Lyle sped up, slowly at first, half a block at a time, gaining ground, inch by inch.
The plan was simple. They had to get his phone, to get the other man out of the picture enough to not be able to do anything for at least a half day. Lifting his phone, tripping him off the curb to breaking his ankle, getting him arrested…anything. This would continue to give Gregories and Pete more time to keep reclaiming control of the darknets that Gregories and his “faction” needed to cut off the other man’s guys at the pass, or something.
All Lyle knew was that Gregories had a plan, and the plan protected Lyle, would let him get back to work, reward his tradecraft, and keep him alive. That was enough to keep going, to listen to what the older man in the light tan overcoat told him to do.
So when the older man in the light tan overcoat told him to follow the other man and get his phone, that’s what Lyle was going to do.
He strode faster now, a slight picking-up of the pace, steps now more urgent, and in his pockets, Lyle flexed his fingers, relaxing and tensing his hands over and over, his arms loose against his body. Coat pockets were better than pants pockets for keeping your hands in to appear relaxed, wider and baggier, easier for when you need to whip them out suddenly to slide past someone and, in theory, slip a phone from a held hand and then yell loudly about being robbed, pushing the other man into the crowd towards the buildings, against a building, causing a panic.
He was quick, quicker than Lyle actually anticipated batting Lyle’s lighting-fast hands and light touch away, grabbing the other’s wrist and twisting, another stupid rookie move he could feel his brain chiding himself over in that rational and non-action part of his brain. He should have thought that a younger man like this would be able to keep up with Lyle’s sleight-of-hand.
“You think I’m fucking stupid or something, didn’t see you a block back on the phone eyeing me!” he yelled, trying to twist Lyle’s arm around his back, Lyle ducking down and twisting, spinning like a ballroom dancer until the shock of the adrenaline-fueled fist the other man had on Lyle’s wrist gave way and he could break from him, backing up, seemingly awkwardly, into the crowd. He swiped at Lyle, who backed up, walking backwards, off the curb and the crowd parting around them as people saw what was obviously a street confrontation spiraling out of control.
As if he was panicking, Lyle went for the phone in his back pocket, as if to take a picture of the man attacking him, an innocent guy in a situation gone wrong in New York City, flipping the modified cell open and bringing it up.
The other man saw the tape, the re-purposed phone, his eyes narrowing. “You goddamn shit,” he muttered, trying to grab at it from Lyle’s hand as Lyle kept backing up and backing up, occasionally swiping with his other free hand to try to fend off the grabbing well-manicured ones of the other man, trying to get the modified phone covered in tape.
It was ugly, with more people than not ignoring it actively, and something that happened far too often in the street, people jostling against each other, pockets picked or some people just not paying attention.
Not a freelance operator trying to swipe a modified smart phone from another high-level information broker in the middle of a civil war going on within a renegade subculture of information brokers and ex-spies.
“Hey what the fuck?” Lyle pulled away with the phone in his hand, closed with his fingers feeling the tape across the back of the phone. Shit.
The honk of the horn was sudden, unmistakable.
The cab made the turn a block up at a nice twenty miles per hour, picking up speed to thirty-seven in the span of a block, weaving between two other cars to duck around the truck and try to make the light at the intersection, the front right bumper clipping Lyle, the screech of tires too late as the hood thumped against the other man.