River Of Night – Snippet 03
“Settle down!” ordered Freddo, giving the little boy a quick shake. “Shut that dog up, will you?!”
Ricky quickly stepped on the small dog’s head with one heavy boot, cutting off the noise.
“Damn, he scared the shit out of me,” Ricky panted, bent over, one hand on the wall.
“I could tell, from the manly war cry you let out,” Freddo said chuckling. “Nah, this kid’s just scared. Maybe not as scared as you.”
“Fuck you, Freddo,” the scavenger replied, still panting. “Thought he was a zombie!”
“And if he was, you’d be dead now,” Freddo said crossly, even as his arm shook with the continuing struggle of the child. He turned his attention to the captive. “Come on now, quiet!”
“Take him outside to the truck. He’s a keeper,” Ricky said “I’ll wait here for you to come back and we can finish the house.”
Before Freddo could get all the way downstairs with his screaming, fighting captive, the front door swung open with a squeal. A very tall, very broad man entered, ducking his head under the frame. Freddo wasn’t an Army guy, so he didn’t know the names of all the guns that the newcomer wore, but he could count, and there were at least four.
The black submachine gun which the man carried was dwarfed in his grip. His bulk was augmented by a very modern black plate-carrier from which hung an assortment of professionally appropriate equipment. Two large pistols were chest mounted in kydex holsters. A handle for a long, wide bladed knife, nearly the length of a machete, was balanced by the stock of a pistol grip shotgun that rose above the opposite shoulder. A matte black cranial helmet framed a pair of eyes so dark that they matched the black utilities that were the uniform of the uppermost tier of guards in their outfit.
He briefly locked eyes with Freddo. The big man’s racial heritage wasn’t obvious, apart from clearly being descended from mountain trolls. He considered the two irregulars and their squirming captive before scanning the rest of the room.
Noting an absence of any immediate threat, he stood to one side to make room for the next man.
Behind him strode a figure who looked small only in comparison to monster that preceded him. He wore mud colored body armor over khaki trousers and a blue windbreaker. He bore a shoulder slung submachine gun and holstered pistol, but his hands were filled with a notebook and pen. Freddo knew the man only as Mr. Green. Green had captured him, recruited him, and given him a job.
Mr. Green also made the rules.
Freddo could tell that Mr. Green was an educated man. The fancy words, the organization, the regulations, all of it, were things that Freddo could never duplicate, but he also knew that every pack needed a leader. He couldn’t easily articulate his reasoning but he was bright enough to know that his best chance in the current world of shit was to join the best pack under the smartest alpha-dog that he could find.
Green was smart enough for all of them. But he wasn’t merely intelligent. The dispassionate look on Green’s face as he glanced at Freddo, Ricky and their captive reminded the looter of a term his granddaddy had used to describe the local sheriff, renowned for his skill at catching – or dispatching – criminals.
A killing man.
“What was the shot?” demanded Green.
“Just a dog, sir,” replied Freddo. “This kid’s pet.”
“Ah, very good,” said Green, spying the new captive. “Give him to Loki here and continue the sweep.”
“Uh, sir?” Ricky asked from the top of the staircase while Freddo gladly passed his struggling captive to the much taller bodyguard. “Why do we want kids? I mean, he’s too young for the recreation hall, even for thems as like boys. And he’s too small for useful work.”
“Did I ask for questions?” replied Green. “Negative. When I want your questions, you’ll hear me ask for them. Got that Fred?”
“Uh, yessir.” Freddo said carefully. “I didn’t mean nuthin’ by it.”
“I guess you didn’t, Fred,” Green replied. “But I’m in a good mood, so I’ll let you have your explanation. Your job’s to clear houses. My job is to do the thinking. Do a good enough job and you get vaccine. Eventually. Continue to deliver and you get additional rewards. Don’t… well, Mr. Loki or one of the Guard will do for you. Do I need to make an example to help you remember?”
The giant’s eyes glinted when he heard his own name and he looked directly at Freddo.
Freddo gulped and backed up the stairs, something preventing him from willingly turning his back to Loki.
“No sir, definitely not!”
Green glanced about the room again. The damned alcohol bottles that Ricky had lined up on the counter stood out like a sore thumb.
Green favored both of his looters with a final knowing look and stepped back outside, followed by his hulking shadow.
The boy was fighting more feebly now, suspended at arms length from one of Loki’s ham sized fist.
Risky watched Smith and Kaplan ease outside before she looked in on her wrestling partner. Bua was laying quietly on her side, still secured at the wrists, elbows, knees and ankles with sturdy rope. The teens pointedly ignoring the tied-up teacher in the next room, and instead were clustered around Bloome, playing some card game on the beige carpet.
Risky stretched, easing the residual strain of wrestling with a potential infected. Her experience in the bank’s Biological Emergency Response Teams had taught her that she could expect soreness once the adrenaline wore off. Until the pandemic struck, she’d been limited to a mostly decorative role as the “girlfriend” of the head of the Jersey-based Cosa Nova. However, thank to her old boss’ keen eye, she’d been seconded to the bank as part of a complicated four-way deal that saw BotA, city government, cops and the mob cooperate in an attempt to keep the lights on in New York City. Matricardi had spotted an opportunity to get closer to the head of the bank’s head of security and sent her to do it.
Risky had immediately known that Tom Smith was no fool. The man hadn’t required instructions and simple diagrams to understand why the Cosa Nova boss had sent Risky as his liaison. The obvious chemistry between them that neither dared to acknowledge was just, how-you-say, icing on the cakes.
Risky knew that Smith’s world was now upside down. She also knew that she was a piece that didn’t fit perfectly into his post-apocalyptic scenario. He’d made ruthless decisions in an instant when he had to, in order to save as much as he could for his own employer.
Bank of the Americas was – had been – as dangerous as any gang. They’d been the ones who’d started the unsanctioned harvesting of spinal tissue from infected humans. The resulting vaccine was just another part of Smith’s plan.
She’d also seen Smith behave with grace, when he could afford to. The kids next door were one example. The fact that Bua was still breathing was another. Speaking of which, her shoulder was getting tight now. She stretched again, moving both shoulders deliberately, loosening her muscles while straining her T-shirt.
Across the room, she noticed Vinnie “Mouse Sacks” Dingatelli, one of the two surviving goons from Cosa Nova, glance away from her tightened clothing, guilty as hell.
Even though they’d worked for the same man before, she wasn’t going to fully trust him anytime soon. To be fair he hadn’t had a hand in the murder of the last boss of the Cosa Nova. As long as he followed Smith’s lead, same as everyone else, she’d let him live.