Friday, December 21, 2007
Chapter 2 of Room 59: The Powers That Be
Our preview of Room 59: The Powers That Be continues with chapter two. The prologue and chapter one are featured below in previous posts.
Shit, this is not how it was supposed to go down, Marcus thought, eyeing the meth-cranked biker brandishing a meter-long rusty iron pipe.
“I’m tellin’ you, guys, we got a fuckin’ rat in the house, and we’re all looking at him right now!”
Robbie “Horse” Jenkins shook with the conviction of his drug-fueled suspicions. The biker was a long-term user— in his case, several years, and his face and body showed the ravages of his addiction. His words sprayed out from rotting teeth and his lips, along with the rest of his face, were scabbed and cracked, a by-product of the constant thirst and poor hygiene methamphetamine induced in addicts. His limbs trembled from the damage to his nervous system, but his grip on the pipe was as solid as a rock. The pungent odor wafting from the biker’s filthy jeans, T-shirt and grimy leather vest made Marcus think of summertime on his godfather’s ranch in Texas, where dead cows would bloat and burst from the heat. Given the choice, he’d rather have smelled one of those stinking carcasses than Horse at the moment.
Marcus adjusted the do-rag atop his curly black hair and grinned. “Hey, Horse, take it easy now. Maybe Terry’s a rat and maybe he isn’t, but before we pass judgment, let’s hear his side of the story, huh?”
The good news was that Horse wasn’t inciting the rest of his gang to beat or kill Marcus. The bad news was that he was directing the others’ drug-heightened psychosis at their chemist. The skinny, long-haired guy holding both his hands out in front of him had used his two semesters of college chemistry to produce batches of the most potent meth around, which the Death Angels had been distributing to unsuspect-ing college kids and hard-core addicts throughout a four-state area.
With the government cracking down on the base ingre-dients for cooking the drug, a pipeline for pseudoephedrine from Asia had been flooding the Pacific Northwest during the past year. Assigned by Room 59 to track the flow back to its source, Marcus was wearing the same pair of jeans and leather jacket he had on when he’d first infiltrated the Angels two months earlier, insinuating himself up the chain of com-mand. He tried hard not to think about what he’d had to do to get there—serve as muscle as the Angels got their ship-ments and payments, stand by and watch helplessly as the bikers spread their chemical death, inwardly seething with anger as he saw kids with their whole lives ahead of them trading it all for an insidious, deadly addiction. He’d worked through it by concentrating on the end, not the means used to get there, and finally he’d won enough trust for the Angels to take him to the source.
They were in a converted warehouse in the deserted plains of Montana, their drug lab, manufacturing base and the next link in the chain across the Pacific. But his poten-tial link to the supplier was about to get his head bashed in because their strung-out leader was riding a paranoia high.
“For Christ’s sake, listen to Smooth, man. I haven’t ratted on anybody.” While Horse and the rest of the Angels reeked like month-old dirty laundry marinated in sweat and beer, Marcus smelled the fear oozing out of Terry’s pores ten feet away.
Horse whipped his head around, wild eyes fixing on Marcus. “Yeah? Why you standin’ up for him, man? Maybe you’re in on it, too. You and him got a sweet deal goin’? Sell us all out and take over yourself!” He moved toward Marcus, the pipe held in front of him like an orange baseball bat.
Although Marcus knew at least four ways to disarm Horse, six ways to disable him and more ways than he could count to kill him, that was the last thing he wanted. “Hell no, man, I roll with ya, you know that. Just sayin’ you want to think a bit before you cap our cook. He’s a wizard with the rock, that’s all. Be a long time ’fore we find anyone that good at baking again, y’know?” And if you splatter his brains against the wall, my connection goes with him, Marcus thought.
“Yeah…yeah, maybe you’re right….” Horse said.
The thing about meth addicts was that their addiction was so powerful, if they could be distracted from their train of thought for a few seconds, they often forgot what they were doing in the first place as the gnawing need made its demands known. Marcus waited. Horse started lowering his pipe.
“Why don’t you go take a ride on that M-train and chill?” Marcus relaxed his shoulders and hands, blowing out his breath and shaking his head in mock disapproval at the biker’s antics.
Unfortunately, Terry—who was still smart enough to not use his own product—put two and two together at that exact moment. “Holy shit, Horse, that’s why he was asking about our supplier last night and angling for a meeting! Smooth doesn’t want to take over—he’s the goddamn rat!”
For a moment, everyone froze, including Marcus, who maintained his composure even as his mind shifted into overdrive. I can’t believe a dropout college punk just blew my cover—and after I saved his ass, too.
Before he could say a word, everyone turned to stare at him. And as fast as Horse’s rage had dissipated, he whirled and charged, his drawn face twisted in a mask of hate, the pipe raised overhead to crush the other man’s skull.
Instead of ducking or dodging out of the way, Marcus stepped forward to meet the biker’s wild lunge, pistoning his cowboy-booted foot up and out in a front kick straight at Horse’s chest. The heel slammed into the junkie’s sunken ribs with a sickening crack, and Marcus felt two of them break under his foot. The sudden impact made Horse fold over Marcus’s leg, and the pipe came down slowly enough for Marcus to catch it and twist it out of the collapsing biker’s hands.
As he pushed off Horse’s suddenly limp body, Marcus planted his right foot and brought the pipe down in a diagonal arc, blocking the punch coming from another Angel on his right and breaking the man’s arm. He screamed and fell to his knees and Marcus kept turning, tracking his next target. He saw Terry bolt into the depths of the ware-house, but he still had four crank addicts between him and the chemist.
With a wheezing Horse on the ground and another biker moaning and clutching his broken arm, Marcus had only a few seconds until the rest got it together and rushed him. He snapped the pipe out again in a wide arc, keeping them back, but saw them psyching up to charge, so he moved first. Stepping near the guy to his left, he feinted at the biker’s head. When the man flinched and leaned back, Marcus swept the pipe down into the Angel’s knee. The punk dropped with a howl, clutching the shattered joint, his riding days over for a long time.
The other three all moved at once, the far pair trying to rush Marcus’s flank while the nearest one grabbed at his leather jacket. Sliding his right hand to the middle of the pipe, he jerked it up, the capped end thudding into his attacker’s solar plexus. The biker’s breath whooshed out and he started to fall, but Marcus kept him upright and shoved him back into the other two, both of whom aborted their attacks to dodge their injured buddy. The stunned Angel plopped to the ground on his back, trying to draw breath into his reddening face.
Marcus faced the last two, who had regrouped and now ex-changed uneasy glances, having just seen him take down four of their buddies in less than fifteen seconds. Marcus tucked the end of the pipe under his arm, held his other hand out at low guard and stared at them. “If you don’t want to end up like them, get the hell out of here right now,” he growled.
The pair glanced at their prone comrades and took off, their boots clattering in the cavernous warehouse as they ran for their bikes. Marcus straightened up and turned toward the back of the building, scanning for Terry. The roar of an engine starting warned him of danger even before the pickup truck’s headlights came on. The speeding vehicle surged right at Marcus, making him dive out of the way, skidding to a stop on the oil-stained floor. He heard a scream as the truck barreled by, followed by a thump, and then a shriek of shearing metal as the warehouse doors were torn away by the truck roaring out of the place.
Marcus got up and took a step toward the bikes outside, but stopped as he heard the explosive whoosh of fuel ig-niting behind him. Glancing back, he saw a bright blue flare of natural gas. Damn it, he set off the fuel supply. He looked at the receding pickup truck, then back at the bikers and ran back to them. Even though they were drug-dealing junkie scum, no one deserved to die like that, he thought.
One look at Horse told Marcus he was the one who’d been killed by the truck. The impact had sent him skidding across the floor, his chest and face a bleeding broken mass. The broken-armed biker had gotten to his feet and was try-ing to help out his stunned buddy, leaving the guy with the blown knee for Marcus. He grabbed the guy’s leather collar and dragged him across the concrete floor, barking, “Get the hell out of here!”
The other two Death Angels staggered out behind him just as the volatile chemicals in the warehouse began cook-ing off, exploding in bursts of shattered glass and metal. “You two keep going, this whole place is gonna blow!” Marcus said. “And take gimpy with you.” He patted his man’s vest pockets, coming up with the keys to his bike, then shoved him at the other two. “Go!”
Running around to the front of the warehouse, Marcus found the motorcycle that fit the key, switched it on, kicked the starter over and gunned the powerful engine. The straight pipes blatted as he shot away from the burning warehouse and past the trio of bikers, now about forty yards away. He had just shouted “Get down!” when the entire building went up in a huge fireball, spraying sheets of metal and timber framing everywhere.
The shock wave rolled out around Marcus and the mo-torcycle, forcing him to fight to retain control. Once he had stabilized his ride, he glanced back to see the trio of bikers sprawled on the ground, but all still moving, and none of them on fire. He shifted into second until he hit the dirt road leading away from the warehouse, then opened the bike up, trying to eat up the distance between him and his prey. With less than ten miles to go before the highway, there was a good chance the chemist would reach the main road and be long gone before Marcus got there.
Cresting a small rise, the Room 59 operative caught sight of the pickup as it bounced along the rutted hardpan a half mile away. He twisted the throttle hard. The bike’s back tire sprayed gravel as it thundered down the hill. The truck had no chance of outrunning the powerful bike, and Marcus soon drew within a few yards of the pickup, hunching as Terry slewed the vehicle back and forth, kicking up rocks and dirt and forcing Marcus to keep his distance.
He blinked through the cloud of dust thrown up in the truck’s wake, his eyes tearing. Okay, I’ve found him—now what? he wondered. The answer came in the next fifty yards. The dirt road curved sharply, and Terry was forced to slam on the brakes or lose control as he headed into the turn.
Seeing his chance, Marcus aimed the bike left of the truck and pushed the road bike up to the truck’s rear fender. He hopped up on the seat, balanced there for a moment, then leaped into the open bed of the pickup.
Though he tried to keep his legs under him and his body loose, Marcus landed hand, falling to his hands and knees and banging his ribs on the wheel well. He shook off the stars and crawled to the back window, rising up and enjoying the sight of Terry’s wide, terrified eyes as he saw the scowling biker coming for him in the rearview mirror. The kid slammed on the brakes, pitching Marcus forward to crack his head on the window. Then he jammed the gas pedal to the floor, sending him skittering back across the bed to slam into the tailgate.
“This son of a bitch is pissing me off,” Marcus muttered. Using the side of the truck bed, he pulled himself toward the driver’s side of the cab. He wedged himself into the corner and yanked off one of his boots, then popped up again and swung the heel at the side window, which exploded across Terry in a spray of safety-glass pellets. The kid shouted and jerked the wheel to the right, the pickup fishtailing as he wrestled for control.
Marcus tossed his boot into the cab and reached in, grab-bing Terry by the throat. “Stop right now, or I’ll tear your goddamn head off!”
The terrified kid hit the brakes, but Marcus was braced for it this time, and rode with the truck as it skidded to a stop. “Turn it off, slowly,” he ordered.
Terry did so, unable to protest due to the steady pressure on his windpipe. Marcus released the scared chemist, then popped him in the jaw, sending him flopping over on the bench seat, out cold.
“Damn, kid, didn’t think I hit ya that hard.” Marcus swung down from the bed, opened the door and pushed him over to the passenger side. He retrieved his boot and slipped it on, then started the truck and headed for the interstate. “Lost the lab, and the bikers got away. At least I got the guy I came for—and he’s even still alive. Asia pipeline, here we come.”
He ruffled the unconscious kid’s lank hair, then Marcus’s expression turned cold for a moment, thinking of that Indian Chief motorcycle he’d had to ditch to get him. Even though he stank like body odor and felt like chopped roadkill, he had enjoyed the riding, the wind in his hair, the feeling of freedom on the open plain. Maybe when all this was over, he’d get himself a bike. But before that, he wanted a long, hot shower, although he doubted the stink would ever wash away—and the wounds to his soul were another matter en-tirely.
Marcus shook his head as he turned onto the Montana highway. “The things I do for my job.”
at 2:29 PM