Thursday, September 08, 2005

Intangible Assets, Chapter 6

     I snatched up a piece of mirror and put my back up next to the door. With the shard angled down the hall, I had a decent view of the new arrivals. Their suits were too good for any of the Sheriff’s boys to afford, and the cops wouldn’t have bothered with the lock picks. Clearly the guy who used the picks knew their use, and I didn’t want to bet against him having equal familiarity with the gun he tucked the picks next to.

     The first guy through the door turned to the pick man and handed him a sack.

     “Clear the bedroom. Do it quick,” he said.

     Crap.

     I looked for the windows. The alley side window had a fire escape, but I couldn’t get there without getting spotted. So entirely subtle was out.

     A last glance in the mirror had the speaker moving further into the living room. I swapped the glass for my piece. When the pick man entered the room, I grabbed him by the lapel, spun him around, and pushed him into the wall I had been holding up. His mind gave up shouting while it considered the thirty-two-caliber tunnel I had poked at his eye.

     “Who is he?” Allison asked from over my shoulder. “What is he doing here?”

     “Give me a minute, will you?” I muttered, hoping my voice didn’t carry.

     It’s pretty easy to tell what a person is thinking from six inches away. He was thinking that not only does that guy have a gun in my face but also he’s crazy. Then he understood.

     I wished he had stayed with crazy.

     I went to punch him down with the butt of my gun, but pick man was faster. He was also entirely too strong as I went flying across the room and into the dresser. My fall was accompanied by the last hurrah of the pieces of mirror that survived the first search.

     “Paulie, what the hell ya doin’ in there?”

Paulie was at that moment taking the five paces needed to cross the space he had propelled me across. He arrived and made sure my gun departed. With the return stroke he gave me a backhand that would have rung Big Ben.

“He’s too damn small to be that strong,” I thought.

“We’ve got ourselves a visitor. I think he can introduce us to the dame. I figure the boss would like… aaahh!!”

Paulie let go of my jacket and hobbled backward. I had barely registered the shard of mirror in his calf before I let fly with my fist. The punch itself wasn’t decisive. What settled it was the shot of Force I cut loose with it. I felt his jaw break as he left his feet in favor of his back.

I couldn’t stop to admire my handiwork. I’d scooped up my gun was picking up the comb when Paulie’s pal made it into the room. He was a real Boy Scout, gun prepared and everything. A big Boy Scout at that, six-two at least.

He spotted Paulie laid out on the floor and decided to let his piece collect the payback for him. By then, I was headed for the alley window, spitting a couple of rounds behind me to keep the big guy honest.

“Don’t let him leave with that comb!” said an unknown voice.

I couldn’t tell if the big scout had actually heard the voice, but he fired a round my way as I went headlong through the window onto the fire escape. I thought my number was up when I saw the man in the dark suit standing above me. Then I realized that my hand was in his foot and neither of us had noticed.

“Allison, go! He’s here!” I shouted.

I didn’t stop to see if she heard my warning. I was crawling to the ladder when the fire escape vibrated as if a small hammer had hit it very hard. There was another suit in the alley below joining the party. Over my shoulder I saw a laughing ghost and the big scout lean out the window sporting a fresh gash close to his left eye.

I slid partway down the ladder. Up was no good, ditto with down, and my time was running out.

The fire escape across the alley was at least twelve feet away. If a wizard tries hard enough, he can fly. Too bad I never got to those lessons.

I pushed off the ladder about halfway down, used the third floor railing for a step, and launched myself into space.

My vision had narrowed down to the deck of the third floor landing across the way. All of my Will was focused on the bar at the outer edge. My fingers closed around it, and I pulled, tucked my knees up, and swung. The skin on my palms tore, and my legs slammed into the wall of the building. I forced my mind to defer feeling those new insults until later.

A bullet singing off the metal of the fire escape snapped me out of the state. Big scout had climbed out onto his landing and was shooting at me again. The ground pounder was nowhere to be seen.

For the first time since I came to this town I was glad for the August heat when I found the window I landed next to was open. I climbed in to see an old lady washing dishes while surrounded by a half-dozen cats. She seemed to be having difficulty processing the situation.

“Pardon me,” I said, “I’ll show myself out.”

I figured that ground pounder had to be working his way in once I went through the window. So I needed a way to cover my escape. That was easy enough as I hit the glass-covered fire alarm button.

Some people stuck their heads out into the hallways as I walked for the far side of the building. The sensible ones had grabbed their hats or purses and were starting to fill the halls. The end of the hall had a door to the fire escape, and I joined the few who had taken the exterior route.

Once on the ground, I pulled together my best impression of invisible and took the long route back to my car.

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