The Morning After (I quit Ideal software) ...


.... I gripped the Winchester pump tighter as the sixth and seventh rounds smacked into the frame of the GMC. Another round, a different caliber by the report, whined off and into the distance. I could feel the impact through the frame of the truck, my back against the front fender where the engine block and aluminum wheel could offer the most protection from stray penetration. I always carried artillery with me when I went out and usually kept it in quick reach in a rack behind the front seat of the little truck, down where prying eyes couldn't find it.

Whoever they were, they were just playing with me right now, wasting ammunition. Amateurs. Amateurs wasted ammunition. Professionals shot only when they had a clear target.

People were coming out of the apartments now, forming a motley crowd dressed in overnight t-shirts, pink slippers, hair rollers, and early morning shadows of beards. My neighbors. Ordinary people, human cattle grazing in the fields of life. People who spent their day watching gauges or answering phones or using white out to correct other people's memos.

Each totally forgettable.

There came the sound of small caliber rounds flattening themselves against the frame of the truck, instantly pulling me back into reality. Shattered safety glass fell onto me as the driver's side window exploded. I shook my head, watching the pieces of glass fall around me. The smell of burnt propellant was heavy in the air now, sweeter smelling than any woman's perfume ever could be, an aphrodisiac to the nose that knew of such dark things.

The gunfire scattered the crowd amid cursing and flapping nightgowns, but not far. Human curiosity is hard to override, even in the face of obvious danger. Curious faces soon appeared again, behind trees, in the entrance walkway to the apartment complexes, from over fenders of parked cars...

I steadied the Winchester 1200 Defender, clicking off the safety behind the trigger guard. A three inch magnum slug was already hot in the chamber, I had pumped the slide by instinct the second that I had gotten both hands on the weapon. I leaned down to my left, peering out under the truck from behind the left front wheel and sized up the situation.

Two cars. One a black '95 Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4 and the other a white '95 Ford Mustang GT convertible, tan interior and top, were blocking the entrance to the apartment parking lot in the classic V formation, hood to hood, where the weight of the engine would make either car hard to push out of the way.

Well, the roadblock had been set up well, I had to give them that, but who were they? I leaned down again and looked at my opponents. Five men in dark suits and sunglasses slowly leaving the protection of the two cars and starting toward the GMC and I.

A slow, intimidating walk. Overconfident, but then overconfidence breeds stupidity. If you've played the game as long as I have, you learn to take advantage of other people's stupidity.

I leaned down lower and looked again to see what kind of hardware they were packing. I jerked back up when one of the suits saw me, and a new salvo of various caliber rounds slammed into the GMC. The reports were a cacophony of music to my ears, and sang terror to the soul that knew the music only too well. I looked at the Winchester in my hands and remembered what I had just seen.

I seriously began to think that I was outgunned...

Among the suited muscle was a wide variety of handguns and other weapons. I know that I saw a Colt Python .357 revolver with a scope, a couple of Glock automatics, a Colt CAR-15 5.56mm carbine with a 4x scope and collapsible stock, and what looked like a thirty round magazine, another fresh magazine duct-taped to the first magazine for speed loading. The suit bringing up the rear had been holding a Mossberg twelve gauge pump, definitely ex-USMC issue by the look of the flat black scattergun.

I replayed the last minute and a half in my mind. It was the Colt that had been chewing up my truck a few seconds ago. No mistaking the sound of a .223 busting caps .... It was the little brother of the M16A2 and I had plenty of training on *that* toy. The glint of empty .223 brass casings caught my eye, beautiful laying there in the early morning sun, scattered out around the feet of the gun's owner as he slowly walked forward.

A thought crossed my mind ....

"Do I know these amateurs?" I asked myself under my breath.

In the distance I heard the sound of sirens, locals, but they would take their time getting here. This all looked too prearranged for me to trust in the locals to save the day. It was then that I remembered something that Bob Covert had told me only a few days ago;

" Christopher ... No one quits the Goldmans! Ever! No one. ..."

I remember that his laugh had been a little too forced, a little too artificial for my liking. What had been put forth with so much effort as a joke now rang as an omen. Still, it was a bum company, and I needed a change. Even though their business practices were less above the law, I didn't think that their dark roots ran this deep! If the owner's hired muscle was anything comparable to the quality of the products he used to make me hustle on unsuspecting customers, then this shouldn't take long.

Five rented suits and me with just six slugs in the Winchester.

I sighed and leaned my head back against the cool fender of the GMC Sonoma. The little 2.8 liter EFI V6 under the hood burbled and loped, shaking the truck slightly as the engine idled on, the keys in the ignition.

All of that felt like it had happened a lifetime ago.

Maybe Mr. Rogers Bakery would still have some fresh doughnuts left over after I had finished dealing with these small time corporate samurai ...

I hoped so.

That's the only reason I had gotten out of bed this early in the morning.