The very end.
“It’s working!” Elvira yelled from the edge of the deck, where she was watching the ship pull away from the dock. “I can’t believe it’s actually working!”
“Focus!” Drew shouted, then slammed a security guard in the face with the butt of her gun. He staggered, and she knocked the taser he held from his hand. “We really need someone below decks!”
“You saw what Inez said! If they close any of doors behind us we’d be separated and fucked!” Candy called back. They were fairly certain this boat was crawling with cops now, and that there were security points featuring deadbolt doors all along the ship, particularly at the many sets of stairs that led to the top deck. She stood with her back against the wall of the bridge, tired after too long on her broken leg, and peered around quickly: there were three entry points that she could see, and every once in awhile a guard or a cop or someone done up in black that she assumed was with local SWAT poked their heads out or tried to rush Drew, who was striking them down efficiently. Next to her, Solana leaned out the bridge door.
“Elvira! Get the fuck out of open air! There’s another chopper!” She yelled at the top of her lungs. Candy covered her ears, and Drew gave her a look. “You too, I guess.”
“They’re not sniping yet.” Drew called back as Elvira ran towards the lounge chairs. “Probably afraid we’ll start taking hostages.”
“That’s not a permanent safety net.” Candy said to Solana as they both watched Elvira open up a beach umbrella. Solana buried her face in her palm. “They could cut our power at any second.”
“We know.” Mirabelle called from inside. “We’re trying to figure something out.”
‘We’ seemed to include Solana, who seemingly decided not to yell at Elvira for the time being and went back inside. Candy sighed and went back to watching Drew prowl back and forth across the deck, her gun half useless in clenched hands. The moment she shot anyone someone from the two — no, three now — helicopters circling would shoot her down like it was nothing. They’d hauled every dead man into the bridge, behind the bar and stuck one rather obviously under a folding chair, but as soon as the police were certain there were no hostages and no threats to the civilians already on the ship it would be open season.
Inside the bridge she knew Solana, Mirabelle and Inez must have known the same. That was weird, all of them working together, but maybe not as weird as how easy it was. She was so used to Mirabelle and her girls by now that it didn’t take her back one bit to peer in and see her and Solana talking in low and careful tones. When Mirabelle met her eye she gave her a reassuring nod that Candy had never in her wildest dreams expected to be on the receiving end of. It would’ve been enjoyable if the situation didn’t seem so dire. And if Shay hadn’t been kidnapped, but she’d decided not to think about that for the time being.
“They haven’t told us anything so far.” Solana said as she gestured to the crew members standing and sitting on the floor around them, all either resigned or exasperated.
“We can figure it out on our own. Surely they communicate with the engine room without running down there every single time.” Mirabelle said. “They need to know the captain’s being held hostage.”
“I don’t think it’d be best for the whole boat to come to a standstill.” Elvira suddenly appeared next to Candy with a tray full of tiki-themed glasses in her hands. Candy took one without pause — a mai tai. “Not that I’m the brainiac around here.”
“Do I need to go down?” Candy asked, having already been before, but Mirabelle shook her head promptly.
“We’ll figure it out. Or we’ll just keep hitting buttons.” She said, and Inez nodded without taking her eyes off the wheel. Elvira gave them each a drink. “It’s too dangerous, we have no idea how many officers, guards — whatever — are crawling around down there.”
“Though there is that ‘boat coming to a standstill thing’ my beautiful girlfriend mentioned.” Solana mused, and Elvira gave her a cutesy look that Candy gagged over. “But for now, with the engines gunning we’re almost out of Port Miami.”
“Isn’t someone supposed to be covering me?” Drew called out very distantly from the deck, and Candy craned her neck slightly to make sure she wasn’t being murdered. She had taken her top off and was sipping her drink facing the sun. Candy stopped craning her neck.
“In the state of Florida we have to go 200 miles to international waters.” Elvira said flatly, and Inez nodded again, then signed something Candy didn’t understand.
“‘And that doesn’t mean they’ll stop chasing us.’” Mirabelle translated. “In fact, it’s too far to run without retaliation and without an escape plan.”
“Then you best start pressing some goddamn buttons.” Elvira said to Inez, who very likely made a face or rolled her eyes but did start flicking switches at random.
“Candy, maybe you can peek your head down one of the staircases coming up here and check the situation.” Solana said, and Candy nodded. “See if there’s a lot of cops, if they’re camping, what the artillery levels are like.”
“Good thinking.” Mirabelle said with some unexpected pride. “In the meantime, Elvira, get back to covering Drew.”
“You got it, boss.” Elvira said, and when both Mirabelle and Solana nodded shifted awkwardly. “I mean bosses?”
“I’m the boss.” Mirabelle and Solana said at once, then scowled with equal intensity. “No, I’m—”
“Jesucristo.” Candy returned her drink to Elvira and left without another word. She walked across the deck over to Drew, who was now T-posing to get an even tan. “Try not to get killed.”
“Me?” Drew raised her brows, and Candy snorted. “I’m fine, I’ve got a drink and a gun. You don’t get killed.”
“I’ll do my best.” She said, and Drew gave her a sly grin. “And keep an eye on Elvira, too.”
“I’m not exactly terrified for her wellbeing.” Drew called to her.
“In some ways you should be!” Candy called back, and she heard Drew’s breezy laughter as she set down the stairs, her gun tucked away to avoid an immediate execution.
As soon as she hit the landing she spotted two officers, deep in likely strategic conversation. When she attempted to step back one of them yelled in her direction and she ducked into the first room she saw, the spa. The door was translucent glass, and as she shut it and bolted it into the ground she saw two figures on the other side and ran to the other side of the room. There was an employee restroom and sitting area, a few storage closets, and a balcony, but no exit. An odd, muted sound rung in her ears, and she turned to see circular fractures in the glass, like a bullet hadn’t made it through.
So this looked bad. Another bullet hit the door, and it fractured even worse. There was only one way out, and she decided exactly how to take it. A third bullet hit, and Candy ran towards the door, aimed her shoulder squarely, tucked her head, and crashed through it.
“What the hell?” One of the cops yelled, but Candy shot him before she hit the ground. The other fired at her, and she felt something like a bee sting on her arm before she fired two shots and took him down. Before she was even crouching another showed up out of nowhere, and she shot him too and ran past him down the hall as fast as she could with a busted leg she shouldn’t have even been standing on. Blood was hot and sticky on her bicep, and a sharp pain on her side told her the bullet must have nicked a rib as well, but she had other things to focus on. She found a door marked sauna and jumped for it, then slammed it behind her. The small room was empty, all walled with wood and vaguely smelling of cleaner.
“Candy!” Her pocket said, and she recognized Mirabelle’s voice as she pulled out her walkie. “Do you read?”
“Loud and clear. What’s up?” She asked, and Mirabelle rushed her answer.
“We’re idiots. Inez realized we can radio the helicopter. We warned the cops that if one of us gets killed we’re going to take out the captain.” She said. “So none of them should shoot you.”
“One of them just did!” Candy hissed and briefly inspected her arm. The bullet hadn’t lodged, but the wound looked nasty.
“Mierda. I don’t know, maybe they didn’t get the message across every department.” Mirabelle said, and Candy groaned. “Some of them are safe though. As long as you don’t shoot any of them, then the deal’s off.”
“Uh.” Candy said. “Didn’t know that twenty seconds ago.”
“Are you fucking—” Mira said, but static garbled the rest of her words — radio interference. Candy collected herself a moment: she didn’t have eyes on this hallway, and had no idea of any officer’s location, if they could’ve heard the commotion and come for her now. The solid wood door she leaned against now was too heavy to betray the sound of footsteps. The static continued all the while on her walkie, and then an unfamiliar woman’s voice sounded out.
“—Know you’re ignoring me Bravo, pick up your goddamn walkie!” She shouted, beyond pissed, and Candy held her own walkie against her shirt to keep it quiet.
“Oh, please.” Mirabelle responded loftily. “So dramatic. You understand we’re busy, right?”
“Fucker! I am not protecting you on this one! You hear me? We are over and done with!” She screamed, all hoarse and harsh.
“What is she talking about?” Elvira asked, and Drew must not have been near her because she replied on the radio.
“Oh El, you wanna lose your shit? We work for the FBI.” She said, and Candy heard something like breaking glass in the background.
“¡Santo cielo!” Elvira yelled, and Candy snorted to herself.
“Well I’m sorry you feel that way.” Mirabelle said after a moment. “Really I am. It’s been fun. By the way, tell your people that if any of our girls are killed I’m taking out the captain, the first mate, whoever the hell else I have up here.”
“Oh really? You’re that big a bad guy, huh?” The agent snarled. “Cupido drowned fifteen minutes ago, are you including her in that threat?”
“Nice bluff. Shay’s right here.” Mirabelle said easily, and Candy knew that wasn’t true, but it wouldn’t do to let the enemy know they were one girl down. “Now get off this line. No one say anything sensitive over the walkies, please.”
Candy sighed, tucked the walkie away, and cracked the door open. The hallway looked empty, and the three bodies on the floor in the distance appeared still, so she slunk down the hall back towards the spa and the stairs, and hopefully back up to her team. The gunshot wound felt worse now that she was alone in her thoughts: blood was all down her arm and her side, and the back of her shirt felt sticky as well. When she was halfway down the hall the elevator right in front of her sounded a little ding, and she froze.
The doors opened to a man in riot gear who seemed just as surprised to see her as she him. He took two steps out, turned, and looked down at the three bodies lying on the floor, surrounded by blood and broken glass. Candy rubbed her neck awkwardly.
“Is there any way you can overlook this?” She asked, all puppy-dog-eyed, and after a long moment he sighed like every man too familiar with girl gangs did. Then he opened his mouth, and whatever he was about to respond with Candy would never know, because with one shot to the head he collapsed to the ground. She looked over to see Drew hanging precariously off the balcony railing in the spa and gaped in disbelief.
“Drew! You dumbass!” Candy yelled, and Drew swung herself up and over the railing, at which point Candy noticed she was too thin, sopping wet, and — oh. It was Shay. She pushed her wet and tangled hair from her face, her chest heaving, and gave Candy the stormiest look she’d ever seen her girlfriend wear.
“Fuck you.” She replied, then rushed over and pulled her into an aggressive kiss. Candy was surprised a moment, then squeezed her into a tight hug. Shay’s hand moved to her side, then pulled away at her wince. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same.” Candy said. “Weren’t you kidnapped?”
“Aw. Here to rescue me?” Shay cooed, and Candy kissed her again, fingers tangled in wet and oddly slimy hair. Something touched her hand and she pulled away.
“Wait.” She pulled a face and backhanded a massive spider off her girlfriend’s head. It plopped to the ground and scurried away, and Shay looked green.
“How?” She shrieked, then took a few calming breaths. “Are you gonna tell me what’s going on?”
“In a sec. Help me block off these stairs.” Candy said, and Shay took her hand. They stepped around the bodies and broken glass on the floor and went back to the stairs, where they shut and bolted a heavy set of secure doors behind them. When they reached the deck Candy saw that they’d finally left the port, and some distance was gained between the ship and the land, though helicopters still circled overhead. But something was wrong: the air smelled like diesel and there was black smoke floating against the perfectly cloudless blue sky. Drew wasn’t on the deck tanning, rather crouched behind the bar as an officer circled it to skulk her way. Shay raised her gun, Candy pushed her arm down, and Drew lobbed a glass at the officer’s head.
“I was gone for five minutes!” Candy said incredulously, and Shay just looked confused.
“On your left!” Elvira yelled, and what a time to notice that she was over by the lounge chairs trying to put a man in riot gear in a chokehold. In reality she was just piggybacking on someone spinning in circles, angry and confused, and sure enough a security guard was coming up on Drew’s left. She leapt back and slammed him against the shelves of alcohol to the sound of shattering glass, then jumped and kicked the officer in front of her in the jaw.
“Is Elvira helping her?” Shay gasped, and Candy grabbed her hand and pulled her to the other end of the ship. They found the source of the smoke immediately: the plane she and Solana had arrived in was a pile of burning, twisted metal.
“Maybe you should hide out for a minute.” She said as Shay gaped at the plane.
“Mirabelle stole a helicopter, this is — are — are you pulling your heist the same time we are?” Shay asked, and the fire crackled and popped so voraciously behind them that they both jumped back. Drew shrieked and cursed, and Shay didn’t even glance Candy’s way before she ran back to her friend. She had a bloody nose and a snarl on her face, and the security guard held a fist in the air before Shay took a shot and brought him down.
“No killing!” Candy shouted, but was ignored entirely. With one man out of the way Drew picked up a seemingly heavy bottle, turned around, and slammed the cop over the head with it. His head connected with the bottle, then the granite slab of the bar, then the wood floor, and he stayed there. She set the bottle down and wiped the sweat off her brow, then nodded at Shay.
“Took you long enough.”
“Fuck you, too.” Shay tossed her a tea towel, and she wiped the blood from what appeared to be a very broken nose. “I’m the cute one now.”
“This is just added charm.” She said, then looked Candy’s way. “I’m not so sure about that ‘no killing’ thing. They may have spotted the dude under the lounge chair that someone could’ve hid a little better.”
“I can hear you!” Elvira said, and Drew opened a drawer, grabbed a knife, and hurled it at the guy Elvira was climbing on top of. It bounced uselessly off his riot gear and clattered to the floor. “That could’ve hit me!”
“¡Por el amor de Dios!” Someone yelled, and Elvira’s man went down. Mirabelle appeared behind him as his giant form collapsed, and Elvira awkwardly climbed off of him. “I need everyone over here!”
“Including me?” Shay asked, and Mirabelle froze. Everyone paused and looked between the two, who held hard eye contact for a horrifically long and silent moment. Finally, Mirabelle spoke.
“Took you long enough.”
“Fuck you.” Shay said yet again, and Mirabelle ran over and squeezed her into a hug. Candy was surprised — Shay was sopping and smelled of salt and rot, so she must have been genuine. “I’m still mad.”
“Fair. Candy, plans have changed. Were there a lot of cops on the floor below us?” Mirabelle asked in a rushed tone as she pulled away, and swore when Candy nodded. “We need to stop the engine room. We figured out how to radio them while you were gone but now I bet anything that damn agent is listening in and I refuse to tip her off.”
“Why are we stopping? Can’t you still win this?” Shay asked, and Mirabelle pointed skyward. Three helicopters were still soaring above their heads, and there were at least four black spots in the distance headed their way. “I don’t understand. Who has control of the ship?”
“We all do. We’re doing this together.” Mirabelle said, half distracted, and Shay stared blankly at her. Her expression softened at that, but her next words had a sort of firmness to them Candy couldn’t quite name, something like faith. “They’re good. They’re really good. And since we’re all stuck being sympathetic towards each other I figure maybe we should work together instead of hating each other needlessly.”
“Wow, I wonder who was saying that from the start.” Shay said drily, but the soft look on her face was not missed by any of them.
“I’m sorry, by the way.” Mirabelle said, then turned to Candy. “They blew up your plane when you were below decks, a clear warning as to what’ll happen if we try to escape in that chopper.”
“Was it Benny Hill up here? Solana must be pissed.” She said, and Drew and Elvira both aggressively nodded.
“She is. She’s in the bridge with Inez tying up the crew.” Mirabelle said. “It’s time to abandon ship.”
“But you just said—”
“Not on the chopper.” Mirabelle said, and Elvira clearly understood something the rest of them didn’t.
“That’s impossible. Solana said we’re doing thirty.” Elvira said, and Solana chose just then to walk out and join the conversation. “Perfect timing. Am I rubbing off on you?”
“It’s thirty five now.” She said as she approached, ignoring her girlfriend’s latter remark, then looked over to Shay. “Took your time, huh?”
“You guys know I climbed the side of the ship to save you all and-slash-or kick Mira’s ass, right?” Shay asked flatly. “You know I got chased by an alligator today? An alligator. And there was a spider in my hair.”
“Shay, no offense, love ya loads, but suck it up for a minute.” Mirabelle said, then ignored how primly annoyed she looked and turned to Solana. “Is everything ready?”
“No, but we’re leaving anyway.” Solana said, then turned sharp on her heel and walked away. Elvira followed suit, then Drew, then Inez ran out of the wheelhouse and everyone broke into a sprint. Candy didn’t know what the hell was happening, but she sprinted with everyone else, including her equally confused girlfriend. When Inez caught up with them she grinned in Shay’s direction, entirely unsurprised, then signed something fast.
“You too.” Shay said warmly, and there was a bang in front of them where Solana had busted through a metal gate that seemed to be just for the crew. Her heavy footsteps pounded down a thin set of metal stairs to the lower level of the deck, and the rest of them followed in a rush. They arrived at a large concrete platform and a long row of bright orange lifeboats, one of which Solana and Inez ran to.
“No! We’ll be sitting ducks!” Candy yelled as Inez fiddled with the giant metal arm holding the lifeboat against the ship. “They’ll shoot us!”
“They’ll shoot us in the helicopter.” Solana threw the small door to the boat open and motioned to Drew, who rushed and ducked her head to climb in. “At least this is flame retardant.”
“Mirabelle, we’re really just going to jump ship? Abandon the mission?” Shay asked quizzically. “You could kick the three of them off and win this!”
“Shay, darling, please. We have to focus on getting out of this safely.” Mirabelle said, and motioned for Elvira to climb aboard. She went swiftly, and Solana followed. “There’s more to life than competition.”
“I hate you.” Shay smiled far too wide, then grabbed Candy’s hand and pulled her into the boat. The orange roof reflected on the inside and cast a sickly glow over the rest of the girls, and the whole thing smelled like plastic. She sat on the plastic bench that lined the wall next to Drew, and Shay joined them as she watched Mirabelle wait a moment for Inez to finish tinkering. When she ran and jumped in Mirabelle sealed the door.
“Sit tight and hold on to something.” Solana advised, then grabbed ahold of Elvira as Mirabelle hopped into a plastic seat in front of a control panel.
“Ya good, Mira?” Elvira asked, and she turned and gave them all a fiercely confident look, the kind that Candy knew her own gang had always admired, even though it came from an adversary. Now it was a reason to trust her.
“Oh, I know how to pilot a little skiff like this.” Mirabelle said. “But it’s a fair question. I do like your style, Elvira dear. In fact, I think if we survive this we’d all make a mighty fine team.”
“All we need to do is drop thirteen stories into the ocean, escape hundreds of police officers, get back to Miami, and somehow avoid the FBI agent that knows our names, addresses, and everyone we work with.” Drew said, but with some weird degree of optimism. She poked Candy’s side and she winced at the unexpected pain — that injury was more severe than she’d thought. “And I guess patch Shay’s girlfriend up.”
“‘Nice of you to give a crap.’” Shay translated for Inez, who stood next to Mirabelle wearing a droll smile. Candy thought she looked more relaxed than she’d seen her in ages, her stance lax and her expression at ease. For herself, Shay squeezed Candy’s hand and said: “I don’t think we need that agent to doll out some punishments. You don’t need government backing to be a team of vigilantes.”
“I’m still the boss of this half.” Solana said pointedly, brows raised, and Mirabelle cackled.
“Let’s not get competitive here.” She said kindly, then under her breath: “I’m everyone’s boss. I’ll kick your ass.”
“When you’re ready, Inez.” Candy finally said, just to be done with it, and Inez tugged on the string she held without further ado. They heard the creak of metal, felt a drop in their stomachs like they were on an elevator, and Candy held her girlfriend’s hand tight. Somehow, she was confident; somehow they would escape this failed mission, this terrible defeat; somehow she would get patched up and the black at the edges of her vision would disappear; they would unite as one team; they would take Miami by storm; they would make a living ravaging the wasted lives of former colleagues, of drug-runners and gun-smugglers; she and her girlfriend and their weird misfit family would get a happily-ever-after.
She watched everyone brace themselves in the ugly neon glow of that little lifeboat, watched them look between each other and finally get on the same page for the first time since she’d met them. And then they hit the water.