Countdown to Zero: Six – Breaking the Broken

TROUBLESHOOTER:
Countdown to Zero
by Andrea Speed

Six – Breaking the BrokenSometimes playing dumb was the smartest thing you could do.

Z dug out her old apartment keys – she’d never gotten rid of the damn things, mainly because she thought they might be useful in keying someone’s car or breaking off in a lock. Now they had another, more active purpose. “Shit!” She exclaimed, then lobbed them over the side of the railing. They hit the courtyard below with a metallic jingle, and she raced down the stairs, cursing quietly under her breath.

build21.jpgBy the time she hit the ground level, the beaten man looked at her suspiciously, hand hovering near his coat pocket. “Dude, seen my keys?” She asked.

He stared through her, as if not comprehending what she said. He had been trying to assess her as a threat, and her speaking to him had thrown him off. “Huh?”

“My keys. I dropped my keys. They fell down here. You see ‘em?”

“Oh, uh … dunno.” He resumed staring at Shan’s door like a loyal dog waiting for his master to return, and she pretended to look around. He appeared to be alone, and on top of being obvious, that was just unforgivably stupid.

She knew exactly where her keys were – someone’s porch light gleamed silver off the metal – but she walked slowly in the opposite direction, nearing his position and then going past it. She continued to mutter to herself now and again, making her position obvious, and he ignored her, After all, being that obvious was just idiotic, wasn’t it?

She had locked Shan’s door out of habit when she left, so the sound of the lock being thrown open made an audible click. The guy tensed, hand moving to his pocket, but he spared a glance in her direction, suddenly nervous about the potential witness.

But it was too late.

As soon as she heard the click, she darted for him, getting behind him and reaching into his coat pocket before he could. He was barely aware of what had occurred before she nestled the barrel of his own Glock snugly beneath his left ear. “Wanna blowhole in the top of your skull motherfucker, ” she whispered, reaching around with her right hand to grab his nose. Normally she’d put him in a chokehold, but his painfully broken nose was the greatest weakness he had. “Keep moving.”

He froze, shuddering slightly in pain as her thumb and forefinger lightly pinched the swollen bridge of his nose. The safety was off, and just from the weight of the gun she knew it had a full clip, although Glocks like this were so light it was often hard to tell by feel if they were loaded or not. It was locked and loaded, and the slightest squeeze would set it off; no one knew that better than him. “This is a Glock 17, isn’t it?” She said, almost conversationally. “Didn’t get the automatic safety option, huh? Single action trigger; an idiot proof gun. Good thing for you, huh?”

Her gun knowledge startled him, like she thought it might. “Who the fuck are you?”

Shan was standing in the doorway of his apartment, mouth agape. “Z, what the hell are you doing?”

“Look who came back to finish the job.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t you recognize him?”

Shan edged closer, not sure who he should be more afraid of at this point. “No … do you mean the guy I faceplanted? I didn’t see him, he just called me a stupid fucker.”

Now that was irony. “Say it again,” she growled in his ear, giving his nose a tighter pinch for emphasis.

With no enthusiasm and more than a little pain, he intoned, “Stupid fucker.”

Shan’s tense body posture seemed to relax, as his fear that she had just snapped evaporated. “Yeah, that’s him.”

“Pat him down, make sure he doesn’t have any other surprises.”

Shan was very good at frisking people; he was a bouncer, after all, and he’d worked events where he’d had to do just that. Although he continued to eye the man with wariness, he patted him down with brisk efficiency, to the point where even the bruised thug said, with a nasal whine, “Don’t tell me you’re both fucking cops.”

Shan pulled an extra cartridge out of his sock (Jesus, did he really think he’d have to empty a clip into him?), a butterfly knife out of the front of his pants, and a small vial of some unidentified drug out of his front jeans pocket. “I’ve never seen this before,” Shan admitted, holding the vial up to the light bleeding from his apartment. “And I’ve seen everything.”

“Let’s take him inside,” she told him. “Sunshine here has a lot of questions to answer, don’t’cha?”

“I ain’t sayin’ nothing’ ‘til I talk to my lawyer.”

She whispered savagely in his ear, “If you were really a hitman, you’d know we don’t deal with lawyers.”

It took him a moment, but he caught it. “We?” He repeated, his voice jumping up an octave in sudden fear.

She looked at Shan, and said, “Take his nose. If he doesn’t follow, twist it off.”

“Will do.”

She let go o his nose just long enough for Shan to grab it, and he did so violently, making the thug utter a muffled, nasal noise of pain, and nearly dropping him to his knees. “Keep in mind I won’t kill you yet,” she said, gaining a bit of distant, but keeping him tightly covered with the Glock. “ I’ll blow off body parts until I’m happy with your answers, then turn you over to cops and claim self-defense. Do you really think they’d buy a single fucking think you say, drongo? I’m a helpless woman.”

Shan snorted, then quickly swallowed the rest of the laugh. “As helpless as a bunny,” he agreed, dissolving into titters.

She motioned towards his apartment with the gun. “Get moving, and maybe you’ll get to leave here without bloody stumps.”

The thug gave her a baleful look, but there were tears rolling down his cheeks from the pain, and the stink of fear was starting to come off him like vinegar. He knew he was fucked, and he had just revealed himself to not even be a semi-professional; he was probably just another junkie, just a much harder one than Rand had ever been.

Too bad for him, because he was completely, seriously fucked now.

***

Shan actually did have handcuffs, but if they’d ever had fake leopard fur on them, they no longer did.

They cuffed him and shoved him into a small bamboo chair, and Z booted up the laptop again, keeping one eye on him and one eye on the computer. She had the Glock aimed at about crotch level, which had seemed to guarantee his docility – after all, hadn’t Rand already lost a ball tonight? What was one more? A little poking at his angry red nose had gotten the name David Dooley out of him.

Shan stood across the room from him, leaning against his kitchenette counter, arms crossed over his chest to show off the hard muscles, and the most unnerving, gimlet eyed bouncer look on his face. Although why they were bothering to intimidate him she had no idea; not only was his disadvantage overwhelming and clear, but everything about this guy screamed “fuck up” – he’d crumble like a bridge made out of sand whenever they exerted just the slightest amount of pressure.

“Here we go,” she announced, when the page came up. “David Rasmussen Dooley. Your middle name is Rasmussen? No wonder you turned to drugs.”

“Lots of priors?” Shan asked. He had also lowered his voice, using his gruff bouncer tone. It was hard for her not to laugh, because she knew what a softie he actually was. It was just a pose, studied camouflage that had always served him well, and who was she to blow his cover?

“A few. A lengthy juvenile record, mostly of petty shit, but his adult incarceration kicked off with breaking and entering and burglary. Didn’t do a lot of time for that, I see. You plea bargain?”

It took Dooley a minute to realize she was talking to him, and even then he didn’t seem much interested. His shoulders were hunched, his head hanging low, even though fresh blood was dribbling from his nose, sluicing down his lips and chin, dripping in his lap. “There was a fuck up in the court proceedings; they had to let me go.”

“Ah, technicality. Gotta love that. Well, there’s nothing in here that indicates an escalating level of violence, but it says you were arrested for vagrancy in Kamloops four months ago. Who the fuck chooses to be vagrant in Kamloops?”

“Now that was a mistake,” he insisted, looking up slightly. All his words sounded nasal, like he had great wodges of cotton shoved up each nostril. “It was … the cops believed my fuckin‘ bastard landlord over me.”

“You homeless, Dave? No shame in that.”

“No,” he snapped back bitterly. “I got an apartment, okay? It was just my shitty landlord.”

“Why did you shoot Bennett Gilbert?”

That made him finally look at her directly, for the first time in several minutes. “What makes you think I shot ‘im? Jack coulda …”

“I didn’t mean you specifically – I’m asking why in general.” But she knew now that he was indeed the triggerman, and the gun she was holding was probably the attempted murder weapon.

He licked his lips nervously, wincing at the taste of his own blood, and shook his head, looking back down at the carpet. “I can’t … no … “

“Look, we don’t wanna have to do the Reservoir Dogs thing to you any more than you want it done to you, so just tell us and spare him the bill for cleaning the blood off his carpet, okay?”

He shifted uncomfortably, and held his head back, like they always tell you to do when you have a nosebleed. “It doesn’t matter. We didn’t find the shit, he didn’t have it, and now we’re all gonna die.” He sniffed loudly, and in case they missed the point, reiterated, “We’re all dead. Who gives a shit anymore?”

Somehow, she didn’t think he was speaking in the “We all die someday” general sense. Which was a good thing, because if he became all philosophical on them, she’d break his kneecap.

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