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Acknowledgments/Notes: Previously posted on Fanfiction.net
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"An Uncle Benny? You've got to be kidding me."
"Seriously Winston, almost any game play you can imagine has a codename. Don't ask me why they're called what they're called, they just are. I guess someone figured naming them after fictitious relatives made the code easier to drop into conversation."
Winston gave his new partner a sceptical look as they stepped out of the elevator into the barren expanse of the warehouse. Chance was insistent that the trick they just pulled was not only a classic ploy, it also had an established codename.
They'd only been working together for a couple of weeks and were still trying to figure each other out. It hadn't all been plain sailing as Chance was used to working with people who understood the way he worked and could anticipate what he needed to be done, people who had no problem deciphering his bizarre codenames. He often grew frustrated with having to spell everything out to his new partner.
Winston had his fair share of problems with Chance too. His definition of an acceptable risk was a long way from what Winston was comfortable with and Chance had a tendency to leap into a situation without a plan or even informing Winston as to what was going on. The ex-hitman and the ex-cop were having to work hard to find a common ground.
"I don't know that I believe anyone else would be insane enough to deliberately plan the shit you just pulled, let alone give it a name." Winston grumbled.
"The Uncle Benny is a classic, dude, but it always goes smoother with a third person."
Chance and Winston drew their weapons and spun round to face the intruder who had just interrupted their conversation. He was leaning casually against the wall and despite having two guns trained on him he seemed totally at ease. Winston had never seen the man before but as he glanced over at Chance he saw that he recognised the wiry stranger. At first Chance tensed, as if steeling himself to shoot the intruder but then he seemed to take in the man's relaxed stance and he began to lower his gun before changing his mind again and aiming at the man's head. The stranger seemed amused by his indecision.
"What the hell are you doing here, Guerrero?" Chance demanded.
"That's Guerrero?" Winston asked. "The Guerrero? I thought he'd be taller somehow."
The stranger shot Winston a dirty look.
"A fat idiot stuffed into a cheap suit? You're exactly what I was expecting for a failed cop."
Winston grunted and made a show of taking the safety off his weapon.
"Seriously dude?" Guerrero asked. "You left a sweet deal with the Old Man to team up with this walrus?"
"What do you want Guerrero?" Chance persisted. "Did he send you?"
"I'm kinda persona non gratia at the moment dude. After I failed to bring you in I went AWOL myself. It was all getting a bit weird."
"Which brings us back to my original question: what the hell are you doing here?"
Guerrero shrugged. "Satisfying my curiosity I guess. I want to know why someone who is so good at what it is we do would throw it all away."
"That part of my life is over. I'm not going back."
"I'm not asking you to come back, dude. I just want an explanation. Why did you leave? And if you are so serious about turning your back on all that… why didn't you kill me when you had the chance?"
Chance sighed and holstered his weapon.
"You might as well put your gun away Winston. Guerrero is just here to talk."
"No way, man!" Winston replied. "If even a tenth of what I've heard about this guy is true we should have shot him on sight!"
"Well then I suggest you go for a walk or something." Chance said. "We need to talk."
"He's a psychopath!" Winston protested. "I can't leave you here alone with him!"
Chance smiled as Guerrero sniggered at Winston's outrage.
"He's also… a friend." Chance said. "Believe it or not, if he was here to kill me he'd be totally up front about it."
"It's true." Guerrero said with a smile. "If I was here to kill Chance I would give him the courtesy of a warning. Cops, however, are fair game so why don't you run along to the donut shop and give us some space before you really piss me off?"
Winston looked to Chance but saw that he wasn't going to get any support from him. Now he'd decided that Guerrero wasn't a threat he seemed to relax. Chance smiled and shrugged in a 'what can you do?' gesture.
"Fine." Winston huffed, backing towards the elevator whilst keeping his gun firmly pointed at Guerrero. "You do what you got to do but if he's still here when I get back in one hour I'll…"
"You'll what?" Guerrero smirked.
"One hour Chance. He'd better be gone."
"So, you walked out on the Old Man too?" Chance asked.
"Didn't have much choice, dude." Guerrero replied. "My orders were to finish the job and bring you home. Failing that I was supposed to kill you. I blew it on all three counts. I wasn't going to face him after that. I kinda enjoy breathing."
Chance nodded and took a sip of his coffee. They were standing in the kitchen area of the warehouse. The previous occupant obviously wasn't much of a chef and the facilities were basic to say the least. Guerrero had dug around in the cupboards and managed to find some kind of herbal tea and had made himself a cup. Chance stuck to coffee although he wasn't enjoying it much thanks to the lack of milk and sugar. He wrinkled his nose at the bitter tang of what was probably the worst coffee he'd ever tasted.
"I heard that Baptiste finished the job." Guerrero said softly, watching carefully to see how Chance would react.
"Yeah, he did." Apart from a slight hardening of his expression, Chance gave nothing away.
"I get that you liked her but that isn't it, is it? Your heart hasn't been in it for a while, I could see that. I want to know what changed."
Chance sighed. As difficult as it was to explain, he would have to try.
"You know I went up against the old guy who lived here a while back, and he kicked my ass?"
"He could have, no scratch that, should have killed me. My number was up, he beat me hands down and I knew that was it. I was going to die. Hell, I was ready to die! But he never took the shot. He just gave me the weirdest look and said 'nobody deserves to die'. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but it never occurred to me before to question whether anyone deserved to die or not. It was just my job to make it happen."
"By the time a job comes to us, someone has already made that call, dude. If we're involved, that person is as good as dead already. If it wasn't you doing the hit, it would be someone else." Guerrero was disconcerted by the way Chance's explanation was heading. It was a long way from the Junior he knew.
"I know. For a while that was enough to keep me going. If I didn't kill them, someone else would and all I'd be doing would be missing out on a pay day and pissing off the Old Man. I had doubts, I even questioned some of the assignments that came my way but my job was my life, it was who and what I was."
"So this Katherine Walters chick…she tipped the balance?" Guerrero asked.
It had to be the woman, he thought. Wasn't it always?
"Why her?" Guerrero asked apprehensively. If he says he loved her I may just have to shoot him before I vomit.
"The Old Man knew I was having my doubts so he lied to me." Chance said. "He told me she was in up to her neck in a client's business, that she could cause all sorts of trouble for them and the Old Man too. When I actually met her… something didn't feel right."
"You talked to her didn't you dude? You know that was a mistake. You get in, do the job, get out. You start asking questions and simple jobs get real complicated real fast."
"You know why they wanted her dead? The reason why she got into that mess?"
"Does it matter?" Guerrero asked. "Either way she's dead now anyway. It's done."
"She heard a gunshot." Chance went on, ignoring the question. "Rather than running away, she went to try and help a dying stranger. That was her mistake. She saw someone who needed help and she went to him."
"That's all very noble and all but it didn't do either of them any good."
"But she did it anyway. She made a choice."
"I don't see what you're getting at here, dude." Guerrero frowned.
"I stopped making my own choices a long time ago Guerrero." Chance said sadly. "She made me realise that I wasn't even free to make my own decisions. I've been playing a role for the Old Man for so long that all I was was this job that didn't make sense to me anymore. I became what he wanted me to be and somehow lost my own identity in the process."
"Kind of sounds like teenage rebellion." Guerrero said, smiling in relief that at least the explanation was leading back to the Old Man and not his feelings for Katherine Walters. "You're a bit long in the tooth for all that, don't you think?"
"Don't try and laugh this off, Guerrero. You wanted an explanation so here it is."
"Sorry. Go on caller, I'm listening."
"So I find myself in a situation where the boss is ordering me to kill this harmless woman and all I can think about is how much better the world would be if she was still in it. She was…" Chance's voice trailed off. There were plenty of ways he could have finished that sentence: innocent, kind, generous, trusting. Despite the need he felt to make Guerrero understand his decision, Chance couldn't talk about his feelings for Katherine. It was just too personal and was something he was uncomfortable even thinking about let alone discussing out loud.
"I just couldn't see how killing her would do anyone any good." Chance said eventually. "It would just be mindless destruction for the sake of some rich guy's convenience. And it hit me, that's all I was, mindless destruction. I didn't think for myself anymore and if I wasn't making my own decisions then nothing I did meant anything anyway. I destroyed people I knew nothing about without a thought. I still don't understand why, but that scared me a little and it's a long time since anything did that."
"Okay, I get that you don't want to be the Old Man's son and heir anymore. I can't say that I'd just walk away from all that if I was in your position, but I guess I can sort of understand it. The Old man kept you on a fairly short leash but seriously dude, a crisis of conscience? Are you kidding me?"
"No, Guerrero." Chance said with equal parts sadness and frustration at his inability to make him understand. "I'm not kidding you. This isn't just about getting away from the Old Man, it's about genuine regret for the things I've done in my life, for the decisions I've made and the ones I let other people make for me. I just don't want to do it anymore."
Guerrero turned Junior's words over in his mind, trying to consider the different angles, but whatever way he looked at it, he couldn't make it make sense. Junior was practically a god-damn artist when it came to his work, how was it possible that he was even considering turning his back on it?
"I don't get it dude." He said. "I don't get how you think you're not going to miss the buzz."
"There are other ways to feel alive." Chance said.
"Like out-witting the other guy. Like keeping score by saving lives instead of taking them."
Guerrero looked sceptical. "So is that what you're going to do now?"
"I'm starting again and this time I call the shots. Junior is dead. I'm taking up from where the last guy finished. I'm Christopher Chance now."
Guerrero sighed. "I was kind of afraid of that. I knew Baptiste finished off the old guy and when I heard you were hanging around with an ex-cop and that you'd taken on the lease on this place it all added up. So this is it now? You're what? A good guy? A vigilante? A fuckin' superhero?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of bodyguard or personal security consultant." Chance laughed. "But yeah, you get the drift of it."
"I hope you see the irony of assuming another man's identity in this situation."
"Beats the hell out of being Junior." He shrugged.
"Where does this leave me dude? I couldn't go back to the Old Man's crew if I wanted to, which I don't by the way. I've got no problem going freelance but it seems to me that it would eventually bring us back to another you or me type situation."
"I don't want that to happen, Guerrero. I don't ever want to be in that situation again."
"So was it just the whole 'nobody deserves to die' thing that stopped you from pulling the trigger? Or did you not want to kill anyone if front of your lady friend ?"
"Okay, there are elements of truth to both of those things."
"I didn't want to kill you Guerrero."
"I didn't want to kill you either but you've got to see how much simpler my life would be right now if I had."
They stood awkwardly for a moment, avoiding eye contact. They had at least established that their loyalties lay with each other, even if they weren't working on the same side anymore. It had been weird referring to Guerrero as his friend to Winston earlier, neither of them had ever really defined their relationship that way before, there had been no need. They worked together and their unusual line of work didn't really allow for a social life so they spent a lot of time in each other's company. They'd known each other for most of their adult lives and if the Old Man had been Junior's surrogate father then Guerrero was more of a brother than a co-worker.
"So what now?" Guerrero asked, breaking the awkward silence.
"You could join us, Winston and me, I mean. We could certainly use your skills and contacts."
"You couldn't afford me dude." Guerrero smiled.
"Probably not." Chance smiled back. Guerrero was well aware of his worth and Chance wouldn't insult him by offering less than what he was due.
"So how far does this do-gooder thing go anyway?" Guerrero asked.
"To be honest I'm just figuring it out as I go along at the moment."
Guerrero laughed. "Sounds like you may still have a few grey areas then."
"There is one thing I have to ask you though." Chance was obviously trying to find a way to ask him without it sounding like an ultimatum.
"Let me guess, no contracts?" Guerrero said.
Chance nodded sheepishly. It was one thing for him to turn his back on his career as an assassin but he had no idea how Guerrero would react to his request for him to do the same.
Guerrero ran his hands through his hair and let out a long sigh.
"If you continue taking contracts freelance, it won't just be me you have to worry about." Chance argued. "You'll be in direct competition with the old crew. Do you really want to have to keep one eye open for Baptiste every time you take a job? It won't just be him either, the Old Man has positions to fill and what better test of the new recruits skills than taking you out?"
"The thought had occurred to me dude." Guerrero conceded grudgingly.
"If you stay away from the wet work the Old Man is going to have a much harder time tracking either of us. He likes to think he's well connected but your network of contacts surpassed his a long time ago. There's a hell of a lot of money to be made with those contacts, without you having to kill anyone. Yeah, I guess I'm one of the good guys now but I'm not law enforcement! As long as you're not killing people for money I'm sure we could work it out so we don't end up in one of those me or you type situations."
"Make a killing without actually killing?" Guerrero asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Why not? I can't afford to hire you permanently but I could still throw some work your way occasionally. You're intel would be invaluable to us."
"I don't know dude. That sounds kind of limiting." He said doubtfully. "I can't promise you I'll never kill a guy if the need arises."
"All I'm asking is that you not kill for money or convenience."
"That leaves some wriggle room for self-defence I guess." Guerrero said thoughtfully.
"Yeah." Smiled Chance. "It does, but you know what I'm asking."
"You'd have to keep your partner out of my business though." He said. "I so don't need him tipping off his cop buddies to try and score points with his old boss."
"He's an ex-cop." Chance reminded him. "And a pretty disillusioned one at that. He wants to team up with me to do some good. He's had it with all that corrupt official bullshit."
"Whatever dude. He'll always be a cop at heart and I don't like cops."
They both turned as they heard the arrival of the elevator.
"Speak of the devil." Chance said looking at his watch. It hadn't been a whole hour so Winston must be worried about him. Chance spared a moment to let that sink in and decided that it would take some getting used to.
"He's still here isn't he?" Winston asked.
"Well, that wasn't exactly a full hour was it?" Chance said. He'd left Guerrero in the kitchen to try to head Winston off before weapons were drawn.
"I don't like him being here Chance." Winston rumbled with disapproval. "In fact I don't like the idea of you having contact with anyone from your previous life. I've got a lot invested in what we're doing here."
"I know." he replied. "But we're not going to get very far until you start trusting me."
"You I trust but Guerrero? He's an animal. How do you know that he's not just going to hand you over to your old boss?"
"I just know, okay." Chance said. He knew it wasn't much of an argument and he struggled to find a way to explain the situation. "No, you can't trust Guerrero, but I can and you can trust me. You don't have the history with him that I have."
"Oh, I have plenty of information about his history." Winston said. "I couldn't prove any of it in a court of law but I've heard enough rumours to know that is not a guy I want anything to do with!"
"I'm touched that my reputation precedes me dude." Guerrero had snuck out of the kitchen and has been listening to the conversation unnoticed. "But half the stuff you would have heard about is bullshit. When I do a job there's not usually anything left to connect it back to me."
Winston's hand flew to his gun and he pulled it out and pointed it a Guerrero who was walking towards him. Guerrero calmly stepped in front of the gun until it's muzzle was only an inch or so from his chest. Winston stood firm but Guerrero just stood there staring at him without making a move. The moment dragged on uncomfortably as no one spoke or moved. Finally Winston glanced over to Chance in a silent appeal for assistance but as soon as his eyes left Guerrero he felt a tug on the gun and looked back to see the weapon fall apart in his hand.
"How the hell…?" Winston was left holding not much more than the grip and the rest of the disassembled gun lay on the floor at his feet.
"Just proving a point fat man." Guerrero smirked. He turned to Chance. "This guy is an amateur and you know I don't work with amateurs. I'm sorry Junior but you're on your own with this crusade of yours. I maybe would have considered it if you weren't carrying this dead weight with you but this guy can't even keep someone at gunpoint for more than a minute before his mind wanders. He's a liability."
"You wouldn't have to deal with Winston directly." Chance answered. "You'd deal with me."
"Hold up!" Winston said. "You're actually offering the psychopath a job? Are you insane?"
"Doesn't matter dude." Guerrero sighed, ignoring Winston's outburst. "He's weak and he makes your operation vulnerable."
"Fuck you, you evil murdering son-of-a-bitch!" Winston spat. "I hold my end of things up just fine!"
"Maybe," Chance conceded, much to Winston's anger and frustration. "But this whole thing is a partnership. I wouldn't be here without Winston."
"Whatever dude." Guerrero shook his head and headed for the elevator.
"What about what we talked about before, in the kitchen?" Chance asked. "It's one thing is you don't want to get involved in this but I don't want us to run into a… conflict of professional interests."
Guerrero paused at the door to the elevator.
"I can't promise you anything right now, bro." He said without turning round. "I have shit to think about. I'll be in touch." And with that, he left.
Chance let out a long slow breath and laced his fingers together behind his head. For a moment back in the kitchen he'd let himself believe that Guerrero might actually walk away from his old life too and join him. Deep down he knew it wouldn't be so easy to persuade him but it hadn't stopped him hoping.
Winston was carefully retrieving the pieces of his gun from the floor, avoiding making eye contact with his business partner. Chance could practically feel the anger radiating from him like heat waves. He followed Winston as he took his disassembled gun through to his office and put the parts carefully on his desk before sitting down. He opened one of the desk drawers and retrieved a bottle of scotch and a glass. Chance leaned against the door frame with his arms folded as Winston poured himself a generous drink. He took a gulp of the whisky and set the glass down on the desk in front of him.
"I guess that could have gone better." Chance said, forcing Winston to acknowledge his presence.
"Oh yeah?" Winston asked. "Which part of this mess would that be then? Are you referring to the fact that a psychopath broke in to our office? Or the part when I was stupid enough to leave you alone with said psychopath to reminisce about the good old days when you both ran around murdering people for cash?"
"Wait!" He interrupted. "There's more! We both know there was more! Was it the part when my back was turned and you offered your old assassin buddy a job? Or was it the part when he turned you down because you're working with such an amateur? Or was it, and this is a particularly memorable twist of the knife, was it when you agreed with the bastard that I'm a useless loser?"
Winston's brow was knotted with rage as his voice increased in volume with every wounded word.
"Winston, it wasn't like that!" Chance protested. "Well, maybe some of it was but I never said you were a useless loser!"
"You weren't exactly defending me either, but that's not the point! I don't care what that low-life thinks of me. What I care about is that you were even considering hiring him! What the hell were you thinking?"
"Guerrero isn't just an assassin." Chance said. "He has a much wider skill set than I do. Having him on board would have been incredibly useful."
"Yeah, like how?"
"He's one of best hackers in the business and when it comes to surveillance, counter-surveillance and, well pretty much anything tech related, he is the best. He has contacts everywhere. If you need something, he can get it for you wherever, whenever."
"You want a hacker? We'll get a hacker but getting mixed up again with the likes of Guerrero is insane! It doesn't matter how good he is at that stuff, the guy is the living embodiment of everything you told me you wanted to escape from! If you want to start making amends for the stuff you've done you have to turn your back on the people that you worked with! You're like a recovering drug-addict who wants to stay friends with his dealer! He'll drag you back down with him."
Chance knew there was truth to what Winston was saying, but it didn't make it any easier to accept. Guerrero was important to him and he couldn't just let go.
"I'm not letting anyone drag me down." Chance said calmly. "That part of my life is over. Don't ever doubt me on this Winston. Whatever Guerrero decides to do he knows I'm walking a different path now."
Chance walked away before Winston could reply, leaving him to his bottle of scotch.
It was already 9pm when Chance left his loft to go and pick up Carmine from the dog sitter. He'd phoned ahead to warn him that he was coming over and the enthusiastic young man was only to happy to accommodate him. Chance was slightly concerned that the overtly camp man had a bit of a crush on him but was relieved to find that it was the dog sitter's partner that opened the door to the apartment. Chance felt that maybe he hadn't entirely misread the sitter's flirtatious banter as his partner was of a similar height and build as Chance himself. Perhaps he was the guy's type.
"Hi." Chance smiled at the man as he looked him over suspiciously. "I called earlier. I'm Eddie. Eddie Arlette. I've come to pick up my dog."
"Eddie. Right." The man said flatly. He made no move to let him into the apartment. "Tony!" He hollered over his shoulder. Chance and the man looked at each other awkwardly for a moment before the sitter himself walked into view carrying a very excitable Carmine in his arms.
"Hi Eddie." Tony beamed at Chance and shoved the man at the door out of the way with a bump of his hip. "Honestly Paul! You could have at least invited Eddie in!"
"Why should I?" Paul asked, resting a hand on Tony's shoulder in what could have just been a sign of affection but was what Chance suspected was Paul marking his territory. "He's interrupted our evening." In the mean time Carmine was struggling to break free of Tony's grasp.
"Looks like Carmen is pleased to see his Daddy!" Tony cooed, handing the struggling puppy over to Chance. Carmine licked his face as soon as he was in range and Chance couldn't help but laugh as he tried to hold on to squirming puppy whilst leaning away from his slobbery greeting.
"Easy there, buddy!" He chuckled.
"You do know Carmen is a girl's name and your dog is male?" Asked Paul. Tony jabbed an elbow in his boyfriend's ribs in an obvious attempt to remind him to watch his manners.
"My late wife chose the name but she died in a car accident before I actually brought the puppy home." Chance lied. "There was a mix up and the breeder had sold all the female puppies but I kept the name my wife had picked out anyway." There was a genuine look of sadness in Chance's eyes as he thought of Katherine Walters and the couple nodded in sombre sympathy at his obvious grief.
The truth was Tony had misheard Carmine's name and Chance hadn't corrected him because he thought the idea of Katherine's dog having an alias would be something that would have amused her. Tony obviously hadn't noticed Carmine's name tag and realised his mistake. Chance smoothed over the awkward moment by thanking Tony for looking after 'Carmen' so well and handing him his payment plus a generous tip. Tony obviously felt a bit uncomfortable with his generosity but Chance insisted.
"To make up for disturbing your evening." He explained.
Tony shot Paul a meaningful look.
"It's no bother really." Paul said a bit unconvincingly.
Chance gave them what he hoped was a brave smile suitable for a widower picking up his late wife's dog and headed back to his car with Carmine hugged to his chest.
When he got back to the warehouse he put out some fresh food and water for Carmine and headed into the office to see if Winston was still there. He was and he looked up as Chance walked in.
"I wasn't sure you'd still be here." Said Chance.
"Yeah, well I wasn't sure that you were coming back." Replied Winston.
The bottle of whisky still sat on the desk but whereas it had been almost full when Chance had left it was now at least three fifths empty.
"I only went to pick up the dog."
Seeing how much of the bottle of whisky he'd got through alarmed Chance. He suspected that Winston hadn't really been waiting to see if he came back. It occurred to him that maybe his partner just had nothing to go home to and the office was as good a place as any to drink.
"You need a ride home?" Chance asked.
"No, I'm good." Winston replied, rising wearily to his feet.
"I'm not letting you drive." Chance frowned. "You gotta be way over the limit."
Winston looked sleepily at the bottle on the desk like he was only just realising how much of the whisky he'd consumed.
"Yeah, you might be right." He said. "I'll call a cab."
"I'll see you tomorrow."
Chance decided to watch from the window to make sure he really did get a cab home just in case. As Winston got into the taxi Chance found himself wondering just how much of an issue alcohol was for Winston. Tonight hadn't been the first time he'd seen Winston hit the bottle on his own.
Guerrero sat behind the wheel of his car deep in thought. He'd been putting off certain decisions for weeks now and one way or another it was time for him make a choice. He'd laid low for long enough, or more accurately for as long as he had the patience for it. It hadn't taken him long to track down Junior again after the incident at the cabin with Katherine Walters but Guerrero hung back from going to see him right away, trying to get a sense of what was going on with him and making sure that he was safe. Watching Junior's back was a long ingrained habit and he preferred not to dwell on the particular reasons why it was that he continued to be concerned for his welfare, it was just something he needed to do.
When he was satisfied that there were no signs of Baptiste or the Old Man showing up he'd gone to see Junior in the hopes of finding out what the hell was going on. The answers he'd got were unsettling to say the least as they indicated that Junior wasn't just distancing himself from their previous employer, he was redefining who he was.
Guerrero had never had much of a relationship with the Old Man, not like Junior had, but his employment with him had been convenient and he'd stuck around because the work was plentiful and varied. He enjoyed it when he had the opportunity to work along side Junior. Not only was Junior exceptional at his job, he was someone Guerrero respected personally as well as professionally, although he found his relationship with the Old Man claustrophobic. He'd half expected Junior to rebel against their employer's control over him one day, it's just that Guerrero had always assumed he'd just kill the bastard and take over his operation. Actually the Old Man would probably be proud of him if he had done that, it was more or less what he'd been grooming Junior for anyway.
Junior had surprised them all though and Guerrero was still trying to get his head around it. He'd spent the week since their meeting at the warehouse monitoring Baptisite and the Old Man. They had a big job planned in Eastern Europe and Guerrero knew that it was far too short notice for them to back out or generate new aliases, so tracking their movements online was relatively straight forward. It was an elaborate job that would keep the Old Man and what was left of his crew occupied for at least a month, probably longer now he was down his two best men. Guerrero figured it was probably as safe as it was going to get for him to put out some feelers for some free-lance work.
Things had been pretty quiet, which was to be expected. Guerrero had been part of the Old Man's crew for a long time and although there was demand for his services all the usual brokers were naturally nervous about crossing the Old Man. Guerrero wasn't surprised that it was Donnelly who was first to break rank and take a gamble on approaching him with a job. Donnelly wouldn't think twice about going behind the Old Man's back to hire Guerrero, especially if he was busy in Europe.
They met at Drake's and Donnelly discreetly handed Guerrero a flash drive containing the details of the hit. Donnelly was anything but trust-worthy and Guerrero was well aware of the risks he was taking by meeting with him but he figured with Donnelly at least he knew what to expect.
"Natural causes are preferable but the clients don't care too much how, as long as you're discreet and fast. They want it done by tonight."
Guerrero hadn't dignified that with a response.
The hit was on the editor of The Times and the flash drive contained little more than a short profile detailing the man's regular routine, his home and work address and, of course, photos. It was more than enough for Guerrero to take the man out but it gave no indication of who ordered the hit. When he'd been working for the Old Man he didn't need to know who's dirty work he was doing but now he was 'self-employed' as it were, he needed to know if there would be any repercussions to accepting the job. Like it or not, he was going to have to do a little digging in to the target's background.
It didn't take a great leap of deductive genius to realise that the reason for the man to be on someone's hit list would be more likely to be to do with his professional rather than private life. Hacking in to the mark's email accounts had been easy enough but Guerrero was surprised at the number of threatening messages they had contained. Most of them were over things trivial enough to be laughable and were sent by people who made no attempt to hide their identity, but a few stood out from the rest. Three messages contained no reference to a specific reason the editor was being threatened and there was no way a person inexperienced with tracing emails back through several proxies to the original IP address could have found out who was responsible for sending them. Guerrero tracked them back to the server of the head office of a gas company. Further examination of the contents of the editor's inbox confirmed that the paper was about to break a major story about inconsistencies between the companies official safety record and the number of employees suffering from respiratory problems. It seemed the gas company had been cutting corners with basic safety measures and The Times had the evidence to prove it.
Guerrero understood the thinking behind ordering a hit on the editor of the paper. Who ever was trying to manage the situation with The Times believed that by killing the editor the problem would be dealt with; but half an hour going through the emails had shown Guerrero that the story was solid and would likely be published regardless of the editor's fate. The most the hit would achieve would be to delay the story for a day or two before the newspaper could build an even bigger scandal by tying it in to the death of their editor. It was an easy job but it was ultimately pointless. Even if he made the man's death look like natural causes the story would be printed anyway.
That was when Guerrero got angry. Since when did he care why he was killing someone as long as he got paid? He knew exactly when. Since the conversation with Junior. He didn't really care about whether the editor of The Times lived or died, but the inefficiency of it all bothered him. Killing the guy would serve no purpose to anyone and it was an insult to his profession to even hire him to do it.
Damn it! Junior had made him start to consider things like meaning and purpose, things that had never bothered him before and shouldn't be affecting him now. If Junior had been trying to fuck with his head, he'd done a good job. What would be the point of taking on what was essentially a menial task for an organisation that was too stupid to come up with a real solution to their problem?
Junior was right about one thing though, if they both continued on their separate paths they were bound to face each other in a professional capacity sooner or later and one of them would have to pull the trigger. Was it worth it? Was the freedom to take whatever pointless, shitty job came his way worth having to one day kill Junior?
There was the Old Man to consider too. Once he was back from Europe he was bound to have something to say about Guerrero setting up in competition. Guerrero didn't trust anyone enough to partner up with, except Junior, and if he was really going to compete with the Old Man's crew for the best jobs, the challenging ones that got his blood pumping and his mind working on overdrive, he'd need at least someone to watch his back. Alone he'd only ever get the scraps that would pay their way but be tedious and unchallenging like Donnelly's fucking newspaper man.
Guerrero turned on the car radio and sat for a while, not really listening to the music but still tapping his fingers to the beat on the steering wheel. He found himself giving Junior's business proposal some serious thought. He had to admit there was some merit to it, he liked the idea of out-smarting the other guy and playing a longer game to achieve a more difficult goal. Killing someone was often quite easy but keeping someone alive had the potential to be much more challenging, especially if simply killing the opposition was out of the question. The idea was beginning to appeal to him on an intellectual level and working with Junior had to be better than working against him…
He turned of the radio and got out of the car. He looked around but the area of wasteland he'd parked up in was still just as empty as when he'd arrived. He walked round to the trunk of the car and popped the lid open.
"It must be your lucky day, dude" Guerrero said to the terrified newspaper editor who lay bound and gagged in the trunk.
Chance decided against the direct approach when dealing with Winston's drinking. He definitely wasn't up for any heart to heart intervention bullshit. Trying to explain his change of career to Guerrero had been excruciating enough and he still had a lot of his own emotional baggage to wade through without unpacking Winston's too.
As Winston seemed to be doing a lot of his drinking at the office Chance decided to just pull up a chair and match him drink for drink. Winston was suspicious at first as they didn't usually socialise as such but after a few nights knocking back the whisky until the small hours they talked less about the business and more about the careers they'd both recently left. Chance told him a bit about the Old Man and some of the scrapes he'd gotten into over the years. It was awkward because Guerrero's name inevitably cropped up and his appearance at the office was still a bit of a sore point. Winston told him how his police career had slowly been flushed down the toilet by his obsession with proving the corruption of his fellow officers. Chance noticed that Winston drank far less as they got to know each other and felt reassured that overindulging was more of a strategy to deal with stress than an indicator of a serious drinking problem. Finally venting some of the pent up frustration seemed to have eased Winston's mind.
By the end of the week the atmosphere in the office had lightened considerably. Thankfully Winston had an interview set up with some potential clients so he called a halt to the late night drinking sessions in the name of professionalism. Chance enjoyed a drink as much as the next guy but he was actually looking forward to waking up feeling rested instead of feeling blurred round the edges with his mouth as dry as Ghandi's sandals.
Last night had been the last time they were going to hit the bottle before cleaning up their act for the clients. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, to have one last night on the booze but Chance was regretting it now as the sun streamed through the windows on to his face and Carmine was jumping on the bed, eager to be fed.
As he threw one arm over his eyes it occurred to him that something was wrong with this picture. The blinds should have been closed and he knew he shut Carmine out of his bedroom last night so as not to have to deal with an overexcited puppy first thing when he was likely to have a hangover. Without opening his eyes he raised his arms in a lazy stretch and tried to discretely retrieve the 9mm that was strapped behind the headboard.
"You're seriously losing your edge, dude."
Chance's eyes shot open at the sound of the voice and sure enough Guerrero was standing at the foot of his bed, dangling the gun from one finger.
"Fuck off, Guerrero." He grumbled. The bright sunlight felt like someone was poking at his bloodshot eyes with red hot needles.
"That cop is a bad influence on you." Guerrero smirked.
Chance grunted and sat up rubbing his eyes.
"So, you gonna shoot me or join the team?" He asked.
"Neither. Let's just say I'm available for consultancy work." Guerrero replied. "What I do on my own time is my business but it won't put either of us in a difficult position regarding your news rules regarding killing."
"Good to know."
"I've put my number in your cell. Don't give it to the cop."
"Fine. What's it listed under?"
"Try 'G' for Guerrero you fuckwit."
"No alias?" Chance asked.
"Jesus Junior, if you can't be trusted to look after your own cell…"
"It's Chance now remember?"
"Okay, Chance. I'll try to remember."