Just gonna scout three more warehouses then get the hell out for the night, Wilbur repeated to himself, glancing over his shoulder every few seconds. He’d switched out his suit for baggy sweatpants, a hoodie and one of Ryan’s ballistic masks he’d taken. It wasn’t embezzlement if you were the boss, right?
Hidden by the hoodie was the belt that held the main components of the defibrillator gloves. It only took a few tweaks for Wilbur to turn them into tasers, launching electricity at whatever he made a specific gesture towards, or when he pressed a button on the glove. The amperage wasn’t enough to kill anyone, Wilbur made sure of that, but the blasts would sure as hell sting. Way cooler than a gun. Speaking of which, he was also wearing a bulletproof vest beneath the hoodie. Not cool, and it was starting to make his back hurt.
As he drew near the next warehouse, he caught a glimpse of several figures moving in and out of the streetlights. One of them came to a halt, so he dropped behind a dumpster. The man didn’t look much different than the other hoods in the area, wearing a black jacket and jeans, but he wore a ski mask over his face and was gripping an M4. A little too heavily armed to be a pusher, to say the least.
Wilbur considered skipping that place. Then he heard the faint sound of screaming. Through a side window he could make out the faint glimmer of a single light source. Against his better judgement he waited until the sentry was facing forward before crouch-walking to the wall. Pressing against the side and looking down at an angle, he was able to see the interior. More of the same masked men were patrolling the building. On the far side, a sentry stood guarding a lone rusty door.
The realization hit him like a gut punch: he’d stumbled upon Skinnyman’s turf.
Another voice now. Banging. The screaming fell silent. Luckily for Wilbur, it wasn’t before he’d managed to worm through the window and duck behind some crates.
The guards inside the warehouse seemed less alert than those outside. That was good, because Wilbur had no intention of getting into a fight with these guys. They weren’t carrying rifles, just sidearms. A pair strolled by, chatting idly about baseball, so Wilbur used the opportunity to grab a nicely sized rock. He lobbed it a few yards to the doorman’s left.
“You throw one more rock at me and I’ll come up there and fuck your shit up.”
“You’ll come up here and kiss my ass, Charlie.”
While the doorman continued his exchange with someone on the balcony, Wilbur glanced left, right and up. Clear. Sprinting forward, he caught the doorman off guard. I remember how to chokehold someone… I hope. Just sweep the legs, use the crook of the arm and apply a hefty electric charge to the chest.
Well, he got a little creative with the last part, but it worked. He checked again. Clear again. He glanced down at the unconscious guard. He was going to have to dump him somewhere. He fumbled for the down handle and began the trek downstairs.
The corridor to the basement was uncomfortably silent and cramped. He couldn’t hear a thing over his labored breathing and thoughts.
This must be where Skinnyman takes his victims. Jesus, what is this place? All the human traffickers I’ve ever heard of press their victims into prostitution or hard labor, but this doesn’t look like either…
Wilbur dropped the doorman halfway down the stairs, partially because there wasn’t anywhere better, and partially out of shock. Several cages were set against the walls of the barely lit room. A hunched figure, almost swallowed by his splotchy charcoal robe, was hushing a group of captives huddled in a cage. He had a finger up to his mask, a yellow-lensed rebreather that was metallic around the jaw. “I promise you won’t feel a thing.”
That wasn’t good – only his gang was supposed to be here. Wilbur shuddered, causing the stairs to creek below his feet. Skinnyman straightened out. One of his goons gestured with a piece of pipe.
“If we have to come back this way, you’re not gonna like it!”
Skinnyman raised his hand. His underling’s eyes became wide with fear, before he made a fist and shoved it into his mouth. The fist wobbled, but remained in place until he fell to his knees, gagging and eyes watered. Satisfied that his point was made, Skinnyman dropped the gesture.
“Mind your manners.”
“Yes sir… I’m sorry sir.”
A waving hand, coming from an otherwise empty cage near the stairs, drew Wilbur out of his trance. A black guy in a suit was signalling towards a key rack in the corner. He was oddly calm looking given the situation. Wilbur hurried down the stairs as quietly as he could, avoiding the light and keeping his eyes on Skinnyman all the while. Yanking a bundle of keys off the rack, he began to sort through them until Higgins gave a thumbs up. He stuck the key in the lock and began to wiggle, having a devil of time trying to open it. Damned thing must have been forty years old.
Wilbur tumbled onto his rear, the door flinging open as the man charged with his shoulder. He scrambled to his feet, but the opposite door slammed into his back, sending him sprawling. Skinnyman’s thug reached for his sidearm.
An explosive pop rocked Wilbur’s ears. Was he dead? Only if death meant the suited man standing over him with a smoking gun. Where’d he get that from?
“I owe you one,” he made out. The suited man snatched his fedora from the cage before helping Wilbur to his feet. Skinnyman, unperturbed, brought his fallen minion’s gun into hand.
“If only bravery made you bulletproof.”
The suited man tugged Wilbur by the hood.
“We have to go!”
Wilbur shot one last look at Skinnyman before the doctor squeezed off several shots. Wilbur sprinted up the stairs, bullets whizzing below him. A few steps from the frame, the suited man had pressed against the wall. “Waterfront’s to our right, behind the fence. We’re gonna suppress fire on these guys and make a run for it.”
Wilbur’s eyes fleeted around the room. Half a dozen guards were standing around, murmuring about the gunfire. One wandered in and out of the light. Raising his hand, Wilbur curled his arm and fingers just right. A bolt jumped forward and shattered the bulb.
“Oh. That works too.”
The chain link fence was only about fifty yards out, but felt much, much further. When Wilbur hit the moonlight, his feet were taken out from under him, planting him right in the dirt. Had he been shot? His head was spinning so much he wondered if he’d know. He turned onto his back. Two yellow eyes leered from the dark. Wilbur shot a hand forward, and to his surprise hit his mark.
Skinnyman seized up, struggling for footing, but remained standing. One by one the bolts were peeled away until Wilbur was shooting into space. That was definitely not normal! Skinnyman stuck a hand out, caught a trash can lid from nowhere and hurled it into his jaw. Wilbur definitely felt it, but the mask saved him from the brunt of the damage.
One of the sentries rounded the building, leveling his rifle. The glove worked to disable him fairly quickly, but not before a round pinged him in the chest, sucking the wind out of him. He managed to fire off one more quick blast, distracting Skinnyman enough for him to regain his footing. He scaled the fence, dove into the lake and began swimming as fast as his limbs would move.