Magic Shifts(Kate Daniels,book 8)(13) by Ilona Andrews
“Thanks.” I had no problem with attention getting.
I got up. I needed to do something flashy and loud but not too scary, or the mercs would just take off. I headed for the table closest to the door. If they ran, they’d have to get past us. Curran walked next to me. “So I am a dick?”
“I can’t help that you have a reputation.”
He grinned. “You want help?”
“No, I got it.” His kind of help would likely involve a roar, and the mercs would scatter.
If I started with Eduardo missing, I’d get nowhere. They all probably saw George asking questions about him yesterday. Nobody helped her then and nobody would help me with it now. A missing person was serious business and mercs didn’t like attention. They’d clam up. None of them would want to be a witness or to volunteer any information. I had to make it about the missing SUV. That was theft—serious theft, but still only theft—and everyone would understand that we’d handle it without the cops involved.
A dried-up French fry crunched under my foot.
“I can’t believe Jim tried to sell us this leaky boat.” The next time I saw him, I’d let him know exactly how I felt about it.
“Jim is a Beast Lord,” Curran said. “Pack comes first. Friendships come second.”
Three feet from the table I jumped and landed on its top. I didn’t land softly. I landed with a serious thud.
The mercs turned and looked at me. Recognition registered on some faces.
“You know me,” I said. “You know what I can do.”
They were looking at me.
“A one-armed woman came here yesterday in a blue FJ Cruiser. Someone took it. I want to know who.”
“Daniels.” A woman got up from her table and started toward me. Forty, built like a brick house, and mean eyed. She looked familiar. Her clothes and the bruise on her face said she had had a rough night and was looking for someone she could use to vent her frustration. “I owe you.”
I knew her but couldn’t remember the name . . . I gave her my hard stare just in case. She kept coming. Shoot. I was out of practice. “Really?”
“Yeah. You took my gig.”
Ah. Alice Golansky. The last time I saw her was almost two years ago. Well, wasn’t that a blast from the past.
“So let me get this straight. You’re mad, because two years ago you were too drunk to do a job and passed out in the Guild’s mess hall, and the Clerk sent me out in your place?”
She shrugged her shoulders and raised her fists. Well, well. Someone had some karate training. “I’m going to teach you not to steal jobs.”
“You do realize that gig was assigned to me?” Not to mention that the job happened two years ago.
“You think you’re so high and mighty. I’m gonna pull you off that table and stomp your face in.”
Okay. “You thought this through?” I asked.
She looked up at me and punched her palm with her fist. “Oh yeah.”
I dropped to my knee and hammered a punch into her jaw. My fist had shot down like a jackhammer. I’d sunk all of the momentum of the drop into it. Knocking someone out was tricky, because it required power, speed, and the element of surprise, but when it worked, it made a statement. Alice’s eyes rolled into her head. She went rigid and fell straight back, like a cut tree. Her head bounced off the floor a bit.
The hall was suddenly silent. Ha! Still got it.
“Anybody else got any disputes they’d like to settle?” I asked.
The mercs sat silent.
“I’ll ask again.” I stood up. “Blue FJ Cruiser. Who has it?”
“Maybe you didn’t hear her,” Curran said. “Or maybe you can’t see her well. Let me help.”
The table under me moved. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him holding it a foot off the ground with one hand. Okay then.
The mercs froze.
“It was Mac,” a large Latino man wearing faded fatigues said from the left. His name was Charlie and he used to be a regular when I worked for the Guild. “Mac and his idiot redneck cousin, what’s his name . . . Bubba? Skeeter . . . ?”
“Leroy,” Crystal said, tossing back her bleached blond hair. “Mac and Leroy.”
The names didn’t sound familiar. Curran quietly lowered the table back to Earth.
“Yeah, Leroy,” Charlie said. “I saw them getting into it this morning. They were going to do a job in Chamblee on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.”
I was pretty sure Chamblee used to be in Heyward’s zone.
“The cat lady?” a short skinny guy in a red sweater asked. “The one who called before?”
“Yeah,” Charlie said. “She’s got something with wings trying to eat her cats on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.”
That’s right, tell me more.
“Again?” Crystal asked. “Eduardo already went out there on Sunday. He said this lady had a giant tick eating her cats.”
“This was no tick,” Charlie said. “She said it flew. Ticks don’t fly.”
“Well, whatever it was,” Crystal said, “I know he killed it on Sunday, because he came back here to get paid, and then she called again on Monday and he went out there again. That’s the last I saw him.”
It was a repeat job. The client called the Guild the first time on Sunday about a tick, and Eduardo went out and took care of it. Then she called again, on Monday, probably because the problem recurred. He went out to that call and disappeared. Then the client called for the third time, today, which meant that either the creature bothering her had a large family or that Eduardo never made it to her job. But he did finish the Sunday job, which meant there would be a record of it.
“Did this lady say Eduardo showed up on Monday?” I asked.
Charlie shook his head. “She was at work, so she didn’t know if he showed up. But she was really heated it wasn’t taken care of.”
“When did Mac and Leroy leave?” I asked.
“Half an hour ago,” Charlie said.
We’d just missed them.
“Are they poaching in Eduardo’s territory?” I asked.
Crystal spread her arms. “He ain’t here to call them out on it, is he?”
“They’ve got a problem with him?” Curran asked.
Charlie shrugged. “They’ve got a problem with everyone. Ortego’s got good territory. They tried muscling in on him and he beat their asses for them.”
“He wasn’t worried about it,” Crystal said.
“You knew him well, huh?” I asked.
“She talked to him every time he came here,” Charlie said.
Crystal shot him a dirty look.
“Don’t stare at me.” He pointed at us. “They have issues with you. They have no issues with me. Don’t drag the rest of us in with your sorry ass.”
“I tried to know him well, if you catch my meaning.” Crystal made a sour face. “Apparently he’s one of those ‘got a girlfriend’ types. She was over here yesterday. Nothing special. And she’s a cripple.”
Oh, you sad, pathetic excuse for a human being. My fist itched. I really wanted to punch Crystal in the face.
“So you saw a young one-armed woman desperately looking for her guy. You knew Leroy and Mac took her car and you didn’t say anything. None of you assholes told her or offered to give her a ride back home?” I could barely keep a growl out of my voice. “You must’ve all had important shit to do like sitting here, getting drunk, and spitting on the floor.”
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