Standing in the kitchen, his finger pressed on the intercom button of one of the loft's control p'anels-responsible for functions such as room lighting, adjusting the curtains and some appliances-David contemplated the possible outcomes of the approaching raid on Fort Baxter.
"C'mon up." He spoke into the intercom, before returning his attention to Tristin, who had Lester on speakerphone.
"Who was that?" Quizzed Lester, his attention perked by the sound of David's voice.
"My partner, L." Said Tristin.
"Do I know him?"
"Is there anyone you don't know, Lester?" Asked David from across the room.
"Wrong answer." Hasty shuffling from Lester's end of the call.
"Wait, L! Don't go!" Tristin shot a dirty glare to David "Behave!" She hissed, before returning to the call. "L, it's David Barrett."
Lester fell silent.
"Good morning, Mister Barrett." Returned Lester, "Your reputation preceeds you; it's certainly an honour to be able to speak to a professional of your cali-"
"Cut the bullshit, Crest." Barked David, "Tristin's dancing around this too much, so I'll make it clear. We have a package that we need to intercept from Fort Baxter and we need to do it today."
"So what do you want from me?"
"We need to facilitate the right kind of opening. You help us plan and we execute."
"What? The black hat and the hired gun can't put their heads together on this one?"
"The black hat, the hired gun and the arms runner."
"There are three of you? Where's the other one?"
"He'll be meeting us at the rendezvous point-we'll fill him in."
"You'll have to excuse me if I'm skeptical of your abilities to properly reiterate."
"Blow it out your ass, you verbose worm."
"David!" Shrieked Tristin, but Lester simply chuckled.
"Oh, I can tell that we're going to be the best of friends, David." He then paused, followed by more shuffling and self-focused muttering. "The third one... what's his name?"
"Oscar Guzman." Answered Tristin, eyeing David who simply stood across the room with his arms folded, clenching his jaw.
"Oscar? Interesting." Another pause and even more shuffling.
In the distance, the elevator chimed and stepping through it was a pair of slender, olive legs, carrying Anna Maria Silva into the loft, a briefcase in her hand; "It's been a while since I was here-you're not one for redecorating, are you Davey?"
"Annie." Simply greeted David, while Tristin eyed her in annoyed surprise.
"David, what is she-?" She began,
"She'll keep an eye on your brother while we're gone." Replied David, as Anna Maria smoothly ambled his way and distant from Tristin, who could only watch while she pursed her lips tight in annoyance, began whispering to him.
"Tristin?" Asked Lester, "What's going on?" Tristin fumbled with the phone to deactivate the speaker phone while Anna Maria glanced her way over her pair of designer glasses and smirked, before returning her attention to David, who gazed into the distance but clearly hung onto her every word.
"Sorry L." Excused Tristin, listening for Lester, but still staring daggers at the pair across the room.
"Whatever, look-based on what you've explained to me, including this designation... what is it again?"
"Icepick." Answered Tristin.
"Right, I'll look into it and see what I can put together in the meanwhile. You two, meet up with your third partner and then call me-this is going to be a massive mess. I don't like rush jobs."
"I'm sorry, L. I don't know what got him all antsy, but he said it had to be today."
"All right. I'll wait for your call. So you're sure that all he's got is a two door?"
"This seems like it's going to be big. Literally. You'll need something spacious too. See if you can snag a delivery truck of some kind. RS Haul or something."
"All right. Call you soon, L."
"I'll be waiting."
Tristin rested her phone on the coffee table, still eyeing the pair like a hawk. However, the groaning and stirring of Ari nearby caught her full attention. She sprang from the loveseat and beside the sofa, resting her hand on his face.
"Paz." He struggled.
"Yeah, I'm here baby." Kneeling on the floor, beside him, attentive and delicate with every touch, her heart wrenched to see her brother, deteriorated, a victim of his own vices in his weakened state.
"T." Interrupted David, while Anna Maria had set the briefcase onto the dining table and from it extracted an IV bag, a line and an unopened hypodermic needle.
"What's she doing?"
"It's for your brother." Explained David, while Anna Maria approached Tristin and Ari with a bottle of alcohol and cotton pads in her hands. Finding a place beside Tristin, soaked a pad and began gently rubbing at Ari's arm. All the while, Tristin left her place and approached David, pushing him backwards out of Anna Maria's earshot.
"D, what is she doing?"
"I asked her to bring that, it'll help him."
"I don't trust her!" She snapped in the lowest whisper she could, "She could be poisoning him."
"-I know her Tristin."
Tristin locked a white hot stare onto David, gritting her teeth, "You think you do, D. They always let you think you do." before marching off. From where he stood, David watched as she carefully inserted the needle into one of Ari's few good veins and held the bag up. She turned to look at David, giving him a reassuring smile, while he returned it and Tristin stormed into the bedroom.
Oscar and Hitomi, seeking refuge in the bathroom, could feel their hearts pounding in their throats as uncertainty fell onto them. The sniper's ambush had left them vulnerable-Oscar peered from behind the bathroom wall and through the door into the bedroom, his phone on the floor, taking away any chance he'd have of calling for help.
"Oz! Wait! Check the cabinet!" called Hitomi from the shelter of the bathtub, while Oscar crept over to the sink and opened the lacquered wood cabinet, the first thing he could spot was the glistening grip of a pistol, the piece fitted into a holster fastened against the cabinet door.
"Tomi! Muy bien!" He affirmed as he checked the magazine and racked the slide. Pound-for-pound, the sniper had him beat, but a compromise was better than an absolute loss. Oscar crouched back, planning his attack: he didn't know where the assailant was, but he had to draw fire away from him and Hitomi, or at least buy the two of them time.
He sucked in a deep breath and lunged from the bathroom, firing into the air as he tumbled behind the bed. As if by pure reaction, a shot from the sniper cracked the air and whizzed over him, before lodging itself into the wall. Oscar began regretting his choice of action, as he glanced through the window and realised that the abundance of buildings and rooftops meant the sniper could've been anywhere, but as he struggled to see past the cracks in the tempered glass window, a thought struck him.
Popping out from behind the bed, he began opening fire on the window in sparse spots, it becoming a cluster of broken glass spider webs that would've made it hard for anyone to see through. He ducked low, to once again dodge a high caliber round splitting the air above. As he lay on the floor, his body tucked, he noticed the screen of his phone glistening in front of his face and began thumbing at it, desperate for any advantage he could grab.
"Who do I call? Fuck." He pondered to himself in quiet panic, before settling on the first number that popped into his head.
He held the phone to his ear while it rang, he begged for an answer-
"Nine-one-one, what's your emergency?"
"Ah, erm... fuck..." He struggled, "I can hear gun shots, I think someone's opening fire from a rooftop! A sniper or something!" He tried his best to play the panicked civillian.
"All right sir, stay calm. Where are you?"
"North Vice, near Morningwood Park! Hurry!"
"A squad car is on its way sir, would you like me to stay on the line with you-"
Before, the operator could finish, Oscar feigned reactive fright, "Oh, shit!" Before holding the pistol upwards and firing a single shot into the room. He then hung up the phone and eyed the bathroom doorway.
"Tomi? Oye mami, esta bien?"
"So far? You okay Oz?"
"No bulletholes yet, mi amor, but my luck might start running out."
Another high caliber round pierced the window and buried itself in the wall-soon enough, the entire glass would be shot through and would end up falling out of the frame. Their time was running out and they had to move.
"Tomi, baby. I need you to run out here to me, on three. We need to get outta here!"
Hitomi crawled from the tub, and keeping her body low, the two watched each other from across the rooms and shared a nervous nod.
"Alright," began Oscar, "Uno... dos... tres!"
Hitomi lunged forward and as she did, much like the very moment where he had first thrown her to cover, everything seemed to slow. Her pace steadied as time seemed to melt, as her feet carried her to him, he could see as another of the sniper's rounds pierced the window and barely grazed past her shoulder, cutting the flesh, but zooming past her. He held out his arms and she ran into them, the two tumbling onto the floor as they eyed the nearby doorway into the hall, away from any windows.
Oscar held Hitomi in his arms as her toussled hair fell over her face, the two of them gathering themselves. He looked at her and with a reassuring smile, said "C'mon baby, let's get out'f here."
She gave him a nod, while across the street and in the balcony of a multistory apartment building, Luis Lopez stood perched, the barrel of his sniper rifle aimed at the largely shattered window of Hitomi's suite and his right eye peering through the scope.
"Fuck me, man." He cursed to himself, "This shouldn't be this fuckin' hard. I must be losin' it."
Taking aim through the cracked glass, all he could watch for was the movement of shapes to give him any indication of his targets. As he watched for any motion, he took careful aim, while his finger remained rested on the trigger at the ready...
... then, the wail of sirens pierced the air around him and he clenched his jaw.
"Fuck. Fuck." He couldn't afford to stick around any longer. He pulled his face away from the scope and accepting defeat, dismounted the rifle and disassembled it as quickly as he could, before packing into its large black case and slinging it over his shoulder.
"Fuckin' hell man. Kenny ain't gonna be pleased." He explained to himself as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and scanned for the number of his Russian contact.
"Hola? Yeah, I need to speak to Senor Petrovic. What? A'ight, look, tell him, change of plans, place it crawlin' with pigs-"
He left the vacant apartment, and made his way to the parking garage, while Oscar and Hitomi scrambled to their vehicle, Oscar furiously tapping at his screen for David's number. As he struggled to remember it off the top of his head, the phone vibrated in his hand, and much to his relief, David's name popped up on the screen, prompting him to excitedly answer-
"Oscar, where are you?"
"Listen man, you don't wanna fuckin' know!"
"I do, actually." David's voice remained cool. His composure was unnerving.
"Look man, Tomi and I're just tryin' to get outta here alive?"
"What's going on?"
"A sniper man, a fuckin' sniper almost got us!"
"Where are you?"
"We haven't left the suite, we're tryin' to haul ass outta here now!"
"Alright... can you still make it to the meet up?"
"Yeah... I guess so."