There were a lot of things that Jack Noir didn't like.
He didn't like apples, for instance. He could never chew them enough to swallow and by that time they lost all their flavor and the skin always got caught in his teeth and the whole process was just repulsive. His right hand man, Paolo Diamante, insisted that maybe he'd like them if he had a real apple and not those cardboard radishes they sold in cafeterias, but Jack figured he was a goddamn adult and he was fucked if he had to eat some crappy fruit just to prove whatever point it was that he needed to make for Diamante to just let him eat an honest-to-fucking-Jeremy steak once in a while.
He also didn't like greasy-haired Irish detectives that whined like hungry toddlers and wouldn't leave him in a moment's peace. Seriously, the incompetent prick needed Jack's help dealing with a fuckdamn tenderfoot like the DMK, and he thinks he could help Jack take down Lawrie English? The man probably needed someone to hold his hand in the bathroom, there was no way that he'd be anything but a hindrance. Hell, Jack figured it was probably some big fiasco every time Sloan wanted to leave his office. He wasn't sure if Sloan had actually ever shot a man or if he just faced crooks so dull he could just jingle his keys at them and they'd turn themselves in. Jack thought about that. He wondered if it would work on Sloan. He'd be sure to give it a shot the next time he was unfortunate to be within twenty feet of his awful, shiny mug. This thought amused Jack for a while, but he soon looked at the phone and remembered what prompted the extensive internal monologue he had gone off on.
There were two things he didn't like most of all: giving into sentimentality and ratting out your buddies. Getting sentimental was how you got shot. Ratting out your buddies was also how you got shot. And stabbed. And your face bashed into a door eighty-nine times. Yeah, the only thing Jack hated more than a sobby sadsack was a slimy squealer. Which was why he cringed as he picked up the phone and set out to become both.
The phone rang exactly two and a half times before creating a sound that always made Jack flinch for a moment and then grit his teeth.
“Felt Manor,” rolled out a silky, fluid voice like moonlight through the tinted glass windows of a smoke-laden speakeasy at three in the morning. “Lucrettia Snow.”
Jack coughed unpleasantly, and, in his best effort to sound like he gargled aftershave, greeted the woman on the other end in the only suitable way he knew.
“Evening, Twinkletits. How're they hanging?”
There was the briefest of silences before the woman answered. “You know,” she purred like a smilodon, “the ability to address me as such without receiving a kerosene enema is a privilege that very few enjoy. And I could lower that number rather easily. Especially considering the hardware store next to your office is having a clearance sale.”
“Yeah, I know, it's nice to hear from me too.”
“I wouldn't even have to get the good stuff, really. It all burns the same.”
“Listen, Snow, I called for a reason.”
“Jack, you old charmer,” she said, the smile on her face somehow audible on the phone, as well as the cobra venom behind it, “I'm ever so sorry that you can't get to second base with that adorable secretary of yours, but I only just finished scrubbing everything down with bleach and airing out all of my rooms since last time. It's a process I'd rather not repeat.”
“You're a riot, Snowy. A literal riot. I'm laughing so much that there is actual looting in the streets. A guffaw just broke a shop window and carried off a brand new radio. But this isn't about that.”
“She is quite the little cutie though. What was her name again? Molly Painter? I can understand why you keep trying.”
“She ain't into girls,” Jack warned.
The woman on the other end laughed coolly, the sound of it bringing to mind the feeling of a long draw on a hookah. “Oh Jack, you and I both know that wouldn't matter.”
Jack had enough. “Would you shut the fuck up for two minutes, Snowman? Cut the crap, I called for a reason.”
He could practically feel the emotion fade through the phone. “Well, Mr. Slick, if you insist on formalities.” Her voice then turned hard, like a midwinter icicle stabbed through a windshield. “What is your purpose?”
Jack sighed. He hated talking to her like this. But it was necessary. “Listen, Snowman, I think we'll have to end the deal. Something's come up.”
He waited a couple seconds for her to respond, but she seemed to be waiting for him to continue. So he did.
“There's this asshole, a private eye by the name of Patrick Sloan. He's got two other jerks in his band of boy sleuths, and they came to me for help. They need the Crew to help them take down some upstart I never heard of. In return, they wanna help us take down the Felt.”
He paused again. This time she responded. “And?”
“And said no quailfucking way would I help those gravelpissing dicks.”
“But?” she asked.
“But Droog wants to do it.”
A pause. “Paolo.”
“Diamonds,” he corrected.
“I know,” she responded, her voice flat as ever.
“Look, I don't know why he's doing this, maybe it's a power grab, maybe he's still bitter about... well you know.”
“Diamonds Droog doesn't get bitter,” she said. “You know that.”
“Right, he stays cool while constantly boiling, I know that, I lived with the guy. But you could study him every day for three years and still not actually know a damn thing about him. Anyway, I don't know why, but he thinks that with the three new bozos we'd have a chance of taking you guys down, ending our comfortable deal for good. And this is gonna happen, and happen soon, whether I want it to or not. So I'd better fucking want it.”
They were both quiet for a long time. She broke the moment, her voice surprisingly soft. “Are you going to kill me, Spades?”
“No, Snowy, I ain't gonna kill you. That's why I called. I need you to get the fuck outta there. Leave. Go somewhere. Anywhere, I don't care. I don't hafta be able to find you, and maybe it's better if I can't, just go.”
Her voice was suddenly hard and direct again. “You're going to have to kill me, Slick.”
Jack scoffed. “I'm not gonna kill you, I just said that!”
“No, but you have to. That's how it is. That's how it's going to be. You have to kill me, Spades Slick, you know that.”
“Bullshit, Snowman, we ain't gotta do nothin'.”
“This is not negotiable,” she hissed, her voice sharper than a shogun's blade. “And I am not going to kill you. I don't want to.”
“Bullshit,” Jack spat again.
“Oh I want to maim you. Make you hurt. Tear your limbs off, gouge your eyes out, of course. But I don't really want to kill you, Slick. Truth be told, I'm not even supposed to. You won't win this battle unless you kill me, Spades Slick. There just isn't another way.”
Jack was furious that she'd say that. She knew that he didn't want their arrangement to end, and he knew that she didn't either. “You rancid bitch,” he growled. “I hope you die.”
“Yes, well, that's the plan,” she said, sounding like a hacksaw on dried bones. “I'll see you soon, I suppose.” She hung up.
Jack sat for a couple moments, not moving, before slamming the receiver down. That woman was the worst thing that ever happened to him. All of a sudden it seemed like he didn't give half a shit if she died. If she wanted to shuffle off the mortal coil so badly, fine. Jack didn't want to be the one to throw the switch, but circumstances is what circumstances is and he'd be damned if he'd let that impossibly gorgeous ugly old hag get in the way if he could help it.
The phone rang. He picked it up. “What?!”
“I won't tell anyone, by the way. You can rest easy. Goodnight, Spades Slick.”
The line went completely dead after that. Jack hung up and tried to dial again, but nothing happened. He shouted obscenities at the worthless communication device for a few minutes, then decided to do the only thing that would take his mind off things.
Go outside and find himself somebody to stab.