We were back at the Red Dog, standing in the hallway outside the back office.
"What was I supposed to do?" I said. "Leave him there? He's just a kid."
"We're still a business, Kat, remember? We can't take on every charity case that comes along."
"This isn't a charity case."
"Bullshit. This has charity case written all over it. Have you looked at our funds recently? We haven't been paid for a job since the consult with Absinthe. And that was barely anything."
"That was five thousand creds," I said.
"So we're back to eating kibble."
"Pessimist," I said. "We're fine. We've got our reserves."
The door to the back office opened and Revell came out. The burly, bearded owner of the Red Dog had a grin on his face. "Boy is eating like champion," he said in his Russian-tinged basso. "Already eaten two jumbo burgers from Grill Palace."
"Maybe he'll explode," said Mouse, "and we can forget about it."
"Be nice," I said.
"Is no explode," said Revell. "Is good for growing boy. I get him drinks." He went past us toward the bar.
I nodded toward the back office. "Let's talk to the kid. He's our client now."
"Kat--" Mouse began.
"He hired us," I said.
Mouse threw up her hands. "Fine. But I'm telling you. This'll end badly. Maybe with an explosion."
I shook my head and reached for the office door.
Memories of Lazlar and the disk flashed through my mind.
"Kat?" said Mouse.
I pulled out my cellphone. "Better safe than dead," I said and dialed Fast Eddie.
"Wotcher, luv," said a cheery Cockney-laced tenor.
"Joey and Alan Taylor. Virginia. Fed States."
"Call me back."
I hung up, opened the office door, and went in.
* * *
Joey looked up from the desk with a mouthful of fries and gave me and Mouse a small smile.
Mouse perched on the corner of the desk, arms folded across her chest.
I grabbed a folding chair leaning against the wall, flicked it open, and sat down across from him.
"Good stuff?" I said, inclining my head at the empty Grill Palace bag and crumpled food wrappers.
He nodded. "Best stuff ever."
"Need something to wash all that down?"
"The man with the beard went to get me a drink. Is he your husband?"
Mouse snorted a laugh.
I smiled. "No. Revell's kind of like an uncle."
Joey nodded. "I don't have an uncle. But I have an aunt. Aunt Mo. She lives here in Bay City."
"Do you know where?"
He looked down at the desk. "My dad knew."
"What's her last name?"
"I don't know."
"Why were those men chasing you and your dad?" Mouse said.
"I think they were mad at my dad," said Joey.
"Why?" I said.
"For leaving his job."
"What did he do, Joey?"
"He was an engineer."
"I don't know. He didn't talk about it lot."
"Do you know the name of company he worked for?"
He shook his head. "But I know it had 'international' in the name."
A thought struck. "Did your dad have a badge? Some special ID card?"
"Yeah. It clipped to his shirt."
"Maglocks," said Mouse.
I nodded. "We can assume at least moderate security."
"R&D?, you think?"
My phone chirped.
"That was quick. Got something?"
"Got three possibles," said Eddie. "How old is yours? And what nationality?"
I looked at Joey. "How old are you?"
Older than I first thought.
Something about that bugged me but I shook the thought from my head and told Eddie. "And what does nationality have to do with it?"
"I've got nil, Kat," he said. "Of the three possibles, two are too old, and the other too young. All three are not Caucasian."
"Hold on," I said, then turned to Mouse. "Keep an eye. I'm going to check on his drink."
Mouse gave me a puzzled look but said, "Fine by me."
I got up from the chair and went out into the hallway. "Okay," I said to Eddie. "Try checking on a shooting at the QuikShop on Hamilton. About half an hour ago."
"Heard about that. You two?"
"Wait one. I'll call back."
I hung up.
Revell came down the hallway carrying a 4-pack of Tsunami cola. He held it up as he approached. "Cold and frosty."
"All for the kid?" I said. "He might just explode after all."
Revell guffawed and went inside the office.
A few moments later, Eddie called back.
"And?" I said.
"Name's not Taylor," said Eddie.
(to be continued...)