(Read the rest of this series here. It will make you feel young again. If you’re already young then it will make you feel like a baby.)
The boat soared across the bay, choppy waves slapping against it like wet machine gun fire. We cleared the last bridge that separated Tampa Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. It was the Sunshine Skyway, that massive structure I had found myself dangling from not too long ago. I gawked up at it as we went underneath, amazed that Maria and I had managed to survive a fall from those heights.
The boat ahead of us, containing the asshole traitor who had thrown us off the bridge and his sexually lunatic crony, smashed through the waves at full speed. We were gaining on them, despite their head start. We had less weight on board, since they were hauling a manatee and all. They headed South along the Florida coastline.
Maria gripped the side of the boat, her knuckles white. “Goddamn it. They’re going right into the shallows. Maniacs! Assholes! This is how manatees get killed!”
I looked at her. “In high speed shootouts?”
“By boats, idiot! They get cut up by the propellers! And now these assholes are going right through their habitat. We have to stop them before they injure even more manatees!”
I folded my arms. “You mean they’ll just float there while a boat barrels toward them at fifty miles an hour? You sure manatees are cut out for this whole ‘survival’ thing?”
“They would be fine if people would just stop fucking with them!”
By now we were close enough to make out the distinct shapes of the people ahead of us. Sid was at the wheel. Husk braced himself in a half-crouch toward the bow. The third guy, one of Sid’s employees, positioned himself in the center rear of the boat, facing our direction. He held something in his hands.
Like this, I assume.
I realized what he was doing a second before the bullets started whizzing past my head. Maria and I dove for cover behind the boat’s minimalist metal seating. The slugs flew overhead, some of them ricocheting off the helm. Dominka stayed standing, either completely unafraid of bullets or just immune to them. She held her gun out, one-handed, still gripping the wheel. She fired her weapon in three tightly-controlled bursts.
The henchman, as his kind are wont to do, took a bullet to the throat and toppled into the water. Our boat just missed him as we pulled next to the other vessel. The boat’s remaining human occupants gaped as Dominika prepared to fire again. Maria yelled something, but the sound was lost in the ensuing rat-tat-tat of gunfire.
Husk, the coward, threw himself to the ground beside poor Manatee Joe. With Sid also crouching down behind the walls of the boat’s little half-cabin, there was no clear shot at either of them.
But it seemed Dominika was still willing to try. She leveled the gun, aiming through the sights. Before she could shoot again, Maria jumped toward her. She shoved the gun upwards with the palm of her hand until it pointed into the sky. Dominika jerked the wheel involuntarily, diverting our boat away from the path of its cousin.
Maria said, “No! Don’t shoot! You might hit the manatee!”
Dominika glared at her. “Then you have what plan? Chase them until no more petrol? I will not let them escape.” She ramped up the throttle and corrected course. We were back in their wake, less than fifty yards behind them and gaining.
I took a deep breath. It was time to man up. Become the badass son of a bitch I’ve always known I am. I said, “Yo, I got this. You just get me close and I’ll jump between boats. I want to fight Sid and that fat pervert with my bare goddamn hands.”
Maria said, “Chris, you can’t do that. They’re armed. They have guns. Not to mention that you’ll probably miss the boat altogether and then we’ll have to go back for you. It’s a terrible idea.”
Dominika, on the other hand, did not share her hesitation. She thrust the rifle into my fumbling arms. “You take gun. Shoot them both, very much.”
She gripped the steering wheel with both hands. “I get you close. Then jump.”
I nodded to the Ukrainian warrior. “Thanks Dominika. And if I don’t see you again, good luck kicking the shit out of Putin whenever you guys get around to it.”
Sid veered sharply to the right, pulling away from the coastline. They were heading out to sea, and then God knows where from there if we didn’t stop them. Out into the middle of the Gulf, or straight to Cuba for all I knew.
A true hellhole from whence none return.
Maria stepped close to me, her eyes searching mine. “Chris, I-”
I held up a hand. “I know, babe, I know. You don’t even got to say it. Despite our differences, all this high-octane murder action has brought us closer together than either of us could have imagined. If I survive this, I promise that we’ll totally bang afterwards.”
“Oh my God, you delusi-”
I pressed my fingers to her lips. Slipped one inside a little. “Shh, don’t speak. I’ve already said everything you need to say.” I turned to Dominika. “All right, bring me alongside them!”
As we pulled up I looked at Manatee Joe, the innocent, unwitting source of all of this mayhem. He flapped his great tail as if to say, “Yo, Chris, come rescue me from these assholes, ‘k bro? I’m getting real tired of their crap today.”
“Don’t worry, Joe,” I shouted. “I’m gonna make shit right!”
Husk yelled at Sid as he braced himself for my inevitable full-frontal assault. Sid fumbled for something on the ground next to him. Another gun, no doubt. I gripped my own weapon, determined to get to him before he could fight back.
Dominika jerked the wheel and the boats smashed together. I stumbled, caught myself, put my foot up on the side of the boat. Glinting sparkles of water raced by beneath me. Husk balled his hands into fists. Sid raised his gun.