As we drove up the 342 onramp off 47th in the white ChrysFord loaner Specs had sent, Mouse grumbled to herself.
I glanced over at her.
We were dressed in similar outfits: blouse, blazer, and slacks. Black for me. Dark gray for her.
"I really hate these clothes," she said.
"Just a little while longer," I said. "We'll be done with this in no time."
We got to the garage half an hour early and parked in a slot halfway down the aisle. The angled parking gave us a clear view of the northwest corner.
At 13:00, on the dot, a silver Mercedes sedan came around the corner and stopped at the end of the aisle. The door behind the driver's side opened and a dark-suited man with a briefcase got out.
I put the loaner into gear and rolled toward the sedan then stopped a few meters away. I kept the motor running. Mouse and I both got out of the car but stayed behind the opened doors.
"You two picking up?" Briefcase Man said.
"We are," I said.
"I'm reaching for the first half of your payment," he said.
He nodded, slipped a hand inside his jacket, came back out with a cred'chip between thumb and index finger. He waved it at us.
"Walk forward," I said. "Stop halfway between us."
He nodded, took several steps forward then stopped.
"Put the briefcase and the 'chip on the ground and walk backwards to the car."
Again, he complied. When he reached the car, he stopped.
Mouse glanced at me then went forward to pick up the briefcase and the 'chip. She pulled a reader from her trenchcoat pocket and swiped the chip in the slot. "Twenty-five," she called out. "As promised."
Then she walked backwards to the loaner and got inside.
The Man said, "And you know where to go?"
I nodded. "Ascot Arms."
"Room 421," he said and got back in the Mercedes. They pulled around the loaner and drove away.
I watched them go. When they disappeared around the corner at the other end, I got back in the car and went back to our parking slot.
"Ten minutes," I said. "Then we'll go."
Mouse nodded and pulled a half-opened bag of screamer chips from the glove compartment. "Don't say it."
"But two cake runs in one day," I said. "That's gotta be a record for us, right?"
"You said that earlier and remember what happened? Besides, there are no cake runs."
And I suddenly remembered something Murphy once said to us: "There are no cake runs. Only runs with minimal body count."
* * *
Back to Uptown.
Bordered by Imperial Avenue on the west, Archer Street on the east, Front Street on the north, and Midway Avenue on the south, Uptown housed everything Bay City's glitterati could ask for. This was a whole other world, one of gleaming towers and golden people. It made even the nicer parts of the city look like a shithole.
And the parts Mouse and I frequented?
We took the 10th Street exit off 342 and headed west toward the steel and glass towers of Corporate Plaza. Street conditions went from rundown and garbage-strewn to well-kept and litter-free. By the time we crossed Archer Street, it was as if the whole world had changed. The streets looked as if they were scrubbed down and polished daily. In the space of two blocks, we passed a blue and white police cruiser and a pair of roving sky-eyes.
Thankfully, we were dressed for the part, despite Mouse's protests. Our normal outfits would've had BCPD MaxTac on us in under a minute and I wasn't in the mood to tangle with them.
"Here we go again," I said and turned into a parking garage two blocks from the hotel.
(to be continued...)