Saved By A Kiss
Arms and Rose stood together locked in a close kiss and tight embrace; she still held her gun, but just loosely. He was in another world, leaving behind everything he believed in and had known forever, his ethics slipping away in a moment of sheer masculine weakness. In his abandoned bliss of sensuality and faux love, he suddenly heard the sound of a door opening somewhere close. Believing he was caught in the gaze of another, he broke away from Rose, stung in an instant into recognizing his actions as utterly foolish and downright reckless. She seemed momentarily shocked and dazed by the emotional intensity of the physical interactions with Arms, her old lover.
Seeing his chance, and hoping to ameliorate his own shame and inaction, he grabbed Rose’s gun out her of hand and turned it on her. But instead of being frightened, she just looked at him calmly, and without much worry. She seemed to think that his kiss meant that he would not do anything against her, but she was wrong about him. He valued his detective’s honor and ethics more than he valued the impermanence of a kiss, even one as intense as he had just experienced with Rose. Yet, no one had stepped into the sixth floor of the warehouse, so what was the sound that he heard?
Perhaps it was his conscience kicking in and making him snap back into action after succumbing so easily to his own desires. They stood there looking at one another in silence, he with the gun pointed now at her chest, she with a puzzled expression on her face, wondering at his sudden rejection of her but unfazed by the rallying of his own ethics. For she was quite aware of what Arms was experiencing in that moment and marveled that he even cared for such dignities; she had chosen a path of her own making long ago and never looked back. Now she lived by cunning and wits; crime was her lover and she reveled in it, enjoying the power of taking what she wanted, when she wanted it just like men. After Brendan, she made her own choices, never giving herself to anyone without truly desiring to.
And she had desired Arms; she had made the choice to kiss him; she had decided what she wanted and had gotten it until he woke up to what he was doing and clung to his detective’s ethics once more. However, she underestimated Arms’s heart; he discovered in that one kiss the longing and love that he felt for her all those years ago. He didn’t regret kissing her but he regretted the impasse between them that ultimately prevented him from abandoning everything he believed in as a detective. In some small way, he would have liked to walk out the door with her and into another life, but he was in the Warehouse for a purpose, to find Bella and the other girl and he had strayed from his dutiful path of searching for and protecting them.
Or at least that was how he viewed himself and this situation; so, they stood looking at one another, feeling the intensity of their kiss dissipating between them and with every second that passed, the gap widened and their enemy status grew. And then a door opened somewhere that he hadn’t seen and a young woman stepped into the room. She carried a bag, which she set down on the floor and turned to Rose, saying “we’re ready, Empress.” Arms saw a blonde, who appeared to be about 20 years old; she was wearing a smart, grey suit, which made her look like a secretary. The woman hadn’t looked at him at all, and didn’t even seem to realize that he was in the room even though he was standing right there in her line of sight, she was so intent on Rose. “Okay, Susan,” said Rose, “just give me a few minutes. You go and get the boat ready, tell Jack to meet us there and no slip ups.” Arms registered this statement and was astounded to even hear Rose speak so casually as if she was going somewhere, when he had the gun turned on her. Now he spoke, “hey, you, step away from that bag, and move over there,” and he pointed towards Rose.
Arms was awake now, snapped out of any sense of nostalgia in a moment of recognition. Things were starting to make sense to him, as his brain returned to its logical path. Gone were the feelings of desire, the aching longing, and the touch of Rose’s body against his. He was back in the here and now. Susan, of course, was the name on the cigarette case Foil had taken from Antonio Boudreau’s suit pocket at the morgue. So, were these two women lovers? He hardly had the thought, when the girl turned towards him, holding a pistol that he had missed entirely, cocking it and pointing it directly at his head, declaring, “drop the weapon mister and move slowly.” Arms could have shot them both then and there, but something prevented him from doing this and he knew in his heart what it was.
Rose saw that Arms wasn’t going to resist the command, and she stepped away towards the blonde, reaching over to the table where his own weapon sat. Picking it up, she aimed it at him and now two women stood holding guns on him. “This is an ambush, plain and simple,” he thought to himself. However, there was nothing he could do, if he wanted to survive. In one moment of passion he had lost control, and now he was paying for it by losing her again, but this time the chance was to take her out of the crime business not into his heart like in his past. To bring her in to the police and lock her up, had been his intent, but now he had missed his chance and felt the sting acutely. He dropped the gun he was holding and kicked it away. He was back where he started, but this time there were two women in charge instead of one.
“What are you going to do, Rose?” Arms asked. Not that he expected to get anything out of her at this point, but it was worth a try. Rose looked at Arms with something like pity in her eyes; he saw her look but stood his ground. She didn’t respond, he didn’t think she would, but she said to Susan, “get out to the boat, and meet Jack, and make sure he’s got that girl with him. I’ll be fine here.” Susan lowered her gun, picked up the bag she had brought in and left in seconds after Rose spoke to her. Arms registered “the girl” and knew instantly that Rose had Bella and she was going to take her away from the warehouse. Then Rose said, “turn around Arms and put your hands up,” and he knew he was in trouble. Doing as he was told, he waited, and listened, and heard nothing. He wanted to turn, but that would mean certain death, he was sure of it. Then he heard a door open and close and he knew she was gone. She had spared his life and he knew why; their kiss had saved him.
Hog, the Soldier
Hog watched Big Sam move away from him, and turned to head towards the Port’s docks, where he suspected that the Empress’s boat would be. He took the stairs down two at a time, rushing as fast as he could because he knew he had to get to Bella. He trusted Big Sam implicitly to take care of the old crippled man, and to find the other girl. His sole purpose now was to get to the boat. He sensed without understanding why that it would be easy to find it at the docks, and he was right. He flew down the stairs, all the way to the first floor and pushed open a door into the streaming bright sunlight of a Tuesday morning. He had been in Warehouse 1 since midnight Monday night, but he wasn’t exhausted yet. Running on adrenaline he looked around quickly and headed for the docks, which were close by. Already, the LA Port was bustling with people and he found himself weaving between trucks as they passed him moving towards shipping containers filled with innumerable goods.
No one paid him any attention; there were always people coming and going from the Port of Los Angeles, what was one more man trotting along in a snazzy blue suit towards the docks to anyone on this site. Hog knew that near the docks he would be able to find cover in order to sneak up on the Empress, and he hoped for a chance to board her vessel or at the very least figure out if Bella was there. As he got closer to the docks, he spied a large yacht anchored just near an old barge. It looked entirely out of place, and Hog knew instantly that it was the Empress’s. He didn’t want to call attention to himself, so he ducked behind a storage building and snuck along the outside wall until he was close enough to the yacht that he could see anyone who might be on board.
He stood just behind the corner of the storage building and took in the two people standing on the dock. He had a good view of the yacht and the woman that the thugs had called the Empress. She was tall with long, auburn hair flowing in ringlets around her face. Hog was struck instantly by her vibrant beauty, but also by her imposing strength. Just standing there in the sunshine she looked in charge of everything around her. The man she was talking to was young, maybe no more than Bella’s age or just a little older, but not by much. He looked agitated and it was clear that there was some kind of escalation happening between himself and the Empress; their voices were raised and the young man seemed to be almost pleading with the older woman, but Hog couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. He definitely needed to get closer to the yacht.
And then there was something that caught Hog’s eye inside the yacht’s cabin. He could see through the windows that someone was moving around. He couldn’t make out who it was but he thought the person was young and definitely a woman. He suddenly felt his heart leap, and he hoped it was Bella, but he was disappointed. A young blonde woman emerged and walked over to where the Empress was arguing with the man and handed her something. Hog was frustrated now, and he felt an urgency to get closer in order to hear exactly what the Empress was saying. He saw a way to move between the buildings but to stay in the shadows and keep out of everyone’s line of sight. He held his pistol close to him, and left the protection of the storage building, staying in as much of the shadows as he could, making sure that his movements were not sudden and did not attract any attention. He made it to the second building without being spotted by the Empress who was clearly intent on the young man in front of her.
From this new vantage point he could hear what the Empress was saying; he stood still and listened. “You’re not staying here Jack, you’re coming with us,” she said to the young man forcefully, “you didn’t bring the girl, you’ve betrayed me and now we’ll just be dropping you in the ocean to swim with the fishes,” and here she stopped and pulled out a gun and pointed it at Jack. This new information stunned Hog. “So, Bella isn’t on the boat after all,” he said to himself under his breath, “then where the fuck is she?” He stood looking at the scene playing out in front of him and thought to himself, “should I try to get this Jack guy away from the Empress, or get back to Warehouse 1 and try to find Bella?” And then the decision was made for him; Jack said something to the Empress that Hog didn’t quite catch and she simply lifted her gun and shot him in the chest. He crumpled to the ground, crying out in abject pain. Hog saw that she hadn’t even flinched; with a blank face and a steely air she shot him in cold blood; then she turned and walked onto her boat. The young woman who had been standing beside her looked stunned, but at one gesture from the Empress she quickly boarded the boat as well.
In a moment the yacht was moving away from the dock, and Hog, without thinking acted on his soldier’s training and dashed out to a fallen comrade to try to help him. As he moved out into the light of the sunshine, he felt a piercing pain in his left shoulder and the shattering of his own bones. The Empress had raised her gun again and shot him as he ran towards Jack. He felt like he was moving in slow motion as the power of the bullet knocked him off his feet and onto his back where he lay writhing in agony. Hog was once again on the fields of war in battle as shell fire reigned down around him. But in his soldier’s duty to care for others he pushed himself up despite his pain, the blood seeping down his arm, and he crawled over to where Jack lay. A man who has been through war needs little reminding of what it is like to try to help another who is dying.
Hog knew as soon as he saw Jack and his gunshot wound, which had ripped a hole in his chest, that he wasn’t going to make it. He leaned over the young man who looked at him with wonder in his eyes and that faraway stare that men have who are seeing the light even before they’re gone, and then he spoke, “tell Bella . . . tell Bella . . .” and he struggled to get the words out, as blood dripped from his mouth. Barely able to breathe, he said finally, “she’s in cold storage . . .” and Hog knew what he meant. Jack’s body shuddered with one final breath and then he was gone.
Hog, who was feeling the intensity of his own wound, could do nothing about this man’s body now; he regretted having to leave him, but he had to rescue Bella. He would have to let others find Jack and take care of him. He closed Jack’s eyes out of respect and said a brief prayer for the dead, then he pushed himself up off the ground with all his might and made his way back to Warehouse 1, keeping to the shadows and the edges of the buildings so no one would take notice of him and the blood running down one side of his body.
Three Paths Converge
Arms stood for a few seconds after the door closed on the sixth floor of the warehouse, and then turned around to see the empty space in front of him. He was astounded Rose had let him live, but was wary about feeling too grateful. Yet, he couldn’t keep the feeling out of his heart, nor the love he still felt for her despite the divisions between them. He scanned the room and saw quickly that she had left his gun; Rose couldn’t have known the gun meant so much to him but she also couldn’t have just forgotten it either. Still, he didn’t stand there long questioning the why, he knew he had to get to the other floors and find Foil and Hog. Retrieving his trusty mistress, he made for the stairwell door and like Hog had done, sprinted down the stairs as fast as he could take them.
Foil leaned heavily against the wall as Alice continued to sob, but he couldn’t hold on much longer and felt himself beginning to lose consciousness. It had only been a few minutes since Alice shot the old man and gone into shock, but to him it felt like an eternity. He knew his end was near; “was he going to die here on the fifth floor of this warehouse without ever seeing his friends again?” This thought passed through his mind briefly, as the bright light began to fade before his eyes, and his grip loosened on Alice. She suddenly realized what was happening and abruptly stopped crying, rallying herself and holding him as best she could as he slipped to the floor. He was out cold now, and she was all alone with him, as the blood from his chest pooled beneath him. She looked around and saw nothing and no one to help her. The old man lay a few feet away; she didn’t know what to do, but felt that she could not leave Foil and risk trying to find someone. If he was going to die, then she was his only friend and she would stay with him until the end. She leaned over him and touched his face, feeling his shallow breathing on her damp cheek from the tears that had slipped so easily down them just moments before.
And then she heard the sound of running footsteps echoing in the stairwell; she froze but would not fail Foil now; looking around quickly, she saw the gun on the floor and picked it up, holding it steady out in front of her. Whoever was coming up the stairs would get a bullet in the chest if they tried to even get near him. She was fierce about her protection of the man who helped save her and she wasn’t going to stop now in protecting him. She felt connected and close to him; she looked down at Foil, who lay still on the ground, and as she turned back a man who she did not recognize came through the door. “Stop right there, mister, and don’t move!” she yelled as loud as she could, shocking the man into stillness. He sized her up quickly, and could see Foil lying behind her on the ground, bleeding. And then he spoke, kindly and calmly to her, “I’m a friend. I’m Arms, his friend, don’t fire, I’m here to help.”
Of course, she remembered immediately Foil telling her about his friends Arms and Hog; before she had even lowered the gun all the way, Arms brushed past her, leaning over Foil and inspecting his body. Alice stood looking down at Foil, the man who had protected her throughout the horrible ordeal that they had both been through, and whom she had helped to save. She suddenly felt entirely helpless and lost; “he can’t die now,” she thought, “not after everything. I vowed that I would care for him, and I was so shocked by my actions shooting that man that I couldn’t stop crying. And now we have lost so much time.” She watched as Arms tried to lift Foil up to elevate his body and relieve the pressure on his chest. Arms was a strong man, but Foil was dead weight at this point. Alice didn’t need to be asked, she bent down and helped Arms with Foil, lifting with all her strength one side of his body, with Arms on the other side, so that they were able to sit Foil up against the wall. The white sweater that Alice had placed over Foil’s wound was soaked through with bright red blood; she picked it up off the floor where it had fallen and tossed it away. Her intent was to, well, she didn’t know what she would do, but her feelings were of desperation at this point; she willed him to live and she hoped her prayers to God would be answered.
Big Sam turned away from Hog and gathered himself together; he had let the old crippled man move away from them both, knowing that he could easily catch up to him soon enough. But as he looked around now, he didn’t see him and was surprised by this. Still he had a job to do, and he needed to get upstairs to where the other girl was being kept. He realized that he didn’t know where to take her once he had actually found her, but he would worry about that later. He just had to get up to the fifth floor and make sure the old man didn’t get away from anybody, though he might just bleed out before Sam could get to him. But he wasn’t taking any chances and now that he couldn’t see the crippled man, he thought he better get going, “boy, he moved fast, didn’t he,” Sam thought to himself, “evil really makes a man move along.” Sam reached the stairwell and there was still no sign of him. Moving up the stairs carefully with his gun drawn he rounded the corner just as he saw a shadowy figure move out of his line of sight. “That must be the old man,” he thought, but he was mistaken for when he got up to the fifth floor a sight shocked him.
He first saw the old man lying on the floor, then turning to his left he saw a young girl, and Arms standing over what looked like the dead body of Foil.
The End of the Line
Breathing heavily from running up the stairs so fast, Big Sam stood still for a moment taking in the girl, Arms and what he thought was Foil’s dead body sitting up against the warehouse wall. In Big Sam, Arms saw his chance to save Foil, “Sam, quick, we’ve got to get Foil out of here, and to the hospital; he’s going to die, man, let’s go, move it!” barked Arms at Sam, lighting a fire under him with his commanding voice. Sam was by Foil’s side in a second and lifting him in a fireman’s hold to carry him out of Warehouse 1. For such a big man, Sam was surprisingly gentle with Foil. But he barely registered the small, blonde girl standing next to Arms; as he started towards the stairs, she was by his side in an instant and kept up with him as he headed down and out of the building with Foil’s limp body over his shoulders. The situation was dire, and the fear of death pronounced as Foil had lost an enormous amount of blood and no one knew whether he would survive.
After they were gone, Arms stood for a moment looking down at the concrete where Foil’s blood was already sinking into the porous floor. Arms’s sense of Big Sam had certainly changed overnight; he had proved to be a dependable man to work with and had shown himself to be trustworthy. Arms felt sure that Big Sam would get Foil to the hospital; his assessment of the young girl was less clear, but it was certain that she had Foil’s best interests at heart. He had let her go with Big Sam out of an instinct that it would be better not to separate her from Foil. And now he took stock of the situation and what was around him; he noted the old man’s body a few feet away and decided it was best to leave him there. What purpose did it serve to try to move him now and to where would he take him. No, Arms would just alert the police to a body in the warehouse later, or at least at this point the one body he knew about; but now he needed to find Hog and Bella. He would take each floor and search for them; he knew that there were two more men who had worked for Rose, but he had no idea where they were. They could still be on the hunt at their Empress’s direction. He had to be careful, even now as the daylight shone brightly through the warehouse windows.
He decided it was best to not go back down the stairs but search the fifth floor for anyone else. His instincts were good because he discovered the man with the scar on his face, dead, right where Foil had shot him at point blank range. “Okay, that’s two thugs to tell the police about now,” thought Arms. He knew then that there was only one man left and the odds were better for him being found. “But where was Bella?” This thought crossed his mind as he came upon the cell where the two young women were kept, and now he was ready to get to the fourth floor of the warehouse and see what he could find. Making his way down he entered and was immediately hit with a strong stench that was coming from up ahead. He put his left arm up to his face to cover his nose, and held his gun in his right hand, walking slowly, carefully listening and taking note of everything around him.
And then he came upon the killing room just as Hog, Big Sam, Bella, and the Empress’s three henchmen had done. Arms had seen a lot in his time, but the scenes of animal carnage were unsettling. And the smell emanated so strongly he could barely breath. The sun streaming in through the large warehouse windows meant that the piles of animal skins, and bloodied bodies were beginning to meld together and decompose. Like Big Sam, Arms’s eyes watered, and he went quickly through this space, following the rows and rows of white freezers lining the fourth floor until he got to the opposite stairwell, and retreated in desperation to get away from the smell. It still lingered in his nose, however, as he passed the door for the third floor, deciding against facing the animals again, and making a beeline for the second floor.
He stepped through this door and was confronted by two figures whom he recognized immediately; one was Bella, looking thin and bedraggled, and somewhat in shock. The other was Hog, standing there next to her covered in blood, holding his left shoulder and clearly trying to staunch his own bleeding. Arms walked up to them both, saying, “Hog, am I glad to see you buddy! Shit! What happened to you? Let’s get that bleeding under control, and then get out of this fucking place.” Though he hadn’t been in the war, Arms knew a thing or two about how to take care of people’s wounds. He took off his own suspenders and proceeded to tie them just below the bullet wound on Hog’s upper arm and shoulder to create a tourniquet. “Give me your sweater, Bella, now, pronto!” yelled Arms. He didn’t mean to be so aggressive towards her, but needs must in the moment when people’s lives were at stake. Though Hog was in nowhere near the critical condition that Foil was in, Arms wasn’t going to take any chances with his friend who he could see was not about to drop, but certainly could use some help. The sweater was tied around Hog’s shoulder and made into a makeshift sling so that his body was somewhat protected. Hog accepted all of this help with stoicism; he was a man of few words, but Arms knew he was grateful.
Arms did all of this work on Hog quickly and with much skill; he was used to handling blood, and bodies; he was a street detective after all and had seen his fair share of brutality. He then sized up the situation. They needed to get out of there; he had to get Bella home after all these weeks of her being missing, and he desperately needed to get to the hospital to see about Foil and to get Hog some care. It had been a wild time in Warehouse 1. He never expected to find what he did or to experience such passion again with Rose. It astounded him that she was the Empress and on the other side of the law, but he loved her still and that feeling of longing never quite left his heart nor would it ever.