(Another Byrne story I wrote a while back. Experimenting with the genre. Enjoy!)
It was two o’clock in the afternoon when I heard the shots ring out.
If you’ve ever spent time around firearms, the sound of gunfire is unmistakable. Those who haven’t often mistake it for firecrackers going off or a car backfiring. It’s not a boom so much as it is a loud pop. When a gun goes bang it’s not the cartridge lighting up inside the gun that makes the sound, it’s the release of gas and pressure as the bullet leaves the barrel. Popping a champagne cork is the most benign analogy I can think off.
When the first round went off I rolled onto the floor of my office and yanked my gun out its holster. I’ve pissed off a lot of people over the years and my first thought was that one of them was looking for a little payback. Then, after a few seconds of panting and pointing my gun at the door, I realized the shots were coming from outside. Crawling to my window I peeked above the sill and saw what was happening: two men wearing black ski masks were standing in front of the bank across the street and blasting away at a police cruiser. One of the men had a revolver and the other had a shotgun. The man with the revolver was roughly tugging on a red-haired girl’s arm and yelling something I couldn’t understand. The police car was right below my window and I could see the cop trying to reload his weapon. He was bleeding from his side. Not good.
But once a cop, always a cop. So I burst out of my office and headed for the stairs. You can tell I’m not a deep thinker.
“What the hell’s going on?” said Ron, the rotund account whose office was next to mine.
“Get down on the floor, Ron!” I yelled.
“Now see, here…” Ron said, blocking the stairs. Then his eyes widened when he saw the gun in my hand.
I pushed Ron to the floor, no mean feat since he’s three hundred pounds, and then bounded down the stairs. I scrabbled out the main door in a crouch and moved towards the police cruiser. In the distance sirens were wailing. The cavalry was coming. But they might not get here fast enough.
Another shotgun blast rocked the cruiser, slapping fragments of glass and metal against my face. The cop had lost consciousness, his pistol in slide lock and impotent in his hand. The guy with the shotgun racked the action and advanced towards the car. He was going to finish the cop off. That was dumb. Him and his buddy should have made a run for it.
I stood up and the man with the shotgun noticed me. A million things flew though my mind. Where would the bullets go if my shots failed to connect? Where were the bystanders? What was the guy with the revolver going to do? Then I realized the hard truth. I couldn’t miss.
By the time the bank robber had traversed his gun towards me I had his chest squarely in my pistol’s front sight. Training kicked in and I fired twice, sending two forty-five caliber hollow point bullets traveling nine hundred feet a second into the man’s thoracic cavity.
The man rocked backwards but didn’t fall. Sometimes bad guys don’t oblige you by dropping dead. It isn’t like the movies. So I figured the guy was on speed or wearing body armor and put a bullet into his brain case, his head snapping back as a burst of pink mist jetted from his skull.
As I watched his body crumple to the ground I realized there was another threat to my left so I dodged right. Good thing I did. The first bullet missed but the second hit my left shoulder. It fucking hurt – and I’m a southpaw shooter.
I transferred my gun to my right hand and reacquired the guy with the revolver in my sights. But I couldn’t fire. He was holding the red-haired girl in front of him like a shield.
“Give it up,” I yelled in my best cop voice. “Throw your weapon down! Throw your weapon down!” Of course, this guy wasn’t the type to follow directions and sent two more shots towards my vicinity. But it’s hard to shoot when manhandling a hostage so the bullets went wide. I moved in closer. I would have liked to use a two handed grip on my gun, I’m more accurate that way, but my left arm was hanging loosely at my side. But it’s a poor workman who blames his tools.
“I’ll kill this bitch,” the bank robber screamed. “Put your gun down or I’ll waste her.” Now things were getting interesting.
I wasn’t going to put down my gun. In the background I could hear footsteps fast approaching. I only hoped the cops recognized me and didn’t shoot me by sphincter puckering mistake. Personally, I didn’t like my odds.
“Put the gun down!” another voice, probably a cop, shouted. Was he talking to me? Then the red-haired girl bit the bank robber’s gun arm. Instinctively the man grabbed the woman by her lustrous red hair and yanked hard. Then I saw one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen – the lady’s hair came clean off.
The bank robber stared at the wig dangling from his hand as the woman ran away. He was wide open so I fired three times. The man fell screaming. Then, as if a puppeteer had cut the strings, I fell to the ground. My first thought was a cop behind me had put one in my back. I got dizzy and a surge of vomit surged up my throat but I fought it down. The next thing I knew I was being rolled onto my back, cuffed and thrown in the back of a police car. A homeless drunk had probably been the backseat’s previous occupant so, when that sour mix of cheap booze and dirty sweat hit my nostrils, I puked. Great, the cops are going to love that. Then things got fuzzy.
When my mind cleared I was sitting in the back of an ambulance. The handcuffs had come off and a young paramedic was wrapping a bandage around my arm.
“Looks like it went though and through,” the medic said. “Probably just tissue damage. We’ll have the surgeon take a look, but I think with rest and a little physical therapy you’ll be fine.” I hoped my health insurance was paid up.
“Hey there Byrne,” a voice boomed. “How ya doing?” It was the town’s chief of police.
Chief Colluci was about my age and thirty pounds heavier than me. And even though we attended parochial school together a lifetime ago, he was a world-class hard ass. He could make my life difficult if he wanted to. Private investigators like myself make him nervous.
“How’s your guy?” I said.
“Becker got two in the chest. He got airlifted out and’s already in surgery. He’ll probably make it.”
“Good,” I said, befuddled that I didn’t hear a helicopter landing in my immediate vicinity. It could have been because of the adrenaline, but I’d put my money on the morphine the medic shot into my arm. That stuff whacks you out.
“You’re lucky my men recognized you,” Colluci said. “One of them almost popped you.”
“Glad I showed up to that PBA barbeque. “
Colluci snorted. “Well, you killed the first guy. We’re still looking for pieces of his skull.”
“And the other guy?”
“You missed two shots, we dug the slugs out of the bank’s wall.” Then the chief’s face broke into a wide grain. “But your last bullet hit him in the balls. He won’t be reproducing anytime soon.”
“I was never good shooting with my right,” I said. “How’s the woman?”
“Packed full of drugs and on the way to the hospital,” Colluci said. “She was quite the wreck.’
“Glad she’s fine.”
“I’m glad she was wearing a wig, Fucking weirdest thing I ever saw.”
“Vanity saved her ass,” I said. “What would Sister Mary Alice have made of that?”
“Sometimes sin saves,” Colluci, said, shrugging. “Now you’ve got a date with the doc. Afterwards you’ll be talking to a lot of people – me, the FBI, the DA.”
“Am I gonna get fucked for this?” I said.
“Probably not. But we’ll be hanging onto your gun for a while.”
“That’s okay. I have another.”
Colluci looked at the medic and told him to take off. But, just before the ambulance’s doors slammed shut, I heard the chief say in his thick New Jersey accent, “A fucking wig. Unfuckingbeliebable.“