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"Showdown" - Part Four

ChromeBurn called a second floor apartment above a laundromat off 37th Street and Bryce his base of operations. Access was a door on the side of building facing 37th.

Steele pulled the Rover to the curb across the street from the side door and looked back at me. "How do you want to do this?"

"Yeah," said Mouse. "You haven't said anything since we left the Steele's place."

I adjusted the watchcap on my head, making sure my hair was well-hidden underneath. "Mouse and I go in and find out what he knows." I looked at Steele and slipped on my mirrorshades. "Keep an eye out here. If something looks starts to look sketchy, honk twice."

"Sounds good to me," said Steele.

I was about to open my door when Steele said: "Freeze."

I froze in mid-reach.

"Stay still," said Steele and I could hear the tension in his voice. "Both of you."

"Sitrep," I said.

"Sky-eye," said Steele. "Coming toward us."

"Fuck," said Mouse.

I slowly turned my head from the door handle and tried to look out the front windshield but couldn't get a good view.

"Where is it?" I said.

"Intersection. About five meters up."

Shifted slightly and looked again, past the headrest in front of me.

Saw it.

Thirty meters out. Sleek, black, spherical, the size of a motorcycle helmet. Quadrotors whirred as it lowered itself toward the ground, bottom half--camera unit--swiveling, and stopped two meters from the pavement.

"Shit," I said.

"What?" said Mouse. Then: "Fuckity fuck."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Steele make a show of pulling out his phone, looking at it, and tapping at the screen.

The sky-eye hovered in place for five seconds, slowly dropped another half-meter, and started down the street, camera sweeping a full three-sixty.

"Mouse," I said.

"Yeah?"

"Look at your feet."

"What?"

"Look at your feet."

"Ten meters!" said Steele.

"Do it," I said and dropped my gaze to my boots, hoping Mouse was doing the same.

"Five," said Steele.

I could hear my pulse pounding in my temples.

"It's next to the car."

"Shit," said Mouse.

"Don't move," I said.

"Coming around the front," said Steele.

Fuck.

"Fuck," said Mouse.

"Don't," I said.

Several seconds of silence passed but they felt like hours.

Then: "It's gone."

I looked up, letting out a long held breath, and turned to look out the back window.

The sky-eye continued down 37th toward Golding Avenue. I watched as it went around the corner and disappeared from sight.

"Fucking goddamn," said Mouse.

"Someone got creative," said Steele. "That's new."

"Hunting a cop killer," I said.

"Let's hope they don't stay that creative," said Mouse.

I waited thirty seconds, making sure the sky-eye wouldn't suddenly come back, then exited the SUV.

Mouse come up next to me a moment later and we jogged across the street to the entrance.

A blue runabout rolled past and continued west on 37th.

No peds on our end of the block.

Got to the door and tried it.

Locked.

Damn.

"Dammit," said Mouse and motioned me aside.

"What--" I began and suddenly realized what she was doing.

Too late.

She cracked a boot sole into the door near the knob and strike plate and the door crunched open, wood from the frame splintering.

"Security?" I said.

"Too late for that," she said, shouldering through and drawing a wakizashi.

The door opened onto a small entry and a narrow flight of stairs going up to the next level.

Mouse started for the steps but I stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.

"What?" she said.

"Slow down," I said. "You could've tripped an alarm."

She quirked both eyebrows at me and pointed up the stairs.

Then I heard it.

Screaming vocals over a harsh distorted guitar riff and a chest-thudding drum track, all muffled by a closed door.

"Could be a ruse," I said.

"Val said the mook's a noob," said Mouse. "He ran his mouth without thinking. He's not gonna have security. This'll be--"

"Don't say it," I said. "You keep telling me it's never."

"He's a lead so I can stab Hiller in the face."

"I know. But I'll take point."

"Fine," said Mouse. "Whatever."

I took the steps two at a time, Mouse following close behind, and reached the small landing at the top and a closed door less than a meter from the staircase.

Turned to Mouse.

She stood on the stairs a few steps behind me, wakizashi in hand.

"Ready?" I said.

"Do it," said Mouse.

Drew a knee up, and cracked it into the door.

It burst open in a splinter of wood.

Stepped through, the Twins coming up.

And walked into a shotgun blast that slammed into the middle of my chest.

Dammit.

I staggered back a step, breath catching in my throat.

Got a quick look at our shooter: pear-shaped Asian male with a thick and tall blue and green faux hawk seated in a high back mesh chair dressed in cargo shorts, combat boots, and badly fitting black t-shirt.

Then saw Mouse race past me, leap into the air, trenchcoat tails flapping behind her, and land in Faux Hawk's lap. The impact sent the chair backwards and the two of them crashed to the floor, Faux Hawk on his back, arms sprawled, Mouse straddling his head, facing forward, a wakizashi blade lying against his throat.

I rocked forward to my feet.

Pan and scan.

Size of the Red Dog's back office. Workstation with a bank of three monitors, terminal, and assorted electronics piled high and sprouting cables and wire dominated the opposite end. To one side, a cot with a sleeping bag. Kitchenette on the other. And a door that looked like it led to whatever passed for a bathroom.

The air reeked of fried foods and flash-cooked ramen.

The shotgun--a sawed-off breech loader--had gone sprawling into the kitchenette and lay in front of the stove.

Out of reach.

Then the music's din reached my ears, the thudding drumbeat pounding at my head and chest.

I found the stereo and put a round into each speaker.

They blew apart in a spray of sparks, metal, fiberboard, and bits of cloth.

Then silence.

Much better.

I holstered the Twins.

"Got him?" I said to Mouse.

"Yep," said Mouse. "You okay?"

"I'll live," I said and strode toward them.

Faux Hawk was staring wide-eyed at the blade across his throat and wheezing.

"ChromeBurn," I said.

He gave a throaty gurgle, still staring at the blade.

"Hey!" I said and prodded him with a boot toe.

He gave a startled yelp and whipped his head toward me, still wide-eyed.

"You're ChromeBurn," I said.

He nodded.

"Jade hired you."

He nodded.

"You mute?"

He nodded, then frowned, shook his head, and managed a mangled reply.

"What?"

He jabbed a finger at the wakizashi blade.

I looked at Mouse.

She made a face. "Okay," she said then leaned in toward ChormeBurn's ear. "Watching you, choom. Wrong move and I will gut you. Scan?"

He gave a tiny nod.

Mouse removed the blade, got to her feet, and stepped back.

ChromeBurn sat up, rubbing his neck, then looked up at me. "No. Not mute."

"Good," I said. "Easier that way."

He looked back at Mouse, then at me. "Who are you dudes anyway?"

"Jade hired you to watch someone," I said. "Who?"

"Privileged information--"

Mouse laid the wakizashi blade on his shoulder.

He yelped, hands coming up. "Okay okay! Kuso, bruh. I'll spill. Some suit named Carter. Working for a corp called Reliance. Been in BC for a while, I guess. Just tracked him on street cams. That's all she wanted."

"Why?"

He shrugged. "Shiranai. She never said."

Mouse and I exchanged looks.

"How long have you been following him?" I said

"Been scanning cam footage since 14 October," said ChromeBurn.

At least a month.

"Where does he spend the most time?" I said.

"Easy. The Marquis Hotel?"

"On Midway?" said Mouse.

"Hai, that's the one," said ChromeBurn. "Always goes back there."

"You've got footage of him there?" I said.

"Streetcam and hotel security," he said.

"And he's still there?"

"Hai."

"Show us."

"Anything you want, bruh. Just don't kill me."

I gestured to Mouse.

She sketched me a salute, knelt next to ChromeBurn, and spoke to him quietly. He nodded, frowning, got to his feet, and padded toward his workstation.

I pulled my phone out and dialed.

Jade answered on the fourth ring.

"Since when did you turn cop-killer, Kat?"

"I know you've been watching Carter," I said. "But I want him first."

"You didn't answer my question" said Jade.

"Fuck your question," I said. "Carter. I want him first.

A long pause.

Then: "All right. He's yours. But I want proof he's dead."

"I tell you where to find his body."

"Good enough."

She hung up.

I put my phone away

"Kat."

Looked up, saw Mouse gesture toward ChromeBurn's workstation.

I strode over as ChromeBurn keyed commands into his terminal.

A few moments later, he gestured to the center monitor and a series of small video displays. Each one was camera footage.

"There you go, bruh," ChromeBurn said.

"That it?" I said, leaning forward, trying to make sense of the mass of images.

"Hai," he said. "Marquis Hotel feed."

"How long ago?"

"Pulled latest from last night. Twelve hours, through midnight."

"Show us Carter."

He keyed commands.

Two display images appeared side by side on the center monitor. One showed Carter entering the hotel lobby. The other was an angle on Carter walking down a hallway and stopping at a hotel room door.

"Room 442," I said, reading the number on the door.

Then the door directly across from 442 opened and Hiller stepped out.

"Gotcha," I said.

Mouse cackled. "Stabby time."

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5