Chapter 23: There Was A Man Who Had A Dog...
I brushed the dust off of my jeans and walked up next to Cerberus. I scratched him behind the ears as best I could with my mangled hand then looked down to see a few dozen bullets all lying at his feet like birdseed. They hadn't even so much as scratched the dog.
I looked up at all the heavies' bloodless faces and said, "Oh man, you guys are fucked, wholesale."
The dog's laugh then went from a playful 'Silly Rabbit, Trix Are For Kids' chuckle to a more ominous 'The Voices In My Head Say You Killed My Baby' cackle.
The heavies moved like synchronized swimmers as they dropped the clips from their guns and reached inside their jackets for more ammo. Cerberus launched himself at the nearest body and rent it in half, spraying blood and viscera across the room.
Bullets and body parts exploded in every direction as Cerberus turned the entire room into a giant blender. While he was tossing heavies around like rag dolls, I ran over to the bodies of the first two people he killed and rummaged through their sloppy corpses for a gun and a couple of clips. Once I was able to get my crooked fingers around the pistol in a way that would make it more than just a stage prop, I ran for the box on the table, dodging flying human debris as I went.
Cerberus wrapped his jaws around one man's chest, crunched, and then flipped his limp and lifeless body away. It slammed into the lamp. There was a loud crash, a strobe-like flicker as the lamp fell over, and then there was darkness.
Flashes of gunfire lit up the room in quick, random bursts. I stayed low and out of Cerberus' path as I headed toward the table, but I could hear bullets scream past me.
Someone grabbed me. I was moving by pure instinct since the flashes of gunfire weren't enough to see by. I brought my arm up under the guy's elbow then threw my own elbow into his face. He blocked it with one hand then twisted his other arm loose and leveled a pistol at my head. He fired.
I was able to knock his arm aside just enough that the bullet hit me in the arm instead of the face. I could feel it tear into the muscle just below my shoulder and chip off the bone before ripping its way out of the back of my arm.
I screamed and tried to bring the butt of my own pistol over against his temple, but in the dark I was only able to get him in the neck. I jumped back and just started firing in his general direction. My aim was on and I watched his body flail in the strobe effect of my gunfire.
Pressing my hand over the gunshot wound, I stumbled toward the table. About three feet from the table, I felt a hand fall on my shoulder. I reached up, brushed the hand with my pistol, twisted in an inelegant display of Lame Ass Fu and aimed the gun into the darkness. Fortunately the hand wasn't attached to anyone.
Finally at the table, I grabbed the box and slid underneath. Things were slapping onto the tabletop like frogs falling out of the sky. I peered out and tried to gauge the best way to make it out of the room, but it was hard to see who was still standing and exactly where the eye of Cerberus' storm was. The dog was still thrashing and gnashing, but the flashes of gunfire were getting fewer and fewer. But even though there weren't as many gun blasts now, I could still see. Light was coming from nearby.
At first I thought the lamp had kicked back on, but the lamp was on the far side of the room, bent and wrapped around something that used to be a person.
The light grew brighter, casting everything in a blue sheen. There was only one heavy still standing now. The rest of them were either discarded all over the floor or decorating the walls. One was actually dripping from the ceiling. Cerberus circled the bleeding man as he fumbled with a handless stump to reload his gun. The dog shot forward and hamstringed him, taking out most of the guy's thigh in a single bite. But before the man could fall to the ground, Cerberus snatched his head in between his massive jaws and bit down. The sound made me want to vomit.
Cerberus licked his chops, sniffed the air, and turned to me under the table. He gave me a playful bark and started wagging his tail, sending blood and filth flying through the air. His fur was soaked with blood, matted down in thick, heavy strands and his teeth looked like the knives of Caesar's Senate. No, this definitely wasn't a Frisbee-in-the-park kind of dog.
I crawled out from under the table and stood up. And that's when I saw where the light was coming from. Eunice was standing in the corner of the room, her hands relaxed at her sides as small waves of blue light and traces of electricity washed over her. Her hunched spine started uncurling, gnarled vertebrae by gnarled vertebrae. When she reached her apex, she was easily eight feet tall.
Cerberus hopped over to me and tried to push me toward the door with his heavy head. But I was transfixed. The light, the colors. It was all oddly beautiful. But when the metal brackets over her mouth started spooling out like rusty tentacles, I lost my shit. I tucked the box under my wounded arm and ran for the door, keeping Cerberus between me and Madam Nautilus the whole time. The dog followed me until I was out of the room, and when I turned and looked back, the crazy mutt was wagging his tail with his bloody tongue hanging out his mouth like he had just spent an afternoon at the park chasing tennis balls.
With the box under my arm and a gun in my twisted hand, I bolted down the hallway and tried to find the elevator. I made it around the corner before I realized that Cerberus wasn't with me. I turned and started to head back, but when I heard the sounds coming from that room I decided against it. The dog could take care of himself. He did, after all, just puree an entire goon squad.
I made my way back down the hall, trying to remember exactly where the elevator was, but the light from the room bleeding around the corner wasn't enough to see by. After a few frantic minutes of searching, I brushed my elbow over the elevator's control panel. But as I was pressing the down button with the barrel of the gun, I heard a gunshot from down the hall behind me as plaster exploded a few inches above my head.
I raised the gun and started firing in the direction of the gunshot, not even looking at what I was shooting at while I ran farther down the corridor. More bullets whizzed by. I ducked into a room as a few slammed into the doorjamb behind me. I kicked the door shut and turned to run for cover, but stopped short when I ran into something. I looked up to see Benoit's bloody and swollen face staring back at me.
I was right back where I started.
The son-of-a-bitch wasn't dead, but I honestly didn't think he was alive either. His mouth was slack and his eyes weren't focused. He stumbled back a step and tried to say something but the only thing that came out of his mouth was blood and spittle.
He reached out to grab me. I ducked under his arm and kicked him in the small of the back, throwing him against the door, which bent outward with the impact then snapped back into shape. Benoit turned around, supporting himself against the door with his one good arm and said, "Dingo." His voice sounded like it had been stepped on and then pieced back together with glue and Popsicle sticks.
The wood behind him splintered and his forehead opened up in a wet spray. More bullets pushed through the door as Benoit's body fell against the door and then slid to the floor.
I ran to the far side of the room and aimed the gun at the door. There was a loud thud as someone on the outside tried to kick the door open, but Benoit's body was wedged against the bottom, keeping it from opening. I put two bullets through the door right where I thought the person would be standing. There was a muffled curse, then silence.
The light coming through the windows from the street lamps cast weird and amorphous shadows around the room. I was seven stories up and my left arm wasn't more than a wet noodle. There was no way I could scale the side of the building, especially while holding the box. All I had in the room with me was the broken chair, the pile of drapes, and Benoit's dead body. I started working through various scenarios when someone on the other side of the door said, "Dingo, you rat-bastard, you're going to give me that fucking box and then you're going to tell me where the rest of Michael is." It was Darby.
I saw an eye peek through one of the bullet holes and I fired. My aim was so bad that I actually shot Benoit's body instead of the door. But it did the trick. Darby's eye disappeared from the hole in the door and I moved to the other side of the room.
"You can't hold me off forever, Dingo. I've got more than enough ammo to tear that room apart. I don't have to see you to do it, either. I'll get lucky sooner or later. And don't think that dog of yours is going to come to your rescue. He's a little busy at the moment." She laughed.
I was losing a lot of blood and didn't think I'd be able to stay conscious for much longer unless I could get it to stop. The pile of old drapes was nearby so I grabbed a handful and ripped off a strip of the fabric to tie off the wound. My arm was slicked with blood. It dripped off of my fingertips and soaked into the carpet.
Once I had my arm tied off, I sat down with my back against the wall and watched the door. As quietly as I could, I dropped the clip from my gun and finagled another one into the handle. On the other side of the door, I could hear Darby singing.
"There was a man who had a dog and Dingo was his name-o."
I tried to use my left hand to cock the gun, but my arm was too weak and my fingers were too slicked with blood to get a good enough grip.
I bit down on the top of the gun and pulled back.
One of my teeth popped and blood spilled over the side of the gun.
"D-I-N-G-O and Dingo was his name-o."
I spit the tooth out and watched it roll over next to the broken chair. Well, it was bound to happen. My head couldn't take this much abuse and still stay in one piece for too long.
"There was a man who had a dog and Dingo was his name-o."
I scanned the room for anything that might help me and stopped when I saw the door to the dumbwaiter.
BLAM! A bullet ripped through the door.
BLAM! Another one.
"I-N-G-O and Dingo was his name-o. How'm I doing? Still alive in there, ice-pack?"
I put a shot through the door.
She laughed. "Woo hoo! Not to worry. I still got four verses to go."
I sent a couple more shots through the door then ran over to the dumbwaiter. I kicked at the tiny door. I heard Darby say, "Fuck this," then start firing at the door's hinges.
The top hinge of the hotel room door fell apart as I got the dumbwaiter door open. A wave of stale mildew hit me as I threw my legs down into the chute. The bottom hinge of the front door exploded in a shower of white hot fragments and the door came crashing down on top of Benoit's body. Darby jumped through the doorway with a Glock in each hand, firing indiscriminately into the room.
I was able to squeeze off a couple of rounds at her before I slid down out of sight, but I knew I missed the mark since there were still bullets hitting the wall directly above me.
I let myself fall for a few feet before using my legs to slow my descent, but when I saw Darby's shadow creep into the opening above me, I pulled my legs together, pointed the gun directly overhead, and unloaded.
My shins scraped against the moldy bricks and rusty nails as Darby's shadow completely filled the tiny opening above me, dimming what little light there was in the chute. I plunged down into absolute darkness.
I had no idea how far I fell, but when I hit, my right ankle twisted and fire shot up my leg all the way to my hip. Fortunately, there was an opening the size of a doormat behind me. Gunshots rang out overhead and bullets sparked all around me as I lowered my head and fell backward out of the chute.
Whatever I landed on collapsed in a crash of metal on metal. It took me a moment, but I realized that I had fallen onto a stack of various kitchen supplies. Pots, pans, cookie sheets, all poorly stacked in random piles throughout the room.
As I pulled myself out from under the mess, I gave my body a quick diagnostic. I couldn't tell which hurt more: my head, my hands, or my ankle, but at least they were all more or less functional. My left arm, however, was going numb.
Moving along the wall, I came to a service door that led to the back alley where my Jeep was parked. I limped to the Jeep and tossed the box onto the floor then pulled my broken body behind the steering wheel.
I tossed the gun in the glove box then started the Jeep. I began to pull away but stopped when I came to the passenger seat and the chain sitting in the middle of the alley. I looked up and saw blue light seeping out from various places on the seventh floor of the hotel and I could still hear the low, nearly inaudible rumble of Cerberus' growl.
I knew that if I went inside to help him, I would never come out again. If Darby didn't kill me, Eunice sure as hell would. I was afraid Cerberus was on his own. But I wasn't too worried about it. The damn thing was probably having the time of its life.
Huh. A Frisbee by any other name…