Five-Dollar Circus: Chapter Three

Well, where else are you going to get guns?


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3. LAWYERS, GUNS, AND MONEY

 

The problem with the Boss, aside from her short fuse, was her impulsiveness. Sure, she got shit done, but hurtling through whatever insane plan—or lack of plan—she’d gotten them embroiled in, without a fucking clue how to get out of it again… well, depending on your point of view, it was either exhilarating or just plain annoying.

At this point, Shaundi found it fucking infuriating.

They could just have robbed a gun store. Friendly Fire had branches all over Steelport, but no. No, that wasn’t enough for the Boss. They had to turn over the fucking National Guard armoury.

Even Pierce thought it was a terrible idea. He’d been there when Shaundi got back with breakfast burritos and a six-pack; freshly arrived with eight trustworthy Saints, all flagging as little purple as possible and driving a small convoy of untraceable, nondescript chop-shop cars. He’d even got a helicopter on standby, and all he wanted to do was get the both of them back to Stilwater without any more shit hitting the fan.

He probably hadn’t deserved how badly she’d snapped at him, but what the fuck was she supposed to say? She didn’t want to walk away from this fight.

The worst part of it was that, to start with, Shaundi had backed the Boss up completely. Fuck, no, she didn’t want to leave town without getting back at Loren. There was no way she wanted to just run back to Stilwater and wait for the Syndicate to make a move on their turf… and yes, she’d been too angry and too hurt to agree that it would be smart to wait. She wanted blood, she wanted it now, and she wanted to take it while it was still hot and streaming.

She had expected the Boss to say, “okay, bring in the boys and we’ll fuck shit up”, because fucking shit up was what Iggy was good at… but, somehow, Shaundi had not expected the armoury to be her number one target.

That was just plain insane. Which, she supposed, meant she probably shouldn’t have been at all surprised that the Boss came up with the idea.

Iggy’s complete inability to think any given situation through was what had gotten Johnny killed, and although Shaundi knew, intellectually, that the Boss was hurting bad over that, she couldn’t accept it emotionally. She couldn’t feel as if, when she looked at her, the Boss had truly understood it at all. She was still being… well, being herself, with her big mouth and that horrible glint in her eye that she had whenever she got a stupid idea. She shouldn’t have been getting ideas. She should have been curled up on the ground, screaming out her heart the way Shaundi wanted to do, because it didn’t seem fucking right that Gat was dead and they were still here, still walking around… still breathing.

Obviously, Shaundi knew just folding up in a corner and bawling would have been the last thing Johnny would’ve wanted them to do. If he’d been here, he’d probably have laughed when Iggy stabbed a finger at the map Pierce pulled up on his phone, asked what it was, and then declared that that was where you went when you wanted fuckin’ guns.

At first, Shaundi thought she was joking, but she was fucking serious. Robbing the National Guard. Okay, so it did mean—if they could pull it off—access to the kind of military grade hardware that Loren’s people at the Stilwater bank had been packing. That much made sense; there was no point trying to go after that bastard with nothing more than a few .45s and a couple of flashbangs. But… really? There must have been another way to get guns.

Johnny would have leapt at it, though. She knew that. Incredibly shitty idea or not, he’d have been all in, and Shaundi would have been weirdly okay with that.

She would have been okay with it, because it would have meant that—around lunchtime, when they carjacked a fucking cement mixer and drove it through the gates of the fucking National Guard armoury—they would have had Johnny fucking Gat on their side, and the odds wouldn’t have looked quite so impossible.

Instead, Shaundi had been treated to watching the manic grin on Iggy’s face as she slammed the stolen cement mixer—and, really, who the fuck stole cement mixers?—into the side of the warehouse complex, then jumped out and unloaded an entire magazine into the engine, shooting until the massive vehicle blew up, taking most of the wall and the reinforced metal doors with it.

Thank god that they’d had the helicopter to keep watch and lay down some cover fire, especially when the alarms were blaring and the reinforcements started arriving. They’d been throwing every weapon they could find into the backs of the Infuegos and Neurons that the handful of Saints from Stilwater had brought… and then Shaundi had seen the Boss get distracted by the biggest fucking bomb imaginable. She was like a kid in a candy store, if the candy was a massive military explosive designed to be deployed from a fucking cargo plane. Typical Iggy. Something new and shiny that would go kaboom, so of course she had to have it. That and the UAV drones—and god, she would not shut up about Shaundi recognising those! Just because she knew what they were. Like she was meant to be a complete dumbass. So what? So, maybe she’d dated a special forces guy once. The information was useful, wasn’t it?

They had very nearly not gotten out of there alive… but they had, and Shaundi had led the way, driving someone else’s car and leading the convoy of cars back to her ex’s place at breakneck speed, while Iggy leaned out of the passenger side window, punching the air with a pistol and screaming wordless, jubilant howls at the wind.

Shaundi had been real tempted to brake suddenly on the bridge and torpedo her right out of the car and down into the water.

They’d made it, though. Got away, got lucky… lost the cop cars and the guards on the side streets, making the most of the chaos they’d caused with the drones. It gave them a smoke screen, a distraction to hide behind while they made their escape. Shaundi was still amazed that they’d done it, but they had. They even got back to the apartment in one piece, where the crew unloaded the guns and goodies, and Pierce tried to find somewhere for the goddamn helicopter to land and hide the bomb. Shaundi got Martin, her ex, to fix them up with a buddy of his who managed a warehouse not far from the docks. He worked for a haulage company, so they’d have access to a truck for moving the damn bomb, and somewhere to keep it safe… at least until they could find out where Loren was, and shove the damn thing right under his ass.

The Boss was so fucking pleased with herself. All right, it wasn’t bad for a day’s work—their first day in Steelport, no less—but god damn it. She shouldn’t have been grinning that wide. It seemed wrong, somehow. That they could have done that—done that crazy shit in broad fucking daylight—and Johnny couldn’t have walked off that plane.

Shaundi nearly lost it when the Boss told her to go back to Stilwater. Go home, like this was okay, like it was okay to admit defeat? What the fuck?

“Girl, you don’t get messy,” Pierce had said, looking at her with sympathy in his face, like he thought she was too mad to be thinking straight. “Let us take care of business.”

Well, maybe she was angry, but that only made her more determined. The Saints had a stake in Steelport now, even if that stake was no more than revenge. They weren’t going anywhere until they’d taken Loren down, and now at least they had enough of an arsenal to get started.

“Fuck you,” she’d snapped, glaring at him. “I’m doing this for Johnny.”

And that was what mattered. This shit was the very least they owed to Gat, and Shaundi didn’t plan on stopping until that debt was repaid, no matter who she had to go through to settle it.

~o~O~o~

Iggy rubbed the fingers of her left hand across her forehead, then pushed them through her hair. The dark purple dye job was getting a little greasy, and she smelled like sweat and cordite, but there was no fucking way she was using the shower in this apartment.

“Okay… let’s go through this again, que no? We got guns. We got ammo. We got a big fucking bomb. We just don’t know where we’re going.”

“Fuck that!” Shaundi spat. “Loren’s got people all over the place. His—what’d they call themselves? The Syndicate? It’s a so-called ‘legitimate’ company. There’s a fucking skyscraper full of offices and shit right in the middle of the city! There are fucking signposts on the freeway. Syndicate Tower. I say we start there.”

“Whatchu sayin’?” Pierce winced. “We ain’t gonna blow up a fuckin’ building, not even with… with… what are those again?”

Shaundi sighed irritably, her gaze flicking to the briefcase that stood by the coffee table. “UAV drones. And maybe not, but we could do some damage, right? And we got the Daisy Cutter. All we need to do is get it close enough and—”

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen! Fuck… we can’t just drive that thing right up to the front door. They see us coming, they gon’ blow us to motherfucking pieces, and I do not want to be anywhere near that thing when it goes off. Anyway, who even says Loren is in that building? No way! We gotta think this thing through.”

Shaundi growled in frustration, curling her lip and muttering something about wasting fucking time.

Iggy crossed her arms and leaned back against the empty fireplace. Girl had a point. Running full tilt at this shit wasn’t enough, no matter how much it had felt like that was the answer a couple of hours ago. No matter what they had—and every surface in the place now groaned with boxes of ammo and weaponry, while the eight of the crew who’d come from Stilwater lounged around the place, looking faintly disgusted at the state of the apartment—she was sure Loren had better.

“Nuh-uh,” she said, cutting across her lieutenants’ bickering. “If we wanna take the fight to these assholes, we gotta work out where their angles are. Where the money is, where the control is. If Loren’s people got Steelport locked down as tight as he says, they’re not doing it through multi-national arms deals. Not the day-to-day shit.”

Pierce’s brow wrinkled as he gave her a suspicious look. “You think you’re gonna find Loren flickin’ cards on the corner?”

Shaundi looked about ready to explode. Dark shadows made the skin under her eyes look tight and shiny, and there was a stiffness in her body that spoke of barely concealed rage fermenting into homicidal anger. Iggy was worried about her; she’d known how Shaundi felt about Johnny, and she also knew that this was about more than that. It hadn’t been about just losing someone she loved… it was about losing family. She felt it too—felt it like someone had cut her fucking hand off at the wrist—but they couldn’t afford to let it blind them.

No more stupid mistakes. Not now, and not ever again. The price was too fucking high.

“No,” she said patiently, “but I think, if we’re going to find out where to hit these assholes, we need to do our research. We need to know what game they got in town… then we fuck things up.”

Pierce cast a dubious glance around the apartment, and Iggy followed his gaze. The assorted Saints lounging on the unsavoury couch, or against the walls and the dinette set, were all trusted faces—Joe and Will, the two Hall brothers; Nina, the ex-Marine; Ricky; Tyrell; Sandman; Jonas; and Renata, with whom Iggy was very well acquainted indeed—but this was asking a lot of them, and eight extra pairs of hands was not going to be enough to take on the whole fucking Syndicate.

Pierce raised his eyebrows meaningfully, and Iggy let out a short, irritable breath.

“What?”

He shrugged. “Hey, if you wanna bring the rest of the boys in, I’m just sayin’ we’re gonna need a bigger place. This studio shit ain’t gonna work.”

“You’re worried about real estate?” Shaundi demanded, jerking a thumb at the stockpiled weaponry littered around the apartment. “We have guns. Let’s use them.”

“Whoa, Shaundi….” Iggy’s tone hardened; she didn’t want to let this shit devolve any further into an argument in front of everyone. “Pierce has a point. If we’re not going home yet, we need to get our shit together. Your ex got contacts here? People we can use?”

Shaundi glanced to the far end of the room, where her ex was sitting cross-legged on the floor with a bong, underneath a peeling promo poster for some skeezy cabaret show. He didn’t seem to notice he was being looked at, and cheerfully nudged the Saint standing next to him—Sandman, a sallow-cheeked ex-biker in a vintage leather jacket—in the knee, offering up the bong apparently in the spirit of neighbourly friendship.

Iggy resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose and sigh.

“I’ll get a list,” Shaundi said. “From what I remember, there used to be some good connections, but I don’t know how far the Syndicate’s reach goes.”

“Okay. Anything is good. Chop shops, fences… fuck, even the kids slinging weed on the corner. I want to know how this place works, and I want to know where everything is, and who runs it. Pierce?”

“Yeah, Boss?”

“I wanna talk to Legal and Rocco and find out what the fuck is happening with our money. You got a point; if we’re going to bring the Saints in, we need a bigger place, and we need some scratch. Find me ways to get those things. And,” Iggy added, glancing down at her grubby tee and stained jeans, “somewhere to get a change of fucking clothes. And a phone. Me and Shaundi need new phones… I want my fucking stuff back from the cops.”

Pierce nodded. “You gonna catch a little rest?” he suggested, which was about as subtle as he ever got.

Iggy glared blearily at him. Again, he had a point. She was exhausted, and nobody who was this tired ever did anything except get into trouble.

“Yeah,” she said. “You too, Shaundi. I want everybody rested up and ready to go. When we’re… ready to go. Fuck. You know what I mean. All right?”

There was a loose chorus of assent from around the room. It wasn’t the most inspiring speech she’d ever given but, considering she hadn’t slept in close to forty-eight hours—and that several of those hours had involved adrenaline-thumping bullshit of the kind sane people tried to avoid—Iggy thought it wasn’t too bad.

“I’m’na sleep in the car,” she said, catching the keys to one of the Neurons parked in the building’s garage that Pierce tossed to her. “Come wake me when you got something.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

She felt Shaundi’s scowl on the back of her neck as she went… not that there was much she could do about it. Sure, they could run out into the city and start shooting shit up, which would show Loren precisely where they were. He’d scrape them off his fucking shoe like dog shit. Someone with access to all that hardware had who the fuck knew how many people behind him. If they wanted to win, they were going to have to wait, no matter how much that fucking sucked.

Iggy rubbed a hand over her face as she sloped out of the door and down the building’s narrow staircase. It still smelled of pot out here, and mildew. She could hear the quiet murmur of voices inside the apartment—Shaundi, no doubt complaining, and Pierce trying to put plans together. If anybody could get the shit that they needed organised, he could. He was great at resources, even if he never got the credit for shit.

She was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she heard the door open and close again, and she glanced up to see Renata following her. Iggy paused, one hand on the end post of the flimsy banister, and smiled, shaking her head gently.

“What? I need a fucking audience to sleep now?”

Renata, hands on her hips, glared haughtily down the stairs, and it was difficult not to be glad to see her. She was a short, curvy, hard headed African Mexican, with a thick, sleek tail of black hair pinned at the back of her neck, and a semi-permanent scowl that could fry dissenters at fifty paces. Tight jeans, baggy black Saints hoodie, gold fleur-de-lis nose stud, and a hawk tattooed on the left side of her neck… coupled with her “don’t piss me off” expression, Iggy found the whole look very attractive.

“Don’t jump at me,” Renata snapped. “I figured you could use the company, guera. Or maybe a bodyguard.”

Iggy raised an eyebrow. Seriously? You fucked a person a few times and they thought they could get away with anything. She was too tired to argue, though, so she let the “guera” slide and jerked her head towards the door.

“C’mon.”

~o~O~o~

There was something comforting about the smell of gasoline and metal on concrete. Iggy wasn’t sure what it was, or why she felt that way about it, except for the fact that, over the years, she’d spent a fair amount of time sleeping in cars. When she was a little girl, one of her uncles had worked for a mechanic in Stilwater, and she used to be allowed to sit in the cars in the shop while he was busy—probably because it kept her out of the way. She used to like the way they felt like little cocoons; backseats that all had different colours, different smells, different lives attached to them. Sometimes, she’d imagine what the people the cars belonged to were like… and sometimes she’d just go through the glove compartments and see if they had any good candy or loose change.

Iggy’s first car had been a third hand beige Slingshot, and she’d lived out of it for a while after things soured at home. She had eaten, drunk, smoked, fucked… done everything in that car, more or less. Like her own portable home on wheels. Her shell. She’d felt safe in it.

She felt kind of safe as she got into the Neuron, the greasy fluorescent light of the garage spilling down through the windshield. Renata hung back at first, unsure whether the Boss really wanted company but fuck it, Iggy was tired and sore, and ready for a little comforting. She clicked her tongue as she held the car’s rear door open with her foot, motioning the other woman to join her on the backseat.

“I thought you were going to get some rest,” Renata said dryly as she shut the door after her.

Iggy, one leg up on the seat and the world weighing down on her shoulders, shrugged. “Maybe I need something to help me sleep, esa.”

Renata scoffed incredulously, shaking her head. She wore deep brown lipstick with a darker liner tracing her mouth, exaggerating the fullness of her lips, and her eyes were shadowed with thick, smoky flicks of kohl.

“I’m glad you’re all right, Boss,” she said quietly, her lips crumpling into a half-smile at one corner. “We were all worried. And with Johnny—”

“Shh.” Iggy winced. “Don’t. Okay?”

She didn’t want to talk about Johnny. Didn’t want to think about him, and didn’t want to keep imagining his voice, or half-believing that he was gonna burst through the door at any second, demanding to know why the fuck they’d left him on that plane.

Renata let one hand fall to Iggy’s thigh, patting her gently through the worn denim. “A’right. That’s cool.”

Iggy leaned back against the corner of the backseat, where the upholstery met the uncomfortable lumps of the door moulding, and watched Renata’s face cycle through a bunch of conflicted expressions. To be honest, she didn’t really want to talk at all. She just wanted to feel a little bit alive, and then sleep away all the hurt.

“I’m glad you came,” she said, because she was pretty sure it was what Renata wanted to hear, and it was even basically true. “I appreciate that.”

She lifted her left hand, tracing her fingertips up Renata’s wrist to the baggy sleeve of her sweatshirt. As she did so, Iggy could see the other woman’s gaze sliding to the portrait tattoo on her upper arm, and she cussed inwardly. It was a good likeness, but the person it depicted hadn’t been “My Girl” for a long time. Iggy had been planning to get it covered up, but she just hadn’t gotten around to it. Priorities, she supposed. Hers had all been fucked up.

Like Johnny had said, too much focus on that corporate bullshit, and now look at them. All that time getting used to wealth and power, and not fucking thinking about it. And now here she was, once again in the backseat of some shitty car, parked under a building that smelled of mould and weed. It was probably karma or some shit like that.

It stopped mattering as much when Renata wriggled closer, leaning in to give her some sugar, and providing the comforting weight and warmth of another body pressed against her own.

Iggy slipped her hand up that baggy black sweatshirt—bright purple letters on the front, with a purple fleur-de-lis—and zoned in on the soft, yielding joy of Renata’s magnificent rack. She liked boobs… not just for the way they felt under her hands or against her mouth or body, or the magic of burying her face in them and breathing in, but for the way women like Renata caught their breath when she touched them. There were few things nicer than the hitch in a girl’s throat when you worked her nipple to hardness against your palm, even through the smooth microfibre of what, Iggy knew from experience, was likely to be Renata’s preferred brand of Saints merchandise sports bra.

She’d wondered, from time to time, about this girl’s tendency to wear so much of their fucking logo. Was it all pride, or did she just like being marked? Iggy wasn’t sure. Renata hadn’t been rolling with the Saints that long—a little over a year, all told; she’d been canonised the previous winter—and they’d only fooled around, on and off, for a month or so. It was a no-pressure, no-strings thing. Iggy had liked her for her authenticity. There were a lot of girls in Stilwater—a lot of hot girls, tough girls, beautiful girls, and fiery girls, strippers and pros and gang chicas, punks and biker chicks—but someone who would give her lip instead of lap dances stood out… and Iggy liked people who were different. She liked confidence, and she liked the moment that confidence fell away, like it did when she pushed her knee between Renata’s thighs and—with her bloodied right hand, the hand not currently fondling her breasts—pulled her close.

Iggy knew there going to be lipstick on her face. On her neck, too. She hoped the Neuron had tissues or something in the glove compartment. Renata tasted like hard candy; she liked sour apple flavour, and Iggy liked trying to suck the taste of it off her tongue.

The air between them got hot and close, and the car was not a comfortable place to do most of what Iggy wanted. No hard, angry trib to fuck away the pain, not on this narrow-ass seat. She let her left hand move slowly down Renata’s soft stomach, tugging open the fly of her jeans, and she liked the murmured little “oh, Boss…” that broke against her ear.

She was pretty sure Renata called her that when they fucked because she kinked on it although, sometimes, Iggy did get to hear her name on those sweet lips. It rolled off Renata’s tongue in a sea of Spanish… Igone, the Basque version of Ascensión. Horrible name. It sounded like some awkward fucking confirmation name, though as far as Iggy was aware, there wasn’t a Saint Igone. Well… apart from her, and that was an amusing thought.

She eased her hand into the limited space Renata’s jeans allowed, enjoying how restrictive it was, how rushed and dirty the tight denim made everything feel. There was heat under her palm, warmth and need, and she teased at the flimsy boundary of the cotton panties beneath her fingers with practised ease. Kisses piled on kisses, Renata’s hands on her, pushing up under her dirty, stained tee, finding every bruise and scrape.

Iggy didn’t mind about the soreness. Every pinch and sting bit at her flesh, but it was okay. The door moulding dug into the back of her neck, and that didn’t matter either, especially when Renata was kissing her breasts, and kissing the ink on her chest and her ribs.

She pushed deeper, seeking out slick heat and a swift resolution, working her fingers hard and fast. No respite, no second-guessing. Renata sighed and bucked against her hand, swearwords and endearments mingling in the breaths that she smeared against Iggy’s skin. She came quickly, eagerly… it wasn’t hard to force another one out of her, tease her until she was writhing and biting down on squeals. Iggy withdrew her hand, swiping wet fingers across her mouth before unbuttoning her skinnies and taking Renata’s hand in hers.

“You don’t want me to go down on you?”

Iggy grinned mirthlessly. “Just this, baby. It’s okay.”

She wasn’t going to ruin the mood by pointing out how long it had been since her last shower. Renata obliged, anyway, and it was enough. It was good. For those few golden minutes, Iggy could forget that she was screwing around in the back of an old jalopy when, this time last week, she’d been sitting in a plush hotel lounge watching people from behind her mirrored aviators and waiting to sign a shitload of contracts. She could forget how far she’d come since her life smelled like gasoline and dirty concrete, and she could forget the ache in her scabbing knuckles and the soreness in her muscles.

She could even forget the plane. Almost. Not quite, but almost.

Iggy sat up to give Renata a friendly squeeze and a kiss before letting her climb over into the front seat and raid the glove compartment. No tissues, but a couple of wet wipes from a soul food place the vehicle’s previous owner must have liked. It wasn’t as good as a shower, but it was better than nothing.

Iggy settled down on the backseat, the knots of tension eased just enough to let her sleep. She heard Renata fish around in the glove compartment again, then open the car door and light a cigarette. Iggy’s nose twitched as she started to fall asleep, the burn of tobacco tickling her breaths.

Just a couple of hours’ shut-eye, then she’d be ready. She’d take on the fucking world, find Loren and cram that stupid cigarette down his throat, the lit end first. Burn him up, the way he’d burned her heart out. What he did to Johnny… goddamn gall of that son of a bitch. He’d pay. His whole Syndicate was gonna pay. Burn. Every last one of ’em, screaming in flames.

Iggy woke up with a start, feeling cold and confused, the inside of her head crowded with dreams she didn’t remember having. She was in the dark… in a car. Briefly, she couldn’t remember how she’d got there, but then it came back. She smelled the sweetness on the air, remembered why she felt that little bit more relaxed—and realised there was a figure standing in the garage doorway.

Iggy sat up and scratched at her head. “Wha— oh. Pierce?”

She blinked. Renata had gone, which was probably for the best. Pierce came around to the car door, and as she opened it he was grinning at her like he had something to show off.

“Not interrupting, huh?” he asked, raising his eyebrows meaningfully as he glanced around the garage.

“Fuck off,” Iggy said absently. “You got something for me?”

“Sure do.” He leaned on the Neuron’s roof, crossed his ankles in a pose of stylish nonchalance, and passed her a brand new iPhone. “There you go, Boss. You got your GPS, contacts, everything imported from the Saintsbook net….”

Iggy frowned. The phone had a bright purple case with a silver fleur-de-lis on it, and “3rd Street” stamped underneath in some kind of fake graffiti stencil font.

“The fuck? We have iPhone cases now?”

“Aw, yeah! Snazzy, huh? Brand new at Planet Saints. You remember we got a store opening here, right?”

Iggy winced as her thumb moved over the keys. At least she could trust Pierce to set the damn thing up for her. His aesthetic judgements might occasionally be questionable, but he knew she lacked patience with gadgets.

“I’m surprised Loren hasn’t flattened it yet. That woulda sent a message.”

Pierce shrugged. “Eh, I swung by there. It’s not open officially yet, but they say they’ve had a lot of Syndicate goons hanging around. Morningstar, mostly, but—”

“Wait, who?”

“That’s Loren’s crew. One arm of the Syndicate. Word is, he’s got the twin sisters who have Steelport’s prostitution racket locked up on his side, name of Kiki and Viola DeWynter.”

Iggy pulled a face. Her head ached suddenly. “Twins? Oh… shit. They were—”

“On the plane,” Pierce finished for her. “Yeah. That’s what Shaundi said. The other main players in town are the Deckers—they go in for cyber crime more than bustin’ heads, but I hear they can be pretty nasty—and the Luchadores.”

Iggy closed her eyes for a moment, waiting for her brain to catch up. “Luchadores. Seriously? Don’t tell me, they dress like—”

“Wrestlers. Yeah.” Pierce nodded solemnly. “I know.”

Well, it wasn’t like ridiculous gang themes were new to Iggy. The more shit she saw, the less obtrusive it made Saints purple look.

“Jesus.”

“Yeah… Still, Murderbrawl is pretty big here, remember. There’s a lot of money in the sports game, and these jokers got the market cornered on steroids and shit.”

Iggy stopped fiddling with the phone—she’d got her most important contacts, but she was missing a bunch of shit, and this new model was going to take time to get used to—and glared at him. “You’re saying we go after Loren by fucking up ’roid deals and computer nerds?”

Pierce narrowed his eyes. “Aw, get the fuck up and get in the front seat. I’ll show you what we got, motherfucker. Just so happens I already found us a new place that’s gon’ give us room for the boys and piss off Loren.”

Iggy cracked a cautious smile and slid out of the backseat, stretching slowly as she stood up. “Mmm… I’m listening.”

“So, these Morningstar assholes got places all over town,” Pierce continued, going to haul open the garage door. As he talked, the metal creaked, and thin sunlight poured into the poorly lit space, filling it with the dusty kind of afternoon light that spoke of a coming dusk. “They got a penthouse downtown, where they’re throwin’ some party for their global contacts. I say we crash that shit, kill some motherfuckers, and keep the place for the Saints.”

“I’m game. You got a plan to go with this bright idea?”

Pierce opened the Neuron’s driver side door, peering into the car critically before he got in. Iggy tossed him the keys, and he smiled as he snatched them out of the air. “Yeah… source says the place is locked down tight, but if you can get the elevator codes, we can bring the boys up from downstairs, cause a little chaos that no one’s going to be expecting.”

Iggy moved around to open the passenger door. “Sounds good to me. Do we know if Loren’ll be there himself?”

“Nope.”

She shrugged as she got back into the car. It had been a fond hope. “Well, it’s better than nothing. Wait… if the elevator’s locked, how am I going to— oh. Right. Penthouse.”

Pierce grinned broadly as he settled himself behind the wheel. “Well, why the fuck else did I bring a helicopter?”

Iggy snorted. “Yeah, yeah… you think of everything.”

“Damn right! Now, c’mon. We’ll head down there, scope out this shit, and I’ll show you what else we got. Maybe swing back by Planet Saints, get you a change of clothes. I ain’t playin’, girl; you got some stank on.”

Iggy flipped him off casually. “The guys all right while we’re gone?”

“Yeah. They’re getting ready. Couple of the boys are with Shaundi, checking out some contacts. Think we got a way to make some quick cash, if you don’t mind going old school for a while. There’s a couple of chop shops in town that don’t work exclusively with the Syndicate. Seems like a good way to get information and cash, if we play our cards right.”

Iggy pulled the door closed behind her. “All right. Uh. How’s Shaundi, um…?”

Pierce sucked his teeth as he turned over the engine, the radio blurping into life, apparently halfway through a weather report. “She’s taking this thing with Gat pretty hard.”

He started to back the Neuron out of the garage, and Iggy took advantage of the opportunity to turn her head away, glaring at the shabby clapboard houses and brown brick buildings that fringed the road.

“You think it’s easy for me?”

“I know,” Pierce said, craning to check the space behind him, “but you’re always pissed off. Our girl’s not as crazy as you.”

Iggy leaned back to grab the Kobra—not the greatest gun in the world, but what she was sticking with until she could get a replacement for her Shepherd—from the floor of the backseat. She frowned up at Pierce from her contorted position.

“What? Who the fuck says I’m always pissed off?”

He laughed as she straightened up, and swung the Neuron into the right lane, heading towards the downtown district. Iggy stashed the gun beside her seat—she needed a new shoulder holster sometime fucking soon, this wasn’t practical—and pulled out her new phone, investigating the maps and GPS apps as she tried to work out where the hell they were, and where they were heading.

Pierce tuned the radio to the classical station as he drove; Iggy didn’t comment. She didn’t get into that shit as much as he did, but she didn’t mind it, and she certainly wasn’t going to say anything right then, because it would only have added weight to the argument she was always pissed about something, which was complete fucking bullshit.

He gave her a sidelong look as he drove, and Iggy arched an eyebrow. “What?”

“Hey… how long were you rolling with Gat, anyway?”

Iggy shrugged. Again with the talking about Johnny. Everybody wanted to; everybody wanted to make her do it. They all needed to, she supposed. He was there with every breath… the fucking elephant in the room, looking at them from behind his sunglasses, standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, not saying a damn word. Not accusing her of anything. She didn’t need him to, when she could do it so effectively herself.

“Long time,” Iggy said, forcibly pushing those stupid, crazy thoughts out of her head. No Johnny. No elephants. Gat was gone… and she better get fucking used to it. “He was around when I first joined the Saints.”

Pierce chuckled, swinging the Neuron easily out past a queue of traffic at the lights, ignoring the horns of irate drivers as he overtook them. “Shit, what was he like back then?”

Iggy smiled, watching the queue of five o’clock commuters tail out in the rearview mirror. “Fucking. Crazy. And we all loved him for it.”

Pierce shook his head, still smiling wistfully. “Yeah… gonna miss that motherfucker, huh?”

The weak sunlight picked at the brick and metal of Steelport’s crowded landscape. Iggy squinted out of the window, trying to count the differences between here and Stilwater—the familiar chains of stores, the brands on billboards, the same foul-mouthed, pushy pedestrians—and trying to get a feel for the city. Her stomach rumbled; she hadn’t eaten since the breakfast burrito that morning, but she wasn’t much interested in the idea of food.

“Yeah,” she said quietly, her face still turned to the window. “Yeah, we are. Now… where the fuck is this building?”

 


On to Five-Dollar Circus: Chapter Four


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