beat-up Jeep, made as far back as 2165-2170, stood by the wall of a
cheap motel, its right tires buried in a heap of garbage. The car’s
license plate mounts were conspicuously bare – but Jack Markoff didn’t
need license plates. He knew the car well enough by the lightning
painted on its side and the fresh dent on the back fender.
Horest Buckley (better known by his nickname, the Bull) had lost all sense of decency: for the last week, he’d been driving around in a stolen Jeep used in an armed robbery and attempted murder. On second thought, this was a good sign: with the Bull’s sense of decency went his caution, and that was how Jack had managed to tail him here. Now, for the easy part: taking the Bull by the horns.
Jack smiled at his own play on words and sunk deeper into the seat of the rental car. He had no intention of going inside the motel: he had plenty of experience dealing with Buckley in public places. At best, the Bull would grab the nearest woman and, using her as a shield, vanish for another year. At worst, he would rain bullets on innocent bystanders, beating his previous body count record. Jack was in no mood to repeat his past mistakes. He would not help the Bull turn the motel into a local branch of the city morgue.
Two boys of about sixteen stopped behind his car and took an active interest in the lock on his trunk. He watched them, bemused, in his rearview mirror: they hadn’t even bothered checking whether someone was still in the car. Everything in this neighbourhood served to confirm its reputation as the most dangerous place in the city. When he heard the metallic scrape of a jimmy against the lock, Jack cracked open the door and stuck out his head.
“Need any help?” he asked.
The youths left the lock alone, but seemed to have no intention of running away. One of them smiled insolently, stuck a hand under his leather jacket, and pulled out a fire pistol that looked like it hailed all the way from the 20th Century.
“Ah, you must be an antiques collector!” said Jack, turning his own no less insolent smile towards the armed youth.
The kid spit out a loogie and motioned with the muzzle, ordering Jack out of the car.
Jack complied, his hands raised high and his face split in a disarmingly idiotic smile.
Just then, the motel door, which he’d kept carefully on the periphery of his vision, opened and released two men, who immediately headed for the Jeep parked on top of the garbage heap. One of the men was, unmistakably, Horest Buckley.
The Bull’s appearance didn’t quite warrant his nickname. He was of average height, lanky bordering on skeletal, with hunched shoulders and a thin neck that barely supported his shaved head. But the slightest provocation, the tiniest wave of the red flag, and the Bull would charge head-first, hooves raising clouds of dust and nostrils flaring. He always carried two guns and never hesitated to use them. And his aim wasn’t half bad: his rap sheet boasted forty nine murders, twenty five of them for hire.
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