"Life Goes On"

01 July 2042 - One Day Later

The door to the flat above the Red Dog Bar creaked open and Specs stuck his head inside. "You expect me to carry this in there?" he said. "I already carried 'em up the goddamn stairs."

I looked up from the coffee table where I'd been threading a bore brush through Clyde's field-stripped barrel. "You're all heart, Specs," I said.

"And you're an ungrateful shit," he said, shoving the door open with his shoulder and coming in with a pair of large hardcases.

I set down Clyde's barrel and the bore brush, wiped my hands on the towel at my waist, and stood up. "That it?" I guestured at the cases.

Specs nodded and set them down by the coffee table. "The four Sigs. And the other MP5."

"Mags and rounds?"

"Box of mags for both downstairs. And a handtruck for the rounds."

I nodded. 10,000 rounds of .45-caliber and 9mm ammunition were heavy.

"I'll give you a hand," I said and headed for the flat's door.

"Damn well better," said Specs, following. "I got me a bad back."

"You do not."

"Was a fuckin' war wound."

"What war was that?"

"None of your business."

"You whine too much," I said.

"The hell I do."

"You're already getting extra for this, you know."

"By the way," he said. "You know Jade's back?"

That didn't surprise me. "I figured, " I said.

"I thought you said she got shot during the Lazlar thing?"

"In the chest. Wouldn't have killed her. I bet she's pissed, right?"

"For the chest shot?"

"That was Burns who shot her," I said. "I mean about the hair."

"What hair?"

I told him.

Specs nearly fell down the stairs laughing.

* * *

The rounds were in twenty labeled ammo cans stacked on a handtruck and secured with ratchet straps.

Specs grabbed the box of magazines sitting on top of the stack.

I grabbed the handtruck handle and headed back up the stairs, pulling the load after me.

"I gotta ask," Specs said.

"Sure."

"Why are you two still here?"

"Say again?"

"That was one hell of a payout from the Lazlar thing," he said. "You two had it made. Whyn't you retire? Know what you could buy for that much money?"

"I do," I said. "Mod checks for one. Repair the Shelby for another."

"Okay okay," he said. "I get the picture."

"And Doc was pretty specific about the mod checks. Especially since we were about two months late with ours."

"I thought you both had top line mods?"

"Yeah, but at the rate we were using ours? Was a good thing we went in when we did. Both of us had to go for a full torso mesh replacement."

Specs whistled. "That's a nice bundle right there."

"Not to mention checks and repairs on everything else we were packing. Add it up and it's a pretty nice chunk of change. Mods. The replacement. The Shelby. Other stuff." I did some quick calculations in my head. "I think we're at about half now. Split between us."

"You could still live easy on that."

I snorted a laugh. "Can you honestly see me and Mouse in some Highgate mansion?"

He shrugged. "Yer neighbors'd leave you alone. That's fer sure."

I shook my head and went into the flat. "Not our style."

"And runnin' around B.C. getting shot at by secmen and mooks is?" Specs said, following.

I set the handtruck by the coffee table next to the hardcases and undid the straps.

I said: "Do you really think Mouse and I could play by gliteratti rules? Or even burbee rules?"

"You got a point."

"Besides, there was three weeks between Lazlar and the Renaldi run. We started to get bored. Half that time we were recovering from the surgery. But still. Bored."

"You're fuckin' nuts."

"What about you?" I said. "You got a nice percentage from the Lazlar run. And a bonus. Why aren't you living it up?"

"Well, I did go to..." He cleared his throat. "No comment. Let's just say that pai gow and I still don't get along."

I grinned.

"So I take it retirement's not on your mind?" he said.

"Not yet," I said. "Maybe one day. In the meantime, the biz goes on. Life goes on."


INTERLUDE THREE

03 July 2042
Plaza Suites Hotel
Seattle Metroplex

The woman who called herself Sakura got out of the shower, dried off, and put on clothes. Casual. Pants. Blouse. Mirrorshades.

Combed her hair back from her face.

Grabbed the suitcase off the bed, making sure not to step on the splotches of blood on the floor or touch the bloodstained bedcovers.

She took one last look at the two men sprawled out at the foot of the bed. Dark suits. Well-built. In their twenties.

Japanese.

One had his head bent in an unnatural position. The other was face up with a butter knife jammed up under his chin.

Their sidearms were still holstered.

She shook her head, grabbed the last piece of toast off the breakfast cart, and left the room.

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Price of Vengeance"

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