LANCELOT - MARK JOSEPH KIEWLAK
“Is your name really Lancelot?” she said. “’Cause, like, nobody’s name is Lancelot.”
She was nineteen. Maybe. We were in the stairwell, moving down. There were ten guys with guns waiting in the basement.
“Did your mother give you that name?” she said. “Was she, like, into the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur and stuff?”
“Shut up,” I said.
I thought about reversing direction. There were ten guys with guns waiting in the penthouse.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” she said. “I would’ve done fine on my own.”
We were nearing the basement. “I know why you’re here,” I said. “I know a lot of it. I know about Maurice.”
Maurice had a lot of girls. And a lot of bodyguards. But there was only one Angela. And only one of me, for that matter.
“That social worker’s got a big mouth,” Angela said.
Her hair was auburn and hung down to her ass in a long braid. She was wearing jeans big enough for me and black leather shoes with chunky four inch heels.
“Tell me what he did to you,” I said. “And we can make him pay.”
“Who?” she said. “Maurice -- or my father?”
“Is that some sort of surprise?” she said. “Isn’t that what you expect?”
“The day I start expecting it,” I said, “I’ll put the gun to my own head.”
We had reached the basement door. I peeked out through the wire glass. Two men stood guard on the other side. A half dozen more were by the elevator. I heard voices on the stairs. They were coming down.
“Let them have me,” she said. “There’s no other way out.”
I ducked under the stairwell just as the men rounded the last corner. Angela put her finger to her lips to indicate that she wouldn’t tell on me. The men took her by the arms through the door into the parking garage. As the door began to close behind them I heard one of them on a cell phone. “We’re bringing her up,” he said. He gestured toward the door to the stairwell and the two men who had been guarding the door stepped inside and I shot them both in the head at point blank range. I reloaded and ran out into the garage. Everyone including Angela was grouped by the elevators. I began firing as I ran toward them. I hit one in the midsection, another in the thigh. I hit one in the neck and another in the chest. By that time they were returning fire. I ducked behind a concrete pillar. Four of them were down. That left four plus Angela. I stuck my gun out and blasted another one in the head. I was about thirty feet away. Angela was screaming and kicking and only one guy was holding her. I reloaded. As a second guy turned to get a hold of her I shot him in the back. A bullet whacked a chunk of concrete out of the pillar where my head had been a second before. There were only two men left.
Angela broke free of one man’s grip and charged at the second. The man she had broken free of pointed his gun at her and I shot him in the upper chest. While Angela was wrestling with the last bodyguard I ran up and pressed my gun to his head. Angela took his gun and stuffed it in her pants pocket. The elevator was waiting with the doors open. I hauled the last bodyguard to his feet and shoved him inside. I grabbed Angela by the arm and did the same. I glanced around to make sure no one was making a recovery. Some of the men were still moving but not very much.
The doors closed and I pressed my gun up under the bodyguard’s nose. He wore a black T-shirt with black chinos. His arm was bleeding where Angela had bitten him.
“Fucking Lancelot,” she said. “You fucked us good now.”
I jammed the barrel into his nostril. “Take us to Maurice,” I said. He took out a key and inserted it into the control panel and pressed a red button at the top.
“When we get there,” I said, “you go first. Understand?”
He nodded. There was sweat on his lip and atop his shaved head.
“Maurice will kill us both now,” Angela said.
“What are you to him?” I said. “What was worth all this trouble?”
She took a step back into the corner and turned away from me. “Our daughter,” she said. “Maurice wants me to tell him where our daughter is.”
“Where is she?” I said.
The doors opened and I shoved the bodyguard out. We were in the foyer of the penthouse. More bodyguards were waiting. Some of them had Uzis. I took Angela by the throat. “This is the only way,” I said. “Otherwise I’m dead and I can’t help you.”
“Okay,” she said.
I got behind her and stuck my gun in her ribs. The bodyguards let us pass. The living room was triple-tiered and enormous. Off to one side was a hallway and a set of bodyguards on either side of a door. I marched Angela up to the door. “Let us inside,” I said.
From inside a gravelly voice said, “Let them in.”
We went in and found Maurice seated in the shadows behind an enormous desk. The wall behind him was all glass. The rain was slanting against it and pounding pretty hard.
“Where’s my daughter?” Maurice said. He acted as if I wasn't even there. His salt and pepper hair was receding in a widow's peak and grew long in the back. He had tiny round glasses with colored shades. His clothes were all black.
“You used to mean something to me,” Maurice said. “Now I will shoot you in the cunt unless you tell me where my daughter is.”
His gravelly voice had an edge to it that made my muscles tense up. He still hadn’t made eye contact with me.
“Like, fuck you, Maurice,” Angela said. “Why should I tell you anything? You’re just another macho prick who thought he owned me.”
Her use of the past tense was encouraging.
Maurice lifted his hand above the desk. There was a gun in it. He pressed a button on the arm of his chair and it moved backward. I realized it was a wheelchair. Maurice was a paraplegic.
“I have a right to my daughter,” he said. “She’s all I have left.”
“Then you don’t have anything,” Angela said.
Maurice shot her in the calf. Her body went slack and I took my hand from her throat and let her sink to the floor. I turned my gun on Maurice.
“I would piss in your face,” he said to Angela, “if I could.”
I was down on one knee with her head cradled in my lap and my gun arm out straight. Maurice pressed a button and his chair moved closer. “One night,” he said. “Twenty fucking years ago. One night.”
Something didn’t make sense. Then it did.
“You’re not Angela,” I said.
Maurice looked at me for the first time. He glanced at the girl he had shot. She said nothing.
“She’s a teenager, Maurice,” I said. “Look at her. She’s a fucking teenager.”
Maurice turned the gun on me. “And you’re a fucking dead man,” he said.
“She was my mother,” the girl said. “After she died I took her name. I took her memories. I took her everything. And you took mine.”
Maurice was in shock. He forgot all about the gun in his hand. “You ... you’re --”
“I’m your fucking daughter,” Angela said.
If he could’ve gotten out of the chair he would have. He motored to within a few feet of us. He reached out his hand to her. “My daughter,” he said. Tears were in his eyes.
Angela’s face was a snarl of contempt. If she felt the bullet in her leg she gave no sign. “You didn’t even know her,” she said. “You just wanted her and you took her. You gave her the virus. You never even knew she died. All you knew was that she was pregnant. You came to collect and I wasn't there. She hid me away from you. But I’m not hiding anymore.”
Maurice ignored the contempt in her voice. “My baby girl,” he said. “I found you at last.”
I stood up and took the gun from his hand. Through the window I saw the parking lot filling with police cars. Shooting ten people had gotten someone’s attention. As I turned back around I saw that Angela had taken the gun from her pants and was pointing it at Maurice. She fired it into his chest until it was empty. Then she fell backwards unconscious on the floor. Maurice’s body was slumped in the chair. His eyes were wide. There was a smile on his face.
BIO: Mark Joseph Kiewlak has been a published author for more than two decades. In recent years his work has appeared in The Back Alley, Hardboiled, Plots With Guns, All Due Respect, Pulp Pusher, Thuglit, and many others. His story, “The Present,” was nominated for the 2010 Spinetingler Award: Best Short Story on the Web. He has also written for DC Comics.
Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018
14 hours ago