The road was desolate, owing to the late hour. Duke checked his watch. It was 2 AM and the moon was high in the sky. He walked silently towards the destination he had visited many times before. Only this time, it would not be for merriment or for drinks.
The red and blue neon sign at Crazy Mongers was still on, dazzling brightly on the otherwise deserted road. He crossed the road treading softly, easily walking across the junction that would be any pedestrian's nightmare during daytime.
And as he headed towards the unknown, he could not help but think back to the conversation that he had had with Christian just before they parted a couple of hours earlier; when they stood at the expressway intersection that would branch them off into different cities.
"So BadgerKing, I guess we part ways here."
Duke, a little peeved had haughtily answered back. "Yeah Chris, I guess we do."
Christian looked to his companion's face, trying to read his expression in the dark.
"No one calls me Chris you know. In fact I'm not too fond of it."
Duke pounced on that without missing a beat. "Then stop calling me BadgerKing!"
Duke's reply had been a forced one; almost spiteful. The two had stood silently for a minute before Christian patted his shoulder and headed off into the darkness.
Duke swallowed as the memory played itself through his head. He had not been so much annoyed at being called BadgerKing as he had at the overwhelming probability of the fact that they would never meet again. And now walking towards the bar that Christian had told him to head towards to find Zelderman, he wished he had never met Christian in the first place, and that though made his stomach churn. Then maybe he wouldn't have been in such a pathetic position now.
He sighed as he pushed the maze of thoughts out of his head and stood looking up at the glowing sign of the bar. It was beckoning him to come inside, like a spider enticing a fly to enter its lair.
He gulped and closed his eyes tight as he thought about meeting the beautiful and lethal Miss Zelderman. The last time he had met her, he could hardly wait to get out of her terrifying presence, being relieved beyond words to get out of her aura when he had finally acquired what he wanted form her. And now he was being forced to walk right back to her. He reopened his eyes and with newly mustered courage walked into the bar, swinging the door open.
The insides were sparsely lit. It took a few moments for his eyes to get accustomed to the dim lighting. And when they did, he could make out that the bar was now closed, or almost was.
The first thing Duke noticed as he glanced around was that the place was in a mess, or rather very different from when he usually visited it. There was the silhouette of an old-fashioned movie projector stationed on its tall tripod legs at the entrance and bags of pop corn and party hats and ribbons were strewn everywhere. The place apparently had had some sort of a theme party night. He had been dragged to Crazy Mongers on ample occasions earlier by an over eager Damien to know that the place was famous for its themed nights. A crazy thought went through his head as he thought about how he had missed out on the festivities which must have been taking place till about an hour or so ago.
He never stayed back so late at Crazy Mongers to actually know what time the bar would shut its doors to customers, but at the time there was not a single patron left in the bar. All save the massive frame of a very large and obese man who barely fit on a barstool with his head buried in his arms, peacefully snoring away at the counter, slumping his massive frame which threatened to tip over and crash to the floor at any instant.
And there was the bartender, Duke recognized him from his bald head and signature apron, polishing away glasses and bottles with a white kerchief; an activity he stopped as soon as his eyes fell on Duke. Something along the lines of "We're closed", was about to leave his mouth before he suddenly paused and fished out a cell phone.
Apparently Duke's arrival was being awaited.
And things happened quickly then. The rustle of curtains to the left of Duke signaled the entry of two large hulky men into the bar from a private area and Duke was caught hold of by both shoulders and forced to move in tandem with the two behemoths. A haze of stumbled movements, and growling titans shoved him past a colossal glass cuboid that was apparently a pop corn machine. The words `60's MOVIE NIGHT' splashed in golden glitter that glowed in the dim light confirmed that it had indeed been a theme night. And Duke sighed as he realized the senseless thoughts running through his head at such a time.
The two led him towards a wooden staircase that he had never noticed before, dragging the half-complying man along, forcing him to take two steps at a time as they hurried him to what Duke knew was the inevitable.
"You're in deep shit you know," One of the guards snarled in his ear.
Duke nodded his head acknowledging he knew as he wondered if the two escorting him were the same two men that had ushered him to meet Zelderman earlier.
"Why the fuck you alone?" the other whispered leaving Duke puzzled.
But he hardly got the time to process what was said. They led him to a mahogany door rich in carvings and paused as they turned him round and about, frisking his jacket and pants. Duke watched in dismay as his Colt and cartridges were confiscated by the men and at last when they felt satisfied at having rummaged through him properly, they flung open the massive door and pushed Duke inside.
Duke shrugged his shoulders to straighten his jacket as the door slammed behind him; the two hulks folding their arms across their chests as they stood on either side of the door.
Duke's eyes roamed across the room as he took in the sweet fragrance and the gaudy decoration of lilies and wooden carvings that adorned the room.
"So where's your friend, favi?"
Duke's body temperature dipped five degrees as he heard that unmistakable voice. He slowly turned towards the direction where it came from.
There was Zelderman, sitting on a tiger skin, draped over an auburn sofa, in a bright pink tight coat and white undershirt, her long legs crossed, jutting out of a short pink skirt. She had a cigarette in one hand and a flimsy flute in the other. The glass was filled with a fluorescent green fluid that glowed and bubbled eerily in the dark. Duke's eyes almost hurt as he took note of Zelderman and her dazzling clash of colors through the floral display of white lilies.
He gulped as he regained some composure. And suddenly he realized he had no idea why he was there. His mind seemed to be betraying him too for all he could think of was whether he had disturbed Zelderman at this late hour.
"What do you mean where's my friend?" He spat out surprising even himself. "You've taken him captive haven't you?"
Duke thought Zelderman raised an eyebrow at his paroxysm, but the obtruding flower arrangement and the distance between them made it difficult for him to actually tell.
"C'mere Favi." Zelderman gestured lifting a hand and flicking her index finger.
Duke stepped boldly towards her, walking firmly as his eyes once again took in the sight of her burnt face and the wrinkled skin veiled by curly blonde tresses that reached all the way to her breasts. She let out a puff of smoke in his direction as he moved to a spot directly in front of her.
"Your faggot friend is a guest of ours", Zelderman began in a strangely calm voice as she stared squarely into Duke's eyes who cold feel his courage melting away. "He's living here quite fabulously and will continue to do so until I get Scott in my claws."
"Sc.. Scott?" Duke stammered.
"Yes favi, Scott, Christian, Rumplestiltskin, whatever you want to call him, he's scarred my poor Randy baby and I am going to have to get even with him for that."
Duke could hardly think straight as Zelderman's two differently colored eyes drew his attention in the midst of the folds of seared flesh on her face. One of the eye colors was a perfect match to the effervescent drink she held in her hand.
"Yes. I said Randy Rodriguez favi, not the tooth fairy!"
Things were hardly making sense to Duke anymore. What the hell did Randy Rodriguez have to do with all this?
"Your friend is just piggy bait favi!" Zelderman raise her voice cutting Duke off as she slammed the flimsy looking glass on a side table beside her. Miraculously the glass survived the assault.
"What I am want to dig my claws into, is that brat Scott who messed up my poor Randy." Zelderman clenched her teeth as she took Christian's name.
"Although, I feel I did find the new scar kinda mannish." Zelderman added the last bit as an afterthought.
The realization of what was going on finally hit Duke like a ton of bricks.
It was Christian she wanted; not him. Christian had conveniently dragged him into one more of his messes, and this time Damien had been tagged along. He cursed Christian in his mind, sidelining the fact that it was to save his own ass that Christian had trounced Randy for.
But where in the world was Christian right now?
A lone figure paced stony pavements in the darkness of the night. The voltages of the street lights had been turned low and they glowed ever so softly, casting pale shadows on concrete walls as the figure headed towards unknown destinations at an unearthly hour at night.
He clutched a black briefcase in one hand and walked keeping it at an even level. He was extremely conscious of its contents, hardly believing he had such a case with him. He stopped walking and lifted the case to an eye level, unlatching the levers that fastened it shut. A soft clicking ensured the case was open. He pulled up the lid ever so slightly to confirm its contents once more.
Christian drew in his breath sharply as green bills of obscene denominations peered back at him. He immediately clicked the case shut and looked around warily before resuming his brisk walking pace, his mind wandering to what had happened some time before, to a meeting that had taken place between him and Stevenson.
He had been over cautious while entering Stevenson's mansion, expecting anything to happen to him when he entered. Maybe he would be gunned down, maybe he would be restrained and taken in to meet the big man himself or maybe he would just be thrown out, but one thing he did know for sure was that no one around was going to be very friendly.
But his arrival had been portended, for he was immediately ushered in. And the next minute saw him standing inside Raphael Stevenson's massive mansion, waiting in the palatial entrance hall, awaiting Stevenson's descend from the grand staircase at the centre of the hall.
"And so the prodigal son returns."
Those words had signaled Stevenson's appearance on top of
the imposing staircase, one hand stroking a large
Christian's eyebrows had knit themselves as creases appeared on his forehead. This was Raphael Stevenson, dressed ever so immaculately, in all his 72 year glory. Christian wanted nothing more than to see the man dead.
"And he comes alone", Stevenson had continued.
"Course he does", Christian plastered a sweet smile on his face as he replied, "For his companion has been gleefully abducted by some unscrupulous scheming old geezer."
Stevenson barely flinched at the name calling as he reached Christian's floor level, the large beast at his side growling as it stared at Christian, its hackles raised.
"Yes obviously, the scheming old geezer assumed that inviting your sweetheart would entice you here as well, given that you hardly want to visit me nowadays, but this old man had someone else in mind too."
Christian drew a blank at that, waiting for Stevenson to continue.
With a sharp turn Stevenson lurched at Christian, his face barely a centimeter from Christian's as he hissed into his face.
"I want that lad who broke into the FBI database. And I want him now!"
Christian's face registered a marked sign of confusion. "What?"
"The lad who worked with you in Salvia, I want him. And you know I'll go to any lengths to get what I want."
Christian fell silent. He had no idea where this was stemming from. He was still having difficulty grasping the situation.
Finally he spoke.
"So you kidnapped Vanessa to get BadgerKing? And I thought all along it was me you wanted."
Stevenson launched himself back, throwing himself out of Christian's face as he burst out into a deep baritone laughter, amplifying itself with every instant that passed; a laugh of contempt, of superiority and one that mocked the hilarity of Christian's words.
"You? Who in the world wants you?"
"My dear, you're like dog poo when compared to the prodigy that lad is. I mean, there're dozens like you, petty thieves, but he; he's a true gem, a bona fide genius. And I want him working under me!"
Duke's mind reeled under the shock of the surprise. There were a lot of scenarios that had played around in his head as to why Stevenson had abducted Vanessa, but this was definitely not one of them.
"But will he work for you?" Christian asked, though he knew it was a lame attempt at distracting himself.
"Funny question coming from you", Stevenson chided. "Of course he will. After I'm done with him through my methods, the boy will do any thing I ask him for."
Stevenson's eyes took on an evil glint as he said the last bit and Christian shuddered as thoughts of those methods flooded his brain.
"Oh stop with the questioning already. I want that boy right
now, and you're going to help me get him. If you value your own freedom that
is, for you already owe me too much considering the job you failed at back
"The damn job was rigged!"
"Oh potato - patato, I don't give a damn, the fact remains that you failed and caused much loss. And your life is in my hands for that."
Christian had a pretty good idea who had rigged the job, but there was no point arguing here. He disliked whining anyway. And then a smile appeared across his face as he suddenly remembered Duke's predicament.
"But you can't have BadgerKing, you see he's in Zelderman's hands now."
A bewildered expression appeared on Stevenson's face as he heard that. "What's he doing in that bi-yatch's hands?"
"Oh she wanted a piece of him too." Christian replied smugly, "So I guess he's off limits now."
Stevenson fell silent as he though for a moment.
"Still, you're going to get him for me."
"So you're going to get him for me." Stevenson repeated smiling slightly. That bitch is not going to hand him over directly, so you're gonna be the one to get him for me. After all, you can manipulate a teenie little nerd and pull some stunts on that bitch can't you?"
Christian's head was numb. What was Stevenson assuming he would do for him? He was certainly not going to push Duke into this cunning fox's mouth.
"And I'm going to offer you a little incentive to make sure you take this up."
Christian waited for Stevenson to continue and his mouth fell open when he heard Stevenson quote an obscene amount of money for doing the job.
The 72 year old man clapped his hands as an attendant rushed out of the room and returned hardly a minute later with a black briefcase. Christian's eyes grew wide when Stevenson flashed its green contents to his guest.
"This is just the beginning, you'll get the remaining after you've delivered him to me."
Christian looked down at the case Stevenson held in his hand, his mind unable to comprehend anything at the stupendous amount being offered to him.
"And you are free wherever you want after this, I'll personally cut off all ties with you."
Christian looked up to the smug expression on the elder man's face. His freedom from the jobs that bound him to this wicked man? Was it really possible?
"And keep in mind another reason you have for doing this."
Christian looked to the sinister expression the elder man harbored on his face. He was obviously referring to Vanessa.
And jumbling with all those overwhelming reasons in his head, Christian had extended his hands slowly to accept the briefcase.
And he now clutched that very same briefcase in his hand as he made his way towards a destination unknown. His own freedom had been sworn by Stevenson, a risible sum had been offered to him with a significant starting remuneration already delivered. Vanessa's life lay in his hands too.
And for obtaining all of it, he had to deliver BadgerKing into Stevenson's hands.
Things had happened to quickly in Stevenson's company. He had hardly thought over all of the aspects of Stevenson's requests and the rewards yet. The decision he had to come to next would probably be the most difficult one in his life. And his sharp tactical mind was failing to aid him in it.
With a heavy heart, Christian trudged towards finding a way into the next city at the ungodly hour, wondering what BadgerKing was facing by now.
And unknown to him, Stevenson had called to his assistant to round up the best of his men to accompany him to Salvia immediately after Christian had left his company. His assistant had been surprised, given the odd time of the night.
"I have some plans you see", he had told the doubting female as he rubbed his hands in glee. "The uproar Christian causes in Zelderman's lair will give me the opportunity to get rid of her once and for all."
The assistant stared waiting for an explanation.
"It's called killing two birds with one stone dear, or actually. Its three birds."
Fifteen minutes later, three black vans, stocked with sleep-disturbed but alert men in suits had set off into the darkness towards Salvia.
Stevenson was with them.
A helpless figure lay gagged and bound in one of the corner most rooms in the basement of Stevenson mansion. Strung out all alone for more than a dozen hours, Vanessa's body was beginning to cramp at several places. And as much as she wanted to fall asleep, she could not. A few muffled voices and thumping outside her locked door had informed her that something had just happened outside. And ever since the brief commotion, there had been no more noises from outside, as if she was left all alone in the basement. Even now, straining her ears, she could not make out the presence of a single soul beyond the door that held her captive.
She wondered whether the confusion had been caused by
Christian coming over to the mansion. She was a little uncertain if he would
come for her, but knew that if he did, he would not try any fancy stunts in
Stevenson's heavily guarded mansion with all its
She was hungry by now, and her captors had not been kind enough to spare her a meal. She did not even know what the time was, but expected it to be way past midnight. And as her sleep deprived mind roamed aimlessly, her mind went back to how she and Christian had been trained together under Stevenson's cruel tutelage.
She remembered being thrust into Stevenson's grasp at an early age and leading a life of strict discipline, aimed at being an elite body guard for her cruel master. And then Christian had stepped onto the scene and her life had changed. She had almost fallen in love with him the very first moment she laid eyes on him, but circumstances and a better understanding of the man had later told her that it was not to be.
Stevenson had then unexpectedly deployed the two of them on tasks that involved more than being a mere body guard and pleased at their success had shoved more and more missions on the two of them. She was happy for she saw less and less of the wretched man and slowly and steadily she and her partner had worked towards loosening Stevenson's iron-like grip over them.
But now it seemed they were under his grasp more than ever before.
Still, there was confusion in her mind as to what it was that Stevenson actually wanted. He had hinted earlier it was not recapturing and pinioning Christian that was on his mind. Then what had been his motive in incarcerating her?
She gave up the line of thought for the umpteenth time, reaching no conclusion this time as well.
She would have to wait and see what time had in store for her and what everything going around was all about.
She had no other choice.
Duke wandered about in the room that Zelderman's guards had locked him in. He was exhausted but hid mind was swinging in so many different directions that he could hardly sit still. What had happened to that peaceful world he had been living in till a few days back?
He had still not met Damien, and didn't even know if he was anywhere in the vicinity. And the both of them would be stuck under Zelderman's control because of Randy Rodriguez. Where did that arrogant porn star suddenly jump into the already complex equation from?
Finally he sat down on the comfortable bed. The room he was in was luxurious to say the least. And the food kept on the table spoke of how Zelderman always treated her guests like kings. He could never have guessed that atop Crazy Mongers, the bar he frequented, would be a hangout of one of the most notorious criminals in the town. And he probably would never have known of it if his so called peaceful life earlier would not have been disturbed.
He flopped backwards onto the soft sheets, his eye lids
suddenly heavy. All the tiredness of the last two days was finally catching up
to him. The trip to
And as much as his mind wanted to wander, his body wouldn't let it. The ceiling turned blurry as thoughts about how Christian would never turn up and how he would end up being Zelderman's personal slave swam through his head, paving way for an uncomfortable dream.
He was jolted awake some time later by thumping noise. His eyes squinted open as he realized some sort of a scuffle was taking place just past the door of the room he was in. The noises ended abruptly and then there was silence. Suddenly he heard the metallic clink of a key turning in the lock as he sat upright immediately.
The door flew wide open as did Duke's eyes stared at the silhouette standing at the doorway, at a complete loss of words.
"Chr, Chris?" he finally managed to stammer.
There was Christian at the door, and it took Duke a moment to understand his surroundings and the situation he was in.
Christian immediately lifted a finger to his lips, beckoning Duke to remain silent as the latter stood up hastily from the bed and made his way towards the door.
"How did you...?"
"Later." Christian whispered to him. "We have to try and get out of here first."
Duke nodded as he followed Christian out of the room and into the corridor, past a knocked out guard who was apparently pacing the corridor keeping watch before he was rendered unconscious by Christian.
"We have to get Damien first." Duke hissed at Christian's back. "But I don't know if he's held here."
Christian didn't turn back to reply as he made their way silently through the corridor. Abruptly he stopped and whirled around, beckoning ahead with his hand.
Duke reached where he was and peered over to see what Christian was gesturing towards.
A wave of relief washed over him as he spotted Damien, quietly crouched behind a doorway, where Christian had left him with orders to stay put as silently as he could.
"Dame!" Duke exclaimed as he rushed over to his mate's side and hugged him.
Damien smiled broadly as he hugged Duke back fiercely, the joy and relief on his face obvious to finally meet his friend again.
Duke broke the hug as he looked up and down at Damien. "Dame, thank God you're Ok."
"Boy, am I glad to see you. You won't believe..."
"Ladies, its not time for the celebrations and recollections yet."
It was Christian from behind, talking in a controlled yet authoritative tone.
"First we have to get out of here!"
"Right." Duke stated as he got up slowly, raising Damien along with him and making his way towards Christian.
They followed as Christian led them across another hallway perpendicular to the one they were in, coming across two more bulky bodies that lay flat on the floor, ahead of another door where Duke presumed Damien had been held in. The two bodies were obviously of guard as well.
Duke stared down at the two colossal fallen forms as the trio zipped across them.
"How in the world did you ever take these guys down?" Duke questioned softly to Christian's back.
They paused at an intersection of hallways as Christian crouched low to check whether the coast was clear.
"Combat Skill." Christian stated flatly to an unconvinced Damien before he added, "That and the element of surprise."
Suddenly Duke balked as he noticed something tucked under one of the guard's belt. He traced his steps back and bent low to pick up something.
Christian waited at the end of the passageway, his face questioning as to what his companion was up to. And then he saw the gun Duke was tucking into his jacket, recognizing the black Colt as Duke jogged back towards him.
"Had to get my damn gun back!" Duke hissed as an explanation when he caught up to the other two. Christian nodded faintly before he lurched off into a corridor beckoning the two to follow and stopped at another intersection, this time as footsteps thumped ahead. The three men held their breath as the footsteps faded, heading towards another direction. Christian peered across the corner before he decided that this was not the way they would be going towards. He turned back and waddled to the corridor they had come from.
"How we gonna get out of here?" Damien suddenly questioned in a high pitched voice, much to Christian's consternation. Damien had yet not realized the danger they were in and that escape from wherever they were would not be easy.
No one answered him.
"Well, how did you come in?" he asked Christian, his eyebrows knit as one.
"The three of us can't go out the way I came in", Christian finally answered.
"Why not?" asked a cross Damien.
No one answered him again.
"I asked why..."
Damien was cut off by a hand held over his mouth that muffled out the remaining part of his question. Footsteps were heard, this time heading towards them. Christian waited for a few seconds to see if they would turn away to another corridor but they didn't. Finally he grasped Damien's hand and pulled him over, sprinting back to the passageway they had come from, Duke following suit.
Christian did rapid calculations in his mind before he decided to not go back he way they had come from. Instead he hopped onto a staircase that led downwards, guiding the trio along.
They waited at the end of the first flight of stairs, crouching low, trying to remain hidden as to their horror they realized that someone was walking into the passageway they had just come out from.
It was only a matter of seconds before he would spot the unconscious guards on the floor and an alarm would be sounded.
Christian pointed his thumb downwards, indicating the others to follow him down. There was no point in going back up now. They would have to find another way out of the complex.
They descended as silently as they could, the lights at the top of the staircase fading as they descended. Suddenly the trio was ushered into a large open area, but with no semblance of illumination around, they could not make out where they were.
"Where are we?" Damien questioned as he groped about in the dark to feel whether the other two were still with him. Christian pranced about, trying to understand his surroundings. They seemed to be in a large hall with various tables and chairs arranged systematically. He knew for sure that they were at ground level, so all he had to do was find a door and they would be outside.
Duke moved around blindly, using wooden surfaces and walls to guide him. It was pitch black, and as long as he waited, his eyes were simply not getting used to the darkness of the enclosure they were in. There was not the tiniest source of illumination around to cast light on any surface.
His hands touched a glass surface in the middle of the large room. He felt along the cuboidal frame and suddenly realization dawned on him.
"We're in Crazy Mongers!"
"Say what?" Damien yelped.
"We're in Crazy Mongers. How stupid of us." Duke grinned as he realized how he'd entered Zelderman's lair.
"Yeah, should've realized earlier." Christian admitted.
"So this is the bar area and the door should be that way." Duke pointed in the dark to no avail but Christian headed off towards the general direction of the entrance without having to be guided. It looked like they would be able to make it to the outside.
"Oh yeah, today was 60's themed night if I remember correctly!" Damien chimed in. "Bloody hooligans made me miss out on it!"
The three walked to where they thought freedom lay, bumping against tables and chairs as they made their way across the bar.
A large man in a black T-shirt and jeans made his way across the convoluted passageways. It had been some time since he had heard from his buddies; the ones who had been on duty guarding the so called guests. And it was mandatory that he check up on them.
He looked to his watch. He hated unnecessary shifts at timings like this. But his job ensured he got his fill of them. And he hated the fact that a couple of weasels were being held and treated like kings, save the captivity, just because the boss' boy toy had received a scar to his face.
He yawned as he walked along, another two hours and he could go home. He could hardly wait for the minutes to pass.
Suddenly his eyes fell upon two bodies slumped on the floor. His eyeballs nearly popped out his head. He rushed over to the figures that lay on the floor.
It was Damien, stating aloud to the darkness of the bar that enveloped them. A general statement that arose from their realization that the bar's entrance was sealed shut at the absurd time of night. The large glass panes had metallic shutters drawn downwards and thorough but fumbled inspection of the area revealed that they were sealed in. The only way out was the staircase they had come down from.
Damien slumped against a leather couch on the floor as he let out a breath of air. He felt fluffy balls falling on him as he did. He picked one up and sniffed at it. It was pop-corn. Raising his hand upwards he felt a cardboard box on the armrest of the sofa, one that had tilted over and spilled its contents on him as he crashed against the sofa.
"So this is how my beautiful twenty one year old life comes to an end?" Damien's question was directed to the darkness of the bar around him. He felt Duke slumping onto the floor next to him, popcorn showering oh him too as his helplessness became apparent from the air around him.
"I mean, there are still so many guys I haven't done the boogie with, and you two dickwads get me into this mess."
Duke ran his hand along the infuriated man's back, trying to comfort him. But he was at a loss too. There was no way out, they were trapped like rats. Cushioning noises informed him that Christian had settled onto the sofa they were leaning against. Apparently he had given up too.
"So do you know that Zelderman wasn't after me, but you?" Duke questioned to the air around.
Christian balked at that. "Huh?"
"Yeah, she went through this whole damn charade of abducting Damien just to get to you. Apparently you screwed up her sex toy's face when you, err, saved me that night and she did all this to get to you."
Christian let out a whoosh of breath as he realized what Duke was talking about. And then suddenly he burst out laughing as he realized the irony of the situation.
"Well then", he stated between fits of laughter. "It would be good for you to know that Stevenson wasn't after me either, its you he wants!"
"Me? Why the hell?"
"Don't even ask."
The air fell silent as everyone stopped talking, thinking about the muddling puddle they were all in.
"So who's this Stevenson guy now?" It was Damien who broke the silence.
No one answered him and he resigned himself to his fate to not get the answer to that one.
"Well what happens if we do manage to get out of here?"
Christian paused before he said anything, trying to understand the weight of Duke's question.
"I mean, suppose we manage to escape from here right now; what happens after that? Zelderman and your other boss are simply not going to leave us out in the open I guess, so I'm guessing we'll have to go into hiding, running around our whole life."
Duke fell silent. There was no use in cursing his fate anymore.
"What?!" Damien exclaimed suddenly realizing what the
conversation was all about. "Darling's if you think you're gonna make me leave
my home and string me along to the middle of
"There's not a thing we can do." Christian's voice was calm as opposed to a frenzied Damien. "Those guards I knocked out earlier must have surely been discovered and now we're holed in here."
"Then why didn't you hide their bodies after knocking them out?" Damien asked exasperatedly. "I mean, what kind of a dimwit knocks out guards and leaves them lying around as decoration?"
"Well, I was in a hurry to get you two out that time."
"Well then darling, do something now! The world has not seen enough of Damien to sustain itself without him."
"Well I can't do anything now." Christian's voice was showing signs of the irritation he was beginning to feel being nettled by Damien.
"What do you mean you can't do anything now? Surely there has to be something you can do!"
The air fell silent once more as Christian refused to argue anymore with the energetic Damien.
"Well there has to be SOMETHING that you can do! Why are we all just sitting around, waiting for them to come and pick us up?"
"You're right Damien." It was Duke this time, getting up from the floor, brushing the fallen popcorn from his jacket as he picked up the cardboard popcorn boxes from the armrest of the sofa. "There is something I can do."
Duke walked over, fumbling in the dark to the bartender's area as he picked up a glass of wine and held it from the neck.
"What can you do?"
A loud crash was heard as Duke smashed the bottle against the counter, making both Damien and Christian flinch in surprise.
"I'm gonna fight my way out of here."
And saying that he withdrew the Colt M1911 out of his jacket.
Christian raised his eye brows as he heard the distinctive metallic chinking of Duke reloading the cartridge as he slid back the rack of the gun.
The fact that she was awoken from her sleep didn't go too well with Miss Zelderman. And the fact that there were two highly unforeseen events taking place right under her nose didn't suit her too well either.
She strode purposefully across the corridor as two henchmen followed behind, matching their stride to hers.
A door flung open as a displeased lady made her way into the surveillance room that was abuzz with activity. The men in the room fell silent as soon as they heard the door crashing and their boss entered.
"You twits! What have ya'll been up to? Sleeping around on the job?"
It was a peculiar sight; the huge frames of the henchmen shuddered as the lone female fumed at them, none of them being able to answer her.
"Well did you find them yet? Since ya'll do a fabulous job keeping them in, we might as well see how fabulously you perform in finding them now! Or have my guests already taken their leave from the building?"
"We can't find them anywhere on the monitors!" one man finally blurted out as Zelderman paced towards the myriad of screens that captured every conceivable nook and corner of the building they were in.
"Unless they're in the bar!" the man added, as if it was a consolation.
The seething female ring leader twisted her nose, her burnt face contorting at odd angles as she waited for the man to continue.
"These screens show the bar camera's!" the man hurriedly stated as he pointed towards a collection of screens that seemed to be switched off.
"Well turn them on then favi!" Zelderman yelled, scaring her surveillance expert out of his skin.
"They're on. The main power of the bar will have to turned on from the first floor control room. But I can try and enable us to see what's there without having someone go down there!"
"Well enable us then!" Zelderman folder her arms across her breasts, tapping her fingers impatiently.
The poor man hastily attached a portable keyboard to a USB and started running a series of commands through. Soon enough the black monitors turned a green as blurry images of furniture and figures came on screen, effectively stimulating a night-vision type environment.
"There they are!" the man yelled, almost overjoyed as Zelderman raised her eyebrows. This was very interesting indeed.
"What are they doing?" Zelderman questioned as she squinted her eyes to make out what the hazy images were depicting on screen.
Her surveillance expert immediately routed sound from a particular screen to the speakers as the entire room heard the sounds of glass smashing as a murky green figure on screen smashed bottles against the counter.
"Well if they think they can cause me to go bankrupt by disrupting my bar, they've another thing coming!" She paused as she put her arms on her hips and turned around to face her men. "Boma, Raul, take some men and go apprehend those faggots down there!"
Swinging around she stooped down to resume watching the grainy green reception in front of her as her men bustled and got ready to go down to the bar.
Zelderman seethed as she peered from screen to screen "How did two little fairies get through my security and manage to escape?"
"Well that's because they had help from another fairy friend of theirs."
The voice was cold, unmistakable and distinct. And Zelderman flinched as she recognized it immediately. Not a voice she wanted to hear, but she had mentally prepared herself to face the man ever since she had been awakened from her slumber. This was after all, the second unexpected event that had taken place on this happening night.
"Well, well, if it isn't Charlie Ol' Horse, Raphael Stevenson himself!"
"Nice to meet you too Miss Zelderman", the elder man paused as he looked up and down at the female gang leader. "What in the world are you wearing my dear? You sleep in those?" He was referring to the stilettos Zelderman was wearing atop her baby pink night robe.
Zelderman didn't bat an eye. "What business do you have today favi? It isn't such a fabulous night anyway, and you have to come and rain down upon it all?"
Stevenson took slow steps as he entered the already packed surveillance room, his suit-clad henchmen walking behind him, ever alert for the slightest show of offense from their loathe-cooperate partners in the pirate areas.
"Those boys down there didn't escape from your care by themselves. Christian is the one who got them out. And he's probably with them in that bar right now."
"He's probably right!" Zelderman's surveillance technician called out in a timid voice from behind. "I can make out three men in the bar."
"And since I have business of my own with Christian and that hacker friend of his, I think you should allow me to take this task further."
Zelderman looked at the man curiously. Obviously, he was aware of the situation and had come prepared with men at such a forsaken time. She wondered what he had in mind.
"And what do you intend to do?"
"Oh we'll play a little game with them. They are locked up inside that black cave of a bar ain't they? So we'll just send a few men of mine down there and play around with them a little before we finally extirpate them!"
Zelderman thought for a few seconds about what was being proposed. The lads had caused her enough trouble already. And on top of it all, there was no saying how much more damage they could cause to her men in a fight for life and death type confrontation in the bar, especially with someone like Christian around. It certainly seemed a better idea to let Stevenson's men do the job; especially since he seemed to be harboring a grudge that dragged him to Salvia in the middle of the night.
"Ok, favi, you can ask your men to go ahead. But ask them not too cause too much damage to the bar, the repairs ain't coming out of your pockets now are they?"
Stevenson smiled. The first phase of his plan was over. Pretty soon everything he had planned would come into motion. And his greatest adversary would soon be sleeping in a coffin.
"So you do have those special goods that came last week don't you? The one from that Turkish smuggler."
Zelderman raised her eyebrows. It seemed Raphael Stevenson's knowledge about her own dealings were good.
"Yes, but what would you want with those now?"
"Oh, I just thought it would be fun to equip my men with some of those night vision goggles and all. Just for the thrill of it. It'll be like a hunt in the dark then."
Zelderman scowled and contorted her face. The old geezer was a sick twisted man indeed. She nodded apprehensively as she gave instructions to one of her own men to lead Stevenson's men to the `special' goods that had come in the previous week.
A bustling noise by the door informed the people inside that someone else had just arrived. "Lemme in, one sec!" someone called out from behind the mass of men.
Zelderman shrugged helplessly as she realized that Randy Rodriguez had arrived too.
13 men slowly made their way downwards, descending the staircase that led to the bar; 13 men that were under strict instructions; their mission was to annihilate the thief, and capture the nerd unharmed; 13 men under rigid instructions of Raphael Stevenson himself. And equipped with state of the art Night Vision Devices, they descended cautiously down the steps.
The large scuba-gear styled goggles they had on were the so called NVD's; Night vision devices comprising an IR image intensifier tube in a rigid casing; A dual type utilizing a separate image intensifier tube for each eye. The state of the art goggles were the `special' goods that would enable them to see clearly in the sinister lack of light the bar was plunged into, as opposed to their prey that would be rendered defenseless. And it would make their rather complicated scenario of taking one hostage simpler, and obviously slaughtering whoever else would come in the way.
They descend warily, their guns in their hands, treading lightly with their polished black suits; a perfect match to the pristine white shirts and black suits that Stevenson's men were always known to dress in. Their prey had probably been alerted of their presence as a few steps of the wooden staircase creaked, but then too, it was obviously going to be an easy task. Each member of the gang had an earpiece attached to his ear, one that doled out instructions at regular intervals, giving the men orders; orders that were being given by a squad coordinator of sorts; another of Stevenson's men who sat watching the monitors in the surveillance room.
Christian's breathing was heavy. He hated being in situations which went beyond his control. And this certainly was one of the most extreme cases; one of certain death. Armed with just a double-action Beretta, he squatted behind a sofa, clutching the gun close to his chest. He wondered if it would be of any use.
He closed his eyes as he recalled the calmness and conviction in Duke's voice when he stated he would fight his way out of there. And even in the darkness, he had been able to spot a glint of determination in his mate's eyes. That determination was the only thing he could pin his hopes on.
Duke knelt in the dark, his eyes closed. There was hardly any point in keeping them open. He couldn't see a darned thing anyways. And now he would have to rely on other senses to achieve his goals.
His heart was thumping nonstop. He could hear the damn thing throbbing; pulsating into his brain, throbbing in his chest. And in those moments of adrenaline he felt powerful, inexorable and insuperable. A rush of excitement fuelled by chemical reactions in his head, giving him the high he always sought out. And in those very moments, he knew he would be able to penetrate the veil of darkness with his ears; a serpent of sorts. He set his colt in single in `Condition 1'. A mode better known as cocked and locked, only setting the thumb safety off.
Two stories up, almost exactly above where he was crouched, the remote squad coordinator of the men in suits was affirming orders, under scrutiny of Zelderman, Stevenson and a few of Zelderman's men, along with the notorious Randy Rodriguez. The man with the headset and microphone knew there was not much need of coordinating the men in this situation, given the overwhelming unfair advantage his men had, but there was no need to cross the dangerous bridge.
He could clearly make out the crouched shape of one of the quarries, the squatting figure behind a sofa, with what seemed like a gun in his hand in the hazy green images, and informed his accomplices of his position. He chuckled as he wondered how long he would last in the blackness of the bar.
He breathed the final order.
"Rush in now!"
All hell broke loose.
Thirteen men crouched at the base of the staircase raced towards the bar, a snake of black suits trailing behind, moving forward as the black assassins took the steps two at a time.
Two men took the lead and broke into the bar, their vision enriched by the infrared NVD's they had been accoutered with, looking around everywhere for a sign of their prey.
It would be easy, like a barn owl hunting a rat.
"This is it!" Duke whispered to himself in the dark.
Crunching and clinking noises were heard and Duke reacted instantly. He rose up with lightning speed.
Two seconds later two bodies fell to the floor, thumping loudly as they did, making weird scrunching noises.
"Two down", a calm voice counted in the dark.
Two other suited men watched their infrared vision in horror as their partners took vital hits and fell to the floor, dead. And they looked up to find a dash of a red figure running and jumping to the floor. They fired in his direction, the figure tumbling and skidding before it got concealed behind tables and chairs. Several other men were now behind them, crowding the bottom of the wooden staircase, blindly trying to contemplate what had just happened.
The two live men ahead thought quickly and decided to rush everyone in. Remaining standing out there, they were like sitting ducks. Clomping and clinking noises were heard as eleven living men rushed into the bar and concealed themselves behind tables, chairs, barstools and whatever furniture or obstacles were accessible.
"What the fuck just happened?" Stevenson bellowed in the surveillance room above, the terminology he used belying his vernacular.
Stevenson's coordinator on the headset was straining to hear the whispers of one of his men. "Two of our men are down! The bastards! They spilled glass on the floor. There's broken glass everywhere!"
The shocked coordinator conveyed the same to his boss who stared at him like a madman.
"And they've spread something else on the floor.... wait." The coordinator waited as the man speaking from the other end presumably lifted a chunk of whatever was on the floor.
"What?" Stevenson bellowed once more, sticking his ear right next to the headset on his man on the monitors. He couldn't believe he had just lost two of his able bodied men. And the reason was popcorn?
"Get those bastards now!" He hollered into the microphone.
Silence reigned in the bar underneath. The men crouched in bundles signaled each other, gestures clearly visible in the dark through infrared vision. They could no see the floor clearly, a mess of broken glass shards and popcorn. There was no avoiding it, but they could see certain areas that had lesser quantities nevertheless.
One arose bravely, standing up ever so slowly, looking all around frantically, his vision in shades of crimson. He stepped forward with mincing steps, inching towards the bar counter area; he knew their quarry was there somewhere.
He fell to the floor; a bullet through his head.
Chaos resulted. A flurry of movements as glass shattered and footsteps pounded everywhere. Disorder and chaos highlighted by the firing of bullets in every conceivable direction. A series of gunshots echoed through the darkness. Bang, Bam!
Two more bodies thumped to the floor as figures scurried about in befuddlement.
Christian's heart was racing. He hadn't the slightest inkling of what was taking place. All he knew was that he was still alive. He still clutched his gun in his hand, and he hadn't yet fired a single shot. And yet the sounds around informed him that people around were falling to the floor like bowling pins; knocked out dead for good. He had raised himself to try to add his own to the situation but had failed miserably. All he saw were flashes of gunshots and the madness of hunters and the hunted and immediately ducked back behind the sofa.
"Five down!" Duke breathed silently. His temperament exactly opposite to his mate whose heart was riding rollercoasters; wondering if Duke was still alive.
He was a stalker of the night now; his ears and reflexes making him a terrifying force. His brain had closed in, thinking of nothing but his gun and the sounds around. The very lightest sound that was made, be it the clinking of glass pieces or the crunching of popcorn on the floor was captured by his ears; and he shot his gun in that exact direction with pinpoint accuracy.
He was unscathed. But the silence this time was brief. He reacted speedily as he heard a few noises behind him and lurched ahead, jumping and diving through the air, raising his gun as he flew.
Two more shots were fired by him as he sailed through the air, Bang, Bang!
Duke landed on his arms as two more men fell to the floor. Two who had snuck up behind him. Duke tumbled across the floor, his arms and legs intertwining before he speedily unentangled himself and ducked behind a table. Various men reassembled themselves across the hide-n-seek arena.
Duke felt a twinge of pain as slivers of glass lay embedded in his arms, but only for a moment. His mind refused to acknowledge the pain after that.
Duke breathed softly as he cocked the hammer of his gun manually, reloading the cartridge. The gun ching-ed as he reloaded it.
"What the fuck is happening?" It was Stevenson two stories above, his face red as he tried to understand what was taking place in the blurry green screens ahead of him. His teeth were gritted as contortions appeared on his forehead.
"Sir, we've confirmed that at least six of our men are dead."
Zelderman's jaw was hanging low as Randy Rodriguez face acquired a puzzled expression. What exactly was going on down there?
"How can my bloody men be dead?"
"Sir, they have some sort of an elite marksman with them. He took all six of them down single handedly."
"What the fuck do you mean marksman? A fucking fairy? Against all my men with those NVD's? Are you fucking crazy?"
The poor coordinator on the headset wiped the spit from his face. Zelderman's spit, who was growling a mere two centimeters from his face now.
His face took on a puzzled expression as he strained to hear a voice cackling through the earphones. He paused before adding timidly. "Sir, one more of our men has been confirmed dead."
Stevenson lost all his sanity at that.
"Shoot them all fucking dead!" His voice carried through the entire hall. "Kill them all. I don't care what orders I gave before, just kill all those fucking queers down there! Find each one of those rats and riddle them with bullets beyond recognition!"
Stevenson looked like he was breathing fire.
The so called assassins waited patiently as the howling of their boss through the microphone was translated into their new order by their coordinator. So now they were to show now mercy; just shoot whichever enemy that moved.
A man in the bar below looked around, his red vision highlighting the tables and chairs in saturated crimsons and scarlets. Suddenly he spotted a shape amidst all the furniture and squinted his eyes to concentrate on it as he nudged himself forwards, still squatting. A chair touched his shoulder and creaked as it shifted slightly on the floor.
The shape changed positions with Godlike speed. And even before he could raise his gun, his head snapped backwards as the bullet went through his goggles and went straight through. His heart stopped beating a second later.
Christian was feeling like an ignorant frog, stuck in a well. What in the world was happening all around? The last minute and a half had passed without him hardly moving from his position. Was Duke still alive?
Suddenly he heard the crunching of glass pieces around him. Unknown to him and unlike Duke, he was visible on the night vision cameras that their hunting party's coordinator was monitoring. And in his state of helplessness, the man behind the monitors was directing his men towards the only visible victim on the cameras.
Christian looked about frantically, desperately trying to predict where the noise had come from. He felt the danger he was in and intuitively knew that he was being stalked in the dark. But where would his hunters strike from.
Hearing another shifting of bodyweight, he suddenly lurched forward and pointed his Beretta to the darkness. False Alarm!
"Behind!" he though to himself as he swung around to notice the metallic glint of a gun in his peripheral vision. He knew he was dead.
Christian felt the man ahead of him collapse as his body fell forward on him, slumping.
His assailant had just been shot by someone!
Christian fell to the floor, the corpse falling slack and collapsing on him as he did. Had Duke shot this man through this fog of war?
Christian felt a strange plastic object rubbing against his shoulder, an accoutrement that the dead man had on him, the man who had died in an instant. He immediately felt it up and yanked it off, pulling a cord over the man's head.
"NVD's!" Christian stated, a bit too loudly as he fumbled with the device and put it on. Their attackers had been fighting them with these on?
The red graphics in his vision immediately put into perspective all his surroundings. Every damn object around him was clearly visible; the furniture, the barstools, cardboard boxes and even the glass shards and popcorn on the floor. And then he peered over the edge of the bar to find Duke crouching behind a table.
It took him just a second to realize that Duke hadn't one of the devices on. And then it hit him. He was shooting on raw instinct and precision, judging the enemy's positions simply by concentrating on the noises they made when they moved.
Would popcorn and broken glass take them all the way to victory?
Clattering noises informed Christian that someone was on the move again. And before he could turn his head to see what movement had taken places, Duke arose like a demonic force, aiming towards the well equipped assailants.
Fire was exchanged in flurries after that, as Duke veered left and right and took his turn as the hunter in the dark in the deathly game of hide and seek. Christian swallowed as he saw him zigzagging across the floor and then diving on the floor firing rounds one after the other. Bullets ricochet off countless surfaces, and bodies collapsed on the floor in several directions before the noises ceased.
Christian held his breath as he saw Duke's form on the floor, lying motionless. Was he hit?
He breathed a sigh of relief as Duke raised himself and crouched low once more. And he knew that instant that Duke had still not been touched by the enemies' bullets. He was a demon; the aura that he was emanating was the stuff of legends. An aura of sheer invulnerability; one that mere mortals simply do not possess; an aura that amalgamated divinity and demonic forces alike.
And no mortal could even get near that aura.
And at the same time Christian felt fear; a queasy feeling in his stomach that asked him to stay away from this monster, lest he be shot dead too.
"Ten, Eleven, Twelve."
Duke arose calmly, standing tall in the middle of the bar for the first time. Pointing the Colt towards the popcorn vending machine.
A body thumped to the floor.
And with that, Duke knew it was over. Even though there was no way to confirm it, he knew intuitively that they were all dead. The whole charade had been played out and there was not a single enemy left. And as much as he had steeled himself for it, it was all sinking in now. He had just killed thirteen men.
He fell to the floor, his arms falling slack, his fingers now loosely grasping the gun as Christian slowly made his way towards him.
The shootout at `Crazy Mongers' would be one to remember. Sadly there were just a handful of people who would even hear of it. Nevertheless, the skirmish that ensued at the bar, and the god-like skill that was unleashed would be etched as the last image into the brains of all those that had taken a bullet before they fell to the floor.
Christian stared at his mate in wonder and shock. It was still to dark to see but he could make out Duke's slumped kneeling posture as the latter breathed heavily. He was clutching his prized gun in his palms tightly. The gun that had just taken more than a dozen lives.
Christian scrambled to his feet as he slowly crept up to Duke and reassuringly put his hands on his companion's shoulders.
"You ok buddy?" He asked in a gentle voice.
Duke lifted his face slowly, finally peeling his eyes away from the semi-automatic pistol in his hand.
"Yeah, I think so."
Then Christian whistled in a low voice before he added, "What the hell was that BadgerKing? Are you some kind of a monster or something?"
Duke did not reply.
The almost supernatural sleight of gun that Duke had just displayed would brand him a legend forever. Sadly there were not many who had witnessed the scene or would ever know about it.
Christian heaved himself up from the floor. He knew Duke's avatar had just ended and the realization of what he had done was sinking in. But it was not all over yet.
He made his way towards the bartender's counter, knocking on the wooden cabinet below the liquor pipes.
"You ok there?"
Damien hummed in response.
"Stay in there buddy, for just a little while longer."
"What do you mean you can't contact them?"
The rage boiling over was evident in Stevenson's voice. His face was black with rage.
"I can't get through to any of them. Either they were all killed or everyone down there killed each other."
"Confirm it!" Stevenson bellowed. "Switch on the damn power down there!"
The images everyone had been watching on screen had hardly given them glimpses of what had happened beneath. Mad firing and suited men falling to the floor one after the other in flashes were all they had seen.
The man moved over as Zelderman's own surveillance expert took over. A few controls switched over later, he had disengaged the night vision screens leaving the screens pitch dark for a few moments till the power was switched by someone who had rushed to the control room a floor below.
Everyone peered into the screens, crowding around the monitors.
Stevenson saw the numerous bodies lying around, in the midst of glass and rubbish and pools of blood. Bodies of his own men.
"Did those three die?" It was Randy asking in a meek voice from behind.
"Confirm it!" Stevenson yelled again.
Zelderman, who till this time had been quite, signaled her own men. "Try and see what's happening down in the Mongers favi, but don't go down there. The way those bodies plopped down one after the other, I think There's some sort of a monster Venus-flytrap or something down there."
Immediately her men bustled as they exited the door to head towards the bar.
To say Stevenson was enraged would be an understatement. In a few seconds he had lost thirteen of his most able men; their deaths shrouded in mystery. And within that rage, rose insanity of another desire. Another bird he had planned to take down on this trip.
His eyeballs twitched around maniacally, taking in the occupants of the room. There was himself, the man who had coordinated his squad, and another bodyguard of his. Then there was Zelderman's surveillance expert, one of her own bodyguards, and some Randy fellow he didn't know. All in all, it was not that bad a situation to carry out phase two of the plan.
He signaled his bodyguard.
Zelderman shrieked as Stevenson's bodyguard suddenly dived on her and within a couple of seconds had her in his arms, a gun held to her head. Her own bodyguard reacted instinctively, only to be socked on the head by the other of Stevenson's men.
The surveillance expert startled expression and raised hands in the next few seconds indicated that he was not going to be one to put up a fight. Randy Rodriguez cowered in fear as he backed off to the wall.
The room was suddenly a bunch of nerves.
"What is the meaning of this Stevenson?" Zelderman yelled.
Raphael Stevenson raised his head slowly, is eyes a dangerous red, his nostrils flaring as a trace of spit trailed down his chin, blemishing his otherwise immaculate silver face.
"This? This is what I've been waiting to do since a long long time. I can't have that hacker nerd boy, but at least I can kill you, you bitch!"
"Have you gone mad Raphael? Have you thought over the consequences and repercussions of this? You've already lost most of your crew tonight! Do you honestly think you'll survive with the remaining after killing me?"
But Raphael Stevenson was beyond reasoning. His hair had gone wild and he withdrew a pistol from under his coat pocket and pointed it at the female gang leader.
"Stop blabbering you bitch! And die!"
Stevenson was clutching his bleeding hand the next moment. There on the doorway was Duke, his gun pointing at the man whose hand he'd shot, with Christian standing a few inches behind him; his face marked with confusion at finding Stevenson there.
"You fucking bastards!" Stevenson yelled grasping his hand in pain. "You killed all my men you fucking..."
Stevenson paused as he looked up at Duke's expressionless face. And then suddenly he burst out into a maniacal laughter. Laughter that echoed eerily throughout the room.
"So you're going to trust that thief now?" he gestured towards Christian with his chin. "Don't you know he sold you out already?"
Duke's eyebrows knit themselves together as he looked at Christian, wondering who this man was and what he was talking about.
"He hasn't come here to rescue you sweetie, he's come here to fetch you for me. And he's doing it all for cold hard cash!"
Duke's ramrod hand fell a little slack as he stared at Christian's face, waiting for an explanation.
"Ask him Goddammit! Ask him! Did he collect the money to deliver you to me from me or not! Ask him?"
Duke's face acquired a questioning look as Christian swallowed and bowed his head, unable to meet his gaze. The formers face turned to one of pain, of being betrayed, of reestablishing his belief, being manipulated and then being left in the lurch to bleed to death. And within those moments Duke decided who his greatest enemy was. And his arms turned slowly as it shifted targets.
The Colt M1911 was now pointing straight at Christian's chest.
A startling turn of events took place. Stevenson suddenly withdrew another gun form his coat and with his unhurt hand pointed it towards Duke. Christian saw his movements just before he pulled the trigger.
Duke stared in shock. Christian had dived forwards, pushing him to the side and shielding his body with his own as he did, and in the process, had taken a bullet himself.
Another crash was heard as Zelderman suddenly caught hold of Stevenson's guard with both her arms and flung the man in a wide-arc, sending him crashing to a wall. And she charged at Stevenson, yelling a battle cry with a dangerous object in her hand which she flung at his head.
Stevenson stood motionless, shocked. One of Zelderman's pink stilettos jutting out of his head, the sharp edge sunken in.
And then he fell to the floor, dead.
Duke was in a state of utter shock. He flopped to the floor, holding Christian in his arms as he frantically ran his hands through Christian's hair.
Christian grimaced with pain before he spoke.
"Because I love you."
And at that Duke's tears began to flow. For the first time in over a dozen years, Duke cried, and cried his heart out. He was aware of nothing that happened around him after that. HE would not remember the many guns that pointed to his head; Zelderman's men returning from a fruitless search of the two fugitives and finding a peculiar sight. He would not remember Zelderman's orders to let them go. He would not remember Randy Rodriguez raising his voice and being slapped by Zelderman in front of everyone. He would not recall Zelderman giving orders for an ambulance to be discreetly arranged.
All he would remember was holding Christian's hands tightly and not letting go. Of staring into his soulless eyes as life drained out of him. And his tears showed no signs of stopping as he wept for the man who had saved his life once again; the same man who he had held his gun to.
"No seriously honey, he wasn't all that great. I mean, he looks like he'll give it to you real good once he gets you into bed, but all he did was lie around like a dead frog. It was so boring and quite, I could hear the tinkering of the ice-cream vendor's cart the whole time!"
Duke feigned a yawn as Christian smiled trying to appear genuinely interested. But this time Damien's tale had a listener, that too of the female variety. A red-haired `Fiery Babe' named Vanessa, who had acquired quite a penchant for being a fag hag.
"You kidding me?" she squealed. "And here I was thinking he'll rock the bed whole night!"
"Not a chance darling. He's as boring as my biology professor in the seventh grade."
The four were sitting in a restaurant for dinner. The subject of discussion was a man that Damien had had his eyes on since the past three days. Apparently he had just made his conquest the previous night and everyone was being forced to hear the details of it now.
Duke tried to change the topic. "So how's the wound?"
Christian smiled as he slid his hand to slightly below his right rib cage. A spot still wrapped in bandages.
"Oh, I'll live."
Everyone fell silent for a few moments.
"Can't believe we went through all that and still lived", Christian continued. "Can't believe its been nine days since the incident. It's still fresh like yesterday in my mind."
It had been three days since Christian had been discharged from the hospital.
"I thought that I'd lost you forever." It was Duke, with the darkest and gloomiest of faces as he thought back to the memory.
Christian smiled as he lifted Duke's face by putting a finger to his chin. "Oh, you ain't getting rid of me that easy!" He was rewarded as a slight smile broke across Duke's face.
"So what you gonna do now honey?" Damien asked Christian. "I mean, you aren't gonna go back to stealing stuff are you?"
"No way, no more risky stuff!" Christian paused as he added. "At least not till this heals completely. He touched his bullet wound slightly as Duke scowled at him.
"I'm sure I kind find something that fits me!" Christian quickly added when he noticed Duke's frown.
"You better not go back to all that!" Duke growled in a low voice.
"By the way, I have a surprise waiting for you outside."
"Are you changing the topic again Chris?"
Christian sighed in helplessness. The new overprotective Duke was completely different from the one he'd first met. And he liked the change.
"No, I mean it. Lets just finish dessert and I'll show you. It's waiting outside."
Ten minutes later, the four exited the restaurant. Damien excitedly talking about how cute their waiter had been, but how he'd seemed to young while Duke wondered what his surprise was.
And then he saw it directly in front; shining in all it's glory.
"A Suzuki Hayabusa!"
He turned towards Christian, his eyes glittering like stars and caught a bunch of keys flying at his face just in time.
"Yep. And it's yours now!"
Duke ran to the bike like a ten year old receiving opening gifts on Christmas morning. And he paused a few paces away from it to admire its beauty.
"You like it?" Christian asked, walking over with a smug expression on his face.
Christian laughed as he looked at Duke's expression; the man's face was beaming like a house on fire as he ooh-ed and aww-ed identifying each and every accoutrement of the bike.
Suddenly Duke paused and went a bit stiff. "How did you pay for this Chris?"
"Oh, I managed", Christian replied nonchalantly.
Duke however did not seem satisfied with the answer. He looked down an stroked the bike's surface gently with his fingers as he asked what had been rankling him since many days now.
"Err Chris. I wanted to ask you this before." Christian sensed the tension in the air as Duke paused. "What did you do with that money you got form Stevenson?"
Christian smiled a gentle smile at his lover.
"I burned it."
"What?" Duke looked up with a startled expression.
"I burned it on the way to Salvia. Believe me, it wasn't easy, but then it was the worst kind of blood money possible and I would never forgive myself if I used a single note from that money. So I burnt it all."
Duke shook his head in disbelief as he absorbed the news.
"So this bike is..."
"This is a gift to you from my personal savings. Let's just leave it at that okay. Now put on that goofy helmet and take me for a ride you oaf!"
"You betcha!" Duke smiled, the joy returning to his face as he grabbed the helmet and handed the second one to Christian who walked up behind him.
What Christian had not told Duke was that h had spent almost how much ever he collected in a long time on his gift for Duke. And still, to Christian, it had seemed to less for him.
Vanessa and Damien pretended to be bored and mocked Duke to bring back Christian alive from the ride.
The driver flipped them his middle finger as the bike roared to life.
They sped of into the horizon.
OK. So that's a wrap folks; with that I finish the story. Hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The whole story writing experience was an awesome one this time as well, with all of its ups and downs.
And I thank you for bearing with my poorly edited work and flimsy writing. Forgive me for that, I'm the only one to blame on that account.
Anyways. So it's good bye from me till inspiration strikes again.
And I love all you readers out there! Keep mailing in!