"All right," I said. "What do we need before we can go in?"
We were back in Jean Wallace's battered green van again, heading out of
Downtown. Not wanting to trust 'Hawk's mask spell (he said it didn't work
on security cameras, just natural or cybered vision), we'd waited in the
van while Jean had gone into a clothing store to get us some clean stuff.
This had to be serious, because 'Hawk didn't even complain about having
to wear off-the-rack. He didn't show it, but I got the impression that
this whole organlegging thing had spooked him a bit too.
Organlegging. Even the word sounded distasteful. I'd heard of
ithell, everybody who watched the trid or lived in the Sprawl had
heard of it. But I had always thought it was kind of an urban legend,
like alligators in the sewers or the chiphead babysitter who'd nuked
the baby in the microwave, thinking it was a turkey. At the very least,
I figured it was mostly urban scavengers who picked up fresh dead bodies
and sold them to disreputable body shops who salvaged what they could,
with an occasional unfortunate getting bumped off and stripped. But the
thought of an organized organlegging operation, an operation that
purposely grabbed essentially healthy people for the purpose of stealing
their organs and implanting them in paying customers, turned my stomach.
The fact that there were doctors involved made it all that much
I wondered if Tommy was still alive, or if all this was going to
be for nothing. No, I corrected myself. Not nothing. If we could expose
this gruesome operation, it would be worth it. Some things went beyond
money (though I fully intended to hit Johnson up for some more yen if
we were successful in getting Tommy back alive; ten K wasn't enough
for the kind of grief we'd already been through. It was going to cost
that much just to replace 'Hawk's car and the weapons that had been in
"What do you guys need?" Jean asked. "Got the clothes covered. Anything
We're gonna need some better gear," I said. "My SMG blew up with the
car. I've got a couple more guns at home, but I'm a little nervous about
"What about what you've got?" she asked.
I shook my head. "No, they're bound to be armed, and I'm not gonna
get through that with a Predator and a monowhip. Even if we're sneaking in,
which I think we'd better try to do."
She shrugged. "So what do you want to do? I need to call into my office to
get the address for Elysian, but other than that I've got everything I need.
Portacam, recording equipment, everything's in that canvas bag back there."
I looked down at my chrono: 1530. Hadn't thought to look at the time for
awhile; 'Hawk and I must have been out for awhile after that explosion. "It's
gonna be dark soon," I said. "I guess I'll have to call Harry again. 'Hawk?"
"Yes?" Winterhawk glanced up at me from his position in the shotgun seat,
where he'd been apparently zoning out.
"Can you call Mr. Johnson? I think it's time for us to get paid a little
more. We never signed on for this."
He nodded. "Right you are," he said.
A call to Harry got me the usual bluster, but also a name of a contact where
I could pick up some weapons on short notice. I think Harry had finally
figured out that something serious was up. Once you got around his grumpy
exterior, he did earn his money.
'Hawk waited until I was done, then punched up Johnson's code. I leaned over
his shoulder so we could both see the conversation. After a moment, the familiar
nondescript face of our employer appeared on the screen. He looked a little
surprised to see us. "Have you found Tommy already?" he asked, a tiny bit of
hope evident even in the sound from the tiny speaker.
"Not quite yet, Mr. Johnson," 'Hawk said. "We've run into some complications."
A shadow of fear passed over Johnson's face. "Whatkind of complications?
Is hedead? Injured? Kidnapped?"
'Hawk held up a hand to silence him. "We know where he is, and he's in a bit
of trouble. We don't know whether he's alive or not, but time is of the essence.
I'm afraid we're going to need to raise our initial price, as agreed at our
"What kind of trouble?" Johnson still looked worried, but put on his businessman's
face. "I need more information before I can make that kind of a decision."
Winterhawk took a deep breath, turned around to look at me, then faced Johnson
again. "Our information leads us to believe that Tommy may have stumbled into
something larger than we'd initially anticipated. This something, which we
can't discuss in detail at the moment, has nothing to do with your business.
But if you want Tommy back, we're going to need some expenses paid. We didn't
expect, and you didn't lead us to expect, the sort of opposition we're facing."
"How do you know this has nothing to do with our business?" Johnson asked. "Did
you find out anything about our competitor?"
Winterhawk shook his head. "No. We've no idea who your competitor is. But I
think at this point we can say with reasonable certainty that they're not involved.
In fact, it may be ignorance about the nature of Tommy's treatments that has kept
him alive as long as it has so far."
Johnson paused to turn that over in his mind. "But you can get him back?"
"We think so. Possibly not alive. But as I said, time is short."
Another pause. "How much are you asking for?" Even from where I was, I could
see him looking nervous. It was quite apparent that he needed to get Tommy back.
Maybe his own ass was in a sling over this. I didn't know, and didn't care.
Winterhawk considered, looked at me. I shrugged. He was better at this
negotiation stuff than I was, and so far I hadn't been dissatisfied with the pay.
"In light of the dangers we've faced, and the expenses we've incurred so far...
say another ten thousand each," he said. It wasn't a question. His voice carried
the certainty that Johnson would agree to his offer. I actually thought it was
a little low, but I guess we weren't trying to soak him, just recoup our losses
and replace our lost weapons and still make a decent profit. The soaking
would come when we reached Elysian.
For a long time, there was no sound on the other end. I wondered if Johnson
was going to tell us to just chuck the whole thingthat Tommy wasn't
worth that much to him. But then, slowly, he said, "All right. Ten thousand
more. But I won't pay it until I get Tommy back, or at least definitive
proof that he's dead. That's the best I can do."
Winterhawk nodded. "Fair enough. We'll be contacting you soon, then." He
"So what now?" Jean asked.
I gave her the address Harry had given me: he'd said it was an abandoned
bakery not too far from our present location. "Got to stock up," I told her.
She nodded. It took about ten minutes to get to the bakery. Jean pulled the
van up right in front of it. "Go ahead," she said, pulling her portable phone
from one of the numerous pockets of her vest. "I'll call my office from here."
I completed my business quickly with the supplier waiting inside the bakery.
He sold me a new SMG (H&K 227nice gun), an assault rifle, and enough ammo
to keep them both happy for awhile. Both were smartlinked. The prices were high,
though I managed to talk him down from his original ridiculous estimate. Harry
was living proof of the old adage about good, fast, cheap: pick two. In
this case, I was going for good and fast, and both Harry and the gunseller
I was back out in the van five minutes later, my new purchases hidden under
my coat. "All set."
"Me too," Jean said. "I've got directions. Like I said, it's about twenty
minutes north of the Sprawl. Up in the trees. They've got quite a spread up
there, from what I understand."
"Know anything about their security?" I asked her.
She shook her head. "No. We never got up there. If this is what we think it
is, though, it's bound to be pretty good. We'll need to be careful."
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Winterhawk asked her. He was looking at
her with an odd, serious expression on his face.
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Why not? This is the story of the year, if I
can get it."
"Yes, but don't you think that perhaps you're underestimating the danger a
bit?" he asked. "Have you any combat experience?"
"Not much," she admitted, just a little belligerently. "But I pulled your bacon
out of the fire awhile ago, didn't I?" Her expression softened a bit. "Listen.
I'm 36 years old. I've been around the block a few times. I know when to shut
up, and I know when to keep my head down. But I'm going to get this story. That
was the deal. You're not trying to weasel out, are you?"
Winterhawk shook his head. "Not at all. We made the deal, and we'll keep it.
I just want to make sure you're not taking this all too lightly."
"Don't worry," she said. "You just do your part, and I'll do mine. But whatever
we're going to do, we'd better do it soon. If they're on to us, I wouldn't put
it past them to close up shop and move on. If we can catch 'em with their pants
down, that's all the better for us."
I looked up from where I was busy filling the assault rifle's clip with ammo,
thinking about how satisfying it would be to put a few of these rounds into some
fat-ass corporate heads. It was a pleasant fantasy. I snapped the clip
decisively into the gun and put it on the van's floor. "Okay," I said. "Let's go."