| See You at the Movies
By J.B. Toner
Outnumbered and pinned down. Must be a Tuesday.
“You’re a dead man, Jack!” screamed one of my assailants.
How profound, I thought. In the end, we’re all dead men, aren’t we? Still, it seemed like an odd time and
place to philosophize.
“No hard feelings, guys. We’re all professionals here.” I aimed carefully around the corner and shot the
wounded man in the legs for the fourth time. “I just need you to come out with your hands up, and I promise
I’ll quit torturing your friend.”
Call me cruel if you like, but I think it’s worth observing a distinction. Cruelty implies the inflicting of
unnecessary pain, just to gratify the inflicter. Now me, I only cause as much pain as I have to, and I sure
don’t enjoy it. But, all that being said—yes, I was using the “sniper’s honeypot” from Full Metal Jacket, and
it’s a horrific thing to do to a fellow human being. I did feel kind of bad about it, but what the hell else could
“We’re gonna blow your fuckin’ head off!”
“Well, you say that, but—” Leaned out and shot the poor guy again. His howls were turning to shrieks. “I
got no egress here. What I do have is plenty of time and a shitload of ammo.”
That was true. I never go outside without at least three weapons and two clips for each. It would sound
more paranoid if I hadn’t just been bushwhacked by three aspiring hitmen in a parking garage. But as it
befell, I managed to gut shot one of them and take cover before the other two could open fire. That told me
they were new at this: a little reluctant, maybe each of them hoping the other two would make the kill—a
little shocked at seeing their partner get hurt. And that in turn told me they probably weren’t hard enough to
sit there and watch me shoot holes in their buddy all afternoon.
“How do we know you won’t just kill us?” the third guy called.
“Cuz I’m saying I won’t. If you did your homework, then you know I keep my word.” That was often true.
“But maybe you should consult your friend before you decide. In the meantime—” and I leaned out to take
Wounded guy wailed. “No! No, don’t let him shoot me again! Please!”
Yeah. It’s an ugly moment when a guy breaks. But like I said: no egress.
“Okay, wait! Wait!” One of the guns flew out into the open and clattered on the concrete. “We’re comin’
out. Don’t shoot.”
“Talk for yourself, I ain’t comin’ out,” said the other voice.
I heaved a sigh and put another hole in the honeypot. Shrieks and begging ensued. “Son of a bitch!” A
second later, the other gun came flying out as well.
Aspiring hitmen #2 and #3 came slowly into the open, showing their hands. “You gave us your word,
“Yes I did,” I said, and gutshot ’em both. Not the best solution, karma-wise, but I didn’t start this fight.
And all three of them might very well live, if somebody happened to come along with morphine and plasma
in the next ten or fifteen minutes.
That old smell again: gasoline and gunsmoke. At this point, I couldn’t even tell you how many people I’ve
shot in parking garages. I’d have to go back and check my notes.
Took an extra second to check under my hood; no car-bomb. They’re harder to make than you’d think. I
fired up the Volvo and headed out into the unvarying California sunshine.
My name’s Domingo Jack, by the way. I’m the proprietor of the Fight Corps, Hollywood’s number one
fight choreographers. Kind of a cutthroat business—or, as I’ve said before, a shootface business. Figure
if I keep saying it long enough, it’ll start to sound funny.
It was getting on towards evening when I pulled into the warehouse where we ply our trade. Joey
Damascus, our pugilist, ambled over as I got out of the car.
“Hey man, you all right? Look a bit frazzled.”
“Eh, had a gunfight.”
“Dunno, just some guys.”
“Huh. Come on, have a drink.”
We sat down at one of the pool tables and filled a couple of glasses with bourbon. “So hey, Sing’s
teachin’ me the one-inch punch,” Damascus said cheerfully.
“No kidding? Like you’re not already dangerous enough.”
“Yeah, well, you know. Y’ain’t growin’, you’re dyin’.”
“. . .Yeah.” Innocent remark, but maybe it hit a little close to home. I’d been comfortable in this job, this
warehouse, for a good long while now. Might be time for a new challenge.
And there it was: a knock on the door. When am I gonna learn to stop daring the universe to kick me in
Me and Damascus moseyed over to the door, both of us drawing our sidearms. Not many people know
where to find us; of those that do, not all are friendly. I peered through the spyhole and nearly fell over
backwards. Then I yanked open the door.
“What the—” chomping down on my lower lip “—FUCK do you want?”
A tall, thin fellow in his late fifties was on my doorstep. He wore a newsie’s derby over his thick, red-shot
silver hair, and his eyes were like ice-blue needlepoints. Declan Morrow, his name was. We went back a
“Nice to see you too, son.”
“Don’t call me that. Just because I swam out of your dick don’t make you any kin of mine.”
“Fair enough. But I still need to talk wi’ yeh.” Ah, the old Donegal brogue. Here’s a fun fact: the Isle’s
made up of 26 counties, and any Irishman can instantly tell which one you’re from by the distinctive dialect.
There’s no such thing as an “Irish” accent, and being on set with an American actor trying to do one is a
I racked a round into the chamber of my Glock. “Talk away, Dec. You’ve got ten seconds from the time I
opened the door. Have you been counting?”
“I hear you had some gun-for-hire troubles.”
“What, those idiots in the garage? Pfff, hardly trouble.”
“They were commissioned by the SAS.”
“Can I come in now?”
“. . .Fine. Just try not to put any bombs in our cars.”
A gruff and tipsy voice: “Who’s puttin’ what in my cars now?” That was Tom Waits, our resident
mechanic/stunt driver/dangerous lunatic.
Morrow nodded. “Hullo, Waits.”
“Eh?” Waits squinted. “We met?”
“Surely have. You don’t remember threatening to, quote, murder me and do weird shit to my corpse?”
“Heh! No, but that does sound like me.”
Another voice. “Hola, Declan.”
He turned and gave my mother a small, fond smile. “Hola, Rosa. Como estas?”
“Bien. Now what the fuck do you want?”
“And what about the SAS?” Damascus put in. “Ain’t that—”
“The Special Air Service.” Aaaaand that was Sing Ka, Oxford-educated martial arts virtuoso. “British
Special Forces. In American parlance, the good guys.”
“In Irish parlance, murdering scum,” retorted Morrow.
“Good or bad, they’re the toughest bastards around,” I said. “I wanna know why they’re after me.”
“Why d’yeh think I only visit once a decade? They followed me here and found out my son was in town.
Contracted some locals to send me a message by puttin’ you in a box.”
Waits lit a smoke. “Prob’ly heard you was in movies and figured you for some poofy actor, not worth
I nodded. Luck of the damned. If they’d come after me themselves, I would not be here right now.
“Then why, Declan?” Ma Jack demanded. “Why do you come at all? After so long time?”
He sighed. “I didn’t come here to see you two. Thought I could slip in and out without anyone knowing I
was in town, but those limeys are slicker’n I thought. I only came to your warehouse cuz I caught wind of
what happened with those three goons.”
“All right, why are you in Hollywood?” I growled.
“Guns. Our source in the UK went dry, but one of the fellas served in the Foreign Legion with a guy name
“Robert Danton? The mob boss?”
“Aye, that’s the one. You know him?”
“No, I just fucking guessed. So the IRA’s buying guns from the Mafia. Gimme your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.”
“Anyhow, the deal goes down tonight. I just wanted you to know who was after you and why, and to keep
your head down for the rest of the day. Once I’m gone, those dirty Brits won’t bother with you anymore.”
“Good. I see you in my town again, old man, and I swear to God—”
And right on cue, my cell phone buzzed. I pulled it out, looked at the number, and squeezed my eyes
shut. Flipped it open.
“Mr. Danton,” I said.
Since making it big in show biz, I’ve acquired a taste for good bourbon. I’ll drop a hundred bucks on a
top-shelf shot just to numb the gums before flossing. But I got no pretensions; I know which side of the
tracks I’m from. My people are the pissed-off poor, and I flourish best in my native soil. All that being said,
however—my God, I hate the docks.
It was 9 p.m. when we pulled up to the ramshackle rat-pit where the buy was going down. The wharves
reeked of old stale fish and desperation. Heroin addicts, thin as rails, went shambling by in shoes that left
pus-prints on the gravel. The backwash of the Pacific slopped against the butthole of America.
“Lovely,” muttered Ka.
“Just keep your death-punch in your pocket for the nonce,” I said tightly. “Could be we all live till sunup.”
Like every crime boss, Bob Danton came to power through blood and lead; but in his case, some brains
were involved as well. Danton would’ve heard about my altercation in the garage, and with his
connections, it was a skip and a jump to piece together my link with his IRA buyer. The Mob and the Fight
Corps maintained a precarious détente, but no one was pretending the Mob didn’t ultimately hold the
balance of power—so when the boss “requested” my presence at the gun-buy (presumably in the hopes
that my old man would play nicer if his son’s life was at risk), I huffed and grumbled and finally issued a
tough-guy version of “yessir, Mr. Danton, sir.”
“Lemme go first, DJ,” said Damascus, the other team member I’d been authorized to bring. “Things go
south, I can absorb enough lead to get my hands on Danton’s throat before they fry us.”
I shook my head. “They’ll get jumpy if our bad motherfucker takes point. We gotta project ‘hey, we’re all
friends here’ if we wanna get through this. Besides, if they pop me first, it’ll buy you an extra second to get
“That’s a level head on your shoulders, boyo,” the old man murmured. “And a loyal crew. I’m prouda yeh.”
“Put a sock in it, Morrow. You don’t make yourself sympathetic to the audience right before the danger
The inside of the boathouse was lit with a few portable flood lights, revealing enough cockroaches to
stock an FDA-approved vat of peanut butter. The entrance was the only exit, apart from the oily waters or
the coroner’s van. At a quick headcount, seven wiseguys flanked the folding table that sagged with
crates. One of them was a little fellow with a fedora: Bob Danton. At his right hand was a leggy lady with
strawberry blond hair and a face that would have been pretty but for the hard grey eyes of a murderess
who loved her work. The other five were well-armed fodder.
“Declan Morrow, I presume.”
“That’s right. You’re Danton?”
The boss nodded. “This is Ruby Kell, my executive assistant.” Grey-eyes bared her teeth in a kill-you
grin. “And of course, Mr. Jack and I are old acquaintances.”
I nodded in turn.
“Cozy,” said Declan. “Got any guns, then?”
Kell stepped to the table like some wicked doctor’s gene-splice of Vanna White and Lizzie Borden.
Thumbed open the snap-latches and lifted the lid of a crate. Inside: orderly rows of Tec-9s in excellent
repair, cartridges stacked along the side, and a carton of Lucky Strikes on top.
“As requested,” Danton said. “The smokes are on the house, for a valued customer. And now I believe
you have something for me?”
My dear old deadbeat dad hefted his duffel bag. “Six hundred large in British pounds. Once my
associate here verifies the quality of the ordnance.”
I paced forward, holding the viper-gaze of Ruby Kell. As I randomly selected a unit to inspect, she
whispered: “This crate’ll bring a lot of souls to Satan, hey, Jack?”
I had no response to that. Trying to ignore her, I checked the frame: open bolt, easy to convert to full
auto. The mechanism was well-oiled. Trigger pull-weight was good. I picked up a magazine and slid it
into the well, feeling the tension levels spike in the dank night air. I now had a live weapon in my hands.
And then, the inevitable. I heard the pop of silenced M4s—saw the muzzle flashes from the water’s
edge—felt the freight-train punch of a slug in my exact center mass. My Kevlar held, but the back of my
skull took a hit from the biggest weapon on the earth: the earth. Things went fuzzy for a few seconds, but
that didn’t stop me from emptying my Tec-9 in the direction of the newcomers, nor from thinking three grim
If you’re ever planning to be marrow-freezingly terrified, I recommend a good stunning blow to the head
first. It renders the whole situation comfortingly surreal. In that moment, watching the dripping silhouettes
of five elite paramilitary killing machines rise from the Pacific with their glowing green night-vision goggles
was like watching an old swamp-creature B-movie on late-night TV: scary, but in a third-person sort of way.
In the opening seconds of the fracas, the survivors of the first barrage scattered like the roaches around
us, wildly returning fire. Damascus grabbed me by the collar and dragged me across the floor with one
hand while squeezing off rounds from his .357 with the other. The one thing that kept me and my
compatriots alive in that exchange was that the mobsters were standing between us and the Brits. Five or
six bodies—including Danton—were cooling on the floorboards by the time we all found cover and the
A deep bass Cockney bellow: “Give it up, Morrow! No one else ’asta die on your account.”
“Go fuck yourself!” the old man yelled back. You see where I get my wit.
And the lovely, venomous voice of Ruby Kell: “You’re wrong, friend. You all have to die. Along with
everyone you’ve ever loved.”
A Scottish voice responded, sounding relaxed and amused. “Oh aye, the Mob. Ruling mankind from the
shadows with the ancient power of—handguns.” The others laughed. “Shoot the mick for us, girlie, and
maybe we let you walk outta here.”
“Shoot yourself, and I’ll consider granting your family a quick death.”
“Last chance, Morrow,” said the Cockney. “We know your boy’s here with ’ee. Throw down your
weapon, or everyone burns.”
“You’re on U.S. soil!” Sing Ka shouted. “You can’t execute American citizens!”
“He’s got us there, Captain,” said the Scot.
“Well, blimey. Best not leave any witnesses, then.”
By this time, I’d gotten my bearings back. And I’d damned well heard enough. “All right, Ma. Take the
And the Fight Corps mini-drone hovering outside the boathouse fired its explosive payload into the
soldiers of the British Empire.
From our seats on the warehouse roof, we watched the California night fade slowly to grey, then pink,
then orange. Watched violet and cerulean bleed down the eastern hills. Watched the morning traffic rising
from a trickle to a flood.
We were all drinking Jameson—even Waits, for whom anything not brewed in Kentucky is “Commie
shit.” Sing Ka was scrolling meditatively through the newsfeed on his smart phone. “Mrs. Jocelyn Slayne,
wife of Capt. Robert Slayne, Special Air Service: throttled with her own entrails. The whereabouts of
Captain Slayne are still unknown.”
“Jesus,” Damascus muttered.
“It’s only been like seven hours,” I said. “How the hell is she finding their families so fast?”
Ka shrugged. “She’s a formidable adversary.”
We found eleven bodies in the wreckage of the boathouse: everyone but Ruby Kell. Judging by the news
from the UK, she’d already begun a vendetta. The question for us was whether she considered Declan
and myself at fault for bringing down the SAS upon her organization.
“Aw, who cares,” Waits said. “We’ve fought tougher than her, and we’re still here.”
“Only two choices,” Ma Jack said. “Kill her now, or wait and see.”
“I don’t want war,” I said.
“Remember, son,” said Morrow. “Whether she comes after you or not, the SAS knows about you now—
and they don’t forgive. You’ve already got war.”
“We’ll kill whoever we have to. In the meantime, we got movies to make. Chase Hardrock ain’t gonna
choreograph his own fight scenes.”
“God-damn right,” said Waits.
Ma nodded. “So, wait and see. Kell is smart, perhaps she make peace with us.”
“And her on our side might keep the British-ass boogeyman away,” Damascus said.
“Or anger them,” said Ka.
I waved a hand. “Enough. Our policy today is to wait; we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Now let’s
finish our booze and get some friggin’ sleep.”
My mother, with her sweet dark face, said, “Declan, thank you for my son. I love him always, and you in
him. Now go, and never come back.”
“Yeah, fuck off, Dad,” I said.
“Fuck you too, son,” my father said, and smashed his glass on the gravel. “I love you both forever.”
The next time I saw Declan Morrow, he was on a slab.
|About J. B. Toner
J.B. Toner studied
Literature at Thomas More
College and holds a black
belt in Ohana Kilohana
Kenpo-Jujitsu. His first
novel, Whisper Music, was
recently released by
Hellbender Press; his
second, The Shoreless
Sea, is now available from
Beacon Publishing. Toner
lives in Massachusetts
with his lovely wife and
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.