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"The Secret War" - chapter 12

Saturday May 4, 1996

We’d just closed up for the night. The place was packed right up until last call, and I was feeling the effects of a busy 10-hour shift. My stumps were aching, eyes were gritty, and I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

I'd left my Beretta upstairs. Packing heat in my own bar was kinda paranoid, and I needed to get away from all that. But I felt real jumpy without it. A few times over the shift I'd reached down to touch the butt of the loaded shotgun that I stowed under the register last month. It helped. Other than that, I just tried to act normal.

I thought Methos might come by tonight, but nobody had heard from him since he walked out of the bar yesterday. Another day to get my head together before we talked wouldn't be a bad thing. Besides, if I called him, who would pick up the phone? My brilliant drinking buddy, Adam Pierson? The cynical but loyal ancient Immortal Methos? Or … that other guy?

I was standing behind the bar cleaning up when two men walked in. ‘Damn it’, I thought, ‘Mike was supposed to have locked that door’. “Sorry guys, we’re closed!” I called out.

The two of them looked real similar. Late 20’s, Caucasian, with buzz cuts. One of them had on a green windbreaker over jeans and some snazzy snakeskin cowboy boots. The other was wearing a trench coat. Who wears trench coats in this weather except Immortals?

“You Dawson?” the one in the trench coat asked.

“Sure am, but…” The guy reached into his coat. All my Watcher instincts screamed ‘sword’, but he pulled out a shotgun.

I threw myself down behind the bar as he fired, shattering the bottles where I was standing. Part of my brain was checking off the liquor he wasted by the smell, and part of it was registering the pain of a bitten tongue and crawling over the broken glass, but mostly I was just focused on getting to my shotgun.

Time stop-jerked forward. I grabbed the double-barreled shotgun and cocked the hammers. Would they come around the end of the bar or over the top? Around the end – it was close to them and it’d look safer. I aimed down the barrels towards the end of the bar. As soon as one jeans-clad leg appeared, I fired off one barrel. Shit, it was loud! The guy’s knee was a red mess as he fell down and forwards. His head was perfectly framed between the wall and the bar when I took my second shot. The blast echoed through my head, leaving my ears ringing. He collapsed into a limp pile. I could tell from my days in ‘Nam – that one was out of the fight.

The shells to reload my shotgun were up on the high shelf, behind the bar. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but even under good circumstances, it takes me a while to stand up from lying on the floor. Trying it with someone taking pot shots at me – there was no way.

The partner came into view, cowboy boots stepping over Trench Coat’s body at the end of the bar. Face full of rage, black carbon steel pistol in his hands, mouth moving but I couldn’t hear shit over the ringing in my ears. As he pointed the gun at my head, I figured it was over, and wished I’d had the time to say some goodbyes.

I saw it in his eyes, the moment when Boots decided I wasn't gonna die quick and easy. Teeth bared in a snarl, his gun started tracing the outline of my body. It paused at my hands, still gripping the empty shotgun. I shuddered. One good shot there, and I'd never strum a guitar again. Boots saw it, smiled a tight little smile. Then the pistol moved on, tracking up and down the center of my back. A severed spinal cord meant a lifetime spent in a wheelchair, limp-dicked and wearing diapers. Higher up, and I'd be a quadriplegic. Like one of the guys in the VA Hospital; watching TV all day, waiting for someone to come feed me. My breath came harder, faster, as my body screamed at me to move, fight, do something.

Finally the pistol reached my legs, and I saw Boots make a decision to start there. He must not have known I don’t have any kneecaps left to shoot.

A loud crack penetrated the ringing in my ears just as I felt the impact of a round against my prosthetic. I yelled as loud as I could, dropped the shotgun, curled up to hide the “wound”, and braced against the bar. Boots stalked towards me and aimed a brutal kick at my head. I twisted out of the way, grabbed onto his other ankle and pulled with all my strength. The gun went off; he came down, free arm knocking another dozen bottles off the shelves to land on top of us. Then I was clawing my way up his body, trapping his gun hand under me.

I heard a drill instructor screaming in my ear, ‘Gun’s just a weapon, boy! A trained Marine is a killing machine!’ The windbreaker was too damn slippery, especially with my hands slicked-up with liquor and my own blood. I hooked in at his collar and got a good solid grip. I recognized the feel of a Kevlar vest. These guys were definitely professionals. I was up on top of him, but I had to take him out fast. His free hand was already trying for my eyes. I had the strength to hold him, but without my legs I didn’t have the leverage. He’d buck me off in another second.

That’s when I saw it, right next to his head. When I first opened the bar, I bought this one bottle of 1985 Dom Perignon, just in case somebody wanted to spend big on a celebration someday. It’d been sitting on the shelf ever since, until Boots knocked it off.

I lurched over Boots to reach the bottle, head-butting him on the way. I grabbed the bottle, raised it up, and smashed it down onto his face. Blood splashed me in the eyes, but he was still struggling, so I did it again. And again. Son of a bitch thought he would walk into MY bar and kill me? I slammed the bottle down. Never gonna hurt me or mine. Again. Again. Looking at what I’d been staring at, I realized there was no reason to keep hitting the guy. Caved in forehead, shattered cheekbones … his own mother couldn’t ID him. Jesus. Good one, Joseph, I thought. Which guy were you planning on questioning, the one you shot in the head, or the one with no face left?

I fumbled around until I found the pistol. It was a SIG Saur, M11. I had to wipe my hands off on my shirt to get a decent grip on it. Automatically, I checked the chamber and the clip. Still 7 rounds left. I just hoped I wouldn’t need that many.

I pulled myself over what was left of Boots, then rested for a minute, sitting up against the wall. I knew I was forgetting something. I just … wasn’t thinking too clearly. I checked myself over. It was a little hard to tell how much of the blood was mine, but the shards of glass had ripped up my skin. There was a nasty slash in my left arm that would need stitches, for sure. And I think I pulled a muscle in my stomach, at some point in there. My ears were still ringing from all those shots behind the bar. Something trickled into my eyes. I rubbed my face on my sleeve. What was I forgetting?

I saw movement out the corner of my eye. I pushed off the wall and into a shooting position on the floor, drawing a bead on whatever’s there. It was Mike. Fucking Mike. Knew I was forgetting something. He looked scared out of his mind. His mouth was moving, but I still couldn’t hear anything but my own heartbeat. Mike was walking towards me. Any closer and he’d be able to reach Trench Coat’s shotgun.

I raised my voice. “Back up and sit down, or I will shoot you where you stand.” He was jabbering something at me. I can read lips, a little. I learned the basics when I was at the Academy, and it’s useful for when all you’ve got on a subject is visual surveillance. He was saying something about how it was just him, Mike.

“Yeah, I know it’s you, Mike. And I’m wondering exactly why you chose to leave that door unlocked tonight. Now sit the fuck down!"

He backed up into the far corner and sat. I inched forward to reach the end of bar without losing sight of Mike. I got to Trench Coat and slid the coat up off his wrists, and then glanced down. No Watcher tattoos. Yeah, like I thought, these guys were pros. I was sure they were hired by Ung, but there wouldn’t be any trail leading back to him.

I yanked on the phone cord until the bar phone tumbled down onto the floor. Then I dialed a number from memory. I heard a tinny, distant voice on the end and yelled into the phone. “Gary, this is Joe Dawson. I'm at the bar. We've got a clean-up situation. Multiple. Get here as soon as you can. I'll wake-up Andrea and Sam." Even if Gary was one of Ung's, he wouldn't dare pull anything when I had contacted the other two members of the regional clean-up team. I hung up the receiver and pushed myself into a seated position, facing Mike.

“So, Mike. I didn’t mention if you were alive or dead. Could be these robbers shot you on the way in, with this pistol. If you’re on their side, I figure that’s the best way to handle it. We’ve got about 15, 20 minutes until Gary gets here. Convince me I’m wrong.”

I checked Mike’s lips, but he wasn’t saying a word. He was pale as bad milk. One thing was sure. Even if Mike let them in, he didn’t have the guts to take me on himself.

“All right then, Mike, let’s take this one step at a time. Why didn’t you lock the door?”

My hearing was starting to come back. I caught some of what Mike was saying through my ears, and the rest by watching his lips. “Joe, I swear, I didn’t know anything about this! We were slammed tonight, I been waiting to go for an hour! So, when we closed up, I went to take a crap first, before I locked up.”

That had to be the lamest excuse I ever heard in my life. Fuck him. Mike wanted me dead; he’d die first. I exhaled slowly and focused in, to get a clean shot. In my head, I heard Methos hissing at me, ‘Maybe there’s more of your brother James in you than any of us guessed.’ Maybe. But Mike was a Hunter; it had to be this way.

Mike shuffled his feet nervously, and a flash of white caught my eye. There was toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Mike always held still when he was lying. I eased off the trigger, started laughing, and couldn’t stop. Mike smiled weakly. I laughed until that pulled muscle in my stomach hurt enough to stop me.

“Look, Mike - I believe you. I believe you didn’t leave that door unlocked on purpose.” He sagged with relief. “But I also know that you didn’t lift a finger to help me. Someone sent those two in here to kill me. Since you don’t have my back, just stay the fuck out of my way. Now, go get a mop. You've got a lot of work to do before the morning shift arrives.”

I put down the gun. My hands started shaking. They didn’t stop for a few hours.

I nearly bit Gary's head off when he tried to take that Sig pistol away, 'cause it was mine. It was a stupid reaction, of course. Who knows what crimes the damn thing had been used in? In the end I let Gary take the pistol to dispose of, along with the bodies. But it was hard. I never understood before why MacLeod keeps the swords of Immortals he takes down in Challenges. Now I know. Now I get it.

Through a long night of cleaning up the bar and getting patched up on the QT by Dr. Lindsey, I kept coming back to that one moment with Mike. Tonight was the first time I killed anybody since the war. The two guys that came at me, I’m not gonna worry myself about them. But I came within a heartbeat of killing Mike, just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Guess that’s between me and God.

Read chapter 13.


Jan. 18th, 2007 02:41 pm (UTC)
My Joe Muse started kicking up a fuss about giving up that gun out of nowhere. I really hadn't considered it before.
Jan. 18th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
A palapable sign of safety, if a fleeting safety. Of victory.

For Duncan, also a tombstone for, and so a remainder and reminder of, the soul or essence or whatever he has absorbed.

Also, for both a mere weapon to aim at the next one that turns up. One hell of a queue, where Dunkie is concerned. *smiles*

No wonder your muse made a fuss - that's a really good instinct you got there.