The Final Murder: Part 13
"I don't like this at all," Dorothy said for the hundredth time, literally.
"It will work," Hilde said, for the hundredth time as well. I continued to look over the supplies as they argued.
"Yes, it will work, but it's not a good plan!"
"The fact that it will work makes it a good plan," Hilde said patiently.
"You're wrong. Quatre." Ignoring Hilde, Dorothy turned to me. She placed her hands on the duffel bag, preventing me from adding another case of bullets. "This is too dangerous! They could recognize you. They could go ahead and kill both you and Hilde! They may find Duo and he may be dead before you even step foot into that place. What if Wufei doesn't show up on time? It's not like you consulted with him and let him know his part or anything-"
"He'll come," I said flatly, removing her hands from the bag. "He'll come, with Trowa and Heero not far behind. I know my husband and comrades."
"And I'm supposed to be hanging out at the police station, safe and sound?"
"Yes," I said, then gripped her shoulders. "The three of you didn't ride together. It has to look like you were here for an appointment that Hrncir didn't know about, that Hilde was taken once she landed, and that Wufei followed as a Preventer because he was working a suspicious lead. It has already leaked out that I'm not at my home and no one has any idea where I am." I was infuriated when I heard that on the radio. "This could work out better than expected if everyone sticks to the plan." I released her and zipped up the duffel bag.
"I don't like this at all."
"I know Dorothy," I said, mimicking Hilde's patient tone.
"Time to go," Duo said, barging into the kitchen with the police radio in his hand. "They're preparing to get a warrant for Hrncir." I raised an eyebrow at that. Dorothy started to say something but he shook his head. "No, he hasn't done anything that makes them suspicious of him, but they want to be prepared. Something about ‘politicians can't be trusted' and something else in police-talk that I didn't understand."
"He may try to bribe them," Hilde said, appalled. "What would happen then?"
"That won't happen," Duo said as he did a fast job of covering his face with black shoe polish. "No sane--or insane for that matter--cop will accept a bribe from someone working for WEI. It's no secret that Quatre can be a vindictive little thing if someone double crosses him."
There was no humor in his voice when he said that. No, we haven't made up yet, and it didn't look like we would in the next couple of minutes.
"Dorothy, drop Duo off at the auto garage so that he can set up shop," I said, getting back into tactician mode. "Hilde and I are on our way to that nightclub. We won't keep in touch. That's up to you." I nodded to Dorothy. "Everyone, good luck."
Within seconds we were splitting up, Dorothy and Duo racing off in her red Corvette, Hilde and I in the Oldsmobile to the nightclub. As I drove, she rummaged around in our duffelbag to make sure we didn't forget anything and to make sure she was armed enough. While she did that I mentally went over the plan. When Duo gets dropped off, he'll hide himself in a dark corner somewhere as high as possible. He's my sniper for tonight. Dorothy will keep track of what the police are doing, and let Wufei know where Duo and I were when it became apparent Hrncir was out of contact with his men. Then when Wufei arrived, he could witness that I took those guys out to rescue my secretary, Hilde. To rescue her though, she needed to be captured. But who was to capture her?
Good thing my hair was black and I had great hickeys.
It took about twenty minutes, but finally we were at the nightclub. During the drive, Hilde did a great job of messing up her hair, dirtying her clothes and making her eyes nice and red from ‘crying.' Handcuffing her right hand to my left, I roughly pulled her out of the car, acting nonchalant as she kicked and screamed at the mistreatment. Just as planned, the loiterers outside of the club (mostly bouncers) looked at us with curiosity. Calmly, I made my way up the sidewalk. I was two feet from the door before one of the bouncers stopped me.
"Can't go in. Private party." He smiled. I saw three bad teeth.
"Then it's a good thing I have an invitation," I said as cooly as possible. I wanted to appear soothing and calming, but a person with a purpose. I couldn't tell if I was pulling it off or not.
"Oh yeah?" Him and his friend who didn't look very bright, laughed. "Let me see your ‘invitation'."
I held up my handcuffed hand, thereby raising Hilde's. She whimpered, and weakly tried to pull her hand away. Bad Teeth laughed.
"Ah ha! That little thing? We have plenty of those around the corner."
"Really?" I played surprised. "So you mean you have Quatre Winner's personal secretaries around the corner? I didn't realize he had so many, especially here on L2."
His face fell for a second before he pasted the careless smile back. Too late. I saw his shock. "And why would that mean something to me?"
"I know Mr. Hrncir is here," I said flatly. "I do not mean any harm. I just have a business proposition for him, that's all. If not," I shrugged lazily, "I can take my proposition elsewhere."
He thought about it for a good minute. "Alright. Wait here."
"Okay," I said as he went through the big black doors. I stuck my hands in my pockets and acted as if I didn't care either way whether or not Hrncir would see me. But inside my heart was pounding to the point where it was becoming difficult to breathe. I just knew he wouldn't refuse me, but that didn't stop me from being nervous.
Hilde played her role well. She kept her eyes darting from side to side, seemingly terrified. Who knew she was such a great actress! If I hadn't made this plan up myself, I would've sworn she was really afraid.
A short time later Bad Teeth came back, looking annoyed. I guess he wasn't happy about letting me near his boss. Any thug with bragging rights knew you didn't allow unknowns into your territory without checking them out, so I wasn't surprised when I received a very thorough patdown. Fortunately, I had the foresight not to come armed. But I had to stifle a grin when he didn't bother to search Hilde. She gave me a brief dirty look before going back to her ‘damsel in distress' act. She was concerned they would search her also just to be on the safe side. I bet her they wouldn't. Now she owed me and Dorothy three rounds the next time we went barhopping.
Bad Teeth glared at me for a good while, as if he knew I wasn't what I seemed and was trying to find what was out of place. I looked back at him casually, hoping my new brown eyes weren't showing the blue underneath. After some time however, he just scrunched his face at me as if I smelled bad. "Follow me," he growled, then turned and stomped off without glancing over his shoulder to see if we were following. We all knew he didn't need to bother.
Once we were past the black doors and the bathrooms, I saw that the nightclub was more like a brothel. There were probably six women to one man, each scantily dressed. In all fairness, the women did have more clothes on than what I thought they would (marginally), and they did actually dance to the music, but the air reeked of sex. The smoke of illegal substances also filled the air, as well as the hubbub of mingled voices, clinking glasses, cruel laughter and frightened shrieks. As soon as I got rid of Hrncir, this nightclub will be the first to be demolished.
Our ‘host' for this evening was sitting at a darkened table area in the back, surrounded by cigarette smoke and four girls that were probably just a year or two older than Mariemaia. The material of the dresses they wore strongly resembled toilet paper. I had to suppress the urge to get on the phone and call their mothers. "Mr. Hrncir," I greeted as I stepped up to the table, jerking Hilde to stand beside me. I hoped I wasn't hurting her too much.
He motioned for the girls to leave. They pouted and batted their eyelashes but did what they were told, thank goodness. I didn't think I would be able to resist ripping my clothes off and forcing the girls to wear them. "Please have a seat Mr..." He motioned for me to introduce myself.
"Sandrock," I said, taking the seat but allowing Hilde to stand. "No mister, just Sandrock."
"Hn." He lit a cigarette, and slowly looked Hilde up and down. I was grateful she was wearing a gray trenchcoat over the skirtsuit she wore yesterday. It made her look like she was snatched right as she landed. Plus it protected her from his prying eyes. I didn't like him looking at her like that. Duo would've taken his eyes out.
"That's her alright," he said at last. He shifted his eyes to me, squinting. "And how did you two...get together?"
"She's here on a business trip," I said, waving a hand carelessly. "Picked her up from the 'port."
"Uh huh," he said, smirking a little. "What do you do, Sandrock?"
"I'm a bounty hunter," I said with slight pride, "but at the time we met she thought I was her chauffeur."
He raised his eyebrows in faint admiration. "You bounty guys are pretty good. There aren't many of you around."
"Aren't many good ones around," I corrected.
He leaned back. "I'm assuming you're one of the better ones."
I shook my head, but had to toss my hair out of my face. I should have put it in a ponytail. "The best."
"Huh." He smirked again, but then focused his attention on Hilde. "You must know something of my business if you've brought her here. I'm curious as to how you heard about it-"
"It's irrelevant how I know," I interrupted, then continued before he could get upset at the interruption. "Believe it or not I don't have any specific details. I just heard that there was something big going down with Winner. He has a lot of enemies in high positions like your own." Flattery will get any criminal to lower their guards. Didn't matter how smart or careful they were, they all did it. "Point is, you'll be the first to profit from it."
He started to stroke his chin. He was thinking it over. I hoped the police or somebody had been contacted by now, but at least I had him hooked. "Now, despite how good she is," I rubbed at the hickeys; his smirk got wider, "I grow tired of her. I'll let you pay me six million credits to take her off my hands."
"Six million?" he said, absolutely incredulous. "You can't be serious. No." He clapped his hands as if it would magically change my mind. "Twenty thousand."
"Twenty?" I frowned. "Twenty wouldn't get me from here to the moon."
"Well, she certainly isn't worth six million!"
Just then Bad Teeth walked up, apologized for the interruption and whispered something to Hrncir that made him stiffen. As they whispered back and forth, I ran my thumb across the back of Hilde's hand as soothingly as I could. She was hoping his panic was due to Dorothy's part of the plan. So was I. We were too ready to leave.
"Excuse me," he said at last, rising. "Something has come up that needs my immediate attention. I'm afraid we will have to postpone this until tomorrow."
"No," I said, and it felt like all motion stopped in the club--brothel--whatever. Hrncir glared hard at me. "I'm afraid I also have business that needs to be taken care of off L2 that will have me leaving by morning. This needs to be handled tonight." I added a slight shrug for affect. "I'm not certain when I can make it back to this part of space, or if the offer will still be open by then."
He got my hint loud and clear. This offer wasn't going to be for him alone. He frowned, but wouldn't let the opportunity pass. "Fine," he growled, then turned to his goon. "Take them you--know--where. Don't let them leave." Then Hrncir was gone.
"You two. Let's go."
Not quick enough to suit me, but finally, we were out of that awful place and on our way to where ever Hrncir meant. I was pretty sure it was the auto garage. That was the only place within miles that he could conduct his business out of the eye of any competitors. Hilde and I sat in the back of a peeling, cramped, two-door car with the ‘not bright' bouncer driving us. I wish I was driving. I didn't want to have second thoughts, which was exactly what I was having.
Could I really kill these men? Yes, they worked for a scumbag, but they weren't exactly living in the land of opportunity. But this could be a land of opportunity if they would stop helping Hrncir with his greedy ambitions. What was he giving them? We're riding in a piece of junk that had stalled twice since the nightclub and yet Hrncir was being driven around in a limo. He couldn't be giving them much.
So I asked the guy why he worked for him. I was told to shut up.
Finally, after the car stalled another two times, we reached the garage. I was pleased with the darkness surrounding the building. The outside lights were either out or off, and the light from inside was faint. I jumped out as quickly as possible, pulling Hilde behind me and pulling her towards me and away from me at irregular intervals. I didn't want them to try and touch her and then discover that no, her back wasn't made out of metal, that was actually a gun. A really big gun. I didn't realize until it was nearly time to go that she ‘borrowed' Wufei's Jati-Matic and a few of Heero's handguns.
We entered the auto garage, and immediately I felt Duo's eyes on us, watching our backs in case one of those idiots decided we would look better with a bullet in our heads. Fortunately, we made it inside without any trouble. I looked for the table we sat at when Duo and I had our visit here, and spotted it and some chairs pushed almost against the wall in the corner. Perfect!
I headed for the table, dragging Hilde behind me (this time, the cuffs hurt both of us), grabbed a chair and moved it a good distance from the corner. There was only one light on, and it hung about fifteen feet from the floor, illuminating the center of the room and casting the rest of the garage in lightened shadows. I settled the chair right under the light, making sure they had no reason to think I was trying to hide or do something in the dark. Forcing Hilde to sit, I took the cuff off of me and handcuffed her hands behind her, but one was nice and loose. She should easily be able to slip free.
"Why not hand-cuff her to the chair?" Bad Teeth asked, still watching me like a hawk.
"In all honesty, I don't want to scratch my cuffs on your chair," I said as if it was the most reasonable thing in the world. "Besides, it's not like she has anywhere to run to."
"I don't like you," he said, point blank.
The amount of vehemence he put into those words impressed me so much I had to smirk. I couldn't help it. "I don't care," I said, and raised both eyebrows. "Feel better now?"
He said something very ugly about me and a carnal association with chickens, before stomping off to do whatever it was he did. This time I smiled, amused that my presence was such an irritation to him. Such a change from businessmen flocking to kiss my butt. After I was finished amusing myself, I got down to business. Standing behind Hilde's chair, I bent down and brought my mouth to her ear. With my hair down, it hid my face from Hrncir's people. Hilde wiggled and groused like I had my tongue in her ear, and I slid my hands up her coat and blazer in order to loosen the belt that held the Jati-Matic to her back. I straightened and she glared over her shoulder at me. I wiggled my eyebrows a few times and smirked. She faced forward and stared sullenly at the floor. Then, as if she couldn't get any better, I heard a soft sniffle, followed by a very heartbroken, soul-weary, "Why are you doing this to me?"
And the award for Best Supporting Actress goes to...
"Awww, is she crying?" asked the stupid one that drove us.
"That seems to be the case Einstein," I commented. I shifted my stance a bit, trying to stay awake. Exhaustion was creeping up on me, and not gently either.
"Ah, po' baby," he leered, and before the thought could finish crossing that simple mind, I stepped in front of her.
"Don't touch her." I didn't even bother trying to be indifferent. My voice held a coldness I only used when I was about to rip someone apart. "She is MY property and will be so until your boss pays otherwise."
The other men–twenty one of them–froze at the deepness and volume of my voice. Bad Teeth quickly stepped out of a little office and took in the scene before him: me standing in front of Hilde, almost protective, challenging his man; his man, a few feet from me, staring at me in wide-eyed shock; the rest of his group, slowly converging as if their numbers were enough to frighten me. If they only knew. But Bad Teeth, glaring in my direction, did some weird hand signal that had the men murmuring complaints and shuffling back to their posts. Good. I couldn't guarantee their safety from either myself or Duo if he didn't get them away from Hilde.
The next forty five minutes passed by in complete silence and boredom. No one spoke, and the only noise was an occasional deep sigh. I was a patient person by nature, so this didn't bother me too much. But I could feel Duo's agitation rolling off of him in waves, and he was getting pretty darn tired of waiting around doing nothing. I admit I wish I brought some paperwork. I could've really used this time productively-
Everyone jumped when we heard the metal door screech open and slam closed. Considering that the men were at their posts and were watching (supposedly) for any activity, I felt a speck of disappointment that they were caught off guard. Bad Teeth came out of the office (with crumbs on his face) and made another hand signal that I didn't recognize. The men fell back to where Hilde and I were, and Bad Teeth (what was his name?) stayed in the doorway of the office, drew a shotgun and aimed at the darkness. I tensed to the point where my muscles strained and my fingers tingled in anticipation. I was ready for a real fight. I saw Hilde tense as well, slipping her hand slightly loose from one of the cuffs and balling her fists, ready to smash someone's face in. I guess we'll never grow out of our need for fighting.
I heard deliberate footsteps. The trespasser was letting everyone know where he was in the darkness. A sign of trust in the soldier world. Bad Teeth seemed familiar with this, and threw some other unknown signal for his guys to holster their weapons. As soon as they did the figure emerged from the shadows, and my jaw nearly fell off when I saw Wufei.
He was stunning. The black boots, black velvet pants, black spandex shirt and black trenchcoat made his eyes stand out more. His hair was loose, sweeping at his shoulders, and the smirk on his face was absolute evil. I knew without a doubt that he was going to kick my butt for this. I laughed out loud.
"Who the hell are you?" Bad Teeth yelled.
"It's alright," I called, still laughing. "That's my partner."
He lowered his shotgun to his waist, but didn't put it away. "Does you partner have a name?"
Wufei answered, deadpan, "They...call me Tater Salad." 
Laughing even harder than before, I grabbed the back of Hilde's chair and dragged her behind me as I walked to stand beside Wufei. I still hadn't decided whether or not I wanted these men dead. It was part of my plan to kill them so that Hrncir wouldn't have a living alibi, but I wasn't sure if that was the best thing to do. People can and do change. It was possible that these men could change for the better, once the bad influence was out of the way.
"Hey, is ya'll gone keel that Winner faggot?"
Or maybe not.
"No, we're not," Wufei answered to the person with the heavy southern accent. My mind was still going back and forth with indecision as both Wufei, Hilde and Duo were waiting for me to make my move.
"Then why are youz two here?" another one asked.
"None of your business," I answered politely. Gee, weren't they being inquisitive little-
"That won't not very nice," said that same southern-sounding individual.
"Yea, it was just a quest-"
Before that statement could be finished there was a small shuffle, then a black object fell off of a shadowed shelf and onto the floor, face down. The whole room held still as we looked at the figure with a sniper rifle strapped to his back, waiting for him to magically disappear like he appeared. We all held our breaths for a few seconds, until the figure looked up and blinked violet eyes, watching us watching him.
Then Duo said intelligently, "Uhhhh..."
My entire world went on mute, except for the sound of my breathing echoing in my ears. I saw in slow motion the muscles in Bad Teeth's arm tightening as he raised his shotgun, Wufei's trenchcoat flailing about him as he whipped out his glocks, Hilde lunging sideways with her right leg outstretched, aiming her Beretta ahead, and Duo rolling out of the line of fire.
Decision made, I yanked the Jati-Matic free from Hilde's back, aimed towards Hrncir's men and opened fire.
 "They...call me Tater Salad," is a line of Ron White's, a comedian from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. It's from a joke where Ron White was 17 y/o and was arrested for drunk and disorderly. The officer that arrested him (a neighbor that lived a few houses down) asked if he had any aliases. Ron White said yes, that "they...call me Tater Salad." He was just being a smartass. Seventeen years later when he gets arrested in New York for drunk and disorderly (see a pattern here?), the arresting officer asks him, "Is your name, Ron ‘Tater Salad' White?"
Ron's answer: "You caught me! You caught the Tater."