall, covered in tattoos and had muscles like he bench-pressed brick outhouses for fun. He wet himself right then and there, stumbled backward, and landed on his ass. "Fuck!" he shrieked.
That was when two more guards came out of the side room I hadn't spotted yet. One had an AR-15 and the other carried a shotgun that could've been the twin of what Frankie was carrying. They stared at us, glared at us, then raised their weapons.
(Well, I did say it was 'almost' an anticlimax.)
Frankie and I reacted identically. He was probably working from experience, but I could see where the bullets were going to go. As the two red danger lines (the shotgun diverging into a long skinny cone) came up to point at us, Frankie dived left and I dived right. I let the money bags fall, because money isn't great for blocking gunfire, and I wasn't entirely sure that I was bulletproof yet. Especially against a weapon that's one step down from a fucking M-16.
This time, when I reached into my bag, I wasn't going after the iron bar, or even the folding knife. My hand closed around the grip of the Anaconda and I lifted it, bag and all, as the rifle's threat-beam swept toward me. When its aimpoint was over the guy with the rifle, I pulled the trigger, not even caring that the pistol was still in its holster or that the holster was in the bag.
There was a BOOM, coincident with Frankie letting loose with his own artillery, and the bag was blown half off the pistol. The goon with the AR-15 stood there for a moment, apparently wondering how the .44 calibre hole had appeared in his breastbone. Then I shot him again, this time in the middle of the face. Of course, this blew a second hole in the bottom of my tote bag, but the world isn't perfect and we can't expect it to be.
My guy folded like a cheap suit—that is, untidily as fuck—and I looked over at Frankie. He was just getting up, a satisfied look on his face. His guy was down as well, with bits missing via the double-ought loads Frankie had been sporting. "You okay, Frankie?" I asked, just to make sure. "No holes that shouldn't be there?" I got up and pulled the Anaconda all the way out of its holder. Facing the doors we'd come in by, I made ready to shoot anyone trying to butt in on our business.
"No worries, boss," Frankie assured me as he went to kick the shotgun out of the hands of the guy he'd shot. "Lou could never hit for shit, anyway. Did you want the rifle?"
I looked over my shoulder at the AR-15, then down at the Anaconda now out of the bag. "Nah, I'm good with what I got. Knock yourself out."
Frankie grinned, scooping up the rifle and slinging it over his shoulder. "Gotta say, you give the best bonuses."
I giggled. "Stick with me and we'll go places." It seemed nobody had heard the shots, probably due to the rising torrent of noise in the building, but it was probably unwise to wait around too long. Slinging my (now somewhat perforated) tote bag back over my shoulder, I scooped up the bags of cash, keeping one hand free for the Anaconda. Most of the money would go to Frankie again, of course. I really didn't need all that much for myself. "So, we've got two options. Leave quiet or leave loud. What's your choice in the matter?"
"Well, I guess we could leave quiet," he mused. "But … oooh yeah. Whaddaya think of this, boss?"
I followed his gaze, to where a light cloth had been draped over something with a very familiar shape. "Ooh, is that what I think it is?"
He chuckled darkly. "Oh, I know what the fuck it is." Whipping the cloth off, he revealed an absolutely gorgeous motorcycle. I'm no expert, but where it wasn't gleaming chrome it was exquisite paintwork. Featuring on each side of the fuel tank, a running wolf.
My eyes widened and I forgot to giggle. For the first time in a long time, I actually wanted to laugh. The urge passed after a moment, leaving a light-hearted feeling behind. I grinned viciously as I ran my hand over the smooth metal. "Let me guess. This is Hookwolf's ride?"
"The one and only." He pointed at the ignition where the key proudly jutted from the slot, a tiny wolfs-head ornament dangling from it. "Who else is so damn sure nobody's gonna boost their hog that they leave the keys in it?"
I looked at him and he looked at me. We both had the same thought. "Okay," I said. "This is too good to just leave here. We've gotta either torch it or take it. And I dunno how to ride a motorbike, so you're gonna have to."
This time when I giggled, Frankie laughed out loud.
So that was how we burst out of the back room on Hookwolf's bike, Frankie driving with me on the pillion seat. The motorbike engine howled, I cackled loudly, and Frankie ploughed into the crowd with not a care in the world. The cash had been shoved in the panniers before we started off.
Holding on with my knees, I had my Anaconda in one hand and the AR-15 in the other. We could always get more ammunition, after all. As we tore across the warehouse floor with people scrambling and dodging out of the way, I fired randomly into the crowd to encourage them to get out of the way faster. After all, people who tolerate nazis still make perfectly fine targets in my book.
Or, to put it another way, we were in a target-rich environment and I was taking full advantage of it.
And then we were through the crowd and out the doors, leaving just the roar of the motorbike and the fading sound of my laughter as we rode off into the night.
If that didn't piss Kaiser off and spark the next phase of my plan, I figured, nothing would.
End of Part Fourteen