A guy like Marlowe doesn't trust easy, so, all things being equal, I'd give 9 out of 10 odds of the gun being empty. He just wants to see if I'm willing to blow a government official's brains out. Like a trust-building exercise, except for sociopaths.
Unless Marlowe's smart enough to realize I'm that smart. Then the gun is almost certainly loaded with just one bullet. I pull the trigger, blow Agent Duncan's brains out, look shocked, and Marlowe knows I'm not not on the level. Then I'm alone in a room with an unloaded gun, a dead agent, and a five hundred pound rock man.
But if I've got one bullet in the gun, I've got leverage--I can use it to take Marlowe hostage and get us out of here. But if there aren't any bullets in the gun, then I'm going to look pretty stupid.
Either way, it's a game. Either Marlowe trusts me, or he doesn't. Either Marlowe's smart enough to know I know, or he isn't. It's like that scene in the Princess Bride with Vizzini and the drinks--is the poison in my cup, or in yours?
One thing about that scene: I always wondered why Vizzini didn't just stab the guy when he wasn't looking.
In one practiced motion, I turn and swing Marlowe's gun down pommel first into the arms-dealer's cranium. It makes a satisfying crack that sends him stumbling backward; I step behind him, grab him by the shoulder with the gun in hand, then snatch up a nasty looking kitchen knife and bring it to his throat.
Games of chance are for chumps.
"New game," I say. "First rule: Block, pull out your piece, drop the mag, pop the chamber, throw it away."
Agent Duncan blinks. Blockhead stares. Marlowe squirms.
"What the fuck are you doing, Burroughs?" Marlowe says, dazed and bleeding.
"Five seconds. If he doesn't start doing what I told him, then you get a new mouth," I tell Marlowe. "Five. Four. Three."
"Do it!" Marlowe shouts.
Slowly, Blockhead pulls out his piece and snaps out the clip. Just as he's moving to toss it to the floor, I growl.
"Hey, hey! This is my goddamn apartment," I tell him. "Show some fucking decency. Wastebin, asshole."
He throws it in the wastebin. Followed by the bullet in the chamber, then by the whole gun. Once it's in, I take a step back with Marlowe, giving Blockhead some room.
"Now," I tell him, "untie Agent Duncan."
"You're a dead man, Burroughs," Marlowe says.
"Not exactly the words I'd use on the guy with a steak knife at my throat," I tell him. "Tell your boy to do what I said."
Marlowe nods. Blockhead does as he's supposed to, like a good boy. Agent Duncan gets to her feet, rubbing at her wrists. She looks back at Blockhead--who glares--then back at me. Hesitantly, she makes her way to step behind me.
"What--what the hell is the plan?" she asks me.
"Working on it." I shift my grip, reaching for my cell phone while keeping the knife at Marlowe's throat. As I do, he starts to laugh.
"Plan? You have no plan," he says. "You're fucked, Mr. Burroughs. I like your loft. Do you think they'll let me keep it after I kill you?"
"You wouldn't like it," I say, punching in the numbers on the phone. "Rent's shit, neighbors are a pain, the AC's busted. " I hit send. "Plus, it's on fire."
Several pounds of high-end explosives detonate with enough force to shatter every piece of glass in the room. The destruction is contained--shaped charges designed to decimate the apartment, but nothing else. Fire will take care of the evidence, with foam bombs going off to take care of the fire.
The concussive force is enough to send Blockhead to his knees. Marlowe yelps as I kick him into the center of the loft, then grab Agent Duncan's waist and jump out the window onto the fire escape.
As we land, smoke and flame following us, Agent Duncan looks up to me, her eyes brimming with fury.
"Do you own anything that doesn't explode!?" she shouts.
"I had a cat, once."