Bay City, California Free State
Behind a desk in the far corner of the warehouse, Kincaid leaned back in his chair, steepled his fingers over his chest, and looked up at Fast Eddie, one eyebrow quirked. "Since when does a 'Netjockey need a piece?" he said. "Aren't you usually removed from the action?"
Eddie shifted from foot to foot and gave him a lopsided smile. "Reckon personal safety never hurt anyone, yeah?"
"Except the person trying to hurt you."
"Bang on, mate."
Kincaid nodded slowly, then said: "The thing two weeks ago, right?"
Eddie's smile faltered slightly but he said nothing.
"I understand perfectly," said Kincaid. He inclided his head at the hardcase and the two boxes of ammunition sitting on top of the desk. "There you are. Glock 17. 9mm. Sixth gen model. Three magazines included. A hundred rounds. AP, of course. For personal safety."
Eddie's jaw clenched as he looked over the black case and the ammo boxes. Then he reached into his labcoat pocket, pulled out a cred'chip, and held it across the desk.
Kincaid leaned forward and took the proferred 'chip with a smile. "Pleasure doing business with you."
Eddie grabbed the merchandise, turned, and left the warehouse office.
* * *
14 October 2042
"Doc," Valkyrie said into her phone and inclined her head at Absinthe.
Absinthe nodded, turned, and exited the White Rabbit's upstairs office, her knee-length skirt swishing about her legs as she went.
Valkyrie waited until the office door closed the the bass-heavy boom of the music from the club below turned into a muted but still insistent thumping that vibrated the floor. Then she leaned back in the leather desk chair. "Tell me you have something," she said.
"I have something," Doc said, his melodious basso still carrying over the tinny speaker, "but it's not good."
"Shit," said Valkyrie.
"Shit is right," said Doc. "Finally got hold of an old medic buddy of mine from the day. Told him about Eddie's situation."
"He sees his share."
"Sees," said Valkyrie. "Present tense."
"He's like me but in a...legal capacity."
"Got it. I won't ask. But he can't help?"
"Sorry, youngster. Under normal circumstances, either one of us could get it out of him. But this one's too risky. Based on what I described I saw, he says there's a less than one-percent chance of success."
"Can't he disable it somehow? Fix it so it won't detonate?"
"It might work."
"But there might also be the chance there's an unseen secondary or even a tertiary detonator. We could disable the main system but if we don't find the secondary or tertiary, Eddie's still in danger."
"So a hidden failsafe."
"He also told me that if we did manage to get it out, it'll likely be rigged to detonate on removal."
"So tamper-proof and removal-proof?"
" 'Fraid so. You want me to tell him?"
Valkyrie ground her teeth, feeling her chest constrict, then let out a loud exhale. "No. I'll do it."
* * *
Eddie sat in his highback leather chair and stared at the shattered remains of his workstation while the sound of gunshots still echoed off the walls of the shop.
When the sounds finally died down, he ejected the empty magazine from the Glock 17, inserted a loaded mag, and released the slide.
Tamper-proof and removal-proof, she'd told him.
He closed his eyes, took in a long breath, held it, then let it out slowly, all the while replaying the text-conversation with Val for the tenth time.
Eddie swallowed and slowly opened his eyes, his vision suddenly fuzzy, his cheeks hot and wet, the taste of salt at the corner of his lips.VLK: How do you want to do this, E?>>Don't know
VLK: I can help you find these bastards.>>That would be good. Good start.
VLK: Yeah. We can find them and make 'em pay. Hell, we know people.>>Yeah. We do. But I need time to think.
VLK: But are we in? Us both? Make 'em pay? Make 'em eat shit and die?>>Yeah. But I need to take care of something, V.
VLK: Sure. Message me when you're ready.
Sod it all.
Sod it bloody all.
He clenched his teeth, inhaled sharply through his nostrils, and blew it out in one big puff of air.
He took one more look at the corner of his workstation, at the stack of discs.
Valkyrie was right. He had been to VidWorld on a regular basis going through Benny's old stock, thankful the cheery goateed store owner hadn't tossed them.
Four hundred vids.
Including one of her faves. The one about the American in the North African nighclub duing World War Two.
But what was the use now?
She'd never see them.
Not now. Not after what Kat had told him.
He'd never get the chance to ask if she'd watch them with him.
"I'm sorry, Mouse," he said, his voice quavering, sounding quiet in the seemingly vast expanse of the shop. "I'm sorry. I wish you had let me explain."
He swallowed again.
Then shoved the barrel of the Glock into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
NEXT TIME: "Shanghai Squeeze"
NEXT TIME: "Shanghai Squeeze"