"Already here," she said.
"Fantastic," I said. "Are the two troublemakers with you by any chance?"
"You mean three."
"No. Natalie doesn't count."
I heard her choke back a giggle. "Yeah. They're all here."
"Good. Keep them there."
I hung up, then called Specs and told him what I needed.
"I think I can get one of those," he said. "Gimme half an hour. Where do you want it?"
I gave him Tanya's address.
"See ya there," he said. "Oh--didja hear 'bout Farrell? Got his ass blown to kingdom come. Hope you got to him before that."
* * *
Back at the townhouse, in the downstairs living room, I finished telling Tanya and Natalie the plan, then said: "Well?"
"Are you crazy?" said Martin from the staircase steps.
I shot him The Look, the one that made people nervous.
He recoiled, as if I'd slapped him.
"Been called worse," I said.
His face wrestled between fear, panic, and determination. Determination won. "They could get hurt," he said.
"I know, Martin," Natalie said, leaning forward on the couch. "But if it'll help Raya, I'm game."
"Me, too," said Tanya. "Whatever it takes."
"You saw what happened at Mike's, Nat," he said. "The two guys in the hallway. The two dead guys--"
"Martin!" said Natalie, her voice like a thunderclap.
Martin gave a start and stared at her.
"I'm doing this," Natalie said.
"This is getting nuts," he said.
"Welcome to our world," said Mouse.
Martin turned to me. "Call the cops."
I shook my head. "They'll take too long. We'll lose out on time. Besides, this is our job."
"This is bullshit."
"You said you wanted to help Raya," I said. "Here's your chance. Now you either help out or you stay the hell out of our way."
Martin threw up his hands, got up from the steps, and stormed out the front door.
"I'll get him," Russ said and headed for the door.
I stopped him. "What's his deal?"
Russ let out a breath and jerked a thumb at Natalie. Then he mouthed, "He likes her."
"Ah," I said.
"Yup," he said and went out the door.
I quirked at eyebrow at Mouse. She returned the gesture.
Great. College romance and a missing co-ed. I swear there had to be an award for this.
Turned back to Natalie. "You sure you're okay with this?"
She nodded. "Yeah."
I gestured with my head toward the door. "And him?"
She let out a long exhale. "He'll be fine. He's just--"
"So will you," I said. "Both of you."
"Promise?" said Tanya.
"Promise," I said.
Been a lot of that lately.
* * *
Russ came back into the townhouse ten minutes later.
"Martin?" I said, leaning against the wall by the staircase.
"Took a walk," he said. "Still cooling off. Where are the girls?"
"Upstairs. Did you talk to him?"
Russ nodded. "Doesn't like it but I got him to understand. I think he's miffed that the girls are doing something and we're not." He gave me a questioning look. "Is there something we can do?"
I thought for a moment, then turned to Mouse. "We still have the radios in the trunk, right?"
Mouse stopped cleaning dirt from her beneath her fingernails with a folding knife and looked up. "I think so."
To Russ I said, "You get to be lookouts."
"Find high ground as close to the library as you can and keep an eye for campus police. If you see them, you get us on the radio."
He nodded. "Okay. And I think I know the perfect spot."
Mouse gestured me over to the armchair.
"Yeah?" I said.
"What was Plan B if the girl's didn't go for it?"
"We dress up as coeds."
"Oh, hell no."
I grinned. "Good thing they said yes."
A sharp rap on the door.
I went to the door, and checked the peephole.
Bald head. Round-framed mirrorshades. And a Hawaiian shirt the color of a paint factory explosion.
Specs. Everybody's favorite infobroker.
I opened the door.
Specs gave me a quick nod and set a long, black, hard-sided equipment case inside the doorway. "Here ya go."
He shook his head. "Got another thing to do." He gestured at the case. "That'll be on your tab."
"Still good for it."
"Things can change."
"You're as bad as Mouse."
"I heard that!" Mouse called out from inside.
"We're practical, that's all. Enjoy." He turned and headed back up the walk toward the street, whistling.
(to be continued...)