Chapter 43, A Horrible Feeling
[BY DANIEL LANSFORD]
“Let’s go kick some dobber arse,” Nessa says once we arrive at her Porsche.
I watch the girl intently. She has a wicked smile and her brown eyes are wild with adrenaline. She has her beautiful red hair tied back, but it’s so curly and wild she might as well have worn it loose. Like most nights we go on these kinds of missions, she’s wearing a black bodysuit with heels that could probably do more damage than any weapon we have.
But I know all that is just surface area. The girl that’s really standing in front of me is still dressed in that dirty white shirt with blood on it. Her hair is still sticky with oil and her eyes still have tears in them. Just like that first day I saw her...
I suddenly remember that day so vividly I feel like I’m back in time.
Xav was eighteen and I was seventeen. He just became the leader of the North when he heard of human traffickers passing nearby. After the tragic fire that took so many lives that year, Xav wanted blood. Without a moment of doubt, we went to take those fuckers down. We slaughtered every guy that was involved and gave shelter to the victims. I was handing dinner to all the girls when I saw Venessa MacArtan for the first time.
There, in Isabella’s foyer in nothing but a shirt with bruised eyes and a body with marks all over, the girl was in tears. I was handing dinner to all the survivors, but Nessa was just so...
I handed her soup just like I did to all the other crying girls and told her everything was going to be okay now. There was no need for her tears. She was just a year younger than me but seemed so small.
Nessa looked up at me, her eyes still wet and watery, but she didn’t whimper like the others. No, she stared at me with fire in her soul and said, “I’m not cryin’ because I’m sad. I’m cryin’ because I couldn’ be the one to slaughter those men.”
I undoubtedly fell in love right then and there, but... How can you tell a girl that just went through all that Nessa did, that you like her? She had been traumatized because of men for years. It was only logical that I should wait.
And wait and wait and wait and I don’t think I’ll ever have the right to tell Nessa how much I care for her when she’s been through so much. The last thing she would want is some idiot like me telling her I’m head over heels. I have been for years. No... Nessa deserves someone better. She needs someone brave. And I’m a coward. I’ve been nothing but a coward for years now. All I can do is run away.
“Ey, Manwhore, can ye snap out of it?” Nessa asks.
I look up and the redhead has the boot of her car open – revealing a ton of guns to pick from. As usual, I grab a shotgun with enough rounds to last a while. Paul, being the beast that he is, grabs two automatics as well as two matching bandoliers for his ammunition that he swings over his shoulders. I raise an eyebrow when Nessa grabs a gun as well.
“Hey, hey, bagpipes you know you have shit aim. Let’s not put ourselves in even more danger here,” I warn my second in command.
“Oh yeah, I forgot I’m abou’ as gud with a gun as yer with the lassies,” she jokes.
Usually, I’d insult her back or laugh, but I know Nessa is terrified. So all these jokes... It’s just to cover up the fact she’s scared shitless. It’s always been like that. Humor is great at hiding pain. And Nessa hasn’t stopped joking around for years now.
My second in command puts the gun back and faces us again just as she is. I’m sure she has plenty of tricks up her sleeve. I just hope she keeps a straight head... I look over at Paul and the guy also seems a little more worried.
“Okay,” I sigh, “Let’s do this.”
I press the earpiece by my left ear and hear a faint static sound. “You hear me?” I ask. The twins in the Porsche look over at us through the window and show a thumbs up.
“Clear as day,” they answer through the earpiece and I hear them perfectly fine. I watch Nessa and Paul adjust their earpieces as well.
I press the earphone by my right ear next. “You hear me?” I ask. Not a second later and Owen confirms he can hear me.
“Then let’s go,” I tell my friends.
We silently walk over to the massive warehouse. There’s an apartment-looking building attached to it, making the layout complicated. Thank God we got blueprints or we would be running in there with our heads cut off.
“They should be moving the girls any moment now. Paul, you know what to do,” I instruct.
Paul gives me a quick nod before he runs off. If there’s anyone that’ll be creating a big enough distraction, it’s Paul. Nessa and I are in charge of saving the girls while these scum is preoccupied.
“Don’t fall behind in those heels of yours,” I tell Nessa as I go into a quick pace.
“Ye know these heels can outwalk ye any day,” Nessa retorts.
I want to smile, but my nerves are too on edge. Instead, I sneak over to the back door of the warehouse with my second in command right by me. I patiently wait while the twins start to explain the situation to me.
“There are four floors,” Bryan says, “According to the data, they keep the girls on the third floor in a large storage area. The top floor is a factory of some sort. No doubt shut down. The biggest problem here is that there’s only one way to get to the next floor and that’s the staircase on the right side of the building. The elevators haven’t worked in years.”
“We suspect those stairs will have guards so you’ll have to wait for Paul’s distraction before you head up,” Ryan adds, “Owen can you confirm any of this?”
I hear the earpiece with Owen turn on. “Yeah, I’m on cameras. The girls are on the third floor. I can’t see my sister but the quality isn’t good so she might be there. I think the door could be locked though and there are about a dozen guards at each staircase playing cards and keeping watch.”
I nod. It’s exactly as expected. “The door is definitely locked and there are too many people to figure out who has the key. That’s why we wait for the transfer to start. Do you have any info on that?” I ask.
The night is pretty chilly. I can feel cold air bite at my nose and ears, but I simply tug the collar of my turtleneck higher in a vain attempt. I look over and Nessa seems to just be staring at the door close to us. I have no idea what’s going through her mind right now.
“Yeah,” Owen says, “There are some guys at the bottom floor walking over to the stairs now. I think they might be heading up to fetch the girls. They just passed the first set of guards.”
“Alright, we head in once Paul sends the signal,” I say and take my hand away from the earpiece. Any moment now and we’ll head in. Any moment and we’ll light these fuckers up. We’ve done this a million times now. Xavier isn’t with us, but we’re perfectly capable on our own. Nothing will go wrong. We’re the Noth’s inner gang. We can do this.
“Do you see any rooms with two or three people in them? Before shipment nights they sometimes play around with a few girls,” Nessa suddenly asks over the earpiece.
“No. There aren’t that many cameras in this building but I’ll look some more,” Owen answers.
Nessa nods before we leave it.
Quiet. Cold, quiet night, and the sound of Nessa’s breath behind me is all I can hear.
“Hey, bagpipes,” I say.
“Don’t be reckless now. Stick with me and if you’re in trouble, let me know,” I tell her.
There’s a slight pause from Nessa before I hear her swift her weight and say: “I don’ need ye protectin’ me, Danny.”
Danny. I melt whenever she uses that nickname.
I close my eyes and take a few breaths. I’m not really religious. My family used to take me to church as a child, but I’ve stepped away from all that since I started over. Though now... Now I’m sitting here as a man willing to beg to any god that’s listening. Hell, I’ll even beg the devil.
Let me protect that woman.
Even if it’s the last thing I do, let me protect Nessa.
A loud bang goes off and I know there’s no more time for prayers. Tonight there will only be guns and blood and hopefully, a few lives saved.
I wait a few seconds, listen to the shouting inside, and most of the guards running past. When I feel like enough people have gone, I take one last breath in anticipation.
“Let’s go, Nessa,” I say before kicking the door open and running into chaos.
I swing my shotgun out in front of me and fire at the first poor fucker I see. A look of horror washes over him before I shoot once more. Dozens of shots spray out and dig into him, a devastating result of using a shotgun. This thing was made for close combat and it’ll be a bitch to get all the pellets out. If you live long enough to see the doctor that is. Usually, you drown in your own blood first - courtesy of a shotgun’s multiple bullets puncturing numerous areas including the lungs if you aim at the chest.
I hear Nessa come charging in alongside me just as a man that runs past turns around and faces us. Nessa gives a stomp kick into the poor guy’s gut and he stumbles back before I send two shots after him. Dead. They all deserve death.
I look at Nessa and she seems to be fine so we run down the large hallway and towards the stairs that are not too far away. The table in front of the bottom steps is left as is with cards still folded and drinks laying around. The crates and broken chairs the guys were sitting on is probably still warm. And though Paul’s distraction helps clear the stairs for us, if he doesn’t finish all those guys on his own back there, Nessa and I’ll have a problem when we head back down with the girls. Let’s trust Paul to finish the job.
He wouldn’t die on us like this.
“Should we check this floor for any of the girls you mentioned earlier?” I ask Nessa.
“Naw, they wouldn’ be far from where the other lassies are kept so let’s jus’ head up.”
“Got it,” I say and we rush up the stairs.
There’s a big window going up along the flight of stairs and I can see Nessa’s car hidden in the shadows. I can just hope all the trouble is inside the building and the people outside aren’t in any danger. Owen just has Hotchkiss, our getaway driver, to protect him, and to be honest that doesn’t make me feel very confident. Though the guy is a prick in my side, I can’t have Owen dying just yet. He’s the only one that’s there for Nessa right now. At least... in a way I could never be.
Just before Nessa and I can reach the next floor, I hear the familiar click of a gun and quickly grab Nessa’s hand to pull her back. I stop her just in time before she can round the railing and start up the last section of stairs. Just as she falls back into my arms, a shot is fired and the window right next to us gets shattered.
“Get down!” I warn and push Nessa down with me as we stick close to the floor.
Popping suddenly fills our ears as about half a dozen guns start firing. Some are automatic and some are normal handguns, but they are all a very big problem for us. I peek through the railing on the second last segment of stairs and watch shells clatter and fall onto the hard floor. Some shells tumble down the stairs and land close to us, but none of the guards up there dare to walk down and face us.
“We need to find a way to take them out,” I say.
“Yeah, it won’ be a problem if ye can get off me, ye damn beetroot!” Nessa complains from under me and I suddenly realize I’ve been using my body to protect hers.
“Oh, sorry,” I apologize shyly before getting off of her. I run my hand over my gelled hair nervously as I get up onto my knees and sit back.
“Ye got fat,” Nessa says before going into a crunching position and grabbing something from her belt. I look over and it seems to be a grenade-type object. No doubt the woman has been stocking up on her poisons.
“Take mah hand.”
“Don’ make it weird, ye manwhore,” Nessa says while rolling her eyes. I can’t help it though. With the moonlight filtering through the open window, broken glass glittering in the pale light, and the inconsistent flash of firing guns from above, the Scottish seductress really lives up to her name.
“We wait for a beat when the automatics reload and I pop in to throw mah poison. Ye hold on to my hand and yoink me back to ye as soon as I throw the thing to avoid shots from those handguns,” Nessa explains.
“Got it,” I say and take Nessa’s hand in mine.
I lose myself a little. I haven’t held Nessa’s hand in... No... I’ve only held it that one time.
A rising sun. Birds chirping their morning songs. A cold winter breeze and the spruce smell that always surrounded Isabellas. It was then that I held a warm delicate hand of a girl that thought she had nothing left to live for.
“Hey, I asked if ye were ready!? Are ye deaf?” Nessa demands.
I snap out of the precious memory and look back at the woman in front of me.
“I got you,” I tell her. I’ll always have you.
“Okay. One, Two, three!” Nessa counts.
The redhead jumps just as there’s a pause from the firing upstairs and lunges into a kneeling position as she chucks the grenade up to those unexpecting men.
There’s a moment, a single short breath where Nessa looks at me with desperate brown eyes - red hair slowly flailing around her as she twists to look at me.
I pull with everything I have and watch bullets zip past the girl just as I do. Nessa comes crashing into me so hard, I fall and hit my head on the wall behind me. I’m on my ass with Nessa pressed to my chest just as a small pop goes off and smoke starts spreading upstairs. The fizz of smoke mixes with that of choking men and I try to catch my breath with Nessa still on top of me. Alive and well. She’s alive.
“Ye nearly yanked mah arm out of mah socket, ye walloper!” she complains, “Was it really necessary to pull that hard?”
Of course, I want to tell her. I’ll pull as hard as I have to to make sure she’s safe.
When a few seconds have passed and the smoke seems to have mostly subsided, I rush upstairs with Nessa right by me. Instead of getting off at the second floor, we continue up, aiming for the third floor. There’ll be more guards up there and they undoubtedly have heard all the commotion. I have three rounds left in my shotgun before I have to reload. Definitely not enough to take everyone out.
“Hey, you got more of those poison grenades?” I ask Nessa as we run up the stairs. We’re both out of breath and sweating with the adrenaline pumping through us.
“Yeah, I got two more,” she says, but a figure running down the stairs catches my eye.
“Watch out!” I warn and try to jump in the line of fire, but Nessa pushes me back and I have to grab onto the railing to prevent myself from breaking my neck on the staircase.
I watch in complete terror as Nessa uses the railing to build momentum for her to thrust a sidekick right into the guy’s mouth - making him choke on her heel. His gun fires and I definitely lose a couple of years of my life, but fortunately, the scum misses her and the gun quickly clatters out of his hand as he falls back with Nessa still standing on top of him.
“Come on,” she says, “yet her lazy arse over here.”
I nod and quickly followed Nessa up the stairs, making sure to be in front of her as I skip a few steps to be ahead.
We slowly round the corner leading to the last segment of stairs, looking up at the table where guards should be. I tap into the earpiece when there’s nobody in sight.
“Owen?” I ask.
“They left with the first few guys. They’re collecting the girls as we speak. Only one guard is currently in the hallway leading to the room where they’re kept,” he lets me know.
“Thanks,” I say and focus on what’s ahead of me again. “The guys up here went to fetch the girls. We can’t take all of them on without using your poison grenade but that’ll put the girls at risk. Even my shotgun would be too much of a gamble,” I explain. “What should we do?”
“We don’ have a choice, Manwhore. Ye distract them and I sneak in, pretend to be one of the lassies while I find an opportunity to lead them away. It’ll work if ye manage to keep everyone busy.”
I feel something in Nessa’s words. A feeling I’ve never experienced before but I somehow know exactly what it means.
I feel the icy claw of death scraping over me. Is this a warning? Should I not let Nessa go? Will she die if we split up?
“I know it’ll be risky for ye. Fightin’ all those guys on ye own, but ye’ll be fine. Idiots don’t die that easily,” Nessa jokes.
Look at me... Worrying for Nessa when I haven’t even realized that the one in real danger with this plan would be...
“I’ll do it,” I tell Nessa, “I’ll be a big enough distraction to get all those fuckers away from those girls.”
Even if it’ll cost me my life, I’ll make sure nobody touches Nessa.
Somehow a part of me mourns for something I never dared to even dream about. A future I thought would be impossible... One in which I can hold that girl, the one behind all the jokes, and tell her how I really feel... How much I’ve cared for her all these years. I want to tell her I’m sorry for what happened between us when we were drunk. I want to tell her I wish we could be honest with each other when we’re sober.
“Hey, hey, Manwhore, what are ye doin’?”
“Ye’ve been zonin’ out the whole mission. What’s wrong with ye?”
How can I tell this woman I have a horrible feeling in my gut? Will she even care?
“I’m just thinking too much,” I answer instead. She doesn’t have to know.
“Well, stoop thinkin’! Ye need to keep whatever’s left of ye brain. It’ll be dangerous and ye ain’t kicking the fookin’ bucket jus’ yet! Ye hear me? If ye die then...” Nessa pauses for the smallest moment. “It won’ be as fun snaggin’ lassies anymore! There’s no point to it if I can’t damage ye frail ego!”
I can’t help the chuckle and suddenly hate myself for my dark thoughts. What’s my problem? Acting as though I’ve already lost. I can’t go down just yet. I can’t fail Xavier or Amber and more importantly, I can’t let Nessa just roam around after I’m gone. Someone needs to put a leash on that girl.
“Fine, Bagpipes,” I grin, “I ain’t dying just yet.”