The kick-ass return of Kat and Mouse
in
...

The Devil You Know

A 6-Chapter Foray in Future-Noir!

by Abner Senires
About the author

What Has Gone Before: Someone kidnapped Mouse thinking she was the tycoon's daughter Natalia. Kat figures it's best if the kidnappers don't realize their mistake, so dresses Natalia up like Mouse. Pays a visit to the tycoon's senior V.P., Deborah Kelly, who initially hired them to look after Natalia; gets the feeling Miss Kelly is involved. The tycoon, still thinking his daughter was kidnapped, hires Kat to get her back. The kidnappers have demanded a million dollar ransom. Kat plans to be at the drop, but Fast Eddie, her contact, has made a discovery...

******

Episode 4:
Daddy's Business



"sHE'S DEAD," FAST EDDIE SAID to me and upended another can of Tsunami Cola.  "Or not."

We were in Fast Eddie's shop, an abandoned gas station off Edge Road on the southeast end of the city, past Highway 401.  Inside the converted repair bay, Eddie sat in a high-back leather chair in front of three tables connected in a U-shape set up against the wall.  Empty soda cans and assorted electronic equipment trailing wires and cables occupied the two side tables.  Three flat-screens, two keyboards, and a cyberdeck dominated the middle table.

Natalia sat on a stool off to one side.  We exchanged looks.  I turned back to Eddie.

"Come again?" I said.

"Deborah Kelly," Eddie said, tossing the empty can aside, "died 35 years ago.  Or she's a 96-year-old widow still living in the Confed States."  He leaned his wiry frame back into his seat, adjusting his rumpled white lab coat.  "I'd go with the deceased."

"You're not making sense, Eddie," I said.

He swiveled his chair toward a keyboard and typed.  A display window popped up on the center screen.  Medical records.  "Kelly, Deborah Anne," he read from the screen.  "Born 12 April 2007 at 11:25 a.m. to Martin and Dana Kelly.  Boston.  Premature."  He looked over his shoulder.  "Died of complications two days later."

"So who were we talking to half and hour ago?" I said.

"Watch this," Eddie said and displayed another window on the monitor.  AstraNova's personnel files.  "Kelly came to work for AstraNova eleven years ago.  Personal data matches the baby from Boston.  'Cept for place of birth.  That's registered as Chicago Metroplex.  But I cross-reffed."  He looked over his shoulder.  "Her records are blank until eleven years ago."

"Nothing?"

"Not a damned thing."

"What's her personnel file say?"

"Climbed the ladder pretty fast.  Made some choice deals that got her noticed.  Took over as COO five years later.  One before her stepped down.  Scandal."

"Lucky her."

"Lucky nothing."  Eddie typed on the keyboard.  Five display windows appeared on the monitor.  Company profiles.  "These are the companies she won contracts with three years after starting."  He spun around, looked at me and Natalia, a smile creasing his face.  "Guess what they have in common."

"Besides Kelly winning the contracts?"

"Family ties," Eddie said.

Son of a bitch.

Natalia's brow furrowed.  "Family ties?"

"Crime Families, luv," Eddie said to her.  "Organized crime."

"Which one?" I said.

"Vittorio."

"So she's connected.  But that still doesn't answer my question.  If Kelly -- the real Kelly -- is dead, who were we talking to at AstraNova?"

"Getting there," Eddie said.   He spun back to the console and opened another display.

A photograph of Kelly appeared, except she had shoulder-length blond hair and wore a black, sequined cocktail dress, a drink in one hand.  She was talking to a trio of similarly dressed women.

Eddie looked over his shoulder at me.  "Kelly, right?"

"Or whoever she really is," I said.  "But yeah.  Except the hair is different..."

"File photo.  BCPD Vice."

"Vice?" I said.

Eddie nodded.  "Taken twelve years ago."  He tapped the monitor.  "That's Daniela Sorensen.  Husband is Charles Sorensen, senior VP at DigiTech.  Corp out of SoCal."  Eddie sat back in his chair and swiveled around to me and Natalia.  "Her maiden name is Vittorio."

"Wait a minute," Natalia said.  "Kelly is really this Sorensen woman."

"Vittorio," Eddie said.

"Whatever," said Natalia.  "So what, she's some kind of industrial spy?"

"Got it in one, luv," Eddie said.

"But that's crazy.  She's been with my dad's company for all that time.  If she was just going to steal information for that crime family, wouldn't she have done it already?"

A thought struck.

"What's AstraNova's track record for the last five years?" I said to Eddie.

He turned back to the console and typed some commands.  A set of graphs popped up.  Eddie studied them for a moment, then said, "Decent, until three years ago.  Profits started to drop.  Down forty percent over three years."  He looked at me.  "Why?  You planning to invest?"

"Your father had a meeting today," I said to Natalia.  "Who with?"

She shrugged.

"Eddie?"

"Give me a sec."  He plugged a gold-tipped cable into the datajack just behind his right ear and slumped in his chair.  Three minutes later, he jerked awake and shuddered.  He wiped sweat from his forehead and grinned at Natalia.  "Your dad's packing hard core ice for a personal calendar."

"What'd you find?" I said.

Eddie typed some commands then studied the monitor.  "Meeting in San Angeles.  With DigiTech."

Natalia looked at me.  So did Eddie.

"Contact name, by any chance?" I said.

Eddie typed some more then stopped.  "Well, bloody hell."

"Let me guess," I said.  "Charles Sorensen."

"Bang on," said Eddie.

***

My optic clock read: 16:57:03.  Close to an hour until the meet and Mouse was still missing.  But not for long.  I wasn't sure where she was, but I had a good idea who had her.

I stood outside Spec's shop, staring into the trunk of Renaldi's car.  The duffel from the Mustang sat open on the trunk floor.  A old pump action Remington 12-gauge.   Bandolier with 50 shells.  Extra box of ammo.

Damn.  I'd unpacked the H&K MP7 the day before to clean.

My cellphone chirped.  Specs.  "Anything?" I said.

"Big fat nothin'," Specs said.

"You try everyone?"

"Everyone I could.  Even called in some favors.  Zip.  No teams went for the girl."

"Thanks."

"You thinkin' what I think you're thinkin'?"

"Yup."

"Figured.  Oh -- info's gonna cost."

"Put it on my tab."

"You know how much that is?"

"Bye, Specs."

"The things I do for you..." he said and hung up.

I looked back at the shotgun.  It would have to do.

Footsteps shuffled toward me.

"Kat?"

I turned.

Natalia stood behind me, hands in the bomber jacket's pockets, ballcap still pulled low over her face.  For a moment, Natalia looked like Mouse did when she first walked into the Red Dog and asked to join Murphy and me.

"So what now?" she asked.

I thought a moment.  "In about half an hour, your father finds out where the meet takes place.  Which leaves us waiting around."

"So?"

"Do I look like I wait around?"

She smiled.

"I figure Kelly ordered your capture," I said, "and her own sec team hit us back there."

"How do you know?"

"No freelancers were hired to pick you up.  I checked with Specs."

"You trust him?"

"He'd be stupid to jerk me around."

"Couldn't someone else have sent those men?"

"Maybe."  I remembered the conversation back at AstraNova.  "But my hunch says Kelly."

Natalia frowned.  "Why me?"

"Why not?"  I said.  "Boss's daughter.  Great bargaining chip."

She looked deflated.  "Yeah..."

I picked up the shotgun, checked the magazine, then started loading shells.  "As far as Kelly's concerned, Mouse and I are still alive.  I doubt witnesses were part of her plan.  Then again, I doubt dealing with me was part of her plan."

"What is her plan?" Natalia asked.

I told her.

She was quiet for a while.

I finished loading the shotgun and pumped a shell into the chamber.  "That sec team's gonna be hunting us.  I just hope I bought us enough time."

Natalia's eyes lit up.  "So that's why we took my father's car.  You knew they'd follow us in the other one."

"The switch should confuse them for a bit," I said.  "But the garage cams'll show which car we took."

"So they will find us."

"Counting on it."  I slung the bandolier across my chest and the shotgun over my shoulder.  Then shut the trunk lid.

And saw it.

The aerodyne.

Just south of Highway 35, banking past the pale, concrete towers of Winn Town, its belly-mounted searchlights sweeping.  Heading toward us.

Then, an idea struck...

***



Back to Episode 3 : Daddy's Money
On to Episode 5 : Daddy's Double-Crossing Senior V.P.




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Babysitting Blues is copyright by Abner Senires. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)