"Devil's Night" - Part Seven

It was now half an hour until the drop and Mouse and I were sitting at the Marina in a ChrysFord loaner parked in front of a warehouse. Pier 12 sat fifty meters to our left.
Mouse was in the driver's seat while I nursed my bandanged leg in the passenger side. Clean shot through, completely missing bone and major arteries. Enroute to an airfield in Northwood, Jake had applied a hemo pad to stop the bleeding, hypoed me painkillers, then dressed the wound as much as he was able from the aerodyne's medkit.
Now the pain meds were starting to wear off and I could feel the dull throb in my leg. I shook it off and tried to focus on the upcoming drop.
"You don't have to hide it from me, you know," Mouse said.
"For the umpteenth time," I said, "just drop it."
"You know you had googly eyes while he was talking."
"I think it's cute he shared that story about him and Sam."
"You two should go out on a second date since that first one was a bust."
"I said--"
"Maybe Miss Renee has another slinky number for you."   
Mouse quirked an eyebrow at me. "You want a sparkly number instead?"
"Can we just wait for the drop in silence?"
"But you two shared secrets," said Mouse, toothy grin crawling across her face. "That's totally wiz. Next time he'll propose. I just know it."
"I'm going to ignore you now."
"Kat and Jake-y sitting in a tree," she began in a singsong voice.
I clamped a hand over her mouth. "Keep singing and die," I said.
She laughed into my hand.
First time she'd laughed in three weeks.

*   *   *
At ten minutes after midnight, Mouse said: "What the hell?"
"My thoughts exactly," I said and scanned the area around us once again.
Except for the warehouses and their single exterior lamps to our right, the Marina edge and the dark waters of San Marino Bay just beyond, and a line of double- and triple-stacked shipping containers further down the way, there was nothing else out there.
What the hell was right.
I pulled my phone and dialed Specs.
"Yeah?" he answered on the third ring.
Put the phone on speaker and slid it into the dashboard holder. "No show," I said.

"What the hell?"
"That's what we were thinking."
"They paid for nothing?"
"Set up from the start," Mouse said.
"Damn right," said Specs. "And fuckin' unprofessional. I'm filing a complaint with the union."
"You don't have a union."
"Yeah, yeah. I know." An annoyed sigh. Then: "Guess you're done for the night."
"Guess so," I said.
"At least it was a run, am I right?"
"You're right, Specs. Keep us posted on any more."
"Bet your ass there'll be more," he said. "Was just a matter of time."
I hung up.
"Well?" said Mouse. "What now?"
"Forfeit," I said. "Package is ours."
"Open at the Red Dog?"
"Yep," I said and started the engine.

*   *   *
I stared into the opened hardcase as it sat on the Red Dog's bartop and felt the queasiness radiate outward from the pit of my stomach.
A snarl to my left.
Looked, saw Mouse staring into the hardcase, at its contents, her nostrils flaring, the muscles in her jaw clenching.
"Mouse," I said.   
She looked at me and her expression went blank, her eyes dead.
My stomach boiled acid.
Then Mouse pivoted and started for the Red Dog's rear entrance.
"Mouse," I said again.
Mouse stopped at a nearby table, grabbed the edge, and flipped it over, splintering one chair, and landing with a resounding crack-crash.
Revell and I watched as she stalked out the back corridor.
A few moments later, the staircase door slammed shut.
I turned back to the hardcase and looked at the contents.
Six photoprints. Surveillance images. Me. Mouse. The two of us in the Shelby. Revell. Specs. Eddie.
The 'print of Eddie had an X drawn across it.
My vision blurred for a moment, like looking through raindrops across a window.
Blinked to clear and found I was leaning forward, fingers locked in a deathgrip on the bar's edge.
"Katya," Revell rumbled.
"I'll be fine," I said.
I released my grip and let out a long, slow breath.
Then I silently apologized to Murphy.
I was about to break one of his cardinal rules.
Time to get personal.

*   *   *
Carter drove past the Red Dog and went two more blocks north on Garner before pulling the MitsuAudi sedan to the curb. The rest of the block was empty and quiet. The only lights came from the streetlamps and a few flickering neon window signs. He cut the headlights, leaving only the pale green glow from the dashboard telltales, kept the engine running, then pulled out his phone and dialed.
"And?" said the voice on the other end.
Carter grinned and let out a small chuckle. "You called it, Mr. S."
"I wouldn't have expected any less."
"Those mooks didn't stand a chance. Even that last bunch in the pickup."
"They were annoying at best. Like a persistent fly."
"They're definitely resourceful."
"Is that doubt I hear in your voice, Carter?"
Carter fought back a swallow. "Not at all."
"Slight apprehension, then?"
"Won't their resourcefulness be an issue?"
"I'm far more resourceful than they are, Carter."
"Understood."  Carter cleared his throat and flicked a glance at the car's rearview mirror, at the street behind him.
Two blocks away stood the Red Dog bar.
"So, Mr. S.," Carter said after a moment. "Which one's going to be next?"   

NEXT TIME: "Connections"

"Devil's Night"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

"Devil's Night" - Part Six

When the roaring stopped, I pushed myself up on one elbow, popped optics to norm, and craned my neck to look at where we'd just been.
Pale-yellow streetlamp light slanted in through the blown-out windows showing us another empty room also with empty shelving lining three walls. Along the back wall I recognized a line of wheeled metal clothes racks.
Smoke rolled in where the back door had been.
And then a quartet of leather-clad and helmeted figures strode in. Two of them had handguns held loosely at their side. One had a MAC-10. The last hefted a spike-studded baseball bat 
Full black leathers.
Road Warriors.
They stopped, turned toward us, and the ones with firearms leveled them at us.
Started to subvocal, hands about to leap to the Twins.
A low thrum-whine rattled my chest and my ears popped from an air pressure shift.
Then a hail of gunfire cut the joyboys down.
The grey metal brick of an older model aerodyne hovered centimeters above the street outside, its side door open, the muzzle of an automatic rifle sticking out and belching a steady barrage into the empty store. Rounds ripped into the joyboys, their bodies jerked and geysered blood, and crumpled in a heap.
The barrage stopped and a familiar face appeared in the cabin doorway.
Heat flared in the middle of my gut.
"Get in!" Jake Steele called out.
We scrambled to our feet and leaped out the front windows. Mouse got to the aerodyne first and dove inside.
I started to vault in when the sidewalk between me and the aerodyne exploded with gunfire, concrete chunks geysering around me.
Skidded to a stop, skipped back to avoid getting hit.
Then a big rig slammed into my leg and it buckled under me.
I crumpled, and everything went into slo-mo without my dropping into boost.
Mouse's face, eyes wide, calling out as she lunged for me, fingers reaching out.
The aerodyne tilted away from me and leaped skyward.
A split second later, an RPG warhead rocketed through the space the aerodyne had been.
A second after that, I hit concrete sideways, the impact thudding into my shoulders and arm.
Felt the stickiness at my leg, saw the splash of blood on the concrete near me.
AP rounds.
Shoved my upper body up to look.
Battered pickup truck at the intersection ten meters away. Three Death Lords in the rear bed. One held an RPG launcher at high port. The other two were reloading MAC-10s.
Went sub-vocal and the world slipped into slo-mo.
Jammed my left leg under me and pushed up to one knee. The Twins leaped into my hands and pointed themselves toward the Death Lords.
The truck was sideways, the Death Lords in full view.
I let them have it, the Twins roaring thunder and belching fire. Six rounds caught one Death Lord, starting in the middle of his chest, walking up his torso, and blowing his face off. He toppled backwards off the truck. Shifted slightly and sent six more rounds into the next Death Lord, all center mass, her body jerking and cratering with each hit. She folded.
The last managed to duck for cover.
At the same time, the truck popped into gear, backed up two meters, then turned and peeled out toward me in a squeal of rubber.
Unloaded both mags at the truck, rounds punching into the front grill, metal sparking, too low for me to get a bead on the driver--
Then slide-lock.
The truck closed.
Then the thrum-whine, rattling my chest.
And the aerodyne dropped down between me and the oncoming truck, and spun in a tight counterclockwise circle. The aerodyne's back end slammed into the pickup and flung it into the nearest building with a boom-crunch of metal.
Then my vision greyed slightly and the next moment, Jake Steele was there, hoisting me to my feet and helping me into the aerodyne and the bench seat by the cabin door.
A moment later, I felt my stomach drop as the aerodyne leaped into the air.
"Goddamn trouble magnets, I tell you," a voice called out.
I turned toward the ginning lantern-jawed face of Sam Cutter. "Hiya Sam," I said.
"Hi yourself," he said, sketching a loose salute.
It had been a month since Mouse and I last saw Sam when the three of us went rampaging through woods just outside of Redding. I was about to ask what he was doing in Bay City when hands gripped my shoulders and I turned to see Jake staring into my eyes, felt myself getting lost in a pair of ocean-blue orbs, felt the heat in my gut radiating downward.
"Hey," he said and his voice snapped me back to the present.
"You're hit."
"Gotta patch you up."
"Kiss her already," said Mouse.
The corner of Jake's mouth twitched up into a small but quick smile and his eyes seemed to twinkle.   
I swallowed.
"Where's your car?" said Jake as he popped open a medkit and pulled out a pair of shears.
"Long story," I said.
"Okay. So where to?"
"Out of here."
"Copy. Sammy. Airfield."
"Got it, Chief," said Sam.
The aerodyne banked slightly left and gave a small lurch as we soared away.
I quirked an eyebrow at Jake. "Chief?"
"Long story," he said.
"We got time," said Mouse. "Drop's not 'til midnight."
Jake's mouth twitched into a small smile and he looked directly into my eyes. "You first."
The butterflies in my stomach went nuts.
And then searing pain flashed through my leg and I sucked in a hissing breath through gritted teeth.
"Sit back," said Jake, cutting into my pants leg. "I got this."
"Bow chicka," said Mouse.

(to be continued...)

"Devil's Night"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 7

"Devil's Night" - Part Five

And the ground around me exploded with gunfire, pavement geysering concrete chips, air buzzing with a hail of bullets.
The other Howlers.
Crouch-pivoted left, the FN swinging back up, and side-stepped right, trying to put the still burning bus between me and the joyboys, caught a quick glimpse of Mouse bolting for cover, ground sparking at her feet.
The first Howler zipped around the back of the bus. Three-round burst caught him in the side of the torso, knocked him sideways off his rocket, and he bounced twice off the pavement in a tangle of limbs.
Second Howler swung wide of her fallen comrade and slammed into my second three-round burst, shots blowing her upper shoulders and head apart. Howler and rocket dropped sideways and went skidding, metal throwing up sparks.
And the last Howler plowed into her and bounced end over end across the street, rocket parts flying off in different directions.
Cut boost.
Pan and scan.
Nothing else on the street moved except the flicker of remaining flames on the bus.
Audio damps dropped out and the crackle from the fires registered in my ears.
Then I heard another sound echoing off the surrounding buildings.
The rumble-whine of rockets.
Shit shit double-shit.
"Kat," said Mouse, jogging toward me, resheating her Bowie, wakizashis back in her scabbards, and I heard the tone in her voice.
"I know," I said, wiping sweat from my brow. "I make 'em at least four, five blocks out."
"How many?"
"Too many. And not enough ammo. We gotta get out of sight. Regroup."
She pointed past me. "There."
Looked, saw an alley sitting diagonally from us between the noodle house's next door neighbor and the next building over, cutting north toward Sunset Avenue.
"It's a start," I said, and made for it, Mouse just behind me, the package in the duffle bag bouncing against the back of my right hip.
As we ducked into the alley, I chanced one more look.
At the east end of Truxton where the three Howlers had sat side by side, five rockets rolled into view, their riders clad in blue leathers streaked with gold.
"What?" said Mouse.
I told her.
"Fucking Devil's Night," she said, exasperation in her voice.
"Go," I said and sprinted up the alley toward Sunset.
We got three-quarters of the way up when I heard tires squeal at the opposite end.
Spared a glance over my shoulder, spotted two GoBoys skidding to a stop at the alley mouth, headlamps slanted in our direction.
Stopped, spun, pulled the FN to my shoulder, and let off a rolling burst, sweeping left-right, taking out chunks of concrete from the alley wall, punching holes in one GoBoy, ripping apart the second GoBoy and his rocket.
Clack of an empty chamber.
Dropped the spent mag, let the rifle fall to my side, the three-point sling keeping it in place, and drew the Twins, then turned and ran up the alley.
Five seconds later, Mouse and I emerged on Sunset just as two more GoBoys rounded the corner nearest to us.
Mouse nailed the lead GoBoy with a pair of bursts from her MP5 and he crumpled, taking his rocket down with him.
I plugged the second, six rounds from the Twins that knocked him backward off his rocket. The bike popped a wheelie, went four meters, then fell over.
Spotted another alley across from us.
"There!" I gestured with Bonnie. "Go."
We bolted across the street, ran in, and got less than five meters when I saw it and skidded to a stop, Mouse nearly crashing into me.
The wall.
Not a wall.
The back of a building. Thirty meters away. Completely windowless.
"Goddammit," said Mouse.
"I know," I said.
Rumble-whine, echoing off the buildings nearby.
GoBoys on the move, looking for us.
"What now?" said Mouse.
"We need cover."
Popped to low-light and scanned the alley.
On the left side, two doors, one a third of way down, the second just past halfway. Both with burned out lamps above them. Both metal. Closed and likely locked. Take too long to break down without breaching rounds or charges.
Right side, beneath a single dimly flickering lamp, a door, near the far end of the alley.
And ajar.
"There," I said and bolted the twenty meters toward it.
Heard Mouse's footsteps just behind me.
We reached the door, just as the rumble-whines closed.
Not a door. Double doors, the left side slightly ajar, a half-meter of space between them, the inner push bars chained together to keep them from opening completely outward.

Mouse ducked through without effort.
I managed to squeeze through.
Then yanked them closed.
They boom-clanged shut and plunged us into darkness.
Popped optics to thermo, the world sliding into grays.
We were in an empty windowless room the size of the Red Dog's bar area with a thick concrete support beam in the middle. Bare shelving lined two walls and a door stood on the opposite end. The door was slightly open, a thin sliver of light along its edges.
Popped optics to norm and pulled my phone from the inside of my jacket, the screen's glow lighting up the dark, and found several missed calls from Specs.
I called.   
"Holy shit!" he said. "You're still alive!"
That made me blink. "What are you talking about?"
"Somebody put a bounty on you two. Five mill. And buzzed it to just about every punkergang in Southside."
"Sonofabitch," I said, my gut tightening.
Mouse tapped me on the arm. "What's up?"
I lowered the phone. "Later," I said, then put the phone back to my ear. "Who did it?"
"No idea," said Specs. "Revell called and told me. Said he heard it from a pair of Wolfpackers who came to the Red Dog looking to warn you."
"They got the offer, too?"
"Guess so. But you guys are square with them, right?"
"Rev asked me to get hold of you. Been tryin' for the past hour. Your phone been down?"
"Not exactly," I said. "But we'll be fine. Tell Revell."
"Fine? With several packs of 'gangers gunning for you?"
"Thanks for the pep talk, Specs."
"I'm just sayin' you'll be tired by the end of it."
"Good recovery."
"I know."
"We also need a loaner."
"What? I thought you had your car?"
"Long story. But we need one. Railroad and Edge Road. Half an hour."
"Done. Anything else?"
"Not right now."
"Half an hour," said Specs. "Watch your asses out there."
"Thanks," I said and hung up.
"What's going on?" said Mouse.
Popped back to thermo and told her.
"Sonofabitch," she said. "I told you it was a fucking set up."
"I get it," I said, loading fresh mags into the Twins and pocketing the partials, then reholstered.
"And half an hour to get clear."
I nodded.
"So what's our play? We can't do a stand off."
"We need to get wheels. Something to get us to the edge of Southside."
"Which means going back out there." She jerked a thumb toward the double-doors leading into the alley. "And the bazillion 'gangers waiting to ambush us for five mill."
"I know."
"And then we find the bastard who set us up and cut his balls off."
"Let's get out of this first."
A clank of metal.
Light flashed to my left, followed by metal skittering across the floor.
Saw the object and I bolted for the door at the other end, yanked it open, ducked through into a larger room with a line of mostly blacked-out windows along the front, and made for the furthest corner, Mouse right behind me.
The blast lit up the back half of the room in white light and blew out the front windows, the concussion wave pitched us forward onto our stomachs amid a rain of plaster dust, and the wall of heat washed over us.

(to be continued...)

"Devil's Night"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Part 4 | Part 6