Part 1

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The guy waiting across from me was meaty, but the way his eyes moved in a calm study of the dockyard showed that the thickness about his middle didn’t extend to his head. He would be fast and unforgiving, but if you were allowed only one piece of security, you usually took your best.

My foot ground the grit between my low flat and the dock, and the man’s eyes darted to me—answering my unspoken question. Smiling, I shifted to show off my curves a little. I didn’t expect any trouble, but why not use all my resources? “Whatcha packing?” I asked, trying for some small talk. Trent and this guy’s boss had been here only twenty minutes, but this hadn’t been on the agenda, and I was fidgety.

The man’s lips quirked. Pulling himself straighter, he lifted the hem of his coat to show a Glock tucked right where I thought it would be. He was proud enough of it to like what he did, and casual enough to be a good shot.

I bobbed my head, again trying for arm-candy-with-a-gun. In the distance, a train hooted as it crossed the Ohio River. The dampness was beginning to rise, and I hoped Trent would finish up soon. Impromptu sunset meetings on an empty dock smacked of illegal dealings, even if the three-story boat they were on was shiny, extravagant, and probably under more cameras than the Mona Lisa.

“That’s nice,” I said as I pulled my shoulder bag off the retaining wall behind me and slowly, so there’d be no misunderstandings, found the smooth, cool metal of my own weapon.  “Me, I got myself a splat gun,” I said, hefting it in the buzzing haze the security light was making. “No need for a permit. No ballistics on record. If I have to shoot it—and I do shoot it—it’s quiet and untraceable.” The untraceable part wasn’t entirely true, but the quiet was since it ran on compressed air. “What’s that you’ve got? A Glock?”

He nodded, uneasy and off balance—just the way I wanted it. Splat guns were basically paint ball guns with the dye removed and spells added. What kind of spells was up to the practitioner. Mine was not a toy but a precision instrument, heavy and cherry red so the FIB would quit trying to take it away from me.

Satisfied doubt would make him a shade slower, I dropped it back in my bag. Like I said, I didn’t think there’d be any trouble, but a little intimidation is good for the soul. Leaning back, I put my elbows on top of the retaining wall and looked past Trent’s floating status icon to the Hollows beyond. Behind and above me, Cincy woke up as the sun went down. Something felt off, but I was chalking that up to Trent’s change in plans.

Despite my better judgment, I’d taken a one-night security job filling in for Trent’s usual security. I’d said yes to the hospital fund raiser, not an after-sunset meeting at a boat. If I’d known it was something this slimy, I would have worn my leather to keep from leaving skin grafts on the pavement, not security-black cotton pants and jacket. The thought that this had been Trent’s idea all along was simmering—pissing me off. I did not like being used. I decided who I worked for. I chose who, where, when, and most importantly, why.

A light clicked on in the stern of the boat, dim and battery yellow. Voices grew louder, and I pushed up from the wall. Mr. Glock did the same. Clearly the meeting was over, as two men moved onto the covered back deck, still talking. They were both in suits, one slightly overweight, the other slim with youth.

More blah, blah, blah ensued as they finished up. Trent looked as calm and collected as always, the dim light glinting on his fair hair, cut in the latest style. The shiny dress shoes that he’d been wearing had been exchanged for something softer that wouldn’t scratch the deck. The canvas looked odd peeking out from under the hem of his three-thousand-dollar suit, but Trent was all about the shoes in an understated, never-discussed way. The briefcase he’d taken from the trunk was in the other man’s grip, and I frowned. 

Mr. Glock hurried forward as the two men shook hands and parted. Trent’s raised, almost musical voice seemed to skate over my skin, raising goose bumps in the darkening evening, and I stifled a shiver. Still talking, Trent gestured for the man to go before him, turning off the light and locking up the boat himself before he followed. His steps were silent on the dock, and it wasn’t until Mr. Glock accompanied his slightly overweight charge to the black Lincoln parked next to Trent’s new convertible that Trent’s eyes finally landed on mine.

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