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.
"Dress size," Specs said. "I got a slinky black number here. With those sparkly dots."
"Whatever. Got a couple of them, actually. But I need your size."
"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...)