The only sound in the squalid room was the relentless dripping, as if someone had neglected to turn the tap all the way round. Their breath filled the small space, too, but that was slowing, quieting. Dixon looked over at Burnett, worried by his lack of movement. He slumped on the pile of boxes on that side of the storeroom.
‘Hey, hey. You still alive, right?’
A cough, a gasp, then an oath. ‘Who were those guys?’
‘Fuck if I know. They came out of nowhere, eh?’ Dixon leaned back against the brick wall. It was cold and rough, but it held him up. The bullet hole through his shoulder hurt like a bastard but it went through clean as far as he could tell. He craned his neck to look at Burnett. In the murk it was hard to tell how bad he was. ‘I texted the big guy. He’s sending someone.’
No noise from Burnett. Just that annoying drip, which continued at the same pace. Now he knew what water torture was all about. Funny it had never occurred to him. They tended to use more direct methods—tried and true and quick to produce results, like a confession or a location. ‘Hey, who were those guys?’
Burnett coughed again. ‘They cops, you think?’ His voice rasped the words. Was he shot in the throat, too? That couldn’t be good.
‘No, I’d have been worried then. They wouldn’t have given up, either. But they didn’t follow us for all that long,’ Dixon said, thinking things over quickly. It had all happened so fast. They didn’t complicate it. It was meant to be a quick in-and-out, business closed, no alarms tripped. The big man made sure. The plans were clean.
So who were those guys? ‘Hey, Burnett? What’s that movie where they say that? You know, who are those guys? A western. It’s on the tip of my tongue.’
A grunt from Burnett. And that damn dripping continued. It was maddening. Burnett hardly seemed to be breathing. He had to do something. Just needed to make him last until the cavalry got here.
‘You know it. I know you know it. We seen it not that long ago. Remember when Wolf picked up those sixes and dropped in. We was at my sister’s. You remember.’
Not a peep from Burnett. ‘C’mon, you remember, right?’ The drip was making him crazy. The pain, too: Dixon tried to use one to keep his mind off the other but it was making him mental. ‘Hey, that guy, whatshisname. He’s in it. Western. Big wild country. Knife fights and train robberies.’
No sound from Burnett. Dixon stretched out his foot to kick him. Even that effort made his head sing with the pain. How much worse must it be for Burnett. ‘Hey, hey.’
‘What?’ The word came out as a gasp.
‘You sleep with my sister?’
Burnett coughed. It may have been a laugh. ‘The fuck you say?’
‘I mean it. I’m not going to be angry. Just tell me.’
The drip continued. Maybe it got a little faster as Burnett tried to rise. ‘The hell you ask me a thing like that at a time like this?’ His breath rattled a little but the movement seemed to do him some good. He was almost sitting up now.
Even better, the drip stopped. That had to be good.
‘I’m just saying, you know. I left. You were there. Sis didn’t answer in the morning until late.’
‘What the fuck? So you jump to conclusions—’ Burnett’s voice almost sounded normal again, but then he started coughing again. Dixon got up and sat on the box next to his, slapping him on the back in hopes that it would help.
His hand came away wet.
‘Where’d they get you?’ Dixon wondered if they should risk putting on a light, but he wasn’t sure there was a switch in here. He looked up. There was a pair of those long fluorescent tubes in a fixture on the ceiling. There must be a switch somewhere.
‘I dunno. Grazed my neck. Stings like a sonovabitch. And through my ribs.’ Burnett hacked again, swearing incoherently as he did so. Dixon thought his neck didn’t look that bad. It must be the other wound.
Just then they heard the sirens. They both froze though no one could see them inside this storeroom. They were two blocks away from the robbery. The guys who shot them hadn’t followed. Probably.
The sirens screamed louder. Dixon checked his gun again. Three more bullets. A few more in his pocket. Maybe he should reload now. Why hadn’t he done it at once? His head was fuzzy. Must be the pain. And the running.
Did they leave a trail with all the blood?
Dixon’s heart stopped for a moment as the siren blared outside and then he realised it was going past. Probably over to the fence’s place to clear up the mess. His phone vibrated. It was going to be okay. The big guy would sort things out.
‘C’mon, let’s go. They’re coming.’
‘Who?’ Burnett croaked the word.
‘The big man sent a car around for us. We just have to get outside quiet like.’ Dixon hopped off the box, swayed for a moment, then righted himself. Burnett hadn’t moved. ‘C’mon, we’re going to spend more money than a millionaire’s seen. Patch us up, we’ll be dancing tonight.’
Burnett shuddered. ‘No cops, right? You didn’t see no cops out there, did you?’
‘Cops? No.’ Dixon tried to get hold of his pal’s arm to help him off the box but he wasn’t moving.
‘Good. For a minute there, I thought we were in trouble.’ Then Burnett started shaking like he had the DTs and then he stopped breathing. Dixon swore under his breath, then slipped the Ruger back into its holster under his arm. He picked up the two black gym bags.
‘Did you sleep with my sister, Burnett?’ Dixon whispered.
BIO: A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub. Publications include SATAN’S SORORITY from Number Thirteen Press and EXTRICATE from Fox Spirit Books, as well as tales in the 2016 Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks and the Anthony Award-nominated Protectors 2: Heroes . Wynd’s stories have been translated into German, Italian, Polish and Slovene.