Talia stood in the doorway as she scanned the room. A single stripper worked away at a pole while the smugglers yelled at each other. Multicolored lights shone down on the woman and illuminated the cloud of smoke that hung in the air. How typical. If you’d seen one place like this you’d seen them all.
Reyes’ contact, if he behaved as expected, would be sitting in the rear with his back against the wall. It would be the smart play, and what she’d do in a place like this. Better to see the threats coming since no one could be counted on fighting fairly.
Men stared as she glided across the room. It never ceased to amaze Talia how her hair caught the male eye as it flowed behind her like metallic tendrils. A group of men whistled softly at her, and she ignored them. As rude as it was, she didn’t feel like getting into a barroom brawl. It wasn’t that she couldn’t take them, but a desire to fly under the radar motivated her. She’d come to get information, not to fight.
It never ceased to amaze her that throughout the ages similar things always occurred. Sometimes Talia wondered if it was due to her being attractive or how dangerous she was. If she had to guess, the second one would be her choice because men seemed to find a female warrior sexually attractive.
She snorted softly in derision and continued towards a man sitting in the far corner. None of them truly knew what they were dealing with, and that knowledge alone prevented her from saying anything. They were simply children who wouldn’t last a minute in a fight, and even less when it came to sex.
The smuggler watched her approach. His round face failed to hide the double chin, and his long, dark beard reminded her of the old earth band ZZ-Top. Everything about him matched the description that Reyes gave, so Talia walked over to the table as she subtly scanned for tails.
He used a foot to push a chair out from the table and she sat down. The seat felt warm against her buttocks and Talia kept her face an unreadable mask. Hmm, interesting, someone been there recently, within ten minutes give or take a few. All senses went onto alert as she listened to the area around her and then watched the man for a tell.
Perhaps the visit had been purely business since the smuggler had customers to deal with. However, given the nature of their visit and the short notice Reyes gave the man, it paid to be cautious. Anyone could be a threat and she kept that information in the back of her mind as she waited for him to speak.
A large scar ran down the smuggler’s left cheek, stopping just short of his lips. Several smaller ones, each looking white under the multicolored lighting, covered the man’s face and hands as he drank a beer. He sized her up, carefully taking in every detail as if someone about to purchase an expensive gift. She ordered a whiskey and then waited for him to finish.
“Are you going to talk or look me up all night?”
He tore his eyes away from her hair. “Sorry, Afton Trigger.” She nodded in acknowledgement. “I’ve never seen a hair color like that. It’s…just…sexy for lack of a better word.”
She lowered her hand to her lap, the move so slow and subtle that Trigger didn’t notice. “Pfft, I’ve heard that line before,”
“Just makes you hot as hell,”
“Yeah, well, I get that a lot too,”
“I can see why,”
“Trigger, I didn’t come here for you to tell me how sexy I am. Already know that. I want to know if you’ve seen any strange ships in this or the Falmouth sector.”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘strange,’”
She leaned forwards. “I’m talking about gray three fingered ships,”
“Several of us seen them. We never gets close after Trinidad,”
“What happened there?”
“Two ships disappeared along with the entire colony,”
“When did this happen?”
“They show up quite nicely on your sensors so you know when one’s around.”
“Yeah, and their power levels are through the roof. Once they jump to h-space their gone, ain’t no use trying to follow them,”
Talia’s mind worked overtime. While everything fit the Dragus’ MO, the humans shouldn’t be able to detect that ships ability to spot the ships with their primitive capabilities. Furthermore the gearheads liked to operate in the darkness, until time to strike, so why be so visible?
“And you’re sure about that?”
“Do I look like I’m lying?”
“What are they, Almir?”
An alarm rang inside her head. “I don’t know yet,”
Trigger made a subtle move with his hand and she pulled the Glock out. The smuggler made a major tactical error when he didn’t notice when she dropped a hand to her lap. Someone as experienced as he was shouldn’t have made such a rookie mistake unless.
Movement in the corner of her eye alerted her. Four men at a table a few feet away were watching her while fidgeting as if their seat were on fire.
“Trigger,” her tone was casual, almost disinterested. “I’d tell the boys to back down before someone gets hurt.”
He made a theatrical display of innocence. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,”
“I’m talking about the four sides of beef who are with you,” the men placed their guns on the table. “Last chance,”
“Little lady, you know I can’t do that. You’re worth too much,”
“You want to collect the bounty, eh?”
“Not only sexy, but perceptive too,” he smiled, “I like that in a woman.”
“I prefer my men less sleazy,”
“Did you know the price on your head is eight million credits? They want you dead or alive, with a heavy preference on ‘dead.’”
She chuckled in exasperation before firing. The roar echoed through the room, overwhelming the music, as the first man took two to the chest. He fell backwards onto the floor and didn’t move again as she fired again. A heavyset man went to stand up before two rounds struck him. Fat boy stumbled with both hands over his stomach as blood gushed from the gap between his fingers.
The remaining men, seeing what happened to their buddies, raced for the door. They’d seen enough and decided staying alive was worth more than the credits. Talia tracked them with her pistol, and a wolfish smile tugged her lips upwards. Did they actually think that she’d let them live?
She stood up and fired, knocking the closest man down, as the last would be killer tripped and fell. The pistol the kid held slipped from his hands and skittered across the floor to end up under a table. Talia changed magazines before starting to approach the survivor.
Customers sat in stunned silence, her footsteps the only sound, as she approached the bounty hunter. The kid frantically crawled on hands and knees towards the door, sobbing the entire time. No one thought of moving, lest they too draw the wrath of the murderous woman in their midst.
Talia pressed a foot against the kid’s calf, bringing him to a sudden stop. It would be easy to put a bullet into the boy’s head and be done with it, but why sink to their level? The old adage you got more flies with honey then vinegar seemed a logical course of action.
She whipped around and pointed. “Don’t move, Trigger! I’m not through with you!” She looked down at the kid. “So? You thought it’d be easy to collect this bounty, eh?”
Urine soaked through his pants and then it dripped to the floor. “Don’t! Please!”
“Bounty Hunting’s dangerous,” she said, “anyone tell you that Kid I could kill you, and I’d be well within my rights. But, I’ve decided to let you live.”
“Oh, thank you!”
She rubbed her lips with the top of the Glock’s slide. “I don’t think you’re going to be thanking me after you tell your friends how a woman ghosted your team in less than ten seconds. It doesn’t look good around the office. The boss man might let you go, but if I were you, I’d make a career change.” She knelt down and whispered into his ear. “Because if you come after me again, I’ll kill you, capisce?”
She lifted her foot off his leg. “Now, go on, vamoose! Scram!”
Trigger cowered in the corner, shaking so bad that the table rattled as she approached. Good, maybe that’d teach the prick about double crossing someone. Reyes wouldn’t be happy but there wasn’t a chance in hell that she’d ever believe a word that came out of the smuggler’s mouth again. His career as an informant was done, and she bet he would be in jail within six months.
She grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “Get up. We’re going for a little stroll,”
The door to the club’s kitchen was close by and she flashed a vulpine smile. So, he sat down where he could make a quick exit out the back door. He was about to learn things like that worked both ways as she started frog walking him towards the entrance.
Cooks looked up as they entered and then moved aside.
“Don’t mind us, just passing through.”
She kicked the door open and then shoved Trigger into the alley behind the club. The tight path was lined with cobblestones and ran the length of the block and it split commercial from residential as houses lined one side and businesses were on the other.
She threw him to the pavement. “Now I’m going to give you three seconds to answer me.”
He cowered. “I’ve told you everything I know! Honest!”
“That’s hard to believe after this little stunt,” she said softly. “Bounty Hunters? Really?? And only four? If it weren’t so pathetic, I’d be insulted,”
“I needed the money!”
She knelt down and then raised an eyebrow. “Needed the money, eh? So, instead of telling me what I wanted to know, three men died. Now, were those ships truly three fingered?”
Talia stood up and then felt the cold hard steel of a gun barrel press against the back of her head. “Oh, great…”
A woman’s voice, full of malice, spoke softly into her ear. “Drop the piece, Almir,”
She sighed in resignation. “Well played, Trigger. Impressive. Have to admit I didn’t see this one coming.”
“It wasn’t his play,”
“Well then, I guess you’re the brains of the operation,”
“You could say that. What you did to my boys wasn’t very nice,”
“I’m impressed,” Talia said, “you’re good.”
“Why thank you,”
“And so am I,” Methos said, “now drop it.”
The woman chuckled. “Chambers, I should’ve guessed when I couldn’t find you.”
“Critical mistake on your part,” Methos agreed, “but I’m here now.”
“I have men looking for you,”
“Uh, no you don’t. They’re busy floating with the fishes in the east river. You know, you should’ve sent more than three. That shit was weak.”
The woman shrugged.
Talia rolled her eyes. “What are you doing here, sis?”
“Once again saving you ass, Talia,” Methos said, “When are you going to use those fucking brains of yours??”
“I did use it!”
“Then why are you sitting here with a gun to your head?”
“Temporary setback my ass,” Methos said. “You’d gotten yourself into jam. How many times have I got to tell you that your ‘can’t miss plans’ fail??”
“Is this the time??”
“As good as any,”
The woman cleared her throat. “If you two haven’t noticed, I can still kill her.”
“And then you’d be gone less than a second later,” Methos countered. “So drop the gun or die, your choice.”
The woman knelt down and placed the weapon on the ground. “What now?”
“Two things,” Methos said sweetly. “First off, tell your boss he or she needs to stop. It’ll do nothing but get more people killed, understand?”
“Second, and this is the most important, you’re going to take a nap,”
Methos knocked her out. “Sleep tight,”
Trigger sat on the pavement as the rain poured down an a deeper stain formed between his legs. It almost made Talia burst out in laughter. The big bad smuggler wet his pants!
My how the mighty have fallen.
“What about him?” Methos asked.
She scooped up the unconscious woman’s weapon. “Leave him. I doubt his employers will like this failure.”
Methos smiled. “I think so.” She waved. “Have fun Trigger, been nice knowing you.”
“Wait!” Trigger yelled. “Don’t leave me!”
Talia looked at Methos and smiled. “Sorry, Trigger. You double-crossed me twice. Now you can explain to your bosses how I got away. Goodbye!”