Short StoriesLoco looked at Gloria’s retreating figure and sighed. Then he leaned back in his seat and looked at the man at the next table.

The man looked back. They both nodded at each other. Then the man came over and joined Loco at his table.

“Latte duet, huh?” he said, sniffing Gloria’s cup.

“Thanks for waiting,” Loco responded.

“In deference to the lady.” Bane said. “When did you spot me?”

“Oh, you I spotted the minute you walked in. Your seven Expendables took me some ten minutes to find,” Loco’s eyes had narrowed to slits as he stared at Bane.

Bane grinned.

“Guess you haven’t been exactly idle all this while?”

Loco smiled and shook his head. His mind flashed back to a few minutes ago.

“Yes we are,” he leaned forward and for the first time, looking into her eyes didn’t affect him. His hand slowly reached over to his cell phone, which he had placed on the table.

“Seven years…” Bane reflected. “We’ve been doing this dance for seven years…”

“And I always flee after stepping on your toes,” Loco said, smiling his cheekiest smile.

“Yes, we are cold blooded, ruthless killers. But only with those who come to kill us.”

Surreptitiously, he unlocked the keypad and dialed 7 – the speed-dial number to call for back up in case of any emergency. His fingers moved quickly as he held Gloria’s gaze.

“Not this time. I’ve got you surrounded.”

“That’s what you said last time.”

“With those who have killed scores and wouldn’t even look at us as numbers in their list of victims. With them, we are their worst nightmare.”

Accessing an application, he sent the co-ordinates of his location to the local cell in the city, all the time not even looking at his cell phone once.

A pulse began to throb in Bane’s forehead.

Loco pulled his legs closer under the table, ready to spring.

“Some of us have wives, some have kids, others ailing parents. And we tell them all we can tell them, and they understand. They have to.”

The backup would either be a team from the nearest police station or, if that took too long, anonymous men in unmarked cars.

Bane’s hand moved to his jacket. Loco stole a speedy glance at Bane’s men sitting a various tables and saw them follow suit. The sounds around him dimmed into a hum as his mind focused.

He jolted forward, grabbed Bane by his lapels and pulled him close. Bane, surprised and cursing, slid over the table towards Loco, knocking cups and cutlery off the table. The two men came to rest on the ground in an awkward bear hug.

“Shall we dance?” Loco whispered in Bane’s ear and started rolling. His men could only point their guns as the duo rolled toward the kitchen of the open-air café. Loco reached the kitchen door, drew his Desert Eagle, and shot one of Bane’s men nearest to him. The .44 caliber round crashed into the thug’s face at close quarters, taking away most of it.

The gunshot gave Loco the confusion he wanted. As customers sprang out of their seats and started running and screaming, Loco sprang up and rushed to the kitchen, firing a couple of more rounds in his wake, sending Bane crawling for cover. His men could only get a few shots off while trying to avoid hitting the civilians.

Three blocks away, Gloria heard the guns go off from the direction of the café.

‘Loco!’ she thought.

Hefting Gideon’s rucksack over her shoulder, she turned and ran back.

“Is there a back door?” Loco snapped at the frightened cook. The man could only nod as his helpers looked on, cowering.

“Well, get out then! All of you!” he roared as he slammed the front door behind him and pushed a stool against the lock, jamming it. He risked a peek out of the window while the men ran out and saw Bane and his men take positions behind overturned tables. He then rolled over to the back door and jammed it shut as well.

“You feel it yet?” Gideon’s voice whispered his ear.

“I’m getting there, buddy,” he growled as he body slammed into autopilot.

Take position under window ledge. Check ammo clip. Five rounds. Check for spare clips. Two in each ankle holster. Whirl around. Find target. Fire. One down.

Swivel. Find target. Fire. Missed. Fire again. Got him.

Two rounds remaining. Fire them at Bane trying to crawl over to the door. Send the bugger scampering back.

Eject. Draw clip from left ankle holster. Reload.

Gloria pushed against the throng of people trying to run out of the square and came to a stop meters away from the gunfire. Five men had taken positions behind tables turned on their sides, and were firing at the kitchen. A quick glance told her that Loco was not among them.

‘Damn!’ she thought. ‘They’ll kill him!’

Aim. Fire. Fire twice again. Four down, four to go.

Gideon’s ghost ever present.

“Aim and fire, soldier!” always chuckling, always mocking.

Peek out of cover. One of the Expendables drawing an Uzi from the bag. Duck.

The hail of bullets chipped at the window ledge and the door. Loco had a feeling that the door wasn’t about to hold up against the barrage very well. He waited for the man to run out of bullets. His window would be when he stopped to reload.

Wait. Gauge direction of the Uzi. Focus.

He’s out. Spring up. Fire.

The man took the bullet in the chest, the Uzi falling out of his hands. The second slug rammed straight into his head. narrowing the score down to three, including Bane.

Just as he turned his gun on Bane, one of the remaining mercenaries fired his pistol. The bullets slammed into the wall in front of Loco’s face, sending chunks of concrete flying into his eyes.

“Shit!” he yelled, the gun falling from his hands. It clattered over the kitchen counter and onto the sidewalk outside. Loco crawled back inside, eyes hurting. Managing to keep one eye open, he found a jug of water and started rinsing his eyes.

Behind him, the door started falling apart under a series of kicks. Loco pulled his stiletto dagger out of the sheath beneath his jacket. Just as the door finally gave way, Loco rolled forward. He came up on his knees just as one of Bane’s mercenaries entered, and stuck the stiletto straight in his throat.

“Punctured the bugger’s throat,” Gideon chuckled in his head.

In the same movement, he grabbed the dead man’s gun out of his hand and rolled away from the door, coming to a stop with his back against the wall.

Stop. Breathe. Ready? Go.

Turn and rise. Aiming…what?

Bane’s last mercenary, who was advancing with his finger on the trigger, suddenly pitched forward. Loco saw the back of his head spout blood as he fell.

Loco stopped, confused. If that was the back up, why couldn’t he see them?

Bane stopped too. He turned around, his gun halfway up, not sure what to point at. Then his knees buckled and he fell down. Loco looked carefully. One of the legs was bleeding. Bane raised his gun at a dark alley across the street.

Loco raised his gun to stop him. However, Bane’s gun flew out of his hand. One more jerk and Bane lay still.

Loco cautiously raised himself to his full height just as the two unmarked cars slid to a halt at the café. Men in suits, guns drawn, poured towards the café. Loco recognized the leader, the chief of the local cell. Two more cars arrived, blocking his view of the alley completely.

As the men in suits surrounded him in a protective perimeter, Gloria slipped the silenced pistol inside her shoulder bag. Quietly, she picked up Gideon’s rucksack and left the alley as the crowd began to gather.

Gautam Mengle