I turned the dark blue ChrysFord sedan--another loaner from Specs--up Imperial toward Corporate Plaza, its 'scrapers looming over the city.
A glance at the rearview showed the white utility van with Jake and Mikey about two car lengths behind me and a lane over.
After another few minutes of navigating downtown traffic, I turned right on 14th Street and came up toward the Lazlar building.
Eddie had pulled the layout. According to the plans, the parking garage was on this side of the building. At this time of night, I'd probably need a passcard to get in.
I had something better.
A ramp led down to the garage. At the bottom sat a guard shack and a black and yellow striped barriacde that identified the gate. As I approached, the guard came out of the shack, a short skinny guy with a prominent nose, clipboard in hand, his uniform cap sitting askew on his shaved head.
"Evenin' ma'am. Can--"
That was as far as he got before Bonnie leaped into my right hand and waved her muzzle at his face.
The clipboard clattered to the ground.
"Nice and slow, friend," I said.
He nodded, his eyes the size of saucers.
"Keep your hands in the air and step back from the car."
I got out of the car and took his sidearm. A Sig 9mm. Nice, but useless to me. I checked to make sure the safety was on then put it in the passenter seat of the car.
"Back in the shack," I said, "and lie down on your stomach, hands laced behind your head, ankles crossed."
"Are ya gonna shoot me?" he said, his voice shaky.
"Not if you do what I say."
He did what I said.
I holstered Bonnie and pulled the pack of zip-ties from my jacket pocket. I bound the guard's wrists and ankles then crouched next to him. "I've got friends behind me. They're gonna keep an eye on you. Don't make them mad."
He shook his head.
"Good." I stood up, found the controls that raised the gate, and let myself then Jake and Mikey through. We parked the cars in some empty slots near the gate.
"We'll put the guard back on duty," Jake said. "But Mikey'll stay in the shack with him. Out of sight. He peeps, he's history."
Mikey shot me a grin and winked then walked to the shack.
Jake tapped his ear. "Call if you need us."
"I will," I said.
I pulled out my phone and dialed the Red Dog. Kid Tachyon answered.
"I'm in," I said. "Start the party."
* * *
I stood in front of the elevator bank at the far end of the garage. All three accessed the entire building, but only a specific set of passcards could gain entry to the restricted levels below.
That was Eddie's job.
On cue, the middle doors toned and wooshed open.
I stepped into the elevator car. It wooshed closed, hummed, the shook a bit before heading down.
According to building layout, there were two sublevels. The first was another set of tech areas, separate from the two floors of lab space above ground. The bottom level housed the security operations center.
Ten rooms. One of them held Mouse.
Eddie's last check before we headed out showed at least a dozen secmen on location. Two pairs on rotating patrols through the building. Another pair walking perimeter. One in the garage and another in the main lobby. Two in the ops center.
That would cover building security.
But the meet tonight would no doubt bring in more muscle.
If I were Burns, I'd have at least eight men with me for the exchange.
That made twenty.
Lot of bodies to get through.
The elevator toned and came to a halt.
One body at a time.
The doors wooshed open.
Inside the foyer, a security station faced the elevator. A guard popped a bored-looking face over the counter.
"Can I help you--" he began.
I whipped out the KaBar and launched it at the guard.
The knife rocketed end over end and the pommel slammed into his face.
He fell over.
I scrambled forward and vaulted the station.
The guard had fallen backwards over his chair and was on his hands and knees, shaking his head.
I cracked my boot into his ribs. He grunted, did a little hop, and folded.
I spotted the knife on the floor a few centimeters from the guard, started toward it, felt a weight slammed into the back of my left leg, and I crumpled forward, broke my fall with both forearms, and craned my head back.
The guard rose to a crouch, a collapsible baton in hand. He lunged. I kicked back with both feet, caught him in the chest and threw him back against the station's counter. He crashed into a terminal and keyboard, knocked them aside.
My hand found the knife handle and I surged to my feet, knife held low, and threw myself at the guard. He pushed off from the counter, raised the baton for an overhead smash.
I had him beat by two seconds.
The blade sank into his upper abdomen and under his ribcage.
He spasmed under me and blood gushed from his mouth. The baton clattered to the floor. He looked at me, wide-eyed, and grabbed my wrist with both hands.
I shoved the blade forward again, knocked him back into the counter.
His breath bubbled blood and his grip on my wrist slackened.
I twisted the blade.
He gave a strangled, gurgling sound.
I stepped back, yanked the knife out.
The guard fell to the floor with a wet squelch.
I stepped back, panting.
Blood pooled beneath the dead guard.
One down. Eleven to go.
Movement caught my eye. Above and to my left.
A security camera swung its lens toward me.
"Eddie? That you?"
The small red light beneath the lens blinked repeatedly.
"Anybody hear that? One blink, no. Two, yes."
The light blinked.
"Good. Keep it that way."
I sheathed the knife and checked the guard's duty belt.
Sidearm. Spare mags. Case of zip-ties. Tactical flashlight. Cellphone.
Something was missing.
I rolled him over, careful not to get blood on my clothes, examined his face, and found it. Along the right jawline.
I looked up at the camera. "Eddie."
I turned the guard's head so that he could "see" the implant. "He had a commo. Did he get word out?"
I thought for a moment. Between getting smacked with the pommel of a knife and kicked by me, he probably didn't get enough time to radio anyone.
I ejected the magazine from the guard's sidearm and thumbed the rounds out of it. Did the same with the spare mags then popped the remaining round from the chamber of the sidearm and set everything on the counter. Like the guard in the garage, this one had 9mm rounds. AP. Armor piercing.
But couldn't use it for the Twins.
I left everything else on the guard but picked up his baton, collapsed it, then went to the door.
Maglock with keycard access. Palm print and retinal scanner.
I glanced back at the guard, and the widening pool of blood beneath him. Could be messy.
Then had a better idea.
"Eddie," I said and pointed to the door.
A few seconds later, the door clicked and wooshed open.
"Thank you" I said, drew the Twins, and stepped through.
(to be continued...)