"A Family Affair" - Part Three

"Holeeee shit!!"

A typical reaction, especially when the person reacting just had his Uptown hotel room door blown off its hinges and he's caught on a king-size bed butt-naked and sprawled out under a hooker. Add to that the eighty kilos and meter-ninety of dark-haired Amazon toting a pair of .45-caliber hand cannons waltzing into the room.

The first muscleboy sprang from the shadows, a dark-suited wall with legs and mirrorshades.

A well-placed boot cracked into his crotch. He did a little hop and dropped to his knees with a keening wail, clutching himself. Then a backfist spun him into a room service cart with a loud crash.

Footsteps behind me.

A second muscleboy.

I started to spin around, the Twins rising to play, then caught a dark shape hit the floor.

Mouse had things well in hand. She stood next to the other bodyguard with one foot on his throat and the point of a wakizashi dancing happily in front of his face.

"Always there are two," she croaked.


"Yoda. Little green guy. Old movie."

"You watch too many, you'll go blind."

"I'll buy me a pair of Nikon-Zeiss."

I shook my head. "Under control?"

She nodded. "Five by five. He moves, I give him a facelift."

I grinned at the muscleboy as his eyes widened. "I wouldn't try anything," I said.

Mouse gave another of her maniacal giggles.
"She means it."

I turned to the yahoo on the bed and frowned.

He had grabbed a pistol from somewhere and had pointed it at me.

I regarded him for a moment: nineteen, maybe twenty, a vid heartthrob gone bad--far too handsome for his own good and no doubt flaunted it. He reeked of money spent on fast living. "Hi, Jimmy. Nice digs. You are Jimmy, right?"

"Who the fuck are you?"

"A very pissed off bitch. You have something that belongs to me and I want it back."

Fabric rustled.

I looked.

The hooker had gotten off the bed and was collecting her clothes.

Jimmy gaped at her. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

She snorted. "Leaving before I get greased." A nod toward me and Mouse. "You pissed them off? Jesus, you are one sorry bastard. Just give them whatever you took and live. Maybe." She snickered and headed out the door.

Mouse giggled. "You hear that? We're famous."

"Never doubted it for a second." I turned back to Jimmy. "You should take your girlfriend's advice. Give me back the case and you'll live."

"I don't even know you." The pistol wobbled in his grip. "You better just get the fuck out of here or I swear to Christ I'll blow you the fuck away."

"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Mouse asked.

"Fuck you, too, bitch."

Mouse sighed loudly. "Bored now."

I shook my head at Jimmy. "Now you've done it."

He gaped at me, then at Mouse.

The muscleboy on the floor yelped as Mouse whipped out an ornately-handled Bowie knife from a hidden sheath under her trenchcoat. She plunged it into the bodyguard's left shoulder with a wet thunk, pinning him to the floor.

He screamed.

She quickly drew a second Bowie and did the same to his right shoulder.

He screamed again.

Jimmy let out a gurgled whine and backed up against the headboard of the bed.

Mouse loves her pointy toys.

"I make it a point never to piss her off," I said to Jimmy.

Then Mouse drew a pen-sized cylinder from a pouch at her belt and thumbed one end. A small red light on the pommel of each knife started to blink happily.

She stood over the muscleboy. "All right, choom. There's a gram of C4 and a motion sensor inside those knife handles. You move, you go kablooey. Scan?"

The bodyguard started to nod, thought better of it, mouthed a "yes."

"Wicked." She strode up to Jimmy's bed, sat down on the edge of one corner, and leveled her wakizashi at him.

Jimmy attempted an impression of a naked man trying to crawl backwards up a wall.

"You--you crazy bitch--!" he sputtered, bug-eyed.

Mouse looked at me over one shoulder and grinned. "I say we fillet him and see if we can sell the pieces."

He turned the gun on her. "Fuck that!"

I shook my head. "Sorry. We need him to sing about the case."

She lowered her sword's point to his exposed crotch. "Bass or soprano?"

Jimmy gave a strangled yelp.


"Okay. A tenor. Like that opera guy Murphy always liked. Tortellini or something."

"Pavarotti. But he was fat. This guy is a little scrawny."

"Fuck this shit!" His voice cracked. He gripped the shaking pistol with both hands and shoved it in my direction.

Some people don't learn.

I eyed him critically. "You really don't want to do that. What you want to do is give me my case."

The gun wobbled some more. "What case?"

"The one you had your friends take from me."

"What friends?"

"Don't you remember?" I asked. "The Three Stooges and the blond army brats?"

His face blanched, eyes darting between me and Mouse. He slowly licked his lips. "I don't know nobody like that," he lied.

"Getting old really fast, Jimbo," Mouse muttered. She looked at me with pleading eyes. "Lemme gut him and read our fortunes on his insides. I saw a thing on the vid about it."

When I shook my head, she pouted. "You never let me do anything fun, Kay."

"Now Jimmy--your pals down at the Black Rider were really helpful. Why can't you be helpful, too?"

"I told you, you deaf bitch. I don't know nobody at the Black Rider."

I switched my optics to display the clock.


At least fifteen minutes to get to the drop-point from the hotel.

I let out a long, slow exhale. "We can do this the easy way, or the hard way."

"Ooh! Ooh! The hard way!" Mouse offered. "So I can play pin cushion on him. He's making me miss Angel City. It's the new episode where the condo blows up--"

Silverware clattered.

I turned, saw the first muscleboy rise up from the fallen room service cart like some culinary monster.

He roared and charged.

The Twins flew up and roared too, gleefully belching fire and .45-caliber slugs into the food-covered yahoo in a thundering stacatto. He staggered back from each successive impact, his torso erupting in bloody craters, then flew backwards through the window.

"Fine," I said, turning back to Jimmy. "You picked the hard way--"

Thunder boomed twice in the room and a big rig slammed into the center of my chest, shoving me backwards into a nearby wall.

At least, it felt like a big rig.

Then something whistled through the air.

Jimmy screamed.

A clatter.

I finally caught my breath and got to my feet. Thank god for dermal armor. I had enough implanted under my torso to stop an assault rifle round, but I still felt the impact from the shot.

I looked toward Jimmy.

He was bent over, whimpering and clutching a bloody arm where three slim throwing knives protruded.

Mouse looked up at me, pointed to Jimmy, and grinned. "See? Pin cushion!"

I fought back a laugh and holstered the Twins, then crossed to Jimmy in a few quick strides.

He saw me, let out a pathetic cry, and shrank into the headboard.

I saw the fallen pistol near the bed, kicked it away.

"Okay, Jimmy," I began. "If you don't want to end up like a porcupine, do a swan dive out the window, or end up like him"--I gestured to the pinned muscleboy--"you're going to be just as helpful as your friends were back at the Rider."

He stared at the broken window, then at the muscleboy on the floor. "The little shit don't deserve it," he muttered. "She gets everything. I get shit. Fucked up..."


He yelped, looked at me with wide, blank eyes.

"Your friends. You remember your friends at the Black Rider now, don't you."

A slow, weak nod.

"Very good. I'm glad we're finally getting somewhere." I put a foot on the bed and leaned toward him.

Another whimper.

"Now, you put my case where?"

* * *

We made it to the drop-point with just a few minutes to spare.

Righetti--slight, hatchet-faced, silver-haired, wearing a tailored double-breasted dark gray suit--greeted us from the doorway of his study with open arms and a wide, toothy smile. "Welcome to my humble home."

"Humble" was a two-story mansion on two acres in the hills just east of Bay City. Gated, walled, and probably better protected than an Excalibur client.

"Nice place," I said to Righetti, a quick nod at the hallway decor that probably cost ten times as much as all my mods put together.

"This is just like the place Hilary went to for that producer's party," Mouse said, looking around wide-eyed. "Wicked slick."

"Who's Hilary?"

"Ep ten. Season three."

"Angel City?"



Righetti's dark eyes gleamed when he saw the case in my left hand. His smile got toothier and he gestured us into his study.

Two huge, oak-panelled doors swung slowly open and we stepped into a book lover's wet dream. Floor to ceiling mahogany shelves filled with books lined three walls.

I gave a low whistle.

"Totally wicked," Mouse said under her breath.

"One of my great loves," Righetti said from my left. "Especially the classics. And all in the original paper editions." He frowned. "There's something very wrong about reading it on a little datachip."

Spotted the two shapes that lingered on either side of the opened doors and the two at the opposite corners from us. A quick nod, a nod from them. Professional.

"I guess Shakespeare just isn't the same on a plasma screen," I said, turning back to Righetti.

"No, he's not," he said.

"That Aussie did a Shakespeare," Mouse said. "Saw it once. Late show on the vid."

Righetti clapped his hands together. "I see you two ladies have come through for me again."

"As usual," Mouse said.

"Magnifico. I knew I could always count on you two."

I held the case out to him. He snapped his fingers and one of the shapes stepped forward, took the case, and held it in front of Righetti.

Righetti drew something from the inside pocket of his suit, touched it to the front of the case.

Jimmy had given us the case along with a string of obscenities about not being able to open it. I hadn't seen a visible lock on the case when I first took it at the pick-up and that's probably what had Jimmy's panties in a twist.

So his cronies, a bunch of well-paid fraternity kids from BCU, headed off in costume once more. This time, to the Black Rider to find someone who could pop the case.

And ran into the very person they stole from.

Two soft clicks and the case popped open.

Righetti smiled. "Look at that. Isn't it beautiful?"

Mouse and I exchanged puzzled looks.

He nodded and the shape turned the opened case in our direction.

Inside the case's foam-padded lining sat a blond-haired doll wearing a blue, uniform-like dress with an apron in the front. Her hair was held back from her face with a white ribbon.

"Handcrafted by an old friend in Italy," Righetti said.

I raised an eyebrow. "Yours?"

He laughed. "Oh no. Not for me."

Just then: "Poppa!"

Followed by running feet.

I whirled toward the doorway.

A small girl with a cascade of chestnut hair wearing a cute party dress with lots of frills stood in the hallway outside, saucer-eyed, frightened.

I tend to have that effect.

Righetti came toward her at once, arms held out. "It's alright, stellina," he said. "These two women are just some old friends. They've brought your present."

The girl's eyes lit up. "They brought Alice?"

"Yes. She is there." He pointed to the case.

The girl ran toward the case. The shape knelt to one knee and presented the doll to her.

She picked the doll up in her hands and squealed. "She is so pretty, Poppa! Thank you!" She threw herself at Righetti, hugging his waist and laughed.

He smiled, kissed the top of her head. "Now go back to your party. Poppa will be there shortly."

She nodded up at him, threw a puzzled look at me and Mouse, then ran back up the hallway, laughing merrily.

Righetti watched the girl go, then looked at us, beaming. "My daughter, Isabella. It's her birthday today. She's ten. The doll's from her favorite book, Alice in Wonderland."

"Lucky kid" Mouse said. "A dad like you. I never had family."

Righetti nodded. "That's the world for you
. But sometimes, you'll find people you can call a family." He spread his hands. "We're family here." Then at the two of us. "You, too. And it might be outdated thinking but I believe a family always helps one another. Always. Am I right?"

I looked at Mouse and we grinned at each other. I thought about Revell.

And about Murphy.

Righetti had a point.

I regarded the little puzzle that was Vincent Righetti.

Family boss. Father.

The sound of his daughter's laughter sailed toward us.

"Yeah," I said. "You're right."

Righetti beamed.

Just then, a door in the hallway slammed shut.

Righetti's smile faded. "Then again, there are exceptions." He looked at his watch. "My son."

Heavy footsteps sounded in the hallway outside.

"You are late," Righetti said, his tone sharp.

"I got delayed, but I'm here, ain't I?"

"Hi, Jimmy," I said and threw him my Smile.

Jimmy froze at the study's doorway, bug-eyed, gurgled in protest, and fainted.

Mouse burst out laughing.

I sighed.

God, I love my job.

* * *


The black sedan slowed as it neared the gates of the estate. The driver glanced out the side window, smiled, then continued up the road heading north.

When the sedan reached the next intersection a quarter-kilometer up the road, the driver turned right and pulled to the curb then drew a cellphone and made a call.

* * *

A few minutes later, the gates of the estate slid open and a dark suited figured waved a gray Shelby through. The car rumbled onto the street, turned, and headed south down the road.


NEXT TIME: "Easy Money" - Part One

"A Family Affair"
Part 1| Part 2


Unknown said...

this is what we call a good "skop, skiet en donner" (translation inadequate as always: kick, shoot and beat up) - but with a little something more...
really enjoying your work! unfortunately i have to dash away again. look forward to coming back later!

Ace said...

"Kick, shoot, and beat up."

LOL. I like that. An excellent description of the series.

Anonymous said...

Love it! Love it! Love it!

Ace said...

Hi Keiko,

Glad you enjoyed it.