Friday, December 19, 2014

Chapter 15 - Shit happens...

Chapter 15

In the morning Juliette woke with a plan.  She stuck her head in to the room where Gwynne and Adam were still sleeping.  “Gwynne.”
She stirred.  “Huh?”  A string of drool had dripped from her mouth onto her plaid, button front shirt.  
“Hey, you’re awake.  Listen, I’m going back to the hospital to see what I can learn about Petros.”
Adam stirred.  They both stopped talking to look at him.  He opened his eyes and sat up. Gwynne waited for a reaction.  He yawned and looked at them.
“Adam?” She reached a hand out tentatively.  
He didn’t flinch.  “Gwynne.”
Juliette clapped.  “Oh, you’re back!”  She had to stop herself from rushing him.  She’d worried most of the night that they wouldn’t ever get him to return to himself.
He looked at himself.  “I’m naked.”
Juliette smiled.  “Yeah.”
Gwynne pulled the blanket down over his lap.  “You were here when we came back.  What happened to you?”
“Petros!  Where is Petros?”  Adam’s eyes slipped back toward crazy.  
Gwynne took his hand.  “We’re not sure, exactly.  Juliette says he’s in the hospital, but we haven’t actually gotten to see him yet.  Speaking of the hospital, I was told that’s where you were.  What happened?”
Adam thought about the last twelve hours.  It all seemed like some horrible dream.  He remembered Mozer’s slimy touch after endless blows.  He thought about the faces, agape with horror, that he’d seen in the streets.  He remembered searching for Petros.  And sirens.  He was’t ready to talk about any of it yet.  “I don’t know.  It’s all pretty hazy still.”
“But you’re back!” said Juliette, smiling.
Gwynne looked him over.  She knew he was hiding something.  “Juliette, can you see if Petros has some clothes Adam could wear?”
She left the doorway.  Gwynne leaned next to Adam and kissed his cheek.  He just stared.  “Adam, I know something happened to you back there, and when you’re ready to talk about it, I’ll be ready to hear it.”
His secret was a bird in his chest, fluttering against the ribs of its cage.  Juliette returned before long.  “I found some things.  I’m going to run a bath for you, Adam.  It’ll do you some good to have a soak.”
He nodded.  If nothing else, it would give him some solitude.  
“I’ll get the cuts on your back.  They probably need to be cleaned.”
When the bath was full, Adam wanted nothing more than to tell Gwynne to stay out.  Instead, he gritted his teeth and let her soap the lacerations across the otherwise smooth skin of his back.  It stung, but the stinging feeling grounded him, made him feel real again.  She sat by the tub as he washed himself.  He wished she would leave.  She told him about Juliette’s schemes, about the police officer who had told her about Adam’s head injury.  She mentioned Petros’s arm hanging from the stretcher.  Adam looked at her, “He was covered with a sheet?”
“Gwynne.  Is he dead?”
She looked at the door to the bathroom.  “I don’t know.  No one at the hospital would tell us anything.”
He looked at his stump.  He scanned the bruises on his legs.  Anything to not have to look at her.  He knew he was going to lose it.  He didn’t want to cry.  Not again.  Not now.  Not in front of her.  
She got up.  “We’ll wait for you.”
Adam just nodded.  When the door closed behind her, he sank into the tub, letting the pulsing sound of his heart in the water fill his ears.  When he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, he let it all out and surfaced.  He wanted to stay under forever.  There was a solitude in being underwater that couldn’t be matched above.  He hadn’t lied to Gwynne, at least not entirely.  The events of the last day were still hazy.  There were holes in his memory he couldn’t account for.  He didn’t try too hard to fill them, though.  The less he remembered about his time with Mozer, the better.  Adam soaped himself again, scrubbing until his skin was pink.  He would never be rid of the feeling of Mozer’s touch, the intensity of being violated so deeply and not being able to do a thing about it.  God, he hoped he hadn’t caught anything from the old man.  How many people had he done that to?  Maybe he’d get tested while he was at the hospital.  That seemed a million miles away.  It hurt to move.  He sank under the water one more time, just to let his brain stop for a moment.  He counted the pulses to twenty and came back up.  His seams were still bursting with all that had happened.  Some day he would get them sewn up.  Maybe some day he would feel normal again.  
For the first time since leaving home, he longed for routine.  How simple it was just to go to work and come home.  Not surrounded by people who didn’t speak his language.  Not in a city that he didn’t know his way around.  Just his own post at his own employer that he got to by way of his own car driving on the streets of his own town.  Why had he ever left?  His depression seemed so juvenile in comparison to the black knot somewhere below his heart.  And he had wished for it.  He had brought all of this upon himself.  He had taken the initiative to make the trip a reality.  How had this all happened?  It seemed a truly bizarre web of events.  If he hadn’t taken that camel.  If he hadn’t been in the same place as Petros.  If the dart had landed anywhere else on that map.  All of this would have been different.  
Adam thought about the dart behind the desk, the first one he had thrown.  Maybe that had been his true answer.  If he’d have taken that as a sign, a warning, instead of taking it as a reason to throw again, he could be…what?  Still at home?  Still living in the same daily depression?  He had to admit to himself, he wasn’t in the same funk anymore.  Things had, indeed, changed.  Maybe they hadn’t been for the better, but they were different.  And that was the point of this trip.  To shake things up.  To get out there and have a story to tell.  To make sure that he wouldn’t regret never doing anything exciting with his life.  
Above everything, he was ready to go home.  Once this bit with Petros and Mozer was resolved, he was content to pack himself and Gwynne on the first flight back to Chicago.  
Adam drained the tub and toweled off.  He put on Petros’s clothes.  They were a little too big for him, but they would be a huge improvement over running through the city stark nude.  Gwynne and Juliette were sitting at the dining room table chatting when he emerged.  
“Alright,” he said.  “How can we find out about Petros?”
They just stared at him.  He felt exposed.  “What?”
Gwynne cleared her throat.  “I didn’t expect you to come out so…ready.”
“The sooner we get done with all of this, the sooner we can go home.”
Juliette looked at the floor.
Adam started to think out loud.  “What about Papa Bear?  Wouldn’t he probably have an in at the hospital?  He knows doctors.  He should have some information.”
The girls looked at him.  He was getting tired of this.  “What?!”
“Adam,” said Gwynne.  “He’s dead.”
Juliette looked away.
Gwynne shook her head.  “No.  At least, I hope not.”
“Le Ours?”
They nodded.  
“When Mozer disappeared, we went back to the safe house, but it was completely engulfed in flames.  Mozer set it on fire.  Or so we were told.”
“What do you mean Mozer disappeared?”
Juliette looked up.  “The police rushed the mansion.  There was a huge gunfight.  Mozer disappeared in the middle of everything.”
“He’s still out there?!” Adam looked out the window, as if he would see the slimy man’s face peering in at him.
“Yeah,” Gwynne said, getting up and approaching Adam.  
He backed away from her.  “Oh.  God.  I might be sick.”  He rushed to the bathroom and dry heaved.  His stomach ached from the bruises, and his insides once again felt enflamed.
Gwynne rubbed his back, remembered his injuries, and pulled her hand away.  “Are you okay?”
“Fuck.  I don’t know.  What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“So, Mozer is gone and Le Ours is dead?”  Everything was going to crap in his mind.
Gwynne said, “Other Adam thinks it’s our fault.  He said if we hadn’t come, none of that would have happened.”
“Well, he’s right about that.  If we hadn’t come, everything would still be the way it was.  Except Petros would probably be in jail instead of…” he looked at Juliette and stopped.
He didn’t want to dwell on what might be the case.  “Okay.  So then we go to the hospital.  They haven’t met me yet.  Maybe I can say I’m Petros’s brother…or something.”
It wasn’t much of a plan, but they weren’t going to accomplish anything by standing around talking about it.  Juliette stood and went to the front door, which she’d picked up and propped across the entrance as best as she could before she’d gone to bed the night before.  She moved it to the side and let everyone through before propping it back up from outside.  It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t an open invitation to come squat, either.  
They took a taxi again.  Thankfully, it wasn’t the same driver as either time before.  The less they were recognized, the less chance they had of being turned in by one of Mozer’s goons.  Adam couldn’t believe his captor was still out there.  Had he known that, he would have gladly stayed in the tub all day.  But he couldn’t just let his friend lay in the hospital.  Or…morgue.  They had to have closure about Petros, at least.  The rest could go to hell, as long as he could get away from the city and back to streets whose names he could pronounce.  
The cab let them out at the hospital, and they hurried inside.  At the front desk, Adam asked about their friend.
“We’re looking for Petros Tsoukalos.”
The woman at the desk looked at her computer screen.  She said something in French, and Juliette pushed her way to the front.  She started in on the lady, who was clearly embarrassed.  Adam wondered what she had said.  Clearly she hadn’t expected a French speaker to be in the group.  She adopted an apologetic tone, and Juliette said Petros’s name.  Adam just stood back and let Juliette do the talking.  The woman picked up her phone and Juliette turned.  
“What a bitch.  She had the gall to call you an arrogant American, and then she denies it to my face.  I just threatened to speak with someone in management and customer service, and I told her that I have a background in medical transcription and phone service and that I could replace her in a heartbeat.”
“I didn’t know you worked in medicine,” Gwynne said.
“I didn’t.  But she doesn’t have to know that.”
“So are we going to get to see him?”
“I don’t know yet.  She’s checking on him right now.  God, I hope he’s alright.”
The woman set down the phone and Adam braced for bad news.  Juliette asked her a question.  The woman nodded.
“He’s alive!”
“Thank God,” said Gwynne.
Adam was relieved.  If anyone might know where Mozer had gone off to, it would be Petros.  An orderly showed them to the elevators and rode to his floor.  It was a silent, awkward elevator ride.  Everyone was so happy they were giddy, but no one wanted to talk about it in the elevator.  The doors opened on a light green hallway.  The orderly took them down several hallways and past a nurses station where a man in a coat, scarf, and hat was talking angrily to the nurses on duty.  
Petros’s room was just beyond the nurse’s station.  The orderly opened the door and let them inside, then took his leave.  Juliette was the first to enter.  She shrieked, “Pet!  Oh, God.  You’re alive!  We saw you carried out on a stretcher and I thought maybe you were…”
Petros lay in a simple hospital bed in a pale blue shirt.  An IV was stuck in his arm, dripping a clear liquid through the hose and into his body.  He smiled weakly at them.  “Hey, guys.  You made it.”
“What happened to you?” Juliette asked.  
Petros lifted the shirt.  His abdomen was criss-crossed with bandages.  “You want to see what’s underneath?”
Gwynne shook her head.  “No.”
“He shot me.”
Adam felt a flare of anger.  “Mozer?”
“Yeah.  Shot me in mid sentence and left me to die in the basement.  Can you believe that?”
Adam nodded.
Petros looked at him.  “How did you get out?”
“The police found me, and…”
Juliette broke in, “We found him in your old flat, stark naked and raving in a corner.”
Petros looked from Juliette back to Adam.  “What did he do to you?”
Adam shook his head.  “I can’t remember.  I woke up all the way across town in a blanket, covered with lots of bruises.”
“That’s probably for the best.”  
It hurt him to lie to a friend who had been through trauma at the hands of the same man, but it didn’t hurt as much as speaking the truth about what he remembered.  No one could know about that.  It wasn’t important exactly what happened, or so he told himself.  Only that they were all okay, and they were here, together.
Juliette clapped her hands.  “I’m just glad we’re all here, and everyone is okay.”
Petros smiled.  “Relatively, anyway.”
Gwynne asked, “How long are they keeping you here?”
“Until I can stand on my own.  The muscles in my core were pretty badly damaged.  I can’t really start working on that until the scars from the surgery heal.  They’re not too bad, but just because of where the bullet was, they did a lot of work.”
“How long is that?” Juliette asked.
“Couple of weeks, probably.”  There was silence for a moment.  “God, it’s good to see you guys.”
Adam didn’t want to ruin the moment, but he had to ask.  “Petros, Mozer got away.”
“I know.  I heard.”
“How did you find out?”
“The police were here.”
Juliette quailed.  “Oh, Pet.  No.”
“Don’t worry.  I’m going to testify against him and get some kind of a deal on the whole thing.  They’re working with me, since I’m one of the few people they’ve been able to talk to about this.  I guess underlings have a way of disappearing before they can talk.”
Adam pressed forward.  “Where do you think he could have gone?”
Petros shrugged.  “He could be anywhere.”
“But is there any place you know of he could have escaped to?  A summer place?  A second apartment?  A secret hideout?”  Adam couldn’t stand to think that this man was out running around.  He needed closure.  He needed Mozer to be behind bars or under the ground, and he didn’t care which it was.  The thought that he could be anywhere, still pulling strings around the city, threatened to bring the blackness to the surface again and drown out the stability that collected on the surface like a shell.
“Adam.  I was just a lackey.  I did jobs for him, but I didn’t know anything.  I had no idea he had killed so many people until I was on the receiving end of an order.  I mean, the guy’s running a criminal ring that spans all of Paris.  Maybe more.  I don’t know where he is, but I’ll bet he’s lying low after his narrow escape.  Maybe Papa Bear might know where he is.”
Gwynne and Juliette looked at each other.  It was time to break the news.  Juliette took Petros’s hand.  “Love.  I don’t know how to tell you this.  Papa Bear is dead.”
“Dead?  How?”  
“Mozer firebombed his safe house shortly after he disappeared.  He died in the fire.”
Petros was silent for a moment.  He looked away from them.  “What a waste.”
Adam slammed his hand down on the bed’s railing, startling everyone.  “Damn it!  I can’t believe he got away!  I need to know where he is!”
There was an embarrassed silence.
Petros’s nurse stuck his head in the room in that silence.  “Petros, your father is here for you.”
“My father?”
Everyone looked at him, dumbstruck.  
“My father is dead,” said Petros to his nurse.  
There was a deafening crack and the side of the nurse’s head burst open, spattering them with bits of blood and tissue.  Screams filled the room and the area outside the room.  The nurse fell to the ground, and over his body stepped a man with a gun.
“Mozer!” said Adam and Petros simultaneously.
Juliette grabbed the vase of flowers on the nightstand and threw it as hard as she could at the man in the doorway.  The gun in his hand skittered into the corner of the room.  Mozer stepped forward, grabbed Gwynne by her hair, and flicked a knife out, pressing it against her throat.  “Nobody move.”
The world around him went still.  Blood spilled from the man on the floor in the doorway.  Gwynne let out a strangled cry.  
“Such a pretty girl,” purred Mozer.  “It’d be a shame if I ruined all this gorgeous skin.”
“Let her go,” Adam said.
Mozer turned to him.  “You.  Is she yours?  Is this the girlfriend?  And does she know?”  He tilted her head back and looked into her wide eyes.  “Do you know what your boyfriend and I shared?”
She just looked ahead, praying that she could have the next second.  Mozer chuckled and addressed Adam.  “Tell her.”
Adam clammed up.  
Petros interrupted.  “What do you want, Mozer?”
He turned on his former employee.  “You keep your moth shut.  You’re supposed to be dead.”  He looked back at Adam.  “What I want is for you to tell—what’s her name?”
No one answered.  
“WHAT’S HER NAME?  So help me, I’ll spill her blood.  Answer me when I ask a question!”
“Gwynne,” said Adam.  “Her name is Gwynne.”
Mozer smiled.  “All right, then.  Why don’t you tell Gwynne about our little…escapade.”
She glanced at Adam.  He couldn’t open his mouth.  
“TELL HER!” He pressed the knife against her throat.  
How could he even begin to explain the horror of what had happened to him in that room.  The words wouldn’t even form.  He couldn’t just tell her the details.  He didn’t even want to believe the details himself, let alone put them out there for everyone to hear.
“We’re waiting.”  
Adam looked at Gwynne.  “I’m sorry, Gwynne.  He…” he trailed off.
“What was that, boy?” Mozer asked.
“He abused me.”
Mozer laughed.  “Is that the best you can muster?  Come on, boy, where’s your passion?    Where’s your memory of the situation?  Where’s your vocabulary?!”
Adam lunged for the gun in the corner.  In one swift motion Mozer kicked his feet out from under him and stood on his back.  
“Bad move, Mr. Hudson.  One more of those and…” Adam heard Gwynne squeal in pain.  
“Let her go!” Juliette shrieked.  
Mozer ignored her.  “What Mr. Hudson isn’t telling you is that I know him quite intimately now.  Even, biblically.  And while the fight was still in him, he was quite good.  But alas, every spring chicken loses that spring at some point.  It was a valiant attempt from your boyfriend to resist, but I always get my way…in the end.  I hope you weren’t too sore, boy.  I’ve been known to leave a mark.”
Adam was humiliated, trapped under a booted foot.  He was content to lay on the floor for the rest of his life, especially after his secret was so descriptively revealed.  He felt as if his skin had been slit down the middle and he’d been flayed and laid out for everyone to gawk at.  He pushed back against the darkness that erupted from the cage inside him.  He had to stay in the moment.  Something had to be done.
Mozer turned to Petros, keeping a boot on Adam’s back, grinding his lacerations into a fiery mess of pain.  “And my dear Petros.  When you asked what I wanted, I assume you meant why I am here?”
No one spoke.  Petros tried not to notice Adam reaching for the gun in the corner.  It was just barely out of his arm span.  
“Well, I’m here because I have need of you…elsewhere.  Now.  Adam, if I were you, I wouldn’t touch that.”  He pushed Gwynne away and swooped down to take the gun.  Gwynne ran to the other corner of the room, heaving.  Even in this moment, if felt miraculous to be able to breathe freely again.  
Mozer pointed the gun at Adam’s head.  “For your insolence, Mr. Hudson, you can come with us.  And the rest of you.  No more heroics.  Do as I say or I will kill him.  I’ve already had my fill of him anyway.”
He let Adam up, keeping the gun aimed at his head.  “You.  Pull him away from the wall.”
Adam did as he was told.  
“Ladies, I want one of you on each side of the bed.  Don’t let anyone near it.  If they touch my dear Petros, Mr. Hudson dies.”
They flew to their positions.  Juliette looked at the IV in Petros’s arm.  “What about this?”
Mozer walked forward, stroked Juliette’s face, and grabbed the IV at its base, yanking it from Petros’s arm.  Petros screamed and grabbed at the open wound, clamping a hand over the blood that spilled from it already.  
“That will do.”
Petros gritted his teeth, wrapped the edge of the sheet around his arm to soak up the blood, and tried to kill Mozer with a glare. 
Mozer stepped into the hallway and fired a shot.  Screams filled the halls.  “Now.  Someone else will die if anyone moves a muscle.  And we wouldn’t want that.”
He directed them to pull the bed out of the room and wheel it down the hall.  Adam could feel the muzzle of the gun on the back of his head.  They pushed down the hallway, past patients and nurses who just stared, helpless.  Mozer punched the elevator down button.  While they waited, he went to the window.  
“Oh, good.  The police are here.”  He aimed his gun at the nearest staff member and fired.  Everyone flinched as blood spattered the light green walls.  “That’s for calling the police.”
The elevator doors opened, and they maneuvered the bed in.  It was a tight fit.  When the doors closed, Mozer instructed Juliette to push the button for the parking level.  She obliged.  He stood behind Adam, gun to his head, and snaked a hand around his belly.  Adam’s skin crawled, but he didn’t dare fight off a man who could kill so innocuously.  The hand descended to Adam’s crotch and squeezed.  Adam winced.  Mozer whispered in his ear, “Maybe we’ll have to recreate our time together when all this is over.”  
The doors opened and Mozer straightened.  Adam could feel a bulge in the man’s pants pressing against the back of him.  His throat burned with bile.  He moved forward into the parking garage.  The police hadn’t prepared for this eventuality, so there wasn’t a cop car in sight.  
A black SUV pulled up the ramp and stopped.  Two men got out and opened the tailgate.  They took Petros’s bed around back and lifted him into the way back of the vehicle.  He called out in pain as they jammed him into the car.  Juliette winced.  
Mozer counted the heads outside the car.  “Six.  Hm.”  He lifted his gun and shot one of his men in the face, another body crumpled onto the floor with a gory crater in his head.  Juliette threw up.  
The other man turned and looked at Mozer.  Mozer smiled.  The man turned and started running, but Mozer fired a single shot into his back.  The man fell.  Mozer turned to the three remaining passengers.  “I like a little space.”
He ushered the girls into the back of the car.  “You’re coming up front with me,” he said to Adam.  “I’m going to keep an eye on you.”
Adam got in the passenger seat.  Mozer went around the car and took his place at the wheel.  He looked in the rearview mirror.  “Everyone comfy?  Seatbelts!”  He clicked his into place.  They followed suit. 
Adam watched the rows of cars go by as they went up the ramps toward street level.  Where was he taking them?  Wherever it was, he hoped his death would be swift and painless.  He knew it wouldn’t be.  He met Gwynne’s eyes in the rearview mirror.  She looked at him, eyes full of tears, and shook her head.  He looked away.  After the revelation, he couldn’t bear to look at her for fear of seeing something on her face akin to the feelings he had about himself.
Mozer wound the car up the ramps toward daylight.  They could see the parking gate ahead.  People walked by the entrance on the sidewalk outside.  Free people.  People who weren’t worried about their next breath.  
The car bucked as Mozer gunned it for the entrance.  Toward the end of the lane, a delivery van backed into their path.  “Fucking shit!” Mozer said, slamming on his brakes and laying on the horn.  
The van stopped in the lane.  Mozer slammed his fists on the steering wheel and screamed something in French.  Adam looked in the rearview to see a limousine pulling up behind them.  They were blocked in.  He knew in a desperate situation Mozer would probably put a bullet in all of them and call it quits rather than be nabbed by the police and have them go free.  Adam was glad he was wearing his seatbelt when the car leapt backward, slamming into the hood of the limousine.  Mozer was crazy with rage as he reverse rammed the limo.  He threw open his door and leapt out, waving his gun in the air and screaming in French.  
Juliette turned in her seat.  “Are you okay back there, Pet?”
“I’m fine.  What’s going on?” Petros called from the back.  
“I don’t know.  This delivery van pulled out in front of us, and now a limo is blocking us in.”  Adam looked ahead.  
The delivery door on the back of the truck was open, and several boys had piled out.  They ducked as they ran toward the car, trying not to attract the attention of the madman with the gun.  They pulled the doors on the opposite side of the SUV open, shushing the riders and motioning for them to get out and follow.  Juliette slid out, followed by Gwynne.  Adam hopped down, and they all waited for a moment.  
“Come with us,” said one of the boys.
Adam thought he recognized him as one of Le Ours’s boys.  “What’s going on?”
“Shh.  Come with us.”
Juliette hissed, “Petros is still in there!”
“Hell have to wait.  Come on.”  
They reluctantly left their friend and followed the boy, going around the back of the truck and hopping in the delivery door.  Mozer was still screaming at the driver of the limousine.  Adam was shocked he hadn’t just shot the man already.  
Gwynne asked the boy who had rescued them, “Why are you helping us.”
“That bastard has done enough damage in the city for one life.”  
The driver of the delivery van pulled forward, through the empty space in front of the delivery van.  Mozer whipped around when he heard the engine start.  He raced to the SUV, saw the doors were open, and turned on them.  Gwynne slid the door down as he started firing.  The bullets dented the metal door but didn’t come through.
One of the boys explained, “It’s reinforced.  We figured that might happen.”
A battery operated lantern provided light for them as the truck hobbled its way out of the garage and onto the street.  Once the truck steadied and the gunfire stopped, they breathed a sigh of relief.  That relief was short lived, as the truck door lifted and Mozer pushed his way in.  Everyone froze.  
“What, no goodbye?” he quipped.
He pointed the gun at them and forced them all into the far front driver’s side corner.  “All together.”
Adam looked past Mozer to see the black SUV giving chase.  He squinted to make out the person behind the steering wheel.  It certainly wasn’t Petros.  Where had he gone?
Everyone was silent, watching the SUV approach the tail end of the truck.  It wasn’t going to be substantial enough to do any damage to the rear of the truck.  Mozer noticed everyone’s eyes looking past him and turned.  “Oh, good.  I’d hoped to finish this all at once.  How convenient that everyone is right here.”
He aimed the gun at the windshield of the SUV.  Adam rushed the man while his back was turned, shoving him as hard as he could.  Mozer toppled out the open door of the truck and caught himself on the bumper.  He collected himself and fired one shot at Adam.  Adam spun and fell to the floor of the truck, blood seeping through the shoulder of his shirt.  
Gwynne ran over and helped him get out of Mozer’s way.  The SUV rushed forward and rammed the back of the truck, crushing Mozer against the truck’s bumper.  He howled in pain.  When the SUV got close, they could see who the driver was.  
Juliette was shocked to see a dead man behind the wheel. “It’s the bear!”
The boy in the truck with them said, “Who do you think planned this?”
Gwynne looked up from tending to Adam.  “I thought he was dead.”
“Whatever gave you that idea?”
“One of the boys told us he died in the fire.”
They exchanged a puzzled look. “He’s very much alive.  And from the looks of it, he’s come to save you and your friend.”  
Petros had climbed over the back of the back seat and let himself into the passenger’s captain’s chair.  Adam looked up.  “Petros!”
Mozer contorted himself and fired at the SUV.  The vehicle swerved, steam erupting from under the hood.  Once free, Mozer turned and fired again.  The front driver’s side tire exploded and flew from the rim.  Sparks rose from the wheel as it ground against the road.  The armed man climbed back into the truck and readied his gun.  “This has gone on long enough.”  
The SUV revved just as the truck slowed.  They connected with a bang and a flash of sparks.  Mozer windmilled his arms and reached for anything he could grab.  His hands found nothing, and he fell from the back of the truck with a scream.  The SUV made a sickening crunch of his body.  
No one cheered.  Everyone was sitting in a relieved silence.  It was over.  Was it really over?  The van slowed and took a spot a few feet down the street.  The SUV stopped behind it, rim grinding down and steam billowing from under the hood.  Petros opened the door of the SUV and got out, steadying himself on the steaming hood.  Juliette jumped down and went to his side.  “Oh, Pet.  You’re okay.”
“Thanks for leaving me, you tragic thing.”
“Sorry for that.  Didn’t have much of a choice.”
Papa Bear heaved himself out of the driver’s seat and came around the front of the vehicle.  “We should go back, just to be sure.”
Juliette said, “I’m going to stay here with Petros.”  
Adam got up with Gwynne’s help and got down from the back of the truck.  He had lost a lot of blood and was feeling pretty woozy.  Papa Bear flipped his phone out from his pocket and dialed.  He got an ambulance on the way.
Their back from the dead benefactor and several of his boys followed Gwynne back down the street to where they had run over Mozer.  As they approached, they could see a trail of blood leading away from a bloody splotch on the road.  Gwynne hurried her pace.  “Shit.”
The blood trail disappeared a few feet away.
“No. No no no no no.”  She looked frantically around the street.  
Papa Bear was red with rage.  “JACKAL!”  
They started back to the truck.  Adam was standing in the middle of the street with his hands raised.  Petros stood next to him, blood obvious on the front of his clothing.  Juliette stood behind them.  She glanced down the street to where they were and shook her head.  
Gwynne ran from Le Ours and his boys toward her friends.  She got close enough to see Mozer standing, supporting himself on the end of the truck, blood covering his face and coloring his beard.  His gun was aimed at Petros.  She stopped.  He waved her into the group with his gun.  She joined them in the street.
“This ends now,” Mozer said, losing his gentlemanly facade.  “Turn around and kneel down.”
They did as they were told.  They all sat in a line, knowing that any moment would be the last they got.  Mozer’s footsteps foretold the coming of death.  A mighty roar tore through the air.  A gunshot.  A loud crunch.  They turned to see Mozer falling to the street.  Papa Bear stood behind him with a crowbar in his hand.  His boy stood behind him, looking horrified.  
The large man dropped the crowbar and crumpled to the street, hands coming to his neck.  Blood poured from the gunshot wound and onto the pavement.  The boys rushed forward, gathering around him.  They worked to roll him over, hoping to be able to get to his neck to stop the flow of blood.  His breath gurgled.  He was drowning.  They flipped him over, finally, and the mess was tremendous.  The sound of sirens approaching filled the air until it drowned out the sobs of the boys.
The paramedics leapt out of the ambulance and went to work on the large man.  Adam sat in the street with Gwynne, who kept pressure on the wound.  After several minutes, they declared him dead, covered him with a sheet, and gave their attention to Adam.  Reinforcements arrived a few minutes later, loaded the large man in the ambulance, and took off.  Two of the boys rode along with him.
Police arrived to the scene in the interim, took statements from everyone and called for more police at the scene.  They roped the scene off and took Gwynne and Juliette away with them.  An ambulance took Adam and Petros back to the hospital.  Petros had ruptured his stitched and was raced back to surgery.  Adam had a surgeon remove the bullet from his shoulder and patch him up.  They asked him about his bruising, and he told them a barebones version what had happened to him in captivity.  

The group was fragmented once again, but without the threat of Mozer’s retaliation hanging over their heads, things weren’t as urgent.  



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