I’d still beat her ass if I met her. Don’t get me wrong.
I must have been at it for a couple of hours because Svoboda finally came home from work.
“Oh, hey,” he said. “How are you feeling—uh…uh…”
I tore my attention away from the monitor to see what had caused his mental reboot. He was just kind of staring at me. I looked down. I was still wearing just the shirt I’d liberated from his closet. I was pretty sexy, I have to admit.
“Hope you don’t mind.” I gestured to the shirt.
“N-no,” he said. “No problem. It looks good. I mean, it hangs well. I mean, how your chest makes it, um…”
I watched him flounder for a second. “When all this is over, if I’m still alive, I’m going to give you woman lessons.”
“You just…you really need to learn about women and how to interact with them, all right?”
“Oh,” he said. “That could be really helpful, yeah.”
He took off his lab coat and hung it on the wall. Why did he wear his lab coat home instead of leaving it at the lab? Because men like fashion accessories too. They just don’t admit it.
“Looks like you slept well,” he said. “What are you up to now?”
“Looking into Sanchez Aluminum,” I said. “I have to figure out a way to shut them down. That’s my only hope of survival at this point.”
He sat on the bed behind me. “Are you sure you want to screw with them?”
“What are they going to do? Kill me harder? They’re already after me.”
He looked at the screen. “Ooh. Is that their smelting process?”
“Yeah. It’s called the FFC Cambridge Process.”
He perked up. “Oh, that sounds cool!”
Of course it did. Svoboda’s just that kind of guy. He leaned in to get a better look at the screen. It showed the chemistry at each step of the smelting process. “I’ve heard of the process but I never learned the details.”
“They’re guarding the harvester now,” I said. “So I’ll have to go after the smelter itself.”
“You got a plan?” he asked.
“Yeah. The start of one,” I said. “But it means I have to do something I hate.”
“I have to get help.”
He held out his arms. “Well, you got me. Whatever you need.”
“Thanks, buddy, I’ll take you up on that.”
“Don’t call me buddy,” he grumbled.
I hesitated. “Okay, I…won’t call you buddy. Why not?”
“Man lessons,” he said. “Someday I’ll give you man lessons.”
I rang the doorbell for the fourth time. She was in there; she just didn’t want to answer.
The main entrance to the Landvik Estate stood littered with flowers from well-wishers and mourners. Most of the flowers were synthetic, but a few wilting bouquets revealed how truly wealthy some of Trond’s friends were.
I never thought I’d miss the sight of Irina’s scowling face, but a sadness overwhelmed me when I realized she wouldn’t be the one opening the door.
Then again, maybe no one would answer at all.
I rapped the door with my knuckles. “Lene! It’s Jazz! I know this isn’t a great time, but we need to talk.”
I waited a bit longer. I was about to give up when the door clicked open. That was as much invitation as I was going to get.
I stepped over the consolation bouquets and through the door.
The once brightly lit foyer stood dark. Only the dim light from the sitting room filtered in to give any illumination at all.
Someone had drawn a dozen or more circles on one wall—where the blood spatter used to be. The actual blood was gone, presumably cleaned by a professional service after Rudy and Doc Roussel were done with the scene.
I followed the light into the sitting room. It too had changed for the worse. All the furniture was shoved against walls. The large Persian rug that once adorned the floor was nowhere to be seen. Some things just can’t be cleaned.
Lene sat on a couch in the corner, mostly in the dark. As a wealthy teen girl she usually put hours into her appearance. Today she wore sweats and a T-shirt. She had no makeup on and dried tears streaked her face. Her hair was in a loose ponytail, the universal sign of not giving a fuck. Her crutches lay askew on the floor.
She held a wristwatch in her hands and stared at it with a blank expression.
“Hey…” I said in that lame tone people use when talking to the bereaved. “How you holding up?”
“It’s a Patek Philippe,” she said quietly. “Best watch manufacturers on Earth. Self-winding, chronograph, time zone, you name it. Nothing but the best for Dad.”
I sat on the couch next to her.
“He had it modified by top watchmakers in Geneva,” she continued. “They had to make a replacement self-winding weight out of tungsten so it would have enough force to work in lunar gravity.”
She leaned over to me and showed me the watch’s face. “And he had them change the moon-phase indicator to an Earth-phase indicator. It was tricky too, because Earth’s phases go in the reverse order. They even modified the time zone dial to say ‘Artemis’ instead of ‘Nairobi.’?”