Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure



A Kat and Mouse actioner sure to have you chasing your tale! Slap on the mirrorshades and jack-in the ol' limbic lobe...Cyberpunk meets Tank Girl in this hi-tech, hi-octane future firefight featuring crotch rockets, Joyboys and the contested contents of a silver case.
(And you know what they say. If ya gotta ask...)


A Family Affair

By Abner Senires
About the author


They hit hard, fast, took my package, and pissed me off. I came to squinting up at a small sun, my head feeling like it had been part of a concert of jackhammers. Beethoven's Fifth it was not.

Just one of the many perks of being a ronin. Street mercenary. Gun for hire.

Me. Kat Blackwolfe.

God, I love my job.

I blinked a couple of times and the world slowly came into focus. The small sun turned out to be a swing-arm lamp that hung directly over my face. I found myself sprawled out on the small couch in the back office of the Red Dog bar. Admittedly, it was far better than being left bleeding on a sidewalk in front of an apartment building on Highland, a few blocks east of the Marina. The five-story brownstone had been the last thing I remembered before white light exploded like a flash-bang behind my eyes and I ate concrete.

Not exactly the proper place for a nice young woman like me.

Then again, whoever said I was nice?

"Katya?" a Russian-tinged basso rumbled softly. Revell's thickly bearded face swam into view. "You are okay?"

I nodded--slowly--and licked my lips. Felt like some hairy mammal crawled inside my mouth and died. "Yeah," I managed, but it sounded like "Gahh" to me.

"You went to the pick-up by yourself?" a strident soprano called out.

The jackhammer concert resumed in earnest. Double-time.

I winced. "Please, Emmy," I croaked, relieved that basic language skills still worked. "Not so loud."

"Loud?" The round face ringed by a halo of brown curls belonging to my partner and fellow ronin, Mouse, popped up in front of me. "Serves you right for going without me, Kay," she said, glaring.

"Don't start..."

"You could've waited, you know."

I groaned, raised myself up on my elbows, and turned my still-pounding head up toward Mouse. She stood next to the couch, arms folded acros her chest, still glaring down at me and tapping her foot. She looked taller than her meter-fifty, but I figured that was just due to my being clocked in the head.

"Look," I began. "I had to go. Specs said I had half an hour or the Smith was gonna jet--"

"Oh, so it's my fault now?" a reedy voice exclaimed, followed by a slamming door.

The volume on the jackhammer concert went three notches above loud.

Specs. Everybody's favorite info broker.

He stared at me over the tops of his round-framed mirrorshades, eyebrows raised, hands on his hips, lamplight glinting off his bald head. "This is the thanks I get for pointing you toward a three thou run?"

"Nice to see you too, Specs," I replied.

"Chill it, broker-man," Mouse said. "Can't you see she's hurt? Besides, I'm the only one allowed to bad-mouth her."

I turned slitted eyes to Mouse. "Gee, thanks, Emmy."

She stuck her tongue out at me.

"Hurt?" Specs returned. "Hurt, my ass. Our Miss Wired Amazon? Gimme a break."

My turn to shoot him a glare. "I'll break you myself if you don't shut it. I'm not in the mood for this right now."

Specs held up his hands. "Okay okay. Just tell me this--you got the package right?"

Oh yeah.

The package.

"Well?" he prompted.

I smiled weakly. "About the package..."

Specs threw up his hands and gave a strangled yelp. "Jesus Christ on a crutch..!"

"Quit complaining!" I shot back. "It's not my fault some yahoo joyboy clocked me in the back of the head with a Mack Truck. And you're not the only one pissed about this."

Specs continued his strangled yelping.

"What happened out there, Katya?" Revell asked.

I told them.

I'd gotten to the pick-up a few minutes early to scope the lay and make sure it wasn't an ambush. The Smith had been waiting and, after being checked by his goons, handed me the package--an aluminum briefcase--and instructions on where to go with it. I waited five minutes after their black Chrys-Ford luxury car left the area, then made my way back to my re-fitted Mustang.

Enter the joyboys.

I remembered hearing the high-pitched whine of their crotch-rockets just a split-second before I got whapped.

Revell nodded. "Was one hell of whap."

I touched the spot at the back of my head and winced a little. "Tell me about it."

"You got pitched almost four feet from your car," Mouse added.

"Typical joyboy tactic."

"Fuck!" Specs shook his head. "Righetti really needed that package, Kat. He was very firm about that."

Mouse whistled. "The old man's gonna shit bricks over this."

I sighed.

Vincent Righetti, our "client," was not the sort of person you wanted mad at you. Not when he headed the Righetti Family, one of the oldest of the Families that still retained control of this side of Bay City. People who got Righetti mad often ended up disappearing. Often underwater. I really didn't care much for vanishing acts, especially when it involved San Marino Bay.

But because Murphy and Revell did a favor for Righetti a long time ago, the old man liked us, treated us as one of his own. Just like family. A good thing in this biz.

We had a great track record with Righetti.

Until now.

"What's he worried about anyway?" I said to Specs. "Emmy and I have run for him before. He knows we get the job done. He can trust us."

Specs fixed us with as critical a look as possible through mirrorshades. "That's three thou on the line, gals. Can he trust you to deliver? By 20:00 tonight?"

" 'Course he can," Mouse piped up. "It's Kat and Mouse you're talking about, Mister."

"Yeah," I added and threw Specs a grin. "Kat and Mouse. Best ronin in the biz."

Specs shook his head again. "We are sooo screwed..."

***

I looked at the wall clock above the back office door.

18:30:26.

Shit. We had an hour, an hour and a half, tops.

Righetti liked us. True enough. But Mouse and I knew his temper. And I really didn't feel like taking a swim in San Marino Bay wearing a pair of concrete shoes. At least the jackhammer concert was over.

"What first?" Mouse asked, leaning against the edge of a desk.

I adjusted my double-holster shoulder rig where the Twins, Bonnie and Clyde--my pair of Springfield 2000 .45-caliber high-capacity pistols--sat snugly in place.

"We find out who those wannabe joyboys were," I said.

"Poseurs?"

"Had to be." I turned toward Mouse. "Otherwise, they wouldn't have just taken the briefcase."

Mouse screwed up her face in thought. "Was wondering 'bout that. Revell and I found you lying in the middle of Highland. Gear and car clean. Skid marks left by a couple of rockets. That was all."

"Weird, don't you think?"

She nodded. "Yeah. Wicked weird."

Joyboys are punker gangs who like fast bikes. They travel in packs and usually strike from behind. One of their favorite tactics is to whap their intended victim in the back of the head with a blackjack or some equally handy blunt weapon--two-by-fours, pipes, pool cues, and the like.

And they always stripped valuables off their victims. That included anything they could sell for money. Anything.

Either they were ordered to snatch only the case or they weren't joyboys at all.

Unfortunately, I'd never heard of joyboys taking orders from anybody except themselves. Even if threatened or bribed. It wasn't worth the effort. They did their own thing.

Which left the second possibility.

I slipped on my black leather biker jacket and put on my mirrorshades. "Let's see if the dog-boys know some chatter."

***

Before Mouse and I started working together a year ago, she'd been a member of a punker gang who called themselves "The Wolfpack." She'd left them to work with me after Murphy and I helped her out of a tight spot--whenever the White Lotus is involved, it's always a tight spot. Seemed Mouse and some enterprising Wolfpack members were trying to earn creds for the gang by dealing chrome to some suits. The chrome turned out to be bad and the the suits turned out to be Lotus boys.

The others got greased. Mouse was next.

That's when Murphy and I walked in.

Didn't really seem fair, six against one. So we evened the odds a little.

After that, Mouse decided she wanted to sign up with me and Murphy. Wanted to learn how to handle herself in case more Lotus boys came calling.

I'd done a similar thing three years earlier and Murphy had taken me under his wing.

My teacher. Best friend.

Could've been my father.

And then six months ago, Murphy'd been--

I shook myself out of my thoughts and looked down into the alley.

I spotted Mouse and a couple of Wolfpackers huddled around a burning trash can. Light from the fire danced across their faces and tossed flickering, gnarled shapes across the alley's walls like some kind of demented shadow-puppet show.

The dog boys were great street ears, always tapped into the latest jungle chatter. Having Mouse as a link helped us immensely, especially in a recent mix-down that saved our skins but took out half of an Uptown luxury hotel and the squad of hitters on our tail.

Mouse finished her conversation and exchanged a quick, elaborate handshake with her former companions then started back up the alley toward me, the tails of her black trenchcoat billowing behind her.

"So what'd they say?"

Mouse shot a look back at the two Wolfpackers she'd talked to.

I followed her gaze and saw the taller of the two--Diesel--narrow his eyes at me. I shot him my best Smile, the one that always makes people nervous. He flinched.

Worked every time.

"Car," Mouse said, turning back to me. "Tell you on the way."

We made our way back to my Mustang parked across the street. I shook my head, hiding a small smile. "They still don't trust me? Even though we're running together?"

Mouse grinned. "They're scared of you."

"Me? Can't imagine why."

That earned me a snort.

"Okay," I said. "So what've we got on our wannabes?"

"Poseurs," Mouse replied. "No local colors or tags. Blew in about a week ago. Some hit and runs. Mostly tourists near Uptown. Plus, they're not sticking to one spot."

I grinned. Bingo.

Joyboys are extremely territorial. When they aren't whapping victims from behind, they're gunning against other packs for space. Marking territory in blood.

These yahoos were definite wannabes.

"That it?"

Mouse grinned. "Got a place, too."

"Where?"

"Black Rider."

I fought back a shudder and nodded.

Old stomping grounds.

We reached the car and got inside.

"So what we've got here," I began, leaning an elbow on the steering wheel, "is a bunch of wannabe joyboys out for some laughs and quick cash who just happened to steal from and piss off the meanest bitch ronin to walk Bay City. And now, it's payback time."

Mouse's eyes lit up. "Can Mean Bitch Ronin Number Two tag along?"

"Of course. Kat and Mouse. Meanest bitches in the biz."

Mouse gave a maniacal giggle. "They are sooo screwed..."

***

The Engineer was dead, Sikes was still out there, and the Black Rider brought everything back in one cold chill that slithered up my spine.

The Rider was just one of the dozens of wall-crack dives scattered throughout Bay City that reeked of stale sweat and beer and catered to the typical assortment of punkers, wireheads, and razorjocks. This dive sat two blocks south of Windham Park, just beyond the Expressway.

On the edge of Southside.

The weight of the Twins beneath my jacket relaxed me a little. Still, being this close to Southside made me just a bit jumpy.

Unfinished business in the Zone...

First things first.

I shook myself back to the present and did another quick scan of the place. From our seats at the back, I could see the door and the rest of the bar amid the curtain of cigarette smoke and the knots of bodies.

Unfinished business...

"You all right, Kay?"

Mouse.

I nodded. "Occupied."

"Better get unoccupied. Here come our boys."

I straightened in my chair.

Mouse nodded toward the huge grimy front window. Past the crowd I caught the flash of color and chrome as five crotch rockets fishtailed to a stop across the street.

They definitely looked the part. I gave them that. The rockets were bright, flashy. They were decked out in leathers, piercings, tattoos.

But something was off.

The quintet strode through the doors, nodding to the other denizens as if they owned the place. The bartender inclined his head at them. A few others nodded. A nearby table cleared fast and they claimed it like a pack of vultures on carrion.

Still...

"Kay," Mouse began.

I heard the tone in her voice. "You too, huh."

"Yup."

Walked and talked--

I popped my optics to thermograph mode and looked.

Then looked again.

"Cakewalk," I said, then got up and headed for the table of five.

Other than their bikes, joyboys love toys. Implant blades. Monowhips. Pop-ups. Anything that can be hidden--literally--on their person and used to take an opponent down while they're on a rocket. Name it, they have it.

Not these yahoos.

My therms showed them with minor biomods. All flash, but no joyboy substance.

Oh, and they also packed.

But then, so did I.

I reached their table, put hands on my hips, and peered at each one of them over the tops of my mirrorshades.

The two on my left were twin square-jawed blonds who sported short, military-style cuts, but I doubt if they ever served time. The bruiser on my right had a shaved head and tattoos up and down both hugely muscled arms. Next to him sprawled a matchstick with a mohawk and nose studs, a cigarette hanging off his lip.

The last sat directly across from where I stood, his long hair in a ponytail, sporting studded fingerless gloves. He looked up at me and his eyes went to slits--but not before they betrayed him.

By then I knew.

Suddenly, Baldy rose from his seat, all muscular, tattooed, and sweaty two meters of him, flexed his arms, and cracked his knuckles. "What the fuck do you want?" he croaked.

Wrong line.

I grabbed him by the throat and slammed him down onto the tabletop. The back of his head hit like a thunderclap. He gurgled in meek protest then went limp.

The others snapped to their feet.

Four gun barrels shoved themselves in my direction.

Conversation in the bar squealed to a stop.

I looked at each of them again.

One by one.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mouse standing near the bar and I could tell that she was ready to move.

Good ol' Mouse.

"I just came over here to get something back from you boys," I began.

Mohawk looked at Ponytail, his brow furrowed. "I thought the whole deal was tight," he hissed.

"Shut it," Ponytail snapped.

"You said no one knew! Not even the old--!"

"Shut it!" Spit flew from Ponytail's lips and he turned to me, the pistol still pointed at my face. "Let him go or I plug you."

"I came over here to get something back from you boys," I repeated.

Ponytail licked his lips. "Let him go, bitch."

"That's right. I am a bitch. Now give me back what belongs to me."

"What makes you think we've got your case--"

"I never said it was a case." I gave him my Smile.

He flinched. The pistol wavered in his grip.

"Oh, fuck...!" Mohawk muttered.

Glances shot between the foursome.

Baldy chose that moment to wake up and be sneaky. His hand snaked toward the pistol tucked into his pants and he started to sit up.

I grabbed him by the throat again and slammed his head back onto the table. He let out a strangled sigh and went limp again.

Mohawk jumped, nearly dropping his gun. "Jesus Christ!"

"He can't help you now," I said. I kept my grip on Baldy's throat in case he got stealthy again and looked directly at Ponytail. He shrank back a little and his pistol wavered again. "This can be really easy. All you have to do is hand over the case and I let your friend go. Piss me off some more and"--I nodded down at a dazed Baldy--"he dies."

"Okay," said Mohawk. "We'll give you the case--"

"No, we won't," Ponytail said.

"Fuck that! Let's just get our cash and blow!"

Suddenly the doors flew open and six leather-clad figures strode in.

Red leather.

That meant one thing.

Scarlet Razors.

Real joyboys.

Shit.

The Razors got a few steps inside the bar and stopped when they spotted our little six-gun soiree.

The lead Razor's eyes went to slits. "Beat feet shitheads! You're on our turf!"

The foursome spun around, guns still raised.

Bad move.

Lead Razor went saucer-eyed.

Then the six joyboys went for their weapons.

Time to end this.

With one subvocalized command, I pumped my body full of adrenaline stimulators and the world slid into slo-mo.

The Twins leaped into my hands and spat thunder and fire at Lead Razor even before he drew his pistol from the waistband of his pants. He caught four slugs full in the chest, gurgled blood and obscenities, and folded.

I shifted aim toward the two Razors on my left as their guns cleared whatever hidden holster they had, but saw Ponytail standing in my line of fire.

Their guns started to rise.

I shoved Baldy off the tabletop with an elbow, then, with a swift kick, slammed the table into the small of Ponytail's back.

He went down with a yelp.

The Twins roared again, bucking in my hands. The two yahoos sprayed blood in protest, fell back against the door, and slid down leaving a sloppy trail.

Three more on the right.

I turned toward them.

Their guns had just started to come up when I heard fabric rustle.

Mouse catapulted through the air from her spot at the bar, her coattails billowing behind her like a comet's tail. She landed in the middle of the trio.

They managed a brief cry of surprise before metal whipped through the air and blood geysered.

Mouse stepped back, monokatana held out in a kind of artful dancer's pose. Before her, the three joyboys dropped their pistols. Then heads slipped cleanly off two necks, followed by the wet thump of the bodies crumpling to the floor.

The last Razor looked dumbly at Mouse. Then blood gushed in a torrent from the neat slice across his neck and spattered his shirt. He pitched forward into a pool of scarlet.

Mouse turned toward me and grinned. "Slice and dice."

The Twins retreated into their holster rig. I turned to Mohawk who stood beside me, pistol still raised, panting, and smelling like piss. I grabbed his shirtfront with one hand, pulled him toward me and gave him the Smile. He looked at me with eyes the size of hubcaps and gulped loudly.

"Jimmy," he croaked. "Jimmy's got your case."

Click for the Conclusion


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A Family Affair is copyright 2000, Abner Senires. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)