Skin Game Page 101

A spark of some kind of defiance, or amusement, or maybe both, flickered in her eyes. “I don’t remember it happening that way.”

“Probable doom,” I allowed, and felt myself grinning like a loon. “Highly possible doom. Look, Anna, you robbed the Vatican when you swiped the Shroud. How tough can it be to handle the pad of a schmuck gangster from Illinois?”

She took a slow, deep breath. “You make an excellent point,” she said seriously, and bent to her tools.

She moved with swift, precise professionalism. She had the cover off the control panel in half a minute, and was getting into the wires behind it seconds later.

“You were right,” she reported. “There are no chips or microcircuits at all.”

“Can you open it?” I asked.

“If I don’t make any mistakes. Yes. I think. Now hush.”

More gunfire erupted from upstairs as she worked. It wasn’t answered by anything I could hear, but I was pretty sure Binder’s goons wouldn’t be firing off their weapons for fun.

Grey slid back into the room and reported, conversationally, “They’re using suppressed weapons. There are enough of them to make a great big mess of this entire operation, but so far they’re just probing us.”

“Heh,” I said. “Probe.”

“Wizard,” Grey said, a trifle impatiently, “are you sure you want to keep pushing it like this?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Think so.”

“Grey, stand by,” Nicodemus said. “Should Valmont open the vault, we’ll need you to handle the scanner.”

Grey grunted and said, “Guess I’d better put my game face on.”

And once again, he seemed to quiver in place, a motion that I couldn’t quite track with my eyes, and suddenly Grey was gone and poor Harvey was standing there, looking nervously through the scorched entry of the vault. More gunfire rang out and Grey-Harvey flinched, darting quick glances behind him.


“Bloody hell,” Valmont muttered, reaching for another tool. She started operating the combination lock, watching a bobbing needle on some kind of sensor as she did. “Impossible to work with all this jabber.”

“I could make some white noise for you,” I said helpfully, and followed by saying something like, “Kssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

“Thank you, Dresden, for that additional distract—” Her eyes widened in sudden terror and she stopped breathing.

I felt my spine go rigid with anticipation. If those claymores went off, there was no way my duster was going to save me from that much flying metal. I clenched my teeth.

Valmont looked up at me, abruptly showed me a tigress’s smile, and said, “Gotcha.” Then she pushed a final button with a decisive stab,and the vault door made an ominous clickety-clack sound. She turned the handle, and the enormous door swung ponderously open. “Schmuck gangster from Illinois, indeed.”

“Get that UV light on the wards again,” I said.

“On it,” Valmont said.

“Grey,” Nicodemus said.

Grey-Harvey hopped rather nimbly through the wards as Valmont illuminated them, and went through the vault door.

I went with him, my senses alert to any other bits of magical mayhem that might be waiting for us inside Gentleman Johnnie Marcone’s vault.

It was huge. Fifty feet wide. A hundred feet long. Barred doors that looked sufficient to keep out King Kong stood at intervals along the walls. Each of the barred doors had a steel plaque on it bearing a number and a name. The first one on the right read: LORD RAITH—00010001. The room behind it was piled with boxes of about the right size to hold large paintings, strong-box-style crates, and several pallets bearing bricks made of bundles of hundred-dollar bills, stacked up in four-foot cubes and wrapped in clear plastic.

The strong room on the other side of us had a plate that read: FERROVAX—00010002, and it was filled with row upon row of closed, fireproof safes.

And there were eleven more rooms on each side of the vault.

In between the barred doors were storage lockers, shelves loaded with precious artwork, and more of those giant cubes of money than I really wanted to start counting.

It was the fortune of a small nation. Maybe even a not-so-small nation.

And the only door in the place with a little computerized eye-scanning thing next to it was at the very, very far end of the vault, in the center of the rear wall—the Storage Cubby of the Underworld.

“Looks like that’s it,” I said.

For a second, Grey-Harvey said nothing. I looked at him. He was scanning the room, slowly.

“It’s just money,” I said. “Get your head in the game.”

“I’m looking for guards and booby traps,” he said.

I grunted. “Oh. Carry on.”

“I shouldn’t be here,” Grey muttered, almost too quietly to be heard. “This is stupid. I’m going to get caught. I’m going to get caught. Someone will come for me. Those things will get me.”

I gave him a somewhat fish-eyed look. “Uh,” I said. “What?”

Grey blinked once and then looked at me. “Huh?”

“What were you talking about?” I said.

He frowned slightly. The frown turned into a grimace and he rubbed at his forehead. “Nothing.”

“The hell it was,” I said.

“I’m too Harvey right now,” he said. “He doesn’t like this situation very much.”

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