"Where's Lisa, Danny?"
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Danny did a circuit of the house, checking the windows and doors, as he’d taken to doing every hour on the hour. It was good to get into a rhythm.
That rough trade the cunt had brought home was going to pay once Danny’s new teeth were ready, he’d decided. He had it all planned out, what he was gonna do to Beckett when he had him in cuffs, in the basement. He was gonna take his time with him. It’d be like Pulp Fiction, only Bruce Willis wasn't going to ride off into the sunset on Zed's chopper. First he’d be humbled. Then he’d climb into a hole Danny would make him dig himself.
Then, lights out.
He’d already gotten Beckett’s address and phone number out of the backdoor he’d installed in the cunt's phone in case she started getting above herself, but he wanted to be prepared. Beckett was a digital ghost (Danny hadn’t been able to find anything online—no social media, no court records, not even an old phone number on any of those people-finder sites), but from what the cunt had told him, Danny had deduced that he was an ex-soldier or Marine with PTSD from Afghanistan.
Danny hadn’t fully appreciated all that when he’d told the cunt to bring him over, and he’d been complacent. But now it was his turn. Beckett was just off tranquilizers, and Danny knew how to play that. Beckett had been kinked up with nerves when he’d come to the house, but seeing Ronnie had clearly given him a shot of adrenaline. Danny knew not to give him a chance this time. Beckett’s anxiety would be his downfall.
The smoking room, where the event had occurred, was unlivable—it needed to be professionally cleaned. Danny planned to see to it that the cunt paid for that, and contributed to the menial labor as well. He had made his base of operations in a comfortable chair he’d picked up at the Salvation Army and set up in the kitchen, as far as he could get from the hallway. The windows had to be open all the time, which was an inconvenience; there had been a cold snap, although it hadn’t snowed yet, so he had bought two space heaters as well, and set them up on either side of his command station. Not that he needed them, of course—he found the chilly air bracing. It was a wake-up call, a reminder that he’d been slack, that he needed to get back to basics.
Beckett was clearly in the game. Ronnie had been on somebody’s string before they came to Rochester, they’d fled, and Beckett had come up to collect them. The situation hadn’t been conducive to negotiation, but Danny was a businessman, and he realized that Beckett was a bigger fish than he’d appreciated, and that he, Danny, had transgressed against him. There could have been dialogue. He was still gonna do Beckett ugly, but there was a part of Danny that respected the man. It was a shame things had gone down the way they had.
There was a soft snapping sound, which grew into a low crackle. The hair on Danny’s arms slowly stood on end. The smell of pepper spray diminished slightly, replaced by the smell of an electrical storm. Danny got to his feet and took his nine millimeter out of his waistband.
A girl stepped into the hallway. Brown skin, biker leathers, long braid, bare feet. Danny relaxed, keeping his arm low and blading his body so the girl wouldn’t see the piece in his hand. The cunt must have sent over a peace offering. This one was high-grade, too—lean, tight little body, like a dancer. Definitely a cut above the usual.
“You lost?” he said in the sly, friendly tone he used talking to new talent. He smiled at her, being careful to only curl the lip on the side of his mouth that still looked normal, which he’d been practicing in the mirror.
The girl lowered her head and looked up at him submissively. “I don’t know,” she cooed, nibbling her thumb. “Am I?”
Danny chuckled. The prosthetic teeth shifted in his mouth, which dampened his spirits slightly. Nevertheless, he rallied. “Nora sent you over, huh?” he ventured.
“Not exactly,” said a familiar voice. Danny’s blood ran cold as Heath Beckett stepped into the hallway, placing himself between Danny and the biker chick. “Where’s Lisa, Danny?” he said in a tired voice. He sounded resigned to a fight.
“Their name is Ronnie, asshole,” Danny said, swinging the gun up like Dirty Harry.
Rather, that was what he meant to say, but both the incisor and the canine picked that moment to fall out of his mouth and onto the kitchen floor, and what came out was “Their nugh—fugh.”
Beckett closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb. “Must we?” he asked.
Danny scowled and cocked the pistol. “Yeah,” he said; it came out like “Yugh,” but Danny was too angry to care.
Beckett cracked his neck. He began to walk deliberately down the hall toward the kitchen. He seemed to be intentionally taking his time, like he thought Danny was bluffing. Like he thought this was a joke. Danny’s eyes narrowed. He waited until Beckett reached the kitchen door and squeezed the trigger.
The first bullet hit Beckett in the neck. Arterial spray painted the kitchen wall, but somehow the guy kept walking toward Danny.
Danny fired again and missed. The third shot, though, was a peach. It caught Beckett square in the eye, blowing it to mush. Danny could see the jet blast of blood and brain matter exit the back of Beckett’s skull. Beckett’s head jerked back a little, and he let out a soft noise like a sigh. Then he shook himself like a dog and resumed walking toward Danny.
Danny desperately emptied the magazine. There were more misses than hits, but three more hollow points struck Beckett in the chest. Danny watched Beckett’s shirtfront go wet and crimson—the sonofabitch wasn’t even wearing a vest, yet he kept coming.
And that wasn’t even the part of all this that unnerved Danny the most. That part, the part which had erased literally every conscious thought from his mind but “please, oh please God let me wake up soon,” would be the fucking artery in Beckett’s neck closing and the flesh knitting together while his eye somehow rebuilt itself.
To add insult to injury, Beckett looked as bent out of shape about the fact that he’d just been shot in the face as Danny would have looked if he’d found pigeon shit on the windshield of his Jeep but none on his paint job—an annoyance, but one that didn’t really matter. Like, it could have been worse, right?
The pistol’s slide locked back, indicating that Danny was out of both ammo and options. He dropped it and ran out the kitchen door.
A voice behind him, back in the house—another man, high voice, British accent—“Oi, ‘ow much damage, ‘Eath?”
Then Beckett’s tired, snobby drawl—“Breathing, unconscious, doesn’t need the rest of his teeth.”
Danny had been a gym rat since he was old enough to shave, but he didn’t like to do more cardio than he had to. Fear must have put wings on his feet though, because suddenly he was sprinting, knees to chest, like he was captain of the track team. But he was moving too fast to change direction, and his heart was pounding like he’d taken a huge bump of something he had thought was coke but which had in fact turned out to be crank.
And he couldn’t stop.
He’d meant to hop up and vault the high wood fence that bordered the big back yard, but he couldn’t find the brakes. He crashed into the fence face-first instead, like he’d been thrown into it from a car moving at highway speed, bounced back ten feet, and landed in a supine position on a bag of cement he’d bought to make a patio for after they finished the remodel.
His last thought as he lost consciousness was “What the fuck did I ever do to deserve this shit?”
It's the economy that gets me every time. Also, the tension and release in such short order reminds me of certain kinds of music. Loving it.
Killer closing line on this one. I think the action and blocking is some of your clearest and easiest-to-follow so far, and we've sure as hell seen a great leadup to the confrontation.