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“Hey, guys!” Rita knocks on the silver door with her silver hand. “It’s me. Mary? Sandra?” She shivers a little; she’ll get used to that. Surely. “I think I figured out that tape. You’re not gonna believe–”

The blast pillows from under the door so slow that at first, she doesn’t realize she’s already grounded. The concussion rolls out like boulders. She leans back, streams it around, lets the ley take the heat.

Did it kill them? Did they set it? Does it matter? Rita grits into the bomb, eyes streaming, getting colder. Shrapnel falls sharp into orbits around her fists.


He can’t see her when she opens the door, but he doesn’t need to.

“Y-y-you came,” he says.

“Why not Sandra?” she asks. “Why not Mary, why not–”

“You b-b-bel-beb believed in t-t-t-rust,” he whispers. “In-n s-s-acrif-f-fice. Like I d-did.”

“It costs too much.” She shakes her head. “It costs too much.”

“Then y-you’re sm-m-marter about it-t-t,” he says, “th-th-n I was.”

“Stand up,” she whispers, but he can’t, so she empties the Glock into him there on the floor.


The Cold Man has a severe, chattering stutter, something she didn’t expect from somebody with his curriculum mortis. Thirty-two professional icings, fewer than sixty bullets.

“N-ni-n-nice to mee-m-m-meet y-you,” he finally manages after bowing to Rita, hand in glove. “H-h-h-hear you d-do-d-do ex-ce-ek-excel-e-excel–”

“Charmed,” she’d said, but now, watching by remote, she’s not so forgiving. “He’s just walking in!” she says urgently. “There’s temp-variance alarms everywhere, dogs, who knows –”

Sandra leans over and taps the infrared. Impossibly, he disappears in a wash of blue.

“Why’d you think we called him that?” she asks, amused. “Because he talks funny?”


His hat’s a Borsalino, silk-trimmed, just like on TV. He dons it smoothly.

“Yes,” he says. His voice is different, though: clipped, calm, professional. “It was necessary to temporarily achieve a measure of protection against agencies desperate to conceal their existence. Fame served admirably.”

She hesitates. He smiles.

“Your skills will prove invaluable, Ms. Fairfields, in completing my squad.” He gestures, and three of the most dangerous women on earth step forward. “Rita: Tina, Sandra, Mary. You see,” and there’s a ghost of a laugh there, “those who joked about Numbers One through Four were more right than they knew.”