|Posted on February 6, 2011 at 11:18 AM|
With Krite and Foxoccupied in their pursuit of Sam, Juano and the rest of the Piranhas were haring across town in an attempt to evade the Salem cops now on their trail. Local knowledge and a succession of back alleys gave them a distinct advantage for the moment, but the need to break cover would be inevitable at some point, and the group paused in their flight to check weapons.
“Ok, everybody packin’ an’ loaded?” Raoul barked out the question, and a succession of heads nodded in grim reply. He looked at Juano. “What about you, bro?”
The youngster was stil lshell-shocked at the narrow escape afforded by the body of Henrique Salgado hanging in the flat, and stared straight through the figure of his olderbrother.
“Bro!” Raoul’s voice shook them all with its intensity, and the youngster physically jumped.
“Sorry, Raoul…I kinda got lost there.”
“Take this, and fire when I say. Make sure you don’t hit any of us.” He shoved the gun into theshaking hands of his brother, and looked deeply into his eyes. “You right in deep, bro; remember, we’re family and no-one else matters, right?”
There was a quaver in the young Puerto Rican’s voice, and other gang members looked at each other.They all knew the price for failure, and the name Gomez would count for nothing when it came to make tough choices.
“Let’s go!” Raoul barked out another command and they moved off.
Juano stuck close tohis brother’s side as they made their way across Salem, ducking from one back street to another, missing the pursuing fleet of patrol cars by seconds. They paused again, gathered breath and listening for tell-tale sounds of running feet.
“What’d you do?” He hissed at the youngster. That body in the flat was meant to be you.
“Don’t know, Raoul. I just came home and there it was. I’m scared.”
“Look.” He pulled hisbrother round the corner of an abandoned warehouse and out of sight of the other gang members. “You gotta be strong; we can’t have no weaklings in the Piranhas. If I go down, you come with me, clear?”
Raoul was completel yunaware of the note sent to Krite, and the cop's involvement in their presen tproblems was just one more episode in the on-going fight with the City’s police department. Juano intended to keep it that way. For the older Gomez, it was like pulling teeth getting any sense out of his younger brother, and within the space of the next few minutes all thoughts in that direction were quickly dispelled.
“Stay where you are!”The command came from a uniform at the end of the next alley. He stood over the fallen form of the lead Piranha – a scout sent forward to check out the way ahead.
A hail of bullets from the remaining gang members had him diving for cover behind a dumpster, and the slugs ricocheted off the metal hulk, smashing window panes and splintering the frame of a nearby door.
“Shit! Back up!” Raoul’s command was academic, as the rest of the group retreated to the cover of a low wall.
“You’re a dead man.”
“Shut up!” Juano coveredhis ears with his hands and closed his eyes as he hissed out the plea.
“Theywill kill you. Being his brother won’t make the slightest difference.”
“Go away. I did wha tyou told me to, now leave me alone!”
The younger Gomez’ voice was louder this time, and although not much more than a whisper, caught the attention of one of the gang members, who nudged his partner and nodded in Juano’s direction.
“It’s too late to make a run for it. One way the cops will get you, the other it’s down to the gang. You’re as strong as the weakest link, and that’s you right now.”
“Please! Let me be…”
“Bro. You alright?”Raoul crouched at Juano’s side, now having followed the gaze of the others, and was shaking his brother’s shoulder.
The voice was gone once more, and Juano snapped back to the reality of the situation. They were pinned down, with more cops arriving by the minute. There was only one way out of the alley, and that was upwards. Pulling down the fire escape ladder, the older Gomez was first up the frame, covering fire being supplied by those still on the ground. Juano closed his eyes, pointed his gun and squeezed off three rounds in quick succession. A cry from the far end of the alley told him that one of his shots had found a target. As they all scrambled up the fire escape, he looked back at the fallen officer, now lying in a rapidly expanding pool of blood – it was his first kill.
“C’mon, let’s go. Move it bro!” Raoul was waving frantically from the top of the building and Juano was the last to make the top.
Their flight was fast and furious, but weaving in and out of a succession of other buildings left the cops trailing in their wake, and the older Gomez called a halt as they hit the ground in another alley ten blocks further across town.
“Reload. This ain’t over yet. They’ll be back as soon as they figure out where we went, and we’ll need all the firepower we have. Everybody ready?”
All eyes came to res ton Juano, and he nodded. This was how it was going to be. The kill had shaken him out of his childhood and into the reality of gang warfare. In that one single moment he had gone from naïve kid to streetwise killer, and not a single thought was given to the fallen police officer now lying dead across town.
Taking a deep breath, he stood to his full height. “I’m ready bro.” ‘Bro’ – it was the first time that he had used that name when talking to Raoul, and the older brother smiled, recognising the transition that he himself had made some years before.
The unmarked van pulling up in the street at the open end of the alley almost took them all by surprise, and the Piranhas were faced with a number of unknown assailants, firing automatic weapons as they exited the vehicle. They were outgunned, o
f that there was no doubt, but Juano saw and seized his chance of stepping into the mainstream of the gang structure.
“Where you going, bro? You crazy?” Raoul’s cry was buried in another hail of fire as his younger brother dragged down another fire escape ladder and disappeared from view. Trailing shots from the attacking crew missed their mark by miles.
With his gang pinned down and almost sure to be wiped out, Raoul had no choice but to sit out the situation and see what his brother had planned. He did not have long to wait. Momentarily forgotten by the new gunmen, who had all assumed that he had made good his escape, Juano was now perched some twenty feet above the alley, and could see all positions clearly. He had been very clever in the choice of position; the sun had appeared directly overhead at that precise moment, not only giving him a set of perfectly lit target, but also providing dazzling cover for his single-handed assault.
There were six of them ,three to each side of the alley, and all were looking directly ahead. They had clearly forgotten all about him. Choosing his targets from the rear, as his father had taught him when shooting geese, he took out the two at the street end on either side of the alley. Raoul was quick to appreciate the changed situation, and the Piranhas laid down covering distraction fire of their own. Outgunned they may be, but the tactical advantage had now switched in their favour.
The cries from those at the rear of the assault had other members turning around. When the third one fell, the Piranhas broke cover as the remaining three turned their attention and aim into the blazing sunlight. It was all over in a matter of moments, and the small number of pedestrians attracted to the scene by the sound of gunfirewere quick to leave the scene at the sight of the carnage. There would be no witness statements for the police to collect some time later.
“C’mere.” Raoul pulled the figure of his younger brother close to him. “You saved our lives there, bro.”
His congratulations were short-lived as the arrival of a second unmarked van took them all completely unawares. There were only three gunmen this time, but with the Piranhas now totally exposed, four members went down under a hail of automatic fire, and Raoul collapsed against the alley wall, clutching his leg. Juano, seeing no way out, threw down his weapon and surrendered. A blow to the side of his head had him unconscious and in the back of the van. The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes, and Raoul was left lying where he fell with what remained ofhis gang.
“Drive!” The command was issued with the force of a seasoned military officer, and the van sped away leaving the local patrol cops to pick up the pieces.
Juano did not know how long he had been out, but awoke to find himself bound and gagged, lying in theback of the still speeding van. He looked around for his brother.
“So ,little squirt thought he could make the big time, did he?”
The voice was back, its taunting tone cutting the young Piranha to the quick.
“They’re gone – you’re the last of the gang, and these guys are the real deal. You are dog meat Spic! They’ll get out of you what they want and mince you up. You’ll talk; oh, you’ll tell them all they want to know, because the alternative would be just too painful to think about. Then, when they’ve milked you dry, they’llkill you. You’ve seen what a gang killing looks like, haven’t you? You saw Henrique Salgado, and he was one ugly dude when they’d done.”
Juano Gomez was powerless. His captors were totally unaware of the tears now streaming down his grimy face, and the fast expanding urine stain spreading across his Levis. Sam was the only one who could save him now, and he had no idea how to get out of the mess that he had landed himself in.