The Imperfect Mirrors – Chapter 18

    There are experiences that I can never share with anyone who isn’t a fellow dream lord. For example being caught in a situation where you know there’s a good chance you’re going to be shot repeatedly. Lots of people have been in tight spots like that, and they had it much worse than I did. The worst case for me would be that the Amazing Jin wound wind up full of lead and I’d need to dream up a new identity to do anything on Earth Glass. Where regular people needed courage, I could more or less laugh off the danger I was in.

    Except it still hurt.

    When I measured it against what someone without my abilities would be faced with it seemed really whiny to complain about that, but I still held back from showing myself. Reality was happy with that. The Amazing Jin didn’t have the kind of experience that would let her fearlessly charge into a hail of gunfire.

    “If I have to come get you, I promise it will be with both guns blazing.” the Night Warder said.

    “Night Warder?” I called out. The Amazing Jin could at least be expected to recognize her voice, and talking before exposing myself to a potentially hostile situation seemed like a winning play.

    “A girl? Who are you?” the Night Warder asked, confusion evident in her tone.

    “It’s Jin, you rescued my friend and I earlier tonight.” I told her. Giving out your name is usually a terrible idea. Even on a world like Earth Glass names have power. I made it a point to always give mine out though. I wanted the kind of people who were going to misuse that power focused on me so that I could teach them the error of their ways. Also it seemed friendlier with most everyone else.

    “Come out here.” the Night Warder said.

    “I’m not armed.” I told her. I didn’t bother adding “so don’t shoot”. The sort of people who would shoot someone who was unarmed didn’t usually take requests like that.

    I walked down the hall, casting my imagination out for a good story to explain why I was here. My options were pretty harshly limited by the circumstances. I settled on the notion that I was a “Girl Detective”, blending in elements of our original story as representatives of Windy Springs. It wasn’t the best story but it had enough reality supporting it that it would hang together reasonably well.

    All of those thought fluttered out of my mind when I rounded the corner.

    Madelaine Deckard was there, pointing both of the Night Warder’s pistols at me.

    Both of her pistols.

    Pieces started falling into place. I was an idiot. I’d figured Madelaine for the leader of the Assassin’s because I’d thought she’d offed her boss. I hadn’t even considered that she might be the one with the really dangerous secrets!

    “And what are you doing here Jin?” Madelaine said, keeping her guns pointed at me.

    “I…” I started to say but she cut me off.

    “Work for the Brotherhood?”

    I tipped my head to one side to see if one of us has gone crazy. Then I figured out why she thought that. When she’d found Way and I we’d been in the company of Eddie and Tiny. She’d been in the audience at the theater so she’d seen our performance. Putting two and two together, she’d assumed we worked for Stone. Believable enough that the Brotherhood would grab everyone who Stone tried to escape the Chimera Club with. They could sort it out back at their base.

    Then I show up in McIntyre’s apartment, sneaky enough to be trying to get the drop on her. It occurred to her that Stone and Tiny were tied up but Way and I were free when she found us in the back of the truck. Add to that the fact that both of us were conscious while even a big guy like Tiny was still sleeping off the knockout gas. The sum of that equation had us looking much more like accomplices to the kidnapping than victims.

    The wrong thing to do when someone is holding a gun on you is to burst out laughing. It can lead them to believe you don’t appreciate the threat they are making. What looks even worse is trying to suppress your laughter and failing.

    “Would you care to share the joke with the rest of us Dragon lackey?” Madelaine said.

    “I’m sorry.” I said, wiping a laughter tear from my eye. “Life is just very amusing sometimes.”

    “I’m sure, but you still haven’t answered my question.”

    I took a deep breath and considered things from her point of view.

    “No matter what I say, you really can’t afford to believe me at the moment can you?” I asked her.

    “Possibly not but do go on anyways. I’d hate to have to punctuate this conversation with a full stop if you take my meaning.” she replied.

    “Believe me I do. So let me suggest this; ask Tiny what he knows of me. I can tell you its not going to alleviate your concerns but I think starting from an unbiased source will put us on the right footing.” I said.

    “What’s her story? Why was she with you?” Madelaine asked Tiny without turning her guns from me.

    “Cause she put a gun to the boss’ head.” Tiny replied.

    “What?” Madelaine asked, risking a glance at Tiny to see if he was serious.

    “It’s true. The boss had her friend and her brought in because it looked like they knew something about the dead guy who got dumped on the stage. We’re in the middle of interrogating them and she pulls a gun from nowhere and starts interrogating the boss right back.”

    “It wasn’t from nowhere, I picked it out of his holster actually.” I said.

    “What, when did you do that?” Tiny asked.

    “When he was screaming in my face.” I said.

    “Oh is he gonna be mad when he hears you pulled his own gun on him.” Tiny said.

    “So, wait, you had Eddie Stone at gunpoint?” Madelaine said.

    “Yes, but to be fair Tiny had his gun on me before I could do anything. If I’d shot Stone, Tiny would have blow me away not a second later.”

    “Yeah, but your friend got the drop on me. I don’t get why she didn’t shoot though. She had me dead to rights.” Tiny said.

    “She’s not a killer.” I said.

    “I don’t think so. The eyes that dame was looking at me with? She could have dropped that hammer any time she wanted to. I’ve seen softer looks on guys who did twenty years in the pen.” Tiny said.

    “In any case, she didn’t shoot you. And Ms. Jin here didn’t shoot Mr. Stone. What did they want instead?” Madelaine asked.

    “Nothing. They said they’d come to us to find something out but they didn’t ask any questions that would have told them much.” Tiny said.

    “And then what happened?” Madelaine asked.

    “Then they wouldn’t let the boss go out and get killed fighting the guys who burned the club.” Tiny said.

    “I don’t understand.” Madelaine said.

    “We were interrogating them when the club got hit. The boss wanted to go out and shoot it up with the guys who were burning the place. She wouldn’t let him though. Said we’d just get killed if we did that.”

    “And was she right? Or was she herding you into being captured?”

    “I don’t know if she was herding us, but she was right about going out to fight the guys in the club.” Tiny said.

    “I see. And how did you wind up getting captured?”

    “Eh, that was my dumb fault. Some guys were waiting for us in the escape tunnel. She threw a knockout bomb at them but I thought it was just smoke so I ran into it. Fumes must have got to the boss too.” Tiny said.

    “Actually you’re smarter than you think Tiny. What I threw was just a smoke ball. It was one of the props from the stage show. I figured it would help you and Way get close without getting shot. It was the guys who were after us that had the knockout gas. No chance you could see if with the smoke though. I only noticed because they threw a second one at Eddie and me.” I explained.

    “Who burns down a building and comes to the party packing knockout gas? That’s crazy!” Tiny complained.

    “Not if you need some of the people alive for you questioning.” I said.

    “Wait, you mean this broad’s the one who smoked us out?” Tiny asked, staring at Madeliane. It was the night for misunderstandings it seemed.

    “No, she’s the one who rescued us.” I explained.

    “What about the guys who grabbed us then?” Tiny asked.

    “Two of them after going to be in ICU after the beating Way gave them. I don’t know what happened to the guys driving the truck though.”

    “There was only one driver. He was unconscious when I left.” Madelaine. “Why didn’t I see any other members of the Brotherhood in the truck?”

    “Because you weren’t watching your rear view mirror while you were ramming us.” I said. “Way threw both of them out of the back of the truck.”

    “We were on the freeway though?” Madelaine said.

    “They had guns, so it was toss them overboard or shoot them.” I explained.

    “It’s the same thing either way isn’t it?” Madelaine asked.

    “I think being shot hurts less actually. But they were alive after they landed.” I said.

    “Be that as it may, that still doesn’t explain what you were doing there. Or what you’re doing here.” Madelaine said.

    “Well you see I’m…” I never got to say ‘a girl detective’.

    A flash of insight slipped through – a preternatural warning of danger. Not for myself directly but for Madelaine. I felt reality crack as I leapt forward. It was the lesser of two evils. Better that I get a supernatural premonition than her.

    Of course from Madelaine’s point of view my leap looked exactly like an attack.

    So she shot me.

    I knew I’d been shot immediately but shock held the pain off for just long enough that I was able to land on her and bear her to the ground before the penthouse’s floor to ceiling windows shattered inwards.

    Two other windows shattered as well but the gun shots sounded impossibly distant.

    “We’re being shot at.” I barked out through gritted teeth. The pain hit a moment later and I groaned. Madelaine’s bullet had hit me somewhere high in my shoulder area. I couldn’t tell exactly where because everything on that side of my body was screaming at once.

    I saw Tiny lunge to the side and knock both himself and Stone over so the chairs they were tied to fell to the floor. That put them behind a couch from the vantage point of someone outside the window.

    “How are they shooting at us? We’re the tallest build for a mile around!” Madelaine said as she scrambled out from under me. I would have appreciated an “I’m sorry” but under the circumstance I wasn’t going to ask that she be too clear headed.

    “A plane?” I grunted. That would be bad news if so. Planes didn’t tend to be armed with small caliber guns.

    “I can’t hear any.” Madelaine said.

    “We have to get out of here.” I told her. “Tiny can you carry Stone?”

    “Not tied up like this.” he said.

    “Madelaine, give me your guns and untie them.” I said. I didn’t bother with keeping my tone polite. If she wanted cheerful sunshine then she shouldn’t have shot me.

    “I can’t…” she began but this time I cut her off.

    “You can’t waste time. I just saved you from a sniper shot. Give me a damn gun and then do what’s needed to get us out of here.”

    She looked at me, her features torn in confusion.

    “If they have snipers then they have guys coming into the building too. You know this has to be the Brotherhood right? I’m not with them and if we live I will probably help you take them down. The three of you cannot die here though, so stop wasting time!”

    I don’t know if my words convinced her or if whatever mental calculations she was running turned out in my favor. She passed me one of her pistols and moved away in a crouch to untie Tiny and Stone without any further argument. I almost expected reality to complain about that too but it was probably just the bullet wound making me cranky.

    Pistols are absolutely the wrong weapon to bring to a sniper battle. I’d have been about as threatening with a pile of rocks. I crawled over to the edge of the room and hit the lights to help even the odds slightly. It was getting to be standard procedure when I was shot at.

    It took me a second for my eyes to adjust to the darkness when I turned off the lights. I just had my night vision in place when a brilliant beam of light bathed the inside of the room. Someone was shining a search light horizontally into the suite.

    Hitting an enemy sniper at range with a pistol was the kind of thing that would have made reality very unhappy with me. Spotlights on the other hand are much bigger and more obvious targets. I waited until the light was shining on the other corner of the room before popping off a pair of shots.

    I was holding the gun in my good hand because my other arm was a mess of useless agony. Even the recoil from the pistol shots was enough to make me wince, so I wasn’t surprised when both shots missed the big glowing target I was shooting at. I dropped immediately to the ground following them and, as I’d hoped, saw that I’d drawn return fire from our distant snipers.

    It was definitely more than one too. Three shots landed in tight succession on the wall near where I’d fired from. If there were three there could be more, but three was enough that escaping was going to be very difficult.

    “Do you have them free yet?” I asked.

    “One second…yes.” Madelaine said.

    “Good. Crawl to the door then!” I said.

    The spotlight that had swept the room locked in place to illuminate the path to the exit. I sighed. There was no cover for a long enough part of it that anyone crawling for the door would be shot to pieces.

    “We can’t move forward.” Madelaine said.

    “I’ll take care of the light. Be ready to run….Now!” I said and popped up from behind my cover. I was at the edge of the light but my shots attracted the spotlight’s attention. One, two, three bullets. One, two, three recoils that made me gasp in pain. And not a one of them hit the spotlight. With one shot left I clenched my teeth and spit out a little magic to force the matter.

    Madelaine and Tiny were fully exposed in the light of the spotlight, with Tiny carrying Stone on his back. That meant they were maybe two seconds from dying in a hail of sniper fire. Fortunately, the tiny bit of dream magic I put into my last shot carried the bullet straight and true. I was rewarded with a wonderful rush of darkness as the spotlight shattered. Madelaine, Tiny and Stone were safe.

    Then I was rewarded with a less wonderful rush of darkness as another bullet hit me.

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