He drove out to the empty street and turned onto the road leading to the factory entrance. Maria gave him a quizzical look, but said nothing. Down the road, the guard stepped out of the shack and held his hand up for Sean to stop. The guard was about thirty, with short blond hair and a thick neck on square shoulders. His uniform was jeans and a baggy t-shirt that barely concealed a handgun. He probably had a rapid fire machine gun, like an AK-47, inside the guard shack for emergencies.
Guard shack wasn’t really an appropriate term. The building was maybe five-feet squared with glass encased on the top five feet. Music drifted out the now-open door and, since the guy wasn’t sweating, the building had to be air conditioned. Though no cameras were immediately visible, no doubt they were transmitting images to whomever was in charge.
Sean lowered his window, and the guard said, “This road isn’t open to the public.”
“I have something your boss wants,” Sean said.
The guard scowled. “Doubt that.”
“You willing to risk sending me away? Sandman won’t be happy.”
The guard looked stunned at the mention of Sandman. He quickly hid his surprise, narrowing his eyes and taking a step closer. “What is it you have?”
The guard stared at him a moment. Then said, “Wait here,” before ducking back inside his shack.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Maria murmured. “If he lets us through, we have no idea what we’re getting into up there.”
“We’re not going in.”
“Of course we’re not.” Maria rolled her eyes. “How silly of me.”
“I just want to make sure he sends the message.”
The guard stepped out his door and waved Sean forward. He no longer bothered concealing his gun. “Boss wants to see you,” he said, “but first I need to take any weapons you might have. Boss doesn’t like surprises.”
“Not even surprise parties with hats and gifts?”
The guard stared at Sean without as much as a hint of amusement. “Get out of the car and hand over your weapons.”
“We don’t have weapons.” Sean swept his hand to indicate the interior of the car. “See? Nothing here.”
The guard directed his gun at Sean’s head. “Do I look like the sort to play games?”
“You do, actually. Monopoly? Or are you more the Chutes & Ladders type?”
“Out of the car, asshole.”
Sean grabbed the guard’s wrist and slammed his forearm against the inside of the doorframe. The gun dropped from his hand and clattered to the floor by Sean’s feet. Before the guard had a chance to react, Sean’s free hand swung up and under his chin. A gaping hole opened along the side of the guard’s neck.
Sean shoved him backward. The guard’s face drained of color as he grasped his sliced jugular. Blood spurted, soaking his hands and his shirt as he fell to the ground.
“Hand me a rag from the backpack, please,” Sean said to Maria.
She’d been staring at him wide-eyed. “Wow. That was unexpected.”
She dug into the backpack and produced an old hand towel. Sean used it to wipe down the edge of the door, the scalpel he’d been holding, and the blood spatter that had hit the outside of the car. Then, before anyone inside had a chance to come running, he and Maria were driving safely away from the factory.
“I thought no one innocent was supposed to get hurt,” Maria said.
“He worked for Sandman,” Sean said. “He was not innocent.”
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