I cut laterally through the crowd and down onto the main floor where the bowlers were. They sat at tables, waited their turns, ate and laughed and joked with their companions. I cut in front of them, behind them, moving quicker with each game I disrupted. How could they even see what they were throwing the ball at, what with all the fog down here.
Overhead the announcer proclaimed that a genuine Green Bay Phoenix cheerleader was doing free body shots with the first ten people up to the counter. I considered going, but the thought of liquor on an empty stomach held me back. THAT not-fun-part would cancel out the fun part.
Past the ticket counter, and there was still half a bowling alley to go.
I kept moving, cutting through people’s games, ignoring the murmurs and exclamations of disapproval. Their complaints were nothing though to the commotion I heard come from the end of alley that I was approaching. Shouts, hisses of water, running feet, it sounded like the entire crowd was running in this direction. Sounded like a fight was on. I stepped up out of the pit area and jumped a bit, looking over the people who’d crowded together to form an open area.
Someone was covering behind a soda machine along the wall, shooting it out with five guys just standing out in the open, pouring water at his position. They were being tactically stupid – you don’t stand still and shoot and you certainly don’t risk assets on the easy kill. He was being stupid too – you don’t take five armed guards head on. Of course, maybe they’d driven him there. Benefit of the doubt.
As inconspicuously as I could, I reamed on the pump of the Vanquisher, bringing it back to full power.
I should’ve done that earlier.
I rotated the soaker to hang more or less in front of me, and stepped into the crowd, shouldered my way until I stood one person back from the edge. The bodyguards just stood there in a row, alternately shooting at the vending machine and pumping. A vision of five steel plates rose unbidden in my mind, and I smiled.
While you don’t take on five armed guards directly, it doesn’t hurt to have a distraction.
I sidestepped to the front of the crowd and brought the Vanquisher up to my shoulder, aiming on instinct. My finger pulled the trigger. The spring depressed. The levers actuated. The valve opened. The pressure chamber compressed. Water hissed from the nozzle. Faster than thought I let up on the trigger and snapped the gun over to the next one in line. Click, move, click, move, click, move, click.
An El Presidente drill is set up so that you must turn towards danger, draw, shoot both targets twice, reload, and shoot both targets twice again. Five seconds is an impressive time, though the best are getting their times down towards three seconds. A Dozier drill starts you out facing five targets that you must score hits on as fast as possible. Respectable time for a Dozier drill is three seconds, and the record is closing in on one. Out in the desert, with my dad, against steel knock-down targets, my record had been two point eight seconds of non-stop thunder.
They didn’t even know what hit them. The five simply couldn’t process what had happened. They’d gone from being in complete control of a situation to completely soaked in less than three seconds.
Neither could the guy next to the vending machine. He looked up just in time for me to drill a stream of water into his forehead.
I retreated into the crowd, and tried to stay close to the people as they tried to give me a wide berth. Apparently, despite my momentary coolness, they wanted to stay away from me. Probably because of the water I was gonna draw at any minute…
Fourteen minus five is nine. Nine plus Drake.
Water exploded off the face of the woman to my left – coming from the wrong direction, back by the entrance. What? I swiveled and fired twice back in that direction, then rudely shoved my way towards the lanes again. Easier to move, easier to pick out pursuers down there.
I heard water hiss behind me and angry shouts and the crowd caught the shots that were meant for me. This would not do. I jumped with a powerful push, getting my feet up onto a nearby table.
“HEY!” I’d landed on the scorekeeping sheet a fat Eminem wannabe was working on. I turned back to the entrance, and well over the heads of the crowd, the shooter was obvious. I focused a little longer on the front of the Vanquisher, and fired a long bolt of liquid that snapped into the front of his hooded sweatshirt with a drawn out splash.
The guy sitting by my feet was apparently fed up with my shenanigans, and whacked me in the ankle with a meaty palm. It was a simple movement to angle the nozzle down and stripe a blast from his chin to the top of his backwards Raiders hat.
I jumped off the table and darted through the bowling pit, juking around the bowlers, hurtling chairs, and just generally leaving annoyed people and commotion in my wake.
I had no idea what I was gonna do when I found my way to the other end, where – presumably – Drake was. Had a lack of a plan ever stopped me before?
I pumped to full power and sprinted out onto the lanes. I was close enough to the wall – maybe eight or ten lanes away – that I wouldn’t be angering too many paying customers. And…nobody would expect an attack from this angle.
I jumped a bowling ball that was zooming towards my ankles, picked up my speed, and angled back towards the seating area. In the dim and the haze the final table came into view and my guess had been right all along
I ducked, juked, and got the hell out of the lane I was in as the bowler – a heavy set guy with a Fidel Castro beard – threw a ball so hard it smashed off the ceiling before slamming into the floor and rocketing down the blond wood like an errant torpedo. Had to be moving thirty, forty miles an hour. DAMN.
Drake saw me closing in from the lanes and stood, backing away from the playing field like he was going to retreat to the relative safety of the crowd.
Two of his bodyguards were close at hand, and I bent over the back of the Vanquisher, pulling through the trigger in a flurry of shots. I was probably shooting tight groups, but they were moving, and while the comets of water connected, they connected just barely, thin stripes hardly creasing their clothes as they retreated as well. Water splashed to the wood around me, and I continued moving.
I jumped a knee-high rack of bowling balls and jumped again, sliding across the top of a table, my jeans probably protecting me from about fifty different kinds of germs and communicable diseases. I shot as I slid, taking out another bodyguard who’d stepped out of the crowd with two shots to the right pectoral. There, that was better shooting.
Drake was edging along the back wall, and I decided to hell with better shooting, holding down the trigger and slashing out a stripe of water that splashed across the wall, his abs, and the wall again.
His goons didn’t seem to get that I’d just soaked their boss out of the fight though, and water pelted around me as I sprinted for the cover of the people ahead. “Samantha Calloway! Call it in!” I shouted at the drenched bald guy.
This time there was no niceness, no art, no pretense of civility. I just slammed my way through the crowd, shoulder leading, a straight-arm clearing the path when the seas didn’t part just the way I wanted. Angry voices erupted in my path and I dodged, ducked, sidestepped, practically bouncing through the standing-room-only mass of humanity behind the lanes.
I passed the soda machine landmark for my impromptu Dozier drill, and flattened myself against the wall as water blew past. I returned fire without aiming, finger on the trigger all the time, waving the nozzle around like a liquid paintbrush.
Had to have hit something.
I pushed off the wall as the stream dropped to the floor, and resumed my run.
The wall to the right opened up for the lobby and I hung a right, slamming into the waist-high cord that formed the line for people waiting to drink a shotglass off the navel of a cheerleader laying on a folding card table a few feet away.
I went down, tangled in the rope, and kicked the heavy brass pylons away, throwing the whole tangled fence to the side as I scampered up off the floor and bolted for the door.
Just barely at the doors, and water exploded into a cloud of droplets off the arcade game to my right. My hasty flight had not been in vain – I WAS being followed. I ripped the Triple Shot from my satchel and fired back, tagging one guy out as he hopped over the pile of pylon and rope laying on the floor, and driving a woman back to snipe at me from the corner of the ticket counter.
I slammed through the doors and out into the hot night air, and I didn’t stop running until I’d weaved between nearly all the cars in the parking lot and stood next to my own Mazda, the Triple Shot held shakily up, pointed back towards the entrance.
No one was following me.
I leaned against the trunk, sucking in air, trying to slow my heart-rate and the heaving of my chest. The sweat cascading down my back and face made me acutely aware that the bowling alley had been air-conditioned and the out-of-doors was not. I flipped my phone open and kept an eye on the parking lot as I checked the time. A few minutes to two.
Perhaps my insane photographer wouldn’t be joining me for the rest of the game.
With two minutes to go, I saw a tall figure jogging through the cars. Keith waved as he got closer. “You really caused the ruckus in there,” he said when he was within earshot.
“There are two police officers looking around for the tall brunette with a watergun who tore the place up, talking about calling for backup, and the alley’s management is directing people who want refunds to the bar. There’s, like, fifty of them.”
“Tell me you got some pictures, made the destruction all worth it.”
He gestured with the camera. “I did…but they’ll never see the light of day. For the sake of not incriminating anyone, we’re just going to pretend this hour didn’t happen.”
“In all seriousness, Samantha.” He looked at me across the roof of the Mazda. “You cost this place a lot of money, ruined a whole lot of people’s night.”
I bored my eyes into his. “I care?”
The phone rang. Must be two.