By the time Pat finally rolled passed the front entrance, he counted three gunmen down and at least five more scattered about strategic locations in the foyer and at the top of a wide staircase that stretched toward the second floor of the place from a point about fifteen feet in from the doorway. The quick scan he made of the room wasn’t near enough to get a really good look at any of the targets. However, he saw enough to know that none of them looked to be over thirty. Unless he missed something, none of them could be Rosatti.
What seemed like hours after he had left Cheeks by the fountain, Pat finally came to rest in a prone position just behind Steve. In actuality, it had been less than a minute. Pat’s perception of time meant very little to him at that moment. What really mattered was the fact that they were pinned down. The moment his movement stopped, the barrel of a gun with a face behind it poked up from behind an overturned table. Pat instinctively squeezed his trigger, and there was one less gun firing at them.
“I counted five still standing minus one that I just put down,” he hollered up at Steve.
“Yeah,” Steve agreed as he spun back behind the wall to reload again, “there are at least that many.” After dropping his magazine and slapping in another he added, “This ain’t working. Give me a minute.”
Pat rolled to the right and emptied his gun into the doorway. No bodies fell, but all of the heads he could see slipped back behind cover once the bullets started flying. When he rolled back to reload, Steve had his backpack off and was fishing something out of it. Pat paid little attention as he reloaded and rolled back in front of the door to empty his gun again. Five shots in, he noticed a small, dark ball flash by the periphery on his left side. By the time he had finished emptying his gun and was rolling back to reload again the ground beneath him was shaking and his ears were ringing with more vigor.
“What the fuck was that?” he shouted up at Steve.
Steve didn’t reply immediately. Instead he slipped back around the door jam and began firing into the room again. Once empty, he flopped back against the wall and said, “Grenade. I have one more. Think I should use it or save it?”
“How many are left?”
“I only saw two at the top of the stairs.”
“Save it,” Pat replied as he rolled right, fired twice, and then scanned the room again, his gaze following the path of his barrel.
A moment later, Steve slipped back around the door jam and scanned the area in the same fashion. After three seconds he whispered, “Clear?”
“Clear,” Pat agreed.
“Cover me,” Steve said as he crouched around the corner and headed left.
Pat slowly rose to a crouch and then shuffled closer to the doorway. There was no movement in his line of sight. By the time Steve’s head interrupted his view and said, “All clear,” he already knew that to be the case.
“I’ve got my last magazine loaded,” Pat whispered.
“I’ve got one more,” Steve replied. After scanning the room again he added, “Watch the stairs and the hall while I see what our friends are packing.”
Pat sucked in the slowest, deepest breath he could remember. Then he let it out in one quick blast. Reality hit him in the head like a baseball bat. While bullets were filling the air, his instincts had been in complete control. Now that he had a minute to assess things, the severity of the situation began to sink in. They would all be fired. There were dead bodies all over the place and at least four of those kills were his, maybe more. An unfamiliar coldness battled in his gut with an all too familiar sense of dread. The coldness was new, foreign. That sense of dread was something he had known since childhood. As he waited for Steve to finish scavenging everything useful from the newly made corpses they had created, he counted every instance in his life that he felt it. It was a hollowness that filled him, shut him down, and kept him from reacting or even moving at all sometimes. Luckily, the coldness seemed to be winning the battle. He was ready to face whatever other horrors Mario Rosatti’s lakeside funhouse had to offer and face the consequences once his work was finished.
Steve flopped down beside Pat, handed him a gun and two magazines, and said, “They were all carrying nines.”
“Really?” Pat glanced over at him. “I would have thought they’d all be packing something bigger.”
“Me too,” Steve shrugged. Then he glanced around the room and said, “We should move.”
“Yep,” Pat agreed. “Up or down?”
“I can’t be sure that it was him, but I might have seen Rosatti head down that hallway toward the back of the house. I don’t know what he looks like, but this guy carried himself like he was in charge. He had a couple of younger guns following him to, protection maybe.”
Both men looked at each other for a few seconds before Pat finally broke the silence. “That’s the best lead we’ve got. You ready?”
“Yep, let’s go,” Steve replied. After three steps, he looked over and asked, “Where the hell is Cheeks?”
“He was hit,” Pat replied soberly. “The bullet just grazed his shoulder. He was bleeding pretty good, but I wrapped it up and told him to sit tight by the fountain.”
“Good call,” Steve replied. “Okay, stay alert.”
Pat nodded as the two crouched behind their guns and slipped down the hallway toward the back of the house.