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"Dust Up" - Part Five

The boat docked at Pier 22 was an eighty-two foot pre-Collapse former Coast Guard cutter now called Lady Fair sporting a gunmetal gray paint job and a bow-mounted .50-caliber machine gun half covered by a blue tarp. The captain was a solidly built woman with angular features and fiery red hair plaited halfway down her back. She wore a black commando sweater and a large caliber pistol in a flap holster at her hip and stood at the end of the gangplank as we walked up.   

I held out the case to her.
   
She took it with a short nod and handed it off to a bald crewman standing behind her.
   
"You'll want to check that for a tracker before you set sail," I said.
   
The captain quirked an eyebrow at me.
   
"Trust me," I said.
   
She turned to the bald crewman and gestured. He nodded and headed up the gangplank and onto the cutter.
   
"Little excitement on the way here?" she said, inclining her head behind us.
   
I shot a glance over my shoulder at our loaner. The Royale's back end was riddled with bullet holes and the driver's side rear passenger door window was missing..
   
Turned back to the captain and smiled. "Just a little."
   
"But not a big deal," she said.
   
"Nope," I said.
   
She grinned. "I'll let 'em know you delivered," she said reaching into her front pants pocket and pulling out a cellphone. "Nice doing business with you."
   
"Same," I said, turned, and Mouse and I headed back to the Royale.
   
We were halfway to the car when headlights popped on ten meters to our right and I saw the blue MitsuAudi sedan from Bayview Avenue. Dark suited figures half leaned out from both the rear driver's side and passenger side windows, each with subgun held in an awkward two-handed grip.  The sedan lurched forward with a squeal of tires, barrelling straight toward us, and the two gunmen opened fire.
   
Subvocal, and the world slid into slo-mo.
   
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mouse bolt around the left side of the MitsuAudi, caught the quick flash of metal from her throwing blades as they popped into existence in her hands. Then turned my attention to the car and my shooter.
   
Rounds whizzed past me as I dropped to a crouch and the Twins leaped into my hands and spat fire and thunder. Six rounds punched into the shooter's torso and took off half his face. He crumpled still hanging out of the window, the subgun falling from his hands and clattering uselessly away. Shifted aim and four more rounds crashed through the MistuAudi's windshield. I got a brief look at the driver as his upper chest and face exploded in a spray of crimson gore before the car's front grill got too close and I dove to one side. The car rocketed past me.
   
I hit the ground in a tuck and roll, coming up on one knee, and turned back toward the car.
   
It continued past the cutter, angling toward the wharf, and then went off the edge and plunged into the waters of the bay.
   
I cut boost, stood up, and heard Mouse jog up to me.
   
"That was fun," she said.
   
"Other shooter?"
   
"Got him."
   
I looked at the spot where the MitsuAudi had gone over then looked toward the cutter.
   
The captain was standing on the main deck and watching me. She sketched a loose salute.
   
I nodded.
   
Sirens wailed in the distance.
   
"Let's bounce, I said to Mouse and we ran for the Royale.
   
We were skidding away from the Marina when I took one last look at the cutter in the rearview. She was pulling away from the wharf.
   
Then I turned my attention back to the streets ahead and got us back on Bayview Avenue heading east.
   
After a moment, Mouse turned from looking out the back window. "No cruisers," she said.
   
I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding. "Good. Really didn't want to deal with MaxTac."
   
"Who were the guys in the Mitsu?"
   
"My guess is Rowley Jr. hired them to grab the case," I said. "I think he was looking to sell whatever was in there to pay Salerno."
   
" 'Cuz that Buzzcut asshole was one of Salerno's goons."
   
"I figured you'd recognize him."
   
"He was the asshole who shot me during that fish business."
   
"Now you're even."
   
She chuckled. "And he's greased."
   
"Even better," I said.
   
"So Salerno's goons found Rowley Jr. first, I guess."
   
"Salerno probably got tired of waiting for his money and decided to grease him for non-payment."
   
"Gambling?"
   
"Sure. Rich kids with nothing better to do than spend mommy and daddy's money."
   
"Bet he's gonna have fun explaining to the cops why a dead mob goon is lying next to him."
   
"Or why he's got a throwing knife in his ass."
   
Mouse chortled. "That, too."
   
The light ahead turned red and I came to stop with the rest of traffic.
   
Mouse said, "So what was all that about a tracker?"
   
"I figure it was the only way they found us at the Grill Palace. And how Rowley Jr. found us at the garage. He probably put it on the case or in it."
   
"And when the Grill Palace went bust, he decided to track us and take us himself."
   
"Bad idea," I said.
   
"Bit him in the ass," said Mouse with a snort and she collapsed in a fit of laughter.
   
The light turned green and I put us back in the flow of traffic eastward.
   
When her laughter finally subsided, I said, "I'll say this about Rowley Jr.--that move back in The Hills was genius. He must've turned down another side street so we couldn't see him. Then used the tracker to follow us. Probably gave our position to the Mitsu at the Grill Palace and told them where the drop would be."
   
"Genius didn't last too long," said Mouse.
   
"Nope," I said.
   
As we neared the Highway 610 onramp a thought struck.
   
I said, "You mentioned Queen Glitterati's husband died recently."
   
"Patrick Rowley, yeah."
   
"When?"
   
"Last week. They had the funeral yesterday. Cremated him, I think. Big deal. Lots of city bigwigs turned up. Was all over Net12 for hours."
   
"And we just brought a good-sized equipment case from their house to a waiting boat."
   
"So?"
   
I shot her a sidelong look.
   
Mouse sucked in a breath and she whipped her head toward me, saucer-eyed. "Holy shit! You don't think--"
   
"The less we know," I said.
   
"Yeah but--that's a little creepy, isn't it?"
   
"Don't want to know."
   
"Don't you think that's creepy?"
   
"Forget I said anything."
   
"Like hell," said Mouse. "I hope we don't get haunted by his ghost or something."
   
"Okay, that's enough."
   
"But he was in the car. All ashy and stuff."
   
"Just stop."
   
"You think they'll spread him out at sea or just dump the case?"
   
"I said stop."
   
"Oh shit!"
   
"What now?"
   
"Rowley Jr. was gonna sell the ashes?"
   
"Enough."
   
"Now that is fucking creepy."
   
"I'm not talking to you anymore."
   
"Who would sell human ashes except a creepy person?"
   
"This is me not talking to you."
   
"Not like dress-up-as-dead-mom-and-keep-her-mummified-corpse-in-my-basement creepy but you gotta admit this is close."
   
"Do you see me not talking to you?"
   
"You realize we'll probably need a priest now."
   
"What? Why?"
   
"For an exorcism."
   
I shook my head and ignored the rest of her babbling as we continued on Highway 610 toward the San Marino Hills and the rest of our payout.
   
60,000 Credits for two hours of work.
   
Plus car chase and gunfire.
   
Not too shabby.
   
I glanced at Mouse.
   
She was still going on about ghosts and something about haunted vintage cars.
   
But the smile was still on her face.
   
A nice change.
   
A good change.
   
And I suddenly had a feeling things were about to get better.

--END--
NEXT TIME: "Double Down"


"Dust Up"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4