Ten meters out from the back of the van, stomped on the brakes, squealed to a stop. Then threw her into gear and floored it.
The Shelby roared and lurched forward. Stocky had just enough time to get to his feet and go saucer-eyed before two tons of steel slammed into him and crushed his torso into the back end of the van.
Wiry was still white-knuckling the top edge of the hood when I reversed, gunned it again, slewed around the van into the southbound lane, scattering incoming traffic amid yowling horns and screeching tires, then slid back into the northbound lane, and swerved back and forth, Wiry's lower body swinging left-right in wide arcs across the hood top, his legs flapping, his mouth working double-time in frenzied screaming and swearing.
Then a hard right onto 43rd Street. The Shelby fishtailed across the intersection, I heard an air horn blasting, caught the flash of metal from the grill of a large truck barreling toward us, juked left then hard right, sliding into the right lane, and Wiry flew off the hood, spread-eagle and spinning like a launched disc, into the path of the truck.
A wet, bone-jarring crunch dopplered past, heard the truck howl and squeal and skid to a thudding, tire-smoking stop.
Quick whiff of burned rubber through the Shelby's air vents.
Then popped gears and mashed the accelerator to the floor, and the Shelby bellowed thunder, slammed us to the back of our seats, and rocketed eastward on 43rd.
It took another ten seconds to realize Specs was still on the phone and had been yelling for our attention.
"Sorry," I said. "We were kinda busy."
"I heard," said Specs. "So can you please tell me what the holy hell is going on?"
I told him. About Lee and Mei-Lin, the incident at the White Crane tea house, Johnny and the mystery shooter, and ended with Hiller.
"Jesus H. Christ on a bicycle!" said Specs.
"More or less my reaction," I said.
"So this ex-dead Hiller woman probably shot up the Mercantile Exchange."
"If witnesses said they saw me, then yeah."
"And now instead of Lotus gunnin' after your asses you've got both of the biggest Triad gangs in the city."
"I'm guessin' somebody's settin' you two up."
"That's what Revell said after we told him about the botched run last night."
"Oh shit," said Specs. "You sayin' that was part of this clusterfuck?"
Mouse and I traded looks and her eyebrows shot up.
"Maybe," I said and glanced at a passing street sign.
Five blocks from the end of Industrial.
"Listen, Specs," I said. "We have to go. We'll be in touch. In the meantime, keep your ear to the ground and let us know if you hear anything we need to know about."
"Sure thing, Kat," said Specs.
I hung up.
"This is bigger, isn't it," said Mouse.
"Looks that way," I said.
The Grand Palace sat at the far end of Industrial Avenue, a two-screen movie theatre that had long been fenced off and boarded up. I recalled Murphy had mentioned going to see his last movie there when he was a teener before they closed it down. Which meant at least thirty-plus years since it had been a working theatre. Tall weeds sprouted from the cracks in the theater's parking lot pavement and angular and cursive whorls of graffiti covered the outside walls.
The rest of the block was given over to several boarded-up storefronts, a coffin hotel, a Shiro's noodle stand, a cheap bodymod parlor, and a corner E-Z-Shoppe.
There weren't many peds at this neck of the East End and even less on the far end of the street past the noodle stand.
That was good.
I parked the Shelby halfway down the opposite side of the street in front of the hotel where we had a angle on the theatre building.
Mouse tapped my leg and inclined her head out the passenger side window.
The gate into the parking lot had been left open, the sedan was still in the lot, and a side door had been left ajar.
"They're expecting us," I said.
"So they'll be hunkered down," Mouse said and swore under her breath. "I hate it when they do that."
My phone chirped.
It was Val.
"There you are," she said. "I dug deeper on Hiller. It's all legit. In addition to the death cert I'm looking at a police report, and a news story. She was killed in a car crash. Ruled an accident."
"It's gotta be a fake," said Mouse. "We saw her on that security feed."
"Like I said," said Val, "it all sounds real hinky."
"Thanks, Val," I said. "Give us half an hour."
"And then Eddie?"
"And then Eddie."
"Good luck, guys."
(to be continued...)