Chapter 13: Chestnuts Roasting

Everybody knows some turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight


Charlie Dillon looked his ex-employee up and down with a curious expression. She was different. She had a bit of the same spunky look about her but she looked thicker somehow. Sturdy. He always felt like if he exhaled too hard around her she would topple over back in those days, but now she seemed to be nailed firmly to the ground. "Are you kidding me?" she asked him. She seemed bored, which made Charlie wonder how often she had found herself in similar situations since he saw her last. Na•ve, plucky, little Faye. Wielding a gun and ready for business.

"I need it," he said curtly.

"I don't have it." Faye looked around and realized that this might have actually been Dillon's apartment. There was a black and white movie playing on the television and a half gnawed on cylinder of cranberry sauce on the coffee table. He had some sorry Christmas lights strung around and a mechanical Santa that swung its hips to salsa music.

"You better have it," he warned her, bringing her attention back on him. "I've got several Syndicates on my ass for a whole lot of cash. They are probably watching the joint as we speak."

Faye squinted at him, as if this could somehow determine if he was bluffing. Then she backed cautiously to the window and peeked out the blinds. The second she did so she noticed the blinds across the street flip shut. "Well, that's great, Charlie. That's just great. Now I'll be a witness to a Syndicate hit, as if I don't have enough problems."

"Do you have it?" he asked again, a pleading expression on his face.

"No, I don't have it! Nice card, by the way. Asshole."

"Sorry about that," he said muttered and sat down at the kitchen table, watching the dancing Santa with a strange expression. He was obviously under the influence of something or other. "But I knew you wouldn't come other wise. Look," he added, tapping his fingers on the table. "Let's say I'm not here to collect. Let's say I'm here to ask you for a loan."

Faye shook her head. Man, this guy was desperate. He hadn't spoken to her or probably thought of her for years and he lured her here with the intention of borrowing money. She wondered how far down the list of hopefuls she was. Probably pretty far. "I don't have it, Dillon. And if I did, I would use it to get my own ass out of trouble, not to help out dirty old men who scam 20 year old kids into making drug deals."

He winced at the accusation, a bit taken by the impact of hearing his actions expressed out loud and stripped of his own rationalization. "I still thought about you sometimes, you know," he said in a low voice. He wasn't lying. "Wondered what happened to you after that night. Always thought you were a good kid. Didn't really deserve... you know. What you got."

"You mean what you gave me?"

Charlie gave her his buyer-beware shrug. "I was just taking advantage of the situation. It's only natural to gouge 'em."

"Lucky it's Christmas Eve," Faye said evenly. "I expect it."

There was darkness to her voice that made Charlie smile a little. Little Faye was all grown up. He sighed and stopped tapping his fingers. "You really don't have it, Faye?" Faye shook her head. A strange expression of utter calm then washed over his face, a certain resolve permeating in his heavily dosed eyes. "Well, then," he said softly. "I would duck."

No sooner than he said it than the window behind them exploded. Faye hit the deck as Charlie Dillon calmly let the bullets tear him, and his dancing Santa, to shreds. When both were satisfactorily destroyed, the shooting seemed to cease. Faye paused for a moment under the table, and then quickly crept along the floor towards the door, making it a point to sidestep around her old boss. God, she hated bodies. She decided her New Year's resolution would be to be around less of them. A mortician hangs out with livelier crowds.

She stood up and put her hand on the door just as it flew open, knocking her backwards a couple feet. Startled, she instinctively fired her gun mid-flight, and was rewarded with an embarrassed yelp and a violent thud. She peeked over her kneecap after she crash landed on the hardwood floor and saw a suit sprawled out in the hallway in a similar position. His arm was bleeding.

They regarded each other for a moment, not entirely sure on what just happened and equally clueless as to what to do next. The suit kind of cocked his head in curiosity at Faye, and this lopsided, unreadable smile crossed his face. It only lasted a moment, though, and then he was reaching for his gun.

Faye slid across the floor and slammed the door shut. By some miraculous stroke of timing, the door flew shut just as the suit was planning to rise to his feet. This put him at a perfect angle to get cracked in the forehead with the doorknob, and the door bounced recklessly off his skull to slam right back into Faye's shoulder. "Ow!" she whined, and then she noticed that it was very quiet.

She peeked around the door to see the hit man lying stunned in the doorway. She couldn't help but take a moment to marvel at the absurdity of her good luck, then decided that the window was the next best route of escape. She had barely turned around, however, before she felt someone grab her ankle. Before Faye could even register what was happening, she had hit the floor with an ungraceful thud, sending her own weapon flying. She twisted herself around and saw that the hit man had made a miraculous recovery from his run in with the doorknob.

He was playing dead, she thought. How droll.

In a motion that was jarringly snake like, the man shot the entire length of his body on top of hers, pressing her own body to the floor. "You couldn't have picked a worse time to come a wassailing, girlie," he grinned, his breath moist and sickening on Faye's neck.

She attempted to wriggle free but he grabbed her leg and yanked her fiercely back on the ground. What was he going to do to her? If he wanted to kill her he could have done it by now. She looked briefly into his eyes and was momentarily thrown by the amusement glinting inside them. She got the feeling this was becoming more a matter of pleasure than business, and her eyes narrowed with steely resolve at the thought. In a flash of movement so slick it even startled her, Faye grabbed the gun from off her opponent's holster and smashed the butt of it into his nose.

The man cried out in a shocked falsetto and Faye squealed as she was covered in a torrent of hot, sticky, red liquid. She took a moment to gather her wits about her before she scrambled out from under him and cracked the gun into the back of his head. Clunk. His eyes crossed as he fell to the floor. Faye stood over him with her weapon aimed squarely at his head in case he wanted to try his little ruse a second time. He didn't stir.

Faye knew that it was probably prudent to shoot him but she was not really in the state of mind to be taking human life. It was hard to switch from a craving for eggnog to a lust for blood seamlessly. She sighed deeply as she took one last glance around the room. Cranberry sauce, tinsel, a plastic snowman... a dead guy and an unconscious hit man...

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings, the TV reminded her in the now otherwise silent room.

"Oh yeah?" she sighed as she stooped down to retrieve her Glock. "And what do they do when a gun goes off?"



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