The sound of birds chirping outside the window awakens Phil from his slumber. He checks his surroundings and finds himself lying on the huge table in his beloved factory. Yawning, he shuffles his way to the edge of the table, eases himself downwards until his feet touch the floor, casually grabs his shotgun and carries it to the window. He opens the window and the cold air stings his face. It had been a miserable night. The ground is still soaked from the rain and the front is now littered with debris. Phil, still a little dazed, leans the gun out of the window, and takes a few pot shots at the source of the annoying chirping. The birds flutter off in panic, bringing a satisfied grin onto Phil's face.
After salvaging breakfast from discarded pizza boxes and eating it in silence, it comes to his attention that no one else is in the building. He takes his plates to the sink, and casually drops them out the window above it, saving more work on clean up. He walks into the lounge area and slumps down on the couch, locates the remote under the collection of rubbish on his left and tosses it expertly to his right hand, which he uses to turn on the TV.
He stares fixedly at the screen, which he now notices has been obscured by a large piece of paper taped to it. He grunts angrily and pulls himself off of the couch to remove it. As he scrunches it into a tight little ball, he notices his name printed on top. He unfolds it and reads.
He learns from the note the whereabouts of his teammates. They had both left early that morning (it was now approaching two in the afternoon) to attend meetings with their new bosses. Phil shrugs, scrunches up the note, and falls back onto the couch. He starts watching the reruns of the hit show "Just the Five of Us". It used to be popular in the nineties, until someone found out most of the main characters were homosexuals. It was all over the tabloids, hard hitting articles were published in newspapers across America, inevitably sinking the show's five years at the top.
The phone rings, noticeably louder than the television, and showing no incentive to stop, Phil surrenders, and answers it with a gruff "What?"
"Is this. . . Phil Cassidy?" comes the reply.
"Who wants to know?" demands Phil.
"I am speaking on behalf of Don Cipriani. He wishes to meet you."
"He has requested you meet him in warehouse eleven, down by the docks. I believe he has a proposition for you."
"As soon as possible, as per his request."
"Fine, but I hope he knows he's interrupting everything I had planned for today."
"I'll let him know." the caller replies sarcastically.
Disgruntled, Phil switches off the television and grabs his coat before leaving the factory, letting the door slam loudly behind him.
Earlier that morning, in Kenji's casino, I sit with the owner in his plush office. Like a true businessman, he gets down to business immediately.
"A major Triad figure will be entering the country via boat later today. It will be your job to kill him. With this." He hands me a sniper rifle. "There will be plenty of places you can use for a vantage point, but you must not be seen. There will be thousands attending the ceremony being held to welcome him. I believe he is presenting an award to a courageous young man. If possible, kill him also."
It takes me a moment to take everything in. "Kill Gator?" I blurt out loud.
"Oh, sorry, nothing. I better go." He nods, and shows me to the door.
Outside, I walk rigidly to my car, and slowly pull open the door, still in shock. I maneuver myself into the front seat and place my hands on the wheel. I stay in this position for several minutes, contemplating the events that would occur later in the afternoon. I would have to kill a leading Triad, a respected, distinguished figurehead for the Asian community, right in front of thousands of his loyal supporters. And if that wasn't bad enough, I would have to kill my best friend, the only person I can devote all my trust to, the only person I can let my guard down around, and I would be the one to kill him. It is a lot to think about. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my boss watching me with concern. He stands at the entrance accompanied by two other sharply dressed men, guns in hand. He makes some sort of gesture, but I don't pay particular attention. Instead, I steadily turn the keys in the ignition, and drive away.
I check my watch, the time is approaching eleven thirty. The ship would not arrive at the docks until nearer three o'clock. I continue to drive around aimlessly, barely reaching a speed of thirty miles an hour. Those words he had uttered had put me on autopilot. I am barely conscious of my actions. The roads are slippery from the heavy rainfall the night before, broken barriers lead to dangerous plummets below, where several careless drivers have already ended up. The roads now are deserted. Excluding myself, the only other car in sight is a black Washington behind me, the driver keeping close to me. It is probably safer that way.
I check my watch again, ten minutes later. The Washington is still behind me. I drive over the bridge, and pull in to a diner at the first exit. I park in the space closest to the restaurant, and, after ordering some food – tomato soup and a cup of coffee – I take the seat closest to the window. I notice the black Washington cruise along the road outside, and continue driving round the corner. Relieved, I take my time with my meal, gazing hopelessly out of the window at the sun poking through the clouds, shimmering on the ocean not too far away.
One plate of soup and three or so cups of coffee later, I have a third glance at my watch. Noticing the time to be just after two o'clock, I decide to head down to the port to get a good vantage point before too many people show up. I stroll back to my car, unlock it, climb into the seat and nonchalantly make sure the rifle is under the passenger side seat, where I had left it. It is still there.
I drive along the ocean front, marveling at the view. Despite it having been a terrible night the night before, things are shaping up nicely today. The sun is showing itself, reflecting brightly off the deep blue sea, almost blindingly. The clouds are disintegrating, with only a few wisps left over and the wind is virtually gone, with only a gentle swaying of the trees indicating its presence.
As I drive towards my destination, a car catches my eye. Turning out of a side street a few yards behind me is the black Washington, the occupants hidden behind black tinted windows. Ever so casually, it slips into the traffic behind me, and continues on my trail. I try not to dwell on this disconcerting fact, as more taxing situations will occur soon, but the prospect that these pursuers may witness my crime is difficult to contend with. The time now approaching two fifteen, there is little I can do about them. I simply continue to the docks.
When I arrive, a few dozen people attend to decorating the area for the arrival of the guest. These people, luckily, are so consumed in their tasks, they won't notice me preparing for mine. The banners and podium and lights suggest where the show itself will take place, giving me a fairly clear idea for a vantage point. A small, abandoned looking shack thirty or so metres from the podium looks perfect, so I take the gun, slide it under my coat, and exit my Yakuza Stinger, leaving it parked at the complete opposite side from the display, where no one will suspect trouble. I walk the distance across the docks, through the mess of trailers and cargo, constantly wary of onlookers, and more so, the Washington that had followed me down and now seems to have disappeared. I climb the rickety stairs to the shack and stare contentedly out of the space where a glass window should have been. I remove my coat, revealing a black, short sleeved shirt underneath, and a sniper rifle tucked under my arm. I stretch the barrel out of the gaping hole and peer through the scope. I let the laser pointer hover over the podium for a second, as if lining up a shot. Satisfied, I retract the gun and wait.
Earlier that day, Gator passes by Kenji's casino, eyeing the Yakuza Stinger parked outside with contempt. The engine purrs as he shifts gears, speeding along the wide roads at seventy miles an hour at least. Despite the heavy rainfall, he takes the corners well in his new car – a lipstick red convertible Super GT (he left his Diablo Stallion at his apartment, though he slept most nights in the factory due to heavy work loads) which he had "acquired" from another early bird unfortunately caught at a red light when Gator came to pass.
He drives past the borders of Yakuza territory, into China Town, festively decorated for the arrival of their leader. The people had gone to an extra special effort in preparing, as is evident when Gator arrives. A parade float saunters past, almost crashing into him.
The way Gator drives, his speed dropping to a snail's pace, suggests he has absolutely no idea where he is going, until a young Chinese man waves him to a basement garage. Gator nods to the boy, and wheels his car in.
The room is big and hollow, furnished only by a dozen chairs in the middle. The only source of light is an almost insignificant skylight, the searing white light spotlighting the chairs. Sitting in the chairs are a dozen men, dressed casually in well worn jogging suits and oil stained mechanic overalls. The air emitting from the circle is dense with smoke, the air emitting from the men is one that suggests they should not be taken lightly. One of the men grunts in Gator's general direction, without actually looking at him, and kicks a chair towards him for him to sit down. Gator is slightly taken aback by the lack of courtesy he receives, until one of the men begins talking to the group in Chinese, demonstrating actions, his hands taking the form of a gun occasionally. They all turn to face Gator. The inconsiderate man nods to him and smiles, keeping his teeth clenched on his cigar menacingly. He stands up and paces towards Gator, towering over him as he gets closer. He outstretches his hand in front of him. Gator shakes it nervously. The man laughs heartily and mutters something in Chinese, in his deep, gruff voice. This causes an outburst of laughter amongst the men, and they call for Gator to sit down. He takes a chair next to the man who had greeted him moments ago, ever aware of his presence as a novelty, like a new toy to show off to the friends. A man in a black tank top and woolly hat offers him a cigar. He politely refuses.
"Gentlemen," says the man who had greeted Gator. He has a thick accent, but speaks perfect English. The way he keeps eyeing Gator implies that Gator should be pleased - the man is only speaking English for his benefit. "Gentlemen," he says again, rising from his chair and strolling around the inside of the circle, "today, will be a glorious day." The men in the room cheer and whistle, stamping their feet wildly. The man gestures for them to be quiet, calmly, motioning with his hands, his voice level. "Please," he insists with forced rationality. His attempt proves futile as the men continue to talk loudly amongst themselves, Gator nervously gawking at them, with no clue as to what they may be saying. The speaker seems agitated now, fidgeting with his hands and drawing his right arm inside his jacket. He reveals his pistol, the shiny metal gleaming in Gator's eyes, without drawing the attention of the other men. Casually, he points the barrel upwards, and pulls the trigger.
The outburst clears the air of the room. All noise ceases as the Triads, drained of colour, turn their attention back to the speaker.
"Thank you." he mouths fiercely. "As I was saying," his tone becomes more insistent, "we have a very important job to do today to aid the welcome of our special visitor." Noticing the complexion the others hold he adds hastily, "the next one to say anything is getting shot. Got it?" The men nod nervously, Gator appears to be physically trembling. "Our leader, " he starts again, "will be honouring our city with a personal visit later this afternoon. He will be arriving by boat at the city docks, and has specially requested that we attend as protection. We shall guard the area around where the boat will be anchored, outside, for his speech and presentation to the brave young man who risked his life for us, out of free will, not even an official member of our society. Please take a bow, Gator." Gator nervously stands up and bows forward in the deathly silence, the onlookers unsure whether they are allowed to cheer for him, or say anything for that matter. "After his speech," the man continues, "he and his specially selected guests, the heads of the various Triad street gangs, and of course Gator here – the guest of honour – will retreat inside the vessel for a private gathering, with drinks and such likes. If all goes to plan, we will also be invited. We are very, very lucky people, especially because our job will be made all the easier by a group stationed at the main docks entrance, around eight hundred yards from the event itself, ready and willing to stop any uninvited trouble before it even gets near. The time is now one o'clock, and the ceremony will commence at three. Meet back here at two o'clock to leave for the harbour. You are dismissed until then."
Carefully, the men, one by one, leave their chairs and make for the door. Gator finds himself the only one remaining, excluding the speaker.
"Gator, you can go now. Why don't you go get something to eat?" suggests the man as he collapses into a chair, dabbing his forehead with a rag.
"Stop by Punk Noodles. The shop itself isn't too far from here and it's still in pretty good shape after the shootout."
"Just be back here at two, with a vehicle you can travel in."
"Okay." repeats Gator as he walks to his red Super GT, vaulting over the still closed door and thrusting the keys into the ignition. He leans his left arm casually on the top of the door frame and slowly drives out, going right at the end of the street. Around the corner, shop owners attach welcoming banners on their shop fronts and offer special prices to celebrate the coming of the great man. Gator passes a pawn shop, a small, not very significant Ammunation franchise, some innocent looking retailers, probably fronting sinister operations taking place round the back, and pulls up outside Punk Noodles. The windows are boarded with ugly wooden sheets, bullet holes dot the walls and blood stains are slightly visible on the floor, despite an obvious effort to clean them. Noticing Gator's arrival, the chef who's life Gator had saved immediately comes to greet him.
"Welcome, my hero!" he exclaims, politely leading Gator to a table. "I'll fix you something up, anything you want, no charge."
"Wow, thanks," says a surprised Gator.
Ten minutes later, the chef returns with a steaming stir fry dish. Gator looks up from the paper he had been reading, an article about the Triad leader coming to the city, and places it to the side so the chef can put the bowl on the red lace tablecloth. Gator eats his meal, while still trying to finish the article, scalding himself several times in the process, then gives up. He finishes his meal, then the article, talking of the private party inside the boat that only the biggest players in town would be attending. He holds a sense of pride that he will be among them.
He then wipes his mouth with his napkin and heads for the exit, complimenting the chef on an excellent meal and thanking him for his hospitality. He exchanges some conversation with the man, concerning the party and his award, the chef explaining his disappointment on not being able to attend, his restaurant unfortunately his top priority.
Gator sympathizes with the man, then leaves the restaurant, arriving at the basement garage little after a quarter to two. One by one, the other men also appear, around one in five of them slowly reverse laundry and fish vans in. After a quick pep talk, the enthusiastic, patriotic Triads pile into the vans, each van holding around five people, with two in the front. The group leader checks each man to ensure he is equipped, then lowers the shutters on each van, before retrieving his sea blue Infernus from a previously locked garage. Gator lets out and impressed whistle.
"You follow me, okay Gator? You don't need to travel behind these guys." He grins in Gator's direction, and enters his vehicle. Gator, who hadn't left his, follows the man out of the basement ahead of the other vans, and onto the street, heading south, to the port.
Some boats can be seen on the ocean from Gator's window as he drives behind the rather reckless Triad gangster leading him. He has little time to admire the view, always swerving through traffic and running red lights. Finally, with one powerful powerslide, they enter the sprawling mass of tarmac that leads to the docks, painting a black arc on the paving. The lead car, followed by Gator, followed a minute later by the army of fish vans slow to a trundle to be checked by the Triads already in place to guard the gate. A dozen burly Triads draw Gator daggers, until the man in the Infernus indicates he is with them. With a quick check of the car, and a check of all the vans and their occupants, the Triad patrol guards grant them access, and they trundle in, a slight glance at the Stinger parked behind some 18-wheelers.
From up in my hiding spot, I watch the convoy pour in, the Triads taking their positions around the stage and podium, Gator taking a seat on the pier, presumably where the boat would harbour, and the other Chinese man sitting next to him, playing with is Uzi. The Triads by the gate had set up shortly after I had arrived, and were just visible as little black, shadowed specks. The idiots had been guarding the gate ever since, but hadn't even bothered to check the area beforehand. For all they know a million potential assassins could already be inside, myself one of them. The time was quarter to three, it would soon be time for me to make one of the toughest decisions of my life.
The sniper rifle contains only four bullets. They must really trust my skills. . . Four bullets for two targets doesn't sound hard, but if I miss then everything blows up in my face. Do I really have to kill Gator? Do I even really have to kill this Triad guy? Well, yes, otherwise the Yakuza will kill me. Still, I don't know if I can do it.
The yacht is visible on the shore line now, a small, but perfectly formed black silhouette, ever so slowly growing in size as it sails the currently tranquil waters to the docks.
Minutes later, the vast expanse of the yacht briefly obscures the sun. A large group, at least a thousand people, stand in anticipation as the ship is anchored, behind the pier, behind the podium. That's a thousand witnesses, a thousand people willing to defend their leader to the death, a thousand people, who's watchful eyes could result in my capture, should I be too careless.
The ship has stopped now, a thousand people hold their breath as the door opens and two men, both in identical black suits, pearl white shirts, black ties, black shoes, black hearts, step through the door frame. The only difference between them, in fact is one has short, black hair, the other is slightly balding. That, and the black haired one also sports a pair of opaque sunglasses.
The man in shades, clearly of higher status than the balding one, walks unsteadily to the podium, in the arm of the lesser man. The crowd cheer wildly. He taps the microphone carefully, a slight ringing occurs, throwing the crowd into perfect silence. As he prepares to recite his speech, I prepare the rifle, with the barrel resting lightly on the windowsill, peering through the scope at the speaker's face. Instantly I recognize him. He's a celebrity over in San Andreas, casino owner, made some powerful friends, crushed some powerful enemies, and recently word was released that he is blind, and people became even more impressed with his achievements. I couldn't kill someone like the great Wu Zi Mu, could I?
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Wu Zi Mu begins to the awe stricken crowd as they stare up at him like some godly figure, "there could be no better time for us than the present. Our empires are thriving in San Andreas and Liberty City in legitimate and less well known areas we are involved in, and I couldn't be more proud to be a Triad, as should you be. . ." I hear him speak, hanging on almost nothing he says, his voice traveling into my head, and leaving just as quickly. I rest back under the sill. I would wait until Gator stood to receive his award, then, kill them both. No matter how hard it could be. Slowly, I let myself fall onto my back and stare at the thinning wooden roof, as the monotonous voice of Wu Zi Mu drones on in the back of my mind.
A minute later, Phil, his car - a greenish Sentinel (he wasn't willing to risk his Patriot) - surrounding him, arrives at the main entrance and spies the guards. Looking them up and down, it appears obvious that he could take them, probably without leaving his car if he felt that way inclined. They look Chinese, definitely not part of Cipriani's regime, and things might be better off if he stays on their good side for the time being. He continues driving, past the expansive parking area currently under guard, round to his left, to the rear side of the docks, the main storage area. With cruel intentions, he mows down a fence that had been obstructing his path, and parks his car. On his right – a string of warehouses, number one closest to him. There seems to be a lot of commotion further up, a big crowd of people gathered, loud even from where he stands. Of course, they don't concern him, and they are not concerned with him, all paying all their attention to Wu Zi Mu, especially me.
Phil counts the warehouses as he strolls past them, keeping a mental note of which is which. After a fairly long walk, he arrives at the meeting place – a large, wooden, single floored building, covered in grime and moss, a black "11" painted on the huge doors long ago, now only barely legible.
I lean the gun out of the window, moving the cross hair around for the view – a beautiful shore line, an enormous collection of boats lining the pier, from speedboats to dinghies. Further right, a row of Triads standing to attention, Gator sitting in a seat on the pier looking bored, the soon to be executed Triad leader rabbiting on about something with the boat behind him. Slightly further right are the warehouses, up to eleven, perhaps where I could hide if I miss. I ready the gun, still inexperienced with sniper rifles, shut my eyes, the sound of Wu Zi Mu leading me to the target.
Now inches from the door, it is at least twice Phil's height, the rest of the building double this still. Carefully, he presses his right hand, and left elbow against one of the doors, and forces it open. He takes a few steps inside, his footsteps echoing, indicating the hollowness of the room. The door closes shut behind him by itself, extinguishing the main source of light in the room.
High up the walls, a row of windows, mostly broken, all but one or two covered with wooden sheets to prevent glass from falling, let little light in, not enough to allow Phil to see anything in the room. He stands for a few seconds, debating whether to leave, when he feels someone's hands on him. It is a firm, tough grip, patting his pockets and under his shirt, searching for weapons. Phil feels the absence of weight around his abdomen – the person must have taken his Desert Eagle. Phil checks his waist – his gun is definitely missing. The mystery searcher gives him a harsh shove forwards, and Phil continues, unsure, feeling his way around, his fingers touching a cold metal table. He feels around some more for a chair, and lays his hands on what he thinks is one.
"Take a seat." A voice says, pleasantly, but very insistently.
Phil lowers himself until he is on the seat, his nerves causing his brow to sweat.
"Who's there?" questions Phil.
"It's me, Toni! And Luigi is here too, you met him at the door." laughs the Don.
Phil hears a scraping noise as Luigi pulls up a chair and sits across from him, next to Don Cipriani.
"Uh, can we maybe put some lights on?" asks Phil.
"Why? It's a gorgeous day!"
"But I can't see a thing!"
"You don't have to. I will try to make this brief, unless you would like a little, friendly chat? I hear your business is doing well."
Phil spits ahead of him. "Just tell me what you want."
"What do I want?" he laughs. "Now there's a question. Hmm. . . I can tell you what I don't want. . ." He strokes his shotgun in his lap, and mutters to Luigi to go for the lights. "What I don't want, Mr Cassidy, is to be in someone's debt. I hate debt, I hate the feeling that at any time I could be called upon to do someone a favour, "because I owe them"."
"What do you want from me?" Phil demands.
"Well, you see, Phil, you recently spared my life, a service I am very grateful for, one which I am not sure if I can ever repay. I am in your debt, you see. So, Mr Cassidy, I'll tell you what I want." He stands up, and leans across the table. "I want you dead."
Luigi clicks the lights and Phil sees the barrel of the shotgun between his eyes. His eyes move up the barrel, meeting the stare of Don Cipriani.
"Why don't you just get it fucking over with?" screams Phil, screwing his face up awaiting the shock.
Toni laughs quietly again. "I'm just savouring the moment." He fakes a sigh. "But if that's what you want. . ." his left index finger moves over the trigger, the barrel rests in his right hand.
A faint click.
A loud smash.
One of the only surviving windows explodes, raining glass, the bullet screams through Luigi's head, carrying remnants of blood and brains into the adjacent wall. He dies instantly, he doesn't even have time to cry out.
Toni rolls his eyes upwards to the front of the room in surprise, turning them almost immediately back to Phil, in time to watch the butt of his gun collide with his face, throwing him backwards, blood squirting from his nose and head - minus a shotgun.
Phil watches him tumble to the ground, roll, and wearily stagger back to his feet. Toni falters around, the expansive room swirling around him. Phil squeezes the trigger of the shotgun violently, the shell piercing Toni's abdomen, knocking him backwards. He keeps his balance, swaying forward to catch the second shot; third; fourth; fifth; his body convulsing violently with each strike; his mouth dripping blood, his stomach and chest dripping blood, he collapses over his weakened legs, and hits the floor.
Phil, breathing heavily, his hair and shirt soaked with sweat, grimaces at the lifeless body, drops the empty gun by his feet, and remains motionless, his gaze affixed at the shadows engulfing the back of the room. His mind races, replaying what just happened, what he just did, ultimately failing to make sense of anything. Images and scenarios dance in his head, painting horrific images for his eyes, a horror movie in his own brain.
A blur swoops past his eyes – a movement in the shadows at the back of the room. He changes his poise, resting his weight on the balls of his feet, watching the darkness beyond him. The shadow rises upwards, the light now revealing it as a wave of suited, gun wielding gangsters. In one motion, they turn their attention to him, and raise their guns. The light shows the menace in their faces – the menace of men honour bound to perform their boss's duty, alive or dead – a group of mindless, violent men, who know no better than to blindly follow orders of someone with the guts to command them.
Phil didn't feel like reeducating them.
Keeping his eyes fixed on the guns aimed at him, he touches the metal table, and grips the edge, without saying a word, without blinking, without breathing. The barrels of the guns don't frighten him half as much as his icy stare intimidates them. The army of gangsters, courageous in their number, reach the same conclusion. A dozen guns spark, metal pellets shooting out of them with blinding speed. Phil flips the table with his right hand, his left hand breaking his fall as he throws himself to shelter behind it.
Hundreds of metallic pings ring out, Phil covers his ears to block out the sound. Around him – a metal table, body of deceased Mafia Don, dud shotgun. Several metres in front – an army of shooters. Several feet to the side – Luigi's headless corpse, Phil's Desert Eagle inches from his hand, a roof high shelf of wooden crates. Bullets impact the table barricade like raindrops, a few flying wide, whizzing past him into the wall. A blessing, a chance – silence as a dozen guns simultaneously reload. Phil makes his break for his gun, by Luigi's body, crushing himself up against the wall, hidden behind the crates, averting his gaze from the ugly sight at his feet, his shoes caked in Luigi's blood.
Luigi never had a chance to empty the clip, Phil still had a couple in his pocket anyway. The muscle men saw him move, temporarily stopped reloading to move after him. Phil peers through a gap in the shelf to see a dozen muscle bound thugs making their way towards him. He pockets the gun – both hands would be necessary. He places them on the side of the blue, metal shelf and forces it over. After getting the first side off the floor, the whole structure tips over, raining heavy wooden boxes on the unsuspecting suits below.
Phil notices the light pouring in around his ankles, the enormous warehouse door opening. He spies the gap, partially filled by a burly Chinese man. He looks upon the dazed gangsters, and to Phil standing idly by the collapsed shelf.
"Uh. . .boss says to get you guys to be quiet." he says, trying to remember the message. "I guess that means I gotta kill you." He takes dual pistols in his hands aims at Phil. "Sorry buddy. Woozie's orders. He's such a dickhead lately. I dunno. . ." The man looks back up from the floor where he had been avoiding Phil's gaze. Phil is nowhere to be seen, the other gangsters stagger to their feet and turn. The Chinese man dives behind a crate firing wildly, the henchmen returning fire unsteadily at him. Meanwhile Phil watches the onslaught from behind some raised scaffolding, no chance of making the escape.
Meanwhile, I remain at my post, having just made the unsuccessful shot, hands trembling, the crowd flustered, Woozie, Gator and the Triads exchanging shocked glances below. Movement on the ladder behind me. I grab the gun – it's heavy – and swing it round in front of the face of the Yakuza casino owner. Mildly relieved, I let the gun drop.
"What the hell was that?" he yells, calmly. "You missed on purpose."
"You did. You a Triad gangster in disguise, huh? Well, you may have proved your strength worthy of my time but not your honour!"
"Silence. I wrongly trusted you."
"Well you couldn't have trusted me that much if you followed me down here!"
"Of course not! I don't trust just anyone!And I certainly no longer trust you. I have to leave, this is a dangerous place for me, but I will leave you in the company of a few of my trustworthy men. Good day. We shall never meet again."
He straightens his tie, wipes the sweat from his face, turns, and lowers down the ladder. I watch the steady steps as his head disappears, and almost as soon as it is out of view, the face of one of the Yakuza casino bouncers takes its place. Another follows, and another. Now three of them up the ladder, they stand in a line. They are grinning, motionless, like bouncers should be, across the exit, grinning. Their guns remain holstered, they remain at attention, grinning.
Outside stand Woozie, alerted by the shot, joined closely by his assistant, and Gator, the day's hero.
"Over there, sir!" yells Su Xi, pointing to the open window, where a number of shadowed figures can be seen.
"I can't see them, idiot." Woozie replies. "Send some men up to sort them out."
"Sir, you should retreat inside the boat."
"I can't abandon my fans!" says Woozie, waving his hands in front of the podium to where the crowd had been standing before the first shot was fired. Su Xi didn't want to risk telling him they were gone.
"Very well." Su Xi motions to four strong, unarmed Triad guys (whom Gator had spent some time with previously) and they immediately get up, and make their way to the bottom of the tower.
I stand at the top, as motionless as the guards, eyeing the exit, the furniture, the potential hiding places – tables, chairs, termite infested wardrobe.
Open window, grinning bodyguards. A head coming up the ladder, two arms with enormous muscles, a Triad. The bouncers turn, grab their guns from their belts. I make a break for the table, hurdling over it and behind it as three more Triads scale the ladder. The last one, barely up the ladder, reaches out, takes hold of one bouncer's gun, twists him arm until he drops it, wincing in pain, down below. The scream causes another Japanese man to turn toward the ladder to check his injured comrade, giving me the opportunity to vault over the table and onto his shoulders, wrestle the gun from his hands, suitably beat him with it, toss it out the open window, and slide to the floor, still connected to the man's neck, before returning to safety behind the table. One armed man remains.
Woozie to a young Triad with glasses and a rocket launcher: "Well, this is taking far too long. I would have thought they would be down by now. I've had enough. Fire the rocket, pipsqueak."
The young man struggles to position the heavy artillery upright.
"But sir!" yells Gator, "your men are up there!"
"Like I care."
"That's not very patriotic. These people look up to you. And you want to kill them?"
"Yes, dammit! Look, Gator, I would deposit all my trust into an impressionable young man like you, rather than a hundred mindless goons. These guys are replaceable. Someone like you is not."
"Fine then, sir." says Gator with pride, before turning and sprinting to the shack, ignoring whatever Woozie calls after him.
One armed man remains.
But not for long, as a well placed kick to the gut from a steel capped Triad's shoe sends it out his hand and along the floor. A Yakuza man and Triad gangster lunge for it as it slides along the wooden floor, flailing with their arms to be the first to pick it up. The gun soars across the floor, hands trailing inches behind, until a foot comes down heavily on top of it, just missing trailing fingers. The men follow upwards, past the leg, the sweat soaked white shirt and loose tie, to the stern yet triumphant face, the shoe's owner.
"What's up guys? Am I the only one armed?" sniggers Gator as he lifts the gun slowly off of the ground, finger on trigger, trigger on gangsters. "Well then, if ya'll wouldn't mind keeping perfectly still for a moment while I get my friend." Some muffled voices arise when the past acquaintance of Gator and myself – a hero Triad and a Yakuza lackey – is brought to attention.
I crawl out from behind the table, uneasily avoiding the stares of the other men.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I whisper under my breath.
"Look that cold hearted bastard Woozie was gonna blow this shit-hole up with these guys inside. But he won't do it if I'm here. What the hell are you doing here?"
"Trying to assassinate that "cold hearted bastard". And you!"
"Orders from some Yakuza jerkoff. I missed the shot on purpose, now we're gonna die."
"Not if I got the gun. These guys won't bother us, and Woozie ain't gonna do shit with me in the shack."
"Don't be so sure."
We lean out the window to see Woozie himself loading the rocket.
"I don't care how heroic he is, no one disobeys me!" he yells, firing in the general direction of the tower."
"Oh god! Get the fuck out!" Gator screams sliding down the ladder backwards.
"FUCK!" I see the back wall buckle, the already unsteady structure giving way. I lunge at the wall, knocking it from the supports, escaping as the roof collapses in, falling backwards down the drop, watching wood, fire, limbs and blood explode from the shack and hearing the agonizing screams.
I land on my side, scraping the skin from my arm, nothing serious. I look around for Gator, my lungs filling with smoke. My eyes draw to the slaughter – nothing but a charred, black, red mess remains. Move down to Woozie and Su Xi talking, Woozie making hand signals, half a dozen more Triads scampering off, probably to give chase on us.
Then I see him, lying a few feet away, shaking his head, trying to refocus his eyes. He stares with sadness at the debris, half the bodies being the Triads he had spent some time with in the basement. He remembers the man's speech about how lucky they were, they would be able to join the private party, nothing can go wrong, lucky lucky lucky people. . . serving a cold hearted bastard of a leader who was more than willing to sacrifice all of them! Gator wouldn't let him get away with it.
I stagger over, hold out a hand to help him up. He accepts it and pulls himself to his feet, not a moment before the area erupts with gunfire from the Chinese men.
"Oh st!" Run!"
We pull our arms over our heads, keeping low as we run for my car. "I wouldn't." says Gator.
"Why not?" He obviously was hiding something.
"Just. . .trust me. Take my car."
"Whatever. Lead me there."
We run, the keys falling out my pocket, stumbling through the firing going on overhead, getting less and less frequent the more we run, probably the Triads weren't chasing.
A skid, we look up. A jet black Washington like the one I had seen – with the tinted windows, fancy hood ornament. It halts in front of us, almost running us over. In a synchronized fashion, the suited Japanese men exit, brandishing their assault rifles, caught in the crossfire of Gator's stolen pistol – three shots each in the stomach – slumping to the ground or up against the side if the car. Their weapons barely touch the blood soaked concrete before being snatched up and used to gun down the other two gangsters, barely conscious of what has happened. Free ammo, albeit a little sticky from the blood.
We keep running, the heavy weapons slowing us none, the desperation to escape propelling us faster than ever. Another car speeding down from the right, slows to ten or fifteen miles per hour, we vault the bonnet and keep running, out of range before they even leave the car.
A quick look behind reveals the car has kept going, gangsters intact. We cover the final few yards to Gator's Bright red Super GT, Gator fumbling for his keys as I throw myself in the back with both guns – safety on of course. Gator leaps over the driver side door, keys straight in the ignition, panicking, stalling the car.
Circulating propeller blades blow trash all around, the voice from inside yells "Drop your weapons! Come out with your hands up!" Are they talking to us? "Illegal activities stop! You in the car, drop your weapons and the keys on the ground and put your hands above your head!" Gator gives a swift hand gesture to the helicopter. "Alright! I've had enough! Open fire!" Bullets raining down about us, gangsters approaching, Yakuza Washingtons on the warpath, final try for the ignition – triumph! The tyres screech into action, the warehouse doors behind us blow open. A man clad in a grey tank top scurries out, a flood of suits behind shooting at his feet.
"There he is! It's Phil Cassidy! Shoot him!" yells the chopper pilot.
"AAAAAAAAAAAGH! Wait up!" screams Phil, leaving Warehouse eleven as the shots blast from the chopper window. He leaps into the back and ducks under the seat as the car rockets down the path to the exit. The dozen or more gangsters shoot randomly at the car, every shot a miss, the helicopter still goes relentless as the pilot chases on. The familiar screech behind us, a black Washington revving up and ready to ram us.
"Could use some help Phil!"
"Come on!" I start firing on the Washington, scraping off the paintwork, popping a tyre. It skids to the side, revealing two more giving chase, and three Triad fish vans behind, plus one chopper.
Up ahead, the main exit to the compound – Triads galore, ready and willing.
"Oh shit!" screams Gator, "I gotta slow down!"
"Oh no you fucking don't!" yells Phil, slamming his foot on top of Gator's, shielding his eyes from sparks and metallic debris as Gator's Super GT ploughs through Triad gang cars, and Triads, blood barely visible on the red paintjob, scratches as clear as day.
"Sorry 'bout that." he says.
"Uh. . .Phil – shooting."
Phil joins me at the back again where the same convoy of pursuers follow. If Phil's suicidal driving didn't shake em, nothing will.
A well placed shot takes out the driver of a Triad Fish van, one headless body falling out the door, one car coming to a halt. The rest simply manoeuvre round it.
A quick break to save ammo – only the chopper was returning fire, and the chopper is concentrating on taking out the other cars, to no avail. We look to the front, the time now approaching five o'clock, peak time, the roads jam packed with drivers coming home from work, not good people to mess with in a high speed chase. Phil tries to put something in Gator's ear to tickle him for no reason, gets a fist in his face as reward from the gracious driver, currently using all his concentration to avoid the rush. But no matter how good his skills, the expert drivers tailing us could do everything he could, and better.
"We're running out of ammo, man!"
"I know. I know. But here's an idea." says Phil as the chopper return it's focus to us. He takes my assault rifle and unloads clip after blood soaked clip into the chopper, one shot shattering the windshield, the next one hitting the shooter's door off. We watch in amusement as he plummets down onto the road, becoming roadkill – chasing cars mutilating him as they run him over.
Another couple of shots and the pilot is hit, the blades start to slow, the chopper descends, down, down, down, in front of the cars, an explosive pile up ensues.
The heat's off.
We look out to sea, the pier never quite the same. Objects glitter in the sun, one big charred mess in the middle of it all, Woozie nowhere to be seen. I see my car, just a speck in the space I left it. That reminds me.
"Gator, why didn't we take my car?"
"Oh yeah, I put a bomb in it."
"Yyyyyyyyyeah. Makes sense now, huh?"
"Yeah." I force a laugh. "So you were trying to kill me?"
"They found your car. They knew you were there."
"Then why still hold the ceremony?"
"I've heard Wu Zi Mu has exceptional luck. He believes he is invincible."
"Well, we'll prove him wrong, guys." says Phil.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the cops are onto us, the Mafia are on to us, everyone is onto us. So let's pull one more job, get rid of all the double crossin' bastards we don't like, then skip town. New identities, new life. If we don't we get killed."
"I don't know. . ." says Gator.
"C'mon, what have we got to lose?" asks Phil?
"Me too." sighs Gator, as we pull into the factory.
"We can't stay here, they know too much. Let's get a hotel, plan this out. We better be quick. There's no knowing when someone could find us."
A new life? I'd done this whole "skip town" routine before, it turned out to be one of the best moves I ever made. I got reunited with an old friend, made some serious cash selling armaments with the legendary Phil Cassidy. Besides, these guys would be coming with me. And I have nothing to leave behind.
Up in the hotel suite, I flick on the TV, for the coverage of the incident that transpired that day.
""Reporter Aaron Pettis, standing in for Richard Burns, is at the scene." announces Lianne.
"Wow, the bodies are everywhere! Man this accident is really cool!"
"Any sign of the criminals yet Aaron?"
"Na but check this out – a car! And the keys are right there! Man I gotta-""
I turn the channel in boredom, flick through other channels, all of the same news broadcast, showing the same smoking crater in the ground, emergency teams rushing in etc.
Ah well. Another incident to my name. Time to skip town indeed. . .
A/N: Yeah, 8000 words. Cool. If this chapter seems different from my regular kind of work (different sentence structure from Phil's action sequence onwards) it's because I've been reading a book and have subconsciously adopted the writer's writing style and employed it in my work. It's still me writing it though.
Oh yeah, and Aaron, that's what you get for complaining your name wasn't used in enough stories. Now you're dead. Nyah.