VELVET GLOVE, IRON FIST -- Act Two - David Depual


            "I know many things, emme, and I want to make a deal."

            The minute David Depaul spoke them, the words felt silly on his tongue, but it was time to bargain. As unexpected as her arrival might have been, it presented an enormous opportunity. Now was the time to take advantage of it.

            "What _deal_?"

            "First things first. I should thank you for saving my life. I've grown rather attached to it."

            "I didn't like the odds you were keeping. I decided to even them a little. So... who's your friend with the machinegun?"

            "Oh, that's Charlie. He's been helping me out."

            "Could you tell him not to shoot me as well. Blood takes forever to get out of vinyl."

            Finally, Depaul noticed her as a woman. Dark, reddish hair, beautiful figure... all of it barely concealed in tight shades of vinyl and a small jacket. Deirdre Macoure fit perfectly with the image of a woman out for a good time on a town. The last place he'd expect such beauty is in the middle of the night on some dark grassy knoll.

            "Hey!" she shouted, breaking him out of his lengthy stare. "You mind telling me your name? Saying 'hey, you' is going to get old after a while."

            "Oh, sorry." David thought for a second, remembering his cover name; he hadn't gotten used to it yet. "Jason. Jason Monk."

            "Well, Jason, let's get out of here. The local PO's probably heard that gun blast for three miles around. Let's torch the body and get out of here."

            "Yeah... I should of thought about it." David was still trying to break away from thoughts of her body. What was happening to him? He hadn't been this affected by anyone for...

            "Hey! Jason!" Deirdre was getting annoyed. "This isn't your game is it? Bushwacking your fellow vamps doesn't really suit you."

            "No, it doesn't. I'm a businessman."

            "Funny, so am I. Now let's do some business."

            "All right." He went to leave but the woman stayed still. "What?"

            She pointed at Eberhard. "The body?"

            "Oh... right." Depual took out his lighter, flicked it open, and tossed it on the still warm body. The clothes ignited with ferocity. As David and Deirdre walked off the hill, the fire became an inferno; quickly growing immense, then crumbling back, returning the night to darkness.


            "So you never did tell me why you followed me."

            "You never asked." Deirdre said, sipping her drink quietly, while glaring deep into his eyes. The vampire had taken him to some college bar, about two or three blocks away from the park, where the music was loud and the place was packed. It would hard to follow anybody's trail through that mess of rampaging hormones and pulsating bodies. She had led him to one of the side booths, the ones with industrial sonic disrupters, meant to block out the noise on factory floors, allowed for quiet for romantic couples. Of course, she had to pay extra for them, flipping the bartender a ten-cred coin on their way in, but it was worth the expense. Actual cash was hard to come by, but it was still necessary, especially in their line of work.

            "I'm asking now."

            "First things first, Jason." Deirdre seemed to be boring into his soul. "How did you know my name?"

            David felt a push on his brain. He kept his mind closed... but just barely. "I've seen you before. You work for the brothers."

            "That still doesn't explain..."

            "I work for them too. Well, I used to before they shut down their drug business. Now I'm out a couple million creds per year."  

            "Couple million? What do you do?"

            "I run a company. We smuggle in vast quantities of exotic and hard to come by drugs and then selling them at cheaper prices than our competitors. We had a good thing going with the Cialt, now it's gone... but you managed to survive."

            "They found something else for me to do?"

            "Such as?"

            "You first."

            "I answered your question, Deidre. Now answer mine."

            "Shoot." She smiled. "Well, not literally anyway."

            "What the hell were you doing following me?"

            "Weren't you following me?"

            "That's not the point."

            "I thought I'd cut to the chase."

            "Bullshit. You were just as surprised as I was." Thud. Now it was David's turn to smile; he had her, this verbal fencing is over. "Well?"

            "All right, I was hungry. I stopped on this miserable little planet back from the frontier because it was good place for a snack. You looked like a likely meal... no offense."

            "None taken. So what are you into? Guns?"

            Her eyebrows raised. Macoure tried to hide her surprise, but Depual knew that trick all too well. "Drugs, M. Monk. That's what I smuggle so I assume that's why you tracked me down. Many times chased, never caught... well, not by the Earth Fleet. I'm the best, I make no bones about it."

            No bones about it? Geez, her slang was old. He hadn't heard those kind of words in... what, three hundred years? Either she was slipping... or there was something else to her story. Not that it mattered now, but the more information he had on her, the more he could use her. "I searched for you because you were running guns, specificially from the Tech Infantry to the Frontier Worlds Territory."

            "Who the _hell_ are you, anyway?!" Her eyes flashed with anger. A woman exposed was a dangerous thing to behold.

            "As I said, a businessman. So you don't deny it?"

            "All but the Tech Infantry. I don't know _who_ supplies the guns."

            "I had a data pirate run through the Cialt database. It's the TI; I'm sure of it."

            "Why would the Tech Infantry want to supply guns to the Colonial Marines?"

            "I don't know, but I'm going to find out. However, that's a very profitable racket, and it wouldn't hurt to get in on it."

            "What's in it for me?"

            "More money than you're making now and... freedom from the Cialt Brotherhood."

            She cocked her head to the side, dropping her long reddish-brown hair in a glistening wave. "Tell me more."

            "For now, you can run some routine shipments in for me on your way to Avalon. Once you drop off your guns on the frontier, pick up on the same planet, go to Avalon, then drop off at Proxima Centauri before going on your next run. It makes you some extra money and it gives me a line to you."

            "Which will...?"

            "...give us a monopoly on the gun trade on the frontier. Of course, it'll take some risk, but you look like the sort of girl who can take risks."

            Deirdre thought about it and then smiled again. "All right. How are we going to work this out?"

            "When you get your next run at Avalon, give my associates a call at this address." David took an automatic net card out of his pocket and handed to her. "It will hook you immediatly through our etheral encryption system. Call it a back door for first time associates."

            "And then?"

            "My associate will give you the address for the pick-up and drop. Later on, I'll come up with a plan for us to run this galaxy. Clear?"    

            "Sure." Macoure took the card. "Of course, I'm wondering if I shouldn't kill you now before I get betrayed."

            Depual was unaffected. "I'm a businessman. I wouldn't make the deal if I didn't think we _both_ could take advantage of it."

            "We'll see." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks for the drink." Then Emme Macoure vanished into the throbbing dancing mob.


            Charlie had caught up to him later. It was time to go home and he needed the info Cornelius had gotten from the colonel in order to know where to go next. Some things couldn't be spoken over an open net channel. He had his retainer buy the tickets back to Proxima, and with the deal made with Deirdre, there was little point in sticking around New Paris system any longer.

            On the way into the shuttle transfer terminal, the night was full and the moon was bright. It was a beautiful night to howl. He himself was feeling the urgings of the beast, but there would be time for that back on Centauri 3; right now, he had work to do.

            Charlie was two lengths ahead of him, although bound for the same destination, only a fool would make it look like they were travelling together. No, a nice discreet exit, especially with a charred body in his wake, was the best way to go.

            Then from around the corner, three figures dressed in black appeared. They were as subtle as moving office blocks and about as large. They also had one other disturbing feature; they were aiming straight for him.

            Charlie played his part well, ignoring them and walking straight ahead, as the trio moved in to intercept him. The center one actually spoke, "Jason Monk?"

            "Yes?" David stopped, wondering if the Black Hand was really stupid enough to try ambushing him in a public space.

            "Lieutenant Francis Grisham, Internal Security. We'd like to speak with you about a Deirdre Macoure."




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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.