Sunday, March 20, 2011

Red Teeth - Chapter Two

Coyle was beginning to get concerned about the snow. He’d grown up in Pennsylvania, so it wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with driving in bad weather. But this had the look of something that was going to overwhelm the plows. He’d only passed one PennDOT truck on his way here from the bank, and that was a bad sign.

The town he’d passed through hadn’t much help. One red light, one grocery store, two gas stations, three bars and precisely zero places to spend the night. He’d familiarized himself with the area when he was planning this job, and he knew that he was a good forty miles from a hotel. Not a big deal in and of itself, that was less than an hour’s drive, normally. Tonight, though, that could end up taking until dawn, at best.

Coyle was in no particular hurry. He knew that getting impatient meant making mistakes, and mistakes meant getting caught. Coyle didn’t have a criminal record at all, even under his real name, and he intended to keep it that way. So he was keeping well within the safe range of speed for this kind of weather, even thought that meant he was perilously close to driving at a walking pace.

He saw a pair of headlights, pinpoints in white, way out ahead of him. He’d barely seen any traffic so far. People out in the sticks generally had the good sense to stay inside when the weather got bad. These headlights, though, were definitely getting too close, too fast. Coyle frowned.

In the distance beyond them, he saw flashing lights. He was concerned, but he kept it steady. The odds were better that some podunk cop was trying to pull over the truck heading towards him rather coming for him, but he’d just have to wait and see.

The blue truck started to slide. It was going faster than it should have been, but that didn’t mean that it was going fast, so Coyle had plenty of time to hit the brakes. He was slowing down fast when the truck ended up going broadside into a spin. Coyle didn’t see much choice, so he jerked his wheel to the side.

He started to slide sideways himself, and there was a dull crunch as the cars hit. He spun some more and ended up off the road. Shit.

He was just stepping out of the car when the police blazer slowed and stopped. He felt the weight of the gun in his pocket and put a concerned look on his face. The door of the blazer and Podunk got out.

“You all right?” the cop said.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Gimme a second, okay?”

The cop was big, wide thick shoulders and a belly going soft. Uniform shirt but a Carhart jacket and worn jeans. Town cop, Coyle figured, but he couldn’t read what the blazer said in the dark. The cop went over to the truck and opened up the door

The driver of the truck very nearly slid out into the snow. He clearly wasn’t sober enough to drive. Coyle didn’t think that the little man was sober enough to walk. The big cop grabbed the man by the collar of his Carharrt, stopped him from falling. He sat him down, not ungently, on the truck bed.

“Jesus Christ, Johnny,” the big cop said.

“Emm, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, Johnny, I know.”

The little man seemed like he was pretty close to the edge of tears. Coyle knew a sloppy drunk when he saw one. Coyle considered the situation while Podunk was busy with the drunk.

His car looked like it was out of commission. Coyle walked over and squatted by the wheel. The damage didn’t, at a glance, look too bad, but that was decepitive. Coyle ran his hand over the wheel until it hit metal. The wheel was jammed into the wheel well, which meant the frame was bent. The car was totaled.

Which was not, in and of itself, a problem. It wasn’t his car and he didn’t give a shit whether it got fixed. But it meant that he was stuck, and that was a problem. If the cop decided to run the VIN on the car, he might eventually realize that Cameron Coyle didn’t exist.

He watched the big man try to sort the drunk out. The little man was less than half the cop’s size, and the cop was holding practically holding him up while he tried to get the man sorted out.

The cop was smart. He could see it in the way he’d sized Coyle up, and with the kind efficiency he was giving the drunk asshole. There was a better than average chance that he was going to ask the wrong questions. So the right question for Coyle was whether it made more sense for him to shoot him and take the blazer or whether he should take his chances with the questions.

The weather was the deciding factor. Even for the couple of minutes that he’d been standing in the snow he’d turned into a snow man. It was still driveable, but the only people that were likely to be out in it were emergency services and drunks. And thieves apparently.

Coyle held out a hand and watched the snow drop onto his glove. He smiled to himself and came to a decision.


Johnny Mattingly saved Em’s life. Not on purpose, but there wasn’t any denying it. There was no point in making Johnny do a sobriety test. He was way too drunk to have any chance at passing even if it was a clear day. In a foot of snow, Em had his doubts about whether or not it would even be admissible. Frankly, he decided that the sooner they got out of this slop, the better. Procedure be damned.

But he still needed to make sure that Johnny hadn’t managed to hurt himself. The way the snow was going, if Em took him to the station, it wouldn’t be long until they wouldn’t be able to make it to the medical center, let alone the hospital.

“Jesus Christ, Johnny.”

“Emm, I’m sorry,” Johnny slurred.

“Yeah, Johnny, I know.”

He just about poured himself on to the ground. Em grabbed him by the coat, held him up. Johnny was a small man, Em figured he didn’t weigh more than a buck thirty in winter clothes, but he was pretty close to dead weight. Em grunted.

“Johnny, get yourself together. It’s too cold and my joints are acting up like crazy and if I have to carry your drunk butt, things are not going to go well for you.”


“And stop saying that. I know you’re sorry. You’ve been sorry the whole time I’ve known you.”


Johnny managed to pull himself together, more or less, and Em took a long look at him. No blood, no obvious bruises, no sign of broken bones. Aside from his blood being at least sixty proof by volume, Johnny Mattingly seemed to be okay.

“Johnny. Johnny, focus.”


“Christ, I know. You’re wearing on my good temper now, so pay attention. Are you hurt? If you’re hurt I need to take you to the hospital, so are you hurt?”

Johnny blinked, bleary, and took a long time to think about it.


“Terrific. How about I give you a ride into town?”

Em just needed to get Johnny sorted and then see about the stranger he managed to suck into his foolishness. Em figured that car wasn’t going anywhere, but the guy seemed fine, and Em wanted to get Johnny locked up in the Blazer before he decided to take a runner and ended up freezing to death in this slop.

Johnny slipped. Em had a loose grip on his collar, but the sudden shift in weight was enough to jerk him down. The first bullet sailed right through where his head should have been, and it was only dumb luck that his head wasn’t there.

The second bullet was right on top of the first, missed him by a few inches. The third went through his coat. Em jerked to the side and spun. The stranger was just a couple of feet back. Em kicked out, his knee cracking, his foot smashing into the man’s shin.

“Shit,” the man said, and slipped in the snow. He fired off two more rounds, but they were wild. He was trying to aim while he tried to keep his feet, and wasn’t doing well at either one.

Em surged forward, coming up out of a crouch like a football player coming off the line. The stranger was big, two hundred pounds or so and hard as oak, but he was giving up at least forty pounds to Em and his footing was unsure. Em hit him like a freight train.

The impact lifted him up and off the ground, slammed him back into the car hard. He let out a woof of air as he hit. He lost the gun, and it disappeared into the drifting snow.

Em’s boot slipped, and the stranger dropped an elbow, hard, right into his neck. Em hit the snow face first. The stranger moved fast to where his gun went, dropped to his knees and stuck his hands in the snow. Em pushed himself up, adrenaline pumping. No pain. Not even fear. Just the thunder of his heart in his ears.

He clawed the snow off his face, flipped to his side. He cleared his gun. He thumbed back the hammer and the click was just about the loudest thing he ever heard.


Coyle couldn’t find the damn gun. He was, apparently, living in a Coen brothers movie, because he managed to miss a giant fucking town cop from four feet away, and now he was looking for a gun in a snow drift. If he’d had time to think about it, it might even have been funny.

He heard the click of a hammer being cocked. He heard it a thousand times before, probably, but never on this side of it. He raised his hands, slowly. There was no point in anything else. Even if he’d been able to find his fucking gun, which he hadn’t, there was no way he was going to be able to turn and shoot fast enough. He was fast, but nobody was that fast.

“Hands behind your head”

Coyle obeyed. The cop was big and he was strong; that tackle felt like it was going to knock Coyle’s spine out through his chest, but there was only one of him. He would need to get close to Coyle to put the cuffs on him, and there might be a chance there.

Which might have worked, except Podunk kicked Coyle in the back, jamming him into the snow. Coyle almost had enough time to put his hands out to stop his fall, but the cop leaned in on him with a knee. Coyle’s ribs already hurt, but between the cops and being facedown in the fucking snow, he felt like he could breath.

The big cop yanked his arm back and Coyle heard a smaller click, not nearly so distinct as the hammer. The big cop moved Coyle’s other arm and handcuffed him, lifted him with a grunt from the snow. It was over.

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