To celebrate the three-day weekend (happy Labor Day if you’re here in the USA!), I thought I’d share another writing sample with you all.
This is another short scene that I wrote a few months ago, forgot about, then rediscovered when I was bored and going through my hard drive.
This particular scene was inspired by S. A. Bailey. A few months ago, he shared a YouTube video on his personal Facebook page of a short-lived Smith & Wesson competition pistol from the mid-1990s, remarked that it looked like something you’d take off a mob hitman, and posted a very brief vignette* to that effect. Well, that vignette got my muse up and running, and about a day or so later (I think), I’d turned this out.
The scene is set around 1996 or so, somewhere in the American Southwest, in a tiny spec of a town that’s little more than a truck stop, motel, and diner, all situated along an old pre-Interstate highway. Our hero is a New York mafia enforcer charged with protecting the daughter of his don as the crime family descends into a civil war, with the enemy faction – led by a former capo named Moscatelli – gunning for the young Mafia Princess. Our hero never meant for his relationship with the woman to be anything more than professional, but, well, you know how these things go….
When I saw the cars parked in front of the motel, I knew two things: what had happened, and what was about to happen. A pair of DeVilles and a LeSabre, all new-model, all with New York plates, parked next to each other in front of this fleabag motel in this dust-speck of a town? If I were a gambling man, I’d say those were some really long odds. Which meant Moscatelli’s people had found us. And if they’d hurt Gabriella, which they probably had, then I was a dead man either way. The smart move would’ve been to turn around, walk to the truck stop on the opposite corner of the town’s single stoplight, and hitchhike my way out of there. Cut, run, and disappear off the face of the earth.
I’m a smart man. But love makes smart men do stupid things.
As I stepped off the sidewalk and onto the motel parking lot, the old sixth sense kicked in and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Someone was watching me, probably through a pair of binoculars or – more likely – a riflescope. I shifted the plastic bag full of the Styrofoam containers that held our greasy spoon breakfasts into my left hand, leaving my right free to draw the Grayguns P220 from its holster behind my right hip. The Mag-na-port Combat Mini hanging under my left armpit packed more punch but would be a much slower draw. Speed would be of the essence.
I cut straight across the parking lot to the room, brushed past my Nissan, and thanked God that the spot directly in front of our door had been open and I’d backed into it. And that the men who’d come to kill us hadn’t blocked us in. They were either too dumb to think of it or too smart to tip their hand by doing it. Since they’d parked their cars next to each other in clear view of the street, I was hoping for dumb.
There was one of those big, long windows right next to the door that ran almost the entire width of the room. I knew that if whoever was inside had half a brain between them, they’d be watching me through it. I risked a glance of my own as I walked through the door. The shades were almost completely closed, but not enough to keep me from seeing the outline of a human that was a foot too tall and probably three hundred pounds too heavy to be Gabriella standing right next to the doorframe. I recognized the setup: he’d put a round into my temple, probably with a suppressed automatic, the second I walked through the door. Not a bad trap, and I probably would’ve walked right into it if their mobster-mobiles hadn’t given them away.
My plan was not a good one. But it was the best I could come up with in the roughly three seconds I had to work with. I fished my room key out of my pocket, unlocked the door, and pushed. As the door slowly swung open, I drew my P220 and sidestepped to my right, then put three rounds through the window into the whale-shaped silhouette.
Screams of pain and terror erupted inside the room as the bear-man went down. I dropped into a crouch. Just in time, because a second later the already-spiderwebbed glass disintegrated completely under the roaring hailstorm of an automatic weapon. I waited until the Rambo wannabe stopped, then threw the bag full of breakfast threw the window and dove through the door an instant later.
There were three of them. The whale of a man that I’d just shot was on his hands and knees just inside the doorway, coughing up blood, a Walther automatic with a thin suppressor screwed into the muzzle still in his hands. A cheap greaser in an expensive suit was halfway in the closet, fishing under his jacket for a new magazine for the boxy little Ingram subgun in his hand. And a railroad tie with a pockmarked face, hatchet nose, and cut-down Remington autoloader was standing near the room’s far corner. Gabriella was in the corner, bound and gagged in the room’s only chair.
The skinny shotgunner was still honed in on the breakfast bag. He’d put two loads of buckshot into it and splattered bits of pancake, scrambled egg, and bacon strip, sausage patty all over the bed. I put a Hydra-Shok into his gut and another into his neck. He went down in a geyser of arterial spray. I shot the whale man in the back of the head and splattered his brains all over the carpet, then turned towards the greaser as I moved into the room. He’d found another magazine and was jamming it into the gun. I emptied the rest of my mag into his chest and face. He died before he hit the ground.
It was all over in maybe ten seconds. Speed. Surprise. Violence of Action. Ranger Instructor Bailey would’ve been damn proud.
The thought brought a smile to my face. Instinct and training kicked back in, and I reloaded my empty pistol as I moved to Gabriella. As I slid my automatic back into its holster and reached for the Spyderco Endura in my pocket, I realized that Gabriella was desperately trying to tell me something, but between the gag in her mouth and the ringing in my ears (gunfire is fucking loud!) I couldn’t understand what she was saying. She started jerking and thrashing in the chair, her cries that I could barely hear becoming frantic. She was using her heard to gesture towards me.
No, not towards me. Behind me!
I spun, instinct dropping me into a crouch. A roided-up Incredible Hulk lookalike was charging out of the bathroom, a stainless Smith & Wesson .44 in each hand. I couldn’t draw my .45 down on one knee like this, so I snatched my own wheelgun from under my jacket. If he’d been a pro about it, he would have had me dead to rights, but he was a drama queen, not a pro. He raised his cannons up, pointing them at the ceiling as he thumbed the hammers back, then started to bring them down all slow and dramatic like. Like he was in a damn Hollywood movie or something. That let me get off the first – and only – shot of our duel. Dirty Harry lied: a .44 Magnum will blow a man’s head off, but there’s nothing clean about it. Between that and the other three dead men, the inside of the room looked like Jackson Pollock had gone overboard.
My own customized Smith went back into its holster, then I cut Gabriella free. She tore the gag off her mouth and threw herself into my arms, weeping hysterically and babbling something that I still couldn’t hear over the damn ringing in my ears. I did get the message clear enough: she’d been so scared, I was amazing, thank God we’re not dead! I felt the same way, probably more so since I’d been certain that she’d been killed, or worse, but there was no time for that now. I knew there had to be more shooters, since three big cars for four guys made no sense, and we only had a few minutes – if we were lucky – before they got here. She didn’t fight me much when I pulled her off of me, but she did give me a confused look and asked something that amounted to wanting to know what was wrong. I pointed at my ears, shook my head, then pointed at the door. She nodded, then dashed over to the nightstand. I almost asked what she was doing, but remembered that she’d put her LadySmith 9mm in the drawer a second before she pulled it out, checked the chamber, and popped the safety off.
While she fished her spare mags out of her nightstand and grabbed her enormous handbag, I started grabbing guns. The barrel of the hatchet-faced railroad tie’s Remington 1100 had been cut down to just in front of the fore-end and magazine tube, but the stock was still full-length. No surprise since you can’t shorten the stock on one of those without jacking up the action. There was a shell in the magazine, another in the chamber, and about a dozen more in dead man’s pockets. I popped the safety on, shoved three shells into the magazine, and stuffed the rest into my own pockets. The greaser’s little Ingram M11 got left with its owner. Someone once called that little bullet hose “ideal for a gunfight in a phone booth,” and they were right because the damn thing shoots so fast that it’s practically useless past ten feet. Hulk’s hand cannons also stayed, but I did snatch the half-dozen speedloaders off his belt since they’d fit my Combat Mini and who knew how hard finding .44 Magnum ammo out here might be.
Over the ringing in my ears, I heard a scream, and then shots. I’d crouched next to the Hulk, so I pulled my Combat Mini again and spun towards the door. A thick man with a leather jacket, no neck, a gold chain, and a nickel Beretta Cheetah was standing in the doorway, hand flying to his shoulder where Gabriella had just shot him. I leapt across the room to her and tackled her to the floor, firing my big wheelgun one-handed as I moved. He doubled over like he’d been gut-punched by Mike Tyson. I landed hard, rolled over onto my belly, locked my gun out in a two-handed grip, and sent another .44 hollowpoint screaming into the top of his head. He dropped like someone had poleaxed him.
I opened my revolver’s cylinder and smacked the ejector rod, kicking out five empty casings and a single live round. It took me maybe five seconds to reload with one of Hulk’s speedloaders, then I reholstered, grabbed the shotgun, and moved to the front door. Gabriella was right on my heels, keeping her little LadySmith pointed at the ceiling like she’d probably seen all the cops do in the movies and on TV. My keys were already in my hand. I winked at the woman that I’d tried and failed to keep myself from falling hard for, then slid out onto the sidewalk.
And found myself face-to-face with another pair of shooters.
They were both dressed like extras from Goodfellas. One was carrying a Colt Python, the other a Browning automatic. They were both carrying their guns down by their sides, probably to avoid attracting attention. If they’d had their guns up, they might’ve gotten us. But it was still damn close. The one with the Browning reacted first, snapped his gun up, and fired from the hip. I felt the bullet snap passed my head. I fired my shotgun from the hip and damn near blew his gun arm off. He went down screaming. The guy with the Colt started to aim, but hesitated when his partner’s blood started spraying all over his face. I put a load of buckshot into his heart. He dropped.
Gabriella was crouched in the doorway to the hotel. I reached back and pulled her out. That got her moving again, and she leapt over the sidewalk and dove into the Nissan’s passenger seat. I didn’t see any more shooters as I scrambled into the driver’s seat, but thought I heard a rifle round crack past the car as I turned the ignition. The twin-turbo V6 caught right away. I threw it into first and peeled out of the parking space. Puffs of dust erupted from the asphalt and concrete as we sped out of the lot and turned west onto the two-lane state highway. I’d been right, someone had been watching me through a riflescope. Thank God he was a shitty shot and couldn’t hit a moving target. I slalomed the little coupe across both lanes until we hit the town limits, then straightened it out pinned the gas pedal against the firewall until we were pushing 100.
The highway ran straight as the clichéd arrow through the desert. I slowed down a bit, staying above the speed limit but not by enough to attract the cops. We had enough of a lead that I knew there was no way Moscatelli’s people, however few were left, could catch us. Not in those big land yachts of theirs.
We drove in silence for I’m not sure how long, until the sun was high in the sky and the ringing in our ears had faded out into an Alanis Morissette song on the radio. Damn it, did they ever play anything else out here? We’d come to an interchange with another state highway, this one running north-south, about an hour after the shootout. I’d turned north, figuring that our pursuers would think we’d go south to Mexico.
“What are we gonna do now?” Gabrielle finally asked what we both were thinking.
“I don’t know.” I had an inkling of a plan: find somewhere else to hunker down for a day or two, buy new clothes, find a used car lot where we could trade the ZX for a clean vehicle – that would hurt, I loved this car – and then move on. But after that?
“We’ll figure it out.” It wasn’t a question, or an assurance. She said it as a statement of fact. “Together.”
She placed her left hand atop my right hand, which I had resting on the shift lever. I looked over at her, lifted my hand off the shifter, and took her hand.
“Yeah,” I said. “Together.”
I think that’s when we both knew that we were never going back to New York.
By the say, S. A. Bailey is a fantastic author. If you’re into seriously hard-boiled fiction with a neo-noir vibe, definitely check out his Jeb Shaw series. His Amazon page can be accessed via the link towards the top of the post.
Never Stop Writing.
*Vignette, noun – a short descriptive literary sketch.