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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
* * *
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.
"I'm still hungry."
I frowned and heard my stomach gurgle. "Me, too."
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."
NEXT TIME: "Here, Kitty Kitty"
NEXT TIME: "Here, Kitty Kitty"