“So that’s that?” said SMS. “We’re just going to continue on to Esquimalt as if nothing happened? We don’t even know who those guys were!”
“What do you want to do?” said Pavelec. “Should we go back and try to talk to them? Ask them what they wanted?”
“I’m as much in the dark as you,” said Pavelec. “Obviously I want to know who just tried to kill me as much as you do, but that isn’t our mission right now. We have a trail to follow.”
“I should at least check in with Innis,” said SMS. “He’ll want to know what’s going on.”
“Fine. You can ask him to check his contacts for any info about who gunned down Jovo’s hideout, too. My guess is that it was probably a rival group from Vancouver or even Washington State. You should know as well as anyone how messy gang politics can be. Jovo probably just made a bad deal, and it came back to bite her.”
“Maybe,” said SMS, but he was remembering what the soldier had said when he crashed in through the window. He’d said, “Elle est ici.” She’s here. And he’d been pointing at Pavelec, not Jovo. What did that mean?
SMS took out his decoy phone and held it up to his ear. He hated using his special ability to make actual phone calls; it always made him a bit dizzy. But this conversation would be easier to have with voices rather than text messages. He made the call.
Innis let it ring five times. He always did. It gave his ancient cell phone the time it needed to bring up the Caller ID. Innis never took a call from someone he didn’t have in his address book. “What is it?” he said, when he finally answered. The words arrived into SMS’s brain through a tingling vibration in his ear lobe.
“The Hole just got shot up,” said SMS. He felt the words travel up his jaw and out the tip of his ear.
“What?” said Innis. “By who?”
“We don’t know. We barely made it out alive.”
“What about Jovo?”
“She’s dead,” said SMS. “Her guards, too. These guys were good. They were organized and had some real weaponry. They were even wearing uniforms. We managed to turn their gadgets against them, though, thanks to Cyber.”
“Hmm. If this was gang-related, I would’ve known it was coming. I wouldn’t necessarily have warned her, but I would’ve known.”
“I thought so,” said SMS.
“Well, unless it came from south of the border,” said Ian. “I’ve got a couple of dark spots down there. Part of our network got compromised a couple of weeks ago.”
“Oh?” That sounded like the kind of thing Ian usually told SMS about.
“I hadn’t filled you in yet because I was, uh, still trying to sort out the details. Obviously I should’ve been more on top of that.”
“Where are you headed next? Are you going to come in?”
“No,” said SMS. “Before the attack happened Jovo gave us a lead to a guy in Esquimalt who might know something about the night Walter Carton died. We’re on our way over there now.”
“Fine,” said Innis. “I’ll try to track down some info about what went down. I’m going to need Cyber back here to help me, though. I’ll have someone meet you in Esquimalt with a car and they can tag out.”
“Okay,” said SMS. They agreed on a place to meet and hung up. SMS put his decoy phone away and rubbed his temple as he tried to swallow down the after-call dizziness.
“You okay?” said Pavelec.
“Yeah, just a bit of a headache. From all the loud noises, probably.” SMS relayed the details of the phone call and told Cyber what Innis wanted him for.
“Fine by me,” said Cyber. “I’d rather be over there sitting safe at a computer than out here dodging bullets.” But after saying that, Cyber reached into his pocket for his smartphone and text messaged SMS. “Be careful out here,” he said. “Something bigger is going on than Ian wants us to think.”
“i think so, too,” said SMS. “and i think pavelec is in on it. even at our meeting this morning they were acting a bit strange in front of me, like they were acting some of it out for my behalf.”
“You think she knows something she isn’t telling us?”
“Hmm,” said Cyber. “K, I’ll see if I can dig anything up on her. I hope she’s an easier nut to crack than Ian is proving to be.”
Pavelec drove them across the Johnson Street bridge into Esquimalt, and they made their way through the commercial core. As they wound through the streets SMS saw pedestrians and other drivers craning their necks to look at the shattered rear window and pointing at the bullet holes in the bumper. Pavelec briefly cycled the police lights a couple of times to give the gawkers a show. “The way these people are staring,” she said, with a thin-lipped smile, “you’d think none of them had ever watched an action movie before.”
They pulled into the parking lot of a seedy-looking supermarket and SMS got out to watch for Cyber’s replacement. Cyber joined him.
“Who do you think he’ll send?” asked Cyber, communicating with SMS verbally for once.
“Not sure,” said SMS. “An A-lister, one way or another. Someone combat-oriented, probably, in case there’s more shooting. Could be Gus, because of his bulletproof elbows. Or Finlay.”
“What does he do?”
“He has this way of just making people forget he exists. It’s like being invisible, but to people’s minds instead of their eyes. Crazy stuff.”
“You know, I came from Toronto before this,” said Cyber, “and even out there, with all the millions of people, I don’t think there are nearly as many specials as there are here in Victoria. And Ian seems to have networked with most of them.”
“Yeah, well he makes them—makes us—feel useful,” said SMS. “That’s always appealing. And he only ever hires specials. A lot of places won’t hire you if you’re a special, despite the fact that it’s illegal to discriminate, so he draws in a lot of people looking for work. Plus Victoria has the best weather in Canada.”
After a few minutes of quiet waiting SMS and Cyber watched a battered minivan chug into the lot and turn into the parking spot beside them. A six-foot-six, well-muscled brick of a woman unfolded herself from the driver’s seat, flexing her neck uncomfortably.
“They make these things way too small for me,” she said.
“I can see that,” said Cyber.
“You’re the guy who gets the keys?” said the woman.
“Yeah, I’m Cyber. You are?”
“Not going to introduce me, SMS?” she said, with a lopsided grin.
“Sorry,” said SMS. “Cyber, this is Brenda Bailey.”
“Good to meet you,” said Cyber, shaking her hand. He stuck his other hand in his pocket and texted SMS. “So?”
SMS replied, “i wish he’d sent gus or finlay.”