“Black C.A.S.T.L.E.” Chapter XXVIII – Target Practice

An ear-piercing shriek of metal on rusted metal rent the air. That’s all that was needed to distract Agent Cohen from his target, and all that Kacie needed to go into action.

Things played out in slow motion: The source of the screeching sound was the old, rusted emergency exit that Rick Benes had forced open. He emerged from behind it, bewildered, to find himself facing down the barrel of yet another gun, this one held by DEA Agent Cohen. As the Fed sighted his new target and prepared to put an end to Rick before he could cause any more trouble, Kacie braced herself against the freight elevator wall and thrust her legs against the stacked boxes on the cart in front of her. They seemed to take forever to topple and threatened not to budge at all, but finally the one closest to Cohen crashed down just beside him. Millions of dollars of crystal meth spilled out onto the sub-basement floor. It wouldn’t stop Cohen, but Kacie’s hope was that it would distract him. Cohen fired his gun, but his shot at Rick missed by bare inches. The projectile rang off of the rusted metal door.

Like an Old West gunslinger, Rick Benes raised his own thief’s gun and uttered a wordless prayer that its mechanisms worked, that his aim would be true, and that there was a really good reason why he was about to commit a felony. The shot rang out. Rick’s prayers were answered. Agent Cohen spun backwards and tripped over the fallen body of Malanan, both guns flying out of the agent’s hands as he flailed in an attempt to keep his balance. Kacie snatched up the one that landed on top of the remaining boxes of meth. As Rick approached, shaken but very much in the moment, he kicked the other gun out of harm’s way.

“Nice shot, Rick!” Kacie exclaimed. She was shaking, too. She fought the adrenaline rush and the fear and the exhaustion and the maddening urge to pee, and kept her own gun steady on the would-be assassin.

“I was aiming for his head,” Rick admitted. For once he sounded serious, but Kacie found it darkly funny just the same. “Hold on,” he said. “Let me check something. Keep your gun on him.”

Rick approached the fallen agent, who was just coming around from getting shot and bashing his head against the metal doors, but made no attempt to stop Rick once he saw Kacie’s gun staring him down. Rick checked each of the agent’s pants cuffs and pulled a small-caliber revolver out of an ankle holster. “They’ve always got more guns on them. Always.”

“You watch too many movies.”

“Good thing, too!” Rick said with a wink. His good humor was returning.

“Do you two have any idea how much money you’re standing on?” Cohen asked. He was still sprawled out over the body of his executed partner. “Look around your feet. That box alone is worth $8.5 million. Take it. Keep it, as a token of trust.” He paused in the hopes that an easy seven-figure payday would convince these nerd-collar workers to turn a blind eye to his operation.

If they were being honest, both Rick and Kacie considered the offer … for about a microsecond.

“Hm, I don’t know if my gambling habit at the penny slots could account for that much cheese, so I think I’ll have to pass. What about you, Kacie Kasem?”

“I dunno, Rick. Do you think we could get Katie over at accounting to launder it for us? Or maybe Lynnie in HR? She could write it in as a bonus or something.”

“Yeah,” Rick said, scratching his chin as if he was honestly considering it. “But then we’d have to split it three or four ways, and then it’s only like $2 mill each. And after taxes, well it’s just not worth it.”

“You’re right, of course,” Kacie said, smiling. “Sorry, Agent Cohen, but we’ll have to pass.”

The agent’s face had gone red with clenched rage. He hadn’t made a move, but it was only by his thin sense of self-preservation and shear strength of will. “You two are sorely mistaken if you think I’m going down for this, for any of this. And even if I did, how long do you think the both of you would live? You have no idea the people I know…”

Kacie pulled something out of her back pocket. It was a walkie talkie with a thick yellow rubber band holding the transmission button down. She said a silent prayer that the walls of the sub-basement hadn’t interfered with the damn thing.

“Hey guys, it’s Kacie. Did you get all that?” Please tell me someone got all that…

A long silence followed. A burst of static broke it.

It was Gemma’s voice that sizzled back over the radio waves. “Loud and clear, Kace! We got it! We got all of it! And so did the Feds. They’re making their way towards you all right now!”

Agent Cohen’s face flushed from rage red to a sickening green. He slumped against the floor and awaited his fate. Rick and Kacie kept a watchful eye on him just the same.

“G-men to the rescue,” Rick said, shaking his head. “Hell must have actually frozen over.”

Kacie’s eyes went wide. “Oh, shit…”

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Image of PPG Place via Derek Jensen(Tysto), Wikimedia Commons
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