"Piss off, Kim. I'm nobody's tool."
The three other men paused at her response, even stopped chewing as they glanced uneasily at Sung Bo Kim.
Perfect, thought Lonnigan. If Kim's own people are afraid of him, then he's got the balls for an all-out war. She crossed her arms and sneered at him. It was an unbelievable stroke of luck that he wanted the same thing she did, to take down Meng-Shiu. It was the use-Lonnigan-and-kill-her-afterwards part that she wanted to avoid.
Kim said, "Who are your parents, Ms. Lonnigan?"
"Don't threaten me."
One of the thugs snorted. Chained to the floor by the steel collar and dressed in booties and pajamas, Lonnigan knew she didn't make an imposing figure. However, she also noticed that none of them had come within twenty feet of her. Even now, they had some respect for her abilities; respect for her as a potential employee was what she needed.
"I don't threaten, Ms. Lonnigan. I already know you were orphaned at the age of five, educated and raised in the household of Qing-Mei Tong. You dropped out of Yale to work for him. You rose quickly in his organization, first as a courier, then as collector, enforcer and so on. You found your niche as an assassin."
"Looks like I have a fan club - I'm flattered."
Kim turned to his men and held out his hand. The Talent stooped to retrieve something from the cardboard box on the floor, handed it over. Kim tossed it to Lonnigan.
It was a big hot dog, loosely wrapped in foil. The smell of meat and salt prompted her stomach to growl loudly. Ravenous, she held it out, made as if to drop it to the concrete.
"If I finish this conversation by deciding to kill you, Ms. Lonnigan, I'll do it from over here. It won't matter if you've eaten first."
"You think you can buy my loyalty with a hot dog?"
Kim smiled. "It's a start."
She looked him in the eye, waited for something else, some superfluous observation about the helplessness of her situation. The silence stretched, broken only by the sounds of Kim's men, who had resumed eating. A moment more, then Lonnigan unwrapped the hot dog and ate it in four bites, chewing open-mouthed in her hurry to get it down. She'd considered, then dismissed the idea that it might be drugged or poisoned. If they wanted her, dead or otherwise, they didn't need to get fancy.
"I respected your former boss, Qing-Mei Tong. Though we had our differences of opinion over the years, he was a man who knew when to compete and when to cooperate. The various organizations enjoyed relative stability for many years. Periodic changes at the top of one family or another upset the dynamics in different relationships, of course, but we were always able to work things out." He put his hands into his pockets. "That is, until Meng-Shiu Tong took over two years ago. Tell me, Ms. Lonnigan, are you accustomed to hearing unguarded opinions expressed about your boss?"
She shrugged. "He's my boss."
"He's also a greedy, short-sighted, brainless prick."
Lonnigan scowled. "He's my boss," she repeated, "so watch your mouth, Kim." That was enough defense of him, she thought. She had to make Kim work to win her over, but not too hard.
"He's out of control and I'm going to take him down, Ms. Lonnigan. The Jade Prince built an impressive, tightly-run organization; in time, the Mouse will piss it all away, but he's still too strong. I can't wait for him to screw it all up completely before moving in. That task will be made easier with inside knowledge of Meng-Shiu's operational details."
"So you honestly believe you're going to penetrate straight to the heart of the Tong organization just by using me?"
"You, and a few other key individuals."
"Others? Bullshit. No one has gone missing from my organization; I'd have heard about it."
"Ah," said Kim, "I thought you enjoyed a more central position than is typical for assassins. That information makes you valuable to me. Not irreplaceable, but valuable."
Lonnigan flushed. "Who else have you kidnapped?"
"I haven't kidnapped anyone else, Ms. Lonnigan." Kim looked at his watch. "Let me make your options plain. Option one: you throw over your loyalties to the Mouse and agree to work for me as I take over the Tong organization. Once my control over it is stabilized, you'll remain in my employ."
"And the other families will just stand by and let you launch a war?"
"Don't presume to lecture me on strategy or tactics, Lonnigan."
"I'm the one who did the Acrobat," she said. "You must know that. Why should I trust you?"
His face darkened, but his tone was level. "Because I haven't killed you already."
"And Option Two?"
Kim held out his hand and the bandaged man passed him a gun, one of her own Sig-Sauers. Kim checked the slide, and held the gun at his side. He looked at his watch.
"There's no need to get melodramatic," said Lonnigan. "Since I work for you now, can I have another hot dog? I'm starving."
She let herself grin very slightly as she ate.
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