A dimly-lit short corridor ended with another door propped open with a plastic crate wedged in the doorway. The light panels overhead buzzed and flickered.
I frowned at them and looked at Mouse.
"They're waiting," she said.
"Stay frosty," I said.
Crouch-walked to the door, Mouse moving to my left.
I took position at the doorway, keeping away from the opening, while Mouse went for the door handle with a free hand, the rifle stock tucked to her shoulder.
Signaled with a nod.
Mouse yanked the door then stepped forward to brace it open.
I stepped through and hooked left. Mouse ducked right.
Pan and scan, the FAL sweeping left-right, left-right.
We were in one of the auditoriums, dimly-lit like the corridor we just came from, pale-yellow light thrown up against the dark red walls from wall sconces even placed along the length. A carpeted aisle ran down the middle of the auditorium separating the seats.
A musty odor lingered in the air.
Caught Mouse's eye and nodded toward the EXIT sign flickering at the far end.
Crouch-walked up the left side of the aisle while Mouse did the same on the right side, FAL's muzzle sweeping left-right and toward the projectionist box above as we went.
No one shot back.
Not yet, at least.
I stopped at the auditorium entrance.
Mouse leaned in toward me.
"In the lobby waiting?" she said, pitching her voice low.
"Only one way to find out," I said and indicated the door.
Mouse nodded, took hold of the handle, looked at me.
She yanked the door open.
I ducked through, pan and scan, the rifle sweeping, tracking.
The lobby had been all but gutted leaving only the black-and-white checkboard tile floor intact.
In the middle of the lobby lay a figure curled up in the fetal position illuminated by the cone from a single overhead flourescent light panel.
"Cover me," I said.
I fast-walked toward the figure, the rifle sweeping, and reached her in a matter of seconds.
Heard Mouse approach to one side then stop and slowly pivot three-sixty, the M4 tucked to her shoulder.
Slung the FAL over one shoulder, went to one knee near the figure, and looked.
Still wearing the same clothes we saw on the security feed.
Checked for a pulse at her neck.
"Alive?" said Mouse.
"Alive," I said. "Slow pulse. Shallow breating. Might've been drugged. Movement?"
"Not a fucking thing," said Mouse.
I checked around Mei-Lin, patted her down without moving her, then slid my hand underneath.
"Clean?" said Mouse.
"Good," said Mouse. "I hate booby traps. Let's bounce. Place is starting to give me the heebies."
Took another look at Mei-Lin.
Then looked around the nearly bare lobby. What wasn't in the path of that single overhead light panel sat in darkness.
Popped optics to thermo and looked again.
Nothing. Just cold hard concrete.
Shut my eyes and listened. Hard.
The light creak of Mouse's boot leather as she pivoted, watching. The low buzz of the flourescent.
Could feel the pulsing in the middle of my chest.
And then felt it.
The chill blossoming at the base of my spine, radiating outward, surrounding my hips, then slithering up my back.
My eyes popped open.
"What is it?" Mouse said, her voice tense.
I held up my free hand, panning, scanning.
"We know you're there," I called out and my voice echoed in the empty room.
A few seconds passed but they felt like hours.
The chill settled between my shoulder blades and began worming its way toward the middle of my chest.
What. The. Hell.
"Kat," said Mouse, her voice low. "Heebies."
"Okay," I said. I picked up Mei-Lin, got her over my shoulder, stood.
"I got our six," said Mouse.
We headed out.
Back in the Shelby I called the number Lee had left.
"Hello?" said a voice on the other end of the line.
"Councilman?" I said.
"Yes. Is this--?"
"It is," I said. "We have her."
"Oh my god," said Lee. "Is she...?"
"She's fine," I said. "But she may have been drugged. You'll need to get her checked out."
"No hospitals," Lee said. "Too complicated. Bring her to my house. I'll have my doctor see to her." He gave us an address in the Bayside Heights district.
"There in fifteen," I said and hung up.
We arrived at Lee's three-story Victorian in a gated property near the top of Mount Wyndham overlooking most of Bay City to the east, San Marino Bay to the north, and Bayside Valley to the west.
A severe-looking portly Chinese man with sideburns, thick salt-and-pepper hair, and badly-fitting suit was first out of the front door accompanied by an equally severe-looking short-haired Chinese woman in a badly-fitting pant suit. They got to Mei-Lin before I could get out of the driver's side and hustled her back into the house.
Lee passed them on the front steps, exchanged a few quick words, then watched them go back inside before turning and approaching us.
"I owe you my thanks," he said.
"That's not all you owe us," said Mouse.
"Mouse," I said.
She shot me a look. "What? It's Biz."
Lee held up a hand. "Your companion is right. It's Biz. But thank you all the same." He reached into his inside jacket pocket and drew out a cred'chip, handed it to us.
Mouse took it, pulled a 'chip reader from her trenchcoat pocket, then slid the 'chip into the slot and read the display. "All there," she said to me. "Twenty grand. Rest of our fee."
"My uncle was right about you two," said Lee. "You are the best."
"Damn right we are," said Mouse.
Five minutes later were were rumbling west on Wyndham Boulevard.
I dialed Val, put the phone on speaker, and slid it into the dashboard holder.
"Yeah," said Val.
"Coming to you now," I said and the queasiness leaped back into my gut, my mouth suddenly tasting sour. "Let's go see Eddie."
NEXT TIME: "Requiem"
NEXT TIME: "Requiem"