Page 49

Sure, I was ditching a horny businessman, but I hadn’t taken his money. I was ethically in the clear.

I slinked down to Room 124. I looked left and right. No one else in the hall. I pulled a screwdriver from my gaudy purse and jimmied the lock. All right, Jin Chu. Let’s see what you’re up to.

I pushed open the door. A grizzled Latino man sat on the bed, his right arm in a sling. He gripped a Bowie knife in his left hand.

He shot to his feet. “Tu!” he yelled.

“Uh—” I began.

He lunged.

Dear Jazz, Glad to hear about the sales of the foam insulant. We’re making a killing! I’ll send another two cases in the next probe.

I have a candidate picked out for our “employee.” His name is Jata Masai. He’s a recently hired assistant loader. He’s a friendly man but private. Reclusive. He mentioned he has a wife and two daughters, but that’s about all I know. He never eats lunch with the other loaders in the cafeteria—he brings a lunchbox instead. To me this means he’s short on money.

Wife. Two kids. Needs money. Assistant loader. I like that combo. I haven’t approached him about it yet, obviously. I hired a private investigator to learn everything about him. I’ll send you her report as soon as she delivers it. If you like what you see, I’ll recruit him.

How are things with Tyler?

Dear Kelvin,

Make it two cases of foam insulant. Yes, please send the report on Jata when it’s available.

Tyler and I are done. I don’t want to talk about it.

My mind went into overdrive.

Okay, so a guy was coming at me with a knife. He had a wounded arm, probably from Irina while she was being murdered. That meant he wanted to kill me too.

Irina was strong, trained, and armed, but she still lost a knife fight to this guy. What chance did I have? I can’t fight for shit. And running wasn’t an option either. I was in heels and a tight skirt.

I had one chance, and it relied on me guessing where he was going to stab. I was a helpless, exposed girl with no weapon. Why waste time? Just slit my throat.

I jerked my purse to my neck just in time to block his attack. His lightning-fast strike slashed the purse open and the contents spilled out. That would have been my throat. He assumed I’d be halfway through dying after that assault, so he left himself a little open.

I grabbed his bad arm with one hand and punched it with the other. He cried out in pain. He lashed at me with the knife, but I twisted out of the way. I hung on and kicked off the doorframe to torque his injured arm as much as I could. Maybe if his pain was bad enough, he’d be distracted and I could run away.

He screamed in rage and used the arm to hoist me into the air. Okay, that wasn’t part of my plan. He lifted me bodily over his head and swung me down toward the hotel room’s floor. This was my chance. It would hurt, but it was a chance.

I let go of his arm right before hitting the floor. It didn’t lessen the blow. I smashed into the ground on my side. My ribs exploded with pain. I wanted to curl up and moan but I didn’t have the time. I was free—if only for a second.

He stumbled. He’d just had 55 kilograms of Jazz on his arm and it suddenly fell off. I pushed through the pain in my side and got to my knees. With every ounce of strength I had, I slammed my shoulder into his back. “Lefty” was off balance and wasn’t expecting an attack. He tumbled into the hallway.

I fell backward into the hotel room and kicked the door shut. It locked automatically. Less than a second later, I heard the first resounding thump as Lefty tried to force his way back in.

I scrambled to the nightstand next to the bed and dialed the phone.

“Front Desk,” came the immediate reply.

I tried to sound panicked. It wasn’t hard. “Hey! I’m in Room 124 and there’s some guy pounding on the door! I think he’s drunk or something. I’m scared!”

“We’ll send security right up.”


Lefty flung himself against the door a second time.

I hung up and limped to the door. I peeked through the peephole. Lefty reared back and took another running leap at the door. Another rattling thump, but the door was unaffected.

“Metal door, metal deadbolt!” I yelled. “Fuck you!”

He’d backed up to take another run when the elevator doors at the end of the hall opened. The beefy security guy stepped forward. “Something I can help you with, sir?”

A few other room doors opened up. Confused guests peeked at the action. Lefty hadn’t exactly been quiet. He took stock of the situation and of the very large security guard. This wasn’t something he could stab his way out of. He looked at the door longingly, then scampered off.

The guard straightened his tie, walked up, and knocked on my door.

I opened it a crack. “Uh, hi?”

“Are you all right, ma’am?” he asked.

“Yeah. It was just weird is all. Aren’t you going after him?”

“He had a knife. Best to let him go.”

“I see.”

“I’ll stick around in the hall for a while to make sure he doesn’t come back. Rest easy.”

“Okay, thank you.” I closed the door.

I took a moment to recenter.

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