AL BRUNO III
Thursday November 8th 1996
When it was over Warren was left with a right hand that was nothing more than a mangle of jutting bones and loose gristles of muscle with a pathetic and lonely looking thumb jutting out to the side. Ms. Ginnmett had taken a t-shirt from the dirty laundry and fashioned a tourniquet and bandage for him with a kind of detached tenderness.
“Oh there’s no reason to hold a grudge over things like this.” She opened a beer and handed it to him, “The flesh is so transitory isn’t it? And please call me Helen.”
The conversation would have been surreal enough but the sight of her face- the rubbery-looking burnt skin, the gleaming empty doll eyes that bugged out of an exposed skull that was the color of hospital tile save for the teeth that were perfectly white. Whenever she spoke he heard a tiny whirring sound and a chorus of accompanying clicks.
Mr. Sauno was talking on a cell phone; it was one of the tiny ones that were all the rage now. They reminded Warren of nothing more than Star Trek communicators. Warren wasn’t sure exactly what the man was saying but he guessed it was about tracking Cheryl down.
Oh please let me have gotten her name right. Oh please.
“Don’t you want your beer?” Ms. Ginnmett- Helen- asked.
Warren felt like he wanted to puke but he took a drink anyway, “Are you going to kill me?”
“I hope not.” She said, “You seem nice enough.”
“I don’t think he thinks so.”
“Piers is all business, he has a hard time relaxing.” She absent-mindedly tousled his hair, “Once you get to know him he’s a peach.”
I’ve got to get out of here. Warren cast a glance to the locked door, I don’t know what they are but they’re crazy.
“What do you want with my sister?” he asked.
Helen Ginnmett stood and walked to the hallway, blocking his view of the door, “Your sister wandered into something she never should have and unfortunately there were repercussions. I feel sorry for her in a way. There was a time when I might have done the same thing. ”
Warren knew it was pathetic to beg now, but he had to try- after all didn’t she say she bore him no grudges? “Then let us go. If it was all a mistake let us go.”
“Oh come on.” If she had lips her expression might have been a pitying smile, “We’re all adults here.”
Piers Sauno pocketed his cell phone and stepped causally around Colin’s body. “Well that’s all we can do from here. It looks like she’s on the run with Cheryl McGlade, I’m not sure if Galen’s with them or not. His loyalties have always been vague.”
Helen nodded knowingly, “That breed with turn on you.”
“And now…” Mr. Sauno clapped Warren on the shoulder, “… what to do with you young man.”
Warren trembled, what could those hands do to his throat? He didn’t want to even imagine it. “Helen said you might let me go.”
Mr. Sauno gave her partner a withering gaze, “Helen?”
“What’s the point of having a first name if you’re the only one using it?” Something hissed and clicked loudly when she shrugged, “And I said we’d let him live, not let him go. You’re the cruel one.”
“Be that as it may.” He turned his attention back to Warren, “Allowing you to live is something I can do. In fact you will find the life we give you to be infinitely preferable to the slapdash one you have now.”
“Slapdash…” Helen tried to roll her eyes but only one managed the trick.
Warren’s head was swimming, “What do you mean?”
A slender needle slipped from the flesh of Mr. Sauno’s pinky, “I’m not as cruel as some might say. There will be no pain.”
“What are you gonna do?” Warren tried to pull away but Mr. Sauno had hold of his arm.
There was a knock at the door, Helen asked, “Were you expecting company?”
“Maybe the police?” Warren prayed it was the police, maybe thirty or forty of them in full SWAT gear.
Mr. Sauno shook his head, “No one would send emergency services where we’re working.”
The knock came again and now a voice called, “Warren! Are you ok?”
Warren started to speak but he was silenced with a glare. Helen opened the door and dragged Isobel inside, “Where are your friends?”
“I came alone.” Isobel flinched away from her touch.
The needle slipped back into Mr. Sauno’s finger, “No you didn’t.”
A wooden deck chair crashed through the glass patio doors. Galen came charging in after it, Cheryl’s automatic in one hand. Warren tried to dive for cover only to have Mr. Sauno haul him back up and use him for a shield. Helen did the same with Isobel.
“This was your plan??” Helen was incredulous, “Oh Galen.”
Galen took the gun and put it to his head, “Let them go.”
“Or what? We’re next?”
Mr. Sauno shushed her. “If I understand this correctly we do what you want or you blow all that precious information in your skull all across the room.”
Galen nodded. Everyone stood there for a few moments, Mr. Sauno and Ms. Ginnmett staring at their quarry, Isobel and her brother breathing shallowly. Warren wanted to scream insults at his sister. How could she have gotten him into this? And didn’t she know that bullets couldn’t stop these people?
“I don’t believe you.” With his free hand Mr. Sauno brandished one of the fallen detective’s weapons, “Your sense of self-preservation is too strong.”
“Oh look.” Ms. Ginnmett said. “He’s sweating.”
Galen said again, “I’ll do it.”
The front door swung open again and Cheryl fired the revolver. She was afraid of hitting her friend and wasn’t used to the weight or recoil so the shot went wide of the mark but it was just enough of a distraction. Galen took the gun from his head and fired. Mr. Sauno blundered back, orange fluid spilling from his shoulder. Warren tried to pull away but Mr. Sauno’s grip only grew tighter.
Ms. Ginnmett turned towards Cheryl keeping Isobel in front of her body. Her voice rang with annoyance, “All this, over one Vlodek.”
“Stop right there.” Cheryl said.
Galen reached Mr. Sauno just as he was righting himself and shot him in the face. Mr. Sauno started twitching and Warren started screaming.
Ms. Ginnmett drew a stolen gun of her own and fired, Isobel shouted and tried to knock her off balance but it was like fighting with an iron post. The pistol flashed and Cheryl pitched backwards, an arc of blood trailing after her.
And then Galen was on Ms. Ginnmett wrenching her gun arm out of true and emptying the rest of the automatic into her back. Isobel ran for her friend, trying to lift her still form up, getting blood everywhere.
Mr. Sauno was still, Warren got to his feet. He was shaking all over. The red haired man turned to him shouting, “Go. Get out!”
But Warren was too busy staring at what was left of Mr. Sauno’s head- it was like Helen’s, looking like more like a puppet made from stolen prosthetics and chemicals than some kind of science fiction robot.
What is it? He asked himself again.
Warren could hear his sister screaming, trying to drag her best friend’s limp form back out the door.
“Come on!” Galen’s voice was becoming shrill.
There was a sound like a dozen knives being scraped against each other. Warren saw Mr. Sauno’s chest begin to bloom, expanding outwards. The fabric of his shirt was starting to tear, buttons popped one by one.
And that was enough for Warren, he was on his feet and out the door, pausing long enough to help Galen bundle his sister outside and into the Volvo. The entire neighborhood was peering out their windows but no one came outside to help. Galen got behind the wheel and waited just long enough for Warren to close the door before he sped away.