The chanting died, fast.
As the adrenaline started to wear off, I looked up.
A bearded figure in full leathers stood near me, a huge wheelgun in his hand, barrel pointed in the air.
"Everybody's finished, right?" he said, a gravel voice that rumbled.
The other Razors muttered agreement.
"Good. Now you're gone."
They walked away, back to their rockets. Then the street rumbled with the roar of engines and the squeal of tires. A moment later, it was silent again.
Bearded Man lowered the wheelgun to his side.
The hands holding me let go.
I looked over my shoulder.
"You okay?" he said.
"Fine," I said. "But you look like shit."
I turned back.
Tattoo was now on his hands and knees, groaning, struggling to get up.
A pair of Razors flanked him. One was a bald giant. The other, a woman with close-cropped dark hair.
Beard Man stood in the same spot but had turned his attention to Tattoo. "The hell were you doing, Bobby?"
"She's the one," said Tattoo/Bobby. "Killed Seth."
"So I found her."
"And you rounded up the crew for this?"
Bobby looked up. "She hadda pay."
"You rounded up my crew for this?"
His brow creased. "But I thought..."
"Because you're my one of my lieutenants, you had free reign?"
"To a point, Bobby. To a point."
Bobby got to a kneeling position and sat back on his haunches. "I don't understand..."
Beard Man started to circle him. Slowly. "I left you in charge thinking you knew what you were doing. You've demonstrated that in that past. That's why I made you a lieutenant. But this." He stopped and pointed a finger at me without looking.
"This. Not very smart."
"I know. She killed Seth."
"So why didn't you bring it up to me."
Bobby opened his mouth to answer but no sound came out.
"Well?" said Beard Man.
"I..." Bobby began, then stopped.
"I can't hear you, Bobby."
"I...it was my responsibility," Bobby said, finding his voice. "He was my brother."
"He was a Razor, too. That meant he was our brother."
"That's right. That means we look after our own. That's why I--we went after her."
"Conveniently while I was gone," said Beard Man.
The bald giant and the woman snickered.
Beard Man resumed circling. "You decided to deal with it by yourself. No word to me. You were in charge for the day. You call the play."
"But you made two mistakes. First, you went after her without telling me about it. Second, you jumped my brother."
I felt my shoulders tense. Brother?
Bobby went wide-eyed. "W-what brother--"
Jake stepped toward Bobby. "Hi. Remember me?"
Bobby made a strangled noise in his throat and fell back, shaking his head wildly. "Jesus, Mick. I didn't know."
Beard Man/Mick shook his head slowly. "No, Bobby. You know Jake. I've introduced him to you. To all the lieutenants. I've said before that he's not to be touched."
"Jake's a ghost," said the woman. "Ignore him. Those were his words."
"But you didn't do that," said Mick.
"He--he got in the way," Bobby said. "When we were tailing the woman, he showed up. Tried to stop us."
"So you beat the shit out of him?" said Mick.
"He got in the way, Mick! Goddammit, don't you see? He got in the fucking way!"
Mick stopped circling and faced Bobby. "You disobeyed my orders, Bobby," he said. "I don't like disobedience."
Bobby rose to a kneeling position, hands out in front of him, reaching toward Mick. "Oh, fuck, Mick. Don't do this."
"And you, a lieutenant," said Mick. "Did I choose wrong?"
"No, you didn't. You chose right, Mick."
"I don't think so. I think I chose someone who can't handle it."
"I choose people who are strong. I thought you were strong, Bobby."
"No. You're weak. You're selfish. And you made a big mistake."
Bobby surged to his feet.
Mick leveled the huge revolver at him. "Good bye, Bobby."
The revolver thundered twice. Bobby jerked, his chest cratering, stumbled back a step. He started to say something and blood gushed from his mouth. He folded.
A moment later, Mick turned to me. "So you're Kat."
I nodded. "Yeah."
"I thought you'd be taller." He inclined his head toward Jake. "Way he puts it, you're ten meters tall and shoot laser bolts from your eyes."
"Oh really?" I shot a glance at Jake.
"What is this? Pick on the injured guy night?"
"You don't look that injured," Mick said.
"I heal quick." He winced. "Kind of.."
Mick walked up to me. "Bobby's full of shit."
Mick shook his head. "I mean about that night. When Murphy was killed."
I felt my jaw tense.
"Yeah, I knew Murphy. Lots of folks knew Murphy." He put a hand on my shoulder. "But Bobby didn't see shit. I should know. I was there. We were there."
I looked at him. "We?"
"Five of us. Me. Laz." He gestured toward the bald giant and the woman. "Mondo and Casey. And Bobby. Had a meeting with the Teknos about biz. We were heading back when we heard the blast. You were leaving when we came around Sunset and Price, a block over. I saw the..." He inhaled deeply, let it out. "I knew it was Murphy. I'm sorry."
Jake came up next to Mick and held out a phone.
"Been going off the last few minutes," he said.
The voicemail indicator flashed.
I checked it and my heart leaped into my throat.
(to be continued...)