J O H N
“When are you going to start looking for her again?” Ben asked curiously.
He had never heard of anyone getting the best of his friend so many times. This girl was special, and John couldn’t agree more with that. He wasn’t sure where to start with the search. He had leads before, plenty of leads. But now, they had run dry.
He was still healing up from his gunshot wound also. And he figured she was probably healing up from that dive out of his car. He couldn’t wait to see her again. She was all he could even think about. She was the girl who kept him up at night. Because she had outsmarted him three time. Three fucking times.
“I don’t know where to start.”
“You, the human hound, don’t know where to start? You’re losing your edge, John,” Ben declared with a huge smirk on his face.
Instead of being angry or irritated by the comment, he started to contemplate whether that was true. It wasn’t like she was better than his other bounties, was it? He was losing his edge. He had dropped the ball countless times around her and he was lucky that he only dropped it three times so far.
But, then again, this couldn’t just be on him. She had manipulated him, and she had made him drop that ball. And for that, she wasn’t like every other bounty. How she played him like a fucking fiddle was ingenious. She really made him believe everything she wanted him to believe. And he couldn’t knock her for that.
“I’m gonna find her. I just need to get out of here and start looking,” he declared. He wasn’t going to waste any more time. He was going to hunt her to the end of the earth if he must.
He was gearing up, ready to leave, when his phone buzzed. It was Alessandro. Fuck.
“Where the fuck is my daughter? Why is this taking so long?” Alessandro questioned down the phone, clearly seething in his tone.
“I ran into some problems. But I’ve almost got her. Trust me,” John replied confidently even though he knew it was bullshit.
“She’s a young girl who doesn’t know shit about the world. I told you not to underestimate her, but don’t overestimate her either. She’s still a child. You better get her back here soon.” He hung up before John could reply.
Alessandro didn’t estimate his daughter correctly either. As much as John had tried to estimate her, she would constantly surprise him. She was confusing and that was why she was so goddamn good at running. And he was constantly underestimating her at every turn.
He hated the fact that Alessandro was now breathing down his neck. He didn’t fucking need that. He needed to get the job done, and Alessandro should trust that he would. If the feds hadn’t got to him, he’d have gotten her already, and she wouldn’t have gotten away this time. There was nothing she could do that could surprise him anymore. He was confident of that.
But then John stopped.
He heard a yell from Ben, and he grabbed the gun Ben had armed him with. When he heard the silenced gunshots go off, he knew he was in fucking trouble. What kind of shit was Ben into and why didn’t he tell John about it? Now they were both in danger.
He kept low and to the walls, pressing up against one and peering slightly through the doorway. The hall was clear, but he had to remain vigilant. He kept his gun pointed and his guard up as he stepped out slowly, bending to be faster if it came to running. He cleared two rooms, finding neither Ben nor the shooter.
Until he peered around the next corner and saw a gun to Ben’s head and three men surrounding him. He noticed the bullet-shaped hole in the wall and relieved Ben wasn’t hurt yet. He was careful of the shadow that he could cast in the room, alerting them he was here. They were here for Ben.
“You piece of shit! Connor gave you one fucking job!” the man with the gun to Ben’s head yelled. Then he clocked Ben round the face with that gun.
John wasn’t sure what his next move should be. He wouldn’t be able the kill him. His conscience was back. All because of fucking Mari.
But John went in charging anyway. He aimed his gun at the guy’s head whilst making his presence known. They were shortly stunned by him, followed by amusement dancing in the man’s eyes. He knew that look. He had given it to Mari when she was doing something stupid or impressive or surprising. He had a feeling this man was giving the look to him due to his stupidity.
“Put the gun down and don’t be stupid. You’re outnumbered,” the man stated fiercely, raising an eyebrow at John.
“My gun is to your head. You drop your gun, leave and no blood will be spilled,” John uttered rather ridiculously, knowing he didn’t have the upper hand here.
“John, this isn’t your problem,” Ben warned, his eyes widening in caution. “Tell Connor I’ll finish the job. You don’t need to do anything.”
“It’s too late, Ben. I’ve been ordered to kill you,” the man said darkly, pressing the barrel of the gun further into the side of Ben’s head.
He couldn’t help taking a page out of Mari’s playbook. Because he pulled his trigger so impulsively the entire room was shocked into statues. No one asides from John could believe what had happened.
Of course, he didn’t kill him. No, he shot his shoulder, so that he wouldn’t be able to pull the trigger of his gun. John brought his beast out to play, channeling his focus and acting faster than everyone.
Three more shots were fired. One by John into another guy. One by the remaining guy that barely grazed John and one by the same guy into Ben’s side.
John created a distraction as he took cover behind a cabinet and pulled Ben with him. His friend clutched his side and hissed quietly, tucking his body in out of their sights.
“What the fuck is going on, Ben?” John whispered harshly, holding his gun close to his chest and breathing heavily. This was a shootout. Three against two.
The other side were like maniacs, trigger-happy fools that shot through the wood consistently. Their cover wouldn’t hold for long.
John had always commented that trouble followed Mari everywhere, but perhaps she had rubbed off her bad luck to him, and now he couldn’t have a moment’s peace. This place was supposed to be safe. Ben was a cautious tech-savvy guy. What had he got involved in?
“There’s this guy named Connor. He’s the boss. He recruited me for some jobs, and I chickened out of one. It’s not like I botched the job or ratted them out. I just backed out of it. It was too dangerous. Now he’s after me.”
“Why did you back out?”
“The other guys didn’t care if there were civilian casualties. I don’t support killing innocent people, John. I wouldn’t be a part of that. If I did the job with them and we went down, we’d all be facing murder charges and that is not my style.”
“How do we get out of here? Is there a back exit?” John questioned impatiently as the wood began to become a flimsy shield against the rapid bullets.
“No. Just the front door and the windows…” When Ben noticed the look on John’s face, his expression changed to ‘are you insane?’.
“Follow my lead.”
Before Ben could protest to this plan, John was already on the move. They weren’t on a high level of the apartment building but a couple of floors up. They would have to take a leap of faith. John had run out of bullets in his gun and they had no other means of protection. It was now or never.
John drew the gunfire to the glass windows, ducked, and allowed them to smashed the glass to smithereens. Then… Ben pushed John out while he followed.
They landed in the large trash bins outside, naturally. John had noticed them the first time he had peered out of the window. John hauled Ben’s arm over his shoulders to allow Ben’s weight to be supported by him. Entering Ben’s car, they raced away with Ben’s body writhing in agony in the back.
Ben knew a guy who could stitch him up discreetly. So, John dropped him there, said goodbye, left his car key and car, and left.
He was back to square one.