Jeff Tsuruoka’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Lawyers, Guns, and Money Part 9
Guys in matching body armor, toting matching automatic rifles crashed into the cantina, three men per door. They wore bandannas over their faces.
Pilar let them all clear the thresholds then opened fire.
She emptied both guns in the time it took me to say, “Holy shit.”
Five men lay dead on the floor with oozing head and neck wounds. The sixth limped back to the front porch, bleeding and dragging one useless leg behind him.
Everything went quiet.
Pilar stood straight and still. Only her trigger fingers and her eyes had moved.
The clink and clatter as she swapped clips cut through the ringing in my ears.
She tossed the revolver to me.
“Does Antonio have more bullets for that?”
“Beneath the register,” croaked Antonio.
The big man shambled out of the back room and pointed.
He looked worse standing than he had tied to the chair. I hadn't noticed how much blood had seeped through the front of his shirt. A wet, gurgling cough followed each labored breath.
I broke the revolver open the way I saw Pilar open Beau's Peacemaker in the basement, loaded it, and tossed it back.
There were four bullets left in the box, which I stuffed in my hip pocket.
She moved to the far wall and helped herself to the one fallen rifle she could reach without getting shot.
I guided Antonio toward the back wall.
“Who did this to you?” I asked.
He didn't answer me.
She leaned out for a look through what was left of the door and pulled back just ahead of the barrage.
The bullets pinged off the cash register and took out Antonio's television.
When the shooting stopped she waited for a three-count then spun and returned fire, emptying the rifle.
“Six left on this side, Mateo,” she hissed as she ducked back inside.
I sidled up to the dockside door and knelt down low beside a corpse, unashamed to use a dead guy for cover.
The guy's rifle-- and those of his pals-- sat in no man's land, just out of reach.
I counted three bogeys on the dock, two to the right, one to the left, all holding rifles. None of them wore body armor.
I moved away from the door and put three fingers in the air.
Bullets flew in through the back door, shredding the bar, shattering the few bottles that hadn't already been broken.
“We must go,” said Pilar.
“You must go,” replied Antonio. “Leave me here. Without me you might escape. With me we all die.”
The man was right. Didn't mean I wanted to leave him behind.
Neither did Pilar.
They argued about it in Spanish, or rather, she argued.
He waited her out then said his piece.
“Yo soy muerto, sobrina.”
Sobrina. The word sounded familiar. Where had I heard it before?
Something thudded against the floor, near the front door.
A grenade. Just what we needed.
We watched a second grenade fly in through the shattered front door. And a third.
“Mierda,” grunted Pilar. She made for the dockside door, Antonio's revolver and her own automatic out in front of her.
Antonio took a deep, heaving breath and beat her there.
Four more grenades hit the floor, this time from the back side.
“Vaya con Dios, sobrina,” he said as he lurched out to the dock before either Pilar or I could grab him.
We cursed and bolted after him.
The bad guys fired the second he made daylight.
Antonio stopped, held upright by the bullets slamming into his body. He stayed on his feet until the gunfire stopped and then fell, dead before he hit the boards.
Pilar burst out of the cantina, both guns ablaze.
The three gunmen I'd spotted went down. The four I'd missed sent a lot of lead our way.
I got off my one shot with the sawed-off then grabbed a hold of Pilar and jumped into the canal.
The cantina exploded as we hit the water. Most of the dock went up with it.
Debris and a bunch of bullets followed us in.
We went down in the fetid, reeking muck and stayed there, working hard to put distance between us and whoever was still alive back at the dock.
The canal curved just north of the cantina and we made it around the bend before we had to surface.
My lungs burned and my eyes stung as we splashed out of the water and onto the hard-packed dirt bank.
Pilar reached into her shirt and came out with Antonio's revolver in her hand.
I dug into my pocket and pulled out the four bullets.
She accepted them without comment but smiled at me while she loaded the gun.
We stayed down low and listened.
No gunfire. No voices. Nothing coming our way.
When we sat up Pilar turned toward the plume of black smoke rising over Antonio's cantina.
“Gracias, mi tio,” she said in a hollow, angry voice.
“Tio,” I repeated. “Sobrina. He was your uncle.”
“My mother's brother.”
“Lo siento, Pilar.”
I put my hand on her shoulder.
She nodded and put her hand over mine.
“We need to move,” she said.
“Getting away from the canal would be good. First place they'll come looking for us.”
She nodded and squeezed my hand.
We climbed over the embankment and took off at a fast walk through the outskirts of Abandonados, keeping to a wooded path just off the road.
There were very few houses out this far. We'd hit farm country. It was a hardscrabble life, tilling rocky ground in tropical heat, but the people out here made it work.
The terrain was greener than it was brown and the houses scattered around the landscape looked more permanent than the shacks and huts in town.
The area seemed as deserted as Diego Street. Explosions and automatic gunfire have a way of doing that.
We hid behind a hay bale to rest and get out of our soggy shoes.
I stripped off the borrowed guayabera and fashioned a pouch to carry them in.
“I don't think Hector's gonna want this thing back,” I said.
Pilar chuckled. “I am sure he can talk his sister into making him a new one.”
She looked at the wounds on my chest and stomach.
“We should get those cleaned as soon as we can.”
“Same goes for your wrists.”
We set off barefoot across the field.
She turned toward the farm we'd just left and grabbed my arm.
“Do you see that?”
I took a good look. Didn't see anything.
The late day sunlight glinted off something metal. A motorcycle. It sat parked next to a lean-to behind the nearest house.
We ran back across the field.
The bike was old and not as shiny as it looked from afar but it had all the essentials-- two good tires, a seat, handlebars, and an engine.
Pilar had the thing hot-wired in seconds.
“You know how to ride one of these?” I asked.
She kick started the thing and grinned at me.
“Of course you do,” I said as I got on the seat behind her.
She opened the throttle and off we went.
I threw my arms around her waist and yelled, “Guy's gonna be pissed when he gets home and finds his ride gone!”
“I know whose farm that is,” she yelled back. “He will be compensated.”
I shut up and settled in. The canal stink did nothing to diminish the feel of her body against mine.
It wasn't long before we hit the badlands.
The only signs of life were the lizards watching our approach from their perches on the rocks.
Empty brown land surrounded us, flat lines broken up by arroyos and low rock formations. The horizon seemed a long, long way off, no matter which direction I looked.
We switched up just after sunset, taking a moment to watch the blue sky turn orange and then gray.
I hadn't been a on motorcycle since I was a kid but good memories and the sweet pressure of Pilar's arms around my middle made it easy. Didn't hurt that the bike handled like a dream. That guy was really gonna miss his ride.
The terrain appeared even emptier as the moonlight gained strength. The wind picked up too, blowing dirt and rocks at us as we cut through the darkness.
Pilar had me stop when we got to a tree, the only one we'd seen since we left the woods outside of Abandonados.
It wasn't much, just a gnarled skinny trunk with two spindly branches and some long dead leaves.
She rubbed my shoulders as we idled next to the tree.
“We are nearly there, Mateo.” She pointed to her left. “Ten miles more.”
I revved the engine.
“What are we waiting for then?”
We pulled up in front of a small adobe house ten miles later.
A low stone fence with an open gate stood between us and the house.
I went right through the open gate and parked beside the house.
“What is this place?” I asked as we got off the bike and walked to the door.
“A safe place,” she replied.
“A hideout, eh?”
“Something like that.”
She held her hand out for me. I took it and we stepped inside.
The first room was as spartan as they come.
No furniture. No lights. Just enough moonlight got through a couple of ratty windows. Another door led to the rest of the house.
Pilar fished a key out of her pocket and let us in.
The room we entered was pitch black dark. And quiet.
She locked the door behind us.
A flare of red and yellow light brightened the room for a second and then dimmed as she lit a candle.
“No electricity,” she said, taking me by the hand.
We turned to the right and went into a small room-- a washroom.
She set the candle down on a countertop and lit some more candles.
The soft light reflected off the mirror over the counter, making the adobe walls glow.
“Wait here,” she said. She disappeared out of the room.
I went to the edge of the old-fashioned porcelain bathtub and took a seat.
A spout sat at one end of the tub, connected to a wooden pump set-up. Well water, I assumed.
Pilar returned a few minutes later, naked, holding some towels, a bar of soap, and a bottle of tequila.
I forgot to breathe for a second.
I recovered and started working the water pump while Pilar climbed into the tub.
The water was cool but not cold, warmed just a touch by the hot sun.
She wet and soaped and rinsed my chest and stomach while I drew the water, gently cleaning the cuts and stitches.
When the tub was full she handed me the tequila.
“Take a small drink. Then give me the bottle.”
Liquid fire slid down my throat. I closed my eyes and shook my head. When I opened them again my pants were on the floor and she had the bottle.
“Take my hand,” she said.
I did so and gave it a squeeze because I knew what was coming.
She poured tequila over my chest. I clenched my teeth as it sluiced down, burning the worst of the canal out of my wounds.
When she was done I got into the tub with her and washed the gouges in her wrists.
Her eyes never left mine as I gave them the tequila treatment.
The soap was home-made and abrasive but it felt wonderful to get the grime off me.
Pilar took her time getting me clean and I returned the favor.
She trembled when I ran my fingertips down her neck and across her back.
I trembled when I ran my fingertips down her neck and across her back.
She got out of the tub first and reached for a towel.
I watched her in the mirror as she dried off.
She smiled when she saw my reflected face looking at her. She turned and leaned back against the counter.
The flickering candlelight gave her skin a golden red sheen.
The towel hit the floor.
I stood and stepped out of the water and dried the last of the canal off between the tub and the counter.
My towel joined hers on the floor.
She raised her hand to stroke my face.
I grabbed it.
Surprise flashed in her eyes, but only for a second.
I pulled her to me and kissed her, the fingers of one hand entwined in her hair. I felt her nails on my back and kissed her harder.
She didn't resist when I picked her up and sat her down on the countertop.
“There is,” she gasped, “a perfectly good bedroom just down the hall.”
I said nothing and pulled her closer to me.
“I see,” she said as she wrapped her legs around my waist.
Another kiss, slow and languorous, ended the conversation.
The sun was up by the time we made it into that bedroom down the hall
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Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career. He has found a home in the Flash Fiction circuit and is grateful to the blog hosts that give him the opportunity to get his work out there. You can follow him on Twitter @JTsuruoka and be sure to keep tabs on his weekly contributions to Daily Picspiration.