Foil Finds Alice
Foil had split up on the third floor from Arms, Hog and Big Sam to look for Bella and the other girl they now knew was with her. He headed to the fifth floor to see what he could find, believing that Warehouse 1 might hold any number of threats above floor three where they had initially found the thugs watching over the smuggled animals. He certainly would discover that he was right about this assumption. He moved up the stairs slowly, and entered the fifth floor with caution, ever on high alert as his training in the war taught him to be; carrying his gun in front of him and being careful to watch for all potential movements, he listened for any new sounds.
He never let his guard down even when he believed no one was there. His instinct was to be watchful and ever active in mind and body for potential surprises. The fifth floor was dark too, but not horribly oppressive like the third floor had been with all the animals. Foil saw nothing as he inched his way along the wall, gun drawn and listening intently. There was an eerie silence on this floor that unnerved him; of course, he knew now from experience that anything could be hidden anywhere in the Warehouse, but after the raucous noise on the third floor, he thought he might hear something on the fifth. But nothing. This concerned and worried him; he wondered where to look for Bella. He didn’t think taking his flashlight out would be a good idea, but he was having trouble seeing anything but a few inches in front of him and he worried that he wasn’t moving fast enough. And then he heard a sound.
He stopped and didn’t breathe. He listened intently, and then he heard it again. Somebody was crying, he was sure of it. The sound seemed to be coming from somewhere up ahead of him in the dark, but from where? The darkness surrounded him, and felt close and tight and he strained to hear the sound again. Up ahead it came, a whimper or a tiny cry, like a small child waiting to be cared for. Could this be Bella, after all this time?
He took a step forward in the darkness, letting out a breath, which he realized he had been holding, and gripped his gun tighter. The sound had stopped, but he thought that he had a sense of where it was coming from. He moved along a bit more quickly now, wishing desperately to hear the sound again, but not wanting to make any noise himself in case there was someone dangerous out there in the dark.
He stopped again and waited. The sound came out of the shadows and the silence of the fifth floor, this time more clear; yes, someone was definitely crying and it sounded like a girl. He wanted to run now, but knew that swift movements could get him killed. Anywhere, at any point, someone could come at him in the darkness and he wasn’t taking any chances. There was no way to save someone if he got injured himself, so he kept to his movements: a few steps forward, stopping, and listening for the sound of crying. He did this over and over again as he inched down the warehouse wall towards what he believed now to be Bella. He had forgotten, for the moment about the other girl who was supposed to be with her.
His instincts were to stay against the wall, and he realized that this had paid off because as he neared the sound of crying and it got louder, he could see the outline of a door up ahead of him in the shadows. It seemed to have bars at the top of it that let out a tiny halo of shadowy light. He stopped again and listened. The crying had stopped too and he wasn’t sure he had been quite right after all. He was disappointed in himself for not moving more quickly, but he knew patience was the best way forward.
And then just up ahead he heard someone sniffle and start crying again. And now he knew he was in the right spot; this time he dared to take out his flashlight and turn it on for he needed to see exactly what he was up against. Switching it on, but keeping the light turned towards his own body and thus shielding it from view, he created enough light to see that he was alone and right in front of him was a steel door, heavy and large. There were just a few feet between himself and Bella, who he believed was inside.
He walked up to the door and turned the handle, and suddenly the crying stopped. “Hello,” he said in a quiet whisper, “can you hear me?” He sent his voice up towards the bars in the door, which unfortunately he could not reach, but he hoped that his voice would carry to the girl inside. There was no answer, but he thought he could hear movement. He tried again, more urgently this time: “Hello, I’m here to take you home to your family. I’m going to get you out.”
Foil was not a man to rush these sorts of things, but he was feeling desperate standing in the dark waiting for a sound from the other side of the door. And then he heard a young girl’s voice say, “help me, please help me, please, I’m so scared.” Foil couldn’t be sure, but this didn’t sound like Bella. He had met Bella several times at Mama and Papa Scorvino’s deli. “Tell me your name,” he whispered towards the opening at the top of the door. “It’s Alice, my name is Alice, please help me, they took Bella away from me and I’m here all alone.” Her voice was plaintive and frightened. It came back to him now, what the thugs had told them about two girls that were brought to the warehouse. He didn’t have to think much to know who “they” were; now he knew he needed to move quickly and get this girl out of the warehouse, but how? He felt around the door and decided that it was impossible to get in but for one way and that was to shoot his way inside. He thought he could hit the lock and that it might shatter, but of course it would produce an unbelievable amount of noise and destroy his cover.
It was a chance he had to take. He had come to find Bella, but here was Alice in need of rescuing and he was going to do it. He had to get her out. Though he knew that this was a fool-hardy decision, he decided that it was the only way. “Stand back away from the door,” said Foil, urging the girl with his voice, “I’m going to get you out, but you have to get away from the door.” He thought he heard her move, though she did not respond. It was a chance he had to take, and now. He levelled the gun at an angle that he thought would work, and as luck would have it, he got the shot on the first try.
But the sound was enormous and with only seconds to spare, he swung the door open and he and Alice stood looking at one another.
Alice was such a contrast to Bella; blonde and slight, she was a little whisp of a thing, frightened and almost cowering from the fear of the shot Foil had taken. But here was someone who said he would help her; she had to trust him, for he was the first kind face she had seen in weeks besides Bella, who was now gone, perhaps forever.
“Come with me, now,” cried Foil, probably a little too forcefully, but he knew that their time was very short to escape. He never thought to even tell her his name, he was so impatient to get her out of there. He needed to get them both back to the stairwell and to safety to one of the other floors, above or below didn’t matter, just as long as they disappeared from the fifth. The sound of the gun shot, despite the thick walls of the warehouse, surely would have been heard by someone. And he was not wrong. He took Alice by the hand, such a tiny being, he felt that he could almost carry her better than walk together. She came with him without resistance, just as she had done with the men who had abducted her and Bella on the sidewalk on their way home from church.
Foil moved swiftly hugging the wall and bringing Alice along with him. She felt almost like she was flying, but her feet were touching the ground. And then they both heard shouting behind in the dark, and Alice knew that the man with the scar was coming after them. She almost fainted then and there, but Foil’s grip on her hand kept her going. He knew they had to find some kind of shelter on the warehouse floor, and stay hidden.
Now, he had to make some split-second decisions. The door to the stairs was too far away to reach and he knew the man behind him, no matter who he was, would be close to them in moments. He risked everything dropping Alice’s hand and turning on his flashlight to seek a place to hide. It was their only chance of survival, for he knew the man would kill them both. In the light that he flashed quickly around him, he saw a large shipping container just to his left, and he dove for that dragging Alice along with him. There was only time to crouch down in the darkness behind the container and hope that it was enough of a shield to protect them from whatever or whomever was coming after them.
Foil was breathing heavily, feeling the strain on his chest where his wound hadn’t quite healed from being shot the first time. He didn’t welcome the idea of being shot again, nor of Alice being hurt so he pushed himself to slow his breathing and concentrate on silence. Alice took every and all direction from him, the man whose name she did not know, but who seemed at least willing to protect her when she had no one else.
What Foil never expected was light. Suddenly the warehouse floor was flooded with bright industrial lights from every angle and now he was acutely aware of their danger. He heard someone walking towards them and he realized that it was going to be a game of cat and mouse, which he would have been more prepared for without Alice in tow. As it was, he hoped she could keep up because they were now going to be on the move in the maze of shipping containers that he could see set on the large warehouse floor.
He turned to Alice and sized her up; she looked him in the eye then and knew this was going to be a test of her strength. Before he could say anything, she whispered, “I can keep up. I’ll be fine, sir.” He doubted her, but they would do the best they could together. All this occurred in just seconds because they both heard someone walking towards them. Foil stood up first, and took a quick look around the corner just missing someone by a step; he couldn’t quite see who it was or in what direction they were moving, but he could hear them, or at least one man, and knew someone was close. He gestured to Alice to stay behind him and he moved along the side of the shipping container, holding his gun at the ready. This was not a time for “think first, shoot later.” This was a time for shoot now and shoot to kill.
Foil rounded the corner of the shipping container with Alice close behind him. He was tense, but driven by a desperate need to get to the stairwell and now with the blaring lights every movement was dangerous. A bullet whizzed past his head then, and he dove to the concrete floor, hitting his chest hard and almost losing his breath. Several more bullets followed as he scrambled to keep himself and Alice out of the man’s firing range, moving in and out of shipping containers. He couldn’t see where the bullets were coming from, but he knew now that they were spotted, their deaths imminent if he couldn’t get them out of there.
Dropping behind a shipping container with Alice on the ground next to him, he could hear her breathing quickly, her fear palpable. But she held herself in check, and followed his lead. He crawled along the floor to another shipping container and moved behind it with Alice, holding her by the arm and keeping her close to him.
He was afraid that he might hurt her she seemed so fragile, but he had no choice. And then he heard a step, too close for comfort and he calculated that he had at the most one or two shots before it was all over. He looked at Alice and signaled for her to stay where she was; he stood and listened. His own breathing was filling his ears, pounding against his skull. The steps were coming closer and he waited to make his move. When he felt he could wait no longer, he turned the corner of the shipping container; seeing the man with the scar on his face right in front him, he shot once, point blank and the man fell to the ground shuddering from the impact, blood flowing out of his chest.
Foil felt nothing. He stood in the bright silence of the warehouse floor, watching the body stop moving and lie still. He knew the man was dead and it was all over, for the moment. He walked over to where Alice crouched behind the shipping container, and said, “Okay, let’s go.” He was calm now, focused, centered and ready to move again. As he took Alice’s hand to walk towards the stairwell, he felt a sharp pain rip through his chest and he stopped short in his stride. He tried to move again, but pain overwhelmed him. “What the fuck is happening to me?” he thought, and said out loud to Alice, “let’s go.” There was a commanding tone in his voice, but it was clear he wasn’t moving.
Foil staggered now, leaning against the shipping container for support. Alice tried to help him, but she couldn’t hold him up and she watched helplessly as he gradually slid to the floor. He felt his chest and when he pulled his hand away, it was covered with bright red blood. Alice knew enough to understand that Foil wasn’t going to make it anywhere if she couldn’t stop his bleeding. She took off the dirty white sweater she was wearing, the same one she had worn every single day since she was taken, and pressed it against Foil’s chest. He groaned from the pain, but put his hand over hers and pressed as hard as he could. He knew he was bleeding out, hemorrhaging from his gunshot wound, probably caused from when he dove to the floor trying to miss the bullets.
In this moment between these two strangers, they felt closer to each other than they had to anyone else before. “What’s your name?” Alice suddenly asked, her voice sounding small in the large warehouse space. And he realized that he had never told her his name; in the rush to save her and himself that one detail slipped away from him completely. “Foil, my name is Foil. It’s a nickname given to me by a sweet girl, long ago. It just stuck,” and here he paused to take in a breath, steadying himself, still holding Alice’s hand over his wound. “Foil,” she said, looking at him with calm eyes. “Well, Foil, we’re going to have to get you out of here and to some help.” He looked at her in amazement and disbelief, this small person who thought that she was going to save him, a man twice her size.
But Alice was determined that they were going to get out together, for that was the only chance they both had of staying alive. Alice may have been slight, but she was smart and she had watched this man protect her throughout their ordeal together; she wasn’t about to let him die on the floor of a warehouse.
He felt the cold steel against his head before he heard the click of the gun.
Arms had turned the corner of the final flight of stairs to the sixth floor of Warehouse 1 and entered through a door that opened into a different kind of space, one that was clearly lived in and fashionable. It was like stepping into another world, away from the workings of the Port, and the mundane aspects of the warehouse itself. Sensing rightly that the night might be coming to an end, he took a few careful steps forward and stood in the semi-darkness, holding his own gun in his right hand. He listened, but could only smell something sweet hovering in the air around him. And then he knew someone was behind him.
She spoke first, “nice to see you again, Arms.” He felt a cold shiver run down his spine. That voice! He knew it intimately as it had sat in his heart for so many years, waiting, and longing to be heard again and now here she was, right behind him, so close but so far away from their love for each other; that long-ago love that he visited so often in his memories and had thought about constantly since he lost her. He almost turned at that moment, but showed his strength by standing stock still and simply replying, “hello, Rose, how’ve you been?”
“It’s Abigail, now,” she said casually, “Abigail Boudreau. I think you met my husband, or one of your men did on the slab at the LA morgue. He was trouble, wanted too much of the action and thought he could take it all. He was easy to get rid of, such a lightweight and a failure as a husband, they all were.” He listened to her talk, wondering at the command in her voice and remembering that one day of sunshine in the wheat fields. “My god, we were young,” he thought to himself, “but already I was broken and lost.” It was a moment, a brief thought in his mind, but one that Arms wouldn’t let cloud his judgement now about the entire case. The memories were past and gone. Now, he was here to do a job and he would do it well.
“What’dya want Rose?” he asked her sternly. She laughed, “ever the detective, Arms, you were like that even when we were young, always asking the wrong question at the wrong time.” She pushed the gun against his head and forced him forward into the space. “Give me your gun,” she said, “drop it on the floor and kick it away from you, don’t make any sudden moves because I will shoot you and you know it.” He did know it. She had always been a fierce girl, a fighter, a wild Irish lass who he thought had to be tamed, but she tamed him instead. Now was no different; she was in control and he felt his best bet was to make out that he just might succumb to her charms once again.
She walked around to stand in front of him, and they looked each other square in the eye. Seeing her for the first time in so many years was a shock to his system, but not one that he was about to show to her. She was as beautiful as he remembered, but she stood strong and tall in front of him without the innocence of youth. She smiled at him and his heart melted for a flickering moment, but then he snapped back to reality. His ability to show little emotion stood well for him now, and she seemed to be disappointed that he didn’t melt before her gaze. Age, and experience were on his side but she was smart and cunning too; they were a good match and probably always had been.
“You the head of this racket?” asked Arms, relaxing a bit in his stance, and starting to look around the room to get a sense of the space and its exit points. Of course, he knew as soon as he heard Rose’s voice that she was the Empress the two thugs spoke about. She walked towards him with the gun in her hand and put it against his chest, staring into his eyes the whole time. “You loved me once,” she said to him in a voice that almost purred; so close they were, and he could smell her, that rich, deep, longing smell of life that touched him once. He didn’t try to take the gun from her, or overpower her. No, it was she who seemed to overpower him as they stood their together; he wanted to take her in his arms and hold her again, but it was a feeling that he pushed away.
“Never again,” he thought to himself, “focus fool, she is a Siren, waylaying you and tempting you away from all you know to be good and true. Watch yourself!” And he took a step back away from her, automatically. She suddenly relaxed, but didn’t lower the gun; she laughed again, “Oh, Arms, you amuse me just like you once did.”
She held the gun, a heavy pistol, which she handled well and with ease. She was comfortable with it and he knew she was dangerous. He tried again, this time from a different angle; an aggressive attack might provoke her into revealing her plans. He asked, “did you kill Brendan O’ Shea?” Rose heard the question, and she looked serious for the first time. “Brendan was a good guy, and he was supplying me with lots of expensive merchandise. He took me on trips with him to Africa, and I played the good wife to the millionaires who he fleeced and scammed. We had a good racket going, but he wanted more from me than I could give him . . .” she trailed off. Arms thought he heard a tremor in her voice, but perhaps he imagined it, for in the next moment she backed away from him, flipping a switch as she went, and suddenly flooding the room with light.
He could see for the first time that the entire top floor of Warehouse 1 was devoted to her opulence and riches. But his mind was racing, and he was starting to formulate a plan to get out of there without being killed by his former lover. “Astounding how life comes around,” he thought to himself. Though he hardly believed in karma or anything like it for he was logical through and through, he still felt that something in his life had led him to this point. He watched her carefully as she picked up his own gun and placed it behind her on a table, well out of his reach. Every movement of hers was a marvel to him, for she still exuded a sensuality that he found utterly irresistible. He had to fight the urge to move towards her, but he knew that action was a sure-fire way of getting shot.
He definitely needed to figure out a way to get out of there alive and meet up with Foil and Hog again. Big Sam, he knew, would be with Hog, and they would keep together no matter what. When they all separated after dealing with the thugs guarding the smuggled animals, he knew that Foil and Hog had planned to take separate levels, Hog moving on to the fourth floor and Foil sprinting up the stairs to the fifth. They were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, but dangers lay everywhere in the warehouse and it was becoming very clear to Arms that they should have stayed together as he wanted to before they finally decided to split up. Together they would have been much stronger, separated they were automatically weaker. And, of course, he didn’t know that Foil was hurting now, and losing blood.
He decided to take a different tactic about O’Shea, believing that maybe this was a sore spot and she might talk more freely about him if he let up on the interrogation side of things, “did he hurt you?” Arms asked softly and with just a little bit of warmth in his voice. She looked at him with scorn in her eyes, “men, do they care whether women get hurt in the course of business or life?” She spat the words at him like he was a dog on the ground. He saw then that it would be impossible to find a middle ground with Rose; they were strangers now, fighting on two different sides of the law and of life.
The Killing Room
Hog and Big Sam were searching in the dark, and knew nothing of Foil and Alice.
Hog’s encounter with the thugs on the third floor of the warehouse had bruised his ego a little bit, especially after they caught him off guard and Foil and Arms had to save his ass. But he was nothing if not a man who could rebound, and fast. He had been searching for Bella since she went missing and now that he had learned she was not alone, that left him with a problem to tackle; it would be much harder to find two girls, let alone get them out of the warehouse without any trouble.
Foil had sent Big Sam with him to the fourth floor; this would not have been Hog’s first choice, but he couldn’t keep Sam from his sister, plus he needed a capable man to make sure that the girls got out of the warehouse with adequate protection. Considering the kind of men they had already encountered he couldn’t take any chances, and neither could Sam. Bella’s survival and protection were of the utmost importance to them both.
It had been better for them to split up, even though he hated to lose Foil and Arms, but the warehouse was so large that it couldn’t be helped. Both of his friends could take care of themselves, Hog had no doubt about that, and so he turned to the task at hand, searching for Bella and the unnamed girl. He had every faith that Bella would be found and he would do the finding. Still, he was starting to sense that it would be much harder than he had originally imagined; the warehouse was so large that she could be anywhere.
He and Big Sam moved forward into the fourth floor with guns drawn, careful not to separate too much, lest someone picked them off one at a time. It was dark, and though not as close and tight as floor three it still had a distinct aroma that seemed to linger on the air around them. Ever a man attuned to smells, Hog proved himself the bloodhound in alerting the others to particularly dangerous odors; he could always “smell the bad smell” as Arms and Foil described Hog’s gift. And now as he sized up the space around him, his senses were alert to something strange in the air. He said to Big Sam, “you smell that?” Big Sam couldn’t smell anything, but he didn’t want to cross Hog, who was already in a shitty mood. “Maybe, what is it?” Sam said, cautiously. Hog thought to himself and sniffed the air carefully; then he said definitively and with conviction, “it’s blood. I smell blood and something rotting.” Big Sam was unconvinced, but didn’t say much. He just made a sound that registered he might smell it too. Hog moved stealthily forward, deciding it was best to take out his flashlight and get a sense of the space; all was silence and calm, but he didn’t want to be surprised by any more animals.
Shining his light across the warehouse floor he saw what he did not expect to see, rows and rows of freezers. They looked like large, white coffins lining the concrete floor. “But why weren’t they running?” he thought. And then he saw a distinct pool of blood and a trail near about the fourth freezer out from him and Big Sam. “Hey, Sam, can you see that?” he asked, shining the light out onto the warehouse floor. “Yeah, I see it,” said Sam, “we better find out what the hell is going on here. What do you think are in these damn freezers? They should be running . . .” and here he trailed off, thinking about Bella; he wasn’t sure he wanted to see inside them at all.
Hog was ready to search for the girls and if he had to open every freezer on the floor, he would, no matter what he found. He motioned for Big Sam to follow him. Just like when they investigated at St. Cecelia’s church when Bella first went missing, Sam took a backseat to Hog and let the detective lead the way. If he was needed, he’d step in, but Hog had his own ways of doings things and it was always better not to move into his line of sight. This was not an equal partnership and Big Sam knew it. Hog would find his sister, he had every faith in him, but he’s do it on his own terms.
Hog moved to the first freezer and opened it. It was empty. This puzzled him, but now he knew why they weren’t running. “Were they all empty? Where was the blood coming from, if that were the case?” he wondered to himself. He stepped to the next freezer, and it too was empty. This didn’t make much sense to him. Not that he knew exactly what he would find, but there were hundreds of animals just below them and some of them surely hadn’t made it. They couldn’t be thrown out in the trash, but would have to be frozen and taken somewhere later. The third freezer and the fourth were also empty, but at the base of the fourth freezer was a pool of blood. Human or animal, Hog wasn’t sure, but from this pool he could see drag marks moving away from the freezer on into the main part of the fourth floor of the warehouse.
“Something or someone has been hurt or killed,” said Hog to Big Sam, who stood behind him holding his gun and waiting for the detective to make a decision about what to do next. Hog shone the light on the corner of the freezer, and he could see hairs where something had hit its head. The stench of blood and something rotting was getting more intense as they moved into the main part of the floor, looking into each freezer and finding nothing. Then Hog saw it, more blood, pools of it underneath several tables set up in the middle of the warehouse floor surrounded by freezers, all of which were clearly not running. Some of the blood looked fresh, some old, some congealed, it was a nasty sight.
This was the killing room, a hidden space where animals were brought to die for their furs. It was makeshift and ugly, clearly an amateur job and totally unhygienic. Knives lay on the tables, half butchered animals and partially skinned piles of rabbits and minks; Hog couldn’t see much else but the smell was overpowering and now even Big Sam had to acknowledge the odor and certainly the carnage in front of him. Hog didn’t see any live animals. It was unclear, however, how long the ones on the tables had been dead. Some were fresh, others rotting, flies buzzed around the piles. This was the brutal side of the black-market animal smuggling and fur trade business.
The smell was making their eyes water, and they couldn’t stand there for much longer. Hog went to more of the freezers and opened them, finding animal carcasses and bloody furs in frozen masses, stuffed into the freezers in plastic bags. Someone was in a rush and didn’t try to hide much. But now because the freezers weren’t running everything was beginning to thaw out and rot, so it was clear that people had been working there recently. The inside of the freezers was wet to the touch; they had been turned off for at least a couple of days. To Big Sam it seemed like Hog had a nose of steel because the smell was starting to make him queasy and he felt that he had to get out of there.
But Hog lingered; something didn’t feel right to him. They needed to get out of there, but still he felt unsettled. And then he heard a noise and he turned quickly to see someone dive behind one of the freezers; “who’s there?” Hog called out, moving towards where he saw the person and getting ready to shoot, if he had the chance. Big Sam was just behind him, as usual, but neither of them could see anything. Hog shone his light over the tops of the freezers, but nothing appeared. He didn’t want to be ambushed at this point, and so he backed away instead of turning around and walking in another direction. Sam followed suit and they both moved again towards the killing room, letting the space between themselves and the person grow. Hog’s gut feeling was this man, for he was sure it was a man behind the freezer, had something to do with Bella’s disappearance.