Pike embraced his oldest friend.
“Good to see you, you old bulldog.”
“Aw, don’t get all sentimental on me,” Pug said. He stepped back from Pike, removed his ever-present Cincinnati Reds ball cap, and bowed in the direction of Elizabeth.
“And you, my dear, are a vision of loveliness. Percival Thaddeus Benson, at your service.”
“Percival?” She seemed perplexed by the short man.
“My mother drank,” he said with a shrug. “In any case, you don’t have to worry about hanging out with my backwards friend any more. Donovan has never been kissed, so he’s a little shy around the ladies. But have no fear; a real man has arrived.”
Elizabeth glanced at Pike, who rolled his eyes.
The passenger door of the chopper opened and Andre Romanov unfolded himself from the cabin. The tall man was the chef on Pike’s yacht, but he was also one of fiercest warriors Pike had ever fought alongside. Pike specifically recalled an incident in a seedy bar in Myanmar, when Andre dispatched four opponents with a broken beer bottle.
“Hey, Mister Pike,” Andre said. His eastern European accent was gradually fading, thanks to the influence of Pug.
Pike shook Andre’s hand. “Thank for the save, pal.”
“Pug did the driving,” Andre said. “I just shoot.”
“Good shooting,” Pike said. “Not to sound ungrateful, but what are you doing here?”
“We were bored,” Pug told him. “Sitting around Florida with nothing to do is fine if you’re, like, 90. I still have some friends at Ravencroft. They told me about Drake checkin’ in. So me and Andre caught a ride to Mexico.”
“Not on that,” Pike said, nodding toward the Apache.
“Naw. I, uh, borrowed a little jet from Ravencroft,” Pug said. “Hey, after the way they jumped us back in Somalia, they owe us.”
“Where did the chopper come from?”
“Oh, that,” Pug said. “See, there’s a Mexican girl who’s brother is in the military...”
Andre sighed loudly.
“...and she always told me if I was down this way and needed anything to give her a call.”
Pike turned to Elizabeth. “He wasn’t joking about being a ladies man.”
The petite archeologist stared at Pike’s short companion with something like amazement etched upon her pretty face.
“Oh, and boss,” Pug added, “we’ll need to reimburse the brother for the ordinance.”
Pike shook his head. He wasn’t a Ravenscroft, but thanks to his father, he had access to a good chunk of the family fortune as part of his inheritance. He also had to admit that the military chopper had come in very handy.
“Anything you need to pick up before we take off?” As Pug spoke, he kept his eyes of the demolished house. “I’d like to get out of here before I have to see–well, shit.”
Pike followed his gaze. Drake walked across the lawn toward them. His face and sling were blackened with soot, but his posture was ramrod straight.
Elizabeth stepped behind Pike. She gripped his shoulders and tried to make herself appear small.
“It’s okay,” Pike said. “He won’t hurt you.”
“But I saw him kill that man.”
Drake stopped in front of them. He looked first at Pug, then Andre. A thin smile twisted the corners of his mouth.
Andre raised his fist, which clenched a knife with a long serrated blade. “Let me give you a bigger smile, govniuk.”
“That’s Mr. Govniuk to you,” Drake said.
Pug glanced at Elizabeth. “Why is she cowering from tall, old and crewcut here? He threaten to kiss her?”
“She says she watched him murder Jimmy Swift,” Pike said.
“Jimmy? The mook who never won a hand a poker?” Pug narrowed his eyes. “You killed an old poker buddy, Drake.”
“Nope,” Drake said. “Not me.”
“He’s lying,” Elizabeth said from her place of sanctuary behind Pike.
Drake didn’t respond.
“Well?” Andre waved the knife at Drake. “You got something to say?”
“Yep.” Drake walked past them in the direction of the road. “Adios.”
“Where’s he going?” Pug said. “It ain’t like there’s a motel close by.”
“I don’t care,” Pike said. “I need to get back to Florida.”
“We can make that happen. What’s on the agenda?”
Pike started in the direction of the chopper. Elizabeth trailed him like a shadow.
“We’re going to make a house call on the Brotherhood of the First.”
To Be Continued
© Mark Justice 2011