The cab pulled up alongside a pile of blackened sludge that looked like something a chain smoker leaves on the bathroom tiles in the morning. "Never mind", thought Erica, and lit up her third More cigarette for the morning. The cab sat, its driver fiddling with something under the wheel, behind and to the left of where Erica was standing.
She'd pulled up outside Uncle Len's and been rather surprised to find nothing there. Having spent a night resting at the Sheraton Mirage, she'd realised that she had no leads to follow. She was also starting to get worried about that strange call she'd got from her Uncle Len during the aborted trip to Byron. There seemed little choice but to see what had happened to him, despite the risk. And besides, the hotel had given her a really bad facial.
If she had been into SF she would have noted, on returning home and finding the only family you know dead and the family hovel destroyed, the parallels between her situation and that of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. Sure, an '89 Falcon wasn't a desert speeder, and her Puggle (hidden in the knock-off Prada bag she always carried) was not R2D2, but it was something.
A noise from the cab driver made Erica look up. A red flash heading rapidly in her direction generated a dust trail that dispersed slowly on the breeze. She told the cab driver to go, handing him a fifty-dollar note as she stepped out of the car. He put the car in drive and left. However, he never got past the dust trail as there was a mysterious explosion and the Falcon went up like cracker night.
Then everything went quiet. Erica always thought she'd make grandiose speeches, maybe cry a bit, when she knew that death was approaching, but too much had happened in the last few weeks -- she was a husk, flotsam in a drain, and the plug was rapidly approaching. She was beyond caring.
The car braked, slid, stopped, rocking briefly back and forward on its suspension. Erica squared her shoulders, planted her feet, and waited. It was a red MX-5, the hard-top obscuring the driver's face. Another car, a black Mercedes S600, approached and stopped, its windows tinted, engine ticking impassively. A third car, another, identical Mercedes also pulled up, the rear door opening before it came completely to a halt.
Erica knew what was coming. Anttilanien stepped from the car, white plaster stuck to his face. He said nothing. Erica stood, also silent. The MX-5's driver door opened, Mikka got out of the car, walked to the passenger side, and dragged out a trussed up Rex. Erica's nose twisted ever so slightly -- he'd shat himself. She wondered how Mikka had stood the smell.
The first Mercedes shifted marginally on its springs and a door opened. Two statuesque blondes, dressed in brown pantsuits with jackboots, dragged two forms from the car. The boot was opened, and another form was dropped onto the ground. All three were wrapped in polyurethane, with a small hole where someone's mouth should be.
Blonde 1 produced a knife and flicked it through the air towards Anttilanien, who grabbed it by its shaft mid flight and in one movement slit one of the forms down the middle. Rex wimpered. The plastic fell aside and Trudee, gasping like a beached fish, was revealed.
"I 'tink you know vy ve are here," one of the blondes said in Erica's direction.
Rex moaned again; it was quickly followed by a sharp crack as Mikka's boot connected with his head.
"Yes, I think you know very well indeed," Mikka said.