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the CLAW of theHunter


     "WATCH OUT!!!" Thunder screamed from just ahead of me.
     I heard three quick shots, but one of them was behind me as I dove into a pile of boxes. I brought the now scopeless .454. to bear on the boxes and machinery where I had been standing. There was only a figure slumping down the wall.
     "You OK?" Thunder asked.
     "Yeah, I think I owe you two now." I rubbed my elbow where the stiff cardboard left its mark.
     "I make us at almost even." She said. Then looked at my left shoulder with concern in her dark eyes. "You're bleeding again."
     "Occupational hazard." The pressure-dressing handkerchief had soaked through, and my most recent dive out of harm's way didn't help either.
     "I'm almost out of ammo." Thunder said. She walked back to the body laying in a heap along the wall. She bent down and relieved it of its firearm. The figure wasn't dead, but it wasn't up to fighting about it. "A .25, why wouldn't these guys carry real guns?"
     I shook my head. I had long been out of rounds for the .38 and was now jealously making every blast with the big gun count in spite of having busted the scope on a bad guy's skull.
     Thunder peeked around the corner, "Let's go again." She said and slunk around.
     I winced as my shoulder lit up with pain. I worked the fingers of my left hand, everything still worked good enough. I followed her at a discreet distance.
     There were two figures peering over a pile of boxes off to the right, Thunder was watching a third further down. I raised my gun slowly and sighted along the scope mounts.
     The shot took down the closest figure. The second bad guy sent two rounds my way and ducked. The wall above me exploded in lime dust. Once again I was diving for cover. Thunder fired at her target, it disappeared into a dark doorway. I peered at the shadows. The surviving one of the two was gone. I crawled around the pile and retrieved the fallen guy's gun.
     "This one had a nine. And a whole pocketful of ammo." I called to my partner for the day.
     "Good. Give me some of them." She said and reached an open hand over the pile for them.
     As I handed her some bullets I noticed some of them looked very familiar. "Check those, he's got nine and some other stuff in here."
     She handed two rounds back to me, ".38's." She said. I found three more and reloaded dad's gun gratefully.
     "This looser had .357 and every thing else in there. He must have took a handful out of a fishbowl full of bullets." I grinned. "So. Which way out now?"
     She looked around. "This way." And lead on.
     We had come in looking for information. But all we found was trouble. The only info I had of value was an envelope of names and numbers and some photocopies of passports, and very little else. The bosses had moved on, and from the looks of the place, they had moved that afternoon. But, trashcans can be gold mines and I hoped I had enough to make it worthwhile.
     Thunder was my way in. She knew the place, and some of the people from some background work on the case. There had been a massive computer system in the office, which explained my presence, and from the looks of the place, it had been an awesome system. I went through the office like a whirlwind collecting what I could while she stood watch. Then I heard some noise in the doorway.
     The tall thin dark-skinned girl was four feet in the air. She kicked the first guy twice in the head, and shot the man behind him. She landed in some sort of cat pose and shot the guy she had kicked with an executioner's precision.
     "I'm glad I never tried to pick you up in a bar." I said with some seriousness.
     She smiled with pearly white teeth, this same girl that had just killed two men was probably the most heartbreakingly gorgeous woman I had seen in years. "We're going to have company."
     I put everything in a big envelope and stuffed it in my belt under my shirt. Dad's .38 was in my hand. "We're out of coffee and doughnuts. Maybe we'd better not wait."
     We crept out of the office and started back the way we had come in. We had made it all the way to the fourth floor office of the old factory without even getting close to anybody. But now, since our discovery, we heard shouts and running feet everywhere.
     Fortunately the building was packed with everything from machinery and trucks to an endless collection of boxes and containers. We wound through the maze and got as far as the first set of stairs along the wall. But there our luck ran out. One of the bad guys was coming up the stairs, we each surprised and startled the other. Luckily for us he hesitated picking whom to shoot first.
     From there on out we had been in a nearly constant rolling gun battle.
     Thunder was loading a spare clip when a bad guy leaped over the forklift and grabbed her. I hit him square in the side of his head with the .454, shattering the scope. He went down out cold. Not confident he'd stay that way, I found out what one of the massive hollow points does to a human at point blank range. From now on I'll use dad's gun at less than ten feet.
     I ended up with a bullet deeply grazing my shoulder when we were running for more cover and five goons came out of the door across an open area. We both emptied our guns blindly, and fled down a narrow hall and to the second floor.
     Thunder's "This way." Was the right way, but we were still on the second floor.
     I saw my car out the window and down the block. "Maybe there's another way." I pointed the car out to her.
     She thought carefully for a second but more shouts and running feet broke that up. "Let's go!" She said as I aimed the .38 down the aisle ready to fire at the first likely shape.
     I had always known the Mafia was a lot of bad guys being controlled by a few bad guys, but this place was home for an entire legion of them. We exchanged more gunfire with some more of them trying to cut us off. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.
     "They're getting organized and trying to cut us off." I told her.
     "They're doing a good job of it." She ducked as more shots rang out.
     I looked around in desperation. "Stay here." I said.
     I crawled over to the freight elevator and hit the button. The machine came noisily to life and a light came on above the door. I ducked back to Thunder. "Maybe that will distract them." I whispered just as a guy down the aisle yelled.
     "THEY'RE TAKING THE FRIEGHT LIFT DOWN!" And more running feet.
     The floor was quiet. We both peered up expecting a trap. Nothing.
     "OK. Now we go." Thunder said.
     "Bishop42 is going to have to buy me a case of ammo for the next one of these."
     She grinned. "I have him send me a new gun and a thousand rounds for every outing." She held up her small 9mm, "This was the last one, but the clip's too small, I want at least fifteen."
     We headed the opposite way the bad guys went.
     "Hey!" She said as we went past a window. "Our exit." She pointed to a narrow bridge that supported pipes and wires to the next building. I nodded.
     We made it out the window and across without being seen. It was a tense minute on a narrow ledge from the catwalk to a fire escape, but it worked. We ducked behind a barrel and looked for the enemy.
     "They're all over there watching." I said pointing with my gun.
     "We'll have to make a break for it." She glowered at the loading dock where several thugs were standing.
     "HEY! They're still inside!" A guy shouted to them. Half of them went back into the building.
     "Well, that's something." I said.
     She was slinking down the fire escape. Inching her way down as close to the building and stairs as she could. "You coming?" She whispered from the landing. "We can go over the side from here behind the dumpster." I nodded and backed down the stairs, never lowering my aim on the dock.
     Neither of us spoke again until we were in my car rolling silently backward. Then, when I could, I turned around and drove like a werewolf to where I had met her.
     We sat in my car a long time afterwards. I didn't believe we had actually gotten out.
     "One hundred forty or so."
     "A hundred forty what?" I asked.
     "Rounds fired. I kept track." She inspected both her trigger fingers. At one point she had been firing her nine and an appropriated gun at the same time. She had kept every piece she had picked up as well, fishing them out of her pocket and looking at them. "You need a semi-auto, here." She handed me the nine I had picked up. I thought it was still on the fire escape.
     "Is that both of us or just your count?"
     "Just mine. You fired less, but I think you got a better percentage. You a trick shot or something?"
     I shook my head. "No, just practice. Computers are my game."
     "That's what he said. Bishop42. He said you were one of the best he had that way. Sorry this was a dry run."
     I opened the envelope. It was wet with sweat and a little blood, but the contents were safe. "Maybe not." I looked through the stuff. "He told me you'd make the hard copy drop. Since there is nothing else. Here." I handed it to her. "So where did you learn the Ju Jitsu?"
     She smiled. "Most people think its Karate. I do some modeling on the side, and do little trips like this. Comes in handy with photographers that get too friendly." She smiled.
     "Remind me not to try to get too friendly with you."
     "How about dinner?" She asked.
     I touched my shoulder. "At the hospital?"
     "No silly. I got a first aid kit in my car. I'll see how bad it is and tape you up, then feed you. You can't drive home in this shape."
     I realized I had a six-hour drive ahead of me. "Yeah. I'll find a hotel after we eat. I could use some Z's."
     Thunder smiled that magazine cover smile at me, "I already have a hotel room, and it's got a hot tub in it."
     I took a deep breath. "That sounds wonderful. But you have to promise me one thing."
     She stopped opening the door. "Sure."
     "Don't kick me in the head."
     The smile came back. "That was the last thing I had in mind."

end 5 Claw

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