BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.
Bekka emptied another clip into the silhouette target fifteen yards away. She was getting good scores, even with rapid fire shooting. Angela had given her a spare clip, so I could load one clip while she fired out of the other.
I was working on my one-hand accuracy, and doing all right. I have the advantage of not having a dominant eye: I can shoot with either hand and be accurate. Bekka was right hand only, which didn't bother her. I was happier knowing I'd shoot straight no matter which hand I picked a gun up with.
Bekka pulled her target in, examining her pattern. "This thing pulls a bit to the left. I'm staying mostly within the circles, but you can see where I was hitting the shoulder of the silhouette sometimes."
"How about those three head shots?" I asked.
"I did those during rapid firing. Not letting my wrist bring the gun all the way down. Your turn for a while."
I stepped into the firing area, setting my Beretta on the pad while I put my earplugs in. I ran the target out, cocked, took off the safety, and fired right handed through the first half of the clip. I was over-correcting (I'm left-handed) so I adjusted my stance. Better. I emptied the clip left handed and was pleased with the results. Good grouping out of eight shots, including a couple tens. I sent the target back out and slapped a fresh clip in, steadying the pistol in my right hand. Then I relaxed and fired from the waist, curious about the results.
Better than I expected. While scattered, all eight were in the target area. Bekka came forward and gave me a fresh clip, saying, "Not bad for shooting like a cowboy. Are you going to get a hip holster?"
"Oh hell no," I said. "I don't feel like advertising to anyone that I'm carrying. That way lies misery and too many conversations with cops."
"You mind reloading for a bit? I'm gonna step out for a cigarette."
"Wait till I empty this clip and I'll join you."
I fired two-handed, keeping the gun at eye level, taking my time. I was rewarded with three tens, two nines, and three eights. Bekka and I stuffed our guns in their respective holsters and we stepped out into the sunlight.
Lighting up, Bekka said to me, "Do you think we'll need these skills while we're trying to keep Boss alive?"
I shrugged and said, "I don't know. Hell, we don't have any sort of plan, and if Boss has one he's keeping it a secret."
"We haven't even talked to him today."
"I did," I told her. "We talked briefly this morning. You were in the shower when he called. I guess the nine a.m. calls are gonna be a routine. Tomorrow he's riding up to Encino to meet with Angel and Vinny, start hacking out the details of the deal. Best of luck to all of them."
Bekka smiled widely. "What would be cool, yet funny at the same time? If Boss started rubbing off on Angel, and Angel started riding a Harley."
"That would change the focus of gossip in the family away from me, that's for sure. Wouldn't people just write it off as early midlife crisis?"
"No, those guys always buy full dress machines with stereos and windscreens and big side bags. I was picturing Angel on a serious outlaw bike, chopped and stripped, with flames painted on the gas tank."
"I can't wrap my brain around that," I laughed. "Hey, when we're done here, you want to hit Boll Weevil for dinner? I could go for one of their burgers."
Over dinner, I told Bekka my plan: drop her off at home, then drive to the Hellbound's bar on El Cajon Blvd. and engage in a bit of diplomacy.... Or at least let them know that Boss had people watching his back. It was a relatively public place, so I wasn't worried about getting killed, at least not right off.
Bekka didn't like the first part of my plan. "I'm coming with you," she said, crossing her arms.
"And there's no dissuading you, is there," I said.
"Oh hell no."
"No matter that I'm walking into the enemy camp, it's an insanely dangerous stunt for me to be pulling, and bringing you with me endangers us both."
Bekka's chin went up. "I've been in dangerous situations with you before. Are you forgetting when we rescued Chrissie? You need someone to back you up."
"Why can't you just wait for me at home?" I pleaded.
"You know what? Fuck. That. Shit. I remember something from our wedding about things being for better or for worse. If it's for worse, well, we both go to the hospital together. I'm in this, whether you like it or not. I'll take a fucking cab to that bar if I have to."
"And this is your final decision."
"Believe it, pally," she said.
"Then let's finish eating and head for East San Diego. You've got both clips for your new toy loaded?" I asked.
She smiled and patted her purse. "Full clip in the belly, second full clip in my back pocket, and the Charter Arms .38 in my bag here."
"I thought you weren't going to carry that one."
An even wider smile. "I had a hunch it would come in handy today. You aren't the only one who gets to play hunches."
Take away the row of motorcycles outside and the bar, which was named The Alley Cat, could have been any bar on any street in any town in the country. The waft of stale beer greeted us from the sidewalk. We went in and settled onto bar stools, ordering drinks.
My plan was to draw attention to myself in a subtle way, so that the officers of the club would want to speak with me. This was accomplished simply enough. I'd shoved my cigarettes in my front pocket, with my vial of speed on top of it. If I went for my Marlboros, I'd drop the vial on the floor. Piece of cake. Just wait for someone to head towards the can or the front door.
It worked well. Someone walked by, I reached for my smokes, and the vial made a loud clack as it hit the floor. The biker looked in the direction of the noise and smiled. We both bent over to retrieve it at the same time. I let him beat me to it.
He straightened up, smiling and holding the vial. "So what's this?" he asked.
"That? Oh, that's allergy medicine," I explained. "My wife and I both have terrible allergies."
"Yeah? Me too. Wanna share your medicine?" And with that he dumped a bunch of the meth onto the bar, reaching in his wallet for a card to scrape out lines with. I watched him tap the pile into three lines, then roll up a dollar bill into a tube. He did up one of the lines, then handed me the bill. Bekka and I took turns at the dope.
"Good shit," he said. "Where'd you get it?"
"A friend of mine," I replied.
"That's no answer."
"It's not meant to be." I examined him a little more closely. According to the patches above his left breast pocket, his name was Whomp and he was the sergeant at arms. I picked up my vial off the bar and shoved it back in my pocket.
"So what brought you in here tonight?" Whomp asked.
"Hell, we're just out driving around out of boredom and felt like a drink. I take it this is your club's regular hangout. Who are you guys, anyway?"
He gave a wider smile and said, "We're the Hellbound."
"The Hellbound, the Hellbound," I said, considering. "Oh! I know who you guys are! You're the ones trying to kill my friend Boss."
Whomp lost his smile. "How do you know that?" he asked.
I spread my own smile wider. "It was easy to figure out. All we had to do was think of the meanest club --- not the toughest, just the meanest --- in town that was money hungry. That narrowed it down to you guys."
He jabbed a finger in my chest and said, "You stay right here. Don't even think of leaving." He stomped to a booth at the far end of the bar.
"We're making progress," I said to Bekka.
"Towards what?" she asked.
"I'm not sure, but I already have the safety off on my Beretta, just in case."
Whomp returned with a second dude, this one with patches announcing that he was Smitty and he was president. I polished off my Johnnie Walker and gave him a nod.
"You got some balls, coming here alone," Smitty said.
I said, "I didn't anticipate anything other than a friendly chat, mostly to convince you that killing Boss is the wrong move. It won't get you any closer to those labs than you are now. C'mon, do you think he's a one-man operation?"
Smitty chuckled and said, "Boss has what we need. You're right, we don't need to kill him. All he has to do is hand over the labs and all the product he has stockpiled. Then he won't have to worry all the time about catching buckshot to the head."
"Why not just start your own damn lab?" I asked.
"Because Boss has already done all that work. It's simpler to take over an established business than start from the ground up. And by the way--- "
At which point someone broke a pool cue across my back. I pivoted in that direction, only to get body checked to the floor.
That's when the boots started.
When six or so people are busy trying to kick you to death, there's not much to do except get in a ball and cover your head. Hope they don't crack too many ribs and don't rupture a kidney. I couldn't get at my gun without leaving my face and head exposed, and they'd spent plenty of time aiming in that general area. Through it all I could hear Bekka screaming, "Stop it! Stop it!"
When suddenly BANG.
The boots stopped. I risked taking a peek and saw Bekka standing on the bar, the .38 in her hand. She had put a hole in the ceiling with the gun and was now barking out instructions.
"Everybody, hands on their head now! You two, help him up, and pray you didn't cause any real damage.
"See, we came in here for a couple drinks and to talk business with your head guy. You assholes panic and attack my husband. Now look where we're at, a hostage situation."
I was lifted to my feet. To keep in the spirit of things, I dragged out my Beretta and stood there with it at half mast, so that it could be seen. A guy in one of the back booths made a move to get up, and Bekka put a shot at his feet. He sat back down again. Bekka switched the Charter Arms to her left hand, reached under her blouse, and pulled out her Nano 9mm.
"Are you okay?" she asked me.
"Just bruised up," I replied. I was pretty sure I had a couple of cracked ribs on my left side, but didn't feel like bringing it up just then. Bekka would have drawn blood.
"Let's go home, babe," she said. "Listen, assholes! We're leaving now. I see anything with two wheels behind us and it gets blown away. Stay in here for the next five minutes, and no cops, capiche? Good night. Oh, and Smitty? Think of this incident the next time you think about trying to snuff Boss."
We backed out of the bar and onto the sidewalk, then sprinted for the Falcon, guns still in our hands. I popped the lock on Bekka's side, she reached over and unlocked the driver's door, and we were gone. We blew up El Cajon Blvd. to College Ave., hooked a left, and aimed for Interstate 8. No Harley Davidsons followed us.
I got us on the freeway and settled back, holding the median speed, trying to locate parts of my body that weren't bruised. I couldn't find many. Bekka and I both lit cigarettes in silence. After a while I said, "I'm glad you came with me."
"Glad I could help," she said. "Remember, worrying about staying safe isn't a one way street. Dammit, you're my man and I'm keeping you. Anybody trying to take you away from me, by any means, is in for a ration of shit. Remember that, pally. I've dealt with a lot of scary shit because of you, and I'll keep on doing it. If that means firing an illegal handgun in a crowded bar, then so be it."
I asked, "So why did you pull that Charter Arms instead of your new one?"
Bekka replied, "The new one is highly effective at what it was designed to do. But waving it around is pointless, people can't even see the damn thing. If we'd had to start blowing people away I would have switched to the Nano immediately, but we just wanted to get their attention, and that revolver did the job. Still haven't figured out why they made it a five shot, and not a six."
"Mystery to me too, hon. Speaking of mysteries, why the hell weren't we recognized?"
"What do you mean?"
Okay, when they tried to kill Boss in the parking lot of the Seafarer, you took out the gunner, right? But the driver would have been staring at us the whole time. He would have remembered me, and he would have remembered the chick with the gun who killed his partner. But nobody said a word to us at the bar."
Bekka ground out her cigarette. "Maybe they just can't add one and one," she said.
I said, "Here's something else. How did they know to find Boss at the Seafarer? I'll tell you how: Boss got followed, all the way from Santee, which means they sat outside our complex while we hit the bong and drank beer before heading to the restaurant. Babe, they know who we are and where we live."
Bekka considered this and said, "We're picking up Squeak and some clean clothes and we're staying in the mansion. They'd have no way of knowing the existence of Inana. If they want to kick down the door of our place and shoot up an empty bed, let them. I'll even shove pillows under the blankets so they think they're doing their job."
We got to Olivehurst and got to work. I got Squeak in his carrier, then loaded his cat box and food and water in the back seat. Bekka loaded a suitcase with enough stuff for a couple of days and threw it in the trunk. With Squeak on her lap, we headed for the mansion.