In which Dodger learns a useful thing or three
“You’re awake?” the doc said. He lowered his plate and cup onto the table and rushed across the cab. Dropping himself to her side, he fussed and fluttered about the woman like a chubby butterfly. “Oh my, you do have an amazing metabolism. I expected you to be out for hours yet.”
“Thanks,” she said in a weak tone. “Whatever it is, I’m sure I get it from my mother and that bastard Rex.”
“Is he your father?” the doc said.
Kitty glared at him.
“Of course not,” the doc said. “You meant he has altered your genetics just like the rest of his minions.”
Kitty snorted, and winced at the painful act. “I am not his minion.”
“Ya could’ve fooled ush,” Ched said.
“What does Crank want with Dodger?” Lelanea said.
“Don’t waste your breath,” Dodger said. “She’s not going to talk.”
“Oh, I’ll talk,” Kitty said. She turned her eyes to Dodger and licked her lips. “To you.”
“I hate to be a bother,” the doc said. “But my patient needs time to heal. Can I please examine her before you begin to interrogate her?”
“We don’t have the luxury of time, Uncle,” Lelanea said.
“Your wounds are healing at a remarkable rate,” the doc said, already poking around. He held her bandage aside and marveled at the pink flesh beneath. “I’ve never seen such quick regenerative powers before.”
“Good,” Kitty said, her voice growing stronger with each word. “God knows I sacrificed enough for it.”
“You’re not fully human,” Lelanea said. “Of course not. What are you, part cockroach?”
“Cute. I guess it takes one to know one.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you run too fast for a normal human. You ran just under a hundred miles in just a few hours? That must be a new record.”
Lelanea blinked in surprise as her face went slack in shock. In all the time he had known her, Dodger had never seen the woman taken so aback. Under any other circumstance he might have enjoyed the sight of her squirming. In this case, he was left just as uncomfortable as Lelanea. If she heard that much, what else was she awake for?
“Funny,” Duncan said, crossing his arms, “I was thinking the same thing.”
Kitty nodded ever so slightly to Lelanea. “So, tell me, whatcha got onboard?”
“Excuse me?” Lelanea said.
Kitty rolled her eyes. “What has this ugly little troll fixed you with? A horse? I bet it’s some kind of horse. You sure got the teeth for it.”
“He hasn’t fixed me with anything,” Lelanea said, flexing her fists. “Because I have never been broken. Unlike you. Still, I’d be only too glad to show you exactly what I have onboard.” She growled and took a step forward.
Dodger grabbed her by the shoulder and held her back. “Do me a favor and go check on Sarah. I don’t like her being alone for so long.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Lelanea snarled.
“It’ll be fine,” Dodger said. “I can handle her.”
“Come on, honey,” Boon said, coaxing her aside as best he could.
Lelanea sneered at the woman on the couch, then whipped about and flounced away through the far cab door, slamming it behind her.
“Bitch,” Kitty said.
“Watch your mouth,” Dodger said.
“Why? You gonna kill me if I don’t? ‘Cause you kinda missed your chance for that.”
Dodger gritted his teeth. “Tell me what you know.”
Kitty looked to the four other men still in the room.
Ched cradled the bottle of whiskey to his chest. “Come on Jamesh. Letsh give thesh lovebirdsh a minute alone.”
“You sure, Dodger?” Duncan said.
“Go on,” Dodger said. “She’s right. We have a lot to talk about. Alone.”
The driver and Duncan slipped through the cab door toward the engine.
“There we are,” the doc said, tucking Kitty’s dressings back into place. “I suspect that will fully heal inside of another day. Remarkable.” He stood back and glanced at Dodger, then back to Kitty, and back to Dodger again. “Oh, I suppose I should shove off as well.” He stepped closer to Dodger, lowering his voice. “Are you certain this is wise? She might try to provoke you.”
“I have no doubt she will, sir. But I reckon I can handle her.”
“I trust you can.” The professor raised a hand to pat Feng on the thin shoulder. “Let’s go and see Mr. Bigby. I’m sure the man is anxious about what happened and I would like to assure him all is well.”
“That and you want to get a look at Henry’s device again?” Feng said.
The doc grinned. “You know me far too well, old chum. Far too well.”
Before Feng followed the doc out of the line, back into the bright afternoon sunshine, he paused in the doorway and glanced back at Dodger for a moment.
Don’t let her bait you.
Dodger furrowed his brow. It had been quite a few days since he had been able to hear anyone use underspeak. He pressed his own mind to answer. I won’t.
Feng nodded to Dodger. I know you think you got this, but I sense her sudden yen to confess is part of some larger scheme.
I don’t doubt it, Dodger answered. Though it is a bit strange you’re talking to me like this.
Sure. I ain’t been able to do this for a few days. Dodger narrowed his eyes at the man in the doorway. Not since right about the time you took to your sickbed.
Busted. Feng grinned. Do your thing with her, and then you can grill me later about it.
Consider that a date, old man.
With a laugh, Feng exited the cab, leaving Dodger and Kitty alone at last.
“Well that was weird,” Kitty said. “You folks do a lot of that standing around staring at each other thing? Because that was super creepy.”
Dodger ignored her as he pulled a chair up beside the couch and rested his weary bones on it. He pressed his palms together and sighed, looking up to her. “You wanted to talk to me alone? We’re alone. Talk.”
She pursed her lips and stared at him, eyeing him up and down as if weighing his worth.
“You best get started,” he said. “Crank will be here soon enough.”
“Untie me,” she said.
“Fat chance. Talk or we’re done here.”
“Why did you let that man save me? Why didn’t you let me die?”
“Don’t mistake my actions as generosity or weakness. If I want you dead, I will shoot you myself. What I won’t do is let Sarah suffer because of you.”
The woman’s face softened. “You did it for the kid.” She nodded. “I can respect that.”
“Respect?” Dodger said. “I’m surprised you know what that word means.”
“I know you don’t like me but I was-”
“No,” he said over her. “I don’t.”
“I was just following orders. I did what I was paid to do. Just like you did, for how many years? Just like you’re still doing.”
Dodger shook his head and grunted. “You don’t get to compare yourself to me. Not after everything I’ve been through. Not now. Not ever.”
She raised her head a bit and eyed him again. “You’re right. I am nothing like you. There was a time when we could’ve gotten along, but you’re different now.”
“Different? You have no idea what I am-”
“You don’t understand. I mean you used to be cold and calculating. Now you have people you care about. You’ve changed. I envy you.”
Dodger couldn’t believe his ears. “If I have changed why would you envy me?”
Her face went soft at the question. “Are you kidding? You’ve got a family now. I can see it in their faces when they look at you. In that woman’s eyes. They care about you. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone I cared about, much less care about me. Not since …” she stopped and swallowed hard. “Enough about me, you want to know about Rex and Crank.”
“I suppose this is the part where the villain gives away the whole plan? You just tell me everything and I am supposed to believe you?”
Kitty laughed. “Not quite. Besides, I don’t know as much as all that.”
“Then why tell me what you do know? Why betray Rex?”
Kitty’s smile slid away. “You could’ve let me lie there and bleed to death. Yet you didn’t. You say you did it for the girl, and if that’s true, then I owe you for that too. I wished someone would’ve done the same thing for me when I was her age. Maybe I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes.”
Dodger had to hand it to her, if her little speech was designed to push his buttons, she had her thumb on just the right one. It was difficult to tell if she was being serious or just playing him. He supposed it didn’t matter in the end. Get the info and they could sort it out later.
As if reading his mind, Kitty smiled once more and said, “That and I want to make a deal.”
“Ah,” Dodger said. “There it is. What do you want?”
Again, Dodger was surprised. He expected her to be willing to spill her guts in exchange for any number of things. Money. Freedom. Maybe even a chance at a fair fight. But asylum? That was a bit of an odd request considering they were mortal enemies. “What?”
“Sanctuary. Let me stay here, on the train, and I’ll tell you everything I know.”
Dodger shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. You’re going to prison after this. You’re going to stand trial for what you did to Al.”
Kitty struggled against the ropes with a cry. “No! You can’t send me away. Not after I failed him. He will find me and he will kill me.”
“Maybe that is what you deserve.”
“You’re right. After everything I have done this is exactly what I deserve. It doesn’t matter anyways.” She calmed down and lay back, closing her eyes. “You wasted your time saving me. I am a dead woman now that I have failed Rex. He will find me, even if I stay here.”
“So why make the offer?”
A tear broke free and rolled down the redhead’s cheek. Her lower lip trembled. “Because I’m scared.” She opened her eyes and looked up to him, genuine fear touching her face. “I don’t care if you believe me or not. I am scared to death of what he will do to me once he gets his hands on me again. You don’t know what he is like. Rex doesn’t accept disappointment gracefully. He won’t just kill me, Dodger. He will make me pay him back for my failure. He will make me suffer.”
“How about you tell me what you know, and then I’ll decide if you can stay.”
Kitty looked away before she inhaled and exhaled a long, slow breath. When she looked to him again, she began to speak. What she had to say not only surprised Dodger, it made him a bit angry.
Not just at Rex.