A curvy brunette in bright pink exercise tights and an oversized gray t-shirt stood at Staci's front door, listening. Then she knocked. "Stace? It's Donna."
"Hi," I said. "Everything okay?"
Donna turned to us and shrugged. "Guess so. She told me to come over at 18:00 and here I am."
"And no Staci?"
She shook her head. "Who're you two?"
"Friends of hers," Mouse said.
"From the Red Dog," I said.
Donna nodded and smiled. "You're bartenders there, too?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Wiz," said Donna. She held out her hand and introduced herself. "I live on the first floor.
I shook her hand.
"She said I could borrow one of her outfits but..." She hooked a thumb at the door.
"We were supposed to give her a lift to work," I said.
Donna exhaled and knocked again. "Stace! Come on, girl--"
The door popped open inward.
We looked at the figure in the doorway.
"Hey there, tall, dark, and handsome," said Donna.
I grinned. "Hello, David."
Donna looked back at me and arched her eyebrows. "You know him?"
"I didn't know Stace had a brother."
"They've been out of touch," said Mouse.
Donna turned to David. "Where's Stace?"
"She had to go," David said, his tone flat.
"So much for her ride," Mouse said.
Donna pushed past David and strode into the apartment. "Stace said it was wiz to borrow her little black number and her makeup case. Tell her I'll bring it back tomorrow." She disappeared into the bedroom.
David started after her.
Mouse and I stepped inside and closed the door.
David stopped, turned to face us.
"I wouldn't try anything," I said.
"She's expendable," he said.
"Then I won't tell you where Staci is."
His eyes narrowed. "You know?"
"When she's gone, I'll talk."
Donna came around the corner, a red and gray makeup bag in one hand, a black cocktail dress on a hanger draped over her shoulder. She stopped in front of David, put the makeup kit on the floor, and put a finger on David's chest.
"And you, hotness, I want to see again." Her voice dripped sex.
"Tell your sis to keep you around." She picked up the makeup kit, pivoted on her heel, and headed for the door.
I heard Mouse help her out of the apartment.
The door closed behind me.
And David moved.
Too fast for me to register until he had picked me up by my jacket front and slammed me against the nearest wall.
The back of my head bounced. Light exploded behind my eyes and air flew out of my lungs.
I blinked to focus and saw Mouse lunge at David and drive something long and pointy into his upper back.
David drove his elbow back without looking.
Crunch of contact.
Mouse flew backwards into the armchair.
"That supposed to hurt?" David asked.
"No," said Mouse, rolling to her feet.
"But the block of C4 attached to the spike'll hurt like a sonofabitch."
David turned to her.
I looked past David's shoulder.
Mouse held a pen-sized cylinder in her left hand, her thumb poised over the top.
"You'll take us all out," he said.
Mouse nodded. "Most of the building, too."
I said: "She does that, you won't be able to finish what you're here to do."
He turned toward me, eyes slitted.
I smiled. "We know about Nomura. And your folks. Put me down and we can talk."
"And the C4?" he said.
"Stays," I said. "Think of it as insurance. For us."
He let go of my jacket. I dropped the half-meter to the floor, put a hand to the wall behind me to steady myself, then straightened and adjusted my jacket.
"Thank you," I said, then looked to Mouse. "You okay?"
She flashed me a "thumbs-up". "Five by five."
David folded his arms across his chest. "Talk. First, where's my sister?"
"Don't know," I said.
I held up a hand. "I don't know, but I have a hunch. And it's connected with Nomura. Specifically, with the White Lotus Syndicate."
"White Lotus?" He gave a start.
"Betcha didn't see that one, didja Mr. Spec Ops Man," said Mouse.
"What are you--"
"We know about Alpha Team, David," I said. "And Spartan. That you're listed as K.I.A. And Staci never knew because you didn't identify any next of kin."
"She wasn't supposed to get involved."
"She's involved now."
"What makes you think White Lotus has anything to do with this?"
I told him. About Takeda. About the man at the restaurant. About their connection to White Lotus's second in command.
David's brow creased and he suddenly looked ill. He turned away.
"Not supposed to happen like this, was it," I said.
He didn't answer.
"You were so concerned with avenging your folks that you forgot one of the cardinal rules. 'Know your enemy.' "
"I've killed her, haven't I," he said. "I've killed my sister."
"Depends on what you do next," I said. "Play it straight, Staci lives. Fuck up, and her blood's on your hands."
"How do you know she's still alive?"
I told him about Revell's call to me, how Staci thought I was dead. Then Staci's scream, and the voice on the phone telling Revell to bring David. "They're using her to get to you," I said. "Not worth much if she's dead."
He turned around and said, "Okay. What do we do?"
"First," I said, "we clean you up." I nodded to Mouse.
She went over to David, yanked the throwing spike out of his upper back. David grunted.
"Didn't hurt?" Mouse said.
David shook his head.
"Bled some, though," said Mouse.
David shrugged, then watched as Mouse slipped the spike back into the sheath at her belt. "No C4."
Mouse grinned at him. "Nope. Just foolin'."
He shook his head at us. "Ballsy move."
I smiled. "You ain't seen nothin' yet."
(to be continued...)