Heroes, p.7
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       Heroes, p.7

           Leigh Barker

  The Call

  Ethan felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle and knew at once what it meant. He’d felt that warning many times before, first an uneasy sensation, then the increase in awareness to one side and suddenly heightened hearing. The marines call it the warrior sense, but whatever they call it, he never ignored it. He was walking past a furniture store that sold garish sofas to people with no taste, and he stopped to check the street in the window reflection. It was quiet, but at two a.m. it was going to be, in Chicago, in December with temperatures at minus 6, but feeling more like minus 60 in the moaning icy wind.

  The warrior sense got worse, and then he saw the black BMW 5 with the smoked windows across the street. It was moving, but no more than walking speed, which was unlikely for a pimp-mobile like that. He walked on, turned as if to cross the street, and confirmed that the BMW was tracking him. He stepped back from the curb and walked on, checking the street for somewhere defensible. About twenty feet ahead was an alley, and he increased his pace a little. Ten feet from the entrance he heard the BMW screech as the driver put his foot down hard. He ran. The BMW wagged its ass, and the driver tried to keep it steady at maximum acceleration. Three more paces. He was going to make it.

  Then he saw the kids. Two of them, boys. On skateboards. Right in front of the alley. What the hell were they doing out at this time of night? A stupid question at that precise moment.

  He turned, dropped to one knee, and pulled his Sig. The BMW was right on him. An Uzi appeared in the rear window. Ethan put three rounds through the windscreen, right where the driver should be. Problem was, this was an import and the driver was in the right-hand seat. Maybe that was the whole point.

  The Uzi opened up, and Ethan threw himself forward in a tight roll, came up onto his knees, and emptied the Sig into the side windows. The Uzi’s barrel tilted up and sprayed the furniture store with 9 mm rounds, then fell out of the shattered window and bounced onto the street. The BMW wobbled and took off.

  Ethan looked back at the kids and blew out his breath in relief when he saw them standing open-mouthed and clutching their boards as if their lives depended on it.

  “Go home, kids,” he said and got to his feet.

  The kids didn’t move. Couldn’t move. They just stared at him and then at the submachine gun in the street. Ethan brushed the dirt off his battered suit. “Get!” he shouted.

  His cell vibrated in his pocket, and he reached for it, wondering who the hell would be calling him at this time of night. Maybe the drive-by shooters wanted their gun back.

  “Master Sergeant Ethan Gill?” It was a female voice, a voice with authority that was used to being answered.

  “Who’s asking?” said Ethan. He shooed the kids with his other hand, and they took off.

  “Please hold for the secretary of the navy,” said the voice.

  He held. Not to do so would’ve been rude.

  “Ethan?” said SecNav.

  “Mister Secretary.” Ethan realised he was almost standing to attention and relaxed. He looked up the street at the two black-and-whites screaming around the corner with their lights flashing, stepped back into the alley, and walked away.

  “Can you talk?” said SecNav.

  “Can now.”

  “Very well. Can you come to Washington? There’s something I’d like you to do for me.”

  It wasn’t a request.

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