Five-Dollar Circus: Chapter One

Matt Miller’s feeling smug. After all, he has the entire city sewn up, and nothing could possibly threaten that… right?


Back to Five-Dollar Circus: Contents


1. That Sinking Feeling

 

It was almost embarrassingly easy to get into the Saints’ dirty laundry. The bank accounts were a piece of piss, obviously—nearly all offshore funds, buried in tax-dodging loopholes and obfuscation, but still extremely simple to trace and crack. The money-laundering operations and corporate fronts were no better hidden, and there was really very little that the Saints/Ultor Media Group had done to protect itself from prying eyes… or hackers on a mission.

It was rather amusing to watch all those long lines of numbers dwindle down to zero, and very gratifying—after bouncing the money around enough disguised locations and through enough smokescreens to make it virtually impossible to follow—to pour it neatly into the Syndicate’s accounts. Mr. Loren was going to be very pleased indeed, and it had taken all of, ooh, what? Four hours’ work? Maybe a bit more, including waiting for all the transfers to drip through the proxy bounces, but not that much.

Matt Miller leaned back in his low-slung leather chair, basking in the bluish light and reflected glory of his monitor array. This was why they called him Cybergod.

Well… technically, they didn’t. But they absolutely should do. He should start mentioning it to people, seeing if it took off. He should have a decent nickname, in addition to his legendary online handle. He was the leader of one of the biggest gangs in Steelport, after all. Not… well, not in terms of numbers, maybe, or actual physical territory. If you wandered around the city, the Luchadores and the Morningstar definitely had a more overt presence, but that was only because they lacked subtlety.

The Deckers had never been about brute strength. What was the point in all that ridiculous chest pounding anyway? Why try to show off in meatspace what could be undeniably proven online? If Matt wanted, he knew he could take every light in the city down. He could bring on eternal night. He could destroy someone’s life with just a few little lines of code; erase their identity or seed their destruction inside it. He could tear the whole fucking world apart and build his own in its place. And one day, he might do just that.

In the meantime, Steelport had yielded some very interesting opportunities. The Syndicate offered his people security and, while the fiscal rewards were compelling, the respect the Deckers got—and the guarantee that the city’s other major crews wouldn’t automatically gun them down on sight—was very worthwhile.

Yes. The arrangement worked, but only because he allowed it to. Of course.

Matt stretched his shoulders, pushed his headphones down off his ears for a moment, and glanced at the clock on the bottom of his screen. He’d been up all night. There was nothing new in that, obviously, although it had been a very eventful twenty-four hours and—when the adrenaline and the combined caffeine/sugar rush from the endless amounts of Joe Cola he’d been drinking wore off—he was going to enjoy curling up in his bed and passing out. Not yet, but sometime soon.

It was still fairly early morning, though the passage of time wasn’t immediately evident this deep inside the old power plant. The abandoned reactor and its attendant buildings had been the perfect place to set up shop, and he rather liked the way Burns Hill had become its own enclosed city; a whole other world of metal, rivets, and perpetual twilight, bathed in the comforting, humming glow of blue neon.

From somewhere in the metallic warrens above the old bunker buried in the plant’s lower levels—Matt’s personal concrete burrow, filled with his stuff and arranged just the way he liked it—grindcore could be heard, or perhaps rather felt, throbbing through the rusty walls. He knew people tended to perceive the Deckers as kids, and maybe that was true; most of them were young, but they were far from naïve, and just because they gravitated predominantly towards technology-based operations didn’t mean they didn’t know how to do anything else. They did, for example, know how to throw a party, and there was usually something of that nature going on somewhere in the plant.

Sometimes, he even joined in… although, frankly, Matt preferred to stay out of the way most of the time. He thought it best to maintain the sense of mystery that—along with his cybergodly skills and unparalleled brilliance—had lent him the authority he had within the crew in the first place. And it was totally that. Not because anyone laughed if he danced. He’d been at the centre of the Deckers—he had been the Deckers—since the beginning, since before their identity had existed anywhere outside of cyberspace. He’d brought all of this into being; given them life and purpose and real, physical presence.

Anyone who muttered darkly about the rumours that Phillipe Loren was responsible for Matt’s continued, and undisputed, reign over the crew could… well, they could fuck right off.

He pulled his headphones—neon blue trim and the Deckers’ blue skull, which he had designed, thank you very much, painted on the cups—back up over his ears, and puffed a breath between his lips, blowing his spiky fringe out of his eyes. Jai Paul flowed smoothly through the headset, all good vibes and rounded beats, and Matt’s fingers danced over the keyboard.

All the transfers were completed, and he’d flicked a few breadcrumbs to the IRS along the way. The Saints/Ultor group, and in particular its legal division, was going to be very busy in the coming months, if it survived that long.

He didn’t plan on checking in with Mr. Loren yet, though. Better let him think the job had been harder than he’d actually found it, and that way Matt would get the credit he deserved. After all, if absolutely everything he did looked ridiculously simple, people might stop being impressed.

Anyway, there was no rush, was there? By now, Killbane had probably caught up with the Saints’ leader and her remaining lieutenant. Mr. Loren had been extremely exacting on that point. After the incident on the plane—and Matt still wasn’t sure precisely what had happened, because no one had actually said just how the surviving Saints escaped, or how Loren had ended up with that cut on his forehead and the bandage across his nose—it had been made abundantly clear that no effort was to be spared in taking them down. They were not welcome, Mr. Loren had said. Negotiations had been “less than successful”, whatever that meant.

Matt presumed it meant that the Third Street Saints were exactly what Mr. Loren said they were: a bunch of vulgar and degenerate gangsters with no sophistication and no sense of boundaries.

Still, their brand was rather difficult to avoid. #3rdStreet and #saints seemed to be almost permanently trending on social media—not that Matt used it, because it wasn’t secure, not to mention he didn’t plan on letting himself by pinpointed by any corporate profiler—and no adblocker in the world could quite expunge the energy drink commercials that had gone viral, or the numerous other corporate sponsorships that popped up all over the internet. From footwear to body spray, there didn’t seem to be anything the Saints wouldn’t endorse.

Just the other day, he’d seen a cardboard cutout in a grocery store in Salander that proclaimed: “Saints enjoy bustin’ da caps off of Joe Cola, dawg”. Ugh. It was utterly ridiculous. Rumour had it there was even a Planet Saints store opening in Yearwood, which had been the last straw for Mr. Loren, although in Matt’s opinion it was far from the worst of their crimes.

He wasn’t sure what the Syndicate’s next move was going to be. Mr. Loren seemed to be of the opinion that, once their most senior members were dead, the Saints would crumble. Their reputation would be ruined, and it would be easy to take over their operations in Stilwater. Their media empire would fade away—taking those annoying Saints Flow adverts with it, hopefully—and they would stop attracting all this unfortunate attention to what the media kept calling “the scourge of gang violence”.

That was the problem. The Saints’ prominence, and their eagerness to take to the spotlight, had shifted a lot of focus onto the matter of so-called “organised crime”. Questions were being asked in newspapers and in the Senate, and awareness of those uncomfortable questions made people look far too closely at the Syndicate. According to Mr. Loren, that was what had made the Third Street Saints the source of irritation they had become. Not their tackiness, not their insistent media presence, and not even the sheer gall they displayed in opening up one of those awful shops in Steelport… but the very fact that they courted attention the way they did.

The Saints’ antics, and the inevitable attention they brought to other operations, made life awkward for the extremely wealthy and influential clients the Syndicate had. It was embarrassing for a multi-billion-dollar global conglomerate to be hassled over rumours of organised crime, arms dealing, and prostitution… particularly when all those rumours were true.

As far as Matt was concerned, his Deckers had the best of it. Their world was the shadows, the invisible corners of cyberspace. They had no need to fawn over the people Mr. Loren entertained. In fact, Matt was rather glad that his employer’s Morningstars handled that side of things. Let them have their Eurotrash art dealers, government attachés, and ridiculously wealthy dictators. His interests were in the global revolution, and the new world that was coming. If having his people left in peace meant letting Mr. Loren believe the Deckers were his personal IT department, then Matt didn’t mind playing along. For now.

He turned his music up and tapped at his keyboard, pulling up a few tabs for forums and archives, and opening a command prompt to access the program he’d written for screening email traffic. Well, he might as well make good use of the time before he called Loren to say the job was done, and he wanted to see what the latest chatter and speculation was concerning the forthcoming season opener of Nyte Blayde. A rumour had been going around that filming for Season 6 was going to be delayed due to Josh Birk being cast in the movie being made about the bloody Saints, much to Matt’s personal indignation. That was far, far worse than any media coverage those bastards might have pulled down, and worse than all the irritating commercials for ghastly drinks and ugly shoes and whatever other tat the Saints peddled combined.

Once they fucked with Nyte Blayde, it got personal.

To Matt’s annoyance, his investigations hadn’t turned up anything concrete yet. It hadn’t been difficult to hack the email accounts and phones of Nyte Blayde’s head writers, production team, and the studio manager responsible for approving major decisions on the show—well, not difficult for him, obviously, because he was a cyber god and he could do anything—but it had proved frustratingly difficult to connect the information he’d mined with actual facts or events… especially when he was trying to avoid spoilers.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know what happened, but Season 5 hadn’t started airing yet, and he was desperate not to ruin it for himself. Besides, it seemed to Matt that nobody in television ever said a single honest sentence; the vast majority of the calls he’d listened in to had been people massaging each other’s egos and avoiding making any real commitments. He had learned that Josh Birk was holding out for a pay hike—understandably, seeing as he was a Hollywood film star now—and that the studio was wavering, worried that the rest of the cast might follow suit. He also knew the electricians’ union was threatening a strike that might cause problems, and that one of the writers had been fired, though to be fair Matt had known about that already. She was a hack who didn’t take her job seriously… she’d made several disparaging and sarcastic remarks about the character of Franklyn Nyte being “overblown” and “melodramatic” in private emails to her colleagues, and she’d even tried to suggest reintroducing Mindy, the notoriously annoying sidekick Nyte Blayde had almost acquired in one of the weaker episodes of Season 4.

Matt wasn’t standing for that, so he’d traced her through her driver’s license and arranged for a series of unpaid speeding tickets, then put together a voicemail message that made it sound like she was drunkenly accusing her boss of sexual harassment, and sent it to the man’s phone. Job done.

It didn’t help with the Season 6 shooting schedule, though. Matt grimaced as he flicked through the most recently intercepted emails, screening for key words and useful terms. There was still a petty argument going on about the catering firm that had been contracted, though it looked as if the shooting would be partly on location in Vancouver. There had been references to that in what he’d read for Season 5’s schedules. Ooh… did that mean Nyte Blayde was finally tracking down Alex von Tess? It was implied that the Cardinal—as he had been known until the Cyprian Order fell, succumbing to the powers of The Darkness in the thrilling two-part conclusion to Season 4—had fled north, and there was hot debate as to whether von Tess, now horribly scarred and driven to the brink of insanity by the near-total destruction of the Order, would return in Season 5 and beyond, or whether his role as antagonist would pass in full to Journey Kincaid, once The Bloody Canoness, but now herself a vampire.

Matt was rather hoping for the latter—Nyte Blayde and the Canoness had been torn apart when he became a creature of the night and she sided with the Cardinal against him, but now that they shared a common bond of blood, surely it was possible that they might reunite? Naturally, there would have to be a power struggle first. Nyte Blayde could never fully love a woman who wasn’t at least some way towards being his equal, and Journey was far closer to that than poor, tragic Marion had ever been.

Of course, the very fact that Marion had been so tragic—fated to love a man who could never return her affection after the loss of his wife—had made her death much more poignant for Nyte Blayde, not to mention endearing her to the fans to the extent that she was written back in, via dream sequences and the visions controlled by The Darkness, well after her original exit during the first season. Grief and guilt following Marion’s death had crippled Franklyn for much of Season 2, as The Darkness tormented him with images of his former loves, manipulating his memories and wrenching at his sanity.

It had been very powerful viewing, but in Matt’s opinion the former Bloody Canoness had always been more compelling, both as an adversary and a love interest. The idea of a Nyte Blayde/Journey arc with lots of fight scenes, complex strategic manoeuvres, and highly charged erotic undertones was… well, very interesting indeed. Matt contemplated the possibilities as he skimmed through the text scrolling across his screen, flipping from emails—nothing new there—to fan forums and fic archives. He bookmarked a couple of Canoness/Marion femslash stories for later, and sneered at the discussion threads regarding Season 6 speculation.

He wrinkled his nose, bashing out a quick but scathing reply to some complete idiot on the boards who was saying how awesome it would be to see a Nyte Blayde/Gangstas in Space crossover with Johnny Gat in it. Ugh. No. That was just… ugh. Anyway, according to Mr. Loren, Gat was very emphatically dead—and that was going to cause quite the media storm when the news broke.

Apparently, he’d been killed onboard the plane, and the Morningstar were bringing the body back to Steelport, although what they intended to do with it after that Matt didn’t care to speculate. He was a little bit tempted to start seeding rumours about Gat’s death online, but he knew better than that. Besides, it would be public knowledge soon enough, along with whatever was going to happen to the Saints’ Boss.

During this morning’s conference call—in which Matt had been instructed to clean out the Saints/Ultor accounts, and Killbane was told to find and destroy the Saints, wherever in Steelport they had landed—Mr. Loren had said something about Gat’s death serving as a warning.

It meant only the Boss and the girl from that dreadful reality show were left, and Matt couldn’t imagine they’d present much of a problem for Killbane. So, no more obnoxious Johnny Gat adverts all over the place—with his stupid sunglasses and his stupid hair, and his improbably chiselled chin, because it wasn’t as if anybody could physically look like that anyway, it was a completely unattainable ideal—and, pretty soon, no more Saints at all.

Probably.

Matt had to confess to a lingering sense of unease, and a mild worry that maybe Mr. Loren was being slightly overconfident in just assuming everything would go according to plan. After all, he’d assumed the Saints would cave to the offer he’d intended to make them onboard his plane—sixty-six percent of gross income from the Stilwater operations was a steep take, but it would have been hard to refuse such a proposal, given that the alternative was supposed to have been summary execution. Well, that hadn’t worked, had it? The Saints hadn’t caved, and Loren hadn’t managed to kill them all… but he appeared happy to delegate the cleaning up.

Matt supposed Mr. Loren’s mind was probably on some of the deals the Syndicate had coming up. He’d been tasked—as usual—with making sure everything ran smoothly. There was to be a series of parties at Morningstar properties downtown: wealthy foreign investors, hedonistic plutocrats, Steelport’s rich and famous… all that rubbish. Matt’s job was to coordinate the technical side, ensure the buildings’ grids were locked down and kept private, and that the only surveillance present was the Syndicate’s own. Their clients placed a high premium on privacy, not to mention the fact that it simply wouldn’t do if the military were to discover that Mr. Loren was selling the same high-tech weaponry that had been locked into “exclusive” government contracts to both foreign dealers and domestic bidders.

Pissing off the military nearly always resulted in decidedly tiresome repercussions, although Matt did enjoy playing with their toys. For some reason, they were still surprised that it was possible for “anonymous hackers” to get into their systems and use their drones to make pretty firework displays over the city, or cause the guidance computers on their tanks to mysteriously activate and drive the vehicles out of supposedly secure compounds in the middle of the night, then leave them parked outside Technically Legal, to be retrieved the next day by red-faced army officials.

Mr. Loren had told him to stop doing that. He said it was childish—which it absolutely wasn’t—and that it could jeopardise the Syndicate’s contracts, which Matt also didn’t think was true. He’d said it just made it easier to sell “security upgrades” in addition to the original packages, but Mr. Loren had not found that amusing.

A three-note tone sounded in Matt’s ear, indicating an incoming call on the Deckers’ internal net, and an alert blipped on the second monitor in his array, providing the option to synch camera and voice. Unlike any kind of video call software commercially available, of course, their communications system was entirely secure. Matt could vouch for that; he’d created it himself. It was just one tiny facet of their network, and it was absolutely nothing compared to the vast glories of the Usenet—an actual cybernetic reality, his reality, that held more power and potential in it than most idiots could possibly dream of.

The Decker Usenet was as far removed from what the majority of people thought of as “the internet” as… as… well, as the classic Nyte Blayde comics of the ’97-’99 NyteFang story arc were to the trashy Saints titles that Volition had been publishing recently. Hell, the Usenet made the dark web look like an 8-bit candy garden of inadequate security and crippling limitations. Its magnitude was impossible to describe to anyone who didn’t fully understand the potential of integrating with technology, or the ways in which computers could be so much more than mere tools… and, very soon, Matt was going to see it all come to fruition.

He tapped his headset, syncing the call to the screen. “Kirsten?”

The image of a familiar face flickered into view: a girl less than two years older than him, her pale, rather round face framed by a roughly cut bob of bleached hair streaked with Decker blue. Her dark blue lips were curled into a very smug smile, and she winked at him.

“Clever boy,” she said, her accent betraying that they shared a country of origin, though Kirsten was from Central London, and liked to tease Matt over his so-called “posh” Home Counties origins.

For years, it had been a source of constant chagrin for him to come from a nice, middle-class family in Surrey. It was extremely hard to be taken seriously as a cyber-anarchist of the new world order when you spoke properly, had never been terribly badly off for money, and had benefited from a rather good private education… at least until you ran away from boarding school.

The lack of snide observations about his background was one of the reasons Matt liked the US. His Englishness had a certain cachet over here. What used to get him picked on, called names, and more than occasionally beaten up back in Caterham, to most Americans merely said “Brit” and nothing more. It was an amazing country, really; so full of opportunities, and yet it was so easy to disappear into the cracks. Reinvent yourself. Be anyone, or anything.

“Am I? Well, I know that,” he said, preening a bit.

Kirsten sneered good-naturedly at him. “And I fucking love how you’re so modest about it. Seriously—you know you said to keep eyes on the city?”

Matt nodded. Kirsten was one of the best surveillance experts he’d ever seen: she could hack into a whole district’s worth of traffic cameras and watch every single monitor at once, as long as she didn’t take her ADHD meds. He’d asked her to arrange a simple dragnet on any form of closed circuit cameras in Steelport… just as a precaution. The Saints’ Boss and the tart from the TV show were bound to show up somewhere sooner or later, unless Killbane had already stomped them out, so it seemed sensible to find out where they were. He figured Mr. Loren might appreciate his ingenuity.

“I found them,” Kirsten said, swiping a hand across her screen, which caused an encrypted data link to swoop onto Matt’s array. “Picked ’em up walking along Grant Street… you wanna see?”

“Nice one,” Matt admitted, using the link to piggyback himself into the feed Kirsten had jacked. “So, Killbane hasn’t caught up yet? He’s slow.”

Two of his monitors flickered, then filled with slightly blurry images of Steelport’s northeastern side; a landscape of cracked concrete and chainlink fences. The timestamp was from almost two hours ago—about the time he’d finished draining the accounts and started laying false trails to hide what he’d done with the money—and he could see the biometric recognition program Kirsten had evidently used to find the Saints running in an overlay.

“What did you use for the— oh, of course. The TV show, right?”

I Wanna Sleep With Shaundi,” Kirsten said, disdain dripping from her voice. “Fuck’s sake. Still, her face is on everything. And so’s her everything, actually.”

Matt sniggered. She had a point: Shaundi, Johnny Gat—the late Johnny Gat—and Pierce Washington were the faces of the Saints, pop culture icons plastered across billboards and column inches alike. The gang’s Boss didn’t seem to take so much of an active role in advertising… Matt wasn’t even sure he could have picked her out of a line-up, and he didn’t know her name, though he imagined she was much like the others. Just another corporate sheep, poured into logo-laden clothes and grinning mindlessly for the cameras.

“Have you actually watched it?” he asked, eyeing the array for their targets. “The show, I mean?”

“Fuck, no!” Kirsten snorted. “I’ve got better things to do with my time than watch a bunch of idiotic meatheads trying to get into some skank’s knickers. I just pulled a clip from online. It was easy to extrapolate the algorithm, match height, weight, spacing of facial features… they’re coming up now on your frame. See?”

And there they were, two women stalking irritably—limping irritably, actually—through a smoggy Steelport dawn. The traffic camera image wasn’t that clear, but the much-vaunted Shaundi was recognisable enough: a very slender woman with a high, tight ponytail, and skin-tight pants in the Saints’ signature shade of bright purple. She looked less like she was wearing them than as if they’d actually been spray-painted onto her, and she was possibly the only person ever to survive bailing out of a crashing aircraft and still be wearing high heels.

That made the woman with her the Boss, then.

“Going to another camera,” Kirsten said, as the images shifted, altering their frame and angle.

“They’re looking for something,” Matt observed, watching the women cross the street, heading towards a small bodega.

The Boss was around the same height as Shaundi—actually, probably taller, given she appeared to be wearing flat boots instead of heels—but much broader in build, and she wore her hair short, cropped close at the back of her neck but with a cowlick at the front, falling over one side of her forehead. It looked dark, though it was hard to see the colour… was it dyed? She wore skinny jeans and a pale sleeveless tee, displaying enough tattoos for the clientele of an entire biker bar… or so Matt assumed, because it wasn’t as if he’d actually ever been inside a biker bar. Her right arm was entirely covered with them, and he found himself rather curious, annoyed that the camera couldn’t get closer and show him what they were meant to be.

A broad grin split over his face as he realised what the Saints must have been looking for. Of course… what was the first thing you needed if you were stranded in an unfamiliar city? He could hardly contain his cackle of delight.

“Oh my god… they were going for the ATM! Hah!”

“You’ll like this,” Kirsten said, clattering at her keyboard.

Matt chuckled to himself as she worked her way through the loops of code. Through their interconnected terminals—utterly seamless: the beauty of his beloved network—he could watch her navigate the security protocols, and pull up the records from the bodega’s cash machine.

“Are you ready for this?” she asked. “This is what it looks like when someone discovers they’ve lost millions.”

Matt bit down on his black-polished thumbnail and tried, at least nominally, not to actually giggle in anticipation.

“Speaking of the money,” Kirsten said, “did we get it?”

“What?” He tutted at her. “No, I donated it all to a bloody orphanage. Of course we did… well, a third, anyway. Technically.”

“Oh… right. Syndicate.”

He could tell from her tone that she had opinions, but he wasn’t about to argue. He didn’t need to; he was in charge here, not her. He was the legendary über-hacker who’d cracked the Pentagon’s mainframe in less time than it took most people to make a cup of tea (well, sort of), and he was the one who sat in the penthouse boardroom meetings at the Syndicate Tower, and was in the direct confidence of Phillipe Loren. So there.

The ATM’s camera feed was giving Matt an unrivalled view of Shaundi’s bare midriff and ample cleavage—not an unpleasant sight, admittedly—as she stood behind the Boss, glaring thunderously around the bodega. The Boss leaned over the machine, stabbing in her PIN. Even her knuckles were tattooed, Matt realised, though he couldn’t read the letters. It was funny, but she didn’t look like he’d expected, inasmuch as he’d expected anything. He’d imagined she would be something like her lieutenants—slick, big on shiny clothing and ostentatious jewellery, maybe with some cleavage on show—but she wasn’t. She had a strong, square sort of a face, currently set into a scowl of unadulterated fury, with badly smudged black eyeliner, and a silver ring in her lip. He could see now that her hair was a dark purple, a deep berry-coloured wash over whatever her natural shade of brown had been. It figured. The Saints weren’t very good at subtlety.

He saw the moment she realised the money was gone. He was laughing at the face she pulled… but then her expression wasn’t a caricature anymore. The Boss bared her teeth, narrowed her eyes, and—

“Shit!” Matt yelped, flinching in his chair.

—Christ, she actually punched the fucking screen. Punched it to death, in fact. The feed crackled out, and he found himself giving a rather shocked laugh, aware of the sound of Kirsten chuckling in his ear.

“See? That bitch is insane. Fuckin’ psycho, right there.”

Matt didn’t disagree. “Um, did you pick them up again after that? I should tell Loren—”

“They stole a banged-up Solar about a block down from the bodega, and I lost them somewhere around Sunset Park,” Kirsten said, sounding annoyed. “Sending you the plate number in case they haven’t ditched it. Looked like they were heading west, which is shitty because there’s fuck all camera coverage I can get to in the suburbs, unless you’ve got a spare spy satellite lying around.”

Matt shrugged. “That could be arranged, but I can’t see we need to bother. For all I know, Killbane’s caught up with them by now, especially if they were heading right into Luchadore territory. Not a clever move on their part. I’ll call Loren, but… I don’t know… maybe we should be ready to up the surveillance. Just in case.”

Kirsten snorted. “Whatever. I’ll wait to hear on the news that a bunch of ’roid-tanked psychopaths ripped into a couple of crazed skanks in the middle of a residential street. You know, bloodshed, civilian casualties, extensive property damage—”

“A typical Thursday in Steelport,” he agreed, and they shared a smirk. “All right. Thanks, Kirsten.”

“Any time, sexy,” she said, throwing him another wink as she signed off.

Matt’s mouth twisted ruefully as he stared at the spot she had occupied on his screen. Women were confusing, complicated creatures. Oh, Kirsten flirted with him—she enjoyed it—but she didn’t actually want to go out with him. She’d made that abundantly clear when he finally got up the nerve to ask her… as if she thought it was funny that he’d fancied her in the first place. Maybe that was what she’d been aiming for: setting him up so she could have a laugh. Either way, it had worked out in the end—they overcame the awkwardness; they were friends, and Matt trusted her implicitly—but he still didn’t understand.

He shook the thoughts away and pulled up a new voice call window, preparing to dial the secure client he’d installed on Mr. Loren’s phone. The old geezer barely understood how to work the thing, although he was far from an unintelligent man. Still, Matt might as well let him know the accounts were cleared, and pass on the information about the Saints’ last known whereabouts… just in case Killbane hadn’t gotten there first. He probably would have done—a loose pack of Luchadores causing chaos throughout the city could flush out anything, or anyone—but Matt couldn’t deny a lingering concern. A mild sinking feeling, he supposed, as if just maybe Loren had underestimated the Saints… or at least underestimated how much he’d pissed them off.

After all, Matt was finding it very difficult to forget the sheer force of rage in the Boss’s face.


On to Five-Dollar Circus: Chapter Two


Back to contents


Home


Leave a Reply