I don’t like using two handguns at one time. Unless you’ve got the world’s most spectacular brain, a lazy eye, and a lot of luck, it never works. You’re just putting more bullets downrange at one target. But instead of center mass you’re splitting the difference. Try throwing two snowballs at one spot.
The O’Brien triplets are nice and close together in the galley space. I pray that Nova knows what’s happening because I need her. I know that Eddie is widely considered to be as fast as I am. We just never had the opportunity to test it.
The air pocket forms around my hand as my fingers hit the butt of the first handgun. My right hand is a bit slower on the draw but not by much. It goes for the second weapon.
At the same time I throw myself backward towards the floor, better line of sight and a smaller target.
Eddie O’Brien goes for his handgun, under his armpit. He is fast. Patrick goes for the shotgun, fumbling all the way. Thomas is almost as fast as his brother. Almost.
Not a damn one of them is as fast as Nova makes me. I see their movements like it’s frame by frame. The sheen of sweat that has already formed on all their lips and foreheads, despite the cool air of the jet. The snap of Eddie’s holster coming undone with a click. Patrick’s hands grasping at the roughness of his shotgun, pulling the strap around towards his front. Thomas’ lips curling into a swear.
I’m already on my back when the first noise of his chosen word starts to come out, both handguns materializing in each hand. The hammer snaps back on my left hand, slamming forward and driving the firing pin into the primer of the subsonic round. Airplanes are small. I brought suppressors just in case this happened. I also brought subsonic so they don’t make that snap as they break the barrier, also hoping they wouldn’t do much damage to the fuselage or windows. Safety first.
The cartridge explodes, as it’s meant to, sending the bullet into a spiral down the barrel and out into the open air. It hits Eddie in the wrist with a spray of red. I start sweeping, Eddie was furthest left so I move right. The hammer dances back and forth on both weapons, the slide moving with each ejected casing and readying the next shot.
Eddie takes two more to the chest area before I’m off him and on Patrick. Patrick doesn’t even have the shotgun around to his front when a round climbs up with the recoil and hits him in the cheek. His head spins to the side. Thomas is on the move, trying to dodge away while his finger just starts to touch his trigger.
I hit his shoulder, then chest, then chin and he is done.
The problem with all of this is the muscle reactions they each have. They look the same and it would stand to reason they die the same.
Eddie twitches on his trigger and fires a round from the holster under his armpit into a galley cabinet. Patrick spasms on the shotgun trigger, still working it around towards his front, and the blast hits Eddie in the side of the head with a grotesque water show. Thomas has his weapon half out and moving towards me, his shot enters Patrick’s chest under the armpit and snuffs him out.
All three hit the plane floor in a bloody heap.
Where did the saying ‘the shit hits the fan’ come from?
Who throws shit at a fan? And why?
It doesn’t matter much. All I know is that I reach down and grab Nova’s arm to yank her into the plane, I’m going to need her help, and I say that to her.
It’s most apt. The shit has indeed hit the fan. And majestically too.
I don’t know how many of the bastards there are on the other side of the door but judging by the shouting, it’s enough to take a small city by force. I wonder about the grenade but that’s not going to solve any problems, except our collective need for air.
“You won’t get out of here alive!” Someone shouts from the other side of the galley door.
“Sorry, we’re closed right now. Please come back later!” I say. Someone fires a shotgun at the door, about three inches away from my intact torso. I duck away and run right into Nova, before the next round harms that intact-ness.
“Have you ever thought about not being a dick?”
I roll my eyes at her, having a foster assassin is annoying. Smarmy lil’ shit.
“Stand down!” This new voice is firm, tinged with German sharpness, and comes from the other side of the door. There’s a general mumbling of discontent but no more shotgun blasts. I often consider fewer shotgun blasts to be an improvement in almost every situation.
“Was that for us?” Nova asks. There’s a knock on the galley door, knuckles rapping against the wood. The speaker has a pleasant British accent, one of them there fancy ones, like a butler or royal or an Oscar winner.
“Sir, may I presume the triplets have expired?”
I look at the mess of Eddie’s head and the pools of spreading blood under Patrick and Thomas’s bodies.
“Safe to say it.” I offer back as reply. I also gently cock back the hammer on one handgun and press it against the door. I’ll follow rules but the butler will get it in the airplane before I go down, if bullets start up again.
“A shame. Sir, my employer has requested your attendance in his private office. He guarantees your safety in this matter, so long as you will reciprocate the offer. The girl is welcome as well.”
“So, I hold fire and your boys will too?”
“Indeed, sir. Do you agree to these terms?”
There was a moment before I took this job when I considered saying no. Back in the Chairman’s office with that file folder listing off the dead killers before me. I wanted to go back to my simpler jobs of politicians and corporate stooges, maybe the odd enterprising criminal. Better days.
What stopped me was a feeling that a bullet would have travelled down my spine if I had said no. The offer was a farce.
Much the same as this one. I slowly ease the hammer back and holster the weapon.
“You sure?” Nova whispers. I shake my head and press a grenade into her hands. She holds it tightly and I pull the pin, all that’s left is to release the spoon. Three seconds later everything gets messy.
“Don’t let it go. Unless things go bad.”
“Like that bad?” She points at the pile of Irish bodies. I snort and she holds the grenade tight with one hand, the other grabbing the back of my tactical vest.
“Alright, Mister Butler, we agree to those terms.”
I take a deep breath and open the door, stepping into the jaws of the enemy.
We were never going to get away with our plan. I realize that now. Our schematics were wrong, entirely wrong. We entered through the rear of the plane, where his office was supposed to be. The galley wasn’t supposed to be where we came up but that was a minor problem, in my mind.
The big problem was that now, with the door open, we are faced with rows of seats facing the front of the plane. At least twelve seats, spaced for legroom and comfort. Not an office, not unless you consider a passenger seating area an office. In which case, you’d be an idiot. Two narrow hallways lead past another room of some kind, where I can see more seats.
Of pressing and current concern, to me specifically, is the dozen or more men and women armed to the absolute tits between us and a distant door. I doubt the President travels with as many guards.
I recognize a few faces.
The speaker, Mister Butler (as I have decided to dub him) wears a perfectly tailored suit. He is maybe five foot six and looks unbothered by all of this. I see the bulk outline of a bulletproof vest under a soft purple dress shirt and by the edge of his coattails are two matte black knife hilts.
Jesus. I stop dead and feel my heart in my throat.
“Chase? Oliver Chase?”
He tilts his head and purses his lips.
“Who?” Nova pulls at the vest, eyes darting left and right at all the trained killers that don’t look overly happy. I lean back to explain and try to keep my voice low. It’s a plane. It doesn’t work.
“Chase, a legend in the business. I don’t mean he’s good at his job or an impressive killer, I mean a true blue, through and through goddamned legend. The short little fucker has wiped out governments and criminal organizations with those knives.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, truly.” He inclines his head and bows ever so primly at the hip, one hand dipping behind his back and the other across his belly.
“How can you know!?” The German roars, tearing my attention away. “He’s almost fifty! Hasn’t been killing in a decade and you all still grovel at his feet. The twat.”
“Will!” Chase snaps his head to the side but his voice doesn’t rise above that patient tone. It just takes an edge. The German grunts.
“My deepest and most sincere apologies to the little lady assassin, all the blood and death shouldn’t go hand in hand with foul language.”
I hear him mutter ‘prim fucker’ under his breath, except he’s so large and his breath must be so massive that it’s more like a grumbling car engine. Chase rolls his eyes. Nova giggles. I think I shit my pants.
He’s not German. I pegged that accent wrong.
“The Karelian.” I whisper. The Norwegian killer. Six and a half feet tall, hairy like a bear and vicious as his nickname’s sake. I heard he was hired to provide private security in Afghanistan, tore a fifty caliber from a vehicle mount and proceeded to shred an attacking force single handedly.
“If only he could be taught to sit, play nice, speak only when asked.” Chase says. I think he’s saying that so I won’t ask for an autograph. These men are mythical. I thought I could kill them? If we crashed the plane into the mountain it would probably apologize to Chase and The Karelian just for being in their way.
Not to mention the half dozen others I know.
“Sir, if you please.” Chase urges us down the hall and I see his eyes flick to the grenade. He gives the slightest smile that just flits across his face. Approval from Chase. Be still my beating heart.
We follow Chase through the plane. Everyone on board is armed but none of them have their weapons raised. Just ready. I wouldn’t get far in taking this small horde on so I keep my hands very clearly away from anything that might resemble a pointy or shooty.
We sidle down one of the narrow hallways to find another group of killers, Metze and Silver among them. It’s hard not to recognize Silver with that shock of almost white hair gelled back in place. He’d tried for years to get anyone to call him Fox, his hair had gone that color in his twenties for some reason, but that didn’t take. That was forty years ago. Instead they saddled him with Silver, as a joke.
Metze has a P90 slung across his chest, meant for close work. Like a buzzsaw for people. We worked together once. Quite possibly the best close-quarters assassin out there. He gives me a curt nod and taps his finger incessantly on the trigger guard of his weapon. Metze can’t stop moving, one of those bouncing leg types.
“We were worried about these two? Looks like the Irish fools killed themselves!”
I hear The Karelian crack the joke and a bit of laughter cuts the tension outside the galley. A dead assassin isn’t a loss, it’s just a reflection of their skill level. We mourn in our own ways, mostly by being grateful it’s not us.
Chase leads us to a polished wood door and opens it for us, ushering me through first and then Nova follows. Chase steps in, closes the door, and takes a stance beside the door. Hands resting behind his back. Where I’m sure there are more blades.
There’s no reveal from a leather chair, we don’t live in that sort of world.
The man behind the desk couldn’t have done that if he had wanted to anyway. His motorized chair and the smaller space make that sort of thing difficult. Beside him is a much younger man with a tailored suit, arms crossed and frowning enough to put a high school principal to shame. The Chairman.
“You’re not looking as near to dead as the rumors suggested. Though it seems like no one in our business ever dies.” I say. The older man laughs, sort of. He hacks out sounds through the oxygen tubes that filter to his nose.
“The rumors aren’t wrong, Avery, you fucking idiot.” He says, when he catches his breath. “What have you done?”
“Always good to see you too, Uncle Oscar.”
Nova’s hand tightens on my vest and I realize that I’m going to have to explain this.
“Remember I told you I got into the business around your age?” She nods. “My dad was part of the Agency. He was on a job and didn’t come home. Ronnie took me in and raised me, giving me the same choice I gave you. I gave the same answer you did. It was a family business, through and through. Uncle Oscar is supposed to be retired though, given all…that.”
He holds up his tubes as if to illustrate my point. Oscar is an old man now, thin and wasted away. His bald head is spotted among the wrinkles, one eye is almost completely white. There’s a long surgery scar above his ear where the surgeons had been digging in his head. Just before they figured out they couldn’t do it.
“Robert, bring me to them.”
Robert, my cousin, rolls his eyes and glares at me while helping Oscar around the desk. Robert likes me about as much as an unexpected prostate exam. Never did. Far as I know I’ve never stuck anything anywhere on or inside him so I figure it’s something else.
And you’d think with my charming personality this wouldn’t be a problem.
“Get off me!” Oscar swats away Robert’s hand when Robert tries to swat a cigar away. It came out of nowhere, Oscar lights it with trembling hands. “I’m already dead, boy. Let me enjoy it. Avery, girl, come sit.”
“Chase, the grenade. Poor girl’s hands are shaking.”
Chase steps forward. Nova looks at me.
Chase slides a hand over the spoon and takes the grenade, producing a pin from somewhere in his pockets and sliding it back in, securing the grenade. Even in a room of killers, there’s a visible sense of relief when the device is no longer about to explode.
Oscar blows a cloud of smoke into the air, savoring it as he does.
“I don’t like your Chairman. I never have.” He taps ash onto the carpeted floor. Robert looks horrified, both at the ash and the words. “Damien Crow, he used to go by. What a contrived name. Dennis, Dennis Rutledge was his birth name. He thinks himself above that now. Damien Crow.”
He laughs and we wait for the hacking to stop. Chase offers a white handkerchief to Oscar who takes it, wiping the corners of his mouth.
“The Chairman. He thinks himself to be the ruler of our organization? That arrogant fuck!”
His face reddens as he shouts the last words. Nova leans into me a bit. Oscar holds up his hand, palm out and takes a slow breath.
“Sorry, girl. When I was a lad there were rules. We had evolved from a crude collection of wayward souls with a talent for murder to a business. With standards. With order! Do you know what you’ve done? No-”
I had my mouth open to answer when I realize it was rhetorical. So I, in a rare display of wisdom, shut my goddamned mouth.
“-you don’t. If I know you, then you got pissy being put out as bait. His mistake was not knowing you’re unending pride. Insufferable prick. Now you’ve roped this girl into it, you shit. Bringing a helpless, little girl into our world?”
His voice shudders and I feel the twitch beside me. Nova flicks her hand and Chase freezes in place, looking down as the pin is pulled from the grenade in his hand without warning, launching across the small office.
“I wonder if the twat can hold onto a live grenade and deal with him.” She says, nudging me with her elbow for effect. I don’t move. I enjoy a good test as much as the next guy but you have to be careful about how far you push it. She’s doing well on her own.
If she was taking this seriously I think she would have gone for her boot knife and we would be waist deep in the shit. Or dead. Chase can take me on with a grenade in one hand and I know Robert looks like a stuck-up, suited douche but he’s no slouch in a fight.
She is holding out one of her hands and Oscar chuckles. His oxygen tubes tremble on his chest, that’s where she’s directing her energy. Smart kid.
“Not so helpless, not so little.” Oscar says. I shrug and sort of smile, though my heart is stuck in my throat. She releases her hold on the tubes. Chase primly walks to the pin, reinserting it, opening the door and handing it to someone outside. He runs his hand over the edges of his suit jacket and resumes a stance by the door. He catches Nova’s eyes and gives her the tiniest smile.
She returns it with the slightest tip of her head.
I’m just decoration at this point and that’s never good.
“Well done, girl. Natalie, was it?”
“Nova, then. Are you willing to enter this world of ours? Both feet? You’re more capable than your guardian, though he does have his merits.”
Hurtful, but true enough, I guess.
“Yes.” She says.
“Excellent. Avery, you picked this plane because you intended to remove Robert and take his place at the Moot? Since you two share some features. Or do you have a realistic mask in that bag of yours?”
“Yes. And no. In that order.” Chase snorts. Oh, that hurts most of all. The prim and proper Brit thinks my plan is silly and respects Nova. Damn. I’m not getting that autograph now.
“Do you ever make a plan or do you just throw darts at a board and come up with something from that?”
Rhetorical question, again.
“Thank whoever you pray to, that you do not run anything important. Luckily, my little moronic nephew, I have use of you and a plan to boot. Before I die, I will see this Damien fed to the crows. I will tear him down, through you.”
He smiles, a gaunt and macabre thing.
“Through both of you.”