Deal with the Devil - Kit Rocha


Nina had broken the cardinal rule, and now she had to kill someone.

Four someones, actually. She counted the shuffling footsteps behind her as she eyed the stack of crates and scrap blocking the alley’s exit. Razor wire glinted in the low light, heading off any thought of climbing over the mess. The only route of escape was back the way she’d come.

A brutally effective trap. Under other circumstances, she might have admired its elegance. Right now, it just pissed her off.

Never go out alone after dark. Dani’s admonition—or did it qualify as an order?—echoed in Nina’s head as she turned to face the men who’d blocked her in. The obvious leader stepped forward, brandishing a cheap pistol, as the three others fell into loose formation around him. The tall man on the left stood with his hand hovering near his hip, like he was getting ready to reach for a weapon tucked into the back of his waistband. The two on the right carried knives.

Surprisingly expert grips on all the weapons. The tall one was favoring his left knee. And one of the men wielding a knife was built, with the kind of bulk that made close contact a bad idea. Four men, two guns, at least three knives.

She did not have time for this.

“The bag,” the leader grunted. “Now.”

Nina’s hand tightened around the black strap slung over her shoulder. She didn’t like fighting if she could avoid it—too many variables—but she couldn’t afford to comply. She might have, if the satchel had held her usual haul of scavenged books or random data. But this was a commission, specially sourced information collected for a specific purpose—and a specific client.

Losing it would cost her more than money.

“Walk away,” she advised flatly.

One of them snickered.

Oh well, she had to try. Not that the world would suffer by losing these assholes, but because her conscience demanded it. Of course, they’d laid a trap in a dirty alley, and they didn’t seem too broken up about going four-on-one to rob her.

Maybe she was actively doing the world a favor.

The leader stepped forward, his index finger trembling as he pulled the trigger. Nina ducked, and the bullet went high, shattering a window that was probably already cracked or broken to begin with.

Everything in Five Points was.

When she came back up, she was inches from the man’s face, close enough to see flecks of spittle fly as he opened his mouth to yell at the others. She smashed the heel of her hand under his chin, snapping his teeth shut on his tongue.

He screamed, and she ducked again, this time to put herself on the other side of his outstretched arm. A hard blow to his shoulder spun him around, away from her, and she pressed close to his back, turning him into a shield.

Then she locked one hand around his, turning him into a weapon, too. She squeezed off two more shots, each finding its target in the dead center of an attacker’s chest, before the gun jammed.


The third man returned fire. The bullets slammed into his friend—so much for honor among thieves—and sent Nina stumbling back. She recovered just in time to dodge another shot, but she heard the razor-sharp whistle of its path as it cut through the air near her head.

Too goddamn close.

She launched herself at her last attacker. She kicked out, feinting as if to disarm him, only to target his weak leg at the last second. Her boot crashed into his knee, and she felt the joint give as he crumpled. The gun fell and skittered across the grimy asphalt, lodging itself under a mangled crate butted up against a length of chain-link fencing.

Just as well. They’d undoubtedly drawn enough attention already. She reached into her jacket, drew her pistol, and slid her thumb over the biometric scanner embedded in its grip. The weapon activated, chambering a round with a soft click.

The two shots she fired exited the elongated barrel just as quietly, silencing the man’s shrieking and groaning.

Nina stood over him for a moment, watching the dark blood as it began to pool beneath his head. “You did pretty well,” she muttered. “You never really stood a chance, that’s all.”

A chill swept over her despite the relatively warm spring night, raising the fine hairs on the back of her neck. For a moment, it felt like someone was watching her. Not just observing, but staring at her hard enough to bore holes through flesh.

Right into her soul.

She shook it off