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©02 The Media Desk

The Blood of theHunter

ch 21
[Warning: May disturb more sensitive readers.]

     It was one of the weirdest assignments I had ever even heard of.
     The message from the Bishop was so heavily encoded I wasn't sure I had opened it right until I caught him on line, and then he wouldn't talk about it directly.

     Bishop42: Let's just say the alien trader involved is a sector raider and the effort to eject him from the game is a massive endeavor.
     theHunter: So I'm not the only one working this case?
     Bishop42: Almost every good trader and some of the evil ones from every corp in the game is involved. And a special agent assigned just to this suspect.
     theHunter: Terrific. I'm liable to get blown up by some rookie.
     Bishop42: Trust me. No rookies have been given this assignment.
     >theHunter is nodding at Bishop42..
     Bishop42: And your corps partner will be working support from the local sector.

     So it was settled. I was off to Las Vegas, Keia had already left to set up a command and control information center in one of the largest hotels on the strip.
     I had never been to Vegas. And I was impressed even in the daylight. It wasn't just the confusion of lights and noise, you can get that in New York. Or the tall buildings, and people. Or even the limousines, fancy people, and all that. What impressed me was the combination of all of it, and then some. Las Vegas seemed to have more of everything than anywhere else.
     That, and the level of intensity was unreal.
     Maybe that's the best description of the whole place. Unreal.

     But my assignment was very real.
     The suspect had no name, no other ID than a nickname he himself had mentioned one time, and a couple of bad photographs with some other information. I was after a man called Mulie.
     According to the information Keia sent to me at my hotel, Mulie was in town working with a magician act at one of the larger casinos. I tried to memorize the sketch and the photos. But in the photos, Mulie could have been anybody from Margaret Thatcher to Orson Wells. The description mentioned a few oddities, and I worked on them.
     Mulie seemed to have a peculiar body odor. He smelled like a field of wildflowers. He also had an unusual eye color. His irises were red. Which, in the land of indoor sunglasses, wasn't much help, but it was seriously curious. Also noted was long faint surgical scars along the outside of both hands, but these were only visible on close inspection.
     I put a profile of Mulie together and prepared to try to find a man that smelled like flowers, with red eyes, and scars on his hands, in a city of people that used far too much perfume, wore sunglasses, and at least a third of them wore dress gloves.
     I didn't have much hope of finding him. Then I realized that according to the Bishop, it could well be that every other person on the street was some sort of agent looking for Mulie. Most of them knew he was with the magic show. And all of them should have basically the same info on him as I did.
     But he was still loose.
     I went to the casino and worked my way in to the back stage area of the magic show. Looking for agents, not Mulie. In less than five minutes I spotted five or six operatives from several agencies. One of them being an acquaintance of Thunder's I had met that worked for, of all things, US Military Intelligence. I started to have some doubts about this assignment.
     If Mulie was that hot, if everybody and their grandma was looking that hard for him, he had to be somebody special to have not been found by now. I went back to my room and went through the dance to get Keia in chat. The difference between her written and spoken English never ceased to amaze me.

     Keia: Hi Huntie. Did you find him yet?
     theHunter: Not hardly... but I did run across some other people looking for him A LOT of other people looking for him
     Keia: There are a lot of you in town.
     theHunter: how hard is the information you had on him being where you said he was?
     Keia: That is one of the ways he makes a living. Magic.
     theHunter: Whats the other ways?
     Keia: Ski instructor.
     theHunter: Not around here this time of year what else does he do?
     Keia: I am not sure. I will find out and let you know.
     theHunter: Just let me know?
     Keia: You are only one that has asked, Huntie.

     I logged off, sat back, and smiled. Then I ordered room service and waited for the machine to tell me I had new mail.
     It took Keia supper and most of my dessert and coffee to get back to me. But she found Mulie's other trade.
     According to some very old information on him, he had also been known to dabble in baking. As a journeyman pastry chef.
     Las Vegas has at least twice as many pastry chefs as they do magicians. But if his contact was at that hotel where the magic show had been, I was betting he was still there, just not in the auditorium.
     My phone rang as I was changing jackets.
     "Log on." A mechanical voice said.
     A chill ran up my spine. It had to be...
     It was.

     Bishop42: You have a good lead on him?
     theHunter: I think so. If not, he's not in town any more.
     Bishop42: The town is crawling with ops. Why do you think you're on his trial?
     theHunter: I watched the other ops and asked some questions. I think they're on a cold scent.
     Bishop42: That's why I like you. You think once in awhile.
     theHunter: Don't let it get around.
     Bishop42: I'm sending you a new toy. It's ice cold. But don't let it get away from you... Mr. President.
     theHunter: I like your toys. Thanks.
     Bishop42: If you're right about HIM, you may need it.
     >Bishop42 is nodding to you.

     Suddenly I felt like taking a long nap.

     I was ready to go, but hung around for a few minutes. And true to form, there was a knock on my door.
     "Package for Mr. Abraham." A youthful voice called.
     I opened the door.
     "Are you Lincoln Abraham?" The kid asked looking at the card.
     "Abraham Lincoln." I said with no hint of a grin.
     "Oh. Ok." He turned to walk away.
     "Did you want to see some ID?"
     "No, the man said you'd correct me and that was ID enough."
     "Who gave you the package?" I was hoping for a lead to the Bishop.
     "Another courier, from some airline I think."
     Dead end. "You want a tip?" I held out a bill to him. He took it with a grin and ran down the hallway to catch the elevator.

     In the room I carefully opened the package. There was a sticker with a fat owl in a tree saying, 'You're the tops' on it. Under the sticker was a gun that would make John Wayne smile.
     It was a small fully automatic submachine gun. Chambered for .32 caliber with a magazine that would hold 250 rounds of jacketed hollow point ammo. The whole thing, muzzle to butt was less than two feet long. Empty it weighed about as much as my .454.
     According to the information sheet in the box, its rate of fire more than made up for its diminutive bore, and the extra rounds in the magazine equalized it with all but major military hardware.
     In the bottom of the box was a thousand rounds of ammo for it and a spare magazine with a rather odd looking but serviceable side holster for it and the gun.
     Evidently the Bishop felt that Mulie was a very dangerous man. I double checked my Justice Department card that said I could carry anything from a slingshot to a rocket launcher if I felt I needed it. It was in my wallet nice and snug.
     I dry fired the .32 a few times. It felt good in my hand and aimed easily with its enhanced combat field sites. I rammed a magazine home and balanced it in my hand.
     Would I sound weird if I said it felt good?
     Well, it felt good. A little bulky and heavy for one handed operation, but good.
     And in its holster you knew you were wearing a major piece of artillery.
     I still had dad's .38 in my belt. But I didn't think I needed the .454. I walked down to the elevator, checking myself in the mirrors to make sure it wasn't painfully obvious I was carrying what amounted to an infantry platoon under my jacket.

     At the other hotel I managed to get in a side door and walk like I knew where I was going to get close to the kitchen. There I picked up a box that looked like it needed moved and double-talked my way to the storeroom.
     I didn't find the person I was looking for in the first room. So I asked the guy in there where something else was. He pointed down the hall and jerked his hand this way a few times.
     In the second storeroom I found my pigeon.
     Not Mulie.
     An old woman that looked lonely.
     In three minutes she was running down the life story of everybody in the kitchens of the huge complex for a new employee. Me.
     "Is there anybody I should avoid?" I asked her.
     "Oh, sugar. There's some of them everywhere."
     "I mean ones that are real trouble, or look like they could be."
     "Well, where do you work?"
     "Up in the bakery."
     "Oh, sugar. They've got a new one that's a real winner. That Mewie, I know you've ran into him. If he's not bad news I'm Mother Theresa, God rest her soul."
     "What's he look like? I'm not real good with names." That and I was trying to keep my pulse under 250 right about then.
     "He always wears real dark glasses. And Heavens to Mercy his aftershave. He smells like some of the show girls."
     That was enough for me. "Well, thanks. I've got to get going. Been real nice talking to you."
     "Sugar, you ain't no baker. You a cop?"
     "Yes, ma'am, but don't let it out. Not yet."
     She looked me up and down. "That's no regulation cop's gun." She pointed her nose at the .32.
     "I'm not a regulation cop, ma'am."
     Her eyes narrowed. "You better show me some ID 'for I call security."
     "Yes, ma'am, but don't let it out that I'm here." I reached into my shirt pocket and got out the other Department of Justice card.
     "Wow. A Fed."
     "Yes, ma'am, but please don't say a word until this is over."
     "Sugar, you come back when it's all over and tell Irene all about it."
     "Yes, ma'am."

     I borrowed a cook's coat from Irene's storeroom and went up to the bakery.
     It was something to see, with one wall solid glass where the people walking along a hallway to some other part of the hotel could watch all manner of pastries being prepared.
     Taking a paper hat from a box near the restroom, I grabbed a dirty pan off a rack and walked with purpose to the other side of the area. There I looked around.
     And there he was.
     It was him. I could see striking red eyes over the top of his sunglasses from halfway across the room.
     The new baker was working a decorating bag with an artist's touch decorating a sheet cake with coins and dollar signs.
     I changed pans and walked over to him.
     "Hey Mulie." I said with easy familiarity.
     "What'sup?" He replied before looking. Then he dropped the baker's bag and started through the kitchen with amazing speed and agility.
     And just like that I was after him.
     Mulie tore down a side hallway. I followed, but as I rounded a corner I saw a flash and dropped instinctively.
     A roar of sound and a lightening strike of heat shattered the wall above me. I ripped the .32 from its holster and let loose a burst at his shadow. Then we were running again.
     Near Irene's storeroom he had ducked behind a laundry cart and took another shot at me.
     Never have I heard such a sound as I did when a trashcan not two feet from me exploded in flame and smoke. This time I think I winged him as he dove around the corner. But maybe not.
     "You go get him, sugar." Irene said peeking around her door as I ran by.
     Mulie was outside. Running like the wind across a courtyard now.

     But then I heard a chorus of gunshots and some more thunder from his weapon and he was coming more or less back my way.
     I angled my pursuit to cut him off before he reached the street beyond.
     I had a clear shot.
     He wasn't twenty yards away.
     I aimed for center mass, squeezed the trigger, and watched the stream of hot metal flow his way.
     It hit him. He staggered. He almost, almost went down, but kept staggering forward.
     Instead of falling, he raised his weapon and I dove behind a sculpture for cover. The blast nearly destroyed the cast concrete whatever it was. I jumped up and emptied the clip into him from fifteen yards now.
     I ran a few feet fishing for the second clip and slammed it in. Then fell behind another figure. Another blast covered me with concrete dust and chips.
     I stood and shouted at him. Then fired, and kept firing. Until the gun clicked on an empty chamber.
     Mulie was a mess. His left arm was nearly gone. His head looked like a cheese, his clothes were ripped and sticky with blood. But he was still trying to flee the pursuing horde of law now closing quickly behind him.
     He raised his weapon their way. I had no choice.
     I dropped the machine gun and pulled dad's .38 out in one motion. I sighted on his outstretched wrist and fired every shot in the revolver into it. I watched at least three of them slam into his wrist and hand.
     Finally the weapon fell to the ground. As did Mulie.
     I used my speed-loader on the .38 and walked up to him slowly. Just as half the cops in the country ran up.
     "Tell Hover he's a dead man." Mulie said as his whole body shook.
     I stared at him.
     Then some heavy government types threw a thick blanket over him and pushed the others away.
     "You Hunter?" One of them asked me.
     "Nice piece of work. Your CO will debrief you. You know the drill."
     "And Hunter."
     I looked from the blanket to him.
     "Nice piece of work. Love the gun." He handed me the .32 and its empty clips.

     I put dad's gun in my belt and walked back to the hotel.
     Inside I got a cup of coffee from the employee's dining room without anybody questioning me. I guess guys covered with dust carrying machine guns come in every day.
     In a bit I stopped by Irene's storeroom and returned the cook's coat and thanked her.
     "It's all over sugar?"
     "Yes, ma'am."
     "Did you get him?"
     "Yes, ma'am."
     "Was he a bad man?"
     "Very bad."
     "That's good, sugar. Next time you're in town, you stop by and say hi."
     I nodded and smiled to her.
     Then I went back to my hotel and took a long hot shower, still thinking about Mulie's body lying blasted and twisted on the sidewalk and his last words.
     "Tell Hover he's a dead man."
     The last words from the man with the purple blood.

end 21 blood

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