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Chapter 16 - The End

Posted in By Aiden Cobb 0 comments

            Cooler than a body on ice Thad sits back in his leather recliner. He knows what's next and has no qualms. He had been planning on it.
            The door swings open. Aiden's gun drawn, he quickly waves it side to side before kicking the door close behind him. Thad hasn't moved an inch.
            “Mister Cobb,” came from Thad's mouth, drawn-out in that James Bond villain way.
            “Thad,” Aiden replies in cold-hearted hatred.
            Aiden calmly keeps the gun pointed at Thad as he walks in front of the large oak desk. Everything seems nice and tidy and Thad doesn't making any moves. The fact he isn't moving at all should have been a red flag for Aiden, but he's past giving a shit.
            “Do you think you're the only motherfucker to point a piece at me?”
            “No.” A moment of pause. “But I will be the last.”
            Something is pinging him in the back of his mind but he buries it. Time for answers...
            “Would you care for a drink, Aiden?”
            No response. He keeps the gun point-blank on Thad's head.
            “Mind if I have one?”
            “What are you? Some kind of fuckin' Bond villain?”
            Thad shrugs. “If I'm gonna go, might as well have me some Scotch.”
            “Fuck that. Tell me what I want to know and don't dick around with the details.”
            Breathing in heavy, Thad only replies, “No.”
            Aiden moves closer, pressing against the desk. “Why?”
            “It's all over now, Aiden.”
            “No it's not. Tell me why the fuck the disc is so important.” He needs to know.
            “It contains a movie that can't be found in the United States. I'm going to make copies of it and distribute them across the Internet.”
            “Bullshit.” Aiden stands his ground.
            “The movie contains the top secret foreign sites that when I offer it to the CIA, I can broker a deal.”
            “Still bullshit, Thad.”
            “I'm a fan of the movies like you're old buddy... what was his name? Steven Hitchcock? Face blown off and everything. Terrible way to go.” Thad tries being melodramatic, shaking his head side-to-side.
            Aiden leans in further. “Bull shit, fucker.”
            “How about it's my movie and I want it back?”
            Staring in rage. Aiden feels his blood racing, turning cold. No attention is being paid to the muffled footsteps behind.
            “What?” comes out as a growl.
            The revolver's cold muzzle presses against the back of his neck. He slowly takes a step back.
            He “pulled a Hickock.” When you have one of those moments where you do something against your better judgment, or you veer from routine and something bad is destined to happen, you have just pulled a Hickock. And that's what's happening here.
            “You know Cory, right? Your pal Dennis's nephew?”
            Cory stands behind Aiden, holding the pistol firmly against his neck. He wants to make this happen.
            Aiden makes a quick calculation: how blood-cold is Cory? Any fuckhead can pull a trigger but can he do it on command? He breathes in for a moment. Relax. Change the strategy.
            “So you wanted in. Right Cory?” Aiden talks straight into Thad is if he talking to him.
            Cory keeps his mouth shut. Aiden can tell that he wants to tell the motherfucker off; give the fuckwad a taste of his own medicine. Who was he to humiliate him?
            “Have you ever killed someone, Cory? Not with a group of friends or playing some bullshit video game. For real. Have you?”
            Thad stares up at Aiden and watches him deliver the speech.
            “You pull the trigger. The gun goes off. There's a loud bang. My brains, and maybe Thad's, fly everywhere. And a moment later when you realized what you've done, you're going to throw up. You'll lose your cookies right there on Thad's expensive rug under your feet.”
            “Give me the DVD, Aiden.”
            Cory presses the pistol harder into Aiden's neck. Aiden stiffens.
            “Do it, Cory.” Aiden says. “If you don't kill me, he'll kill you and trust me, he's not one to take someone not obeying orders lightly. Pull the trigger. It's easy.”
            “Give him the DVD. Aiden.” Cory sounds unsure about killing him.
            “No. I'm dead either way.”
            The three are frozen in a moment in time, locked in place. One can feel the temperature drop.
            Everything happens fast, like a light-speed frenetic ADD shaky-cam movie action sequence. Aiden jabs his elbow and spins to the left, ducking down. Cory fires. Thad tries ducking but the bullet rips through his skull quickly halting that idea. Blood splatters Cory's face. Thad's gray matter splats  painting hanging behind him and his body falls to the ground.
            Aiden gets to his feet and checks for blood on his clothing. Under the low-lighting of the room he can't immediately spot anything; he'll have to check later. He reaches into his pocket and pulls a white handkerchief, offering it to Cory.
            Cory lowers the weapon and sees what he's done. The pistol is still smoking; that cannon-boom repercussion feeling still shaking him inside. Aiden forces the handkerchief into Cory's other hand.
            Nothing for Aiden to say. No comment. He glances over at Cory who looks three sheets from the tenth stage of white. Calmly, Aiden paces toward the door.
            Cory turns his head and the contents of his stomach erupt onto the floor. He feels a burning sensation in his mouth as he thinks back to what Aiden said earlier.
            Aiden stops, his focus still on the door. “That's a fuckin' ten-thousand dollar rug.” He reachs the threshold and stops again. “I don't know if the police can dust for vomit, but you might want to get out of here as soon as possible.”
            Cory takes a few steps back, bumps into the wall, and slumps down to the floor. He places the pistol on the ground before shoving it away from him.
            Aiden makes it to the staircase. It's time to tie up the loose ends.

Chapter 15 - Price of Refuge, Part 3

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            Aiden flashed-back to that night, thirty minutes later after he left his apartment for Steven's place. He sat on the couch watching Steven, understandably crazy, pace back and forth. The guy had every right to be pissed.
            “The truth. I fuckin’ know now. Thank fuckin’ God.”
            Aiden could’ve saved himself the time and punishment but something inside convinced him that he owed it to Steven. God knows what it was.
            “It’s a fuckin’ relief. I mean, all this time I’m going miserable. I’m stressed-out as it is, she’s stressed-out and stressing me out and all the times that you two look at each other. I kept saying to myself, ‘I wish they would just FUCK and get it over with, y'know?’ FUCK.”
            There was a way he kept saying “fuck,” like each time he said it he was trying to fit “Why did this fucking happen to me?” into the sentence. And each time that exasperation in his voice.
            “You know what?” He closed his forefinger and thumb together. Aiden guessed it to be half-an-inch. “I have this much respect for you.”
            “That’s not why you called me over here.” Time for Aiden to stop this shit. Steven could play pity party on his own time.
            “Gawd! Dammit!” He paced for another moment. “I lost the key.”
            “To what?”
            “The disc. It’s in a deposit box because it’s worth something…”
            “More than you know, Steven.”
            “What do you mean?”
            Aiden laid it down: someone steals someone else’s thing, in this case a collectible movie, and puts it up on the Internet for auction. DVD nerd Steven bids for it and wins not knowing that a fucking ruthless gangster is on the lookout for it. Steven happens to be friends with Aiden who is wanted dead or alive by said gangster Thad. And wasn’t this all a fucking coincidence or what?
            And then he pushes Aiden. Slams him in the chest. Aiden's surprised.
            Aiden stands in place because he's sure Steven won't do anything incredibly stupid. Like pulling a gun on him. Which is something you don't want to do to Aiden.
            Steven stands there and waves the gun around. Aiden is sure that he doesn't know what he's doing; doesn't know how to use it. Pushing Aiden is one thing; pulling a gun is a whole other fucking deal. Two items checked off the list...
            Steven continued to grow confused and crazier by the moment torn between asking for help from the guy who was fucking his girlfriend and wanting to tear him to pieces. He wanted to kill him. Aiden tried controlling the situation but he did something unprofessional: he lost his cool. He thought about grabbing the gun and smashing Steven in the nose with it. Probably should have. Instead his senses went into that dark place. He drew his weapon, Steven screamed and fired, missed Aiden and everything went black.
            That’s all he remembered before standing on the beach outside the house staring at the moon. Rage is a weird creature best saved for those “temporary insanity” cases.

Chapter 14 - Guard Level

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            He thought about driving up to Thad's residence, popping out of the car with guns blazing while the car swerved into the general direction of one of the guards. That unfortunate guard would stand like a deer in headlights being pommeled and decapitated by the car, all the while screaming as he shot his Uzi into the air. That's Hollywood's style, Aiden's. He prefers the personal approach.
            The estate's front is wide open; you can be seen driving up for miles. Having ditched the car down the road Aiden is cutting a path straight to the front door.
            Two guards. Both pop enough steroids veins are popping out of their biceps. One white, the other black and both have a hulking build. They stand watching him walk up. Neither know what to say or think; it's like a scene from one of those old movies where the guy coming to exact revenge has been walking through the desert for the past half-hour. You can almost see the heat rising from the concrete making a mirror image of Aiden, pissed-off and dressed entirely in black, heading their way.  The black guard, the one on the left, grabs his walkie-talkie and shouts something. Yes, whoever answered  is  watching the same thing and no, Thad says not to do anything. Both know a shitstorm is coming.
            Aiden plays the angles in his head but it really doesn't matter. If they haven't shot at him by now they weren't going to which makes it easier to get to Thad. He knows Thad was waiting for him. So much for that element of surprise...
            The guards aren't about to shit bricks because they have learned, have been trained, to keep their cool; but they're fucking close to it. A small seed of doubt begins to grow into a weed. Both know this can't be good.
            “Stop! Who goes there?”
            They both look at each other. The black guard who said it suddenly feels like the biggest idiot on stage during the high school play. The white guard replies with that “Dude, what'd you just say?” look.
            Aiden isn't stopping, which is confirmed when he clocks the black dude with his fist.
            TKO. Match over. The white guard responds in slow-motion with that “expletive of your choice” look on his face, followed by grabbing his gun. Both reactions are too slow.
            “SMACK!” Aiden hits the guy so hard it'll take him six months to get well enough to die.
            He walks behind the white guard to the left side of the door. No use in waiting to see if they spray bullets through wood and wouldn't you know, Thad has taste. Gotta give the guy some credit. Aiden swipes a walkie-talkie from the white guard, makes sure both are incapacitated, then pushes the lever down. The door opens an inch.
            Round Two. All point values are doubled. Taking a deep breath Aiden kicks the door open and rushes in.
            The idea that this part is like the video games enters his head. He remembers watching some kids at the electronic store wander around inside a mansion picking off zombies or mutants or guards or dogs or Nazis. Now is the moment of silence because those kids knew, as Aiden knows, they're watching him. He's not expecting expert snipers or anything; they could be but this is the domicile of a drug lord not Fort Knox so the odds that he'll be shot at instead of killed are in his favor. Hopefully. The real problem lies in the fact that there are no cheat codes and he can't hit 'reset' because he gets all pissy that the level doesn't turn out the way he wanted it to.
            Aiden shoots first in an off-direction to find out where they are. They Morse Code it back with hot lead. The schmucks.
            The China room consists of a small but expensive oak table in the center and an actual China cabinet sitting peacefully on the right. For the moment.
            BLAMM! BLAMM!
            It takes two shots. Aiden hardly ever shoots more than once. Maybe he needs to go down to the gun range. Good thing the second shot struck the guy in the face. Gotta keep moving...
            Aiden carefully rounds the corner of the room to the library when...
            BOOM! Chik-chik. BOOM!
            Two shotgun blasts. In the library. From another thug. Forget Colonel Mustard with the lead pipe...
            Aiden hits the floor. Aims at the guy's ankles. Fires with extreme prejudice.
            The guy screams and blows another hole into the library, the gun pointed at the ceiling. He  goes down easy enough.
            A staircase up ahead leads to the Thad's office. Aiden lifts himself off the maroon carpet and quietly paces across the library's hardwood floor. Bookcases line the walls and Aiden's eyes speed over their titles. Encyclopedias, Who's Who, a dictionary, thesaurus, some Stephen King books...
            Stop. “They're Eyes Were Watching God.” Hardback.
            Standing in place he reaches over and eases the book out. No other ones moved. Tiptoeing to the staircase he flings the book upward.
            A barrage of bullets decimate the book. Annihilate it. Obliterate it. Hot molten lead like shit through a goose rips pages like toilet paper with pulp shreds feather-floating in the air. Safe to say nothing is left to hit the ground.
            Aiden runs up the staircase through the floating paper shreds and fires below. Reaching the top step he crouches to the left side of the door. Gunfire ceases and nothing moves. His heart races, he clenches the gun in his hand, and takes a deep breath.
            The door to Thad's office. He has reached the Boss Level.

Chapter 13 - Expurgation

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Lenny's. A dive bar sitting dead-center of a nondescript strip mall its windows blacked-out and the neon beer brand signs barely visible in the daytime. Then again most people in the daytime opt for the Baskin Robbins at the end.
            Aiden pulls the door's metal bar and enters like he's straight out of a Sergio Leone movie. The light slices through the dim interior. One gray-haired guy sits at the end of the bar wearing a blue jean jacket and a pair of jeans; his head is bent forward, buried in a plate of nachos.
            In the corner of the room sits a jukebox, one of those that plays CDs instead of 45s. Blindly Aiden reaches into his pocket, pulls out some change, puts it in and punches in the code for a song. Walking up to the bar he takes a spot two stools down from “nacho guy.”
            The jukebox ends the song it's on; something by Journey. The wail of a sax soon follows; Bob Seger would be singing next.
            Nacho guy grows restless and talks to the ground but speaking to Aiden. “Have you come to confess?”
            “As much as a non-Catholic can.”
            “Order up.”
            Waving his fingers the guy tending bar appears. He makes the special concoction and pours it into the shot glass sitting in front of Aiden. Touching its sides, thoughts are waiting to flood over him.
            The key. That object of the conversation. A stupid, lost, forgotten key. It's what no one else knows about except Aiden. A world of troubles rests on a thin piece of metal.
            Gulp. “Aagh!” He slams the shot glass on the counter and sniffs. His fingers motion the bartender for another. The bartender immediately pours another and Aiden quickly raises it to his lips.
            Thad. The center of this twisted universe. A million dollar contract on Aiden. A million dollars for anyone who retrieves the movie. All of this tied into what he wants. Fuck him.
            Aiden throws back the shot. Winces. Slams the glass on the bar for another.
            Killing Steven. It was a mistake; an honest-to-God accident. He blacked out, that is to say that between Steven going crazy over what to do with the movie and his brain matter oozing down the face of the TV,  Aiden remembers nothing. Blame it on “gut reaction.” A bad one.
            Down the waterhole. Feel the feelings go numb. It doesn't taste like shit so much anymore.
            Women. Bridgette used him for sex; not like it wasn't like-wise. But trying to steal from him? Veronica wants sex but he knows a signed deal with the Devil comes with that. Then again, he may be  going to Hell anyway. Who knows? Maybe she could help negotiate better terms.
            And again. The outside world becoming tranquil.
            The movie. Is it just a disc or an actual movie? What the hell does Thad want with it? Some things are never meant to be understood. It never stops the want for the truth, though.
            He feels good. Justified. Time to kick ass. He sets the glass back on the counter and waves off any more.
            “How are you feeling, my son?” Nacho guy sounds a little like the Master from “Kung Fu.”
            Aiden steps away from the bar, straightening his suit. It's business time. He inhales deeply.
            “Vaya con el diablo,” Nacho guy mutters.
            “If he's not there first.”
            Aiden turns and goes for the door. The light blasts in while Aiden navigates into the  darkness.

Chapter 12 - Security

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            The fist pounding the door let Aiden know everything he needed to: this is a business call. Which means it can't be Tony because he would pick the lock to get in. And sure as shit it's not  Bridgette because she'd have to be crazy to come back. Then again...
            “One moment.”
            This inconveniences him. He has things to do. He can only hope that his deal with Miss Satan  follows through.
            Opening the door he finds himself half-wrong. Bridgette stands behind Bensinger, himself  poised and ready for anything. Bridgette's eyes give that look of hurt, annoyance, and embarrassment. Bensinger looks as if he may get his prize turkey.
            “I didn't think either of you would show up.”
            Bridgette moves forward, her arms crossed and staring at the ground. “I would like my stuff.”
            What stuff did she want?  Aiden's mind reels back for a moment. Maybe some stiletto's. A pair of black underwear with shit stains. One of those barrettes that held her hair back...
            “Give me a moment.” He begins to close the door but Bensinger's hand stops it.
            “Keep it open if you don't mind.”
            “Not a problem, Officer.”
            Aiden does a quick one-eighty and rushes back to the bedroom. He nearly trips over the six-inch heels while trying to find them, which lead to him picking up the hair barrette sitting inches away. Dropping them both on his bed he quickly walks into the kitchen and grabs a plastic zip-lock bag. Like a crime scene vet he carefully places the undergarment evidence in the plastic bag, hermetically sealing it.
            Grabbing the load he can see Bensinger eagerly awaiting his return. Passing the bathroom he realizes why Bensinger is there: she still has some dope under the bathroom sink. The crazy bitch. She wants me to go in for possession. Nonchalantly he continues to the front door and stops in front of Bensinger.
            “Alright. We got ourselves one pair of six-inch 'fuck-me' pumps. One hair barrette, good for holding hair back during blowjobs. And finally I present to you exhibit 'C', one pair of black, shit-stained underwear.”
            Aiden gives a big smile. Bensinger looks at Bridgette who's trying hard not to look at Aiden or him. She gives that low look before thrashing her arms out and grabbing her shit, holding it close in comfort and humility.
            “Is there anything else, Officer?”
            The bounce left Bensinger's bungee and Aiden hopes that this chick, no matter how bat-shit crazy she may be, won't mention the dope thing. Then again her fingerprints would be all over it and not his, and Bensinger would find himself duped and even more pissed-off than he already is if that's possible.
            “Can you step outside so we can talk?”
            Talk about what? The weather? “Sure, let me grab my keys first.” Aiden walks over to the counter, grabs them and walks outside, closing and locking the door behind. Bensinger moves to the staircase railing and Bridgette positions herself as far away as possible with room to run.
            “Just so you know it's none of my business to get involved...” Aiden has no clue as to why Bensinger would be running down this script. Maybe she wants to see if he would get jealous and do something stupid. Maybe she tipped Bensinger off on the DVD. Maybe she just wants to stand and watch him squirm, which he'll never do.
            “Did you murder Steven Lucas Hitchcock?” Bensinger stares through Aiden with the magnifying glass in his mind ready to call him out on any details.
            “No.” Flat. Plain. Unemotional. The only way Aiden knows to play it.
            Bensinger wants to nail him to the wall; beat a confession out of him. Aiden imagines that Bensinger thinks himself a Bobby Fisher-wannabe. Only problem being that Aiden is closer to Kasparov than Bensinger is to Fisher, or even a guy really good at playing checkers.
            “Is there anything else, Officer?” Time for Aiden to go.
            Bensinger finds himself caught off-guard. He clears his throat. “Don't go cruising around her. And you're not off the hook with Hitchcock's death.”
            “I have better things to do with my time. Good day.”
            Aiden breezes past Bensinger without a care. He looks over at Bridgette who stares intensely at the concrete floor.
            “I got better things to do with my time.”
            He steps down the staircase and goes to his car. As he sits inside two tricked LTDs with giant rims and blacked-out windows pull into the lot. Their sound systems THUMP the apartment complex. Aiden pulls out of the lot and drives a moment before looking back to see the two cars blocking Bensinger in.
            He smiles and laughs. He would have to give the Devil her due.

Chapter 11 - Price of Refuge, Part 2

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            Aiden's mind went back to that night when Bridgette laid her head on his chest; the previous night replayed in his head. There was the point in the movie where a guy was being cheated on by his blond wife who was with the younger guy. That’s the point where Steven stared at Aiden. Aiden just stood and walked to the kitchen to get some water; no need to hang around for that.
            “I love you,” she murmured quickly. It jostled him out of the thought.
            Her eyes opened and she followed with, “I’ll pay for that later.” An awkward pause as she closed her eyes again and rolled to the left pulling the comforter over her.
            Too late. She broke the rules again. Fuck.
            All he could do was breathe in heavily. The mute button killed the already quiet ambient sound of night.

            “Yeah. Sure. Let me get dressed first.”
            He snapped the cellphone shut. She was still in his bed. The conversation with Steven was quick and to the point which should’ve kicked-off some alarm in his head that said somethin’ wasn’t right. All Aiden knew was that he was tired and didn’t care.
            The apartment doorway opened slowly and Aiden reached under his bed and pulled out his gun. He stood by the bedside and thumbed the hammer as he heard footsteps in the living room. They stopped for a moment.
            Bridgette looked up at Aiden but didn’t say a thing; that dose of common sense saying it was best to lay-low. The footsteps started again and they were nearing the bedroom doorway. Aiden raised the gun to the doorway but had a feeling he knew who was around the corner. Bridgette quickly pulled the comforter over her head and dug deeper into the mattress.
            Steven. He stopped in his tracks and was pissed-off enough not to notice the gun pointed at him. Bridgette’s bra hung from his fingers; the worst consolation gift for finding out the truth.
            Aiden lowered the piece and stood there. He saw that mixture of hurt, frustration, and pain swimming in Steven’s eyes. No doubt Steven wanted to rip him apart but that’s not what he was here for. At the moment he was trying to burn a hole through the bed with his eyes.
            “So… you left this is the living room.” He tossed the bra on the bed.
            Her arm flailed out, searched aimlessly for a minute before her fingers touched it, and disappeared under the comforter again.
            “Bridgette” Aiden called out. A command. A call to senses.
            Her head shot up, keeping her eyes locked on Aiden. His head motioned toward the bathroom door. Bra and comforter in hand she slid off the bed and marched to the bathroom.
            “Why?!?” Steven shouted. Deep down Aiden was sort of impressed.
            Bridgette stopped and stared directly into his eyes before saying, “Because it was fun!” She stared at him for another moment before storming off into the bathroom, slamming the door behind and loudly locking it.
            Because it was fun. No, that was not the preferred answer. Aiden breathed in deeply and set the gun on the floor. Might as well get dressed. It was going to be a long day.
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