PAID • by Christine Rains

The bastards knocked first. Of course, they knew they had us by the balls.

“Backup’s still ten minutes away.” Ferguson said through clenched teeth. His jaw twitched, nearly white as his knuckles which gripped his gun. “I don’t get paid enough for this shit.”

Like he needed to remind me. I called the Chief when I spotted some guy creeping along the hedges across the street five minutes ago. Bainer’s lackeys were combing the city for our witness, but we believed we had her hidden. Turned out there was a leak. No way these jackasses would’ve found us if someone hadn’t been passing on information.

I glanced at Isabelle Meed. She huddled in her wheelchair away from the windows and out of the light behind a worn recliner. With the way her long blonde hair framed her face, she looked so young, like my teenage daughter. Her knuckles turned white with her grip on the wheels, but she didn’t scream.

She needed us. Sweat trickled into my eyes. The sting reminded me to focus. I swiped it away with my sleeve.

“Send out the bitch and we’ll let the rest of you live. I’ll only ask once.” It was Bainer himself. I’d listened to so many recorded conversations, his clipped baritone was as recognizable as his scarred face.

At least it didn’t seem he knew how many of us were here. Unfortunately it was only Ferguson and me. Isabelle would die because we trusted our fellow officers.

“You can’t have her!” I shouted, motioning to my partner to take up a position on the opposite side of the front entryway. Peeking over the small kitchen counter, I had a clear shot at the door. Ferguson took a place just inside the bleached bathroom.

A body rammed against the front door and the frame cracked.

“Stay there.” My instruction to Isabelle carried far for a loud whisper.

A second thud. The door barely hung on.

Isabelle stared at me with wide eyes. No nod or response, but she heard me. I hoped she would make it out of this. The two witnesses who were going to testify against Bainer before her had been murdered. We had the bastard in custody then, but he had a skilled killer on his payroll. Without the witnesses, the DA had no case. Bainer was released, and a few days later, Isabelle came to us with valuable information. The DA was still putting everything together, and we whisked Isabelle away for her protection.

With a thunderous snap, the door flew open and the sound of gunfire rattled my skull.

Count it out. Five, four, three… Let the initial burst ease. Two, one.

I stood and fired, taking out two men in black trench coats before I ducked behind the counter. The wood splintered and rattled as the remaining men –three, maybe?– peppered the kitchen in retaliation.

The boom of Ferguson’s .357 echoed above the other shoots. A body hit the floor and my partner cried out.

Shit! I fired the rest of my clip, but Bainer and any men he had left had retreated to the hall.

I crouched down and reloaded my clip as I glanced at Isabelle. Her wheelchair was empty. Did she crawl behind it and the other chair? Was she hurt? No sign of blood.

“Ferguson?”

He didn’t answer my call but Bainer did.

“He’s dead, mate. I blasted the hole in his head myself. Best send out the girl now. I want the sweet little snitch for myself. I’ll make it fast for you.”

I wiped my brow and took in a deep breath. The pounding in my chest echoed in my ears as if I were inside a lively dance club. My death warrant was signed, but with one good shot, I could do the world a favor and take Bainer with me. Then Isabelle would live.

Scooting around the base of the counter, I peeked at the entrance. Seeing a shadow, I fired. When I paused, a guy dashed into the room. I shot him in the chest and he hit my left shoulder. My gun tumbled to the floor and I fell back, hissing through my teeth. Bainer walked in and pointed his weapon at me.

All I could focus on was him. The glint of his gun matched the steel of his gaze. My life didn’t flash before my eyes. That was one thing to be grateful for.

“You should have sen—”

Thunder. No, Ferguson’s .357 cut off Bainer’s next words. A bloody flower blossomed on his tacky suede jacket. No one ran to help or shot back.

I grinned. We had him. My partner was alive and he got that scarred bastard.

“You should have paid me.” A golden-haired vision stepped into my line of sight. Not Ferguson. Isabelle?! She leveled the gun at Bainer’s head.

“Who the hell are you?” Bainer fell to his knees. One hand pressed to his stomach.

“You should have paid me when I killed the witnesses for you,” she repeated and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked. No bang.

In a blur of motion, she dropped the revolver and drew a small pistol out from behind her back.

Bainer toppled to one side. I didn’t hear the shot. Her hard words lay trapped in my head.

Her gaze and the gun swung toward me. No sweetness or fear. Only one thought rang through my skull. I was a chump. The whole department had been fooled.

She was a killer. His clever assassin. And our leak.

I didn’t reach for my weapon. I didn’t even breathe.

Sirens wailed in the distance. She turned, pocketed her gun, and went out the door. Not running, no. She didn’t flee. She’d won this battle after all.

My body trembled as I took in a breath, and my eyes fluttered before closing. It seems I would live, but Bainer wouldn’t.

He should have paid her.


Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood but make her a great Jeopardy player. She’s a proud member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. She has one novel and several novellas and short stories published.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.8 stars • 37 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Michael Stang

    A lot of white knuckles and 357s going on. The redundancy took some off the top of this otherwise action forward tale. So, I was zipping along at the end there and had to stop to do the math, I figure there is at least one more trench coat in the house, maybe two, right? I am afraid, very afraid.

  • JAZZ

    I think I changed the channel on this one.

  • .357 pistols are typically revolvers, not semi-autos. They exist but unlikely for a police force. They use magazines, not clips. In a tactical situ, an officer would have extra magazines already loaded so reloading wouldn’t be necessary.

    The duplicate white knuckle references caused my fingers to clench, dare I say, white knuckle?

    Pulled a small pistol out from behind her back? – Out is not necessary.

    She was the killer, the assassin… – not needed, this already established.

    I thought the tough-guy talk was over the top, more in line with a roomful of punks than officers.

    Noir must be crisp and unfaltering. This story stuttered.

    2*

    • JAZZ
      Jeff, While I agree with most of your points, I disagree with your opinion that "...the tough guy talk was over the top, more in line with a roomful of punks than officers" I was an accidental witness to a take-down of a guy by two policemen. Trust me, it wasn't pretty. The "F" word was used as a noun, a verb and an adjective; Jesus Christ was mentioned several times, and "bastard" was popular too.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Voice is more than vocabulary.

    Sure–not every writer of police procedurals was a cop; not every writer of noir was a seedy detective slowly dying of liver disease. But they likely knew such people; sat in bars next to them; soaked up the rhythms of their speech.

    I don’t know anything about guns and can be captivated by a story riddled with improbables or outright howlers. But the voice must convince me; if it does, I’ll follow you anywhere…

    Nothing convinced me here. Two stars.

  • S Conroy

    I quite liked this, enjoyed the twist a lot and fortunately don’t have a clue about weapons so was blissfully oblivious to any inaccuracies. On the other hand the white knuckles’ twin took me out of the story and it took a paragraph or so to get back into it. A pity really, because it’s something that could be easily fixed.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    The cliches came as thick and fast as the action in this story – the steely gaze, the death warrant signed, and of course the white knuckles. The idea behind the story was a good one and an interesting twist. The voice though, wasn’t credible enough for me.

  • Von

    Ah, a whodunit to start my day. 🙂 Excellent twist at the end, loved the final line. I thought this was a fun one. Quite the clever assassin.

  • Rose Gardener

    The opening line was an excellent hook and tension was maintained as I rooted for the good guys to win. Gun details go over my head, so I skim read those in ignorance and any technical inconsistencies noted by others didn’t detract from the story for me.

  • weequahic

    It was first person POV, so almost all is forgiven.

  • I certainly enjoyed the story. Lots of action, a hero, a protagonist. The twist gave the story a bit of a boost as well. Alas, as Paul and others have mentioned, the cliches almost took me out of the story. After the second set of white knuckles, I started noticing the rest of them. Also, as hard as I tried, i couldn’t imagine what a “thunderous snap” would sound like. Thunder is deep and booming, while a door breaking would be more of a sharp cracking and splintering. Thanks for sharing,