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Authors: Matt Hilton

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BOOK: Rules of Honour
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‘Who is it?’ Andrew tried, but he knew the man saw through the lie.

‘You don’t remember? Well that’s a shame, because he’s waiting to greet you in hell.’

The man’s voice had risen in pitch and volume, and Andrew knew that the rest of his life could be counted in seconds. He coiled himself, ready to call out, to fight back, to do
something
.

Andrew squirmed round so that he was partly side-on to the man. To anyone uninitiated into violence it might seem that the old man was frightened and trying to make himself a smaller target. ‘You do know what he did?’

‘Oh, so you’re admitting that you know him now?’ The man put the phone away and from his pocket took out a long tubular object. Andrew recognised it as a sound suppressor. It was both a bad and good sign. It meant that the man was not a first time killer and had come prepared, but also that he did not want to raise an alarm by firing indiscriminately.

‘He deserved everything he got,’ Andrew said.

‘No one deserved
that
!’ The man screwed the suppressor on to the barrel of his gun with a few practised twists. He did it blindly, but couldn’t resist the natural reaction to glance at it once, to make sure he’d secured it correctly. It was only a brief second of inattention, but Andrew took advantage of it.

From his side-on position he could chamber his left leg, and he shot it out, aiming with his bare heel at the man’s shin. Better that he aim for the knee, but he didn’t have the range. His heel struck bone, at the same time as he swung his other foot to hook behind the man’s ankle. Andrew scissored his legs. An untrained man would have been upended, giving Andrew time to swarm on top of him and to snatch away the gun. Unfortunately this man had come with violence in mind, and though he was briefly off balance, he was agile enough that he was able to disengage his trapped leg and to hop aside . . . bringing round the gun.

‘No!’

Andrew’s yell wasn’t out of fear of the bullet destined for him.

A slight figure had appeared as a shadow behind the man, one arm raised in the air. With all of her strength his wife brought down a plant pot she’d lifted off a hallway dresser. The man had somehow felt her presence behind him and was already turning. The plant pot struck him on the shoulder, but it was nothing to the man. He continued his turn and swung with the barrel of the gun, striking the woman across the side of her skull. She hit the floor quicker than the falling plant pot, which shattered in a way that Andrew feared her skull had. The man gave one disdainful look at the woman before turning his attention back to Andrew.

He took a step back. Andrew had come up from the floor much faster than a man of his age should have been able to.

‘Bastard!’ Andrew came at him with animal ferocity, throwing two solid punches at the man’s chest, but both fell short. ‘If you’ve killed her I’ll—’

The man shot him: three rapid bullets to the chest.

Andrew staggered at each impact.


This time
you’ll do nothing,’ the man sneered.

Andrew collapsed to the floor, jammed in the doorway. He didn’t look at the man now, but at his wife. She lay on her side, her head cradled under one arm. He could barely see the rise and fall of her shoulder as it rode each breath.

‘Please,’ he moaned. ‘Take me, but don’t harm my wife.’

The man snorted.

‘Why not? It’s your lying wife’s fault it came to this.’

He shot Andrew again, this time in the head.

Chapter 2

It was misty in San Francisco.

The mist was nothing unusual, because it was a regular occurrence in the Bay area. Something to do with the humidity coming in from the Pacific and meeting the cool air sweeping out from the US landmass, or vice versa. Whatever the phenomenon, it had coalesced into low-lying clouds. Today it had formed out on the water, a huge embankment that had followed the shorelines, obscuring from view the world famous Golden Gate Bridge before pushing in to shroud Alcatraz and on to similarly veil the Bay Bridge. Above the mist I could still make out the tallest points of the Bay Bridge, against the backdrop of a starry sky. The thrum of traffic over the bridge was muted, a background accompaniment only. On the Embarcadero traffic was light, and none of the famous cable cars was in sight. Pedestrians were few as well, but there were street people camped out next to a large fountain that looked as if it had been erected using the leftover concrete from an overpass. Most of the street people were tucked under sleeping bags, shopping trolleys piled with their belongings forming windbreaks behind them. One of the homeless guys was an early riser like me, and he was rooting through some boxes outside a pizza shop. He had shuffled past a minute earlier without noticing me, which went a long way to prove my disguise was working.

I was wearing a thick parka jacket picked up from a military surplus store, plus jeans and a pair of boots that looked like they’d seen a thousand miles, and a wool cap pulled down around my ears. I’d gone unshaven for three days. To complete my disguise I’d rooted around in an open Dumpster and allowed the stink to permeate my clothing. I was sure that no one but another hobo would come within ten feet of me from choice.

It was very early, an hour or two before dawn, but I wasn’t feeling it. I’d only flown in from Florida two days before, and my body clock swore it was actually midmorning. I was wide awake and intent on the job at hand. I saw the man I’d been waiting for immediately.

He was a large man. Maybe a shade over six feet, but big in other ways: big shoulders, big arms, big chest and waist. He was also big in the local criminal underworld, but still a few rungs from the top. He was dressed for purpose in a windcheater jacket: not a defence against the chill but to conceal the gun holstered beneath his left armpit. His name was Sean Chaney, a strong arm of the resident criminal fraternity. He looked half-asleep, which suited me fine.

As he moved by, I fell into step a dozen yards behind him. He didn’t glance at me, and wouldn’t be concerned if he did. All the homeless people here knew who he was, what he did for a living, and didn’t hassle him for change. He walked alongside the Hyatt, a huge structure of tiered rooms and balconies to make the best of the view across the bay. The Embarcadero Centre was on our right; a three storied shopping mall that spanned several blocks of the city. Apart from security lighting all of the shops remained in darkness and there was no one else around. My boots scuffed the ground, and to me sounded like cannon fire, but Chaney seemed oblivious and carried on to the corner of the hotel where he took a left. Coming round the corner after him, I saw him check his watch and his pace picked up.

Valets on the hotel door watched Chaney stride past, but didn’t give me as much as a glance: it said something about human nature to me. There was a junction in the road here, a boarding point for the cable cars that carried tourists up and down Nob Hill, but Chaney didn’t approach the stop, instead making for the stairs down to the underground BART system. I counted to ten then followed. He was already past the ticket machines heading for the southbound platform. There was no one else in sight, but I wasn’t worried. The big man was rubbing his eyes and yawning expansively. I fed coins into the machine, took my ticket and then shuffled towards the platform. This time Chaney did look at me, but it was a glancing blow that didn’t stick. He went back to yawning, turning away from me with lack of interest. I slouched against a wall, at the opposite end of the platform.

The Bay Area Rapid Transport system is on the ball at all hours of the day and night, and it was little more than a minute before the train squealed into the station. Chaney was at the doors in a second, rocking on his heels while he waited for them to open. He squeezed inside even as the doors hissed open. I waited a few seconds more, then clambered aboard the second carriage along. A middle-aged Chinese woman sitting in my carriage gave me a brief fearful look, before quickly averting her eyes. She was sitting with a couple of bags on her lap and as I moved past her she pulled them tight to her chest like a shield. I cringed inwardly, thinking about how I’d frightened the woman, but it was neither the time nor the place to reassure her she was in no danger. The only person in danger on this train was Chaney.

The next carriage along was deserted.

I moved through it as the train pulled out of the station and began swaying along the tracks.

Coming to the next connecting doors, I paused.

Peeking through the glass I could see Chaney midway along the carriage. He was facing my way, but had taken out his cellphone and was involved in checking the screen for messages. He didn’t see me, and was totally unaware of the other person who had entered the carriage from the far end. He’d obviously had it too easy of late and had lost the intrinsic paranoia necessary for a criminal.

My friend Jared Rington moved along the carriage with a measured pace, but even from this end I could see the muscles working in his jaw, an old knife scar standing out as a white slash against his tawny skin. Rink hadn’t gone to the trouble I had. He wasn’t disguised, and didn’t see the need. He wanted Chaney to know who was coming for him, and who his executioner was going to be. The only modification to his usual colourful attire was a pair of black leather gloves. Chaney had his back to Rink, but my friend isn’t the type to do a hit from behind. Rink’s voice was muffled, but I still heard his sharp command: ‘Stand up, you piece of shit.’

Chaney dropped his phone and went for his gun, already turning as he rose.

Rink struck him with the edge of his hand, a chop to the side of the big man’s neck. Uncontrolled, the blow could kill, but Rink had tempered the force. It was still enough to stagger Chaney and while he was weakened, Rink took the gun from him with a practised twist of the wrist. Chaney grunted something, continued his turn and tried to grapple for the gun. Rink hit him again, a sweeping elbow strike that made contact with Chaney’s face and knocked him back a few steps. Rink followed him, bringing up the Glock he’d liberated to point it directly at Chaney’s forehead.

Time I did something.

I hit the button and the door swept open.

As I entered the carriage my view of Rink was slightly obscured by Chaney’s thick body. I had a horrible feeling that Rink would shoot, and the bullet would go directly through Chaney’s skull and hit me. I sidestepped, placing myself in the open next to the exit doors. Rink was taller than Chaney, and I knew he’d seen me from the slight narrowing of his eyes. That was all the notice he gave me, though, because his attention was on the man he was about to kill.

I brought up my SIG SAUER P226 and pointed it at Chaney’s back. My other hand I held open to Rink.

‘Don’t do this, brother,’ I said to him. ‘Chaney’s a piece of shit, but he doesn’t deserve this.’

Rink didn’t even look at me. Nausea squirmed a passage through my gut.

‘Don’t,’ I said again.

‘What’re you going to do, Hunter?’ Rink’s eyes never left Chaney. ‘Shoot me?’

‘I don’t want to,’ I said.

‘That’s something, at least.’ Rink ignored me then and took a step nearer Chaney.

The enforcer reared back on his heels, bringing up his hands in a placating motion. ‘Whoa! What’s this all about?’

‘I’m about to kill you,’ my friend snarled.

‘Rink. Don’t do it.’ I hurried towards him. ‘Don’t cross the line, brother.’

‘It’s too late for that, Joe.’

I knew then that there was less than a heartbeat to spare.

I fired.

Chapter 3

Rink is more than a friend to me. He is like a brother, and I love him as such. When he’s thinking straight he’d die for me, as I would for him. There’s no way on earth that I’d shoot him and he knew it. So I did the first thing that came to mind. I shot Sean Chaney instead.

I shot him to save his life.

My bullet struck him in his left thigh and he dropped like an ox in a slaughterhouse. He bellowed like one too, his hands going to the wound in his leg. The speed at which he’d collapsed saved him the bullet that Rink was about to put in his skull. My friend blinked over the top of the writhing man at me.

‘What the hell’d you do that for?’

‘To save you from making a big mistake.’

‘There’s no mistake.’ Rink turned the gun on the fallen enforcer, but I could see a flicker of doubt passing across his features.

By now I was alongside my friend and I put my hand on his wrist.

‘Trust me,’ I said.

He continued to train the gun on Chaney, but I could feel the doubt in his body now, and finally he allowed me to press the gun down.

‘It wasn’t Chaney,’ I said. ‘It wasn’t him or any of his guys.’

‘And you know that how?’

I flicked a cautionary nod. ‘Later, OK?’

At our feet the enforcer was sitting with his back against one of the bench seats. His jaw was set in a grimace of agony as he grasped at his wounded leg, and his eyes were brimming with fear as he watched us. He made the mistake of opening his mouth.

‘Who the fuck are you? Do you realise who you’re messing with?’

Rink rounded on him.

‘You’ve just got a goddamn reprieve, punk. Now shut your hole!’

BOOK: Rules of Honour
4.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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