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"Easy Money" - Part Eight

With a roar of the Shelby's big block and a squeal of tires, we peeled out from Eddie's shop, slid around the corner of King Street, and rocketed up Edge Avenue.

Edge Avenue ran the entire length of Bay City and marked its eastern border. To the east, the roads snaked through the northeast stretch of the San Marino Hills, eventually leading to Newcastle and Essex.

The glitterati who didn't already make their home in Uptown's condos and penthouses had their palatial estates in the hills, protected from the masses by walls, gates, and private muscle.

West of us lay the Southside District, also known as the "Combat Zone."

The opposite of the glitterati.


We flew along Edge Avenue passing semis, delivery vans, and utility trucks. Good thing it was the weekend. Otherwise, traffic on Edge Avenue would've been at a slow crawl.

Eddie stuck his head between the front seats. "Those were corp shooters," he said.

"How could you tell?" said Mouse.

"Who else would come in fully loaded?"

"MaxTac," said Mouse.

"MaxTac would have patches," he said.

"Point," I said. "So who?"

"You ladies piss off a megacorp recently?" Eddie said.

"Not that I know of..." Then a thought. I swore.

"What?" said Mouse.

"The disk," I said. "It's gotta be the disk."

"Who was your client?" said Eddie.

"You know we don't ask," I said. "Need to know only."

"Plus," said Mouse, "he's kind of dead now."

"Bloody hell," said Eddie.

A high-pitched whine caught my ears and I glimpsed a blood-red crotch rocket speed up behind the Shelby then cut over to our left and begin to pace us.

"Kat..." Mouse began.

"I see him," I said.

"Fuck," said Eddie.

Red biker leathers.

Scarlet Razor.

Could be bad.

Scarlet Razors were joyboys. Biker gangs. One of five who called Bay City 'home'. They usually travel in packs so a lone joyboy was a rare sight.

The Razor turned a helmeted head to look at me--no.

To stare at me.

I flicked glances at him, still trying to keep one eye on the road ahead.

He kept up the stare for at least ten seconds.

His mirrored visor threw back my reflection.

He glanced at the road ahead, turned back to me, and touched a gloved hand to the side of his helmet. The visor popped up and a pair of slitted dark eyes stared at me.

I caught the quick glimpse of face tattoos before he lowered the visor.

Then he looked over his shoulder, turned back to the road, and sped past us.

"The hell--?" I began.

And the delivery van in front of us did a small hop and exploded.

Inside the fireball, I saw Murphy.

My throat tightened. Couldn't breathe.

Then the image of Murphy vanished, replaced by a burning wreck two meters in front of the Shelby.

I gasped. Sucked in air. Cut left on squealing tires, missing the van by centimeters.

"Incoming!" said Mouse.

"Bloody fuck-all!" Eddie said.

Glanced at the rearview.

Saw it.

The aerodyne. Three meters long. A gray, metal brick suspended by four ducted vectorthrust engine pods. Chin-mounted 30mm chaingun. Side-mounted pepperbox rocket launchers.

Bad. Very bad.

Concrete geysered behind us.

The chain-gun.

"Jesus Christ!" Eddie said.

"Hang on!" I said, floored the accelerator, and slalomed through traffic.

As we slipped past a fuel tanker, its trailer burst into flames. It jacknifed and blew apart, sending a roiling fireball into the sky.

The concussion shook the Shelby.

In the rearview, I saw the aerodyne rocket through the rising flames and speed toward us.

Dammit. Had to lose them.

Then I saw it.

The towers of Winn Town, rising up from the middle of Southside, to the west. Two hundred-plus high-rises spread across ten blocks, packed with some ninety-thousand souls behind multi-bolted doors, hiding from the predators that roamed the Zone.

Bingo.

We hit Railroad Avenue and I yanked the wheel left. We fishtailed across the intersection amid a yowl of protesting horns and screeching brakes.

"What the hell--!" Mouse said.

"We can lose them in Winn Town," I said, racing the Shelby through the streets of Southside.

"We'd better," she said. "They're gaining."

"I know," I said. Most of the buildings in Southside rarely topped five stories. An aerodyne typically had a ceiling of 20 meters. Cake around here.

Not among Winn Town's 20-story towers.

"Almost there," I said as we turned right on Winchester.

Three blocks away, Winn Town loomed.

I sped up.

"Do you see it?" I said.

"No--" Mouse began.

And the aerodyne dropped in front of us.

I yanked the wheel, threw the car into a bootlegger reverse.

The ground exploded around the Shelby.

I stomped the gas.

Tires squealed and we lurched forward.

I cut through a nearby alley.

"Sonofabitch!" said Mouse.

"Had the same idea, didn't they," said Eddie.

"We gotta lose that bird," I said.

"How?" said Mouse. "Seems to know exactly what we're going to do next."

We came out of the alley and the corner of the building next to us exploded in a shower of dust and concrete.

"Shit!" said Mouse.

"Damn rocket pods," I said and swung the Shelby down the next street.

Another rocket screamed past and plowed into a nearby storefront.

Glass and debris showered the car as we sped past.

"Fuckin' hell!" said Eddie.

Around the next corner and up the street, missing another rocket that slammed into the ground just behind us.

"Rocket launcher," I said to Mouse as I fishtailed the Shelby around another corner.

"What?"

"Trunk."

"You keep a rocket launcher in your trunk?" Eddie said.

"New toy."

Mouse scrambled into the back seat and squeezed next to Eddie.

Heard the click of the latch near the top of the backrest.

"Now I've seen fuck all," said Eddie.

I grinned.

One of Murphy's ideas had been to replace part of the rear seat with a folding backrest that provided access into the trunk.

Times like these when such ideas came in handy.

"Not there," said Mouse.

"You sure?" I said.

Mouse leaned forward. "Everything but."

"Shit. I swore I put it there the other day."

The intersection in front of us erupted in a geyser of fire and concrete. I yanked the wheel and we rounded the corner, nearly on two wheels.

Fuck this.

I sped to the end of the block, pulled another bootlegger reverse, and stomped on the brakes.

The Shelby shook to a stop.

At the other end of the street, the aerodyne banked around the corner and hovered above the burning intersection.

"What's in the trunk?" I said to Mouse.

I heard her rooting through the contents. "Gear bags, toolbox, ammo cans, an FN, and a pump-action."

"Cans for the FN?"

"Yep."

"Bring 'em out. Rifle and ammo. Then get behind the wheel."

"Ah, shit," said Mouse.

I put the car in "park" then climbed into the passenger seat.

Mouse pulled out the FN-FNC assault rifle and an ammo can and handed them to me. I set the rifle butt-first on the floor of the footwell, popped the can, and fished out a magazine.

Full load.

And with AP--armor piercing--rounds.

"Wiz," I said and slapped the magazine into place.

"What're you doing?" Eddie said.

"You don't want to know," Mouse said. The latch on the backrest clicked shut and she clambered into the driver's seat.

"Oh, bollocks!" said Eddie. "I don't do this! I'm supposed to be behind the fucking scenes!"

"Duck," I said, rolling down the passenger side window. I racked the charging handle, brought the rifle to my shoulder, and leaned out the window. Steadied the barrel on the side mirror.

"Kat?" said Mouse.

Along the sights. Aerodyne. Front windshield.

"Go," I said.

The Shelby lurched forward. Wind whipped at my face.

The aerodyne opened up with its chain-gun, rounds stitching along the street toward us.

Mouse swerved right, let the shots pass us, then cut back to the middle of the street.

I stroked the trigger.

A three-round burst struck the aerodyne's windshield.

The craft wobbled in midair.

Another burst. Same spot.

Then another.

And another.

The windshield shattered and the aerodyne lurched. Sparks flew inside the pilot's cabin.

It shuddered. Then plunged earthward and slammed into the street, blowing apart like rupturing fruit.

Mouse stomped on the brakes and we slid to a screeching stop.

Twenty meters in front of us sat a burning hulk of twisted metal.

Eddie gave a low whistle.

I eased back inside the car and turned to Mouse. "Nice driving."

"Nice shooting," she said.

My phone chirped. I pulled it out.

Specs.

"Where the fuck are you?" he said. "I got your message and I've been tryin' to call for the last half hour."

"We're in Southside," I said.

"The hell you doing in Southside?" said Specs. "I thought your meet was in Uptown?"

"It was."

"What happened?"

"Later. Right now we need to go someplace quiet."

"Where are you in Southside?"

I told him.

"I know a place," he said and gave me an address.

I recognized it.

"We'll call from there," I said and hung up.

(to be continued...)

"Easy Money" - Part Seven

Ten minutes later, Eddie said: "Work, you bloody fuckin' bastard."

I'd been perched on a stool next to him. I straightened. "Eddie?"

He continued typing but sweat beaded his forehead.

"Where'd you say you got this again?" he said.

"A client," I said.

"Who?"

"A suit."

"A suit."

"Yeah?"

"Sure about that?"

"Why?" said Mouse.

He stopped typing, studied the monitor again, then nodded. "Thought as much." He swiveled the chair to face us. "The disk is encrypted, yes. I figured something pretty basic. CBC, LRW, maybe XTS. But no. The usual wasn't working. I tried a few more I picked up from Val and Kid. No go. So I had a look at the encryption itself."

"And?" I said.

"You're sure your client was a suit."

"He looked like a suit," I said, suddenly unsure. "You think he wasn't?"

"This disk is locked with a form of ESSIV encryption. High grade stuff. Four different encryption algorithms, possibly cascading. Plus five types of hash algorithms. And all of it variable. Which means the user who locked this chose the encryption."

"No idea what all that means," I said, "but my guess would be it's non-standard?"

"Bang on," Eddie said. "The only place I've seen this is on some military R&D networks."

"Aw, shit," said Mouse.

Then something crashed through the skylight, bounced once, and rolled to a stop a few meters from us.

I saw it.

"Flash bang!" I said and hit the floor.

And the world exploded in thunder and a flash of white.

When my vision cleared, I heard fabric rustling. I rolled onto my back, saw two figures rappel down from the skylight. Black fatigues and loaded tac-vests, submachineguns slung over their shoulders.

Then an explosion blew in part of the roll-up door, raining bits of corrugated metal into the shop. A pair of shapes strode through the billowing smoke.

I said to Mouse: "Do it."

Then sub-vocal and the world went to slo-mo.

The two skylight shooters were three meters above us when I drew the Twins and opened fire. The slugs caught them high in the torsos. One of them lost a grip of the rope and fell to the shop floor. The other shooter slid the rest of the way down the rope and crumpled when he hit the floor.

Bullets gouged the floor near me sending bits of concrete flying by my feet. I sprinted toward the worktable in the center of the shop and knocked it over, spilling parts and tools, jammed the Twins over the table lip, and let off several rounds.

Mouse shoved Eddie toward the table and the two of them slid to a stop next to me just as gunfire rattled on the other side. A line of blisters exploded near my head.

I reloaded the Twins, nodded to Mouse, and popped up from behind the table.

Door Shooter Number Two spun toward me, his submachinegun drawing a bead.

Moving at my speed.

Bastard was wired, too.

Shit.

The Twins barked first.

Number Two staggered back.

Then returned fire.

I dropped back behind the worktable and it blistered again.

"Dermal," Mouse said.

"And wired," I said.

Mouse swore.

Then the first two shooters got up.

"Bloody fuck!" said Eddie.

Dammit.

They started to level their guns at us.

Way ahead.

I popped them both in the head. They fell back, twitched once, and lay still.

Reload.


Mouse fast-crawled toward the nearest shooter and yanked something off his tac vest. She held it up to me.

Flashbang.

I nodded.

She pulled the pin, lobbed it over the worktable. I shut my eyes and plugged my ears.

The grenade went off.

I put my face next to Eddie's. "We need out."

He pointed toward the far corner of the shop. "Back door."

"I'll cover," I said to Mouse.

Mouse nodded, then grabbed the dead shooter's submachinegun and slid it across the floor to me, then went to the other shooter and grabbed his sub-gun. "Spray 'em," she said.

I nodded, holstered the Twins, checked ammo on the sub-gun. "On three."

Mouse said, "One. Two."

"Three," I said.

Mouse and Eddie bolted for the back door.

I popped back up from behind the table and sprayed rounds toward the Door Shooters. They dove for cover behind a stack of crates.

When I emptied the magazine, I pivoted, and started after Mouse and Eddie.

And Eddie stopped at the back door, spun around, and ran back toward his workstation.

"Eddie!" Mouse cried.

Dead run at Eddie, gunfire exploding around me. Slid the last few meters and took out Eddie's feet, and caught him as he hit the floor.

Bullets punched through the three screens on his workstation, throwing sparks and flames.

Eddie rolled off me, still keeping low, and reached up onto the workstation.

"Eddie, what the hell--!"

"Disk!" he said. He kept groping, trying to keep his head from getting blown off.

I rolled to a crouch, drew the Twins, then rose up and returned fire in a thundering stacatto.

Nailed one of the Door Shooters in the shoulder, knocking him back.

Plugged the other in the head.

"Got it!" Eddie said.

"Go!" I said and heard him sprint toward the back door.

I followed, side-stepping, the Twins still raised and at the ready, an eye on the last Shooter.

Saw him pull something from his tac vest.

Grenade.

Shit.

I turned and bolted for the back door.

A moment later, the world vanished in a defeaning roar. The concussion threw me through the opening and the heat wave licked at my boots.

I landed in a heap, my head spinning.

Then hands pulled me to my feet.

I opened my eyes.

Mouse and Eddie.

"You okay, partner?" said Mouse.

I nodded, my head still ringing from the explosion.

"Good," Mouse said. "Let's bounce."

(to be continued...)

"Easy Money" - Part Six

The datadisk sat on the middle of the bartop.

I sat on a stool, elbows propped against the bar, and stared at it.

Mouse paced the floor. "Question. Where'd it come from?"

"Hell if I know," I said.

"It's your jacket."

"Wasn't there when I put it on this morning..." A thought struck.

"Collins," I said.

Mouse stopped pacing. "What?"

I looked at the disk again. "Gotta be him," I said and swiveled on the bar stool to face Mouse. "It came from Collins. Think about it. Guy's leaving town. Hires a pair of bodyguards--"

"Maybe he was expecting trouble in Seattle."

"Trouble found him here."

Mouse's eyes lit up. "Those mooks at the restaurant. They said Collins had something that belonged to them."

I picked up the disk. "This."

"When'd he pass it to you?" said Mouse.

I thought a moment. "Must've been in the middle of the fight. When I grabbed him."

"Before you got shot."

I nodded.

Mouse's shoulders sagged. "Aw, fuck."

"What?"

"Guess who they'll be coming after."

I frowned. Point.

"Let's just find out who those guys were," said Mouse. "We'll give it back. Forget the whole thing. Right?"

Revell came out of the back carrying latex gloves and a medtech kit. He set them on the bartop next to me, opened the kit and pulled the gloves on. "Take off blouse," he said.

I peeled off my shoulder rig and my blouse.

Revell examined my upper back.

"Slight penetration," he said. "Dermal sheath held. I will remove bullet."

I nodded and leaned forward on the bartop.

He gave me a local and went to work removing the slug, then closed up the incision with a dermal stapler.

"All done," Revell said.

I realized I'd been holding my breath. I let it out.

Revell came around to my right and showed me the spent bullet. "Looks like 5.56mm. Lucky for you it was not AP round."

"That would've hurt," said Mouse.

"I don't think they were expecting our type to be there," I said, pulling my blouse back on.

"Probably not," said Revell. "Let me know if you need anything." He put the medtech gear back in the case and disappeared into the back.

I turned back to the disk.

Murphy's words echoed in my head.

Find a way, or make one.

"Kat?" said Mouse.

"Aren't you even curious why these guys want it?" I said.

"You know what they say about you and curiosity," said Mouse. She snapped her fingers. "I know. Forget finding people and giving it back. Let's get rid of it."

"What?"

"Yeah. We get rid of it. Toss it in the Bay. Or flush it down the toilet. Case closed. Next job."

"We're still a business, Mouse," I said. "And Collins is still our client."

"Our dead client."

I held up the disk. "He's a client who owes us the balance of our fee. It's our duty to collect."

"Hello? Earth to Kat? The man is dead. How the hell are we supposed to collect?"

A thought struck. I grinned at Mouse.

"Ah shit," she said. "I know those grins. Things happen when you have those grins. Bad things."

"Relax," I said. "I know exactly what we're doing."

"Famous last words."

* * *

Fast Eddie--datarat and console jockey extraordinaire--worked in an abandoned auto-body shop off Edge Road, near the northeastern tip of the Southside District. A barbed-wire topped cyclone fence surrounded the property.

We were back in our working clothes: dark t-shirt, black BDU trousers, and knee-high lace-up motorcycle boots. Mouse sported her black leather trenchcoat with stabby goodness hidden underneath. I had the Twins in my shoulder rig under my black leather biker jacket and four double-magazine pouches on my belt.

I yanked the padlock off the gate, undid the chain that kept it in place, and pulled the gate open.


"Eddie!" I called out.

"I don't see why we had to come here," Mouse said as we crunched across gravel and dirt toward the shop. "What about Kid Tachyon? He's just as good as Eddie."

"He's on biz right now," I said. "I checked with Specs. Same with Valkyrie. Which leaves Eddie."

"Couldn't Specs come up with another console jock?"

"I don't know why he'd name another." I stifled a grin. "I think Eddie likes you."

"Oh, shut up."

We got to the shop door, one of the roll-up kind. I banged on it. "Eddie! We need to talk!"

A tinny, Cockney-laced voice answered from a speaker set at the edge of the door: "I'm not here. Sod off."

"See?" said Mouse. "Not here. Let's bounce."

I spotted the camera under the eaves and waved. "Eddie, get your ass up and open the door."

"What part of 'go away' don't you understand?" said the tinny voice. "I'm not here. Sod the fuck off."

I drew Bonnie and put four holes in the door.

Mouse threw up her hands.

I holstered Bonnie and banged on the door again.

A moment later, it rattled open.

We went in.

Inside the converted repair bay, past a worktable at the center piled high with parts, coiled cables, and tools, a high-back leather chair sat in front of three tables connected in a U-shape set up against the far wall opposite the roll-up door. Empty soda cans and assorted electronic equipment trailing wires and cables occupied the two side tables. Three flat-screens, two keyboards, and a cyberdeck dominated the middle table.

Eddie swiveled the chair around to us and regarded me with slitted eyes. He had a few days growth of facial hair and his clothes were wrinkled--including the once-white, now well-worn and frayed-around-the-edges lab coat that always draped his bony frame. He pulled a cable jack from behind his right ear. "What's the idea shooting holes in my shop?"

"Morning to you, too, Eddie," I said.

He shook his head. "That little stunt with the door nearly got my arse flatlined," he said. He rolled his chair toward a small refrigerator to the left of his workstation and yanked the door open.

"Flatlined?" I said. "What, a console stud like you?"

He looked up from behind the refrigerator door and seemed to see Mouse for the first time. His expression softened. "Hello, Mouse."

"Eddie," Mouse said.

"Drink?" he said and held up two cans of Tsunami Cola.

"No thanks," I said.

"Mouse?"

She shook her head.

Eddie shrugged, closed the referigerator door, and rolled back to the workstation with both soda cans. He popped the top on the sodas and set them on the table. "How'd you get in, anyway? I thought I locked the gate--"

I tossed the padlock at his feet.

He swiveled the chair, looked at it, and groaned. "Bloody hell, Kat." He picked it up and held it out to me. The slug had punched through the middle of the lock, leaving a crater.

"My lockpicking's a little rusty these days," I said. I reached into my jacket and pulled out a small black hardcase and lobbed that to Eddie.

He caught the case and opened it. "This is a disk, Kat. You come all this way to find that out?"

"Ha ha," I said. "I want you to tell us what's on it."

"Don't you have a terminal at the Red Dog?"

"Yeah, but--"

"Then you don't need me."

"It's probably encrypted."

His eyebrows shot up. "Encrypted? What're you doing with..." He made a dismissive wave with his hands. "Forget it. The less I know and all."

He swivled toward his consoles, slipped the disk into a reader, and started to type.

"I'm surprised you didn't go to Kid or Val for this. "

Mouse gave me a look that said See? What'd I tell you?

"It was Mouse's idea to come here," I said.

She punched me in the shoulder.

"Good idea," said Eddie and I noticed him sit up straighter in his chair.

I came around to his side and watched him work. His fingers flew across the keyboard and the screen in front of him filled with scrolling alphanumerics.

"Don't you have to plug in for that?" I said.

He shook his head. "Console work." He stopped typing, studied the screen, typed briefly, then frowned.

"Bugger. That should've done it." He resumed typing. "Let's try this."

(to be continued...)

"Easy Money"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 7

"Easy Money" - Part Five

Not just ran into trouble.

Bowled him over.

Jake Steele said, "Problem?"

I stared into a pair of ocean-blue eyes, felt a well-muscled torso rippling beneath me, and fought back the tingle coursing down through my belly.

"No trouble," I said. My voice croaked.

"Really?" he said.

I rolled off him and got to my feet. "Really."

Jake rose with jungle cat grace. Tall, topping me by at least three centimeters. Dressed in jeans, and a gray t-shirt beneath a black leather blazer.

We were in a service corridor behind the kitchens. Jack gestured back up the corridor. "Gunfire wasn't you?"

"No."

"Liar."

"Can we go?" said Mouse. "Or did you forget BC's finest?'

"I knew it," Jake said.

"Oh shut up," I said. "They could be after you."

"We just got here," he said.

"We?"

Mouse grabbed my jacket sleeve. "You two can make goo-goo eyes at each other later--"

"I was not--"

"--but we have to go. Now."

"Got a car out back," Jake said. "Loading dock. Come on." He turned and strode away in the opposite direction.

Mouse took off after him.

Damn know-it-all...

I sprinted after them.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I said to Jake when I caught up and matched steps.

"We were--"

"Did Revell send you to tail us?'

"No, I--"

"And who the hell is 'we'--"

Jake skidded to a stop, whirled, slapped a hand over my mouth, and shoved me against the corridor wall. Air rushed from my lungs.

Bonnie flew into my hand and shoved her muzzle into his forehead. Jake ignored the gun and his eyes bore into my skull.

His hand smelled of soap and gun oil.

I fought down the shallow breath in my chest and the frenzied butterflies in my gut.

"My biz here is just that," he said. "My biz. Gunshots bring cops. We're in Uptown so they get here just a bit quicker. If you want to argue with me, we can do that another time. Right now, I'm offering professional courtesy and getting your asses out of here. Now, you still want Bonnie"--he tapped the pistol aimed at his head--"to blow my brains out? Or are you going to accept my help?"

I mumbled something.

He took his hand off my mouth. "Say again?'

"Lead the way."

The corners of his mouth twitched up. "That's what I like to hear."

The butterflies in my gut went wild.

* * *

After circling Corporate Plaza to make sure we weren't followed, Jake drove to the parking garage off Baker Avenue where Mouse and I had parked Specs's loaner. He pulled to the curb and idled the car.

Mouse and I got out.

"I owe you one," I said to him.

He crooked an eyebrow at me. "One? You owe me more than that."

Heat flared in my belly. I swallowed. "See you around."

"Better believe it."

He winked, put the car in gear, and pulled into traffic.

I watched as the car disappeared around the next corner and realized I'd been holding my breath.

Mouse was saying something next to me.

I blinked and looked at her. "What?"

"Just tell him and get it over with."

"What are you talking about?"

"Don't bullshit me. You know you want to jump his bones."

I felt my face redden. "Shut up." I turned and started toward the parking structure's side entrance.

"You're blushing," said Mouse.

"Bite me."

* * *

On our way back to the Red Dog, I called Specs but got his mailbox. I left a message: "Meet us at Red Dog. Minor glitch." Then hung up.

"He's not gonna like that," Mouse said.

"Not my doing this time."

"Good point."

Ten minutes later, we pulled into the back of the bar, went in through the back door, into the bar, and ran into more trouble.

Kincaid reclined in a chair in the middle of the bar, legs stretched out in front of him, an eagle-headed cane across his lap. Black. Mid-thirties. Close-cropped hair. Swimmer's build. Dressed in a fitted, slate gray, double-breasted suit that seemed to shimmer under the lights.

Four muscleboys stood by the bar's front door, two on either side. In usual black suits.

Revell stood behind the bar, arms folded across his barrel chest. He arched an eyebrow at me.

I blew out a long exhale.

"Ladies," Kincaid said with too broad a smile, white teeth in sharp contrast to his dark skin. He held his hands out in a gesture of friendship.

"Kincaid," I said.

He picked up his cane and pointed the tip at us. "That's a new look for you."

"I know why you're here," I said.

"Good. I can forget the small talk." He set the cane back on his lap. "My money."

"You'll get it."

"Now."

"Soon."

He tsk-tsked. "I don't think you heard me," he said.

The four muscle moved.

I held up both hands, palms out. "Wait."

Kincaid gestured.

The muscle stopped.

"Better be good, Kat," he said.

"We've got a run coming up," I said.

Next to me, Mouse made a small strangled noise . I put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay," I said to her. "We can tell him."

She looked at me with narrowed eyes.

I returned the look, then turned back to Kincaid.

"Good run coming," I said. "Nice take. You'll get your money plus ten percent."

Another strangled noise from Mouse.

I squeezed her shoulder.

She went quiet.

Kincaid stroked his chin and nodded. "Five hundred fifty thousand."

"And," I went on, "we can give you two hundred fifty now. The rest when we finish our run."

"Good faith money?" He chuckled. "I like that."

"Thought you might," I said. "All we need is a little time to do the run and get you the rest. Say, twenty-four hours."

Kincaid picked up his cane, sat up in the chair, and tapped the cane tip on the floor. "Done."

"I'll just go get the money--"

Kincaid jabbed the cane at Mouse. "She can get it." Then he leveled it at me. "You'll stay here."

I looked at Mouse. She nodded and went out the back.

Kincaid sat back in the chair, cane on his lap, and laced his fingers across his midsection.

A few minutes later, Mouse came back with a creditchip and handed it to Kincaid.

Kincaid took the 'chip, pulled a reader from inside his suit jacket, and slotted it. He studied the display.

"Two fifty?" I said.

"Two fifty."

He slipped both the 'chip and the reader back inside his jacket and rose. "As we agreed," he said, "the remaining 300,000 credits due to me in eight hours."

"What!" said Mouse.

"I said twenty-four--" I began.

"Eight hours," said Kincaid.

One of his muscle opened the door and held it for him.

Kincaid stopped in the doorway. "I recommend not disappointing me, ladies," he said. "Otherwise...let's just say that paranoia can be very stressful."

The door closed behind him.

Damn.

"Son of a bitch!" said Mouse.

I yanked off my blazer and flung it atop a nearby table.

Something went thunk.

Mouse and I looked at each other.

Then at my blazer.

"What the hell--?" said Mouse.

(to be continued...)

"Easy Money"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 6