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