“Two million dollars,” Fisher said, handing over the backpacks.
“Briefcases are traditional,” Panchera said, frowning.
“I had backpacks.”
Fisher waited with forced patience as Panchera unzipped the overstuffed purple backpack and checked the stacks of currency. One of his men opened the orange backpack and did the same.
“While you’re counting to two million,” Fisher said, “maybe you could bring my sister out.”
Panchera glanced at another subordinate. The underling walked a short distance down the dingy hallway and opened a door. Catherine walked out slowly and followed the henchman.
“Hi, Sis. We should be out of here soon. These guys just gotta make sure I brought enough money.”
Panchera exchanged a look with his assistant and they nodded together.
“It all appears to be here,” Panchera said.
“It is,” Fisher said. “I’m here in good faith to get my sister back. So, if our business is concluded…?”
“Certainly. By all means,” Panchera told him. Another henchman opened the door to the abandoned hotel. Panchera repacked his backpack as though his hostage and her brother were already gone.
Fisher took Catherine’s hand and led her into the bright sunlight. He had followed Panchera’s messenger to the dropoff point, and his car was just outside. He hugged Catherine and then helped her into the front seat. He raced around to get in and behind the wheel.
“Oh, Fisher, I’m so glad to see you.”
“Me, too.” He drove away from the hotel at a careful speed at first. After a single block, he put his foot to the floor.
Catherine approved. “The farther away from them we are the better.”
“You don’t know the half of it, Sis. The backpacks holding all that nice counterfeit money were ever so subtly booby-trapped.”
An explosion went up behind them, shattering the old hotel.
“There’s one S.O.B. we don’t have to worry about anymore. That’s the only way in this game to make sure your troubles with someone are really over. You’ve gotta play for keeps with them.”
Fisher pushed the turn signal lever up for a right turn.
The car exploded.