I slid into the driver seat of my re-fitted gray 2008 Shelby GT500 and pulled the door shut. "Nope," I said.
"What in hell do we know about that?" She jerked a thumb toward the Shelby's backseat.
From inside the dark blue pet carrier came an energetic mrowr-mrowr-mrowr-mrowr.
Another day in the life of a ronin.
Street mercenary. Gun for hire.
Me. Name's Kat.
I started the engine, put the car into gear, drove past the Halliday Pavillion's wide geodesic dome, headed out of Civic Park, and turned south on Center Street.
"All we have to do," I said, "is sit on the little guy for two hours. Then we get a phone call. We follow instructions. We get paid."
Mouse jabbed a finger at me. "Don't you dare say it."
"That it's gonna be cake."
"Because it's never cake."
"Point taken," I said.
Mouse said: "So how much?"
"Hundred fifty K."
"Total," I said.
"At least we won't be eating kibble."
"Cynic," I said.
"Realist," said Mouse.
"Mrowr," said the cat.
We drove past a throng of BCU students heading down Center Street, across from the park, and turned east on 47th heading back to the Red Dog Bar. The mid-morning sun managed one dazzling blast of light over the building tops before it ducked behind a wall of graying clouds.
"Look on the bright side," I said, maneuvering through traffic. "It can't be that hard to take care of one little cat."
* * *
Revell, the burly and bearded owner of the Red Dog, nodded. "Wait here," he said in his Russian-tinged basso and went out the back.
I took a seat on a barstool.
Specs, everyone's favorite infobroker, perched two stools over, turned round-framed mirrorshades toward me and arched his eyebrows. "A cat?"
"A cat," I said.
"I send the two of you to pick up a fucking cat? The hell kinda' job is that?"
"Job's a job. "
"Yeah yeah," said Specs. "I just thought it was bigger'n a freakin' cat."
"Bigger usually involves things blowing up," I said. "And small armies of mooks. Really not in the mood for that right now."
"I just wanna make sure you two ain't wastin' yer time."
I smirked. "You're worried about your take."
He put a hand on his chest and gave me a look like he'd been shot. "I'm hurt."
"No, you're not."
"Okay, I'm not. And yes, I am checking my cut."
"Don't worry. It's decent."
"Hundred fifty K."
Specs whistled. "Pretty good for a cat."
"Yeah, it is," I said.
He tapped the bartop. "By the way--watch yer asses out there. Word is Razors and Lightnings are havin' issues."
The Scarlet Razors and the Grease Lightnings were two of the seven joyboy crews in Bay City. Joyboys were punker gangs who liked fast bikes and sported blunt impact weapons--both hand-held and implanted. Every few months, one crew always tried to grab more turf. Never on any kind of schedule but you knew when it happened. The trail of damage was usually hard to miss.
"That time again?" I said.
"Yeah. So you two watch it."
I nodded but wasn't too worried.
The first time the Scarlet Razors met me and Mouse, we greased six of them. The second time, they tried to grease me.
The third time was moments after the second and we came to an immediate--though loose--understanding that began with a hand-held howitzer.
Alliances, even loose ones, are always a good thing, as Murphy often said.
As for the Lightnings, I'd deal with them when the time came.
Revell came out from the back carrying two ceramic bowls. "Water and dry food," he said. "For the little one."
"Where'd you get those?" I said.
"Next door. From Wang."
Specs blanched. "They have a cat?"
"Two," said Revell.
"I better not hear they had more," Specs said, "'cuz I ain't eating over there again."
I took the bowls. "Thanks, Rev."
* * *
I stepped through the door of our shared second-story flat with the two bowls just in time to see Mouse dive for our striped orange four-legged client and miss.
She ate floor.
The cat bounded out the half-opened window and down the fire escape.
"Shit!" Mouse pounded a fist on the floor.
I put the bowls down and pointed at the window. "Go!"
Mouse nodded and scrambled after the cat.
I spun and bolted out of the flat and down the stairs, through the bar, and burst out the front door, scaring a couple of peds. One of them yelped.
Typical reaction. Not everyday that a meter-ninety of dark-haired Amazon in black leather bursts through doors and onto sidewalks.
Peds and portabooths packed the sidewalk. Some puzzled and curious stares thrown my way. Most on ignore.
Spotted Mouse round the corner of the alley next to the Red Dog and barrel toward me.
"Cat!" said Mouse and jabbed a finger at me.
"What!" I said.
Then a lithe shape brushed past my feet.
Crap. That cat.
I spun. Saw the cat dart toward the underside of a parked sedan.
Lunged and reached out, missed, crashed into the side of the car. Pain shot up my shoulder.
Mouse tore past me, up Garner Avenue, gaining on the cat.
I went after them.
The cat zipped past ped feet and bounded into the intersection of Garner and 47th.
Tires squealed. A westbound ivory Metro Cab swerved, plowed into the side of an eastbound white utility truck, and shoved it into the signal post opposite us.
The cat raced west on 47th and disappeared from view.
"Shit!" said Mouse.
"Carrier," I said. "We'll need the carrier."
"Get it. And the car. I'll go for the cat." She turned and sprinted across Garner toward 47th.
"Ear bud!" I called out.
I saw Mouse reach into her coat pocket, pull out something, and wave it in the air
I took mine out of my jacket pocket.
A tiny plug. Subvocal transmitter.
Fitted it into my right ear canal.
Then ran back toward the Red Dog.
(to be continued...)
"Here, Kitty Kitty"