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Strong Hold
Little Prince Station
Just a Line
Coming Up:
One by One
Episode 6:
The city blurried in the cold rain that started at dawn. It slid through the grass towards the paved lanes, flowing with a gloomy whisper beyond the huge lot´s borders and the blind trees. Boss stuffed his hands in his leather jacket´s pockets and held a sigh. At his right Rover, wearing in black and his eyes always hidden behind his glasses, seemed just like a too detailed sculpture. Both of them had stayed by the car at the narrow lane that lead to that spot, at the very end of the private cementry. A few steps from them, before the bare soil, just removed, Slash was playing his violin while Trash and Run listened to him with their heads low.
Water slid over Slash´s hair and skin, his face up and eyes shut as he played; it covered the violin, jumped at the bow´s changing moves. There was no engraving on the small white gravestone. Nobody but them should know who was buried there. Trash looked up when the music died, and Boss could guess her sigh from where he was. Slash paced another step and kneeled down on the mud, his head down, holding the violin tight against his chest. Run sighed too, slightly shook his head and turned his back to the new grave and the silent tombstone. Boss saw the unusual spark on his eyes when he paced the first step towards the car, though his expression didn´t show any emotion when he got by his side. He glanced over his shoulder to the other two and faced Rover with a quick nodd. Rover nodded back and got in the car without a word. Then Run turned to Boss.
"Go home with him, if you want. I rather walk" he said, and it was his usual voice, quiet and confident, maybe too warm for that place and situation.
Boss shook his head. "If it doesn´t bother you, I´d go with you"
The other man managed a pale smile as he agreed. From the rear seat of the car, Rover barely waved a hand and told the driver to leave. Run waited till it was out of sight before heading for the exit. Boss hesitated, looking at the other two. His teammate shook the head again and started walking. Boss gave a last look to the grave and the two figures in the rain. One still kneeling, the face hidden behind the soft mops of long dark hair, wrapped in his black coat. The other one, small, standing with both hands in her pockets and her icy eyes behind the red fringe fixed on the trees, staring but not seeing. He went after Run recalling some conversation he´d had with him about what happened to Kao. The other two blamed each other for that wound on the boy´s head, but it was just a façade: actually, each one of them blamed theirselves for it. He thought that maybe now, there, they could finish for good that useless quarrel that came between them during Kao´s two months agony.
"We´re doing that lab tonight." Run´s voice startled Boss from his toughts and he faced him surprised. Run nodded. "And you and I are gonna take care of those two to keep them from doing anything foolish."
Boss nodded too.
"You know Kao was hurt when we were still chasing García. The whole story is that García kept the Cartel´s books. This lab is one in half a dozen at least. They move them every three or four weeks to keep them secret, but they anyway need to cover their backs to help anybody from poking. They´ve got deals with national and local officials, and it was García who payed them. We went after him to get the inner records of those bribes. Now we´re gonna do one of the labs, and everyone in charge of it." Run half closed his eyes, staring at the blurried builings in the rain. They were at the cementry gate. "Tonight we ain´t leaving Slash behind. The four of us gotta go out to do it faster. You think you could hold him back if you have to?"
Boss agreed without hesitation. Run´s lips pursed but didn´t get to smile, he withdrew a deep breath looking ahead. "There´s also Sterne... " he stopped before crossing the gate, his look lost now in the avenue traffic. "A hell of a night... That´s what it´s gonna be."
* * *
"So it was them... "
A man in his thirty stopped before the large window, on top of a luxurious comercial building, from where he could see a great part of the city harbor. Tall, blond, nice but hardened features, his dark blue eyes moved about the docks area; a gloating smile pursing his thin lips. Behind him, carelessly spread on a large couch, both hands behind his head, another man barely younger agreed grinning, causing the cigarrette to tremble between his lips.
"And they followed us. Bet they´re comming tonight or tomorrow."
The blond man turned to him, grinning too; his hair felt lankly over his shoulders. He was about to speak when the ring of a cell phone cut his word. The other man reached the low table where his feet were resting and took the phone. After a few words, he faced the blond arching his eyebrows.
"Time to work. Daddy´s going out for lunch."
The blond stopped him before they leave the large office. "We gotta welcome them. But I don´t know where I´m gonna be tonight, with that damned party..."
The other one blinked at him from behind the long brown fringe rubbing the tip of his nose. He was very atractive, and his dark eyes had a mockery spark. "Don´t worry. Leave it to me."
* * *
The beer went from the table to the couch along with the ammo. Cigarrettes went from the couch to the table along with the intercoms. Despite the noises the four of them made while checking all their stuff, silence had ruled over the house for hours. Boss noticed Slash and Trash traded things without looking at each other, but with no animosity either. Both of them were too focused in what they were doing to waste time in looking up or say a word.
They had come back from the cementry past midday, several hours after Run and Boss. Both socking wet, both with the same absent look, they didn´t even argue as every day about shower turns. Trash´d gone straight to her room and the bathroom, Slash´d gone to keep his violin and waited for his turn drinking some coffee at the kitchen.
Boss could never guess if they had talked, or what about, since he and Run left them alone before Kao´s grave. But it was cristal clear that any difference between them had been put aside, for the moment at least, and both of them seemed to have made up their minds to hold their anxiety back in order to get ready for that night hunting.
When the kitchen clock gave its bell for eleven o´clock, the four of them headed in silence for the garage. Run sat at the wheel and pointed Trash to go to the back side to help Boss. Slash didn´t turn the radio on but lit another smoke, resting by the window at Run´s right looking out. A few minutes later they left the Park of Peace behind and sunk in an avenue traffic towards downtown.
"I´m fucking sure it was Tobías" Slash growled, thinking aloud.
Run gave him a fleeting glance, always attending to the traffic.
"He and John." He agreed. "Krazler ain´t gonna be there, at least..." he noticed Slash´s questioning look. " There´s a party tonight at the French Embassy, Méndez will take him there, as he do to every social event."
"He´s been showing up pretty much at politic events lately..."
"He´s after a candidacy."
Slash jumped on his seat, leaning towards him in disbelief.
"How the fucking hell do you know that?"
Run didn´t answer, bussy in turning to the left without crashing onto the people moving among the stopped cars, and Slash understood he hadn´t to insist.
The van was left alone for once, hidden in a narrow dark alley, two streets away from the laboratory. They spread out at the corner and Slash and Boss hurried to one of the emergency exits as Run and Trash entered the next building.
* * *
Boss looked over his shoulder, but he couldn´t see anything in the room´s shadows. He barely heard the click behind him, Slash had just removed the detonator´s safety. Good, now they were only two rooms left from the six the lab used. Then he sensed more than feel a sound on his left, from the room they had just left behind. He stuck to the doorway, all of his senses focused on the hallway and the stairwell. The touch in his arm didn´t distract him, Slash´s black shape appeared by his side and followed his look.
"Hurry up." Boss hissed, eyes fixed on the other end of the hallway.
Slash slid to the next door. Boss withdrew after him. When they stopped, he heard again the same sound. I´m getting too paranoid, or somebody is moving back there trying to make no noise. He considered warning Slash on the intercom, but he dropped the idea right away: a simple whisper could point out his position. So he moved towards the stair as noiseless as a cat, ready to shoot anything that moved. He turned the earphone off to make sure that no sound would betray him.
Slash got out from the room and chewed his mind when he saw his mate´s shadow more than six meters far, though he allowed himself to growl when he found out Boss had also disconnected himself from him. Fucking jerk! Is he ever learning to work in a team?? He crossed the hallway and entered the lab´s last room, the tiny explosive device ready on his hands. He removed the tape cover, stuck the device under the first table, leaned to remove the safety. The click right by his ear was cristal clear: a gun´s safety beeing unlocked. He slowly straightened up, both hands barely raised. Then he turnd around.
" Hi there, kiddo."
He managed to gather all of his anger into a grin and faced the man wearing in black like him, though his clothes were a fashionable gear. Finding again those bright eyes behind the wild dark fringe, holding up again that mocking look and restraing himself from jumping onto him demanded a real effort from Slash. But he did it, despite the wave of heat that washed over his face.
"Tobías. Doing extra-time work?"
The other man held a fit of laughter pretty alike to Slash´s own fits.
"Nop. Just waiting for you. As you followed us last night from the docks, I thought you should come by to say hi at any moment."
Slash quickly sized the situation as he stared at him. Had the man wanted to kill him right away, he could have already done it. So he was in no rush. Tobías wanted just to play for a while before pulling the trigger. Despite the gun pointing at his head, Slash leaned against the table behind him and folded his arms with a grin.
"I don´t see any bottle nor glasses. You´re lazy."
Tobías leaned against the table in front of Slash. He lowered the gun just a bit, now pointing at Slash´s chest, the other hand in his pocket.
"You´re always so selfish, kiddo. All the guests must gather for a tost."
Now it was Slash who laughed softly, and showed him his hands with several little keys, the explosives´ safeties.
"Will we do it within three minutes? I really hate boiling champagne..."
Tobías laughed heartedly this time, and threw to Slash´s feet four of the six devices, already deactivated. He recognized them at once. So this was what Boss heard. They came behind us taking them out. Fucking brat! Hope he´d just opened his audio back!"
"Hum..." he mumbled, always staring into Tobías´ eyes.
Too fast to be stopped, he removed the last device´s safety. Tobías couldn´t get close to take it without standing by him, and he wasn´t that kind of jerk. He knew damn well Slash would take any chance to break his neck.
"So?" Slash grinned, throwing the safety with the other devices on the floor.
Tobías just shook his head with a bright smile.
* * *
Two men at the outter door to the stairs, six men on suit and white robes at the meeting room on the upper floor. Slash and Boss were already in and they´d taken down the inner security system. Run and Trash jumped from the next building´s roof and hid behind an large air conduct. Just a minute later they noiselessly reached the carpeted hallway that lead to the meeting room, both bodyguards getting cold at the stair door. The hallway had a soft cream-coloured light falling upon paintings and walls, but the reception room the elevators opened to was in darkness. They stuck to the wall, one on each side of the door, and Trash looked up at Run. But she didn´t find his eyes. Run was staring ahead, to the end of the hallway. She did the same and nodded. She had just listened the noise coming from there. There was somebody back there, at the darkened hall. And maybe more than one man.
Run seized the situation. Six unarmed men behind the door, at least one armed a few meters from them. But Trash didn´t wait for his decision and headed for the reception, her Magnum ready and her back to the wall. Run didn´t waste time and entered the meeting room.
Trash stopped hearing the first hoarse cries and listened to her earphone. Her teammate wasn´t done just yet. She clenched her teeth when she heard another noise in front of her, not behind. She crouched down and scanned the dark room. The hallway ended up at a reception´s corner, and the room opened to her left. There could be an entire army waiting and she had no way to know it. But it didn´t make too sense that they allowed the lab´s bosses to be killed. Save that... She paced two more steps and stuck to the other wall. Save Sterne made this up.
She knew the best she could do was waiting for Run, but if there were one or more Sterne hidding there, she had not a sec to waste. She pulsed her sound key to let Run know she was going ahead and jumped into the reception room.
The silent shot spark lighted walls and furniture. Trash got to crouch again behind the desk next to the hallway´s end and clenched her teeth holding her left arm against her side. She withdrew a deep breath and showed up by the desk´s side. A bullet hit the wall just an inch away from her head. She shot blindly and hid again. Noises told her they were at least two men. She focused on her ears to know where they were. One of them by the elevators, on her left, the other one was behind the large couch at the other end of the room. Then she heard the rumour from the hallway. Run, at last. She closed her eyes standing a sharp pain prick and forced her left hand to hold the small 22 she always carried just in case, then she took her Magnum with the other hand. She counted to three, stood up and shot both guns at a time, speeding to turn to her left and shoot again. But there was no need to do it. A whistle by her shoulder and a groan from the elevators told her Run had just killed the guy. She spun on her heels to thank him.
* * *
There was a pc at the room by the meeting room. Run plugged the zip and searched the information at full speed, starting the download. Trash hadn´t waited for him and the shooting noises had gotten low but clear to him. Now there was not a sound, not even the girl´s breathing on the intercom, and that was no good. He checked the data download was progressing and went back to the meeting room, sticking to the door and holding his breath trying in vain to hear anything. Then he heard the click on the earphone.
"All clean here." Run unlocked his 9 mm. ¿"All clean here"?? Trash´s voice was kindda hurry, a bare growl, and she never used there words when only one, "clean", was enough. He turned the dorknob slowly, but the door got roughly open, making him jump back. Run stood in the doorway and held his breath.
There was Trash, her left arm bleeding, staring at him with glaring eyes and clenched teeth. And by her side, pointing her own Magnum´s mouth against her temple, a tall pale man was grinning at him.
"It´s been a while, blond." The man said arching a brow. "Let´s go. Tobías is waiting for us downstairs with the violin kid. Now that we have the three of you, we´re all gonna have some fun, uh?"
Run dropped his gun and stepped out silent, ignoring Trash´s surprise when she saw him giving up so easily. John took them to the reception and the elevators. There he lazyly lit a smoke, offering one to Trash, who refused with a fierce glare.
"Sorry ´bout the boy, we´ve just heard about it." The guy said, leaning against the wall right by Trash. "Seems you can´t work it out as a trio, boys. I really thought you were gonna give us at least one headache."
Run noticed Trash´s effort to hide her surprise. Just now she understood why her mate hadn´t put up any fight to help being caught. She couldn´t figure out how, but Sterne didn´t know about Kao´s replacement, and Boss had somehow managed it not to be found when Tobías atacked Slash.
An elevator stopped then at their store and doors opened with a hum. John pointed them to get on it first as he put his smoke out on the carpet. But at the very moment they were stepping into the steel cage, the entire building trembled and shook from its fundations. Run jumped backwards, dragging Trash with him, at the same time the fire alarm got started and the elevator´s doors shut. John stood up before them still holding Trash´s gun, though his eyes glanced at the stairs, scowling in doubt. Run and Trash traded a look.
* * *
Slash opened up his eyes in a puzzle. He couldn´t match any shape around him. Everything was smoke and dust, getting to his lungs through nose and mouth, suffocating him. He touched his aching head and noticed the stabbing pain from his thigh. He was laying flat on the floor, and he managed it to crawl back a few steps, till his back touched something thad had to be what was left from an inner wall. The fire alarm´s howl filled the space, and the roof´s spayers rained down in vain. He straightened just a bit, resting on his elbows, to take a look at his leg. Seeing the gun wound brought back to his mind the last moments before the blast. Tobías had pushed him aside in order to remove the now activated explosive, and when he jumped over him, the Sterne guy had shot him on the leg, taking him down and forgetting about him. But next thing he could recall was still confuse. He´d seen Tobías run away when he realised he couldn´t stop the device´s counter. But then someone else had showed up, removing the device and taking it away. Not too far, considering the mess, though it seemed to be too mess to be done by only one of his bombs...
Then he got it, and laughed softly as he ragged his collar shirt to stop his leg´s bleeding. He´d prepared two sets of devices just in case, and Boss was carrying the spare one. And even if Slash wasn´t able to picture out how, it was clear that Boss had managed it to replace what Tobías had removed, and also get in time to take away the one started at that last lab.
He heard then several people came running, and gunshots. Somebody went on running up to the ruined room where he was laying, and Slash recognized Trash´s small shape where the door had once been.
"Here" he called, waving at her.
The girl hurried to him as three more gunshots echoed at the former hallway. Then Slash saw the blood from her left arm. She took a look at his thigh.
"Can you walk?"
"If you help me."
Trash rounded his waist whit her right arm and hoisted him, then helped him to reach the doorway and made him lean against what remained of the wall. Smoke and dust were suffocating, and they couldn´t see a thing just two steps away. But there was no more gunshots.
"Tobías?" Trash asked in a whisper.
"Gone, of course" Slash snarled, covering his face with an arm and holding back a cough fit. "What about you?"
"John. We got away, but he came down right behind us, shooting to kill. Run stayed back by the stairwell to catch him."
"So what the fuck are we waiting for here? To see who comes first and alive?"
Trash withdrew a deep breath looking aside from him, to the stairwell. Slash managed it to bend without losing balance and took out the gun he was carriyng on his ankle. He grabbed it unlocking the safety and nodded forward.
"Let´s go. We still gotta find Boss, and not in pieces I hope"
They moved together, slowly. There was fire in three of the lab´s rooms, and they could already hear bombers´trucks and police cars on the street. They really had to hurry if they didn´t wanna get caught between fire and uniforms. Soon they saw what seemed to be a crouched man benting over another one laying on the floor. They stopped and Trash made her mate to rest against the smoky wall.
"Gimme the gun and stay here."
Slash did so, but then they saw the man straightened up carrying the other in his arms, hurrying his pace towards them. Trash aimed at him withtout hesitation, Slash´s hand forced her to lower the gun. Run came to their side with an uncounscious Boss in his arms and nodded to the other end of the hallway.
"Emergency exit" was all he said.
They got back to the street before the building was wholly surrounded and nobody saw them walking away through a dark alley towards the hidden van. There Run laid Boss down at the back side and left the other two to take care of him. Trash noticed Run was about to go back to the building and stopped him with a questioning look.
"The data zip. We can´t leave it there. And we also gotta burn those bodies" he replied, and left.
Trash just sighed and closed the back doors. Slash was already checking on his faint mate, finding the bruise on his head that had surely punched his lights out, plus a bunch of superficial bruises and cuts that had ragged his clothes in pieces. It was obvious he hadn´t been able to get away enough from the blast. The girl sat down in front of him, Boss laying between them, and faced him raising a brow.
"This jerk almost got killed to save me" Slash growled "Fucking dumbass brat. Never gonna learn to work in a team..."
"You´re... welcome..."
Slash looked down in a puzzle to find Boss´ glazy look from behind the half-closed eyelids. Trash allowed herself a soft laughter as she held a wet towell against the bump by his left ear. He managed a smile closing his eyes again. Run came back then and started the engine as he gave Trash two things. She stared up at him in surprise. He hadn´t only recover the zip: he had also found her Magnum.
"Where to?" Slash asked, noticing Run wasn´t taking the way back home.
"To the Turkish´s place, to see if he can fix you guys. I can´t get a whole one from all of you together"
Slash sat at his right, turned the radio on and lit a smoke.
"What ´bout John?" Trash asked from behind, placing her jacket as a pillow beneath Boss´ head, who thanked her with a faint smile.
"Gone." Rum got to answer before Slash started to sing at the top of his lungs as he used to.
"Mercy..." Boss groaned frowning. "Why the fuck... did I take... that bomb away...?"