Chapter 10

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Killing Deeb had been a mistake.

I knew it from the first - well, third - shot, but I was pretty much committed by that stage.

I only had a few rules. Buy your own drinks. Carry your own rations. Honour your contract. And don't try to murder the guy you are in business with until after you had finished that business. Technically, Deeb hadn't broken any of those rules.

And yes, once someone tries to kill you they are fair game. Or looks like they are thinking about trying to kill you. Or standing next to someone who looks like they are thinking about trying to kill you.

But Deeb was useful. And Deeb was connected. People were going to notice when Deeb didn't totter up to the Brash Monkey for his daily beer. It was unlikely that anyone would try to avenge him. Some would even celebrate his disappearance. But questions would be asked. I hate it when other people are asking the questions.

And my plate was already overflowing with dust.

Tyson. Tyson was a whole dustload on his own. I never operate as part of a team, so I had never worked with him on a contract. But I had heard plenty. I hated his type. Glorified bounty hunters. They hid their nature by taking the occasional security or gal-pol job. Trying to create an association with lawfulness. They were no better than me but didn't have the stones to admit it. That train of thought reminded me of my own dull ache. I needed to visit a medic-ward.

I was taking a circuitous route home. Partly to make sure nobody was following me. Mostly to do some thinking. I considered taking a bearing but didn't much feel like killing another load of passengers. So a long walk it was. I stopped to reload my revolver, thrusting the empty cartridges deep into a pocket so that I could check on Partridge's dissolving casings. I resumed my musings.

Tyson may have been a self-deceiving, lying packet of dust, but he was significant. I could take it as absolute fact that Deeb would only move on me with very significant backing indeed. I couldn't believe that it was Tyson. He would have needed to leave Credence a month before I had even met Hrny and started this whole nightmare. He would also need a very large incentive. Smooth-face could provide that kind of incentive, granted. But Smooth-face wasn't going to action a contract on me before I had fulfilled my contract with him. And Tyson wouldn't use a third party, he would want to take me down in person. With his own hands.

It was possible that Smooth-face had sent for Tyson a month ago as part of a plan to help keep me in check. But then Tyson wasn't going to act prematurely. He was a professional packet of dust.

Nah it couldn't be Tyson, had to be someone else backing Deeb. My creds were on those fancy fighting bastards.

The cold reality was that I had allowed my rage to make me stupid.

Deeb was much more useful to me alive, no matter how satisfying it had felt to watch him crumple and break as my shots hammered into his scrawny, backstabbing, rotting piece of...

I took a breath.

I needed to keep my focus on the job. The minister, Trip-G, the daughter.

I called into a medic ward along the way and paid for top-line treatment to deal with the aftermath of Hrna's kick. I could afford the best now, and as Partridge had pointed out it was best to have such injuries seen to.

The injections were relatively painless and eased my discomfort considerably. The med-mech advised that I had suffered no lasting damage, which was also a relief. They were useful, on occasion.

***

The minister's name was Fion Merricksen. She was a minister attached to the Melchi Sector Ministry for Trade, located in the City of Solace, planet Melchi. She wasn't senior enough to warrant significant security here on the station. But she wasn't low enough that Melchi Prime could ignore it if something happened to her, either. She was perfect for my needs.

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