tone, which meant it could probably be heard only half a block away. 'Last chance. Good money, all certified cred.'

'Some odder time.'

Straightening up, Grabber said, 'You called it, chummer. Maybe some other time. Maybe not. Stay chill, chummer. Careful you don't get so cold you freeze.'

'My worry, Grabber.'

'Like I said, chummer, you called it,' the troll replied. He eased his way down the street, amusement rumbling deep inside him.

Angered by the troll's reaction, Kham watched him go. Did it really matter what the troll thought? Grabber was small fish. But then, so was Kham. Darke, now. Darke was a bigger fish. Not as big as Sally Tsung, but bigger than Grabber and Kham. But Darke was running and Sally wasn't, which meant Darke was paying and Sally wasn't.

Drek! If he didn't take it himself, he might have hired out one of the guys. Rabo had kids, too, and was as hard up for cash. They all needed to score. So why was he worrying about the guys when he had troubles of his own? Why didn't he just take the job and put the nuyen in his own pocket like any corp putz would do? Responsibilities? Drek! He hated being grown up.

Grabber was almost out of shouting range. It wasn't too late to call him back, and Kham almost did. Then he thought about how that would look to the fixer.

Besides losing face, Kham was sure that the pay offered for the run would now be less than it was. With Darke's personal interest, that price would have been Kham's going rate. Calling Grabber back, making himself look hungry, would drive the fee down. If he took the run at the lower price, word of it would get around and that would also be bad for business. Once a shadowrunner's price starting going down, it wasn't likely to go up again. The jobs would get cheaper and cheaper and eventually you'd face a dirty run for dirt and then you'd end up under the dirt. Kham wasn't ready for that, so he let the troll go on walking.

But maybe he was ready to go home. It was almost dark, but still early enough that Kham didn't feel un- derarmed with his Smith and Wesson.45 in his «ide holster and the Walther in the underarm sling. His thirty-six- centimeter survival knife slapped against his thigh, reminding him that he had blades as well: two cutters in boot sheaths and a half-do/en shivs in various other concealed sheaths. He had a pair of knucks in his jacket pocket, too. Not much, but then he'd be home before the real predators came out.

The people on the street were mostly orks now. Kham tried to tell himself that there were no more chipheads on the street than before, that it was just a change in the proportions of straight to chipped. But he knew better. There really were more of the sim-sense addicts and most of those new addicts were orks. Chipheads were lost in their simsense fantasies and rarely showed the caution a straight-norm or ork- would show. Day or night, they lived somebody else's life inside their heads. Who knew what time it was in there?

Kham buzzed. He kept aware of his surroundings, as was prudent, but he tried to tune out the chipheads. He wasn't very successful. Too many of them had his brother's face.

By the time he hit his neighborhood, he was really sour. He checked his stride as he turned onto Greely and saw three orks of his crew gathered in front of Wu's grocery. The guys were obviously keeping watch on somebody down the street. Kham cheered up; maybe there would be a little action to make him feel better. He started forward again, his step livelier. John Parker was the first to notice him coming.

'Hey, hoi, Kham. Where ya been, bossman?'

''Round.' They went through the ritual punching and tussles. 'Whuzzappenin'? Got hostiles on the turf?'

'Nah,' Rabo whined. 'Nothing so much fun. Then again, maybe there will be fun. Got a suitboy looking for you by name.'

'He's hanging over there,' Ratstomper said, pointing with her head. A man stood in the shadows at the mouth of the alley, next to a fire-gutted tenement in the next block down. 'Told him to wait. We knew you'd be along.'

Kham looked and noted that the man was unfamiliar. He was also a stranger to Orktown. Though he was wearing a long coat, lined with armor no doubt, thrown open and back to reveal street-smart leathers, he was clearly not at home on the streets. He looked too nervous. Kham thought that he'd probably smell that way close up. This slag was a suit, no doubt about it.

The man was tall and on the thin side. Though too bulky for an elf, he might be mistaken for one by a less astute observer. He didn't fool Kham, though. He wondered if the suit knew how dangerous such a resemblance could be. If he did, he had plenty of reason to be nervous. The Ancients, an elf biker gang with no permanent territory but claiming all of Seattle for their own, had rumbled through two nights ago. Those elves had no friends in Orktown and had used their visit to make a few more enemies. Tempers were still up, and any elf, or even a human who looked like one, could end up the target of well-deserved hate. If the suitboy knew what had gone down, he was brave to come around without backup. It was surprising he'd gotten this far unmolested. Maybe the fact that Kham's guys were watching him had kept the other locals off the suitboy's back.

The man had noticed Kham's arrival and was trying to watch the orks without being obvious. The attempt was pathetically inept. The suit might be able to see them if his shades were set for light amplification or if he had enhanced eyes under those dark lenses, but his continual fussing said that he couldn't hear the orks.

'Let's see what da man has got ta say fer himself.' The guys trailed along with Kham, bouncing and hooting, in high spirits. They thought they were going to get work. Kham didn't want to let himself believe that just yet. It had been too long and disappointing a day. He walked right up to the suit and thrust out his chin.

'Hear yer looking fer Kham.'

To his credit, the suit did not back away, although his nose wrinkled at Kham's smell. 'Yes. Are you he?'

'Are you he?' Ratstomper said in imitation of the man. 'Fancy, fancy for Orktown, chummer.'

The others laughed at her remark, but the man held onto his calm. 'Can you take me to him?'

'Might,' Kham replied.

'There is remuneration in it for you.'

Fancy words. Upscale words. The suitboy needed to be reminded of where he was, so Kham asked, 'Re- what?'


'Dat I understand.' Rabo was nudging John Parker and grinning. 'How much?'

'That depends on how quickly you take me to him.'

'Dis is hot biz, den.'

'There is a time element.'

Turning, Kham backed up half a step, letting the man relax, then swung back. 'Why Kham?'

Startled, the man was silent for a moment before 1 blustering, 'I'll discuss that with him.' 1

Kham leaned into the man, eye to eye. His bulk was impressive and he let it have its usual effect on a norm. 'Ya tell me, or Kham never hears.' The gang snickered behind him. Kham was hoping the man would take it as a threat. 'Well?'

The man was breathing heavily, and, yes, he did smell nervous. 'There is to be a trip. The persons taking it want protection. They are looking for discreet escorts who are able to handle themselves in case of trouble.' J

'A muscle job.'

'As you say.'

'So ya come looking fer Kham. Maybe somebody else'll do?'

'Highly questionable. It is reported that this Kham leads an efficient group experienced in such matters and able to respond on short notice. In any case, my principals specified his group.'

The gang broke out in guffaws.

'Drek, Kham,' Rabo burst out, 'if we used them big words ourselves, we could charge more.'

'You're Kham?' the man stuttered.

Kham gave him a toothy grin. 'Whatsamatta, suit-boy? Didn't dey give ya a pic ta spot me?' ^

'Of course, but I… I…' 3

Dropping the grin, Kham snarled. 'Yeah, right. Us orks all look alike. If ya ever bodder ta look. Let's get one ting straight, suitboy. We don't gotta like each odder ta do biz. And I don't like ya. Straight?'

Nodding, the man said shakily, 'I understand.'

'I doubt it,' Kham said with a snort. 'What's yer schedule?'

Вы читаете Never trust an elf
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату