Mike ran up to me, escorting Rebecca, who still refused to touch him. Rebecca looked unharmed, but Mike had a couple of fresh gashes and, I learned, a loose tooth from getting hit in the mouth with the butt of a gun. He fumbled around inside his mouth for awhile and eventually pulled his tooth out. He pulled his own fucking tooth out of his mouth and didn’t scream or anything.
Mike was like that.
“Hanker Sore, did you see me?” He was bouncing up and down, like a kid asking his mom if she saw his dive. “This guy hit me in the face with his gun, right? And I just gave him a look, like, ‘Fuck you,’ right? And I grabbed his shirt and I said ‘Big mistake, buddy.’ It was fucking great.”
“It sounds great, I’m very impressed. You’re so brave.” Mike ran over to the Specialist’s lifeless body.
“Holy Tits, Hank! I totally thought this guy was gonna kill you.”
“Thanks for your support. He broke my hand, and he was about to kill me, and-" There's nothing wrong with embellishing a little. "And then I said ‘C’mon, can you just give me a hand?’ and chopped him in the neck.”
“Yea. I bet you didn’t say that.” I turned to Rebecca. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine but, Hank…your hand.” I looked down. It didn’t even look like a hand anymore. It looked like someone was trying to make a hand out of clay, then got bored and threw the clay in the microwave to see what would happen.
“Yea, it sucks, but I’ll live. Where’s Joe?” I surveyed the room. Around eight or nine bodies littered the floor. Looks like everything was working out. I spotted Joe, his gun trained on…someone.
“Joseph, what’ve you got goin’ on over there?”
“Hank,” he said. “I’d like you to meet the douche canoe that had your bar burned down.” The Emperor. Mike, Rebecca and I joined Joe in a semi circle around the Emperor, Mike tossed me a gun.
“Should we say any kind of, like, badass ending line? Like, ‘this’ll teach you to burn down bars, Shit Parade‘? Something like that?”
I stared at the Emperor.
This is the guy. This is the guy responsible for the worst few days of my life, to put it very, very lightly. A stubborn little rich boy with too much free time who isn’t used to being told no. He had every quality of every asshole I’d ever met. A suit that cost more than my car. Well-trimmed hair, black with a streak of silver. A pretentious goatee and a slight smirk, despite the fact that four guns were currently pointed at him. Mike’s, in fact, was trained on his crotch. That god damn smirk. That's the smirk of someone who's never had to answer to someone else. Someone who's never been held accountable. That fucking smirk.
“No, Mike, we don’t say anything. We just shoot this motherfucker.”
But we waited. Maybe we wanted to savor this, or maybe we were waiting for him to say something. Anything. I know my boys. Joe wanted him to provide a reasonable explanation, and Mike wanted him to beg. I wanted an apology for Rebecca. He just kept staring at me with that damn smirk. Mike looked him up and down. Rich, showy people sometimes made Mike feel intimidated.
“My dick’s bigger than yours,” he said to compensate.
“Mine’s smarter,” Joe added.
“Mr. Donahue.” he said. His voice wasn’t cracking, there was no quiver to it or anything. He certainly wasn’t behaving like someone who was about to get shot. “I suppose you feel pretty good about yourself, yes?” I did, truth be told. Things were going well. It was around 12:30 and I was still alive. All things considered, we were doing phenomenally better than I thought we would.
“Well, actually, I feel great, Mr Emperor, but, I gotta tell you, not half as great as I’m gonna feel when I pull this trigger.”
“You had better put your gun down, Mr. Donahue,” Rebecca said, aiming the shotgun that I fucking gave her right at my chest. My chest. I lowered my gun. You've got to be kidding me. Mike smiled and didn’t put his gun down. He winked at me.
“Why, Becky? Because as we all know, there aren’t even any bullets in that gun. Isn’t that right, Hank?” He sounded so confident. Joe was laughing, too. If this was a plan, I was not made aware of it.
“Uh...What? Of course there are, Mike, put your gun down.” Mike lost his smile, and with it, the color in his face.
“You gave her a loaded gun? A gun with fucking bullets in it?” Joe spoke next, his eyes wide. “Hank, please tell me you’re kidding.” I was silent.
“You gave her a weapon?”
Everyone was staring at me. I remembered the looks they were giving from when I used to play little league baseball. It was the looks I got when it was a tie game, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, two outs, and I struck out. I just lost this game.
“She’s a traitor! She used to work for him, remember? Like, a day ago? How did you not see this coming?!”
“You fucking moron.” Mike moved his gun from the Emperor and pointed it at me. “Haven’t you seen any movie ever? She’s the Sexy Stranger!”
“Of course she’s a bad guy, for fuck’s sake!”
“I am so pissed at you right now,” Joe said, shaking his head. “Irresponsible, really. I can’t believe you didn’t see this coming.” I swear to God I didn’t. How could I?
“You guys did?”
“Yea, totally,” Mike screamed. His face was red now and spit was flying out of his mouth.
“Well then why didn’t you tell me?”
“We figured it was so obvious, jackass. I mean, once or twice I thought about bringing it up but I figured ‘you know what, Hank’s a smart guy, he doesn’t need me to insult his intelligence by pointing out this totally obvious issue. I‘m sure he’s got it under control.’”
Mike smacked his head in mock-realization.
“Ooh, Hank, she’s got red hair too, and great tits and a face. Figured I’d fill you in on some of the trickier details. Idiot.” Joe threw his gun away and folded his arms. I’ve never seen him so disappointed in me, and I practically made a career of disappointing him.
“Honestly, Hank, I was sure you were gonna be prepared for this, there wasn't a doubt in my mind. I was really counting on you having a plan that depended on her doublecrossing your ass.” Rebecca and the Emperor stood quietly, staring at the floor, like neighbors afraid to get involved in a domestic fight on game night.
“Guys…I…I’m sorry. I thought...I figured…we could trust her, I mean-”
“But why?! We just met her! She’s such an evil bitch, how could she have convinced you she was legit? What could she possibly have said or-” Mike stopped. He looked first at Joe, then they both looked at me. Mike nodded, and they both seemed to have calmed down.
“Oh. You guys banged.”
“There it is.”
“That has nothing to do with it.”
“Hank, be serious. It has everything to do with it. Red heads, man, that’s your kryptonite. A good-looking bitch could get you to do or believe anything. Anything,” Joe said.
“That’s not true.”
“Shut up. This is just like that thing with Lexie Murphy.” Joe turned to address the Emperor. “In high school, this girl Lexie looked, just looked at his balls for, like, six minutes, and he gave her his fucking car.”
“I didn't give her my car, she said she only needed it for the weekend.” I should call her.
“You know, if we’d have known, we would have been able to see this coming You really shoulda told us you nailed her, Hank.”
“I was gonna.”
“Ooh, a gentleman,” Rebecca said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Mike yelled.
“Enough!” It was the Emperor. “That. Is. Enough.”
“One more thing,” Mike said.
“No. No more. No more words at all.” He pulled a perfectly polished, silver pistol from his jacket pocket. He turned to Rebecca who, I swear to God, looked just like a little kid. Like she’d saved the change from her lunch money for a whole year and bought Daddy a brand new watch.
“You’ve done very well,” he said, advancing toward her, and she closed her eyes. Her entire body relaxed. Her mouth moved to say ‘Thank you’ but no sound came out. He put his left hand on the small of her back and took her gun (my gun) with his right. He kissed her on the temple softly and she melted onto him. Her eyes still closed, she opened her arms.
“Darling,” he said, and he shot her in the head.
Right in the same spot where he’d kissed her, he put a bullet.
His eyes were off her before she hit the ground.
It was Mike, and it pretty much summed up how we all felt. There was a serious amount of time where no one said anything. The Emperor saw we wanted an explanation and eventually spoke.
“She failed me.”
“Fuck you,” Joe said.
“She failed me.”
“But- No, she brought us right to you-”
“She retrieves you at the cost of several men as well as my Specialist, and this is a success? No. She was pathetic.”
“All she wanted-”
“All she wanted-”
“Excuse me.“ It was the first time he dropped that smirk and the first time he raised his voice. “Let me tell you something: what she wanted is not important to me. Neither is what you want. Neither is your perception of what is ‘fair,’ or anyone else’s perception. It does not concern me. Do you understand? I have never, ever had to justify a single decision I have ever made to anyone, Mr. Donahue, I can’t imagine why I’d start. No. Not now, not with you.” He spoke like he was a professor, giving a lecture on being an enormous dick. The smirk was back.
Several more men in black suits were slowly entering. The receiving end of that distress signal we tried so hard to stop. There was just too much right now. Bewilderment about Rebecca, unyielding pain in my hand, our impending doom, and a seething rage for the Emperor. I didn’t think I could hate that bastard any more than I already did. He was a bad, bad guy. I looked at Mike and Joe as the men surrounded us, because this is it. This is how we die. Mike smiled.
“It’s a cool way to go.”
I was about to say something, something, we can pretend, that would have been profound and memorable. Something deep and powerful, but I didn’t. Instead, a crash, the sound of something being thrown through one of those big, rectangular windows about a foot shy of the ceiling, interrupted what would have been the most badass ending line you’ve ever fucking heard. Something was flying down toward us and everyone was squinting to see what it was.
I have pretty good eyes, myself. The label on the bottle was what set it off for me. Bright, lime green with silver letters. It was about half full with a clear liquid, a liquid that big spenders like thrown into their margaritas, despite the fact that the slight taste improvement by no means justifies the ridiculous price increase. It was a bottle of Patron Tequila, (perhaps you’ve heard about it in rap songs).
This was a special bottle.
Instead of the tan, spherical cork that normally seals the Patron, this particular bottle is topped with a damp rag, lit on one end. The result is the most needlessly expensive Molotov Cocktail you’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you know too much about what happens when a strong alcohol and a flame meet. The Cliffnotes version is “a pretty big boom.” As some of the other men were slowly realizing what was happening- when they realized that, upon impact, the tequila and the fire would combine for a very unpleasant, very pricey explosive distraction- they ran in every direction. My eyes are great, so I recognized it immediately and was already out of harm’s way while some of the slower henchmen were just catching on. If my eyes were a little better, I’d have smiled, because I’d have noticed the three pink jelly beans at the bottom of the bottle.