"Amen!" the other two figures said.
"Yes, amen!" said Kitchen Man. "Praise the Lord for he is good."
I check my optic clock.
"We have to end this," I said to Jake, keeping my voice low and trying not to move my lips.
Jake indicated Kitchen Man with a nod of his head. "He's key. Take him out, other two might hesitate."
I looked back at Kitchen Man. He was reciting something about a lake of fire. His left hand still held the deadman's switch.
Then I looked at the other two figures. They still held their UZIs with both hands.
And a thought struck.
"Got something," I said to Jake.
Optic clock: 19:49:22.
I let out a long exhale.
Grabbed the cloth napkin from the table, unrolled it until it was a length of fabric, and held it in my lap.
Then I lowered my head and began to whimper.
Soft at first.
After a few seconds of this, I mumbled "Don't wanna die" over and over and began to rock back and forth in my chair.
Kept one eye on Kitchen Man.
Optic clock: 19:50:45.
Kitchen Man started back in our direction, still reciting.
Louder now: "Don't wanna die. Don't wanna die."
The rocking got more pronounced.
Kitchen Man stopped talking and looked at me.
Even louder. Voice pitched higher. "Don't wanna die. Don't wanna die."
Jake was making soothing sounds.
He put a hand on my shoulder.
I yelped and shook it off.
Then launched into a fit of wailing.
Kitchen Man strode toward us.
I went back to mumbling. Agitated. Almost sobbing.
"I'm sorry--" Jake began.
Kitchen Man held up his hand, and at arm's length away said to me, "Dear Sister, what's the matter--"
A subvocalized command flooded my body with adrenaline stimulators and the world slid into slo-mo.
I sprang forward, the napkin held at either ends.
Closed the gap between us in one step. Wrapped the napkin tight around Kitchen Man's left hand, trapping his thumb against the switch. Shuffled forward so I was behind him, pivoted, and yanked his arm up behind his back, and shoved him onto the table.
His head bounced on the tabletop.
I snatched the pistol from his leg holster and flung it aside.
Heard four shots go off behind me, followed by a woman's scream, then the thud of falling bodies.
Kitchen Man twitched.
I slammed him back down. Twice.
Then once more, just to make sure.
The third time his head bounced off the tabletop, he went limp.
Another subvocal command and the stims shut off.
My pulse raced, hammering in my chest, and my body felt like a spring at full tension.
I forced my breathing to slow down.
Then Jake was at my side. Four long strips of duct tape dangled from the edge of his hand.
"Good idea," I said.
He wrapped the duct tape strips around the napkin on Kitchen Man's hand, making sure the switch stayed depressed.
I let go of the napkin, stepped back, and turned to look at the other two bombers.
Both lay sprawled on the floor at the edge of the dining area, faces blown off, blood pooling beneath their heads.
I found Kitchen Man's pistol on the floor, just past the table Callahan's muscle had been sitting at. I picked it up, dropped the magazine, ejected the round from the pistol's chamber, and dropped magazine and pistol onto the table.
Turned back to Jake.
He had taken more duct tape off Kitchen Man's vest and had wrapped the hand until it was a silver gray ball.
"All good?" I said.
"Until he wakes up," said Jake.
Footsteps behind us.
I whirled, the Twins already in my hands.
Jake had also drawn his pistol.
Two men stood in front of us. One was muscle and had a hand inside his suit jacket. The other had a hand on the muscle's arm. Medium height, fortyish, with slicked-back blond hair wearing a dark suit.
"It's okay," said Blond Hair. "My security can watch him."
"And who are you?" I said.
Blond Hair smiled. "Vice Mayor Carl Jeffries." He extended a hand.
I gave him a quick nod and holstered the Twins.
He gave a small cough. "I've called the police. They should be here in the next five minutes." He gestured at Kitchen Man. "We'll make sure he doesn't try anything. You two had better go."
"Just like that?" I said.
"I know what you two are," said Jeffries. "And I know you don't exactly do well with law enforcement."
Sirens wailed outside.
"Service elevator," said Jeffries's bodyguard. "Back of the kitchen."
"Let's bounce," I said to Jake.
We turned and started for the kitchen.
"One more thing," Jeffries called out.
I stopped, looked back at him.
"Thank you," he said.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, we had snuck past the police cordon outside the hotel and were heading to the Red Dog in Jake's gray BMW. We rode the rest of the way back in silence. Just the low thrum of the car's engine and the buzz of traffic around us.
When we finally pulled into the alley next to the Red Dog, Jake shut off the car. "That was unexpected."
I shrugged. "That's Biz. Remind me to tell you about Bakersfield."
"I will." He turned toward me. "Half is yours. Consult fee."
"Fine by me."
Then his hand found mine. "I'm sorry about dinner, though," he said, his voice suddenly low and husky. "Let me make it up to you."
The butterflies in my stomach went batshit again.
"Sure," I said, my voice cracking. I pulled my hand away from his, got out of the car, and made for the Red Dog's back door.
And Jake was suddenly in front of me, blocking the back door, ocean blue eyes boring down into mine.
I never heard him move.
"Jake--" I said.
Then his lips covered mine.
Searing white heat flared in my belly, exploded into my slacks, then surged up my spine, and air wooshed from my lungs. I sank forward against a rippling muscled torso and the sound of rushing water mingled with the pounding in my skull.
And then he was gone, the sound of the car's engine vanishing up the alley, and I was leaning my forehead against the cold metal of the back door, gasping for breath.
Dammit dammit dammit.
NEXT TIME: "Taking Care of Business"
NEXT TIME: "Taking Care of Business"