Far from timid • Caveat Lector

Fiction Series: Chuckle - Series Finale

Fiction Series: Chuckle - Series Finale

“Devin!” Charlie bursts into the room, pistol raised. I take shallow breaths and slowly sit up.

“Who was shot?” Andrea whispers through the device, still in my ear.

“It was Keller,” I wheeze. “Did you guys hear shots?”

“No,” Bailey says. “Too much calamity down here. A bunch of shit just came down from the ceiling. We just managed to sneak away.”

“Where are you guys?” Andrea asks. I try to suppress a loud groan as I reach into my shirt, feeling for the bulletproof vest I put on. Two flattened rounds quietly clattered to the floor.

“Upstairs, second room on the right,” Charlie says. “With an ugly statue. Can’t miss it.” I move my hands and she digs in.

“Oh, fuck, yo!” I exclaim.

“Well, thank God they didn’t go through,” she says.

“I feel like I’ve been hit in the chest with a car,” I say. “Fuckin’ .40 cal.” I get to my feet and go sit on the desk. Andrea and Bailey walk in the room.

“Damn,” Bailey says, “What happened here?” He points his gun at the dead woman.

“It was her or me,” I say.

“She was cute,” Bailey says.

“Not anymore,” Andrea says.

“Yeah, well, I hope you guys aren’t in love with Keller,” I say, dropping the nearly empty magazine from my pistol. It clatters to the floor. “Because he’s a fucking dead man.” I slide a fresh magazine in and take a deep breath, wincing a bit. Bailey picks up the magazine from the floor and hands it to me. I nod and tuck it into my pocket.

“I hope that’s a rental,” Andrea says. “Through this door?” She points to the door behind the desk.

“I own it,” I say crisply.

“Well, needle and thread, I guess,” Charlie says. We walk up to the door. Charlie pushes it open. It leads down a poorly-lit flight of stairs. I step up. “Oh, no you don’t. I’ll lead. You can barely breathe." She starts down the flight, pistol raised. I follow closely, then Andrea and Bailey. We move quickly, but carefully.

“Who was that chick?” Andrea asks.

“Don’t know,” I say. “You really wanna find out?”

“It would be useful to know,” Bailey says.

“Maybe you should go back and ask her,” I say. We approach a door with an electronic lock and a keypad. I strike at the keypad with the butt of my pistol until it falls, revealing a handful of wires.

“That’s finesse,” Charlie says, taking the pistol from my left hand as I go to work.

“Mmhmm,” I say. After fiddling with the wires for a moment, the lock beeps in response and the door unlocks. “Such grace and debonair.” I take my pistol back as Charlie pushes the door open and walks in. We sweep the expanse. It’s a well-lit wine cellar.

“Who puts a keypad lock on a wine cellar?” Bailey mutters.

“People who drink real alcohol,” Andrea says.

“Shh,” I say. I hear something across the room. Someone fiddling with a door. I begin gesturing with my hands. I wince a little. We split up, with Charlie following the champagnes and spirits, Bailey taking white wines, and Andrea walking through the rosès. I creep down the aisle with red wines, pistol raised. I reach the end of the aisle and take a few deep breaths. It’s Keller, working on the door. Before I can say anything, the door opens and he darts through. Bailey runs through the open space and I jog behind him, followed by Charlie and Andrea.

“These shoes pinch,” Andrea says.

“We have to hurry,” Bailey says. We burst through this door and end up outside, on a small beach. The sun is beginning to set. We scan the area quickly.

“There!” Charlie exclaims, pointing. Keller is running to a helicopter.

“Keller!” Bailey shouts. He stops for a moment, then raises his gun. I quickly raise my pistol and pull the trigger, putting a bullet in his chest. He seems to be wearing a vest too, as he staggers and stops to probe the wound. We surround him by the empty helicopter.

“Well done,” Keller says, coughing. “.45?”

“I take it you have our data,” I say.

“It’s here,” he says. The others raise their weapons as he reaches in his tux jacket with his left hand, gun still in his right. “You just missed it.” He tosses a phone at our feet. Bailey reaches down and picks it up, not looking away from Keller. My arms droop at my sides for a moment as I struggle to breathe deeply.

“Yep,” Bailey says. “This is everything, and then some.” He continues to navigate the phone.

“There’s stuff in there about the people who want it, too,” Keller says, taking shallow breaths. Everyone looks at me for a moment. I say nothing. We stand in silence.

“I’d say this is a decent haul,” Bailey says. The gun goes limp in Keller’s hand, as if he’s about to drop it.

“You know we have to bring-“ Andrea starts. I raise my pistol and shoot Keller in the head. Blood mists in Andrea’s face. He slowly falls to the ground. Andrea and Bailey stare at me, mortified. Charlie peers at Keller’s unblinking body before putting her pistol away. She kicks the gun away from his body and walks over to the helicopter, trying to open the door.

“Keys,” Charlie says. “Someone check him for keys.” I slowly engage the safety and tuck the pistol away into my shoulder holster, as Bailey quickly rummages through Keller’s pockets for keys.

“Got em,” Bailey says. “What, this is evidence?”

“Maybe,” Charlie says. “I’m gonna fly us outta here. Devin needs a doctor.” She walks around it, peering under it and gently feeling the sand around it for any booby traps.

“Keys,” Bailey says, tossing the set to Charlie. She unlocks the door and slowly opens it, looking around inside.

“You need anything else off him?” Charlie asks.

“Um, um,” Andrea stammers, wiping her face off. “I don’t think so. Maybe.” She checks the body, finding a wallet and address book.

“Bird’s good,” Charlie says, getting in. I walk over to the opposite side and climb in, easing into the seat next to Charlie.

“Y’all coming?” Charlie asks. Andrea and Bailey slowly pile into the back of the helicopter. Charlie starts it and checks the gauges, preparing to take off. I frown for a moment.

“Um, I’m hungry,” I say.

Rise Up: Atlanta Falcons Football is BACK!

Rise Up: Atlanta Falcons Football is BACK!

Photo Series: S.O.S. - Shot On Sight Vol. 1 (Omaha, Nebraska)

Photo Series: S.O.S. - Shot On Sight Vol. 1 (Omaha, Nebraska)