We are outside the place Stig led us to. I have no fucking idea how he did that but after he spent the whole day on his laptop, he told me to get ready and we drove here. He is on his bike on the other corner, half-hidden by a fence and I am in the rental. We both have a perfect view of a house that has seen better days and seems abandoned.
“Are you sure this is the place?” I ask.
“I watched the footage, Nat.” His voice tortures through the com. “Only one guy going in with a laptop and then leaving in hurry without. They sure weren’t expecting you and the panic worked in our favor. After all, they were sure you would never crack the encryption.”
It makes sense to me.
“My guess?” Stig continues. “That guy is not a hardened street fucker. He doesn’t even have a parking ticket in his name. If we were ever raided I have wipe mechanisms in place to protect the Riders and a plan to have all I need with me in an encrypted laptop as well. I would never ever leave that laptop behind. No matter what.”
“So, what your guess?”
“Some wizz kid alright but... I see movement!”
I turn and see a kid walking up to the house. And when I say kid, I see a 16, 17-year-old, with dirty sneakers and messy hair.
“I got a clear picture and will run it now,” Stig informs me and I see him work on his laptop.
I am on the edge as I wait and I take my binoculars. The windows are closed and the blinds drawn and I know the other door in has been barricaded when I did the round of the house. I could not hear anyone else inside and Stig said the place belongs to the bank.
I look over the corner where Stig is. He is concentrated on what he is doing and that means that he pulls on his lip ring again and again. I follow the movement mesmerized. I know that fucking on that carpet closed the circle and we are all done with each other. I know I should be concentrating on that missing kid and another kid that is involved in this. I know I should know better. But-
“Got him,” Stig says and I see him look my way.
“What’s his rap sheet?”
“What do you have then?”
“A missing person report. Two years back. San Diego. His name is Anthony Garcia. I am doing a background check, but from what I see he was adopted from Colombia after living in the streets while he was 4 - 5 years old. That’s all I got for now.”
“What do you want to do?” Stig asks. “Do we wait for anyone else to show up?”
“No one will show up. Let’s go,” I say and grab my gun.
Stig nods across the street and he too makes sure his gun is ready before pulling up the street. We know that there is only one way in. Assuming that the kid is not stupid to barricade his only other way out of there, I am guessing he has done something to ensure no one gets in without him knowing and some shit going down.
“Stay in the perimeter,” I tell Stig once we meet.
“I got something better,” Stig says and puts down a bag he has brought with him from the house. “I found this still in its box. I am guessing your friend wouldn’t mind.”
He takes out a drone and uses his phone to start it.
“That shit is cutting edge, light as a feather and absolutely quiet,” he has the drone hover over my head. "If that little fucker has another way out of here, we will know,” he says and has the drone fly over the house while he is watching his phone.
I smile at his childlike enthusiasm and then I am reminded to focus on the job. I walk up the few steps to the porch and I look down while still on the last step. Stig is right behind me.
“I don’t see any triggers but damn I wish Wood was with us,” Stig comments.
I decide to give this kid a chance.
“Antony!” I call.
“Antony, I got your laptop.”
That’s when I hear a commotion in the house. OK, we got a reaction. The moment I think that, the door blows in a loud bang that sends me back and at the same time I hear glass shattering.
“Nat, Nat!” Stig is on me.
That little fuck has tripped the door. Luckily for me, he has done a lousy job and I stood far enough so all I got was being knocked out by the force of the small blast and a splinter slicing my cheek.
“Fuck, are you OK?” Stig holds my face with both hands.
“I am fine. Get him. I’ll be right behind you.”
I look up to him still stunned and I see him search my face and body with worry.
“I am fine, Stig,” I reassure him.
Only then does he come to and glances at his phone with cold determination.
"Jag får dig, jävla idiot," he curses and gets up to run in the same direction I heard the broken glass.
I get up on my knee and I try to keep up. My head hurts and my ears are ringing but I shake my head and bite down my pain. I run after Stig and I pass by the broken window that seems to have been blown away too.
Up ahead I see Stig standing before the wooden fence around the house next door, thankfully equally abandoned. His body is tense but he doesn’t move a muscle. I go to him as fast as I can and only then I see the boy lying on the ground before Stig’s feet.
The boy looks up to Stig with terror and when I turn to look at Stig I see why. Stig is furious, his fair skin gone red and his hands in fists.
“That little fuck tried to kill us. He hurt you!”
I look down at the kid once more. He is scared shitless, shivering and his hand up in defense as if he is expecting Stig to rain hell on him any moment now. I have seen that stance, that look before. People with heavy trauma react that way, trying to protect themselves, going back to a basic survival instinct of appearing weak and meek to the stronger presence. He is a survivor that one.
“Don’t worry, kid,” I squat to his level.
He turns to me and measures me. He doesn’t trust me but he is afraid of Stig more.
“Oh, he needs to worry,” Stig seethes and the boy backs up to the wooden fence. “Now, let’s get this over with. He is coming with us. The area is mostly abandoned but maybe someone heard the explosions.”
“We won’t hurt you,” I promise the kid.
“Like Hell, we won’t.”
“Man!” I get up.
“He hurt you!” Stig looks at me filled with worry.
His hand goes to my cheek only then I fell blood trickling. I look back to Stig that tenses his jaw.
“You could have...” he exhales.
“I am fine,” I smile at him.
He nods and turns to the boy.
“Get the fuck up.”
The kid is not moving and rightly so.
“Listen to me, little shit,” Stig leans to the kid. “I could hill climb the fuck out of that biometric shit you got going on your lap top but I don’t have the fucking time.”
Anthony widens his eyes at that.
“Yeah, I speak geek,” Stig straightens his back and looks down at him. “Get the fuck up now.”
For some reason, the kid gets up and looks at both of us.
“They... they will kill me if-”
“Like I am going to make you pancakes and hot cocoa,” Stig threatens.
“Come on, pretty boy, cut him some slack.”
Stig grunts but shuts his mouth. I have been dealing with the underworld far too long. I know a rotten apple when I see one. And Anthony is not a rotten apple. He is a bruised one. Perhaps, if everything goes well, we can help two kids before we are done.
“Listen to me, Anthony,” I try. “A kid, a little kid needs your help. We won’t let anything happen to you.”
Anthony glances at Stig.
“How did you find me? I thought I have wiped out-”
“You’ve done shit, Stig cuts him. And now you are coming with us.”