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THE WALL OF FAME
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ON BREAK

KAT AND MOUSE is on a short break.

Episodes will resume on November 9th.

Catch up on previous episodes here.

"Rest Stop" - Part Two"

Dutch's AK went flying and the pair crashed into the nearest table in a tangle of arms and legs, knocking silverware to the floor.

Mouse and I rose from the booth.

Rat Face stepped between us and the wrestling pair, his AK at his hip and leveled at us. "Don't fucking move."

I looked past him.

Dutch pinned the trucker to the floor and slugged him twice, three times, four times, the punches landing with wet thumps, blood flying from the man's face. Two more hits and the trucker went limp.

"Sweet Christ, you killed him," the cook said.

Dutch rose from the floor, panting. "Fucker shouldn't have done that." He glared at the unconscious trucker. Then started to kick him in the ribs.

Rat Face grabbed Dutch's arm and yanked him back. "Fucking shit, Dutch," said Rat Face. "What're you doing?"

Dutch whirled on Rat Face. "I told you no names!"

"Fuck that. They already heard."

"That does it," I said.

"Wiz," said Mouse. "Slice and dice--"

"No. We do it my way."

She pouted. "Dammit..."

I took a step toward the duo.

Rat Face went saucer-eyed. He jumped back, swung the AK up, the barrel pointed at my head.

I stopped.

Dutch turned toward me and jabbed a finger in my direction. "Sit the fuck down, bitch."

"Wrong line," I said, and the Twins, Bonnie and Clyde--my pair of Colt-Springfield M2001 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols--leaped into my hands from the double holster shoulder-rig inside my black leather biker jacket.

A second later, Dutch drew a pistol from the back of his pants and leveled it at me.

"What the fuck!" said Rat Face, the AK shaking in his grip.

"Hard or easy," I said.

"What?" said Dutch.

"We doing this the hard way or the easy way?"

"Pick the hard way," said Mouse.

"Shut up!" said Rat Face.

I looked at each of them, felt the Twins itching to play. "Make a choice," I said. "Walk out of here. Or end up with a toe tag. Five seconds to choose. Four. Three--"

Dutch jumped back, grabbed the waitress, yanked her in front of him, and jammed the muzzle of his pistol under her chin.

She let out a panicked wail.

"Come on, bitch," Dutch said, hiding his face behind the waitress. "Try it now."

The waitress's face was pasty and her body shook. Tears were spilling down her cheeks.

Never liked human shield situations. They always ended badly.

I sighed. "Bad choice, Dutch," I said.

And shot Rat Face twice in the chest.

He staggered back a step, stunned expression on his face. Then he crumpled. The AK clattered to the floor next to him.

"NO!"

The waitress screamed.

Then thunder boomed and a sledgehammer plowed into the center of my chest, shoved me backwards into a booth.

Fabric rustled. Something whistled through the air followed by a clatter on the tile floor.

I caught my breath and pulled myself out of the booth. Thank god for dermal armor. I had enough implanted under my torso to stop an assault rifle round, but I still felt the impact from the shot.

I stood, the Twins at my sides.

Mouse threw me a grin.

"Bullseye," she said.

I looked past her.

Dutch leaned against one of the counter stools, clutching a bloody forearm where two slim throwing knives jutted out. The pistol lay on the floor beneath the stools.

He looked at me, a feral glint in his eyes. "You killed him," he said, spittle dripping from the corner of his mouth. "You killed my brother, you dirty bitch."

"You made the choice," I said.

"You're gonna pay for that," he said.

"I don't think so."

"I do." He yanked the two throwers from his arm, leveled them at me, and charged.

The Twins rose and roared four times apiece, spitting fire and .45-caliber slugs. The first volley stopped Dutch in mid-charge, rocked him back a step. The next three convulsed his torso.

Then he folded.

A few seconds later, I heard the whine of ducted fans.

"Kat," said Mouse.

"I hear them," I said, then looked at others. "Listen to me very carefully."

The cook and the waitress nodded.

* * *

SWAT burst through the diner doors, decked out in full tac-gear, H&K MP5s sweeping. Precise. Professional.

They herded us out into the parking lot and past the barricade of cruisers toward a couple of waiting ambulances.

We let the others go past us. The trucker wasn't dead but Dutch had brought him close. He staggered toward the ambulance, helped along by the cook and the waitress.

The medtechs converged on him.

Mouse and I made our way past the crowd until we got to the edge of the gathering, then ducked around the side of the diner.

My refitted dark gray 2008 Shelby GT500 sat near the back entrance.

We scrambled into the car. I jammed the key into the ignition.

Mouse grabbed my arm.

"What?"

"They'll hear," she said.

Damn. The Shelby wasn't quiet.

Then I heard it. A steady whup-whup-whup.

A swirl of dust kicked up around us and a cone of light swept past.

Bingo.

I cranked the engine, threw the Shelby in gear, and roared off toward the main road.

A quick glance in the rearview.

The one-man gyro--a news station logo emblazoned on the engine compartment--hovered over the gathered cruisers, its belly light/camera sweeping. Several officers were trying to wave it off.

I grinned.

* * *

Ten minutes later we were rumbling north along Highway 5 with no signs of pursuit.

I finally started to relax.

Mouse gave a low whistle. "That was close."

"Too close for my taste," I said.

Silence.

Then: "Kat?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm still hungry."

I frowned and heard my stomach gurgle. "Me, too."

"Stop again?"

I stared out into the night, into the distance, as the highway ahead zipped under the Shelby's headlamp beams.

"Okay," I said. "But this time, let's find a drive-thru."

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Here, Kitty Kitty"

"Rest Stop"
Part 1

"Rest Stop" - Part One

I had just started on my plate of eggs and ham when they burst through the diner's doors, assault rifles at shoulders, sweeping. Two of them. One bald and beefy. The other, short and rat-faced. The rifles were AK-47s with drum magazines.

"Anybody runs, they die," Bald Guy said.

Shit.

Just another day in the life of a ronin.

Street mercenary. Gun for hire.

Me. Name's Kat.

The run in Vegas had ended with two gun battles, an exploding delivery van filled with sex toys, and seven hundred fifty-thousand credits.

Not to mention a happy client.

We'd just spent two hours avoiding border patrols crossing into California from Nevada.

Now this.

I let out a long breath.

Rat-Face spun toward the dark-haired waitress behind the counter and motioned with the rifle. "You--close the shutters."

As she ran toward the windows, I heard the wail of approaching cruisers. One, maybe two.

Mouse, my partner and fellow ronin, gave me a pained look from across the booth and set down her cup of coffee. "Fuck," she mouthed.

I glanced out the window next to us. Just before the shutters slid down, I spotted two pairs of headlights pulling off Highway 119 and heading toward the diner, red and blue lightbars strobing in the darkness.

Bakersfield cops.

Not good.

There were two others in the diner besides me, Mouse, and the waitress. The cook, stoop-shouldered and paunchy, stood behind the counter. He'd been talking to the heavyset trucker wearing a black watch cap and pea coat seated on the other side.

Their eyes were on the duo, faces pale.

Bald Guy swept the rifle from side to side, trying to cover us and the pair at the counter. Rat-Face kept his weapon trained on the waitress who was now locking the diner's front door.

"That's right," Bald Guy said, toothy grin pasted on his face. "You're ours now. Do what we say and nobody gets hurt."

Rat-Face shoved the waitress toward the counter. She stumbled against the stool and yelped.

"Take it easy, buddy!" the trucker said, rising from his stool.

Bald Guy swung the AK at him. "Sit the fuck down and shut up."

The trucker held up his hands. "Just saying--"

"Don't say a fucking thing," Bald Guy said. "You'll live longer."

The trucker frowned but said nothing.

"We don't got a lotta cash," said the cook, "but you can take--"

"Shut up!" said Bald Guy, spit flying from his mouth. "We don't want your goddamn money."

The cook flinched.

Bald Guy gave him a dagger-filled look.

Then Rat Face clapped a hand on Bald Guy's shoulder and whispered something to him.

Bald Guy turned to Rat Face.

Rat Face gestured and the two of them stepped to one side, heads close together, Rat Face whispering.

I took another look at Bald Guy, just to make sure what I was seeing.

I checked my optic clock.

17:36.

Six minutes had passed since they walked through the doors.

Mouse exhaled.

I turned to her.

"Take 'em?" she said, pitching her voice low. She reached into her left trenchcoat sleeve. "I got a clear shot."

Her throwing knife sheath was on her left forearm. A flick of the wrist would send one, two or all three into either Rat Face or Bald Guy.

Mouse loves her pointy toys.

I gave a small shake of my head. "Civvies. Don't wanna chance it. You saw Baldy?"

"Yeah. What do you think? Black Crystal?"

I nodded.

Black Crystal was the latest form of methamphetamine to hit the streets. Made its baby brother feel like a stroll on the beach.

"This could get ugly," I said.

"Your call," said Mouse.

"HEY!"

We turned.

Bald Guy was staring at us, the AK-47 leveled in our direction. "The hell do you think you're doing?"

"Talking," I said. "And wondering."

"Wondering about what?" Rat Face said.

"How you two are gonna handle the cops outside."

"Fuck 'em," Bald Guy said. "We're carryin' the big guns." He gestured with the AK. "'Sides, there's only one car--"

"Three," I said.

"Who gives a fuck how many there are?" Bald Guy said. "You're all human shields and shit."

"Yeah," I said. "But those are Bakersfield cruisers out there."

"So?" said Bald Guy. "So what?

Mouse shook her head. "Aw, shit..."

Rat Face swung the rifle at us. "What?"

"You guys really don't know?" I said.

"Just fucking spill the goods, sister," said Rat Face.

"Bakersfield is a corptown," I said. "Owned by Demeter Global. Which means corp-owned cops. Which means most of them are ex-military. Not quite Excalibur or Valhalla. But close enough. Corps always hire experience. They'll eat you alive and shit out your bones."

"Fucking sonofabitch!" said Rat Face.

"You went from pursuit to hostage situation," I said. "Changed the rules big time."

"She's bluffing," said Bald Guy.

"It's been about ten minutes since you waltzed in here," I said. "I say you've got another fifteen, maybe twenty, before SWAT shows up."

"Fuck," said Rat Face. "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck--"

"She's bluffing, goddamit!" Bald Guy said. He jabbed the AK's barrel toward me. "How the fuck would you know? Who the fuck are you?"

"Someone you don't want to mess with."

"Big talk, bitch. So what--you a cop?"

Rat Face put a hand on Bald Guy's shoulder. "Let's just bail, Dutch--" said Rat Face and Bald Guy cracked him across the face with the AK's stock.

Rat Face hit the floor on his ass and spit blood.

Bald Guy--Dutch--stalked toward him. "I told you! No names! You're gonna get us killed."

"If you hadn't shot that cop," said Rat Face, "we wouldn't be in this shit storm."

"How the fuck was I supposed to know he was a badge?" Dutch said.

Mouse looked at me. "Now?"

And the trucker tackled Dutch.

(to be continued...)

"Rest Stop"
Part 2