And there they were, right on time. Rising, she left money on the table for her meal, and removed her ear buds. She tucked her paperback into her inner jacket pocket and shook out her shoulders. Taking off in an easy lope, she followed her marks around the corners until they got to the parking lot. She scanned for security cameras, but they only covered the front of the complex. They were only concerned about car thieves, really. If it couldn’t leave the park it wasn’t valuable enough to worry about. The two suits had stopped to talk, and their muscle wasn’t paying much attention to a passing punk, until she strolled up to them and they noticed the way she walked. One fighter recognizes another.
“You got a smoke?” She asked the nearest goon. They were in a loose box formation, simple enough to break. But she enjoyed her work. No point in going the easy way.
“Move along. We’re busy here.”
“I’ll take that as a no,” she said easily. “In that case, I’m here for his briefcase.” She pointed at one of the suits. The briefcase in question was a solid black one. Looked hard to open. That wasn’t her problem. The suits were moving away and their guards were moving in. The guard she asked for a smoke took two steps toward her. She grabbed his head and smashed it against her kneecap. He crumpled like a cut marionette. Alice kicked him out of the way as she turned to the next man who had started drawing his gun. She broke his wrist and slammed him into the third goon. Steel toed boots met critical anatomy as they went down. She turned to the last goon, dropped low to dodge his shot, and surged to her feet when she got close, putting the extra power into a blow to his jaw. He dropped. Alice picked up the dropped gun and strolled over to the businessmen who hadn’t gone more than a few feet before the fight was over.
“Briefcase or broken bones.” She shrugged as she disassembled the gun and dropped the pieces one by one to the ground.
The man with the case unclipped it from his wrist. “You will want to be careful, miss. We do not forget.”
Alice took the briefcase, smiled toothily at the men, and turned her back on them. She strolled away, avoiding the cameras, and walked over to the corner gym. She wrapped the briefcase in a trash bag, and buried it beneath the towels and assorted gear in her gym bag. Work done. Time to relax. She put in a solid two hours of gym time before showering, changing, hefting her gym bag and heading out the door. She took a long walk around the town before stopping in at a used book store. She pulled a pair of paperbacks from her duffel’s outside pocket. The clerk looked up from her ledgers and smiled. “How’d you like ‘em, Alice?”
“Good. Enough action, not enough steam. Got anything new?”
“Actually I think you might like these.” The clerk took a trio of brightly covered books out from under the counter.
“Those look new, Niki. I don’t read new.”
“They aren’t new.” She opened a cover to show the bookshop’s stamp on the inside cover. “Recently printed, sure.”
Alice gave her a look.
“And I think you should try them anyway. Female space mercenary who kicks butt and solves most of her problems with violence.”
“They on credit?”
“Be about fifty cents each. You have a lot of credit.” Niki pulled Alice’s card from the paper registry.
“I’ll take ‘em. Gonna grab some others, just in case.”
“You do that, and I’ll add the exchanges back in.”
Alice grabbed some promising titles with shirtless men and guns on the cover and went back to the counter. Niki rang her up and she left with her books. Her phone rang. She checked the number. Unknown. “I don’t come cheap.”
“We’re aware of that. We don’t hire cheap.”
Alice considered the voice, cold wrapped around lots and lots of money. “Then you called the right number. Keep talking.”
I’ve been robbed! Look at this nefarious circle of thieves!