BY ABNER SENIRES

"Showdown" - Part Nine

Into the kitchen, Mouse still in the lead.

Empty.

Still another with no boost?

Felt a knot in my gut.

Forward through an archway, the Twins sweeping and tracking, past the living room with its couches and entertainment center dominating an entire wall, into a marble-floored foyer and a grand staircase sweeping up from the left to the upper level.

The only warning was a barely heard displacement of air.

And the muscle materialized in front of Mouse, dropped to a crouch, and swept her feet out from under her.

Mouse hit the floor on her back.

A glint of metal from the muscle.

A knife, sweeping downward.

Mouse rolled away and the blade sparked off the marble floor.

The Twins tracked and spat fire and thunder.

Four rounds caught Knife in the torso, rocking him back a step.

And he remained upright.

Goddammit.

Chromed.

Shifted aim.

And Knife was on me, his blade slashing.

Double goddammit.

Wired, too.

I dodged as best I could but he was even faster than me.

Skipped back but he kept coming.

Caught an opening and let the Twins go. They belched fire again, sending four more rounds into Knife.

And the bastard soaked it up.

Jesus Christ--!

He came at me again, the knife raised to strike.

Gave him eight more rounds, saw him recoil at the last two.

Bingo. Got through whatever anti-AP armor he had.

He staggered.

I brought a knee up and cracked my boot into the middle of his chest.

He stumbled backward and a wakizashi blade erupted from his torso. Knife looked at the length of metal sticking out of his chest, dropped his blade, and crumpled to his knees.

Mouse reached around with her other wakizashi and slit his throat.

Knife crumpled sideways onto the marble foyer, blood pooling beneath him.

I reloaded while Mouse withdrew her blade from Knife's limp form.

For the next few minutes we went up the stairs and cleared the rest of the house in silence.

Only the four muscle.

And the house was empty and still bathed in darkness.

We were back downstairs in the foyer when I cut boost, holstered the Twins, and leaned against the iron banister, waiting for the rush to die down.

Then I stepped over to Knife lying in the middle of the foyer and patted him down.

"What're you looking for?" said Mouse.

I told her and she nodded.

"I'll check the others," she said and walked off.

After a moment I found what I was looking for and waited for Mouse. She came back to the foyer a few minutes later.

"Anything?" I said to her.

She shook her head. "You?"

I nodded, pulled out my phone and dialed.

"Yeah?" said Val.

I told her.

"Wait one," she said.

A long pause.

Then: "Moving," she said. "Your direction. I make ETA forty-five minutes."

Popped my optic clock.

22:30:06

"Thanks, Val," I said and hung up.

Mouse quirked her eyebrows.

"Knife Guy called him," I said. "He's on his way."

She nodded. "All yours."

"I need a chair," I said.

Mouse started to nod, then whipped her head up, staring at something above us.

I whirled and looked.

The figure stood on the railed balcony above the foyer, gave us a short nod, and then moved.

Fast.

Faster than my boost.

Sonofabitch.

A streak of motion over the railing, then it was in front of me.

I didn't have a chance to go subvocal when the maglev train slammed up under my chin.

Light exploded behind my eyes and everything went black.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown" - Part Eight

I woke up to someone shaking my shoulder, blinked, and saw Mouse leaning over me.

"Under half an hour to touchdown," said Mouse.

I nodded and straightened in my seat.

Through the front viewport lay an expanse of black dotted with a million pinpricks of light.

"Nice nap?" said Sam, throwing a quick look into the cabin, his features bathed in the green glow of the console lights.

"Yeah," I said feeling cotton-mouthed. "Any water?"

"Here," said Mouse and handed me a bottle.

I took a long pull.

"Not much longer," said Sam. "I'll start our descent in a few."

Optic clock.

20:43:22.

Local time. Switched when we crossed time zones.

"So how are we playing this?" said Mouse.

I looked at the printouts again to refresh my thoughts, then grabbed the map.

"We can hit the house from the north side," I said. "Come in low across Long Island Sound. Looks like the property butts up to the water. Sam?"

"Yeah?" Sam said.

"We'll have you drop us on the beach there, then find someplace nearby to wait."

"Map?" he said.

I got out of my seat, stretching my legs a bit, and brought the map into the pilot's compartment.

He gave it a studied look.

"Works for me," he said and went back to his controls.

I turned back into the main cabin and looked at Mouse. "Then we take the house."


* * *

"Five minutes," Sam called out.

Mouse and I stood near the cabin door, hands on the back of nearby seats to keep our balance.

"Ready?" I said to Mouse.

She nodded. "You?"

I nodded, popped to thermal, and looked out the front viewport.

A long strip of beach punctuated by pale glowing islands of light from houses loomed in the near distance.

And quickly got closer.

I focused on the comforting weight of the Twins in the shoulder rig under my jacket.

It was time to end this.


* * *

The aerodyne swept in low over the water, swung over the beach, and touched down.

"Go," said Sam.

I shoved the cabin door open and Mouse and I dropped to the sand.

A moment later, the aerodyne floated up, banked slightly, closing the door, and swung away from the beach.

Ahead of us, thirty meters away, the beach ended at a line of trees extending at least twenty-five meters left to right and bordered at the end by the start of wrought iron fencing. Beyond the trees lay a wide open lawn and then a two-story house that seemed to spread out in all directions.

I motioned to Mouse and jogged across the sand to the treeline, keeping low.

No contact.

Yet.

As we crossed the treeline onto grass, I drew the Twins and heard Mouse's wakizashis sing out from her back scabbards.

I dropped to one knee and took a moment to eye the layout. Mouse did the same.

There was no cover between our position and house. The house itself was a rough semi-circle with the two wings at angles to the main house in the center. Regularly spaced floodlamps aimed at the sides of the house bathed it in a warm glow and my optic filters kept me from going blind at the lights.

Mouse tapped my shoulder and gestured with her head.

To our right, twenty-five meters away, three-meter tall wrought iron fencing ran the perimeter of the property. Irregularly space stands of bushes ran parallel to the fenceline. Halfway around, an ancient oak sat between the fence and the back of the main house where I could see a patio and a circle of lawn chairs and umbrellas.

Cover.

I nodded at Mouse and we made our way to the fenceline, leapfrogged along the bushes, to the tree, and finally to the back patio where we ducked behind a large brick grill.

And then we heard voices coming from the house.

Peered around the edge of the grill.

A pair of muscle, big and burly in badly-fitting dark suits, stepped out onto the patio and walked in our direction, still in conversation. They'd be at the grill in under ten seconds.

They hadn't turned on the back patio lights.

Chromed. Optics at the least.

Ducked back around, turned to Mouse, and held up two fingers.

She gave me a feral grin and mouthed: "Mine."

I nodded.

She pivoted on her heel, went to the other edge of the grill and peered out.

I let out a long, slow breath, the Twins at ready.

Heard Mouse move off in a flap of leather.

Sub-vocal, and the world slid into slo-mo.

Stepped forward, rising from my crouch and pivoting, the Twins swinging around, tracking.

The two muscle came into view.

So did Mouse, moving a full two seconds ahead of me.

The muscle were slow, slower than me, and much slower than Mouse and paid for it. They had just registered Mouse when she danced into them, wakizashis whirling, blood geysering from their falling bodies. They hit the ground with meaty thumps, one after the other, and Mouse skipped aside as she finished.

Security with optics only? And no boost?

What the--?

A fingersnap.

Looked up, saw Mouse signaling to me.

Focus.

I gave her a quick nod, then indicated the back door.

Unlocked.

We ducked inside into a sitting room adjoining a huge kitchen, no lights on, Mouse in the lead.

A figure stepped around the corner from the kitchen and went saucer-eyed at the sight of us.

Another muscle.

He barely cleared his weapon from a hip holster when Mouse leaped forward, slashing.

A severed hand flew sideways and landed on a nearby bookshelf, splashing blood across a series of framed photographs. Another twirl of blades and the muscle crumpled, blood fountaining from a slashed neck down the man's front.

Into the kitchen, Mouse still in the lead.

Empty.

Still another with no boost?

Felt a knot in my gut.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 9

"Showdown" - Part Seven

According to Steele, BCPD had taken down the roadblocks so at 13:00 on the dot we pulled into a private airfield sixteen klicks east of BC International and parked next to a sleek aerodyne sitting on the tarmac.

As Mouse and I got out of the Rover, Sam Cutter stepped out from the aerodyne's passenger cabin onto the tarmac, tilted his khaki ball cap back on his head and put his hands on his hips.

"Well lookee what the cat dragged in," he called out. "That's a joke there, by the way."

"Good to see you, Sam," I said, opening the Rover's rear cargo door and pulling out our two duffel bags.

"You're lucky I was still in the area," he said. "Makes it twice in a month, don't it? That little foofaraw with those gangers? Now this?"

"What the hell is a foofaraw?" said Mouse.

"A ruckus," Sam said. "A commotion. Disturbance."

"Why didn't you just say so?" said Mouse.

"You need to get out more, missy," said Sam.

"We're going to New York, aren't we?" said Mouse.

"Good point," said Sam. "Supposed to be nice this time of year."

I carried the bags to the short flight of steps leading into the passenger cabin.

Sam looked at the bags then looked at me. "This isn't a sightseeing trip, is it." He blew out a breath and turned to Steele. "You said this was gonna be sightseeing, you lying bastard!"

"It will be sightseeing," Steele said, approaching. "You get to watch these two"--he gestured at us--"blow shit up."

"Been there," said Sam, "Done that."

"Hundred fifty thousand," said Steele, lobbing a cred'chip at Sam.

Sam caught the 'chip and pocketed it. "I love to see shit get blown up. Especially by these two. You ladies were masterful that last time in the woods."

"The woods suck ass," said Mouse climbing into the aerodyne's cabin.

"Especially cabins in the woods," Sam said, climbing in after her. "They got weird-ass old books. You'd need a chainsaw and boomstick..."

Steele came up next to me. "You sure you don't need back up?"

"I'm planning on a quick in and out," I said. "Nothing like Hosaka."

"Then get back in one piece," he said, staring into my eyes, making fire swell up in my belly.

"Yeah," I managed, starting to lose myself in his ocean blue gaze.

Then he leaned forward and kissed me. My thoughts exploded in a brilliant flash of white light, my belly flared white heat, and my legs buckled.

And just as suddenly he stepped back, still holding me with his gaze.

I staggered, my breath caught in my throat, and for a moment I couldn't get air.

"Get some, Kat!"

Mouse's shrill cry snapped me back to the present.

I blinked and turned toward the aerodyne and found her leaning out of the cabin, waving. "That's how you do it!" she called out and gave a whooping cheer.

My cheeks went hot.

I turned back to Steele.

He was walking backwards slowly toward the Rover, his gaze still on me, a small smile on his face.

And the heat in my belly flared again.


* * *

Just after we were airborne, Sam craned his head back toward the passenger cabin. "So where exactly in New York are we headed?"

"Place just outside," I said. "Called Bayville." I gave him the coordinates I'd gotten from Val.

"Got it," said Sam. "Should be there in about five hours. You got time for a nap."

Mouse came over to sit next to me. "Why there? I thought during the week he was in the city?"

"Firefight in the middle of New York will probably bring their tac units on our ass," I said. "This way, he'll come to us. We control the ground."

"I like that better," said Mouse.

"There are probably guards. I'll leave them to you."

"You sure know how to sweet talk a girl."

"Got your back just in case."

"Save it for Sikes," said Mouse.

"Oh, I plan to," I said.

Then I pulled out the printouts and resumed studying them, still considering likely approaches.

At some point, the printouts began to fade.

Slowly.

Starting at the edges. Blurring slightly.

Then fading outward in to a gray wash, then to black.

And then, I dreamt.


* * *

I was sitting on a stool at the Red Dog's bar, everything bathed in a soft red glow. Fast Eddie perched on a stool next to me, lab coat looking more rumpled than usual. Specs stood on the other side of the bar, wearing his usual round-framed mirrorshades and Hawaiian shirt the color of a paint factory explosion, and set three shot glasses in front of me.

A deep amber liquid sat in each glass.

"The good stuff," Specs said. "I know where Revell hides the bottle."

"So this is it, then," said Eddie, reaching out to take a shot glass. "Last hurrah."

"Fuckin'-A," said Specs, taking a shot glass. "Goddamn D-Day."

Eddie looked at me. "Up to you now, luv."

"Up to me and Mouse," I said, taking the last glass.

"You and Mouse it is," said Eddie and suddenly his eyes glistened. He gave me a lopside grin. "Bloody shame I couldn't tell her everything in person."

My throat tightened. "She knows, Eddie," I said and touched his arm. "She knows."

He nodded and lifted his glass. "For me," he said. "And for Specs."

"Kill that motherfucker," said Specs, raising his glass. "Kill him dead."

"Done," I said and raised my glass.

Under the glow, all three shot glasses looked as if they were filled with blood.

We clinked glasses then threw back the shot.

And the dream liquor burned all the way down.

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 6 | Part 8 

"Showdown" - Part Six

Mouse and I were standing in front of Hiller when she came to in the Rover's cargo area half an hour later.

We were parked near the top floor of a garage five blocks east of the Marquis Hotel.

She sat up slowly in the cargo area, gagged with duct tape, wrists zip-tied behind her, ankles also zip-tied, took in her restraints, then fired a slit-eyed look at us.

"Hello, bitch," Mouse said. "You killed our friend. I'm gonna take it out on your hide."

"Hiller," I said.

Her nostrils flared.

"No use trying to deny it," I said. "We've done a background dump on you and your friends. Carter. Himura. Hudson and Crowe."

A muscle in her jaw twitched.

"You thought maybe Sikes gave you cover idents?"

Another jaw muscle twitched.

Mouse made a buzzer sound. "Wrong!"

"Maybe he did," I said. "But all biomets came back with your real names."

"The bastard sold you out," said Mouse.

Hiller's eyes darted between the two of us and her breathing quickened slightly.

"You've been giving me a bad name," I said. "First The 108. And now a cop killer."

She shifted uneasily and flicked her eyes past me.

Saw Steele out of the corner of my eye to my left.

Hiller's nostrils flared again.

"Here's what's going to happen," I said.

She fixed her eyes back on me.

"You're going to the police and confess to killing that cop."

Hiller's jaw clenched and her nostrils flared once more.

"We've already called and told them we had information about the shooting," I said. "We're going to drop you off at the nearest station and you're going to sing for them. If you decide not to, not a problem. We've identified you on video with an infodump on your entire background. You're no longer a ghost. You don't talk, we release that to the cops."

Hiller lunged at me, a muffled scream ripping from the gag.

I stepped back then cracked her across the face with a right cross and she flew back into the Rover's cargo area.

Mouse grabbed her dangling legs and shoved them inside then slammed the cargo door shut and gave me a quick nod.

"Let's go," I said to Steele.


* * *

Twenty minutes later, Mouse and I sat in the Land Rover across the street from the East Precinct building watching as Steele led Hiller up the short flight of concrete steps and into the station.

"She's gonna do some hard time," said Mouse.

I nodded. "Cops don't like copkillers."

"You think she believed they were gonna get away with it?"

"Probably. Her. Carter. The other three mooks."

"And Sikes," Mouse said.

"And Sikes," I said.

Five minutes later, Steele emerged, came down the steps, jogged across the street to the Rover, and got into the driver's seat.

"All good?" I said.

"All good for us," he said. "Not for Hiller. Lot of unhappy cops in there."

"No shit," said Mouse.

"No shit," said Steele. He reached for the ignition when we all heard a long, rolling burst of muffled gunshots coming from inside the station.

Spun in my seat to look.

Several cops who'd been outside the station bolted up the steps to the entrance, guns drawn. A few others took up crowd control positions, and started moving peds away from the front of the station.

After a few minutes, the cops who'd run in were filing back out, weapons holstered and talking amongst themselves.

"Holy shit," said Mouse. "You think she--"

I turned to her. "Suicide by cop."

She gave a low whistle.

"Back to my place?" said Steele.

"Yeah," I said.

He started the engine and we drove off.

"What next?" said Mouse.

"Gimme a sec," I said, sat back in my seat, and let my mind consider options.

Then a thought struck.

I took another phone out of my jacket pocket.

Hiller's phone.

I scrolled through the call log until I found what I knew had to be there.

Then I pulled out my phone and called Val.

"I have a number," I said.


* * *

We were back at Steele's safe house when Val called.

"What did you find out?" I said.

"New York City," said Val. "I'm pulling up info on Douglas now. I'll send you an infodump in a few."

"Thanks, Val," I said and hung up and told Mouse.

"Always wanted to see the Big Apple," she said.

"I know someone else who does, too," said Steele, pulling out his phone.

"So," Mouse said to me. "We're doing this. Sikes. Taking the fight to him."

"Only way to make sure it's over," I said.

She nodded. "Works for me."


* * *

I stared at the printouts spread on the kitchen table before me. Satellite photos of a stretch of land bordered on one side by water, a map of that same stretch of land and the surrounding area, a beachfront house surrounded by trees, and a highrise building across the street from a park.

"What am I looking at, Val?" I said.

"The house," Val said on speaker phone, "is Douglas's--I mean Sikes's weekend home."

Mouse gave a low whistle. "Must be nice."

"He owns a penthouse in the city," Val went on. "That's the highrise. 55 Central Park West. Nineteenth floor. Uses it mostly during the week. He's at the house on the weekends. Place called Bayville."

"This stretch of land," I said.

"Yep," said Val, and rattled off coordinates. "I also added them on the map. About thirty-five, forty miles outside of New York City, depending which freeway you take. Population, about sixty-seven hundred."

"Uses it on weekends," I said.

"Makes sense," said Val. "Omni's main office is in the city's financial district. At Seven World Trade Center. From the penthouse, it's about a half hour commute compared to an hour and a half from Bayville."

"Bet he has a chopper to commute in if he wanted," said Mouse.

"I wouldn't be surprised," said Val.

"Thanks, Val," I said. "This helps."

"Hit me up if you need more," said Val.

"Will do," I said and hung up.

"What's the plan?" said Mouse.

I scanned the printouts again, letting my mind sift through the details. "Need to study these."

"You've got fifteen minutes to get started before we leave," Steele said, coming over. "We're meeting Sam at 13:00."

(to be continued...)


"Showdown"
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 7