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"Easy Money" - Part Nine

If there was ever a shithole of shitholes, the Raffles Motel in Southside would be it. It was worse than I remembered it--and that was just six months ago.

I finished setting up the motion detectors on the stairwell one flight down, the stairwell doors, and the middle of the hallway, made sure they were working, then walked back to our room.

We were holed up on the the fourth floor, furthest room back, near the stairwell.

Mouse was unloading the two gear bags. Eddie paced the room.

"Know where I should be right now?" said Eddie.

"Where's that?" I said.

"Jacked into a console and stealing data like taking a lolly from a baby," Eddie said. "But no. My shop gets blown all to fuck by a bunch of corp shooters, thank you very fucking much."

"Want some cheese with that whine?" said Mouse.

Eddie made a strangled noise and continued to pace.

I pulled out my cellphone. "Relax. Specs can get new gear to us in about an hour. Maybe less. And he can get us more AP rounds. In case those mooks come back."

"I've got specialty pieces," said Eddie. "He might have trouble. I'll call Kid. He should be free now."

Eddie stopped pacing, sat on the bed, pulled out his phone and made the call.

I called Specs and told him what I needed.

"Gimme half an hour," he said.

"Something else," I said.

"Yeah?"

"Can you ask around, see if anybody's missing anything they desperately want back?"

"Can you vague that up a little more? You're talking about biz here. That pretty much covers everybody who might hire you."

"No details. At least not yet."

"You ain't givin' me much to work with, Kat."

"Just ask around."

"I'll see what I can do. Can't promise you nothing."

When I got off the phone, Mouse had both hands on her hips and was looking at me with slitted eyes.

"What?" I said.

"An SMG?" she said.

"Yeah. So? FN's too big for hallways," I said.

"Screw that."

"You'd have to go hand-to-hand to use your blades. They'd cut you down before you even got close."

"I've still got my throwers," Mousesaid.

"And you're gonna use those behind cover? Get real."

"I can handle myself--"

"Just do it."

"Kat--"

"Please."

Mouse let out a loud exhale. "Fine."

"Thank you," I said and turned to Eddie. "Got Kid?"

He sat up and nodded. "Be here in twenty."

"Good. How long will it take you to crack that disk?"

"Kid's letting me borrow some of his toys," said Eddie. "Reckon half an hour once I get going. Three-quarters of an hour at the most."

"Any chance you can do double-duty?"

"As in?"

"Infodump on our client."

His brow furrowed. "If Kid brings an extra portable, I should be able to." He pulled out his phone. "I'll check."

"Tell him I'll be forever grateful."

"How much is that in credits?"

"Call."

Eddie grinned and dialed.

Mouse said, "What about Kincaid?"

"Hold on, Kid," Eddie said and looked at us. "What about Kincaid?"

"We kinda owe him money," said Mouse. "A lot of it."

"Bloody hell," said Eddie. "You tell him I'm an innocent third party. I'm not looking to get dead." He went back to his phone call.

"We'll deal with Kincaid later," I said.

"We don't have much time."

I check my optic clock. 14:58:35.

"We've got a little under five and a half hours."

"Not much time."

"It's enough to do what we need to do."

"You heard what he said. Paranoia."

"I know. Just trust me. We'll handle it."

"Fine. Whatever,"

"Fine," I said and grabbed my jacket from the back of the chair. "Gonna walk perimeter."

I left the room.

* * *

The feeling hit me again when I got to the bottom on the stairwell. A wave of fatigue. Then the roaring in my head, a million screaming voices. Tight chest. Throat closing up.

A bright white flash.

And Murphy shatters into a million pieces--

I shoved the door open and staggered into the parking lot at the side of the hotel. Leaned against the outside wall and sucked in deep breaths, ignoring the metallic taste of the city. A strangled cry fought its way out of my mouth and my vision went fuzzy. Like looking through a rain-drenched window.

Then one long, shuddering breath.

And it stopped.

Gone.

I blinked, wiped my eyes on my jacket sleeve.

The hum of the city in my ears.

Then glass clattered nearby followed by a clang of metal.

I spun. The Twins leaped to my hands, tracking.

Three meters to my left, four bedraggled kittens clustered around the foot of a rust covered dumpster. A moment later, a sleek black cat emerged from the dumpster lip and jumped down among the quartet.

Mama Cat.

The kittens started to mewl. Mama Cat nosed them forward. They turned and scampered across the lot.

Mama Cat started after them, then stopped and turned to me, green eyes shining.

I lowered the Twins.

She meowed at me.

Then padded off after the kittens.

I holstered the Twins and turned toward the driveway that led into the lot.

Specs would be here soon and--

On the sidewalk across the street, a figure sporting red biker leathers sat astride a crotch rocket. The figure turned a helmeted head toward me.

Then a truck rumbled by.


When it passed, the figure was gone.

What the hell--?

Get a grip, Kat. You're losing it.

"Tell me something I don't know," I said out loud.


* * *

Specs showed up on time, easing a beat-up ChrysFord sedan into an empty parking slot at the side of the hotel.

"Ran into Kid Tachyon on the way here," he said. "Said he had some gear for Eddie." He popped the trunk, reached in, and pulled out a pair of hardcases. Then he pulled out two large duffel bags. "And these are for you two."

We carried the cases and bags back to the room.

Eddie put the cases on the dresser and popped the lids. "Kid comes through again." He started unloading electronic equipment and setting them up on the room's only table.

I put the duffle bags on the bed and opened one of them. Inside were two Heckler and Koch MP5 submachineguns, two dozen empty 30-round magazines, and three ammo cans of 9mm rounds. There were also a dozen flash-bang grenades.

"Am I good or am I good?" said Specs.

"You're good," I said.

"Customer satisfaction. That's what I like to hear. You'll notice I threw in some goodies I had lying around."

I held up a flash-bang grenade. "I noticed."

"Rush job's gonna cost you extra though."

"Put it on my tab," I said.

"Tab's getting pretty big."

"You know we're good for it."

"Yeah, I know. I'm such a fuckin' softie."

"How's the asking?"

"Still asking. Nothing that sounds desperate. Couple calls for extractions. Some retrievals. Protection--"

"What retrievals?"

"Got five in the hopper."

"That doesn't help."

"You know how it works, Kat. All Smiths. No deets 'til you sign on."

"I know," I said. "Was worth a shot."

"This got anything to do with that glitch this afternoon?" Specs said.

"Yeah."

"Now that was just shitty luck."

"You're telling me," I said.

"I'll keep nosin' around," Specs said. "If I get anything more on those retrievals, I'll call."

"Thanks."

He started toward the door, then stopped and turned back to us. "One more thing--I picked up some chatter earlier about you two."

"What chatter?" said Mouse.

"Says you two should watch your back," said Specs.

"Fucking hell," Eddie said.

I felt my neck hairs stand at attention.

"Kincaid?" said Mouse.

"He's more direct than that," I said.

"Wasn't Kincaid," said Specs. "Came from one of my ears. But they can't place who."

I swallowed, felt my heart hammering in my chest.

That biker--

No. Had to focus. One thing at a time.

"Bloody magnets for trouble," said Eddie and he chuckled. "Hanging with you two's never boring. I'll give you that much."

"Thanks for the tip, Specs," I said.

"No problemo. I'll be in touch." He turned and left the room.

Eddie said, "Right. You wanted an infodump?"

"Yeah," I said.

"Who's the mark?"

"Joshua Collins."


(to be continued...)



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