***** ***** *****
MaryAnne wasn't ready to return to the Jigsaw right away. Not after seeing her kin and the conversation that had taken place. Not after seeing the look on Rosco's face, and Brian having hit her. A zillion things were going through her mind, the least of which was the objective of her undercover work.
She had to regroup. Get herself together to face whatever the Syndicate threw at her next. Lord knew she had to be on her toes. The emotional pleas of her kin had to be pushed aside. But she found she couldn't completely ignore them either.
She glanced at the clock on the Trans Am's dash and realized she hadn't eaten for most of the day. The inviting lights from Lou's Deli glowed in the windshield.
But was it really that inviting? After Frankie's gang had followed her from the Night Owl Grocery and then Bruno paying the ultimate price, based on Mole's "good info," MaryAnne figured to stay away from the deli and even the liquor store. Seeing as Mole came into the deli the same time she was in there...
She wondered just who, exactly, did Mole work for?
Trying to figure it all out only made her stomach growl more. Lou's Deli unfortunately was the only place where she could trust the food. She parked the Trans Am out front and walked in.
Lou looked surprised to see her. "Hello, young lady. What can I get you?"
"Roast beef sandwich to go, please." MaryAnne stood at the counter and absently watched Lou as he prepared the sandwich. She recalled the first time Rosco tried to put together a roast beef sandwich for her just after she had first moved to Hazzard. He had piled so much of it onto the roll that when she took her first bite, the entire thing fell apart on her plate.
She chuckled but looked away. Her eyes burned with the threat of tears.
"Coffee or root beer with that?" Lou asked without turning around.
MaryAnne drew in a quiet breath. "Coffee."
Lou poured it in a carry-out cup and didn't bother adding cream or sugar. Feds always drank their coffee black, and the stronger the better. He bagged the sandwich and turned around, putting MaryAnne's order on the counter. He rang it up, and over the ching of the cash register, said something cryptic. "There's a big coffee drinker who wanted you to know something."
MaryAnne looked up.
"He said that you have two beer drinkers in the area who might blow your cover. Said he'll try to have them picked up so they stay outta trouble."
MaryAnne snorted. "Yeah...yeah, I know about them two beer drinkers. I've already had a couple of run-ins with 'em." She paused, pulling out her money to pay for the food. She handed Lou the money. "Tell him the sooner the better on them two. Tell him the second one is now supposed to be a flat liner."
"Got it," Lou answered as he handed her the change. "Big Coffee also said that an old friend is putting the make on you and to look both ways before crossing the street."
MaryAnne paused in thought. Old friend?…probably Tyler… yeah. She looked at Lou and nodded, understanding. "I'll be careful." She picked up the bag. "Thanks, Lou."
"You bet." Lou wasn't one to get drippy on goodbyes. Especially when he'd said so many of them during his years in business and as a casual informer.
MaryAnne nodded and left the deli. The Trans Am left the curb and drove towards the Jigsaw. She drove around the hotel and parked on the sidestreet on the right hand side of the building, facing out. She had a good view of the front door of the Jigsaw...and the pawn shop across the street. The Pontiac's engine shut down and the lights went out. Quietly, MaryAnne ate her sandwhich and drank her coffee...keeping an eye out around her.
Ten minutes passed uneventfully. Then a black Ford moved out from somewhere behind the Jigsaw, with only the parking lights on. It was out to stalk something, evidently.
All that remained at this point of MaryAnne's roast beef sandwich was the wrapper. She eyed the Ford in her mirrors, dismissed it and leaned over to lock the passenger door of the Trans Am. She threw the wrapper into the console between the seats and exited the car with her now half full cup of coffee. With the door locked, she walked towards the front door of the Jigsaw.
The noise was pouring through the cracks of the door before she even opened it. "Home", such as it was, sounded back to normal. Bruno's passing had not gone unnoticed, but in the Syndicate, one's companions carried on gamely after the memorials were through. Especially if they were staggering drunk.
MaryAnne opened the door to see Rusty dancing on the pool table. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he wasn't dancing on the floor. No one else seemed to care, since Sophie and her fellow working girls were shaking a few moves over by the gambling tables. Whooping and yelling and a few ceiling-aimed gunshots mixed in with the grinding tune of "Honky Tonk Woman."
MaryAnne stepped into the fray as if on cue.
Rusty saw her, pointed a pool cue in her direction, and said "MaryyyyAnnnne! They're playin' your song!"
MaryAnne paused a moment and looked up at him and then started laughing. She then sung along, doing a little dance to the tune. "Gimm-ay, gimm-ay, gimm-ay the honky tonk blues!"
Whistles erupted. Rusty lowered his hand down to MaryAnne. "C'mere, it ain't as crowded in the *hic* balcony."
MaryAnne took his hand and climbed up on the pool table. Granted, she wasn't as drunk as everyone else, but it was a good excuse to forget some things for while.
Rusty gave her a spontaneous kiss on the cheek without thinking about it, then resumed his mad effort to stay upright. It was questionable how much of his gyrations were a dance, and how much was his attempt to match the spinning of the room. "I'ma good dancher," he announced in case there was any confusion. "Sophie sez I can work for her aaaaanytime I want."
MaryAnne chuckled. "Yeah, you would definitely be an asset to her operations!"
"Sheeeze called me that, yeah!" Rusty grinned openly. With his sunglasses missing, the light in his hazel eyes was easy to see. Even if his eyes were a little glassy in the bargain.
The hazel eyes were looking at her now, sinking into MaryAnne's blue. Rusty stopped himself in mid-boogie to ponder a serious question, put the only way he could voice it. "Miz Coltrane...where in the hell have you been all my life?"
"Uhhh..." MaryAnne felt a little uncomfortable now, but she hid it. "Hell, I don't know!" she replied and laughed.
"Well, no wonder I didn't find ya before!" With this resolved, Rusty resumed his groove. He waved some beers over for himself and MaryAnne, managed to catch one full bottle that was flung at them but the second shattered on the wall behind him. "Whoops, 'attsa shame...here, have mine."
MaryAnne took his bottle and looked at the beer dripping down the wall. "Damn, Rusty, that ain't cheap beer ya know!" She waved her hand for the next bottle to be handed to her, as opposed to thrown. Once she got it, she passed it to Rusty.
"Why, thank yew. Ahhh, don't worry. The tab's on Mole t'night, heze buyin'..."
"Is he now??" MaryAnne's eyebrow went up right along with her beer bottle. She raised it up and looked around for the silent Syndicate man...who was nowhere to be seen.
"Pah...he ain't even here," she muttered in fained disappointment.
"Whydaya think we're havin' sucha good time?" Rusty laughed, sending himself into a coughing fit.
"Ooh...easy there big guy." MaryAnne slapped Rusty on the back a couple times. She then laughed. "Yeah, now I can understand why y'all are partyin' hardy here..." She couldn't help but wonder where Mole was right now, however.
Then she remembered that a black Ford had left the Jigsaw a few minutes ago. It could have been the same Ford that Mole and Rusty had when they'd followed her to the place of Rosco's supposed 'demise.'
"Hey uh...any idea why he'd be so generous to buy y'all beer, but not hang around for the party? I realize he's not very sociable and all but still..."
Rusty swigged his beer sloppily, and burped with the answer. "He said that Bruno woulda wanted it, and since Mole felt Bruno getting nailed was partly his fault, he musta had a soft-hearted moment...hell, free beer. Who cares?"
"I care..." For some reason, MaryAnne had every inborn cop alarm ringing. "Uh....listen, I hate to drink and run, but I just remembered there's something I was supposed to do. I'll catch y'all later!" She jumped down from the pool table, leaving her bottle of beer on the edge of it. Despite voices that protested, she ran for the front door.
As she flung the door open wide and ran to the Trans Am, she didn't see anything unusual. If anything, the Syndicate neighborhood was quiet, save for the boom-thud-boom of the music coming from the Jigsaw. There was no telling where Mole had went or what he was up to.
She dug out her keys and got into the Pontiac. The engine roared to life and she pulled away from the curb, swinging the Trans Am around in the street and tearing off. In a moment she was slowly passing by Lou's Deli, and to her relief, nothing seemed amiss. She mentally scratched it off her list of worries, while tapping the steering wheel in thought. There was trouble tonight. She could smell it. But where?
The Trans Am sped up and MaryAnne thought hard. She thought of how Mole knew of Rusty and Bruno's job on Frankie's gang...and Mole had been sitting right next to Spade when the Don had given her delivery instructions...and Frankie's gang had been waiting for her.
She spotted a side street and quickly cut the Trans Am down it. She realized it wasn't the destinations of the deliveries that she was worried about, it was the origination of the goods. That being the Syndicate warehouse on 53rd.
MaryAnne blew through an intersection just as the light turned red and slowed down and turned onto 53rd street. The Trans Am now crept.
The feeling of something being terribly wrong was hitting her in waves. She pulled into the warehouse's back parking lot, which was half-gravel and half broken asphalt. The entire place looked darker than it should have been, and eerily deserted.
A docking bay door, like the kind used for semi-trailers, was gaping half open. She also noticed that there were no lights on, either in or outside of the building. Usually a warehouse like this had some form of on-site security that operated around the clock. Usually...
She stopped the Trans Am near the door and cut the engine and lights. She stepped out of the car and pulled her small flashlight out of her jacket pocket. She clicked it on and jumped up on the docking bay and went in to the building.
She shined her light around the open bay of the warehouse. Nothing stirred and it was completely quiet, save for her footsteps echoing lightly. The warehouse was practically empty, but the few empty crates and boxes that remained only helped to fuel MaryAnne's dreadful feeling. The forklifts were even haphazardly parked. She walked up to a crate and pushed it with her foot, turning it on end.
She turned her flash light up and found a door on the wall to her left, the words "Shipping Office" written thinly below the frosted window. The door was open, and it was as dark inside as it was in the rest of the warehouse. Slowly, she walked towards it, her senses acute.
She swept the flashlight beam around the perimeter, then nudged the door open wider with her boot. The door hit against something and would open no wider.
Cautiously, she stepped into the office, holding onto the door handle and flashing the light behind the door to see what was preventing it from opening more.
She saw the broken telephone and the body of the shipping clerk at the same time. It had been a clean, fast kill. Professional.
Marty hadn't suffered, at least. MaryAnne shone the flashlight on the clerk's face, recognizing the slender man as the same one she'd dealt with during her "merchandise" pick-up for Spade.
MaryAnne looked back out into the darkened warehouse. Being next to a fresh corpse was never something she got used to when she had worked for the city police. She withdrew her gun and then flashed the light around in the office to find a light switch. It was next to the door. Holding the gun up and at the ready, she flicked the switch.
The overhead light came on, and now the silence from the warehouse was accompanied by the buzz of a fluorescent light. A quick scan of the office revealed organized destruction; as if the raiders had known exactly what they were looking for and where to find it. Seeing the handset of the phone cradled in Martry's right hand, MaryAnne wondered who he was trying to call when his lights went out for good. The police? The Jigsaw?
Did he have the phone number memorized, or was it one that he only carried around for emergencies?
MaryAnne tucked her gun back into her holster and kneeled down to the body. With minimal disturbance, she noted the phone in his right hand. In his left hand was a tiny slip of crumpled paper, simply bearing a local phone number that she didn't immediately recognize. That ruled out the police.
If it had been for the Jigsaw, there was no way anyone there would have heard the phone ringing over the noise of the party. MaryAnne reached into a pocket of her denim jacket and took out a small evidence bag. She turned it inside out, and used it as a sort of glove to pick up the piece of paper. Then she inverted the bag again, successfully trapping the evidence without getting her fingerprints on it. Lou would be able to pass this on to the FBI, if she could get it to him.
She looked at the phone number, taking a moment to memorize it before putting the bag into the opposite pocket of her jacket. She then turned to look at the papers strewn over the desk. The filing cabinet had also been emptied and desk drawers were opened. MaryAnne carefully sifted through the papers, seeing nothing of particular importance. Most were shipping receipts and copies of manifests, but they all appeared legitimate, for various items ranging from notebook paper to auto parts. She made a face, figuring that either the warehouse kept it's Syndicate records somewhere else, or the documents were taken by whoever had gone through the desk and filing cabinet. She glanced down at the trash can beside the desk and saw two loose carbon sheets. On a wild hunch, she leaned over and picked them up, holding them to the light.
The carbon papers read a shipment of "cigarettes." It included a shipping date and name and address of a supplier. The shipment had come in the day before MaryAnne had picked it up.
The young law officer was bug eyed. Quickly, she folded the carbon slips up and tucked it in her pocket with the baggie. She picked up her flashlight took another look around the office. Seeing Marty’s body on the floor reminded her that she had probably spent more than enough time investigating. She checked that everything was as she found it, and she left the office, killing the lights as she did so.
A nearby street lamp shined enough for her to see her way back to the docking bay door. She jumped down to the pavement and returned to the Trans Am. After a moment, she was driving fast out of the back lot.
***** ***** *****
MaryAnne made a hasty stop at Lou's Deli before returning to the Jigsaw. She calmly walked in and approached the counter. "Lou...I need a huge favor from ya..."
"Out of lunch money, are you?"
"You might say that." She removed the baggie and carbon sheets from her pocket. She also had the cigarettes and she put those in another plastic baggie. "Let me have one of your bags there." She pointed and Lou handed her a bag. She placed everything in the brown bag and then folded the top over and slid it across the counter.
"Get this stuff to the big coffee drinker. Special delivery. Parcel number '53.'"
Lou put the bag out of sight, under the counter. "I'm running low on some supplies here, I might just have to go out tonight after closing."
MaryAnne nodded. "Be careful. And thanks." She hesitated no further and quickly turned and left the deli. She jumped into the Trans Am and swung up around the block, coming out on to the street the Jigsaw was located on and going past the pawn shop. She did a U-turn and hastily parked in front of the Jigsaw and headed inside.
The party was still going on strong, though casualties of over-indulgence were apparent. Rusty was curled up on a pool table, sleeping it off. The remnants of a fight were apparent with a few broken barstools and a shattered neon light.
No one would have noticed MaryAnne’s return, or have even remembered that she’d left, except for one clear, oily voice raising over the din. "Look who's here," Mole announced from the bar.
MaryAnne turned and looked at him. She grinned. "Well now...there ya are." She looked at the party and then back to Mole. "Sure didn't want to see you miss out on everything."
Mole only gave her a cold sneer. He gestured at the bartender for the phone, and it was plunked down in front of him. Mole dialed to an in-house number within the hotel. "Better get down here," was all he said before hanging up.
MaryAnne snorted and walked over to Rusty. She looked down at him cradling an empty bottle of beer in his hand and with a grin on his face. She shook her head and looked around at the rest of the Jigsaw.
She recognized Tony's hulking form, which was underneath a pile of broken bar furniture. It was possible that he'd started the fight. He looked to be more or less comfortable, and the rough snoring assured her that he was still alive.
Ace, the tall hitman with the long blonde hair, was attempting to have a drunken, meaningful discussion with one of Sophie's girls, who was in the midst of a giggling fit. He quickly forgot what he was saying and joined her in laughter, falling down in the process. Everywhere the eye could see, there were signs of a Syndicate holiday gone too far. Why hadn't Spade kept them from this condition? He was a disciplined Don, and those under him usually observed decorum.
MaryAnne glanced back at Mole. Perhaps, Spade wasn't disciplined enough. That alone could prove to be his fatal weakness if he didn't open his eyes and realize what was going on within his own organization. MaryAnne knew the look Mole was giving her. She had been gone, and the warehouse had been hit at about the same time...she figured she'd just walked into a grade-A frame up.
It was even possible she was about to greet the end of her undercover work. Along with her career. And her life.
It took Spade several minutes to get downstairs to the bar. He had retired to his private suite an hour before, and evidently had been enjoying Sophie's company. The Syndicate madam was bleary-eyed, more than half-drunk like everybody else, and she clung onto Spades arm as if it were the only way to keep upright.
For the Don himself, he had been drinking just enough to be in no mood for interruptions. Seeing the condition of his organization didn't help. A slow flush was creeping up from his neck, and from the look in his snake-green eyes, heads were going to roll. Literally.
Mole was the only one that didn't flinch from the Don's scalding glare. As Spade turned to him for an explanation, Mole offered one fearlessly. "A few of your captains took it upon themselves to loose control," he said mildly. "The rank and file followed. I told them the drinks were on me. I didn't tell them to drink until they were useless."
The Don looked ready to order self-immolation to anyone sober enough to accomplish it.
Mole kept talking. "I called you because of a more critical issue. The warehouse on 53rd has been hit. I believe I know who is responsible." Mole gestured his head towards MaryAnne, as a terrible hush fell over the Jigsaw.
Spade came up so close to MaryAnne, that his combined scents of bourbon, cigarettes, and expensive cologne were enough to make her choke. "You won't live to regret it," he promised with a tense, guttural voice.
"Hold it," MaryAnne said, raising her hands up. "Just back off a minute here. What the hell purpose would it serve if I hit the warehouse?" She then looked at Mole. "And just what exactly do you mean by 'hit'?"
Spade snapped his fingers. There was a frantic shuffling as a few enforcers tried to get themselves in order.
Mole stood directly behind Spades right ear, and filled it with suggestions that fired the Don’s anger. "Rusty saw Miss Coltrane leave here in a hurry. Soon afterwards, tonight's delivery man found the warehouse empty and Marty dead. The goods and the manifests are gone."
Spade pointed at Rusty, and one of the other enforcers roused him. "Tell me what you told Mole," the Don demanded as Rusty shuffled over.
"I saw MaryAnne leave. That's all," Rusty swallowed.
"I don't...I don't know..."
Rusty looked at the old clock on the wall. "Maybe...an hour ago. I'm not sure."
Mutterings arose. Spade silenced them with a downward swipe of his hand. "Miss Coltrane," he growled, "You've just proven to be more audacious than what's good for you."
MaryAnne met Spade's gaze without flinching. She held his green eyes for a long moment, a challenge. "And you're wrong," she returned with her own growl. She spoke slowly and clearly so that everyone in the Jigsaw could hear. "I did NOT hit the warehouse. But yes, I did leave here. And I'll tell ya why..." She broke her gaze from the Don and brushed past him a bit, taking a few steps away, and then turning to face him and everyone in the Jigsaw.
"First of all, I get really mad when somebody accuses me of something, yet offers no proof whatsoever of their claim. Just because it comes from his mouth, you take it for the truth! And you take it just like Rusty and Bruno took his information when they went to hit on Frankie's gang...and Bruno lost his life."
MaryAnne stared at Spade hard. "Are you so much a fool as to be trusting of him, when a man in your position should trust NO ONE?" MaryAnne kept her eyes on the Syndicate Don as she walked around the pool table. "I'm not the only one who wasn't here this evening..." She pointed to Mole. "He wasn't here either. But I'm sure he was somewhere doing something noble for the Syndicate, so we won't take him to task on that."
She paused next to one of the big thugs who teetered a bit, but remained standing as much as he could. There wasn’t a single one of them in good shape. MaryAnne shook her head and went on, turning her sharp blue eyes back to Spade.
"I was a cop for a long time, long enough to pick up certain instincts. Like when people were lying by the way they held their eyes, held their posture. I know when someone is acting two-faced..." She paused, knowing Spade was paying attention.
"Frankie's gang hit this place a few weeks ago. I left here on a "patrol", merely because I had the feelin' that Frankie could try to hit it again, especially with everybody falling down drunk. For crying out loud, he could have just come in by himself and pushed everybody over!" She looked around at everyone now, silently scolding them for their lack of security in light of recent events. "You lose one of yer own and you all party hardy, to the point you leave yourselves wide open."
She looked at Mole. "And you..."beer’s on me." HA! Some goddamn help you are!"
She walked back to Spade. "I didn't hit the freakin' warehouse and that's the god's honest truth. But if you're gonna stand there and take his word for everything, fine. If you think I did it, and you feel you have to deal with this in the manner you see fit, you go right ahead. Have whoever the hell here is sober enough to do it, haul me off, put me somewhere where they won't find me and be done with it! But I'm giving you a warnin', Spade. Frankie's gang is not that damn lucky! You have an internal problem...and it's not me."
The mutterings were growing loud now, as MaryAnne's reasoning got through to the sodden brains of the Syndicate. Spade silenced them, but not as easily as last time. Rusty had edged over closer to MaryAnne, whether to offer support, protection, or to be there to carry out Spade's anticipated order, she didn't know.
The enforcers were confused. No one liked Mole, but he was almost beyond suspicion. Except by one man. "Where did you go tonight, Mole?" Spade asked lowly.
"You're listening to her?" Mole said with irritation. "Her? A former cop, and a cousin to a traitor?"
Spade snapped his fingers again, and Mole was abruptly surrounded. But the enforcers were ill at ease, unsure. Mole was like a permanent part of the Syndicate; A hated one, but a necessary one. He had warned them of Brian's intent to betray the Syndicate long before it had happened. And he had warned them of the Fed raid which followed those events. There was little Mole spoke of that didn’t come to pass…
Similar thoughts were flooding Spade's mind. The one fact he couldn't shake, though, now that he thought about it, was this: Mole was there when Tyler was the Don, back when the Big Man ran everything. Mole was there when the coup was pulled on Tyler, and Mancini took over. And then when the Feds were busting things up, Mole was there when Spade himself took over.
Spade suddenly raised his hand and was ready to snap his fingers, but he paused so that Mole knew there'd be only one chance to answer. Hammers clicked back.
"Who has my merchandise? Who'd you sell out to this time, Mole?"
"I can prove I had nothing to do with it," Mole answered with the same deadly calm he always showed. Then his gun was out of his jacket and in his hand so fast that no one had time to blink in between. He had it aimed right between Spade's eyes. "Not one of you moves," Mole said to the surrounding thugs, whose reflexes might have been better if they weren't fighting off the liquor.
Spade's face was a thundercloud. He'd been tricked, and no one who tricked him ever lived to laugh about it. But right now he was as helpless as he'd ever been in his criminal career.
"Drop the guns," Mole ordered the Syndicate. "Or you'll be looking for more than a new Don. One of you would kill me eventually, but I could account for half of you first. Who wants to be in that half?"
Guns clattered to the floor.
Mole laughed, a tinny, shallow sound, devoid of a soul. He moved towards the door, his sunglass-covered eyes reading the Jigsaw. His gun stayed pointed at the Don. "You're out of business," he announced. "The Big Man thanks you for your help in returning him to power. The drug shipments will finance his operations nicely. Your suppliers already know Tyler’s cleaned out your warehouse. They'll never do business with you again..."
Mole's back was at the door. He opened it from behind himself, ready to leap out, but waiting for something. The Syndicate held it's collective breath.
Car engines could be heard pulling up to the curb, idling, revving.
Mole bid a last invitation. "I have one job left to do. Miss Coltrane - won't you come join me?"
MaryAnne looked at Mole, undeterred. Rusty was next to her and Spade watched over her shoulder. Every eye in the Syndicate was on her. Outside, the rumdrum of engines filtered in through the door behind Mole.
Standing fearlessly, MaryAnne gave her answer. "Sorry, Mole. I've sworn my allegiance to Spade. There ain't no way in hell I'd join with you."
"Join with me? Oh, no, Miss Coltrane. My job is to kill you. Mr. Tyler would like the pleasure of your company one last time, however."
MaryAnne smirked. "Yeah, I bet he would. You tell him that if we wishes the pleasure of my company one more time, he can come get me himself."
"Mr. Tyler will see you regardless," Mole said decisively, and swung the barrel of his gun in MaryAnne's direction. The second Mole pivoted his stance, Rusty dove for the floor by the pool tables and yanked MaryAnne with him. The bullet punched a gaping hole into the leg of the pool table, missing MaryAnne by a fraction.
The Syndicate, still reeling from the booze but well-trained, responded to the gunfire. Several thugs scrambled to get their guns from the floor, grabbing them up and diving behind the bar. Others pushed over the poker and pool tables, hiding behind them. At the same time, shouts erupted and car doors slammed as Frankie's boys moved in to lay siege on the Jigsaw. They came in and sprayed bullets liberally.
Mole ignored this activity and continued to fire at his target, knowing that MaryAnne would likely become unnerved and make a fatal mistake.
With all hell breaking lose around her, MaryAnne retrieved her gun from her shoulder holster. The pool table took the brunt of Mole's bullets, lead punching away the wood in splintering chunks. But she waited, protected at this moment by the cover, but in the wrong position to return any fire. She swore loudly as more bullets popped around her and flinched as wood fragments spit over her. She patiently waited for a break in the volley and looked at Rusty.
Rusty had retrieved a small gun from the folds of his jacket, but like MaryAnne, he couldn't move without exposing himself to a bullet. Around them, the sound of gunfire was building in volume, it's noise joined by piercing screams. Sophie could be heard shrieking orders to her girls and to the unfortunate customers who'd been trapped in the fray. Get to the basement, get to the basement, she was saying, though she knew if the Jigsaw fell it was over for all of them.
The sound of battle carried it's drumbeat down the echoing streets, causing lights to be turned off and stores to be closed hastily. The pawn shop's neon glow flickered off abruptly, and the two men standing outside by a Chevy Impala froze in their tracks.
Brian had the trunk open and had been filling it with more spare tires, purchased at the pawnshop. Now, as the echoes and ricochets volleyed back and forth in the Atlanta streets, he slammed the trunk shut with shaking hands. He and Rosco both knew where the sound of gunfire was coming from, and neither could find the voice to acknowledge their worst fear aloud.
Rosco's face was absolutely white. Without a word, he dove into the Diablo's passenger side. Brian jumped in and started the Chevy, knowing they could be already too late.
The gun battle continued. The bullets stopped hitting the pool table long enough for MaryAnne to scramble out from under it. Mole had been forced to seek better coverage, and in just the brief moment it took him to duck behind a table turned on it's side, MaryAnne had moved.
Bullets whizzed by her as she rolled past the jukebox. Glass and beer were all over the floor, the glass bottles behind the bar were popping like firecrackers. The jukebox took a direct hit and sparks flew from the hole left by the bullet. She managed to lunge towards the doorway that led to the rest of the hotel, and she pressed her back against the wall and peered around into the bar.
Rusty managed to make it to the doorway as well and he watched from the other side. MaryAnne spotted Mole near the exit, looking from behind the table. More than likely looking for her.
She aimed and splintered the wood just mere inches from the turncoat's face. He flinched and then looked and saw her near the door. His relentless shooting continued.
MaryAnne backed away from the door as bullets ripped through the edge. "Son of a--" The bullets stopped and she suddenly leaned out and took aim, returning a fierce volley of her own. Her bullets ripped holes into the table Mole was hiding behind, and into the wall beyond him. He squeezed off a few shots in answer before he ducking and crawling towards another table.
MaryAnne flinched again, disappearing behind the wall. Her entire shoulder had twitched painfully, but she ignored it and looked over at Rusty. "God dammit!! Rusty, we need better leverage!!"
"There isn't any! They're gonna exhaust our ammo and cut us down like pigeons!" he yelled over the pepper of shots. He squeezed off another bullet and ducked back as it was answered. His hazel eyes darted to MaryAnne's, then locked onto a dark stain on her denim jacket. "You been hit!"
"Never mind me! We gotta figure something or they're gonna cut us all to shreds!" She peered into the bar for a moment, taking a quick assessment of the situation. Frankie's gang, along with Mole, were on one side of the Jigsaw near the entrance. The Syndicate was holed up in scattered pockets, either behind the bar or the pool tables. Some...were face down on the floor.
Everybody's too damn drunk to put up a fight! Lookie, Rosco. Look at the Coltrane that's about to get her fool head shot off... She turned away and glanced at her wounded shoulder. Well, close enough...
Rusty probably was right though. There was no way they were going to get much leverage on Frankie's gang. Tyler’s bunch were alert and in control at the moment. The Syndicate would need something to surprise the enemy and take them off guard completely. Something to force them out the door, or into a corner.
Rosco was praying for one himself. Lord, please protect MaryAnne, please let her be alright...he hung on to the Chevy's dash with one hand and reached for his pearl-handled Colt with the other. It wasn't there. He had been relieved of it at the Jigsaw, when the thugs had confronted him.
"Brian, I'm unarmed," he said urgently. "Dammit, she's in there getting killed and I'm unarmed!"
"Take my gun," Brian offered. He hung onto Diablo's wheel with one hand and dug the pistol out from his jacket with the other. The Chevy was howling down the back alleys, as Brian's immediate strategy was to spring out at the front of the Jigsaw with the greatest chance of surprise. They would be there in seconds, even with the indirect route. "What're we gonna do, Sheriff, go in there and do a Butch and Sundance?"
"We wouldn't make it past the front door," Rosco said. He made sure the pawn-shop special was loaded and spun the chamber shut. He was all Sheriff in this crisis, though his concern for MaryAnne was giving him a suffocating, grieving pain.
Diablo shot from the alley and was now on the street that bordered the front of the Jigsaw. There were four black cars in front of the rambling hotel, with Mercedes and BMW's announcing who had come calling on the Syndicate.
The gunfire seemed to be concentrated from within the bar, though there were four men firing from just outside the front door. "They’re the wheelmen," Brian said gravely. "If they're out of their cars, Frankie's gang must have the upper hand..."
"Then we gotta draw 'em off! Make a pass by 'em, Brian, go slow enough so I can get decent aim!"
"We're gonna die," Brian said cheerfully.
"Hush! Just do it!"
The passenger side of Diablo was facing Frankie's cars and the Jigsaw. Rosco couldn't ask for a closer shot. He fired the pawn-shop pistol once, twice, breaking the glass of a Mercedes and sending another bullet to nick the outside wall by Tyler’s wheelmen. Surprised but alert, the four men at the Jigsaw's door spun and were greeted by two more shots from Rosco that sent them diving. Brian hit the gas and Diablo tore off.
"Make another pass," Rosco said breathlessly as he reloaded. "We gotta get 'em flushed outta there so they come after us..."
"And then?" Brian asked, cutting Diablo down the alley.
"Then we run like hell."
The voices of the enemy began shouting over the din. Trouble outside! MaryAnne's shoulder was stiffening up and it was getting to the point where she couldn't ignore the nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach. She peered into the bar and then up to the balcony above it. She quickly thought of a last ditch idea, and waved Rusty over to follow her upstairs.
Bullets trailed after them, but once they were upstairs they were fairly well hidden. MaryAnne hurried to her room and dropped to her knees, pulling out one of her duffel bags from beneath her bed. She opened the side pouch on the bag and pulled out a few packages of small firecrackers and cigarette lighter.
"Here," she said, handing some to Rusty. "Light 'em and throw 'em at Frankie's boys. Try to pitch these behind the tables they’re using for cover. That oughta throw 'em off a bit."
"You got it." Rusty took the packages and then dug out his own cigarette lighter.
"Come on," MaryAnne said, holding her own handful. She stood up and lurched a bit with nausea.
Rusty caught her. "MaryAnne..."
"I'm alright, I'm alright. I may be wounded but I ain't down. Let's go." She headed out of her room and Rusty followed. They went down the hall, taking positions behind two pillars that bookended the railing of the loft. The gun battle raged on below them. MaryAnne caught the glance of one of the enforcers. She pointed frantically for him to keep shooting. He nodded and passed the word on to others behind the bar.
MaryAnne pressed her back against the pillar and opened the first package. She fanned out the wicks and separated the group into two. Rusty was busy doing the same thing. She looked over at him when he looked up to indicate he was ready.
He nodded and MaryAnne held up her gun. "I'll cover ya."
Rusty lit the fuses and then peered out from behind his pillar. He tossed the firecrackers and they started popping in mid-air. MaryAnne watched the tables and saw some of Frankie's boys look up bug-eyed at the crackling objects heading towards them. They flinched and turned away when the firecrackers landed on their side of the table.
The popping was intense and Frankie's boys bailed from their spot. They jumped and bolted either to another table or to the doorway. The enforcers behind the bar eagerly took advantage of their new targets.
MaryAnne didn't see a couple of Frankie's boys fall. She quickly snapped on the cigarette lighter and held the flame to the wicks. The fuses lit, and Rusty took position to cover her when she made her throw.
She looked down and spotted Mole peering over a table as he squeezed off a shot. She took aim at the table and tossed the firecrackers at him.
The firecrackers were halfway to their destination when Mole looked up and spotted MaryAnne on the loft. His face contorted into the expression of a crazed man. He aimed up at the loft and fired several times in the few seconds it took for the firecrackers to land near him.
MaryAnne ducked back behind the pillar as it was slammed with bullets. Down on the first floor, Mole jumped away from the firecrackers. MaryAnne risked a look down and saw enough of Mole for a target, his back slightly turned to her now.
And she wasn't the only one who saw him and took a shot. MaryAnne aimed and pulled the trigger, sending a bullet into the traitor's back. The Syndicate enforcers took care of the rest.
Mole never made it to the exit; he went down under the pelting lead and moved no more. But MaryAnne had no chance to watch.
Another one of Frankie's boys had spotted MaryAnne in the loft above; he took aim and fired rapidly, managing to slice a bullet through her side…sending the ex-Deputy down.
"MARYANNE!" Rusty shouted, seeing her crumple beside him. He knelt down and eased her onto her back, seeing the red stain near her ribs quickly soaking through the side of her clothing.
While this was happening, there was an engine roar outside, along with gunshots and frantic shouting. The surviving members of Frankie's gang backed towards the door, shooting furiously to purchase their retreat. The smoke from the firecrackers, gunfire and shorted-out neon gave the Jigsaw a battlefield haze, complete with the groans of the dying.
Frankie Tyler had sent sixteen men to siege the Jigsaw - the four wheelmen who served as drivers and reserve detachment, and the twelve hitmen they'd brought there for the font lines. It should have been more than enough for a weakened, drunken Syndicate who's numbers had become fewer by the day, with Mole's help.
As it was, six of Frankie's hitmen remained able-bodied enough to escape, leaving Mole behind and forgotten. They burst into the street to the shouts and confusion of the wheelmen, who were returning shots at a black Chevy that was harassing them with another pass.
It lost a taillight and took a ping from a bullet on the rear bumper, but it's engine roared defiance and the driver yelled his own epithets from the window.
At an order from the ranking hitman, Frankie's boys took to their cars. They would not return to the Big Man without at least one trophy for their pains.
"Think that'll do it?" Brian asked Rosco as Diablo chirped tires around the corner.
"One way to find out. Make one more pass, we gotta make sure they follow." Rosco reloaded, his hands starting to shake. Something was wrong with MaryAnne. He knew it and he could feel it in his soul.
Diablo completed the loop through the alleys and launched out to the street for another run. This time, there were only two cars in front of the Syndicate. And they were ready. "ROSCO! GET DOWN!" Brian shouted, having caught the glimpse of guns pointing from inside the cars.
Brian ducked himself, driving with the bottom of the steering wheel and keeping it straight as he floored the accelerator. Bullets rang against Diablo's steel hide like hail, and the loud crack sounded as the rear window spider-webbed from lead. Brian risked a look up over the dash so he could yank the wheel and send Diablo down the route they'd been taking. With that glance, he saw that the other two cars of Frankie's were waiting for them there. "LOOK OUT-"
There was no counting the shots. The windshield cracked a few times then fell apart.
Diablo roared through this second gauntlet without slowing, seeming to list like ship that had taken on water.
"BRIAN!" Rosco yelled. "STRAIGHTEN THE WHEEL!"
The Sheriff's commanding voice reached through the haze. Brian sat up, flinched, and corrected Diablo’s course before the Chevy careened off the street. Behind them, the pursuit was gaining. The Mercedes and BMW's were fast cars, and their drivers probably knew Atlanta as well as Brian did. "Brian!" Rosco yelled. "They're catching up, you gotta hit the gas, boy!"
"I'm on it, I'm on it!" Brian snapped himself back to attention, and hit the gas with a sudden fury, zig-zagging the Chevy to keep the foreign cars from being able to flank it. It was then that Rosco noticed that Brain seemed to be gritting his teeth, and sitting with too-rigid posture.
The Sheriff stared at the young man a moment. Brian obliged the unspoken question with a slow nod and a grumbling admission. "They nicked me, dammit. Sonsabitches...."
"They're gonna do more than nick ya if ya don't - LOOK OUT!"
Rosco had been watching the mirrors, and he suddenly turned and fired the pistol over the car seat, using it for cover. The rear windshield was wrecked anyway, so the Sheriff had no qualms about firing through it. The Mercedes that had attempted to ram Diablo's trunk backed off slightly. "Brian, if you're really the best wheelman the Syndicate ever had, if you're half the criminal you made yerself out to be, now's the time to prove it!" Rosco said as he reloaded again. "We gotta live long enough to make sure MaryAnne's okay!"
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