The front half of the warehouse was separated from the back by a wall with a connecting door,
directly opposite the loading dock doors. As soon as I heard the door click shut behind
Rudy and his luggage, I gave it a good look – at ground level, there were worktables, bulletin
boards, a time-clock, the usual warehouse stuff. There were windows placed high on all the
walls, including that separating the storage areas.
There was a soft light now coming through the venetian blinds that covered the windows above
the separating wall. That would be the “hanging office”, where the people who normally ran
the joint handled the business end of things. I wasn't entirely surprised, but it was going
to make the job that much... well, messier. It meant they had a backup generator. It also
meant that I was probably expected, and that didn't bode well for anyone.
I crossed swiftly and quietly to the connecting door and passed through.
This half of the building was in darkness, lit dimly by the light from the office and what
seemed to be a sea of discarded glo-sticks, spread across the floor like radioactive confetti,
in blue, green, red, purple... It was like walking into a sinister blacklight painting. It all
gave enough light that I could make out the various “stations” – a barber chair and tattoo
equipment; another barber chair with piercing equipment; a thoroughly-ravaged snack table
(with only enough demolished cake left to make you wonder what flavor it had been); several
tables with leather straps; a St. Andrew's cross; at the far end, the front entrance, closed,
no doubt locked up nice and tight. The room reeked of cannabis smoke, with a bittersweet,
acrid, “yellow” scent underlying it – they had been passing around more than mere weed. I
couldn't place it, but it might have been pumped in to keep the party-goers excited but docile.
To my immediate right, I found a steep, iron staircase, leading up to a landing that functioned
as a sort of balcony. At the top was the door to the office, the window glazed with frosted
glass, with the legend 'OFFICE' on it in old-fashioned gilt letters. With the party out here
obviously at an end, the silence allowed me to hear music coming from within the office –
amazing jazz, like a piano being played by a waterfall, silvery, glittering, perfect notes,
so fast and in such combination, one would almost assume that two people were playing, but an
afficianado would recognize the artist immediately: someone up there was playing Art Tatum.
For a semi-human turd, he had great taste in music.
The only question, now that I knew I was expected and that there wasn't much concern over it,
was whether I went into it all sneaky-like or just trotted up the stairs and into a new world
of trouble. Without the element of surprise, I decided that I'd save my energy for when the
excrement hit the air conditioning. Up I went.
The sound of Tatum's “Somebody Loves Me” finishing up covered the sound of my entry. I slammed
the door behind me to make sure everyone knew I was there and ready to play. It was hardly a
luxury office – a dorm fridge in one corner, a few chairs, a large, heavy desk. Behind the
desk, an office chair with its back to the door, and behind that, a rack with dark monitors,
a computer tower, a stereo. At the windows that overlooked the 'coffin area' were a couple
goons in ratty jeans and leather vests over bare, muscular chests, who jumped, startled, at my
entrance. Guns similar to that which I liberated from their colleague, earlier, appeared in
their hands and pointed right at guess who.
From the office chair, came a voice like a chello dipped in honey. “And that, gentlemen, is why
Fats Waller used to refer to Art Tatum as 'God'...” The chair turned and I found myself
facing DeVille. “Did you ever hear the like? I ask you!”
Finally noticing me, as though I were an afterthought, he stood and spread his hands. “Clyde!”
he exclaimed, “You're late!”
I didn't know who Clyde was, but felt distinctly uneasy at hearing the name. I ingored it and
said, “Sorry, Anton – I had to stop and visit a friend in the hospital.”
His smile broadened into a grin. “A friend! Oh, Clyde – if what you did to Roger is an example
of how you treat your friends, I fear to imagine how you, er, treat your enemies!” He chuckled.
I returned his smile. “Well, good news – in a few seconds, you won't have to imagine.”
He put his hands on his hips and gave me a coy look. “Ooh – why, Clyde! Are you, ah, threaten-
ing me with foreplay? Heh-heh!” He spoke like he was getting an invisible, sexy massage.
The name 'Clyde' was starting to penetrate. I found myself sweating a little. I looked at the
man I was planning to kill but couldn't remember having seen, despite his familiarity: maybe
early 40s; tall (this was becoming a recurrent theme, but at 5'5”, not unexpected); built like
a strap – lean, slim, but tough as old boots, under the glossy facade; olive skin; wavy, black
hair, swept back, but touseled and casual; dark, chocolatey brown eyes over high cheekbones
and an acquiline nose. He radiated a dark sensuality, in his tight black slacks and open-
collared, royal blue silk shirt, and had the long, graceful hands of one who would be equally
adept on a keyboard or a person's body. I imagined he would be a lot of fun in the sack,
despite his faint air of casual cruelty.
“Why do you keep calling me Clyde,” I demanded, “Who the hell is Clyde Penney?!” And how did
I know the surname...?
He narrowed his eyes, as a light seemed to dawn. “Mmmm – we knew this might be an issue – and
sure enough, here you are. Tsk-tsk-tsk. What a shame, what a shame – very sad. My favorite
colleague, Clyde Penney, terror of the Dark Web... And yet,” he brightened, “here you are,
finishing the job without even realizing it, apparently!” He shook his head, slowly, in wonder.
My breath was starting to come more heavily. “W-What – ”
He broke in, “Ideally, the plan was that you'd get a new, healthy body, a new identity, and
I would get some incredibly valuable tech, we'd both make a fortune, and, ah, retire from this
nasty, yet undeniably entertaining and, ah, highly lucrative trade. But it doesn't seem to
have worked out exactly that way – pity. You really were the best at what you do – or did,
rather, at this point...”
I was fully prespiring, now. “My name is... Deacon James,” I said, haltingly. “They – they
“Yes, yes, yes,” he said, waving a hand dismissively, “Of course, you are, and of course they
told you that – but you should ask yourself, Clyde – er, Deacon – just how much of what they
told you was the truth...?”
“It doesn't matter,” I rasped. “I'll get to the truth – one way or another, on my – own, if I
have to – but first – I'm going to finish off the three of you fuckers – because this – this
whole nightmare of fuckery has to stop...”
The two goons shifted nervously, glancing at each other, then at DeVille, their weapons still
pointed at me. “Oh, now, Clyde – sorry, Deacon – y'see, you're making Knuckles and Spider very
nervous – your, ah, your reputation preceeds you, I'm afraid...”
I felt a growing, painful pressure in my head, as though someone was inflating a hedgehog in
the center of my brain. “Nervous?!” I barked. “You people have around fifty kids boxed up and
ready to ship God-knows-where, and I make you nervous. You have a couple nine-millimeters
pointed at me, and I make you nervous. That's really rich, Anton...”
“Oh, no-no-no,” he said, hands raised to about chest level, palms out, “Them – you make them
nervous – not me.”
“You say you know me...” I squeezed my eyes tightly shut for a moment, shook my head to clear
it, “but you know why I'm here, and you're not nervous? Oh, you don't know me, at all.”
That winning smile returned. “Well, of course not, Clyde!” he said, eyes now closely focused
on me. “I mean, ah – you know me, we've worked together many times, and uh... Have you ever
known me not to have a backup plan?”
I met his gaze with a glare that would have turned anyone else to a pile of dust that was
somehow still capable of shitting itself.
“Yeeeees,” he said, smiling again. “I hadn't heard from you, or received any of the reports
we'd agreed on, for some time, and I, aaah, well, I worried about you – you know what a
worrier I can be. Not paranoid, really, just, um – apprehensive – concerned. For you, naturally.
I mean, when we plotted this out, you were dying, for goodness sake, and it was starting to
look like you were going to do that in a prison hospital. Very sad. Very sad. So, you found
an, er... 'alternative identity,' shall we say, and went to the Project, and there was this
great silence for about nine months. I mean, of course, I was concerned.” He put on his
“Ah, but then, one day, out of the blue, I discovered that a certain Deacon James, also no
slouch around the Dark Web, if I may say, was working on Roger Rank and his end of the oper-
ation. Small wonder that I became curious, no? And, as if that weren't enough, I found that
you – or Deacon – were patching into my security monitoring systems. Extremely puzzling! 'What
could he be up to,' I wondered! Well! – ” he shrugged his shoulders, his hands spread in a
'What do you expect?' gesture, “I thought, 'Let's just give him his head, so to speak, and
ahhh, see what he's up to...'
“And naturally, the more you worked on Rank, the more it became clear what that something was.
And that the best way to get you back – not Deacon, but you, Clyde, – was to set up a trap,
something to draw you in and give me the chance to put you back in your right mind, to make
you a useful... colleague, again. That way, you're happy, I'm happy, we both get what we want,
and we move on with our lives.”
I fisted the sweat out of my eyes. “So, Sheldon and Rudy...”
He looked puzzled for a moment. “Sheldon...? Oh! That emo kid, Sharky, yes, yes – he's going
to make someone very happy, I'm sure, once they get him in line. You should have seen the
fight he put up, when he realized that he and Rudy weren't gonna have the smexy-times, just
go on long, separate, permanent journeys! Kid's a real livewire! And Rudy, well, the same for
him, but mainly, he's our insurance to see that his Uncle Wally and the Project mind their
own fucking business, eat the loss, and, um, just generally stay out of our fucking hair.”
I had to laugh a bit at that. “First of all, you don't know Waldo Brent – he will turn your
world inside-fucking-out to get that boy back. Second, you missed your flight – Rudy and
Sharky are gone-baby-gone, by now. You should be more worried about whether I can dismantle
you before the FBI and assorted government operatives land on this place.”
He made a good, if rather melodramatic, show of being shocked, shocked, I tell you – eyes wide,
index-finger knuckle slipping between his teeth. “Curses!” he exclaimed, “You have betrayed
and foiled me, you faithless dog!” The back of his hand then went to his forehead, like the
damsel in distress who cannot pay the mortgage on her poor daddy's ranch. Then, he planted his
hands on the desktop and leaned forward.
“Clyde, you disappoint me. Or Deacon, rather – Clyde would know that when I said, 'trap,' I
fucking well meant 'trap'. Some people call it paranoia, I call it being perceptive and pre-
pared. How could you not imagine that I would have Rank's hospital room wired for sound and
vision? And when have you ever – ever! – known me to trust my employees enough that I wouldn't
do the same for every goddamn room in every goddamn place I set up shop?!” He seemed angry
that I had underestimated him; I felt a little angry about it, too.
“If you like,” he continued, as his temper cooled, “I can show you digital video – Dutch and
Gunner called me when they had the boys – but either way, I assure you that I had them waiting
for the lads outside that diner.”
My heart sank.
He sat, again, leaning his elbows on the desk, steepling his fingers under his chin. “So –
here's what's going to happen: you can go with me and let me harvest some of that wonderous,
self-replicating tech from your system, and we can talk about eventually getting the kids back
where they belong, and I can get you some answers those people at the Project won't give you.
Or – ” he pulled a Very pistol from a desk drawer. “I can kill you right here, harvest the
tech post-mortem, and the boys are lost. Possibly forever.”
The ache in my head had dissolved to nothing, but I was still sweaty and quivering; only now,
it was with rage. “You do know, I'm going to kill you, yes?”
He shrugged, smiling. “It did cross my mind – it's what I would have done. It's what Clyde
would have done. Only Clyde would have done it immediately. If Clyde were really working the
controls in that skull of yours, I'd, ah – heh – well, I'd probably be in long, bloody strips,
hung about the office like bunting, right now. But you, Deacon...” He smiled, sadly, laughed
softly. “You engaged. That's when I knew I had you. That's when I knew that everything was
going to be fine. For one of us, anyhow.”
In the distance, I heard the warbling shriek of approaching sirens; DeVille heard it, too. He
leaned back in his chair, pointing the Very pistol right between my eyes. “Have you ever seen
what phosphorous can do to human flesh and bone? I know Clyde has. I know your nanoids can
stand up to a few pistol rounds and a well-placed knife – but I doubt even they could keep up
with this kind of heat. So, ahh... how does this chapter end?” He was grinning when he asked,
as though he knew perfectly well what my answer would be.
“Motherfucker,” I said softly, through gritted teeth, my gaze never leaving DeVille's. “Mother.
He stood, still pointing the flare gun at my head. “Outstanding! Spider, put the cuffs on him –
Knuckles, go start the car. We need to get going before any more company arrives...”
Knuckles and Spider had a very animated discussion over whose job it had been to bring the hand-
cuffs. For a moment, I thought there was going to be a slap-fight – I was very embarrassed for
them. Kind of sorry, too, because I did remember how DeVille dealt with this sort of cock-up.
Two words: organ harvesting.
Knuckles ran to get the car started, and DeVille held the barrel of the flare gun in my mouth
while Spider fetched a roll of that black vinyl tape and taped my wrists together behind me,
then wrapped it quickly around my torso, pinning my arms to my sides. Finally, he wound it
around my mouth a few times. DeVille leaned in, kissed me on the nose, and said, “We'll talk
later – promise!”
Then, one on each side, they hurried me downstairs and to the back door.. The sirens sounded
much closer, now.
The situation wasn't as hopeless as it looked or felt. Otherwise, I would have felt a lot more
panicky when DeVille turned, as we were going out the back of the warehouse, and fired the
flare right through the office windows. He was covering his tracks and starting with the
contents of the office. I had no doubt that, unless emergency teams intervened promptly (which,
by the proximity of the sirens, I felt almost certain, they would), every stick of wood or
paper in the joint would be ashes by morning – and that included the captive teens. Those boxes
would more than look like coffins – that warehouse would become a crematorium. I was extraordi-
narily relieved when I heard the fire sprinklers go off, as the door closed behind us – the
blaze wouldn't spread, but everything in that office was a goner. The four men I had taken
down earlier would survive. If I hadn't killed them myself.
I was stuffed into the backseat of a non-descript luxury sedan, and joined by DeVille, while
Spider joined Knuckles in the front. I had no idea where we were going. My study of DeVille
gave them multiple options, but I was hoping for his estate north of St. Sebastian, or his up-
town penthouse. Naturally, I might as well have tried to gather my happy thoughts and fly.
I spent the entire journey on my side, facing the back of the seat, with my head in DeVille's
lap, staring right at his crotch – I didn't need to see where we were going until we arrived,
and passersby might be curious about why a young fellow such as myself was riding around in
the back of a car with his mouth all taped up; people are funny like that, I guess. Whatever
his failings as a human being, he wasn't compensating for a small penis – as he kept a running
dialog, soothing me, coaxing me, he also gave me somewhat more physical attention, stroking me,
petting me, fondling me, DeVille was slowly firming up, down yonder. His intentions for me
were demonstrably more than mere business. He ran his fingers through my hair, mumbling things
like, “Yes, yes – I know you're angry now, but you're. Um, not yourself, right now, ha-ha –
just wait 'til I get you home, young man – we'll get you squared away and things will be back
I was still riding the ragged edge of rage, but I managed to contain it, for the most part. I
knew things DeVille didn't know, and concentraiting on those things helped me keep that “Other”
– the Clyde Penney he kept talking to and about – at bay. I knew:
Rudy had called Brent before he and Sharky ever made it to the diner. Otherwise, there would
have been no sirens.
It was possible that Rudy still had the drop phone, if they hadn't searched him – and since
they were in such a hurry, I doubt they had done so. Knuckles and Spider weren't geniuses, so
I had no reason to suspect Gunner and Dutch were any better. Still, underestimating people
hadn't done me any favors so far.
And if he did still have it, Brent or I could trace the drop-phone through its GPS.
If anything happened to DeVille before he got to wherever he was taking us, that was it for
the two boys. “Employees” (read: henchmen) at that level were expendable and would cut their
losses, before disappearing into the woodwork. Which is why I put up no fight – galling though
it was, there are times you just have to let yourself get captured to get where you need to go,
and hope for the best. If DeVille couldn't win, he would absolutely have arranged to make you
regret your victory for the rest of your life. I could have killed all three of those creatures
and tracked the boys, but there was no guarantee that I could get there while they were still
After an interminable period of meandering turns and Top 40 AM radio, we finally arrived at
our destination. The estate or the penthouse had been wishful thinking, indeed. We were at
DeVille's private dock.
Where he kept his private yacht.
Charming. I hate the ocean – I had almost drowned in it, when I...
Some more things were falling into place.
I was shaken out of my memory when DeVille dragged me out of the backseat by my coat collar,
barking at Spider and Knuckles that he wanted to be over deep water in an hour, so, ah – don't
He steadied me on my feet as they drove away, and we watched them out of sight. Finally, the
taillights vanished. We turned to walk up the dock and board the yacht, but stopped at the roar
of a not-too-distant explosion – from around the bend where the car had turned off, we saw
DeVille sighed. “Well, damn. They knew they weren't supposed to change the radio station –
they'd been told and told. What a shame...” He shook his head, clearly disappointed. “Ah,
well – fewer loose ends to worry about.”
With that, he marched me up to the gangway, where we were met by, I assumed, Gunner and Dutch.
Gunner was a chunky Sad Sack, while Dutch looked more like a stilleto blade dressed in a suit.
“Radio?” Gunner asked.
“So it would sadly appear, Gunner. Terrible shame.”
“There are some people you just can't reach,” Dutch replied, commiserating.
“All too true, my friend! Now – the boys – in my stateroom?”
Dutch nodded. “Just like you said – wrapped up all nice and snug.”
“But you gotta watch that blondie-kid, Boss,” Gunner put in with a scowl, “He's got a kick
like a mule!”
“Of course – he's a dancer, remember.” Deville shrugged to emphasize the obviousness of the
concept, then started up the gangway. “Now – this one – put him with them, then go down to
the lab and tell Dr. MacFarlane that the subjects need a heavy sedative, they're very excited.
We'll start harvesting as soon as we hit the open sea. I'm going to the bridge to have a word
with Captain Englehorn – if we're not out of here within an hour, I'm going to be extremely
vexed, and you know what I'm like when I'm vexed...”
Gunner and Dutch glanced at each other over my head, and hurried me along up the gangway.
I was hustled down passageways (which is almost the extent of my knowledge of ship termin-
ology, which is just above “Look out the window on the left side of the boat...”) until we
finally arrived at an elaborately-carved mahogany doorway. Dutch unlocked it, opened it, and
I was thrust roughly in. They followed and shoved me onto the bed between the two bound teens.
Sharky was, naturally, still a black vinyl burrito, while Rudy was done up much like I was,
but with knees and ankles taped, as well.
While Gunner and Dutch bickered between themselves about which of them would inform the doctor
of my arrival – “I don't like 'im, he's creepy!”, “What, creepy – ya big baby, you need to
get over that, so you go. I'll hit the bridge and see if DeVille needs anything...”, “Aw,
screw you, you always get the suck-up-to-the-boss jobs!”, “And all you do is complain – just
go, already, would ya? Jesus...” – I managed to roll over enough to make eye-contact with Rudy.
Sharky, now behind me, wouldn't have recognized me.
But Rudy definitely did – his eyes grew large, seeing that I'd been captured, as well. So much
in that face: fear, frustration, regret, anger. I winked at him, trying to smile behind the
gag; he looked like he wanted to know what the fuck I had to smile about. He was about to find
out. I had spent my time on the way to the yacht contemplating more than my doom.
So far, everything was going according to plan.
In my experience, that usually meant that an enormous cock-up was about to crest the horizon.
But it hadn't done so, yet.
Once the henchmen has left, locking the door behind them and bickering their way to their
respective destinations, I rolled onto my stomach and began trying to dig into my left back
pocket. I was fortunate that they'd left my coat on me because, though I couldn't get to any
of its pockets, it did a fine job of covering my ass, which had perfectly good pockets of
And one of those pockets held a pair of medical utility scissors that I'd absently slipped
there what felt like a year or two ago, at this point.
Gripping them by the blades, I nudged Rudy hard with my knee to make sure I had his attention.
He looked somehow annoyed, at first; then he realized what they were, and his demeanor bright-
ened considerably. He was quick, like his old man, too – he nodded sharply, once, then squirmed
around until his back was to me and carefully felt for the scissors. When I was sure he had
a grip on them, I let go of the blades.
He promptly went to work cutting the tape as far up my arms as he could. I hoped he wouldn't
nip too much of the coat-sleeves – I loved that coat. Still, more easily replaced than my life
or freedom if I failed to stop DeVille.
As soon as Rudy got just above my elbows, I roled back over, sat up and pulled myself to the
end of the bed with my feet. Once there, I stood and, after some strenuous squirming and
flexing, managed to shrug my way out of the coat and tape. Moving back to the bed, I took the
scissors from Rudy and cut the gag off my face; the tape took a little hair off the back of
my neck. I slipped the utility scissors back into my rear pocket, and the tape with it – I
didn't know where or how much the nanoids had permeated, but fuck if I was going to leave any
tissue samples behind. As I had apparently (with DeVille) created this mess, I felt some obli-
gation to not create another one while I cleaned it up.
Rudy and Sharky were watching me, outrage shining bright in their eyes – what was the big
idea of putting the scissors away before releasing them, as well? I nodded, raising a concilia-
tory hand, while putting a shh-ing finger to my lips with the other. Which, of course, was the
cue for the sound of a key rattling in the lock.
Timing is everything.
I kept behind the door as it opened. The 50-ish man who entered was tall and rigid, in his
charcoal gray, double-breasted suit. When he turned to close the door, I saw his expression
was a combination of boredom, sneer, and just general male resting-bitch-face. His eyes seemed
sleepy, until he realized he was looking right at the guy he was supposed to sedate. Then, he
woke right up.
I bumped the door shut with my hip and went for him as he raised the hand with the syringe. I
grabbed his wrists, dropped, and pulled him forward into the wall. It bloodied his nose, but
he didn't drop the syringe. I gripped a little harder – nothing; I gripped as hard as I could,
and felt the bones of his wrist shift. He had been about to call for help (I like to think;
witty sinister banter could have been as likely), but the pain made him gasp in a deeper breath.
I yanked down hard on his wrists, which once again introduced his face to the wall.
This time, he did drop the syringe, and of course, it rolled away. By the time I saw where it
had gone, so did he. We both lunged for it.
Look – you've seen this bit in a hundred movies: I get it, he gets it back, I get it back from
him, he gets it away from me, head-butts, knees in the junk, bites, snarls, etc. The usual.
And to the snotty old bastard's credit, things were close – he had a height, weight, and reach
advantage on me. He ended up stretched out on top of me, trying to pin one wrist while his
other hand bore down on me with the syringe, cap off the needle, thumb on the plunger, while
I gripped his wrist, trying to keep him from sticking the fucking thing in my neck.
This part of the plan wasn't going quite as smoothly as I had hoped – honestly, I hadn't fore-
seen having to wrestle a syringe away from, literally, a mad scientist. But I'd been pushed
around a lot, most of the day, and I'd had just about enough of everyone's shit.It crept closer. He was grinning like his inner lunatic was getting a day out it hadn't expec-
ted. “Trust me,” MacFarlane hissed, “I'm a doctor...”
“Yeah?” I said through grinding teeth, “Well – have some of your own fucking medicine...”
Before I knew I was doing it, I'd locked my teeth on MacFarlane's nose, sideways, the bridge
between my teeth, while he shrieked like a steam whistle. It distracted him enough that he
forgot about the syringe, and with a quick twist, I turned his fist and rammed that goddamn
syringe right into his temple. Right down to the syringe barrel. And pushed the plunger.
For a moment, he shook like someone with a high fever in a hard, freezing wind; then he went
limp and dropped onto me.
I pushed his body aside, spat out a lump of bloody cartilage and skin and gristle and snot,
and leapt to my feet, spitting. Of course, DeVille had a wet bar in the room – I charged it,
snatched up a bottle of Grey Goose, gargled a mouthful, spit it out on his carpet, took another
mouthful as my just reward and swallowed it.
Then I looked at the boys and found them staring at me like I'd just – well, like I'd just
done what I'd done. I wiped my mouth with the back of one hand, while the other retrieved the
utility scissors from my back pocket. Working quickly, I cut Rudy from his bonds and handed
him the scissors to deal with his tape gag and then go to work freeing Sharky.
I was peeling the last of the tape from my coat, when I heard Sharky's voice from the bed,
“Dude!” he exclaimed, “For a little guy, you're fuckin' savage!”
I looked at him as coldly as I could, still pumped full of adrenaline, disgust, and vodka.
“You have no idea,” I said quietly. “But thanks.”
He seemed confused, not quite sure how to respond. Finally, he said, “Thanks. For, like,
y'know... comin' for us.”
It sounded sincere, genuine, but I was still bubbling and trying to think out the next step
in my masterplan. “Don't thank me – thank him,” I said, nodding at Rudy. He's the one who
saved you a looong ocean voyage.”
“Dude – ”
“Not now, man, but believe me, we are going to have a conversation, later – ”
“GUYS!” Rudy hissed, “Can we do all of this, later?! We need to get outta here!”
“I know, but who IS this dude?!”
“My name's Deacon James, and I work with – with! – Rudy's Uncle Wally,” I said, pulling on
my coat. “I'm gonna get us out of here, one way or another. I wish we had that damn drop
Rudy sat up straight. “The phone!” He began digging at the crotch of his jeans.
“Wait, wait, wait – are you about to pull a cell phone out of your pants?! Didn't they take
it when they grabbed you?”
He produced the phone. “Nah, dude – I made that call as soon as the door closed behind me –
Uncle Wally says 'Hi', by the way – and I was gonna put it in my pocket, but trying to balance
him,” he glanced at Sharky, “I ended up shoving it down the front of my underpants.”
My chin was about level with my navel. “Those two chumps didn't search you?”
“Sure,” he said, blushing a bit, “But not – y'know – down there. They did get a little grabby
though, when they were carrying us.”
“I bet,” I said, moving to lock the stateroom door, then turning to take the phone from Rudy.
There was only one number, the one I needed, and I hit the speed dial.
It was answered immediately. “Rudy?!”
“No, it's Deacon, Rudy's – ”
“Where the hell are you?! Where the hell is my – where's my nephew?”
“BRENT!” I barked, “Cool your tits and get it together. Rudy's fine, all things considered.
We're on DeVille's yacht – it's like a floating hotel. What I need you to do is trace the GPS
on this phone. We're still at his dock, right now, but we might be at sea, by the time you
get anyone here, and you'll need to be able to find us.”
I head him snapping instructions to someone, then he was back. “Okay – it's in the works.
What's the plan on your end?”
“I can't tell you that, right now.”
“You have no idea. Do you.”
“Hey – this has been a very troublesome day, okay? I think I've done very fucking well,
considering it was a last-minute gig!”
He sighed. “Okay, granted, you're doing this on the fly...”
“Exactly. Thank you. Besides, I do have the bones of a plan. Sort of. Basically, get the boys
off the boat, then settle with DeVille.”
“Wait – 'boys'? Multiple boys?! What the – ”
“Two boys. Just go with it. Gotta run!”
“Saving the battery, just in case,” I said quickly, then ended the call.
I turned back to the boys and tossed the phone to Rudy, who caught it deftly.
“Okay,” Sharky said, “So, whadda we do, now?”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, decompressing, centering myself, focusing; think-
ing that another belt of that Grey Goose would be mighty tasty, just about now.
“Now,” I said, “You two are gonna follow me, stay close, stay quiet, and do exactly as I tell
“Crystal,” they said in unison. They looked at each other. “Jinx!” they said.
“Gentlemen – now is not the time. And you – ” I said, pointing a finger at Sharky, “Rudy
talked you up pretty good, but if you're still harboring any thoughts of giving us up to
score points with DeVille – ”
He looked at me, aghast. “DUDE! That asshole just wrapped me up an' tried to ship me to
fuckin' West Kakalakistan or some shit! You think I knew about all this? No fuckin' way!”
“All just an innocent kinky-teen-sex-club – that it?”
He had the grace to look a little embarrassed and angry at himself; but he was honest about it.
“Yeah. Pretty much. Yeah.”
“Okay,” I nodded. “Okay. But we're still all having a conversation about this later.”
“With Unca Wally,” Rudy said quietly.
“Ooooh, yes – definitely Unca Wally. Mostly Unca Wally. Now, come on...”
And we slipped quietly from the stateroom, locking the door behind us with MacFarlane's key.
To Be Continued