“You managed to get through the security points already?” Nixon asked his diminutive colleague.
“No,” Durham looked up from Hatcher’s picture that floated on his screen. “I know him. I didn’t recognize him until I enlarged your surveillance photos.”
Even in the Spanish afternoon heat Nixon felt the room go cold as he looked at his partner. Durham may have been a console jockey, but he never scared easy. Now his olive colored skin seemed to go an ashen grey. Nixon took a quick moment to look back through the ocular unit just in time to watch the two men walk off the roof of the casino.
Nixon hit the reset for the surveillance equipment to relock on the signal from the package, then turned back to his sometimes partner. Durham’s hands were seemingly frozen, floating over his laptop keyboard.
“What’s gotten into you Durham? What’s this about a butcher?”
Durham turned to look at Nixon, unconsciously adjusting his sidearm in its shoulder holster. “Not a butcher, like in a shop. The Butcher. That’s his handle.”
“So you’ve worked with him.”
Durham wiped the cold sweat off his brow and set his laptop aside. “Yeah. His name’s Hatcher. He had the Butcher handle before I worked with him. Considering the shit he pulled on my shift, I can’t imagine what’d he done before to earn it.”
Nixon stood up and walked to the suite bar. He fixed a tall glass of Japanese vodka and brought it over to Durham. Shoving it under his nose, Nixon said to him, “OK, get ahold of yourself and tell me what were up against.”
Durham took a healthy slug. He breathed in, then started.
“Back before I got recruited by GeneTech, I got picked up for data laundering by a government outfit. No idea which one. They slotted me into a black ops cell. I figured it was better than jail, so I kept my mouth shut and did my job.”
Durham walked over to the bar for a refill. “So after a couple of months we get a replacement. Bad dude, highly modded – probably more chrome than you, Durham. I have no idea what hole they pulled him out of, but you could tell by looking at him he’d seen some shit.”
“He’s on board for a while when we get a new job. There’s some trade negotiations going on between EU members and some South American countries. But it doesn’t have approval, so we’re sent in to make an example out of them. The whole lot, maybe eight or ten negotiators, aren’t to leave the skyscraper. Short notice; we’ve got three days before the negotiations conclude.”
“The job’s a nightmare. The entire building is crawling with every type of security. No way we’re getting close. The best idea the team lead comes up with is to fly by in a aerodyne and fire rockets into the floor that the execs are tabling at. It’s success probability is dicey and our survival odds aren’t much better. The building is wired for air defense as well as everything else.”
“So we’re pouring over the building schematics I pulled, trying to come up with any sort of weakness. And this guy,” Durham pointed to the picture on his laptop screen, “finds a chink in the security. The atmosphere control room has a weak access point and only a few personnel. We can get in there, he says.”
“So fucking what? I say. We can’t crawl through 54 floors of air ducts. And even if we could, what then? We’d still have to get out.”
“And then,” Durham’s expression became graven again as he stared at the picture of Hatcher, “this psycho looks at the team lead and says, ‘Who said anything about crawling up air ducts? We’ve got the security schematics. Let’s find out what poison sniffers they’re using and a gas that won’t be detected by them. After that, it’s just a matter of getting into the atmo room and putting molecular pellets into the airflow systems. We’ll flood the building with poison and be gone before anyone knows what happened.”
“Jesus,” Nixon puzzled for a moment. “That’d kill everyone in the building.”
“All sixteen hundred and seventeen of them. The newsfeeds called it the worst terrorist incident since the Malaygay Plague.” Durham downed the last of the vodka, then set his glass aside. “I lost my stomach for it after that. Got a tap on the shoulder from a GT recruiter a few months later and I was gone.”
The two professionals sat in silence. After a moment, Nixon turned back to the surveillance equipment. He had learned more about his partner in the last few minutes than he had in the last few months. His face turned an eerie green as it bathed in the monitor lights.
“So how do you want to handle this?”
“I tell you this much,” Durham said as he picked up his laptop again, “we’re not gonna hit this guy while he might be lookin’ for it. He might be psychotic, but he’s also dangerous as Hell. Who’s the older guy with him?”
“Dunno. Grab a faceshot from the surveillance and run a scan.”
Durham put aside the mild irritation he felt at being told how to do his job and did just that. A few moments later he had the results of a cursory database scan.
Reading over Durham’s shoulder, Nixon said, “Great. Another fucking ghost. Not a damn thing.”
“No, wait,” Nixon pointed at a piece of information as it floated up the screen, “here.”
“No shit?” Durham shook his head in disbelief. “That ugly motherfucker owns the casino those two were standing on top of?”
“The only piece of information that exists on him in public records. So we can bet the name he owns it under isn’t his real one. A ghost like this guy owning a casino; smells like organized crime.”
“So?” Nixon walked back over to his equipment and began his own inquiry. He put into the Black Box for any other assets, company or otherwise, they might have on the ground in Madrid.
“If he’s got the Butcher running errands for him, he might use him for collections. If I can break into the casino’s database they’re bound to have a list of debtors. We put tabs on the one that has the biggest past due amount.”
Nixon looked back over at Durham with a small smile. “Then we wait for this Butcher guy to show up. Then we hit him while he’s looking in the other direction.”