The following takes place between 12am and 1am
Instead of calling a number to start the hour, the number called me. I answered the phone and that same automated voice said “Assassinate this man by one aye emm. A picture will download to your phone momentarily. They are located at twenty nine twenty nine Allied Street, Green Bay.”
Keith and I got into the car and I pulled out of the parking lot. The maps app on my phone drew a circuitous route to the destination. Right out of the parking lot and I got lucky with the lights and traffic. Two lefts and I was on Mainstreet. The ancient buildings rushed by, a collection of sub sandwich restaurants, banks, bars, and gas stations. Out onto highway forty one, and I pushed the car to an insane speed. There probably weren’t any cops out on highway patrol what with the game going on in town.
It was just a few minutes and the GPS directed me onto an off-ramp. I hit the brakes and eased it down. A little too fast. My stomach did a flip-flop as I stood on the break as the light at the end changed to red, and it felt like the car was going to go end over end.
I waited impatiently at the light, and tore through it as soon as it turned. Left onto Oneida and we raced past a Menards. I did a three-lane change, and went right on red as another light flipped right as I reached it.
Mini-mall, bar, hard right into a full parking lot.
The sign said “Ashwaubenon Lanes.”
Rows and rows and rows of cars, SUVs, vans, pickups, all sitting silently in front of a low brown building as long as a highway. I combat-parked at the back of the lot, and got out. The night air hadn’t changed in temperature from there to here. Possibly warmer even.
I retrieved the soakers from the car, checked the load in each. Pistol could use a bit of a fill, but not bad. Vanquisher was about the same. Hopefully there was a blue bucket or two somewhere nearby.
Triple Shot in the bag hanging against my right hip, Vanquisher hanging to the left. I strode through the parking lot as I clicked through the menus on my phone. The picture target to be an African American male, twenty five to thirty five, bald, goatee’d, dressed in a black dress pants, blue shirt, and black leather jacket. Name was Drake Madison.
Could be a lawyer.
Could be a doctor.
Was gonna get shot.
I scrolled down a little further because it said there were two pages of information instead of the usual one.
“What?” Keith was keeping up with my killer pace as I wound through the cars.
“He’s participating as part of a birthday party. With twenty five of his closest friends.”
Keith grinned. “In addition to all the other contestants that are going to be here, he’s got a presidential bodyguard.”
“Yeah.” I sounded sarcastic.
“Don’t worry. You’ll do fine.
Another sarcastic “Yeah.”
There were two fill barrels next to the arched entryway and I dunked both guns, put my back the wall and pumped the pistol back to full pressure before stuffing it back in my satchel. “Time to go.”
Through the heavy doors was a small lobby, with a door straight ahead into a waiting area for the lanes, and a door to the right leading to a bar. Lots of people straight ahead milling around, playing video games, waiting for a lane to open up. The bar would likely have lots of people too. Possibly less of them would have water guns.
I yanked the battered door open. Beyond was a tiled floor and a short hallway. Bar counter to the left, with tables scattered throughout the room. Glasses hung from the ceiling over the bar, and dozens of bottles lined the shelves behind. People sat around the bar and at the tables, and a bartender moved like a spastic ferret behind it, dashing drinks around. Glass walls separated the bar from the bowling alley beyond, the voices of people shouting to be heard over the music was deafening, as was the music itself.
Winkler was singing about being dressed in black with bunnies in his Caddy. Good song.
The bartender looked up from his shellgame of drinks. “You can’t be in here. Didn’t you see the sign? Twenty one and up only.”
I jerked my head at him. “Just passing through.”
I pushed through the glass doors and into the crowd, and the music boomed about thirty times louder. It was one thick crowd from one end of this room to the other. This was not going to be fun.
Hell, might as well start at the far end and work my way to the other. My head rotated left and right as I scanned the mob of people while I moved through it. Restrooms on the right, then a smaller bar, tables lining the left side of the floor, more tables and score-keeping machines just before the lanes themselves. The thunder of bowling balls hitting the blonde wood was constant.
I stood on my tiptoes and viewed the crowd from slightly above it. My radar pinged three hostiles in a staggered triangle formation between here and the back wall. The way they were standing, the way they were looking around, it all told me they were part of the game. I saw – in an instant – how to take them down. I shook that particular sequence from my head and refocused my thoughts on how to take them out of the game in a way that didn’t involve bodily damage.
“You’re not moving,” Keith shouted into my ear.
“Now I am.” I started moving again, pushed my way through the crowd. The closest target was center floor, twenty five feet away. Next was twenty five feet back and right, third was sixty feet ahead center.
I walked right into the closest guy, pulled the Triple Shot from my bag and jabbed it into his side before he even got “Excuse me” out of his mouth. Click click on the trigger and I stepped to his right – close to the wall where the crowd was thinnest – with the pistol extended. I stepped into the shot while bringing both hands to the grip. I fired twice and soaked the side of his head. Diagonally left and I picked up the pace, Triple Shot still at arm’s length.
Third target was a woman about five years older than me, and she caught my movement through the crowd out of the corner of her eye. She turned and started walking towards me, and I could tell from the movement of her shoulders that she’d taken a two-handed grip on some sort of pistol in front of her.
With three people between us I sidestepped, ducking down just a little. I dropped below her line of sight and moved a few steps to the right, parallel to the wall. When I straightened she was looking around and I extended the pistol over a teenager’s shoulder and shot her once in the neck.
I kept moving and scanning, looking around for my target. Bald guy, dark skinned, professional looking. The table at the back wall next to the bowling ball rack seated five people, and three Super Soakers lay on the table. I tucked the pistol back into my satchel as I stood on the fringe of the crowd, then stepped out of that fringe and hosed down the table with the Vanquisher. I kept clicking through the trigger until the pressure chamber was empty.
Five plus three was eight. Seventeen plus one target plus change to go.
We both put our backs to the wall and I scanned the crowd for my target. A thought jumped through my brain and I turned to look at Keith. “I want you to quit following me. If anyone’s paying attention, they could track me easier.”
He waggled his eyebrows. “I’ll keep a low profile.”
“No, trust me on this Sam, no one’s gonna be following me. I’m…that good.”
I sighed. “Fine.”
Safe to say Drake was probably hanging out on the WAY FAR end. If I’d gone left instead of right when coming in, I’d probably be done with this assignment already.
Walking again, and my straight-arms and hip-checks got weird looks from the crowd. Keith moved effortlessly through the sea of people never annoying a one of them, never turning a head.
Jedi, I swear.
We passed the mini bar again, and I took a moment to raise up again to look around. Three people moving through the crowd, coming from the admissions desk area. In the dim light, I could just barely see shoulder straps on each of their shoulders. They were players alright.
Three of them. Huh. I smiled at the thought.
I turned and leaned against the bar, looked at the menu. Whether or not they responded to me would tell whether they were part of Drake’s party. Walk right past me, they were competitors. Recognize me, they were bodyguards who’d gotten called. Either way…
“Take a few steps away. You might want to photograph this.”
“What are you going to do?”
I set my hand on the grip of the Triple Shot. “You ever hear of El Presidente?”
“No I have not.” He looked confused. He looked like confused wasn’t a look he wore often.
“You’re about to see it in action.”
As the three closed, I tracked their approach in the mirror. Two guys and a girl, all older than me but not by much. Large soakers slung at their right sides. Assuming their dominant hand was their right, that was a slow draw. Left would be better if you can’t hang it in front on a single-point.
Ten meters away and someone motioned in my direction.
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. That’s what my dad taught me. And my mom. And a few of my friends, in a different context.
But mostly my dad. Do something slow often enough, muscle memory begins to take over and you speed up once you have it down perfect. Smooth is better than fast though. You can’t miss fast enough to win.
I started left to right, a classic El Presidente. Right hand gripping the Triple Shot as I pulled it up, back, up, and pushed forward, left hand meeting my right. I tripped the trigger twice on the girl on the left, tracked fractionally to the right, two gray comets into the chest of the middleman, fractional rotation again, and I shot righty four times in the right pectoral. Two more blasts on the middleman, and then I blew mist off the girl’s Packers jersey before the first cloud had even settled.
I turned to Keith, a few feet down the bar. “Please tell me you got that.”
He gave an uncharacteristic grin. “Video.”
He clicked buttons on the big DSLR for a moment. “Six seconds.”
Now it was my turn to grin. Average speed for a professional El Presidente is five seconds. With a water gun, drawing from a messenger bag, six was not bad at all.
I slid into the crowd milling around behind the lanes and started making my way to the other end. Eyes up, looking back and forth, checking for more players I slowly pushed my way through the throngs of people.
Someone jostled my shoulder, apologized, and kept moving, and I caught something that didn’t look quite right. It took less than a moment to review what I’d seen in passing. Tan skin, short hair, t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, and…think…black strap woven with the words “Super Soaker” around the neck, hanging a watergun on the opposite side. He was less than four feet away, no one between us, and I turned, brought the Triple Shot up and shot him in the back of the head, then had it back down and was turned away before he’d even figured out he’d been soaked out of the game. There were a few exclamations of surprise from the people around us, but no one made any move to stop me from moving on. Probably not a bodyguard, just a player like me, given the fact that he hadn’t recognized me.
The colored lights overhead synched with the heavy techno remix music and fog started pouring out of the ceiling over the lanes. Within seconds it was nearly impossible to see the pins and tendrils of mist had started to creep into the heavily trafficked area behind the bowling area. Mist plus dark did not equal safety to my mind. Too hard to see, too easy to miss something.
The crowd seemed to grow thicker, and I actually found myself fighting a losing battle against the current as new bowlers and their friends headed downrange to find lanes. I pulled back to the wall and flipped open my phone. One thirty seven.
I’d wanted to be in and out faster than this. Still wanted to wrap it up fast.
I didn’t even bother to look for Keith. No matter his denials, I didn’t want him following me – two was way more conspicuous than one. Now, how to get through this flood…