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."
"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: "Dust Up"
NEXT TIME: "Dust Up"