Booze, Bail, and Bikes
As the 747 jetliner circled over the city of Chicago on its final approach to O'Hare International Airport, it immediately became apparent to Alti that she had a tiny flaw in her plans.
The Chicagoland area was a sprawling metropolis in its own right, filled with several million residents, never mind that her nemesis might have ended up somewhere outside the limits of the city. A soft hiss escaped her lips and her eyes went a shade darker. In a day and age when everyone was part of a networked system, how do you find that one person who has not been included? Gabrielle was out of time and off the grid. She would have no address, no identification, no social security number, nothing. It would be like searching for a needle in a very large haystack.
She glanced back at Mr. Finches associate, Carlos. The stocky man was working on his laptop computer with manic intensity. He had programmed physical parameters of Gabrielle and conducted a search on the federal database. During the flight, there had been several dozen hits, all of which Alti, or Professor Klaus, had immediately dismissed.
"Got another one," Carlos said unenthusiastically. He turned the laptop to face his employer. Alti stared at the image and hissed again, this time in surprise.
On the screen was the image of a driver's license. The image on the license was a perfect duplicate of Gabrielle, except that this person had slightly darker and much longer blonde hair. She scanned the information quickly, her eyes alight.
Heidi Willis, age twenty seven, it was all there. Name, height, weight, birth date, she sighed when she realized where the person was from.
"This is a Texas driver's license," she said softly. Then she had an idea.
"Take that person's image and add it to the parameters I gave you, then search for any unidentified individuals that may appear in the system."
"Unidentified?" Carlos frowned, looking over at Mister Finch. "Isn't this her?"
Alti smiled. "It's as close as you'll get, but no. She's not the one I want."
Carlos sighed. This bounty was one of the more difficult ones he had ever taken part in. Still, always do as the employer wishes. He saved the data in the computer and added them, then he keyed in several more commands.
"All right," he said. "If anyone matching this description comes up in the local network, we'll know about it."
"Excellent, Charles," Mister Finch said calmly.
The four passed easily through customs and claimed their luggage. Out in one of the remote lots, they found their transportation. Two, plain black, unmarked Chevrolet sedans sat, waiting patiently.
Carlos, a medium sized stocky man of Spanish features took the nearest vehicle, while his counterpart, Alex, a large, meaty man dressed in an impeccable three piece suit went with Finch to the other.
Alti slid into the passenger seat of Carlos's car and waited.
Carlos slid in beside her, adjusted his leather coat and turned the key. The engine hummed to life.
"Are these vehicles untraceable?" Alti asked expectantly.
"Absolutely," Carlos replied, his slight Spanish accent touching his words. "If the plates are run, it will randomly pull up another vehicle of the same make and model. He smiled and tapped his portable computer affectionately. "The wonders of modern technology."
Alti looked over at the other vehicle. The two occupants stared at her expectantly.
"Drive," she said, reaching into her coat and drawing out the star shaped crystal amulet.
One of the corners glowed with a faint white radiance. She pointed in the same direction.
The two black sedans eased out of the parking lot and turned south, heading away from the city. They were just about to enter the expressway when Carlos's computer beeped a quiet chime.
"We just got a hit," Carlos said. He looked expectantly at his passenger who simply nodded. The two vehicles slid off to the side of the road and stopped.
Mr. Finch got out of the trailing car and strolled forward as Carlos opened his computer and hit a key. Instantly the screen flashed back to life.
"Well, well," Carlos muttered as he scanned the information. He smiled as he looked up at Alti.
"Chicago Police at the twenty-first precinct have arrested a young woman involved in a bar fight? The suspect is refusing to give her name and has no identification.
Alti literally began to salivate with anticipation. Something in her belly told her that this was the one.
"Do they have a picture?" she asked.
Carlos smiled as the mug shots downloaded to his computer. When the image appeared, Alti let a savage laugh burst from her. There on the screen was the image of a slightly confused and very irritated Gabrielle, listed as Jane Doe.
"That is the one we want!" Alti growled. She smiled a reptilian smile. "Where is this precinct?"
"Excuse me, Bernadette," Mr. Finch put in. "We cannot simply go down to a police station and walk in with the intention of killing her."
"We won't have to," Alti replied. "If I know the brat, she's already enlisted the aid of some locals. We just need to see who comes to her rescue?"
"And if no one does?" Mr. Finch asked.
"Then we will secure her release," Alti said hungrily. "And when she's far enough away, in a secluded place and helpless," She looked at Carlos and Alex. "Then we kill her."
All four of them smiled coldly.
David held the thick stack of receipts in his hand and groaned. He tallied them up for the fourth time and let his head sink into his waiting palms.
"Sixteen hundred bucks," He muttered. "They spent sixteen hundred bucks on a shopping spree?"
The door to the club house opened and Derek came walking in, cell phone in hand and a grim look on his face.
"Buddy," David said. "I am now firmly convinced that there is no animal more dangerous than a female in a shopping mall." He held up the cluster of receipts as if it was evidence being presented at a trial. "This is a freaking nightmare!"
"Yeah," Derek said soberly. He offered the cell phone to David. "And it ain't over yet."
Confused, David took the phone.
The voice on the other end prattled, and David's eyes rolled towards the ceiling in exasperation.
"Well, did you explain to her that he was harmless?" He blurted angrily. The voice continued and David stood up.
"She what? How bad? Wait a minute, Jerry said he'd do – where? Ah, God dammit all to Hell! I knew this was a bad idea! How much? No, no don't do a damned thing!!!! Yeah, tell Jerry I'm on my way! Ask him if he'll take payment for damages in exchange for not pressing charges! Well, who in the hell else is gonna pay it?" He snapped the phone closed with a furious click and slammed it into his pocket. He looked at Derek and began walking towards the door grabbing his jacket and helmet on the way out.
"You coming?" he called over his shoulder.
"If only to see you chew her out," Derek replied, racing after him.
"Hey!" Carlos said from the passenger seat. "They're dropping the charges!"
Finch, now driving smiled. "That means she has a benefactor of some kind."
"Which means she'll be out of there pretty soon," Carlos added. "We need to get moving!"
"Relax, Charles," Finch replied. "It will take them some time to process her out, regardless. We have time." Still, he pressed the accelerator forward just a bit more, in case he was wrong.
The gray Hyabusa and the big blue Valkyrie slid back into the parking stall before the massive precinct building. David removed his helmet and smiled, looking over at Derek.
He inspected the thin wire running from the helmet into his cell phone and nodded.
"That works nice." He said. "Now we can keep in touch."
"I thought about it when they came out with the voice activated feature for the handicapped." Derek replied proudly.
David disconnected the new cell phone from the helmet and set the helmet atop his handlebars.
"Now," he said, his smile fading to something colder than the night air. "Let's go bitch out the bitches."
The two leather clad men descended the steps into the police dispatch office. Sitting in front of the seargants desk was a tall, willow reed of a man, with long blondish brown hair tied back in a short tail, and a dirty polo shirt and pants. He stood up, taller than David and nearly half as thick.
"Hey, Jerry," David said grimly, extending his hand. "Sorry about all the bullshit."
"No," Jerry's normally jovial face was set in granite. "No, this broad goes well beyond bullshit!" He was still seething with frustration. "She completely tore my place up! Now I know that things can get rough sometimes, but I have never, in twenty years of owning a bar, seen anything like the jujitsu crap she pulled in my place tonight! It was like a god damned Hong Kong fightfest in there! Half my stools, most of my tables, the mirror behind the bar, shelves, God damned near everything!"
"Jerry," David said darkly. "I can't do any more than I am now. I'll cover the damages, just send me the bill, and don't be stingy. Just don't prosecute, okay?"
Jerry looked at David for a long time, and then he looked off to the side as two uniformed police officers led a cuffed Gabrielle out of the holding area.
David did his best to keep his temper seething, despite the truly pathetic and apologetic look on Gabrielle's face.
She wore a pair of blue denim pants, pale blue denim shirt with vest and a thick black riding jacket.
She fixed the officers a frosty look as they released her bonds, and then she stepped over to David, rubbing her wrists. When she saw Jerry, she paused.
"I'm really, really sorry," She began. Jerry held up his hand and cut her off with a loud bark.
"I don't want to hear it!" He said. He turned back to David. "Thanks for being such a gentleman about this, Shakespeare. You can come by any time." Then he glared angrily at Gabrielle. "But I never want to see you in my place again, ever! You understand me? You don't even set foot on my parking lot!"
Gabrielle looked down, ashamed. "I understand," she said.
Jerry shook David's hand and departed. As he passed out the doors, Katrina and Michelle entered from having cigarettes somewhere outside. David began walking towards the door – stalking was a more appropriate term. He was furious at the entire situation.
"Shakes," Michelle started.
David held up his hand.
"Your car here?" he growled.
The girls nodded.
"Go home." David finished, then he looked at Gabrielle, still hovering uneasily in the lobby. "You!" David called. He gestured with his finger. "You come with me! We need to have a little chat." There was something so menacing in that voice that the two girls took their opportunity to depart, leaving Gabrielle to David's mercy.
Gabrielle followed after David, bracing herself for the anticipated verbal assault.
The clear glass door had barely closed to behind them when David wheeled around and began walking backwards towards the two bikes.
"What the hell is with you?" he asked angrily. "Not even here for a whole week, and you land in shit like this!"
Behind him, Gabrielle saw Derek wince in sympathy.
David was a level headed man. It took a great deal to get him to this level of frustration. The frivolous spending of the previous two days had not helped his temper to begin with, but this episode on top of the shopping spree had been the final straw.
"You see," Gabrielle began to explain nervously. "We were sitting there, minding our own business, when these two men came up and began giving us a hard time."
"So, you never thought to leave?" David asked.
"Well," Gabrielle started, but David cut her off.
"If not you, then one of the others should have had the brain capacity to get out of the situation!" He blurted. "Instead, you go 'Jackie Chan' or whatever it is you do, and tear up my friends place!"
Gabrielle paused and looked at him questioningly.
"Who's Jackie Chan?"
It was an attempt to lighten the situation and it failed miserably.
David raised his hands and let out a loud burst of sound in complete frustration.
When he looked down at her again, her eyes were not fixed on him, they were looking down the concrete walk at something else.
"It can't be?" she asked in sudden horror.
David's angry face slowly switched to confusion and he turned and looked down the street. He immediately saw the two figures walking towards them, the thin man in the nice suit had his right hand in the left side of his jacket. Beside him the tall, thin, dark haired woman stared at them hungrily, like a tiger, eyeing prey.
"What the hell is this?" David asked.
"Alti," Gabrielle breathed. "That's Alti! I can't believe it!"
At the same time, the two figures adjusted their course, heading straight toward them.
"Who the hell is Alti?" he asked.
David saw the butt of a pistol extend from behind the folds of the man's coat.
"In front of a cop shop?" David thought. "No one could be that ballsy, could they?"
He looked at Gabrielle. "Unless they had no concept of modern law enforcement?" He looked down at Gabrielle again and a fragment of understanding came to fruition. Dread formed like a knot in his belly.
"Get on the bike," David said, backing slowly towards the Valkyrie. "Derek, fire it up."
"What's up?" Derek asked, then he saw the two figures approaching. "Ah man, this sucks." He pulled his helmet on and started his bike.
Gabrielle and David both turned and ran towards his bike. David leapt aboard and yanked the helmet over his head. The man and woman saw the sudden sprint and began pushing their way through a crowd of pedestrians, attempting to catch them before they escaped.
"Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go!" David said quickly as the Valkyrie roared to life.
Gabrielle jumped onto the seat behind him.
"Go, Bullit! Go!" David shouted, and the two bikes shot away from the curb, into traffic.
David looked in the mirror and saw the two figures jump into two black sedans and pull out after them.
"Ah, shit!" David muttered. He released his grip on the handlebars and quickly plugged his cell phone into the helmet intercom. The soft click echoed in his ear.
"Call Bullit," David said. Instantly the phone clicked, rang and Derek's voice came over the speaker.
"What's going on amigo?" Derek asked.
"I don't know," David replied. "But they're in two unmarked squads behind us." He thought for a moment. "Make for the tollway! We'll loose them in the open!"
"You got it, brother," Derek said. "Just follow me!"
Derek's low slung silver crotch rocket shot between two cars as the front wheel bounced off the ground.
David followed and watched as the two sedans executed a dangerous maneuver of their own to push through traffic. Two other cars slammed into one another as the black Chevy's forced their way forward.
"They're bound and determined," David announced. He rolled his throttle back and followed Derek's path in between cars as they zig zagged towards the on ramp.
Derek's Hyabusa leaned low as he turned onto the ramp, while David simply locked his rear tire and skidded around the corner.
Gabrielle hugged the back of David's body like a shield, her eyes fixed behind her. She saw the two black shapes careen down the ramp and leap after them.
"They're still coming!" She shouted, her eyes watering in the wind.
David looked down at his speedometer. The red temp light began to flicker. He cursed out loud. They were approaching another small cluster of vehicles.
"Bullit!" He announced. "I got a little problem here! The engine heat light just came to life!"
"Well," Derek replied. "That's what you get for bringing an untested bike into the city!"
"I wasn't expecting to be chased, Bullit!" David shot back angrily. "Head for 94 North. Once we get on that interstate, get next to me!"
"What you got in mind, amigo?" Derek asked as he dipped the bike in between two more cars.
David smiled behind his helmet. "I want to ruin their day." His eyes flicked down to the decorative sword hanging behind Gabrielle's left knee."
Gabrielle peeked over David's shoulder and saw the approaching rear ends of various vehicles, large and small. Ahead of them, Derek's nimble bike could be seen, flitting in between them with reckless determination as the two of them fought clear of the latest congestion.
"Junction 94 coming up!" Derek announced. "Break right!" His bike shot across four lanes of traffic towards the ramp. David followed, zipping just in front of a massive eighteen wheel tanker truck. The air horn blasted at them in anger as the rear trailer tires momentarily locked.
Derek and David took the ramp at a wild speed. As David leaned his bike over, he felt the pavement rip into the steel of the floor board beneath his feet. Sparks erupted from the contact of metal with pavement moving at eighty miles an hour.
A quick check behind showed the two black sedans in hot pursuit, and they were gaining!
"Those got to be Interceptors," David said angrily. "But I know they aren't cops! Derek, get back here!"
Instantly, the Hyabusa was riding formation next to David.
"What you got in mind?" Derek asked.
Alti looked over at Carlos, white knuckles on the wheel as his dark eyes focused on his target.
"Don't lose her," she said, fingering the amulet in anticipation. "Just run them off the road."
"With pleasure," Carlos replied, smiling.
Then the two of them began to frown in confusion. A soft howling noise seemed to be coming from somewhere behind them. It was like a loud in-rush of air, but not like it at the same time. Suddenly a brilliantly painted yellow shape shot past the two cars with an unbelievably loud roar.
Alti saw small blue flames jetting from the large pipes at the back.
Carlos was rubbing his ear. "What the hell was that?" he asked.
The bike that pulled up next to the two of them was long, low, and so brightly painted that it seemed to glow in the flashing of the street lights. Suddenly another voice, low and monotonous added to the connection.
"Hey guys," it said. "What's up?"
"Johnny?" David smiled. "Where the hell did you come from?"
"Long story," John's voice came back. Then David saw the helmeted head turn over his shoulder. "Piss someone off?"
David smiled. "Another long story!"
John, or Crazy Johnny as he was better known, sat in a bike that seemed molded to his own body. It was a modified four cylinder Suzuki cruiser with two large air intake scoops blended into the fuel tank, and massive three inch wide exhaust pipes stretched out past the rear tire. The bike had been designed for one thing; straight roads.
"Well," John's voice came back. "Since we both have long stories to tell, I say we ditch the party crashers so we can talk?"
"Johnny," David grinned. "Work your magic. Derek get up next to me!"
"Oh, man," Derek said nervously. "Are you thinking what I think you're thinking?"
David looked down at his gauge, the red light glowing brightly and flashing.
"Fraid so," he admitted. "Time for my passenger to get off."
"Ah, shit!" Derek moaned, and he sidled his bike up as close as he could to David's without hitting him.
David flipped open his visor.
"Gabrielle!" he shouted over the wind. "You're going to finish this little trip with Bullit, there!"
Gabrielle looked down at the rear wheel spinning next to her left leg, and her eyes went wide.
"I'm going to what?" she cried in panic.
Johnny's bike fell in behind them and held relative to the others as the two Chevy sedans closed on them with bloodthirsty speed.
Johnny glanced over his shoulder and then flipped two small toggle switches on his tank. Immediately, two amber lights began flashing next to his red taillight. He waited until the first Chevy was almost upon him, and then he depressed a small red button on his hand grip and twisted the throttle.
A blast of brilliant orange flame, twenty feet long engulfed the front of the encroaching Chevy. The driver swerved away from the threat and dropped back, fire still licking the front grille. It careened wildly off the road and plowed into a ditch.
"Now!" David shouted as the red light on his gauge flashed insistently.
"I can't do this!" Gabrielle shouted in fear.
There was another brilliant orange blast of flame as Johnny held off the second car.
"Dammit, Gabrielle!" David shouted angrily. "Get off my fucking bike!"
David and Derek crossed their hands and grasped each others handlebars. This gave David throttle control over both bikes while at the same time, allowed Derek to maintain the stability of the ride.
Gabrielle placed her hands down behind David's butt. Another fiery blast behind them startled her.
"Uh," John's voice came over the speaker, calm as always. "I can't keep this up forever?"
"Gabrielle!" David roared. "Go!"
Gabrielle eyed the narrow foot pegs behind Derek's calves. She pushed up on her hands and launched herself across the narrow gap, landing neatly on Derek's narrow seat pad, her feet landing solidly on both pegs. The two bikes wobbled violently for a moment, and the two drivers released their holds on each others bikes.
"Johnny!" David called. "Bug out!"
"Right," John replied dryly. "See ya!" There was a loud howl, and the yellow monstrosity rocketed past them.
Gabrielle looked back over at David. He slapped the visor of his helmet down and reached his left hand back onto the hilt of the sword.
He looked over at her and nodded. She saw the hand on the weapon. Her eyes
flicked back to the closing vehicle and she suddenly realized what he was about
"David!" she cried out.
"Derek," David said simply. "Get the young lady home before curfew."
"Alright, brother," Derek said gleefully. "Y'all stay black now! I'm outta here like last year!"
Derek kicked the Hyabusa down two gears and cranked the throttle all the way back. The engine screamed in delight, and he and Gabrielle shot away from him.
"Go, baby, go!" David cheered. "Hang up." The phone went dead.
He looked down at the pavement whizzing past his feet, and then back at the temp gauge. "Any second now."
"Forget him!" Alti cried in dismay. "I want her!"
"Damn lady!" Carlos shot back. "This is a Chevy, not a Lamborghini!"
They both watched as the silver motorcycle pulled easily away from them. Alti let out a cry of rage.
There was a soft ping, and then a sudden thud as the Valkyrie finally succumbed to the massive buildup of heat within its engine.
David managed to shift the bike to the left just before the rear wheel locked. The black Chevy still in pursuit came roaring up behind and to his right like an infuriated juggernaut. Time seemed to slow into one long terrifying series of moments.
David pulled the sword from its sheath and leapt as the front end of the car connected with his rear tire. He flipped over and threw the weapon at the windshield. The blade punched through the glass on the driver side a split second before his body bounced off the hood and was launched skyward.
Carlos felt the point of the blade shoot through his chest. His body convulsed and the car slid sideways, sailing off the road and flipping over into the ditch, rolling with a series of sickening crunches.
David's body seemed to writhe and twist as it flew through the air, moving like a cat. He managed to get his legs beneath him. When he impacted the ground, his boots blasted through the asphalt on the shoulder with a loud whump. His hand also hit the ground and he paused, looking down at his feet and the large series of spiderweb cracks beneath them.
Then he looked up and back toward the wreckage of the car behind him.
"Holy shit!" he exclaimed. Off to his other side, there came the slow deliberate sound of clapping. He rose, slowly feeling giddy in the rush of adrenaline, and removed his helmet, breathing deeply, the cool night air.
Ares stood, with that self satisfying smirk on his face.
"Nicely done," he said. "I told you I could help you out. So, what do you think of your new gifts?"
David pulled his feet out of the small craters and stumbled backward a couple of paces before falling squarely on his rear. He sat there for a moment, trying to comprehend the fact that he was not a greasy stain on the pavement.
Ares stepped over to him and looked at him appraisingly for a moment.
"Hey!" he said suddenly. "Snap out of it! You're alive!"
"Yeah," David replied distantly. "Yeah, I know. I think. That was - was," he shook his head, trying to clear the endorphin induced haze. "Wow! What a rush!"
Ares knelt down before him. "Hey! Hey! Focus here!"
David's eyes turned to the war God's gaze. Ares held a finger up in front of him.
"Come on back down now," he said. "Lots to do yet."
He pulled David to his feet. "Alti has something in that car that you're going to need. Get moving!"
David turned, still wobbly and stared at the wreckage. He could see a large stain of blood on the shattered windshield where his sword had penetrated.
"Alti?" he repeated.
"Yeah," Ares said. "You know, the bad person here?"
"Right," David said. "Right." He stumbled over to the car and looked inside. Alti lay stretched out across the seat, while the other man, not the same one that he had seen before, sat pinned to the chair, the hilt of his sword protruding from his chest, and half his skull smashed beyond recognition from the impact.
In the unconscious woman's fingers was a small crystal amulet.
"Take that and get out of here," Ares said behind him. "Come on now. No time to lose."
Numbly, David reached into the carnage and removed the small item, absently shoving it into the inside pocket of his coat. Somewhere through the fog in his mind, he could hear the sound of sirens approaching.
Ares smiled at him. "I think you better get out of here." He suggested, and he vanished.
Still lost in the haze, he half walked, half crawled drunkenly up the embankment, crossed the narrow parallel street, and stumbled into a dark alley between two large buildings. Each step was an eternity, his limbs leaden from the stress and strain. He managed to get behind a rusted old trash dumpster and let himself slide down the wall. His head lolled back against the rough brick and his eyes closed. Blessed darkness swallowed his mind and he knew no more. The helmet fell from his unconscious fingers.
Down below, on the road. The second black sedan pulled up and two men quickly removed the unconscious Alti, sliding her into the back seat before it continued down the highway and vanished, but David never saw that.
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