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.
The two of them got into a late model BMW parked across the street and headed off north.
I checked my optic clock.
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."
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."
Mouse shook her head and sighed.
* * *
They went after Donovan in the parking lot just behind the faculty offices.
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.
He stared at me for a few seconds longer.
I stared back.
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...)