Pike saw Drake’s motionless body on the other side of the SUV. Over the years there had been many times Pike had wished Drake was dead and that Pike himself would be the deliverer of the older man’s demise. But now Pike felt no joy, only puzzlement and a rising anger.
Drake’s left hand twitched.
Pike cursed. He couldn’t leave the wounded man in the open. He stretched his arm beneath the vehicle.
“Drake, grab my hand. I’ll pull you over here,” he said.
The fingers of Drake’s hand twitched once before growing limp.
Drake raised to a crouch. The driver, a young guy named Craft, squatted by the open door. The man in the passenger seat slumped against the dashboard. His blood was splattered on the windshield.
“Close that door,” Pike said.
“Huh?” Craft said. He looked confused, like he couldn’t make sense of what was happening.
The sniper in the helicopter fired again. The shot came at angle through the roof of the SUV and into the top of Craft’s head. Pike was splashed with warm blood and tissue. Craft collapsed.
Pike turned the body to find the shoulder harness, and removed Craft’s handgun. It was a Glock, and it looked new. The sniper put two shots into the pavement near the body. Pike rolled away as fragments of asphalt mushroomed into the air.
He didn’t know what kind of ammo the sniper was using but it was something big. The SUV wouldn’t provide any protection. He had to get away.
But the rear entrance to the building was 50 feet behind him. On the other side of the SUV, the paved driveway quickly became a rocky hill that descended sharply to the Gulf. If he went in either direction he would be easy pickings for the man in the chopper.
Pike crawled forward, hoping the truck’s big engine would make a serviceable shield. As if to mock him, the sniper blew a hole through the truck’s side, just a few inches from Pike’s face.
Who were these guys? Pike had made a lot of enemies over the years, and so had the Ravenscroft family. It irritated him that he might die without knowing why. And the odds that he would survive this fracas were growing smaller by the second.
Another shot punched through the engine block and the quarter panel, this time just above Pike’s head.
He decided to run for the building. Heading for the sea offered no chance of cover and almost certainly assured his death, even if he miraculously avoided a bullet. The other direction gave him a fighting chance. A slim chance, to be sure. But it was something.
He examined Craft’s handgun. It was a Glock 27, with the extended magazine from a Glock 23. He popped the magazine out and saw it was full. He had 15 rounds.
15 empty, futile chances to hit something as far away as the chopper.
The pilot and sniper probably knew that. On the other hand, if someone was shooting at you, your first instinct would be to get out of the way. Of the two men he knew were in the chopper, the sniper likely had the most combat experience. Maybe the pilot would get spooked and make a dumb move. It was a big maybe, but it was all he had.
Pike sprang to his feet and raised the Glock. He added a scream, to make certain he had the attention of the chopper. Despite the distance he could clearly see the pilot. He wore a headset and sunglasses. The sniper leaned through the opening on the port side of the chopper. He also had a headset but no sunglasses. Nothing to mar his vision. He was sighting through the scope for another shot when Pike opened fire.
He aimed high and at the cockpit of the helicopter. He knew his shots fell far shot and would land harmlessly in the Gulf. If the pilot took a second to think about it he would realize the same thing.
Instead, the pilot jerked the stick, spinning the craft almost 90 degrees. The sniper was suddenly facing open water.
It had worked. Pike ran for the building, knowing it would take the chopper only a second or two to return to position. He had covered less than half the distance to the building when the first shot struck the concrete walkway directly in front of him. He instinctively veered to his right, beginning a zig-zagging path to safety.
A hot lance of pain seared his left side, and Pike knew he’d been hit. Almost simultaneously the sidewalk ahead of him cracked like a frozen lake. Either the bullet had passed clean through him or he had just been grazed. He didn’t pause to check.
He changed the angle of his run again. The sniper had the distance now and Pike figured the next shot would land between his shoulders.
The black metal door to the Ravenscroft building flew open. The woman who ran out was tall and thin, with a mane of hair that trailed like a scarlet halo behind her. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Once she cleared the building she raised a silver tube to her shoulder.
Pike saw a flash from the tip of the cylinder and heard a whoosh. He turned his head in time to see a thin trail of smoke flying toward the chopper. The pilot tried to turn the craft again, but it was too late. The object at the head of the jet trail hit the helicopter and there was an explosion.
The chopper hung in the air for a couple of seconds as flames burst from the cockpit and the now-empty door where the sniper had been. Then it fell straight down to the water and disappeared beneath the waves.
Pike stopped running before he collided with the woman. He lifted his shirt. A six-inch furrow had been gouged into his side. The cut was barely bleeding.
“Need a Band-Aid?” the woman said. “We’ve got the kind with pictures of little balloons on them.”
Three men came through the same door the woman had just used. They were dressed in the familiar black outfits.
“The others?” the woman said.
“Drake may still be alive,” Pike said. “Craft and the other guy--” He shook his head.
The woman said something to one of the men, who spoke into a small radio. The other two Ravenscroft employees jogged to the SUV.
Pike nodded at the silver tube the woman now held casually against her leg. “What the hell is that?”
She smiled. “A new RPG we’re working on for the military.”
“What’s the payload?” Pike said, thinking of the size of the explosion that had destroyed the chopper.
She shrugged. “Something big, I guess. Come on, you know that’s not my department.” With her free hand she pointed at the Glock Pike still carried. “Shooting at a chopper with that? What were you thinking?”
“Hey, it worked,” he said, then added, “For a second.”
“You want to know the sad part?” she said. “It wasn’t even the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen you do. As a matter of fact, it’s not even in the top five.”
Pike sighed. He felt like he’d never left this place.
“Thanks for save, Gemma,” he said. “Now can we get this over so I can get back to my life?”
Gemma Ravenscroft smiled and held open the door for him to enter.
To be Continued
© Mark Justice 2010