He nodded. "He's on his way with gear. He and Eddie are gonna be your 'net support. Mikey's on his way, too. We'll be backup."
"It's your show, Kat. We're just here to cover your ass."
"Thanks." I dug the car keys out of my pocket and tossed them at him. "Trunk. I need the bag and the SMGs."
"Got it." He turned to go.
I put a hand on his shoulder. He winced a little before turning back.
"You sure you're okay for this?" I said. "Maybe Doc should check you out."
"He's fine," Doc called out from behind me.
Doc was leading Revell down the hallway. "Bruised ribs. Broken nose. Little road rash. Nice shiner. But his dermal mesh held out, kept his ribs from getting cracked." He jabbed a finger in my direction. "Which is more than I can say for you, Kat. I want to see you and Mouse in my shop when all this is over. And no more excuses about money. This one'll be on me."
I managed a smile, probably the first one all day. "You're all heart, Doc."
"Ya damn right."
Revell and I exchanged a look. "You will get her back safe, da?"
I nodded. "Da."
"Udachi," he said. "Good luck."
Then Doc and Revell went past us and headed out the back door.
Jake turned back to me and shrugged. "You heard Doc. I'll be fine."
"Make damn sure of that," I said.
Before he could answer, I turned and walked quickly toward the stairs
to the second floor.
* * *
I yanked the footlocker out from under my bed and popped the lid. Rummaged through the collection of spare gear and clothes. Grabbed two drop leg pouches then picked up the sheathed Ka-Bar knife Mouse had given me a few months ago.
Blades were never my thing. I never wanted to get that close to anyone. But tonight's scuffle with Bobby made me reconsider my hesitation to use a blade.
I may not like pointy toys as much as Mouse but I can see how practical they can be.
For a moment, my vision fuzzed and I felt wetness on my cheek.
Gotten something in my eye. Dust.
I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. My vision cleared.
Then I clipped the sheath to my gear belt, added the drop pouches and secured them, and slid the footlocker back under the bed.
* * *
The clock on the wall of the Red Dog's back office read: 18:12:33.
A little over forty-five minutes before the meet.
Kid Tachyon and Eddie were working on their equipment on the office's desk and on a folding table that Kid had brought in.
I knew him by reputation but hadn't met Kid Tachyon until tonight. Round and jovial, with dark hair and closely-trimmed beard. Underneath a dark green overcoat he wore a t-shirt that bore the insignia of a big cat roaring, done all in red.
"Old vid show," he'd said at my puzzled look.
"You and Mouse should get together," I said. "She's big into vids."
He threw a sidelong glance at Eddie, then leaned toward me, hand cupped by his mouth. "No can. Eddie likes Mouse. But don't tell him I know."
"Is he that obvious?'
He grinned. "Does a bear shit in the woods?"
Jake and Mikey had laid out weapons on the floor--four submachineguns, four handguns, two pump-action shotguns, and two battle rifles--and were loading magazines.
Mikey and I had met two months ago. Jake's "go to" guy for run assists. Short and solid, a boulder with support column legs. Glossy black optics instead of eyes. Trademark olive-drab commando sweater.
He greeted me tonight the same as our first meeting: "Dude."
I finished putting my pistol magazines into the drop pouches and closed the flap. Each pouch had slots for four magazines, total of eight. Plus the eight on my gear belt, two in each of the four magazine holders. And the four loose magazines in my jacket pockets. Twenty reloads.
Two hundred rounds.
That didn't count the twenty rounds in the Twins.
Ready for a small war.
And I hadn't even gotten to the submachineguns.
I turned. Eddie was sitting up in his chair. "Tell me you got something," I said.
He shook his head and my stomach did flip flops. "I got fuck all," he said. "Street cams on Imperial, MacArthur, 13th, 14th, and the spyeye I borrowed. Checked them twice. Big fat nil."
I looked at Kid Tachyon. "Getting anything from Lazlar?"
"Got some possibles on safehouses they've used," he said. "Address on three of them. Rest is behind some good ICE. Gonna take a while."
"Can't we just wait until the meet to find out where?" Kid Tachyon said.
"Do I look like I wait?"
He grinned. "Good point."
"Besides--that's playing by their rules. Don't do that either."
"I told you," Jake said to Kid.
I folded my arms across my chest. "Good ICE?" I said to Kid.
"Eddie can do it," I said.
"Double-team it?" Kid said. "Sounds good--"
I shook my head. "Not double-team. Just Eddie."
Kid's brows went up.
"Kat--" Eddie began.
"Work your magic, Eddie," I said. "You know what I'm talking about."
"I...what..." He cleared his throat and gave a weak laugh. "Double-team's a good idea. Like Kid said."
"Eddie," I said and shot him Look Number Two, the one that makes people nervous.
He swallowed visibly. "Come on," he said. It was almost a whine.
"I know you, Eddie," I said. "Use it."
"All right," he said.
Kid turned to Eddie, his brows still up. "Eddie?"
"Tell ya later, mate," he said. He dug into an inside pocket of his lab coat, pulled out a hardcase, popped the lid, and pulled out a datadisk. He inserted the disk into his terminal. "Still gonna take a little time."
"But less time than if you didn't, right?" I said.
He nodded. "Back in a bit."
Then he jacked in.
Kid looked at me. "You gotta share."
"I'll let Eddie do the honors. It's a little over my head."
Jake came up next to me. "Problem," he said, his voice pitched low.
"Three addresses. Gonna take time to recon and search."
"So it'll eat up time we don't have."
"Then we just go in--"
"--with guns blazing?" He shook his head. "Do you hear yourself?"
"We can't just let her sit there."
"We're not. But we also can't go in without prep. You know that." He tipped my chin up and stared into my eyes. "You okay?"
"I..." I found myself drowning in his eyes, felt heat spreading down through my gut. The smell of gun oil and soap wafted into my nostrils and my breath caught in my throat.
Dammit, Kat. Head back in the game.
"Kat?" Jake said.
I tore my gaze from him, focused on the far wall, and counted to ten. Slowly. Very slowly.
"Kat?" he said again.
I nodded. "You're right," I said and met his gaze again. "I wasn't thinking it through."
Jake's eyes narrowed. He studied my face for what seemed like a long time, then nodded. "Okay."
"BIngo," said Eddie. "Got three more sites."
"That was quick," Kid Tachyon said.
"Change of plans," I said.
"What?" said Eddie. "After I spent all that time?"
"Did it work?" I said. "The magic?"
His face lit up. "Bloody fucking genius."
"What now?" said Mikey from his seat on the couch.
"Jake just reminded me we're short on time," I said. "We can't hit all six addresses."
"So what do you reckon?" said Eddie.
A thought struck. I said: "We let Jade tell us where they are."
"How do you figure?" said Jake.
I looked at Eddie and Kid. "You can trace a cell signal, right?"
"No sweat," said Kid. "Just need the digits."
I pulled out my cellphone and dialed.
"I need Jade's number," I said.
"Are you fuckin' nuts?" said Specs. "You know I can't give out that sorta info."
"You're not in a union, Specs."
"It's a client privacy thing. You know how it is. What, you want me to buzz your number around town?"
I gave him the scoop. The short version.
"Sonofabitch," he said and gave me the number.
"Anything for you and Mouse," he said. "And you'll make sure she doesn't slit my throat, right?"
"Right." I hung up.
"And?" Kid Tachyon said.
I gave him the number.
He turned to his terminal and jacked in.
"Here," said Jake.
I turned and he lobbed a phone at me. I caught it. "What's this for?"
"Was gonna use it for something else," he said. "Go for it. At the very least, she won't know your real number."
Jade picked up on the third ring. "New phone, Specs?"
"Hello, Jade," I said.
She said nothing. Loudly. Then: "Nice. Very nice. I'll have to remember that trick. What do you want?"
"I need more time."
"I don't know."
"Another half hour won't hurt."
"Might hurt Mouse."
"Then it turns personal. You don't want personal, Jade."
A pause, then: "How do I know you're not jerking me around?"
"My word," I said.
"You're kidding, right?"
"This is biz. My word."
"Well?" I said.
"All right," said Jade. "Done."
"One more thing."
"Don't push it."
"I need to know Mouse is okay."
"Mouse is okay."
"Not good enough."
"My word," said Jade.
I clenched my jaw.
"Biz, Kat," she said. "My word."
Then a voice in the background: "Kick her ass, Kat!"
Good enough for me.
"Your partner's got a loud mouth," Jade said. "Maybe I should shut it for her."
"Wouldn't try it."
"That goes for Specs, too. That trick is off-limits. That was biz. I hear otherwise, it turns personal."
"Personal can be bad for you, Kat."
"Be bad for you, too, Jade."
"Thank you." I hung up and looked at Kid. "Was that enough time?"
He grinned. "You didn't need to do that."
He shook his head. "That's the vids. All I needed was her number and to make sure her phone was on."
"Is Mouse okay?" Eddie said.
"Mouse is fine."
Kid Tachyon gave him a sidelong glance.
"She's part of the team, mate," said Eddie. "Don't you want to know if she's okay?"
"You're blushing, loverboy," said Kid.
"Sod off," said Eddie.
"Kid," I said. "Where's Jade?"
I looked at Eddie. "Go."
"Right." He turned to his terminal.
Kid waved his hands over his head. "Hey hey--! I thought I was on assist, too?"
"Eddie's gonna work the magic," I said. "You are running interference."
"Interference." Kid's eyebrows went up. "As in raise hell?"
"Hell. The Apocalypse. Whatever you want to call it."
Kid jabbed a finger at Eddie. "You and your magic can kiss my pale white ass. I'm gonna blow shit up."
"I take it you're game?" I said.
Kid ignored me and grabbed his terminal, put the screen almost up to his face. "Fear me, Lazlar," he intoned, deep and gravel-voiced. "I come for your souls."
Eddie said, "Crazy fucking bastard..."
One more call.
"Again, Kat?" said Specs.
"One last thing," I said.
(to be continued...)