Brothers in Arms

Michael crouched over the body. The jacket was open, the trouser pockets turned inside out. Whoever killed him had searched him. If he had the information on him, it was gone by now. Damn. Michael sat back on his heels, resting the barrel of his pistol on the carpet. He glanced around the room. Nothing appeared disturbed. Double damn. They hadn’t found it necessary to search the room, so that meant –

The door flew open and another man leapt into the hotel suite. Michael jumped to his feet and raised his pistol in one practiced movement. He stared down the fat barrel of his own silenced gun into the muzzle of the newcomer’s.

“Tony,” he said, by means of a greeting.

“Michael,” said Tony. Tony shoved the door with his unoccupied hand. It clicked shut behind him.

“Put your gun down,” said Michael.

“Sure. After you.”

“No, after you. I insist.”

Both men stood facing each other, the pistols inches from each other, neither making any move to put their weapons away. Tony’s eyes flicked to the corpse for a fraction of a second.

“Strangled? That’s not your usual style.”

“It’s not my style at all. You’re too late,” said Michael.

“We’ll see. Calling dibs doesn’t count.”

“No, I meant we’re both too late.”

“What? You’re saying someone else did this?”

“He was like this when I found him. So unless this is a really bizarre suicide, yeah, I mean someone else did this.”

“The data?”

“Gone, I should think. The body’s been searched, the room hasn’t, so I’m guessing they found it on him.”

“Or you have it.”

“Yeah. Someone else kills him, doesn’t find it in his pockets, so gives up and leaves. I then search the room, find the memory stick, then, and this is the really clever bit, I tidy the room up after me. Talk sense.”

“For all I know you killed him.”

“By strangulation? Come on, you know me better than that. I’m much more efficient.”

Tony stared at Michael’s face for long seconds.

“You really don’t have the data?”

“Really.”

“Then who does?”

Michael shrugged, whilst still endeavouring to keep his pistol as solid as a nun’s faith.

“Could be his own side, could be one of the minor players. Who knows? Does it matter? The point is, we don’t. They must have been already waiting here for him. I was in here fifteen minutes after he arrived at the front desk.”

“Damn.”

“Yep.”

“My people are going to be pissed.”

“And mine.”

They looked at each other for a few moments longer, each at a loss for what to say.

“You still with the Corporation?” said Tony.

“Yes, but mainly on a freelance basis. You still working for that government?”

“Yes, but they’re cutting back. Receipts needed for everything now.”

Tony lifted his other arm and held it under the pistol grip for support.

“You’ve changed to a Glock now?”

“Yeah. The Smith and Wesson pulled to the right a little, Doesn’t yours?”

“At this range, does it matter? Look, this is stupid. Put your gun down.”

“You put yours down first,” said Michael.

“Together,” said Tony. “On the count of three. Ready? One, two, three.”

Tony dropped his arm. Michael kept his own gun trained on Tony.

“God, you always were gullible,” he said, smirking.

“And you were always a lying little son of a bitch.”

“True.” Michael pointed the gun towards the ceiling, then holstered it. “Talking of which, have you phoned Mum lately?”

“Sunday. You?”

Michael looked down at the corpse. “Saturday,” he said. Somehow it felt as though, by not being the latest to speak to her, he had lost a round. “She talk about Christmas?”

“Yeah.”

“She wants both of us round.”

“Maybe, if it snows really hard.”

“Snows? What’s that got to do with it?”

“Well, hell would have to freeze over, wouldn’t it?”

Michael chuckled. “Yeah, I guess so.” He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the corpse again. “God, this is a mess.”

“You’re sure you don’t have it?”

“Seriously, I don’t. Whoever did this must have it, otherwise they’d have ransacked the room.”

Tony ran his hands through his hair as he executed a slow turn. “Six days I’ve been on stakeout. Six days. I wouldn’t mind so much, but he was a boring son of a bitch.”

“Tell me about it. I had to seduce his wife to find out where he was, and she was even more boring than him. Seriously, I thought I was going to fall asleep before sex.”

“What are you going to tell your people?”

“Like I said, I’m casual help nowadays. I think I’ll just pretend I wasn’t here at all. You?”

Tony grinned. “Maybe I’ll tell them you took it.”

“Don’t even joke about it.”

“No, I’ll just tell them someone else got here. Government department, see? You would not believe how difficult it is to fire a civil servant.”

“We could stagger it. Mum’s, I mean. Me Christmas Eve, you Boxing Day.”

“You never could wait till Christmas Day for your gifts.”

“Not soon enough today, though.”

On the other side of the suite a door clicked open. The brothers whirled, both drawing their pistols. Muted gunfire, like a man drumming his fingers on the arm of an upholstered chair, filled the room as both men put two rounds each into the stranger’s chest. As the stranger fell forward a small memory stick fell from his hand onto the plush carpeting. The brothers stared at him for a moment, then as one swung their guns to cover each other.

“You didn’t check the other room?” said Tony.

“I thought it was the wardrobe.”

“What? No floor plan? That was always your problem, you know that? Not enough planning. Just straight in. I bet you don’t even know where all the fire exits are, do you.”

“In this case, he who hesitates is lost. I’ll just take the data and call it quits.”

“I don’t think so. Not this time.”

“I was here first.”

“And I’m leaving first. With the data.”

They stared at each other along the length of the barrels.

“I guess only one of us is going to see Mum this Christmas,” said Michael.

“Missing you already,” said Tony.

“On three?” said Michael, gently squeezing the trigger to its first pressure point.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

2 Responses to Brothers in Arms

  1. Andrew Girle says:

    Nice little story, I really enjoyed it.

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