Riggs woke up. The light of the morning sky over the Pacific Ocean fell in slatted lines across his face. He winced and groaned and swung himself upright, his brain seeming to lurch inside his brain case. He ran a hand over the grit of his 2 day stubble and through the grit of beach sand in his hair. He shook out a few grains and smoothed down the feathery locks that fell so generously on the nape of his neck.

What he needed now, before going down to the station, was a little hair of the dog. But where could he find that in his palatial beachside manse? He wondered this as he surveyed his dingy trailer, taking in the toppled ruins of beer can pyramids, the felled fifths of liquor, the airplane bottles lying scattered on mountains of dirty clothes. He had pretty much drunk the place dry. He kicked around the pizza boxes and take-out cartons, hoping to stub his toe on something heavy, a full bottle, but only managed to get sour beer on his only dress shirt.

He opened the mini fridge and grinned: a gleaming row of beer cans. He grabbed one and it whipped out of the fridge too easily. Empty. He groped at the others and they clattered around the plastic shelf, falling onto the floor. Closing the door, he wondered why the fuck he would put empty beers in the fridge; then he sat down in between a pair of distended, overflowing trashbags.

How had he let this place become such a dump? He looked up at the ceiling, as if it might offer some hidden cache of booze, and then his eyes fell on a small set of shelves that hung uneasily on the back wall of the trailer. Ah, yes.

2 years ago some Japanese bigshot's daughter was kidnapped. He and his partner, Murtaugh, were put on the case and given free rein. Why? Because everyone thought the case was a loser, that she had probably run off with some boyfriend back to Shanghai or wherever the fuck, but the Japanese cat had enough weight that they needed to make a show of assigning a couple detectives to the case. So why not Riggs and Murtaugh, who had written more reports about each other than actual criminals?

Turns out she hadn't eloped. She was getting deep into a very American-style drug habit and some Ukrainian guys snatched her from a back alley when she was trying to score. She was so strung-out that they thought she was fresh out of a shipping container.

Riggs and Murtaugh conducted a few interviews, most at gunpoint, one guy he held a steam iron to his face, and found out the Ukrainians were part of an organization called The Black Cat, which probably sounds cooler in Ukrainian. They tracked the guys for days, had a few shootouts and finally took out their leader and shut the whole thing down.

He remembered the final confrontation, standing on the windblown roof of the skyscraper, pointing his Baretta at the leader of the Black Cat who lay bloodied on the roof's edge, the lights of the city hazy and blinking behind him. The leader had laughed maniacally and said, "A man like you. A soldier. A little crazy. You should join the Black Cat!" And as Riggs had lowered his gun, the leader grabbed for his ankle holster and Riggs shot him clean through the face. He watched the body slide off the roof and float silently down 65 stories where it exploded on the roof of a cop car.

Then Riggs said, "I'm more of a dog person."

Sitting now in his trailer between the garbage bags, he smiled. That still cracked him up.

Anyways, they found the Japanese girl in time, which was fortunate. If they hadn't, she would've been put on the underground 'entertainment' circuit that flows through all the sleaze dens of L.A. In gratitude, the girl's father had given Riggs some kind of samurai sword and a very valuable bottle of sake. The old man told him that he should drink it when his first child was born and that it would protect the child's life. Or so the tradition goes. This bottle sat leaning on the uneven shelves in the back of his trailer, the Pacific sky glinting blue off the beautiful lacquered ceramic. He looked away, putting the idea out of his mind. He remembered when the old man had given it to him, he had bowed very deeply and when he rose up again, there were tears wetting the wrinkles around his eyes. He couldn't drink that.

Riggs roared into the station parking deck, the warm feeling of half a bottle of sake comforting him as he sped around the sharp corners, eliciting echoing squeals from his tires. Unlike last time, he parked the truck in its assigned place. The station parking deck was the one place in the city a cop could get a ticket. The fine was a trip to Capt. Murphy's office to get chewed out. He grabbed a manila folder from the passenger seat and jumped out of his truck. At the entrance he showed ID, which in his case was a wink to the rather portly female officer who ran the checkpoint. Even two days without a shave and a night spent in the bottle, he could still eek out a little charm.

The detectives worked on the 5th floor. Riggs got out of the elevator first, making a beeline through the vast, bustling room. He had often thought about how it was largely indistinguishable from an advertising office or a busy accounting firm except everybody wore guns and sometimes there were hookers in handcuffs sitting around. He had never worked as an accountant, though, so he couldn't say that kind of stuff didn't happen at Solomon, Fife & Solomon too.

He strode past the desks and the milling detectives, racks of fluorescent lights passing overhead. Phones rang in opposite corners of the room. He slipped past a woman with a coffee cup. Through the window of Capt. Murray's office, he could see a small dome of black hair that was the back of his partner Murtaugh's head. When he opened the door, Murtaugh and Murphy both turned to him and he heard "You're late" in stereo.

"Hey, nice to see you guys too," he said and sat down in the chair beside Murtaugh. The old man glanced at him under a raised eyebrow. Riggs leaned the other way, hoping he wasn't filling the room with the smell of sake.

"So, I assume you were up all night last night reading the South African file."

"Yeah," said Riggs, taking the file off his lap and sending it spinning onto Brown's desk.

The South African case was one that made Riggs angry. A week ago they found a car with a trunkload of gold coins. The coins were South African Krugerrand. Turns out members of the South African consulate staff, emissaries from that shitty Apartheid regime they have over there, had been smuggling drugs and Krugerrand in their special diplomatic pouches, which weren't allowed to be searched by mere detectives from the LAPD. It was of course a gross misuse of the courtesies extended by the United States government to the South African diplomatic corps, but what pissed Riggs off so much was the smug, invincible attitude of the consulate Minister of Affairs, Mr. Arjen Rudd, a grave white-haired old man who had sneered at Riggs, "I heff diplomateek immunity."

What kind of fucking name is Arjen anyways?

"Christ, Riggs, did you get these files wet?" grumbled Capt. Murphy as he picked them up.

"Uh, yeah, had a leaky roof," Riggs coughed.

Brown held a page up and sniffed it. "What, did it rain Coors Light?"

Riggs shrugged.

"So now that we're all here, tell me what you two plan to do."

"I thought tonight we'd go to this club called Van der Land where a lot of those consulate staff like to hang out and mingle. See if we can't smoke something out," Murtaugh said. Murphy nodded and looked to Riggs.

"I've got plans to interview, uh, one of the staff who I don't think is part of the smuggling operation," said Riggs.

"Oh, really?" asked Capt. Murphy. Murtaugh turned to look at Riggs. Riggs shifted uncomfortably in his chair under this scrutiny, crossing his leg and giving his calf a manic little drumroll with his hands. "Uh, yeah, I think we can get somebody on the inside."

"And who is this inside man?" Murtaugh asked.

"Inside woman, actually. She's a secretary," Riggs said, shooting a glance to Murtaugh.

"Secretary? You mean the blond one?"

"Well, there's only one. But, yeah, she's blond."

"Where is this interview happening?"

Riggs scratched the back of his neck, giving a nervous laugh, the sort that charmed women but left men unimpressed. "It's -- I thought we'd have a sort of working dinner."

"Oh, man," sighed Murtaugh, looking to the ceiling.

"So it's a date," Capt. Murphy said. "You're going on a date with an international drug smuggler."

"I'm telling you guys, I don't think she's a part of all that."

Murtaugh sat in his chair, shaking his head, grimly muttering something that sounded like "...too old..."

"Alright, well, try it out. We've got no angle on these guys, maybe she's got some info. Murtaugh, you check out that club."

The three of them all stood, and Riggs and Murtaugh headed out the door. After Murtaugh left, Riggs paused at the doorway then turned around. "Uh, John, since it's a working dinner, I thought a little petty cash--"

"No."

Riggs nodded and walked out.

Navigating the crowded office with nods and smiles to the other detectives, he came to his desk across from Murtaugh's.

"Unbelievable. I'm out beating the pavement and you're going on a date."

"It's not a date."

"You're eating dinner."

"So?"

"That's a date."

"If I put a couple plates of spaghetti in front of us now, would we be on a date?"

Murtaugh looked down at his desk where a mugshot of a rapist sat instead of the plate of spaghetti. "Would there be candles?"

Riggs waved the question aside. "Anyways, you're going to a nightclub. That'll be fun. Maybe you could do a little dancing."

"Dancing? Last time I danced was at my wedding."

"See? Time to brush up," Riggs said as he leafed through a small collection of paper scraps that he had pulled from his wallet. He came to one with "Rika 555-1989" written on it. Her handwriting was neat but fluid and she had dotted the i with a circle instead of a dot. He remembered when he first saw her, looking small behind the enormous marble desk at the consulate. Her yellow hair and blue eyes were the only touches of color in the place. With her gray office clothes, trim and impeccable to the point of being fascist, he had expected she would be icy like the rest of them, and it had given him a small thrill when a warm smile came across her face at hearing one of his stupid jokes.

He dialed the number and her voice, just as he remembered it, answered and said, "Hello. South African Consulate," shaping all of the sounds into something alluring with her accent.

"Hi."

"Oh, Martin," she said immediately. He smiled at hearing his own name in her voice. "Yeah. I'm getting off at 7:30 today."

"7:30?"

"Yeah. So we can meet at 8. I hope it's not too late."

"8 is great."

"Do you know Denny's?" asked Rika.

"Denny's?"

"Yes. It's a restaurant."

"Yeah, I've heard of it," he said chuckling.

At the consulate, Rika sat in the polished darkness of a mausoleum-like ante room, covering the phone with one hand as she spoke. She paused for a moment wondering why he was laughing and then continued. "Yeah, that place is really good. I really like that place."

"Really? OK, sounds good."

"Why do you laugh? You think it's no good?"

"No, no. Denny's is great."

"OK, I will give you the address."

He took the address and said goodbye, then sat back in his chair and gazed at the scrap of paper for a moment. Denny's. This was good. Even on the generous detective's salary furnished by the kind-heartedness of the LAPD, he had been dreading going to one of those hoity-toity places he assumed the consulate staff went to.

He leaned forward until his chin almost touched the steering wheel, trying to catch the block number on the sign through the glare of the street light. He had been all the way down the street and hadn't seen a Denny's, and looking at the neon-lit bistros and cafes that lined this dark street in deep L.A., he didn't expect to. He came back to the block where the address should have been, but there was no Denny's in sight. He pulled up by the curb and put the car in park. Looking at the scrap of paper, he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. Where was a payphone? He looked out the passenger window. It was some sort of classy restaurant. An overdressed couple glided through the door in a swirl of bright fabric. He looked at the sign above: Denise.

"Shit," he muttered. Denise. It sounded like Denny's in her accent. He checked his watch and somebody knocked on his window. A headless red jacket stood beside the car. He rolled down the window and the jacket bent over to reveal it did carry a head after all, though not a very pleasant one. A man with a thin face and a moustache smiled at him.

"Sir, you can't park here."

"Oh, I'm not."

The man looked up and down the length of Riggs' truck. "Um, I think you are."

"I mean, I'm going to go inside."

"Inside? Of Denise?"

"Yeah."

"I don't think you'll be going inside dressed like that."

Riggs looked down at his clothes and thought - irrationally - of the stale beer on his dress shirt.

"Please, sir, move along."

Riggs clenched his jaw, rubbing his palm along the hard plastic of the steering wheel. They'll push you just to see how far

"Sir?"

Riggs glared at the man's thin face, with its fine, shaped eyebrows. "I'm going to take my chances with what I'm wearing and go in."

The man let out a purring giggle. "I see. Well, the valet--"

"I'll park it myself," Riggs said.

"Sir, this is valet parking. Do you see?" The man bent over to show Riggs the label on the breast of his jacket. "Can you read this? Val. Lay."

Once on a trail across the border to Cambodia, he had laid down in the mud to look at a tripwire. Just a slender thread stretched taut across the heavy, silent air. He lay with it inches from his face. Perfectly level, perfectly still. All he had to do was reach out and

He grabbed the man's tie knot and yanked and their eyes were inches apart.

"OK. You wear a red jacket, huh? Well this is what I fucking wear." Riggs heard the shoulder holster unclasp and then the Beretta was dead in the man's face. "Can you fucking read this?" An expression like a panicked toddler came over the man, and Riggs felt a giddiness rise up alongside the man's fear. The sound of his laughter was loud in the car and he pushed the man away. The man stumbled and ran. "You think I'll get inside wearing this? Do you? You fuck!" Riggs called after him as the man sprinted across the road and disappeared into a dark slot between two buildings.

As the sound of the man crashing through the trash-strewn alley faded, an enormous silence seemed to swell up and take its place. He suddenly felt as if all objects, the steering wheel, the side mirror, the car seat, were zooming away from him at incredible speeds, leaving him in the middle of some empty and expanding abscess in the universe. He sat surrounded by this blankness for an unknown length of time until slowly the distant sound of his own breathing grew louder and then was in his ears and then the feeling of the gun was in his hand again, sweaty. He holstered it and let himself breath and the world was vividly returned, and with it emerged the memory of Vicky as it always did when he had these minor crack-ups. He sat and let the ghostly sweetness of her face fade from his mind and then he rubbed his eyes and felt better.

A pair of headlights pulled up behind him.

He got out of his car and the man behind him leaned out and yelled. "You the valet?"

"I dunno where he is," Riggs said with a shrug. "I think he took the night off." The man made an annoyed face and drove off. Riggs leaned against his car. Where was a payphone? Another pair of headlights pulled up behind him.

The back door opened and he could see it was a cab and Rika appeared. She shut the door and strode towards the restaurant. Her thin frame was wrapped in a fluttering blue dress, and she wore a sort of gauzy glittering scarf that sailed behind her as she walked. Her high heels clacked deliberately on the sidewalk, her hair flowing behind her delicate face. She noticed him in mid-stride.

"Martin," she called breathlessly, tucking her hair behind her ear. He walked around the car to meet her. "I'm sorry I'm late."

"No. It's OK," he said.

Rika smiled. "Shall we?"

"Umm. You know, they said they don't have any tables."

"What? It's impossible. I'll talk to Gerhardus."

"I already talked to Ger, uh, Ger-- that guy. He said there are none available."

"Oh no."
"Yeah. It's a shame."

"So what do we do?"

"Do you like seafood?"

A lazy ocean breeze carried the smell of the cooking fish over to the plastic card table where they sat in lawn furniture, barefoot in the sand. Riggs got up and went over to the campfire. With a spatula, he carefully ushered the two foil pouches onto a plate. Looking beyond the fire, he saw the sky was a dark shade of blue over the ocean's black as the last of the daylight expired.

He brought the fish back to the table where he'd set out candles, one shaped like a three, the other like a four, from his last birthday cake. He slowly opened the foil to reveal the fish had cooked perfectly, the flesh a soft gleaming orange in the candlelight.

"Ah," laughed Rika. "Well done."

He set hers on her plate next to the pasta and sat down.

"You know, we forgot to get wine," Riggs said. What were the odds of that?

"Oh," Rika gasped, setting down her fork. "I totally forgot." She got up and searched through the large shoulder bag she had set on Rigg's front steps. "I don't know how I forgot because it was so heavy."

She pulled out a bottle of red wine and handed it to Riggs as she sat down. He looked at the label. It was written in Afrikaans and there was a large, raised gold seal on the front.

"I got it especially for you," she said.

"Wow. Really?"

"No," she said laughing. "My boss gave it to me today. I don't know if it's good or not."

"Well, one way to find out."

After dinner, they sat on a blanket, looking into an ocean they could hear but barely see on the moonless night. The lights of ships floated on emptiness. Behind them, the campfire warmed their backs.

"I still can't believe you live here," Rika said lightly.

"Yeah. It's not Trump Towers," Riggs said.

"Yeah. But it's good. You're like me.'

Riggs looked at her face but it was lost in the darkness. The fire lit a single sliver of her blond hair.

"I came here and now I live in a small apartment. Maybe not that small," she said gesturing to the trailer behind her. "But it's small and I don't know anybody in L.A. yet. But I wanted to come here and see America. You know?"

Riggs nodded.

Rika paused for a moment then shook her head. "I'm not proud of my government. But I wanted to travel around, and now I work for my government."

"Yeah," Riggs said. "I did some government work I wasn't proud of."

"Really?"

"Nah," Riggs said. "It was a long time ago."

"Have you always lived in this place?"

"No. I used to have a house. But I had to sell it. I mean, I didn't have to, but I wanted to. I wanted to..." Riggs waved his hand in the darkness trying to conjure the right word. "Be free. Be free of the past."

"Yeah," Rika said dreamily. "Of the past."

Riggs picked the wine bottle out of the sand and poured the last of it into Rika's cup and his. The fire glinted off the bottle's gold seal.

"Did you like it?" Rika asked.

"The wine? Yeah it was great."

"Can I tell you something? Will you promise not to arrest me?"

"I can promise you'll get a fair trial."

Rika smiled. "The wine. It is illegal."

Riggs looked at the bottle sitting in the sand. "Oh, because of the embargo. To stop Apartheid."

"Right. You can't import South African wine to America."

Riggs thought of those diplomatic pouches at the consulate.

"So will you arrest me?"

"No," Riggs said smiling, drawing a idle pattern in the sand. "That's federal jurisdiction."

She laughed softly. He looked to her face again, still cloaked in darkness, only a tiny glint of light in her eye visible. He touched her arm and leaned towards her, but the darkness offered up no hints or encouragement, and, confused, he let go and sat back, settling into a feeling of mild embarrassment.

"Hey," he said suddenly, surprising himself. "Would you like some sake? From Japan?"

"Oh, do you have some?"

"Yeah, it's pretty good. We can heat it up on the fire."

"OK," said Rika.

Riggs jumped up and trotted through the sand to the trailer. Inside, he left the light off, not wanting to face the depressing mess. He tiptoed through the crunching debris until he came to the shelf in the back and reached for the sake bottle that sat above the samurai sword when he heard the low voice of a man and then Rika scream.

He lunged towards the trailer door, tripping on what must have been a full bottle of liquor, coming violently to his knees amongst the shirts and dirty socks, the sake bottle crashing in the darkness beside him. Hearing a struggle outside, he jumped back on his feet and burst through the flimsy door, over the steps and onto the sand. At the edge of the firelight, he saw a large man kneeling over Rika, her thin legs scraping the sand between his.

Riggs hurdled the fire and in a step was on the man. He snatched his arm, twisting the man just enough to whip the ridge of his hand into the side of the man's face. The man fell sidelong into the darkness. Riggs grabbed Rika's arm, hauling her to her feet, and pushed her towards the trailer. As he turned around, his vision snapped back to the trailer and tingling pain like hot sand filled the left side of his face. Angry, he buried a straight punch in the man's gut and heard a deep huffing sound.

Hearing the man gasp and fall, he backed up towards the fire. "C'mon, motherfucker," he said rocking back and forth with his fists up. He was ready to beat the fuck out of this guy. Nothing was going to stop it.

In the darkness, he heard the clicking of a gun's hammer drawing back.

Shit.

He stood up out of his stance and let his hands fall. A .38 emerged from the darkness into the firelight, leading an arm in a rumpled white office shirt. Finally, the sweating face of Murtaugh appeared, livid in the firelight and gasping for air.

"Shit."

"Motherfucker," Murtaugh wheezed, barely able to squeeze the words past the pressing pain in his gut. He set the hammer back on his gun and doubled over, hands on knees. Riggs looked with sympathy at the figure: receding hairline, sand-covered dress pants, necktie hanging down and wimpling with each labored breath.

"Aw, shit, Murtaugh. Why didn't you tell me it was you?"

"Riggs," Murtaugh gasped. Then a moment later. "Why didn't you tell me it was you? Before you kung-fued my ass?"

Riggs couldn't help but smile, inciting pain in his left cheek. Suddenly he remembered Rika.

"Rika!" he called, looking around at the blank darkness.

He took Murtaugh by the arm, "Here, c'mon buddy," and led him to the fire. "Rika!" he called. "It's all right. You can come out."

The darkness suddenly produced her, stumbling toward the fire, her face stricken and angry, her hands behind her back.

"You cuffed her? What's going on?"

"Yeah, I cuffed her."

"Well, let her out."

"No," Murtaugh said flatly.

"What's going on?"

"She's playing you Riggs. She's here to set you up," Murtaugh said, rubbing his sternum. Riggs looked at Rika.

"What?" she said, looking from Riggs to Murtaugh.

"Murtaugh, what's going on?" Riggs asked.

"What going on is you're getting set up."

Riggs stared at Murtaugh. He heard Rika let out a small cry of protest behind him.

"I went to Van der Land tonight," Murtach continued. "Tried to get in the front. But apparently I wasn't on the guest list. So I went around back. They've got a kind of balcony back there and you can hear people talk. So I waited a few hours. A guy comes out talking on a portable phone."

"What'd he say?"

"They need a way to get rid of you. But they're not ready to take the step of killing a cop. Yet. So they're going to frame you up. Plant some of those Krugerrand on you."

"Plant Krugerrand on me?"

"Because they're illegal to possess in the U.S. They'll say you helped yourself when we found that trunkload of them. And that's the set up. Not enough for prison time, but enough to get you kicked off the force."

"They don't want to kill me, but they want me kicked off the force?"

"No, they'll kill you after you're kicked off the force."

"Did you call the station?"

"That's what they're going to do. I came straight here."

Riggs looked at Rika. Her eyes were wide and watery. "Why do you think she's in on it?"

"Because they said it was going down tonight."

Riggs looked hard at Rika. She stammered, "That's not true. I wouldn't do that."

"She's the one that's going to do it," Murtaugh said, his voice growing insistent.

"Fuck," Riggs said quietly to himself.

"Martin, you know I wouldn't do that. Not to you. Or anybody."

Riggs walked over to Murtaugh. "We've gotta search her bag," he said softly. "She hasn't been inside the place yet."

They squatted in the sand by the fire and dumped the contents of her bag out. Riggs didn't look up as he sorted through her stuff. After a few minutes: "There's nothing here."

"They said it was going down tonight. How else would they do it?" Murtaugh asked. He turned to look at Rika. "We've got to search her."

Riggs looked at her standing pitifully with her hands cuffed behind her back. "I'll do it," he said glumly.

He walked up to her and her eyes were glistening. He looked to her body, putting his hands on the smoothness of her stomach and back to feel for the coins.

"Martin," she said, not pleading but forlorn. "You've got to believe me." She looked at his face and then he crouched to pat down her legs.

After he got to her ankles, Riggs stood up. "She's clean."

"Shit," Murtaugh said. "This bag is the only thing she brought over?"

"Yeah," Riggs said.

A confused expression slowly set into Murtaugh's face.

"Wait," said Riggs. He looked to the far side of the fire. Murtaugh's eyes followed his. There, nestled in the sand, sat the bottle, its round golden seal glimmering in the light. They both looked at each other.

Riggs started toward the bottle when he saw a beam of light arcing through the dark. He turned around to see two pairs of headlights cresting the high sand at the top of the beach.

"They must've called the station already," Murtaugh said. The two pairs of lights sat at the top of the slope, their beams trained on the campfire. Riggs looked to Murtaugh and then he heard the distant pop of a rifleshot and a plume of sand sprayed up from the ground in front of him.

"Fuck," Riggs cried. "This isn't the station."

A starburst of muzzle flash appeared an instant before the tat-tat-tat of automatic gunfire, and the air around them began to whistle with bullets. Riggs grabbed Rika's arm and pulled her sliding across the sand, pushing her under the trailer, which sat on sets of blocks almost waist-high. Metallic puncturing sounds multiplied on the other side of the trailer as gunfire scattered across it. Riggs pulled his Beretta from the shoulder holster he had slung over the staircase railing. He looked over to see Murtaugh peeking around the other end of the trailer, hands wrapped around his .38. He snuck around the narrow edge of the trailer to see the two pairs of headlights bouncing across the sand. As they moved down the slope, he could see it was two Landrovers.

He raised his gun, dead level, and let the breath out of his lungs. Looking at the truck, his blood seemed to slow, and all motion left his body. When he was nineteen, he did a guy in Laos from a thousand yards out with a rifle shot in high wind. Maybe eight or even ten guys in the world could've made that shot. The gun fired and the driver side windshield burst into a spiderweb crack. The truck lurched to the left, cutting a drunken arc toward Riggs' corner of the trailer. He pelted the windshield with more shots until the headlights were huge and blinding, then he rolled under the trailer.

The truck jumped out of a ridge in the sand and its lights reared up into the black sky before it clipped the trailer with an enormous tearing crash. The end of the trailer exploded into splintered debris, siding panels spinning into the sky. As the truck landed again, its back end swung out, sliding through the spraying sand, and it took a swerving course down the breach, its headlights flashing through the darkness of the ocean. Riggs crawled out from under the trailer and glanced back at the damage. The truck had torn the back end of the trailer off like a box top. It was a miracle it was still on its blocks. He turned and sprinted down toward the water.

As the second truck sliced through the sand around the trailer, Murtaugh fired at it, hard denting sounds ringing off its panels. He saw automatic gunfire, maybe an AR-15, spray toward the beach. He turned to see the dim figure of Riggs disappear into the darkness towards the waterline. The truck swung around to the back of the trailer and stopped, both doors suddenly spreading open. Murtaugh ducked under the trailer and crouched behind a stack of cinderblocks.

He saw a hand with a rifle creeping around the door and fired at it, exploding the window. The hand retreated. He looked below the door and saw a pair of knees. Sinking to his belly, he aimed and fired, watching the kneecap burst red all over the sand. A head and shoulders fell out from behind the door onto the ground, and he caught the wounded man directly in the face with his last bullet.

He crept back into the deep darkness under the trailer. One of the men advanced and fired a pistol under the trailer blindly. Murtaugh scurried back to the blocks at the far corner and hid behind them, outside the trailer. His heart was pounding murderously. He heard two men coming on both sides of the trailer. They were shouting to each other in Afrikaans. They had to make sure they didn't meet up and shoot each other. A third voice called from the truck. As they came near, Murtaugh crawled under the trailer again. He saw a pair of thin legs coming out of the darkness and he could just barely see Rika looking at him, staring and shuddering, in some kind of terrified paralysis. The sight unnerved him and he crept away from it.

As he backed away on his knees, his head struck a pipe running along the underside of the trailer and his heart seemed to stutter and jump. The mens' voices were on all sides. He would have to run out into the dark and take his chances. He touched the pipe as he crawled under it. What had he said to his daughters as he left the house this morning? His knees moved painfully on the sand. It wasn't a pipe at all. Pulling on it gently, he heard the sound of tape peeling.

Riggs charged towards the beach. The truck was wallowing in the breakers, somehow spun around to face the shore. He hit the water, kicking up foam and then sloshing through the waves. Suddenly the back of the truck was stroboscopically illuminated by muzzle flash and instinctively he dove into the surf.

The South African saw Riggs disappear into the water and then there was nothing but the rolling black surface of the sea, and in the distance the flashes and pops of gunfire around the trailer, then the water in front of him exploded and crashed into him and a suffocating clamp closed around his neck. He heard the sounds of ragged, wild breathing but not his own and then a ringing silence as the world seemed to recede into fog and swirling silt.

Riggs had come up too close and had to grab the guy. Beside him a voice shouted in Afrikaans and he lashed out, pistol whipping the man's eye as a gun fired, horribly bright, burning his arm, and then fell into the water. He heard another voice, panicky, on the far side of the car. The man grabbed Rigg's gun and it slipped from his wet hands to join the other. He felt pain burrowing into his thigh and the man in his arms twisted. He reached down and found a knife going into his leg, when suddenly the far side of the car exploded with automatic fire. The windows of the car shattered and dropped and Riggs felt the man in his arms convulse. Blind from the muzzle flash, he pulled the knife from the limp hand and waited for the gunfire to go silent. Then he sprung out of the water, pushing himself over the man's shoulder and whipped the knife over the roof of the car. The gunman's throat took the knife just above collarbone, and he fired futilely at the sky as the blood clogged his windpipe.

Rigg's head snapped to the side with a hard shot to the cheek and another one to the mouth. He swam back until he was in front of the headlights of the car where he could stand up in the churning surf. His assailant appeared in the glare, ghost-pale and soaked with blood flowing from his eye. Riggs leapt forward, stinging the man with a left and then clubbing him with a right. The man fell back out of the light, plowing into the foaming ocean. Riggs pursued him but caught a fist in the mouth that staggered him. The split, bleeding skin of his lips burned.

Riggs shirked the next punch and countered with a jab to the man's throat. Then he threw an elbow crashing into the man's head. Surging forward, he muscled the man onto hood of the car, then drew back and pounded the man in the face, banging his head loudly off the metal of the hood. He gripped a handful of the man's hair and drove his elbow into the man's face, twisting and driving again, banging out a deepening indentation in the metal. The dent sagged and filled with blood. He worked on the man until he felt the bone around the eye socket give, and his next blow landed in an unsettling softness. He let the man's hair go and backed away, watching the man's destroyed head bleed and sway in the sliding water.

The South Africans crouched and looked under the trailer, but it was pure darkness. The kaffir was probably dead already, but who would crawl in and check? They heard Willem call from the truck.

"Pull the truck around and put the headlights under the trailer," one said.

"Fuck that," said Willem. "We'll just kill him now."

Willem walked from the car around to the other side of the trailer, and as he rounded the corner he erupted with bulletholes.

Murtaugh held the AK-47 to his hip and poured fire at the three. The gun rattled furiously and bullets slashed through them. He let half the clip run out and then stood breathing in the stark silence. Walking up, there were 3 bodies in the darkness.

"Diplomatic immunity my fucking ass."

He heard a cry from the shoreline. It was Riggs.

"Riggs," he called back, and then Riggs appeared in the light of the campfire. His clothes and hair were pasted to his frame by the seawater, and watery blood ran from his mouth.

"Did you get 'em?" Murtaugh asked.

"Yeah. I got 'em. Where's Rika?"

Murtaugh turned back to the trailer. "Shit."

"Rika," Riggs yelled, his voice weak and cracking in the dark.

There was a small voice from under the trailer. "I'm here." A head of disheveled blond hair emerged from under the trailer. Riggs took Rika by the arm and helped her stand.

"You all right?"

"Yeah," she said, almost mouthing the word. Riggs looked at her wrists. The handcuffs had cut pink bracelets into the skin.

"Goddamn," he heard Murtaugh say behind him. He turned to see Murtaugh examining the AK-47, holding lightly in his hands like a swordsmith examining a blade. "Stockless nickle-plated AK-47. This is what you keep taped to the bottom of your house?"

"North Korean," Riggs shrugged. "And they were trying to frame me with some gold coins."

Murtaugh grinned. "We'll just say it fell off one of these trucks."

Riggs looked around the perimeter of the firelight. "Where did that bottle go?"

"I think they drove over it."

"Wait here. I'm going to go call the station. We've got to figure this out," Riggs said, glancing at Rika.

"Alright," said Murtaugh.

"Take care of our prisoner."

Riggs tramped through the sand and darkness towards the string of lights that marked the highway. As the adrenaline slackened, pain began to soak into his face and his fists. His wet clothes felt heavy. Two payphones were huddled under one of the highway lights next to a cracked patch of concrete that was once a filling station. As Riggs approached the phone he heard the pop of a gunshot. He turned around and there was silence. Just the tiny glow of the campfire, now bouncing and shuddering as he sprinted across the sand, hurtling towards it.

The pain clawed through Murtaugh's chest as he writhed on the ground. The AK lay 3 feet away, gleaming and useless. He heard Rika. What was she doing? There was a hard thud beside him and then her voice was in his ear, yelling. He tried to pick his head up. The blank sky slowly revolved and he could see a man standing over him. He wanted to throw up. The man raised the pistol. He wanted to wince but there was no strength in his face, anywhere. The man pointed the pistol and then his arm was gone and the man was screaming and his top half fell off his bottom half and there was blood, blood, blood. He wanted to pass out but he knew he had already passed out because now he saw Riggs with a big sword, a shining sword of blood.

Riggs set the samurai sword in the sand. Murtaugh's shirt was saturated with blood, like a wet red sheet laid over him. Riggs yelled but Murtaugh didn't answer. There was no pulse already. Riggs started chest compressions. Rika was by his side looking at Murtaugh's face.

"Riggs."

He counted the compressions.

"Riggs, I can get help."

One two three four five.

"I can get help if you trust me."

Riggs looked at her, her eyes behind ragged strands of hair.

"You can trust me, Riggs. You can trust me."

Riggs pulled his handcuff keys from his back pocket. He opened the cuffs and started the chest compressions again. "Run to the lights," he said, nodding in their direction. "There are payphones, you'll see them." He jammed his hand in his pocket and pulled out a small clump of change, slapping it bloody into Rika's hand.

"Say 'Martin Riggs house. LAPD badge number 3414.' Hurry."

Rika nodded and stood, then turned and disappeared into the darkness.