“You even know where we’re going?” Decker asked, passing wary glances to either side of the street as they walked, rubbing his red nose.
The breeze brought with it a fowl stench, something he swore was a marriage of weeks old garbage and rotting fish. At least, dear God, he hoped it was fish. Skid row didn’t suit someone like Internationale; dilapidated buildings stretched endlessly into the night, teeming with all sorts of filth… and he didn’t just mean the garbage. Just what sort of person was she dealing with, here?
“I have the location on my GPS.” she answered, not looking at him. Half of her face was hidden beneath the scarf she always wore, so it was a little hard to read her expression, though her words weren’t exactly reassuring.
“So, no.” His tone was sarcastic, as usual.
“I didn’t ask you to accompany me,” she was quick to point out. “I was told to come alone.”
“How well do you even know this guy? Meetings in dark alleys never end well.” Perhaps it was the lingering paranoia of his CSO days, but this was beginning to smell like a trap. Why ask her to come alone to a place like this?
“You are armed, aren’t you?”
“Well enough… and yes.” She opened the left side of her jacket to show him. “I’m not as naive as you seem to think.”
“That for your friend?” A hand canon. He was admittedly surprised.
“No? He and I may have our disagreements, but he’s a good guy… for the most part.” She explained in a way Decker was all too familiar with in his line of work, both then and now. “We used to run together back in the day. Hit and run, swap intel, that sort of thing.”
“You ran together, huh?” He wasn’t sure if that bothered him or not.
“For the most part.” She teased, glancing at him. Decker just cleared his throat and averted his eyes ahead. Internationale’s returned to her phone. “Hey, we’re there.”
“That your boy?” Decker gestured with a nod of his head, not liking the look of this at all. “He always have this many pals?”
“That’s not Javier.” Despite the fact her voice was low and even, Decker could tell by the look in her eyes she was nervous, which made him even more nervous.
Not-Javier was propped against a flickering street light with a hand shoved in his pocket as he flipped through his phone. All but the top of his head was shaved; one side had intricate tattoos that ran all the way down his neck and vanished into his shirt. The remaining three sat idly by, talking amongst themselves.
Decker leaned in to ask, “How do you wanna play this?”
“Well, there’s no turning back now.” She proceeded to step forward.
“Hey—woah.” He caught her by the arm. “The odds aren’t exactly in our favor, here, doll.”
“I need to find out if something’s happened to Javier.” Internationale was adamant about that, but her gaze softened as she looked at him. “Just follow my lead and everything will be fine. Let me do the talking.”
Decker sighed, heavily, releasing her. “Hope you know what you’re doing.”
So do I, she thought.
Internationale proceeded to where the group of men were waiting, hands in her jacket and head held high so as to appear less anxious than she really was. Hopefully, this was just an unfortunate change of plans and they weren’t actually walking into a trap. Last minute changes weren’t altogether uncommon. Although, this was a first for Javier. Decker was far less trusting; he kept his head on a swivel and a hand on his revolver, just in case any more surprises were in store.
“Excuse me,” she began, cautious. “Is there a public terminal nearby?”
The one by the street light eyed her for a long, nerve-wracking second. “I think it’s out of order...”
Internationale stepped closer. “Where’s Javier?”
“Not far,” he clicked his phone off, standing straight to face them. “He said you’d be alone,” he added, giving Decker a rather nasty look. “¿Quién es él gringo?”
“Her bodyguard.” Decker spoke up, surly.
The two glared at each other for a moment through piercing eyes, the former finally turning towards the others, laughing. “¡Eh—èl crees muy muy!”
They laughed with him.
Internationale gave Decker a warning glance, shaking her head. Surely, even Decker knew not to push his luck.
“Your turn,” she interrupted them. “Who are you?”
“Tusk,” his fingers scratched at the stubble on his chin as he turned around. “Javier never mentioned a gringo.”
“He never mentioned you at all,” she countered, “and I know him rather well.”
He laughed again, stepping closer until his face was inches from hers. Internationale could smell the lingering stench of tobacco on his breath. She resisted the urge to cringe.
“I don’t care if you’re fucking him. Until I am convinced, you do as I say. Comprende?”
“No me jodes.” Internationale refused to let herself be intimidated. “That’s why we use countersigns.”
Decker’s grip tightened around the revolver inside his coat, thumb slowly pulling the hammer back as he contemplated how many he could take out before one got a shot off. They had the advantage of youth and numbers, and the brisk night air alone was enough to make his joints ache.
“Much like your bodyguard, here,” his eyes flashed knowingly to Decker’s, “I don’t like taking chances either.”
Shit, thought Decker, drawing his gun right as Tusk did the same. The latter taking aim at Internationale, pointing the barrel directly at her head. She gasped; her composure crumbling as her eyes darted nervously between the two men. Decker kept his eyes and revolver trained on Tusk, a hard expression on his face as he mentally kicked himself for allowing Internationale to go through with this.
Had she been anyone else—anyone—he would have reported her to Central the minute he knew what she was up to. Conspiring with outside intelligence sources? What the fuck was she thinking? But he didn’t. Even now, he wasn’t sure if he would.
Tusk snorted when his eyes landed on Decker’s weapon. “What… is that?”
“How ’bout I show you?” He threatened.
It was then he heard the clicking sounds of charge packs. Tusk chuckled, “I think your mouth is bigger than your balls, my friend.”
“Sure, your pals can shoot me… but not before I blow your fucking excuse of a head off.”
“Tusk,” Internationale intervened. “We aren’t the enemy.”
“You show up with an armed suit, muttering old passcodes, and expect me to trust you just like that?” He spat at Decker’s feet. “Either Javier is wrong about you, or you’re not who you say you are.”
Old passcodes? Mierda. Was she really out of contact that long, or had something else happened? Either way, Tusk was on clearly edge. Internationale breathed slowly, making sure her hands were visible as she took step back.
“Let’s all just… calm down.” Her tone was softer this time, careful of anything that might set him off. “We’re not suits. Just take us to Javier. He’ll confirm my identity. Nobody has to die… Okay?”
Tusk appeared to consider her for a moment, but passed an uneasy glance at Decker. The tension in the air was almost palpable.
“How will Javier react if you’re wrong.” She warned.
That seemed to make him think and with good reason. She and Javier were close, or had been, once. Her death would almost certainly mean unpleasant repercussions for Tusk.
He chuckled under his breath, “We could always kill you later, I suppose.” He then slowly lowered his weapon. “Alright, I’ll take you to Javier… after you hand over your weapons.”
“Nobody takes my fucking weapon.” Decker chimed in.
Internationale gave him this look of urgency. “It’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, you keep saying that.”
He was understandably skeptical, but she saw no other alternative. She also wasn’t about to be gunned down because of one asshole with something to prove. No, they would meet with Javier and everything would be fine… providing Decker didn’t say or do anything stupid.
“Fuck,” he sighed, miserably. Those green eyes were going to be the death of him.
Decker laid his weapon down alongside Internationale’s, kicking them a few feet away where they were quickly collected by Tusk’s men. One busied himself examining Decker’s rather unique firearm. Decker resisted the urge to comment.
“I’m sure you won’t mind if we double check,” Tusk added, smug. “You really can’t trust anyone nowadays.”
“No shit.” Decker practically glared at Internationale.
She returned his look apologetically. “Do what you have to do.”
He wasn’t sure if she was talking to him or their captors.