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Shotgun Shells, Wedding Bells, and a Strawberry Something

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This was not the plan. 

This was so far away from the actual plan that he and it weren't even in the same ring of Hell anymore. 

Angel Dust snarled under his breath when he crashed against a crumbling brick wall, arms bracing against it to break his collision. The tattered remains of his gloves over his claws skittered over the rough surface as he followed the length of it before he pushed himself off and sprinted down the narrow alleyway. The various substances spattered over his person - blood, spit, eye fluid, alcohol, you name it - crusted his fur and clumped it together, sticking clothes to open wounds and rubbing the rest raw, and not in the fun way. 

The spider stumbled out of the alleyway and into an abandoned road, potholes and craters of substantial size littering the sidewalk and asphalt. He searched for an escape route, shuffling on aching feet and turning this way and that to look at every possible angle. The silence of the sector, the eerie cries of wind whistling through shattered windows and broken building walls, and the overall situation he found himself in had the spider's fur standing on end and his fingers twitching to pull the trigger of his non-existent guns. 

A quick glimpse of a relatively safe looking hole in the wall store further up the street had him scampering towards it, tripping on a few pieces of debris along the way. From what he managed to see between his one good eye and the blood crusted one, there was a thin but long gap on the side of the building - small enough to prevent anything large from entering but thin enough for him to slip through relatively easy. 

Piercing howls echoing from a couple streets away had Angel practically throwing himself through the narrow opening between the wall and a boarded up window of what he now saw was a deli shop. Glass shards on a linoleum floor crunched under his boots as he landed within the store, the long leather protecting his knees when he crouched down below the level of the blocked front window to avoid the possibility of being spotted.

Angel stayed in place for a moment, head angled towards the front of the store and muscles coiled to spring into action at a hair's trigger. He strained his hearing to catch even the slightest hint of a footstep on the silent street outside, and it wasn't until the blood thrumming in his ears was the only thing to be heard did he let go of the breath he was holding and slumped against the wall beside him.

This wasn't the plan and now he had three hounds on his tail in the decrepit warehouse sector of Pentagram City.

 

Great.

 

Angel scowled and huffed. He collected himself and pushed his body off the wall with four arms. His legs trembled something fierce, and for a moment he feared they would give out from under him before they muscled through and supported his weight again. The movement stirred up dust motes and ash, the particles fluttering up into the stale air and waltzing with each other in the blood red glare seeping between the cracks of the boarded up windows.

With what little he could see, Angel spotted a couple of overturned small tables, tipped over moth-eaten wooden chairs, and a long display case plus counter towards the back of the store. The curved glass had long since become a sea of dust, but a few streaks of where debris had rubbed against the dirt layer revealed rotten food still within the display.

 

Gross.

 

But useful.

 

Angel quickly made his way over. Long legs easily stepped over the weathered furniture until he made it to the counter, claws finding the swinging door attached to it and flipping the security latch to let him through. The spider winced at the protesting shriek of rusted hinges and withdrew as if burned. He shuddered at their miserable croak when the door began to rattle close, but continued on his way to the kitchen behind the grey double doors directly behind the display case. 

The porn star downright gagged when he pushed the door open and was instantly buffeted by a gust of putrid air. One hand came up to cover his nose and mouth, the other holding the kitchen door open and the other two patting around the wall for a light switch. The lower left ruled triumphant over its counterpart when it located the small fixture first and immediately jabbed the button. 

A single dull light bulb turned on over the stoves, sputtering and crackling with barely functioning electricity before steadying out. The droll hum of the bulb welcomed the spider after he finally decided to venture further in. 

Once homey looking counters and shelves lined the perimeter of the room, pots and pans still hanging off a ceiling rack over the kitchen island at the center of the ensemble. The stoves were at the very back, and besides them the only other door in the establishment.

Unfortunately for him, it led to the freezer. 

"Shoulda fuckin' guessed this place wouldn't have a back door," he hissed after having picked his way through discarded utensils to yank at the vertical handle. Beyond the stained steel door, racks of canned goods and slabs of cellophane wrapped things greeted him, barely illuminated by what light of the bulb could sneak in before being swallowed by the dark beyond. The humid heat and stench of rot - much worse than that of the kitchen - radiating from within had the spider shutting the door back with a dull thump of foam tape.

Angel grumbled behind his hand and settled his lower set on his hips. He absentmindedly picked some dried blood flakes from his chest fluff with his only free one, looking around the dilapidated kitchen for some form of inspiration that may trigger an idea. 

Apart from some more-than-likely blunt knives inside their racks and some broken floor tiles, there was little that could be used as a makeshift weapon lest he get himself caught. 

Looks like it'd be a waiting game for him - or at least until he was sure his tailgaters weren't breathing down his neck so he could make a quick escape. 

The spider made his way to leave the kitchen, but he stopped after a second of deliberation to crouch and grab a sharp looking piece of tile just in case. He turned the thing over in his hand, noting the way the weak yellow light reflected dull and flat through the dust on its surface before he slipped the shard into the inner seam of his jacket. He stabbed a claw at the light switch to extinguish the bulb, plunging the putrid room back into darkness, and stepped in the direction of the traffic door.

Angel's fingertips just about brushed the cool metal when he picked up a sound through the dead silence.

 

Footsteps.

 

The clicking of back claws on concrete and scraping against asphalt paired with low rumbling growls. 

 

His reaction was as automatic as it was stupid.

He glued himself to the nearest wall and darted his way through the maze of mess on the floor, groping where he could for the familiar length of the freezer handle. Once his hand brushed over its peculiar shape he clung to it like a lifeline with all three spare hands. 

He pulled the latch up as slowly as he could to avoid the slightest of creaks from it, easing the door open just enough for his thin frame to slip in while simultaneously hearing a loud crash from the main room.

Looked like the doggies got impatient and started ripping the boards off the front windows. 

Angel Dust cursed under his breath. He crouched low to the ground, one knee on the ground and the other to his chest in case he needed to once again spring into action. His fingers held the freezer door open by a sliver to keep it from fully shutting on him. It was a gamble with old shops like this one on whether their freezers were mechanical or magnetic, and the spider wasn't about to gamble his non-life on such a stupid thing just to have it blow up on his face. 

He was so focused on keeping still and quiet that he didn't even process the fumes of rancid meat entombing him, or the dull vibrations against his thigh from his ringing cell phone.

Muffled voices grew steadily closer until he could faintly make out what they were saying.

"Ya sure he 'round here, boss? Place lookin' like a dead end to me."

A vicious snarl and a shrill whine had the spider fluffing up again.

"Shut yer whore mouth, Scales! Fucker's 'round here, I can smell him all over the store."

"Guy didn't smell like rotten meat and cheese to me, boss. Mores like a tooty fruity, me thinks."

The porn star didn't know whether to snort or be offended by that particular remark.

Banging and wood splintering leaked from the main room into the freezer. Loud snuffling and the clicking of claws on linoleum approached the traffic doors, and Angel knew it came down to sheer dumb luck that they didn't open them.

"Why we chasin' this guy for anyway? He just one-a Val's. What's Sandman want with that?" Third guy asked, somewhere closer to the deli display from what Angel could tell.

"It's not what boss man wants with Valentino. Is what the spider fucker did that Sandman wants." Second guy grumbled, much closer to the traffic door and setting Angel's teeth on edge. 

"An' what's that?" First guy Scales chipped in, the quietest and furthest away from Angel.

"Guy did away with over 40k. Ain't no one squealin' how so we gotta bag the fucker." 

"Sheit." Third guy whistled, no longer moving around but still too close to the kitchen for Angel's liking. "Who's th' fella?"

"Some hussy callin' himself Angel Dust. Angel my pocked ass though, guy's gonna be dust by the time Sandman is through with him."

By now the three were lingering around the kitchen door before Scales pitched back in. "Wait a second right th're boss," he said, confusion and doubt thick in his voice. "Ain't that the guy from th' news?"

"News?" Second guy parroted right back, and it didn't take Angel's stellar intelligence to notice the heavy incredulity tangible in his tone.

"Yeah yeah, he's the same name tha' singing broad mentioned tha' one time. Sum hotel or sum sheit like tha'."

 

Wait, what?

 

These guys knew about that?

 

Angel rolled his eyes and snarled to himself. Of fucking course they knew about that.

"Look it here, Scales, guy's coulda fuckin' be Lucifer himself and I ain't gonna give two shits. Sandman says we pinch the guy, so we gonna pinch the guy, ya got it."

The rumbling growls prompted a meek whine before the Scales guy gave an "A'right, Op."

Third guy scoffed and finally pointed out the elephant in the room.

"What we gonna do with that? Looks like a kitchen but I ain't wanna go in, boss. Main room stinks like Heaven done crapped on us, imagine them smells in there." 

'Op' - stupid name, in Angel's opinion, unless it was some nickname or some shit like that - hummed and poked one swinging door judging from what Angel could hear from the creaking hinges. "We goin' in. Trail lead 'round these parts, and if I remember one thing from my life it's that spider's like to hide."

Scales and third guy protested loudly, but they were overshadowed by Op throwing open the doors...

 

… and promptly proceeding to gag once a full-blown gust of rotten food smacked them all on their sensitive noses.

 

Angel would've grinned if his own eyes weren't already tearing up from the more powerful odor in the freezer. One of his hands slipped into his jacket, curling around the tile piece hidden there and gripping it tight. 

Maybe his half-baked plan of hiding inside a tomb of decayed meat would pay off and shake these hell hounds from his trail. 

The return of a faint buzzing let him know they had found the light switch amidst choking on their own breaths.

"Whassabout it, Opium?! Still wanna check?" Third guy wheezed.

From the thin slit between the freezer door and wall, Angel could just about see a tall red dog with shaggy fur pacing the counters, one hand firmly closed over his nose and mouth. Crimson scleras surrounded white irises and glowed faintly in the dimness of the kitchen. 

"Fucker's gotta be here!" He hissed back, black ears trained straight up and twisting at the faintest of noises.

A scruffier dog stepped closer to their leader. From what Angel could see, this one's fur was mostly cream colored with a distinct patch of pink on its face that made it look like a raccoon that had one few too many drinks. 

"C'mon, boss! If th' guy was here th' smell alone woulda done him by now! Let's get out 'fore our eyes start meltin'." 

The third guy - a lighter red than the pacing one with a white snout and front - finally came into view as well and protested along the same vein to the largest hound.

Angel held deathly still, his thoughts revolving mostly between 'Take the bait, take the bait…!' and 'Where the fuck am I gonna get this smell off me?'

After what felt like hours of pulling out every single drawer and throwing open every pantry door, Opium finally conceded defeat when Scales pointed at the freezer door and said the worst smell was coming from there. 

Like Heaven they were opening that freezer, rotten meat and all. 

With one last reverberating snarl, Opium turned tail and marched out of the kitchen. Scales and the unknown third guy scampered after him, the former getting hit by the door when it swung back into the kitchen and the latter pushing the shorter dog aside to escape much faster. 

Screeching whines and rapid clicking of claws followed Scales out, and it wasn't until Angel Dust couldn't hear the trio or anything else other than his own blood pumping through his head again did he allow himself to breathe normally at last.

He, too, choked on the fumes on the first deep inhale.

 

Fuck his plan and fuck his afterlife.