To see all chapters, go here.
I almost relaxed a little as the Mercedes glided into one of the tonier neighborhoods that dotted the hills outside of town. Mostly populated by mansions with terracotta roofs and plaster walls, I thought for a moment I was being taken to Mitnick’s residence. If they had been planning violence, I reasoned, surely they wouldn’t be taking me to their boss’ home.
But then I noticed all of the windows were dark, the lawns were browned out, and the swimming pools were empty. Whatever class of people were meant to be living here had never arrived, most likely scared off by the financial crisis. Things had started to recover, but that was a long, slow process and it clearly hadn’t reached here yet.
Whip pulled the Mercedes into a driveway that’s concrete was resplendent in the bright sunshine. Even through the tinted windows it was almost impossible to stare directly at the white door of the massive garage as it opened. Driving into the shadow of the interior felt like passing over to the dark side of the Moon.
Switching my aim from the driver to my fellow passenger I opened the car with my free hand and stepped out. With exaggerated slowness Whip stepped out of the car leaving me with plenty of time to retrain the pistol on him. On the other side of the car, red-eyed and angry, Brick was already out. He slammed his door shut, sending an echo reverberating through the cavernous garage. I reminded myself he was a car away and kept my aim on Whip.
We stood there for a long second while the pair of them tried to figure out if there was a way they could not show up to their boss under the gun. I tamped that down by reaching with my free hand to slide Whip’s own pistol out of his holster. That done, I gestured with the barrel for him to get moving. He and Brick exchanged glances again. Brick could hide behind the car, but there was nowhere for Whip to go. And he knew it.
He ended the standoff with a, “Pshaw,” and a feigned glare of dismissive contempt. With a wide sweep of his arm, he motioned for Brick to follow, a gesture that told his comrade they could take me if they really wanted. I was happy to let Whip believe whatever he wanted if it released some of the pressure that had been building up the entire car ride.
The only sound as we walked out of the garage was our shoes on concrete. Whip’s made the clicking sound of wooden soles, which would be shit in a fight. My own rubber ones squeaked on the concrete in a way I was weirdly conscientious of.
Through an unpainted wooden door we came into a kitchen that was large enough to compliment the garage. A distant voice having a one-sided conversation could be heard traveling from an interior room. Whip and Brick followed it.
The voice was a rich baritone having a civilized conversation. I had been in the Corps in the space between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of Putin’s kleptocracy, a span when my own country had foolishly regarded the new Russia with a condescending pity. So I had never learned any Russian, just enough Arabic to scream in between boredom and gunshots. Walking towards that voice, though, I wished I could understand what it was saying.