“C’mon man, get up!” he hissed.
Andy’s fingers were charred black where the short circuit bang had hit him. A thin trail of blood was running from his nose, and when Joaquin felt for a pulse, he found it barely noticeable. He flipped Andy over and dragged him away from the growing flames. Once Andy was safe, Joaquin pulled the blanket from the bed that appeared to be free of debris and tried to snuff out the rapidly growing fire. Someone banged on the door. Sirens already blared in the distance. Help had arrived.
Another round of banging on the apartment door was followed by a gruff voice, “This is the FBI, open up!”
Joaquin froze. He assessed how bad the situation was. Andy was lying on the floor barely alive, the apartment was full of evidence from the SuperHub that could hurt a lot of specific innocent people, and Joaquin had one of those faces the cops found intriguing. He remembered what Massey had said about being followed. The SUV in front of his house wasn’t a coincidence. Only it had followed him and not Betty. Joaquin had carried the stolen evidence right here incriminating Andy too.
“Last warning, open the door, or we’ll be forced to break it down!”
Joaquin had to think quickly. If these were Globe’s men, he had to ditch them. He went back to where Andy lay and searched his pockets for his car keys.
“I’m so sorry man. Shit!”
He took one last look at Andy and charged for the door. It broke quickly under his weight slamming down two men in civilian clothes holding guns but no badges. One toppled down the stairs, and the other smacked his shoulder against the wall, losing his gun. It was tempting for Joaquin to try to grab it, but the man was quick to recover and grab Joaquin, twisting his wrist and pulling him back. Joaquin stumbled on the stairwell landing but managed to connect an elbow to the FBI agent’s face, pushing him back. The other attacker crept up the stairs and punched him in the kidney, and Joaquin nearly took a knee. Leave it to the FBI to sucker punch a brother, thought Joaquin.
The FBI agent used his strong arms to grab Joaquin from behind and lock him in a painful bear hug and turned the struggling Joaquin toward his partner. Joaquin struggled to twist his head back and spit at the grunts, and offensive words yelled in his ear, but the other FBI agent had already dismissed his split lip and bruised chin and attacked his prey, fueled by anger. Joaquin made an attempt to duck, but the strong fist met his face nonetheless, hitting him under the chin, bouncing his head back. He found his footing soon enough and pushed himself up against his captor’s chest using him for support. His kick landed in the stomach, and the FBI agent doubled up. The force pushed the other one back inside the burning apartment, and Joaquin managed to wrench himself free and distance himself from the agents. He made quick time in grabbing the lip-bleeder and pinned him against the wall in a constant rain of punches aimed at his ribs. Joaquin could almost feel the bones cracking under the layer of clothing and skin. When the man slumped down, wailing, he kicked the man in the stomach. Joaquin paused as a flash of guilt washed over him and then made his escape down the stairs.
The shot rang louder than anything. It hit Joaquin’s thigh making him stumble on his way down the steps. He looked up to see the agent found his misplaced weapon and took aim to fire again. The second shot wheezed past his head, and a puff of drywall powder told him where the bullet had hit the wall. Joaquin ducked and nearly tripped. The pain in his leg faded, and another shot barked. He felt the impact on his hand, his fingers instantly numb. His digits refused to grasp the doorknob, and he heard another shot and saw more drywall flake off next to the doorframe. He fumbled with his other hand and burst through the door onto a parking lot hidden from the street. Joaquin fumbled Andy’s keys in his numb fingers and pressed the panic button.
A gray Honda Civic that was more dents and rust than car warbled from the rear of the lot and Joaquin climbed quickly inside. The agents emerged from the building and raised their guns at him. One bullet hit the side view mirror. Joaquin lowered himself and twisted the key into the ignition the engine coughing until the whole car rattled to life. The agents ran toward him, bloodied, angry and limping. He pressed his foot on the gas pedal. The car belched a puff of something sulfuric, lurched forward, and Joaquin had enough time to twist the steering wheel to the left to dodge the pair of FBI agents. Instinctively, he ducked again as bullets rained after him, trashing the back window and buried deep in the cracked leather of the passenger seat.
The front bumper hit the street with a loud thud that caused Joaquin to bounce in his seat, but he kept the wheel steady with his sweaty hands. Feeling was returning to his fingers, and his grip was white knuckled. He scowled at a cheese knife dangling from Andy’s rearview. He ignored the odd knife and saw in the rearview mirror the agents stumble into the street, look around, and holster their weapons. The last thing he saw as the Honda Civic cleared the rise was both agents with cell phones glued to their ears, and smoke billowing from a second story window above Moe’s Exotic Herbs.
Joaquin hoped that he had done enough to pull Andy to safety. Joaquin knew that they’d need the oddball hacker before they brought Doctor Globe and his plans crashing down.
Next: Badass Orchestra