I called Eddie and put the phone on speaker.
"What next?" he said.
"We're headed back to the Olson house," I said. "This could be cake."
"It's never cake," said Mouse.
"Or it could go south real quick. If it does, I need you to intercept all emergency calls coming from the area."
"Got just the thing."
"Good. I'll tell you when to start monitoring lines."
"Two things," said Eddie.
"The car just left the house. About four minutes ago."
"Don't know. But it's heading west on Donovan. Tracking with the sky-eye right now. And I've got a visual confirm with a traffic cam on Grayson and Collins, about four blocks west of the house. I'll keep you posted."
"What's the other thing?"
"A week ago, Olson made the following buys. Two pairs of handcuffs and a set of stainless steel ankle restraints. BDSM shop on Lower East Side. Then a twenty-five thousand cred bridal gown. Boutique on the Promenade."
"Shit," said Mouse.
"I don't like where this is going," I said.
* * *
The sun had just dropped below the horizon when we pulled to the curb halfway up the block from the Olson house.
Lights were already on in most of the other houses on the block.
I checked my optic clock.
"Wait for full dark," I said. "Then we go in."
Mouse nodded and leaned back in the seat.
I reached into the back seat where I had set the shotgun, grabbed it, and loaded four breaching rounds into the magazine.
* * *
At 19:45, all the streetlamps on the block flickered on.
I sat up in my seat and called Eddie, gave him the signal, and hung up.
"Let's go," I said to Mouse.
Five minutes later, we had gone through the side gate and into an unlocked back door that deposited us in the garage.
No one took notice of us.
Inside the garage, I could see the silhouette of a small car backlit by the light coming in through the garage door's windows.
I pulled a mini-flashlight from my gear belt, turned it on, and shone the beam at the garage floor.
A blue tarp covered the car. I knelt in front of it and pulled up a corner of the tarp.
I half-turned and gestured to Mouse.
She frowned and nodded.
I kept the light aimed at the floor and scanned the garage. Stacks of boxes lined one wall. A pegboard with tools and several shelves occupied the other wall. Next to the shelves stood a door leading into the house.
Mouse inclined her head toward the door.
I turned off the flashlight.
We went in and stood in a darkened kitchen. The shades had been drawn shut, outlined by a thin line of light from outside.
I popped my optics to low-light mode. Pan and scan.
Spotless. Clean counters. Empty sink.
Beyond the kitchen was a small dining area with a table, four chairs, and a vase with fresh flowers.
Mouse tapped me on the arm and pointed to a doorway on our left, between the kitchen and the dining area.
I nodded, drew one of the Twins--Bonnie--from the right-side holster under my jacket.
Mouse drew one of her wakizashis.
We went through the doorway and emerged in a small corridor next to a staircase leading up to the second floor. I could see the living room to the left and the foyer and front door to the right.
I listened again, still heard nothing, and edged forward.
A dim sliver of light came from beneath a door on our left.
Mouse and I exchanged looks.
I tried the door.
Looked the door over. It opened inward.
Holstered Bonnie and unslung the Remington, chambered a round, and aimed at the doorjamb near the lock.
Mouse pulled out a pair of throwing blades.
I mouthed a count to three then fired, the report from the shotgun echoing in the quiet. The round blew a hole through the lock and the door swung open.
Stairs--wall on the left, handrail on the right--led down to the basement.
The dim light came from below.
I spotted a wall switch, pointed it out to Mouse.
Popped out of low-light, and flipped the switch.
Lights flickered on below.
I slung the Remington cross-body again, drew Bonnie and Clyde, then started down the steps, my back against the wall, the Twins tracking.
Halfway down the steps, I got a better look at the basement and felt a chill zig-zag up my spine.
A section had been walled off and turned into an inner room, fitted with a metal security door and a large window. Inside the room was an ornately decorated bedroom with a four-poster bed fitted with floral sheets.
Valkyrie stood on the other side of the window.
Our eyes met and my gut dropped.
Her trademark skull and crossbones patch was gone, an empty, blood-caked eye socket in its place.
Then Mouse stepped down next to me. "Holy fuck," she said.
I holstered the Twins and bolted down the steps, taking them two at a time, and rushed to the door, tried the handle.
I went to the window.
Valkyrie just stared at me.
I motioned for her to get back.
After the third time, she stepped aside.
Unslung the shotgun and loaded four more breaching rounds. Aimed at the doorjamb, between the handle and the lock, fired. Pumped a round. Fired again. Pumped. Fired.
Three more rounds and the lock gave under the barrage and the door popped open.
I pushed through and stepped inside.
Val collapsed to her knees, half-laughed, half-cried, and let out a shuddering exhale. "Am I glad to see you guys." She gave us a hysterical giggle. "Or halfway see you."
I slung the shotgun then knelt on one knee and put my hands on her shoulders. "Are you okay?"
She put a hand to her right cheek. "Bastard tore out my optic," she said through gritted teeth. "Said it made me unclean."
I felt her shaking.
"You're out of here," I said.
"Can't," she said and gestured at her foot.
Around her ankle was a steel ankle restraint attached to a length of thick steel cable. The cable snaked across the floor and was attached to a wall ring.
And just above the wall ring, a wedding dress hung on the wall.
"Shit," I said.
"I know," said Valkyrie.
Then I noticed a shape to my right.
(to be continued...)