"Shit!" said Mouse.
A hail of gunfire came up the stairwell.
I scooted toward the top of the steps, aimed the Twins down the stairwell, and let off several rounds. The slide locked back on an empty magazine, I reloaded, fired again, then sat back against the wall next to the door.
I checked on Eddie.
Blood soaked his right pants leg. He gave me a weak smile, his breath coming in short gasps.
"How you holding up?" I said.
"I've felt better," he said.
Mouse looked at me. "Med kit?"
I shook my head. "In the trunk."
"Gotta stop the bleeding."
"Give me a knife."
She drew a folder, flicked the blade, and passed it to me, handle first.
I took the knife. "Sorry about this," I said to Eddie.
He inhaled sharply, his face scrunching up. "What're you--"
I grabbed the tail of his labcoat and sliced off two large strips. Gave the knife back to Mouse. "Remind me to pick up a folder from Specs," I said, then wrapped the strips tight around the wound.
Eddie sucked air through gritted teeth.
I finished tying the knot. "Should hold for a while. But we need to get you to Doc."
"How?" he said. "We're a little trapped."
Mouse checked the MP5's magazine then slid it back into place. "We might have enough ammo. Shoot our way out?"
Eddie made a strangled noise.
"No," I said.
"Voice of reason," said Eddie. "Thank god--"
"We blow our way out."
"What?" said Mouse and Eddie.
I took the duffel from Mouse, pulled out what I needed, took a long breath.
"Kat," said Mouse.
"I know," I said.
"You sure about that?"
"That's the same way--"
"Mouse," I said and felt my throat tighten.
Mouse flinched at my tone. Her brow furrowed. Then she nodded. "Okay."
"Okay," I said. "Watch my ass."
Eddie looked at Mouse, then at me. "You're fucking nutters," he said.
I shot him a grin. "Damn straight," I said and yanked open the roof access door.
* * *
When the aerodyne's chain gun didn't turn me into shredded meat, I let out the breath I'd been holding but kept my hands up. In my right hand, the disk. Attached with electrical tape around a block of C4 with detonator in place. In my left hand, the remote relay switch.
"That's right," I said, pitching my voice toward the aerodyne. "I know you've got pickups on me. And I know you can see what's in my hands. You drill me, I blow your disk into next week. And you don't want that. So let's talk."
Only the tinted front windshield of the craft stared back at me like a huge one-eyed metal insect.
Then the aerodyne's external speakers clicked on. "All right," a tinny, melodious voice said. "Let's talk."
"You the man in charge?"
"Good. First, call off your goons. The stairwells. The parking lot. And any snipers."
A pause. Then: "Done."
"Mouse," I called back over my shoulder. "Check them."
"Hang on," she said. Then: "Gone from the stairs."
"Parking lot?" I said to the aerodyne.
"Gone," said the voice. "As you requested. Snipers, too."
"Better be," I said. "Here's the deal. I have something you want and I'm going to trade it for something I want. Meet me at the Marina in front of Pier 13 in two hours. Alone. No undercover muscle. No snipers. We have ways of checking. Bring ten million on a certified cred chip. Again, we have ways of checking. Do we have a deal?"
"Tall order," said the voice. "How do I know you won't double-cross me, give me a blank disk."
"I'm sure you have ways of checking."
"Then no worries," I said. "You're a businessman. I'm a businesswoman."
"Is that what you call yourself?"
"We both deal in types of currency."
"You have a point."
"Do we have a deal?"
"Well?" I said.
"We have a deal," the voice said.
"Good. Now, you're going to let us leave this building unmolested. You're not going to follow us. I see any sign of trouble?" I gestured with the relay switch. "Kaboom."
"What do you take me for?"
"A businessman," I said.
* * *
We got to the Shelby without incident.
Mouse and I helped Eddie into the passenger seat. I got the medkit out of the trunk, popped Eddie with an airhypo of painkillers and sedatives, slapped a hemo pad on the wound. His eyelids fluttered. The sedatives were kicking in.
Once Eddie was settled, Mouse and I got in.
"You think they'll come through?" said Mouse.
"They're not stupid," I said and started the car. "We'll take him to Doc, then head back to the Red Dog."
My phone chirped.
It was Revell.
"Katya," he said. "We need to talk. But not on the phone."
"I will tell you when you get back."
"Give us forty minutes." I hung up.
Eddie mumbled something.
I looked over.
He had passed out.
I checked my optic clock.
An hour and forty-five minutes until the exchange.
Three hours until Kincaid's deadline.
I checked the rearview mirror to back out of the parking slot and saw Mouse watching Eddie.
"He's gonna be okay," I said. "Doc'll fix him up."
"I know," she said. "It's just..."
She shook her head. "Nevermind."
* * *
We made it to Doc's medshop in ten minutes.
He took one look at Eddie and called out two assistants. They put him on a gurney and hustled him into the shop and to an empty operating theater.
"He gonna be okay?" I said to Doc.
"He should," Doc said. "Doesn't look too bad, but I won't know until I examine him." He turned and went after his assistants.
"We'll check back in a couple of hours," I called out, then turned and started for the door.
It opened and Jake Steele walked in.
My breath caught and I had to fight down the heat that suddenly exploded in my belly.
"What are you doing here?" I said.
"Revell sent me," he said. "Wanted to check on you two."
The heat in my belly suddenly went cold. "How'd you know we were here?" I said.
"I didn't. Needed something from Doc. Lucky running into you here. Don't have to wander 'round the city."
"Tell Revell everything's under control," I said and started past him.
He stepped in front of me. "You sure? I just saw them put Fast Eddie on a gurney."
"Got shot in the leg."
"You call that under control?"
"He's gonna be fine," I said. "Doc said so. Now if you'll excuse us." I pushed past him and opened the front door, then stopped in the doorway and turned around.
Mouse was still standing in the corridor, looking back toward the doors to the operating theater.
"Mouse," I said. "Let's move."
She turned toward me, looked back down the corridor, then walked to the door.
(to be continued...)