“Are you insane???” The woman asked with an uncharacteristic amount of panic.
She was relatively young, athletic and under all that superhero crap, I could tell she was quite the looker. They all were. I had never seen one fat, ugly or even small boobed. This one was no different.
I bit down on the end of my cigar and grabbed hold of the taught cables I had in one hand, with both hands. Slim and small-ish as she was, hanging over the side of the Waltham building tangled up in thin metal cables, her weight began to drag on my already diminishing strength reserves.
I looked down at her from my standing place on the roof and with a cigar smile I told her. “Crazy is relative, darlin’.”
She fretted and twisted in the air, trying in vain to release herself from the mess of tangles that the cables had created while wrapping themselves around her svelte body. Kicking and twisting, she couldn’t help but drive her foot into the brick wall of the twentieth floor building she hung from. The kick knocked her away and then there was nothing to stop her momentum as she slammed back into the wall with a bump.
“Agh!” She groaned and gritted her teeth. “Do you …..realize …. what we heroines do for this city????” She spat up at me.
I wrapped the cables one more time around my wrists, trying to get a better grip for what was about to come. I said, “Honey, you got your job to do….. I got mine.”
“We…. we’re part of the thin …..blue line….. the line that keeps this city from going to ruin…going to the criminals…. going to the people who would tear it down…. for their own selfish means!” She shot up at me angrily. Her bright, white teeth and pink gums were on full display. It reminded me to go and see my own dentist – when I had the time.
Maybe she really believes that, I told myself, while taking into consideration the sky blue body leotard she wore and the dark blue boots and gloves that seemed to me to be a bit too long for comfort. She also wore a dark blue domino mask. Her hair though, was long and straight and black and swished back and forth beneath her as she hung almost upside down, tangled in metal cables.
Thin blue line, I thought. Blue Raider. Made sense.
“Honey,” I said, getting a little worn out from holding her twenty floors above the alleyway below. “You’re the one who chose to be a blasted superhero. I’m just the middle man.”
With that, I pressed the buttons on my wrist cuff and the electrical charge shot through the cables Blue Raider was tangled in. She jerked and twisted in unnatural ways with an ugly grimace on her face and a groan leaking from her throat.
In a moment it was over. She hung limp, unconscious. I had to steady myself on the side of the roof barrier and tried to pull her up. But I was too spent. My arms wouldn’t provide the strength needed and I found myself cussing myself for letting a chase of a super heroine go on for as long as it had.
“Dammit.” I spat. I then looked out over the edge of the roof to see what was below the hanging girl, down on the ground of the alleyway. About ten feet away to the right, in the corner, was a trash bin with its lid up, lots of refuse in its belly.
“Good!” I said, nodding. I then dragged the cable over to the corner of the building, making my exhausted muscles scream at me in lactic acid anger. The wall was rough and brick, it gave me lots of trouble with the cable as I dragged it across its face and the heroine below spun and bounced as we moved. When I was in range, I let her go. I watched as she silently floated downward, all arms, legs and long black hair flailing about helplessly. She landed with a cushioned thud in the trash. A lot of it bounced around her, covering her up. The cables slapped and ‘twanged’ against the metal sides.
“Shit!” I said grabbing my arms in pain, huggin’ myself with the sudden release of the painful strain. I then stood up and tried to straighten my middle aged back and took a long drag on my cigar.
“Crap!” I told myself. “I need a drink bad.”
I wished I could have just gone home at that point, got a shower, a shot of sippin’ whiskey, maybe some of the apple pie I had left in the fridge. But, I still had work to do. Heading down to the street, I went quickly as I was able to the trash bin where I had dumped Blue Raider. Pulling on the cables, I dragged the sleeping girl from the trash and laid her out on the ground. The alley was isolated, the night dark and the street light out on the sidewalk created a surreal double darkness within the alley. Its light caused anyone out on the street to adjust to the lamp and thus made the alley almost completely black to any nosy passerby.
I pulled rope from inside its hidden spot under my trench coat and began securing my latest quarry. I tied her wrists behind her back, her knees together and then her ankles. I was good at this, just like roping a bull in a rodeo, so I was fast as well. I then roped the girl in a hog tie, malatya escort ankles to wrists. I then also tied a small noose which wrapped around her neck and was tied to her hands.
The cables I had to re-roll and attach back to my military belt which wrapped around my waist. I then took the blue spandex clothed ‘baby heroine’ and tossed her over my shoulder. She was young, maybe 20 years old, I thought. Nice round butt. Lovely, firm boobs. She’d bring a pretty good price. The usual price, but still pretty good.
Three blocks away I returned to my SUV and flipped opened the rear door that led to the interior cab. Inside were the sleeping bodies of Blue Raider’s buddies: The blonde, Night Bird and the brown haired, Ocelot. They had both given me a bit of trouble tonight as well, but they too were young, not long out of school, wet behind the ears and all. They also weren’t on the list of biggies, but they usually brought in about a million a piece. For all the trouble heroines were in capturing them and then selling them to their enemies, the low reward combined with volume, was my proffered choice of business.
I tossed Blue Raider on top of her fellow idiots and the other two groaned slightly as she landed on top of them. In the side panel of my truck I retrieved the medical doctor masks I had pre-soaked in chloroform from a clear plastic bag, and one by one, I placed the masks over their beautiful faces. I then stood back and took a breath, smoked my cigar and watched them rise up and struggle slightly in reaction to the fumes, as if trying to escape in their sleep. Just as quickly they seemed to deflate as their bodies went deep into an unconscious state. They’d be no more trouble. To me. Or anyone.
I looked at my watch to see how much time I had left before the usual delivery ship left the dock for the night, and it was almost 2:30am. I knew I had just enough time to make it, and that might be a good thing. It was better to have them packed away and headed out to sea. I could relax. I could forget about them. Sometimes the little buggers managed to escape and I’d have to rope and tie them all over again, but that’s usually when there was too much time between capture and shipping. I was glad that couldn’t happen this time.
I cranked up my SUV and headed for the docks. On the radio I found an old Hank Williams song playing on the local country music station, and as I drove, I sang along with the lyrics as best as I could remember them. The night was late and the traffic practically non-existent. I drove quickly to the docks and found the great sea bearing Silent Runner still parked at the dock. Two guys from the ship stood around on the dock under a hanging lamp on one of the poles. I pulled up about twenty feet away. I sat there in the darkness of my cab waiting.
I drew on my cigar, causing the end of it to turn red with the internal fire that burned the tobacco. I then did it again. The fire burned brightly. I then did it a third time and blew out a strong column of smoke. The men at the light pole threw down their cigarettes and headed over to the SUV. I rolled down my window.
“You almost missed us,” The one with the beard said as he strolled up.
“I had trouble. You leave and I will have to throw them in the water.”
“Nah. Don’t do that.” Said the skinny one. “How many?”
“Three.” I told him, still munching my cigar.
“We got something to tell ya from the boss.” The bearded one added.
“Zat right?” I said with a raised eyebrow. I was expecting something like a fist fight to follow his statement. I didn’t know why. I was ready for almost anything, but I was also still beat up from running down three young super heroines.
“Where ya got ’em? Inna back?” Asked skinny.
“Yeah. Lemme out.” I responded while opening the door.
We all walked around to the back of the SUV and I popped open the cab door. They looked in the back of the truck and saw the sleeping idiots I had caught that night. They both nodded in a way that was like: Yeah, that’s the usual.
“Your boss, what’s he got?” I asked.
“Word is…. Kodiak…. he want’s something bigger…. bigger fish.” Said beard.
“Bigger, huh?” I said nodding. “Bigger has a higher price….”
“He knows. He’s a little tired of the small fry you bring in. Wants to wheel and deal in a bigger pond for a while. You dig?”
I nodded. “I dig…. yeah…. not sure if I want the headaches….” I said shaking my head.
“He didn’t say you had to give up the rookies and street levels you usually pick up. He just wants to see you bring in a bigger one…. a really troublesome one.”
I nodded and blew a column of cigar smoke. “Oh, I see…. he wants to get me killed.” I said half joking.
Skinny smiled and half laughed. “No, no…. he wants Lady Liberty. He’ll give ya 10 mil just for her.”
“WHOA!” I said in disbelief. “He’s serious!”
“He is. This small fry sells pretty regular on the market.” He continued while referring maltepe escort to the sleeping children in my cab. “But, Lady Liberty has proven to be a constant pain in the ass. Nobody can beat her…….”
“Which is why she’s a pain in the ass.” I added. “She knock over one of Vanno’s operations?”
“Three! He lost big bucks on the deals.” Beard said with conviction.
I rubbed the back of my neck. “I dunno… I am not really equipped to go for the big news icons….”
“You’ll do it. You’re an old pro.” The beard assured me.
“I want my ass kissed, I’ll hire a hooker.” I retorted.
Skinny threw up his hands. “That’s the boss’s message. Take it or leave it.”
I watched him closely. I then looked over at the beard. “Okay, boys. I’ll see what I can do.” I told them.
But, the truth of the matter is that I had no idea how I was gonna pull off a major capture like Lady Liberty. She was the old pro in these parts. The mentor to all the young fluff that came my way and thought they too could be a rock star heroine with the public. I took a lot of them down and sent them overseas, but had always managed to avoid the old professionals of the game. I kicked myself internally for agreeing to such madness.
Beard and Skinny shook hands with me on the deal and then they got busy extracting the heroines from my SUV cab. They tossed them over their shoulders and I carried one too, just to help them out. We made it up the ramp of the ship and down a corridor, then into a larger room with lots of crates. In the corner were the empty ones and they dragged three out into the open floor. We each dumped a stupid, young girl into a body sized horizontal crate.
I straightened up and nodded my end of the night’s festivities. “That’s all I can do, boys. I’m gettin’ too old to be carrying them around like this after a night like tonight.”
Beard took out a small computer phone and told me, “We’re good. Let me connect you up.”
He hit a few buttons on the phone. It “beeped” and “booped”. In a moment I had three million in my bank account and we all shook hands again on it. Skinny had grabbed a hammer and nails and started to place the long wooden crate covers over the boxes as he prepared to hammer them closed for the long trip across the ocean.
I turned and left the ship, went back to the SUV. I thought about the mission of Lady Liberty. Taking out a major player was a step I had always avoided. Maybe Blue Raider was right. Maybe I was getting “insane” in my old age.
The Saturday nights in this town were getting to be a drag. Business was good, don’t get me wrong, but it was the same business all of the time. I walked down the street toward Layla’s in the cool evening breeze. It was damp with the past cloudy weather from the few days I had spent at home getting my aged body to come back from the latest hunt. I hurt. All over. I was getting too old for all this super heroine crap, and with each step I took down the cobblestone sidewalk, my knees gave me little annoying reminders in the form of creaks and digs of pain.
I stopped just outside of Layla’s pool hall and bar, stared into the one way window at the neon sign that hung there. I liked neon. I didn’t know why. It was tacky, gaudy and low rent looking, but it quietly hummed and glowed with magenta and blue light created by gas, or some such thing. It made me relax. Dammit, it down right hypnotized my ass, to be honest. I liked the feeling.
Layla stuck her head from around the entrance and called over to me, “Kodiak! Get your ass in here! The whiskey’s melting your ice.”
I turned to her slightly, my back still a bit stiff, and gave a slight puff on my cigar which I held between my teeth.
She said, “…and put that thing out, you can’t smoke in my bar, ya know that.”
I nodded. I threw the cigar into the street where a thin puddle of water still remained from the wet weather and the red tip of my cigar went out instantly.
“I’m comin’ darlin. I just have to drag myself over there.” I told her as I shuffled toward the entrance.
The hall was alive with juke box music I never cared for, some jungle crap that was a big deal these days with young people who couldn’t smell bullshit if you rubbed it in their nose. Pool balls cracked and rolled and dropped into pockets from several of the various fourteen or so professional size tables that filled the rear of the room. There was plenty of low level light, reflective green light covers and mirrors all over the walls.
Layla moved around the back of the bar which extended from the doorway, near a small outdoor patio set up, and then toward the back of the room. She grabbed my shot glass of whiskey, which she had put ice into without my asking, and slid it across the bar towards me as I grabbed a stool and pulled up to the bannister.
I took a slow drag on the caramel colored alcohol in my glass and felt it slide all the way down. It was good. Always was when Layla mamak escort served it.
“How you been darlin’?” I asked her as she leaned in to greet me and put her elbow on the bar, resting her chin on her hand.
She was an old warhorse in this business. 40 odd years old. Been doing it since she was in her twenties. Bars were her life. With a background of parents who ran guns and robbed Brinks trucks while she was still in diapers, rough living was what she had been raised on. A few looks at her greying brown hair, pulled back in a sloppy tail, the smattering of badly chosen tattoos in various places on her body, the dark eye liner, the bloody red lipstick and the age lines now creeping into her face, told you most of what you had to know. But, she knew her whiskey. It’s what I liked the most.
“I’m still rolling, old man. What’s your business these days? Still dealing in silly females?”
I chortled. “I have…. yeah…. I have. It’s gettin’ to be too much though…. think Imma be gettin’ out of the game.”
She shot me a surprised look, but still didn’t bother to move her head. Sleepy was her permanent disposition. “I don’t believe it. You have too much fun.”
“I did at one time. But now it’s hurtin’ too much.” I said shaking my head. “They’re still fast… young ….. sometimes pretty tough…. I keep slowing down.”
She grabbed the bottle of whiskey sitting a step or two away on the bar and poured more into my shot glass. “So just take more of a break between jobs….. it’s what my parents used to do.”
“Wish I could do that….. but suddenly I got a bigger assignment from the customer.”
“No shit? Bigger money?”
“Much. Ten mil. But, also a bigger fish.”
She leaned forward on her folded arms with a sly smile as though she wanted to share a secret. “Fill me in! Watcha got?”
I looked around behind me, trying to make sure none of the patrons milling around in the semi darkness were too close to hear. I then leaned into her in order to close the gap between us even more. “Ever hear of Lady Liberty?”
She gasped, “Oh? Really bigger fish!”
“Ten mil, I bring her in.”
“Well, if you’re gonna quit. Sounds like the right time.”
I nodded my agreement.
She looked over my shoulder away from the bar and then back to me. “But you’re not the only one who’s after her. You better move fast.”
I sipped some whiskey. I grunted and turned my head slightly sideways. “Hmm?”
“There were some men and a woman in the corner a few days ago. They was talkin’ bout Lady Liberty, too. They made a bet.”
“The woman said she bet she could bring down Lady Liberty in her own way, y’know like her own fashion…”
“Some kinda super?”
“Nooooo…. and you’re gonna love this….”
I widened my eyes and slightly shook my head as though to beg her to get on with it.
She gave me a crooked smile and said, “They were all…. vampires.”
I snorted. “WHAT??? You mean like they were ….. goths or something?”
She whispered. “No, no…. these people…. two guys and a woman…… they were the real thing.”
“Layla, I’m the one drinking the whiskey, darlin’.”
She chuckled. “Seriously….. they have been in here before….. I didn’t think they were the real thing for a few times….. I thought they were just goth kooks, too…. but no….. they really do the blood sucking thing…… the grave yard thing.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “Sweetheart…..”
“Don’t believe me and miss out on the chance for ten mil and a retirement.”
“I want to believe you…. you have never steered me wrong…. but VAMPIRES???”
She nodded and gave me a ‘yep, it’s true’ expression. Then she stood up and pulled the pony tail curving around her neck and then down her front away from her throat. She cocked her head sideways and showed me the two little puncture wounds just below her jaw line.
I bristled and stood up on the bar stool foot rests, leaning in to get a better view in the neon lit darkness. Suddenly angry I spat, “What the hell is that?”
She took a few beats and let the ponytail slide back down around her neck. She lowered her eyes and said, “They’re vampires. …….. I know.”
I shot her an angry look as though to send her a message about my sudden displeasure at this development. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me about this???”
She reached over her shoulder with one hand to scratch her back. “I….. I kinda …. liked it.”
I pursed my lips and stared her down for a silent moment. “They’re killers…. y’know?”
She lowered her eyes and whispered. “Yeah, I know.”
“You seriously think I’m gonna allow this to go on?” I told her with almost a growl in my voice.
I grabbed my glass and tapped the bottom of it on the bar with a demanding rattle. She grabbed the whiskey bottle and filled me up again. I could tell she was a little worried about a suddenly angry and whiskey-ed up Kodiak.
“When do they come back?” I shot at her with a command in my voice. I then took a fast swig.
She shrugged. “I dunno, honey…”
“Where do they…….uh….. y’know……exist?”
She placed her hand over her mouth and leaned forward again with a wild look in her eyes.