Monday, April 14, 2014
Smash and Grab
She caught sight of one of the bar staff at the window, motioning to the manager. Atcheson waved to Barry and Lowenstein. “You boys go have fun,” he said. “I want a private word with Maureen.”
Barry and Lowenstein charged at the bar door just as the staff charged out. Surprise and momentum carried the hunters inside, driving the wolves before them, and dashing Maureen’s last slim hope of rescue.
Maureen tried to duck around Atcheson, but he slammed her up against the side of the van. “Now, where were we?” he said. “More importantly, where were you? And what the hell have you got on?” He fingered a fold of her harem outfit, then dropped it with a snarl of disgust.
“They kidnapped me,” she said desperately. “There are too many of them. We need to get out of here.”
“We’ll leave, all right. Once every single wolf in there is dead. Then we go looking for Cochrane. Has he been here?”
“I—I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since the motel. I thought he—”
Atcheson struck her across the face. “Worthless bitch. I told him we shouldn’t let a woman on the team.”
Maureen slumped to the ground, barely conscious. Ewan, she thought bleakly. He was still asleep in the harem room. He’d think she’d run out on him again. He’d never know what happened to her. Assuming he even survived.
Atcheson lifted her and propped her upright against the van with his hand around her neck. “Now what am I going to do with you?”
A blackjack cracked against the side of his head. Atcheson dropped like a stone. So did Maureen. They landed in a heap at the feet of the driver of the delivery van.
“Funny,” the driver said. “I was just asking myself the same thing.”
He reached for Atcheson. And jumped when a hand came down on his shoulder. “Your pardon, sir … ”
# # #
From his vantage at the far end of the parking lot Ranjeet observed Maureen come out of the shifter bar. She paid no attention to the police car when it rolled into the lot, but he did. His keen eyes spotted Atcheson behind the wheel. Ranjeet slumped as if asleep, and watched the mini-drama play out while considering options. Interfere? Rejoin the team? Which would serve him best?
Then the delivery van appeared and the driver got out. Ranjeet sat up. He’d been well briefed in Damien Hancock’s known henchwolves. This one and his pack were suspected of snatching humans for Hancock’s mad doctor’s experiments. Other wolves got out of the truck and gathered near the cab while their leader took care of the hunters.
Ranjeet was not a fighter. He was not equipped to take even one wolf back to Zhere Ghan for questioning. However, this turn of events provided the perfect opportunity for him to engage in his forte: infiltration.
He got out his cell phone and punched in a secret number. Code words were exchanged. Ranjeet activated the phone’s GPS. Then he got out of the car and approached the Hancock wolf.
“Your pardon, sir,” he said once he had the wolf’s attention. “These are my friends. I cannot let you take them.” He braced himself for the expected reaction.
The wolf looked him up and down. “You gotta be kidding me,” he said, and whacked Ranjeet with the blackjack. Ready for the blow, Ranjeet rolled with it. He went down, dazed but still conscious. The phone and its signal were not damaged.
“Load ‘em up,” the wolf ordered his pack. He shot a glance toward the bar, where the sounds of battle raged. “Before Dante’s team rips those yahoos up and comes after us. Dr. Frankenstein’ll just have to be happy with three.”
Strong hands lifted Ranjeet. Through slitted eyes he watched Atcheson and Maureen similarly wolf-handled into the back of the delivery truck. “Hey,” one of the wolves said. “This one’s a she.”
“Hey. This one’s a genius. Haul tail, Einstein. You want those bouncers on us?”
Ranjeet was thrown into the back of the truck. The engine roared to life. A quick Uee in the lot rolled him into Maureen. He wriggled himself off her and saw she was awake, if not fully aware. Her glasses had been knocked askew. He adjusted them for her, and patted her hand.
He also patted his pocket. The phone continued to send out its signal to the pursuing Tiger Yakuza.
Maureen’s mouth moved. “Pete?” she managed.
“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered. “All is going according to plan.”