Today's Reading

Before Rio had taken his third step away, before the Colombian could pull his finger back on the trigger, I had squeezed my hands free of the ropes, and I dove to the side just as the gun went off with a roar of automatic fire. I spun in a crouch and shot a foot out against the metal chair, the kick perfectly timed to lever energy from my turn—angular momentum, linear momentum, bang. Sorry, Rio. The Colombian struggled to bring his stuttering gun around to track me, but I rocketed up to crash against him, trapping his arms and carrying us both to the floor in an arc calculated exactly to bring his line of fire across the far wall.

The man's head cracked against the floor, his weapon falling from nerveless fingers and clattering against the cement. Without looking toward the side of the room, I already knew the other three men had slumped to the ground, cut down by their boss's gun before they could get a shot off. Rio was out cold by the door, his forehead bleeding freely, the chair fallen next to him. Served him right for punching me in the face so many times.

The door burst open. Men shouted in Spanish, bringing Uzis and AKs around to bear.

Momentum, velocities, objects in motion. I saw the deadly trails of their bullets' spray before they pulled the triggers, spinning lines of movement and force that filled my senses, turning the room into a kaleidoscope of whirling vector diagrams.

The guns started barking, and I ran at the wall and jumped.

I hit the window at the exact angle I needed to avoid being sliced open, but the glass still jarred when it shattered, the noise right by my ear and somehow more deafening than the gunfire. My shoulder smacked into the hard-packed ground outside and I rolled to my feet, running before I was all the way upright.

This compound had its own mini-army. The smartest move would be to make tracks out of here sooner rather than later, but I'd broken in here on a job, dammit, and I wouldn't get paid if I didn't finish it. The setting sun sent tall shadows slicing between the buildings.

I skidded up to a metal utility shed and slammed the sliding door back. My current headache of a job, also known as Courtney Polk, scrabbled back as much as she could while handcuffed to a pipe before she recognized me and glowered. I'd locked her in here temporarily when the Colombians had started closing in.

I picked up the key to the cuffs from where I'd dropped it in the dust by the door and freed her. "Time to skedaddle."

"Get away from me," she hissed, flinching back. I caught one of her arms and twisted, and Polk winced.

"I am having a very bad day," I said. "If you don't stay quiet, I will knock you unconscious and carry you out of here. Do you understand?"

She glared at me.

I twisted a fraction of an inch more, about three degrees shy of popping her shoulder out of the socket.

"All right already!" She tried to spit the words, but her voice climbed at the end, pitched with pain.

I let her go. "Come on."

Polk was all gangly arms and legs and looked far too thin to have much endurance, but she was in better shape than she appeared, and we made it to the perimeter in less than three minutes. I pushed her down to crouch behind the corner of a building, my eyes roving for the best way out, troop movements becoming vectors, numbers stretching and exploding against the fence. Calculations spun through my brain in infinite combinations. We were going to make it.

And then a shape rose up, skulking between two buildings, zig- zagging to stalk us—a black man, tall and lean and handsome, in a leather jacket. His badge wasn't visible, but it didn't need to be; the way he moved told me everything I needed to know. He stood out like a cop in a compound full of drug runners.

I started to grab Polk, but it was too late. The cop whipped around and looked up, meeting my eyes from fifty feet away, and knew he was made.

He was fast. We'd scarcely locked eyes and his hand was inside his jacket in a blur.

My boot flicked out and hit a rock.

From the cop's perspective, it must have looked like the worst kind of evil luck. He'd barely gotten his hand inside his coat when my foot-flicked missile rocketed out of nowhere and smacked him in the forehead. His head snapped back, and he listed to the side and collapsed.

God bless Newton's laws of motion. Polk recoiled. "What the hell was that!"

"That was a cop," I snapped. Five minutes with this kid and my irritation was already at its limit.

"What? Then why did you—he could have helped us!"

I resisted the urge to smack her. "You're a drug smuggler."

"Not on purpose!"
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