The big, burly, bearded owner of the Red Dog Bar folded massive arms across his barrel chest. "My niece," he said in his Russian-tinged basso. "My niece is missing and I want you and Mouse to find her."
Just another day in the life of a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.
Me. Name's Kat.
We were sitting at a table in the main bar area, toward the back. My optic clock read: 10:26:30. The bar wouldn't open for another six and a half hours so we had the place to ourselves.
I took a swig of coffee. Second cup. One of Revell's blends. Tasted like unsweetened syrup going down.
"Since when did you have a niece?" said Mouse.
"She has been niece for 20 years," Revell said, then inclined his head at the girl and gestured as us. "Tell them everything you told me."
The girl, medium height with a swimmer's build, gave me and Mouse a nervous smile and cleared her throat. "I'm Tanya. Raya's roommate at BCU. Raya is Mr. Revell's neice."
Mouse snorted. "Mr. Revell."
I smacked her on the arm. She yelped.
"Go on," I said to Tanya.
"I thought maybe Raya'd gotten in after I went to bed," Tanya said. "Then left before I got up. She's done that a few times before." She frowned. "But that was usually during midterms or finals. And she'd leave a note."
"But classes just started, didn't they?" I said.
"How long as she been gone?"
Tanya shook her head. "Raya said that if anything ever happened to her, I was supposed to find Mr. Revell here. She made me promise. So no cops."
"How long have you been roommates?"
"Since freshman year," said Tanya. "Three years ago. But we've known each other since we were kids." She stole a glance at Revell. "I never knew she had an uncle."
"It is better that way," said Revell.
Tanya's brow furrowed. "Oh."
I said, "Any boyfriends? Girlfriends?"
"No. She dated some. No one serious if that's what you mean."
"This guy. Mike." She shrugged. "Not officially, though."
"You know--date for a week. Break up for a week. Get back together again. That sort of thing."
Tanya thought for a moment, then: "Two months."
"Does Mike have a last name?"
"Mitchell, I think."
"What about Raya's parents? Do they know?"
"I will take care of that myself," said Revell.
I nodded at him and said "Well?"
"Standard rate," he said. "I am client."
"Done," I said and got up. So did Mouse.
"What happens now?" said Tanya, looking up at us.
"Let's check your place," I said. "You lead. I'll drive."
She nodded and got up.
We started for the back door.
Revell. The tone pulled me up short. A booming bass drum note.
I stopped in mid-step. Turned.
He gave me a serious, no-nonsense look. "You will find her. Any means necessary."
"Understood," I said.
* * *
Inside my refitted gray 2008 Shelby GT500, I called our favorite console jockey, Fast Eddie, and gave him the info on Mike Mitchell.
"Won't take long, luv," he said in his cheery, Cockney-laced tenor.
"I'll call," I said.
"Tell Mouse I said hello."
"Will do." I hung up then turned to Mouse. "Call him."
She looked at me. "Since when are you giving me relationship advice?"
"I'm just saying to call him. You know he's sweet on you."
Mouse quirked an eyebrow at me. "Are we gonna double-date with you and Jake?"
The butterflies in my stomach gave a small flutter.
I thought back to Jake's hand clasping mine as we watched the aerodyne take off from the Lakeshore airfield--
"Well?" said Mouse.
I blinked back to the present.
"Nevermind," I said, and started the Shelby.
* * *
Five blocks out from the Red Dog, I said, "Got a tail."
I saw Mouse flick a glance at the side mirror. "Green Nissan-Volvo, right?"
"What's wrong?" said Tanya.
In the rearview, I saw Tanya go wide-eyed and start to turn around.
"Stop," I said.
"Keep looking forward."
"There's a car following us. Don't let on that we know, okay?"
"Crappy tail," said Mouse.
"Not even trying."
"They think they are."
"Roll or drop 'em?"
"Roll with it," I said. "Let's see what happens."
"People usually end up in a body bag when you say that," said Mouse.
I shot her a grin. "Usually."
(to be continued...)
"With Cat-like Tread"