Read The Darkness of God: Book Three of the Shadow Warrior Trilogy Online
Authors: Chris Bunch
“That’s why we thought we might pay a visit, and arrange for you to become a member of both casinos.”
“How convenient,” Wolfe said. “I assume ‘membership’ also carries other benefits?”
The younger of the two men scowled, but Henders kept his smile.
“In fact, it does. There are other establishments in Prendergast and across Rogan’s World that welcome members. But the real advantage for a man such as yourself is the availability of exchange currency at any hour of the night or day. Also, since there’s an unfortunately high crime rate on Rogan’s World, in the event of your having significant winnings, our organization can arrange an escort to wherever you wish, or even for a bank to open at any hour for a deposit.”
“And, of course, should I decline membership, it’s not unlikely that I might get mugged, should I happen to be a winner,” Wolfe said wryly.
“Such things have happened.”
“I further assume that the cost of such a membership is high.”
“We predicate the cost on a member’s evident assets,” Henders said, looking pointedly about the suite. “In your case, especially considering the rather impressive display you’ve made since you’ve been here, it might indeed be expensive. But well worth the cost, I can assure you.”
“And the levy is …?”
“That would depend on how long you plan on staying,” the man said. “Generally, we like to have our members current on a weekly basis. However, for longer stays, or for permanent residents, other, more equitable arrangements can be made.”
Wolfe strolled to the bar, poured a small pool of Armagnac into a snifter.
“I must say, I admire Rogan’s World,” he said. “Generally, the first gunsel who tries a shakedown is a featherweight.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” snarled Naismith. “This is a perfectly legit offer.”
“Of course it is. I’m merely making light conversation. My response, in most cases, to such a hit is quite rapid. I find the second level of goonery, after they’ve recovered from finding their junior in an alley, is markedly superior.”
“I know you have your own security element, Mister Taylor,” Henders said. “But I don’t think you’re aware of the organization you may be challenging.”
“Oh, but I think I am,” Wolfe said. “That’s why I was complimentary about Rogan’s World. I’ve noted you gentlemen aren’t the usual bluff-and-bluster back-alley types with alligator mouths and jaybird asses, but actually have links to significant people. I don’t object to payoffs,” he went on. “It’s an accepted part of my operating cost. But I’ll be triple-damned if I’ll play the fool and slip any punk who taps my shoulder and breaks bad the dropsy.”
• • •
“I see,” Henders said. Naismith couldn’t decide whether to get angry or just stay puzzled. “You certainly have analyzed the situation quickly and, I must say, correctly. I think, Mister Taylor, you might become a valued addition to a certain group here. You appear to have a great deal of wisdom.”
“Not wisdom,” Wolfe said. “Common sense. How much?”
“We would consider — ten thousand credits appropriate. At least for a starter. If circumstances indicate otherwise, that amount can be lowered.”
“Or raised, if I’m sufficiently lucky.”
Henders inclined his head.
Wolfe went into another room. The two gangsters looked at each other. The younger man licked his lips nervously.
Wolfe came back in with a leather envelope, thick with bills.
“Here,” he said. “The credits are clean, good, and out of sequence, and it’s a pleasure to be part of your — organization.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have plans to dine tonight. Perhaps at Mister Nakamura’s.”
The two men left.
Max came out of the bedroom. A gun was in his hand.
“Why’d you pay them? I completely fail to understand your reasoning in allowing us to be victimized.”
“Which is why you’re a Chitet and I’m a gambler,” Wolfe said. “Kristin! I’m starving to death!”
“I see why you’re the ranker of the trio,” Wolfe said. “I don’t think Max had a clue.”
“He’s a good man,” Kristin said defensively. “Maybe I realized the nature of the situation a little faster than he did because I’ve been around you more.”
“Probably,” Wolfe said. “Crookedness can be contagious.”
Kristin smiled. She wore a clinging gown, muted silver with deep burgundy flowers on it, low-cut, Empirewaisted, and utterly diaphanous. Under it was — perhaps — a sheer bodystocking.
Wolfe wore a white short-waisted formal jacket, matching pants, black silk shirt, and a white throat scarf.
He shifted position and moved the bomb at the base of his spine to a more comfortable position. “I once told somebody that I heard Time’s winged chariot at my back, but I never thought it’d end up as a literal expression,” he murmured.
Kristin quirked an eyebrow.
“Just a private thought,” Joshua said.
Kristin cut a bite, chewed. “This is wonderful. What is it?”
“On a Chitet menu, it’d no doubt appear as muscle tissue from a juvenile steer, wrapped in a shell of dough, with cow secretions, plus various fungi.”
“Pish,” Kristin said. “That won’t affect my appetite. We do that kind of word game as play when we’re growing up.”
“Play? What you’re tucking away if boeuf Wellington. Named after a general who was pretty good at waiting for his enemy to make the first mistake.”
“Of course we play — I played — when I was a child. What do you think Chitet do? Just march up and down in formation and drone prime numbers at one another? We’re people, like any other,” Kristin said, a bit of heat in her voice. “We just happen to have a better way of thinking, of living than anybody else.”
Wolfe started to say something but thought better of it. “Okay. I was wrong. You’re creatures of the sun, the light, and the dancing waves. Now eat your vegetables or I won’t read you any more Charles Peirce before bedtime.”
“I know who he was,” Kristin said.
“See my point?”
Kristin looked puzzled. “No. I don’t.”
• • •
Joshua heard music coming from another part of Nakamura’s as they strolled out of the restaurant.
“Care to dance before we go to work?”
“No,” Kristin said. “I never learned how. My creche didn’t see the point of doing anything when music played, anyway. It’s enough to simply appreciate it intellectually.”
“Take that, Dionysus,” Wolfe said.
“Precisely,” Kristin said. “The Apollonian side must control events, or everything is chaos.”
“Sometimes chaos can be fun.”
“And who is whose prisoner?” Kristin retorted.
“Point and match to Guide Kristin,” Wolfe said.
They continued into the casino.
Joshua considered the half-full room as a formally clad man glided to him.
“Mister Taylor? Welcome to Nakamura’s. Might I inquire as to your pleasure?”
“Nothing right now,” Wolfe said. “But I do have a question. Is Mister Nakamura present?”
“Mister Nakamura passed on over a year ago,” the pit boss said. “The club is currently held by a consortium of businessmen.”
“I see,” Wolfe said. “Perhaps another time I might be interested in your tables. But not at the moment. Come on, Kristin. The Oasis calls.”
• • •
“This,” Wolfe said, “might become my home away from home.”
“Why?” Kristin asked. “It looks just like Nakamura’s. Why this one instead of the other?”
“Because this one looks a bit — closer to the bone, shall we say? Observe the bar, and the half-dozen young women who gave both of us the scan when we walked through. Expensive companions for the evening — or the hour. Or consider the gamblers.”
“I don’t see anything unusual.”
“See how many have friends standing behind them. Friends who just happen to have bulges in their hip pockets or under their arms. Friends with blank faces and eyes that never stop moving.”
“Oh. You mean you wanted a crooked place to gamble?”
“Sssh, my love. Don’t disparage the jam pot. And we might be able to find an honest game here. Or turn it into one.”
“Now I don’t understand what you’re thinking any more than Max does,” Kristin said.
“You don’t have to.” Wolfe took a wad of credits from his pocket. “Here. Go spend these. Come back when you need more.”
“I really don’t understand gambling games,” she protested, “although of course I’ve studied probability theory.”
“Good. Think popsy. Lose in a spectacular manner.”
• • •
Wolfe noted a heavy, short man strolling through the gaming room, his eyes comfortably assessing the night. His expensive clothes wrapped him like a toad in a turban. Three blank-faced men flanked him; a fourth walked unobtrusively in front.
“That is — ?” Wolfe asked the croupier, indicating with his chin.
“Mister Igraine. The owner.”
“Ah. Is he a plunger?”
“I assume you mean does he play? Frequently. And well,” the croupier said. “If you’d be interested in one of his private games, it might be arranged.”
Wolfe looked back at the dice layout, then saw Kristin hurrying toward him.
“Look!” Kristin said excitedly. She was holding up a thick sheaf of bills.
Wolfe spun a chip to the croupier and picked up his dwindled stake. “I’ll go sit and sulk for a while,” he said. “Try to remember where my luck went. And I’ll think about what you said about Mister Igraine.”
He led Kristin to a quiet corner. “Obviously you’re doing better than I am,” he noted.
“These people don’t know anything about the odds,” she said. “I’ve never gambled before, but it seems pretty simple. I know you told me to lose, but am I supposed to look like a complete fool?”
“Once a Chitet … Very good, Kristin. You’ll start a new legend as the bimbo who never loses.”
“So do I gamble some more?”
Wolfe considered. “I don’t think so. I’ve set the scene, and dropped maybe fifteen thousand. That ought to be enough. Tomorrow night we’ll reap what I hope we sowed.”
• • •
A chill wind blew across the city, clouds swirling past overhead, but the penthouse’s balcony had three braziers, with what looked like real wood burning in them.
Kristin looked across the city’s lights at the hills in the distance.
“Maybe she’s over there …”
She moved closer to him. “It’s late,” she said.
“It is,” he agreed. “But gamblers and raiders work best by moonlight.”
“Among others,” Kristin said, her voice low.
Wolfe looked surprised.
“Yes,” he said, almost in a whisper, “among others.”
He stepped closer, until his hip touched her buttocks, waited for her to step away. Kristin didn’t move. He slid his arms around her waist, nuzzled her hair.
Joshua felt her breathing come more quickly.
He slowly turned her to him. Kristin lifted her cat face, eyes closed, lips parted.
He kissed her, felt her tongue come to meet his. He slid the straps of her dress off her shoulders, and her bare breasts were firm against him.
The kiss went on, and her lips moved under his, tongue darting.
He picked her up in his arms, carried her through the suite’s living room into a bedroom, started to lay her on the bed.
“No,” she said. “My shoes …”
“Don’t worry about it. We have maids.”
She lay back, naked to the waist, legs curled, her eyes half-open, watching as he undressed.
He touched the light sensor, and the room was dark except for a stream of light from the doorway.
Joshua went to the bed and knelt over Kristin, one arm around her, the other sliding her dress up, cupping her buttocks, kneading them. She was not wearing a bodystocking, but had shaved her body smooth.
She moaned, lifted her leg across the back of his thighs.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Oh yes, my Dionysus.”
• • •
Kristin stifled a scream, writhed against him, then collapsed, her legs sagging back to the bed. Joshua stayed on his knees, lifted her legs about his waist, caressed her breasts slowly.
“I’m back,” she said after a time.
Joshua moved inside her, and she gasped.
“Not yet,” she whispered. “Give me a moment.”
“One and only one.”
“Maybe,” she said, “there is
merit to chaos.”
“In its place,” he agreed. “Logic doesn’t belong in the bedroom.”
“I should be able to argue with you,” she said. “But I don’t think my brain is working right now.”
Joshua lifted her buttocks, pulled her close against him. “Never interfere with success,” he said.
“No … I mean yes,” she managed as he began moving slowly inside her. She rolled her head from side to side, wrapped her legs more tightly about him. “Oh yes. Send me away again.”
• • •
Joshua came out of the bedroom, robe wrapped around him. Lucian was scanning some papers.
“I’ll have instructions for you in an hour,” Wolfe said. “Then nothing. We won’t go back out until tonight.”
Lucian looked at Joshua with disapproval, said nothing, picked up a com and touched buttons.
It was an hour after dawn.
Joshua picked up the tray room service had just brought and took it back into the bedroom.
Kristin was at the window, naked, leaning on the railing.
Joshua put the tray down, dropped his robe, walked up behind her, and kissed her back.
“Do you think anybody down there can see us?” she asked.
“Probably,” he said cheerily. “And they’re getting ready to record every single lascivious move.”
“That’s a nice sound,” he said.
Kristin didn’t reply for a while, then:
“This doesn’t change things.”
“Sure it does,” Wolfe said. “It means you don’t have to sleep on the couch unless you want to. And you already said you had permission from Athelstan to be flouncing around like you are.”
“You know what I meant.”
“I know what you meant,” he agreed, hands sliding around her body, cupping her breasts, pulling her against him.
“Joshua, I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’m sore.”