Chapter 4: Ten Cent Pistol
September 1st, 2017
Charlie shivered. She shivered, despite the steaming water pouring down her bloody hands. She shivered and her back spazed so sharply, her vision blurred from the head rush. She grabbed onto the sides of the sink, the steam clogging her pours and stuffing the tears back down her throat. She gasped, blinking at the ceiling for several long, hot seconds, then she wiped her nose with the back of her hand and shut off the water. And still the scent of blood remained, fresh and present and stifling. She needed out of these clothes, the clothes that now held cold blood— like a body— she needed to burn these clothes.
And maybe, me along with it.
She stumbled back out of the bathroom, head still spinning. She made sure not to touch the walls— evidence. The bullet holes that riddled the walls would definitely be matched back to Kuzmenov. One more thing in the Bureau's laundry list of crimes— illegal weapon possession. She wanted to be sure they got him, on everything. That he couldn't escape in court. Once they found him, of course.
Charlie step-sided a Russian body. Out of habit, she kicked his weapon away from his limp hand. It skittered passed broken glass, pillow feathers, cushion stuffing, more dead bodies, ripped fabric, shattered bottles, bent forks and cracked plates. She eased herself around doors blown open and doors blown off, handles rolling uselessly on the ground. She wove around broken glass from the windows and crumbled sheet rock from the house itself. There was a massive hole leading into Briggs's room. She shuddered to think what would have happened had he been there— had they not had the warning—
Outside she heard the mumblings and clicks of agents gathering evidence and her heart clenched.
She found the kitchen once again. She turned the corner, just as Lauren's pale face was closed inside the black body bag. Charlie was forcibly knocked back in shock and she leaned against the wall, her hand over her heart.
"Jesus fucking Christ . . ."
The MEs loaded Lauren onto a stretcher. Johnny, who had been as still as a cemetery statue, suddenly leapt to his feet.
He took the golden cross necklace from around his neck and held it over the black bag, whispering a prayer in quick, trembling Spanish. He reverently made the sign of the cross and then pulled away. The light hit him and he seemed to glow— an angel in the valley of Death. The MEs pulled her away, back through the door. With nothing left to pray for, Johnny wavered and fell onto his backside, cradling his face as though his soul was trying to escape through his nose, rocking back and forth.
Nobody moved. Nobody breathed. Paige was crying silently in the corner, her brilliant blue eyes wide and staring, bottom-lip trembling. Her mouth was red, where she tried to give Lauren CPR. But her hands were strong enough. That's where Charlie had come in. Jakes was gone the minute Lauren was pronounced dead. He was outside with the rest of the investigators, describing in minute detail how the Russians had found them based on the torture and kill of a CI, how Lauren arrived at the door, bloody and bruised, giving everyone else a two minute head-start, how she tried to hold her own, tried to hold on and keep fighting, until, in a whirl-wind of chaos, Kuzmenov snuck up behind her and dug a deep red line across her neck with a meat-cleaver. She bled out in three minutes. He planned it all along. He didn't care about Graceland, or the agents, or the risks. His goal was Lauren, for revenge, blood-for-blood. And the fact that he had succeeded would weigh harshly on her teammates for the rest of their lives.
There were still blood splatters on the ceiling.
Briggs wanted to be out there too, out in the sand, near the waves, where this could just be a vague thought in the back of his mind. Charlie could tell. But a general doesn't leave his soldiers, not when they're so scattered. Not when they've been beaten like dogs.
Mike's voice was like a whip, volatile and crude, snapping and demanding. He leaned against an unmarked wall, his leg bandaged. Beneath his crossed arms, he still held his gun. The fingers still drummed the trigger.
August 31st, 2017
Charlie saw the guy behind the wall a second before he fired. She ducked again behind the couch as a bullet ripped the stuffing into the air. She reloaded, pictured exactly where she had seen him in her mind's eye, and whipped up.
Tap. Tap. The Russian tumbled to the ground, chest oozing. She swung her barrel up to the second level of the house and shattered the kneecap of a man with a machine gun. He fell and about a second later, he rolled over, a bullet through the head. She heard shouting and gunfire and another low boom of a small detonation going off. Despite her advantage of being well guarded near the big open windows of the living room, she was also very much trapped. She saw movement and shot down the running Russian's leg.
Someone yelled freeze in the rough language and she put her hands up. Another man pointed at her down the barrel of an M-16. Suddenly, his head popped and he toppled backwards. Mike popped two more thugs before settling down next to her.
September 1st, 2017
"Now we move on." Briggs said, still looking at the place where Lauren's body had been moments before. "We'll all get reassigned, new positions."
"For fuck's sake, Briggs, that's not what we need," Paige snapped. She furiously wiped off her cheeks. They looked blistered.
Briggs looked at her, his face hard. "I know what you need. You need to know that everything is going to be okay. You need to know that in five—ten—fifteen years you won't look back on this night and feel so much pain that you want to jump off the nearest bridge. Well, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that you won't feel this way."
Paige let out a hysterical laugh. "You know, for captain of the team, you give really shitty pep-talks."
He turned to face her head on and seemed to grow three sizes. "You want me to tell you that it didn't matter? That she didn't matter?" He pointed to her death site. "Because that's what it means! When you lose something and it doesn't hurt!"
Paige swallowed and looked away.
August 31st, 2017
"How are you doing?" He muttered, reloading.
"Just fine. I was thinking about getting my nails done later. Wanna come?"
His back muscles relaxed and he grinned. "This is pretty much a regular thing for you, isn't it?"
"You've been living here for five years, you tell me." Charlie wove around him and took out a guy running in from the kitchen.
"Briggs said to meet here. To flush 'em right out the front door. Think that'll work."
"It's Briggs. It's always a fifty-fifty chance that we could all die."
Suddenly from the kitchen, Briggs slid in behind a barricade of chairs. "I heard you guys were talking shit about me." Pow. Pow. Two more fell down from the second floor. He had a second pistol strapped to his waist and a M-80 clanked around on his back.
"We'd never disgrace our captain," Charlie muttered, firing again into the back rooms.
September 1st, 2017
"Lauren was a fighter, right till the very end. She would want to be remembered, but not like this." Briggs turned, his tight mouth offset by his wide, hurt eyes. He glared at all of them. He pleaded with all of them. "You will wake up for the next fifty years watching Lauren Kincaid die. Sometimes it will be with a knife, sometimes with a gun, sometimes Kuzmenov will simply strangle the life right out of her."
Johnny put his head in his arms.
"You will all wish that you had been faster, done better, been quicker. You wished you could have saved your best friend. But you can't. That's life. You couldn't have saved her from a heart attack sooner than you could have saved her from this. But you will always regret not being fast enough. Because she mattered."
"Be sad. Mourn her. Go to the damn funeral, but don't you dare, for one second, want for that pain to go away. Because when it does, you will have really failed Lauren Kincaid."
"She would want to be remembered," Johnny muttered, his voice thick.
They were quiet, before Mike slid away from the wall.
"Well, we'll never know that for sure, will we?"
Charlie shivered, a spasm rising once again. She glanced at Briggs who was again staring at the ground, before following after Mike.
August 31st, 2017
Paige and Lauren, Paige holding a door to cover both of them, stumbled in from Briggs's room and propped up in a corner. Lauren's hand had been badly bandaged but only for the sake of time.
"Now we just need Tuturo and Jakes."
A rapid firing of bullets made them all automatically duck down. Someone groaned as a fist went across their face and a body tumbled down from the upper level. Jakes leaned over the side and saluted them, dodging a blade coming at him from the hands of an angry attacker. Briggs took the Russian out in two taps. Johnny appeared a second later and violently kicked his attacker over the second level barrier. He massaged his hand.
"Damn puto cut me."
September 1st, 2017
The moment she touched his hand, she knew it was over. It was all over. The haunted ghost had returned, only this time, he was trapped in the body of someone she desperately loved.
He whirled around, snatching his hand away from her.
"Don't you dare touch me," he breathed.
"C'mon, Mike, I trying to save your life—,"
"Yeah and you let Lauren's killers go! You LET THEM GET AWAY, CHARLIE, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS?"
Charlie snapped. "YEAH, YOU UNGRATEFUL BASTARD, IT MEANS YOU GET TO LIVE ANOTHER DAY!"
His mouth twitched. "I could have done it, you know. I could have gotten them. They'd be dead now."
"No, we'd have two body bags!" She roared back. "Do YOU have any idea of how badly it scares me to think that you could have died too tonight? Do you, at all?"
"I could have gotten them, Charlie, I could have—,"
"BUT YOU COULDN'T BRING HER BACK."
"AT LEAST I TRIED." Mike was seething, his chest quivering. "I WENT AFTER THE BASTARDS AND YOU ALL DID NOTHING. YOU STILL SEE ME AS SOME CHILD WHO CAN'T BE TRUSTED TO FIRE HIS OWN WEAPON— WHO IS BEING IRRATIONAL WHEN HE WANTS TO SAVE HIS FRIENDS." He swallowed and threw his gun to the floor. "Well, congratulations, Charlie, you just loss another friend you have to worry about."
I didn't mean it. I don't think you're a child. I worry about you because I—
He was gone.
August 31st, 2017
And then, without warning, the remains of the front door were blown back and three men dressed completely in black riot gear began lighting the place up with machine guns strapped to their waists. Mike and Charlie threw themselves to the ground, the bullets crackling through the air like falling acorns. She could hear the pounding of the bullets, getting and closer to them through their barricade.
There was a pause, like a dragon gulping in air before he releases another wave of blood-boiling fire. Charlie was on the floor, hearing her own heartbeat in her ears, eyes shut tight, expecting death. She knew Mike's hand was just inches from hers and before she died, she'd like to hold that gentle hand again. But in that pause, in that breath, she heard a soft gasp, as though a soul was shocked to leave its body. Charlie had a second to look up, to watch as Kuzmenov ripped through Lauren's pale flesh with his steely blade, as blood escaped like popping fireworks. Her hands twitched like she meant to grab the blood, grab her soul and stuff it all back inside. But it was too late.
Charlie opened her mouth and someone else screamed. Paige was screaming as Lauren's body swayed, her eyes drifting, the blue fading, her knees crumbled and she fell over. Kuzmenov dropped the weapon and motioned to the men in black to run.
Someone, this one male, screamed Lauren's name and Briggs was by her side instantly. Johnny and Jakes were gone from the second level, thundering down the stairs, their footfalls like drumbeats.
You gotta be faster. Charlie thought sluggishly. You gotta move faster. Why are you all so slow?
Paige was already breathing stale life into Lauren, Briggs pounding on her chest. Jakes was trying to stem the bleeding.
Charlie looked at Mike and she didn't recognize the man sitting beside her. He was a ghost, a haunted, malicious ghost, full of torment and hatred. He stood up and headed for the door, each movement breaking sharply, closer and closer to a full run. A shadow passed over him, like a bird flying above, but in that moment Charlie realized he was marked for death. If he follows them, he'll die.
Charlie stumbled to her feet and ran after him, trying not to slide in Lauren's blood. She burst through the front door and saw him halfway down the driveway, blond hair flying in the moonlight. Even with all her training, it was the sheer force of will that propelled him forward, every step, every breath magnified a thousand fold by pure hatred. She would never catch him. Kuzmenov was almost to his car, but Mike was closing in.
A whisper wrapped itself around her, hissing a terrible truth in her ear. Her hand, clutching her gun, trembled.
Kuzmenov was in his car, motioning for his driver to go, to step on it. One of his hit men was turning, gun raised, towards Mike. Mike was shouting something, something about good and evil and arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Charlie raised her gun. Tears were coming down her face, but her hand was completely steady.
"I'm sorry, Mike."
The shot rang out, a brass bell falling against stone, and he screamed.
*A/N: So the big betrayal is revealed. Yeah, I know, it should have been pretty obvious the only reason I kept Lauren around was to kill her in the end, so sorry to those who were not expecting it.
But yeah, this was probably too much fun to write, which probably means I'm a sociopath, but who isn't really? Also, there were supposed to be a lot more (like two more) chapters in between this but I really didn't want to lose my momentum and just stop writing. So unfortunately, there are only two more chapters (one of them rather short) after this one before it's over. But I'm thinking of releasing the cut chapters as stand-alone pieces later on. Would you guys be up for reading that?
So, with all this death and betrayal, what does this mean for Mike and Charlie? Will they ever recover from such a loss? Find out on the next chapter of Sexy Agents Being Emotional and Secretive! (*maniacal laughter *)