*5*

Night in Las Vegas is never really night. The lights fill the streets with the artificial glow that keeps people awake and roaming, searching for luck and adventure.
A line of three black sedans pulls up to the front of the hotel where Maria and Michael have been holed up. Two men exit the front and rear sedan. They set up a perimeter, keeping people away from the main entrance. From the middle sedan, one man gets out from the front passenger’s seat and heads into the lobby.
He straight-arms hotel security, flashing his Federal credentials. They fall in line and head to the private elevator. They stand there, waiting. Behind them, the numbers above the doors counts down.
The elevator arrives, the doors open and Benson leads Maria and Michael out. They rush through the lobby, under the watchful eyes of the other guests and employees.
Outside, Benson leads them to the middle sedan. Maria and Michael get in the back seat, with Benson in the front beside the driver. The former passenger of the middle sedan gets in the front sedan, with the other two men. Once the two men from the rear sedan are in, the line pulls out and heads down the street. All three light their red and blue, helping clear the streets.
In the middle sedan, Maria looks around nervously. When she looks over at Michael, he’s also looking around, but it isn’t because of nerves. He looks focused, as if studying everything around him.
“Honey?” Maria asks. “Are you ok?”
“Mom please!” Michael responds, frustrated. “I’m trying to pay attention.”
Maria watches Michael as he continues to survey the city passing by. She turns her attention to Benson in the front seat. “How long to the airport?”
“Not long. A private jet is already waiting, with armed guards. Once there, we’ll be safe.” Benson replies professionally. Pry and Dane’s words jab at him. He turns around in his seat, a look of humanity on his face. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you there.”
Michael tugs on Maria’s arm.
“What is it?”
“Crane.” Michael says in a calm, eerie voice.
From a construction site on their right, the end of a crane swings out over the street. At the end of its cable, a load of steel.
The load of steel drops, crushing the front sedan.
The middle and rear sedan screech to a halt.
Benson pulls out a 2-way radio “We’re blocked! Take route delta!”
The drivers of the two remaining sedans jam the cars into reverse. They peel out, do a one-eighty, whip the sedans around, and drive to a side street on their right. They head down it. After three blocks, they turn right again, moving parallel to their previous course.
Maria looks out the windows, her alarm growing. Unlike the rest of the city, this area seems deserted. Only the occasional street lights illuminate their way. Store fronts look abandoned, covered in dust, some with ply wood over the windows, others with just broken glass.
“What happened here?” Maria asks.
“Lack of money, or concern. Reconstruction hasn’t been evenly spread out over the city.” Benson replies before speaking into his 2-way again. “Runner to Eagle, we’re on route delta. Double check airport perimeter for hostiles. We’ll be coming in hot!”
Benson turns to say something to the driver, but his words catch in his throat.
On their left, at the end of a side street, he spots two men standing outside a H3 Hummer. Each of them is carrying heavy assault rifles.
Maria looks out the driver’s side rear window. She sees the men and sees her and Michael’s death.
“Mom!” Michael yells. He grabs her, and with all his strength, pulls her towards him and onto the floor of the sedan.
“Down!” Benson yells.
The two men open fire. Their rounds are powerful and easily tear up the side of the sedan and the supposedly bullet-proof windows.
The driver is blown to bits. His remains splattering all over Benson.
The driver of the second sedan fires back with his pistol. He only wastes bullets.
With a dead man at the wheel, Benson’s sedan veers to the left and crashes into a store half way down the deserted city block.
The second sedan makes a hard left turn, swinging the back end around. The front right tire bounces up on the curb, the passenger side slides to a stop a few feet from the back of the crashed sedan.
One of the men gets in the Hummer, while the other runs down the street towards the two sedans, to make sure no one escapes on foot.
Benson’s head feels fuzzy. Blood smears the airbag, but he quickly realizes it’s the blood splatter on him from the driver. He looks where the driver was, all that remains is a pile of black and red covered rags loosely attached to a pair of pant-covered legs. As he struggles to get his gore-covered jacket off, he looks over into the back seat. “Mrs. Torres?”
Maria sits up. She’s banged up, but alive.
Michael sits up too. “Mom, you ok?”
Maria nods as she looks around. She notices the blood from the driver everywhere in the front seat, and the shattered glass behind her. If not for Michael, she’d be dead. She turns back to Michael and hugs him.
“Fen told me to pay attention and keep my eyes open. And I did!” Michael says, his voice muffled by his mother’s hug.
She lets him go and looks at him. “Fen told you that?”
Michael nods. “Yeah! He told me to look around, repeat what I saw in my head.”
“Did he say anything else?” Benson asks.
Michael nods. “They’re coming.”
The Hummer pulls out into the street. The rumble of its engine is drowned out by the chest-rattling roar of five hundred horsepower and the screeching of rubber on old asphalt.
Pry’s Barracuda slides sideways a few car-lengths in behind the Hummer, from the right.
“Get’im!” Pry yells, her arms cranking the wheel, holding the turn. The back of her seat is reclined all the way back. The passenger seat is also reclined, with Dane laying on his back.
Fen squeezes out the rear driver’s side window and leaps onto the street at the apex of the slide. He hits the street, charging like a fur-covered freight-train. A growl welling up within him.
The attacker charging the two sedans on foot hears Pry’s arrival. He turns to see Fen racing towards him, quickly closing the distance. He fires at Fen.
Bullets tear up the sidewalk and closed store fronts. They wiz by Fen, but he doesn’t stop. He launches himself at the attacker, slamming nearly two hundred pounds of dog into the attacker’s stomach.
He flies backward, flinging the rifle from his hands. He hits the sidewalk, smacking the back of his head on the concrete.
Fen regains his footing and tears off towards the two sedans.
Pry speeds up, but the Hummer swerves to the right. She swings left and guns it, pulling up on the Hummer’s left. The engine whines, wanting to shift.
The Hummer’s driver aims a pistol out the window.
Dane sits up and points an AK-47, with a grenade launcher attachment, out the window at the Hummer. “Fire in the hole!” he yells.
Pry steps on the gas and shifts the car into the next gear.
The Barracuda leaps forward, chirping the tires.
Dane fires the grenade launcher.
The Hummer erupts in a ball of fire, metal and glass. Most of the debris misses the Barracuda. The remains of the Hummer stops, blocking half of the street.
Pry swerves and leans on the brakes. The car squeals, just missing the back end of the second sedan. The Barracuda stops with its right wheels on the faded center line.
Pry and Dane step out. They are dressed for war. Bullet-proof vests over tank tops, military-grade pants, boots and gloves. Both carry AK-47s and move with skill and purpose. Pry scans the surroundings for trouble as she approaches the sedans. Dane keeps the passenger’s side door open while looking down his sight. He switches from looking behind them to looking ahead of them.
“We’re clear, boss.” Dane reports via hands-free 2-way radio. “Let’s make like a group of birds and flock off.”
“Copy.” Pry replies to Dane.
The driver of the second sedan step out, drawing his weapon. He hears something rushing towards him. He turns as a blur of grey and black flies by him. He spins around, ready to fire when he looks down Pry’s AK-47.
“Don’t.” Pry snarls.
Benson climbs out of the crashed sedan. “Hold your fire, agent! They aren’t the enemy.”
Pry glances back at Benson. “Good to know.”
“Hold your position. Keep watch for hostiles.” Benson orders as he steadies himself on the sedan.
The driver of the second sedan nods and drops to one knee, using the driver’s side door as partial cover.
Benson points to the other two men in the sedan. “You two.” he jerks his thumb over his shoulder. “Watch our front.”
The two men nods. They take up positions, one on the sidewalk near the front of the crashed sedan, the other near the front of the Barracuda.
Pry slings her rifle down and checks Benson. “You gonna live?”
“Its not my blood.” Benson replies absently.
Pry slaps his face, hard.
The fuzz in Benson’s head disappears.
“Hey!” Pry yells. “You still have a job to do!”
Benson nods. “Give me a second.”
Pry nods and opens the passenger side rear door of the crashed sedan.
Michael steps out and immediately, his eyes light up and big grin spreads across his face. “Fen!” he shouts.
Fen runs over and jumps on Michael, pinning him to the rear fender of the sedan.
Maria gets out, tears of joy run down her face at the sight of Pry. “You saved us!”
“I got a feelin’ we ain’t done saving anyone yet.” Pry replies. She turns to Benson. “You got a plan?”
Benson joins them, refocused. “Everyone in the sedan. Can you run blocker?”
Pry nods. “That we can do.” she turns away to talk to Dane.
Benson gently grabs her shoulder, stopping her. She turns back. “Thanks.” Benson says, his tone from the penthouse is gone, replaced with humility. “I owe you both.”
Pry slaps him in the shoulder. “No worries. But how bout we save the huggin’ and ass-grabbin’ til after we get to the airport.”
Benson smirks and nods.
“Boss, we got company at our back door.” Dane’s voice comes over Pry’s 2-way.
Pry and Benson look past the flaming heap of wreckage to see another H3 Hummer blocking off the rest of the street. They don’t notice the barrel of the rifle poking out the front passenger’s side window.
Heavy rifle fire echoes down the street. Bullets tear up the driver crouching behind the door, as well as the engine block. Smoke and fluids burst out from the holes in the hood and from underneath.
“Get down!” Pry yells as she shoulders her AK-47 and fires back. Her bullets bite into the front right fender of the Hummer. Inside, people duck for cover.
” We gotta move.” Pry tells Benson. “Get everyone into my car.”
“Front door boss!” Dane’s voice comes through Pry’s 2-way. “Two, blocking the street.”
Pry and Benson turns to see two more H3 Hummers. The first pulls out into intersection from the right, stopping just past the corner of the curb. The second stops a few feet in front of the first.
“Shit.” Benson spits. “Not enough room to get through.”
“Oh I’ll get through.” Pry snarls. “We just have to stay alive.” she turns to Maria, Michael and Fen, yelling, “We’re movin’ to the ‘cuda, now!”
She and Benson cover Maria, Michael and Fen as they make their way to the driver’s side of the Barracuda.
“Dane, keep the front busy. I’ll watch the back.” Pry says to her 2-way.
“Copy.” Dane replies as he opens fire on the two Hummers before the men inside can get into position. He glances over at the other agents, both down on one knee. “You guys waitin’ for an invite? Shoot!” Dane bellows.
The agent near the Barracuda jerks out of his fear and starts firing. The one on the sidewalk follows suit.
Pry stands just in front of the open driver’s door as Benson gets Maria, Michael and Fen inside.
Benson puts one foot in and turns to Pry. “Let’s go!” he shouts.
“Can’t. They’ll just follow. Gimmie the keys.” Pry says.
Benson reaches in and pulls the keys out. When he turns back, Pry is already heading for the back of the Barracuda. He quickly joins her.
“Open the trunk.” Pry orders as she watches the functional Hummer behind them.
Benson opens the trunk. Inside, more AK-47 ammo, along with a lot of other guns and weapons.
“Holy shit.” Benson whispers.
“Nothing holy about it.” Pry comments as she hands Benson her AK-47. “Keep’em busy.”
At the intersection in front of them, from the behind the second Hummer, Mr. Goldman steps out. On his shoulder, a rocket launcher. He aims it at the Barracuda.
“Rocket launcher!” Dane yells, as he slams the passenger door closed.
“Everyone down!” Pry yells as she hauls Benson down.
Dane goes to the front right fender of the Barracuda, and drops to one knee. He leans against the fender, calming himself as he takes aim.
Goldman braces himself to fire.
Dane fires a single shot.
The bullet hits the Hummer’s rear window, shattering it.
Glass flies in Goldman’s face as he fires.
The rocket veers off and hits the crashed sedan. The explosion shatters windows of all the sedans and store fronts. The agent in front of the sedan becomes human paste. The front of the crashed sedan is flung upwards and to the left. It crashes down through another store front. Flames pour out all along the sidewalk.
Dane unloads a whole round on the back of the second Hummer.
Goldman drops the rocket launcher and scrambles for cover.
Dane reloads, aims at the rocket launcher, and fires on it, making it unuseable.
Pry gets up and digs through the trunk of her car.
Benson gets to his feet and spots the Hummer behind them making a move towards them. He fires until empty. “Clip.”
Pry absently grabs a fresh clip from her pants and hands it to Benson, who reloads and continues to fire. The Hummer reluctantly backs up out of his line of fire.
A hail of bullets rains down on Dane, the hood ,and right front fender of the Barracuda. He stumbles backwards, almost falling. But his left hand grabs the door and he keeps his balance. He opens the door and drops down behind it. “Boss, I’m hit.”
Pry stops looking through the trunk. Her eyes grow wide and still. “Bad?”
“Vest took the worst of it.” Dane replies, sounding winded and weak. “But it hurts like hell. We gotta get gone, now.”
“Don’t worry.” Pry replies, sounding quiet and calm. “I’ll get us out.”
“Copy.” Dane acknowledges. He gets to one knee, peering over the door and fires back.
The men from the Hummers in front keep unloading, especially on the Barracuda. The windshield cracks, but doesn’t break. The rest of the car takes serious punishment, but doesn’t yield. Inside, Maria and Michael hold each other. Fen sits between the front seats, acting as a protector if any stray bullets get through.
“You do have a plan to get out of here, right?” Benson asks.
“Yes!” Pry whispers.
“What is it?”
Pry turns around, holding a twelve-shot, revolver-style grenade launcher. She walks past Benson does a quick mental calculation, lifts the weapon and fires four rounds. They arc up, over the wreckage of the first Hummer, landing in a line along where the other Hummer sits. Four explosions rocks the street, followed by another Hummer erupting in flames. Parts of it rain down everywhere.
“Get in the car.” Pry snarls as she walks back past Benson.
She walks past the driver’s side door and fires the rest of the grenades at the two Hummers blocking the front.
The men outside the Hummers scatter. Goldman runs for the corner and dives for cover. The men inside the Hummers aren’t so lucky, or smart. The two Hummers explode in dual fireballs that light up the intersection like day. Both Hummers are lifted into the air by the explosive force, but come down nearly in the same place.
Pry walks back towards the trunk, just as Benson gets in the back with Maria and Michael. Pry puts the grenade launcher in the trunk, closes it and goes to the passenger side. When she sees Dane struggling to get to his feet, she runs to him, helping him to his feet.
“And you said the revolving grenade launcher was excessive.” Dane quips.
“Get in the damn car.” Pry orders.
As he helps Dane in, the last of the men come out of hiding, weapons at the ready. Two walk down the right side of the street. Goldman walks down the left.
Pry slams the door, scrambles around the back of her Barracuda and gets in the driver’s seat. She turns the key, and the engine roars to life. She slams the shifter into reverse.
Benson looks through the rear window. “I don’t think we can get out–” he begins to say.
“We’re not going that way. We’re not done yet.” Pry growls as she stops her car a few feet from the wreckage behind them.
“Is this wise?” Dane asks.
“Nope.” Pry replies. “Maria, Michael, buckle up! Benson, Fen, just hang on.”
Fen whines as he climbs on Maria and Michael’s laps.
Pry rev the engine, the roar over-powers the sound of gunfire from Goldman and the others rifles. The Barracuda sounds like an angry beast. She buckles herself in, as does Dane. Pry slips on a pair of protective glasses. She tears the bottom of her tank top off, pulls out two plates from her bullet-proof vest and wraps the plates over her mouth and nose.
Dane digs up his and Pry’s sub-machine guns, holding one in each hand.
“Ready?” Pry yells, her voice muffled.
“Yep!” Dane replies.”Everyone hang on!”
Pry nods and puts the pedal to the floor.
The tires squeal, spewing smoke as the car launches itself down the street. She shifts into second gear, but holds off shifting into third. The engine screams, begging for third. The Barracuda eats up the road, barreling down on Goldman and his men, who step aside.
Goldman’s men fire their rifles at the Barracuda. The bullets hits the windshield, cracking to the point of breaking. There only remains a small area that Pry can see out of. The rounds bounce off the hood and fenders, while the push-bumper protects the grill.
The men hold their fire, lowering their weapons. They stick to the sides of the street, realizing they aren’t the Barracuda’s target. Goldman laughs, thinking they’ll not get out of their street alive. They’ll either die in the crash, or die at his hands.
Just as the Barracuda is about to pass Goldman and his men, Dane points the two sub-machine guns out the both front side windows, one very close to Pry’s face.
Goldman and his men stop laughing.
Dane fires on them. They twitch and dance, riddled by bullets. Goldman hits the street, blood oozing from his throat and chest.
Muzzle flash and bullet casings fly out close to Pry’s face. She ignores it as best she can, remaining focused on the Hummers.
At the last possible second, Dane drops the sub-machine guns and covers Pry with his body.
Pry shifts into third.
The wheels chirp.
The Barracuda leaps forward, and collides with the flaming remains of both Hummers.
Pry and Dane are flung around within the car.
Maria and Michael jerk forward from the impact. They grip onto Fen, while Benson grips the top of the back seat, trying to hold all of them in place.
The Hummers are pushed aside. The one on their right spins around, slamming into a lamp post. The one on the left is torn apart by the force of the impact.
Pry keeps her foot on the gas. The Barracuda is slowed, but keeps moving and quickly regains its speed.
Pry lets off and slows the car down to a stop.
Dane gets off Pry. He quickly removes her make-shift face protector. They look at each other, breathing heavy from the adrenaline rush and exhaustion.
“You ok?” Dane asks.
Pry nods slowly. She looks down, reaches in behind her bullet-proof vest, and pulls out a still warm bullet casing. “Ouch.” She looks at Dane. “What about you?”
“I’ll live.” Dane replies, with a smile.
Pry looks in the back seat. “Everyone still with us?”
Benson sits back. Maria and Michael are still buckled in.
“I think we’re good.” Benson says. He turns away to talk into his 2-way radio.
Maria nods, giving the thumbs-up.
“That was awesome!” Michael says, looking at Pry with awe.
Fen, still on their laps, looks at Pry, his eyes narrow, half whining and growling.
Dane looks back at the fiery gauntlet they tore through. “I can’t believe that worked.” he glances at Pry. “I owe me a buck.”
Pry smiles wearily. “Lose the windshield.”
Dane shakes his head as he kicks out the cracked windshield.
“How’s the route Benson?” Pry asks.
“Our fire fight has garnered a lot of attention. Local copters contacted our security team at the airport. They’re en route to provide escort. We should be good to go for the airport.”
Pry exhales a long, drawn out breath as she puts the battered and burnt Barracuda in gear and drives off down the street. A few blocks up, they are joined by Feds, with their red and blue flashing. Soon, they are at the airport, surrounded by out-of-state, heavily-armed federal agents, keeping a tight perimeter around them all.
The good-byes are short and sweet. Benson escorts Maria and Michael from the Barracuda to a private jet. Both look back, repeating their unending gratitude with their gestures, smiles and eyes.
Dane waves to them, grimacing slightly, holding the temporary bandage to his wound. Pry just sits on the hood of her beaten-to-hell Barracuda, watching them go. She watches them board the jet, sees them move inside through the small port windows. As the door closes, she sees Michael looking out. But she doesn’t see Michael’s face. She sees a young girl’s face, screaming, tears streaking down her cheeks. She looks away, trembling at the vision and thoughts in her mind.
Benson tells the agents on perimeter to pack it up. They reply by standing down and heading to nearby blacked-out SUVs. He approaches Dane and offers his hand. “I’m sorry. If all irregulars were like you–”
“What? Devilishly handsome?” Dane interrupts.
Benson smiles. “Good.”
Dane nods. “Just try not paint us all with the same brush, Agent Benson.”
“I won’t.”
Dane heads to the trunk of the Barracuda as Benson turns to Pry. He goes to say something when she snaps her head towards him. The tear-filled glare she gives him startles him.
“Protect Michael.” Pry half whispers and half snarls.
“I will.” Benson says, trying to sound confident, but her eyes unnerve him.
Pry gets off the hood of her car and gets up close to Benson. “Michael didn’t ask for any of this. He’s just a kid who loves his Mom. Don’t let him become an orphan!”
“I won’t, I promise–” Benson replies before cutting himself off. He remembers that word, ‘promise’, and what they said when the left the penthouse. He sighs. “I can’t promise. All I can do is my job. And my job is to protect Maria and Michael so she can do what’s right and so they can have a life afterwards.”
Pry’s anger vanishes at his words, replaced with a disappointed sadness. “They’re going to die.”
“No, they won’t!” Benson replies, trying to cover is anger with sincerity.
Pry chuckles at his hollow, government-line bravado. Tears absently spill down her face, which she quickly wipes away. “To you, they’re just part of the job. If this goes well, you’ll get a promotion. Move up that ladder. Get that corner office.”
“Their safety is our highest–” Benson begins to repeat the mantra he learned early on.
“But to Maria and Michael, it’s their life!” Pry yells, cutting Benson off. She points at the lights of the jet as they fade into the night sky. “If you fail, that boy’s life will never be the same. Never!” she tries to hide the cracks in her voice.
“I won’t fail them.” Benson tries to say, but he knows there are no guarantees.
Pry looks at Benson, slowly calming down. She tries to determine if his words are true. But she realizes it doesn’t matter. “If you do. I’ll kill you.” she finally says in a tone devoid of compassion.
Benson looks at Pry, then turns and walks over to a waiting car. He glances over his shoulder before getting into the passenger side.
Pry watches Benson leave. When she turns back, Dane is standing there.
“Andy?” Dane says as he approaches her. He’s never seen her like this, not for a long time, not since they first met.
“Take Fen home.” she says quietly. “His ribs might need–”
Dane grabs Pry by the shoulders. “Andy! Talk to me!”
Pry frees herself and glares at Dane. More tears fill her pleading eyes. “Take Fen home, please. I need some time.”
Dane snarls quietly. He turns and walks back to the Barracuda. He opens the door and pauses. He looks back at Pry. “We love you Andreas. But sometimes, it’s hard to do.”
She watches Dane get in, fire up the Barracuda and tromp on the gas, squealing the tires as he peels out. It is his way of expressing his frustration.
Slowly, Pry walks off towards the distant lights of the Las Vegas airport terminal. When she gets there, she walks past people like a zombie, her mind and emotions far away. When she spots a pay phone, she walks over to it, digs up some change and makes a long distance call. She leans against the wall, the phone receiver to her ear. The sound of the phone rings comes through from far away. She begins to shift back and forth, nervously, unsure if this is wise.
“Hello?” a male voice with an Australian accent answers. “Hello?
“Pen.” Pry whispers, startling herself. Her breath catching in her chest.
“Andy? Is that you?”
Pry sniffles, wiping fresh tears from her cheeks. Her lips tremble. His voice breaks her heart. She returns the phone receiver to its cradle.
“Andy! Please, talk to me! Where are–”
Click.
*****

Pry: Rabbit-Sitting Blues Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

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