Hit it again, pistoning forward and up with my legs.
It howled open, the bottom scraping along the stone floor.
I ducked inside, Mouse right on my heels.
As soon as she cleared the doorway, I shoved the door closed.
It slammed shut with a dull boom that echoed off the walls.
We were in an empty, cavern-like warehouse, the ceiling at least 20 meters up and lost in shadows. The only light came from the few uncovered windows several meters above us on each of the four walls. The rest of the windows were at street level and either painted over in black or boarded up.
"That's gotta be Vittorio's shooter," Mouse said, her voice low. Even then, the sound echoed.
"One of them at least," I said.
"Four," said Mouse. "So where are the other three?"
A window three meters to our left exploded inward in a shower of blackened glass.
The figure hit the stone floor in a dive roll and came up in a fighting crouch.
Male. Masked. Clad in a black tactical jumpsuit. A sword handle peeked out over his shoulder from a back scabbard.
"There's two," I said.
Mouse gave a feral grin and drew her blades. "He's mine," she said and strode forward, her wakizashis--Japanese short swords--at the ready.
Mask side-stepped and drew his sword. Black-bladed katana. He settled into a combat stance, blade tip angled toward Mouse.
They stood five meters apart, weapons poised.
Stare down. Two full seconds.
Then struck. A blur of movement and a clash of steel.
Then they backed off.
Same places as before.
Like they hadn't moved.
They circled right. Slow steps. Watching each other.
Then struck again.
And backed away.
Again, circled right.
They weren't breathing hard yet but I could see beads of sweat on both foreheads.
Two seconds of stillness.
Then Mask struck first, and Mouse answered.
Blades spun, struck, twirled, struck, slashed, struck.
Advance. Withdraw. Advance. Withdraw.
Spinning and moving, blades arcing in elaborate mid-air shapes, colliding in a ringing of steel on steel, snapping back before crashing forward again.
An elaborate dance of death.
And Mouse missed a step.
My breath caught in my throat.
Mask spotted the opening and lunged.
Mouse caught the mistake at the last possible second, twisting and moving, and the black blade missed her torso by centimeters. She hit the floor, rolling, one of her wakizashis clattering and spinning away from her. She came up on one knee and flung out an arm.
Four long and narrow glints of metal caught the light overhead and sailed toward Mask.
He ducked aside.
Two of Mouse's throwing blades zipped past him.
But the other two slammed home, catching him in the shoulder.
He hit the floor with an audible grunt, rolled to a low crouch.
A flapping of leather.
And Mouse landed on top of him, rode him to the floor.
Her other wakizashi flashed and she slashed his throat.
Mask landed on his back, mouth open and gurgling, blood gushing in pulses from the wide slit in the front of his neck, his hands clutching at his throat.
Mouse straddled him, still crouched, her blade poised to strike.
Mask convulsed twice, three times, four.
Then lay still, blood pooling beneath his head.
Mouse rose, cleaned off her wakizashi on Mask's clothes, and stepped back from the body.
"Mouse?" I said.
She turned to me and grinned. "Five by five, Kat," she said.
"That. Was wiz."
She saluted me with her wakizashi.
A nearby window went crunch.
And I heard the gunshot.
(to be continued...)