BY ABNER SENIRES

"Showdown" - Part Five

As Mouse and I geared up back at Steele's safe house, a thought struck.

I looked over at Mouse.

She was strapping on her wrist sheaths.

I frowned, turned away, resumed slipping extra mags into my gear belt, and turned the thought over in my mind.

After filling all four mag pouches and grabbing four more to stash in my jacket pocket, I turned back to Mouse.

"We can't kill Hiller," I said.

She whirled on me, eyes narrowed. "What the ever-loving fuck?"

"We can't kill Hiller," I said.

"You just said I could stab her in the head."

"Stab her," I said. "But don't kill her."

"Do you need a refresher course on stabbing and bleeding out and dying?"

"Wait," said Steele. "She's right."

Mouse gaped at the two of us. "Are you both out of your fucking mind?"

"You kill Hiller," said Steele, "and you lose your evidence that Kat didn't kill the cop."

Mouse looked at me, then at Steele, then back at me, and realization shone in her eyes. She craned her head toward the ceiling and screamed: "FUUUUUCK!"

Then she began to pace, stomping her feet, gesturing wildly with her hands, and spewing a stream of half-mumbled profanities.

Steele gave me a small grin and inclined his head at Mouse. "She gonna be okay?"

"She'll manage," I said.

"How do you plan to not kill Hiller yet?"

"Still working on that."


* * *

The Marquis Hotel occupied half a block along Midway and Waterman, an ornate forty-story building that rose twenty stories, turned into a step-pyramid for five levels before rising another ten to an arched rooftop structure that housed a restaurant with a wraparound view of the city. It didn't have the Old World class of the Ascot Arms but it was still loved by the glitterati.

An unnamed alley ran behind the hotel halfway down Midway, separating it from the two-story FitBod Gym next door and leading to a loading dock and service entrance. Mouse and I made our way down the alley, up the loading dock steps, and into the loading area. Besides a lone, chubby security guard dozing at a station just inside the opened roll-up doors, cap pulled low over his eyes, there was no activity in the area.

No delivery trucks. No workers.

Mouse grinned at the guard. "Guess they pay him the big bucks."

"He'll make employee of the month yet," I said and adjusted my earbud. "Val?"

"Here," she said. "I got you two. Hey--watch out for the guard--"

"He's asleep."

"I'll be damned," said Val. "Can't tell from my angle."

Quick scan.

Found the dome camera halfway up the wall behind the guard's station. Sketched a salute.

"Back atcha'," said Val.

"We good?" I said.

"Yup. Vid's on a loop at their end. And I show security just finishing a sweep of the fourth floor. You're good for another twenty minutes."

"Watch our six," I said.

"You got it. And remember: they're in adjoining rooms. 441 through 445."

"Got it."

We made our way to a bank of service elevators at the far end and the furthest car opened its doors.

"Service with a smile," Val said.

"Nice," I said, motioned Mouse inside, and we took it to the fourth floor.

Moments later the doors wooshed open and we stepped out into an alcove at the far end of a carpeted corridor.

I looked at Mouse.

"Let's do this," she said, drawing her wakizashis.

I drew the Twins and we started down the corridor.

We were ten meters from Room 442 when the opposite door opened and Hiller stepped into the hallway, an ice bucket in one hand.

Mouse and I stopped in mid-stride.

Hiller glanced in our direction.

Recognition hit.

Her eyes went wide.

Then she hurled the ice bucket at us, spun, and bolted in the opposite direction.

I stepped aside, letting the bucket sail past and go bouncing away.

"I got her," I said to Mouse and bolted after Hiller.

I heard a mad cackle from Mouse and then my focus was all on Hiller, a three second lead in front of me.

She ducked into the stairwell.

I followed, shoving my way through the doors as they crashed back toward me.

Hiller was a full flight of steps ahead.

I sped down, caroming off the stairwell walls as I went.

Hiller reached the ground floor first and burst though the stairwell doors.

I got there three seconds later, went through the doors, and emerged in the hotel lobby.

Spotted Hiller racing between hotel patrons, turning heads as she went, heading for the Marquis's front doors.

I sped after her, still a few seconds behind.

Then we were through the main doors and out onto Waterman Avenue.

Hiller ran south on Waterman, weaving between peds.

I raced after her.

Suddenly she darted out into traffic, toward the opposite side of the street. A horn yowled as a car skidded to a stop centimeters from her.

I followed.

Hiller crossed Midway. She glanced back over her left shoulder to look at me.

And the Range Rover cut the far corner at Midway, bounded up onto the sidewalk, and skidded to a stop in front of her.

Hiller had time to smirk at me and turn back before slamming full-force into the driver's side door of the SUV and crumpling to the ground in a heap.

She was out cold when I got to her.

Steele rolled down the Rover's window, looked at Hiller's unconscious form, then looked at me, a grin on his face. "Shoulda' looked both ways before crossing."

My earbud beeped.

"Go," I said.

"Me," said Mouse.

"You okay?"

"Five by. All done. Carter. The other three mooks."

"Carter still in 442?"

"Until they clean up."

"Good. Meet us in the alley."

"You got her?"

"Yup."

"Goody."

I cut the connection, pulled out my phone, and called Jade.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 
Part 6

"Showdown" - Part Four

ChromeBurn called a second floor apartment above a laundromat off 37th Street and Bryce his base of operations. Access was a door on the side of building facing 37th.

Steele pulled the Rover to the curb across the street from the side door and looked back at me. "How do you want to do this?"

"Yeah," said Mouse. "You haven't said anything since we left the Steele's place."

I adjusted the watchcap on my head, making sure my hair was well-hidden underneath. "Mouse and I go in and find out what he knows." I looked at Steele and slipped on my mirrorshades. "Keep an eye out here. If something looks starts to look sketchy, honk twice."

"Sounds good to me," said Steele.

I was about to open my door when Steele said: "Freeze."

I froze in mid-reach.

"Stay still," said Steele and I could hear the tension in his voice. "Both of you."

"Sitrep," I said.

"Sky-eye," said Steele. "Coming toward us."

"Fuck," said Mouse.

I slowly turned my head from the door handle and tried to look out the front windshield but couldn't get a good view.

"Where is it?" I said.

"Intersection. About five meters up."

Shifted slightly and looked again, past the headrest in front of me.

Saw it.

Thirty meters out. Sleek, black, spherical, the size of a motorcycle helmet. Quadrotors whirred as it lowered itself toward the ground, bottom half--camera unit--swiveling, and stopped two meters from the pavement.

"Shit," I said.

"What?" said Mouse. Then: "Fuckity fuck."

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Steele make a show of pulling out his phone, looking at it, and tapping at the screen.

The sky-eye hovered in place for five seconds, slowly dropped another half-meter, and started down the street, camera sweeping a full three-sixty.

"Mouse," I said.

"Yeah?"

"Look at your feet."

"What?"

"Look at your feet."

"Ten meters!" said Steele.

"Do it," I said and dropped my gaze to my boots, hoping Mouse was doing the same.

"Five," said Steele.

I could hear my pulse pounding in my temples.

"It's next to the car."

"Shit," said Mouse.

"Don't move," I said.

"Coming around the front," said Steele.

Fuck.

"Fuck," said Mouse.

"Don't," I said.

Several seconds of silence passed but they felt like hours.

Then: "It's gone."

I looked up, letting out a long held breath, and turned to look out the back window.

The sky-eye continued down 37th toward Golding Avenue. I watched as it went around the corner and disappeared from sight.

"Fucking goddamn," said Mouse.

"Someone got creative," said Steele. "That's new."

"Hunting a cop killer," I said.

"Let's hope they don't stay that creative," said Mouse.

I waited thirty seconds, making sure the sky-eye wouldn't suddenly come back, then exited the SUV.

Mouse come up next to me a moment later and we jogged across the street to the entrance.

A blue runabout rolled past and continued west on 37th.

No peds on our end of the block.

Got to the door and tried it.

Locked.

Damn.

"Dammit," said Mouse and motioned me aside.

"What--" I began and suddenly realized what she was doing.

Too late.

She cracked a boot sole into the door near the knob and strike plate and the door crunched open, wood from the frame splintering.

"Security?" I said.

"Too late for that," she said, shouldering through and drawing a wakizashi.

The door opened onto a small entry and a narrow flight of stairs going up to the next level.

Mouse started for the steps but I stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.

"What?" she said.

"Slow down," I said. "You could've tripped an alarm."

She quirked both eyebrows at me and pointed up the stairs.

Then I heard it.

Screaming vocals over a harsh distorted guitar riff and a chest-thudding drum track, all muffled by a closed door.

"Could be a ruse," I said.

"Val said the mook's a noob," said Mouse. "He ran his mouth without thinking. He's not gonna have security. This'll be--"

"Don't say it," I said. "You keep telling me it's never."

"He's a lead so I can stab Hiller in the face."

"I know. But I'll take point."

"Fine," said Mouse. "Whatever."

I took the steps two at a time, Mouse following close behind, and reached the small landing at the top and a closed door less than a meter from the staircase.

Turned to Mouse.

She stood on the stairs a few steps behind me, wakizashi in hand.

"Ready?" I said.

"Do it," said Mouse.

Drew a knee up, and cracked it into the door.

It burst open in a splinter of wood.

Stepped through, the Twins coming up.

And walked into a shotgun blast that slammed into the middle of my chest.

Dammit.

I staggered back a step, breath catching in my throat.

Got a quick look at our shooter: pear-shaped Asian male with a thick and tall blue and green faux hawk seated in a high back mesh chair dressed in cargo shorts, combat boots, and badly fitting black t-shirt.

Then saw Mouse race past me, leap into the air, trenchcoat tails flapping behind her, and land in Faux Hawk's lap. The impact sent the chair backwards and the two of them crashed to the floor, Faux Hawk on his back, arms sprawled, Mouse straddling his head, facing forward, a wakizashi blade lying against his throat.

I rocked forward to my feet.

Pan and scan.

Size of the Red Dog's back office. Workstation with a bank of three monitors, terminal, and assorted electronics piled high and sprouting cables and wire dominated the opposite end. To one side, a cot with a sleeping bag. Kitchenette on the other. And a door that looked like it led to whatever passed for a bathroom.

The air reeked of fried foods and flash-cooked ramen.

The shotgun--a sawed-off breech loader--had gone sprawling into the kitchenette and lay in front of the stove.

Out of reach.

Then the music's din reached my ears, the thudding drumbeat pounding at my head and chest.

I found the stereo and put a round into each speaker.

They blew apart in a spray of sparks, metal, fiberboard, and bits of cloth.

Then silence.

Much better.

I holstered the Twins.

"Got him?" I said to Mouse.

"Yep," said Mouse. "You okay?"

"I'll live," I said and strode toward them.

Faux Hawk was staring wide-eyed at the blade across his throat and wheezing.

"ChromeBurn," I said.

He gave a throaty gurgle, still staring at the blade.

"Hey!" I said and prodded him with a boot toe.

He gave a startled yelp and whipped his head toward me, still wide-eyed.

"You're ChromeBurn," I said.

He nodded.

"Jade hired you."

He nodded.

"You mute?"

He nodded, then frowned, shook his head, and managed a mangled reply.

"What?"

He jabbed a finger at the wakizashi blade.

I looked at Mouse.

She made a face. "Okay," she said then leaned in toward ChormeBurn's ear. "Watching you, choom. Wrong move and I will gut you. Scan?"

He gave a tiny nod.

Mouse removed the blade, got to her feet, and stepped back.

ChromeBurn sat up, rubbing his neck, then looked up at me. "No. Not mute."

"Good," I said. "Easier that way."

He looked back at Mouse, then at me. "Who are you dudes anyway?"

"Jade hired you to watch someone," I said. "Who?"

"Privileged information--"

Mouse laid the wakizashi blade on his shoulder.

He yelped, hands coming up. "Okay okay! Kuso, bruh. I'll spill. Some suit named Carter. Working for a corp called Reliance. Been in BC for a while, I guess. Just tracked him on street cams. That's all she wanted."

"Why?"

He shrugged. "Shiranai. She never said."

Mouse and I exchanged looks.

"How long have you been following him?" I said

"Been scanning cam footage since 14 October," said ChromeBurn.

At least a month.

"Where does he spend the most time?" I said.

"Easy. The Marquis Hotel?"

"On Midway?" said Mouse.

"Hai, that's the one," said ChromeBurn. "Always goes back there."

"You've got footage of him there?" I said.

"Streetcam and hotel security," he said.

"And he's still there?"

"Hai."

"Show us."

"Anything you want, bruh. Just don't kill me."

I gestured to Mouse.

She sketched me a salute, knelt next to ChromeBurn, and spoke to him quietly. He nodded, frowning, got to his feet, and padded toward his workstation.

I pulled my phone out and dialed.

Jade answered on the fourth ring.

"Since when did you turn cop-killer, Kat?"

"I know you've been watching Carter," I said. "But I want him first."

"You didn't answer my question" said Jade.

"Fuck your question," I said. "Carter. I want him first.

A long pause.

Then: "All right. He's yours. But I want proof he's dead."

"I tell you where to find his body."

"Good enough."

She hung up.

I put my phone away

"Kat."

Looked up, saw Mouse gesture toward ChromeBurn's workstation.

I strode over as ChromeBurn keyed commands into his terminal.

A few moments later, he gestured to the center monitor and a series of small video displays. Each one was camera footage.

"There you go, bruh," ChromeBurn said.

"That it?" I said, leaning forward, trying to make sense of the mass of images.

"Hai," he said. "Marquis Hotel feed."

"How long ago?"

"Pulled latest from last night. Twelve hours, through midnight."

"Show us Carter."

He keyed commands.

Two display images appeared side by side on the center monitor. One showed Carter entering the hotel lobby. The other was an angle on Carter walking down a hallway and stopping at a hotel room door.

"Room 442," I said, reading the number on the door.

Then the door directly across from 442 opened and Hiller stepped out.

"Gotcha," I said.

Mouse cackled. "Stabby time."

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 5

"Showdown" - Part Three

Exactly twenty minutes later Mouse and I piled into the back seat of Steele's ten-year-old faded green Range Rover. Two filled duffel bags sat in the rear cargo area.

"Only two bags?" Steele said as I closed my door.

"Traveling light," I said. "But there should be enough."

Steele put the SUV into gear and started out the alley next to the Red Dog. "Just in case,' he said, "I've got extra ammo at the house. Not a lot but hopefully it'll help out some."

"I'll keep that in mind," I said adjusting my mirrorshades and the knitted black watchcap on my head. Mouse was also wearing a cap--dark gray--and a pair of 'shades. I turned my attention outside, feeling a knot start up in my gut.

Traffic was light in our neck of the Hillside District and Steel drove east on 48th street.

No sky-eyes in sight.

So far.

The knot loosened slightly but not enough for my taste.

As we passed Kirkland and 48th Street, two blue and whites rounded the far corner at the end of Lenora and rolled toward us in the westbound lane.

I stiffened and sucked in a breath.

"Fuck a duck," said Mouse.

"Easy," said Steele.

Tracked the cruisers.

Forty meters.

Twenty.

Ten.

"Kat," said Mouse.

"Wait," I said, still tracking, fighting the urge to double draw.

Five.

Then they passed us.

Craned my head back to look out the rear window.

They continued west then turned south on Kirkland.

I let out a long exhale and sat back in my seat.

"Shitballs," said Mouse.

"You okay?" said Steele.

"Fine," I said. "For now."

"I'll keep an ear out," said Steele.

I heard the police scanner come on with a brief squelch of static and chatter came through.

The knot in my gut came back.

"So what's the plan, Kat?" Mouse said.

"Let's get settled first," I said. "I wanna make sure we're someplace where we can think and not have to worry about looking over our shoulder every ten seconds."

"I've got your six," said Steele.


* * *

Steele's safe house was a second story apartment above an empty office space on 22nd Street near Sheffield Avenue.

"Do what you gotta do," he said, putting our duffel bags down next to a worn and lumpy beige sofa and retreating to the kitchen area.

My phone chirped.

Val.

"What've you got?" I said, putting the phone on speaker.

Mouse came over to stand next to me.

"Pretty straightforward," she said. "Vid clip sent by email to the News 12 newsroom. Around 0600 hours. Came from an email account located in the Central Free Zone but that account was probably compromised."

"So no fix on the real source?"

"No," said Val. "Sorry."

"Damn," I said.

"But," Val went on, "Kid said he might have a lead."

"How so?"

"Says he ran into a local 'jockey the other day bragging about a big payout just for watching people."

"Who's the 'jockey?"

"Noob calling himself ChromeBurn."

"The hell kind of name is that?" said Mouse.

"Haven't run into him before," Val said, "but Kid says he's a reg at a chatnode called Paradise, always motoring his mouth off."

"So why does Kid think it's a lead?" I said.

"Noob says he got paid a mil by some crazy ronin woman."

Mouse and I looked at each other.

"Jade," we said simultaneously.

"Only crazy ronin woman I know," said Val.

"How do we find this ChromeBurn?" I said.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4

"Showdown" - Part Two

I heard several muffled shouts from the street and the crash of vehicle doors closing. Engines revved to life and tires squealed as cars peeled away, sirens yowling and receeding.

The whine from above dopplered.

The big engine rumbled, then began to fade.

What the hell--?

Saw Mouse's face mirroring my own confusion.

Popped my clock.

07:38:12

Fifteen minutes.

I holstered Clyde, reached for the door lever, turned it and pulled the door open.

"Where--?" said Mouse.

"Find a window," I said and stepped into the second floor hallway.

Directly ahead, a hallway stretched away and ended at a wall with a window looking out toward the street. Ten meters at least. To my left stairs went down to the ground floor. To my right, two doors, one door two meters away, the second near the end of the hall.

I holstered Bonnie and jogged to the window.

Perfect view.

I looked down on Garner.

Two BCPD cruisers and an unmarked car sat at the curb across the street from Wang's place and a police van sat crosswise partway down the block toward 48th Street, their lightbars still flashing. A trio of uniforms were loading crowd control barriers into the van. From the direction the trio were coming from, it looked like the barricades had been set up at both ends of Garner between 47th and 48th.

Footsteps behind me.

Turned.

Mouse.

"Wang's at the steps," she said and gestured.

I followed.

Wang was waiting at the base of the roof access stairs. He nodded as we stepped through the door from the second floor hallway.

"You missed the fun," he said with a wry grin.

"That was the plan," I said. "SWAT?"

He nodded. "And then some."

"Aerodyne."

He nodded again. "Showed up while I was watching the street. Cops had both ends blocked off as the SWAT guys showed up. Then the aerodyne came in. Made me back away from the edge of the roof."

"And then?" I said.

"And then," said Wang, "they left."

"The fuck?" said Mouse, looking at me.

I shook my head.

My phone chirped.

Val.

"You are going to fucking love me," she said. "Get back to the Red Dog. I'll call again."


* * *

When we got back to the Red Dog, Steele was waiting for us just outside the door to the stairs, a grin plastered on his face.

"This is great," he said.

"Val?" I said.

"Just wait," said Steele and beckoned us to follow.

We went into the back office. Revell looked up from behind the desk and gestured to the phone sitting on the desk top. "We are all here," he said.

"Like I was saying," said Val, her voice tinny from the phone's speaker, "you're all gonna love me."

"Spill it already, Val," said Mouse.

"After Steele warned you off," Val said, "he called me to get a handle on the call to the blue boys. Found the 911 call that gave you away. Burner phone but here's the fun part. I called in to complain that my kid brother was goofing around and being a dick. Did you know Kid Tachyon can imitate people?"

"I got skills!" another voice chimed in.

"Tachyon?" I said.

"In the flesh, Warrior Queen," Kid Tachyon said.

A surprised snort left my lips and I felt a grin crack my face.

"Kid repeated the call to the 911 dispatcher," Val said, coming back on, "and told them he was bored waiting for his ride to school when he saw the news. Claimed he randomly picked an address to send them to. He apologized. I beat him up just for effect."

"Kicked my ass black and blue," said Kid Tachyon and he cackled.

"Thanks, Val," I said feeling my shoulders relax. "We owe you big."

"Anything we can do to help take Hiller down, you let us know."

"Find out how News 12 got their hands on that video," I said.

Val chuckled. "Already working on it."

"Good. And then we need to figure out where the hell Hiller and her friends are."

"Oh, and just so you know, your covers are still clean. Ran a check when the shit hit the fan."

"Thanks Val," I said. "Stand by. We'll be in touch."

"Copy that."

Revell hung up.

Mouse let out a relieved sigh. "Thank god for our covers. That could've been bad."

I nodded. "That could."

"What now?" said Mouse.

"So why not safe house?" said Revell. "Why too far?"

"Yeah," said Mouse. "About that."

"Hiller and her friends are somewhere in the city," I said. "The safe house is at least forty-five minutes out. Too far for us to do any good."

"Besides," said Steele, "they've got roadblocks on all roads leading out of the city."

I quirked an eyebrow at him.

"Police scanner in the Rover," he said.

"So what the hell?" said Mouse.

"I have a place," he said. "One of my safe houses. East End. I can take you there."

"Sky-eyes," said Mouse.

"Tinted back windows," said Steele with a grin. "Hide your hair under a watchcap and wear sunglasses. In case they get an angle through the front windshield. But I doubt the operators get that sophisticated."

"Give us ten, twenty minutes," I said to Steele then turned to Mouse. "Let's grab better gear than the bugouts."

As Mouse and I headed out of the back office and toward our flat I popped my optic clock.

08:01:12

Helluva way to start a Monday morning.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 3

"Showdown" - Part One

The BCPD beat cop was bound by his arms and legs with duct tape to a metal chair and gagged.
   
I said, "My name is Kat and I have a message."
   
Then I turned to the cop, raised a pistol to his face, and shot him between the eyes.
   
Then the image vanished and was replaced by a blond woman in a light gray suit sitting behind a newsanchor's desk. A graphic floating to one side identified her as: "KARI SAWYER NEWS 12"
   
"A spokesperson for BCPD," Sawyer said, grim-faced, "has just issued the following statement: 'We will not allow this heinous crime against the brave men and women of the BCPD to stand. As of now, all available resources are engaged to find and bring this perpetrator to justice.' "
   
The TV in the Red Dog's back office clicked off and I felt the bile rise in my throat.
   
"Fucking Hiller," said Mouse. She looked at me and jabbed a finger at the now blank screen. "That was fucking Hiller. I'm gonna fucking stab her in the head."
   
"It's Sikes," I said. "They've started."
   
"Hiller. Sikes. Same thing. They're all getting stabbed. What the hell are we supposed to do now? We can't go outside. One scan from a sky-eye and MaxTac'll be on our ass in a flash."
   
"Safe house," said Revell, his brow furrowed, thick arms folded across his barrel chest. "Until we can plan counter attack."
   
I shook my head. "Too far."   
   
"What?" said Mouse.
   
"Too--" I started to say.
   
My phone chirped.
   
Steele.
   
He said: "SWAT. Enroute, five minutes. Bounce."
   
Shit.
   
"Kat," said Mouse, seeing the look on my face.
   
"SWAT," I said, hanging up my phone.
   
"Go," said Revell.


*   *   *

   
At a minute thirty, Mouse and I had grabbed our go-bags from our flat and were exiting onto the roof of the Red Dog into the cool morning air.
   
Movement to our left.
   
Pivoted, Bonnie leaping into my hand, tracking.
   
Wang.
   
Wang was in the middle of his restaurant's roof dressed in dark blue sweats and a gray sweatshirt, his arms extended oddly in front of him. He was moving slowly in a kata-like--
   
Recognized it.
   
Tai chi.
   
I let out a breath and holstered Bonnie.
   
"Dammit, Wang," said Mouse.
   
Wang pivoted in our direction, and gave a small start when he saw us.
   
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a group of flashing blue lights speeding down Garner at least three and a half klicks to the north, the accompanying distant wail of sirens reaching umy ear seconds later.
   
Three minutes until contact.
   
I bolted across our roof and leaped the concrete parapet onto Wang's rooftop.
   
Wang's face creased into a frown.
   
"Trouble?" he said.
   
I nodded. "SWAT. We need to hide."
   
He nodded and gestured to the roof access door standing ajar. "Second floor. Storage room far end of the hallway."
   
"Thanks, Wang," I said.
   
"I owe you," he said with a wink.


*   *   *

   
At the landing below the roof access door, I stopped, one hand touching the second floor door lever, and cocked my head toward the roof.
   
Mouse stopped next to me. "What're you doing?" she said, voice pitched low.
   
I tapped my ear and pointed back toward the roof. "Keeping tabs."
   
"What about the storage room?"
   
"If they figure out we went here, I don't want to get cornered."
   
"We're already cornered. They'll close down the whole damn block. I saw them coming, too."
   
"But here we can still move. We're not stuck in one room."
   
She frowned, then nodded and turned her attention toward the roof.
   
Street sounds floated in through the still half-opened door above. The brief wail of sirens followed by squelch of tires. Lots of vehicle doors opening and closing. Voices raised, words indistinct but calling out commands.
   
Then the deeper growl of a bigger engine approaching and coming to a stop.
   
Mouse met my eyes.
   
"SWAT," we said at the same time.
   
A moment later, a distant whine coming from above.
   
Aerodyne.
   
At least one. Maybe two. And they'd be sporting 20mm nose guns and a four-man team.
   
Quick math.
   
Two against a dozen. Maybe sixteen.
   
Crap odds.
   
And if it was MaxTac instead of SWAT?
   
Crappier odds.
   
Collateral damage for sure.
   
Fuckity fuck.
   
I drew the Twins and kept an eye on the door above, feeling my gut clench.
   
Heard Mouse draw her wakizashis, the blades singing out from her back scabbards.
   
Minutes crawled by and I felt perspiration on my palms as I held onto the Twins.
   
No movement so far at or near the roof access door. Just the same rectangle of light.
   
I strained my ears to hear the noise from outside.
   
The whine was still there, still distant, the aerodyne moving in a slow circle around the entire block.
   
No rush of boots on the restaurant's rooftop.
   
No crash of doors from below.
   
No outcry from Wang.
   
And still no movement at the door.
   
I chanced a look at my optic clock.
   
07:22:47
   
How long had it been?
   
I quickly thought back.
   
Revell had been at our flat door at 07:05. Mouse and I got to the Red Dog's back office within 5 minutes. Thankfully we were still in our work clothes and only had to pull on boots.
   
It would've been 07:15 when we'd turned off the TV after seeing the newsflash.
   
Steele had called less than two minutes after.
   
And his estimation was dead on.
   
Five minutes before SWAT arrived.
   
I turned my attention back to the roof access door and remembered to breathe.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 2