Tony Two-Tone, tall and rangy with a fake tan, his white-blonde hair in a military-style flattop, was sitting at a table at the very back of the bar dressed in his customary outfit: black blazer and pants, and white shirt, its wide collar lying atop the blazer's lapels.
He looked up as Mouse and I approached.
At the same time, Tony's muscle stepped out of the shadows and took up a spot just behind and to one side. Female. My height. Black under a black leather trenchcoat. Olive-skinned. Dark hair in a short burr. Mirrorshades.
A quick pop to thermo showed standard mods on her. Dermal. Boosters. Headware. Also implant blades.
We exchanged small nods.
Tony grinned at us. "Kat and Mouse, isn't it?" he said. "Never figured on seeing you here. Didn't really think it's your style."
"We're here for a refund," I said.
He quirked an eyebrow at us and scratched his chin. "Refund? I don't recall doing business with you."
"You were meeting someone here between 14:30 and 15:30."
"Maybe. I meet lots of people here. At various times during the day."
"They were coming here for a pair of IDs," I said.
"I get tons of those requests. Hard to keep track who's who, you know?"
"Do we really have to do it that way?" I said.
"Let's do it that way," said Mouse.
"Shame to stain that white shirt of yours," I said.
"Red's a good contrast color," said Mouse.
Tony's grinned dropped a notch. "I wouldn't appreciate that. Neither would Holly back here." He inclined his head toward the female muscle just behind him.
"No?" I said.
"No," said Tony.
I looked at Holly.
She gave a small shake of her head.
I let out a long sigh. "Could get ugly," I said, still looking at Holly. "I don't think you want ugly, do you?"
"Say yes, Holly," said Mouse and I heard her step slightly to one side.
Holly said nothing. But I noticed sweat beading on her forehead. The corner of her mouth twitched.
"No," I said. "Holly doesn't want ugly."
"Too bad," said Mouse.
I turned back to Tony.
He was also sweating.
"Well?" I said to him.
His grin turned lopsided and he gave a weak chuckle. "Maybe you're right. Ugly would be bad."
"Smart move, Tony," I said.
"But if I give you the refund, I'll be out two fifty. Don't seem fair."
"Biz isn't fair," said Mouse.
"And you get tons of these requests," I said. "This is nothing. Besides, they were expecting the full package."
Tony gave a start. "Full? They didn't tell me that."
"What did they tell you?" I said.
"Was a referral from out of town," said Tony. "Just that they needed a pair of IDs. Guy called me. Gave half up front to Holly. I told them where to go and when to pick up. He said he was showing up with his girl. Not a peep about full background. That's way outta my league." Tony pursed his lips in thought, then said: "Okay. I'll refund on one condition."
"No condition," I said. "Refund. Two hundred fifty thousand. Don't waste our time. Or we all get ugly."
I heard Mouse slide further sideways. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her wiggle her fingers.
Finger wiggles usually came just before flying blades.
Holly, forehead glistening with sweat, looked between me and Mouse, then at Tony. She cleared her throat. "Uh...boss?" she said, her voice cracking a little.
"What?" said Tony, still looking at me.
"I think you should give them the refund," said Holly.
Tony's eyes went to slits. He turned in his seat to look at Holly. "I'm not paying you for your advice."
"Listen to her, Tony," I said.
Tony spun back toward me, jabbed a finger in my direction, and opened his mouth to say something.
A pair of slim throwing blades erupted in the center of the table.
Tony made a sound like a gurgled scream and pushed back from the table, the chair legs howling across the floor.
All noise in the room ground to a halt.
Holly held up both hands, palms out, and looked at me.
I gave her a small nod.
She returned the nod, shot a disgusted look at Tony, and walked past me and Mouse toward the bar.
Tony stared at the two blades embedded in the center of the table, his mouth slightly agape.
"Well?" I said.
Tony blinked, then looked up at me. "Yeah, sure," he said. "Whatever you want."
"Done," I said and smiled at him.
(to be continued...)