Scorched Earth Policy, Part 3

3 – Locked In The Trunk Of A Car

Five Days Earlier

She ended up meeting Shan at a Tim Horton’s not far from the rec center, after one of his afternoons coaching. His hair was still wet and combed back like he was a villain in an old Miami Vice episode, his face slightly flushed from exertion. It was obvious this gig tired him out and depleted his energy, and yet it was equally clear he got enough joy from it that quitting would rob him of his will to live. Z wondered how long he could keep it up before something had to give.

And if you weren’t sitting across from him, where you could see his brain surgery scar peeking out from under his hairline, you’d probably think he was the most normal guy in the universe. He was sitting there, eating a box of sour cream glazed Timbits and drinking the largest café mocha they had, while she picked listlessly at a cheese croissant and had already surrendered the coffee she had no intention of drinking to him. Caffeine was one of the few drugs he could have, and by god, he had it a lot.

He didn’t stop chewing or slurping a moment while she broke it down for him, his eyes almost fever bright in his reddish face. He’d probably only just taken his pills, as he usually took them afterwards. He nodded at everything she said, so casually she wasn’t sure he understood her. “You do hear what I’m sayin’, yeah? These guys are professional killers. They don’t leave witnesses, and they’ll likely kill anyone who gets in their way. I think it’d be best you leave town for a while.”

He chewed on a Timbit like a cow chewing its cud, and shook his head. “Nope. Stayin’ here.”

“Shan -”

“Why do you even try and warn me off? You know I’m too stupid to avoid a fight.” He flashed her a brief, crumb filled smile.

“Cut that out. You’re not stupid, you’re differently abled.”

“Ha.” He took a swig of his café mocha. “Do you really think I’d leave you alone to face off with a buncha bloodthirsty bastards? I mean, I know I should, but the guilt’d kill me. And by the time I came back, the game would be in progress, and I wouldn’t know the play, and I’d make things worse. So better I’m in at the beginning than back at the front.” He paused a moment, looking down at his Timbits. “At what point did I stop making sense?”

“I think after bloodthirsty bastards. But if it’s anything, I know what you were goin’ for.”

“You always know what I’m goin’ for. That’s why I like you, even though you regularly scare the shit out of me.”

“I scare the shit out of most people. Shows they have a sense of self-preservation. Speakin’ of which, I’m willing to buy you a ticket to Michigan to visit your family. I really think you should take it, mate.”

He shook his head vociferously. “My family is my lawyer brother, rich as shit and twice as smelly, and my mother, who has Alzheimer’s and is in the best home my brother decided to pay for. Last time I visited her, she had no idea who I was, and my brother and his anorexic Olsen twin of a wife treated me like I was retarded. I’m surprised they didn’t have a special padded helmet for me to wear around their house. I’d rather face assassins than them.”

“Sounds like my family.”

“They’re assassins?”

She snorted a laugh. “Might as well be.”

He nudged the box on the table, tacitly offering her one of the doughnut things, and she shook her head. She knew lots of people raved about them, but she’d never been much of a doughnut person.

She also knew she probably wouldn’t be able to talk Shan out of this – he was a big goofy Saint Bernard of a person, always eager to get in and help even when he didn’t understand the situation, and capable of great feats of strength even when you’d already written him off as a harmless goofball. In short, he’d have made a great hockey player or president of a minor Pacific island nation. Still, in good conscience – whatever shreds of one she had – she had to try. “Look, mate, these people have killed, and are always willing to do it again. Can you?”

“Can I what?”

“Kill. I know I’ve told you never to aim a gun at someone you have no intention of killin’, but I also know you think I’m bein’ a weirdo.”

“I don’t like guns.”

“I know, but this time out you may be forced to use one.”

He shrugged and shook his head at the same time. “Why? Guns and other weapons are your strength, not mine. Mine’s hand to hand. I mean, you don’t play hockey and rugby for years without learning how to fuck someone up royal.”

“You played rugby?”

He nodded, chewing another Timbit. “During the off seasons. I liked to think it kept my stamina up when there were no rinks to skate at. Don’t know if it did or didn’t, but I could decapitate someone with my elbow.”

“Nice. Ever play a sport that didn’t involve physical violence?”

He looked out the window at the people walking by on the street, and he was so unfocused for so long that she thought maybe he’d had a seizure. But finally he looked back and said, “Volleyball.”

He had one. Imagine that. “Sometimes these guys know better than to try to go mano a mano with a big slice of guy like you. If I was comin’ up against you, I’d go for the distant take out, and that’s assuming I know nothing about you. I’m just goin’ on your size alone, mate.”

“But have you factored in the brain damage? Most people think I’m pathetic. That knocks about a foot off my height and about a hundred pounds off my weight.”

That was true, and she was counting on that. But how long would that last? “You’ll be able to use it once, maybe twice. But by then word will be gettin’ around, and you will be considered a legitimate target.”

“But that’s why you have my back, right? You’re the major enforcer anyways, I’m just the wing man.”

She sighed heavily. “Is it all sports metaphors with you?”

He shrugged. “It’s easiest.”

She felt herself sliding off the topic, as she often did around him. She wrestled it back under control. “Look, if you’re gonna stay, then we’d better come up with a plan.”

“A plan for what?”

“For when they come after you. They’re gonna come after me first, so I might not be able to help you right away. We need to be ready. You sure you wanna do this?”

He nodded before gulping down more coffee. “Just lay out the plan. With all this caffeine in me, I can’t help but remember it.”

She certainly hoped so. His life might depend on it.

*****

Now

The seat started to give.

She found she got a second wind as soon as she felt the give, and kicked harder. Finally the seat gave and crashed open into the body of the car. It was a relatively small car, so she was forced to squirm her way out of the trunk, but at least it didn’t smell like tires. It was still stuffy, though.

The ties were hard plastic, but they hadn’t done a thorough job of frisking her, and she still had her boot knife. She had to contort a bit to reach the knife and get it out, and then contort some more to actually slip the blade between the ties and saw through one. It made her feel better to get her feet free, although it didn’t help her one damn bit.

Getting the ties off her hands was another thing, but before struggling with that, she popped open a door for some fresh air, and a more unobstructed view of her surroundings. Which was about as helpful as not opening the door.

She was in some beater car in what looked like a scrub lot, something overgrown with Scotch broom and blackberry bushes, with a towering, slightly diseased looking pine tree blocking the car from wherever the road was. There was a road, though; she vaguely heard the noise of cars in the distance. This was an excellent place to dump a body.

But where the fuck was she? She could have been in some shithole part of Alberta for all she knew. And what was the plan here? They could have killed her while she was out – honestly, they should have; you didn’t back off on an opponent when you had them down – but instead they dumped her in the trunk of a car in the middle of nowhere. Why? Were they coming back later to riddle the trunk full of bullet holes?

No. She was a gift – a gift to Six. He wanted to kill her himself. Wow, how busy did a guy have to be to wait to kill someone he’d wanted dead for years? Was she no longer his number one priority? She was heartbroken.

She was sitting on the edge of the back seat, half out the door, trying to saw through the ties on her wrist (boy, this was awkward; it was her own fault though, as she was out of practice), when she heard the crunch of tires on gravel coming her way. She quickly got out of the car, kicked the door shut, and crouched down behind the far side of the car. She had to know how many people were here before deciding on a method of attack.

But she saw, as soon as it entered the clearing, that it was an old olive drab Jeep with a slight rattle in the engine, which was very familiar. A quick but thorough scan revealed that it was indeed Shan by himself. As soon as he looked around, she stood up and waved the knife at him. He turned off the Jeep, which ticked for a minute like a dying clock, and as soon as he opened the door, he said, “Do you know I’ve been all over this fucking forest? That guy couldn’t give directions to his own house. And aren’t you supposed to be locked in the trunk anyways?”

“Think a trunk can hold me?”

He thought about that a moment. “Guess not. You are the Terminator.”

No, Shan wasn’t legally able to drive due to his seizures, but he used the Jeep only for short jaunts, and only during the day, when there was lesser light contrast. He hadn’t been caught yet, hadn’t been in an accident, and she wasn’t about to rat him out.

Shan came over, and she gave him the knife to finish cutting the plastic ties off her wrists. He did it quickly, but then again, he was stronger than your average bear. She noticed little dark flecks on the bottom of his ash gray sweatshirt, splatters that she recognized as blood. “How’d it go?”

“You were right, they sent over the amateur cleaning squad for me, and I played placid and dumb until I wasn’t anymore. Either I am remarkably good, or they were really shitty at this sort of thing.”

“How much did you hurt ‘em?”

“It ranges from mildly to extremely. But I kinda doubt they’re gonna file charges against me.”

“Yeah. You’d be surprised at how guys wanted by Interpol rarely go to the cops.”

She gave him the knife, and he pulled up his sweatshirt, revealing an enviable six pack of abs and two gun butts. “I have a couple more in the car if you’d rather have one of those.”

“You really shouldn’t stick guns in the front of your pants. That’s how guys shoot their nuts off.” She took both of the guns, as she knew he had no intention of keeping either. One was a Glock, the other was an HK, both nine millimeters. She preferred something with a bit more stopping power, but if you were a good aim, these would do the trick. She had very good aim.

“But it looks so cool on TV.” As she checked the rounds in the guns and tucked them into the waistband of her jeans (not in the front, although she had no nuts to shoot off), he peered at her closely and reached for her forehead. “That looks painful.”

She stepped back, and he stopped. “It’s just a bruise. I’ve had worse.”

“Maybe I oughta test you for a concussion. Is your vision blurry? Do you have a headache? Feel sick?”

“No, yes, no. I’m fine, Shan. You have to have brains to rattle ‘em.”

“No you don’t. I’m living proof of that.”

She gave him a light back hand slap on the arm. “Can it, you. We have to get ready; I don’t know when they’re coming back.”

“What are we getting’ ready for? Please tell me we’re not going all Wild Bunch.”

“No, but we are gonna watch and wait. Six is comin’ back, and I wanna turn the tables on him.”

Shan sighed heavily, rolling his eyes and slumping his shoulders. “You know that’s where shit inevitably goes wrong in movies, right?”

“Hey, if this were a movie, I’d have bigger tits.”

He glanced down at her t-shirt and shrugged. “Yeah, guess so. So what do I do?”

Sometimes it was nice to have irrefutable logic on your side.

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