TW: Gun violence
The car park was dark and something less than half full and the wind blew strongly through the unprotected concrete. It was icy. The weather was turning. Johnny pulled his coat tighter and kept walking. He could hear sirens, faintly, in the distance, and tried to place exactly where they were.
Suddenly, there was an engine roar. Johnny turned to meet the oncoming headlights and lowered his head to cut out the beam, thrusting his hands into his coat. He pulled and levelled his barrettas as the first shots boomed thru the wind towards him. He held himself still, counting slowly under his breath to regulate his breathing, to keep him calm. He squeezed the triggers. Left then right. Repeat. He listened in the spaces between shots for the sound of impact. Of breaking glass.
He sidestepped in anticipation. The car, almost on top of him now, veered to the left and, as it did so, he jumped to his own left. He twisted in mid air and landed in a crouch, pumping the rest of his bullets into the side of the car as it hit a parked one. The crash seemed to shake the earth beneath him. The gunman in the front seat came out the windshield and spread himself across the car they’d hit, rendering the question of whether or not any of Johnny’s bullets had hit him moot. Johnny, kneeling, he now realised, in a muddy puddle, dropped the empty cartridges and reloaded quickly. As he did so, the back door opened and a large, dark shape of a man half rolled, half fell out of the car, firing and screaming wildly.
Johnny rolled and crawled behind the nearest car as bullets tore through the night in seemingly random directions. He breathed carefully, lying low. A bullet hit the car he was sheltering behind, but then, they were hitting cars up and down the lot. He hated the noisy crazy ones. This guy was as likely to take himself out with a ricochet as he was to hit him, but that made him all the more dangerous. He waited for a pause in the shooting and stood, resting his hands on the roof of the car.
The guy was reloading. And he was making a song and dance of it. He hadn’t even moved from where he’d gotten to his feet out of the car. Just standing there like a target in a shooting range. Johnny placed a gun on the roof, took careful aim with both hands, and put a bullet through the guy’s head.
In the sudden vacuum, the calm, he picked up his other gun and moved slowly around the car. He hadn’t seen the driver yet, and there may have been more in the back.
He crouched and moved quickly to the next car along, hoping to circle around to check on anyone else who may have been in the car. As he moved, he listened intently for the sound of movement, his head on a swivel looking for any sign of anything. He was tensed and primed for action.
The sound he heard was of a siren. Flashing lights chopped and shuffled the darkness into a whole new shape as the squad car squawked into sight between cars, coming the opposite way to the attacking car. Coming straight towards Johnny, who dropped to the ground and watched it pass.
Then there was chaos.
From amongst the wreckage from the collision, a machine gun roared. It may have been the driver. May have been another passenger. It didn’t matter to Johnny. It certainly didn’t matter to the officers driving into it. Their windscreen was swiss cheesed. The black and white rolled to a crunching stop against the car that the machine gun was fired from behind. Johnny almost laughed. The owner was going to get a shock, finding their car as the filling in an auto sandwich.
Staying low, Johnny sprinted to behind the squad car. The lights, still flashing, heightened everything. He remembered a time in a nightclub in Berlin. What was that? Two years back. A bad idea. Movements seemed slow motion. Jerky. Thudding beats felt physical. It had been a horrible mess. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Pulled his focus into the here and now. The essentials.
Johnny mounted his offensive. He leapt into the open, unloading the bullets from the gun in his left hand into the car the machine gunner was behind. Random fire. Flush him out. See if this guy knows his shit. The guy kept some cover, rolled around the opposite side of the car and returned fire at Johnny as he jumped and rolled back behind the police car. Bullets bounced off the concrete and metal around Johnny. He paused a moment, as if he needed to reload, then rolled until he could peer around the tire and looked for a target. Bullets hit the glass above him. He squeezed off three shots at the muzzle flash.
Johnny reloaded his empty gun. He crouched with his back against the car, listening for movement. Not hearing anything, he opened the squad car door to check on the officers. Both were dead. He was just pulling his head out of the doorway when he heard something. A foot fall.
Someone had doubled around from the other side. Johnny turned and shot a single bullet in the general direction of the noise, in response to this came a scream mingling rage and fear and pain, and bullets cracked and roared through the night.
Johnny moved a fraction of a second too slowly, backpedaling to get the car between the two of them as pain suddenly tore through his left shoulder and spun him 180. He didn’t stop though, going with the momentum into a ducking run, until he was by the crumpled front of the attacking car, glass and blood from the spreadeagled shooter all over.
The attacker with the machine gun was still shouting and spraying bullets. Johnny stayed low and tried to move his shoulder. Pain spasmed through him, but he’d had worse. At least it was his left shoulder.
When the firing paused he stepped out from behind the car, gun levelled. He’d nearly reloaded and Johnny fired two shots, low and fast, bending the attacker in half as he slumped to the ground. A stomach hit. Two of them. He needed to finish it quickly, so he stepped towards him, looking for a clear sight of the head.
He nearly didn’t see the revolver. If it had been black, he’d have been shot.
But it wasn’t and he wasn’t. As the man bleeding out on the concrete raised his hand, Johnny put two bullets into his chest. The guy spluttered, shook, and stopped. Johnny sank to his knees and put down his gun, holding his shot shoulder and gritting his teeth. But he couldn’t stay there. That was worse than suicide. He picked up his gun and retraced his steps until he found the one he’d dropped. He went to the police car and rummaged around until he found the first aid box, which he took. Next, he went to the man he’d just shot and frisked him; no wallet, no ID. It probably meant it wasn’t worth checking the others. Besides, he’d been there too long already.
At the top of a flight of concrete steps leading to a street lined with closed shops, he paused and listened to the sirens, trying to figure out which direction was best to move in. Something had clearly gone very wrong. Somebody had known where he’d be. He jogged across the road and down an alley between two shops, looking for somewhere to open the first aid box.
“Holy crap,” said Evan, almost shouting, sitting forward in his chair.
“Play it again,” added Dom.
Which I did, of course. I’d been watching it constantly for the last twelve hours or so, and what was the point in calling in an audience if I wasn’t going to entertain them? We sat together and watched, gasping and cursing in all of the appropriate places.
“Won’t you get in trouble for taking this?” Evan asked after the third time we’d watched it.
“Don’t be stupid,” I told him. “You think I’d take the original copy? I copied it off the hard drive. I’m not dumb enough to take the original, you know.”
“Can I get a copy?” he asked.
I laughed. “So you can put it online?”
“Come on, man,” he said. “It would go viral in, like, six seconds.”
“He’s not wrong,” Dom agreed.
“Weren’t you just worried about me getting in trouble for taking it?”
Evan nodded his head slowly. “As long as I don’t get in trouble.”
I threw an empty Pringles tube at him. It bounced right off his forehead and Dom roared with laughter.
“Damn it,” said Evan, rubbing his head. “Uncalled for.”
My middle finger was all the sympathy he deserved.
Later that night, watching the video again while the others slept, I was sure I could see someone in the bushes off to the side. A head, crouched down low, sticking out, watching the carnage in the car park.
I thought at first that it was a cat or maybe a fox, and that was why I hadn’t noticed it earlier. But then I left the footage running while I got up and went to the bathroom and then to the kitchen for another beer, and when I came back in, maybe five minutes after the gunfight had ended, sure enough, someone was crawling out of the bushes.
Whoever it was, they were small and slim. It seemed like it could be a child, but they came over and stood below the camera and looked right up directly into the lens.
It was a man. A small man, for sure, but a man. No kid has a beard like that. He looked at the camera for a while, tipping his head from side to side as if trying to figure something out about it, then turned in a circle, measuring, I thought, how much of the carnage the camera would have caught. With his back to it, he shook his head from side to side, then turned and looked up at the camera. He craned his neck forward and up, seeming to want to get as close to the camera as he could, but being so short, this wasn’t very close. Still though, it was unsettling. Like he knew I was watching him.
A smiled at him and waved, taking a sip of beer and laughing.
And then the little man with the beard smiled right back at me and he waved too. His smile got bigger and bigger and he waved his hand in a fast blur at the camera as if it were a train going under a bridge in a nostalgic movie.