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I wiped the blood off my bruised lips, squatting on the sidewalk, glaring after the receding taillights. As encounters go, this was not my best. Far from it. It was to be an easy assignment. My target, a small-time, small arms trafficker operating out of Koreatown, turned out to be fast on her feet, owned a sportscar and must’ve trained at the Shaolin temple. And to top it off, she didn’t have to use a gun, of which I’m sure, she had plenty hidden in the boot of her Kia Stinger. I didn’t relish the prospect, but I had to call it in.

“Hiya,” I greeted Murphy, swallowing nervously. “I’ve lost her.”

He just grunted. “Say what?” he jeered. “Lara Croft’s met her match? Didn’t you say that this would be a walk in the park?”

“Don’t gloat. It’s unbecoming, not to mention that I’m not in the mood. “I’ll get her. It’ll take more time. She’s also got one of those sports cars that makes my Camaro seem like a kid’s tricycle. Murphy, the fucking bitch walloped me good and proper. Probably skipped town. I need to find out where she’s gone. Then get there. Uh – can I get an advance?”

“What happened to the chunk of change you got from Eve?”

“I’d already spent most of it chasing down her Phil Connors. Besides, this is turning out to be another out-of-town job. You know our arrangement. Anything …”

“It’s not my fault that you let her get away. It’s on you, Randi. All you.”

“Fuck you.” I disconnected the line and spat.

It wasn’t the first time I’d sworn at the man who paid my commission and on whom my livelihood depended, but I always figured that he needed me more than I needed him. After the last two assignments, I’m not quite sure that was true anymore. For several seconds my entire life flashed before my eyes, going as far back as my angst-ridden teenage years. I’d successfully channeled my penchant for violence into a viable career.

On the other hand, I’m not given to self-pity. So, I dusted myself off and rose to my feet. The urge to hit someone rose like bile within me. I knew what I had to do. I ran to the nearest subway, heading back to Koreatown. Having reached my destination, I searched for a pharmacy and got myself a few essentials. Blood was still dripping from my cut lip, barely contained by the tissues I carried on my person. The clerk was kind enough to allow me the use of the restroom to fix up my face.

Sporting the bandage over my lip as a badge of honor, I sought out the contact who’d tipped me off to the location of that cunt who bitch-slapped me after rendering me incapacitated with a vicious round-hip kick to my jaw.

His name was Kim Hae-Jin, short, wiry and very smart. A streetwise hustler, he supplemented his income peddling knockoffs with his work as a CI. I hadn’t known him very long. He was at his usual spot, his anxious eyes avoiding mine as I strode up to him.

“Hello, Kim,” I greeted him in a deceptively silky voice.

“Er – h-hello,” he stammered, his head swiveling from side to side.

“I don’t have time to play games. Why didn’t you tell me Gloria used to be a ninja assassin in her past life?”

“I don’t know what you mean. Who’s Gloria?”

“Perhaps you know her as Park Min Ha,” I murmured, drawing attention to my injury by stroking my chin thoughtfully. I started twirling my hair next, widening my smile. I picked out a few knickknacks from the assortment on display, offering it to him to bag. Dutifully, he placed them in a small paper bag.

“Ten dollars,” he informed me prosaically.

I pulled out a twenty from the roll inside my bra, watching with amusement as his eyes almost popped out. “Here. Keep the change. There’s a lot more in it for you if you tell me where she may have gone. Possibly out of town? Or another hideout?”

“I’ve told you all that I know already,” he bit out. “If she comes back, I’m a goner.”

“If you don’t want her to return, then tell me where she’s gone.”

“She has a brother in Boston. She may’ve gone there.”

“Address?”

He shook his head. “Somewhere in Allston.” He hesitated. “His name is Cho. That’s all I have. He runs arms, like Gloria.”

I pulled out five twenty-dollar bills and slipped it under a row of figurines as unobtrusively as I could manage.

“And Randi, watch your back.”

“I’ll be back,” I intoned in my best Arnie impression.

That earned me a high-pitched giggle straight out of a Wes Craven slasher-fest. I grimaced and went home.

It killed me to admit it, but I was going to have to get my Camaro out of long-term parking. I hated having to drive, especially in New York. Boston was no better. It was a four-hour drive in the best conditions. I packed a bag, hiding an assortment of weapons, mentally reviewing my strategy.

Another hand-to-hand encounter was not likely to be an improvement. I had caught her by surprise, but the ninja bitch turned out to be even more vigilant than me, her reaction instantaneous, violent and near-fatal. Instead of killing me, she’d chosen to run, which was the only silver lining. The next time, I may not be so lucky. It was still too early to go to bed, even accounting for an early start the next day to beat the traffic. I nibbled on a slice of pepperoni pizza– the deep pan variety–and flipped open my laptop.

There was no information on Cho. I texted Murphy to call me back and left him a voicemail for good measure. He wasn’t the greatest at ferreting out information, but it was worth a shot. I briefly considered reaching out to Xander. I still owed him a date from the last favor I’d requested of him. Nope. Cho was probably too small a fish to interest the Feds. They usually didn’t bother with small-scale organized crime. Local Leos may have a division. I had a contact in Boston PD I could ask. I fell asleep with a half-eaten pizza slice on my stomach.

The radio was on full blast, hip-hop piping through the four speakers in my Camaro. It was M.I.A. which was appropriate, I mused. The phone buzzed. I switched to the phone, answering the call. It was Murphy.

“Got your messages,” he began without preamble. “Fair warning. There’s a reason Gloria’s on the run. I was wondering why she’d skip bail on a minor gun possession charge. It appears that she’s ex-Korean Mafia and the gang’s after her for branching out on her own. It’s a power struggle. I couldn’t find anything on her brother. Very little’s known about him. I’m sorry, but I don’t even have an address for you.”

“Fuckin’ hell!” I swore. “That’s what the punk was on about. He asked me to watch my back. The little runt was holding out on me.”

“I don’t blame him. He has to live there, you know.” There was a brief silence. “Are you prepared?”

“Am I armed, d’you mean? Yes. To the teeth.” Mentally, I crossed my fingers. “Can I get some backup?”

“Nope. You’re on your own.”

“Fuck.”

“It’s not a big amount, Randi. Come back if you feel …”

“I can take care of myself, boss.” I hung up, fuming.

By the time I reached the outskirts of Boston, it was already late morning. I found pharmacy and a motel, dyeing my hair with streaks of brownish black. I’m a natural blonde, by the way. I put on contacts to change my eye-color to a regular brown tint to go with my hair. I was already in my catsuit, my preferred attire while on a dangerous mission.

I found a parking garage close but not actually in Allston, taking the T Watertown line to Allston. The glimmerings of an idea were beginning to form. It was tricky, though. I had to avoid being spotted by Gloria for one. Needed to get to Cho without being suspected as a BEA another. I certainly didn’t want to attract the attention of the Kkangpae. My biggest worry was Kkangpae were usually controlled by the more sophisticated syndicates, either Yakuza or the Triads. What seemed like a simply assignment was fast turning into a fucking shitstorm. The truth is that I couldn’t afford not to work.

In the end, Cho was easy to find. I simply put myself out there as a potential arms buyer, wandering the pawnshops, looking for a male version of Gloria. You see, he’d be hanging back, letting his minions front his business, looking kinda disinterested but watchful nonetheless, possibly behind dark glasses. There weren’t that many pawnshops, less that carried guns, and only two that seemed to have muscle. I struck gold in the second of these two, the eighth shop I visited, pretending to browse. I was asking around for a relatively new model and not easily available in pawnshops, a Desert Eagle. I was in luck on two counts. The shops I visited didn’t have them.

The next part wasn’t going to be easy. I needed Cho to notice me but as a potential client. I flashed my eyes at him with open curiosity, shifting back to the clerk whispering, “D’you know where I can find one? I’m in the market for a case if …”

“Why do you need such a big, expensive weapon? We have smaller pistols more your speed.” The clerk’s eyes darted to Cho, seeking approval.

I shook my head. “Just tell me that I’m wasting my time and I’ll be on my way.”

Cho didn’t bite. I could’ve cried. Instead, I turned to him and snapped, “What are you looking at?”

“Where are you from?” he asked, fiddling with his jacket label, a classic threatening gesture.

Unblinkingly, I stared him down. “Seattle. Name’s Gloria.”

I couldn’t tell if his expression changed much because of his shades, but there was definite reaction. He went still for a fraction of a second. “You’ve travelled all this way just to …”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m in town visiting a boyfriend. Only he’s held up. I thought I might pass the time. It’s a hobby of mine, collecting …”

“You said that you wanted a case. Hobby?”

“Yup. Kind of a side business, actually. I deal with bikers, mostly.”

It was a preposterous story. You see, bitches, lies need to be grand, not plausible. The grander the scheme, the more believable it was. What kind of dimwitted undercover cop would come up with such a ridiculous backstory? That was the theory, anyways. It seemed to work. He nodded as though understanding, jerking his head toward the back. I hesitated for a moment, then followed.

“I don’t have what you’re looking for. But I do have some pretty good Luger Kel-tecs that are just as good. Interested?”

“I may be, if the price is right.”

“How do you plan to transport them?”

“That’s my problem.”

“Alright. How much do you have on you?”

I shook my head, laughing at him. “You must be crazy if you think I’m stupid enough to walk around with a roll of cash on me. Show me your merchandise. Name your price. If I like, I’ll tell you the location. If you like, you bring the merchandise and I’ll bring the dough. Deal?”

“Sure.” He first searched me thoroughly. Grunting his approval when he found that I was unarmed, he opened a cupboard which was secured with a digital lock. I looked the other way discreetly, but he didn’t seem to care one way or the other.

His armory was impressive. I nodded appreciatively at the Luger. “That’ll do. How many do you have?”

“How many do you need?” he shot back.

I mentioned a number. He named a figure. We shook on it. I scribbled down an address a piece of paper and the phone number of a burner I’d picked up along with my hair dye. “Text me with a time. Today good?”

He nodded.

“Oh, and one more thing. I don’t deal with men. Not for an exchange. I’ll do it with one woman. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know you, which means that I don’t trust you. When you asked me how much I had on me just now, it kinda makes me a bit nervous. Sensible precaution in my line of work. I’ll be alone. I don’t want to walk into a fucking ambush. Git?”

He smiled, displaying an array of surprisingly dazzling teeth. “Does that mean that I don’t get to enjoy more of your company?”

It wasn’t a leer. It was a genuinely admiring look. He didn’t seem too bad – muscles and bulges in all the right places. Cute ass. Another day I might’ve considered fucking him. Besides, it might’ve been a test to see if I was being a little too eager.

 “Are you fucking kidding me? We’ve just met, doing a fucking business deal and you’re trying to hook up? Maybe after we’ve done a couple of these, I may have considered it. Besides, motherfucker, I have a boyfriend, or don’t you remember?”

He threw his head back and laughed delightedly. “Alright, then. I’ll get the merchandise together and text you. It may be tomorrow, by the way. And Gloria, if that’s your real name, don’t show up without the cash. It may be just one woman, but she can cut you up really good. And she will be armed.”

I nodded, knowing that he wasn’t exaggerating. I was counting on him sending Gloria. If he sent his girlfriend or another gang member, my trip to Boston still wouldn’t have been a waste of time. Either way, I intended to follow the other woman, if not Gloria, back to their HQ and deal with Gloria later. Or, if Gloria turned up, there was no point in accosting her at the location. Following her back to gain intel made more sense. Win-win. See?

The text came early the next morning, waking me up. I was just snoozing, one eye on the phone. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, showered, then slipped back into my catsuit.

Strapping my MK 3 in its leather sheath to one ankle and the Sig P238 to the other, I felt reassured. These were in addition to my Glock that I had in a shoulder holster. It was just cool enough to justify wearing a black leather jacket to hide the holster. I jumped into my Camaro and was on my way.

I’d selected a location in the Seaport district, with a number of advantages to myself. There were very few for Gloria/Cho. It was no kill box, but it afforded me a number of unfettered vantage points from which to observe my prey. Unfortunately, Cho had given me very little lead time, most likely by design. I reasoned that he didn’t want Gloria to be ambushed either. He had no way of knowing if I was operating alone. Fair enough.

One of the advantages was a multi-story carpark near the spot within easy access. I drove straight to my vantage point and waited. It seemed like hours passed, although it could’ve only been a few minutes, peering through a pair of binoculars. Waiting. Hoping and praying that it would be that ninja bitch Gloria. I wanted retribution. I needed to put her down. I felt the hysteria build up within me, forcing myself to calm down. When the Kia Stinger came roaring around the corner, I knew that it just had to be her. Providence, finally, was looking kindly upon me. Now for phase two. I waited some more. She waited too, for thirty minutes. I heard my burner buzz a few times. I ignored it. I wanted to keep the phone just in case I needed it. I could always come up with an excuse later if needs be.

When Gloria left, I followed at a discreet distance. I didn’t really have to tailgate her, knowing that she was probably headed back to Allston. Intriguingly, she didn’t take the exit off the I-90W as I’d expected. That’s when I began to sense something wasn’t quite right. I hung back even further. It didn’t help. Instead, she took exit 25 off the Pike into South Boston. This was miles away in the wrong direction. Was I being led down on a wild goose chase? I picked up speed and followed her. Fortunately, traffic lights held her up, so that I was able to catch her. Just. When the light turned green, the car jetted out of the intersection like a bat out of hell. At that early hour, there was hardly any traffic. I knew that I was in for a car chase. Not quite in the category of Bullitt, but a thrill, nevertheless. I’d shown my hand. And she knew it.

In for a dime, I gave the car gas and prayed like hell. Her car was faster, had more horsepower. Instinct warned me that Gloria was the better driver. The only factor on my side was that these were streets for the most part, with obstacles that would naturally slow her down.

At the next intersection, she careered to the right, her Stinger coasting on rails. I skidded but managed to keep the Chevy under control. It was no contest. I gritted my teeth and slammed into her rear end at the first chance I got. One hand came out of the car window with a finger extended.

“Hello, bitch,” I called out and slammed into her again.

That’s when the shit really hit the fan. Two cars were following me. Black SUVs built like hummers. How in the hell hadn’t I noticed them earlier? There was no way I could’ve missed them. They weren’t on the Pike. I was damned well sure of that.

It was a trap. Cho must’ve known. Somehow. What had given me away? It was then I remember that I did have one telltale sign, hair dye and contact lenses notwithstanding. My cut lip. Fuck!

Gloria was gone along with her Stinger. The black SUVs were closing in on me. Even the exit was a deliberate ploy. I smacked my head in frustration, in the brief second of reprieve I received at the next stretch of road which seemed to go on forever. I broke red lights, uncaring of speeding tickets. This was my life. I ordered my car GPS to let me know of a car park, knowing that a kill box might well be my salvation. The GPS directed me to a multi-story carpark. I swung into it, hurtling up the ramp. Here I had the advantage, with a much more maneuverable vehicle than those monsters behind me. At the top story, I parked the car and abandoned it, racing towards the staircase. I didn’t make the mistake of waiting for the lift. It would buy me precious seconds before they discovered I’d gotten out of my Camaro.

At the second story, I slipped back into the lot, and hunted for a vehicle. I was about to commit a crime. Well, technically it was, but I was unlikely to be caught, let alone arrested for it. I was looking for an older make. A vehicle that was easy to break into. I found an Oldsmobile station wagon. They’re built like fucking tankers, but I had the tools to get into the car. I slipped into the back and lay flat on my back, my breath coming in deep gasps.

Once again, I waited. Twenty minutes passed. Taking a peek outside told me little, but I wasn’t really looking. I was listening. There were no sounds of screeching vehicles. I lay back, sighing. If I were them, I’d be waiting outside for me to come out again. I wasn’t that stupid.

It took another couple of hours, but I managed to spot the perfect candidate. It was a delivery van. After he finished his delivery, I accosted him and flashed him my badge, speaking fast. He nodded and let me hide out in the back and drove me to safety.

I needed time to think, regroup and revise my strategy. Cho and Gloria were on to me. Had been since the very beginning. The trap that I had laid for Gloria was actually theirs for me. And I’d fallen neatly into it like a prize fucking idiot. I also needed help. I headed for BPD headquarters at 1SP. Liam Buckley headed the FTD and an old buddy of mine from the agency days. Not an ex, mind you. We were just friends. Happily married like Murphy, he’d sired a brood, unlike Murphy. I’d even met his wife once. And that was enough. You know. Jealous sort. Which is why I decided on seeing him at his office rather than his residence. I stopped at the desk to report my car stolen, giving them the plates of the two SUVs as the perps. With my creds, it’d cause minor irritation to Cho and Gloria. I wasn’t expecting anything major. It was a longshot anyway.

Liam gave me a warm hug and perfunctory peck on the cheek. “Surprise, surprise,” he muttered, staring at me appraisingly. “What brings you to Boston, babe?”

I gave him the rundown, leaving nothing out. He nodded, inserting a question from time to time. His final question was unexpected. “Do you want to make this official?”

I shook my head. “And lose my commission? Don’t you know me by now? I’m quite happy to give BPD Cho’s collar, by the way. I’m informing you as a matter of courtesy.”

He frowned. “This is not an official conversation. If you were checking in, you’d be doing it with the Captain in charge of Major Case. I can have a word with her, if you’d like. She’s a friend. Tina Kolinski.”

“Not yet. Give me a couple of days. I can use some intel, though.”

“I’ll do some digging. And I’m telling Tina. If I ask nicely, she’ll sit on it for a couple of days. Best I can do. It’ll be easier to help you.”

“Thanks Liam. Give my love to Shivonne.”

He grinned. “Not likely.” Then his expression turned serious. “Cho’s an up-and-comer. Bastard’s managed to keep a low profile, but lately he’s been gaining the attention of locals.”

I nodded. He was referring to the Irish mob and Italian mafia. “Vying for membership or competition?”

“A bit of both, actually. He’s an organized little runt. The only reason you made it inside his little office was because he decided to let you in. Fucker’s guarded by his goons 24×7. What’s your plan?”

It was my turn to grin, albeit a tad shamefacedly. “I don’t have one yet. I’ll figure one out.”

I checked into another motel and called it a night.

I don’t know about you guys, but lightbulb moments can come at the strangest times – in the shower, just when I’m dozing off or on very rare occasions, the first thing in the morning. Now, usually, the moment my eyes open, I usually remember the last dream that I had, not always pleasant, and occasionally deeply upsetting. I brush it aside with characteristic ruthlessness, or if it’s one of those nagging ideas that simply won’t go away, I do the exact opposite. I pick on it like I might a scab, until it starts bleeding again. The theory is that it will then, eventually start healing again. Don’t get me wrong. The entire process takes but a day or two, at the most. But I digress. This morning, I had a fantastic idea. Or it was awesome in my own head. Like most ideas, it required fleshing out a little which I did over brekkie at the diner–scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, sausage links, a creamy coffee and pancakes with maple syrup. I was indulging myself with my favorite comfort food after getting beaten up by Gloria and then trapped into a near death experience. You’re going to get your comeuppance, fucking cunt.

I rang my buddy at BPD. Liam was busy, so I patiently waited until he called back, still at the diner, now having switched to black coffee. After all, I had to watch my figure. I couldn’t be bothered to train out in Beantown. I’d have to drive miles before I could find the right spot. Of course, it was a pathetic excuse, but hey, what the fuck.

Liam called back an hour later, sounding brusque. “What’s up, Skeezah?”

“The Boys aren’t happy,” he informed me in a sullen tone. “And don’t try the local slang. It doesn’t suit you.”

My dear friend was insulted. Fuck him. “And why are your colleagues upset? I thought this Tina person was your friend.”

“Tina’s not the problem. It’s her team.”

“So, she didn’t sit on it, after all.” There was silence at the other end. “Alright. This might just work in our favor. Get the Boys to rat me out to the Irish and the family. Let the word out that I’m after that biddy Gloria and her bro Cho.”

“Didn’t I tell you to lay off the local slang?” he growled. “And what purpose is that going to serve.”

I told him my plan. It was so simple. It didn’t take long. He just grunted when I was finished. “Might just work.”

From Liam, that was high praise indeed. I wonder how Shivonne tolerated that miser.

I headed back into town, going straight to the family HQ. I hung about till I was spotted and dragged inside to see the Captain. He was a burly motherfucker, reminding me of a roll of barbed wire. His face too, full of pock marks as it was.

“We got your message. What do you want?”

“I want to do you a favor.”

“Oh?” His ugly mutt remained expressionless. “And why’s that?”

“Cho’s sister is from my town. And they’re arming themselves. Getting a shipment of Lugers and an assortment of others. Looks like they’re going to the mattresses. Don’t know if it’s you or the Westies. I don’t really care. I heard that you’re keeping an eye on him.”

“Oh.” The tone was exactly the same. I simply deduced that it wasn’t a question so much as an acknowledgment.

“Yeah. And I don’t want much in return.”

“Coordinates?” I nodded. “Sure. Then, we’re even. Get it?”

I smiled at him. It rolled off him like water of a ducks back. “Sure. Here’s my number.” I scribbled it on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

“When you’re done, get out of town and don’t come back. Get it?”

“Whatever,” I drawled and stretched. “When can I …?”

The chair thudded to the floor as he rose to his feet. Instinctively, I stepped back, earning me a wide grin. “Expect it when you get it. Now get out of here.”

I scurried away with as much dignity as I could muster. The bait had been cast. Now, all I had to do was wait. I didn’t have wheels, so I decided to get some cash. A trip to the ATM within a mall, just to be safe, was in order. I did some more shopping, and not just to while away the time either. I didn’t get the info till late into the evening. It was dark and cold.

What I was about to do went against the grain. I was deliberately walking into a trap. First, even if Gloria had assumed that I was some kind of chump, and she’d have good reason to believe that I was, Cho was smarter. He’d most likely done some basic research through his sources. Second, I’d already fallen into their trap once. I’d hardly be likely to fall into one again. I’d have to put up a fight, but not get killed in the process. I was counting on Cho’s curiosity preventing him from killing me outright. It was a bold move. I wondered for the millionth time if it was worth it. I told myself that it was the career that I’d sought out, precisely because it gave me this edge-of-my-seat-adrenalin-pumping thrill that made me feel alive.

It wasn’t much consolation, nor do I expect you to understand. I needed to get that bitch Gloria. It was my ego writing checks. I grimaced as I remembered Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Not a great analogy.

Here goes.

I wore the best possible bad disguise, covering my hair, head and face with a scarf. It was just cold enough to justify the apparel choice. I abandoned my trademark leather jacket for a sweatshirt, soiling it with coffee from the diner. Tattered, professionally torn jeans and trashy boots completed the ensemble. I was ready as can be.

I found my way to the location texted to me by the roll of barbed wire. I never did get a name. Better that way. I skulked around as long as I could, ostensibly trying to find a hiding spot to watch the entrance. It wasn’t long before a couple of goons showed up. I put up a feeble fight, letting them slap me around a bit and manhandle me into the lion’s den.

Cho gave me an amused look and slapped me across the face for good measure after they secured me to a chair with zip ties.

“What was that for, motherfucker?” I spat.

He slapped me again. “I warned you. If you didn’t have the cash, then I wasn’t going to …”

“I’m not interested in guns, asshole. I came for your sister. I came for Gloria. Didn’t you figure that out yet? I would’ve warned you what she was up to, but I wasn’t sure whether you’d believe me.”

That got his interest. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Ah-ha. A college boy. One that didn’t like swearing. “Do you really think that a BEA would come all the way from New York to Boston to pick up a douche like your sister on a gun possession charge? Gimme a break!

“Then why are you here?”

“Ever wonder why she was let out on bail? She was caught with an entire shipment. Didn’t she tell you? And did you wonder why she came running to you, all the way to Boston, beating me up in the process?”

His eyes narrowed, his lips tightening with displeasure. I had his attention now. “I’m sure that you’re going to tell me,” he sneered. “Spin me a story, won’t you?”

“I’ll do better than that. I’ll give you proof. If you’ve been having me followed or watched, you must know that I met with the family -d’you know Carmen?”

He nodded slowly. “What do they have to do with anything?”

“Everything,” I informed him, smiling. “Gloria’s cut a deal.”

“And what’s your play?”

“I’ll get rid of Gloria for you,” I offered meekly. “Make sure that her deal goes south, and her credibility is shot with the Feds.”

He raised his hand again to hit me, eyes widening in amazement. “The Feds!”

“Hold on,” I protested. “No shooting the messenger, here? I’m on your side. I could’ve ratted you out to the family, but I didn’t, see?”

“And why would my sister, my own flesh and blood, do such a thing to me? And why should I believe you?”

“Because I have nothing to gain, asshole. If Gloria gets put down like the dog she is, then I lose nothing. I get a commission if you hand her over to me. If you choose not to believe me, then you stand to lose. Big. D’you wanna take that chance?”

“You offered some proof,” he reminded me.

I nodded. “You have a contact in the family, don’t you? Just ask him. He’ll tell you all about my meeting with one of their Captains and Carmen. And can you please cut me loose? The ties are hurting me.”

He laughed. “First, I’ll check your story. I was informed of your meeting, of course, but I don’t know what was discussed.” He moved away, making a call from his cellphone. A few minutes later, he turned, looking grim. “Your story checks out.” He ran his fingers through his short, wiry hair. “I can’t believe this.”

“Ties, please?”

He cut me loose, nodding to his goons. They hauled me to my feet, holding me firm. “I’ll send Gloria first daylight to the same spot with the same story. The idea is to trap you again. She’s all yours.”

After they released me, I made two calls. One was to Liam, informing him of my progress. The second was to the other big gang in town. I relayed the deal brewing between Cho and the family. They only sounded mildly interested. With the creds that Liam gave me, my account was not only believed but easily verifiable.

I went back to the multistory carpark and waited. I slept in my car. It was a fitful nap, frequently broken by me checking the entry point. I didn’t want to give that bitch any advantage.

As promised, as daylight broke, her Stinger came roaring into view. This time, I drove my car down to meet her.

When I got out, she flashed her pearlies, raising both fists.

“How’s it gonna go down, Gloria?” I called out. “Are you going to come quietly or am I going to have to whoop your motherfucking ass?”

“In your dreams! Have you forgotten what I did to you in …?”

I pulled out my gun and tasered her. Oh, she tried to make a lunge for me alright, but it was a bit too little, a lot too late. I secured her with zip ties and hauled her to the back of my car, further securing her with chains. Ninja bitch might have a trick or two up her sleeve, but she was no match for steel chains, trussed up like a chicken.

The drive back to New York was uneventful, except that Gloria kept mouthing off. I stuffed a rag in her mouth which shut her up good. The exchange at the police precinct was uneventful. I filled them in on events. They let me speak to Gloria in hold-up.

“You’re down for a nickel for your crimes in New York, and that’s if you plead out. Else, you’ll do the full dime. After that, the Feds have you on gun transportation across state lines. I’ll give evidence. I have your arsenal from New York in Boston. All signed and secured in an evidence bag with my buddy in Forensics with your prints all over them.”

“How did you convince Cho?”

“It was easy.” I gave her an edited explanation. There was no point in telling her Cho was probably in cement boots at the bottom of the Boston Harbor bay. It was a fitting end to that psychopath.

She nodded slowly. “Why?”

“I should be asking you that. The most you’d have gotten was probation. Why run?”

Her eyes flew open in astonishment. “Didn’t you know? I cut a deal with the DA. I was giving up the arms trafficking ring. I thought you knew.”

“Well, after your attempts to kill me in Boston, that deal is down the tubes. Even if the DA here is willing to cut you the same deal, BPD still want you for attempted murder. I have you on assault over here. Good luck with that.”

“Promise me one thing, will you Randi?”

The request was meek, the expression sullen. “What’s that?” I could afford to be generous.

“Don’t tell Carmen.”

I laughed. “Alright.”

It was hilarious. I’d made up a story out of whole cloth. Only it was true. Most of it, anyway. The biggest joke was that I’d never met Carmen. Didn’t know him from Adam. I’d read about him in the Wikipedia pages. I didn’t even know the name of the Captain I’d met.

If Gloria or Liam or anyone else involved knew any of this, I’d be in deep shit.

Oh well. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles, sometimes.

Today, it was my day. Luck favored me.

It hadn’t started out that way, but I was glad that it ended. I made a mental note to call Iain McGregor for his help. I’d run a con on the Manhattan DA, the NYPD, the BPD, the Westies and Boston Italian crime family, all thanks to him.

 The End