By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Set between Lethal Weapon 2 and 3. This story was originally published in the zine Of Dreams & Schemes #8. It's been re-edited for posting.
“Bang! Bang! You’re dead!”
Martin Riggs clutched his chest and rolled across the floor. Coughing and gagging until his body spasmed and went still.
Opening his eyes, he grinned up at the sober faced little girl standing over him.
“You’re just supposed to fall down dead – not flop like a fish.” Carrie Murtaugh put her toy gun back in its holster.
“Sorry, it’s been a long time since I played Cowboys and Indians.” Climbing to his feet, he patted her on the head. “I’m a little rusty – give me some time.”
“I got you in my sights, Injun!” One of Carrie’s friends ran into the room, causing her to squeal and dive behind the sofa.
Settling back on the couch, Martin watched the kids play with the seriousness only children have.
Coming out of the kitchen with a beer in each hand, Roger Murtaugh stumbled over a ‘dead’ cowboy. “Get to Boot Hill where you belong.” He ordered. The ‘dead’ body jumped up and ran off, waving his six-shooter wildly. “Kids.”
“All right, you Injun lover, reach fer the sky!” A gravelly, ten year old voice said.
“Ya got me, Tex.” Martin put his hands up and turned to face his captor—and found himself staring down the barrel of a snubnose .38. “Easy, pardner. Put the gun down real slow.”
The boy frowned at the no-nonsense tone of voice. He started to lower the gun.
“Billy!” Roger’s voice cracked from the doorway.
Startled by the shout, the boy jerked, involuntarily pulling the trigger. The bullet tore through the couch, and the glass-topped coffee table exploded.
Sitting up from where he’d thrown himself on the floor, Martin brushed the glass splinters and tufts of upholstery from his hair.
Roger took the smoking gun from Billy’s limp fingers. “Riggs, you all right?”
“Sure, what about the kid?”
“Billy?” The older man shook the boy gently. “Billy, are you okay?”
“Uh-huh.” Staring at the hole in the couch, he started crying. “I didn’t know it was loaded.”
“It’s all right, now.” Gathering the crying child into his arms, Roger offered the boy his handkerchief. “Where did you get the gun?”
“It was in my brother’s room. The trigger broke on my six-shooter, so I borrowed one of his.”
The other kids had gathered around, silent and wide-eyed at the destruction. Carrie pointed at the pistol. “That’s a real gun!” The others went to the table to stare at it.
“Don’t mind Uncle Martin, he’s okay.” Martin shook the last of the glass out of his hair. “Don’t worry about me – I just came within inches of death.”
“Billy, don’t you know a real gun from a play gun? You never, never touch a real gun.” Carrie puffed up with self-importance. “My daddy showed me how to tell the difference a long time ago.”
“I didn’t know!” The boy started crying again.
“Hush, Carrie. You got this from your brother?”
“Uh-huh. He has a whole box full.”
“Could you show it to me?” Roger asked.
Glad he wasn’t in trouble, the boy led Roger and Martin two houses down the block. He ran through the kitchen and headed upstairs.
“Hi, Mom, bye, Mom.” He greeted his startled mother.
“Mrs. Kennedy, I’m Roger Murtaugh, Carrie’s father.” Roger said, smiling at her.
“Hello, have a seat. Don’t tell me Billy’s gotten in trouble so soon.”
“He almost blew my brains out, nothing serious.” Martin gave her a cheerful smile.
“What?” The dish she was drying nearly slipped from her fingers.
“He had a gun he says he got from Eric’s room.” Roger glared at Riggs.
“A gun?” She dropped into a chair.
“Mind if we have a talk with Eric?” Not waiting for an answer, Martin headed upstairs.
“A gun? Oh my God.” Mrs. Kennedy put her face in her hands.
“Why don’t you let us see what we can do.” Roger said comfortingly.
Jogging up the stairs after his partner, he caught up with Riggs at the top. “Do you know where you’re going?” He asked.
“Nope, figured I’d just peek in rooms until I found the right one.” Glancing into the first room, he shook his head. “Obviously the bathroom.”
“The toilet kinda gave it away.” Murtaugh said caustically. Looking in the room across the hall, Roger whistled at Martin. “Here we go, large stereo, posters everywhere. This is it.”
“Why do all teenagers have the same decorator?” Riggs began expertly rifling through the dresser drawers. “Spare change, rubbers, baggie of dope, aha – here we go!”
“Find ‘em?” Roger glanced up from where he was crouched, feeling under the bed.
“Better – his diary!”
“Get real, will ya? We’re here looking for guns.” Moving to the closet, he tossed aside a pile of laundry.
“Sure, sure.” Martin deftly picked the lock on the front of the book and scanned the pages. “Better be careful, Rog – he’s got a thing for Rianne.”
“Can’t say as I blame him; she’s the prettiest girl on the block.”
“He seems to think so. In fact...” Snapping the book shut, he walked over to the window, picked up the binoculars there, and scanned the neighborhood. “In fact, you can see right into your daughter’s bedroom window.”
“What?” Jerking the glasses out of the younger man’s hands, Roger looked out the window. “You wait till I get my hands on the little pervert.”
Eric Kennedy shifted uneasily. He didn’t know who to be more scared of, his father or Mr. Murtaugh.
“Where did you get the guns?” Martin lifted a .45 out of the box.
“I don’t remember.” His bravado faded quickly when the gun swung around to point at him. “I – I found ‘em.”
“You know, your little brother almost shot me today. He could have killed me.” Fingering the hammer, Riggs pulled it back slowly. “That – ” Click. “Woulda really – ” Click. Click. “Pissed me off.” Click.
Flinching, Eric looked to his father for support. Finding none, he confessed, “The Radar Man – I get ‘em from the Radar Man!”
“Radar Man?” Martin tossed the empty gun back in the box.
“He sells ‘em to me wholesale, and I mark ‘em up a couple hundred percent to make a good profit.” Sweat trickled down his back. “Everybody carries a gun now, for protection.”
“From what – the playground bully? When’s your next meet with this guy?” Roger demanded.
“Tuesday, after school.”
“Well, you’re going to have some company.” Riggs told the boy. The teenager nodded and swallowed hard.
Roger tossed the baggie of dope to Eric’s father. “Bob, we’ve been neighbors for a long time, so I’m gonna give the kid a break. But the next time....”
“There won’t be a next time, will there, Eric?” Bob Kennedy eyed his son.
“No, sir!” The boy gulped, reading months of being grounded in his father’s eyes.
After leaving the house, Riggs glanced at his partner. “Now what, Cochise?” He asked as he hefted the box of guns onto his shoulder and headed back across the street.
“We take the guns downtown.” Murtaugh paused at his own front door. “And tell my daughter to pull down her shades.”
“That’s him, over there by the fence.” Eric Kennedy and the two cops stood in the front room of an empty apartment across from the high school.
“Looks pretty young to be a gunrunner.” Roger gave the guy a critical once over. Leaning on a sleek black car, the Radar Man was tall and dark. Several passing schoolgirls sighed over his handsome profile.
“You tell him you’ve got a client who wants more than tinker toys. Set up a meet for tonight.” Martin lowered the rifle scope he’d been looking through. “Then get your butt home – your dad said something about paintin’ the house.”
As Eric headed off for his meeting, Roger gave his partner an anxious look. “You think he’ll be all right?”
“Sure, he’s been dealin’ with this guy for awhile; nothing’s happened so far. ‘Sides, he won’t be anywhere around when the action starts.”
“I hope not; he’s just a kid. Jeez, look at them.” He pointed at the kids pouring out of the school. “When I was in school, you used your fists in a fight. Now they just pull out a gun and blow the other guy away.”
“Times change, Rog, times change.”
“What’s the matter, Eric? You’re jumpy as hell.”
“I, uh, it’s this guy, he wants to buy a lot of guns.” Wiping sweat from his upper lip, the teen continued, “Not handguns – AK-47s and Uzis.”
“I take it this isn’t one of your high school buddies.” Radar Man ground out his cigarette.
“No, no, it’s a guy I know from work.” Eric had a part time job with a local record store. It had made explaining his extra money to his parents easier.
“And he just happened to mention that he needed a few machine guns?” Radar Man’s brown eyes bored into Eric’s. “Not that I give a rat’s ass, kid. Long as he’s got the money.”
“Tonight, then? Eight-thirty at your office?” Eric glanced around nervously, wanting to be anywhere but here. “He said he’d wear a carnation in his buttonhole.”
“Yeah, I’ll be there.” The gunrunner lit a fresh Marlboro.
Relieved, Eric started to walk away. “Hey, kid.” He froze in mid-step. “See you next week.”
“S-sure.” Eric ran all the way home.
Radar Man’s office turned out to be an empty stall at a U-Store place. “So, you’re the man with the hardware?” Martin twirled his carnation between his fingers.
“That’s me. Here, look through the catalog – it’s got the prices and a complete list of merchandise.” Tossing the booklet on the crate that served as his desk, the young man lit a cigarette.
“Uzis, laser sights, stun guns; I’m impressed.” Martin did a quick scan through the catalog. “When can you deliver?”
“A week to ten days. If you’re in a hurry, we can ship air express.”
“We’ll bring a truck to – “
“UPS will deliver it.”
“UPS? Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack. You give me five thousand now – in cash.” He dropped his half-finished cigarette to the floor. “When it gets here, you pay the COD charges, and give me another five thousand.”
“Ten grand plus the cost of the guns, that’s pretty steep.” Riggs tossed the flower to Radar Man.
“You’re gettin’ wholesale prices. Instead of the ten thousand percent markup you’d pay on the street, or the five hundred percent in a store – if you could find this stuff in a store – you pay a measly two hundred percent.” He tossed the flower down on the crate.
Martin pretended to think about it for a minute. “What the heck, I guess I can live with that.”
A half-hour after he’d arrived, Martin handed over the cash advance and a list of the guns he wanted. “You can get ‘em here by Friday?”
“No problem. Be here by two, or you’ll miss the delivery.”
“I’ll be here early.” Pocketing his wilted carnation, Riggs left the makeshift office.
“You get his prints?” Roger asked when he slid in the truck.
“Yep. Let’s go find out who the Radar Man really is.” Lighting a cigarette, he tossed the match out the window. “Fucking UPS delivery. I’ve seen everything now.”
“Got your man for you.”
Roger peered over Brett’s shoulder. “Who is he? Gunrunner? Axe murderer?”
“Nope, believe it or not, this guy works for us – in a manner of speaking.”
“What?” Both detectives said at once.
“He’s got a clean record; the only reason I found anything on him was because he was in the Navy.” He tapped the report in front of him.
“How did you – “
“Our computers talked to their computers. When I couldn’t find an arrest record, I ran through the service records.”
“Navy boy, huh?” Martin read over the sheet. “Kenneth Wilfing, 29, clean record, works for Lomar Radar.” He laughed. “He sells this stuff to police departments and the bad guys, too.”
“That explains the record number of people wearin’ body armor, lately.” Roger shook his head. “And you know the kicker? We can’t arrest him for sellin’ us this stuff. He’s a licensed dealer!”
“Could we get him for sellin’ to the kid?”
“I don’t want to get him involved. If this guy starts shooting – ” Roger didn’t finish the thought.
“So how are we supposed to catch him?”
“If you detectives don’t mind a hint from a lowly print lifter… It’s illegal to sell guns to someone with a felony record, right?”
“Yeah, so?” Roger shrugged.
“So, find someone with a felony to pick up the guns.” Brett gave them a smug smile.
A smile covered Roger’s face. “Then we can put the Radar Man outta business.”
“I like it, Brett, I like it.” Martin followed his partner out the door.
“Yeah?” He stuck his head back in the room.
“Next time, try to get something better to get the prints. It was a bitch getting ‘em off this tape.” He threw the carnation in the trash.
“Come on, Leo, just this one favor.”
“Why should I?” Leo Getz put down his pen and glared up at Riggs.
“Hey didn’t we get you probation?”
“And this job at H & R Block?” Roger added.
“Okay, so you helped me get a job.”
“And I almost got killed saving your life.” Riggs pointed out.
“You’re the one who dove out the window – and took me with you!”
“Well, how about my rescuing you out of Rudz’s house?” They were running out of ammunition, and Roger nudged Riggs.
“He pulled it off the cliff!” The ex-con pointed an accusing finger at Riggs.
“Come on, Leo, we really need your help. Riggs has shot everybody else we know with a felony rap.”
“Really. This guy’s sellin’ guns to kids.”
“Kids? Oh, that's just not right. Okay, okay, I’ll help!” Leo threw his hands up in mock surrender. “But I want a bulletproof vest!”
“Anything you want, Leo.” Roger agreed. “We’ll even let you wear a wire.”
“Really?” He looked from one detective to the other. “Can I carry a gun this time?”
“Who’s the new guy?” Radar Man looked Leo over suspiciously.
“The money man.”
“Yeah, I’m the one who’s really doing the buying.” Leo crossed his arms over his chest. “The kid here is just an errand boy.”
Martin shot the ex-con a dirty look.
Out in the car, listening to the exchange, Roger laughed.
“The truck should be here in a few minutes; it was just down the street when I got here.”
“Okay, now let’s get this straight. I give you another five thou?” Leo asked. “Gosh, that’s cheap!”
“Plus, you pay the delivery man and list price.”
“Still, such a small finder’s fee – ” Leo frowned. “You could be making so much more.”
“I’m not greedy. I make a little extra money, and the big boys don’t bother with me.”
“Who does your taxes—ouch!” Getz rubbed his side where Martin had elbowed him.
Listening in on the conversation, Roger muttered to himself. “If this wasn’t so serious, it’d be fucking hysterical.”
“Excuse me, I’ve got a delivery for Smith.” The UPS driver stepped inside the ‘office’.
“Smith? There’s no – oh, that’s me!” Leo gave Martin a wink. “That’s me all right! Mr. Smith.” Taking the clipboard, he scrawled his name across the dotted line.
Martin helped unload the dozen or so boxes that made up their order so the delivery man would be long gone if trouble started. Glancing around to make sure Leo had the Radar Man occupied, he whispered into the wire he was wearing, “Come on, Rog, time to put this guy away. Do it quick and we can get home to Trish’s lasagna.”
Snapping off the receiver, Roger got out of the car. “Threaten me, and you can do it all by yourself.” He muttered. His wife’s lasagna was... different.
Martin was debating the best way to tell the guy he was out of business when Leo decided for him. “All right, you’re under arrest!” Getz declared.
“Oh, Jesus.” Riggs slid his Beretta out of its holster.
“Up against the wall!” Leo pointed at the wall in question. “I don’t want to get rough with you – so do as you’re told and nobody gets hurt!”
The Radar Man smiled at him. “This is a joke, right?”
“No joke, sucker, against the wall.” Martin flashed his badge.
“Arrest me.” The guy shrugged. “The charge won’t stick. This is all legal.”
“Oh yeah? Well, I got a felony record.” Leo said smugly. “So there!”
A .44 Bulldog materialized in the gunrunner’s hand, and he grabbed Leo by the collar. Spinning the smaller man around, he used him as a shield, his gaze on Riggs.
Roger ran into the office; one glance showed him the situation. “I told you this wouldn’t work, Riggs!” He snapped, his own gun out and level.
“Put the gun down.” Walking slowly toward the gunrunner, Martin kept his voice calm. “Put the gun down.”
“Stop right there, or I’m gonna blow his brains across the room.” The barrel of the revolver pressed into Leo’s temple.
“Please!” Leo waved his hands frantically. “Listen to him!”
“If you shoot him, I’m gonna have to shoot you,” Martin continued.
Roger moved slowly to the left, hoping he could distract the man long enough for Martin to get a clear shot.
“Looks like a stand off; I shoot him, you shoot me. What does that get us?” Radar Man put pressure on the gun until it threatened to disappear into the soft flesh of Getz’ neck.
“That leaves you dead. That’s even better than arresting you.” The smile didn’t reach Martin’s pale blue eyes. “Less paperwork.”
“Okay, okay, we can work this out!” Leo tugged at the forearm wrapped around his neck. “You guys don’t shoot anybody, and we all go home, okay?”
“Shut up!” The stranglehold tightened.
“Okay, okay! I’m shutting up!” The smaller man struggled weakly. “I’m gonna faint already!”
“Don’t hurt the little guy.” Roger had worked his way over to the opposite wall. “Let him go, and put down the gun.”
“Forget it.” Radar Man moved his gun, swinging it to point at the older detective.
Reacting instantly, Martin squeezed off a shot that sped past Leo’s ear. As the gunrunner fell back, clutching his throat, a second shot tore through the hand holding the Bulldog.
“I’m bleeding! I’ve been shot! My shirt’s ruined!” Leo brushed ineffectually at the blood staining his shirt. “This is Italian silk! The stain’ll never come out!”
“Just clipped your ear a little, Leo. Chill out.” Martin slid the clip out of his gun.
Roger looked down at the dead body. “Do you have to kill everybody?”
“There’s less forms to fill out.” Riggs inspected Leo’s ear. “Just a little notch; it’ll give you something to tell the girls about.”
“You did it on purpose! I know how good a shot you are – you didn’t have to hit me!”
“Don’t be such a cry baby.” Martin flashed a badge at the two cops that had just run into the room. Sometimes blue suits couldn’t tell the bad guys from the good guys, so it was always best to show them who was who.
“What took you so long? God, he almost choked me to death – I’ll have bruises for a week!” Leo had worked himself into a good rant.
“If I’d shot him while the gun was at your head, your brains might be somewhere over next week.”
Pulling off his bloody shirt, Leo threw it on the floor. “Some good this vest was. Did anybody bring some clean clothes?” The ex-con fussed, taking off the stained bulletproof vest.
Roger went out to the car to call the meat wagon, Martin reloaded his gun, and the blue suits started writing their report. Everyone ignored Leo’s whining.
“This is the last time I help you guys!” Getz dropped the vest on the ruined shirt.
“Come on, I’ll let you play with the siren on the way downtown.” Roger said, tossing his own jacket to Leo. Getz followed the cop outside, still muttering.
“Okay, okay, I’ll forgive you this time,” Leo said as he squeezed in the front seat with the two detectives. “Is this jacket wool? I’ll get a rash.”
“What the hell do you think you’re doin?” Martin pushed him out the door. “Get in the back.”
“How can I play with the siren from the back seat?” he whined.
“He’s got a point there, partner. Let him sit in the middle.” Roger took the shotgun from its cradle in the center of the dash and laid it on the back floorboard.
“All right, but you touch anything besides that knob, and I cut your hand off.”
“God, Riggs, you are so butch!” The shorter man slid across the seat. “You should loosen up. Not everyone is after your body, you know.”
“Okay, okay, just shut up!” Slamming the door, Martin leaned on the window frame. “Okay, so let’s go already! Jesus, now I’m starting to talk like him.”
The siren screamed all the way downtown.
“All right, you see the target?” Roger pointed at the silhouette hanging on a nearby tree.
“Yes!” A chorus of children’s voices answered him.
“I want you kids to take turns firing your six-shooters at it.” He pulled one of the boys out of the group. “Davie, you go first.”
Giggling, the kids took turns shooting their toy guns at the target. When they were finished, Roger went with them to look at where it rustled peacefully in the breeze, untouched, unmarked. “See, no holes, and you know why?
“‘Cos these are toys. Now, Uncle Martin’s going to show us what a real gun does.” He led them back to where Riggs was unloading his pistol.
“Here.” The younger detective handed it to Carrie. “Everybody take a good look at it. Feel how heavy it is? And it’s metal – not plastic.” He waited until each child had handled it before taking it back. “Anytime you find a gun that feels and looks like this one, put it up and go find a toy to play with.”
Sliding the clip in, he motioned them off to one side. “Now, just in case you all missed – let me use one of your guns.”
The kids laughed at the sight of a grown up shooting one of their toy guns. “Okay, so, there are no holes in the target. And since I’ve got marksmanship metals coming out my – ” He looked at his young audience. "Ears, it’s not too likely that I missed. So, now we see what this one can do.” He extended the pistol out in front of him and fired. The bullets ripped out of the gun one after another, putting a neat hole where the silhouette’s heart had been.
Cringing away from the noise and smoke, the kids ran to Roger. “That was awful!”
“Look at the hole!”
“Yes, kiddies, that’s a big hole in your friend’s chest, or your mom’s, or yours.” Hefting the shotgun he’d brought along up to his shoulder, Riggs waited for the kids to settle down. When they were quiet, he pulled the trigger.
The kids screamed at the deafening noise, screamed again at the second blast. The bottom half of the target fluttered to the ground.
He took another shell from his pocket and slid it into the gun. “And that’s what a shotgun usually does, and with a special shell...” The shotgun went back up to his shoulder. Before they could cover their ears, he pulled the trigger again.
Their ears ringing, eyes smarting from the powder hanging in the air, the kids filed silently after Martin to look at the target. A hole big enough for a baseball to rest in was where the face of the target had been.
“And that, kiddies, is your brains all over the floor – in the next room.” Breaking open the gun, Riggs dropped the empty casings on the ground. “There’s a difference between toys and the real thing. Yours are for fun, and mine are for killing.”
They stared from the target to him and back. ‘Uncle Martin’ had just gained a huge amount of respect in their eyes. He had gone from being a fun and slightly crazy friend to a deadly stranger.
He flashed them a smile, breaking the spell. “Okay, who wants ice cream?”
“I do! I do!” They rushed for the car, leaving the two men to clean up the mess.
“What did you do to that last shell?” Roger pulled the remains of the silhouette off the tree.
“Just a little trick I picked up somewhere. You cut through the plastic casing just above the metal rim.” He grinned at his partner through the fist sized hole. “Turns it into a slug. A big one.”
“Very nice. Something you can show off at parties.” As they headed for the car, Roger asked, “Do you think they learned anything?”
“Oh, yeah, I did when my father showed me. It makes one hell of an impression.” Closing the lid of the trunk, he waved at the kids through the back window. “Now they can play Cowboys and Indians without killing me.”
“Come on, ice cream!” Carrie leaned out the window. “Ice cream!”
“Keep your britches on!” The two men got into the front seat and the car headed out of the woods for the nearest Dairy Queen.
“Everybody know This Old Man?” Twisting around in his seat, Martin started singing. “This old man, he played one...”
The kids joined in enthusiastically. “He played knick knack on my thumb!”
Roger sighed and the car rocked slightly from side to side as the group started on the chorus. “Someday, all my kids will be grown up, and I won’t have to listen to this stupid song anymore.”
He caught a glimpse of Carrie’s face in the rearview mirror, and felt his heart contract. She was growing up so fast. Giving up, he joined in the singing. “This old man came rolling home!”