“You gave Federov to the Seebs?” Jansen asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“So that’s where he went.” Jansen jotted something down. “You were carrying other weapons with you. A pistol and two knives. Why didn’t you use them?”
“Why didn’t my client kill Federov, you mean?” Greenwald asked. “Mr. Lee didn’t have to. And if he had, he wouldn’t have found the killers. Justice would not have been served.”
Jansen glowered, as though contemplating other questions. Greenwald stared back. Jansen sighed, and asked, “What happened next?”
“We developed the situation.”
Federov coughed up the address of his crew’s safe house, where they were hanging on to RKC’s property until the heat died down. After we handed him to the SCB, Alex raced to the site while I juggled a conference call between the NHPD desk sergeant and the duty judge. The judge issued a search warrant, to be executed the NHPD. All Alex and I could do was keep an eye on the safe house until the cops came in force. Which was fine by us.
The safe house was a two-story bungalow in the suburbs. We drove around the block, eyeballing the building. The thin curtains were drawn, but I caught movement behind the first-floor windows.
“Two entrances, front and rear door, plus garage,” Alex said. “We need more eyes.”
I summoned Asahail again. She looked around, and frowned deeply.
“No food? No drink?” she asked.
“How would you like to double your pay?”
Her eyes lit up. “How?”
“See that house across the street? I need you to watch it for me. If someone tries to leave, tell me.”
“Easy, easy! But incense first.”
I did as she asked. Alex groaned. He hated the smell of incense. A horde of sylphs descended on the burning coil, consuming it in seconds, and dispersed.
“Man, you gotta get your own car,” Alex said.
“What for? You’re the designated—”
A loud CRACK split the air. Mana buzzed around me. A hellhound materialized on the front porch, barking at the sky.
“What the shit?” Alex said.
“Guardian spirit. Fuck!”
I should have known. Gramzin would have sprung for top-grade protection. The hound leapt, snapping its jaws at the barely-visible sylphs. They darted out of reach. It opened its mouth and a breathed a tongue of fire.
“Dominic!” Asahail screamed. “Help!”
“Fuck! Alex, get your long gun!”
I burst out of the car, drawing my Steyr M99 from its one o’clock holster and dashed around the engine block. Using the hood as a makeshift bench rest, I sighted down the pistol, placing the triangular front sight on the hellhound’s center of mass, and fired. Again and again and again.
The bullets slammed the beast to the ground. It got up, bleeding green ichor, and roared at me. Charging, it opened its mouth and I fired down its throat. It went down, and dissolved into ectoplasm.
The windows burst outwards in a fusillade of gunfire. I dropped to my side, curling up and placing my feet against the tires. I brought the smoking pistol up and searched for a target. No joy, bad angle.
Alex delivered a barrage of his own. He had a civilian-legal semiautomatic DDM8 carbine, but he could fire aimed shots so fast each report blurred into the next. The incoming fire slackened.
“They’re down!” Alex yelled. “We need to breach! I’ll cover!”
“Moving!” I got up and dashed for the door, replacing the partial magazine for the closer of the two full ones at my centerline. Alex joined me a moment later.
“Breach the door!” Alex yelled, pointing at the window behind me.
“Breacher up!” I replied, giving a thumbs-up, and followed him to the window.
He raked the broken glass away with his carbine’s barrel and vaulted through. Moments later, he fired a controlled pair.
“Clear!” he yelled.
I got behind him and tapped his thigh. He’d killed a rifle-armed werewolf at the window. Nearby, a trail of blood led to the dining room. Alex shouldered his carbine and led the way.
Asahail flitted to my ear. “Watch out! Werewolf trying to ambush you!”
The werewolf snarled, jumping out the doorway, raising a pistol.
“NO!” Asahail shouted.
Sparks flew from her hands. The handgun exploded, stripping away the pseudofur covering chromed-up paws.
Alex closed in with a muzzle strike. The werewolf went to all fours, flowing into a double-leg takedown and slamming Alex to the ground. Howling, the werewolf straddled Alex’s torso with his thighs and raised his right paw, extending sharp claws.
I shot him in the chest, twice, and—
Heavy footsteps behind me.
“Watch out!” Asahail yelled.
I jumped away, just barely dodging a bull rush. The newcomer was a small female troll; my head came to her chest and she massed about a hundred and thirty kilos. None of it fat.
I fell against a sofa. She spun round and barreled at me. Pistol held high and back against my chest, I fired and fired, my left hand dipping to my dual magazine pouch. The bullets raised dust from her shirt, and nothing more. She faked left, jumped right, and engulfed my gun in massive hands.
My hand slipped behind the pouch and found my Borus Falconet. I hooked my index and little fingers into the retention holes, drew the karambit in a forward grip and pull-cut her right biceps. The arm went limp and I went for her neck.
The blade bounced off.
She jumped back, damn near tearing my arm out of its socket. I released my gun. She tried to flip the Steyr around with one hand, then tossed it away. It bought me enough time to draw the larger Liberator knife at my right hip.
She hooked her good arm at my head. I stepped out and scissored my hands outwards as I heard a loud CLACK. The karambit missed, but I was in the perfect position to slam the Liberator into her kidney. Metal crunched. When I pulled the blade out it was clean.
She was a full-body cyborg. Damn.
She turned into me. I dropped my forearm into her ribs, just barely pushing her away. I jumped clear and re-assessed the threat.
Long claws extended from her forearms. She had hidden weapons. Shit.
“ALEX!” I screamed, flipping the Liberator around to hold it reverse-grip edge-in.
“BUSY!” he replied.
The troll charged, chambering her good arm for a downward slash.
“DIIIIIIIEEEEE!” Asahail screamed, flying right into the troll’s face.
The troll startled, and Asahail bounced off. Closing in, I stepped right and sheared the Talon left, bringing her arm down. I chambered the Liberator above my left shoulder and thrust into her face, her eyes, her neck, sinking in and ripping out, again and again like a sewing machine even as I crashed my body weight into and through her.
She fell, sprawling and twitching against a table. I stepped back, wiped my face on a sleeve. Blood and…other stuff gushed from her shredded head. She was done.
I scanned the room. Alex had worked his way into a corner, and was stepping off from the werewolf, now missing the back of its skull. Smoke curled from the pistol in Alex’s hand.
“That’s all of them!” Asahail announced.
“Thanks,” I said. “You’ve really earned a bonus.”
The sylph whooped in joy. Halted in mid-air. Zoomed to Alex.
He had gone pale.
“I’m…going…down,” he whispered.
He dropped to a knee. Blood pulsed from deep claw wounds in his side. Alex pulled up his pants, exposing his blowout kit. He tore it open with fumbling fingers, and I helped him press a bandage against his wound. Sirens wailed in the distance.
“And now they show up,” I muttered.
“As you can see,” Greenwald said, “My client was defending himself, Mr. Hanson and Ms Asahail.”
Jansen scribbled into his notebook. “That’s up to the DA to decide, Counselor.”
“I will gladly speak to Mr. Torvale myself.”
“In that case—”
The door flung open. Torvale strode in.
“Mr. Greenwald,” Torvale said.
“Mr. Torvale,” Greenwald said, standing.
Both gnomes were of equal height, but Greenwald’s hat was slightly taller. Pointedly ignoring Greenwald, Torvale sneered at me.
“Mr. Lee, you seem to have powerful friends,” Torvale said. “We are dropping all charges. Sign these.”
He handed me a stack of papers. I gave them to Greenwald for interpretation.
“The DA is not pressing any charges at this time,” the lawyer said. “But you may be called up to answer questions pertaining to the case. Sign the papers and you’re free to go.”
I rattled my handcuffs. Jansen unlocked them and Greenwald supplied a pen. I signed the documents. Torvale snatched them back.
“We’re done,” Torvale said. “You’ll find no more work from the police, Mr. Lee, not while I’m still the DA.” Torvale sniffed and marched out.
I shook Greenwald’s hand. “Thanks.”
Greenwald smirked. “No problem. It’s always nice to one-up Torvale.”
Jansen escorted us out. An elf in a suit was waiting for us in the hallway.
“Mr. Johnson,” I said.
“Mr. Lee. A moment please.”
“You have it.”
“I understand you have not, strictly speaking, fulfilled the terms of our contract.”
“Not at this point,” I said carefully.
“Nevertheless, you’ve dealt with Mr. Vandemeer’s killers. The police have recovered our property from their safe house, and will be returning them to us shortly. While the publicity is regrettable, RKC is not ungrateful for your help.”
“Which means…?” Greenwald asked.
“We are prepared to pay an honorarium in recognition of your assistance. Ten thousand dollars, plus medical fees.”
The elf extracted a thick manila envelope from his jacket pocket. I took it in both hands.
“Thank you,” I said. “I trust our business is concluded?”
“It is. Perhaps we may have need of your services in the future.”
“We will see about that.”
We shook hands. He left.
Greenwald sniffed. “Elves are tricky.”
“And so are you.”
He chuffed. “Of course.” He cracked his neck. “I heard Alex just left the ER. He’s stable and conscious. Going to visit him?”
“Not yet. First, Dimi’s Bar & Bistro.”
He blinked. “Excuse me?”
“I have sylphs to pay.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this story! For more tales like this one, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES
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