Another flash fic piece for you here, using another prompt from Chuck Wendig (“It starts with a bang”). This one goes eight words over the limit, but I think it works this way. It’s in the same flooded future setting as my previous pieces about Pat & Pat, and about Latour (I Bow To None). Enjoy!
“It’s a deal.” I smiled at Monette as we shook hands, standing on the bow of Norvis’ ancient flatboat. Good neutral ground, here in the swamp. Good enough for another five years of peace between our folks, peace between our businesses. Then her chest blossomed with red and someone pinched my left arm and suddenly I was lying down.
The crisp stutter of a rifle echoed oddly in the mangroves. I lay on my belly, puzzled and tasting the deck’s salt rime. Someone was dipping the front of my shoulder in warm water, but my shoulder was pressed up against the deck too. The deck should have been dry. Something smelled like blood.
“Holy fuck, they got the cap!” Lester squealed next to me. I tried to say I was fine but no sound came out.
“Return fire!” Marina’s shout cut through the confusion. The dim space under the canopy flickered with muzzle flashes; my ears gave up as I was swamped by the roaring crackle of gunfire. Lester, that little shit, was crouched over me pounding away at the dark woods with his oversized revolver. It took my aching head a few more seconds to realize that I was bleeding out while he shot at someone he couldn’t even see.
He had the cylinder out, dropping hot casings on me, before he felt my hand tugging on his leg. His bugged eyes would have been comical, if my arm hadn’t felt like it was catching fire.
“Cap’s alive! She’s alive!” He shouted again until I dragged him down next to me. I couldn’t possibly have heard him gulp, but I swear I did.
I pointed to my arm. “Fix it.” He nodded, wide eyed, tearing off his shirt and belt to make a compress. “Tell them to —” I hissed as he pressed down on the wound, “cease fire!”
He bawled out my orders, good with his lungs even if his brains were deficient. It took entirely too long for people to obey. Marina made the difference, as per usual.
People hunkered down by boxes, behind barrels of water, staring out at the surrounding mangroves from my boat, from Norvis’, from Monette’s. I relayed my questions through Lester.
“Monette’s second, Garbish, you still up?”
The response was a cautious yes.
“Good. You mind sending some folk out with some of mine to see if we got the shooter?” Garbish liked that idea. We waited, tense. Another burst of gunfire rattled through the trees, first that rifle’s then a few of our people’s submachine guns. The wait for their return was even worse.
Marina looked glum as she dumped a well shot body at my feet. The face was all messed up, but he looked familiar. A rifle thumped to the deck as well.
“We’d gotten lucky and tagged him when we responded the first time, Cap. But he wasn’t having none of surrender. He tried to shoot us.” Her shrug included all the folk Garbish and I had sent. “We got him instead.”
I looked over at Garbish. “You know this one?” Garbish scowled, teeth light against his skin. He picked the man’s head up by its lanky hair and shone a light at it.
“Tooker, wipe his face down.” The woman at his side mopped blood off the dead man’s face. Garbish shrugged, dropped the dead man.
“Shit. Not a clue.”
I nodded slowly. I was pretty sure he hadn’t been hanging around anywhere near Monette’s turf. The answer made sense.
“Marina, walk everyone of ours past this guy, see if anyone knows him.” Her face twisted just a little, a moue of distaste that she pushed aside as quick as she could. She nodded.
“You heard the Cap! Move it! Keep your positions, check this one out one at a time.” She pointed at each person in turn, waiting until people were back in their positions before calling the next. Good security. I sighed. She was so careful.
I patted at my holster before remembering that it was empty, a token of trust for Monette. There she was lying dead next to me, blood joining all the other stains in Norvis’ deck. Poor Norvis, they were huddled at the back of their boat, cowering next to the engines between two of my big boys with their big guns.
I poked Lester, still next to me, and pointed at his revolver. He handed it over without a question. I opened it, extracted one cartridge, closed it. Fiddling with it gave my hands something to do while we waited for the face check to finish. Marina glanced my way for a moment, nodding soberly at my wry smile as I flipped the cylinder in and out, pulling out rounds one by one. The click was satisfyingly solid.
The last of my crew shook their heads. “Nah, the face looks familiar, seen him around, but I don’t know him worth shit.” It was what I’d expected. He’d been new, passing through. It was why he’d caught my attention. The cylinder clacked out, empty. I slipped in a round, flipped the cylinder back in. Out, add another bullet, back in.
“Well, shit. I’m sorry Garbish.” Out, another bullet, back in. Again. “Marina, you don’t know this guy either, right?” Out, another bullet, back in.
“No boss.” Out, another bullet, back in. Full. “Like Marvel said. Familiar, but not good enough to place him. I think he went through Minnow’s bar barge last week?”
I shook my head. “Damn.” The cylinder clacked out. “Garbish,” I looked over at him, standing protectively over the corpse of his old boss, “I’m sorry I can’t give you more information.” The cylinder clacked in, still full. The trigger pull was heavy. Marina looked surprised as I emptied the gun into her.
“She took that man home from Minnow’s bar. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t about your boss at all.”
Garbish stared at me as I handed the revolver back to Lester. I stuck out my hand while Marina twitched. “Deal’s still good on my end.”