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It was well past midnight when I finally rolled my Hummer into the garage attached to my apartment. I was tired, sore from the blows I had taken, and grouchy about the entire affair. Gawd-damned amateurs. I just wanted to clean my gun, eat something, shower off, and catch some rack time. The weird contracts were always the worst, even if they paid the most. There would be a substantial deposit to my account for tonight’s little travesty. I locked up the Hummer, slung my bag over my shoulder, and stalked to my apartment’s door.

It was unlocked.

I paused outside for a moment, one hand slipping to the pistol hidden beneath my jacket. I tensed and pushed the door open, letting it swing on silent hinges. No one surged out of the darkened interior. There was only the quiet hush of the air conditioner and the faint click of canine nails on the tile floor. I sighed and stepped inside. There were no intruders. This was not the first time I had come home to an open apartment. Coyote had a thing about locked doors. I flicked on the light switch next to the door. As I had expected, a coyote the size of a mastiff sat on my leather couch, grinning back at me in doggy fashion.

“No dogs on the furniture,” I said flatly, and carried my bag to the guest bedroom I had converted into a workroom. The room contained my gear, a desk and files, some exercise equipment, and the television I rarely bothered to turn on. I took my time breaking down the weapons I had not used, and cleaning the ones I had. The familiar ritual gave me a chance to cool down and mull over the events of the evening. At least the end result had been... productive, if not nearly as neat as I would have preferred.

I finished cleaning and storing my guns for the next job before returning to the living room. My apartment had an open floor plan, though I had left the space fairly spartan. The furnishings were good quality, but simple in design. I had a few woven Navajo rugs and blankets for color, and had hung framed photographs of desert scenes on the walls, but aside from those and a few pieces of petrified wood, that had been the extent of my decorating.

Coyote was back in human form and fiddling with my stereo when I returned. I frowned at my erstwhile boss. “Don’t break that,” I said. “It wasn’t cheap, and I don’t feel like replacing it.” I flopped on the couch, swallowing a groan as the leather embraced my tired body.

“Touchy tonight, eh Billy-Boy?” Coyote gave a dry little chuckle that grated on my nerves as much as the nickname, but he stopped playing with the stereo and straightened up. “How did it go?”

“Not as clean as it could have been,” I grumbled.


I made a face. “The lady with the sword knows her stuff, and the little werecat did all right. I’ve worked with Tore before. He performed about as well as I’d expect.”

“But?” Coyote prompted with an enigmatic smile.

“But I’d like to know who the hell thought it was a good idea to give projectile weapons to a couple of spell-slingers who don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground,” I groused. “It went beyond unprofessional and into gawd-damn embarrassing!”

My boss let out a hoot of laughter. Once Coyote quieted down, he shook his head and grinned. "Not everybody has your uncanny accuracy, Billy-Boy.”

I snorted. “Least I’m smart enough to understand where my strengths and weaknesses lie. If I’d known my magical backup was gonna spend more time with their thumbs up their asses failing to hit their targets, I’d’ve brought along a couple decent shooters instead.”

“That’s hardly being fair, now, is it?” Coyote chided.

“When it’s my ass on the line?” I shook my head. “The guy managed to pull off a couple slick moves with a shield,” I admitted. “But that vacant-eyed Indian chick? Hell, I dunno why they even brought her along. Near as I can tell, she didn’t do nothin’ but waste a lot of bullets on empty air and pull off the magical equivalent of a kick in the nuts to a single attacker. If there’d been something other than desert backstopping her shots, people on our side would’ve suffered for it. I’ve seen too many people taken down by friendly fire from idiots and amateurs like that. It pisses me the hell off.”

“No, really? I never would have guessed.” Coyote sounded amused. He brushed invisible lint from the immaculate lapels of his pinstriped charcoal gray suit. Coyote could look like anyone or anything he chose, but typically he went with ‘distinguished businessman of indeterminate age’, at least around me. We could have been uncle and nephew if looks counted for anything. “You may be called on to work with these folk again in the future,” he mused.

“It’ll be a cold day in hell before I take that girl on a job with me again,” I muttered.

“Chin up, Billy-Boy. I’m sure they love you just as much as you love them.” Why did he always have to sound so disgustingly chipper?

“At least I hit what I’m shooting at.”

“That you do.” Coyote grinned. “Which is why I keep you around. It makes life more interesting.”

“Which you thrive on, you sick bastard,” I grumbled.

“You know me so well.” Coyote preened. He turned toward the door, pausing in the entryway. “Rest up,” he said. “You’ve got a gig at the Mandalay Bay coming up. Penthouse party, Playboy Bunnies and everything. Wouldn’t do to have you there at less than your best.” And on that note, he breezed out through the door and left me alone with my thoughts.

“Had to be a gawd-damned cocktease on top of everything else,” I muttered tiredly, dragging a hand down my face. At least the orgy parties tended to be consistent. Make sure the paparazzi stayed out, and keep the fights and the property damage to a minimum.

With an effort, I dragged myself up off the couch and went to rummage in the fridge for takeout leftovers to reheat. Hot food in my stomach and a long shower to soothe my abused muscles would go a decent way towards improving my mood. Cleaned up and fed, I slipped into bed with an almost carnal moan of pleasure. Silk sheets on bare skin were more than worth the expense. I dropped off almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, claimed by blessed oblivion where I no longer had to consider incompetent magic users or asshole demigod bosses.