This article is part of the Eastwood series.
"Team one, fire," crackles the radio as I burst through the stairwell door and into the light on the roof. The van is only a few dozen feet away.
"Copy that," I shout into the radio and then toss it away, drawing my gun and sprinting towards the van.
Almost there. I can see people moving in the van. I reach for the sliding door and it opens and I'm eye to eye with a wall of muscle in a boonie hat. He feeds me four knuckles with enough foot pounds to loosen my teeth. My gun goes clattering away and I go sprawling on the asphalt with a mouth full of blood. Dazed. Barely able to see. The gorilla is stepping out of the van. Coming towards me in slow mo. I can see the team in the van sighting the shot. Hear the radio crackling. Sullivan telling them to shoot. Shoot goddamit!
I fucking blew it.
"Allahu Ackbar!" The cry sends a chill up my back. A trio of Laotian SMGs with suppressors pop on full auto. The inside of the van sparks and shakes and there is a loud clatter like someone is throwing rocks around inside the van. The poor van team gets a second to panic and then they're all bloodied and spilling out through the open door. Down in Venezuela we had phrase for a narco-style car shoot-up. Red dead meat. These guys are raw hamburger.
The Arabs stalk into view. Professional killers. One of them puts a three-round in the gorilla to finish him off. They're talking in Arabic above me. The crowd is roaring down below.
"Team three, goddammit! " Sullivan crackles over the radio. "Take the shot!"
The Arabs don't hesitate. They haul the gun out of the van, tripod and all, and swing it around, pointing into the air. I wonder what they're doing and then I see it, right above the clock tower, a little white helicopter with Lewis on the side. Door hanging open. Shooter in a four-point harness.
Boom goes the 50 caliber and as I manage to sit up I can see the helicopter swaying and turning away, the insides of its windows smeared with blood, half a guy in Centcom fatigues hanging limp in the harness.
One of the Arabs helps me to my feet.
"Fuck Canton," he says. "Fuck Lewis."
"Allahu Ackbar," I agree and spit blood on the ground.
And that's it. No assassination, no live fire retaliation. The vatos never start shooting blanks. I guess they wised up on their own. Canton finishes his stupid speech and the city on the brink goes reeling back. But it doesn't get better. Tomorrow all these people are still going to be out here, their jobs gone, screaming bloody murder, and the O'Keefes and Woolsys of the world are still going to want them all dead.
Me? I did what I could. Tomorrow I'll be pumping 400 bucks worth of 50/50 into my Mustang, filling a cooler with Coronas, and heading out West. Somewhere with a sun over my head and nothing but rocks and lizards for a hundred miles. I know a guy in South Dakota who sells peyote. Discover my spirit animal out in the badlands. Annihilate my ego and regress to liquid infant infinity dripping down into the cracks between ancient rocks.
Maybe after I reform like the Terminator I'll head down to Texas. I hear there's work to be had for the right kind of person in Corpus Christi.
"Really, Holmes!" I dropped into my seat, shocked. "You are remarkably tall! What are you, six foot six? Six foot eight?"
As the 19th century diver approaches a giant clam, a flash of brilliant golden light flares from within the shell. I emerge in a swirl of bubbles and do the timeless universal underwater hand signals for the following: ZODIAC KILLER, KKK, BLOOD OF YOUTH
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The misadventures of an aging mercenary navigating the intrigues of the dividing States of America.