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.


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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