“I am 14% Scottish” uttered Giant without thinking. Laughter. It added to our cover and made us seem even more like tourists. After we simmered down Slim offered “We could wait for daylight and try to slip into some of these empty houses.”
“They’ve been abandoned since New Orleans flooded lover. This is the part of the city reconstruction dollars never got to and won’t ever reach. Only Giant could hop around in there and even then a floor might collapse” countered Stretch.
“Care to walk past the place the first time?” I asked.
“Loosening up wouldn’t be a bad idea” Slim softly spoke. “Why the change of plans, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’m not feeling watched and I got a whiff of something. Time to lose the hats and t-shirts. Put on some other clothes and grab some gloves. Can’t leave prints. If we breach that we have to breach tonight. We need to get into my shaving kit too.”
“I’m scared to ask” began Stretch.
“Vicks Vap-O-Rub. Put a big smear under and inside of your nose. Almost enough to make your eyes water. There is at least one body in there. We cannot leave a window or door open while in the place or when we leave. Been dead a while.”
“One of the windows was already open, just an inch” offered Giant.
“I’m assuming that is where I got my whiff. Probably one around the rear is slightly open as well. I can’t believe anyone could get used to such a smell or stay with their nose sticking out a crack that small for days. In one of the square cases is a box of those crime scene booties you see on television. Oh, I have some white hankies in the front pouch of my garment bag. You should each get one to cover your mouth. Don’t hold it in your shooting hand though. If there are any neighbors they will be complaining about the smell soon.”
“Shouldn’t need their shooting hands” came a voice out of the dark from between two houses. Damn! Talking instead of watching. A beginner’s mistake!
“No need to get itchy gentleman” came the mousy voice again. “I’m Henry and if I wanted you dead, you would be.”
“Any reason for us to go back to that place, Henry?” I asked.
“I think you need to see something there” was his answer. “I will wait here for you to fetch the Vicks and hankies. It’s a shorter walk to your car if you cut through here though.”
“Why don’t you come with us?” I asked.
“I want to keep watching. You guys aren’t paying attention. Nobody has slipped in since that happened. Only two of the homes are occupied. One has quite a few little kids. The other I would like you to get a good look at. I took a picture.”
“Company man?” I asked as we passed.
“Someone’s company, just not ours. Don’t spend too much time being visible on the street. I’ve got a picture of someone else who has been hanging around the city.”
“You going to try shooting us in the back while we go down this narrow passage?” I asked. “Even for you that seems a bit obvious.”
“I killed you the day we met. You just haven’t had the decency to finish dying in a timely manner. Now I’m caught up in this and sadly I need you to figure it out. That much I’ve been told.”
“Told by who?” the Acrobats said in unison.
“You call her ‘Pretty Little Thing’ or so she says. Called me on my other burner not long after the orders to meet you all here came down. Weird job that. Staging all of us for a hit which may or may not happen” pondered Henry. “Go get what you need and get back here quickly.”
Once we were out of earshot Stretch whispered “Do you trust him?”
“Trust would be a tall word” I responded. “You me and Slim need to check our voice mail on the way back to the car. Giant, I think it is best if you never call Pretty Little Thing. If she was innocent she shouldn’t still be alive. I suspect she is a whole lot less innocent now. Keep your phone off so they don’t associate it with ours.”
Giant nodded in response. He probably had to learn how to operate a flip phone yet anyway. Slim went first. “She says an assignment has been sent to my work phone” he said once he hung up. I nodded to Stretch and he had basically the same message. I checked mine after opening the trunk. Then fished out the hankies for all of us.
“Same message for you?” Giant asked.
“No. Dimitri is in town” I responded.
“Who’s Dimitri?” asked Slim.
“A dead man” I replied.
“What happened to keeping a low profile?” asked Stretch.
“Young hunters believe they are immortal so they take bonus kills like crazy, never worrying about the danger or the consequences. Most don’t live to be even your age. Some time during one’s late thirties they realize a great check-out counter waits for all of us and they stop taking needless risks. Bonus kills only happen when they are in close proximity to the intended target, never risking a freelance hit from the job boards no matter what they pay.”
Giant chuckled “and what about at your age Old Timer?”
“We stop caring. Most of us have a short list of bonus names we will actively pursue even if we don’t get paid. We know there is very little sand left in the hour glass and some scores must be settled. Dimitri is one such score.”