Rege Rovnitov’s instincts went on high alert as soon as his boot crossed the shop’s threshold.
Even over the heavy scent of leather, he detected burned ozone. A weapon had been fired. Debris scattered on the floor and countertop said there had been a struggle.
He pulled his own weapon from its holster at his back and edged farther into Tauxir’s store. There were no patrons inside and he hadn’t seen anyone leaving. This part of the city drew rough clientele, but Tauxir had a solid reputation for being an honest businessman as well as being a man you didn’t want to fuck with.
Whoever decided to take something of Tauxir’s must have a death wish.
Rege grinned. Maybe this day wouldn’t be a waste after all.
Using all of his senses to piece together what had happened he moved deeper into the store.
A roar followed by a crash came from the backroom. He leapt over an overturned stool and cleared the last steps to the doorway in one bound. Yanking the curtain aside, he leveled his gun’s laser sight on the first thing that moved.
His entrance was met by one pissed off and bloodied leatherworker. Tauxir held a similar gun and Rege suspected Tauxir’s laser was aimed right at his heart.
“You okay?” Rege asked without relaxing his stance.
Tauxir’s jaw flexed as if still debating whether or not to fire. “No,” he finally ground out between clenched teeth.
Rege glanced around the room to make sure there were no threats. “What happened?”
Tauxir lowered his gun and spit. “Slavers.”
Rege also lowered his weapon but didn’t holster it. “What did they want with you?”
Pain flashed in Tauxir’s eyes. “Amethe.”
Son of a bitch. Tauxir’s daughter. “They took her?”
He nodded once then pulled a wicked knife from underneath his worktable and pushed it into a sheath.
“How long has she been back?”
“Two nights.” Tauxir strapped the knife to his thigh then grabbed two more and slipped those in their respective places.
Rege pushed the button on the communicator wrapped around his ear. “Call Bolan.”
Tauxir half limped, half dragged himself toward the stairs. Thinking he might need help getting upstairs, Rege closed in.
Tauxir leaned against the wall and slid a concealed panel aside. He entered a code which activated a small door at their feet below the stairs. Even from where he stood, Rege could see the impressive collection of weapons.
“Yeah,” Bolan’s terse answer finally came through Rege’s earpiece.
“Grab Vordol and Malir and get to Tauxir’s. We’ve got a situation.”
“Be there in ten.” No complaints, no unnecessary questions. That was the beauty of the brotherhood. Always there for each other no matter what.
“Not your problem,” Tauxir said gruffly without looking up from his stash of weapons.
“You’re a brother. If you’ve got a problem, we all have a problem. You know that.”
He finally looked up. “I retired from the Brotherhood more than a decade ago. I’m not about to bring my problems to any of your doors. The Brotherhood has enough to deal with.”
Rege crossed the room and put one hand on Tauxir’s shoulder. “You may not run missions any more but you contribute to the cause as much as any of us.”
Tauxir snorted. “What? By passing info?” He pulled a high powered gun from the stash that Rege would have given his right nut to possess.
“Your intel has saved hundreds of lives. And more than one Brother owes you his life or limb because of your armor.”
“Doesn’t make this your problem.” He pulled several clips from a drawer inside the secret space then stood. “I’ll bring my daughter home.” Even as he said it, he swayed and crumpled to one knee.
Rege reached to help him but Tauxir brushed him off. Knowing how obstinate Tauxir could be he grabbed a handful of Tauxir’s shirt and dragged him to a nearby chair.
“We don’t have time for stubbornness. Tell me what you know and I’ll track them.”
Tauxir shook off his grip and tried to stand. “I’m going.”
Rege pushed him back into the chair. “I’m the best tracker around and you’re in no shape to chase after anyone. Based on the angle of your leg, I’m betting it’s broke. Now tell me what you know.”
“She’s my daughter.” Tauxir tried to shove him away and stand but he only succeeded in proving Rege’s point.
“Enough! You’re being hard headed and wasting precious time. Tell me what you saw.”
Tauxir hung his head. “There were three. They took what coins I had in the lockbox and a few pieces of merchandise. They tried to make it look random, but they were looking for her.” Anger and frustration burned in his eyes. “They knew Amethe was here.” He shook his head. “She fought them. So did I but as soon as they put a laser blade against her throat I was done.”
“You did what you had to do.” Rege tried to reassure him but knew his words would mean little. “What did they look like?”
“All three of them were big. One thinner than the other two but still packed a solid punch.” Tauxir absently rubbed a place on his chin. “One had the mark of the slavers on his neck. The other had one on the top of his hand. Based on the leader’s accent I’d say he came from the Omega Tori system.” He tried to get up again but Rege pushed him down again.
“Vordol and Malir will be here soon. They’ll make sure you’re patched up.” He gripped Tauxir’s shoulder until Tauxir looked him in the eye. “I will find her.”
Tauxir nodded once. He didn’t say a word but his eyes spoke volumes about the fear and gratitude he must have felt. “Here. Take this.” He pushed the weapon he’d pulled from the vault into Rege’s hand. “Your new jacket is ready.” He pointed to the corner where several garments hung from a peg that jutted out from the wall. “Take it and anything else you need. On the house. Just bring her home to me.”
“You have my word.”
Rege gathered the few things he needed and made his way out into the nearly deserted street. Word of the slavers being in the area didn’t take long to get around. Odds were even if anyone saw Amethe being dragged out of the shop they wouldn’t report it. No one wanted to attract the slavers’ attention.
First order of business was to find tracks. If he got really lucky he might find them before they skipped off the planet.
He found several sets of heavier boot prints that led in and out of the shop. Unfortunately, they became jumbled in the street and quickly ran out. At the corner the prints disappeared altogether. Odds were good they had gotten into some kind of transport unit there.
Using his communicator, he buzzed Solir. “You guys stop for lunch or what?”
“We’re coming in from the rear. What’s going down?” Solir asked.
“Tauxir was attacked. His daughter was taken. He thinks Slavers were behind the attack.”
Solir gave a low whistle. “Damn. I’m not sure who to feel sorry for, his daughter or the Slavers after Tauxir gets his hands on them.”
“He’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Looked like they broke his leg and knocked him for a loop. He’s going to need medic.”
Solir relayed the message to Bolan and the others with him. “I assume the shop is clear?”
“It was when I left. You might want to announce yourself when you go in. Tauxir is pissed enough that he’s likely to shoot first and ask questions later.”
“Got it. You tracking them?”
“Yes, but not having much luck yet. See if you can pull any footage from the corner outside of Tauxir’s shop as well as the one farther east. I think they had a transport there.”
“I’ll pull it as soon as I link in at Tauxir’s place.”
“Find out if he has a recent picture or vid of Amethe. Meanwhile I’m going to look for Queeler.”
Solir snorted. “Good luck with that one. He’s hard to understand on a good day.”
“No shit but no one knows more about what goes on in this town than him.”
“Like I said, good luck. We’re going in to get Tauxir. Buzz if you find anything.”
“Watch your back, man.”