Just another day in the life of a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.
Me. Name's Kat.
Before Specs could respond from his spot leaning against the jamb of the opened doorway to the Red Dog's back office Mouse whirled on me, jabbed a finger toward Specs, and said, "He's lost his goddamn mind. Will you talk some sense into him?"
Specs stepped through the doorway, hands held up to shoulder level, palms facing outward, brow furrowed. "What gives?" he said in his reedy tenor. "This is good stuff!"
"Yeah," said Mouse. "If you've got a death wish."
"You've already pissed off the two biggest Triad gangs in the city but you're gonna let this stop you?"
A slim throwing blade popped up between Mouse's right thumb and forefinger. "Don't make me stick you."
"You call that gratitude?" Specs threw up his hands and shook his head, then turned toward me. "Talk some sense into her, will ya?"
"He's the one," said Mouse, jabbing her finger again toward Specs, "who wants us to go into Southside on Devil's Night. Devil's Night, for cryin' out loud!"
"Devil's Night, Shmevil's Night," said Specs. "It's a good break, fer Crissake! First one you two have had in what, almost three weeks? And for five hundred fuckin' grand. Five hundred! That's good! That means there're still people out there willing to pay."
Mouse fixed me with a look. "Are you really gonna go for this?"
I leaned back in the leather swivel chair behind the desk and looked over my boots perched on the desk corner, first at Specs, then at Mouse, then back at Specs.
Specs folded arms across his chest and his Hawaiian shirt the color of a paint factory explosion and quirked an eyebrow at me. The overhead lamplight glinted off his bald head and his round-framed mirrorshade lenses. "Well?" he said.
All we had to do was pick up a package and drop it off.
Pick up from an address near the southeastern corner of Southside. Drop it off at Pier 12 in the Marina.
Standard stuff on the surface.
Of course, nothing was ever standard in the Biz.
Today happened to be Halloween.
And Halloween night in Southside was known as Devil's Night.
The one night out of the year when all hell broke loose.
No matter what the blue boys or MaxTac did, the punkergangs and the joyboys of Southside always went on a rampage Halloween Night. Knock-down, drag-out skirmishes and running gun battles down nearly every street and alley. Abandoned buildings torched. Parked cars overturned and set aflame.
Some twisted sense of decency kept them from invading residences. But any civvie still out on the street after nightfall was fair game.
War zone turned hellhole.
And we were considering entering that.
"Kat?" said Specs. "You still with us?"
I looked at Specs. "Five hundred grand, right?"
"Yep," he said.
I swung my boots off the desk corner, leaned forward, elbows on the desk top, hands folded. "Pick up and drop off."
"Kat..." said Mouse and I heard the tone of her voice.
I turned to her. "We need this. Rep."
"Devil's Night," she said.
"Kibble," I said.
Mouse frowned and looked at the floor. After a moment, she let out a loud exhale and glared at me. "Fine," she said. "Just so we stay away from kibble."
"We'll manage," I said. "Always do."
"I hate kibble," she said.
"I know," I said.
"We're gonna need a tank."
I turned back to Specs. "You said the pick up was at 20:00?"
Specs nodded. "Bingo. And drop's at midnight."
That made me straighten in my chair. "Midnight?" I said. "Four hour wait?"
"The hell?" said Mouse. "Takes twenty minutes to get to the Marina. Thirty tops."
"Sounds a little sketchy," I said.
"Sounds like a set up."
"Who cares?" said Specs. "Five hundred grand. Dry for three weeks. Beggars, choosers, yadda yadda. Besides, it's their money and they're willing to pay."
I held up a hand. "Okay, okay," I said. "We're in."
Specs clapped his hands and rubbed them together, grinning. "Hot damn," he said. "I'll confirm." He reached for his earbud, turned, and headed out into the back hallway.
Mouse slumped back into the couch, grumbling about kibble, and reached for the cheeseburger she'd been working on before Specs came into the office.
I popped my optic clock.
Under six hours to go.
I let out a long breath and turned back to the foil-wrapped burger sitting on the desk.
It was the waiting.
I never liked the waiting.
* * *
"Finally!" said Mouse, shifting in her seat. "That last hour was gonna kill me."
It was just after 18:50 and we were in my refitted 2008 Shelby Cobra GT500 rumbling east on 48th Street toward Edge Road. Timed right we'd get to the pick up address with enough time to recon the site and make sure there wouldn't be any trouble.
Or at least not too much trouble.
It was Devil's Night.
We'd spent the last three hours prepping, cleaning and oiling weapons, and gearing up. The Twins, Bonnie and Clyde--my pair of Colt-Springfield M2001 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols--were loaded with full mags plus one in the chamber. Spare mags on my gear belt. One hundred twenty-two rounds. FN-FAL and MP5, each with six extra mags, in the Shelby's trunk.
Mouse had her back scabbard with twin wakizashis, her pair of Bowies in hip sheaths, plus whatever assortment of pointy toys were hidden in various places on her person.
We were as ready as we could be without needing a tank or an aerodyne with a nose gun.
At least I hoped so.
I felt a slight twinge in the middle of my gut but I shook it off.
The signal light at 48th and Waterman Avenue flashed to red and I slowed to a stop.
Mouse gave a grunt.
"Yeah?" I said.
"Thinking," she said.
"That four hours."
"I mean, isn't that a little weird?"
"A little," I said. "Maybe whoever's collecting at the drop won't get there until midnight?"
"Why not have the pick up be closer to the drop time?" said Mouse. "Why a four hour gap?"
"No idea. Could be a timing thing on the pick up side."
"Or a set up."
"How about we look on the bright side?"
"Fine. It's not a set up."
"Doesn't that feel better?"
(to be continued...)