[dropcap1]1.[/dropcap1] Deckard woke up underwater.
Bubbles escaped around the SCUBA regulator clenched in his mouth as he checked the glowing hands on his wrist watch. Time sometimes seemed to stand still while submerged. Maintaining neutral buoyancy, he floated, his wet suit insulating him against the cold that threatened to creep in even while in warm water.
Pulling the rubber sleeve of the wetsuit back over his watch, he breathed evenly, if a little to fast, recognizing the first signs of pre-combat jitters. He was burning through oxygen faster than normal.
In the darkness, the mercenary could feel, rather than see the presence of his team. They floated alongside him in silence, waiting.
Samantha Diaz struggled against the handcuffs, rubbing her wrists raw.
“How about we play a little game.”
Jose Ortega stood in front of her, his arms folded across his chest. The ratty black mustache on his upper lip wiggled as he suppressed a laugh.
“Yeah, let’s turn off the lights and play a game of whose in my mouth?”
Ortega’s crew broke out laughing, anticipation in their eyes. They lounged around the master bedroom, wearing flamboyantly bright t-shirts with different stenciled designs, all from designer labels. Their hair was all identically slicked back with the same product, jeans with the same prefabricated tears and wear marks that came pre-worn from the store.
“Try not to cry like a little bitch,” the cartel leader demanded. “We already suffered enough of that from your father.”
Samantha lunged, the handcuffs digging deeper into her wrists.
Ortega bent down and grabbed her by the hair.
“You were stupid to come back,” he said with rotten breath. “Now you pay the price.”
Reaching into his pocket, he flicked open a switchblade. Running the blade under the inside of her shirt, he began slicing through the fabric to the cheers of his lieutenants.
“Everyone will know that the Diaz family produces nothing but whores.”
Several of Ortega’s men got to their feet, their hands moving towards pants zippers.
The explosion was deafening.
Two walls immediately collapsed followed by smoke and what sounded like thunder strikes that were sent skipping through the bedroom.
Gunfire erupted from the multiple breach points created through the cinder block walls, screams cut off by short controlled bursts of gunfire. New voices filled the room, speaking some strange language that Samantha was unfamiliar with.
When the smoke began to clear, she saw Ortega laying on his back with splotches of crimson staining his over-priced shirt. Attempting to speak, a strained gurgling sound was the best the cartel don could manage.
The heel of a combat boot came down on his throat.
Grinding his boot into Ortega’s neck, a large black clad man snarled, his lips curled back, bearing teeth like fangs.
“Get security up,” the man ordered in English. “Nikita, get those bolt cutters over here.”
A brown skinned man with Asian eyes moved forward, slinging his rifle over one shoulder, gripping the cutters in his hands. As he maneuvered the chain links of her handcuffs between the shears, she noticed that he was wearing a wetsuit, dripping wet despite the fact that they were no where near the ocean.
Grunting as he closed the bolt cutters, the commando severed the links with a loud snap, freeing her from the bed post she had been chained to.
Muffled shouts sounded from outside. One of the soldiers cracked open the bedroom door, peering outside before pulling the pin from a fragmentation grenade. Rolling it outside, the grenade exploded, the voices suddenly going silent. Taking another glance outside, the grenadier turned to the large gringo with his foot still on Ortega’s throat and said something in what sounded like Russian.
Looking up from Ortega’s lifeless eyes, he replied in a similar rapid fire manner in the same language.
The man who had cut her free dropped the bolt cutters and took a knee next to one of the gaping holes created by the breaching charges, his rifle at the ready, waiting for targets to present themselves.
The gringo undid a waterproof bag that had been riding over his shoulder, producing a stack of papers before moving towards her.
“Ms. Diaz, I need you to-”
“Need me to what?” she asked pressing a .357 Magnum Colt Python revolver into Deckard’s cheek.
“Uh,” the mercenary paused. “Where did you get that?”
“Ortega kept it in his waistband under his shirt.”
“I didn’t see you reaching for it.”
“You should be more careful, punta.”
“Ma’am, I just need you to sign the-”
“Don’t tell me what to do jackass. I-”
Her words were interrupted by Nikita cutting loose with a staccato burst of gunfire, the wall he was taking cover behind was chipping away under enemy return fire.
“I don’t think we have time for this.”
The ground shook as an explosion rattled somewhere in the drug lord’s compound.
“What the hell was that?”
“My boys blowing the front gate,” Deckard informed her.
“You know, my outfit. Your father contracted us but with him being killed seventeen hours ago, I’m afraid we are now here illegally, which is why I need, I would like, for you to sign the-”
“The contract, extending it’s duration until we can finish the job we were originally hired for.”
Nikita lobbed a grenade through the breach and resumed firing.
“What job?” she yelled over the noise.
“To take care of your drug cartel problem.”
Outside it sounded like the fourth of July back stateside where she had attended university in Texas.
“What the fuck is going on out there?”
“My platoons just drove their assault trucks into the compound. They are in the process mopping up the rest of Ortega’s men.”
“I can’t sign a contract with mercenaries, I’m a deputized police chief, not the provincial governor.”
“Actually, he was killed twelve hours ago.”
“The provincial judge?”
“He was with the governor,” Deckard said looking out of the corner of his eye towards the door, with the massive revolver still stuck in his face. “The chief prosecutor too.”
“Yeah, so if you could just sign here,” he said handing her a ball point pen.
“And you work for me?”
“That’s the idea.”
“And we clean these motherfuckers out?”
“Precisely what I had in mind.”
Samantha snatched the pen out of Deckard’s hand and signed on the dotted line.
Another explosion sounded.
“Okay,” Deckard said flipping through the stack of papers. “Initial here.”
Samantha grimaced, sketching her name all over the papers.
“Right, and one more time right here.”
“That should do it,” Deckard said sliding the papers back into his bag. “But do you mind getting the cannon out of my face?”
Samantha looked at him long and hard before lowering her newly acquired pistol.
The mercenary posted next to the door leaned out, sending a barrage of gunfire down the hall.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” Deckard said, taking her by the hand and helping the woman to her feet. “We’ve got work to do.”
This has been a preview of Target Deck, by Jack Murphy, the sequel to Reflexive Fire, coming this Winter!