The Season Six Job
Florence McCoy turned off Skype at the last moment, deciding not to make call. She raised the bottle and took another sip of vodka, and giggled.
Jethro would be delighted if his wife called him completely drunk, slurring and babbling.
"Hi, darling, what's up?" she chirped at the blank screen. "Oh, nothing important. Just my show got canceled, I'm unemployed, I'm receiving serious threats, and my neighbor drug a dead body into his apartment. That was a few days ago, nothing smells in the corridor, so I guess he was very busy with an axe, a bathtub and some acid. Yep, just three meters from our door, darling. And, I bought a gun. Usual week. How's the weather in New Zealand?"
Orion mewed, demanding her attention, but she removed the cat from her working table, and pulled up the recording of her door camera, hidden in the ornaments around the peep hole. She had installed it when things started to get serious, when she finally figured out why her show didn't get a sixth season, in spite of the ratings. The corridor was empty, nothing was moving
She listened to the sound of the rain falling outside the closed windows, and wished Jethro was here. The evening of their second anniversary definitely wasn't a night to be spent alone, drunk and frightened.
"You know, an 11% drop in ratings is nothing. Nothing!" She waved the bottle at Orion whose eyes were wide and full of understanding. "They did every damn thing they could do to sabotage my show. You know what you have to do to achieve that? First, move the show's airing so people have no idea when the next episode is, because you, of course, don't promote it. Promoting the show during its airing is not promoting! And choose some lousy day in the middle of the week." Orion licked his paw and nodded. Of course he knew all that already, she thought, feeling a little guilty. "Second," she hissed. "You have to find a huge sporting event that airs at the same time, preferably the opening of the Olympic games if you have one handy… and lacking that, the most popular show that airs on a huge network with millions and millions, and millions viewers. Make sure it's close to the season finale, too. Don't forget to split those pathetic fifteen episodes into two small seasons, to make sure everyone forgets about it when it comes back after hiatus. And those who remember, and wait for it, surprisingly, don't know when it airs because you. don't. fucking. promote. IT!" She stopped and stared into the cat's eyes. "No," she whispered. "It's not them. It's him."
Orion tilted his head.
"You don't understand it," she cried. "What am I supposed to tell to the fans? I was forced to write a polite explanation, and to thank those sons of the bitches!"
Orion nodded once more, and then turned his head towards the door, and started sniffing.
"What? You can't be hungry, you ate just…" She stopped when the motion sensor on her screen started to blink. The grayish picture showed her killer neighbor, accompanied by a dark haired woman, leaving his apartment in a suspicious hurry. Orion mewed and rubbed his nose, and now Florence felt it too.
Oh. My. God.
It seemed that he hadn't gotten rid of the cadaver after all, it had rotted during those days just a few meters from her apartment… she gasped when nausea stirred the vodka in her belly. Traces of an awful smell had found their way under her door.
"Police…" she whispered, gulping. "We have to call the police."
Orion just looked at her; yes, she was drunk, and the police wouldn't come when a slurring, drunk woman started to babble about rotten corpses in a respectable building, and yes, she was also - wait a minute. She remembered that she had it recorded, the whole carrying the body sequence. Florence shivered when she remembered the blood on the corridor floor, and shivered once more when she recalled what had happen when the doors of the A2 apartment had closed; something that stunned her brain completely. Cora; the nice, young, always polite owner of McRory's bar in the basement, had showed up only minutes after, and had wiped up all the traces they'd left behind. Florence always suspected that her neighbor was doing something suspicious and illegal, but he simply couldn't have the entire building in his gang.
"Unless he's mafia," she finished her though. "He works for the mafia, maybe as a lawyer or something like that, and Cora is being blackmailed, probably paying them for protection, or…" She grabbed a bunch of papers from the table and quickly put down a few notes for her next pilot – a brave TV writer, female and beautiful, happens to buy an apartment in the building owned by Mafia Killers Inc., but that only reminded her of her own troubles, her canceled show, and horde of angry and disappointed fans. With pitchforks.
"If Sherlock made it into the 21st century, Magnificent Seven in New York should have done even better," she said to Orion, feeling angry tears pouring down her face again. "Seven gorgeous guys, Orion, fighting for justice! Seven! How the hell it could possibly fail? Huh? Tell me!"
The awful odor was now stronger, and she tried to erase it with one more sip of vodka.
Fuck. She was frightened, she was lonely, her husband was in another hemisphere, and she was talking to the cat.
"I have to do something," she whispered.
If Orion nodded, she didn't see it, because right at the end of her statement the power went off, leaving them both in engulfing darkness.
"Shhh." She listened to the soothing sound of the rain pouring down the windows; yet, she couldn't recall any thunder. The computer screen was radiating pale remains of light, and with that bluish light she got up, trying to find her cell phone. Oops… the damn room was dancing around her, and she had no idea where to find a lamp or matches.
She blindly walked to the hall, but the phone line was dead as well. What kind of unheard thunder could cut both the electricity and telephone line?
And only in her apartment, she realized when she saw a tiny spot of light – through the peep hole she could see that the lights in the corridor were still lit. Her mind was adjusted to writing crime stories, and in the one long, long second seven different scenes went through her mind… every one including Forensic party raiding all over the place. She almost giggled again when she recalled how many times she wrote casual dealing with dangerous intruders; in fact, all seven of her characters would deal with it in their own, unique way.
The little dot of light disappeared when a shadow stood in front of the peephole, blocking the light, and a soft cracking sound came from the door, as if claws were tapping on the wood. She stood there, frozen, while the thumping of her heart almost covered another, louder crack.
Florence was drunk, but she wasn't stupid; someone was breaking in, and if she didn't move, and hide, she was going to die here. She had bought a gun. It was still in the box from the store, unopened, probably in pieces that needed to be put together, somewhere in her bedroom, and she knew she should run there and try to find it. In pitch dark.
But she couldn't move.
Her slow brain was swimming in vodka, her legs were completely dumb, and when the door gave way with the last cracking sound, she just gasped as blinding light hit her eyes.
She should scream, she thought, still holding the useless phone, squinting at the three men.
Two of them were on the door, both dressed in black, with faces covered by identical black masks; how cliché. Even the knives in their hands were…predictable. She thought of seven ways of disarming two armed attackers, and opened her mouth to start screaming.
No sound came. Right at the moment her lungs drew enough air for the scream that should alarm the entire building, she looked at the third man, and almost choked.
He was standing behind the first two.
He was dressed in light blue pajamas with elephants holding large daisies.
And she had seen his dead body being carried in apartment A2 just few days ago.
"I'm going to kill him," Sophie repeated for the third time in four minutes, and Nate just sighed, trying to open the broken umbrella. They left the car by the park and went for a quick walk, to breathe.
"Don't bother," Sophie continued, speeding up. "Maybe the rain can wash out this, this… do you realize that that smell is still on our clothes? In my hair?!" She waved frantically. "I am going to kill him."
"You asked for it," he said calmly. "After that crazy mix of vegetables and the cinnamon, that we all had to eat, I must say, you could expect revenge."
"Now it's my fault, huh? Nate, Eliot is cooking bloody sheep bowels, for Christ's sake! I don't even know if that is supposed to be eaten. I'm not Bear Grylls!" She turned around and continued her quick pace down the street, and he sighed once more before he went after her.
Their plan was turning against them; their attempts to occupy Eliot with attacks on cooking in general, became a war in only a few days. And they were losing. Eliot was barely able to walk to the kitchen, but if they thought that almost bleeding out from a gunshot wound would stop him from making their lives miserable, they were very, very wrong.
"Slow down," Nate said catching up with Sophie. He carefully checked the dark places in the street, just in case. Bonnano only yesterday gave them permission to leave the apartment, but even Patrick wasn't completely sure that the situation in town was calm enough for them to walk around freely. All the cartels that were pissed off were busy with their own problems, precisely arranged problems, but the mess that had almost killed them all still had the power to ignite yet another fire.
And their hitter was barely able to breathe and stay upright after a ten step walk around the apartment; they were stuck in one place until he got better.
Nate started the countdown when he saw that Sophie had calmed down, and in just half a minute, she stopped and turned around. "Maybe we should go back." It was her turn to sigh now. "The sooner we open all the windows, the faster that smell will clear out… I'm sure he won't remember to do it, and every minute that passes that smell is sticking on everything. It will stay for days."
"Good idea," he smiled and nodded, but she knew him too well, and her eyes narrowed.
"No, I'm not worried that we left him alone," she murmured. "Betsy said he's doing great, much better than she expected, and she might be only a nurse, but I trust her judgment much more than I trust Doctor Sciortino. The same day he said he wouldn't be able to walk for days, Eliot was cooking that awful… what did he call it?"
"I don't remember. In fact, I refuse to remember. Okay, let's go back."
No, he didn't think she was worried about his wound and weakness; it wasn't worry at all. It was concentration that radiated from her all those days, visible only in small, hidden glances under her eyelashes. She was studying Eliot's every move, thought and word, keeping watch over him, waiting for the signs of recovery that had nothing with the bullet that almost killed him.
Of course Eliot was aware of the attention, and it only added one more thing to the list of things that were pissing him off, slowly, but inevitably turning him into a walking…okay, mainly laying down, ticking time bomb. After all, all that cooking mess wasn't in vain, it gave him something to do, something to occupy himself from thinking about all things that happen in that dreadful few days after Chileans attacked them. It kept the ghosts away… but the demons were always there, never leaving.
The ringing of his phone stopped his thinking, and he checked the display.
"Eliot," he said to Sophie. "If our luck holds, he wants us to buy something. Listening…"
No sound came from the other end of the line, and he waited a few seconds. "Eliot? Talk to me." Nothing.
The silence spread for a few more seconds, ending with the quiet, but very clear sound of a phone hitting the ground.
There was something deeply disturbing about a walking corpse dressed in blue pajamas. Florence could understand being killed by black, hooded killers, but this… her death would be robbed of its last remaining dignity. Oh yes, she was drunk.
Florence sighed, stopped swaying and raised both hands, preparing herself to flail all around in an attempt to avoid the knives, and hit the killers as many times as she could – she had written hundreds of fist fights, and they all looked convincing on screen. Theoretically, she was a damn expert on all sorts of fighting. Those guys had no idea what amount of accumulated knowledge was being prepared to be unleashed on their pitiful…
The third man quietly cleared his throat. "Excuse me." That caused the first two to quickly turn around, and Florence was very proud of her reasoning when she realized that the third man, who was, by the way, pretty good looking for a rotten corpse, wasn't with them. She frowned, trying to forget that his choice of clothes should suggest the same at first glance. "I called the police," he continued and slowly raised his hand, showing them a cell phone. "They'll be here in a minute; patrols are always on this block. You have enough time to disappear – if you go now." The last word was said strangely low, sounding much more like order, than a suggestion, and his smile surely had nothing calming in it.
Florence rearranged her feet on the ground, and shook her arms, clenching her hands into fists again. That must have scared the hell out of the killers, because they took a step back and aside, now both of them back in the corridor, facing the third man. "You know, I'm an expert in all sorts of fighting," she blurted when they both, even more slowly, took one more step, increasing the distance between them. "They are going to attack you from two sides at the same time."
The third man… hell, it was stupid to call him that – the corpse glanced at her with surprise in his eyes – wow, nice eyes - seemingly paying no attention to the two that were to the left and right of him. "Nah, they wouldn't," he drawled.
She squinted when they both lunged forward in a very coordinated, very dangerous move. They knew what they were doing, they'd done it many times, and she also knew what was going on…. the only one who obviously had no idea was their target. His smile was full of blissful ignorance.
He should have taken two quick steps to either side, to deal with the first one, giving himself time for the second, but the damn idiot just stood there watching them charging with the knives. Florence knew exactly what Ezra would do in this situation, and how quick Vin would be if attacked this way – but instead of her characters, she was stuck in deadly danger with a fucking amateur.
He just backed away from the first knife that swung in front of his neck – he didn't even rise his hands to block the hits – and he did something that looked like an attempt to step aside… but it was stopped when his foot collided with the second attacker's left ankle. Luckily for him, the pain distracted him for a second, and his knife missed as well.
"Cover yourself, you idiot!" she screamed when the first one threw his blade again. "Use your left hand as a… fuck!" Her scream must have scared the corpse, because he turned to her, leaving his side completely unprotected from attack, but the head of the first attacker – and she couldn't explain how – crushed into his elbow that just remained there, by happy chance.
She had no time to yell again, because the first one jumped in again, while the second one was staggering two steps back, and this time the killer's knee took a blow, causing a pained scream. He dropped the knife and bent over, in perfect position to be hit in the head with a knee.
Florence blinked for a moment, realizing that this man had just stopped the first simultaneous attack without using his hands, and without moving from his position – maybe he wasn't as amateurish as she thought. Or it was a beginner's luck.
Luck or not, it was fading fast – both killers were slower now, but they were still standing, and the second one threw himself into him, trying to knock him down, and stab him at the same time. With a move that was apparently slow, the corpse just removed himself from his path, catching his wrist on the downswing, and he did fucking nothing, he just directed his jump directly into the wall. The killer hit the wall nose first, and fell like he was dead. That probably saved the corpse's life, because the last one had to jump over his fallen comrade and it slowed the blow that hit the corpse in the stomach – a fist, not a knife, thank god… he didn't have time to pick it up from the floor. It must have been a nasty hit, because it almost knocked the corpse down, and the wall kept him from falling; he took three fast and heavy hits before he managed to block them. Florence couldn't see what he did, the attacker's back was blocking her sight, but it must have been a head hit, his hands were both down.
The rest of it went just like she would write it – the killer's staggering back and raising both hands to protect the head, which left his belly open for a raised knee, and final blow with a knee in the nose when he bent over.
Those two would stay down for a long, long time.
"You know, with a little training, you can make a career out of it," she said gleefully, peeking into the corridor. The corpse darted her an irate look; he was leaning on the wall with his back, and his breathing was labored, reminding her of the hits he took. "Are you hurt?" she glanced at his face – completely white now, fully appropriate for a dead man.
"Nope," he shook his head, but he didn't move, he just slowly put his left hand over his chest; the right one was still immobile. "Search them… take everything they have… IDs, phones, other weapons. Don't touch the knives."
Florence did what he said, squinting when nausea stirred with sudden movement, helped by the smell that was spreading all over the building from the half opened door of her neighbor's apartment. Though this one had helped her – and obviously he wasn't dead, so her theory about the mafia killer fell apart – there still were many things to explain.
"No more weapons, no IDs, phones taken," she reported. "What now? You called the police?"
"No. I didn't know who they were. Go now… lock yourself in… they might have backup. Don't leave the apartment until we tell you."
"We?" She eyed him, taking one careful step closer. He definitely didn't look well, he was barely able to focus on her.
He pointed at his phone that was on the floor two steps away, and she quickly handed it to him.
"Just go." It was a ghost of a whisper now; he managed to hit the number, but it seemed that raising the hand with the phone was too much; or he was simply waiting until she left, to speak in private, so she sighed and headed for the door. She could hear a male voice from the phone – a calm response at first, but when no answer came, the voice tensed.
She turned around at the door. "Are you sure that-" She stopped when she saw his eyes; they were empty. He didn't hear her, just like he didn't hear the voice from the phone; he was watching it as if trying to remember what to do with it, and not succeeding. Florence went one small step closer when the phone slowly slid from his fingers and fell on the floor. He blinked once, slowly, still staring at his now empty hand, and before she made another step, his knees buckled and he crashed to the floor.