(Read the rest of this series here. I read it to a blind kid once and it cured his blindness but also made him deaf because of the thunderous power of my voice.)
We had escaped the brunt of their force, managing to outpace them for the very short time being. We paused for a moment, looking around and trying to figure out our next move.
Maria put her arm around Sophie’s shoulder. “Are you OK?”
The injured woman pulled her hand away from her face, revealing a horrid mess of blood and dangling flesh. The bullet and shrapnel, as is characteristic of the stuff, had not been kind to her.
“No,” said Sophie. “I am not fine. Neither are rest of you. We must go.”
She was right. By the sounds of things the traffickers had spread out, coming from all different directions. We had to move, and fast.
“Wait,” said Maria. “Where’s Dominika?”
My head swiveled around. It wasn’t like we could miss her, she was nine feet tall. But the Ukranian was nowhere to be found. Shit, this was bad. She was the only competent shot in the group. If we ran into confrontation again we were doomed without her.
Maria said. “We have to go back!”
I said, “What, back into the firing squad? No way. We gotta just escape now. No other way around it.”
“Chris, we can’t just leave her!”
“Yo, I think it might be the other way around. She’s more badass than all of us combined. She’ll be fine. For all we know she’s already out of the building. Now come on, we need to ske-fuckin’-daddle out of here or we’re dead.”
Maria moved with palpable reluctance, Aleja and Sophie following.
We made our way through rows and aisles, barely staying out of sight of our pursuers. For a while the place felt like a maze, twisting and turning like a shitty Costco.
Like this, but full of kidnapped people and various contraband.
Then, finally, we got a glimpse of something familiar.
Maria pointed. “The manatee tank! That means the door’s right there!”
She took four steps forward and the relieved expression died on her face.
Manatee Joe wasn’t alone in his tank. Husk, the giant perert, lay alongside him, devoid of shirt or pants. He appeared to be spooning with the gentle sea beast.
Both Maria and Aleja let out the exact same Spanish expletive. Husk sat up, his eyes wide. He saw us and tried to scramble out of the tank.
Finally at liberty to punch someone, I took full advantage of the opportunity. I crossed over to Husk in two leaping bounds and threw a right hook straight into his puffy jaw. He lost his balance and tumbled out of the tank. I didn’t give him the chance to get up. Fighting fair is for bitches, and Chris Derricks ain’t no bitch!
I hit him again, right in the nipple, yelling, “Oh sorry motherfucker, did we catch you at a bad time?”
I got maybe one and a half more hits in before he planted a foot in my chest and shoved me backwards. I managed to stay on my feet because I’m awesome.
Husk stood, looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in over-stretched man panties. At least he still wore some semblance of clothing.
Husk didn’t waste any time fighting back, instead opting to call for help. “Hey! Sid, they’re here! They’re at the tank!”
I lunged at him again. “Shut up! You shut your filthy blubber hole! Don’t call for back up like a pussy, let’s settle this right now between us!”
He caught my wrist and did some bullshit judo thing that forced me to the ground. Used his weight against me. Much as I hated to admit it, the disgusting bastard knew how to fight. I attempted half a somersault and scrambled to my feet.
Husk said, “Don’t make me beat your ass, Chris. I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
I gagged. “Ugh, you creepy dick! Why don’t you pick on someone your own size? That manatee is too petite and delicate for you.”
“Really, Chris, fat jokes? That’s the best you can do?”
I put up my dukes and mentally prepared to pummel this giant pervert’s balls into oblivion. “Come on, asshole. I’m gonna make those tighty whities run red!”
Sadly, it was not to be, as that’s when Sid and his army of assholes came barreling around the corner. About ten of them total, each guy hollering and waving his gun around like it was his throbbing erection. But it was Sid who led the pack, his furious posturing the most aggressive of all.
“Down,” he said as multiple guns focused on us. “Get the fuck down. On your knees.”
The ladies behind me sank to the ground, hands in the air.
I stood my ground. “Yo, I’m Chris Derricks! I ain’t sucking nobody’s di-”
Sid bashed me in the gut with his assault rifle and I collapsed with the rest of them.
He paced back forth in front of us, pivoting so hard I thought his footfalls would break floorboards. The muscles in his jaw spasmed as he spoke. “Well. You’re all so goddamn brave, aren’t you?” His eyes bounced between us. “Where’s the She-Hulk?”
“Gone,” said Maria.
Sid whistled and pointed to two of his shit-troopers. “Find her. Kill her if you have to. Shit, even if you don’t. She’s caused enough damage.” He looked over at Husk and his lip curled. “And you. Christ, man, put on some pants. This is a place of business. Do your weird fetish shit on your own.”
Husk hopped around on one foot as he struggled to slide his corduroy trousers over his wet legs. “Relax, we haven’t consummated our relationship yet. That was just foreplay.”
Yeah, right, exactly the same thing.
Sid snapped at another few of his employees. “You three, get that seal thing loaded on a boat so he can get it out of here.” He held his arms out wide. “Seriously, all this for a goddamn stupid manatee?”
Husk said, “Hey, you watch what you say about my-”
Sid silenced him with a look. He turned and looked down at his captives, focusing on Maria. He nudged her in the gut with his foot. “Huh, what do you think, zoo lady? That fat flipper worth all this?”
Maria sucked air through her teeth as his foot kicked against her broken ribs.
Sid pulled back, his mouth forming into a perfect O. “I’m sorry, did that hurt? I’ll be sure to file your workman’s comp form along with the seven dead men you people just left back there.”
I said, “Hey, leave her alone. You want to bro down then come at me, bro.”
Sid opened his mouth like he was going to quip, but instead just punched me twice in the head.
I pulled myself up off the ground and laughed. “Yo bitch, you hit like my Mom!”
“You’re in for a world of hurt, punk.”
Sid cocked his arm back again but Husk said, “Man, what are you doing? Just shoot them!”
Sid growled at him. “They’re my property. I’ll do with them what I want.”
Maria spat blood and said, “We’re not your property, asshat.”
Sid sighed. “Yeah, so you keep blathering about. I really wish you could understand how hard it is for me to keep from murdering each one of you right now. But I am a practical businessman, and I know how valuable you still are to me alive. Though, when I say ‘valuable’ I do mean that relatively speaking.”
He turned and exchanged guns with one of his goons, opting for a large silver pistol now. He stalked back over to us and wasted no time shoving the thing in my face.
“You, Chris, aren’t worth the shit in your britches. I regret that we involved you in this at all, because it’s only made my life hell. Per usual, with you.”
As I watched him waving the gun around in my face I felt something start to well up behind my eyes. Something hot and wet.
Here’s the thing: bros don’t cry. No way, no how. But something happens when you’re betrayed by your fellow bro. When the guy you thought had your back turns around and straight fucks you. You feel it. It starts deep down in your finely-toned core and works its way out. It ain’t crying. It’s liquid testosterone.
I had held it back until now, but I didn’t think I’d be able to control it much longer.
“Yo,” I said. “I thought we were bros.”
Sid laughed. “God, this shit again! Look at him snivel. Chris, you poor, narcissistic baby. You always think there’s a lot more people on your side than there are. Believe me, whatever bridges there were between us you burned down long ago through your sheer idiocy. That’s why I’m going to make you watch everything I do next.”
He jabbed my forehead with the gun barrel one more time then pulled it away. He waved it between Maria and Aleja. “You two can still fetch me a decent price. Who out there doesn’t like some spicy Latin flavor? But you…”
He turned to focus on the injured Sophie, grimacing at the blood dripping down her chin. He put the gun against her face. Prodded the torn, bloody flesh. She winced, but the hard stare from her one good eye never wavered.
Sid sneered. “Look at you. No good to me like that, are you?”
He shot her through the cheek. Maria screamed as Sophie fell to the floor, hands grasping at her face. Sid took a step forward and put another bullet into her skull. Blood splashed across our knees. Sophie lay still.
The remaining women let out wails of varying degree. I said, “Sid, you colossal shit pile.”
Sid just smiled and launched into what I presumed would be the rest of his villainous monologue. “Well, now that that’s taken care of I think it is time to-”
I didn’t give him the chance to finish. Pure adrenaline coursed through me, leaking out of my eyeballs. I was white hot, like lightning. I threw myself at him, bellowing my trademarked Chris Derricks battle cry. Every fiber and muscle of my body was focused on destroying the man in front of me. I didn’t care that I’d probably get shot to shit. His crimes were too egregious for me to ignore any longer. He had lied to me. He had betrayed me. And now he had disrespected more bitches than I could tolerate. He hadn’t just broken the Bro Code, he had shattered it to pieces. They could riddle my body with holes, but I wouldn’t stop until I exacted my vengeance. I was white-hot, like Ryan Gosling. I was unstoppable.
I caught Sid off balance and we tumbled to the ground. I bit him in the dick region and then punched my way up to his face. We struggled, his goal to point the gun my way and mine to inflict as much damage to his stupid head as possible. His cohorts all aimed their own guns at us. Any second now the volley of bullets would come, ripping me out of this world. With my hands around Sid’s throat, I almost welcomed the sound of gunfire.
Bring it on.
Instead what I heard was a cry of rage to rival my own. It came from the heavens. A screech of terror and hate descending from the rafters, clawing its way into my skin and bursting back out through the goosebumps. Despite our mortal struggle, Sid and I turned to look. Every set of eyes followed.
There, up on the catwalk behind us, was Dominka. Our guardian angel had returned.
She stood firm, her feet planted in a wide stance. She held something in both hands, something long and strangely shaped. I squinted, trying to figure out what it was. She pointed the thing in our direction.
Sid said, “Holy shit, is that the-”
Then Dominika pulled the trigger on the grenade launcher and the world erupted in fire.