The grab went perfectly.
Lucy led the mark out of his favorite night club at 1 AM on the dot, carrying her four inch heels in one hand and laughing as he pawed her ass. Her tight red dress had ridden up past mid-thigh, exposing the dark tops of her garters, and one of her shoulder straps was hanging loosely against her upper arm.
“She’s got the hooker look down perfectly,” Nines grunted in my ear.
I didn’t reply. I just watched as Lucy led the drunk man to a black sedan with tinted rear windows and crawled in the back seat ahead of him. He followed her in, leering at her ass from inches away. As soon as the door closed I moved.
Lucy opened the other rear door for me, pulling herself away from the mark and out of the vehicle, getting out of my way so I could slide in beside him. Nines shoved his way into the back seat from the other side, sandwiching the man between us and closing his door.
“What the hell—” the man started, but I’d trapped his arms on my way in. I kept them pinned as Nines jerked his head back by the hair and inserted a small syringe’s needle in his neck. The man tried to struggle, but he went limp in seconds as the sedative took effect.
Lucy slid into the front seat and looked back at us. Nines gave her the thumbs up, and she calmly started the engine, pulling out onto the main street.
“Good work,” I told my team. “That’s how it’s done.”
We dropped the mark off at a dingy garage on the south side of town, collected our payment from the overmuscled goons commonly employed in Boston, and headed home. We got in just after 1 AM.
Lucy made a beeline for the master shower, peeling her tight dress off on her way up the stairs, while Nines retired to his basement apartment without so much as a glance at her gorgeous ass.
I was half asleep in bed, a book resting on my chest, when Lucy joined me. She crawled under my heavy comforter and wrapped herself around me, just holding on. Her soft bare breasts moved slightly against my shoulder with each breath and she smelled of lavender soap.
Moving the book to my nightstand, I turned toward her and gently rolled her so her back was to my stomach, wrapping my arms around her. She clasped my hands in hers and squeezed.
“I can get someone else to do this,” I whispered in her ear.
“Shut up, Cross,” she whispered back. “And don’t let me go.”
Morning came too soon. The birds in the area always started chirping at 5 AM, before the sun had even peeked over the horizon.
I was just getting back to sleep, tuning out the stupid birds, when Nines thundered up the stairs.
“Cross, get the hell up,” he said. “We’ve got trouble.”
He looked like he hadn’t slept. He was still wearing the outfit he’d worn the night before, minus the suit jacket, his pistol still in its holster at his side.
“What’s up?” I asked, sitting up. Lucy muttered darkly and pulled the comforter tighter around her. I swung my feet to the floor and pulled on the clothes I’d laid out the night before.
“Our mark is back,” he said, cryptically.
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked, clipping my Browning Hi Power and two spare magazines to my belt.
Nines jerked his head for me to follow him, and thundered back down the stairs at a run.
He was back, alright. Most of him. Someone had beaten, burned, and sliced him up. They’d left his face alone, but by the way his arms were twisted under his corpse in the bathtub, they were obviously broken. His pants legs had been cut away below the knees, and whoever had tortured him had flayed the skin from one leg and cooked the flesh on the other until it looked like a joint of roast pork.
“Jesus Christ,” I said, holding a washcloth to my nose to block out some of the smell, a mix of offal and pleasant barbecue. I doubted I’d want any smoked ribs for awhile.
“How the hell did he get here?” I asked, not really expecting an answer. “Did you hear anything?”
“Nothing,” Nines said, shrugging. “I was up all night. But I didn’t hear so much as a board creak. I smelled this,” he gestured at the corpse with the pump action shotgun he’d picked up sometime in the last few minutes, “when I came up to get a snack.”
“It’s gotta be a setup,” I said. “We should move out. Get the truck ready, I’ll get Lucy up.”
We didn’t quite make it out before the trap closed. I was in the back of the garage, loading supplies and waiting for Lucy to come downstairs when the deep boom of a shotgun made me spin in place.
Nines had been hauling up the underground garage door, and I saw him drop as two thick-necked goons in ill-fitting suits fired shotguns at him from the top of the driveway.
I’d automatically drawn my pistol at the gunshots. I knelt behind the truck and braced left hand against the side of the bed, taking aim at the first goon. They hadn’t spotted me, but were trotting down the driveway toward where Nines was trying to crawl back into the garage.
I fired two rounds at each man, aiming for their open collars, and in two seconds both men were face down on the sloping driveway, bleeding out. Nines had pulled himself to his feet and was patting himself down.
“You okay?” I asked, loudly. My ears rang from firing the 9mm in the small garage.
He gave me a thumbs up and said, wheezily, “They were good shots. Two loads of buckshot in my vest.”
Two short bursts of automatic fire sounded from the house above, followed by three quick single shots, and I was just turning toward the stairs when Lucy slammed the door open and hurried down. She was dressed in BDU pants, boots, and wore a dark tank top under her body armor. Seeing me below, she pulled the strap of her duffel bag over her head and flung it at me, then turned to cover the top of the stairs with her submachinegun, slowly walking backwards down the remaining steps.
“Are you okay?” I asked her as she joined us. Nines was covering the driveway with his shotgun, clicking his tongue impatiently.
“They tried to bag me,” she said, breathlessly. “Three of them. Stun guns and all. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Nines drove, and he didn’t bother avoiding the two goons in the driveway as he accelerated up into the street. Lucy was in the back seat, watching our rear out the sliding back window of the cab. She’d screwed a suppressor onto the barrel of her submachinegun at some point. As we screeched up onto the street, she fired a full magazine of bursts into the small crowd of goons gathered near the front door, dropping several of them before they could even raise their guns.
Sporadic gunfire followed us, but as far as I could tell none of the bullets hit our truck. We were clear for the moment.
It was time to make a call.
“We’re compromised, Control,” I said into the encrypted satellite phone. “Korchnoi set us up.”
“How sure are you?” Control asked. “Can you rectify?” The voice was odd, obviously computer altered. I couldn’t tell if I was talking to a man or a woman, or, hell, if it was a human at all.
I thought for a moment. Was it possible to fix the situation? “Maybe if I deliver Korchnoi’s head on a platter I can convince Davos it was a setup job. But we still just greased about ten of his guys at the house.”
“Wait one, Lotus,” the voice said. About thirty seconds passed. I glanced back at Lucy. She’d curled up on the rear seat and was asleep, hugging her submachinegun to her chest.
The voice came back. “You’re authorized to terminate Korchnoi. If Davos proves intractable, terminate him too.”
I raised my eyebrows. Taking out two crime bosses at once? I was tempted to just kill them both outright and pretend Davos hadn’t wanted to play ball.
“Roger, Control. Lotus Actual out.”
Nines worked on contacting Davos while Lucy and I tracked down Korchnoi. Though, perhaps “tracked” is too strong a term. The man was never hard to find. He thought he didn’t need to hide.
The arrogance of mafia types never ceases to amuse me.
We took him down outside his own restaurant. I’d placed Lucy in overwatch with an integrally suppressed semiautomatic 458 SOCOM rifle. I was in disguise, “waiting for friends” in the entrance when Korchnoi arrived. His guards, including the driver, got out of the armored Cadillac first, and glared threateningly at passing pedestrians while Korchnoi levered his bulk from the rear seat.
Three loud, wet slaps announced the deaths of the bodyguards. The muzzle report of Lucy’s subsonic rifle was inaudible over the impacts of the huge softnose bullets.
I pulled the door to the restaurant open and, taking two running steps, heel kicked Korchnoi’s fat ass back into the Cadillac before he got his foot on the sidewalk. I flipped the child safety lever on the door before slamming it shut, and repeated the action on the other rear door on my way to the driver’s seat.
The Cadillac was still running as I hopped in. I twisted around in my seat and jabbed Korchnoi with a dose of sedative as he tried to pull himself into a sitting position, still sputtering and gasping from the stomach kick I’d given him. He gasped once more and went still.
The safehouse we were using was much less comfortable than the house we’d had to leave behind, and sleeping on a cot waiting for Korchnoi to show himself had left me in a foul mood. Cots are for 20 year old soldiers.
Nines and I had tied Korchnoi to a big leather executive chair for safekeeping. We’d tried a normal folding chair, something we didn’t care about ruining with blood, but it had collapsed under his weight. Fat fucker.
I was drinking a cup of black tea when Lucy waved at me through the kitchen doorway. “He’s coming around,” she said.
I gulped my tea and set the cup aside. “Thanks.”
Korchnoi’s groan turned into a yelp when Nines slapped him hard across the face. He started sputtering again, turning brick red at the treatment.
“How’s the video feed?” I asked him, ignoring the fat man’s angry questions.
Nines gave me a thumbs up and stepped out of the camera’s frame.
“Victor!” I shouted. Korchnoi shut up and glared at me. “Victor. Why did you sell us out?”
“Because I found out what you are,” he spat. “Traitors. Scum.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Traitors to whom? We’re contractors, Victor. We did that job for you.”
“Contractors,” he spat. “Lapdogs of the state, you mean.”
“We don’t work for the state, Victor,” I said, smiling. “We do work for someone else, but we never intended to interfere in your business. You could have run your drugs, guns, and hookers until you keeled over from too much pasta.”
After a pause, I continued, “You could have. But now, I’m afraid, you have to be an example for your buddy Davos.” I pointed at the camera.
Korchnoi’s eyes went wide. “He’s… he’s…” he stammered.
“Watching, yes. Well, I don’t really care what else you know, Victor. Goodbye.”
Nines moved behind Korchnoi with a shotgun and fired a slug through his brain. Korchnoi’s head exploded, spraying gore on the floor.
I looked at the camera.
“Got it, Francis?”