The third punch slipped a knuckle. Bill Byrd ignored it and hit the man a fourth time, knocking him out. He watched as sweat dripped off his nose onto the unconscious paramilitary’s forehead, diluting the blood where it fell. Byrd stood up. Looking around the room for the first time, it hit him just how dirty it was. It was bare of furniture and grime and dirt were the substitutes. The wood floor was uneven and the walls were corrugated sheet metal whose original color had long been lost to rust. The favelas of Caracas, he had only been there a day, but he was already sick of it. Byrd looked over to his partner who he knew was about to spill more blood. Byrd wondered, would the tenants here even notice it?
Ulysses Black racked a shotgun and walked to the top of the stairs. It was an older Ceska Zbrojovka Field Model. It had most of the spec’s Ulysses looked for in a shotgun, but was cheaply made. He preferred a Remington 870, a gun he’d used several times before, but today the CZ would have to do. He’d stolen it from a wanna-be paramilitary ten minutes prior, and it hadn’t jammed yet.
So far, so good.
Byrd could hear a couple guys coming up, their boots thumping on the flimsy wood of the stairs. Ulysses emerged at the top as the two men were rounding the corner to climb the last flight. They were dressed almost identical to the unconscious paramilitary, camouflage pants and shirts with their faces painted in camo, trying to look like hard military men, though they were just pretending. Ulysses knew hard military men. He had been one, and these guys didn’t hold a candle. Ulysses fired off a round and blew open the first man’s chest. The follower was shocked by the explosion of blood where his friend’s chest used to be. He paused before realizing the desperation of his situation and then raised his old AK-47 towards the top of the stairs.
Another shot boomed in the stairwell. Ulysses had racked another round before the second man could even comprehend what was happening. He had taken a breath to make sure his shot was lined up properly and fired again. The man died instantly as the shotgun round consumed his face, redecorating the wall behind him.
Ulysses racked his gun again and watched, waited. He was met with only the sound of his last victim sliding down the stairs.
“There’ll be more comin’,” he said as he turned and walked over to Byrd.
“Yeah? Don’t think we scared them off?” Byrd said.
“Not likely, at least not yet.”
“Well let’s keep this shit movin’ then.”
Ulysses turned to the makeshift door leading out to the porch of the top floor and cracked it open, feeling a wisp of wind that he welcomed in the humid room. He peaked out into the favela and looked down into the street. Each building was unique in a way, yet they all blended together to form the shithole they found themselves in. He saw movement, but not the kind he was looking for. No soldiers. He opened the door and waved Byrd through.
Byrd vaulted over the side of the porch and landed on the metal roof of the building next to them. Ulysses followed as they jumped to the next building and then the next, their footsteps resonating off the ancient sheet metal. They hopped onto another porch. Ulysses grabbed Byrd by the shoulder and hunched down. His partner took the cue and followed suit. Ulysses pointed to his ear, telling his partner to listen. Byrd focused and heard the problem. A truck, more dickheads who wanna play.
“How far?” Byrd said.
“Maybe a block.” Ulysses said. He nodded to the door behind Bill and they both crouched through it, trying to stay out of sight. The room wasn’t too different than the last one. This one had furniture and a rug on the floor to tie it together. They weren’t nice pieces, most of it was barely holding together. At least these people were trying.
They froze as they heard the truck come to a screeching halt. That sound was replaced with dozens of men yelling in Spanish.
“No way they know where we are,” Byrd said.
“No, but we stay here, they’ll find us.”
“Well, we can go down, or.” Byrd was interrupted by automatic fire. “Who the hell are they shooting at?”
They heard people screaming, followed by more shots.
“The people, they’re shooting the fucking people,” Ulysses said. He rubbed his forehead and turned back to towards the porch. He heard more screams and a couple more bursts of automatic fire followed by rumblings in the bottom of the building. “I heard kids.”
“Yeah,” Bill said, “so did I.”
“Why did we take this job? We knew this guy was gonna be dead.” Ulysses said, keeping his gaze on the door to the porch. Byrd could hear the frustration in his voice. “Someone doesn’t get kidnapped by fucking Venezuelan Paramilitaries, dragged into the fucking favelas and then just walk away.”
“He was dead, you’re right. We knew he would be, but we were paid to find out for sure. That’s what we do.”
“It is what we do. Now innocent people, kids, are getting killed over what we do. This is too far.”
“Then let’s end it,” Bill said as he watched his partner’s eyes flutter from the door to meet his gaze. “You wanna go out that door? Or, you want, we go downstairs and introduce ourselves.”
Bill saw an expression in his young partner’s face that he had seen too often in the past couple years, one that tore him up inside because he knew there wasn’t anything he could to help him. Too much anger from a life of too much pain, an emptiness Byrd could read in his eyes. The expression changed to pure hatred as more automatic fire sounded below them. Byrd knew exactly what they were doing now.
“Oh, we’re going downstairs,” Ulysses said.