She nodded, her expression grim. "I was a damn fool."
"No," I said. "You just stopped paying attention."
Mac grunted. "Probably never happens to you, huh."
"You'd be surprised," I said.
"Yeah," said Mouse. "She only looks invincible."
A few minutes later we reached the highway.
The Bison and the other Humvee had pulled to the right-hand shoulder just past the turnoff. I slid in behind them, cut the engine, then turned in my seat to look at Kyle.
"Was that him?" I said.
"Yeah," he said. "It was him."
Mac turned to look at us. "Wait--who was who?"
"That secman back there," Kyle said. "Same guy who headed the Capital raid at Starkey's Brewhouse." He looked directly at Mac. "The day James died."
Mac recoiled, eyes wide, hand going to her mouth. She looked away.
"Her husband," I said to Kyle.
Kyle nodded, his eyes dark. "Now that we know he's still here, Tina and I are gonna make sure he pays."
* * *
Mac sent the other two Humvees back to French Gulch with Cutter, Tina, and Kyle and told them to send back one of the SUVs with Beck and whatever they could salvage from Cutter's aerodyne.
An hour later, Mouse and I, along with Cutter, Beck, and Mac were back at the airfield where Renaldi's jet was waiting on the tarmac.
Beck was first inside the plane.
Mac waited outside while Cutter helped bring our gear bags aboard. After we got them stowed, he shook hands with me and Mouse.
"What's next for you?" I said.
"Get me a new aerodyne," he said. "Probably another piece of shit. Fix 'er up good."
"Mac paying you back?"
"Damn right she is."
"She said so?"
"Not yet," said Cutter. "But she will."
"Why not spring for a new one?" Mouse said.
He grinned. "Where's the fun in that?"
"Point taken," I said.
"If you two are ever back here," Cutter said, "look me up. I'll be in the cafe. Take you 'round to see the sights."
"Sounds good," I said.
He sketched us a loose salute, turned, and exited the cabin.
Then Mac appeared at the top of the airstairs and leaned inside, holding onto the doorway.
"Thanks for yanking our asses out of the fire," she said. "Sorry I doubted you two."
"Apology accepted," I said. "Glad we could help out."
"Kyle mentioned something to me about payment?"
"We'll bill you," I said.
She snickered. "Okay."
"And Cutter's aerodyne?"
"I owe him for that," she said. "I know a guy. He'll hook me up."
"Better tell him that."
"And if you ever need some work done," I said, "get hold of us."
"But back there you said--"
"Raiding a factory isn't the same as hunting down people and executing them."
Mac grinned and nodded. "You've got a point. I'll keep you two in mind."
She shook hands with us, turned, and headed back down the stairs.
Mouse settled into her seat.
I glanced back at Beck.
He was already reclined and snoring peacefully.
I settled into my seat.
A short time later, we were airborne and headed back to Bay City.
My optic clock read: 19:37:33
More than nine and a half hours since we first landed in Redding.
"Hell of a day," said Mouse.
"You can say that again."
"What was that thing with Tina and the phone?"
"Surveillance video of Dylan and that secman."
"The cafe," I said. "Turns out they had security cams."
"That's what I said. Tina said they were camouflaged to look like part of the roof and inside fixtures."
"I'll be damned."
"Remember that kid sitting out front?"
"With the mohawk."
I nodded. "Son of the cafe's owner. A tech-type. Like Tinker. He sent Tina the footage."
"And Mac saw the vid."
"Nice," said Mouse.
After a moment, Mouse said: "You really think they're gonna pay us the ten grand?"
I shrugged. "We'll see."
"Do we have a payment plan?"
"Don't you start."
"We should have one."
"It's still Biz."
"I know," I said.
"And I hate kibble," said Mouse.
Then the plane's phone buzzed.
"All finished?" the voice on the other end said.
"All finished," I said.
"Your nephew's on the plane and asleep."
"Good. Now--care to explain how a one hour job turned into an all-day operation?"
I grinned. "It started," I said, leaning back in my seat, "when we went into the woods..."
NEXT TIME: "Entr'acte"
NEXT TIME: "Entr'acte"
The town of French Gulch and the Gladstone Mine are actual places in present-day Northern California, both about 20+ miles northwest of the city of Redding.
I'd like to thank Dottie Smith for providing some historical information about the Gladstone Mine and its property.
Additional information on the mine came from:
- 8th Report of the State Mineralogist for the California State Mining Bureau, William Irelan, Jr., (year ending) 1 October 1888
- 14th Report of the State Mineralogist for the California State Mining Bureau, Fletcher Hamilton, July 1915
- The Mines Handbook, Vol. XIII, Walter Havery Weed, E.M.
- Historic Data Inventory of the Shasta County Interlaks Special Recreation Management Area, Dottie Smith, 1995 (PDF)
The layout is based on the information from the above materials, the cross-section from the above-named report, and hand-drawn maps of the Big Horn, Dawn, and Black Cargo Mines of Los Angeles County taken from the Gold Mines of Los Angeles County website.
Any mistakes from doing this are all mine.