MAN DOWN - JASON CHIREVAS
Leo pressed his dinner plate palms and butcher-block chest to the thick door. Fists and shouts pounded the other side. Slick with sweat, he stepped right and pulled a file cabinet down across the doorway.
He stumbled round. Vin lay on his side across the grimy basement floor, his hand clamped over the back of his thigh, red.
“W-when?” Leo dropped to one knee.
“Right before we ran in here, I think.” Vin ground his teeth. “You got to take the thing.”
“I…I can’t.” Leo sunk to a hip. “I dunno where—”
“You know where.” Vin spasmed into jackknife and gripped his leg.
“But.” Leo shied from the noisy door. “In the service they says to never leave a man down.”
Vin slapped Leo’s bristly jaw with his dry hand. “This ain’t the fuckin’ service.” He grabbed a handful of Leo’s dirty, zippered sweatshirt. “Take the thing and get outta here before Dolan kills us both.”
Shots joined the voices and kicks at the barred door. Leo put both hands and feet under him and pushed himself erect. Streetlight stabbed through a rectangular window below the ceiling to the floor near Vin’s head. Leo’s kielbasa tongue swept his lips. “OK…OK, gimme the thing.”
Vin smiled between croaks of pain. “Good boy.” He rolled onto his healthy leg and yanked the thing from inside his suit jacket. Leo tucked it into his sweatshirt. He frowned at the thick crimson pool under Vin’s thigh. “Bye, Vin.”
“Wait.” Vin reached into his jacket again, wincing and squealing. He pulled his chunky .45 and shoved it at Leo. “Take this, too.”
“OK.” Leo gripped the gun by the barrel. The door shuddered as a slug made it through the dense wood and skipped off the concrete floor. “OK.” He exchanged a nod with Vin and crossed to the far wall.
A battered desk bore his weight long enough to smash the window out with the butt of Vin’s .45. Eye level with the sidewalk, Leo tossed the gun through the window frame and dragged his bulk out after it. Stubborn glass wedges gouged through his sweatshirt and carved red lines in his arms, chest, and back.
No one on the street. Leo grabbed the .45, this time by the grip, and got to his feet. A crash of wood came from the broken window at his feet, followed by a tasseled loafer stampede. Voices attacked each other; Leo heard Vin’s say fuck off. He trotted across the street.
His card table back up against the snot green bathroom door, Leo rolled his tearing eyes. “Fourth and third? Or third and fourth?” He stepped to the stained sink, flipped on the cold. Just a brown trickle. He wrapped his hands round the sink; his wet eyes found the spotted mirror. “Third and fourth or fourth and third?”
A choked flush from behind. Leo wheeled to face the opening stall door. A used up suit tottered to the other sink. He flipped his faucets, but got nothing. “Aw, shi—...Uh oh.” He jerked at the waist and filled the sink with puke.
Leo twisted away, sleeve over his nose and mouth. The bathroom door was open. Three men in sharp threads filled the frame. The flankers pointed guns. The one in the middle held out his hand. “Give me the thing. Dolan says maybe you walk again, if you do.”
Leo stepped back. The middle sharp did too, allowing the gunmen through the door. Leo’s hand moved to his sweatshirt, the thing on the other side of the soft material. The used up suit finished his puke and straightened up. His red-rimmed eyes narrowed at the gunmen. “What the fu—”
Leo slipped behind the puker, his back to the tile, hands braced on the cold radiator. He kicked up from the ground with both feet, put his size fifteens to the puker’s back and shoved him at the gunmen. One of them sidestepped, his piece clattering against the closed second stall. The other, eyes wide, fired his cradled nine. The bullet did a quick pass through the puker’s mouth, blew a flesh flower out the back of his neck, and shattered the little window over Leo’s head.
More glass. Leo turtled his neck to his shoulders and powered off the wall. He dipped his shoulder and caught the guy against the stall in the sternum, which cracked along with several of his ribs. His mouth a ring of stunned anguish, the guy dropped his piece and tumbled through the stall door. His hip hit the bowl, his head dented against the fixture, and he stopped moving.
Leo wheeled on the other guy, who was against the doorframe, the puker face down gurgling at his feet. He raised his nine. Leo grabbed his wrist, broke it, and rammed his elbow into the guy’s nose, spreading it across his face. He dropped the nine as his hands went up. Leo tossed him to the radiator.
The third guy, the talker, staggered back up the hallway. One hand traced the wall; the other searched the inside of his snazzy jacket. Leo made a lunge for him, but the toe of his Oxford snagged the puker’s deflated head and he went chest first into the doorframe.
The third guy cleared his piece, a little .22, and jabbed it out in front of him. Leo rolled off the doorframe into the bathroom. Three slugs whizzed past him into the near stall. Two hit the partition, the other caught the first gunman in the ass. He still didn’t move.
Leo slapped his forehead and jammed a hand in his sweatshirt. He pulled Vin’s chunky .45 and whipped it round the corner. The third guy froze, wrist limp, .22 dangling. Leo yanked the trigger.
The third guy ran. Leo switched his grip to the barrel and boomeranged the .45 down the hall. It nailed the guy in the back of the head and he spilled from the hallway into the dank barroom, sprawled out on his belly.
Leo thumped from the hallway to the prone guy, who stirred. Before he could get his hands under him, Leo brought the heel of his size fifteen down. The boot broke the guy’s neck; the hardwood broke his jaw.
Leo snatched the chunky .45 from between the third guy’s legs and leveled it at the skinny bartender who, along with the smattering of derelicts he served, had his back to the nearest wall, palms up. “It’s…it’s cool, man. No trouble. It’s cool.”
Leo wiped drool from his jaw. He stuffed the .45 in his sweatshirt and stumbled out into the streetlights, massaging his chest with four fingers. “Something about Parkhurst. North of Parkhurst? Fourth and Parkhurst?”
Leo sat opposite Sonia at the wobbly kitchen table, the thing between them, rays from the rising sun playing on it. Sonia’s eyes ping-ponged between the thing and Leo. “Is that really a—”
“Yep.” Leo’s buffalo head bobbed. “Nice, right?”
“Yes.” Her toes curled against the dirty linoleum. “Maybe we could just keep it a while.”
“No.” He waved his hands over the thing. “No, I have to get it to the fence. I just…” He pushed up from the table and wrapped his arms round the back of his head. “I just can’t remember where he’s at.”
Sonia’s eyes rolled as she took her coffee cup from the table and labored to her feet. She pulled her robe closed over her pregnant belly and poured stale joe into the sink. Her voice didn’t quite make it to Leo.
“Just once I wish you’d put us ahead of—”
The doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it.” Jimmy trotted from his closet bedroom to the door, his footed PJs shooshing up a wave of dust.
“I’ll get it.”
Sonia tossed a dishtowel over the thing. Leo stepped toward the door. “Ask who’s there, Jim.”
Jimmy twisted the knob between his palms and pulled the door open. A man limped into the room, an overcoat hanging from his bony frame.
Sonia’s eyes flashed to Leo, who squinted, one hand extended, palm down. “You’re OK?”
“Been better.” Vin took the door from Jimmy with a gloved hand and eased it closed. “Turns out Dolan’s got a good on-the-spot doc.”
Leo cocked his head. “Dolan’s got…?”
Sonia took a step toward the kitchen table.
Vin watched her sidelong and stepped forward. “I got a new job.”
“New job?” Leo raised an arm toward the kitchen table. “But what about—”
He looked to Sonia, who gripped her hair in both hands. The first shot put two holes in his heart. The second tunneled though his thick skull into his brain and settled there. Leo stumbled back with a vague look on his face and fell on his ass against the wall.
Vin crossed to the kitchen table, flipped the dishtowel aside and tucked the thing into his overcoat.
Her jaw slack, mouth working wordlessly, Sonia stood on her toes, the small of her back against the sink. Her robe fell open.
“Aw, fuck.” Vin shook his head at the big, round belly with a heavy sigh, then raised the silenced nine.
“Please!” Sonia’s arms surrounded her stomach. He shot her between the breasts.
He hobbled toward the door. Jimmy stood in front of it, a tear dangling to either side of his chin. “Why?”
Vin pressed the nine to the boy’s forehead. “Never leave a man down.”
BIO: Jason Chirevas has appeared in Hardboiled, A Twist of Noir, Pulp and Dagger, a Cyberpulp horror anthology, and in short, often irritated, missives on Twitter @JasonChirevas.
Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018
14 hours ago