River Of Night – Snippet 23


Tom looked at Risky once more.

Given the set of her jaw, it seemed unlikely that she was going to relinquish the girl without a fight, or at least a very convincing explanation. The kid was still clinging to Risky, who moved her around the SUV to shelter behind the front wheel.

“Kap, how many?” he asked, without looking up.

“Seven,” came the reply. “Eight now. Nine. They all have longs.”

Tom considered just loading the trucks and running away.

But this was the first organized group that they had seen since New York. Information was worth more than gold.

“Send someone over,” he said, yelling back up the street. “No guns. We don’t want any mistakes.”

A voice very different from the first roared back.

“Fuck that shit. She belongs to me!”

A taller, thicker figure began stumping towards the bank survivors.


Tom could see even more men appearing and start to filter to the sides, taking position behind cars and dumpsters.

“Kap,” he ordered. “On me. Durante, put together a firing line. Risky, Worf, watch the sides. Everyone else keep your head down. We’re gonna try to talk our way out of this.”

“The girl’s not for giving back.” Risky said flatly.

“She isn’t worth our lives,” Tom replied tersely, his eyes on the group of men. “No time now, take position.”

He could see that their position was untenable. The bank survivors’ vehicles were the extent of their cover and they were severely outnumbered. Tom’s eyes flicked back and forth, weighing options and then refocused on the approaching strangers. At this point, the options were to talk it out or start a drama in the middle of the street.

He flicked his eyes back towards the nearest group. The biggest was clutching the side of his head. He was also yelling at a shorter man, presumably his subordinate, judging from the amount of cursing and cuffing.


Tom would try to smooth things over.

The big one in the middle was bleeding heavily from under a bandage that he held to the side of his head. He seemed pretty upset about it. The bright red stains continued along a well equipped equipment harness and further down the side of his fireman’s coat.

His hands were empty, but he bore both a rifle and a pistol.

“Hello,” began Tom, mildly. “My name is–“

“Don’t fucking care, prick,” the bleeding man snarled out of a face covered in prison ink. He advanced a step. “Gimme the girl now! She fucking bit my ear off and no one does that!”

“And what do you do that she needed to bite ear?” Risky said, suddenly standing next to Tom, quivering in anger. “Big strong man couldn’t keep terrible scary girl from attacking him?”

“Uh, Risky, would you…” Tom began to say, trying to keep the impending violence from actually igniting.

“Shut up, bitch, or you are next!”


Durante had shaken the two Cosa Nova men into a line, their rifles shouldered at the low ready but out of sight behind the SUVs. He glanced over at Worf who had been listening to the exchange.

The Guardsman drew one finger across his throat.

Durante recognized the signal.

In reply Durante flashed back his favorite, the extended middle finger covered by the opposing palm.

Meaning, “Cover me, we’re about to get fucked.”

Worf just looked mystified.

Right, Smith’s little classes hadn’t gotten to advanced hand and arm signals yet.

Durante looked back towards at the nervous men lined up behind the angry bleeding shouter. 

They wouldn’t be a problem.

He evaluated the dozen plus guns that were a short block away. He could also see movement just ahead of their flanks. Kaplan was one car over, bent halfway over, but tautly examining the evolving tactical picture. Even more men were filtering in from the sides.

He glanced over at Gravy and shook his head.

They were really exposed here.

“Tom,” Durante said conversationally. “We need to get a move on.”


Vinnie was excited. This was going to be a chance to show the new boss that he was a good guy. That he was dependable. He fiddled with his rifle out of nervousness.

His magazine dropped out of his magwell and clattered loudly, just beneath the bumper.


Hank was excited. He was standing right up front, with the boss. With the important people. The other side had some guns but so far there was just yelling.

He heard a loud clatter of metal and a curved magazine of bullets rattled into view, next to the SUV. He raised his rifle out of instinct and aimed under the car.


Biggs heard the clatter and looked under the truck, seeing a rifle magazine and the barrel of an M4.  He registered one of his men aiming at an unseen threat. He dropped his ear bandage and drove his hand towards his holstered pistol.


Eva was fuming that Biggs, the idiot, wouldn’t answer his goddamn radio. As Korbish plopped down beside her and aimed through his own rifle scope, Eva watched the confrontation unfold. The small group of people weren’t backing down. If everything went to hell Biggs was going to be left holding the bag, all by himself.

Out in the open.

Eva’s eyes widened in appreciation.

“Hey Korbish, how do you feel about a promotion?” she said, nodding towards the pending confrontation. “That asshole is about to get us into a gunfight, and there he is, right in the middle of the road.

Korbish looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, and then smiled nastily. He reset his cheek weld and aimed in.

“On my go,” Eva said. “We gotta make sure that negotiations break down at the right moment, no?” Then she smiled a little and aimed at the tall stranger in front of Biggs, sliding the safety to the fire position. She took a deep breath, let about half trickle out through her nose and permitted the front sight sharpen against the blurry tan outlines of the target’s chest. As soon as she saw sudden movement, she completed the trigger stroke.


Durante heard the clatter. Knew exactly what it was. Knew exactly what was going to happen.

He’d carefully maintained the lowest profile he could, exposing no more than a part of his cranial and one eye. Even as the first inbound round cracked, Durante snapped his rifle up and starting servicing targets, dropping the first man to move and smoothly pivoting outwards and picking up as many hits as he could before Hell cut loose.

In the first second he had sent rounds through the first three heads, swinging right to left.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tom stagger and then Risky yanked the boss backwards.


Somehow, Biggs wasn’t hit in the initial fusillade. He got his pistol up and shot over the suddenly prone man who had been arguing with him. His pistol bullet dug into the black macadam several yards away. He began to aim the pistol again but he saw movement to his left.

As he turned, he felt a solid punch to his back, accompanied by sharp lance of pain

Confused, Biggs turned his head back to the nearest SUV in time to watch a rifle barrel foreshorten. The muzzle flash yel–


Panicked by the incoming fire, and desperate to fire back, Vinnie finally re-seated his magazine and stood to fire. He began yanking the trigger, randomly shooting at the buildings and the flashes which he could see about a block away. His aggression was faultless. Unfortunately, his tactical acumen was not.

Vinnie was fully upright and got off several shots before he absorbed three rounds nearly simultaneously. His armor stopped the two rifle rounds, which left nothing more significant than shallow craters, but a shotgun pellet creased the skin over his collar bone, creating intense pain and a non lethal bloody gash.

“What the fuck?!”

Vinnie Mouse Sacks sank to one knee, looking for the source of the sudden burning pain in his neck and shoulder. Unfortunately, this left his head above the SUV’s hood. His skull intercepted a fourth round and he dropped with limp finality.