The Gemini Hustle: Chapter 32

The Gemini Hustle: Chapter
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Chapter 32

While Ray was in an elevator dropping to Rija’s depths, Harry was making his way to the club’s apex by way of a maintenance ladder tucked behind the waterfall.

Climbing with a handful of broken fingers might be rough, but it was also the only way to reach Neishi without wading through an army of Draconis and Black Rose soldiers.

“Mollin,” he said, hitching up another rung. “Any news?”

/Still no access to video, but last we saw, Neishi was with Gemini in a private room. Once you cross to the other side of the lobby, descend to the second floor; take the first corridor on your left, fourth room on the right./

“Copy that,” Harry replied. “Once I engage Neishi, you know what to do.”

/Tahna’s already set up to record, and I have us spliced into Rija’s in-house systems which, thank the Universe, are still functioning,/ Mollin confirmed. /Just give us the word when you’re a go./

Harry gritted his teeth and hauled himself up and onto the metal grid of the catwalk. He almost fell back again on seeing the woman pulling herself up on the opposite side of the walk.

He smiled. “Consider the word given.”

/Already? I mean, copy that,/ Mollin said.

/Record on,/ Tahna confirmed, and Harry climbed the rest of the way up the ladder. “Neishi,” he called out over the roar of the waterfall. “I have to say, I did not expect to find you up here.”

“Harry.” Neishi greeted as she started toward him. “I very much hoped I would see you again.”

“I’m glad to see you, too,” he said, stepping out onto the catwalk.

“I have a difficult time believing that.”

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for a woman with an eye to the main chance—or eight eyes in a suitcase.”

“Eyes?” She paused at that. “I’m sure I don’t know—”

“What I mean, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Harry cut into her denial, waving his bandaged right hand. “Funny, you didn’t strike me as the type to get someone else take the credit.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said.

Harry moved closer—close enough to be heard without shouting. “Didn’t Mariska tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“She’s framed me for the murders you committed,” he explained.

“What of it?”

“I guess you’re right. Eight people tortured to death? No big. Bit of advice, though? If your crimes are supposed to be secret, it’s best not to keep souvenirs.”

She smiled at that. “A momentary weakness.”

“Wow.” Harry shook his head. “That is so wrong. Beyond which, sanctioning the murder of a short stack of Draco and Black Rose associates doesn’t come off as the savviest of plans. I’m surprised your ruling council went for it.”

“The council?” Neishi’s head tossed in disdain. “The cziepas who run the Sisterhood are so fearful of blood, they might as well be the Matriarchy.”

“So, the council didn’t sanction those kills?” he asked.

“The council of the Black Rose believes what the Drés of the Brotherhood believe, that an unknown predator was killing off members of both organizations. By thinning both herds, I provided a common enemy, and Mariska used that enemy as motivation to unite with the Brotherhood, rather than waste more lives competing with them.”

“Clever,” he acknowledged, “as long as you never got caught.”

“But I haven’t been caught,” she replied. “You have. So, it appears Mariska’s plan worked.”

“Not for Noel,” he said. “Or Adal, or Candine . . . or Kaneth.”

“Kaneth?” She shook her head, scattering a rainbow of water from her hair.

“The eighth bottle in your collection.”

“Oh, that one.” She smiled. “Green-eyed, very pretty. But no, he wasn’t in bed with any syndicates. He was simply in the wrong bed at the wrong time.”

“You lost me.”

“Kaneth,” she explained, apparently happy to share, “was servicing a client in the same hotel as my seventh target. Sadly for Kaneth, he finished his work at the same time I finished mine. We met when he stepped out of room 221 and I stepped out of room 220.”

“Word on the under-streets had him bragging about a new client,” Harry recalled. “I guess that was you?”

“For a whore, Kaneth was surprisingly gullible,” she confirmed. “And uninformed, as it turned out he’d heard nothing of Jamed’s murder.”

“So, you didn’t have to kill him,” Harry said.

“Of course I did,” she dismissed the suggestion easily. “But you know of my skills,” she added. “Kaneth may have had to die, but I made certain he died happy.”

“How generous of you.”

He died happy,” she reiterated. “You won’t.”

Rather than acknowledge Neishi’s threat, Harry tipped his head. “You get all that?”

“Get all what?” Neishi asked.

“Not talking to you.” 

/Yes,/ Mollin replied over Harry’s comm. /We have it all. The bitch./

Harry could sympathize. “Okay, let ’er rip.”

/Copy that,/ Mollin replied.

“Gladly,” Neishi said at the same time.

“Still not talking to you,” Harry said, even as he reached for Lok’s gun, which he’d snugged at his back for the climb.

But Neishi was already moving—jumping up and using her foot to push off the rail in his direction so that, by the time Harry finished the draw, Neishi had her left leg wrapped around his neck and was twisting them both down to the metal grid of the catwalk.

As they landed, Neishi’s knee rammed into Harry’s head, where the transcomm device was implanted under his ear. The comm shrieked, sputtered, and died, leaving him feeling as if someone had just fired a pistol right next to his eardrum.

A throbbing moment later, Neishi’s knee landed on the inside of his left forearm, causing his fingers to tighten on the gun’s trigger, so he fired several shots into the lighting grid and took out a few innocent fixtures.

At this point, Harry curled his busted hand into an ugly fist and delivered a cross that had him cursing and Neishi flying to the side.

He rolled up, but at the same time, she kicked the gun from his left hand, sending it flying out over the edge of the walkway.

“Just us, now,” she said, coming to her feet and spitting blood.

Harry, his ear still ringing and his hand protesting, hauled himself up by the catwalk rail just in time for Neishi to deliver a roundhouse kick to the base of his spine.

She recovered, dancing back on the balls of her feet.

Harry kept a death grip on the rail, sweat popping every-frigging-where, and turned to face Neishi.

“Not a quitter, are you,” she said. “I can see why Gemini hates you so.”

“Actually,” he said, his voice huffing in an almost laugh, “in a few seconds you may well hate me more than he does.”

“I don’t—” she began, then froze as the club’s public-address system chimed to life, followed by the sound of Harry explaining, “I’m a sucker for a woman with an eye to the main chance—or eight eyes in a suitcase.”

“Eyes?” Neishi’s reply boomed throughout the building. “I’m sure I don’t know—”

The conversation continued, echoing through a building stuffed with Draconis and Black Rose soldiers, and Harry, watching, saw the moment Neishi realized that she’d signed her own death warrant. And, in the feral snarl that followed, that she knew she had nothing to lose.

Which meant, in turn, she had zero reasons to hold back.

Which meant the woman who even now leaped to wrap both legs around his waist while she punched, bit, and slashed at him, didn’t notice that Harry had shoved her against the catwalk’s railing, or that he’d forced her backward over the rail, or that he was pounding at her head and ribs in a series of short arm punches and elbow strikes until, after what felt like forever, her legs loosened from around his waist.

But then she struck out again, this time with her empathic claws, raking at Harry from the inside.

Neishi didn’t waste her advantage, pushing off the rail on her side of the catwalk with enough force to slam Harry into the supports on his side.

It was then, while they were locked together in a struggle more ugly than epic, that the tie wrapped around Harry’s broken fingers came loose.

And Neishi, that clever cziepa, caught up the tie, still tangled in Harry’s fingers, and twisted it around his throat.

Harry’s breath cut off, his fingers screamed, and his vision went gray.

Since tugging at the choking piece of silk got him nowhere, he let his left hand drop from the tie, meaning to pound at her ribs or—something—and as he did, a cold, slender object came slipping out of his shirt sleeve and into his waiting palm. His fingers automatically closed over the switchblade Rizzo had planted on him almost an hour past.

Without a thought, he flicked the blade open and buried it in Neishi’s side.

She let out a strangled gasp but didn’t release the fabric, so Harry flung himself backward, ramming her spine into the rail.

Then he withdrew the knife and stabbed again, then rammed backward again.

Only after a third stabbing-ramming combo—his left hand sticky with blood, his eyesight dancing with spots—did the cloth loosen.

Diving forward, Harry spun to see Neishi standing utterly still, looking down at the blade in her belly.

After a moment, she raised her eyes and offered him a beatific smile and held out a hand, as if in peace.

The gesture shocked Harry so much that he was reaching to take that hand before his instincts kicked in, and he instead took a shaky step away.

Neishi’s smile disappeared.

Her hand dropped, her shoulder dipped, and she dove directly at Harry.

But the thing about fighting someone who has nothing to lose was, they had nothing to lose.

Which meant they had no reason to hold back.

Which meant Neishi committed every iota of her remaining strength to the act of taking Harry over the rail with her.

So when he stumbled out of her way, she couldn’t stop her full-throttled momentum, and rather than taking Harry to the other side of midnight with her, Neishi made the journey alone.

Alone, but not quietly, for Neishi Fabria of House Breeshandra fell screaming out her fury until she came to an abrupt halt atop one of the crystals spearing artistically from the waterfall’s pool.

As deaths go, not the most pleasant.

But, as he looked down on the scene below, Harry figured it for a better death than what she’d given those eight people.

Then, with tremendous effort, he pushed himself off the rail and started for the ladder.

He still had to find his partner.

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