BY ABNER SENIRES

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"Into The Woods" - Part One

Mouse and I had just walked into our shared flat above the Red Dog bar at 20:30 and flipped on the lights, when my phone chirped.

I set the duffel on the floor by the battered rust-orange couch and dug the phone out from inside my black leather biker jacket.

Specs. Everyone's favorite infobroker.

"Got a run for you," he said.

"What happened to 'Hi Kat! How was the two weeks in San Angeles? Get any autographs for me?' "

"Renaldi's asking for this one. Special request. Fifty large at the end of it."

I perched on the arm of the couch.

Philippe Renaldi was the president of AstraNova, one of the leading electronics manufacturer on the West Coast. The last time he had hired us was a little over two months ago.

Mouse quirked an eyebrow at me.

I mouthed: Wait one.

She nodded.

"Okay," I said. "What's the run?"

"I don't know," Specs said.

"What?"

"Renaldi wanted to tell you himself. You're supposed to call him after you talk to me."

"What's the number?"

He gave it to me.

"Now hurry up and call the man," he said and hung up.

I lowered the phone.

"Well?" said Mouse.

I told her what Specs had said.

She gestured with both hands. "So call already," she said.

I shot her a look.

She stuck her tongue out at me.

I dropped into the couch, dialed the number Specs had given me, and put the phone on speaker.

Renaldi answered on the second ring. "Kat and Mouse," he said.

"Mr. Renaldi," I said.

"I need you for an extraction," he said.

"Right to the point."

"Habit," he said.

"Who's the target?" I said.

"Name's Matthew Beck," said Renaldi. "A programmer. Currently working for Lux Technologies."

"When and where?"

"When is tomorrow. Where is Redding."

Mouse and I exchanged looks. I glanced at the duffel buags sitting on the floor next to my feet and frowned.

"Redding?" I said to the phone.

"Your flight leaves tomorrow morning at 900 hours exactly."

"Morning, huh," said Mouse, also frowning.

"Yes," said Renaldi. "Morning. My private jet. Bay City airport. A car will pick you both up half an hour before. Pack what you think you'll need."

"What can we expect?" I said.

"My information says low security. Maybe three to four guards on the property."

"And this Beck?"

"I'll have more info tomorrow. I realize you just got back from a trip and I apologize for the inconvenience. Be certain I will make it worth your while."

"You're very generous, Mr. Renaldi."

"You did me a great favor once. I never forget."

"Thank you," I said.

"The extraction needs to be completed within 24 hours. Beck must be in Bay City by 900 hours Wednesday morning."

Day after tomorrow. "Understood," I said. I gave him our location, thanked him, and hung up.

Mouse let out a breath. "Back to work."

Yup. Back to work.

* * *

When our black ChrysFord sedan pulled up next to the sleek private jet parked on the airport tarmac the next morning, Renaldi, tall and darkly handsome wearing a fitted dark gray suit, emerged from inside the plane and came down the airstairs followed by a dark-suited muscle.

Mouse and I got out of the sedan, gear bags in hand, and met Renaldi at the foot of the stairs.

"Good morning," he said. "Thank you again for accepting the job. I know this is a bit early for you both. There's coffee, pastries, and breakfast waiting inside the plane for you."

"Hot damn," said Mouse.

Renaldi reached into his suit jacket and drew out a datadisk. "Information about Beck. The plane has a terminal you can use. When you land, you'll be meeting with a man named Sam Cutter. He'll fly you to Beck's location."

"Fly?" I said, taking the disk.

The corner of Renaldi's mouth turned up. "Beck's a bit of a hermit. Works remotely from a cabin in the middle of the woods just outside Redding."

Mouse made a face and quirked an eyebrow at him. "Woods? Are we talking bears and wolves and all that?"

"I don't know about bears and wolves," said Renaldi. "Maybe mountain lions."

"Somehow that doesn't make it any better," Mouse said.

"Remember," said Renaldi. "By 900 hours tomorrow. The jet will stay at the airfield until then."

"We'll be there with Beck."

"Good hunting," he said.

(to be continued...)

"Into The Woods"
Part 2

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