Seattle wasn’t the place for an armed Good Samaritan, but I couldn’t exactly let the guy murder our mark, either. Not that I had any particular attachment to Wise, but I also didn’t know for sure why we were supposed to be surveilling him in the first place. The client had been almighty close-mouthed about that part, and only the fact that I trusted Thad “Goblin” Walker as much as I did had led me to accept the mission as briefed. He had to have a reason for accepting as vague a tasking as this one, so I’d play along.
That meant, though, that without knowing for sure that Wise was a bad guy, I couldn’t just sit by and watch him get stabbed to death in the street.
Wise wasn’t paying attention to anything but the traffic, angling across the street, probably mainly to avoid the homeless weirdos on the corner. So, he didn’t see the hitter in disguise as the armed bum moved toward him, his hand dropping low, the knife now concealed in his palm and sleeve. The man was speeding up, the façade of chemically-enhanced vagrant falling away as he closed in on his prey.
This definitely wasn’t just another surveillance job. This was a hit.
I was already out of my chair, vaulting over the railing, realizing that I’d just committed myself and burned our surveillance. Not that that was going to stop me at that point.
Plans of action were flipping through my head as I moved, though most of them were just slight changes on the theme I’d been thinking through since I’d noticed the guy with the knife. I hadn’t been able to form a complete plan while he’d still been sitting there, but now that I saw what he was doing, the contingencies collapsed to a point right there on the street.
Over two decades of Recon and clandestine operations habits meant that I rebelled at the idea of yelling in the street unless there were already bullets flying, but the situation meant I had to draw attention to myself.
“Hey, buddy! You dropped something!”
Wise looked around, confused, as if he wasn’t sure if he even should look toward the sound of my voice. This part of Seattle being the haven of drugged-out vagrants that it was, looking around at a shout could attract attention that no sane person wanted. Yet my tone hadn’t been the grating screech of a homeless guy on meth, so he looked around.
The guy with the knife did, too, and he stutter-stepped as he realized that I wasn’t walking toward Wise, I was walking toward him. I hadn’t drawn a weapon, though I was sure ready to, and every instinct was screaming at me to pull my Glock and go to work. Seattle might be a hellhole for self-defense, but I still had the paperwork I needed to carry concealed in Washington State, and if this guy gave me a reason, I’d drop him like a bad habit.
It wasn’t as if I was particularly attached to the Glock 19 in my waistband. It’s a good reason to have multiple guns, though.
He made eye contact for the second time, and I could see the wheels turning. Unfortunately, he sized me up and decided I was a threat that needed to be dealt with instead of avoided.
I was about ten feet away at that point, and he turned and charged.
To this day, I’ll never know what prompted him to do that. Maybe he thought that if he’d broken off, it would have burned his cover as a homeless guy, and he’d have been rolled up. Maybe he thought that he could cover the ground fast enough—after all, the twenty-one-foot rule is a thing—to put me out of action and still get to Wise.
Maybe he was just one of those guys who gets into the profession for the sake of killing, and now that he was somewhat more unsupervised, he figured to add a couple more Stateside kills to the scoreboard.
Since it is a truism that if you’re going to get into a knife fight, you should expect to get cut, I was already braced for it. I knew I probably wasn’t going to get my weapon out before he reached me, especially at that distance, so I didn’t try. He was too close.
Instead, as he lunged at me, coming in low with the knife aimed at my guts, I sidestepped, blocking the knife thrust with the heel of my palm to his forearm. That’s not a comfortable thing, and he almost dropped the knife as he staggered, the shock running through his arm at the impact, giving me an opening, at which point I kicked him in the knee.
His knee almost bent sideways, though he rotated just enough with the impact to keep me from snapping the joint. He was already recovering, though he dropped the knife and reached for his waistband, just as I took a long step back, my shirt already clearing as I gripped my Glock and ripped it out of the holster.
My backstep had given me some space, and fortunately, I hadn’t lost track of my surroundings in the sudden confrontation. A car sped past, the breeze plucking at my sleeve, as I leveled the weapon at the ragged man on the side of the street.
Wise was running, I saw through my peripheral vision, even though I was as focused on the bad guy in front of me as I needed to be. Probably just being smart and trying to get away from the violence. Nothing I’d seen so far made me think that he had any idea he was a target.
The man in front of me knew he was fucked. I could see it in his eyes as he froze, my 9mm leveled at his face. I was out of his reach, and his own handgun was too far from any position where he could bring it to bear before I shot him. This guy wasn’t like some of the others we’d run into in this shadow war we were in, who had apparently decided that death was better than capture.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one in play.
An engine revved, tires squealed, and there was a bang behind me. I started to involuntarily look toward the noise, and he started to make his move.
Fortunately, I saw the shift just in time, and my finger tightened on the trigger as I flicked my eyes back toward him, my focus settling on the front sight just as his SIG cleared his clothes.
There was no way I could hesitate. I shot him through the skull from less than six feet away, the bark of the 9mm deafeningly loud in the concrete and glass canyon of the street. He stiffened and fell over onto his side, his skull leaking red onto the pavement.
With a curse, more at the fact that I’d just had to smoke somebody in fucking Seattle, of all places, I shifted and turned, checking the rest of the street and our surroundings, looking for the next threat. I hadn’t heard any more gunshots, but even as I moved, tires squealed on the pavement and a car roared away toward the intersection and through, heading north. Something made me look at the plate. I was still in that combat awareness mode, so details jumped out at me. It was a Washington plate, though that meant less than the number, which I dutifully noted before turning back toward the other side of the street, just as the screaming started.
“Someone call 911!” At first I thought they were looking at the man I’d just killed. This could be very, very bad, but the clinical part of my mind told me that holstering and running were the wrong reaction. We had damned good lawyers at PGS, I was carrying an Idaho Concealed Carry Permit, which was honored by Washington State, and, provided there were no shenanigans on the part of Seattle PD, there was no way that I should get burned for shooting a man who’d just tried to stab me and then tried to shoot me.
While there were quite a few people staring at me and the gun, though, the 911 call wasn’t for the dead man at my feet. It was for Wise.
The car that I’d seen had veered onto the sidewalk, leaving dark streaks of burned rubber, and hit Wise as he’d shrunk away from the confrontation on my side of the street. They hadn’t slowed down, either; that much was obvious. Wise lay crumpled in a growing puddle of his own blood, about fifteen feet away where he’d been thrown by the impact.
The whole thing came together in my mind at that moment. The “homeless” guy I’d shot had been the primary, but he’d had backup, and when I’d intercepted him, the backup had swung into action.
Whatever the reason that the client wanted us watching Wise, apparently we weren’t the only ones, and now he was dead.
I cursed as I holstered the gun, glancing at Ken as he looked at Wise’s body. He met my eyes, his mouth thinned to a narrow line, and nodded slightly.
It was a hell of a situation, and I thought that both of us were probably thinking the same thing. We’d just been thrown into an extremely dangerous situation without even knowing it. If we got clear of the Seattle cops in any sort of reasonable amount of time, there were going to be questions. Lots of very pointed questions.
What the hell had we just stepped into?