Scorched Earth Policy, Part 9

9 – New Orleans Is Sinking
Shan wondered how long he could sit here before he could think up an excuse to bust in on Z.

She’d hate him for it, but damn it, he just could never reconcile the difference between who she appeared to be and who she actually was. She looked like a kind of average to slightly small woman; in reality, she was more gonzo and hard core violent than any hockey player he had ever met. It was hard to reconcile the two things. His head knew she didn’t need his help ever, but his head was basically broken, so he could expect no help from it at all. But that worked in his favor, right? She’d probably forgive him. He could blame a ton of shit on his brain injury.

Shan was searching his pockets for gum when he glanced up and realized the guy currently getting out of a cab in front of the hotel looked familiar. He quickly glanced at the print out Z had left him, and saw that it was the guy that Z inexplicably called Six. On the drive here, she told him Six was called that because his last name was phonetically close to the German word for six, but Shan wasn’t sure that made sense. It could, but not so much. Didn’t mean it wasn’t true, though; life was strange, and Z was stranger than that. Shan sighed, as he knew he had to go get him; storming in on Z would have to wait until later. Damn it.

He waited until the guy had entered the hotel before getting out and following. He followed Z’s instructions perfectly, because he was good at that.

He stayed out of earshot, stayed away from Six, and then realized he had no actual plan. He had Z’s guidelines, but she left him room to improvise. Crap.

Well, he knew what his room number was, right? He knew what floor he was on. Six got into an elevator and Shan got in too, not sure what his plan was. It turned out he and Six were alone in the mirrored elevator, and Shan felt big next to the guy; he was at least five inches taller, and maybe fifty pounds heavier. But he was a big boy; he wouldn’t be a bouncer if he was smaller than your average bear. He could overpower the guy without much trouble. But Z had emphasized, “Always assume a gun. With these morons, always assume they have a Smith and Wesson stashed somewhere, because more than half the time you’ll be right.” And while attacking him in the elevator might be ideal – really confined space; even if he had a gun, he could only shoot him – he couldn’t lug an unconscious body around. It was a little too early to go with the falling down drunk excuse, even in Canada.

He caught Six’s eyes in the mirrored walls, and as he wondered if he’d been made (what a cool phrase – did that ever actually apply to him? Did you have to actually be someone before you could get “made”?) he slapped on a big stupid smile, and went with a guise that had never ever failed him: dumb ass American tourist. “You in for the conference?” Shan had no idea if there was a conference, but it was a hotel. It was one of those bets where the odds heavily favored you.

Six’s cold eyes narrowed slightly. He had really thin eyebrows, almost like they’d been burned off at one point and he just glued these tiny strips of felt to his face. “No.”

“Ooh, accent! Where you from, buddy? I’m from Michigan myself. Ever been to Michigan?” Part of the reason this guise was easy was because he was just parroting his Uncle Stan, a good natured chatterbox who was never exactly a Mensa candidate at the best of times. As if to prove that point, while drunkenly hunting deer one winter, he accidentally shot and killed himself when he dropped his rifle and it went off, and the bullet ricocheted and hit him in the stomach, severing a vital artery. It was discovered he’d also left his headlights on in his truck, and the battery was dead by the time his body was found. It seemed like insult to injury.

Six’s gaze was much eviler, and he looked away, shoulders hunching in a way that suggested he wanted the stupid American to go away and leave him alone. “No.”

“You oughta go! We got lotsa lakes. You like fishing? I love it, but ya know, Vancouver ain’t so good for it. A buddy of mine was up here last year, and he said the place was lousy with trout, but I gotta say, place seems kinda dead to me. I think Phil was just yankin’ my chain.” Shan elbowed him, sending him stumbling towards the wall. “Oh, sorry bud. You okay?”

Six straightened the collar of his jacket and gave him a dirty look to compliment the perfect “fuck you” vibe he was giving off like steam. If you were blind, deaf, dumb, and brain damaged, you’d still get that he wanted you to leave him the fuck alone. Shan just gave him a big Uncle Stan smile, wishing he could give off an odor of cheap bourbon like Stan did. “Fine,” Six spat like poison, before turning and exiting. He barely let the elevator doors finish opening before he slipped out. Shan waited until the doors were completely open before he followed the guy out. “Hey, you on this floor too?” Shan boomed, sounding like the world’s happiest idiot. “I’m in room 321. What’re you in?”

Six cringed but made no effort to respond. If Shan were him, he’d probably be considering shooting the stupid bastard, damn the consequences. But Shan kept his distance, allowing Six to disappear around a bend in the corridor, and he waited until he heard the noise of a door accepting an electronic key and unlocking. Only then did Shan come around the corner, and see the back of Six’s nondescript coat disappearing into a room. The door was closing, but Shan got a hand on it and shoved it all the way open, startling Six and making him stumble into his room. “What the hell -”

“Hey, we haven’t been properly introduced,” Shan said, shutting the door behind him. “My name’s Shane Shanahan, and we have a mutual friend.”

He saw it; that instant of recognition, the sudden dawning that the big stupid idiot might not be a complete idiot after all. Six did something smart – he started backing up, reaching for something under his coat, but Shan could thank all his hockey training for the fact that he might be a big, lumbering oaf, but all his trainers made sure to teach him how to move fast, much faster than you’d think a big man like him would be capable of. He tackled Six, and they both hit the bed and rolled over it, Shan grabbing his arm and forcing it away, keeping him from going for whatever he was trying to grab.

They rolled off the bed and hit the floor, Six struggling to get free, driving knees into his crotch and midsection, attempting a head butt but failing, as he was beneath Shan and he saw it coming. The crotch hits hurt, but not as much as they probably would have had he not been wearing his cup. Come on – you go into a game, you gotta suit up.

Six realized it at some point, as he stopped trying to knee him, but he was now cursing at him in what was probably German – like Shan knew; French cursing he knew, but German was new to him – and finally stopped and said in English, “If you knew what she really was, you wouldn’t be helping her.”

“I know she’s Australian,” he said, wondering what the best way to knock this guy out would be. Could he reach that lamp?

He shouldn’t have talked to him at all. He got distracted. “She’s an assassin,” he said, getting his foot up into his gut and kicking him off of him. But he didn’t get as much strength on it as he should have; Shan stumbled back but controlled it, so as Six grabbed his gun and started rolling up to his feet, Shan was back on him, grabbing the gun and twisting it in his hand as he drove his knee down solidly into his chest. Shan got the gun away, but the guy suddenly slapped at him with his other hand. Shan ducked it and backed away, but as he did, he felt water dripping from his face. No, not water – blood.

Silver glinted in Six’s hand; it was a tiny blade, triangle shaped and wrapped with electrical or hockey tape at the bottom, the widest point, giving him something to hold onto. “Drop it or I shoot you in the fucking leg,” Shan ordered, all too aware of how dangerous a blade could be.

Years of hockey had taught him if a blade was sharp enough, a cut didn’t hurt; you could get a wicked slice and not even know it until after the fact. It also taught him there was an artery in the face, but he was sure Six missed it, because the blood wasn’t spurting, it was dripping. He’d seen guys with accidentally sliced arteries, and they sprayed like something out of a bad horror film. He started to feel an ache in his cheek, and figured that’s where he was bleeding from.

Six studied him, pale eyes glittering like wet crystals, and Shan wondered if that’s what crazy really looked like. Not the guy wearing underwear on the outside of his pants and four coats on an eighty degree day, ranting about how the aliens were sabotaging the cheese supply and trying to make everyone speak Swahili, but the guy who seemed to show no fear while looking down the barrel of his own gun, trying to figure out if he could throw the knife before the guy holding him could pull the trigger. There were degrees of crazy, and Shan imagined that Six’s mind was a hatbox full of rabid sewer rats. “Are you a killer, Shane? Really?”

He took aim at his thigh. “I won’t kill you. I’ll just cripple you. Drop the fucking knife!”

His eyes, hot and bright and just a fuckload of crazy, bored into his, and Shan tensed on the trigger. He was going to shoot the guy just to make him stop looking at him. But Six must have guessed his intent, because he let the sliver of a blade drop from his fingers and hit the carpet. “You know, as soon as you’re of no use to her, she’ll kill you too. She’s good at killing. That’s why the Brits took her even though she was an Aussie slag. She can kill anyone with anything.”

“You like to hear yourself talk, don’t you Colonel Klink?” Quickly, without telegraphing it, he snap kicked Six in the face, hoping that would knock him out, or at least stun him. But even though he slammed back hard into the nightstand, his lip bleeding from the contact, he was conscious enough to complain, “Son of a bitch! What was that -”

Shan turned the gun around so he had the butt out, and smashed Six on the head. It took two hits to knock him out, and even then he wasn’t sure he wasn’t just stunned into silence. It always looked so easy in the movies.

He heard a clunk, the door unlocking and opening, and he swung the gun around just in time to see Z come in. She had a bloody lip and what looked like the beginning of a black eye, but she seemed okay otherwise. “How’s it going here? Fuck, he cut you?”

“Yeah. He had a knife thingy, but I didn’t see it until I took his gun from him.”

“Yeah, he’s a slippery bastard.” She came over and took a good look at the cut, grimacing slightly. “Didn’t cut all the way through, did it?”

He felt the inside of his cheek with his tongue. “Don’t think so. How bad is it?”

“It looks very manly. You’ll get laid for sure.”

“Awesome. You look like yours went down with a fight.”

She clicked her tongue as she pulled out her cell phone. “Mercenary types only go down with a fight. They’re testosterone poisoned like that.” She put the phone to her ear, and said, “We’re at the hotel and it’s done. Send in the teams.” Shan though he heard the distant sound of a female voice, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. Z gave no facial or vocal clues. If it wasn’t for the bruises on her face, she could have been ordering a pizza. “Oswald has been neutralized. Six is alive and awaiting transport to a heavily guarded facility.” There was a pause, more distant female voice. “Neutralized means neutralized, Chen, as in no longer a threat to anyone in the first or third world. Now get the teams in here before the RCMP gets involved.” She hung up and put her phone back in her pocket, even though Shan was sure he still heard the woman talking.

He looked at her, and asked, “Why did you specify Six was alive?”

“Because we could have killed him. Mission parameters allowed for death. We coulda picked ‘em off with sniper rifles if we ever got a clear shot.”

“Ah.” Suddenly, he didn’t want to know what neutralized meant. He really, really didn’t.

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