"We need info on Jade," I said.
"Not likely, girlfriend," said Michelle. "Call's over."
"Five hundred thousand," I said. "For one minute."
Mouse popped to her feet from the couch, saucer-eyed and gaping at me.
"Thirty seconds," said Michelle. "Go."
"I need to know Jade's safehouses."
Michelle chuckled. "Cost you more than five hundred. Two million and I tell you about all five. Plus how often she uses them."
"Nine hundred," I said.
Mouse made a strangled noise.
I ignored her.
"Two million," said Michelle.
"Wait," I said.
"Yes?" said Michelle.
I drew a deep breath, let it out.
"Two million," I said.
Mouse started mouthing profanities at me.
Michelle said, "Excellent." Then she rattled off an account number. "As soon as I see the payment," she went on, "I'll send the info to your phone."
"Nice doing business with you," she said and hung up.
I put the phone down, pulled the cred'chip from the Lazlar incident out of my jacket pocket, and plugged it into a data slot on the terminal at the desk.
Twenty seconds later I had finished the money transfer through a FastPay portal.
Less than a minute later, my phone beeped.
Checked it, saw the message from Michelle.
When I sat back in the chair and looked up, Mouse was pacing back and forth in front of the desk muttering to herself and gesticulating wildly.
"Not what I wanted," I said. "But still..."
Mouse skidded to a stop and whirled on me. "Not what you wanted?" she said, her voice rising several decibels. "Did you lose brain cells when you fell out of the hotel? You just gave her all our money."
"Not all," I said. "There's still about seven hundred thousand in that 'chip."
"That's not the two million-plus we had, Kat. You just screwed us."
"We got what we needed."
"At our expense."
"We'll be fine."
"You keep saying that. I don't think it means what you think it means."
"Try saying that when all you've eaten for an entire damn week is kibble."
My phone chirped.
I put it on speaker.
"Hoy, luv," said a Cockney-laced tenor.
Fast Eddie. Net-jockey extraordinaire.
"Tell me you have something," I said.
"And this better be worth two million creds," Mouse said.
"Two million what?" said Eddie.
"Nevermind that," I said. "Spill."
"You were bang on," said Eddie. "She made the call."
"You won't like it."
"Where?" I said.
"Double Deuce," said Eddie.
"Fuck and a half," said Mouse.
Tower 22, aka Double Deuce, in Winn Town--Southside's nine-block by four-block collection of 20-story residential high-rises--sat smack in the middle of Southside.
Southside. The "Combat Zone."
To top it off, Double Deuce was highly contested punkergang turf between the Trogs and the Red Dragons. The Trogs, fur- and leather-clad, looking like Old World warriors, loved wading in close-quarters wielding axes, swords, machetes, and clubs. Their chief was rumored to go bare-torsoed and favored a maul with a head the size of a car engine block. The Red Dragons, in red mandarin-collar majias, fought with typical martial arts weapons--bo staff, sais, katana, sword, and nunchakus, among others.
Both sides were chromed.
The Red Dragons claimed it belonged to them while the Trogs said it was theirs. And the battles had been fought nightly for the last three months.
I looked at Mouse. "This could get ugly."
She quirked an eyebrow at me. "Since when has it ever not been ugly?"
"Point," I said.
* * *
Two minutes later we were standing in the back of the Red Dog, staring into the trunk of my refitted dark gray 2008 Shelby GT500. Inside was an FN-FAL battle rifle, a Colt-Springfield M4-A battle rifle, an H&K MP5 submachine gun, a Remington 870 pump-action shotgun, four ammo cans, and a duffle bag with extra magazines for the rifles and subgun, and at least a dozen frag grenades.
"You think this'll be enough?" said Mouse.
I scanned the trunk once more then popped my optic clock.
It would take at least twenty minutes to get to Winn Town, ten if we floored it. That left about half an hour to forty-five minutes to get Gold out of Double Deuce and deliver him to the East End address we had.
I winced and sucked air through gritted teeth.
"Better be enough," I said, closing the trunk lid and heading toward the driver's side door. "No time to stop and pick up more gear. We'll be cutting it real close."
"How close is 'real close'?"
I told her.
"Drive fast," she said.
(to be continued...)