Potent Desire #5 by Teresa Wolf
It’s odd, and almost addictive, leading a fleet of 25 cars, carrying hundreds of soldiers into battle.
As soon as the three families had converged, geared for war, I got in my car. Beside me sat Quincy Harrison. Behind him, Larry Slater. He looked almost demeaned, being made to sit in the backseat. More so, because there wasn’t a door for him to enter through. He had to shuffle in awkwardly, wrinkling parts of his fancy suit.
Quincy has it right. When you get older, get fat. That way, anyone smaller than you, has to do the hard work.
“So, what’s the plan here, Mister Braddock?” Quincy turns to me. His face is scrunched up in confusion, his eyes squinty.
“Plan? Haven’t really thought about that,” I reply. I threw reason and the rule book out the window a few miles back. Saving Isabella is the priority, I don’t care how many people fall in the process. I didn’t tell either Larry or Quincy that. They may be part of the fallen in the end.
“You’ve gotta be shitting me,” Larry says, adjusting himself, hands on the backrest of the front seats. Where he’s sitting, his head’s directly blocking the rearview mirror. I let him have it though because both of them are probably terrified now. “I’m all for following at The King, but there has to be a plan. Oswald’s probably got one.”
“Oswald Braddock is a fool. The only plan he’s ever come up with is using Maddox… I mean Mister Braddock here, to get a job done for him,” Quincy says. “He’d no doubt shoot himself in the foot trying to threaten us, before actually hitting a target.”
Is this what it’s like to be on top? A bunch of stuffy old men, gossiping about one another? Do they even realize we’re storming into a war zone? Something tells me not. Larry and Quincy, like Father, have become soft in their later years. The groundwork and hard labor are long behind them. Now, they sit up high in ivory towers, dictating and calling shots for those whose lives mean nothing.
To think, not all that long ago, I was one of them. Cannon fodder.
“Plan’s simple.” I cut off whoever wants to speak next. “We’re going to pick up our guns. We’re going to point at anything that moves. We’re going to shoot the shit out of them. Then we’re going to get Isabella Romani out. Alive. Or there will be consequences. What more do we need?”
“We’re doing what?” Quincy turns to me, mouth agape.
“We’re going into the thick of it. If you can’t stand with your men, you can’t stand to lead them,” I add. “Today we earn our bread in blood.”
“And this is all for Bruno’s daughter? You’re going to get us all killed for a dead man’s daughter?” Larry says.
“Hold your tongue, before you lose it,” I spit, my narrow eyes glaring at him through the rearview mirror.
Neither of them speaks again. Too afraid, I suppose. Fighting a mental battle, before the physical. I already know, Quincy and Larry won’t stay and fight. They’ll be there, but more than likely they’ll be hiding, tuck-tailed in the back. Maybe squeezing the trigger of a gun once or twice to feel the rush.
They’re old, so I shouldn’t blame them for their cowardice. I shouldn’t have brought them at all, I suppose. But I need all hands on deck. If I’m going to lead this band of misfits, I’ll need to know I can trust them. What better way than putting them in an uncomfortable position?
Soon enough, we arrive at a point just beyond Father’s estate. I deliberately park a short distance out, two football fields or so. I expect the rest of the cars to do the same, but a fleet of 25 is hard to coordinate. A few vehicles rush by without warning, never pausing until they’re right outside Father’s gate.
One van doesn’t stop at all. It uses its blistering speed to smash right through the wrought iron gate. The rest of the vehicles drive by us too, while the first gunshots erupt. I watch for a while. Quincy and Larry do too.
“The war is on.” I start my engine again.
“The war is what?”
“He said on, Quincy. The war is…” Larry gets cut off, flying back in his seat, while I speed towards my troops.
I pull up behind a long row of cars. The three families set up a blockade, using a long row of stationary vehicles as a shield wall, for cover in this battle against the Braddocks. All hell’s broken loose by the time I’m out, and ducking behind the wheel arch of a Cadillac. Quincy gets out, huffing and puffing, red-faced. Larry slithers awkwardly from the backseat, keeping his body low, and creasing his fancy suit further.
Today we fight or today we die. There’s no stopping our final stand for glory.
I’m coming, Isabella. No matter what it takes, I’m coming, my love.
* * *
My childhood home. A once cherished place, where I used these yards to play my imaginary games. The outside is simple, with long stretches of perfectly manicured lawn, flower beds, and few trees scattered here and there. Perfect for seeing oncoming threats, but there’s a fatal flaw in Father’s design of the property.
Apart from a Buick, a Mazda, the water feature, and a single oak tree, there’s little to no cover from my incoming attack. Knowing this property so well, all its nooks and crannies, puts my father at a disadvantage – one he couldn’t have foreseen. I can’t complain. An easy win is always good for morale.
But my heart isn’t in the fight. Not like the rest of the men standing ready. All I can do is think about Isabella, and what horrors she might already have endured inside that house. The mental and physical torture of cruel men. And where my plan of storming the gates felt so fool-proof in the car, what does it hold for Isabella now?
Is she even inside the house? Would Father be so brazen to believe I’d give in to his demands? Or is this fight for nothing and they’re out, somewhere in the city, in a more controlled environment, waiting for word of my attack?
I shouldn’t think about this now. Focusing on this fight is my priority. Even if they’re not here, weakening the Braddocks is all I’ve got.
Well-trained riflemen stand ready, firing single bullets in the direction of awkward over-dangling Braddock men, half-behind cover. One bullet, one kill. Assault rifles and sub-machine guns empty magazines with no purpose or direction towards the house. Some smash through the windows, tearing curtains to shreds, and giving us a view inside. From outside, looking in, men drop while attempting to return fire, their guns only sticking out briefly before they need to reload.
Father’s army has grown, but they were not prepared for this type of war. Even with all the land grabbing Father’s done, the three families still reign supreme.
Return gunfire ricochets, thuds, dents, and on some occasions even tears through the metal of our vehicular shield wall. Windows shatter from the impact, and bullets fly overhead, but the three families stand strong.
No one’s waiting for orders, they’re just doing what feels right. Battling excitedly in the first war of our generation. This is what we’ve all prepared for. Odd jobs, a beating here and there, have all geared us towards this.
A last stand between the houses, for absolute control and superiority.
“How did you think this was a good idea?” Larry Slater asks. He’s pretty much laying on his back, his gun clutched to his chest. His words are muted, even though he is shouting, amidst the loud bangs from various weapons.
“Never said it was a good idea. It’s just the only one I came up with,” I reply, shrugging. “But enough talk, let’s get this over with.”
I peek my head over the front of the car I’m hunched behind. Any of Father’s men, who are out of cover, are met by someone’s bullet before they can duck back in again. This is the easiest part, I know, holding a line of defense. It’s storming the house that worries me.
But my life is unimportant in this scrap. Isabella will return home safely, with or without me at her side.
“Look at them,” someone lets out an elated war cry. “They’re squirming like maggots.”
“Then we keep pushing them back,” I shout. A thunderous roar bursts through the ranks.
I don’t even need to give the command for them to push forward. One by one, they start hopping over car bonnets, firing blindly in any direction where someone might be hiding. I join the masses, congregating like soldiers, ready to give up their lives for the cause. A foolish endeavor, I know. But I’ll trust and use them, as I’ve been used before; all to reach my end goal.
A continuous barrage of bullets streams from guns, peppering the house. Even I fire a handful of shots towards the windows, all blind, and knowing that somewhere inside we might get lucky enough to hit a target.
We funnel through the wrought iron gate, which was smashed long ago. The brave souls who broke it, lie dead at the hand of the Braddocks.
Father’s men are oddly quiet while the first wave pushes forward. At least, that’s what it feels like as we stumble and tumble over one another. But then, all hell breaks loose again. A return attack comes from windows and the front door. It seems like any weapons the Braddocks could lay their hands on, empty magazines in the sea of the three families making up ground.
Those bravest few who went to the front, start collapsing one by one. I want to call for a retreat, but I can’t. We’ve come too far, and all we need to do is get to the water feature, the Mazda and the Buick.
The loud bangs are overshadowed by the screeching of the men, who’ve been hit. Some scream aimlessly, while others begin their begging and pleading for help. It hurts, I admit, to walk over them. They’re laying in puddles of blood, with semi-amputated limbs, victims of the machine guns that tore them to almost to shreds.
Someone will help, once we’ve cleared the perimeter. Of that, I’m certain.
Once more, we return, blow for blow. For every member of the three families that falls, we manage to get one of the Braddocks. At least, that’s how it feels, although, in reality, we’re losing more men than they are. We’ve just got higher numbers, to make it all the way in.
The congregation of Families makes its goal, beside the water feature and the vehicles, and takes cover, before regrouping. Where I stand, somewhere in the middle of it all, I’m now on the front line. My heart’s thumping in my chest. I’ve never been so distraught, exhilarated, and nervous all at the same time.
I’m a modern-day Prince Charming, saving my princess from the jaws of a dragon.
“Fire in the hole,” someone calls. “Duck boys.”
“No, wait, stop,” I turn to him, but it’s too late. A grenade’s already flying through the air, into an open double window, long ago shot out. An explosion follows a few seconds later.
Another one goes into a separate window, at the other end of the house. The living room and a bedroom crumble in the blast.
Fuck. What if Isabella was in one of those windows? A sudden urge takes hold of me to get inside. The risk and cost of my life means little. I push past the Buick Regal I’ve dropped behind, pistol fixed on the front door. There are only a few stairs to go, and I’ve made it.
But it’s all silent now, apart from ringing in my ears. The three families push with me, many of them taking to the perimeter, walking around, and peering into windows. All eager to find their next target.
Those who rush behind the house are met by more resistance, while the men who join me at the front door seem in the clear. There’s grumbling, and screaming from hurt Braddocks scattered across the ground. But none are willing to lift their guns and fight any longer. Beaten and belittled, they are ready to suffer the consequences of standing up against The King.
We walk silently through the rubble. Parts of the ceiling or nearby walls are still crumbling from the grenades that were tossed inside. My soldiers move, their guns pointed at the injured Braddocks, ready to kill if there’s any funny business.
“Look for Isabella Romani. Find her now,” I demand. All the excitement I felt moments ago, is replaced by terror. She’d be lucky to have survived the gunfight. But with explosives chucked through the windows, I expect the worst.
My men do as they’re told. Most break off and start their search through the house. A few, me included, make our way towards the bedrooms, clearing each door as we pass, until we make it to the war room.
I stop outside it, press my ear against the wood, and listen. Of course, it’d all end in there. It’s where it all began, after all.
My childhood bedroom.
I can’t hear anything inside, though that’s mostly because of the ringing in my ears. It’s the last room to clear. Without wasting any more time, I turn the handle and step inside.
Isabella is squirming in Father’s grip. A pistol is pressed against her temple.
“Maddy, my boy. You made it,” he says. “Just in time to watch the princess die.”