"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

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