Spacer Bacchanalia 38
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    The phone rang. "What?" I half-snarled, covered the mouthpiece and yelled, "Albert, get your ass down here!"
    "This is John Alexander, I called earlier about doing some technical work—"
    "I'll call you back. This is not a good time." I got his number. The phone rang again, Reilly this time. Lucky was at Brigham & Women's, unconscious but apparently not mortally wounded. I got Albert moving, took INH along since we were after all supposed to be watching it, and we headed for the hospital.
    The doctor told us a little bit more about what had apparently happened; from marks on her neck she had been garroted by some instrument with points (barbed wire; we thought of the Chinatown killings), and a chemical grenade had exploded in her hand. Tough as she was, she apparently wouldn't even lose any fingers, but she had been pretty badly burned, was concussed and had some stitches in her neck. It would probably be at least an hour or so before she was conscious. I took INH up for a brief visit to Jeffrey Scott; the scientist seemed pleased with its progress, unconcerned by its interest in the comic universe. He's coping with his own situation pretty well, it seems. I hovered tensely while they caught up.
    Albert rang me. Lucky was awake, he reported. And she was insisting on leaving the hospital then and there.
    "Got to go," I told Dr. Scott, grabbed INH and headed back down. Lucky was already out the door.
    "Where are you going?" I demanded, putting myself in her path.
    "Somewhere else."
    She didn't want to answer me; we went back and forth for an awfully long while, her standing, or swaying, in her bandages and hospital gown, voice rasping painfully through her damaged throat, passers-by giving us a multitude of peculiar looks. INH emerged with her clothes, which she sort of half-dressed in. She wouldn't tell me anything, though she obviously didn't feel safe at the hospital, and somehow base wouldn't work either. Eventually she said she was going to Chandler's.
    "Fine," I snapped, and got out of the way, wondering why the woman had to make everything so damned difficult. She had come up against something at long last that had gotten the best of her, and now she wanted to hide? Fine with me. Chandler could deal with her until she calmed down enough to tell us about it.
    I could have knocked her out, hauled her ass back to the hospital and saved us all a huge mess. Someday I hope to have foresight half as good as my hindsight.
    I rendezvoused with Albert at the Ratskellar, where she had apparently been drinking quite a bit—and smoking, which she hasn't done since she first joined the team. A gentleman slightly older than most of the clientele offered to Albert that he had seen two men having a conversation in "what seemed to be a romance language, but might have been Arabic," in a corner during her stay; an envelope had changed hands, and one of them had departed directly after Lucky. The man was the sole witness of this event; he had also been the one with the presence of mind to grab a fire extinguisher when the grenade went off outside.
    I stared at Albert when he had related this. "You mean this was a hit?"
    "In the vernacular, Albert."
    That changed everything, although it did explain her stubborn refusal to stay hospital-bound. I called Chandler and told him that we were coming right over, and he should keep a careful eye out. What the hell was she thinking, putting him in danger like that? If someone was after her specifically, they could undoubtedly follow her there.
    I took the direct route by air. INH followed, an unremarkable cloud among other clouds, more slowly. Albert took a roundabout way, just in case he was being followed. After another long argument we managed to convince Lucky, with Chandler's support, that too many people knew she was friends with him—she used to live there for crying out loud—that if anyone was after her they might very well try his house, and if she wouldn't come back to base she should at least find someplace else to be. Chandler booked a hotel room for her at a place on the outer edge of town and promised that he could get her there unnoticed. She took Albert's phone and promised to keep in touch. Still far from happy, the rest of us departed.
    A while later we got a call from Reilly. Someone had just blown up Mr. Aliese's car (without him in it) and several of his buildings. It looked as if he was getting ready to retaliate. Out of nowhere, we had an all-out gang war starting. We headed for the penthouse at Rowes Wharf to see what Mr. Guiliani might have to say about all of this.
    Lucky, as it turned out, was going that way too.

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© 1999 Rebecca J. Stevenson