Troubleshooter – Nine

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Nine “Why are you smiling?” Hilda asked, clearly annoyed. “This isn’t a laughing matter.” “When you get down to it, what is?” Z replied breezily, tapping a couple of keys on her laptop keyboard. “But here’s the biggest joke of all.” She turned the laptop around, and then shoved it towards the Osiris woman and her bodyguards. The blonde eyed her warily before edging closer to have a better look at the screen. She squinted down at it for a moment, the blue-white light reflecting in her slightly bloodshot eyes. She scowled at it, then shifted her gaze towards her. “What the fuck is this?” “It’s a usenet site where hackers are known to gather. There are two guys on it right now who cracked your interface,...

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Troubleshooter – Eight

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Eight She laid her windbreaker on the floor and emptied the contents of the briefcase onto it, and it was surprisingly meager, considering how much this stupid thing had ultimately cost. Once that was done, she gathered the coat into a sort of makeshift bag, and put the slightly mangled suitcase back in the slightly mangled locker. Yes, it would be obvious it had been broken into, but she didn’t care – she just didn’t want to be spotted with the briefcase at the moment. Not until she was ready. Once that was done, she tucked the bolt cutter under her arm, grabbed her “bag”, and headed out the back. It was actually an emergency exit, but it wasn’t hooked up to any alarms. She had already told Shan she’d meet him...

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Troubleshooter – Seven

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Seven She heard the gunshots as she shoved Shan back and took dubious shelter behind a parked car, but in the back of her mind she knew they were wrong – those gunshots didn’t sound right. You could do a lot of things to alter a gunshot: mufflers, silencers (which were not silent, but what else could you say?), alterations of the barrel, even holding a throw pillow in front of the muzzle. But judging from the sound, none of those applied. So what the hell was going on here? She didn’t hear any wasp like noise of bullets whizzing past, nor did she hear thuds of impact or breaking glass. It was quite possible that, even at this proximity, he was a supremely shitty shot. Most people were, no matter how many times they...

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Troubleshooter – Six

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Six Ward’s apartment – if that’s what it was – was horribly sterile, all matte finished wood and beige wall to wall carpeting that should have been an executable offense. But if he was dead, perhaps he deserved it. Blondie kept her distance, not wanting to give Z a chance to capitalize on her obvious inexperience at threatening people with a firearm. She looked more like a machete sort of person anyways. Z figured the time here was hers to waste, so she headed over to their beige striped couch (another crime against decoration – if this was Ward’s home, it looked like a dentist’s office waiting room) and casually threw herself down on it, waiting to get the show on the road. “So why the charade?” She...

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Troubleshooter – Five

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Five Could it be this simple? Z stood on the corner of Perry Street, surveying the block. It was the area connecting the business district to the seedier part of town, and it showed. There wasn’t enough room for a full strip mall, but all the constituent parts were there: clothing chain store, doughnut shop, karate center (why were they always next to the doughnut shop? Was someone trying to send a message?), chain hair salon, two competing fast food joints, and – in a deviation from the norm – a self-storage unit. It still had the fake adobe façade of the Mexican restaurant it used to be, with the second story of huge windows and fake brick looking like it was the top of another building. Some nascent fungal growth...

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Troubleshooter – Four

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Four By the time she reached her apartment, her knee had started to hurt. Well, hurt wasn’t really the term – get stiff was more accurate. The old injury in that knee decided to flare up at the worst times, although it did occur to her that maybe if she didn’t use it to break people’s faces so much, it wouldn’t flare up at all. Her apartment was in a building that used to be an old hotel, converted on the outside to look like just another anonymous, crumbling brick apartment block, while on the inside it still looked like a hotel circa 1950. The halls were long and narrow, red carpeted, the doors oak painted white, the ghosts of old room numbers still visible where the whitewash wasn’t that...

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Troubleshooter – Three

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Three “Bryce had a partner? I had no idea,” she responded coolly, not bothering to turn around. She slipped her hand inside her coat, and listened hard, trying to judge his proximity to her by sound alone. It was difficult, especially considering the couple next door, who sounded like they were filming a porno movie. There was a noise behind her, a small “snick”, and she figured he had pulled out his knife. Guns were noisy, but they were also relatively easy to trace via ballistics now – you had to have lots of money, or be extremely smart (or lucky) to use a gun in a murder that was anything but a drive by nowadays. But knives were low tech and ubiquitous, difficult to trace with such exactitude … and preferred by...

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Troubleshooter – Two

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed Two Since he’d forgotten to bring a photo of Bryce, she’d asked him to e-mail her one ASAP. He did, just shortly after she’d run scans of his fingerprints (she pulled three good ones and a partial) into her database. Ward sent a head shot, which figured. Bryce looked just like the inoffensively handsome lead of every other sitcom on a major network: he had swept back light brown hair, as firmly in place as a helmet, evenly spaced Delft blue eyes set apart by the best bobbed nose money could buy, and an eighty thousand watt smile that could probably be seen from low earth orbit. She was nearly blinded by the bright white glow coming off his perfect, immaculately bleached teeth. You couldn’t have built a better...

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Troubleshooter – One

TROUBLESHOOTER by Andrea Speed One Fear did have a smell. It varied from person to person, like sweat, but usual was acrid, heavy with ammonia and vaguely reminiscent of piss, but never quite that bad. It could be dismissed as body odor if you didn’t know what you were smelling. But Stark knew. She was more familiar with the scent of fear than she would ever admit. The man who came into her office stank of fear. He looked like the template for every middle manager who had ever existed: average height, pudgy enough that his rounded belly stretched the material of his button down white shirt, complexion unnaturally pale and blotchy from being under artificial lighting far too long. His hair was thinning at the front, both the color and texture of straw, his...

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