Heard the clack of an empty chamber.
Popped up, the Twins rising and tracking.
The muscle had just slammed a new magazine home when I squeezed both triggers. The Twins boomed and roared eight times. Six rounds walked up the muscle's torso and the last two punched through his face and blew off the top of his head.
Pivoted toward Jade's last position.
She was standing by one of the big windows.
I vaulted the couch and rushed toward the window Jade had vacated.
And that's when I saw it.
Anchored to the top edge of the windowpane was one end of a zip line that stretched across the street, down two stories to the rooftop of another building, and ended at the bottom edge of a flashing adboard for Queenie Burgers.
Four figures stood just beneath the adboard, half-hidden in shadow.
The fifth was visible under the red-orange glow of of the adboard.
She sketched me a salute.
"Did you see that?" said Mouse.
"Bet they have Gold down there," I said, holstering the Twins.
"I'm going after them."
"You've gotta be shitting me."
"No shit," I said and went to the muscle I'd dropped. Yanked off his belt then went back to the open window. Looped the belt over the zip line and held onto both ends.
"That's fucking nuts, Kat," said Mouse.
"Meet you across the street," I said.
And stepped off.
Five seconds later, a heard the dull whumpf of an explosion behind me.
The zip line went slack.
My stomach dropped out from under me.
So did I.
Fuck a duck.
The last time I intentionally fell was from a building window onto the top of a slow-moving aerodyne.
That was a three-meter drop.
The last time I unintentionally fell was from the rafters of a warehouse.
That was a five-meter drop.
Luckily, onto the roof of a parked delivery van.
This one was ninety-nine meters down.
To be splattered all over Seneca Avenue.
I let go of the belt and grabbed for the remaining cable with both hands before it snaked away from me.
Cold air roared past me, mingling with the din of traffic below as I arced down toward the front of the building across the street, my blazer flapping around my torso. I tightened my grip on the cable and tried to angle myself toward one of the upper story windows.
At twenty meters out, I let go of the cable with one hand, drew Bonnie, and emptied her magazine into the darkened window ahead in a seven centimeter wide group. Glass cracked and spiderwebbed from the impact point.
Bonnie went to slide-lock.
And gaining speed.
Holstered Bonnie and drew Clyde.
Emptied Clyde's mag. Same spot.
Glass shattered into a hole.
I tucked legs, right arm curled across my face, aiming myself at the hole in the window.
Hit, feet first.
The window exploded inward, spraying shards of double-paned glass.
The overhead lights snapped on.
Let go of the cable, felt myself rocket forward and sideways.
Desk right in front of me, arrayed with double-monitors, personal effects, and a lamp. Highback chair on the other side.
This was gonna hurt.
Slammed into the monitors shoulder first, heard them snap and crack, took them with me as I bounced once across the desk spilling the lamp and personal stuff to the floor, plowed into the chair, knocked it over, went tumbling onto the carpet and ripped through a cubicle partition just beyond, finally coming to a stop on my back with half a partition wall on my chest and my arms and legs partially tangled with computer cables and power cords, my breath coming in big sucking gasps, already feeling the dull twinges of pain everywhere.
And still holding onto Clyde.
Then: the distant wail of police sirens.
Bay City's finest.
Mouse. On the earbud.
"Yeah," I said between gulps of air.
"Gotta bounce," said Mouse.
"I hear them," I said, and rolled to my feet.
* * *
I made it out of the building bypassing a snoring security guard at a duty station and startling a custodian--who fainted at the sight of a dark-haired Amazon in black biker leathers toting a pair of hand cannons--a full minute before two blue and whites slid to an angled stop at the intersection of Seneca and 15th Street one block south.
Mouse was waiting in a dark blue ChrysFord sedan at the curb by the building's service entrance along 14th Street. I got in quickly, trying not to attract attention from my ripped pants, torn blazer sleeves, and dust-caked torso.
Traffic along 14th was starting to slow down at the intersection in order to rubberneck.
They ignored us.
"Red Dog," I said.
Mouse gave a nod, put the sedan in gear, and we pulled away from the curb.
"Jade?" she said as we rolled east on 14th.
"Long gone by now," I said.
"Working on it."
* * *
Thirty minutes later, Mouse and I were in the Red Dog's back office and back in work clothes--dark t-shirt, black BDU trousers, and knee-high lace-up boots. Black leather biker jacket for me. Black leather trenchcoat for Mouse.
Mouse slumped on the beat-up mustard yellow couch, legs stretched out in front of her. I sat in the highback leather chair behind the desk, refilling pistol magazines from the boxes of ammunition on the desktop in front of me. Next to the ammo boxes, I had my phone on speaker and was now dialing Specs.
He picked up on the third ring.
"Ladies!" he said in his reedy tenor. "Got the goods and made the drop, am I right? We celebratin', right?"
Mouse and I exchanged looks.
Then: "I'm gonna try that again," said Specs. "You got the guy, dropped him off, everything went smooth, and now you're celebratin' with Revell over a couple beers. And you say, 'Yeah, Specs. We're golden.' "
"No go, Specs," I said. "Jade took him before we could."
"Jade? What's she got to do with this?"
"She was muscle for the target," said Mouse.
"Jade was waiting for us," I said.
"That sneaky bitch!" said Specs.
"That's what I said," said Mouse.
"Who else knew about the run?" I said.
"You two," said Specs. "Me. And the Smith who ordered."
Mouse snapped her fingers. "Betcha the Smith's trying to play both sides. Like in that old vid. The one with the Japanese samurai."
"Could be," said Specs. "Seen that happen before."
I popped my optic clock.
"We've got less than an hour and half to make the deadline," I said. "We don't have time to hunt the Smith. We need to know where Jade is. She's got the target."
"How do we find her?" said Mouse. "Pull the move you did at Lazlar? With her phone?"
I shook my head. "She's probably changed phones by now. So we do the next best thing."
"Call Jade's broker," I said.
(to be continued...)