Tattoo smiled. "Better," he said. He let go of Jake's head and Jake slumped to the ground.
Someone pressed the barrel of a gun to the back of my head. "Walk forward," a gruff voice said.
Tattoo stopped at arm's length from me and put his hands on his hips.
I looked at him, searching my brain for a hint of his identity.
He shook his head. "Don't bother. You don't know me. But I know you."
"That a fact?" I said.
The gun barrel tapped me. Hard.
"Watch your mouth, bitch," Gruff Voice said.
"Enough," said Tattoo, slitted eyes staring over my shoulder. After a moment, he turned his attention back to me. "Yeah. I know you. They call you Kat."
"Very good," I said. "Next time, we'll do shapes."
Tattoo sucked in air through gritted teeth. "See, that was funny the first time. Ain't funny no more."
"Then you need a better sense of humor."
Tattoo stepped forward and kicked me in the crotch.
Pain shot up between my legs, through my belly, froze my lungs, and squeezed my throat shut. I gasped, unable to catch the breath lodged in the middle of my chest. My legs went rubber and I folded to my knees.
Tattoo screamed something at me but I heard nothing except a rushing sound echoing through my skull. As if my head were underwater.
Time crept forward.
The pain soon dulled to a throb and my vision started to clear a little.
Someone grabbed my hair and yanked my head back.
Tattoo. Nose to nose. A sour smell like vomit filled my nostrils and I felt bile rise to my throat.
I fought back a gag.
"Not so funny now, are ya," said Tattoo. "Were ya funny when you killed my brother?"
He saw my expression. "Yeah. Brother."
I started to shake my head but he tightened his grip on my hair.
Pain lanced through my scalp.
"Two weeks ago," he said. "The Black Rider."
Two weeks ago, Mouse and I were in the midst of a delivery when I got jacked by a couple of joyboys and lost my package. The joyboys turned out to be wannabes who recently started strutting their stuff at a bar called the Black Rider in the Hillside District. We went there to have a talk with them.
Unfortunately, a group of Scarlet Razors decided to walk in at that point.
All hell broke loose.
Mouse and I took out the Razors.
Then found out about our package from the wannabes.
"You remember now, don't you," said Tattoo.
"There were a lot of them," I said.
"I don't care how many there were. He was there. And you killed him."
"Then he was at the wrong place at the wrong time," I said, my voice raspy.
"Yeah? Well now that's where you're at. The wrong place at the wrong time."
He let go of my head and took a few steps back.
"And you're gonna pay," he said. "Pick her up."
Hands grabbed my arms and yanked me to my feet.
"Time to dance, girlie," Tattoo said. "You and me." He turned and walked up the street.
Someone patted me down, removed the spare magazines from the holders at my belt, and tossed them into the front seat of the Shelby. Then they marched me halfway down Sunset where Tattoo stood and stopped three meters from him.
The other Razors formed a wide circle around us.
Tattoo shrugged off his jacket, exposing a well-muscled frame covered only by a leather vest. Scars on both arms. He'd seen action. Up close action.
He saw me looking at me and grinned. His fists snapped out to either side and three fifteen centimeter blades popped out between his knuckles.
He took a fighting crouch and his grin widened. "Get some," he said.
And he launched himself at me.
I sidestepped and rabbit punched him in the kidneys.
A chant rose up from the other Razors. I couldn't hear what they were saying, just the rise and fall of voices. Like a drumbeat.
Tattoo staggered and dropped to one knee then spun and slashed out. I jumped back. The claws caught the edge of my coat, slicing through a corner of leather.
He advanced, slashing in wide arcs.
Swing, slash, advance. Again and again. Lamplight glinting off razor edges.
Duck, dodge, weave.
Twice, I saw an opening. Moved in. Quick jabs. Made his head snap back.
Duck, dodge, weave.
Anything to stay out of the range of those claws.
My last dodge threw me into the crowd. Hands shoved me back into the melee.
Into Tattoo's swing.
I brought up both arms in a block, caught the swing in mid-arc. At the same time, I shuffled forward, rammed my left hip into his crotch. He doubled over with a grunt and I felt his balance shift, center of gravity moving. I grabbed the bend of his elbow, pivoted my torso.
He flew over my right leg with a yelp and hit the ground.
I jumped back, putting a little distance between us.
He rolled to a low crouch, claws still extended.
We circled each other.
"This place remind you of anything?" Tattoo said, wiping blood from the corner of his mouth.
"What're you talking about?"
He grinned and mimed an explosion with his hands. "I kinda remember some guy buying it on this street two months ago."
I felt my chest tightened.
"You were there. I saw you."
My vision started to blur.
Tattoo gave me a toothy smile. "Wasn't it fan-fucking-tastic?"
A subvocalized command and the world slipped into slo-mo.
I bull rushed him. Closed to arm's length. That's when he saw me and he went saucer-eyed.
Slammed into him, right shoulder low, caught him in the gut. Heard him grunt with the hit. His feet caught air and he flew back a full meter, landed on his ass, his head lolling, a stunned look on his face.
Then I was on him, slammed him to the ground, straddled his torso, screaming and snarling, pounding my fists into his face, his head bouncing off the pavement, his tattoos vanishing under crimson splotches.
Then hands grabbed me, yanked me backwards.
I snarled, squirmed out from grasping hands.
Tattoo started to sit up.
I kicked out and my boot toe cracked him under the chin.
He spit blood and fell back.
Hands grabbed me again. Yanked backwards.
Then a howitzer went off next to me, the crack-boom echoing off the walls of the surrounding buildings.
(to be continued...)