“Thirty minutes before we roll out,” Lawrence said, standing straight, standing taller. “On the dot. I don’t want to lose a second because one of you got distracted doing something else. Keep the clock in mind, get busy.”
A shout of assent among the gathered Fangs.
“What he said!” D yelled out. The response was less enthused but there.
I didn’t even bother saying something. I could imagine the response I’d get.
About twenty or so of us at the Redhouse. This wasn’t everyone, not even close, nor should it have been. We weren’t preparing for a war, but we knew that this wasn’t going to be easy. We would have to prep, and meant getting together a decent sized group, take out certain equipment, and drafting a sound plan in a matter of twenty-four hours. We weren’t allotted much time after our visit with Mr. Onmon.
People worked, handing things out, writing things down. Not everyone would be armed, but those that did were assigned a weapon and had to sign the weapon out. If it got lost or misplaced, it would have to be reported. Most of our armory consisted of the shipment Benny had brought in for her gang. We had taken what we could for ourselves, but there was still a significant amount of those armaments circulating out there, in the city’s underworld. D had even set some of them off while we were trying to find Benny. As a gang, we had our teeth, and we’d have to take care of them. Couldn’t afford to have gaps form due to neglect or other circumstances. Unlike D, it wasn’t a cute look.
There was a lot to get through and get organized with, but we were making good time, even with the added bit of red tape. We’d be ready to roll out by Lawrence’s deadline.
“Everything looks to be in order,” I said. I adjusted my glasses. “Good work setting this up.”
Lawrence was standing straight, tall, up until he wasn’t. He shuffled to the edge, and gestured.
“Someone help me get off this thing.”
Reggie and Sarah answered the call, stepping up to lend a hand. Bending down, Lawrence took their hands and hopped off of the small crate he was standing on. He groaned all the way.
“Gracias,” he said, grunting.
“You’re starting to sound like an old man,” D said. She added more energy and pep to her own voice, to contrast Lawrence’s weathered rasp. Then, she laughed, as if she couldn’t contain herself.
Lawrence, however, didn’t it as funny.
“Shut up, I’m still sore as shit. Everything hurts and aches and it freaking sucks.”
He muttered, keeping his complaints low, not letting the other Fangs pick up on what ailed him.
“I can’t have you on painkillers forever,” D said. “You’ll have to start relying on your own body to get you through the rest.”
“Fuck that, I feel like I’ll break some bones if I cough hard enough.” Lawrence looked at me. “Hey, you know any way you can give me some of your healing?”
“Me?” I asked. I shook my head. “Not that I’m aware of, no. And are you really saying you’d want my powers?”
“Not all of them, just the ones that are convenient to me.”
“Yeah, you don’t get to pick and choose, sorry. The bad comes with the convenient, and so does the fucking terrifying.”
Lawrence had an expression on his face, as though he was actually weighing his options.
“You can keep all that shit. I’ll tough it out…”
He muttered that last part, low enough that even I missed it. He scratched his neck.
“All of you need to learn how to take it easy,” Sarah said. “I don’t remember the phrase, but it had something to do with burning candles. What was it, Wendy?”
She was wearing baggy jeans and a bomber jacket, a bucket hat to top it off, complimenting lighter bottoms with a darker top. Her white shirt was cut short, hanging right above her ribs, showing off her midriff. Her skin was a natural tan, she wasn’t thin but she had a figure, which her relaxed fit didn’t hide, instead, it accentuated the shape. Maybe it was because the weather was still bad, or because she had been working, passing out equipment and helping with preparation, but some moisture was stuck the surface, making her skin glisten. She had been working hard enough that there was some definition there, too, and-
I snapped my head up. “What? I missed, what?”
“Don’t burn candles at both ends,” Reggie offered, “That’s more or less it.”
“Oh, right,” Sarah said. “Thanks.”
I looked back down, facing away from Sarah. Darn.
Sarah and Reggie had been asked to be a part of this operation. The offer was extended to Tone, but, he decided to sit this one out. I could understand him.
These two were here to help, not to play around. No distractions allowed.
I saw D, who met my eyes, her expression curious.
“You got all your gear ready?” she asked.
And like that, just one question was able to reorient myself. To get myself to focus. No more distractions.
I nodded, stern.
“All packed up and ready to go. I am not going to be the one that screws this up for everyone. Not this time.”
D gave me a small smile.
Sarah turned from Reggie, redirecting herself. To me. “Need any help carrying anything?”
I shook my head, stern.
“I’ll be fine, I’m not bringing that much stuff with me, anyways. I like to keep a light load on me. Easier to move around that way.”
I glanced to the side, near the crate Lawrence was standing on before. A duffel bag with all my stuff. Mask, poncho, pants. Gloves and boots. I was already wearing the thermals. Another bag inside the bag, one I’d actually carry around with me when out in the field. Knife. Simple stuff.
There were some new items in my inventory, though, stuff I never thought I’d use, or need. Like a pistol. The Springfield XD, recommended by D, apparently it was a good gun to use for a beginner. She probably just liked it because the name looked like a huge smile.
I had it, I had some minor, last-minute training with it, but I prayed it wouldn’t have to come to me using it. Or anyone, even. Guns had a not so funny habit of making things escalate, just bringing them would burn a hole in pockets, begging to be fired. We had to bring them for this, but only as a deterrence, in case everything fell apart.
It’d get messy, and we’d need even more rain to that clean that up.
“I like when things are simple,” I said.
“What spurred that on?” Lawrence asked.
“Just thinking out loud. Simple means easy, or at least easy to understand. And if it’s easy to understand, then it’s easy to plan for.”
“Not necessarily,” D said, interjecting. “There’s plenty of stuff that are easy to understand, but it doesn’t make them easy to deal with.”
“That’s a lot of ‘easy,’” Lawrence said.
“Like, for example, checkers or even chess. There’s a set amount of pieces or rules, and they all move simple enough, but put them all together and now you have a complicated mess of systems and mechanics. Heck, get a king pinned? It can be tricky to slip out of that.”
“If you’re in that situation, it’s easy to understand that you’re fucked,” Lawrence said.
D glared at Lawrence. “Or, like, if someone is being a real stubborn steakhead and won’t listen. That’s not easy to deal with at all.”
“You know what I mean, guys. Simple, easy. Clean. Point me to something, tell me to punch it, and then it’s done with. Stuff like that.”
“When has that ever happened, ever? That’s nothing but a fantasy,” Lawrence said. “There’s always going to be some fall out, no matter what you do. That’s why it’s smart to figure out what the potential consequences are for any given plan. If you can do that, plan for that too, or even use that to your advantage… shit, now you’re talking about things I like.”
I felt like groaning.
“I know,” I said, “Believe me I do. Darn, can’t a girl daydream without getting crap for it?”
Reggie and Sarah chuckled at our interaction.
Lawrence rolled a shoulder, leaning to one side, wincing.
“I ain’t got time to give anyone crap. So get your head out of the clouds, we’re leaving in twenty minutes.”
“Fine, twenty minutes,” I said, confirming it.
Lawrence rolled his shoulder again, his forehead creased. He turned.
“I’ll check on the others. You have nineteen minutes and some seconds.”
He walked off, going to the other Fangs. They all stood straight and alert when he approached them. Some, when they noticed me, gave stares that lasted a second too long. Or was I just being paranoid?
“There he goes, burning candles at both ends,” Sarah said, looking in his direction.
“Hey, you got it,” Reggie said. He was watching Lawrence, too. “I’ll go with him, in case the old man knocks something out of a socket.”
D laughed hard enough for Lawrence to turn back around. The rest of us shrugged at him.
Reggie went off to accompany Lawrence, leaving just the three of us.
“He’s really putting his all into this gang,” I said. I almost felt guilty, that my dedication to Los Colmillos wasn’t up to par with Lawrence. It wasn’t like I was lacking, though, I wouldn’t be here in the position I was in if I didn’t want to put the work in. But, in comparing myself to Lawrence, he was on another level.
“Good boy Lawrence,” D said. “I’m so proud.”
“For sure. Though, it’s probably because of you guys, that he’s able to work so hard.”
I turned to Sarah. “Meaning?”
Sarah made a sound, non-committal. “Hm, I won’t claim that I know him all that well, I joined with Reggie and Tone when it was just the Ghosts, but even then, he had a drive to keep going and be the one on top. He kept a circle with him. Charlie, Jonny, and Mels. They were closest things to ‘friends’ he had in this underworld.”
Those names sounded familiar, but I couldn’t put a face to them. They were probably around before I started working with Lawrence and the Ghosts.
They definitely weren’t around, now.
“I remember them,” D said, “They were nice. Well, not nice to me, but to Lawrence. So yeah, they were nice.”
“They were a big help, back when they were still in the gang,” Sarah said. “And Lawrence relied on them a ton. I’ll admit, the Ghosts weren’t at their best in those early days, with some pretty rough patches. If it weren’t for those three, there might not have even been a gang for you two to join.”
“They sound like real MVPs,” D included. “Shouts out to them.”
“Yeah, more hands like that on deck would be nice,” I said. I tilted my head a little. “Wait. So where are they now?”
Sarah shook her head a little.
“They’re gone. Charlie and Jonny, Mels too. Don’t know why, exactly, maybe they just had enough and walked away? I’m not really sure, and Lawrence isn’t the kind of guy to talk about that kind of personal stuff. And it’s not like anyone has to question it, ever since the two of you joined, things have been looking up, overall.”
Ever since the two of us joined.
I recalled the early tension from the Ghosts. Towards me, towards D. They weren’t very keen on joining forces. Heck, Lawrence had to be the least thrilled about that proposition. I managed to convince them, though, when I pointed to Benny as a common enemy, and ever since then… sailing hadn’t been smooth, not quite, but we could manage. There was always forward momentum.
But, I could still feel that bit of tension, and ever since I got back from El Paso, it seemed to get worse. It left me not wanting to rock the boat even further, to take every word, action, or even appearance with the Fangs with the utmost scrutiny. To plan for the fall out, to use Lawrence’s words.
It was all so fucking complicated. Hated it.
“You’re saying we’re replacements?” I asked, “Filling in that hole that those three left behind?”
All Sarah offered was a shrug, and the verbal equivalent.
“Who is to say, and I don’t want to spread gossip and assume. Maybe he’s trying to find in you what he had in them, or maybe he really is just that driven of a person.”
I was getting better at reading her face. Another idea was on the edge of her lips, ready to be let out.
“Or maybe?” I offered, wanting to tease it out of her.
“Or maybe he feels like he isn’t on your level, and he’s trying to compensate.”
“My level?” I asked, taken aback, slightly. A little surprised.
Sarah turned to face us. “You and Miss D. In the off chance you’re not aware, you two hold very special positions in, not just this gang, but this city, and in your case, the whole world.”
‘Your’ as in me. The whole world.
“D has her crazy tactics and antics, and you have so many amazing things about you, Wendy, powers excluded. If I had to be in a group with you two, I’d worry if I was pulling my weight or not.”
“You think he harbors some kind of insecurity?” I questioned.
“Don’t say that, now I feel bad,” D said. She exaggerated a pained look, lowering her head until she was bending over.
Sarah put her hands up. “I don’t want to think or assume anything. You lead me on a tangent and we have nineteen minutes to kill.”
“Oh, so this is my fault now,” I said, joking.
“Sixteen minutes,” D said.
Sarah rolled her eyes, a grin on her face.
“You’re funny. But, yeah, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about him behind his back like that. Let’s just… let’s just say I’m projecting a little bit.”
She winked. The cold outside had managed to creep into the building, requiring a light jacket and some manual labor to keep warm.
Wearing a light jacket, standing still, I felt warm.
Sarah fixed her hat, looking down, moving her hand so I couldn’t see her face anymore.
“Alright, I’ll get back to it. I’m not management so I don’t get to avoid actual work. Excuse me while I go join the normal folk.”
Sarah twisted around to go the other way, her hand still by her face.
“Are you saying we’re not normal?” I asked, still joking, but brief pieces of previous conversations flashed in my mind. Things she said that helped me, get a better view and grasp of myself. The RV, the barn. Maybe she meant it as a small joke, but it didn’t quite land right with me.
Sarah took a step, half-turning. Her hand and hat over her eyes.
“You’re as normal as the rest of us. You just have a special way of showing it.”
Then, she left, going to help with the rest of the preparations. It was just me and D, now. The normal people in special positions. Apparently.
D fixed her posture, standing up straight with her hands on her hips. She craned her neck to look up at me.
“Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds. How are you holding up?”
I made a small noise in the back of my throat before answering. Echoing Sarah.
“Hm. You should ask me that after we’re done here.”
“I’ll ask you then, that way I’ll have a better idea of how you’re doing. Before and after.”
“You’re really trying to keep tabs on me?”
D made a face. Closing one eye, pointing to the other. She stuck her tongue.
“I… have… you!”
I had the sudden, strong urge to flick her on the forehead. Lightly.
She’s being extra goofy today.
It did make want to think about it, though. I thought about it.
“I’m okay, I guess. Doing better that I was this time last week. Which, maybe that’s not saying much. It’s hard to tell what’s supposed to be ‘normal’ for someone like me.”
“If you can lose a game and not be a sore loser about it, then you’re doing pretty good.”
“Oh yeah? You think we’ll lose this one?”
D shook her head hard enough for her hair to whip her face and the metal parts of her choker to rattle.
“No way. We have this in the bag. We’ll get that buffer zone and expand our territory and then we’ll have even more places to hang out and play. Because, like, I am so ready to start moving into my base and setting stuff up. It’s going to be so cool!”
“Right, your base. Where was it going to be again?”
D reacted, as if she had genuine terror over the possibility that I might have forgotten. Her jaw dropped, and her arms did too, dangling by her side.
“The Electric Place, remember? Duh. The bowling alley and arcade place we went to before? Remember?”
“Oh, right,” I said, snapping my fingers. “We sabotaged the Thunders and Royals there. Didn’t we-”
“We swapped bowling balls into different lanes, and man did they freak out. Clean up crews were still picking out bullets and filling out holes. One of my finer pranks, if I do say so myself.”
D lifted an arm. She actually patted herself on the back.
“You’re making there your base?” I asked. “After all the trouble you caused?”
“I know how to clean up after myself, Vivi. I’ve already got plans to spruce it up and make it even better and awesomer than before. More games, cabinets, pinball machines, renovated lanes, prizes… I’m going to put the second ‘A’ back into ‘palace!’”
“Sounds like you’re more interested in the idea of owning a game center than you are operating a business.”
D set her hands behind her, and she looked away, staring at something else.
It was good to hear her enthusiasm, it was even encouraging. D had other things she wanted to get to after this particular thing was over. This? It was just another box on the list to check off. Easy. Simple.
It wasn’t the two of us for very long. Isabella joined our ranks, standing beside me, situating herself between me and D. The closest she had ever been next to her, without it turning into a physical altercation.
“You’ll need to figure out where your base is going to be, too,” Isabella said. “You haven’t even decided yet.”
“I’m still thinking on where mine will be,” I said. “I’d rather keep my options open and see what comes up instead of settling down and I end up in a bad spot. I want to avoid getting pinned.”
“That’s fair,” D said. “We’ll get more places as we expand, and that’s why we each get our own base to begin with, so we don’t actually get pinned and lose everything in one fell swoop. Wherever you pick as your first, there’s no need to put so much stock in it.”
“I know. It’s just, this would be the first place I pick on my own, so I’d like to put some thought and effort into it. I barely have any decorations at my apartment. So much shit to figure out.”
“We have time.”
“You have ten minutes,” Isabella said. “Start getting everything together. Focus on the now. What’s right in front of you.”
“Sure, yeah,” I said. There was a lot to juggle, between business as a leader of a gang, the slow drag of trying to uncover any clues about what I was and what made my powers tick, and taking to just figure myself out. So many complicated matters, and I had to fight the urge to run away from all of them. “I’ll grab my bag.”
“And I’ll go get the van,” D said. She observed the rest of the lobby. “Looks like everyone else is about ready to go.”
D then skipped across the lobby, passing people, brushing against Fangs. They didn’t look too bothered as she bumped into them, instead just leaning out of the way and going back to what they were doing, as if they were used to kids running around. At this point, maybe they were.
I walked to my bag, patting the sides to feel if everything was in there. Felt like it. I picked it up and put the strap around my shoulder.
Isabella had her hands around the straps of her bag, too. They were tight.
I lifted a shoulder, half as a gesture and half to actually adjust the strap.
“There’s always a tiny pit in my stomach before I go out with the mask on. But it’s a tiny pit. Small as a seed.”
I tried recalling the easiest way I could articulate it. Not my experience.
“You know that feeling before you have to give a presentation, or right before stepping onto the court for the big game? It’s a lot like that.”
“I suppose,” Isabella said. “There’s no need to feel that way. You’ll kill it. Even without help.”
Her brazen confidence in me was almost laughable. I compromised with a smile.
“Thanks, coach, I’ll do my best.”
It was time to step out onto the court.
Night, or early morning, depending on the perspective. Either way, the hour was ungodly.
Which was funny, in a sense.
I stood across the street, facing a church. St. Elizabeth, a small cathedral at the edge of the Eye. Still wasn’t exactly a prime location, but it wasn’t terrible, and expanding our reach by circling around until we muscled into the Eye wasn’t such a bad idea.
My hood was up, keeping me dry from the light drizzle that touched ground. This feeling wasn’t unfamiliar. While slight, it bothered me on a fundamental level.
The connection was vague, but it was there. Looking at the winding stone and raised points that seemed to scratch at the sky, the gold outline that shimmered in the rain, it gave me a sense of imposing dread, to be back here again. Not me, but this body had been here before. Alexis. Couldn’t remember the exact circumstances, attempting to was like rubbing a raw nerve. I avoided it.
Returned like dust, then.
Her place wasn’t that far away, if I was willing to take long, long, very long walk. Too close for comfort, at least. But, I had a job to do, and I needed to keep myself on track. Other people were relying on me, and I needed to know that I could have even just a modicum of faith in myself. No more distractions.
I started crossing the street.
“Moving in,” I said.
“Roger roger.” D. “Operation Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is in effect!”
I had to suppress a chuckle and let it get picked up on the earpiece.
“Just give the word on when we can move in, too.” Lawrence. “We’ll be on standby until then.”
“Sure thing.” I wasn’t V yet. I had my costume and general setup, but my mask was wrapped around my neck. I was in flux, in between two states of being. Ready to go when I had to, but for now I’d have to hold back.
I could imagine what Isabella would say about that.
Hopping over a small puddle, I got to the parking lot across the street, the cathedral larger and more imposing now. As far as architecture went, it wasn’t even that grand compared to others like it, and yet, here I was, feeling small in an even grander scheme. Just because I was at the center of the operation, it didn’t make me the centerpiece. Surrounded by other moving parts, just another cog in the machine. Which… I could find some comfort in only having some of the responsibility. A lighter load. A weird feeling, when not lifting to my full capacity. I felt as if I could be doing more.
But I know what happens when I push myself too much. I’m not as amazing as I’d wish to be.
When I was at my smallest, I was standing at the front of the cathedral doors. I tested the doors.
“Locked,” I said into the earpiece. “No surprise there.”
“Any other way to get in? Did you see anyone around?” Lawrence asked.
“None that I saw. I’ll check around and see what I can find as far as an entrance goes.”
“There’s a few other buildings you can look through too, like the offices or the maintenance sheds. Mr. Onmon there should be keys you can use to get in.”
“I’ll give it a shot. I’ll search around the cathedral some more before I move elsewhere. Less places I search and leave a trace, the better. How’s it looking at your end?”
“All quiet on my front,” Lawrence said. Where he was positioned, he was several blocks west. His van and another. Reggie. “Few police cars, but they were routine routes. They didn’t see us.”
“D?” I asked.
“All super here too.” She was at the opposite end of Lawrence. On the East, two vans with her as well. She was paired with Sarah. “Counted some black vans passing by, but they were going in the other direction from you.”
As things went, I was alone. Had to do this part by myself, no one was assigned to be with me. I would have taken Sarah if I had the option, but I wasn’t so blessed. I was the only one who could handle this portion, and so, I was out here, in the cold night, the light drizzle, breaking in the a church. Cool.
“Cool,” I said, forcing my brain to stay on track, to not dwell on what I did or did not have. Isabella was right, I had to think on what was right in front of me. Focusing on the now.
And what was right in front of me were the cathedral doors. They were locked. I’d need another way in. According to Mr. Onmon’s squeals, the small armory of the Cobras was located deep in the basement of the church. One of several.
“Going up,” I said, more for myself than for my two teammates listening in. Psyching myself up. I put on my mask.
I stepped back, looking up and around, scanning the architecture for holds I could use to haul myself to the… not roof, it wasn’t flat. A lot of points and slants. The upper levels.
There, a rounded dome-like section, with a metal railing around it. A door there, probably.
With the route planned in my head, I jumped, scaling the side of the cathedral.
Not much was publicly known about the Cobras, other than the fact that they were one of the gangs brought whenever people talked about Stephenville on the news. Them and the AZ-Tec. So they definitely had a presence. More than Mister, who was still a complete enigma to me, a question mark that begged an answer. Like so many other things. Like me.
I huffed, throwing my arms up to grab a ledge, getting myself over.
Other than their notoriety, which seemed to exist separate from their actual existence, the Cobras have kept a low profile. Mr. Onmon wasn’t able to divulge much about their leadership or how the gang worked, only that he got jobs through anonymous texts, meeting with other… ‘volunteers.’ It reminded me how Solace operated. Most of the real work was being done in the shadows. Maybe that was how the professionals did it?
Mr. Onmon had given us the locations of the buffer zones, with St. Elizabeth being the most recent addition. It was a calculated risk, hitting here first. Their newest buffer zone, but it would be the least established. We could nab the armory and the surrounding territory and they wouldn’t blink an eye. Probably said something, that their scraps were crucial to our growth and survival, but everyone had to start somewhere.
One more leap, and I got somewhere. I made it to the top of the cathedral. I had to lean up against a raised stone wall to keep my balance along the slanted edge.
Almost there. It took a few more hops to reach the rounded top of the building. One more, and I went over the railing and was walking on a flat surface.
“That was harder than I expected,” I said, more just talking to myself again. I walked around until I found the door. Locked with a chain and padlock. I held them in my hands, feeling the weight. “And… got it. Door’s open.”
“You’re in?” D asked.
“I am.” The door into some stairs, winding down into the cathedral. I went down the spiral.
Careful, I chanced a look down. I could see the floor, moonlight as it fractured into colors through stained glass, a soft illuminated hue. Pews and statues and unlit candles. Paintings of people and images I had briefly believed in, in another lifetime.
The bottom of the stairs led to another door, leading to another area deeper in the cathedral. Where I wanted to go was down, though, and I didn’t want to waste by getting lost maneuvering through the back parts of the building. I knew what I was looking for was at the lower levels, and there was probably another door that led into the back from there as well. Needed to get there directly.
It was a bit of a squeeze, but I got through the railing, free falling for a second before landing. Crouched, I picked myself back up. A quick check around. I was inside the church. Dark, empty, seemingly abandoned. I was worried the creeping shadows might trigger some echoes of memories. It felt strong, standing here, less vague, a tug like testing a rope.
I was moving before I could dwell on it any longer.
Taking a set of steps onto the altar, passing the chancel, I found another door in a corner between the wall and a confessional. Looked promising enough.
Opening it, I went through.
Lights were off, but that was a good thing. I didn’t have to worry about finding a switch, and it meant that no one was around, guarding the place or looking out for potential intruders. The cathedral’s relative obscurity was its only line of defence, and it already been breached the moment we learned about it.
Peeking through every door and hall I stumbled across, only moving forward if I knew it would lead me more down. It wasn’t unlike going through a maze. It took up some time, but progress was being made. Which I really liked.
A stairwell. Leading to upper and lower levels. I descended even farther. Even further.
Then, I found it.
A switch by a panel right before the hallway opened up. From the cold air that passed through, the clean and sterile design of the metal walls and metal ceiling and meta floor, it was like I walked into a bank vault. This was a recent setup.
I flipped the switch.
Guns reflected the dull fluorescent light, tiny white dots on top of black and grey. All different shapes and sizes, lined up against the walls and on some metal tables. There were other cases, boxes of other equipment, but I didn’t want to touch anything. Not until I gave the signal, had everyone close in and secure the spot.
We were close though. Almost there.
“Found the armory,” I said. “Just like we were told.”
“Good work,” Lawrence said. Getting praise from him… I wasn’t going to complain.
D didn’t say anything. I explored the rest of the armory, waiting until I heard from her.
The only thing that bugged me was that I felt small here, too. All I had on me was my knife and my gun, dwarfed in comparison to everything I saw on display here. Even the stuff in the boxes probably packed a bigger punch than what was on my person.
No. Something else, on a far table on the other end. The most it could do was a cut, and that was minor.
A manila folder, filled with a stack of papers.
I still didn’t want to touch anything, my paranoia keeping my arms at my sides, but I still had my eyes. The folder was labeled in bold. I read it out loud.
“Helter Skelter,” I said. “The heck is that?”
A voice came in, pushing those thoughts out of my mind.
I snapped my head up, turning around.
I was in near-sync with Lawrence.
“Got a group of black vans and cop cars moving in the direction of St. Elizabeth. From where I’m parked, it’s a long enough line that I know it’s a thing.”
“Dammit, D, why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I’m sorry! Sarah just came back to confirm for me, but I’ve been trying to listen in to the police with my equipment and nothing. This is weird.”
“Weird doesn’t begin to describe it. Dammit, dammit. Lawrence?”
“Nothing since the last update. They’re all coming in from the other direction, probably.”
Experimentally, I took a step.
“Any ideas?” I asked.
“Has to just be a routine raid,” D ventured. “The Cobras are doing their rounds with the cops they have in their pockets, showing them the new forward base they have so the cops have something to report and make it look like they’re actually getting work done.”
“So we wouldn’t have known,” I said. We were somewhat pressed for time after our visit with Mr. Onmon. As low on the totem pole as he was, someone would eventually notice that hadn’t been doing his rounds with the buffer zones. If we were going to take this one, and then some more if we were daring enough, it would have to be immediately after learning about their locations. Doing stakeouts to learn the schedule was something we didn’t have the luxury for.
“You think they’re here now?” I asked.
Then, I got an answer, but it wasn’t from D, or from Lawrence.
Echoes from across a long hallway, then stairs. Steps. Voices.
They were already here, and they were coming this way.
I was pinned.