“The Power of 3”
By Kellyanne Lynch
22 April 2003, 12:30 PM – 29 December 2003, 11:30 AM
13 - Leverage
The frigid metal burnt into Steve’s palm. Staring at the revolver, he turned it in his hand. As his sights glanced over the weapon, they focused on those of the shivering youth. Junior wriggled on the floor, and broke into a coughing fit. Beads of sweat dotted Steve’s brow. He ground his teeth, the pistol shaking in his grasp.
“Go ahead, Steve,” the husky voice pressed.
Gulping, Steve lowered the gun to his side. “No,” his voice wavered. He shook his head, his sights slipping to the floor. “No matter what he does, I could never hurt him.”
Steve’s back stiffened, and he froze. He pushed every ounce of his strength into crane his neck and glancing over his shoulder. Cringing, he gasped. The blonde thug held a hand gun to Michael’s chest. His teammate’s eyes widened. The NAPA driver stood at his full six-foot-five height, and bit down on his lower lip. Swallowing hard, Michael closed his eyes.
“We must persuade you to reconsider your decision, Mr. Park,” the bulky man boomed. Nodding his head toward Michael, he added, “Now we find no fault with this one. It’s a pity that we must use him as leverage.”
Steve wagged his head. “Nobody needs to be leverage!” he cried. “I’m not happy with losing my ride with DEI, but it’s not the end of the world…”
“Yes it is!” thundered his captor. “Yes it is! What Dale Earnhardt has set in place, let no man destroy!”
“It won’t get destroyed if I’m not with DEI,” Steve voiced. He took in a ragged breath. “Dale was all about families and pals, and lots of friendly competition. He embraced life.” Swallowing hard, he motioned a quivering hand around the room. “All this is against his legacy. This isn’t how he treated people. He…”
“SILENCE!” rumbled the bulky man. He jabbed a finger at Steve. “Now you need to make a…”
The corner of the room erupted in growls. Darting his sights between the sofa and plastic chair, Steve watched his dog bound to his feet. Harley bared his teeth; his tawny fur stood on end. The grumbling emitted from deeper within the dog the longer he stared at his master’s captor.
The heavy-set man inched toward his scrubs-clad cohort. Raising and lowering padded palms to the animal, he hissed, “Easy, now! Heel, dog!”
Harley snapped. Howling, the bulky man ducked behind his wiry colleague. The dog’s chops chomping inches from the other’s stomach. “Kill it!” he roared. “Kill that damn son of a bitch!”
Steps scrambled behind Steve. Swinging his aim away from Michael, the thug pointed the pistol at the dog’s midsection. His finger itched at the trigger.
Steve gargled, his eyes widening at the thug. The burly blond pushed the pad of his finger into the gun’s lever. A NAPA blue arm lashed forward, and slammed into the thug’s elbow. The pistol hit the floor with a pow.
Crying out, Michael fell.
“MIKEY!” The word jumped from Steve’s lungs. Lunging over his legs, he grabbed the weapon from the floor. His dog clamoured to his side, fangs bared and growling. Steve backed against the wall, toward Michael’s sprawled frame.
“Mike!” Crouching beside his teammate, Steve caught a blur of colour from the corner of his eye. The thug reached for Junior.
Steve sprang to his feet. “Get the hell away from him!” hollered the Pennzoil driver, pointing the gun in each hand at the brawny man’s head.
His captors exclaimed glances.
“Don’t look at each other, damn it! Listen to me!” Steve thundered. His arms and the pistols quaked. Thunder erupted from his dog’s throat.
The thug jumped, and scrambled to the bulky man and scrawny medic. The three stared wide-eyed at the Pennzoil driver. Junior quivered from his spot on the floor.
“You kidnapped my friends, you hurt my dog…” Narrowing his eyes at them, Steve wagged his head. “You tortured Dale Jr. and threatened us, and now when you tried to kill my dog, you…” Tears brimmed in the driver’s eyes. He wiped them with his forearm, and dropped his sights to the teammate at his feet.
Slumped against the living room wall, Michael clutched a hand to his left side. Blood glazed his index finger and thumb as the driver panted and looked to the ceiling. His eyelids slid shut. Michael’s lips moved, and he murmured under his breath.
Tears welled in Steve’s eyes. “Mikey?”
Streaks of colours scratched his periphery. Whirling, Steve snarled at the three men in the corner. “SIT DOWN!” He demanded, waving his guns at the trio. Harley growled at the driver’s side. “If any of you bastards make one move, I’ll slaughter you all like the pigs you are!”
The wiry man lowered himself to the floor. The other two dropped to their seats, and cowered behind the first.
“Steve…” Junior’s voice cracked.
“Shut the hell up!” the armed man snapped. Sweat drenched the chest and underarms of his crimson uniform. “You!” he pointed a gun at the person in scrubs, and butted his head toward a side table. “Go get that duct tape, and wrap it around your buddies. And I swear, if any of those two can move even their pinkies and toes, I’ll blow your friggin’ head off! Move!”
The wiry man sprang from his spot on the carpet, and scurried to the side table. Trembling hands reached for the roll of duct tape. His grip slipped. The tape thumped to the floor, and rolled a staggering path across the living room. Hitting Junior’s sneaker, it fell on its side. The lanky one froze.
Groaning, Junior leaned over his legs. He grasped the tape with a bruised hand, and mustered all his strength into raising the roll into the air. Junior’s eyes met with his captor’s. The man in scrubs gulped, and pattered across the living room. He accepted the tape from the other’s hand.
“Hurry up!” Steve hissed, nudging the knuckles of an armed hand into a knobby back. They rapped against the spinal column, and the man in scrubs leapt. He clamoured to his partners. His bony fingers picked at the hem of the duct tape. Pinching a corner, they pulled.
“Sit back to back!” Steve barked at the other two kidnappers. The pair pivoted on their seats, and rested their backs against one another.
Unsheathing a foot-long strip of tape, the skinny man laid the sticky side against jet T-shirt sleeve of the thug. He pressed it into the other’s arm, and wound it across the midsection. The person in scrubs wrapped the tape around his partners’ torsos, rounding their bodies four times, tugging at the tape after every lap. He pressed a strip of tape against each of their lips.
Steve wagged a gun from one tied kidnapper to the other. “Now their hands! Wrap them real good!”
The medic dropped to his knees. Grabbing hold of the bulky man’s hands, he plastered several rounds of duct tape around the other’s wrists, yanking with each revolution. He crawled to the second man, and bound the hands of the thug.
“Is it tight?”
The man in scrubs looked over his shoulder. Staring at the barrel of a gun pointed at his face, he froze. His lower lip quivered.
“Damn it!” Steve growled. The small man took in a sharp breath, and trembled at his partners’ sides. The driver’s arms rattled, each index finger flirting with a trigger. Through clenched teeth, he sneered, “Did you tie it tight, or not?”
“Steve…” The strained voice trailed.
The man with the guns turned to the floor space behind him, his sights locking on a pair of deep blue eyes. Wincing, Michael pushed his weight into his left hand and leaned his wounded torso closer to his teammate. “You’re out of harm’s way, Steve,” he murmured, grimacing. “We’re safe now.”
Steve’s shoulders slid back. Releasing a sigh, he slipped his index fingers off the triggers of his guns. The driver lowered and shook his head. Harley whimpered, and pressed his head against his owner’s leg.
Michael nodded toward the red-head across the room. “Hey Junior, how are you doing over…”
Raising a hand, Junior shook his head. He laid the base of his skull against the wall. “That’s what I was wondering about you, buddy.”
Michael drew his hand from his side. Glancing from his ensanguined palm to the matching wound and slash in his fire suit, he stated, “I think I’m okay.” He smirked. “I think I’m feeling a lot better than I should, actually.”
Steve rubbed the bridge of his nose. Wagging his head, he clenched his eyes shut. “I’m sorry, Mike,” he sighed. He lowered his hand, and peered at his teammate. “I… I don’t know what came over me.”
Curling a corner of his lips, Michael replied, “Sometimes, it’s hard to know when you can stop fighting and when it’s all just adrenaline.” He furrowed his brow. “We should call the police, dontcha think?”
“And an ambulance and Teresa,” Junior added. “Hey, uh, what happened to that gangly guy?”
Steve exchanged glances with Michael before looking to the Budweiser driver. His sights scanned the criminals tied to the right of Junior, across the living room and down the hallway.
“Aw, well,” Junior voiced, grimacing. “I guess two out of three ain’t bad.”
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