Scorched Earth Policy, Part 5

5 – Greetings From The Great North Woods

In the end, she decided that she could kill in front of Shan, just not in any way that suggested execution style. Which left her with a bit of problem, because these guys just weren’t resisting.

But she did agree to keep in touch with Chen, and hadn’t bothered for long enough that CSIS were probably starting to doubt her intentions. At least Shan had some hockey tape in his Jeep. They used it to tape the thugs’ wrists behind their back, and taped their ankles together up to their calves. Just because he was bleeding so much, Shan taped up the bullet wounded knee of the more severely injured guy. Shan advised him to tell the doctors not to just rip it off as they might take skin with it, but for his kind advice he got a hearty fuck you. So they both agreed that the doctor should rip off the tape as hard as humanly possible.

She then called Chen and told her where to pick up these assclowns, and went through their car for clues.

They ended up having to do some math. The rental papers in the glove compartment listed the original mileage of the car, and then they noted what it was now, and subtracted the amount of miles it would take to get here from Vancouver. (Shan knew, since he drove it and wasn’t unconscious in the trunk of a car at the time.) With the amount of mileage left over, they tried to figure out where these numbnuts may have come from. Because they ran low on ideas, she called Chen and consulted her. Chen, for her part, thought they were both fucking nuts.

Chen still found them four potential sites. The best looked to be an auto junkyard that was suspected of being a chop shop as well as a source for illegal passports. Second best was a low rent bar; third best was a park. The last was a mall, which was highly unlikely, and yet would be good if you wanted to get lost in a crowd. Also, it had a “sporting goods” (read: gun) store, in case they needed to load up with some new shit in a hurry.

As soon as she hung up, she started the rental car and followed Shan’s instructions to get back to the road. “How long was I out?” Shan asked. He was attempting to put the safety back on the gun he grabbed, and he wasn’t doing well.

“Not long.”

“Are you sure? I seemed to have missed a shoot out.”

“There wasn’t a shoot out; I prevented one by shooting them in the back. Give me something with repeat action, and I can take out an entire platoon by shooting them in the back. It’s cowardly, but a hell of a time saver.”

Shan gave her a suspicious look, but seemed to accept that and let it go. The entire key to their relationship was his willingness to let shit go. “So, is your name actually Zero?”

“Zero’s a number, not a name.”

“That’s what I said! But those guys back at my apartment said that you changed your name to it in England or something. It seemed improbable, and yet, still like something you’d do.”

“It does, doesn’t it?”

“So, are you named Zero?”

She glanced at him sidelong, trying to gauge his response. “Would you like it to be?”

He stared at her in surprise. “It’s an option?”

She shrugged. “Sure, why not? I can always use a new name.”

He looked briefly confused. “So it’s not your name?”

She shrugged. “It could be.” There had to be a limit to how much she revealed to him. It was really better for him, although he would probably object to that.

He frowned at her, dark brows becoming stark lines over his icy blue eyes. “Why won’t you tell me your name? I’ve known you for years. I’ve looked down the barrels of more guns than …” He made a vague motion with his hand, one that went on longer than it should have, and he had a desperate look in his eye. His transitory aphasia was making itself known once more.

“Sorry mate, but I have no idea what word you were goin’ for there. Hot dinners? Than in your entire life? I’m sorry, I never meant to drag you into all that shit.”

It took him another minute, but he finally got his voice and mind back on track. “Okay, doesn’t matter. My point was – is – I’ve never known your real name. Don’t I deserve to know what it is by now? I won’t blab.”

She sighed, trying not to be too obvious about it. Telling him there were things he was still better off not knowing sounded condescending, although it wasn’t intended that way. So she just skipped that part. “I haven’t had a real name for years, Shan.”

“Bullshit. Your parents named you, didn’t they?”

“Yeah, but I got rid of that name around the time they got rid of me. I didn’t want it, and they didn’t want me. We were even. Ever since then, I just pick up names and throw them away when I don’t need them anymore.”

“What do you mean they got rid of you? Your parents put you up for adoption or something?”

“Naw. By then I was too old. My mother just told me to get out, and I did. I left my name at the door. A name is nothing, a designation, but it’s not you. It’s just somethin’ to write on the death certificate.”

He shook his head in despair and rubbed his eyes. “Are you wanted by some government?”

“America, and probably Egypt. I’m not so sure about Syria or Serbia; time and regimes change, you know. Hard to keep track.”

Shan stared at her for a very long moment, but she deliberately avoided his gaze. “You’re making that up.”

She simply shrugged. She wasn’t – well, maybe Serbia; was that even a country anymore? – but it didn’t matter.

“Are you saying if I Google your real name, I’ll find you on a wanted list?”

“No, under a coupla different names. Told ya, I change ‘em all the time.”

He raised his hands up and let them fall on his lap, a gesture of frustrated surrender. “Either you’re making this shit up to freak me out, or you’re just trying to freak me out, period.”

“No mate, swear I’m not. I’m just bein’ honest. Maybe ‘cause of the head injury.”

“Yeah, I was wondering about that. Maybe we should stop at an ER first?”

“Can’t. We’re already here.” She nodded down the road at a large chain link fence topped with looping curls of barbed wire. There was a sign so dirty you could barely see “Aaron’s Auto Hauling & Recycling” scrawled on it, or the hours of operation written underneath. She idled the car on the cracked asphalt ribbon some eight meters away from the chained and padlocked gate. It looked dark amongst the hulking hills of junked car bodies and the scree of loose parts, although there seemed to be a wan yellow light where she imagined the main building to be. “So what’s wrong with this picture?”

Shan studied the gate with well hidden but still obvious alarm on his face. “I … don’t know. They’re poor housekeepers?”

“It’s on the sign, right above the “Closed Sundays” line.”

He leaned forward, squinting his eyes to see through the built up dirt and grime. “Umm … “Open 11 to 8 Six Days A Week”.”

“What time is it?”

He looked at his watch. “Seven twenty.” She waited for him to put two and two together, and while he did, she reached in the duffle bag they found on the floor of the back seat. It contained a professionally sawed off shotgun, loaded, with several spare shells. Now this was a proper gun, not a pussy nine millimeter. Oh, well, they were fine for some people, but she wanted something guaranteed to put someone down for a long time. She laid her wonderfully phallic gun across her lap, barrel pointed towards her car door, ready for action. “They may have closed early for some good reason.”

“Maybe, but it’s a hell of a coincidence, don’t you think?” She started backing the car up, heading back down the small choppy road until she came to the intersection where it met the paved street.

“We leaving?”

“No, we’re gaining momentum.” She confirmed he was wearing his seatbelt, then gunned the engine before pushing the gas pedal down as far as it would go. Shan let out a surprised yelp and braced himself, hands wedged up against the dashboard, as the car met the gate.

The impact was a jarring thud accompanied by the scream of twisted metal and the soft noise of shattering headlights, but the barrier gave, the chain snapping and the gates swinging open as the damaged car roared into the wrecking yard. One of the front tires popped, possibly on a piece of metal sticking down from the now crumpled front end – she felt the head of the car going soft, the traction mushy and the steering sluggish – but she simply let up on the accelerator and wrestled the beast into some semblance of direction, refusing to lose control now.

The car fishtailed on the hard packed dirt, the rear slamming into one of the dead car cairns and causing an avalanche of small parts in their wake as she navigated the path between the car corpse hills, headed towards what now resolved itself into a low shack like building with a tar paper roof. “You’re fucking crazy,” Shan shouted, as the car was now rattling and making noises that suggested imminent death. (But what the fuck did she care? It wasn’t her rental.) She only grinned, because pronouncements like that always made her laugh. Of course she was crazy – she used to work for the government, didn’t she? That was pretty much a prerequisite.

She slued the car to a stop just beyond the shed, kicking up a huge cloud of dust that looked like smoke. As she killed the engine, it made a noise that could have been interpreted fairly as a death rattle.

Shan stared at her in wild eyed horror. “Couldn’t you have at least warned me?”

“What, and spoil the surprise?”

He scowled at her, not in the mood for jokes. “What if these people are innocent?”

“Then I’ll apologize,” she said, opening her door and sliding out, grabbing the shotgun and letting it hang next to her leg.

But it turned out there was no need for apologies. Shan had barely opened his door when the shooting

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