The first time Janet meets Joshua Young is because her skittish client wants to do business with him. Why someone would ever go to such a rumored to be volatile young man isn’t any of her personal concern but she still feels apprehensive entering the dim lit restaurant. It’s a neat organization, the eatery, lights low and tables empty on reservation to this one and only elusive Mr. Young. The hostess greets them with feigned interest and seats them with a tired ambience, she has obviously done this task one too many times. At the long table, Janet takes a seat closest to her patron who sits at the head of the table with his ominous guard to his left. Janet turns to her client, the towering Mr. Macdonough. She’s constantly surprised by his nervousness when speaking of his potential business partner judging alone by his size and incredibly high position. What’s a young CEO have that another billionaire doesn’t?
“So I only ask him for a loan?” she starts quietly,
Macdonough cuts her off with a short sound of unease, “You explain why my company needs this money and leave it at that. He either takes the offer or not, Janet you
know this. Don’t embarrass me.”
Janet stays quiet but rolls her eyes in annoyance. Will anyone give her a straight answer around here? Why is dealing with the underbelly such a hassle when they’ve got everyone at their disposal anyway? Macdonough’s got his men lined up out front, most likely with guns cocked which reminds her, why was that hostess so calm and collect? This line of work has clearly desensitized too many, including herself unfortunately.
A different, less unattached hostess comes over to recommend drinks. She offers a wine that the prestigious host usually chooses and Macdonough agrees easily upon hearing it. It’s strange, the way that her client is so jumpy today, a man that is usually stereotypically macho and demanding. He is obviously here to impress if not to take the damn guy he’s chatting up home. What’s the deal with that? The waitress leaves more glasses on the unoccupied side of the table and leaves the bottle in the middle before stepping away with the reluctant whisper of, I’ll be back to take your orders when Mr. Young arrives. Janet smiles teasingly at her and she blushes profusely before leaving.
Distracted for a moment, honestly it’d be lovely if she could get a pull after this showcase is over, Janet practically jumps at the sudden sound of a backdoor being opened roughly and Macdonough does the same, wringing his hands in his lap. The guard on the other hand remains positively cool. Desensitized. The soft ambient music playing in the backdrop does nothing to drown out the noise of at least five men making their way to the front of the restaurant. Suddenly, the mauve curtain to the backroom is swung open by an attractive young man of about thirty. He’s suave and built well, clad in a leather jacket and black jeans, every 90’s teenager’s wet dream. Without a doubt Janet knows this isn’t the acclaimed Joshua Young based only on the fact that he enters first.
“Hello,” he draws out, clapping his hands together and eyeing Janet immediately.
Janet’s suddenly tired, another overly cocky crony of the big boss. Another flirty double agent to be bothered with. Regardless of where she goes, she’s stuck with the same type of men, they ultimately never change if they want something intimate from her. The man steps in followed by other similarly dressed handsome young men and Janet begins to put the pieces together: these are Young’s men just as Macdonough has his men outfront. Alright interesting choices, she thinks, standing to greet them as Macdonough eagerly does the same.
The first man who entered kisses her hand unsolicited and winks at her with an arrogant, filthy smirk. Great. She purses her lips but greets him nonetheless although less enthusiastically. Macdonough nudges her eagerly as though this is a great sign of future business to come. Janet’s been in the business far too long to know that the cronies don’t even have an inch to what the big boss does. The curtain opens a final time to reveal a man that can only be described as pretty with a head of dark colored curly hair He’s obviously athletic underneath his glittery sequined jacket and he looks no older than 25. Janet’s suddenly apprehensive about the entire situation, how did a child like that earn the right to be regarded in such a way by the underbelly unless he’d done something absolutely irredeemable?
Joshua Young greets Macdonough as though he is an old friend, moving to the other end of the table to hug and kiss him. Macdonough could be his father, Janet notes, obviously only theoretically or else he wouldn’t have been so nervous...or would he? She’s pulled from her speculation by a gentle touch to her upper arm by her client.
“This is Miss Janet Rollins. She does some legal accounting and financial advocacy for me.”
Janet almost also want to add, and for a few others but she holds her tongue with the genuine grin that Young sends her way. His voice is a deep drawl and the pull of his words is practically intoxicating. He’s absolutely adorable and appears more than harmless if not deceitfully charming. She’s also slightly taller than him in her heels, score one for team Janet!
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Joshua but you can call me Josh. I do...many things,” he grins at her and she notices the way that he smiles with his tongue between his teeth. Absolutely harmless.
“It’s great that you can join us tonight!” Josh adds shaking her hand with gusto. Janet smiles back and almost pinches herself with the strange attraction she suddenly feels. His charm makes him seem untouchable, on a pedestal far away from the measly masses of the average mobsters. Maybe that’s what makes him so talked of, so… feared.
She takes her seat, eyes following Young across the table where he sits with the aid of the first man that entered who pulls his seat back akin to royalty. What an absolute card. Those are the men who willingly die first in a hail of bullets, and for what? A spot at the head of the table? Janet knows them all too well, men desperate to get a taste of what the boss has on a daily basis. The man catches her observing and grins roguishly as he sits and she easily looks away in disinterest.
Beside her, Macdonough clears his throat and smiles amicably.
“I assume we all know why we’ve decided to meet today-”
“Let’s order first,” Young cuts off, waving over the waitress from before. She rushes over, pen and pad in hand and Janet looks at Macdonough with raised eyebrows who only shrugs at her with an irritable smile.
After the entire table orders it’s quiet for a moment, Janet internally kicking herself for ordering pasta instead of the salmon. Oh well, she can have that tomorrow, that is if she can get through this business dinner tonight.
“I know what you’re going to ask me already and I’m not saying no,” Joshua Young starts, “I just want you to persuade me.”
Janet notes confusedly that Young’s aid is intimately thumbing the back of his hand on top of the table yet Young doesn’t bat a lash at him, attention focused on Macdonough. Janet makes eye contact once more with Young’s leather clad aid who grins bashfully and winks at her, continuing his ministrations and she purses her lips, choosing instead to look up at Macdonough. Similarly, Macdonough looks between the two men for a moment before quickly nodding with his potential ally.
“Mr. Macdonough would like to-,” Janet starts,
“I’d like to hear from Macdonough if that’s alright with you, Janet dear.” Josh smiles.
Macdonough startles briefly, turning completely to look at his legal assistant. She urges him to go on, honestly, how much more dense and out of it can this man be to such business practices?
“I want to expand business overseas, I want to create more partnerships I just need the funding.” Mcdonough says.
“The bank can’t help you?”
Janet’s back to privately gawking at Young’s aid whose hand covers his boss’s. No one else except her own client and his guard seem to find this strange. Regardless, Macdonough ignores it, eyes fixed on the prize.
“If you would just understand that it would be more...beneficial, should you be the one to fund my investment. You won’t regret it.”
Young sits back in his chair, pulling his hand away and crossing his arms over his chest. He’s the epitome of the term “at ease” and he has a smug look on his face. His whirlpool eyes are exceptionally full of mirth. Instead of answering Macdonough, he turns to Janet still grinning, the glint of his crimson sequined jacket positively blinding.
“Janet, love, forget what I said earlier, how about you tell me why I should go through with this deal. You seem like you’d be a better explainer as to why I should be interested.”
Janet straightens and flashes her most charming smile. She can feel Macdonough’s eyes on her as she prepares her statement.
“Josh, my client here is interested in spreading his business overseas. He’s already been in talks with foreign CEO’s. The Macdonough enterprise is absolutely thriving and…” she pauses for effect, knowing how to sweet talk a deal, “you’ll get a large portion of the equity. Macdonough’s enterprise is not very picky about the amount.”
Young watches her for a moment, narrowing his eyes. In her brief spiel his hand has gone back to resting on his aid’s wrist, fingers tapping out a gentle morse code-esque rhythm. It’s irritating and Janet doesn’t understand morse code.
The men on both of his sides look on lazily, almost bored. There’s a hint of electricity in the air that no one seems to acknowledge. Janet’s got a gun in her purse.
The waitress returns, grinning fondly at Janet as she places her pasta plate in front of her. Janet’s grateful for the interruption, unhappy with the way Young didn’t immediately take the bait and demand a precise amount of gratuity, hopefully she hadn’t lost her charm. She looks across the table at Young who isn’t paying his guests any mind, instead, his aid’s mouth is pressed against his ear through his rebellious curls, a wide smile across his face, thumbing gently at the back of the other man’s hand.
Macdonough turns to Janet thrumming with nervous energy,
“He has to accept the offer, I don’t know who else to go to, Janet”
He looks incredibly pitiful for such a large man. Janet stretches her arms and once again focuses her attention on the men across from her as the waitress bustles around the table. Josh has another hand resting on the wrist of the bleach blond man on his other side now, attention still focused on his aid. She doesn’t like their gossip-like whispering.
As the waitress leaves Joshua Young turns back to his guests with a sly grin on his features. It is surprisingly fitting for such a young man. Janet only now notices the blue bags adorning his eyes. What has this young man done in his time? Macdonough quickly rises to the occasion to speak with Young who looks on, eyes almost half lidded. This deal would not be happening soon judging by the uninterested expression on his face.
“20%,” she quickly adds, “20% equity of the overseas industry.”
Macdonough nudges her in obvious concern, he had most likely never offered up this much equity, but he did say he needed the funding. Beggars can’t be choosers can they. Young regards her for a moment, tongue rolling in his mouth. Janet’s leg twitches under the scrutiny.
“I want 30.” Young decides,
Macdonough makes a distressed sound causing Young’s eyes to switch easily to him. He appears almost bored yet drunk with power, the mixed aura oozing off of him. He grips the armrests of his chair and frowns, dark brows creasing slightly while leaning forward.
“You want my money or not?”
Where is this money even coming from? Janet thought, how can he just have all this money? She’d looked earlier through Macdonough’s assets to see the amount of funding he would need to send his business across the shore and was almost taken aback by the amount, she could buy a house with that! Scratch that, she could buy a house in LA and pay the mortgage upfront with that money. She could pay Queen to play a show at that house 20 times over with that money!
Macdonough turns to her and asks lowly, “Can we afford that?”
God, he’s plastered with greed. She thinks, they truly are all the same. She nods nonetheless.
“Great!” Young grins, he stands eagerly out of the grasp of his adoring men and walks around the table to Macdonough, a hand outstretched, “It was a pleasure doing business with you. Send someone round so I can sign the contract and make a check.”
Macdonough stands, stunned as he shakes Young’s hand, duped out of 30% equity but nodding regardless,
“I’ll send someone over tomorrow, is that alright?”
Young beams amiably, a different air to the all business face he had previously shown. Janet feels a chill go down her spine but stands to shake his hand anyway.
“And it was wonderful meeting you, Miss Janet Rollins.” He winks, naturally suave and charming as ever as he drops her hand.
It seems his entourage have no more interest staying the rest of the dinner, Young turning to his guests with a quick, I’ll take care of the bill before turning to leave. His entourage immediately stand to follow him out, nodding at the dinner guests. Janet watches Young’s blond man keep a steady hand on his waist.
As soon as they leave behind the curtain once more, Macdonough releases a shaky breath and turns to Janet,
“That went well… I think. I will be sending my guard, Garrett, over to Mr. Young’s home tomorrow with the contract that you will be writing tonight. I would also like you to accompany him.”
Janet almost rolls her eyes in front of her client, because seriously? Another day dealing with this garbage? What is this rat so afraid of?
“Yes, sir.” she says instead of biting the bullet. Men like it when they are called sir because it inflates their ego. Never forget that in the underbelly.
Macdonough nods before rising from his seat and motioning to his guard, Garrett, Janet now knows, to follow. Janet grabs her purse as well, her appetite is almost zero from the anxiety and dread exuding off of her client. He makes her sick.
Halfway out the door, the waitress from before gently pulls Janet aside, green eyes wide in rapture. She’s absolutely stunning and Janet easily slips her a non business-like grin as the waitress pulls a napkin from her apron,
“Just wanted to give you my number.”
Charlotte, the napkin spells out, along with 9 digits promising another convergence. Janet stuffs it into her purse and grins back at Charlotte who squeezes her arm gently,
“Call me, yeah?”
Janet nods, “Of course, thank you for dinner.”
Charlotte nods eagerly before waving her off shyly and stepping away to head back to her post, but not without a second look back and a sheepish smile. Janet’s swept off her feet in an instant and she leaves with a final wave to follow her client back to his tinted black mercedes benz.
Sitting in the car waiting for Garrett to return from inside the luxurious building Joshua Young calls home, Janet contemplates calling Charlotte. It’s only been a few hours since they’ve last seen one another, would it look like she’s desperate? Instead, Janet sighs and reclines in the passenger seat. Driving into Joshua’s home was really something else. The entire building surrounded by an incredible fence that added a protected and dangerous air to the beautiful ambience already present. She swears there are eyes everywhere on this premise, privacy be damned. If she had half of the money that this place cost she could at least move to a nicer flat. Sometimes living upstate New York and working with the mobsters wasn’t so rewarding, especially when people have to walk on eggshells everywhere.
Getting into the business was surprisingly easy, it’s about knowing the right people and being able to do the right kinds of jobs. Janet flourished in financing but had trouble finding a well enough paying job, so well, welcome to the underbelly. The work she does is not always stable but it pays enough for her not to have to worry about when next month’s rent is due. Janet sometimes finds herself worrying about the true dirty work that her clients do but no one has ever specifically gotten her involved so, “ignorance is bliss” continues to be her motto maybe also, “let sleeping dogs lie,” getting her hands dirty isn’t something that interests her; working in finance is alright as long as it pays.
Once again her mind drifts to Charlotte, really anyone willing to spend the night in her bed. It’s a tough world out here, at least Charlotte would know that working in such an establishment. Suddenly her mind is back on the elusive Joshua Young. Truly a man of his time from what she’s heard. A threat to the lives of other mobsters, of other CEO’s, of other people in general or so she’s heard. She’s made a promise to stay away from the worst, most talked about men but Macdonough had been persistent with this once, urging her to contact him and offering her more money than she could count. Who could say know to that?
Young’s name comes with a history of violence, assassinations, and the crumbling of the most prestige establishments. Janet doesn’t know which stories are actually true but she continues to believe them all just in case. Truly no one should know how to use nunchucks that well...can they? And now that she thinks about it, how long has Garrett been in there?
Janet sits up in her reclined seat, squinting at the cream front doors that remain sturdy and locked. He’s fine, she thinks, probably, how long has Garrett been in this business? Probably long enough. Maybe. He’s fine, she reassures herself checking the clock on the dashboard. It reads 9:42 am in glowing neon green and she frowns quietly, touching the face of the clock, it’s warm. Garrett went in there at 8:26 am, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to hand the man his damn clipboard. The contract she wrote was literally a page long, she recalls uneasy. If she leaves the vehicle right now would they shoot at her? She’ll give him another five minutes.
Janet’s practically thrumming with energy through the third minute, eyes locked with the dashboard clock. It feels like it can sense her distress and takes its sweet time moving forward. On the verge of panic and ready to dial Macdonough’s number, Janet’s heart almost bursts when Garrett throws open the front door at the four minute mark and briskly makes his way back to the car.
“Oh thank god.” she whispers, locking her phone once more and stowing it away. Her hand slides to the gun in her purse on instinct.
“Hey, just got a bit caught up!” Garrett chuckles as he slides into the driver’s seat.
He’s slightly sweaty, shirt half unbuttoned, only now Janet notices the way his breathing is almost labored as if he’d run a few miles. He starts the car and makes his way
out of the fenced enclosure. It smells like sex.
“God, are you fucking kidding me? You fucked him?” Janet demands, suddenly livid, “You left me in the car for a goddamn hour to sleep with a slimy mob boss?” The unprofessionalism of the situation makes Janet grit her teeth, the frustrations of having been previously regarded as nothing more than a sexual object by her fellow male peers getting a rise out of her.
“Relax, it’s done, it was a one time thing.” Garrett laughs easily at her anger. She almost spits in his face but he’s driving her back so she’ll let it slide this one time.
“I thought you were dead in there! I get crap for even looking at a man half suggestively and yet you go and sleep with him and no one will bat an eye! How old is he anyway, 18?” Janet demands,
Garrett just shrugs, buttoning the remaining buttons on his shirt with one hand,
“Aw you care about me!” He pauses, “I told you, it’s a one time deal. Can’t let a guy that good looking get away from me that easy right?” He’s laughing but Janet glares out the window instead,
“Well, I hope you had a good morning fuck, you sleaze.”
Garrett only continues laughing.
Back at her own flat, away from the heathens of Mcdonough and his unprofessional guard Garrett, Janet’s back to contemplating calling Charlotte. It’s been hard picking people up when she’s been working so often, it’d be nice to get a change of emotion besides the dread of anxiety and fear of trigger happy men she’d been seeing too often. A night out seems perfectly reasonable to her. She lounges back on her shabby, but loved sofa and pulls out her phone. The crack on the screen reminds her that she should probably fix that.
A quick dial introduces her to the bubbly voice of Charlotte,
“Hey, this is Janet. We met yesterday at the restaurant”
The name of the establishment suddenly eludes Janet, cursing herself in hopes that Charlotte doesn’t get offended, or worse, work at multiple establishments.
“Oh! Janet, hi!” Charlotte sounds as great as ever, making Janet laugh quietly, “I was really hoping you’d call, I was getting nervous thinking you wouldn’t!”
“Honey, I’m not even sure how long is reasonable enough to call and not look desperate anymore,” Janet laughs. She smiles hearing Charlotte’s sweet laughter back at her, “Can I offer to take you out tonight?” she adds.
“I get off at 6!” Charlotte practically croons into the phone, “Pick me up at the restaurant?”
“Yeah, I’ll see you then.” Janet beams and she hangs up the phone after a round of goodbyes.
She lays back on the couch and closes her eyes, preparing an outfit in her imagination. Charlotte seems like a humble girl, probably not someone looking for an eatery too upscale, but then again they were in New York, city or not, everyone desired to be upscale if they could afford to be. Janet mentally put together her leather jacket and short button up top, yeah, she always looks good in that.
The thought of leather brings her thoughts to Joshua Young’s aid. He was tall, a mahogany brunette with sharp features, he was certainly easy on the eyes. He’d been obviously flirting with her and in any other situation, Janet would have taken him up on his offer but something definitely felt off about it. Was he flirting with his boss? Come to think of it, weren’t all of Young’s men somehow suggestive with him? The young man certainly did have charm to him, they were possibly all just enraptured.
Nonetheless, Janet felt slight confusion and ache at the recollection of Young’s hands on the men on either side of him, effortless and cool, natural even. As though it was a regular occurrence. She forgets about it instantly.
“I have to admit, I wasn’t sure at first if you were actually interested in me and I didn’t want to seem too eager,” Charlotte rambled.
Janet grinned, “I’m glad you decided to take the risk!”
Charlotte only throws her blonde hair back in effortless elegance, Janet can feel her heartbeat inside her ribcage. She takes a sip of water, completely enchanted by Charlotte’s bubbly persona.
“I was just surprised at first, ‘cause you were sitting with Mr. Young and I’ve heard some things but I didn’t want to make assumptions about anything y’all were doing.”
Janet almost spits her water out but opts to swallow nonchalantly instead. Things she’s heard? What had she heard? God, was it something about her sleeping with Joshua because so help her god-
“I mean, like nothing too bad just about his status as a big guy, y’know?” Charlotte’s looking at Janet with wide, innocent eyes and Janet feigns confusion,
“Oh, I’m not sure, what kind of rumors?”
Charlotte grins wide and leans over her food, hair almost getting in her plate. Janet quickly reaches over to swipe her hair out of the way and Charlotte laughs before pulling it back and leaning forward once more.
“Like, I don’t know, I know he’s killed people? I think? There was this man who used to come to the restaurant a lot with him and then one day he just stopped comin’.”
She looks around as if someone may be listening in, “the hostess, Marie, says they probably just broke up but you know a few weeks ago I saw a missing sign with that
man’s face on it, I swear to god, Janet. He killed that guy!”
Janet just laughs gently as Charlotte sits back into her chair, nodding earnestly,
“I’m telling you, you’re laughing now but be careful there’s something up with him!”
She then signals the waiter who jogs over quickly and asks for more garlic bread. Sheepishly she looks back at Janet,
“Sorry, ha, but y’know what I mean.”
“They could have actually just broken up, Charlotte.” Janet says amused. Charlotte shakes her head quickly,
“I swear it was him on the poster! He’s come in so many times, Janet, I’ve spent ages looking at his biceps! Not that Mr. Young isn’t attractive it’s just that this dude would come in in his dress shirt and he was fuckin’ ripped it was crazy! I don’t think i’ve ever seen that much muscle on a dude with my own two eyes!”
Janet laughs aloud at that one just as the refilled bread basket is placed back on the table. Charlotte looks just as amused now, unable to keep a straight face about the alleged disappearance. Janet would’ve heard of that man’s vanishing, wouldn’t she have? Just another Joshua Young myth passed down by word of mouth.
“I’d like to do this again,” Janet says in front of Charlotte’s apartment. Charlotte beams in delight,
“Yeah of course! I had so much fun, Mrs. Bank Accountant!” She beams at that and Janet just shakes her head in delighted affection.
“We’ll text.” She murmurs. It’s quiet for a moment before Janet has a hand on Charlotte’s waist just in time to catch her in a kiss. Her lip balm tastes like artificial cherries and her hair smells incredibly clean, Janet wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
“Thanks for taking me out, on me next time!” Charlotte promises as she pulls back,
“Yeah, sure,” Janet replies in goodbye, knowing she won’t be allowing Charlotte to put a single cent on the table on the next date.
Waking up at three am to the jarring sound of her phone is what Janet believes hell to be like. That, combined with a marathon of Friends playing in the background. She almost throws the iphone across the room when she spots Macdonough’s name across the front, what could that fool want at such a late hour? She answers with reluctance after the third ring,
“‘lo?” her voice is so heavy with sleep she can barely get the greeting out. Definitely not an enthusiastic greeting.
“Janet there’s a problem” Macdonough says on the other end of the line.
“Yeah?” God there sure would be a problem to come if he was calling so late without a real issue.
“I haven’t seen or spoken with Garrett in three days.”
Janet stops breathing for a moment, when was the last time she had spoken with either Macdonough or Garrett? A week? Maybe even more than that.
“What do you want me to do about that?” She’s suddenly annoyed, there’s a small part of her brain nagging about a missing person poster, “I haven’t seen him either,” she resigns, “This isn’t my field of work, sir, you know this-”
“Janet, you were one of the last to speak with him after the two of you brought my contract to Mr. Young,” Macdonough sounds almost panicked, and how was Janet involved in this in any way? She usually stopped seeing her clients the second after they signed an agreement between business partners. She sits up in her dark bedroom and fumbles blindly for the bedside lamp, what a helpless, dumb, old man. What an excitable billionaire, the fool must have millions of camera around his home from only sheer paranoia, the poor man.
“Garrett’s a grown man, he can handle himself.” Janet swipes a hand across her face and stares at the green blinking numbers of her alarm clock, 3:24 am.
“Janet, Garrett’s been working with me for over ten years, he knows the ins and out of this line of work. Please, just help me out here, you know I wouldn’t actually go to you for help unless I really needed it.”
She pinches the bridge of her nose and sighs into the phone, legs curling under the covers. This was dirty work now and completely not her forte. She reminds herself tiredly that it doesn’t truly matter what Joshua Young does behind closed doors because it isn’t any of her business. It also isn’t her concern what Garrett decides to do with his life, she hardly knows the guy, nor does she care to.
“Okay, fine. What do you want me to do about it, Macdonough.” Her human conscience interferes with her own fight or flight instinct. Fight it is. There’s silence on the other end of the line for a moment as though Macdonough had expected her to refuse his request.
“Do me a favor, make a stop at Young’s.” Janet almost groans openly into the phone, really?
“I’ll send a guard to pick you up in the morning, it’s just-” Macdonough openly sighs, completely out of character for a man of such power, “He seems to take a better liking to you than me.”
“And what? I just demand to know where your guard is? That’s not suspicious at all, Macdonough.” Janet’s suddenly incensed with the thought that the man doesn’t care about her wellbeing at all. Well, he probably doesn’t, it’s just annoying that he’s so obvious about it. She’s doing his dirty work, “Pay me.”
“Pay me.” Janet repeats, “I’m not here to be used by the scum of the underbelly. You asked for my help, I work in financing for christ’s sake. Why can’t you just hire a hitman?”
“A hitman for Young? You’re crazy!”
“You’re crazy for thinking I would do this for free!” She’s absolutely fuming, almost yelling into her phone, luckily her flat’s big enough to not have to worry about an outraged neighbor. That would make two of them.
“Okay, alright.” Macdonough finally yields, “Just...make a stop there and talk to Young. Make it a casual visit, slip Garrett’s name in and see how he reacts. I cannot lose my best man, Janet.”
She narrows her eyes at the dark wall before her and sighs loudly,
“Thank you, Janet. Sincerely.” Macdonough sounds ten times more relaxed than when he had initially called, what was he doing up this late anyway? Pacing his room and pulling out hair? Sounds entirely plausible. Janet hangs up the phone without another word, or even a question as to what time the car would be around for her, they can surely wait on her if her presence is so important anyway.
The clock reads an irritating 3:38 am.
Returning to the grand estate is a dreadful experience, Janet’s stomach already turning at the thought of now having to step foot inside the home itself. Small talk and becoming acquainted with her clients is never in her best interest if she wants to ensure she lives to wake up another morning; this situation no different if not worse. It’s probably the fact that the estate is openly expensive that really makes her gut wrench because it was probably bought with blood money. She shivers.
“Do you want me to go inside with you?” the guard asks her after the car stops.
Janet thinks for a moment, would it look bad if she brought in a guy openly brandishing a gun into a mobster’s home? Probably.
“No, it’s alright. Please just wait out here.” Janet almost pointedly adds that he should stay away from fucking any stray men wandering about but decides against it, “I’ll be back in a bit, I’m not sure how long though.”
The driver nods, leaning back in his seat and placing his dark sunglasses onto his head,
“Whatever you like, boss.” He grins as she shuts the door on him. Hm, boss, she could get used to that. It certainly feels like she is one right now as she feels around in her bag for her own pistol. Only for self defence, her brain nags. Only if he tries something.
Standing in front of the grandiose cream colored doors is absolutely nerve wracking and for a moment she almost turns back to go into the car. Garrett’s fine, he’s grown, she reminds herself. Garrett’s been working with me for over ten years, Macdonough’s voice adds earnestly.
“Shut up.” Janet mutters quietly before ringing the intercom. She’s probably on camera right now, better fix her face.
The door swings open a few minutes later without a buzz from the intercom and Janet’s suddenly face to face with the bleach blonde from a week ago, who cocks his head in confused delight. He’s clad in only baggy grey sweatpants and a white shirt. It’s unnerving how overdressed Janet suddenly feels in her jeans and office-casual lavender blouse. The man stands in the doorway expectantly for a moment before Janet remembers,
“Hi, Janet Rollins. We met briefly about a week ago, is Mr. Young home?”
The young man watches her obviously amused before motioning her in. Janet takes hesitant steps inside before recalling her outwards appearance and straightening up instantly. The young man’s eyes are piercing ice blue, it’s almost difficult to look him straight on, or even in his general direction, something so obviously off putting about the entire scenario.
“Blue.” he offers.
Janet jumps slightly but takes his offered hand in surprise,
“Blue? Like the color?”
He smiles at her amusedly again and nods,
“Is that your real name?” Janet’s suddenly intrigued, are all of Young’s men named by a specific characteristic? Is leather jacket boy named Leather? She chuckles to herself.
Blue only shrugs, still smiling, “Josh’ll be down in a minute, you want coffee?”
He’s already leading the way to what Janet assumes to be the kitchen, bare feet pattering softly on the wooden floor. Janet has no other option but to follow or be left standing in the doorway. From what she can tell, Blue’s not armed but there definitely has to be knives in the kitchen, what kitchen wouldn’t have knives?
She follows him down the hall, the place is surprisingly well lit by the spacious glass windows framing the rooms. She’d expected something much more dark, sinister, even. Young seems more like a crimson, wine red type of guy. The pale blue drapery begs to differ.
“So did you decorate this place? I’m just asking ‘cause the draperies blue.” Janet jokes to Blue’s back. He’s at the counter, fiddling with a coffee machine that has too many buttons to comprehend.
“Nah,” he laughs turning to look over his shoulder at her, “It’s nice though right? Very cozy.”
Janet takes a seat at the wide marble topped kitchen island and places her bag in front of her, taking a look around. The place looks surprisingly lived in compared to the homes of many of the mobsters she had previously worked with. The table top is slightly messy with strewn papers and she spots a battered copy of Naked Lunch poking out from under a few sheets. There’s a kitty litter box in the corner and Janet smiles to herself,
“You’ve got a cat?” she asks delighted,
“Several” Blue turns back to look at her with a grin, “Well, I mean, I guess they’re all of ours but there’s Roman, Percy, and Natty. She’s the mean one don’t sneak up on her.”
He’s gripping the counter behind him in a relaxed stance that makes Janet suddenly yearn for the casualty of domestic living. And what did he mean by all of ours, who’s “ours”? Janet continues looking around the kitchen, there’s photos on the titanium fridge, most of them taken with old fashioned disposable cameras. Blue’s humming a tune that sounds familiar, possibly something she had heard on the radio. The atmosphere eases her instantly and she stands to look at the pictures, Blue’s eyes following her for a minute before turning to dig around in the wooden cabinets.
Most of the photos are of random men out and about. Most likely many of them were taken on the estate as Janet recalls having spotted similar furniture on her way in. There’s a few of Young himself with other people and her eyes stop on a rather intimate snapshot of him on a bed. It’s obviously morning, probably noon in the photo, light streaming in from another large window out of the frame. He’s sitting up, bare as anything, cream sheets over his crotch, legs tangled in the heap of blankets. He’s laughing, curls wild from sleep and he’s incredibly attractive just as Janet had remembered.
There’s two men on either side of him, one that Janet knows to be the leather jacket aid. He’s laying back, hand half obscuring his features but it’s obvious it’s him. The other man’s torso is obscured by Young’s own. Something inside of Janet turns uncomfortably, she hadn’t meant to intrude on such an intimate moment. She looks up at Blue who hands her a mug of black coffee and offers a cat shaped pitcher of cream which she gladly accepts.
“So how are things?” She asks suddenly awkward, what is she doing in this man’s home? Growing fond of something from the outside is only going to hurt her later. She almost shakes at the thought of possibly having to execute Blue and his tiny cat shaped pitcher.
Blue shrugs, still smiling cheerfully,
“Nothin’ much, I woke up about thirty minutes before you rang. Didn’t know you were stopping by.”
He says it in a way that makes Janet feel almost ashamed of having to assume the worst of him, as if they are old friends who have not spoken in some time and have now drifted apart. She nods and sips her coffee, Blue’s back to humming his tune and preparing a mug for himself. I didn’t know I was stopping by either Janet wants to add.
There’s a commotion from upstairs and they both turn to the doorway when the sound of footsteps begin making their way down the main stairway. Janet catches a flash of black jeans and another glimpse of long legs. Suddenly, Young’s in the kitchen doorway clad in black jeans with holes in both knees and an oversized floral button down, mostly unbuttoned. He’s also barefoot, and Janet feels the tinge of odd affection as he calls out her name good-naturedly in his deep voice. He makes his way over before she can move forward and pulls her into a gentle embrace. It surprisingly doesn’t feel unsolicited; she’s under his charm now.
“Should I have taken off my shoes in the doorway?” She jokes, and Young only genuinely laughs.
Following him is Leather, dressed in dark denim and a black shirt. He hasn’t got his leather jacket on but he truly has the 90’s greaser look down to a point. Curiously, he only half waves at Janet and nods his head, instead making his way over to press himself against Blue’s side by the counter. Janet watches the two playfully bicker over Blue’s mug of coffee, Leather’s hand on Blue’s hip before Young amiably asks her how she is.
“I’m great, actually! I just wanted to stop by and chat. I rather liked your presence,” she answers. Surprisingly, she can’t bring herself to say that is a lie. She did enjoy his presence, the air he left absolutely intoxicating, it was almost annoying how bewitched she was.
Young beams back at her before glancing at the clock on the microwave oven and Janet’s eyes land on a dark violet hickey just above his collarbone.
“It’s almost one.” he says turning back to her, “Would you like to have brunch with me? I actually haven’t eaten, you’re lucky you’re special or I wouldn’t have gotten up at all.”
He’s most likely joking but Janet feels uneasy about intruding for a moment before agreeing amiably,
“You should also call off your car.” Young adds, voice quieter this time.
Janet’s eyebrows raise in concern, “He’s just a driver, Josh. I told him to wait as long as I need. Honest, I came to see you.”
Young looks at her with an expression she can’t comprehend for half a second before shrugging, pursing his lips, features returning to their relaxed and cheery contortion before turning and motioning her to follow with his hand. She raises her eyebrows but accompanies him nonetheless, passing by Blue and Leather who ignore her completely in favor of buzzing between themselves like lovers. It’s entirely confusing.
Janet’s lead out through a backdoor at the end of the bright hallway, into a yard she wishes she could have had as a child. There are other guys back here, one’s that she recalls having spotted on the photos from the fridge and Young waves at them on the patio before pulling back an elegant chair at an expensive looking table for Janet to sit in. She thanks him quietly as he takes the seat across from her, the day is beautiful, sun shining high and the grass of the yard as green as ever. She suddenly remembers her bag is in the kitchen with the two conversationalists. She almost doesn’t feel uneasy,
“Janet do you have allergies? Vegan?” Young’s voice is that of a familiar acquaintance and she shakes her head at both,
“My dad used to say that allergies are only a state of mind, luckily I don’t actually have any!” She jokes, Young actually throws his head back in laughter at that, the hickey at his throat dark and strangely seductive, she won’t think about that for now.
“God Janet, I knew I liked you for a reason! What are you doing with that stuffy old man Macdonough anyway?” He doesn’t seem like he’s searching for an actual answer so she refrains from responding, only grinning into her cup of coffee.
Another young man, different from the two Janet had already met, places a tray with coffee, milk, and sugar on the table and Young thanks him quietly by the name, Thomas. Alright, so maybe they aren’t all named by physical characteristics.
“Wait so all your men aren’t named by physical characteristics?” slips out of Janet’s mouth before she can stop it and she mentally curses until Young looks at her with round wide eyes and an elated grin. It’s entirely infectious and causes Janet to break out into a fit of giggles.
“Janet! No!” He’s absolutely shaken with laughter now and the two of them share an intimate chuckle, “Is it because of Blue? He’s got the iciest blue eyes right?” Young looks incredibly fond for a moment, “great genes,” he adds.
“He does,” Janet nods, that paired with his white blonde hair made him seem ethereal. Maybe this is not a good time to hit on one of his men though.
“Nah, he just introduced himself that way and it stuck,” Young nods along, resting his chin on his hands, “He’s pretty, huh?”
Janet almost wants to interject that literally everyone she has seen on this estate is pretty, including Young himself. She almost feels like a troll in comparison.
“You’re pretty too, Janet. Don’t put yourself down now.” Young cuts in as if reading her thoughts. He isn’t looking at her though, busy pouring himself a cup of coffee from the regular shaped pitcher. The milk is inside a puppy shaped pitcher.
“You’ve got the bronze goddess glow to you, something some people would kill for.” Young smirks, still not looking at her. Janet fiddles with the cutlery in front of her to keep busy, a small grateful smile poking at her lips. Young’s grin widens when he spots it,
“Don’t underestimate yourself, yeah?” His voice is gentle, quiet even. Janet feels like she’s out with someone she loves dearly.
Thomas returns this time with plates of the traditional breakfast: sunny side eggs, bacon, and toast. Placing the plates in front of the two, he grins down at Young who pulls him down by the shirt front to press a chaste kiss against his lips and murmurs a soft, thank you Thomas against his mouth. Then Thomas leaves as though he was never there and Janet sits surprised for a moment, the yellow of her eggs smiling up at her as if they know something she doesn’t.
Young doesn’t say anything about the moment, instead turning his attention to the meal before him and humming quietly as he puts pepper on his beaming eggs.
“I’m not usually a morning person,” he admits, “You just got lucky.” It’s a reiteration of his earlier words.
“Me neither,” Janet chooses to say instead. Her thoughts drift to the mark at Young’s throat, to Garrett’s own sexual encounter. She almost tells the story about Macdonough dialing her at three am and then remembers what the phone call was about; what this meeting is supposed to be about.
Joshua Young’s shirt is a pale pink shade, florals a deeper red, it makes him look soft and reasonably just like an average rich New York hipster. If Janet hadn’t heard the stories beforehand she wouldn’t have even come in here with a gun. She needs to cut to the chase.
“Josh, there’s something I want to ask you.”
His eyes flicker up at her briefly, dark endless pools, it’s almost impossible to tell where his pupils end.
“My client is worried about his man,” she licks her lips, unsure of how to go about the situation, it’s suddenly tense, “He last sent him here.”
“I thought you were here to see me,” Young’s tone is joking but nobody's smiling, he’s stirring his cup of coffee and not looking at her.
“I am. I do like you from our brief encounter, and I don’t want to accuse you of anything but he asked me to just slip it in while I’m visiting,” she pauses, “I don’t want to impose.”
“Janet dear, you’ve imposed enough the second you decided to bring up that piece of shit in my house.” Young’s eyes are suddenly on her, piercing and wide, but different from the innocence of before. She can suddenly see how this one has killed people. She instantly tries to recall if there were bumps in his clothing where he could be concealing a weapon. Then again, if the nunchuck story is true, why would he even need to conceal a gun when he could just hit her over the head with the puppy pitcher.
Janet’s fighting skills are good, she would like to admit, they have to be in this line of work. But if all she’s heard of the one before her is true, then she’s a goner for sure.
“Josh, I’m honestly not even interested in this man. Macdonough just wants to know where he’s gone off to,” she sighs, or where he’s buried.
Young’s not looking at her, strong jaw set hard. The half eaten toast on his plate stares at Janet solemnly,
“You know it’s funny,” Young starts, “because I thought you were better than them, Janet,” his fist hits the table hard and unexpectedly, the atmosphere is suddenly a lot more grim. There’s no one outside anymore besides the two of them, oh god, she’s gonna die out here isn’t she? It’s almost comical how quickly Young went from the face of a lover to the notion of a killer in the time it took Janet to say one sentence.
“What did you do to him.” her statement disguised as a question comes out in a soft whisper, “he didn’t deserve to die, Joshua.”
“You can’t tell me what he did or didn’t deserve, Janet Rollins!” Joshua Young is suddenly standing, both hands on the table. His voice comes out like a roll of thunder and Janet flinches a miniscule, heart hammering in her chest. It’s a completely different feeling to when Charlotte laughs, Young is leering at her.
“Why do men like to play god?” she asks, voice shaking slightly, eyes narrowing like a threat. May Janet Rollins be known to have stood up to another boisterous man who believes himself to be god in the hour of her death.
Young looks livid, fingers digging into the tablecloth, eyes narrowed,
“You wanna know what he did huh, Janet? You wanna know where your man is going now that he’s reached purgatory?” So he is dead then.
“Your man came into my home,” Young starts, voice low and tone warning, “and decided that he has the authority to put his hands on anyone he wants and he raped me, Janet Rollins.”
Janet’s heart may have stopped all together, she definitely knows she stops breathing for a good second. She suddenly notices that she’s holding the tablecloth tight between her fingers. Young’s eyes are still piercing her, they’re shiny and infinitely black, there’s a bird chirping in the distance. Suddenly, Joshua Young looks much older than Janet previously thought, the blue under his eyes insistent, eyes sharing a look older than his physical body. He had seen things.
“I-” Janet begins, but Young cuts her off,
“He took the one thing I find comfort and pleasure in and he tainted that. May the gods have mercy on him should he have put his hands on one of my boys.” he says this in a whisper that sends a chill through Janet’s body. There are curls falling into his eyes but they remain large as if reading through Janet’s thoughts. She almost wants to cry for him.
“Fuck,” she breathes deeply, “shit, Josh, I didn’t know! God I-” she’s incredibly choked up all of a sudden. Garrett did that? The one thing she finds unforgivable, Garrett...god, she might be sick right here, covering her mouth, eyes wide like orbs, heart beating in her throat. Young purses his lips watching her,
“I know you’re not really involved with Macdonough,” he chooses to say, voice quieter than the shout he had made earlier but louder than the whisper of heated confession. He’s straightened up now, finger shaped spots left in the tablecloth,
“And I know you’ll make the right choice not to be further involved with him.”
Janet’s still in complete shock, gone almost catatonic, breathing hard. It was one thing to know that they kill each other in this business, because honestly, what boss hasn’t? But this sunk to a different, more vile low. Janet was instantly relieved Garrett was dead. God, she’d been in the car with him after he’d done the deed, she’s positive it was that day. No wonder the bastard was so smug and quick to leave the premise after jumping in the car.
“Fuck, I’m so sorry he did that to you!” Janet’s voice is almost panicked, she feels some sort of connection to the secret Young’s shared with her, she’d been there and she didn’t know.
Young quietly takes his seat and pushes forward against the table gently. His expression remains neutral to Janet’s deep concern, fingers toying with the handle of his coffee mug,
“I don’t run a scummy business, much to the rumors I’ve heard about myself,” Young stares at the table in front of him, “We do things to people that deserve things, Janet. Sometimes it’s a quick bullet and sometimes it requires a-,” he bites his lip, “a little more.”
Janet wouldn’t in a million years before this moment admit to siding with a mafiosa organization but now she can clearly say she sides with at least one, and of course, just her luck, it happens to be the most talked about assembly. She shuts her eyes tight for a second as though willing away the entire situation.
“Love, it’s alright,” Young murmurs suddenly tender, he reaches across the table to take her hand gently, “It’s over. Just know that I’d gladly dig him up and execute him again if my boys would only tell me where he’s buried.” He says this jokingly and it does help lighten the mood a tad but Janet can’t do anything except squeeze his hand tight and frown to herself.
Leather jacket is suddenly outside before either of them can say anything more, a genuine wide smile spreading across Young’s face as he lets go of Janet’s hand. She’s still trembling slightly but she pulls her hand back and maintains her headstrong facade. She’ll cry about it later.
“Everything alright out here? Anyone want anything else?” Leather says this as he moves to stand beside Young, Young’s arm immediately wrapping around his, looking up at him with a beaming expression. How can he still look like the sun after all this?, Janet thinks sadly.
“No, it’s alright I’m fine, Danny, anything for you Janet?” Young looks at her with his head cocked slightly,
“No-no, it’s fine. It was wonderful.” Janet says to Leath-Danny easily who smiles in amusement and nods at her. He’s no longer flirty with her, instead intimate with Young, leaning down to press their mouths together. Young kisses him in earnest, straightening in his seat to meet Danny halfway who easily bites his lip, hand resting on Young’s jaw, before pulling back with one last quick peck. He gathers the coffee objects onto the tray left behind and leaves the patio with a soft alright.
Janet already misses the puppy pitcher.
“What would you do if someone raped you?” Janet asks quietly, “Hypothetically, obviously. Would you kill them? Is that justified?”
Charlotte’s eyes widen and she does the thing where she looks around to see if other people are listening before leaning in,
“Janet, did someone rape you?” She demands in a whisper.
Janet fidgets with the diner’s napkin dispenser before shaking her head,
“No it’s not-”
“Did Mr. Young touch you?” Charlotte’s jumping to conclusions now and Janet almost feels offended in his defense,
“Charlotte, no. I’m just asking hypothetically .”
Charlotte eyes her for a moment before sweeping some hair behind her ear endearingly and shrugging,
“I mean, I guess I’d like to kill them. I don’t know if I’d ever go through with it, I mean blood on my hands? I don’t know. I get nervous when I see an injured bird,” she laughs uncomfortably, “but I think I’d like to.”
Janet nods, “Same here, probably.” I’d also kill them if they tried to touch you she almost includes. Great, now she has a soft spot for Joshua Young, it’s positively revolting and makes her feel uncomfortable and out of place. Taking sides in such an industry is almost akin to a deathwish.
Charlotte seems to notice Janet’s weariness, taking it as a sign of stress from her “banking work”. Charlotte also seems to know that Janet doesn’t work with any bank one can find with a quick map search but she never asks questions about it, instead reaching across the table to take Janet’s hand. It’s the second time in two days that Janet’s been babied like this and she sighs tiredly, squeezing Charlotte’s hand before letting go.
Janet had told Macdonough’s guard doubling as her driver about Joshua Young. She didn’t add that Garrett was dead, just that Young hadn’t seen him, she know Macdonough is too scared to continue investigating Young without her help anyway, and she would no longer be taking any more work from the scoundrel.
After brunch, Young had shared that he didn’t intend to follow through with Macdonough’s financing plans and would gladly burn down the Macdonough empire should the man come after his own money. He’d shared this with a cheery look on his face, childlike aesthetic shining through. Janet guarantees it was something out of a horror movie, something just too plausible to be funny. She hadn’t laughed with him but willingly accepted his embrace before she left. Let Macdonough’s man be the middleman in this situation, she wants absolutely nothing to do with it.