“Line ’em up again,” the woman cried in a husky voice.
“They’re already lined up, miss!”
She shut one eye. “So they are. Stand back and let me at ’em.”
“She hasn’t missed yet.” The man standing next to Brendan informed him, and then promptly did a double take before yelping, “Hold up! The coppers are here.”
“To hell with ’em!” the woman cried and opened fire. The empties along the wall exploded in an even line, and the room blossomed with heat and steam.
Brendan, mouth ajar, watched in horrified amazement as the explosions continued—at least until the cannon needed to recharge.
“Wall’s on fire!” somebody stated. One of the barmen ran forward and slapped out the flames with his cloth.
“Saints preserve us,” Dennis breathed.
It would take more than saints. Brendan, gathering himself, marched forward and glared up at the woman.
“Get down off that bar.”
She focused on him—a bit blearily, but she focused. She seemed to contemplate his face, his hair, and his uniform before she sneered. “Says who?”
She accompanied the last word with a lean that allowed him a good view of her bodice, most of its buttons undone. Sweet mother Mary, full of grace.
“Buffalo police,” he declared himself, proud to hear he sounded steady as a rock. “Cease and desist. And while you’re about it, you can hand over the steam cannon.”
The crowd booed. The woman looked around at them and waved her hand. “Go away, Officer. You’re spoiling the entertainment.”
“This is not entertainment. It’s sheer stupidity. There are ordinances prohibiting the discharge of a steam cannon indoors.”
“And aren’t you the dull fellow to remind us of those ord-ord-ordinances?” She smiled the kind of smile the devil might. “How about if I blow out that wall? Then we won’t be indoors, will we?”
“We will. At least,” he allowed, “three-quarters. Miss, you’re drunk and shouldn’t have possession of a weapon. Hand it over, please.”
“Isn’t he polite?” She appealed to the bar at large, while Brendan’s temper rose. He didn’t lose it often but felt damned close now.
The other patrons hooted some more and stamped their feet.
Brendan called to his fellow officer. “Dennis, let’s get her down.”
Both of them tall men, each reached for one of the woman’s arms, intending to swing her down from the bar. As soon as they touched her, though, she began to holler.
“Fred! Where are you, Fred?”
A fellow stepped forward. Squat and red-faced, he appeared at least as drunk as the woman. He balled up his fists. “Leave go of her now.”
Ignoring him, Brendan grunted as he and Dennis swung their charge down, him all too aware she still had the now-recharged cannon in her hand.
He set her squarely on the floor, took a half step back, and held out his hand. “Give me the weapon.”
“No one takes this cannon from me.”
“Hand it over, miss, unless you wish to be arrested.”