Tuesday 16 November 2010

POOCH SCREWED By Paul Grzegorzek

Pooch Screwed

Bullets smacked into the wall beside my head and I ducked back as stone splinters flew in all directions.
“I don’t think we’re going that way”.
Tony laughed, the sound turning into a wracking cough as blood from his punctured lung spilled over his lips and stained his chin.
“Just leave me.  Get yourself out”, he gasped when the coughing subsided.  Shaking my head, I pointed my pistol around the corner and let off a few rounds, just to let them know I was still in the game.
I’d known that this job was a mistake from the start.  Nothing had felt right from the first meeting with the client, and now we were stuck in the middle of a fire fight with half a dozen men and I had absolutely no clue where our principal was.
On the face of it, it had sounded like an easy job, particularly for two ex paras with years of combat experience.  Escort the principal in, wait while he has a meeting, walk him out and drive away.  It should have been half an hour’s work for a clear two grand each, but instead we were fighting for our lives.
The Client, one Mr Steven Brady, was a mid-thirties suit-hanger with thick glasses and bad breath, but with the kind of money he was offering I could breathe through my mouth for a few hours. 
We’d turned up to his central London office in my car, a battered but serviceable Ford Focus.  I’d offered to hire a car for the day but Brady wanted discreet, so he got it.  He was paying, after all.
He sat in the back with his hands nervously clutching his briefcase on his lap while Tony sat next to him and I drove.  I’d tried making conversation but he wasn’t playing ball, so I kept my mouth shut the rest of the way and tried not to think about why a City businessman wanted armed protection for a meeting at a just-built block of flats in South London.  It didn’t make sense, but as long as we all walked away breathing at the end of the day I’d be happy.  To be honest I couldn’t afford to say no to the job.
We pulled into the car park just before midday, parking a few spaces away from the only other vehicle, a 09 plate transit with a hard hat on the dashboard.  Brady had insisted that we check the place out first, so I left Tony with him and jogged through the rain to the five storey building and peered in through the half open door.
The place still smelled of paint and fresh wood, and as I stepped into the lobby two men in thigh length leather coats appeared from around a corner, making my hand slide inside my coat and rest on the butt of my Sig.
The men, both in their forties with short hair and designer stubble, copied my movement and for a moment we all just stared at each other.  My neck began to prickle as I recognised the relaxed stance and blank faces of professional killers, and I nearly turned around and walked away right there.  God, I should have listened to my gut.
Instead I cracked a smile and called out, “I’m here with Brady for the meeting”.
Hand still inside his coat, the larger of the two nodded.  “Bring him”, he said in a thick Russian accent.
I headed back to the car and leaned in the window.
“Two blokes in ex-Spetsnaz finest”, I said to Tony, referring to the leather coats.  Looking over at Brady, I saw sweat pouring down his face.
“You sure you want to do this?”
He looked up at me and nodded once.
“Good, because they’re ready for you, come on”.
He got out and began to walk woodenly towards the building like a condemned man on his way to the gallows.  Sharing a look with Tony, I moved to walk in front while Tony took the rear, both of us with hands on our weapons.
I’m no great psychologist, but even I could see that Brady was scared, and scared people have a habit of doing stupid things, so I dropped back for a moment to walk beside him.
“I don’t know why you’re meeting these people”, I began, glancing at his pale face, “but I do know that people like them feed on fear.  If they see you like this then whatever deal you’re hoping to make will go very badly wrong”.
He shot me a startled glance.  “I’m sorry; I’m not used to this.  Does it show that badly?”
I nodded.  “Yeah.  Take a few deep breaths and try to relax.  I don’t fancy getting killed because you can’t control yourself”.
He stared up at me myopically, sweat trickling down his face.
“I don’t think there’ll be any killing; they need me far too much”.
“Good epitaph.  Just keep your shit together”.
He took a breath, probably intending to take me to task for my language, but then we reached the doors and the two men in coats held the doors open, gesturing us inside.
“Weapons”.  The larger one was now holding a Scorpion machine pistol at his side, no doubt wanting to intimidate us into handing our guns over without argument.
I shook my head.  “I don’t think so.  Unless you’re planning on shooting, there’s no problem with us having our guns, is there?”
He glowered at me for a moment as his brain chewed the idea over, then he finally shrugged.
“No bother.  Follow”.
I glanced at Tony who threw a questioning eyebrow my way.  I had no idea what was going on either, but the butterflies in my stomach felt like they were on PCP.
The man with the Scorpion led us up several flights of stairs to an unremarkable door that was guarded by yet another man with a black leather coat.  This one had hair down to his shoulders and a pair of shades that made him look like a holidaying Albanian.  Except for the pistol he was carrying loose in his right hand.
He stared at us from behind his shades as he opened the door with his free hand and our guide led us into the hallway of a small flat. 
It was totally bare, with three doors leading off the narrow corridor, all of them as new as everything else in this block.  The big man went straight to the furthest door and opened it, heading in first and then taking up position to one side of the door.
I followed him in, taking in the bare room, still with plastic sheeting on the floor from being painted.  On the far side of a room stood a man in a suit that was clearly hand tailored.  He was in his late thirties, with gelled black hair and a face like a vampire, all pale skin and cheekbones.
“Ah, Mr Brady”, he said in accent-less English, ignoring me and Tony, “I assume you have the item?”
Brady nodded and held up the briefcase, and then everything went wrong.
A single shot rang out from the hallway as Brady stumbled, a look of shock on his face as he looked down at the red stain on his chest.
He fell to his knees, spilling bright blood onto the plastic sheeting that I only now realised wasn’t left behind by the painters.
I pulled my pistol clear, putting a round into the chest of the big man even as he brought up his machine pistol.  He slammed back into the wall as the round hit, but didn’t go down.  I fired again, this time hitting him in the face.  His head slammed back into the wall as he slid down, leaving a bloody smear on the fresh white paint.
Tony had unholstered as well, firing two shots down the corridor towards the door guard and the second man from downstairs.
“One down!”  I called over the noise of the gunfire, then turned my weapon on the man in the suit, only he wasn’t there anymore. 
In the time it had taken me to fire twice, he’d moved in fast and wide on my right, smashing a fist into my face even as I looked for him.
The blow knocked me sideways into Tony and we both went down in a heap.  The suit grabbed the briefcase, leapt over us and was gone down the hallway, shouting “Kill them!”  Over his shoulder as he fled.
“Over my dead body”, Tony growled, shaking me off and standing to fire down the hallway.
As I crawled out of the line of fire and into a sitting position, a volley of shots came back down the hallway, most of them smacking into the far wall.
The noise was deafening, and the room stank of blood, cordite and shit.  I was amazed that I couldn’t hear sirens in the background already, but then there was no one nearby to call it in.
Tony fired again, then coughed and threw himself backwards.
“What are you doing?”  I asked, pointing my pistol around the doorframe and firing off two shots.
It was only as I looked over at him that I finally saw blood staining his t-shirt as he frantically gasped for breath.
“Shit”, I muttered, grabbing his foot and hauling him into cover.  “Tony?”
He looked up at me out of a face white with pain. 
“Fuck”, he muttered.
“Don’t move, I’ll...”  The truth was, there wasn’t much I could do.  We were in a room with only one exit and that was guarded by two men who had a superior firing position and lines of escape.  In short, we were fucked.
Looking around frantically, I saw something that gave me an idea.  Leaving Tony where he lay, I scurried over and grabbed the machine pistol lying next to its former owner.
Closing my eyes for a second, I tried to work out our position relative to the rest of the building, then turned and fired the entire magazine into one of the walls in a rough man-shape.
That done I discarded the empty weapon and moved back to Tony.
“Can you move?”
“Do I have a choice?”  His voice bubbled as he spoke, and I knew then that one of his lungs was punctured.  If I didn’t get him to a hospital fast he’d end up drowning in his own blood.
“No, you don’t”.  I picked up his pistol and placed it back in his hand.  “Keep me covered”.
He raised the pistol and pointed it at the doorway.  Trusting him to keep them off me, I turned and ran full tilt at the wall before I could change my mind, praying that it wasn’t a supporting wall.
I hit with my shoulder, hurling myself into the plaster with a strength born of desperation, and sailed through with barely a bump, landing in a heap in the flat next door.
Thanking the gods of shoddy building, I picked myself up and clambered back through, grabbing Tony and dragging him through the hole.  He was gasping badly now, but I didn’t have time to stop so I hauled him to his feet and pulled him along the hallway to the front door.  I opened it and peered around the corner, hoping that they hadn’t noticed our unexpected escape.
Bullets smacked into the wall beside my head and I ducked back as stone splinters flew in all directions.
“I don’t think we’re going that way”.
Tony laughed, the sound turning into a wracking cough as blood from his punctured lung spilled over his lips and stained his chin.
“Just leave me.  Get yourself out”, he gasped when the coughing subsided.  Shaking my head, I pointed my pistol around the corner and let off a few rounds, just to let them know I was still in the game.
 “We’re both in this for keeps mate, either way.  If you stay, I stay”.
His answer was drowned out by the sound of gunfire from in front of and behind us.  They’d decided to come at us from both directions at once, and suddenly rounds were smashing into the stone and plaster all around me.
Knowing that I had to act or I’d be dead, I threw myself flat and skidded out into the hallway, sliding along the tiled floor with my pistol raised.
A round hit the floor close enough to my face that the ricochet cut my ear as I pulled the trigger, three rounds hitting my target in the chest and one in the neck as he fell.
Blood spurted as he dropped, spraying up the wall as his severed jugular unleashed a torrent that painted the corridor red.
Turning back, I saw Tony firing frantically into the hallway behind him, then heard a cry and a thud as his target hit the floor.
I picked myself up and ran over to him, one hand going to my ear and coming away sticky with blood.
“Are you okay?”  Tony asked when he saw me.
I nodded.  “You?”
He coughed and blood washed over his chin again.
“Not really.  Can we go?”
Picking him up carefully, I slung one of his arms around my shoulders and eased him step by step towards the stairs, pistol raised in case there were more goons, but the place was eerily silent even as the gunfire still rang in my ears from the battle.
“What do you think was in that case?”  Tony asked, blood dribbling onto my shoulder with each word.
“I’ve got no idea, but I promise you this.  As soon as I get you to a doctor, I’m going to find the piece of shit that did this and find out”.
Tony nodded, sagging against me as he fought to stay conscious.  As I eased him carefully down the stairs, I promised myself that if my friend died, nothing on earth would stop be from finding the man with the briefcase, and taking the price of Tony’s life out of his hide.
To get the skinny on Paul and his work, visit his blog here: http://diariesofamodernmadman.blogspot.com/


  1. Liked this and the narration was solid. Some clever lines in there. Liked this one a lot.

    "and bad breath, but with the kind of money he was offering I could breathe through my mouth for a few hours."

  2. Thanks guys. Now for some reason i can actually comment whereas i couldn't earlier! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Yeah, a ripper of a tale and obviously a sneak preview of a much bigger story. Oh, and the first rule of business: Never, ever, EVER walk into a room with plastic sheeting on the floor to carry out negotiations! Hehehe, well done, Paul.