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"Date Night" - Part One

"Holy shit!" said Mouse, my partner and fellow ronin, and dropped the sixteen-ounce plastic bottle of Crystal Mountain water.

I looked from Mouse back to Jake Steele and said, "What did you say?"

Jake leaned back in the beat-up mustard yellow couch, fingers laced across his chest, and his lopsided smile widened two more notches. "Have dinner with me," he said. "Tonight."

Just another day in the life of a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.

Me. Name's Kat.

I swallowed. Hard.

The butterflies in my stomach went batshit and I fought them down.

Jake quirked an eyebrow at me. "Well?"

I lost the butterfly battle. They went batshit again. Times ten.

The three of us were in the back office of the Red Dog Bar. I had been checking shipping invoices for Revell on the desk terminal while Mouse sat on the couch sharpening one of her tactical folders when Jake came in, sat on the couch, and asked about dinner.

"Are we talking a date?" said Mouse. "It's about damn time."

I jabbed a finger at Mouse. "I am not--"

"No date," said Jake. "Biz."

"Good," I said.

"But now that you mention it..." Jake said.

"When?" I said.

Jake smiled. "The date?"

"Yes," said Mouse.

"No," I said. "Biz."

"Party pooper," said Mouse.

"I'll come back in an hour," Jake said. "We meet the client in two."

I checked my optic clock. 16:59:57.

"Fine," I said.

Jake got up from the couch and started out, then stopped and looked back at me. "Dress nice," he said, and went out the office door.

* * *

I was standing in front of my closet in our shared apartment above the Red Dog and adjusting my double-holster shoulder rig over the white blouse I was wearing when Mouse walked up and held a cellphone to my face.

"It's Specs," she said.

Everybody's favorite info-broker.

"He called?" I said.

Mouse shook her head. "But he wants to talk to you."

I took the phone. "What's up?"

"What's your size?" said the reedy voice on the other end of the line.

"What?"

"Dress size," Specs said. "I got a slinky black number here. With those sparkly dots."

"Sequins."

"Whatever. Got a couple of them, actually. But I need your size."

"What for?"

"Mouse told me you're going on a fancy date with Jake Steele and needed a dress. So I asked Miss Renee."

Miss Renee ran The Velvet Lounge, an upscale escort service. I felt my cheeks go warm.

"She said congrats on the catch," Specs went on, "and said you're either a 10 or a 12. So I got one of each."

"Good-bye, Specs," I said.

"Hey! What about--!"

I hung up and shot Mouse a dagger-filled glare.

"It's a date, for Chrissake!" Mouse said. "You gotta look good."

I gestured to my clothes. White blouse. Black slacks. Low-heeled shoes. "And what's this?"

She pointed at the Twins, Bonnie and Clyde, my pair of Colt-Springfield M2001 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols snug in my shoulder rig. "You're armed and you're missing the glitz."

"We're meeting a client."

"You want to jump his bones."

I grabbed my black blazer off the hanger and headed for the flat's doors. "I'm not listening."

"Don't fight it," Mouse called out. "You know you want to."

I shut the door on her and went downstairs.

(to be continued...)

"Date Night"
Part 2

"Secrets"

Mouse and I perched on the bar stools inside the Red Dog.

Behind the bar, Revell stood with his arms folded across his barrel chest.

"It's true?" said Mouse.

"Da," said Revell. "Is true."

"You're Nicolai Medvedev," I said.

He nodded. "Once. Long ago."

I leaned forward, elbows on the bar top, fingers laced together. "What's going on, Revell?"

Revell's brow furrowed. He looked at Mouse. Then at me. Then let out a long exhale. "There is something you need to know. About this Sakura."

He paused, then added: "And there is something you need to know about Murphy."

"I don't like the sound of that," I said.

"Me either," said Mouse.

"First, Sakura," said Revell. "She is assassin. Or was assassin. No one has seen her in five years."

"Great," Mouse said and threw up her hands. "So she comes out of hiding and goes after us."

Revell's eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, hands on the edge of the bar. "What is this?"

I told him about the last three hours.

When I finished, his frown deepened and his eyes vanished beneath his bushy eyebrows. "Boszhe moi," he said.

"What I don't get," Mouse said, "is this joint assignment she mentioned. If she knows who we are and what we do, she knows we don't do wetwork."

"She mentioned you, Rev,' I said. "By name. By real name."

Revell nodded. "We have met before."

"When?"

"Five years ago. For short time, Murphy and Sakura were lovers."

I felt the wind go out of me, as if I'd been kicked in the stomach.

"Holy shit," said Mouse.

Revell said, "She would stay here sometimes. Or Murphy would go away for a few days."

"How long?" I said. "The two of them?"

"Maybe six months," said Revell. "Seven. And then she did not show up anymore."

"What happened?"

"Murphy found out what she did."

"You mean he didn't know?" said Mouse.

Revell shook his head. "As far as he was concerned, she was ronin. Like him. Like you."

"How'd he find out?" I said.

"Caught her in middle of job," Revell said. "She admitted it."

A thought struck.

"That was about the time she disppeared, right?" I said.

"Da," said Revell.

"If she's been gone all that time," said Mouse, "what was that bullshit about 'He was right about you two'? I'm pretty sure the 'he' was Murphy. When did he tell Sakura about us?"

"Perhaps they met again," said Revell. "Before Murphy died. I do not know. If they did, Murphy did not tell me of it."

I said to Revell, "Was Sakura a freelancer?"

Revell let out a long exhale and was quiet for a moment. When he spoke again, he said: "No."

"Who did she work for?" I said.

He looked at each of us, then said: "She was assassin for White Lotus."

--END--

NEXT TIME: "Date Night"