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Miles Away

Pt. 1

“Get dressed, get armed, we’re leaving.” The man with the heavy Londoner accent said as he barged into the quaint little flat, his light brown eyes focusing on everything in the room like a microscope gazing at a specimen.

The woman he addressed wheeled around to sit in a Barca-Lounger resting in the corner; she was nude save for a hot pink, silk robe that slunk off one of her burnt sienna-skinned shoulders suggestively. She shot him a look of disdainful contempt from those granite grey eyes, her naturally pouting lips curled into a displeased frown.

Bluntly, she asked, “Just what the hell are you doing here, Ellis? I thought I made you give my spare key back.”

“The funny thing about keys is that you can make copies, hen.” he replied, dropping the duffel bag clutched in his iron grip onto the handsome Persian rug; he folded his arms over his chest, shifting his weight from one foot to another.

“Oh that is just sad, even for you.” she pursed her lips in disapproval, she shifted in her seat causing her robe to slide down a bit further; she made no attempt to cover up, however.

“Believe me, I made it long before you decided to blind-side me with your little... incident, let’s call it!”

“And you just happened to still have it after our bitter parting of ways. Convenient, real convenient don’t you think?” she blinked at him, not buying what he was selling, “You never were a very convincing liar.”

“Look, I didn’t come here to play tit-for-tat with you. Though clearly,” he pointed to her peeking nipple, “you do.”

She scoffed, “Grow up. You act like you’ve never seen a boob before.” She rolled her eyes, finally hiking her robe back onto her shoulder, pulled her lapels closed, and locked it closed with a quick tug of the matching rose gold sash around her slender waist.

“I’m not used to you flaunting them about, is all.” But his boyish prodding quickly dissolved when he became outwardly nervous, he shuffled towards the window, peering through the half-parted sheer red curtains.

“Though if you’re down for giving a show...” he added with his usual lechery oozing from his thick Londoner accent.

“I’ll tell you what I told you in Kosovo, five years ago: never again.” she said grimacing while padding barefoot out of the living room, presumably to put something on to wear.

(Hopefully he’ll shut his perverted mouth about me... then again, this is Devin we’re talking about, she thought as she rounded the corner to her bedroom.)

“Make sure you put something sexy on. Having some eye candy for the road is always a plus.” Ellis called after her; he began pacing about the living room anxiously.

Her disembodied voice traveled down the hall to him, “Fuck you.”

“When and where, sweetheart?” Ellis retorted, smiling as he picked up a picture of — le gasp! — them together; both of them were smiling, thoroughly tanned while standing on the beach of Natal in Brazil.

“Ha! Never and nowhere, you’ve got a less than a snowball’s chance in Hell.” she called out again, the sound of shoes thumping against hardwood could be heard.

“My mistake, I forgot I was talking to Her Highness Amala, the Queen of Biscuit Bumping. Apologies, Your Rug Munching Majesty, I won’t forget again.”

A soft double click of something being closed permeated the air.

“Just because I won’t take you back, doesn’t automatically make me a lesbian, Devvy-dearest.”

His lascivious smile dropped, replaced with a scowl; he had always hated that little pet name. She know just what to say to get under my skin. Gotta deal with it the only way I know how: ignore it, he told himself.

“Word on the streets say otherwise.” Ellis said, suddenly engrossed in inspecting his fingernails just as her footsteps dogged the halls.

As he looked up, she stood there with a weapon’s case in one hand, the other hand was placed firmly on her hip. Ellis’ gracious host and former partner-in-crime was clad head-to-toe in black: a black turtleneck fit snugly over her appetizing curves, it blended nicely with the tactical kneepads strapped over her Nike yoga pants and matching high-top cross-trainers.

“Well don’t you look the part.” Ellis said still looking her over in a way which could be vaguely be described as admiringly.

She scoffed audibly, accompanied by a liberal amount of eye-rolling before she crossed the room and headed for the front door. Ellis watched her, then called out, “Oy! Where do you think you’re doing?”

Her brand new Nikes made an abrupt squeaky skid against the exposed hardwood flooring, before she backpedaled a bit, then turned to him.

“Leaving? I thought that was the whole idea of you rushing me out of my flat with no bloody explanation except that ‘it’s important’.” She switched the briefcase from one hand to another, glaring past those thick eyelashes of her with those intense iron ore eyes.

“I know you and I haven’t worked together in a dog’s age, Amy, but did you forget how we do things?” Ellis folded his arms over his barrel chest, grimacing at her ravishingly deadly form.

She sighed, and gently placed the weapons case down, flexing her hand before placing her hands on her hips.

“I really don’t need a refresher course right now.” Amala countered, hoping to hurry them along.

“Rule #2: Never use the front door unless it can’t be helped.” Ellis reminded her anyway, eyes closed as if he were reciting a particularly tricky word in a spelling bee.

“Ya know I was under the impression you were in a bit of a hurry. We DON’T have time for this right now, Dev.” she snatched her case up, then added, “and for the record, I remember every last one of your bloody rules. How could I forget? You bashed them over my head every job we went on together!”

She began to sound irritated now, but that didn’t deter Ellis one bit.

“Only because you seemed to need reminding for every job.”

“Whatever you say, Devvy-dear. The only difference is now we aren’t ON a job, are we?” the beautiful Jill-of-All-Trades stated.

“Wrong-o!” Ellis said curtly.

She narrowed his eyes, closing the distance between them before he could even react, his long elegant finger, tipped in a ruby red nail jabbed into his chest.

“That’s funny because last I checked, I didn’t sign up for shit Devon. You burst into my apartment, looking all kinds of wild-eyed, telling me to get dressed. All the while you’ve left out WHY that is,” her smoldering mercurial gaze was hot enough to scald the flesh from his bones, “So tell me what the hell you roped me into, or you can kindly fuck right off.”

Ellis exhaled, taking her smaller hand into his much beefier ones; his light brown eyes no longer held that boyish glibness, that indecent gleam too had been abandoned.

“This isn’t the kind of job you sign up for, love. No, this is the kind of job that shows up at your doorstep, kicks down your door and uses your umbrella stand like a loo. I don’t know who it is or what we did, but somehow we royally pissed someone off.”

“So what are we talking here? Blackmail? Someone’s come to break our kneecaps?” Amala asked, her voice shifted from annoyance to concern at the drop of a hat.

“Ha!” Ellis let her hands drop, and let out a dry, humorless chuckle, “If only it ended at some form of mild maiming or extortion.”

“Then what? Spit it out, Dev for fuck’s sake!” Amala said, she backed away all wide-eyed.

“The simplest way I can put it is: the job is to survive, at all costs.” The old Jack-of-All-Trades explained flat out.

“...Survive?” Amala was still confused, her eyes narrowed suspiciously, “What exactly-”

“As I said, I don’t know who’s shit list we’re on, but I got a ransom note type deal thrown through my damned window.” He dug into his back pocket and fished out a sloppily folded piece of Xerox paper and unfolded it.

It read:

Amala Kashvi & Ellis, your interference in our organization has gone on for too long. At midday, on Sept. 9, 2015 we will personally hunt you merc scum down like the imperialist dogs that you are and rid this world, once and for all, of your meddling.

Consider this your only warning.

The itch of nicotine crawled from his fingertips, thrashing through his veins to make its chaotic way to his temples to apply hammer-to-chisel thrum beats of pain there.

“Wonderful. So what’s next? We have to trudge through a jungle with a bunch of rich arseholes hunting us like it’s some children’s book?” Amala threw her hands up in the air, frustrated now. “Why is it that I’m always getting the shite end of the stick whenever you’re involved with something?!”

“Excuse me? You make it sound like this is all my fault! Don’t forget I’m just as fucked as you are.” He retorted with disbelief.

“Pfft, yeah in this particular incidence, sure, I’ll give you that. But what about all dozens of other times we were in the thick of it, huh?” she shook her said, “Granted, being hunted by some shadow enemy is new for us, but doesn’t quite crack the top five worse jobs we’ve walked away from.”

“Like? I’d love to hear one specific time.”

“Off the top of my head, only one job even needs mentioning: Amsterdam, 2007.” she rattled it off without very little need to recollect.

Ellis looked down at the floor, lacing his hands behind his head, immediately bluffing for a specific example.

“Here we go...”

“Oh! You asked for a time, so what better example could I possibly give, Dev, than the job where I was posing as… a prostitute.”

AMSTERDAM, eight years prior…

The Red Light District was alive with a sea of flesh undulating behind glass displays, a whole catalog of lust beckoning for the men and women who skulked the streets to indulge in their darkest primal desires. There, tucked away in a darkened alleyway, stood a certain scraggly-faced Briton, in front of a shifty looking brown, windowless van putting the finishing touches on a matte black battering ram fixed on it’s hood.

Her sultry voiced crackled over his earpiece in a seductive breath,

“How’s that ‘doorbell’ coming along?”

“Just about finished, actually. Any visual on our mark yet?” he gripped the ram and tugged on it and finding it sufficiently secured to his satisfaction.

The thrumming music playing made it difficult for her to hear him, the DJ sat at an EDM throne playing to her devoted masses the bass-filled distractions that resonated hard enough to feel in one’s ribcage and make the hair on one’s head stand on end. Ordinarily, the room was a common, antiseptic white top-to-bottom, nothing special; but as the day faded to night and the regular folks went to bed, this vanilla room came alive with psychedelic videos splashed across them from overhead projector bolted to the ceilings. From inside a plastic cube peppered with holes, Amala circled it’s perimeter shaking and swaying with the rhythm of the music, letting it seemingly take her eye, all the while keeping a close eye on her surroundings and for her target.

“Not yet. I wish he’d hurry and show already. Gettin’ real tired of this damned box already.” she pressed her hands against the transparent confinement and began shaking her toned bum provocatively, catching the eye of many an onlooker.

She was dressed from neck to ankles in a shiny gold latex suit that seemed to accentuate her rich cinnamon skin, she abandoned her platform heels long ago; her outfit clung to her in all the right places and she knew it.

“Just keep thinking about that big, fat payday waiting for you after all this over, Amy. We can close up shop for a while and take an extended vacation. Whatcha think about that?” Ellis said, taking a loud gulp of his lukewarm tea.

“I thinking of heading somewhere with white sands and a tropical climate,” she responded whirling around, whipping her thick chocolate tresses around, her gaze stopped at a dark-skinned gentleman just a few feet from her enclosure whom was transfixed with her movements; she couldn’t help but beam at him. “Gonna get some air now, do a walk-about and see if maybe our tango slipped by me somehow.”

“Alright, gonna go dark until you get a visual confirmation. Remember to stay in cover at all costs and only break radio silence when you need extraction. I’ll be waiting.” The radio crackled then silence followed.

“Fine by me.” She unlatched the top of one of the walls, opening the clear cage, stooping low to hook her heels between a crooked finger then stepped out; the room’s floor was much colder than the plastic one she spent the last few hours in, it shocked her slightly, making her skin rise into waves of goosebumps under the tight latex get-up.

The aforementioned dusky skinned gentleman approached her, eyeing her up.

“Where’d a beautiful bird like yourself learn moves like that?” He asked, his words thick with an accent Amala recognized as a Scouse accent, from Liverpool.

She reached out and put her hand on his chest, letting her fingertips trail down his bare, muscular chest, trickling down his onyx skin to just above his belly button.

“I dabbled in dances classes, some classic, others exotic.” Amala kept that alluring but mysterious facade in place, she put her usual native British accent away, leaning heavily on what her parent’s tongue sounded like: Bengali.

“Could you... show me some more of your moves?” his eyes lit up like glimmering obsidian stones, dark with carnal motives.

She rounded him, her hand gliding against his skin as she did and twirled so her so he faced her back; she dropped low and rose up slowly, grinding her sumptuous contours against him. Yet even as she felt his prodding distraction against her latex-clad butt, she kept focus on why she was there, her eyes scanned her surroundings. She could feel his hand grasp her hips, pulling her closer to him (perhaps so she could really feel how much he enjoyed her dance moves); she went with it reaching back to stroke his face with her rouge red lips to pant as the two danced amid the tide of anonymous ravers, swept up in the rhythm of hypnotic music.

How the fuck am I supposed to-hello! What have we here? Just as she began to wonder where her target might be, a suspicious fellow hugged the walls at the far end, stopping before a velvet-roped off room to talk to a rather stoutly built German man oddly wearing sunglasses indoors. The undercover mercenary watched as the man in sunglasses bowed his head to look at a clipboard, before unhooking the velvet-rope and letting her target into the VIP room with a wave of his hand. Shit, gotta keep him an eye on him. How do I get past the bouncer, though…

The gears in her head turned, and it wasn’t until he felt her dance partner’s hand cup one of her breasts that she got an idea. Her fist gripped a handful of his dread-lock ponytail and she brought his face closer to her lips.

“That kind of contact is gonna require us to find some place a little more private.”

“I have a flat not far from here.” He suggested, but she shook her head at that.

“Still on the clock, sweetie.” she tapped her wrist, miming for an imaginary watch, “But...why don’t we find some place dark and secluded here.”

“Whatever you want, I’m game,” he said spinning her back around to face him expertly in sync with the song, not losing a beat as he danced more aggressively against her. “Lead on.”

And with that, she took his hand and began shepherding him through the dancing mass of people, cutting through until they were at the exclusive lounge where her mark was last seen. The bouncer didn’t look up from his clipboard, either because he had gone deaf from the perpetually pumping bass drowning out everything or if he was just actively ignoring their sweaty silhouettes.

“Excuse me...” she tapped the clipboard with one of her gold-plated pointer finger, making him look up and lift his quintessentially 80s Ray Bans onto his forehead to get a better look at her; she flashed that irresistible smile of hers, “This gentleman and I would like to see some of the finer things this club has to offer. Would you mind?”

She motioned to the velvet barrier, standing between her and a six-figure payday; the bouncer, however, wasn’t buying it.

“VIP only, and your name is not on list.” He held up the clipboard and pointed to a short list of people. Her target’s name was on that list, clear as day: Josef Betrüger

(Hm, looks like I won’t need any eye exams any time soon. Now, two problems to solve: how do I get past this meathead and when I do, how do I get in contact with Ellis without drawing attention to myself. C’mon, think Amala, you can do this…)

“Of course I’m not on the list, why would I be? I work here, silly. I’m a...cube entertainer.” she stroked his arm flirtatiously, he cocked an eyebrow at her.

“That is funny, I have worked here since this club first opened, and YOUR face is not familiar to me.” he stood there like a stone-faced sentinel, not budging an inch.

But she would not be deterred.

“Well you wouldn’t, this is my first night and let me tell you, I aim to make my mark.” she tilted her head cutely, taking hold of the zipper in the front of her catsuit and pulled it down so her bosom practically spilled out. “By any means necessary.”

Her companion at her back finally spoke up.

“Whoa, hey I thought this dance was a one-on-one kind of thing. You never mentioned anything about multiple dance partners.”

Amala turned to present her ample bosom to him, his eyes immediately fell to them, becoming enraptured at the sight of them.

“I was always under the impression you European men weren’t afraid to share.” she backed away from him, turned to look at the bouncer, “Maybe I was mistaken, guess I should look elsewhere, then.”

She knew she had them when the stocky, walking clipboard clapped a hand on her shoulder and her dusky dance partner protested outwardly.

“Hold on...mama always did teach me it was polite to share.”

She took her dreaded toy’s hand, looked at the man behind the velvet rope and he unhooked it and let them pass through, replacing the barrier before leading them into the coveted lounge. The dark was only permeated by a glaring naked red lightbulb in the middle of the hall; the hall forked off two ways: straight ahead and to the right. The bouncer led them straight on through to a room lined with plush sofas large enough to seat several people, the walls were decorated with fancy sconces that held modern indigo lighting; the music seemed to be a distant memory as the door close behind them, no doubt the walls were soundproofed. Two men, much shorter than average conversed in a language she wasn’t familiar with; one told a joke and they both broke out in uproariously laughter. This place is just roomy enough to house a small orgy. I gotta figure out a way to ditch these guys and see what’s down that other hall. More than likely my target has to be there, she soliloquized, noting the glass top coffee table had a metal champagne bucket with a bottle of champagne in it and four glasses next to it. Beside that was a circle mirror and a respectable heap of white powder on it with a credit card already sullied with little white flakes. So it’s gonna be THAT kinda party, she prepared herself as she sat at the edge of the sofa and crossed her legs, Bouncer and Dreadlocks sat at both sides of her. The dwarves stopped and noticed they weren’t alone any longer, then realized their company was more interesting than their clandestine conversation.

One spoke up; he had, what Amala realized were, tribal Samoan tattoos splashed artfully across his face shaped like a superhero mask.

“Niek, you never said you’d be bringing us entertainment... especially entertainment so exotic-looking.”

The bouncer Niek looked to Amala, then to them.

“Ahh this one has asked to prove herself. So I thought since she is all about ‘making a name for herself’, she should start off with her ability to, well, multi-task.”

The other dwarf, rocking a fedora and a Mr. T’s worth of gold chains around his neck, looked to his tattooed friend blankly, waiting for an explanation. He spoke what she now assumed was Samoan to him, and his eyes lit up with glee; Mini Mr. T stood onto the sofa and began rubbing his hands together nefariously, licking his lips as he looked towards the undercover Jill’s way.

(Lord Shiva, what did I get myself into?)

Ellis sat in the driver’s side seat with the seat reclined, the radio blasting an uninterrupted block Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, eyes closed and bored out of his skull. What the bloody hell is taking her so long damn long? He popped one eye open and checked the radio’s clock display and saw that an hour and twenty minutes had passed since he cut communication with her. I swear If she’s taking her sweet time, sipping champagne while she’s on the clock, I’m docking her for some of her cut. This was supposed to be an in-and-out type deal, for fuck’s sake, the Old Jack brooded, his foot tapped against the worn out floor mat impatiently. His hand found the lever by the driver’s seat and torqued it upward to make his seat rest to an upright position so he could nab the walkie talkie cast carelessly on the dashboard. He held it to his face but didn’t hold the talk button, hesitating in case she were in a compromising position.

“I’ll give her another fifteen minutes... after that, I don’t care if she’s chatting with the Duke of bloody Cambridge, she’s gonna get a tongue la-”

The van swayed as if a car passed by but he looked out his window and only darkness greeted him. Ellis narrowed his eyes with warranted suspicion, slowly moving to his hip where he drew his TC-10 pistol from it’s black nylon holster and unsnapped the pouch next to it to and retrieved the suppressor to attach to the barrel. His hand took hold of the door’s handle and in one motion flung it open and jumped out, landing on the cobblestone street, pointing the gun towards the back of the van.

There, caught red-handed, was a young woman no older than twenty with a sliced-short garden hose in one hand, and a red gas canister in the other; she stood stock still with the gas tank door wide open.

“This isn’t what it looks like.” she tried to lie.

“By all means, tell me what’s actually going on here, then.” He drew closer, gun trained at her head, “Because it looks an awful lot like you siphoning my petrol out.”

“...Ya got me there. It’s exactly what it looks like.” she turned her head and spat onto the street, seemingly on the edge of gagging.

“Not a pleasant taste is it, getting petrol in your mouth? Well it serves you right, damnable filch.” he stopped just out of arm’s length of her, the first thing he made note of was how pretty was.

(Pretty little thing like her ought to be in uni, partying on a Friday, not committing petty crimes.)

He motioned his head towards the canister, “Now do me a favor, and put that back where you found it, will you. I’ll be needing it in a little. Do that and I won’t shoot you right between those different colored eyes.”

“Pfft.” She scoffed, “yeah go ahead. You’ll be killing you, me AND your precious van in the process.”

He cocked an eyebrow, then realized the smell of gasoline wasn’t just coming from his recently harvested tank, it had splashed her clothes, dripped down the side of the van and there were droplets of it leading to where he stood. He lowered his gun, grimacing at the shitty situation that dropped itself in his lap.

“See now you’ve got the right idea, Brit.” she smiled, “Taking a risk and shooting me with a bunch of gas in my hand is one thing, doing it while it’s all over the place is another.”

He couldn’t quite place it, but something was off about her. It wasn’t the fact that her eyes were a crazy combination of ocean blue and stormy grey, or that she wore a black & white striped robber T-shirt, it was her deadly calm, her poise. She called my bluff without breaking a sweat.

“And while I feel bad for stranding you, the means justify the end. So... cheers for the petrol, mate.” She said the last part with a convincing British accent before tossing the makeshift siphon over her shoulder and sashaying away coolly, as if she hadn’t screwed over someone who was a former Royal Marine.

Her form melded with the darkness as if she wore it like a cloak, leaving Ellis standing there flummoxed, with gun in hand. It’s like it was just a game to her, he realized, then snapped out of it, Shit, Amala! He ran back to his drained escape vehicle and snatched the walkie-talkie once again.

Sweaty and stripped down to her bare flesh, Amala stood in the middle of the room, panting. The drug and champagne table was pushed to the far end of the room, the Bolivian marching powder all but gone, a few flutes of champagne still had a swallow left in the bottom, but the bottle was on its side on the floor at this point. The dwarves had were sprawled out on the floor and couch, passed out from their rigorous exercise, Niek the Bouncer had left having been thoroughly impressed with Amala’s “performance,” more than likely he returned to his post. All that was left was her dark-skinned dance partner who hefted her up into his arms for his turn to play. She was beginning to become sore, her jaw was stiff, her throat rubbed raw from vociferous moans (among other things). But worse than all, her wrists bean to chafe, for as the fun became more passionate, Tattoo decided to make things more interesting by having the bouncer chain her to the eyelet on the ceiling. The leather cuffs rubbed her wrist’s flesh with every movement, every thrust; the only thing that kept her from tapping out was that big, fat payday.

“Bet you couldn’t wait to get done with those other blokes for some real loving, eh, doll?” Dusky Dancer let her fall back a bit while he held her up and continued his pelvic assault.

“Kashvi, do you copy? I need a SIT REP yesterday. We’ve got big, unforeseen problems with extraction. Do you copy?” Ellis’ voice could not have been more welcome then just then.

“Oh thank the gods, yes!” She exclaimed, her chocolate cover naturally assumed she was responding to him, so his movements became more vigorous, spirited even.

“Uhh... alright then. I take it this is a bad time. Have you seen the target?” He looked at the radio strangely.

“Yes!” was all she could manage to say.

“I’m gonna have to leg it your way, be ready, I’ll be there in ten. Make sure the target is secure by the time I get there or this whole op will’ve been a complete waste of time.”

“Say what?” She blurted out halfway in.

But her lover stopped and looked at her and said,

“All I said was this is the best sex I’ve ever had...” he looked baffled by her outburst.

“No, not you. Oh christ...” she tapped his shoulder, “let me down and unchain me.”

“Unchain you? You kinky minx, I never knew you were into the rougher stuff.” Ellis’ voice joked over her earpiece, but she ignored him, as usual.

“Did I do somethin’ wrong?” He asked, a little concerned, but did as she asked, placing her back on her own two feet.

She sighed and raised her chained wrist up to tap his cheek.

“No darling, you were brilliant. But I’ve got a job that needs done and not the kind that involves naked people or exotic dancing.”

He frowned then shrugged one of his shoulders and looked around the room, presumably for the cuff’s little padlock. But after scouring the room (the Polynesian dwarves clothing included), no key could be found.

“No luck, huh? Figures.” she exhaled then bowed her head and raised her hand to her head and began scouring her scalp until, “Aha!”

Her fingers found a stowaway bobby pin clinging to her thick sable hair and snapped off the rounded end before manipulating it into a makeshift lockpick. Within a few seconds, she managed to get one cuff undone, and with her free hand, undid the other; she rubbed her bruised wrists quickly before pulling Dusky close, to kiss him hard on the lips before heading to where her catsuit was discarded in the corner. With ease she slipped her body back into it, zipping it up, she hooked her heels in her hands before heading towards the door.

“Wait!” He called out.

She stopped, looked over her shoulder.

“I’m on a timeframe here.”

He knelt down to where his pants were, unearthed his wallet and pulled out a white card to hand to her.

“At least let me give you my number if you ever want to give this another go. Hell I can even buy you dinner first this time around.”

She smiled, bit her lip at how sweet he was in spite of how bizarre this situation was. She took the card and flipped it over. It read:

George P. Talbott

Real Estate Agent

+44-xxxx-xxxxxx

“Huh, never would’ve guess that was your name.” She stuffed the card into her abundant cleavage and zipped her latex suit up a bit more, “I’ll give it a thought. Gotta run, Georgie.”

Amala winked, then pushed out the door of the lounge and hung a left down the other hall which promptly lead to a room similar to the one she spent the last sweaty hour a half, except this door had a glass window that was obscured by a splatter of what was unmistakable as blood.

“Ellis, I think I might’ve screwed the pooch on this one.”

“Sit rep?” He sounded as if he were running, he was breathing hard into the walkie.

“Looks like a downright bloodbath happened.” She grabbed her left shoe and knocked on the arch of the sole until it gave way to a false bottom where a small tranquilizer gun was nestled; it was barely the size of her palm but she knew the dart in it was strong enough to knock a horse out.

“Proceed with caution. If this is a bust, we need confirmation at the very least.” Ellis advised.

“Copy that. What’s your ETA?” She whispered, nudging the door openly carefully with her shoulder, the tranq gun in her hand.

“Three, maybe four minutes, tops.” Ellis responded.

“See you when you get here. Stay on the com, just in case.” Amala said skirting around a pool of blood surrounding a man with a bowie knife buried hilt deep in his chest.

“Can do.” That was all he said, before the line went quiet, leaving Amala in silence in a room that resembled as though a cyclone of gore tore through it.

Bullets peppered the walls, the furniture was smashed to pieces, and all that remained was a twisted scattering of bodies and more blood than it seemed physically possible. The lights flickered, she stepped over a woman whose head was completely turned a full 180° around and noticed a figure slumped over against a wall, still breathing.

She knelt down in front of this survivor, taking a handful of this lucky gent’s bloodstained platinum blonde faux hawk to look at his bruised face.

To her surprise, it was her target.

“I have the target in my custody. Do you read me?”

“Loud and clear. What’s his status? Do I need to swing by the morgue for a body bag?” Ellis asked trying to be a glib during such a tense moment.

“He’s definitely taken a beating but...” She pried the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut to see his shockingly emerald green eye dilated at the shifting light, “he’s still alive. Somehow.”

“I’m at the back of club. They weren’t letting anyone else in, so I’ll have to make my own entrance. I’d take cover if I were you.”

“Copy.” She said to her earpiece, then looked down at the battered Josef, “It might get a little loud in here, if you can hear me, I’d cover my ears if I were you.”

And again, to her surprise, he cupped his hands over his ears, his one eye looking right through Amala.

“Thank... you.”

She tilted her head to the side.

“Don’t thank me. I have no idea why my client wanted me to retrieve you in the first place. It’s a certifiable miracle you survived, to be honest.” She braced herself, waiting for Ellis’s imminent ‘entrance.’

“Right. A miracle.” Betrüger countered sarcastically, clearly he didn’t share her views on divine intervention.

“Fire in the hole!” Ellis called over the earpiece and a loud explosion blew the east wall wide open, shooting corpses and rubble smacking into the opposite wall. A rush of air blew the stale, copper-scented about, and in stepped Ellis wearing the loudest, most obnoxiously colored silk Hawaiian floral shirt, khaki shorts and boating shoes; he swung his M203 grenade launcher around the room, then pointed it at the ground when he saw his partner and their quarry huddled in the corner.

“Here’s Devon.” He said, making him sound like an old-timey game show host.

“Bout goddamn time you showed up.” Amala said removing her hands from her ears, despite them still ringing ever so slightly.

“Couldn’t help it, some weird bird in a striped robber T-shirt nicked my petrol right out of the tank. By the time I realized, she skipped out on me.” He looked down at the beaten up Betrüger who got to his feet with the grace of a ninety-year-old man, “You gonna be able to walk on your own, mate?”

He nodded wordlessly, holding up a hand to say he was alright.

“Just so you know we’ve got a little walking to do before we find a new getaway vehicle.” Ellis advised, then turned his attention to Amala, “Ready to go, Mistress of Pain?”

“Ugh, go fuck yourself Dev.” Amala was having none of his perverted snark, not after the marathon she just put herself through.

“Thatta girl. Still got a little fight left in you to put me in my place. That’s why you and I are friends. Now c’mon...”

“You and I are definitely having words after this...” she gripped Betrüger‘s shoulder to guide him towards the newly made exit, and brought up the rear.

“After all this is said and done, sure.” Ellis remarked, his focus shifted to his surroundings, eyes scanned every inch.

The rag-tag trio traversed the alley soaked with the odor of booze, greasy food and the lingering smell of sex, struck blind by the emergence of a street light just at the alley’s mouth. An older model hatchback car pulled up to the front of the club, Amala eyed it then pointed it out to Ellis,

“Looks like our ride just arrived.”

“That?” Ellis questioned, “you wanna get away in that?”

“It’s inconspicuous. And besides, our cargo here is supposed to be ported in the trunk as were the parameters of the job. A hatchback fulfills those criteria.”

“Great, I get rescued, only to be kidnapped. Awesome.” Betrüger, the mark, piped up.

“The words ‘we’re here to rescue you’ never came out, actually. We’re playing UPS today, delivering you to whomever was interested in paying a quarter of a million euros to have you gift wrapped with a little bow on their doorstep by morning.”

“Fucking mercenaries.” he huffed out his displeasure, shaking his bloodied blonde head.

“You ought to watch your mouth, or my gorgeous accomplice here will be forced to knock you on your ass.” Ellis shot a look at the ungrateful target.

“And the last thing I want to do is haul your sorry ass out of here on our shoulders. So do us a favor and start us off on the first round of the ‘Shut the fuck up’ game, huh?” Amala spat out, clearly irate now.

Their quarry took her advice, sizing her up before clamming up at her back. Ellis watched as two scantily clad women in glitzy dresses got out of the backseats, bypassed the lengthening queue to get in the club and were immediately let in; the driver yelled something indistinct while the car stalled.

“Now’s our chance.” Ellis called to them low before rushing towards their new set of wheels.

“Go on ahead of me. I don’t want you getting any funny ideas.” Amala pushed the wounded man ahead of her roughly, turning to check if anyone was following them before bringing up the rear.

By the time she got there, Ellis was ripping the guy of car, and pointing a pistol at his head until he scattered like a cockroach after the kitchen light turned on. Amala forcefully guided the target around the back of the car and yelled, “Pop the trunk!”

“I love it when you get all bossy!” Ellis replied, promptly yanking it upward; Amala threw the hatch up and motioned her head towards the inside.

“In you go.”

“The backseat looks much comfier, though.” Betrüger joked, not knowing how much he was pushing his luck with Amala’s patience.

“On the count of PAIN...” Amala tucked the tranq gun in her cleavage and cracked her knuckles, ready to forcefully persuade him.

“Alright, alright! Sheesh, what do I have to pay you to have a sense of humor, or is being serious you mercs’ M.O.?” He climbed in the trunk, wincing as he did his best to fit his tall lanky frame in the cramped space; the Indian mercenary slammed the hatch door shut without responding to his wise-ass remark, rolling her eyes before heading to the passenger seat.

“Everything on the up-and up?” Ellis asked took a peek in his rear view mirror to see their assignment’s almost silver-blonde head pressed to the top of the roof.

“Well aside from the fact I’m sore in places I didn’t think were possible, yeah. Looks like we managed to pull this one off, all things considered.” Amala relaxed in the seat a bit more, all her aches seemed to set in all at once, now that the adrenaline wore off.

“Eh, I’m sure that hundred grand will make you forget all about that real quick.” Ellis joked, nudging her on the shoulder with his fist playfully.

She smiled and closed her eyes, letting the possibilities wash over her. White sandy beaches of Brazil, here I come, she thought, already tasting the first coconut infused cocktail she would have the minute she found a beach side Tiki bar.

The drive went on for a few hours, the little hatchback that could made it’s way the Netherlands, crossing into Belgium, the roads became one long procession of asphalt and silhouetted landscape; it seemed as though they were the only travelers that night, as only their headlights chased away the deep dark of the early hours.

“How much longer are you gonna keep me back here?” The man in their custody croaked from his confined area.

“Shut up!” Ellis and Amala said in unison.

Thunder roared from behind them, drawing closer; Amala looked to Ellis who was checking his rearview mirror once more.

“Odd. I don’t remember ever hearing about any storms rolling in.” she said

“Neither do I...” Ellis replied, suspicious now.

The thunder drew closer, it seemed to be carried on the winds echoing through the still forest. Oddly enough the car swayed a bit as if being bumped but Ellis saw nothing, pursing his lips as this seemed vaguely familiar. The car rocked again, and without warning, a blinding light flashed right into Ellis’ eyes causing him to swerve the car.

“WHAT THE FUCK?!” He cried out, trying to regain control of the car, all the while the hatch flew open, letting in a rush of cool dusk air.

“Looks like the real cavalry dropped by.” Betrüger called out, stretching his body out and moving towards the edge of the open hatch, “Can’t say it’s been fun, but it was definitely an experience! Sorry I couldn’t stick around long enough for your payday, mercs!”

And with that, he leaped out into the unknown darkness; the lights that flooded Ellis’s vision went away as abruptly as they appeared.

“The hell just happened?” Ellis asked disbelievingly at his beautiful cohort.

“Our fucking payday just disappeared into the damn night, that’s what happened.” Amala sat flabbergasted, mouth agape and eyes unblinking.

The thunder sounded again, this time it was right next to them, the blinding light seemed to illuminate the entirety of the quaint little two lane back road. It was a street motorcycle, pitch black right down to its rims and tailpipe with two riders on it: one was a figure in a complete blackout of motorcycle leather, the other was their escaped target who waved at them. The motorcyclist held onto one of the handlebars and with the freehand, it flipped up the heavily tinted visor to reveal a familiar face: a dark haired woman with tanned skin and two unmistakably mismatched eyes.

“Thanks again for the gas, friend. It made tailing you two all the more possible.” She called over the whipping wind, before shooting Ellis a wink and pealing out until the motorcycle’s engine was nothing but a distant rumble in the blackness.

Present Day…

She stood with her hands on her hips authoritatively, he didn‘t know why he loved when she did that as a verbal reaming generally followed.

“Okay, yes the Amsterdam job was a clusterfuck. I will admit it went pear-shaped really fast. But you gotta remember the money was extraordinary.” He leveled with her.

“At the cost of me being gangbanged, yeah. All you got was a brisk job and a chance to shoot that bloody grenade launcher like some Yankee action hero. How do you not see how shitty my end of the stick was, as it ALWAYS is.”

“It must not have been TOO shitty. As I recall, you ended up dating that black bloke for a few months after that.” Ellis muttered mutinously.

“His name was Georgie, and that’s just a single silver lining in a very sex dungeon-y grey cloud, thanks.” She retorted, folding her arms under her ample bosoms.

“Yeah well, I don’t need to remind you that after it was all said and done, I took only 25% of the advance and left you with the balance because I felt so bad.”

“...” She remained silent at that given point.

“Regardless of all that rubbish, I didn’t come here to play ‘whose at fault here?’ While we’ve been bitchin’ and moaning at each other, whoever’s after us has no doubt sent their worst after us.”

And as if on cue, a knock on the door punctuated their panic. Ellis raised his eyebrows at his unwilling accomplice, as if to say, “Expecting company?” Wordlessly, she shook her head and signaled for him to post up behind the nearby love seat. Ellis opened his duster and unfolded the stock, extended the barrel and flipped up the red dot sight of his UMP 45 sub-machine gun; he quietly vaulted over the couch as Amala directed and took cover at its back with weapon trained at the door. The exotic Indian host crossed the room naturally, as if the apartment’s duo weren’t on high alert. She reached for the small of her back and retrieved a USP .45 ACP pistol with a high-capacity magazine and held it behind her like one might hide a bouquet of flowers. As she approached the door, she sidestepped to the right somewhat so Ellis could have a clear line of fire, then peered one of her smokey grey eyes into the peephole.

“Who is it?” she cordially asked, despite clenching a hidden sidearm in her hand tightly.

“Uh, well I was wondering if you had time to talk about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” the disembodied voice inquired.

Ellis shook his head and palmed his face at the embarrassment of being spooked by a door-to-door Jehovah’s Witness. Sheesh, this guy has no idea how wrong a tree he’s barking up right now. He could’ve gotten himself killed, he thought as he relaxed a little.

“No thank you, practicing Hindu here.” Amala responded politely (she always was so polite to the religious nuts).

“Are you sure I can’t change your mind about that?” the Witness persisted, now coming off a bit obnoxious.

“I’m positive.” Amala said, her legendary cool was practically giving this self-righteous solicitor frostbite.

“How about now?” Amala watched him open up his Bible and before she could react two gunshots whispered right through the doors and buckled Amala’s knees.

She groaned, collapsing while clutching her knees, crawling away from the door. With a swift kick, the door flew off the hinges and Ellis jammed the stock of his UMP against his shoulder.

“Oy!” Ellis called out and opened fire.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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