Sharp as Sword Blades, ch. 4: April Guthrie [null]

Monitoring: April Guthrie [null]
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

1:25 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Monday, August 4th, 2014
17:25 Coordinated Universal Time
Monday, August 4th, 2014

Rewind—

Face turned to the lionfish on her table, April watches out of the corner of her eye as Hannah converses with Simon’s mystery people. Even when they reveal their knowledge that they are being watched and Señora Viejo, as she is apparently named, blatantly looks around the restaurant, April keeps her face impassive. They know about two PALATINATE agents and one of those is almost certainly Mary, so there’s a fifty-fifty chance that her cover is intact.

As April orders another ice water, the conversation at the other table shifts in strange ways, taking on a tone that April can’t quite figure out. Hannah pulls out her phone, Simon appears shortly thereafter, they continue to talk, and then—chaos, a blur of activity that terminates with April out of her seat, moving on automatic and already halfway there, both hands wrapped around a gun that she barely realizes has already been fired. She rounds the overturned table, stepping over scattered silverware and bits of serpentine meat and bone, and smashes the slide of her gun into Akvo’s temple repeatedly until a bloody knife slips from his fingers and Dan yanks him away.

At April’s feet is a body. It had a name once but that didn’t matter anymore. People have names, but people have faces. April doesn’t need to look at the scene for more than a couple of seconds to see how it transpired: She had been taught, once, how to kill someone with a pen, shoving it through the eye and past the fragile bone behind, or up through the bottom of the jaw. It looked like Akvo had opted for the former, apparently multiple times, and he had the benefit of having a knife on hand. Both eyes were a mess and the nose was caved in. If she had to make a guess from his stance, Akvo had been preparing to slice the carotid artery by the time that she reached him.

“Medic!” she screams, old training coming to fore, and she drops to her knees beside the body, but April doesn’t doesn’t do anything to the body itself. If the carotid had been opened then maybe she would try to staunch the flow, but she doesn’t know what to do with eyes or even if something could be done at all. At any rate, she sincerely doubts that the body is really alive anymore. Oh, the cells are still firing, alright, and the organs fighting valiantly and dumbly to keep going, but the destruction to the brain had to be severe. April doubted that there was still anyone still at home inside.

She catches Peter heading over and waves him away. “Back off,” she says. Peter’s too young for this shit, and wouldn’t have any idea what to do with the body anyway. April picks up the knife that Akvo was holding and turns it over, ignoring the grime on her fingers. In her mind’s eye she pictures Akvo raising the knife in the air and makes a connection to his damaged hand. April isn’t sure what to be more astounded by, that Viejo had hit such a small target in motion, under stress, or that Akvo had been able to maintain his attack as if nothing had happened.

Behind her, a bystander vomits.

“We have the other one,” says Peter, who has wisely decided to follow directions and is standing on the far side of the table. “He’s missing one of his fingers and then there’s what you and Dan did to him, but he’ll live. We can interrogate him,” he says, and April nods. That’s good. It would have been nice to be able to check their answers against each other, but that just isn’t going to happen. “Bert and Mary are managing the crowd. CPD officers should be here any time now.”

“Good,” April says, and she shifts positions and puts her back against the table, one leg tucked in beneath her. Getting analytical, putting things under the glass, gives her some distance. It’s as though there isn’t a mutilated corpse next to her at all. “Not bad for a shitstorm.”

“It could have been worse,” Peter agrees.

“Don’t worry,” April says. “There are plenty more opportunities for everything to go wrong.”

The body beside her has a knife in its hands, too. It’s hard to be sure, with everything having moved so fast, but April thinks she recalls Viejo recoiling away from Akvo and Simon almost as soon as she had launched out of her seat. It was Akvo who flipped the table, definitely, maybe as an improvised wall or just to add to the general disruption, but there was no sign that the other knife had been used to any effect. April would say that Viejo hadn’t expected anything, but then what was that attempt to get away just before the table flipped? Akvo hadn’t even moved in her direction before she had pulled back. If she knew how Akvo was going to respond then their partnership had to have been on shaky ground before this.

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