Chapter 10: Dancing With Mr. Brownstone

Now I get up around whenever
I used to get up on time
But that old man he's a real muthafucker
Gonna kick him on down the line

Spike decided at about 7 AM that he was going to do something. He didn't know what exactly. But they had two hours before circle group. Two hours before those goons came knocking on his door ready to hand them their fate. They had never been straight out caught before and it was embarrassing that it was by these guys. Sure, it was due mostly to circumstances beyond their control but sucked. So Spike figured he would try something. Talk to Kahn, shoot at Kahn, throw several punches at Kahn. Whatever struck his fancy when the time came. But first he had to get to Kahn.

He went out to the balcony and popped the cage off the smoke vent. He pulled himself through the small hole and then took a moment to figure out his next move. He could go up or down. He considered up. He would have to leap onto the overhead balcony. He could easily reach the bottom of it but the sides were made of seamless plastic. There was nothing for him to grip. He would have to make a flying leap way beyond human capabilities. Still, he held it back as Plan B.

There was also down. He would have to sort of leap down in a bizarre arch to get himself on the balcony below him and not splatted on the pavement. Again, seemed less than reasonable. But what was very reasonable was the notion that falling was always easier than climbing, and so down it was. He walked over to the edge and let the tip of his black boots hang over the top. It was a cool feeling, being that high and that unprotected. But there was no time for reflection, so he turned around and slid the bottom half of his body over the edge and hung there, fingers desperately gripping the smooth edge. He decided the best thing to do would be to let go and then thrust his body forward in an opportune moment. Yeah, that's right. Like falling off a log.

He took a breath and closed his eyes for a moment before he let go. He saw the room drop before him through the glass and thought he might now know what Alice was feeling when she went down that rabbit hole. He contracted his body for a second and then thrust it out, slamming his torso roughly on the balcony below. There was little time to celebrate, however, since he immediately began to slide off the ledge. He dug his fingernails into...nothing, really. It was Plexiglas. But he still dug for all he was worth as he slammed the rubber soles of his boots into the glass. The boots provided enough resistance for him to take a breath and hoist himself up on the roof of the terrace. A white bird suddenly landed next to him, cocking its head in curiosity at the very un-bird like creature currently perched in its spot. Spike cocked his head back. "Go ask Alice," Spike suggested, and the bird it seemed, took his advice.

Spike kicked the grate of the vent in and squeezed himself inside. Everyone appeared to be sleeping, and if they weren't, they would have surely noticed the tall skinny guy hanging out in their balcony. He opened the slide door, crept across the room and out the front into the hall. Easy enough.

Now what? He figured he'd just go to Kahn's office. That was a good a place to start as any. He crept along the hallways as he had done so many times on this trip, thinking how routine this was all becoming. He squeezed himself quickly behind a vending machine as a guard went by. He watched as the figure slowly made his way down the hall and turned the corner. The coast looked clear enough, but just as he was about to slide out the same way he had came, he heard a gun click.

If there were room enough between the machine and the wall for him to turn his head and look, he would have. But since there wasn't, he simply said, "Yes?"

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Faye's voiced cracked behind him like a whip.

"You wanna let me out here? I'm getting a huge crick in my neck," he asked her.

"Poor baby," she grunted as she shoved him out into the hall. "Whatever happened to letting this one go?"

"This Kahn guy is getting on my nerves, that's all. How did you get out of the room anyway?"

"Out the balcony," she said in a "duh" tone of voice.

Spike looked at her incredulously. Somehow, he couldn't see Faye making the flying leap from one balcony to the other. She simply wasn't aerodynamic. That said, the girl did possess a certain buoyancy that would make her good to have in a ship wreck.

"We had a rope," she snapped. Then added, as if she could read his mind, "Ass."

"Hmm," Spike mused, scratching his head. A rope would have been helpful. "So have you just come to fetch me or are you taking justice into your own hands?"

"Little bit of column A..." she said as she leaned against the soda machine. "I'm serious about this being my project you know. I finish what I start. Sometimes. Besides, I have a few choice words for Kahn myself. I mean, the fucking nerve of this guy!" she seethed. "Where's Jet, anyway?"

Spike looked at her cock-eyed. "He isn't in the room?"

"No," Faye replied, slight concern playing in her voice. "I figured you two went out together."

"Noooo," he drew the word out a bit. Now that he thought about it, he wasn't entirely sure Jet was in the room when he left. He never bothered to check.

At that moment they heard what sounded like a good deal of commotion coming from the stair well. The two of them squeezed behind the soda machine again, much to Faye's chagrin. It wasn't really an ideal hiding place for a full figured gal. Spike watched as Jet himself bolted out of the stairwell and dove inside the ice machine. The guards were a couple whole minutes behind him, but they were walking casually, as if Jet saw them coming before they realized he was there. They clopped right by the machines without giving it a second glance. Faye and Spike emerged from their hiding spot and waited expectantly for their partner. A few seconds later, Jet poked his head out the door, looked both ways, and attempted to stealthily make it back to the stairwell.

"What the fuck, Jet?" Spike called out. Jet jumped six feet in the air and turned to see the two of them staring at him.

"What the hell are you guys doing here?"

"Getting the bounty," Faye replied. "And you?"

"Same," he sniffed.

"I thought we were all for playing it safe. Keeping a low profile and the like," Spike pointed out.

"Yeah...well. This guy is really pissing me off. Locking us in the room like animals. Fuck that." Jet grumbled.

Spike had to laugh. "You know, I expect this kind of behavior from me. But frankly, I am hurt and disappointed by the rest of you."

"Wait..." Jet said suddenly. "So if all of us are down here, then that means Ed..."

All of them looked at each other with identical expressions, and then bolted up the stairs back to their rooms. As they stumbled over each other into the hallway, they saw the door was wide open. Shit. Jet was the first one in. Ed was just gone. No note, no anything. But it did look like she put up a bit of a fight. A table was knocked over and the curtains were ripped and they could hear Ein whimpering from the bathroom. Spike opened the door and saw the dog curled up in the corner, his front leg bent at an impossible angle. He wagged his tail slightly when he saw the bounty hunter. "That's it," Spike said darkly, loading his gun. "You can embarrass me, shoot me, get me hopped up on coke and lock me in a hotel room. But you just don't fuck with a man's dog."

* * *

The guards were beginning to get nervous. They hadn't expected all three of them to escape, and it was sort of ridiculous that they hadn't been able to find them yet. It wasn't entirely their fault, though. They weren't detectives or anything. They were a brute squad. All they ever did previously was break people's fingers and hold their heads in the toilet until they paid. All of this hotel security stuff was new to them, and this was the busiest they've been since they started this whole operation. The biggest of the guards, Harry, looked down at his hand where the girl had bit him. That was no little girl. He didn't know what it was but it was certainly not a 13-year-old girl. He didn't know Kahn's plans for her either but as far as he was concerned, they should give her to the Ganymede Zoo.

Kahn was obviously not pleased with them when they reported the other ones were out and about somewhere in the Institute. Harry felt bad about that too. He didn't have a reputable line of work but he still took pride in it. Anything worth doing was worth doing well, he always thought. But they had been screwing up ever since that little Brownstone shit and his posse came in here. What did they want, anyway? Harry was jarred quite violently out of his thoughts by the unpleasant sensation of someone's boot bashing in his teeth. He slammed back against the wall and slunk down it, just at the boot dug into the soft middle of his abdomen. Damn, he hated skinny people. They were so quick. Like ferrets or something. He looked up only to face the barrel of a gun. He sighed as he noticed the others of his group were in similar situations. God. They were being held up by a string bean, a dude with one arm and a woman. This was so humiliating.

"Where's the kid?" Jet asked one roughly.

"I have no clue," he sputtered back.

"All right. Where's Kahn?" Spike tried again.

Harry's eyes widened at the mention of his boss' actual name. Who where these guys? "I dunno!" he squealed.

Spike yawned and nonchalantly placed the gun in his hostage's mouth. "I'm getting bored with this," he intoned.

Harry panicked and tried to speak, but found it difficult in his current situation. He tried to communicate that to his captor. "The gun!" he said, but it sounded more like, "Mah Uuun!"

"Make due," Spike clicked the weapon, and the noise chattered off his teeth.

"Downstairs!" Faye's hostage suddenly cried out, much to the dismay of the other guards. Harry and the others grunted their disapproval. "Kahn's in the warehouse. I don't know about the kid."

The other guards glared at him, obviously disappointed by his lack of professionalism. "I'm sorry!" he whined in his defense. "I hate blood."

Faye rolled her eyes and conked the guy over the head with the butt of her gun. Her partners followed suit and they stood up to face the rather large gaggle of slack-jawed on-lookers that had gathered around them. Like these people had never seen a fist fight before. People probably ran around with guns every Thanksgiving at their houses. "Move along," Faye snapped, shooing them away casually with her Glock. Everyone immediately shuffled back into their rooms and closed the doors.

"What was that about not drawing attention to ourselves?" Spike grumbled. Jet shook his head as he took off down the hall. "Come on!"

They skidded into the kitchen and paused as they saw about six men, much more professional looking than the two-bit rent a cops they had patrolling the halls. Each of them had a very large semi-automatic weapon pointed directly at them. "Who are you?" one of them asked. That seemed to be the question of the hour.

"We're just your average middle class family scraping to get by," Spike replied.

"Impossible," one of them spat, taking his meaning. "There's been no bounty put on Kahn's head."

"When the going gets tough, the tough get their own work," Jet shot back. "Where's the kid?"

"She's no longer your concern."

Jet's eyes narrowed as he stepped closer to them. "The hell she isn't," he growled fiercely.

"So what? If we give you the kid, you'll walk?" one of the men asked. That was obviously the intention all along.

"Oh, the time for walking is long gone," Jet replied.

That said, the men immediately opened fire and the three of them dove behind a steel cabinet. Dozens of containers shattered over their head, raining broken glass and various condiments upon them. Faye shrieked as about 200 Spanish olives thudded grotesquely down her shirt. She dashed across the room, shooting over the counter all the way. She kicked one of the steel refrigerator doors open, simultaneously taking out a goon and deflecting a few shots as she crouched behind it. In the meantime, Spike had slid over the counter top and brought his boot directly into a gunman's jaw. As he landed, he brought around his other foot to take out the man behind him while he shot a few rounds into the others. Jet was behaving very much like a cop, hiding behind various structures in the kitchen, emerging only to take a shot. The whole scene was both very gruesome and very artistic, with splatters of red, yellow and white from the food products they assassinated splashing against the stark steel walls. Turkeys and rib roasts exploded like clay pigeons and watermelons burst with grizzly gusto on the ceiling. When it was all over, the three cowboys looked like they picked a fight with the Super Stop and Shop and lost. They took a moment to catch their breath before making their way to the meat locker. Someone had left the door open. It seemed Kahn was expecting them.

Cautiously, they made their way down the corridor. When they got to the warehouse, Joe Kahn was waiting. His eyes were shining like cats in the faint sunlight. He didn't look like an elf anymore. More like some crazy, murderous troll. Not that a crazy, murderous troll was that much more intimidating. The thing about bookies is that they are only as powerful as the numbers they hold. When the odds start to tip out of their favor, it's like someone pulled the curtain off the Great and Powerful Oz. "Give it up, Kahn," Jet said, mainly for good measure. Hey, he might give it up. You never know.

"How the hell did you know?!?" he screamed at them, his hand shaking. "Nobody knows."

"I'm surprised you don't recognize me," Faye said. "A good bookie never forgets a face. Especially one that owes him money."

The little man screwed his face up at her and then stared at her with astonishment. "Faye Valentine?" he gawked. "I've been had by Faye Valentine?"

"Yeah," Faye grumbled. "I get that a lot."

Kahn's eyes grew very dark in that moment, and he began firing wildly in her general direction. Both Spike and Jet almost made a move to fire back, help her out...something. But it became painfully obvious in the first half second that she didn't need it.

Faye stood perfectly still, not even flinching as the bullets whizzed all around her. They slammed into the boxes, bounced off the walls, and even came close to hitting one of her comrades, but not a single one hit her. It was a known fact in the underground that those who were horrible shots became bookies. Bookies hired other, less intelligent people to do the shooting for them. When his gun started clicking pathetically in despair, he lowered it and stood staring at them, panting wildly. Spike and Jet had no idea what to make of this. They weren't quite sure whether to laugh or be seriously disturbed. "You finished?" Faye snapped in a bored kind of voice.

Kahn did not respond, so Faye took the opportunity to shoot him in the leg. She rolled her eyes as she turned to face her partners. "That guy never could hit the broadside of a barn," she yawned.

Spike and Jet looked briefly around the room, and then sidestepped as a shot up crate of drugs toppled from the pile and landed beside them with a poof. "Obviously," Spike whistled.

"DROP YOUR WEAPONS!" a voice screamed from above as the lights snapped on. The catwalk was suddenly cluttered with ISSP agents.

The cowboys shrugged agreeably and tossed their guns to the floor while Kahn wept. Openly wept. Wept for the perfectness of his plan and how unfair it was that he was stopped rather haphazardly, and by two bit bounty hunters. One who owed him money, no less. No one was really surprised by his disgusting lack of control. It was a well-known fact that a bookie was usually first to break down in a crisis.

Jay Nadek suddenly emerged from the crowd, which parted rather dramatically for him, and pointed his weapon at Teflon Kahn. "You have the right to remain silent," he could all but keep from grinning.

Spike turned to Jet with an amused expression. So that's what Jet was up to this morning. Jet only shrugged. "Come on. You know we had to let the kid have his moment," he smiled.

* * *

Ed was fine. What the eventual plans were for her were uncertain, but the immediate action was to simply get her out of the way. "Out of the way" came in the form of one-on-one counseling with Dr. Harlow. Harlow herself had no idea what was going on. Lesseps had just bust into her office carrying the screaming child and told her to evaluate her for placement. She almost shit herself when about 12 ISSP agents came barging into her office, screaming their heads off and brandishing very large weapons. At the time they entered the room, Ed had herself wrapped around Harlow's head in an attempt to liberate the Jolly Ranchers she had from her pocket.

Ed did not seem fazed. "Jet Person?" she asked cheerily.

"Yeah, we're right here, Ed," Jet's voice came from somewhere behind the crowd.

"Jet Person!" she cried and then barreled through the wall of agents, tackling Jet to the ground.

"Ed's been talking to Doctor Person and Doctor Person was telling Ed all about families and how Ed has to do chores, and clean the bathroom and go to school and Ed is thinking that Ed doesn't want to do all that stuff anyway and also Ed has to wear shoes all the time and those mean people who came in the room weren't very nice to Ed so Ed bit them and then Ein bit them too but they kicked Ein which made Ed madder so Ed kicked them back and he started crying cause Ed got him in his special place and Doctor Person said that Ed had Attention...Def-ic-it Dis-order but Ed does not know what that is but Ed is getting Ritalin! Want some?"

Jet took a moment to wrap his brain around that sentence and then asked, "So in other words, Ed is staying on Bebop-Bebop?"

"Yep! Yep! Ed stays on Bebop-Bebop!!!"

"I'm so glad. Now get off me."

Harlow in the meantime was getting herself arrested. Spike and Faye kept jumping up and down behind the slew of agents in an attempt to see the action. They were pretty sure Harlow really had no idea that all this was a front. But who were they to stand in the way of justice? The courts'll figure it out. Spike waved, evil grin plastered across his face, as the good doctor was whisked away to a waiting squad car. Spike even went as far as to tap on the car window.

"You," she growled at him. "I knew something was up with you people. What are you? What did you tell them?"

"I didn't tell them anything," he said. "I'm just here to get the help I so desperately need."

"Oh, yeah sure," she spat, obviously losing it. "You want help like I want a hole in my head."

"Ah-ah," Spike scolded, waving his finger in the air. "Sarcasm is the refuge of the weak." He banged on her car door as it sped off. She'd probably be out of there in a few hours but was one of the more satisfying moments of Spike's life.



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