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Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
The back room was dark, damp and filled with the stench of moist rot. Tinfoil was taped over two narrow windows to keep the glow of the streetlights out. The furniture consisted of two soiled wing chairs and a wooden executive desk. Elle Meyers walked inside, trying to breathe through her mouth to avoid the smell. She was followed by Dominick the Russian and his companion in crime, Nadia.
Dominick was young, with dark hair and dead brown eyes. They were cold eyes, killer's eyes. He had a constant erection and some facial twitching. Elle guessed he was in the early stages of aphro-addiction. Nadia was no less scary, with long stringy, pink hair and sunken cheeks. She was also a cyborg--an early model Four-A, but Elle could tell she'd had some upgrades. Her movements were too fluid and clean for a pure Four-A. That was how she knew she was on the right track with these two. No criminal could possibly afford the types of upgrades Nadia had. No way.
Elle swallowed her anxiety and sat in one of the wing chairs trying to look relaxed. Nadia took a seat behind the desk and Dominick sat up on the far edge. He was seated enough to the right that Nadia's view of Elle wasn't blocked.
"What can you offer me?" Nadia said, leaning back in the swivel chair. She propped her feet up on the edge of the desk. Her pink leather pants shone under the poor light.
Elle took a moment to catch her breath. When she finally spoke, the slight quiver of fear went out of her voice. "Like I said at the bar, I can get you black market parts. Not the synthetic stuff the pirates make, mind you, but name brand. Youinterested?"
Dominick and Nadia exchanged glances. The tension in the air was as thick as the stench. Nadia traced her lips with her index finger thoughtfully. "Maybe. That depends on how much it's going to cost me."
"All I want," Elle said, "is a kilo of aphro, cut, measured and ready to sell."
Dominick scoffed. "That kind of shipment will be very hard to come by."
Elle's upper lip started to sweat. She tossed her hands in the air to show her exasperation. "Do you want the deal or don't you?"
Dominick looked at Nadia. Her eyes were shadowed by the stark overhead lamp that lit the desk's surface, but did nothing for the other dark corners of the room. Elle's mouth was painfully dry. Take the fucking deal so I can get the hell out of here.
A knock pounded through the room. It sounded like an atomic bomb as it boomed through the quiet. Nadia tossed her head at Dominick. He stalked to the door and opened it a crack. Glancing out, he opened the door wide to let the visitor in.
The minute Elle saw those heavy black eyebrows and thick mustache, she knew she was in serious trouble. She resisted the urge to bolt for the door. Blood drained from her face, leaving her lightheaded. I've got to get the hell out of here.
Nadia stood up, smiling, which made her look even more menacing. Her artificial eye gleamed amber. "Hector," she said, "so glad you could join us."
Hector, however, hadn't heard a word of Nadia's greeting. The only thing he looked at in the room was Elle.
This is very, very bad. Elle pulled her blaster but Dominick seized her arm and took it out of her hand. There was nothing left to do but run.
Elle pulled away from him and launched from her seat. She bolted for the door, but he grabbed her arm again. She slammed her fist into his jaw but it did nothing to loosen his hold.
Nadia walked over and grabbed Elle's other arm. "You two know each other?" she said, casting a glance at Hector.
Hector gave an evil, hearty chuckle. "Oh yes," he said, in a thick Spanish accent. "We know each other all right." He pointed a chubby finger at Elle as she struggled hard to escape. "Lady, here, is a cop."
Proteus frowned and clenched his jaw as a gritty, broken transmission interfered with his tracking device. "What the hell is this?"
His mind filled with the picture of a dark-haired beauty bound to a chair. She wrestled against her ropes as three shadowy figures stood before her. A metal bit gagged her, preventing her from uttering a sound. He tried to isolate which camera in the night club was recording the image, but as soon as he got close to identification, the transmission cut out. Proteus wasn't sure why he was receiving the transmission. After all, he wasn't here on a rescue. Annoyed, he blinked and cleared the signal.