The Huntress (The Florida Challenge Part 17)
(Read the rest of this series here. It’s almost as long and exciting as my man parts.)
I had been in explosions before. Every New Years Eve my bros and me shoot huge firework mortars at each other, holding the launch tubes like bazookas. We dance around in the colorful bursts of sparks and cackle like drunk hyenas. Hardly anyone loses eyeballs and it’s a great time all around.
Turns out actual grenade launchers create a bit of a different atmosphere.
When Dominika fired the round over our heads everything in the room turned to chaos. The little metal capsule arced high through the air, clinked once against the concrete floor, then detonated.
Sid and I, entangled on the floor in our horizontal punching match, were launched away by the blast. We crashed into the standing group of human traffickers, toppling them like bowling pins. Chunks of wood and metal and other various materials rained down upon us like tornado debris.
Somehow, Sid recovered before I did. He stood up, smashing his knee against my face as leverage. I sat up and tried to grab him by the ankle but he broke away. He ran, shouting something incomprehensible. A second later the fleshy form of Husk was at his side. He hadn’t even managed to get dressed. Then they disappeared into the haze of smoke and debris. From up on her perch, Dominika sent another missile in their direction.
I had thought the ringing in my ears to be completely deafening, but in actuality it did nothing to drown out the roar of the next explosion. The shockwave punched me in the chest and smacked me to the floor for the second time in thirty seconds. This time I decided to just lay there for a while.
Then a face appeared in my vision. Blackened with soot and disheveled. Maria.
She slapped my face. Harder than necessary, if you ask me. “Don’t be dead, you dumb asshole! Come on, get up!”
She grabbed my hand and I felt my fingers clench around hers. Grunting, she did most of the work of getting me to my feet. I steadied myself. A quick glance around clued me in to her panicked demeanor.
By now the majority of our surroundings were on fire. This warehouse was ripe for it. The explosions had lit up the numerous boxes and clutter, the flames racing to contaminate adjacent shelves. Soon enough the fire would reach the multiple munition stockpiles around the place. Then things would really start to get interesting. The whole warehouse was doomed.
I said, “Yo, this is fuckin’ awesome.”
Yeah, burn it all down!
Maria shoved me forward. “We have to leave! Come on, the others are already outside.”
I looked around. I noticed that “the others” did not include Dominka, who was still firing rounds into the warehouse. From here it looked like the random firing of a mad woman, but the collection of screams that arose each time made it clear she was hitting her marks.
Maria stopped. “Chris, look out!”
One of the traffickers staggered through the flames, dazed and steaming but still waving his gun. He saw us and stopped, steadying himself. He brought the rifle up.
Dominika ran along the catwalk above us then jumped down. She landed flat on her bare feet, right in front of us, and fired instantly. Didn’t even take time to recover from the fall. The explosive landed at the feet of the trafficker and blew him apart from the crotch up. His guts spilled onto the ground like candy from a pinata.
Maria let out a string of curses and turned away, retching.
I pointed at the grenade launcher. “Yo, that thing is awesome. How did you even know they had one of those?”
Dominika said, “When I get here they move me place to place. I see much.”
Maria said, “Dominika. We have to go. This whole place is on fire.”
But Dominika wasn’t moving. She threw the grenade launcher aside and just stared. I followed her gaze. Sophie’s body lay on the ground, face down after Sid’s brutal execution. Dominika ignored the ever growing flames and walked over to the body. She bent down and rolled over Sophie’s still form. Dominika said a few words for her fallen kin and closed her eyelids.
She stood. “Can do nothing more.”
Then she turned and ran with us toward the door.
We burst out of the warehouse, inhaling big gulps of fresh air. Around us windows had started to shatter from the heat.
Just a few feet away were Leslie and Aleja. They had made it to one of the cars in the parking lot and were sitting inside it. We jogged up to them. Aleja was hurt. She held her arms across her abdomen, blood leaking through her fingers.
“She’s shot,” said Leslie. “Don’t know if it hit anything vital or what, but she needs help.”
Maria said, “She’ll get it. Just keep pressure on it. The police will be here soon. They have to be.”
To Leslie, I said, “Where did they go? Sid and the big fucker?”
“Around the corner. Toward the docks.”
“Shit dicks. They’re gonna try to boat out of here!” I snapped at Dominika. “Hey, tank lady, let’s go kick their asses before the cops show up and stop us from having fun!”
She nodded briskly and led the way. I noticed she had acquired a submachine gun from some pile of gore or another.
We rounded the corner and saw the docks. There were just two piers, a couple of military-looking black powerboats tied up to each one. The remaining human traffickers were heading right for them, except for one straggler.
A real badass.
He apparently thought it would be a good idea to attack the giant vengeful Amazon who had just laid waste to his entire army of buddies. He let out some kind of cat-like snarl and swiped at her with a Bowie knife. Dominika dodged it easily. She swung the butt of the gun and smashed his head against the wall like a nutcracker. He slumped to the ground.
From the docks came a spray of bullets. They dented the siding of the building and tore up little puffs of concrete dust from the ground. With varying displays of dignity we threw ourselves behind the building as cover. Dominika fired her gun blind around the corner.
After a while the frequency of shots dropped off. I poked my head out. Sid, Husk, and at least one other guy were climbing into one of the boats. They were all yelling orders at each other and trying to untie the vessel from the dock. In the midst of all the commotion I could clearly see the gray blob laying right in the middle of the boat.
I said, “Oh shit, they’ve got Manatee Joe!”
Sid, at the helm, fired up the boat. He wasted no time, accelerating so fast that Husk fell flat onto the deck.
Like this, but full of assholes.
Dominika let out a roar and sprinted toward the docks, stopping every few feet to fire off a few shots in the boat’s direction.
Maria caught up with her and jerked the gun barrel into the air. “No! Don’t shoot! You can’t hurt that manatee!”
Dominika seemed to grow a foot taller. “So, what? You let them escape?”
I interjected. “Like hell! There’s another boat right over there! Let’s go after the fucks!”
Maria said, “Chris, things have already gotten so out of hand…”
I cut her off. “Yo, I don’t like being duped. These soggy assholes came along and convinced me to capture a manatee just so some gross fucker can rub butts with it. Well I ain’t gonna let that happen. I spent too much time being thrown on my ass today. Chris Derricks ain’t used to this underdog shit. It’s time we go on the offensive. Stop these fucks once and for all!”
“So we chase them down? Look, I want the manatee back too, but we’re clearly not equipped for it. I can hear sirens, Chris. We can send the police.”
Oh yeah, like they’re going to be able to help us.
I shook my head. “No, I know Sid. He’s a slippery fucker. You give him the opportunity to escape and he’ll be gone. Him and that giant deviant. I’m going after them, here and now. I don’t expect you to, with your busted ass rib cage. You stay here and I’ll-”
“Oh piss off. Fine, I’m going with you. This is my manatee, you know. Quit jabbering and let’s go.”
“I come too,” said Dominika. She cocked her gun. “To defend.”
I don’t think I could have dissuaded either of them if I tried.
Maria said, “Leslie, you stay here with Aleja and wait for the police. Make sure she gets immediate medical attention.
Leslie nodded. “I will. Good luck.”
Aleja raised her head and said something, which Maria translated, “She said to get those pendejos for her. Rip off their heads and breath fire down their necks, is how she put it.”
I grinned. Even though I never understood a word Aleja said, I liked the shit out of her. Despite our language barrier, I felt it was important to express my gratitude to this brave woman in the event that I never saw her again.
I put my hand on her shoulder. “Me gusta, senorita. Mi pantalones es en fuego. Gracias y gatos.”
She gave me a look that I can only assume was intense mutual respect.
I turned to Leslie. “Thanks for being a solid lady-bro and taking care of her. Stay safe and shit.”
From there I hopped into the boat. Maria and Dominika were not far behind. I got behind the wheel and started spinning it to see if it would do anything.
Maria said, “You know how to drive that thing?”
I scoffed. “What? It’s a boat, how hard could it be? You just keep it on top of the water and you’re good.”
“Okay, move over.” She shoved me aside and started slapping at some switches and levers. With a turn of a key the boat roared to life. I rolled my eyes. Women. They always got to be right.
I looked out across the water, toward the setting sun. Husk and Sid had just started to disappear into the blood-red horizon. We would lose them if we didn’t hurry.
I slapped the side of the boat. “Right! Put this bitch into gear! Let’s get our manatee back!”
Maria did whatever was the boat-equivalent of stomping her foot on the throttle and we sped off. The burning, collapsing warehouse receded as we chased after the criminals and their hostage.
It was time to end this.
Continue to Part 18: A High-Speed Boat Chase
Image credits: Grenade launcher, Building fire, In Loving Memory gravestone, Ninja warrior, Military boat, Police, Woman glaring,
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