The Wrong Girl
If Taylor hadn’t already had his hand against the wall, leaning in so Kara could slip the gun in his pocket, he would have fallen over as the ground buckled under his feet. Several people in the audience did fall as glasses from the buffet table crashed to the ground, and a statue toppled over. A massive boom drowned out the shocked yells of the crowded ballroom as even those not knocked down screamed and shouted.
Taylor didn’t hesitate, moving before the world settled from the massive explosion that must have happened outside.
“Stay right behind me,” he said to Kara as he started to move toward the guard by the door, who’d gone down on one knee to keep from falling to the ground completely.
His hand was still gripped around the small, round object in his pocket, which he now withdrew, pulling the pin, and holding the ‘spoon’ in place with his left hand. As he neared the guard by the door, Taylor pulled out the gun in his other pocket, barely slowing as he aimed it at the man who was only now rising, not having regained his wits from the explosion to realize danger was a whole lot closer. Taylor’s gun exploded less than a foot from the man’s head, sending his body collapsing in a heap in front of the door.
Taylor normally didn’t condone shooting someone who wasn’t directly threatening him, but he needed to get out of the ballroom as fast as possible while everyone was still distracted. Also, considering this man had to know what he was actually guarding, Taylor was pretty sure he wouldn’t have any bad dreams about this man’s death.
The gunshot came so close on the sound of the explosion it was unlikely very many people realized it had happened, although some had probably just happened to be looking in their direction. Taylor wanted to make sure they didn’t try to chase after him, and thanks to Kara, he had the perfect roadblock.
Taylor moved his thumb, allowing the piece of metal holding the grenade ‘safe’ to pop off, then tossed the small metal globe into the mass of people still gathered for Malik’s presentation. It bounced once and rolled in between feet, a few shouts were raised as their owners realized what had just happened.
Taylor didn’t see the results. He was pulling Kara through the door, shutting it, and getting a few steps along the hallway they found themselves in when a ‘whump’ sound could be heard from the other side of the door. There was one door on the left wall, which, if Taylor’s sense of direction was right, led back into the large foyer, and another at the end of the hall, which Taylor continued to.
A man stepped through that door as they got close, and looked shocked as the first bullet caught him in the chest, his arms never lifting the assault rifle cradled in them. Taylor slowed as he got to the door. Pocketing his pistol, he grabbed the dead man’s rifle, checking the clip, and making sure it was set to fire. Thankfully this guard at least had enough sense to carry his weapon ready for action, although Taylor couldn’t help but give a mental head shake when he moved the selector switch from full auto to single fire. He didn’t know what it was with criminals and their love of going through ammo so fast, but these guys always seemed to go for full auto.
Taylor turned at sounds coming from the door they’d entered the hallway from and saw two men come in through the door, both with guns at the ready. Taylor had the gun already to his shoulder, and only had to lift the barrel of the weapon to bear on his target. Almost as soon as he saw the men, the stock of the AK-47 thumped into his shoulder three times as he sent a controlled burst their way. They were quick, however, and a bullet punched into the wall next to Taylor even as the first man fell, slamming into the door jamb. Taylor’s third bullet missed the second man, who prudently retreated back through the door and out of sight.
Taylor knew that wasn’t going to be the last he saw of them, however.
“We need to move fast. Where would the kid have taken Mary Jane?”
“To his room, this way.”
She turned and dashed through the door, into an open room with couches and a TV. Taylor had to run to keep up with Kara, who would have been running flat out if it weren’t for the need to dodge furniture. She circled one of the couches and headed to another door which opened to another hallway, this one with a wall of glass on the right side, looking out onto a pool covered with a black tarp for the winter. Two men were dashing through a small gate on the other side of the pool.
“Run,” Taylor said to Kara as the men saw them.
She accelerated along the hall, Taylor sidestepping as quickly as he could behind her as he methodically pulled the trigger, shattering the glass panes outward. One of the two men got caught high in the chest and fell back through the gate, but the other tried to jig to the left, and a bullet found him in the thigh, causing him to tumble into the pool. The guard wasn’t dead, but as he thrashed to get out, the black sheeting covering the pool, pulled more and more around the man. It slowly encased tighter around him, dragging him through the thin layer of ice and into the pool. When Taylor made it to the end of the hall, where Kara had stopped, pushed against the outside frame of the door, the guard had stopped thrashing completely.
“His room is through here,” Kara said, pointing at the closed door.
“Stay behind me and keep an eye on that door and the pool area. If you see anyone, yell out and push yourself as flat on the floor as you can,” Taylor said, pushing her to one side of the wall, away from both the row of windows and doorway in front of them.
He didn’t wait to see her response, knowing whoever was on the other side of the door had already been alerted to their presence on the other side. For the moment, surprise and momentum was on his side, and probably the only thing that had kept him alive so far and Taylor didn’t want to give that up. Lifting a foot, he kicked hard, cracking the door frame, and exploding the door into the room. Instead of immediately following through the door, Taylor pulled back, out of the doorway, almost smashing Kara into the wall.
That had been a good move, as gunshots rang out, with impacts along the floor down the hallway suggesting that Taylor would have been much worse for wear had he stayed put after kicking the door in. Taylor waited a beat and leaned in quickly, taking a peek inside the room, and pulled back quickly as more bullets ripped passed him. The room was a mess. One corner of the room had been ripped out, with bricks and debris littering the room. Taylor had seen outside that hole to the smoking ruin of one section of the compound.
The place where the fuel tanks and guard house had been located was now just a smoking black smudge and pitted concrete from the foundation. Part of the wall and the tower on that side of the wall had also been obliterated. The guard house was far enough from this corner of the main building that, if he had to guess, Taylor thought it was likely flying debris had caused the damage and opened the hole, rather than the explosion itself.
Taylor had, however, only allowed a small fraction of his attention to take in the damage from the explosion, the three people in the room being much more important at the moment. On the bed was a frazzled looking teenager holding onto the arms of a terrified looking Mary Jane, who was struggling against his grip.
To one side of the room, almost diagonal from where Taylor stood, was a guard, gun drawn and the source of the bullets still splintering the wall and door frame. The guard’s position wasn’t like Taylor’s, out of the doorway, ready to react to danger, which would have been OK if he hadn’t been assigned to protecting the kid. Unfortunately for him, he was supposed to be protecting the kid, and where he chose to take a stand, put him away from the one place in the room where Taylor would have actively avoided shooting. Taylor took advantage of that mistake.
He still had a two-thirds full magazine, and while he normally would opt for direct, target fire, this was one of those circumstances when blind ‘spray-and-prey’ was the preferred option. Taylor held the gun out away from his body in the direction of the guard and began pulling the trigger. The odds of hitting anything specific were low of course, this type of fire not being at all accurate, but the corner of the room the guard was in wasn’t very large, and Taylor let enough bullets fly to make his odds of hitting at least reasonable. Taylor let ten bullets fly and paused, being rewarded by a loud thud as the man’s body hit the ground. A quick glance in the room confirmed the guard was down, along with a bunch of bullet holes scattered across the wall the guard had been standing in front of.
Taylor reached over and pulled Kara into the room, keeping his rifle on the kid on the bed, whose eyes had started darting around the room.
“Don’t,” Taylor said, as the kid’s eyes fell on the guard’s dropped pistol.
Ignoring Taylor’s warning, he made a lunge for the weapon. Taylor’s finger began to squeeze the trigger then stopped. This was the son of a kidnapper and arch-pimp, and he’d planned on raping Mary Jane, but he was still just a teenager, and Taylor couldn’t bring himself to gun the kid down.
“Shit,” Taylor said and stepped forward.
As the kid’s hand closed around the pistol, Taylor brought the butt of his rifle crashing on his head. He tried to pull the hit and hoped it hadn’t been fatal as the boy’s body went limp, but it was the best he could have done. He wasn’t going to let the kid get his hands on a pistol, and he had a better chance with a cracked skull than a bullet.
Turning, he saw Mary Jane glancing at Kara then over at Taylor, her face masked with fear, apprehension, and confusion.
“Your mother sent me,” Taylor said in English, going to stand next to the large gap in the corner, looking out. “I’m here to bring you home.”
“Rea—” she started to say, her expression becoming hopeful when Kara’s voice cut in.
Taylor turned, rifle lifting, looking along the hallway, to see two more men coming toward him from the door at the other end. As soon as his brain recognized the threat, his finger was already pressing on the trigger, sending four shots toward them, crumpling both men.
No sooner had they fallen than Mary Jane screamed, the sound of bullets smacking into the outside wall and whipping through the room cutting through her terror. Taylor turned again, seeing her crouched on the floor, hands over her head. As Taylor moved to the open space on the wall, he also noticed Kara still standing tall, by the door to the hallway, peering out.
Four men were coming toward the corner of the building, flame leaping from the ends of their rifles as they took shots at the corner of the building. They had probably gotten word that the intruder had headed this way, same as the two men coming along the hallway. It seemed a ballsy move shooting blindly at the room where the boss’ son had last been seen, but guys paid to guard scumbags weren’t known for quick reasoning and discretion.
Taylor was well protected by the stone wall, and took his time, picking off each man with a shot each, aware of how much he needed to husband his ammunition. Even as he was shooting the last of the four men, his eyes were scanning the courtyard in front of the house, or at least the parts he could see, for an escape plan. Thankfully, one was readily apparent. The car they’d borrowed from Timor sat in front of the house still, and its keys were still in Taylor’s pocket.
“Hallway!” Kara yelled out again, pulling Taylor out of his head.
“Get her up, and get ready to make a break for it,” Taylor said as he passed Kara.
As he got into position by the door, ready to address the new threat, the first bullet found him. Taylor was just bracing the weapon, leaning out into the doorway, when a bullet ripped through his side, staggering him back as pain seared up.
A small part of his brain told him the shot was low and far to one side, not far above his hip, which meant damage to the intestines, and not the kidneys or lungs. The mental triage told him it wasn’t immediately life threatening, which was good because a second man appeared in the hallway behind the one who shot him.
Taylor pushed the pain down and focused, as he’d been trained to do, maintaining a methodical pull on the trigger, dropping each man in turn. He was just starting to turn back and collect the girls, with a grunt of pain forcing its way through his lips when a gunshot rang out behind him.
Taylor whipped around. More fiery pain from the bullet wound warned him that quick movements were a bad idea. He was pulling up the rifle when he paused.
Kara stood above Mary Jane, the fallen weapon Malik’s son had been going for in her hand, barrel smoking, the body of another guard, collapsed through the hole in the wall.
Taylor shook off the momentary surprise and said, “Stay behind me.”
As he got to the hole in the wall, another man stepped through, inches from Taylor. He was carrying his weapon across his chest, not expecting to see another man follow through the hole after seeing a body drop moments before. Taylor rammed the barrel into the man’s arm, pushing it up just as it fired, a bullet punching a hole in the ceiling, and followed through with a swing from the wooden butt of the rifle, slamming it into the man’s jaw. Blood and teeth sprayed across the wall as he fell back out of the gap.
Taylor followed him through, rifle at the ready this time, just in time to see another man coming to the breach. Taylor didn’t hesitate, putting two bullets into the man as he slid down the ramp of rubble that had once been the wall.
A head poked out from the front entryway, and Taylor put three more shots in that direction. The angle was such it seemed unlikely he actually hit anyone, but his main goal was to keep their heads down.
Taylor continued running forward, twisting to put two more bullets toward the front gate, trying to push back the guards who were coming from that direction, when the slide of the rifle locked back. Taylor dropped the rifle and pulled his pistol, turning in jog step to put two more bullets into the front door.
Taylor reached the car and heard two more pops behind him. Turning he found Mary Jane almost to him with Kara a few steps behind, firing the recovered gun roughly in the direction of the front gate. He had a moment of puritanical worry at a teenager with no training, firing a weapon. He shut it down knowing that if it had been him, he would have one hundred percent wanted a gun in his hands, regardless of training.
“Get in,” Taylor shouted to the girls, as he put more rounds into the front door.
Mary Jane jerked the rear door open and slid in, followed by Kara after she had taken another two shots at the men by the front gate. It was anyone’s guess if she was actually coming close to anyone, but it was causing the men to duck back, which is all Taylor was doing at this moment.
Just as he opened the driver’s side door, the man who’d been at the front door tried to make a run for it, to get to closer cover. Taylor dropped him with another two, more accurate, shots. This weapon also clicked dry, and Taylor tossed it on the passenger seat as he slid in and started the car, throwing it into reverse.
Tires squealed as Taylor whipped the car around in a tight arc, just missing the rear bumper of the car that had been parked next to them. The back window shattered as a bullet tore through, smacking into the passenger side headrest.
“Down!” Taylor yelled at the girls, seeing two more men coming out of the house, firing at the car even as Taylor threw it into drive.
More squealing could be heard from the tires as Taylor mashed the gas, urging the Mercedes forward as the sound of bullets impacting against metal could be heard. Smoke poured from the tires as rubber burned, the car leaping forward, engine roaring.