Chapter 14 Cry Yourself to Sleep

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Bravo —Saturday, 9:49 PM

My arsenal's assembled. Time to start the show!

First... lighting. I didn't choose Orlov's room for the avocados—rather the proximity to the electrical transformer box below. My fingertips slide the window up. A tar-covered plastic bag, holding an incendiary payload launches from my hand like the Devil's dirty diaper. Bulls-eye! A furious roar flares from the transformer as blue flame engulfs it. Silence spreads as darkness replaces the hum of electricity.

The emergency lights push dim redness under the bottom of the door. I dig inside my bag. The thermos I've modified into a gas diffuser is pressed next to the central air vent. Its compressed contents will spill out, whether the building's fans are active or not. The cocktail's my own recipe, a scentless blend of tear gas and chloroform to make my audience cry themselves to sleep.

I adjust the wide elastic strap of the compressed air breathing mask and glide my fingers over my Sterling mark 4's perforated nuzzle. Unfolding the skeletal, triangular stock, and clicking the magazine against the left side of the sub-machine gun's barrel, I remind myself to avoid the shells that'll soon fly from the right side—I've no desire to get burned again.

Nightmare's tried to imprint some 'ready-check' countdown to follow before moments like this. Oh well. I have my stethoscope so I must be ready.

Opening the door, I enter, stage left, down the carpeted steps. The noisy, Holbein patterns are easier to look at in the dim, red lighting. The reception desk comes into view, unmanned. With a squeeze of my finger I release the first five notes of the machine gun's concerto. Like the heartbeat of a beast, it roars—there's no denying it. Let the chaos commence...

The return fire has no direction, no composition, as the confused criminal audience descends into the chaos I've so artfully composed for them. Weapon glint red as they're drawn and aimed in every direction. Escorts cover their mouths without the sense to leave the area filling with my scentless gas.

On cue, I leap over the reception desk and slam through the door behind. The brute awaiting me on the other side kneels. A gun-wielding hand covers his weeping eyes.

"I'M NOT CRYING—YOU'RE CRYING!" I greet him.

A kick disarms his weapon. Perhaps, needlessly, as he falls asleep, and now my toes curl from contact with the metal. These soft shoes disappoint. Ecstasy soon replaces pain as my eyes land on the safe.

I fly to it, spreading the stethoscope's comfortable earbuds to listen. Spinning the dial reveals there are three numbers to unlock the combination. It's difficult to hear the spindle's trajectory over hidden tumblers above the chaos and bursting gunfire in the next room. I hold my breath to stall the trembling laughs from my convulsing lungs.

Perseverance prevails as a final click unseals the vaulted contents. Seems curious that the money is in drop-off bags, considering it'll never see the inside of a real bank. I snatch all six.

A feminine wail within my head heralds the presence of... something. Tendrils of icy vapor waft behind as though a door to the Arctic's been flung wide open. The wail repeats, terrible and absolute, commanding my attention. I toss the stethoscope to the floor and spin around.

The crimson-haired beauty before me announces herself again, shrieking her siren song without moving her lips. Her scream twists into my temples like screws.  My fingers within my ears don't shield the deafening sound.

Two Sokolov soldiers arrive beside her, identifiable by their red ties, and hand and neck tattoos, not hidden by their sleek black suits.

"Caterina, was it?" I ask.

Her black eyes pierce me like meat hooks. "We meet again, Orlov..."

I lower my s.m.g., and advance. "Sorry for the deception, this has become a clichéd parody—apologies to Shakespeare."

Her nose seems freshly-powdered, with matching dilated pupils. Those eyes! Like the gaze of medusa, making me feel alive, rather than petrifying me. My heart beats once again, and I step towards the warmth she radiates.

Pressure under my awakening heart draws my eyes to the blade she's pressed against my ribs. She raises two more phantom hands to shrug down the rising sidearms of her bodyguards who obey a spiraling finger from a fourth that commands them to spin and guard her rear flank. I can only see two arms within my peripheral vision at a time, but see each distinctly when I focus. Her science must be advanced. Either she has six arms—or my madness has taken me at last.

"Seems you have me at a disadvantage," her laughter is a biting wind, "please... introduce yourself..."

Her Russian accent elevates every word to poetry that rises above the gunfire her goons aim towards the frenzied occupants in the next room.

"I'm Bravo. A simple entertainer and engineer, small-town boy from Bent River. May I assume you're the... boss of the Sokolovs?"

Her eyes never leave mine. I'm staring into the sun but can't help myself. The cold blade in her hand glides around my neck as the corner of her mouth rises in a crooked, amused smile.

"My title is Sovereign. This..." a blur of knives curves in every direction like fan blades, "is only for money. A simple, educated, profitable risk—but it does not define me. Bent River, you say? Tell me more..."

Her henchmen lean against the door frame's support. Hands inked with stars rub for their eyes then trail to their chests. My concoction takes longer to work on their massive frames.

"Caterina, forgive my presumptuousness, but could I have your number? I'd love to chat more, but the timing is against us. I'm in the middle of a revenge quest, and you seem like someone who deserves my undivided attention."

The pressure of her knife retracts. I smile in a dashing manner beneath the breathing mask.

"I am an adept composer, able to compose a song worthy of a Sovereign. I'll make tea..."

Two thuds on the floor announce her men surrendering to my gas.

"You want my number, Bravo? Shall I carve it into your chest in Cyrillic?"

"Seems like a bold font, Caterina?"

Her amused smile is like sunshine filtered through trees upon a secret grove. Reaching down she grabs the leg of one of her foot soldiers, gliding forward with him in tow like the trail of a wedding dress. She nods towards the second. I labor to keep up to her sweeping strides as I drag him and six bags of cash towards the exit.

My limo awaits—Good man!

"Lend me your limousine, Bravo?"

The unconscious soldier I drag becomes weightless as she one-handedly flings him across her shoulder like a sleeping toddler. Once more she graces me with her attention.

"Caterina! My chariot is yours. May I see you again?"

Like a shadow she soars to the limousine. The breeze carries her response to me—"Believe it... Bravo from Bent River."

I feel light. Like a weight has left me —weighing six bags in scale.

At least I met someone nice today.

(◣_◢))xxxxx[;;;;;;;;;>

Thanks for Reading! Place your bets, who'd win a fight between Dahl & Belle VS Bravo & Killer Caterpillar?  If you enjoyed this chapter please consider giving it a vote.

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