Red in the Hood
Red in the Hood.
I pulled my coat closer and shivered as I turned right into Forest street. This neighbourhood definitely fell under the category of ‘wrong side of the tracks’. Way over the wrong side.
Still, I had a job to do, and I’d never been one to shirk my duty, despite the obvious dangers to me, a young woman, walking into gang territory alone. Even though the ruling gang here had always left me alone before. Most were leery of my rep, and the friends I had that would make their lives harder, and maybe shorter, if they gave me trouble. Still, the long cold shape of the blade against my thigh was steely reassurance.
It had been too long since I’d come down here. My stomach gave me a sharp stab of guilt as I moved along the deserted road. It had taken the chief’s not too subtle reminder to finally get me on task.
“You know the drill,” Mother had said, sitting back in his leather chair and blowing cigar smoke in my direction. “The newest agent has to make the run, and make it regularly. Our guys in the field can’t break cover.”
“But there’s a hiring freeze! I’ve been the new kid for nearly a year!” I’d pointed out.
Mother had raised an eyebrow. “Not like you to bitch about the little things Red, anything I should know about?”
I’d blushed then, actually blushed! “No.”
Shaking my head I’d taken my leave, before he could interrogate me further, and no doubt find out about my relationship with his son. Some things are best left unsaid.
So here I was, walking down Forest, far too late in the evening for it to be safe. The local retail outlets had closed up for the night, and the storefronts were no more than steel barricades, sheltering those inside from the streets beyond.
I should have been paying more attention. I didn't see the two figures step out of the dark alley until they were almost on top of me.
“Look at this Marcus,” one said, as I stopped abruptly. “It’s a present. A sweet, juicy bit of fun for us to have. Someone up there likes us.”
‘Wolves!’ I grasped the handle of my knife through my cape and glared at them. “Step aside boys, you don’t want any trouble.”
“I’ll give you trouble!” The gang member pushed Graham to the floor easily.
The fight had been knocked out of the agent by the beating they’d given him earlier, after somehow gaining access to his apartment. He bounced off a small table and landed on his back, groaning in pain.
The leader of the gang smiled. Graham knew his real name was William Sheldon, but his gang handle was Wulf. He was the one who’d changed the Wolves from a small time outfit to the current dominant gang on this turf. He was hard as nails and utterly ruthless. Graham had to get to his backup piece, hidden under the sink, else he was done for.
“Where is it old man?” Wulf asked, stopping Graham’s feeble attempt to crawl away, dragging him closer by his foot. “You know what we came for.”
“Don’t… don’t… know…” Graham moaned.
“Don’t lie to me,” Wuld said. “I know all about you. Even know your codename… Granny. Granny! Hahaha!” His two companions dutifully laughed along with their leader.
“No… idea what…” Graham began.
“I see we’re going to have to get a bit rough,” Wulf said, pulling out a large knife. He nodded to one of his goons, who knelt down next to Graham and grabbed his arm, holding it straight out on the floor.
Wulf joined him a second later, forcibly spreading out Grahams balled fist. “Why Granny,” he said. “What nice fingers you have…”
Graham opened his mouth as the pain started, and screamed.
The screaming died away, and I stepped over the bubbling form of the first youth and looked at the second, who backed away, eyes wide.
“Hey, take it easy Red!” he said, still stepping backwards. “We didn’t recognise you in the dark, I’m sorry! Won’t happen again okay?”
I nodded, and he turned and fled, leaving his friend lying on the ground. Shrugging, I flexed my fingers and carried on, buoyed by the encounter in some fashion. I’d been in the office too long, that was it. Once I returned to base I’d tell Mother I needed more fieldwork.
Granny’s apartment was in block three of the development known as ‘The Cottages’. Once, long ago, these apartment blocks were probably respectable places. Now they were little more than havens for drug dealers, whores and other scum of the city. The cops mostly ignored the place, as long as the denizens kept themselves to themselves.
Wrinkling my nose as I stepped into the stairwell, I started the climb up. There was no point in even trying the elevator, that hadn’t worked in over ten years. Luckily Granny’s apartment was only on the fifth floor.
I only had to step over two prone, drug addled, forms to reach the fifth. I silently slid out if the stairwell into the long, dark corridor. Only two of the overhead lights were working, and one of those flickered off and on, making me blink involuntarily. Still, the gloom did mean that it was easy to see that Granny’s door was ajar, the light from inside spilling out into the hallway like urine.
I stopped. Something was obviously wrong. Whipping my phone out, I sent a quick message back to Mother, requesting backup. Even as I was slipping the phone back into my pocket I realised I couldn’t afford to wait, as a scream echoed off the walls. Granny was in trouble!
My knife whispered as it slid out of the sheath and I crept forward slowly, ever alert. I could hear the whimpering now, and voices too.
“And what big eyes you have!”
More screaming, so terrible that even I winced. Gritting my teeth, I peered into the apartment. One man, a wolves logo on the back of his leather jacket, was facing away from me, watching something through the doorway into the other room, the kitchen, if I remembered right. This was where the sobbing was coming from, and now I heard the voice again.
“One more Granny!” it said, and I shuddered. Granny’s cover had been blown, I had to act quickly.
Stepping forward I brought the knife down hard, stabbing the man in the back of the neck and slicing into the muscle below. Blood spurted, and he made a strangled cry as he fell to the floor, unfortunately with my knife still wedged in him, pulling it out of my hand.
“Bitch!” I whirled to meet the attack, but I’d been careless. ‘Too much desk time!’ I thought, as a foot kicked me accurately, if inexpertly, in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me and projecting me through the doorway into the kitchen, where I landed on my ass next to a prone form.
I gasped, both from the kick and in horror, as I saw the mangled remains of Granny. His eye sockets were empty, and blood was congealing on the floor around the butchered remains of his hands, now sans-fingers.
Above us loomed another figure, and I recognised him from my briefings. William Sheldon, better known as Wulf. This wasn’t good.
“Look at what we have here!” the gang leader said, grinning like his namesake.
“She did for Plant boss,” his companion, the kicker, said, entering the room. “Knife to the neck.”
“Well, Plant was always careless,” Wulf replied, eyes fixed greedily on me. “You have to be Red, right?” he asked.
“Who’s been talking?” I demanded, inching backwards. We obviously had a leak in the department.
“Oh, it wasn’t poor old Granny here,” Wulf said, gesturing at the corpse nearby. “Held out right to the end he did. But now I have a second chance, and I can have much more fun with you!”
He stepped forward, and I twisted and kicked him in the leg, whilst rolling over and plunging my hand under the sink, pulling out the snubnose that Granny kept there. Bringing it round, I fired twice, but Wulf jinked to one side and I hit his friend instead.
"Hah," I cried. One out of two.
One wasn't good enough though. Wulf knocked the gun from my hand with his foot and it flew across the room. I tried to roll away, but he was too fast and too strong, and I found myself under his bulk as he kneeled painfully on my midriff.
I struggled, but couldn’t break loose as his put his hair face next to mine, jerking back to avoid my bite.
“Such spirit,” he rasped, chuckling. “I like a girl with spirit. This is going to be fun!”
“I’ll gut you like a pig!” I replied, spitting at him, which only made him laugh more.
“Let’s see what you have under this cloak shall we?” he asked, pinning my arms as he fumbled with my clothing.
There was a sudden shadow from above, and Wulf’s eyes went wide. I felt his body go rigid, and then limp, and he slumped forward, hitting my head with his own.
“What the hell?” I said, bewildered, pushing him to one side, off me. “Oh, it’s you.”
The tall figure of the Axeman grinned down at me. He wiped his dripping hatchet on the body of Wulf and sheathed it, still smiling.
“You called for backup?” he asked
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