Right, this is it. I could have stretched this out into two or three more chapters, but I felt that would be unfair. It doesn’t really divide into them anyway, not the way the other parts have, and I just couldn’t stop until it was done anyway. There was no cutoff where I thought “yeah, that’ll do for this part”.
Well, that’s that done. What should I do now?
Haul felt out of place. The last time he had held a gun he had been in the safe confines of the shooting range, with paramedics on call and a trained instructor backing him up. Now, he was stood outside a known murderer’s house, alone, in the dark.
He had come alone because he was stupid, that was what he had decided. When he left Pyle’s office he had every intention of rounding up all the cops he could find and sieging Fie’s house. Somewhere between Pyle’s door and the car he had changed his mind. The little voice in the back of his head, the will to advance, was telling him to go it alone. If he could bring in a trained assassin all on his own then he would be certain of a promotion.
It was only as he pulled up to Fie’s house that he realised that train of thought hinged entirely on the trained assassin not killing him.
Haul had never shot a real person before. He was good at the targets, for a normal cop anyway, not good enough to make it into the tactical legions. The amount of tactical cops was starting to rival the normal officers, yet they were always busy with shooting organised crime families nowadays. That was why they trained the standard officers on the operation of a firearm. Still, Haul wished they taught them the skills needed to pull the trigger on a living being.
Maybe it wouldn’t matter. Maybe, as the action kicked off, he would pull the trigger automatically and wouldn’t need to make a conscious decision.
Haul didn’t really believe that, but even false hope was preferable to accepting that Fie was going to kill him when he kicked in the door. He could, of course, go back and get some reinforcements, but the little voice would stop him.
He looked at his gun one last time. It was a cheap pistol, nine millimetre, and very worn. Each officer was assigned their own gun, passed down from its last owner upon their (usually gunfire related) death. If you were very lucky you would be given a brand new gun, from the yearly delivery. Haul had not been lucky, and had received his pistol from his previous Inspector when the man insisted on attending a bank robbery.
Whilst he couldn’t remember the last time it had been cleaned, Haul was doing his best not to worry about it. If he didn’t get the chance to try and fire the gun in the first place, what would be the harm if the lack of diligent care caused it to explode?
He stepped up to the door, flicked the safety off his pistol, and prepared to kick the door in. Then a car pulled up behind him.
It was a big car, a four door thing that Haul was pretty sure wasn’t a hybrid. It was dark too, the only way he knew exactly where it sat was by cross-referencing the headlights and the exhaust fumes. There were two people in the car, and something about them told Haul he should hide.
Hiding wasn’t a difficult thing to do, it was incredibly dark in this little village. Haul was pressed for time, however, so he ducked behind a nearby bush. It wasn’t the most original hiding place, but then it was unlikely the two had seen him.
He heard them crunch their way up the path from the road and stop at the door, where he had been stood seconds before. One was a woman, from what he could see, and the other was a man. His view of the woman didn’t really give much away, but he got a decent view of the man.
The guy had thug written all over him. He was tall, stocky and bald, and had the posture of a man who is very used to walking without his suit opening and revealing his gun. Something about him led Haul to believe that the woman had probably hired him for the occasion. The man and the woman were whispering to each other, and while Haul couldn’t make out what they were saying, the body language and hand movements seemed to indicate that they were talking about something strategic.
They were going to storm the house.
Something in Haul’s mind clicked, and the little voice got a bit louder.
‘We can’t be having that, Sergeant!’ the voice said. ‘The man in that house is your prisoner. You planted your flag first, he’s yours. If they kill him, you won’t get your reward! You won’t get to be an Inspector if they get to him first, will you?’
And Haul agreed. Of course he agreed, it was his own mind telling him that, why wouldn’t he?
Haul crept out of his bush and right up behind the two people. He got as close as he dared, raised his gun, and politely whispered for them to freeze.
To say that the thug turned around would be a misstatement of the highest proportions. It would be more accurate to say he rotated with the force and speed of a tectonic plate. A more seasoned officer would have reacted, but Haul stood perfectly still as the thug disarmed him and broke his nose in a single, swift movement. Never having his nose broken before, Haul fell over.
When the stars had cleared he found himself staring into the barrel of his own gun. It was then he started praying that the gun really was too dirty to fire. The thug may have noticed this in Haul’s face, or perhaps the woman with him had muttered something, because he threw Haul’s gun out into the road, reached into his coat, and pulled out his own gun.
Haul got a nice view at it from where he was lying, and to his dismay it was gleaming with cleanliness. It also had a silencer on the end, which was probably the reason for the substitution, maintaining the element of surprise.
‘Hello, little man,’ the thug said, in a remarkably unthugly voice. ‘You seem to be having a spot of bother.’
Haul wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. It wasn’t really a problem, however, as the thug kept on speaking.
‘I’m going to shoot you now, but it’s for your own good. Can’t have you ruining our surprise for the fellow who lives here.’
Haul shut his eyes. He had no delusions that he was a brave man, and the possibility of seeing the bullet, even for a split second, did not appeal to him. There would be no pointless act of defiance from Haul, nor any begging, if he was going to die it would be quiet and dark. How most people should die, he reasoned.
There was a click, and at first Haul thought it came from the thug’s gun. He readied himself for a shot that didn’t come. The extra time afforded to him from the lack of bullet allowed him to reassess the click. It was the wrong sort of click for a gun, it must have been.
Haul risked opening his eyes. The gun wasn’t in his face anymore, the woman had it and was stood behind him. He knew this because she was pointing it over his head and towards the door, and a quick glance along her line of sight showed him that it couldn’t have been the thug holding the gun.
The man holding the thug by the throat was undoubtedly Eldred Fie. He was tall and thin, like his body was constructed entirely of reeds, tied together at key junctures. His clothes were just slightly too big, giving him plenty of real estate to hide the trick of his trade, like the massive knife he was holding in front of the thug’s left eye. All of this was topped off by a face that looked remarkably dead on someone who was clearly alive, grey and a little wrinkled, with colourless eyes.
‘I am trying to relax in here,’ Fie said.
‘Let him go,’ shouted the woman from behind Haul.
‘Why do you care? You’ve just met him.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Because I’m very good at reading people. Now get off my lawn or we’ll be having a confrontation.’
Haul spotted the slight emphasis at the end of the sentence, but he wasn’t sure that the woman did. At first she didn’t react, she just stood there, the gun shaking gently in her hands. Then she spoke.
‘Fine,’ she said, and pulled the trigger twice.
The silencer did a very good job, cutting down the gunshots into a pair of thwip sounds. The reaction was almost instantaneous, an explosion of red burst from the thug’s head, killing him stone dead. The second Haul didn’t see at first, then he heard the gentle tinkling of metal and saw a pendant slide down from Fie’s neck and drop onto the floor.
There was a silence as it lay there, then the woman moved. She leapt over Haul like a greyhound and grabbed the pendant. Fie didn’t move, he merely dropped the dead thug and looked on as the woman stood up with her new prize around her throat.
‘Do you know how long I’ve waited for this, Eldred?’ she screamed. ‘I’ve known from the moment I was born that I was to take this pendant from you. You’ve lived for too long –’
‘I’m 47.’ he replied.
‘Shut up! You’ve been cheating death, I know you have! I’ve seen the lore on this thing, I know what it can do. You’ve been using it to prolong your life, and now, finally, it is mine.’
To Haul, it looked as though Eldred Fie was weighing things up in his mind. His eyes narrowed and his forehead creased for a moment. It was almost as if he was genuinely considering his options. This didn’t fit with what Haul thought he knew about the man, and that scared him.
‘If that’s the case,’ Fie said, ‘could I do this?’
With a swift motion, he hurled the knife at the woman. She had less than a second to react, and managed to completely fail. The knife embedded itself in her face and she fell to the floor limply. Blood started to drizzle from the wound and form a puddle uncomfortably near to Haul. It was more comfortable, however, than Fie’s gaze, which slowly shifted to the prostrate police sergeant.
‘Police are you?’ Fie said calmly. ‘Come to arrest me?’
‘That was the plan, sir.’
‘Do you still want to?’
‘Not really. I’ve already got a broken nose, don’t really want a knife through my face.’
‘Smarter than you look.’
Fie held out a hand and helped Haul back to his feet. He then took him firmly, but painlessly, by the shoulder and led him back out to the road.
‘Who was that woman?’ Haul managed to ask.
‘I don’t know. Never seen her before in my life.’
‘But what about the pendant thing? She seemed pretty taken with it.’
‘I bought that off a market stall in Marrakesh, if it has any magical powers I certainly don’t know them. I’ve survived by being good at what I do, and I find it insulting people would think otherwise. Now I think it’s time for you to leave. Don’t use your car.’
‘I’ve edited the way it handles the petrol. The “internal” part of “internal combustion engine” now includes the driver’s seat. Will take a bit of time to remedy.’
‘You knew I was here?’
‘Of course, I have very good hearing. Hearing that is telling me you will want to drive that woman’s car.’
‘There’s a dying man in the boot. You may just be able to save his life if you’re quick.’
Haul gave Fie one last look. Yes, the man was a hired killer, but Haul realised now that he himself wasn’t as stupid as he thought. He wasn’t going to try and arrest him, he wasn’t going to confront a man who can dodge bullets. Did he dodge it, or did she miss? He didn’t see Fie move, yet the woman was too close to have missed. Either way, it didn’t matter, the little voice was gone.
He tried the car door but it was locked. As he turned to complain, Fie tossed him the blood stained keys from the woman’s pocket.
‘Just drive away, sergeant. I’ll deal with these,’ Fie said, gesturing to the bodies. ‘Nobody will even know you were here.’
And something in Haul believed him. A murderer, yes, but a truthful one. Besides, maybe saving the guy in the boot would be just as good as bringing in a killer. Better, even.
Haul got into the car and started the engine. It roared to life, then settled down into a playful little rumble. He chanced a look back up the pathway to the house. The bodies were already gone.