"What?" Mouse and I said in unison, both leaning forward to peer at the screen.
"Hiller's dead," said Val. She pointed at the image on the screen.
A death certificate.
"Hell no," said Mouse. "That was her on the airport security cam."
"Could it be wrong?" I said to Val.
"According to this," said Val, "she died four months ago in a car accident."
"This is getting fucking weird, Kat," said Mouse.
"You're telling me," I said.
"Is it always this fucked up with you two?" said Val.
"Pretty much," said Mouse.
"I'd be tearing my hair out."
"Kat wears a wig."
I ignored them and continued looking at the images on the monitor. The ident card of my doppelgänger. The photo of Mei-Lin. The frozen image of the two of them getting into the car.
"What's the story on the car?" I said.
Val typed some commands and examined the box that popped up. "Tags registered as a company vehicle."
"Reliance, right?" I said.
"Where is it now?"
Val typed, then said: "Grand Palace Theatre. North end of Industrial."
Val typed more commands, then looked at the image that popped up. A live feed showed the front of a boarded-up movie theatre. To the right of the building was a fenced-off parking lot. The sedan sat inside the lot.
"Still there," said Val.
"That from a sky eye?" I said.
She grinned. "Yep. Live feed. I borrowed it."
I fought back a wince.
Jesus, Eddie. What happened?
Shook the question out of my head, sucked in a long breath through my nose, let it out, slow.
Popped my optic clock.
"Let's finish this fast," I said to Val and Mouse. "Then we go check on Eddie."
"Slice and dice," said Mouse.
Mouse and I raced back to the Red Dog to load up on gear. We'd used up a lot of ammo and munitions at Double-Deuce the previous night so I restocked the duffle bag in the Shelby's trunk with goodies from the arms locker in our flat.
Ten minutes later we were back in the Shelby. The duffle now had ten spare mags for the M4, ten for the FN-FAL, twenty spare mags for the Twins, ten spare mags each for the MP5s, half a dozen flashbangs, and half a dozen frag grenades. I had spare mags for the Twins in the pouches on my gear belt, fresh mags in the Twins, spare FN mags in both cargo pockets of my BDUs, and a flashbang in each jacket pocket.
Popped my optic clock.
An hour and change left.
We had just rolled out of the alley by the bar and were joining the flow of traffic north on Garner when my phone chirped.
I pulled it out of my inside jacket pocket, put it on speaker, and slid it into dashboard holder. "Go ahead," I said.
"You two started a fight with the Triads?" a reedy tenor wailed from the tinny speaker. "What the goddamn holy hell are you two doing?"
Specs. Everybody's favorite infobroker.
"We were just checking a lead on a missing person," I said. "Our contact said The 108 used the White Crane tea house as their home base. Turns out it's Jade Dragon turf."
"Wait a fuckin' minute," said Specs. "You went and fucked with the Jade Dragon on top of it? Holy shit, you two. Have you gone and picked up a death wish on top of a botched run? Are you trying to give me a heart attack and a stroke? Just tell me now so I can save you the trouble and eat a bullet."
"Slow down, brokerman," said Mouse. "What do you mean 'on top of it'? On top of what?"
"On top of taking a .50-cal to the Global Mercantile Exchange," said Specs. "So Wei is fuckin' pissed and wants both your hides and now you're tellin' me you went and diddled the Jade Dragons?"
"Okay, we tangled with a couple of Jade Dragon mooks," I said. "But we never shot up the Exchange."
"When was this supposed to have happened?"
"Ten minutes ago."
"We were at the Red Dog ten minutes ago," I said. "Revell can vouch for us. And before that, we were with Val."
"What?" said Specs, and I heard his voice go up a few registers. "What the ever-loving fuck?"
I felt my gut tighten. "Who told you about the shooting at the Exchange?"
"One of my guys in Chinatown," said Specs. "Said they saw you in a delivery van pull up to the building, the back end to the entrance, and start unloading with a .50-cal."
Mouse and I traded looks.
"The bad things," said Mouse.
"Hiller," I said.
"Bad things?" said Specs, his voice cracking. "Hiller? What bad things? Who the fuck is Hiller?" He gave a strangled scream. "Could one of you please tell me what the Christ is going on?"
Then an off-white utility van slewed into the lane in front of us and stopped suddenly.
I slammed on the brakes.
The Shelby skidded to a stop centimeters from the back of the van.
"What the hell--" was all Mouse managed to say when the van's back doors flew open and a pair of mooks leaped onto the Shelby's hood.
One lean and wiry. The other, stocky with a gut.
Both wearing sleeveless mesh shirts and red bandanas.
Both with hatchets.
(to be continued...)