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"Payback" - Part Nine

The run at 15:00 was a pick up and delivery from the East End to a three-story walkup in Northwood that us took twenty minutes and dropped ten thousand Creds in our hands.

When we got back in the silver ChrysFord loaner I took out my cellphone and dialed Righetti.

Franco answered.

"Vittorio," I said. "I need to talk to him."

"Just a moment," he said.

Then: "Still with us, I see."

Righetti.

"Si, Don Righetti," I said. "Takes more than a bunch of shooters to end us."

He chuckled. "Murphy would've said the same."

"How can I contact Vittorio?"

"About Daniela."

"Yes."

"I will have him call you."

"Grazie."

"Of course," he said and hung up.

Two minutes later, my phone chirped.

Blocked number.

I answered.

The voice on the other end said, "Don Vittorio."

"This is Kat," I said. "I need to find your daughter."

"I'm afraid, signorina, that my daughter died two months ago."

His tone of voice sent a chill slithering up my spine.

"Really," I said.

"Yes. A car accident."

"I see."

"I'm sure you do." A pause. Then: "A silver Mercedes Benz will be leaving the parking lot of the Forest Hill Country Club in half an hour. There's only one exit to the main road." He recited a vehicle ID.

"Thank you," I said and hung up.

"So?" Mouse said.

I started the car, put in it gear, and told her.

She blinked and gave a start. "He serious?"

"Yeah."

"That's..." She frowned. "Wow."

* * *

The Forest Hill Country Club occupied two hundred acres of prime southern Highgate real estate and catered to the glitterati's elite.

I turned the loaner off Gloucester Road past a pair of stone lions and onto a paved two-lane road flanked by well-manicured hedges that wound around a low hill. Halfway up, I stopped and parked the car at an angle so we blocked the road.

Checked my optic clock.

14:00:00.

And the silver Mercedes came around the bend.

Right on time.

It pulled to a stop three meters away from the loaner and honked its horn.

"Kat?" said Mouse.

"Not yet."

The horn blared twice, three times. Then gave a long, shrill blast for several seconds.

A dark blue MistuAudi sedan pulled up behind and to the left of the Mercedes.

The driver side door of the Mercedes flew open and Daniela Vittorio stepped out.

The last time we'd seen her, Daniela had auburn hair pulled in a bun and had been dressed in a dark business suit. Now, her hair was blond and she wore a white blouse, cream-colored pants, and a matching blazer.

She had her hands on her hips, a scowl on her face. "Move that hunk of junk!" she said.

Behind her, a slim brunette in tan pants and a khaki blazer got out of the MistuAudi and walked up to Daniela.

Daniela turned her head, said something to the brunette, and gestured toward us. Brunette held up both hands, palms open, in a conciliatory gesture, and replied. Daniela shook her head, turned, and started toward us, grim-faced.

Brunette called out: "Daniela!"

Daniela waved her back.

Brunette followed a few steps behind.

When Daniela got halfway to the loaner, I got out of the car.

Heard Mouse do the same.

Daniela stopped in mid-step, gasped as if she'd been punched in the gut, and went saucer-eyed.

"Hi, Daniela," I said.

She stumbled backwards, jabbing a finger in our direction. "You're dead. I killed you."

I shook my head.

Daniela bumped into the Mercedes' front grill.

"Didn't have to be like this," I said. "You should've left it alone."

"I had him," she said, lips pulled back, teeth bared. "I had Renaldi where I wanted him. And then you two meddling bitches had to fuck it up." She shook her head. "No. Nobody beats me. You got that? Nobody!"

She flung her blazer open and reached toward her hip.

Subvocal.

World in slo-mo.

Bonnie leaped into my hand.

Daniela's pistol came up.

And Bonnie roared twice.

Both rounds punched through Daniela's right shoulder. She cried out and fell back against the hood. The pistol clattered to the pavement.

She lunged for the fallen weapon.

Bonnie roared again and I blew her hand apart

Daniela screamed, fell back against the front of the car, and crumpled to the ground, clutching her bloody hand.

Heard metal sing out.

Looked, the Twins tracking.

Mouse had drawn her wakizashis as Brunette stepped forward to the front of the Mercedes, a pistol leveled at us

"Don't," I said.

"Shoot them, you idiot!" Daniela said to Brunette, her voice a high-pitched wail. "Shoot them!"

Brunette pivoted and put two rounds into Daniela's face.

Daniela's head jerked, splashing blood and gore against the front grill, and she went limp.

"Holy shit!" said Mouse.

I looked at Daniela's body, then at Brunette.

Brunette turned to us, her face blank. She lowered her pistol, reached into her jacket pocket with her free hand, pulled out a cellphone, and put it to her ear. She said: "It's done."

Then she held out the phone to me.

Mouse and I exchanged looks.

I holstered Bonnie and came forward, took the phone.

"Yeah?" I said.

"As I told you before, signorina," Vittorio said on the other end of the line, "my daughter died two months ago. I hope you understand."

"I do. I'm sorry for your loss."

"So am I. We are finished here, yes?"

"No."

"I'm listening."

"There's one more shooter your late daughter hired. She may expect compensation. And proof."

"I see."

Silence.

Then: "You'll see this shooter again?"

"Yes," I said.

Vittorio rattled off a phone number. "When you see her again, have her call that number. It will be taken care of."

"Grazie," I said.

(to be continued...)

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