"Yeah," he said. "They gave us the works."
" 'They' meaning 'Spartan'."
Mouse said, "Thought you already knew that?"
I shrugged. "Never hurt to make sure." I turned back to David. "And you're here. Not with Spartan. AWOL?"
"Yeah," he said. "Three months ago."
Mouse chuckled. "Christ, I bet they're pissed."
The secure phone rang. I picked up. "Agreed?" I said.
"Agreed," said the voice on the other line.
I hung up.
"We good?" said Mouse.
"Yup," I said.
Then I geared up. Eight spare mags in four double-mag holders at my belt. The Twins, Bonnie and Clyde, combat loaded--a full twelve in the magazine, one in the chamber.
Pulled on my black leather biker jacket.
I heard the swish of leather as Mouse pulled her coat on.
"Showtime," I said.
* * *
Beneath a bloated blood-red moon, six figures crossed King Meadow and headed toward the circular marble fountain at the center of Civic Park.
If things went south tonight, the moon wouldn't be the only thing blood-red.
I checked my optic clock.
Right on time.
They stepped onto the concrete walkway that formed a square around the fountain. Takeda, medium height and surly faced, led the group. On either side, a pair of black suited, broad-shouldered corp muscle. Two more just behind them. One of the back pair held Staci by her upper arm.
Takeda stopped on the far side of the fountain, directly across from us. The muscle fanned out on either side, partially backlit by the walkway lampposts.
"Where is he?" Takeda said.
David stepped forward.
"The girl," I said.
One of the muscle, furthest to my left, stepped forward with Staci.
She gasped and went wide-eyed when she saw us.
"Good," I said. "We take the girl. Then he--"I nodded at David--"settles with you."
Takeda grinned without humor. "Other way around."
The muscle went for their guns.
A subvocalized command flooded my body with adrenaline stimulators and the world slid into slo-mo.
The Twins leaped into my hands and swung toward the muscle holding Staci. His gun had just cleared its holster when the Twins thundered twice. Four slugs hammered into his chest. He staggered back, let go of Staci, recovered.
I moved forward, fired twice more, both guns.
Staci dropped to her knees and tucked herself into a ball when I reached her.
Concrete exploded just behind me.
I planted myself between Staci and the shooter.
Pivoted, the Twins tracking.
Caught a glimpse of Mouse gutting one of the muscle, her wakizashis flashing.
Saw David slam another muscle into the edge of the fountain and blood sprayed a misty crimson halo when the man's head cracked against the marble.
Spotted my shooter. Moving backwards and firing, badly aimed shots blasting the ground around me.
Behind him, Takeda bolted toward the grassy field beyond the fountain.
No clear shot at Takeda so I went for the muscleboy.
The Twins bucked and roared, caught the muscle six times in the chest. His momentum pitched him backwards into a crumpled heap.
A figure closed on my right.
Then checked fire.
David ran up to Staci, slid to his knees.
I went after Takeda.
I tried to go after Takeda.
The flash of headlights and the roar of a car engine told me otherwise.
I skidded to a stop on the wet grass just beyond the fountain walkway, dropped to one knee.
A black sedan barreled across King Meadow.
I raised the Twins, squinted against the headlights, and stroked the triggers. Both guns spat fire and lead in a booming staccato. Metal spanged and glass crunched. One headlight winked out.
Then the Twins went dry to the clack of slide lock.
The car closed.
I dove right, hit the grass in a shoulder roll.
The sedan blew past, tires kicking up dirt and grass.
Came up in a crouch, saw the car head straight for David and Staci.
A scream cut through the air.
Then a sickening crunch of metal. The sedan's back end popped into the air, hung there for a moment, then crashed back to earth.
I got to my feet, reloading the Twins as I did.
David came around the front end of the sedan, slit-eyed, his lips pulled back in a soundless snarl. He strode to the driver's side door, grabbed the handle, yanked it off its hinges, and tossed it aside. He reached in, pulled Takeda out by his shirt front, and dropped him on the grass.
Takeda got up on all fours, started to crawl away.
David stepped forward, put a boot onto Takeda's back, and shoved him down.
Takeda gave a pained yelp and collapsed to the grass.
"David!" Staci cried.
"No, Stace," said David, fingers clenching and unclenching. "He killed them. Set them up and killed them. Now it's payback time."
Something whistled past.
An X-shaped net materialized in mid-air, wrapped itself around David's torso, and threw him backwards against the sedan. The net flashed. Sparks arced across his body in a miniature lightning storm.
David threw his head back, face contorted, and roared. His body jerked and spasmed.
I spotted the connecting line.
At the same time, a blade flipped past and sliced through it.
I spun, the Twins tracking.
A figure stood facing David, a futuristic-looking rifle tucked at his shoulder. Five meters away.
I shot the rifle. The barrel exploded in a fiery flash.
The figure dropped the rifle as if it were alive, jerked his head toward me.
Then reached for his pistol.
The Twins boomed twice. Caught him high and right. He half-spun and staggered back a step.
Damn body armor.
I drew a bead on him again.
The voice echoed across the meadow.
I kept Bonnie trained on the figure, half-turned, and leveled Clyde at the man approaching us from behind.
Kunio Harada, lean and silver-haired in a fitted double-breasted suit, stopped at the far edge of the concrete walkway, hands behind his back.
White Lotus's second in command. Looking just like the picture on Eddie's computer.
Harada said something in Japanese.
The figure I had shot nodded and went to stand between David and Takeda's prone shape.
I spotted two more figures past Harada, just beyond the reach of the walkway's lampposts.
"Harada-san," I said.
He looked at Mouse, then at me, and inclined his head. "I know you and your companion by reputation."
Harada turned toward Takeda.
The other man rolled onto his back, chest heaving.
"It appears we misjudged this one," Harada said.
"I'm surprised," I said.
"So were we. When we learned of the situation at Nomura six years ago, the Takahashis were offered compensation for their...discretion. They accepted."
"But they never got the money," I said. "Takeda killed them, doctored the personnel records, and probably took the money."
"Three million credits," said Harada.
I heard Staci gasp. I looked at David but his face remained blank.
"Genius plan," Mouse said to Takeda. " 'Cept you got caught."
Takeda had propped himself up on his elbows.
Harada shook his head. "The children, Takeda," he said. "You forgot to silence the children."
Mouse grinned. "Bit you right in the ass, didn't it."
Harada said, "Nomura started receiving threats about three weeks ago. We looked into it. Found out what had happened six years ago."
"But you let things runs their course," I said.
Harada nodded. "Naturally. The wheel of fortune ever turns."
"Only when necessary," Harada said. "Such as now."
Takeda got to his feet, still unsteady. His clothes were rumpled and a cut above his left eyes bled down the side of his face. "Please, Harada-san," he said. "I can make amends."
Harada looked at him. "Amends, Takeda?"
"Hai. Let me regain my honor."
"Of course you can make amends," Harada said. "By dying."
David surged forward, struck cobra fast with both hands, and snapped Takeda's neck.
Then crumpled to the grass.
Harada looked at the body. "You are forgiven."
David went limp and collapsed to his knees. Staci ran up to him, knelt down, and embraced him.
Harada looked at them. "We are finished here?"
David raised his head. "I have no fight with White Lotus."
Harada turned to me. "And you?"
I shook my head.
Harada nodded. "Good."
Then he turned and disappeared into the night.
I holstered the Twins, let out a long exhale, and turned to Mouse. "You okay?"
"Five by five," she said, resheathing her blades. "You?"
Mouse grinned and shook her head. "Showoff."
I looked at Staci. "Yeah?"
She smiled. "Thank you. You and Mouse. For everything." She looked at David. "I got my brother back."
"Like we told you, Stace," I said. "You're family. And this is what we do for family."
"Damn straight," said Mouse.
God, I love my job.
NEXT TIME: "Ghosts Of The Past"
NEXT TIME: "Ghosts Of The Past"