Inside the limousine, the four runners stared in horror as the two thugs died before their eyes.
One minute they were all sitting there calmly performing their usual "good cop, bad cop" interrogation on their would-be assassins, preparing to drop them off to fend for themselves, hog-tied in their underwear, in one of the Barrens' less hospitable neighborhoods; the next minute, the two thugs' eyes had bulged grotesquely in their heads as great gouts of blood began to pour from their eye sockets, noses, mouths, and ears simultaneously.
Joe and Ocelot quickly lurched back, out of the path of the gory runnels streaming down the fronts of Jenner's and Magnum's bodies. The bodies sagged sideways, their heads lolling forward and releasing more blood down into their laps and all over the seats. They had made no sound as they died.
ShadoWraith's normally unreadable face showed a measurable amount of alarm. "`Hawk?" he asked, indicating the dead thugs with a head gesture. "You?"
"No," Winterhawk said grimly. "I didn't do it. I'll be back." Without further comment he leaned back and slumped in his seat.
Ocelot and Joe were looking for signs of attack, although they knew that a high velocity round would not be able to punch through the limousine's armored glass without at least making a recognizable sound. They had rented the limo from Harry, and the kinds of things its windows wouldn't be able to stop were the kinds of things that made large and noisy holes when going through said windows.
`Wraith had his Ingram drawn now, his eyes sweeping through the limo's passenger compartment looking for anything out of the ordinary. Aside from the bleeding corpses slumped on the seats in front of him, everything looked exactly as it was supposed to. The car had no driver; it was set on autopilot to cruise around the area in a predetermined pattern until given other instruction. Still, he hit the button to lower the glass partition between the driver and passenger compartments: as expected, the driver area was empty, the steering wheel moving of its own volition as if being operated by a phantom chauffeur.
Winterhawk sat up, looking even more grim than before. "No trace," he said, shaking his head. "None whatsoever. If that was a spell, it should have been lighting up the astral that soon after it hit. There would certainly have been at least some residue."
Ocelot stared at the bodies. They were leaned forward now, blood hitting the floor of the limo with soft little plops. "What else could it be?" He looked at `Wraith. "Poison?"
The elf considered. "Never seen any like it. Can't tell without tests."
"Guys," Joe spoke up, "we'd better figure out what we're gonna do with `em. We can't just leave `em in the car."
"We need to find out what's caused this," Winterhawk said. "One of them dropping dead might possibly be coincidental. Two, and of the same thing—?"
"Disease?" `Wraith said suddenly.
The runners all looked nervously at the bodies. "We need to get `em out of here," Joe repeated, a bit more emphatically.
"Yeah," Ocelot agreed.
"Autopsy," `Wraith said.
Winterhawk nodded. "Yes, good idea. I imagine Harry must have someone on his payroll who could perform a discreet autopsy. I, for one, will feel better once I know what's caused this."
They called Harry, who started to protest about getting tired of hearing from them lately, but shut up fast when they gave him the particulars. He told them to return the limo to where they'd picked it up, and he'd have someone there waiting to take the bodies off their hands.
"It'll take a little while to get the autopsy done, though," Harry said. "And it's gonna cost."
"It always does," Ocelot said. "Just do it, okay?"
As instructed, they took the limo to the designated area. On the way over, using Winterhawk's magic fingers spell and the handle of Joe's axe, they carefully and gingerly went through the thugs' clothing, but found nothing else of interest except two credsticks which between them held a bit over a thousand nuyen.
To their surprise, when they arrived at the meeting spot, two figures awaited them. One was the dwarf rigger who had delivered the limo; the other was an unidentifiable form in a chemsuit. Quickly and efficiently, she used a levitate spell to remove the bodies from the limo and install them in the back of her van. "I'll let you know when I have anything," she told them, looking nervously at the two unfortunate corpses. Neither she nor the rigger said anything about the small pools of blood congealing on the floor of the passenger compartment.
Back in their own truck, Ocelot said, "Okay, now what?"
"T.C.," `Wraith said.
"Yeah," Joe agreed. "Maybe she can find out whose number those guys had."
"With our luck," Winterhawk said cynically, "it's a dead end just like all the others."
"But it's the only lead we got at the moment," Ocelot pointed out. "At least until and unless we find out what killed those two guys. Anybody want to make me a bet that we ain't gonna find out anything conclusive?"
He didn't get any takers.