The four men backed me away from my companions with jabs from their black-bladed weapons. One used his sword to poke at me and I raised my left arm to takes the strike. Pain sang up my arm as he sliced through the leather of my jacket and cotton of my shirt. Blood bloomed and the men grinned at
They were going to kill me slowly, slicing a piece off here and a piece off there ...
The one-two click of a cocking gun broke my concentration as I riffled through the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. One more click... and I'd be hoping he didn't have his finger on the trigger.
"You live dangerously, Detective Saxon." He nudged the back of my skull with the barrel of what felt like a very large gun.
I kept crouching. "So do you, Fuentes. I have a warrant." I flicked up the folded paper with two rubber-encased fingers, heard the last click. "And you're jumpy. Why is that?"
He took the warrant and I slowly turned my head. Slicked black hair gleamed in the ambient streetlight two storeys below, a face in near shadow but enough to glance off sharp cheekbones, a glimmer of a gold tooth as he smiled. And a revolver the size of a small cannon. Fuentes had... size issues, but his finger was on the trigger guard, not the trigger itself.
"You're in my office, alone, at night. What say I merely shot an intruder before I knew you for a cop?"
"What say I'm not dumb enough to come here on my lonesome?" I rose, slowly, and lowered my hands.
Fuentes twitched an eyebrow, slid back out of my reach as if unsure of his steps. "Oh, you are just that dumb. Your arrogance is legion in the underworld. Gotta do it all yourself, and you no longer have a partner."
"I didn't say I had a partner, just that I wasn't here... alone."
His head dropped to the side to listen but the only sound was the occasional car passing by outside the three-storey building, the subtle creak of settling within the building and my breathing.
"There is no one here but you and me." He said and adjusted his grip on the gun as if unable to hold it for very long. Guns are heavy if you're not used to them.
"Oh, you're very funny. Ha. Ha. I learned something interesting about..." He pursed his full lips. "what was his name? Oh, yes, Tilson. Drake Tilson." And he watched for my reaction.
His smile was vicious, twisted, as I felt the blood leave my face and fury surge through my veins. Bastard.
"Your... last partner, wasn't he? Killed on duty, I believe while you were... what? Goofing off?"
I stepped forward, ready to rip him a new one. He knew nothing. "Uh, uh." He waved the gun in my face. "Hair trigger and all that."
"Tilson didn't listen to me. Wanted to be a glory hound and take..." I shook my head. What was the point? Luis Fuentes enjoyed the stories of those braver than he, especially when a cop killing was involved. It made him feel... involved, if only vicariously.
The fog coalesced behind him, a dark grey distorted column in the shadows. Silent.
"Nelson did him personally, you know." Fuentes said, eyes gleaming with malicious humour.
"Is that an eye witness statement?"
"I heard it from a friend of a friend, you know? Hearsay. Nothing you can use in court."
"You're an evil prick, Fuentes." I kept my hands loose, my body relaxed. My companion would provide a nice distraction once fully formed, and then I could kick Fuentes' sorry butt and drag him to jail. But oddly, the smoke wasn't forming, but boiling in grey silence.
"So I am." He agreed. "And you are a dead woman. But..." A smirk formed on his lips. "One last tidbit before you die. Something you've been gnawing on and won't let go. So I'll confirm it: Tilson was on the take."
"Liar." I said automatically, but I heard the truth behind his mocking words. Since Drake died, I'd wondered why he hadn't stayed put, guarding the front of the townhouse; I've tried to think of a reason he would go in on his own. If he was a wrong cop, he could have called Nelson to warn him. A throwaway phone would have done it. The nagging suspicion that the deal had gone down too fast for him to call kept me digging.
The one conclusion I couldn't face was that he'd gone in to warn Nelson personally, and that meant my partner of five years had set me up to be murdered.