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"Little Boy Lost" - Part Seven

I opened the doors, flipped on the lights, and Donovan gasped.

We were in a rear garage bay at the back end of the house that Murphy had hardened and converted into an armory. Along two walls were floor racks with battle rifles and shotguns and wall pegs with submachineguns and pistols. On the wall to our right stood a workbench with a reloading press and a line of ammo cans marked with various calibers. Above the workbench were shelves packed with boxes of ammo and assorted tools and supplies.

Donovan stepped inside room and gawked at the hardware. "Forget being prepared," she said. "You're ready for the end of the world."

I grinned, walked over to one of the racks and pulled out a Benelli M5 semi-auto shotgun. "This one is for you," I said. I gave her a quick refresher then handed it over.

"Shells?" she said.

I grabbed a bandolier of shells from a wall hook and gave that to her, then gestured to the workbench. "Should be more boxes of shells over there."

She nodded.

I pulled out another M4 rifle from the rack, then went to the workbench.

We grabbed some ammo cans of 7.62mm, 9mm, .45-caliber, and 12-gauge. Donovan slung the Benelli over her shoulder by its strap. I slung the M4 over mine, then grabbed a black hardcase with four sets of throat mics from beneath the workbench.

"Ready?" I said.

"What's going to happen now?" she said.

"We'll talk about that in the living room."

"Will Danny and I be okay?"

"You will," I said. "I promise you."

* * *

Jake slammed a magazine home, racked the charging handle of his M4, thumbed the safety on, and set it down in front of him on the metal table. "What's our next move?" he said.

We were back in the dining room checking weapons and loading spare magazines. Donovan and I were seated at the dining table loading spare magazines. Mouse was arranging her blades in various sheaths under her trenchcoat

I finished loading another spare magazine for the Twins, set that next to the five others, and looked up and inclined my head at Donovan. "First thing, they need to disappear."

Donovan sucked air and looked at me with saucer-eyes. "What?"

"Easy," said Jake. "She means we get you and Danny new identities."

"That's gonna cost," said Mouse.

"We still have reserves," I said.

Mouse looked at Jake. "That means we'll be eating kibble."

"I can pay," Donovan said. "I have a little money."

"It's gonna be expensive," I said.

"How expensive?"

Jake said, "They start at two million, depending on who you go to."

Donovan made a sound halfway between a muffled yelp and a subdued shriek. "Two million credits?"

"Each," said Jake.

"Don't worry," I said. "We'll take care of it."

"Are you sure?" Donovan said.

I nodded.

"What about these mooks?" said Mouse. "I don't get the feeling they're going away until they get what they want."

"We make them come to us," I said. "And we control the fight."

"I know you have the safe room," said Donovan. "But you want them to lay siege to the house?"

"The Shack's more than just the safe room," I said. "We're a fortress."

Donovan gave me a skeptical look.

I said, "We've got one acre of property surrounded by an electrified fence topped with razor wire. The house? Sitting in the middle of a clearing. Fortified. Armored walls. Bullet resistant glass on all the windows. Steel security doors made to look like regular front doors. So unless they use artillery on us, we should be able to hold out. Plus,"--I gestured at the array of weapons on the two tables--"we can fire back."

"And that private road off the highway is the only way onto the property," said Mouse. "There's a mile of road before they reach the gates. Anybody turning off the highway trips a sensor that registers up here. We'll have plenty of warning."

"And if they don't come in by the road?" said Donovan.

"We have shoulder-fired surface-to-air missles," I said.

"What about food?"

"In the basement. Water, too. Enough for four people to live on for a month."

"My god," said Donovan. "You could hold off a small army with everything in this house."

"That's the point," I said. "The Shack was meant to protect clients. That means you and Danny."

Donovan nodded. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," I said, then pulled out my cellphone and dialed Specs.

"What's doin, Kat?" he said.

"I need to make some people disappear," I said. "Full package."

"How many?"

"Two." I gave him the info on Donovan and Danny.

"Lemme make some calls," he said. "Ten minutes."

"There's a time crunch."

A short pause. "How much of a crunch?"

"People are trying to grab them."

"Gotcha. I'll see what I can do."

"Thanks." I hung up.

Donovan turned toward the foyer and adjoining hallway. Danny was in the family room at the far end. She got up from the chair. "I'm going to check on Danny."

"We'll be here," I said.

She went turned the corner and disappeared down the hallway.

And I suddenly remembered something.

(to be continued...)

"Little Boy Lost" - Part Six

The Shack was an old, two-story farmhouse east of Bay City, in Lakeshore. When they were still in the biz, Murphy and Revell had used The Shack as a safehouse.

We pulled off the main road and turned down a mile-long dirt track that led to a rolling chain-link gate. Past the gate on either side was a three meter high chain-link fence topped with razor wire that encircled the property.

Mouse opened the Shelby's glove compartment, pulled out the gate remote, and pressed the button.

The gate rolled open and I drove the Shelby through, followed by Jake in a ten-year old, faded green Range Rover.

A few minutes later, we pulled up to the house and got out.

Mouse led Danny and Donovan into the house to get settled. Jake and I unloaded gear from both cars, parked them in the garage, and got set up in the dining room, just off the foyer.

I had the standard trunk necessities: Remington 870 pump-action shotgun, FN-FAL battle rifle, two H&K MP5 submachine guns, a dozen frag grenades, a dozen flash-bangs, and a thousand rounds for each weapon. Plus a duffel bag with a change of clothes for me and Mouse and a medtech's kit.

Jake just had an M4 battle rifle with grenade launcher attachment, a second two-toned SIG SAUER P250 pistol, a thousand rounds for rifle and pistol, and two dozen grenades for the launcher.

Everything was spread out over the oak dining table and a long folding metal table set against the far wall.

I nodded at his weapons. "That all?"

He shrugged into a black tac vest and pulled on a gear belt with a drop-leg pouch on the left side and drop-leg holster on the right. "I pack light. Mikey usually brings the good toys." He looked at my gear and raised his eyebrows.

"I try to be prepared," I said.

"Is that what you call it?"

"If you think this is a lot, you should see what Mouse packs under her coat."

"I'm not interested in what's under Mouse's coat," he said, his voice suddenly low and husky.

The butterflies in my stomach came back with a vengeance. I felt my face go sun-hot.

"This place is totally wiz!"

We turned.

Danny stood at the edge of the dining room, eyes and mouth wide with excitement.

Donovan and Mouse came up behind him.

"I showed them the safe room," said Mouse.

"Good," I said.

"That room was the ultra wiz," said Danny, looking as if he was ready to burst. "I betcha there's secret passages and stuff in here, right? Like that rich guy who's a vigilante in the old vids." His eyes got wider and he whirled toward Mouse. "Do you have a secret underground cave?"

Mouse grinned. "No. But we've got lots of vids. Wanna watch?"

"Yeah!" Danny spun toward Donovan. "Can I, Aunt Mo? Please?"

"That'll be fine, Danny," said Donovan.

Danny whooped, grabbed Mouse's hand, and started to drag her away. "C'mon! Hurry!"

Mouse giggled and followed after in a half-stumble.

Donovan watched them head down the hall, then folded her arms across her chest, and came into the dining room.

"He going to be okay?" I said.

"He's distracted for now," said Donovan. "Probably a good thing." She inclined her head at the spread of weapons. "Ready for a fight, I see."

"Yes, ma'am," said Jake.

Donovan nodded. " 'Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war'."

"Shakespeare," I said.

Donovan quirked an eyebrow at me. "Very good, Kat."

I said, "The man who taught me the biz sometimes quoted that line."

"A literate warrior?" she said with a smirk.

"Some are," Jake said. "Don't let the guns and bullets and hardware fool you."

"My mentor once told me that Japanese samurai also studied the arts," I said.

Donovan nodded. "They did. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disrespect your teacher. He sounds like a very good man."

"He was," I said.

Donovan let out a long exhale then ran her hand along the length of the Remington pump-action. "I used to shoot skeet when I was a teenager. Got one I can use?"

I smiled. "Come with me."

(to be continued...)

"Little Boy Lost"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part 5 | Part 7

"Little Boy Lost" - Part Five

She was quiet the entire ride from campus. Now at the Red Dog's back office, Donovan sat on the couch with Danny cradled in her lap, his head tucked into her shoulder. She was staring blankly into space.

I watched the two of them for a moment, then turned back toward Jake and Mouse. Jake, wearing a gray shirt under a black leather blazer and black jeans, sat in the highback chair behind the desk. Mouse perched again on a desk corner.

Mouse inclined her head at the pair on the couch. "They gonna be okay?"

"Hope so," I said. "That's a lot to take in."

Mouse nodded in agreement.

I looked at Jake. "Any problems?"

"They're watching the bar," he said.

"Thought so," I said. "They probed, too, right?"

Jake nodded. "How'd you know?"

"Someone tripped the back door," I said.

After the incident with David a little over a month ago, I had Tinker install a security door in the back. She'd fitted one that was armored to withstand rifle rounds and added an extra feature: unauthorized entry attempts set off the taser unit mounted in the door. The unit was loaded with three salvoes.

The first salvo had gone off.

Jake was nodding. "Makes three, then."

I gave him a prompting look.

"The other two came in the front door," Jake said. "Revell and I easily convinced at least one of them to leave. The other needed a little more coaxing."

"How much more?"

"Broken nose," said Jake. "Then threw his ass out onto the sidewalk."

"Good coaxing," said Mouse.

"They still there?" I said.

Jake shook his head. "Left. I made sure. About two minutes before you guys drove up."

"That's probably not going to stop them," I said.

"No," said Jake. "But it'll keep them on their toes."

"How do you want to play this, Kat?" Mouse said.

"The Shack," I said.

"We tried that, remember?" said Mouse. "With Natalia. Aerodyne came down on us in front of the 342 onramp."

"So we make sure that doesn't happen again," I said.

Jake said, "Need an assist?"

My stomach did flip-flops. Again. I fought down the feeling. "If you can spare it."

"Always," he said with a small smile.

The flip-flops turned into a centrifuge.

Then we were staring at each other.

Hard.

And his eyes were the most striking ocean-blue I had ever seen.

"There are children in the room, you two," said mouse.

I flinched, as if someone had dropped an ice cube down the back of my shirt. I looked at Mouse. "What?"

Mouse arched her eyebrows at us and jerked her head toward Donovan and Danny on the couch.

Jake cleared his throat, leaned back in the chair, and was suddenly busy looking at his boots.

"Miss...?"

Donovan.

I turned.

She was sitting on the edge of the couch, face flushed, eyes still red.

"Call me Kat," I said.

She nodded. "Kat." Then: "What happens now?"

"Those men will probably try again."

"Who are they? What do they want?"

"We'll figure that out later," I said. "Right now, we need to get you two someplace safe."

Donovan looked at Danny. He nodded. She let out a long exhale, turned back to me, and said, "Where?"

(to be continued...)

"Little Boy Lost"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part 6

"Little Boy Lost" - Part Four

According to Eddie, Donovan had class for another hour before she'd be in her office so we swung by the White Rabbit on our way to campus.

I wanted to check on Valkyrie.

Valkyrie and Mikey were coming out of the club when I pulled my refitted 2008 Shelby GT500 to the curb.

Mikey looked his usual. Short and solid, a boulder with support column legs. Glossy black optics instead of eyes. Trademark olive-drab commando sweater.

Valkyrie, petite and willowy, red hair falling across her face, looking as if she'd just stepped out of the shower, wore a gray shirt under a three-quarter-length black leather coat with an upturned collar. A new skull-and-crossbones patch was fixed to her right eye.

They came up to the passenger side and crouched down next to the car. Mouse rolled down the window.

Mikey nodded at us. "Dudes."

"How're you doing, Val?" I said.

She shrugged and gave me a lopsided smile. "Good and bad days."

"Back on already?"

"Absinthe thought I needed to get back on the horse."

"Fear is the mind-killer," said Mikey.

"Vid with the floating fat guy," said Mouse with a grin.

Mikey returned the grin. "Bingo, dude."

"I think she's right," Valkyrie went on. "Can't hide out forever, right?"

"Right," I said.

"And thanks again for the present." She patted her hip.

Three days earlier, I'd dropped off a spare Colt-Springfield XD-II .45-caliber compact pistol and concealment holster.

"You're welcome," I said.

"Mikey's been coaching me."

"Quick study," Mikey said. "Groups're getting better." His expression went blank for a moment, then came back. He turned to Valkyrie. "Gotta jet."

"We'll talk more," I said to Valkyrie.

She nodded.

The two of them got into a late model BMW parked across the street and headed off north.

I checked my optic clock.

14:24:44.

A little over half an hour left.

I started the engine. "Let's go find Donovan," I said.

"Lead on," Mouse said.

* * *

Professor Maureen Donovan topped me by at least 5 centimeters. Fortyish, broad-shouldered and sturdily built, flaming red hair pulled back in a long, plaited braid. She stood behind her desk in front of a well-packed floor-to-ceiling bookcase, a thick hardcover book opened in her arms.

When Mouse and I stepped into the office, she looked up and leveled slitted eyes at us.

"Don't you people ever give up?" she said.

"Excuse me?" I said.

"I'll tell you the same thing I told your friends yesterday. I have no idea where they are. Now get out before I call Campus Security."

Damn.

BCU Campus Security meant business. Even your garden-variety ronin knew better than to tangle with them. Not unless you had a couple of tanks on your side.

And even then, the odds were still iffy.

"Sorry to have bothered you," I said.

"I should say so. Goodbye."

She went back to her book.

Mouse and I left the office.

* * *

When the elevator doors closed, Mouse turned to me and said, "You have a plan, don't you."

"Of course," I said.

She nodded. "Which means we're winging this."

"Don't judge."

Mouse shook her head and sighed.

* * *

They went after Donovan in the parking lot just behind the faculty offices.

Like clockwork.

Two more cookie-cutter mooks.

They always seemed to show up in pairs.

Good thing we do, too.

They swooped on her just as she reached her car.

She let the one in front have it with a leather attache case to the crotch, then a palm strike to the face. Heard the distinct snap of cartilage. He went down against the car, blood pouring from his nose, clutching his groin.

The second one came up behind her and flicked open a retractable baton.

Mouse's hand whipped out, trenchcoat sleeve snapping, and two throwing blades skewered the mook's wrist.

He yelped and dropped the baton.

I moved in and followed with the Twins in his face.

"I know what you want," I said. "Tell your boss it's no go. Next time, it'll be body bags."

His jaw clenched.

"Now blow."

He stared at me for a few seconds longer.

I stared back.

I won.

He turned away, picked up his companion, and they staggered away from the lot.

I kept an eye on them until they disappeared from sight, then holstered the Twins, and turned to Donovan, hands up, empty.

Her face was a mixture of anger, exertion, and confusion.

"Danny's with us," I said. "He's safe. He wants to see you."

Her eyes narrowed. "Danny." Then: "And my brother? Danny's father?"

I shook my head and told her.

(to be continued...)

"Little Boy Lost"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 5