Page 57

Rudy glared as she left, then he shot me a look. “You’re not safe. You’re better off confessing to your part in this and getting deported to Saudi Arabia. It’s easier to hide out there than here.”

“You’re better off eating shit,” I said.

“O Palácio won’t give up just because I caught their fixer. You can be sure they’ll send another one on the next meatship.”

“First of all: duh,” I said. “Second off: I caught him, not you. And finally…how’d he track my Gizmo?”

Rudy frowned. “That does bother me.”

“I’ll be on my way. If you need to reach me, you know the identity I’m using.” He’d confiscated my Harpreet Gizmo when he arrested me. I picked it up off his desk. “You’ve had plenty of opportunities to kill me and haven’t done it.”

“Thanks for the vote of trust. You should stay around me for your own safety.”

It was tempting. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what my next move would be, but it would definitely be something I couldn’t do with Rudy watching.

“I’m better on my own, thanks.” I turned to Jin Chu. “What’s ZAFO?”

“Suck a dick!”

“Get out,” Rudy said to me. “Come back if you want protection.”

“Fine, fine,” I said.

Hartnell’s had its usual crowd of quiet, borderline alcoholics. I knew each of them by face, if not name. There were no strangers that day, and none of the regulars even glanced my way. Business as usual at my watering hole.

Billy poured me a pint of my usual grog. “Aren’t you on the run or somefin’?”

I wiggled my hand. “Kind of.”

Was Alvarez the only thug O Palácio had in town? Maybe. Maybe not. I mean, how many people would you assign to your lunar mafia money-laundering operation? At least I knew one thing: They couldn’t have sent anyone new. Not yet. It takes weeks to get here from Earth.

“Is it wise to come ’round your favorite pub then?”

“Nope. It’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. And that’s a field of intense competition.”

He threw a towel over his shoulder. “Then why?”

I swigged my beer. “Because I made a deal.”

Billy looked past me to the entrance and widened his eyes. “Cor! There’s a face I haven’t seen in an age!”

Dale walked up to his old stool next to mine and sat down. He grinned from ear to ear. “A pint of your worst, Billy.”

“On the house for ya!” Billy said. He filled a pint for Dale. “How’s me favorite arse bandit?”

“Can’t complain. Still do, though.”

“Har!” He slid the pint to Dale. “I’ll leave you two hatebirds alone.”

Dale sipped his beer and smirked at me. “I wasn’t sure if you’d show.”

“Deal’s a deal,” I said. “But if someone shows up to kill me I might need to leave early.”

“Yeah, about that. What’s going on? Rumor has it you’re tangled up in the murders.”

“Rumor’s right.” I drained my glass and tapped it twice on the bar. Billy slid me another—he’d poured it in advance. “I was the next intended victim.”

“Rudy caught the murderer, right? The news sites say it’s some Portuguese guy?”

“Brazilian,” I said. “Doesn’t matter. They’ll just send another one after me. I’ve got a short break at best.”

“Shit, Jazz. Is there anything I can do?”

I stared him in the eyes. “We’re not friends, Dale. Don’t worry about me.”

He sighed. “We could be. In time, maybe?”

“I don’t see it happening.”

“Well, I’ve got one evening a week to change your mind.” He smiled at me. Smug little fucker. “So why’d you do the harvester job?”

“Trond was going to pay me a big pile of money.”

“Yeah, but…” He looked pensive. “I mean, it’s not your style. It was risky—and you’re really smart. You don’t take risks unless you have to. You’re not desperate for cash or anything, so far as I know. I mean, yeah, you’re poor. But you’re stable. Do you owe loan sharks or something?”


“Gambling debt?” he asked.

“No. Stop it.”

“Come on, Jazz.” He leaned in. “What’s the deal? This doesn’t make sense to me.”

“Doesn’t have to make sense to you.” I checked my Gizmo. “We have three hours and fifty-two minutes left until midnight, by the way. Then it won’t be ‘evening’ anymore.”

“Then I’m just going to spend three hours and fifty-two minutes asking the same question.”

Pain in my ass…I sighed. “I need 416,922 slugs.”

“That’s…a very specific number. Why do you need it?”

“Because fuck you, that’s why.”


“No!” I snapped. “That’s all you’re getting.”

Awkward silence.

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