I can't believe we've wasted a whole day perched like pigeons. Spike flicked the butt of his cigarette out the window. The glowing end tumbled three stories to land with a hiss in a puddle. He tapped the special glasses and let the search function do another sweep of the crowd winding through the Ganymede streets. Zilch. He sighed and stretched his legs out on the windowsill of the abandoned building. A slight thrill ran through him as he thought about the fact that there was nothing between him and a three-story plummet. Not like he hadn't plunged from that height before and lived to tell about it.
Static over his com stole his attention from drifting off into a trance. "Yo, Faye, you got anything?"
"Not unless you count a cold. Damn it's freezing on Ganymede in the winter!"
Spike folded his arms across his chest, bare forearms touching. The breeze from outside pricked at the hairs, but he didn't so much as shiver. Cold? Gimme a damn break. After my stint on Pluto, that over-dramatic crapshooter doesn't know a thing about cold! He cocked his head, belated thoughts wandering like a black cat through a midnight alley. Heh … forgot about the old bat's cryo-stint. Well, maybe she does, but she slept through hers. Wish I could have slept more in that ice box. Damn ISSP. He leaned back and sighed.
"Alright Spike, what about you?"
Laying back a bit further, Spike opened his mouth and snored.
Jet growled, "Knock it off, Pard. That isn't funny."
"Neither is this wild goose chase. Come on, that kook didn't know his head from the bottle in his hand. Derik Hedges wouldn't do a trade in broad daylight. The guy's been in the circuit too long."
"You just want to go dig into a baked goose at the Cygnus Cafe."
Faye's laughter broke over the com. "Of course he does. Spike always wants to skip to the eating part, except when it involves a Ganymede Rock Lobster."
"Really Faye? You're bringing that up again? A guy leaves something in the fridge until it mutates and hatches a new life form endangering the whole crew and no one will let him live it down."
"Not on your life, lunkhead!"
Jet interrupted, "No food until we get the bounty."
Spike scowled even though no one could witness it. "Then how about we try something that will actually work rather than eavesdropping."
"You got a better plan?"
"Naw, I'm the guy that plays by instinct, remember?"
"Can you cut the sarcasm? I apologized for that remark."
"Mmm hmm, sure thing, Sun Tzu." The fire escape groaned as he swung over to it and descended the rusty steps. Tucking away the glasses, he let his wrist brush up against the hilt of his Jericho holstered behind his back. Surrounded by a river of bustling people in the evening rush he passed two blocks. Hardly anyone even glanced his way.
Jet piped up, "Spike. You gonna clue me in on this plan?"
"Does he ever?"
"Ugh. You got a point."
Spike let a tight-lipped smile spread. In the distance his keen eye caught a man sweeping the front of a butcher's shop offering a furtive glance over a shoulder. A rail-thin thug across the street tugged the brim of his ball-cap down.
Hidden in his pockets Spike cracked his knuckles.
The shopkeeper laid the broom down and went inside the store. To average folks that meant nothing, but to Spike's former life as a syndicate member it was a bright flashing neon sign. Taking the long route, Spike walked around the block and came through the alley from the other direction. A heavy metal door set deep in the wall waited there. When he tested the knob, it turned.
Looks like this joint serves up more than pork chops. Time to offer my skills to tenderize a little fresh meat.
He pushed through the door to a waft of raw meat and blood. Memories surged back from his days as a Red Dragon. He shook his head to banish the crashing wave. The shaft of light sliced through the chilled darkness. The bright red ball cap turned, below the brim two dilated eyes stared. The thug froze with his hand hovering over his gun hilt.
Spike laughed and held out his empty hands. "Relax, no need to get out the heat. Just wanna talk."
"Don't know nothing." He spat out. "You shouldn't be here. Whoever you are, get out!" His other hand splayed on the locked door behind him.
"Hey, what you got there?"
The hand grasped the gun, shaking. "I said, get out!"
"You don't know me." Spike narrows his eyes. "But I'm really not the taking orders type. I need to see what you got behind you. So, I would suggest you move before I use you to open the door."
He blinked, looked over his shoulder. A bead of sweat dripped down his face.
When he didn't move, Spike's smile intensified. Bingo, hello underbelly! In a flat out run he bull-rushed the door.
The thug bleated and threw himself out of the way a second before Spike slammed into the wooden barrier, delivering a violent kick. The frame shattered into splinters sending the door into the room on screeching hinges.
"Spike! What the hell is going on?"
A naked light bulb swung from a fixture on the ceiling. It cast eerie shadows on figures in the room. A man in a cheap suit knelt on the floor, anger burned in his eyes. Above him a teenage boy, Spike gauged to be no older than fourteen, held a gun with both hands, his finger jittered on the trigger.
At the crash the boy jerked upright and stumbled. His victim seized the moment and swept his legs from beneath him, sending the boy toward the wall. A cart of bloody bones scattered.
Spike hunched down and barked as the man prepared to dart for him. "I'm no pushover!"
Of course he wasn't expecting the femur flung at his face. In an odd dance, Spike evaded the bone but not the flat-palmed strike at his chest. Breathless, he folded back against the wall cursing his vile luck. All he'd wanted was a little information, not a bloody brawl. Why couldn't things ever be simple?
It felt like an electrical jolt. His cybernetic eye caught the flash of ink on skin and automatically zeroed in. The intersecting lines of a geometric pattern blazed in his memory from the information file as the target tore out of the backroom.
"Shit! That was Derik!" Spike thrust off the wall and vaulted over the ball-cap idiot now crouched on the floor cupping his face, blood gushing between his fingers. Someone's having a worse day than me for a change. As swift as he could, Spike dashed out into the alley.
Nothing. Not to his left. Not to his right.
"Dammit!" He kicked a can and sent it ricocheting against the filthy bricks.
"Alright, Spike. Spill it! What the hell did I just hear?"
"Me getting butchered."
"No, just pissed." Spike shouted, "There goes our meal ticket—again!"
The click of a gun caught his attention. Spike turned slowly to find the grim-faced kid pointing the trembling barrel, unshed tears in his determined eyes.
Faye's voice cut over, punctuated by the clatter of her heels. "Was the plan to let him get away?" Silence stretched on as Spike remained still, watching the boy's finger milking the trigger. "Don't tell me you're such a baby that your feelings are too hurt to reply … Spike?"
Both Jet and Faye's voices squealed over the feed, "SPIKE!"
See you, Space Cowboy!