Woohoo, finally! We’ve hit the double digits! Enjoy reading, kiddos.
Neve had been incredibly helpful when she proposed a journey to the airstrip – she even took the cash to keep it safe from harm. All this came after she was abandoned by her own team, yet she still showed an immense kindness in letting bygones be bygones. As Mica ran off, away from the souvenir shop she and Neve had spoken in front of and down the clean streets of the very tourist-central area, she was sure she’d be grateful forever.
The first thing she had to do was steal a car so she could get to the airstrip, but she walked a few blocks on achy feet to escape the many leering eyes of that crowded part of town. As sirens went off in the distance, she knew Riley had begun her stalling and was relieved to be far away from her shenanigans. It wasn’t long until she could slow down, and went into a restaurant’s parking lot and hunted around until she spotted an old black sedan with its windows down. She got in easily and smiled to herself, glad that Riley had taught her how to do this in the first place.
In only a few minutes, she hot-wired the car and drove off, mindful of her speed. She wanted more than anything to gun it so she could get to February, Celeste, Sorrel, and Aidy as fast as possible, but she knew the last thing she needed was attention from the law. She headed northwest, to hopefully only skirt the edge of the Las Vegas Strip that was probably crawling with detectives, commissioners, and the press after their big heist. It would take longer to get around, but there was no way she could risk driving right through her own crime scene.
After a few minutes she approached the boulevard and peered down the road warily. Sure enough, she could see the Commodus from her stop light, surrounded by yellow police tape and flocks of reporters with a white van from each network. Chicago, Memphis, Miami, they were all there, all fascinated by the proceedings. They must have known that this was all planned out and yet the police had let them slip through their fingers, and Mica knew they had to be looking for them with something akin to bloodlust for all the embarrassment they’d caused.
The cops milled around ignorant of her presence, more focused on dealing with the press and a lot of people in suits and pencil skirts that were likely task-managers and problem-solvers from the casino and the government. She lingered just a moment longer to fully take in the damage they’d caused, and had to admit that she felt a swell of pride in her chest. It may have been out of place, given that half the chaos was only caused because their plan fell apart, but she still enjoyed a little fire and brimstone every once in awhile. Riley would definitely appreciate the scene.
With her head bowed to avoid attention, she moved on and began her long drive north. The airstrip once belonged to some millionaire who wanted a place to land her private jets and tinker toys before it was ultimately abandoned and the mansion that stood beside it foreclosed and demolished. It was far from the city, and whilst it still stood Feb had them hide out there a few times, which was why they were using the airstrip for this job: it was an easy and familiar landmark.
The plan had been for February and Neve to drive to the runway as decoys with the police in tow, which would hopefully make them assume they had a plane they would get on and take off. In actuality, they would’ve just driven right past and into the dirt, where the SUV would have fared a lot better than some squad cars, and eventually lose them in the mountains, where only Sorrel and Aidy would go looking for them.
It would have been a daredevil move, overly dramatic and ridiculously dangerous, but those were the plans Feb always made and it suited them all well. Mica could easily imagine the two sitting in the SUV, cracking jokes and singing along to the radio until the chopper picked them up, and she was wistful for a time. Aidy had suggested they ordered a pizza afterwards, and Neve had told them they’d be using wads of cash for napkins. But Celeste was at least very badly injured, and at most, well . . . she knew there wouldn’t be any celebration, even if the rest got out safe.
She’d get a slice with Sorrel, though. Her wife had been out of contact since she’d left the casino earlier, and Mica was anxious to see her again. Sorrel could hold her own just as well as the rest of them, but it was a rocky situation and she wanted someone to bear it with. First she had to take the long drive to the airstrip, and she wasn’t excited for what might await her.
It wasn’t a theory anyone had voiced yet, but it must have been one they all had – the thought that one of them had turned the rest over to the police. It was nearly too horrific to think about, but there was no way the cops could have just popped up from nowhere, not without a warning. Which meant that they knew the whole plan, airstrip and all, and Feb and the crew could be fighting them off right at that moment.
She didn’t want to go back to a situation like that casino again, but if her family was up there then she had no choice. All she had was a compact pistol and a knife on her garter belt again an untold number of officers, and the prospect of fighting them all off with just that made her sweat. Perhaps dozens of men were waiting to throw her in jail, and maybe a traitor as well.
Could it have been Riley, with her affection for destruction? Or Aidy with a case of frayed nerves? Or even February, who may have thought that a massive personal implosion was the best way to retire with a bit of flare? Mica couldn’t say and was dreading the moment she had to learn who it really was. Not just because she might learn it from the inside of a jail cell, but because that person had meant her, her wife, and her family harm she could never forgive.
She saw the lights off the squad cars long before she saw the strip itself. It was after a long drive down a dirt road, and the bright flashing lights were easily seen. The sky was nearly cloudless and the sun baked the red earth. Mica saw wavy heat lines where the cops waited and knew they could see the black of her car perfectly. Others might have said that it was a huge disadvantage to have your opponent know you were coming, but Mica embraced the challenge and floored it.
At about ninety miles an hour, she was practically too fast to see the officer’s expressions as she neared, but she still saw them run out of the way and grinned to herself. She drove right into the middle of their little encampment before she slammed the breaks, then quickly did a three-point turn and reversed into an officer, who hit the ground with a scream. She moved forward then, hard and fast straight into an empty squad car.
The metal crunched together and she rocked in her chair, but it was nothing to be upset about. After all, Riley had taught her more than just how to hot-wire. She threw the sedan into reverse and found that the squad car was stuck firmly in her grill, just as another had been caught in Riley’s during her semi-failed attempt to make an impromptu battery ram. Only this time, it was intentional, and she dragged the car into the center with her. This essentially divided the officers on either side of her vehicle and made them far easier to manage.
“Alright boys.” She put the car into park and slid out the passenger’s seat. “Show time.”
That would’ve impressed February, but she noted with a frown that she wasn’t there, not even her SUV. There wasn’t time to think on that, though, as one cop ran towards her and she delivered a firm punch to the jaw and ran with her head ducked down to hide behind the nearest car. When she popped her head up again, she brought down two officers nearby and wounded a third.
There were twenty, about as many as she thought there would be, but the department had to be stretched thin. She noted a sheriff’s car from some small neighboring town and knew that at the very least, these men didn’t know each other and would be out of sync with any game plan. Some were hovering on the other side of her car, unsure whether or not to advance, while some hid behind their own vehicles and took shots whenever they saw an opportunity.
“Hands in the air!” Someone yelled on her own side, and she turned to see a cop run up to her. She grabbed his gun and pulled him forward, and he fired past her shoulder as she kneed him in the gut. As he groaned, she wrestled it from his grip and knocked him out with it.
“I wish I could kick someone.” She inspected her bare feet for a mournful moment, then saw another man approach like a bull. She threw the gun hard and it hit him in the head and knocked him out cold. With a laugh, she ran to the next one, who winced as she put him in a chokehold and dragged him behind another car.
“Hold your fire!” One of them yelled in the distance, and Mica took his gun. “She’s got a hostage!”
“Let me go!” He shrieked, and she rolled her eyes and looked down at his feet. Too big. She grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed his head into the side view mirror, and he groaned and fell over with bits of glass trailing after him.
“Who’s next?” She yelled, and ran over to the nearest officer. She threw a punch and he blocked it, and then another. He shoved her hard and she stumbled back, and then he kicked her in the stomach. Winded, she bent over, but didn’t panic: she’d been on the bad end of far worse fights than this. When he took a step forward to grab her she reached for her thigh, pulled the knife from her garter, and slashed below his knee. He cried out, and she straightened and smacked him so hard across the face he crumpled to the ground.
“Stop this! Surrender now and we’ll spare your life!” An officer shouted, and she rolled her eyes. If these idiots managed to take her down it wouldn’t be due to their competence. When the next one came close, she slugged him in the gut and grabbed the gun from his hand. With her hand gripped tightly on his collar, she put the glock to his head and addressed the crowd.
“Who are you working with, huh?” She asked in a booming voice to reach them all. “Who’s our rat?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know!” One of them taunted, and a second laughed. She shot that one and moved the gun back to her hostage’s head before anyone could make a move.
“Tell me or it’s gonna get real ugly for this guy!” She shrieked, and the others sobered. A silence fell, and when she looked around she saw only lost looks and blank expressions. “Does no one know?”
It seemed that none of those particular officers were important enough to get that sort of information, which was actually a relief – she wanted to put off that reveal as long as she could. Mica sighed and pulled the officer down, and he slammed his head on the top of a car and fell over with a groan. She ran from behind that car to the next, and an officer cowered when she gave him a dirty look and dropped his gun. She kicked it away and moved to the next guy, who was roughly two feet taller than her and a hundred pounds heavier.
“Just tell us what you know.” He ordered in a deep voice, and she scoffed.
“One of ours has told you enough.” He lunged at her and she side-stepped easily. She had long ago gotten used to fighting a larger enemy. Then she slashed his hand with her knife: when he reached for her with the other hand, she jumped back and bumped into another cop.
“Surprise.” He said as he grabbed her around the middle, and she went stiff as a board and fell over. It looked like a losing move to someone who didn’t know what she was doing, but he fell right down with her and fell hard. She elbowed him in the nose with a chuckle and escaped his grasp. The larger man bent down to grab her, and when she hit him swiftly beneath his jaw he howled.
She stood straight and pulled her gun, and that was when she saw a black dot against the southern blue sky. A helicopter – her wife and Aidy on their way. She shot the cop in the leg and moved on, mindful that she had to clear the place out for them as she ran towards another officer. He pointed his gun, but his hand shook, so she simply extended her arms and pushed him to the ground, and crouched behind his car as a few others fired at her.
“Wait! Wait, you cowards!” She heard one yell, and peered over to see two officers running to a car. They got in and quickly reversed, then fled despite their sheriff’s protests – she was doing even better than she thought. That only left six guys, and one of them was lying on the ground next to her trembling with fear. She looked him up and down and down again, then held up her bare foot next to his clunky brown work boots.
“Give me your shoes.” She said, and he looked vaguely confused as to why she didn’t have her own, but slowly undid his laces.
“If you help us out, no one will hurt you, okay?” He said, and she gave him a dry look. “We can put you in witness protection.”
He thought they would hurt her if she talked. He didn’t understand that they were a family, he only saw them as a bunch of dirty crooks. Absolutely, they would hurt her for it, but it would be well deserved and would hurt them to do so.
“What did the message mean?” He continued as he handed her the shoes, and she furrowed her brow.
“What message?” She asked in turn, and he tilted his head.
“You don’t know? It came from one of yours, over the radio.” She shook her head, bewildered. “We found a body at the radio tower.”
After all that fighting, this was the first thing to truly hit hard. Like a punch to the chest, Mica felt all the air fly from her as she absorbed the news. It had to be Celeste, her poor friend. Her eyes welled up and she swallowed hard, her throat dry, until she realized that this was exactly the sort of thing the cops would tell her. She narrowed her eyes at the nervous man.
“You’re lying.” She said, her tone confident despite her inward uncertainty. “There was no body, you just want me to talk.”
The officer raised his hands in alarm and shook his head. In the distance, the helicopter was near enough that Mica could start to hear it.
“I swear. A woman, had to be one of yours. I can get someone on the radio.” He put a hand to his belt, and she raised her gun.
“Watch it.” Mica warned, and he moved more slowly to pull out his hand-held. She felt her jaw tighten as she hesitated; she shouldn’t just let this random guy use his radio, but surely another had already called for back-up that wouldn’t make it before she, Sorrel, and Aidy ran off anyway.
“Hey, anyone on the country rock shooting listening in?” He asked. “I need some info on the female found dead at the scene.”
Mica pulled on her new shoes slowly, her heart filled with dread as she hoped no one would respond. But the radio quickly crackled.
“What, the dark haired woman? Gimme a minute, I need to pull up a file.” Someone answered, and Mica cried out, stood, and shot two officers. The other three yelled, and she grazed another as she ducked back down. There were tears clouding her vision, and she blinked them back as she breathed in hard. It could’ve been a coincidence, some other poor soul dead; it wasn’t as if they were the only criminals in the city, someone else could have had a robbery gone wrong.
But there was a hurt deep in her chest that told her the story made perfect sense. Celeste had been really badly injured and she wasn’t here with February like Mica hoped. Maybe Feb had taken her to send a message and she didn’t make it long enough, or maybe they split up and Feb was still in the wind. Or maybe their boss was a traitor and had finished Celeste off herself. None were options she wanted to consider, so in that moment she decided to shelve them all as lies or foolhardy speculation and just go about her business until she could get the rest of the team to relay some answers.
“You know what I think? I think you just wanted me to talk, you manipulative asshole.” She sniffled, then shot him in the leg and spoke over his whining. “That body wasn’t ours, and we will beat all of you. We will win. This won’t be the last time you have to chase after one of us, pal. But next time, I won’t be in your hideous shoes.”
And then she stood and shot the last two officers as Sorrel swooped in overhead. She stepped out and waved her arms wife to show her wife it was safe to land, so visible in those red sequins that she might have been a risk to her eyesight. It suddenly occurred to her just what she’d done – every officer here was either clutching their gunshot wounds or groaning around broken noses. She’d achieved the victory Riley and Neve were skeptical she would get, all on her own.
She was suddenly flushed with pride as the chopper came near enough to cause a cool breeze against her skin. For now, at least, she had insured Sorrel and Aidy’s safety. She’d gone head to head with the law and made every foe look inadequate. This was a big win for a young kid in this business.
“I did it!” She cheered, practically drowned out by the roar of the spinning rotor as the helicopter descended. The relief made her forget every other pain for a moment. “I did it!”
The helicopter touched down onto the red dirt, and the engine powered down as Mica hopped from foot to foot with excitement. A door opened, and Mica took a step forward as Sorrel stepped down. She looked towards her immediately, and from the distance Mica could see her whole body relax as a massive smile spread across her cheeks.
“Mica!” She called out and ran over. Mica giggled like a fool and met her the last few steps with a squeal, and the pair entwined in a tight hug.
“Honey!” Mica grinned, but she was getting so severely crushed it came out strangled and simply held her wife tighter instead of bothering with words. After a moment, Sorrel pulled away just enough to look her over.
“You’re okay, right? You’re not hurt at all?” She asked, and let out a small laugh of relief when Mica shook her head. “Why are you wearing those awful shoes?”
Mica laughed and pulled her into another hug. It was the happiest she had been all day, but when she looked over her wife’s shoulder something felt amiss. She leaned back and inspected her as well; she seemed unhurt, but her eyes were red like she had been crying, and she bore an odd expression. Relieved to see her wife, grateful for her safety, but more tired than anything and apprehensive to a suspicious degree. Something was wrong.
She looked around again and found that none of the officers were going to bother them, but neither was anyone else. Not February, not Celeste. And when she looked over to the empty helicopter, she felt a twist in her gut that made her cringe. Not another. Her wife saw the look and bit her lip.
“Where’s Aidy?” Mica asked weakly.
Sorrel looked at the ground, and it hit Mica hard. There was a body outside the radio station that might have been Celeste. February was nowhere to be found. She and Riley had betrayed Neve. One of them destroyed the rest of their family. These were facts she could no longer ignore.
“Honey? Where’s Aidy?” She asked again. And Sorrel only shook her head.