(This one was mostly written to see if I could still write a fight scene. Also to see if I could describe a particular technique. I’m pretty happy with that part.)
An instant of resistance against the knife blade, but the Kevlar parted before superior strength.
Beep beep beep.
Damn. Bad timing.
Crunch as the heel of a combat boot connected with a jaw.
Beep beep beep.
On feet, survey surroundings in a second.
Four down, two active. Target frozen, probably mix of fear and shock.
Understandable, Talya decided. He’d hired the best he could afford. But they had no way to prepare for one of her kind.
She turned, blocked an arm with her own, as the beeping came back to her ear. A quick jab to the face broke the guard’s nose as she flipped his wrist, both snapping his elbow and causing his knife to clatter on the concrete. A spin and knee to the short ribs left internal bleeding and a single active hostile standing.
The woman had already shot her three times, and missed a couple others. Good grouping, Talya absently noted, all center of mass, an area the size of her fist.
The incessant, intermittent, beeping continued.
Shit. No time for this.
With a grin, Talya let a bit of beast show. Not enough to lose control, but just enough for a feral glow to her eyes and a bit of fang to show.
Just the amount to convince the other woman that she wasn’t getting paid enough. And that caution was the better part of valor.
As the last guard ran, Talya focused on the target and touched the earpiece to take her call.
“Gregor? Dude, I’m in the middle of a job . . . that you set up.”
“The Demetri thing. Just a sec.”
She thumbed her earpiece to mute.
“Waylon Morrell? Demetri sends his regards and says he wants his money. Two days, or this warning becomes the real thing.”
Turning away from the cowering man, Talya unmuted.
“Why was your phone on? Don’t you use ‘don’t disturb’?”
“Gregor. You called twice in a minute. It registered as an emergency and went through. I was shot, twice, because you distracted me.”
Talya rolled her eyes.
“I’ll be adding a replacement shirt to my bill, Gregor.”
“Fine. Demetri can cover it.”
“What’s the emergency?”
“I need a consult, Talya. Usual finder’s fee.”
“What’s the job?”
“Retrieval . . . I’d offer it to you, but it’s a team thing. In the community, not norms.”
“What’s the pay?”
Gregor named a figure that caused her to miss a step.
She recovered and slid into a nondescript Toyota.
“ASAP, three weeks max.”
Talya thought for a few seconds as she pulled into traffic.
“I can have a team together in 72 hours,” she said. Five way split, it would still be worth it for a three week job. Which meant either tough owner or expensive item.
“You sure?” Gregor did not, she thought, do a good job hiding his surprise. “It needs a team and isn’t your usual . . .”
“Just send me the details. I’ll cover the rest.”
“No details until the team’s confirmed. Not after Minsk.”
Talya paused, processing.
“You brokered Minsk?”
“Sadly. Took a big hit.”
“Fine. I’ll get in touch in two days. The usual number?”
“I’ll look forward to the call. But, come Friday, I’ll offer it to someone else. Just business.”
Talya disconnected the call as she turned onto an entrance ramp. The highway, 270, made a rough loop around the city, through the suburbs, and connected all the major interstates that passed by or through. She liked to think of it as more the heart of the city than downtown was. Everything passed through 270 somehow.
As her eyes scanned the traffic and sought the Highland Road exit, most of her mind ran down a virtual dossier of people she knew in the business.
Thomas and Mordecai would be in, easy. If they weren’t on jobs already. Jade would be good on the back end, and she’d see the challenge. Only a little effort to convince her.
That would give her entry, magic support, and tech-tactical support.
No, he didn’t work well with others, and there was Boston, she thought.
Chen might be good, but she’d heard he died a couple week before. Siddiq never left the Midwest, so unless the job was limited, he was out.
That left . . . Caroline.
Talya considered as she pulled into a parking spot.
She shouldered a knapsack and small messenger bag, locked the car, and strode toward the train station. She preferred the train to planes. They were slower, but there were fewer questions and travel between cities in the state was faster by train than car.
As she took place on the platform, Talya nodded to herself. Caroline brought a generalist to the team. She could hold her own and be second to the guys, if needed. And, most important, she could be trusted.
She’d also be the most difficult to convince, though having Jade in would help that. Lucifer would need wool socks before Caroline could pass up a cute redhead.
The train pulled out as Talya scanned the nearly empty carriage. Her phone was out before they cleared the station.
“Hey, Jade. How’re things? Good. Listen . . . Gregor’s got a job he sent my way. Could use a little help if you’re still freelancing . . .”