"Vittorio," said Eddie.
The Vittorio Family, one of the oldest of the Families still remaining in Bay City. "So she's connected," I said. "But that still doesn't answer my question. If Kelly -- the real Kelly -- is dead, who were we talking to at AstraNova?"
"Getting there, luv, " Eddie said. He spun back to the console and opened another display.
A photograph of Kelly appeared, except she had shoulder-length blond hair and wore a black, sequined cocktail dress, a drink in one hand. She was talking to a trio of similarly dressed women.
Eddie looked over his shoulder at me. "Kelly, right?"
"Or whoever she really is," I said. "But yeah. Except the hair is different..."
"File photo. BCPD Vice."
"Vice?" I said.
Eddie nodded. "Taken twelve years ago." He tapped the monitor. "Daniela Sorensen. Husband is Charles Sorensen, senior VP at DigiTech. Corp out of SoCal." Eddie sat back in his chair and swiveled around to me and Natalia. "Her maiden name is Vittorio."
"Wait a minute," Natalia said. "Kelly is really this Sorensen woman."
"Vittorio," Eddie said.
"Whatever," said Natalia. "So what, she's some kind of industrial spy?"
"Got it in one, luv," Eddie said.
"But that's crazy. She's been with my dad's company for all that time. If she was just going to steal information for that crime family, wouldn't she have done it already?"
A thought struck.
"What's AstraNova's track record for the last five years?" I said to Eddie.
He turned back to the console and typed some commands. A set of graphs popped up. Eddie studied them for a moment, then said, "Not bad, until about two years. Profits started to sag." He looked at me. "Why? You planning to invest?"
"What happened two years ago?" I said.
"Mom died," said Natalia.
I looked at her. "I'm sorry, Natalia."
"It's okay. You didn't know."
"Your father had a meeting today," I said to her. "Who with?"
"Right. Wait one." He plugged a gold-tipped cable into the datajack just behind his right ear and slumped in his chair. Three minutes later, he jerked awake and shuddered. He wiped sweat from his forehead and grinned at Natalia. "Your dad's packing pretty hard core ice for a personal calendar."
"What'd you find?" I said.
Eddie typed some commands then studied the monitor. "Meeting in San Angeles. With DigiTech."
Natalia looked at me. So did Eddie.
"Contact name, by any chance?" I said.
Eddie typed some more then stopped. "Well, bloody hell."
"Let me guess," I said. "Charles Sorensen."
"Bang on," said Eddie.
* * *
My optic clock read: 16:57:03. Close to an hour until the meet and Mouse was still missing. But not for long. I wasn't sure where she was, but I had a good idea who had her.
I stood outside Spec's shop, staring into the trunk of Renaldi's car. The duffel from the Mustang sat open on the trunk floor. A old pump action Remington 12-gauge. Bandolier with 50 shells. Extra box of ammo.
Damn. I'd unpacked the MP5 the day before to clean.
My cellphone chirped. Specs. "Anything?" I said.
"Big fat nothin'," Specs said.
"You try everyone?"
"Everyone I could. Even called in some favors. Zip. No teams went for the girl."
"You thinkin' what I think you're thinkin'?"
"Figured. Just don't get dead."
"You're all heart, Specs."
I hung up and looked back at the shotgun. It would have to do.
Footsteps shuffled toward me.
Natalia stood behind me, hands in the bomber jacket's pockets, ballcap still pulled low over her face. For a moment, Natalia looked like Mouse did when she first walked into the Red Dog and asked to join Murphy and me.
"What now?" she said.
I thought a moment. "In about half an hour, your father finds out where the meet takes place. Which leaves us waiting around."
"Do I look like I wait around?"
"I figure Kelly ordered your capture," I said, "and her own sec team hit us back there."
"How do you know?"
"No freelancers were hired to pick you up. I checked with Specs."
"You trust him?"
"He'd be stupid to jerk me around."
"Couldn't someone else have sent those men?"
"Maybe." I remembered the conversation back at AstraNova. "But my hunch says Kelly."
Natalia frowned. "Why me?"
"Why not?" I said. "Boss's daughter. Great bargaining chip."
She looked deflated. "Yeah..."
I picked up the shotgun, checked the magazine, then started loading shells. "As far as Kelly's concerned, Mouse and I are still alive. I doubt witnesses were part of her plan. Then again, I doubt dealing with me was part of her plan."
"What is her plan?" Natalia asked.
I told her.
She was quiet for a while.
I finished loading the shotgun and pumped a shell into the chamber. "That sec team's gonna be hunting us. I just hope I bought us enough time."
Natalia's eyes lit up. "So that's why we took my father's car. You knew they'd follow us in the other one."
"The switch should confuse them for a bit," I said. "But the garage cams'll show which car we took."
"So they will find us."
"Counting on it." I slung the bandolier across my chest and the shotgun over my shoulder. Then shut the trunk lid.
And saw it.
Just north of Highway 342, banking past middle peak of the Three Sisters, its belly-mounted searchlights sweeping. Heading toward us.
Then, an idea struck...
(to be continued...)