"She said about half an hour after they left the hotel." I said.
"And when were you and Mouse to bring target to your contact?"
"By 20:00. But what does that--"
And then my stomach dropped.
Sharp intake of breath from Mouse. "Fuck a duck," she said.
Revell nodded, his expression grim. "You did not fail," he said. "You were set up."
"So who?" I said. "Clearly not Jade."
"Nah," said Mouse. "She wants to kill us with her bare hands. She's not gonna do something piddly like set us up. What about Salerno?"
"His daughter? But he let her go, remember? Nothing more to do with her."
A thought struck.
"Michelle," I said.
"Jade's broker?" said Mouse. "You think she did it?"
"She was quick to give us Jade," I said.
"You did give her two mil," said Mouse. "That'd make anyone give up info quick."
"Money talks," said Revell.
"But she'd know we'd find out about it afterwards."
Mouse shook her head. "Jade's pics. Remember? The two guys on the roof. They were sent to grease us."
"Point," I said. "Again."
Another thought struck.
"Michelle was in contact with whoever is setting us up," I said. "Which means they also played Jade."
"But she finished her run," said Mouse. "We didn't."
I pulled my phone out. "Let's talk to Jade some more. Maybe something she says will give us a clue..."
And then a memory surged up and I felt my gut tighten.
Mouse must've seen the expression on my face. "What, Kat?"
"Jade's safehouse in Double Deuce," I said.
"Yeah," said Mouse. "2016.
"She said Michelle never called her there."
"But we had Eddie trace Michelle's call," I said and looked at Mouse, feeling the queasiness in my gut. "Eddie said Michelle called a number at that location."
Mouse went saucer-eyed. "2016."
Fuck. A. Duck.
* * *
14 October 2042
Bay City, California Free State
Eddie had been pacing his shop for the last hour and a half, ever since he'd made the call back to Kat and told her.
Fucking Unit 2016.
They were going to bury him in Fucking Unit 20-fucking-16.
He was going to die.
While he'd paced every little sound he'd heard had made him jump, kept his heart jackhammering in his chest, hard enough for him to feel the thumping in his temples. Every hair on his arms was standing on end, even through the fabric of his rumpled lab coat.
Death was coming.
He was sure of it.
Fast Eddie would soon be Dead Eddie.
Kat and Mouse weren't the kind of folk one pissed off.
Especially when they had thought him loyal.
Eddie clenched his teeth.
They'd find out. He wasn't sure how but they would. That's what they did. Find things out. And they'd follow the trail back to him. And then it would be over.
But if he hadn't done it, his jockey days would be over.
Then what would he do? Become a wageslave? Live like a burbee?
Sod. Fucking. That.
The mini-fridge compressor came on again with a loud metallic bang and Eddie caught air and whirled at the sound before realizing what it was.
He heart continued to thud loudly against his chest.
Then he crumpled to his knees and started to laugh. A nervous shuddering sound at first. A moment later, it became hearty.
Another moment later, it rose in pitch, turning into something wild and unnatural, and Eddie collapsed onto his elbows, fingers scratching at the cold stone floor, forehead pressing hard against the ground, the laugh morphing into a wail, and his vision went watery.
Then his phone chirped at him.
Eddie wiped his eyes, got up, and went to his desk. When he saw the display, his gut tightened.
He started to reach for the phone, then stopped and pulled his hand back.
The chirping stopped.
Eddie noticed he'd been holding his breath. He started to exhale.
And the phone chirped again.
His exhale caught in his throat and he coughed, and it turned into a quick explosive sob, and then he was gasping for breath.
And it chirped again.
Eddie let out a mewling sound, snatched the phone from the desktop, pressed the TALK button.
"Kat--" he began, his throat suddenly dry, his voice raspy.
"We trusted you," Kat said.
"Wait a tick," said Eddie. "It's not what you--"
"We trusted you and you do this?"
"Kat, you've got to listen--"
"We're done, Eddie."
"Stay away from us. Do not contact us. Ever. This will be your only warning. Otherwise we will end you."
Eddie started to say something but the line went dead.
He stared at the phone in his hand for what seemed like a long time.
Then he dropped the phone onto the desktop, turned, and looked at the stack of discs sitting at one corner of his workstation.
* * *
When Kat had asked if Michelle had called her at the safehouse, Jade felt her gut clench.
Michelle had already called to let her know some knuckleheads were going to try and grease Kat and Mouse at Double Deuce.
Why would she call twice?
"No," she'd replied.
But something about that question continued to gnaw at her.
Twenty minutes after talking to Kat, Jade parked her gray ChrysFord sedan on Bryce Street, just past Kirkwood Avenue, got out of the car, and walked to a non-descript door sandwiched between a sushi and ramen bar and an E-Z-Shoppe. She reached inside her black knee-length leather jacket, pulled out a metallic card, and held it to a small wood panel to the left of the door, just above a buzzer.
There was a soft click and the door unlatched.
Jade put the card away, pulled the door open, stepped into the narrow dimly-lit hallway, and made her way to the end of the hall and another door, this one slightly ajar.
Except it was never ajar.
Jade frowned and took a step back, both SIG SAUER P250s in hand, already coming up to low-ready.
This wasn't good.
Michelle always kept this door locked. It never opened until she wanted it open.
Jade looked first at the intercom on the wall to the right of the door, then up to the tilt-down camera positioned in the corner above.
She hadn't considered a tactical entry. No gear for it. She'd dropped everything off back at her apartment. Just her pistols, tac knife, and eight extra mags.
She went low, shouldering the door open hard, and button-hooked left where she knew the nearest wall was, put her back to it, the SIGs coming up, sweeping the room.
Michelle's office was small, dominated by a big metal desk in the far left corner facing the door, a pair of cheap metal chairs with padded seats in front of the desk.
Jade saw it at once and the frown already on her face deepened further.
Blood spray and smear trail on the wall behind the desk.
Shit and double shit.
She lowered her pistols, went toward the desk, already knowing what she'd find.
Michelle lay slumped against the wall, wide-eyed, the top of her head blown off, a desk chair lying on its side near her feet.
Jade holstered both pistols and scanned the rest of the office.
Michelle's terminal and monitor were still on the desk, a screensaver of birds in flight flickering happily away. Near the terminal sat a stack of three portable drives. A bookshelf near the desk held trinkets and a purple Sony musicstick in a docking unit with detachable cube speakers.
Everything still in order.
Except for Michelle.
Jade knelt on one knee near the desk and looked under it.
A pistol was still inside the concealed holster bolted to the underside, barrel pointed toward the front of the desk.
Michelle never got to it.
Jade got back to her feet, frowning.
What the hell was going on?