I sat around waiting for my mom to finish cooking the bacon. I hadn't slept well again at all, so now I was going to be a walking zombie throughout the day. I had sort of come to expect it, wake up in the middle of the night with cold sweats, my chest aching at the memories. I was promised a job right out of college. High paying, and decent hours. I could afford my own home and car without a single worry. Until everything collapsed out from under me, my father was transferred to another firm three towns over. A place he didn't have connections, where he could hire his son without anyone batting an eye. That wasn't going to happen, and even if I had applied at every job in town, going from interview to interview, it wasn't enough. My mom was more than happy to keep me home while my dad was at work constantly, but I felt terrible. They could barely afford the house themselves, let alone me live in my old room. I lied to my mom, said I was going to be living with a friend right after college. She of course insisted that I stay with them for a few months. And I did, until my dad came home and nearly threw me out himself. I moved out quickly after that, without anywhere to go. I came by my parents house at least once a week, to ensure my mother that I was still alive and well.
“Oh Johnathan, I met the sweetest girl at the store the other day” That was the other thing, my mom was always trying to find me a girl to settle down with.
“Mom, you need to stop doing that” I mumbled lowly and sipped my coffee, she had almost given my number to one of my classmates. And that's when I finally put my foot down and told her to knock it the fuck off.
“All you do is mope around, a girl can help lift your spirits” She flipped the bacon onto a plate lined with paper towels. Giving me “you know damn well I'm right” type of look.
“And when I find a girl I'll let you know” I rolled my eyes and sat back in the wooden chair.
She set down the plate of bacon and started to pile her own plate with food. I missed my mom's cooking more than anything. She could make almost anything from scratch, the kids would always be jealous of how good my food was at lunch. Didn't even change when I was in college and my mom was making me homemade Italian food. Homemade meatballs with a red sauce that was to die for. And now I couldn't get that, not unless I could get a job and help pay the bills around the house.
“What about that girl you were friends with?” My mom hadn't looked up from the book she was reading, her fork holding up a piece of egg in the air.
“Who? I went to school with a lot of girls mom” I said eating another slice of bacon. The grease felt good in my stomach.
“Krista, she seemed like a really sweet girl” She glanced up from her book to gauge my reaction. I kept on my best poker face and ate a forkful of eggs.
“I haven't seen her since we graduated, she probably has a boyfriend by now” Sure I wasn't keeping tabs on everyone I had gone to school with, but she was definitely one that had my eye for a while. I was just too afraid to talk to her at times.
“Doesn't hurt to talk to her” I opened my mouth to tell her to back off, before my dad came storming in, the front door slamming loudly behind him.
He stopped in the doorway to the kitchen and looked between my mom and I, his eyes narrowing slightly as he looked at our plates.
“What's he doing here Karen?” He clenched his fists and growled, my father wasn't fond of how close my mom and I were. In fact he wanted no part of it, ever.
“He needs to eat, and he happened to be in town during breakfast time” My mom was rambling, it was a nervous habit she had picked up after I was born.
“I don't fucking care if he needs to eat, you know how tight our money is!” He threw his hands into the air and stormed into the kitchen, my mother apologized and followed behind him quickly.
I had lost my appetite entirely, wanting nothing more than for the floor to open up wide and swallow me whole. I finished what was left of my coffee and grabbed my jacket before running out of the house. My best friend Billy had called me and asked if I could swing by his office later in the day, and with how shitty breakfast had gone I had a lot more time on my hands than I intended. So I called him and told him I was going to stop by before noon, then I could find a decent place to sleep for the night.
“Johnny, jesus man you look like shit, smell like it too” Billy wrinkled his nose and sat farther away from me, I hadn't had a proper shower in a few days, my clothes needed to be washed as well.
“I've been homeless, it's kind of hard to shower or wash your clothes without a shower or washer” I rolled my eyes and held my hands in my lap, picking at the skin around my nails.
“Did you just say you're homeless? What the fuck Johnny! I would've let you stay at my place for the time being” Billy slammed his hands onto the wooden desk loudly, his eyes full of anger.
“You know how I am, I don't like to bother people if I don't have to” I said avoiding his gaze any longer.
“You're going to my place after you leave, and if you don't I will hunt you down” Billy frowned and sighed, his eyes softening as he did.
“Only until I can find a job” He gawked at me, did he really think I would be able to keep a job if I was homeless.
“You really know how to make me feel like an asshole for not checking up on you” He ran his hands through his hair and sighed, looking over at the clock that hung from the wall.
“Sorry, I just didn't want anyone to worry” It was a half truth, I was too ashamed for them to find what had happened to me.
“Go to my house, take a proper shower, and wash your clothes” Billy was holding out a pair of keys to me. I knew if I didn't take the keys he would drag me out himself, but if I did take the keys I would feel like a freeloader.
I nodded and took the keys from his palm. I guess if I was going to turn my life around, I was going to have to start somewhere. And this was exactly where I was going to turn everything else around.
2 Months Later
“Plant your feet!” Billy was trying to train me to become one of his men that protected his clients, and it was harder than I had anticipated. I had more bruises than I thought possible.
“You came at me like a bull! How am I supposed to counteract that?” I threw down my water bowl and coughed hard, I needed to catch my breath more than anything.
“Because that's how Bakers men are Johnny! They're all built like tanks, and if you want to take any of them out you need to train” He snarled and crouched down, looking for any of my weak points. And right now my entire body was a weak point.
“Billy please, can we stop for tonight?” I only had a few seconds to react as Billy came barreling towards me, slamming into my body with all of his weight.
I hit the ground hard, my head cracking against the ground. Everything was suddenly blurry, and shifting. I closed my eyes and willed for the pain to pass, hoping it wouldn't last for more than a few seconds. Billy stood over me, and frowned.
“You gotta do better Seward, I don't need you getting killed” He crouched down and helped pull me into an upright position. My head was throbbing from cracking it onto the concrete below.
“I'm not gonna get killed Hargrove, I'm still training” I held the side of my head and winced, there was a small amount of blood on my fingertips. That was a first.
“Let's get out of here for now, we can come back tomorrow” Billy stood up straight and walked over to where he had set down his gym bag.
I had been busting my ass with exercising, building as much muscle as I could in the limited amount of time we had. I had lost some pounds, and gained muscle for sure, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't ever really going to be enough. Billy waved a quick goodbye before leaving the gym, leaving me to my own devices. I looked down at my phone, biting my lip softly. My mom was right, and it had lead me to call Krista and ask her on a date. She answered almost immediately that she was waiting for me to ask her for some time, she had a crush that didn't seem to want to leave. One date lead to two, which lead to three, and soon enough we were official. Her parents weren't too fond of me though, said I was too reckless for their daughter.
I was determined to prove to them that I was a perfect fit, considering their daughter and I were inseparable from the start. We moved into an apartment that Billy was helping me pay for, although I promised to help pay him back when I had the money. He would shake his head and leave before I could get another word in. We both knew how reckless it was to move in together so soon, but it didn't matter to either of us. We were happy together and that was all that mattered. And once Billy seemed happy with my progress I could move up to becoming a watcher, as the guys called it. That day just happened to happen sooner than I expected.
The air was cold around me, it didn't seem normal for California in the middle of August for it to be so cold. The cars were long gone on the road, I had only seen one or two pairs of headlights as I drove down the long strip of road to my apartment. Theo had texted me asking if I could do a favor for him, and that was more uncommon than anything. The man never asked for anything. He had a job to do and he couldn't do it, his wife was becoming too suspicious and he was afraid she was going to leave him. I accepted the job and turned the car back around quickly, I was going to show Billy I could handle anything he threw at me.
I pulled up to the address Theo sent me and frowned, the house was pitch black. Had they left without anyone noticing? No that couldn't be it, they must've been inside sleeping. Oh well, I was here to do a job. Get in and get out, Billy's words were ringing through my head. I slipped on my hood and covered my face with the bandanna I always kept close by. The gun I kept in the glove compartment was hidden in the back of my jeans. As I stepped closer to the house I noticed it wasn't dark anymore, a television was on in what I could only assume was the living room. This wasn't going to be as easy as I hoped.
I snuck around to the backyard, it looked as if the sliding glass door was partially open. Jackpot. I tiptoed up the steps leading to the deck and held my breath, if this person had a dog I was fucked. Checking the surrounding area I noticed no signs of any kind of animal, good. As I pushed open the glass door slowly I could smell whiskey, the smell of it burning my nose slightly. I could worry about things like that later. The sound of a man groaning loudly could be heard from where I stood in the kitchen. I held my breath and walked in slower, the man was asleep in a recliner, a bottle of whiskey looked as if it had been spilled all over the floor. So that's where the smell came from. I cocked my gun and pressed it against the side of his head, firing twice. His head lolled to the side as blood and brains sprayed onto the fireplace. My stomach churned as I watched the blood drip down slowly. I turned and fled the house quickly, I needed to get home and wash away the memories of what I had just done.
The memories were fresh in my mind as I stood inside the jewelers looking over engagement rings. It had been six months since I was recruited to be a watcher and a hitman. Each hit was easier, you never looked at their face when you pulled the trigger, or sliced through the artery. You just got through it and went home for the night. Theo promised it got easier, but there were some that stuck with me for a while. Children waking up and seeing their parent dead on the ground, their fathers killer holding a gun towards them. That was the one thing I couldn't do, I couldn't kill a child. Billy told me it was rare, he had only ever had it happen to him once in his career. I was going to ensure it never happened again.
“Johnny?” Billy asked gently, his hand resting against my shoulder.
“What if she says no? I can't lose her Billy” I looked over at him panicked, I had made so many excuses to Krista as to why I was gone well into the night. She just listened and nodded, never speaking a word before heading back down to our bedroom.
“She'd be crazy to say no, and you know that” Billy called over the woman working behind the counter, she blushed at him and took out a small tray of engagement rings. They were way higher than what I set for a price range.
“Billy, these are too expensive” I mumbled holding one between my thumb and forefinger. The diamond was glistening under the store light, I was sure it'd look even better in sunlight.
“I'm going to pay for it, how's that sound?” My head snapped up to look at him, the man was crazier than I though.
“These rings cost almost as much as the down payment on your house, I can't accept that” I was willing to find a nice ring at a better price.
“Too bad, find the perfect one and get it” Billy stepped back from the counter and crossed his arms.
I frowned and looked through the rings, while they were all gorgeous none of them felt right, she deserved something unique.
“Are these all you have?” I asked looking up at the woman, she reached out and pulled out a tray like the one before. The rings on this one were different, each one had one large stone in the center followed by smaller stones on the band.
I picked up a ring without daring to look at the price, it was the perfect ring. The band was the perfect size to fit her petite fingers, it screamed everything about her.
“This one, this is her ring” I glanced down at the price and felt my heart drop, there was no way Billy was going to pay that much.
“Would you like a rounded or square box for the ring?” The woman, whose nametag read Nancy asked as she took the ring from my fingers.
“Square please” I said softly, my hands were shaking from the nerves.
Billy walked over to pay, talking too low for me to hear anything he said. When he heard the price his expression didn't change at all, still calm and collected. I knew he had plenty of money to last him a thousand life times, but still! This was crazy. Nancy walked back over with the box inside a small black bag. Now all I had to do was get it by Krista without her asking any questions. I wanted to propose in a special way, show her how much I loved and cared about her.
That was all thrown out of the door the moment I walked inside, she stood up from the couch roughly. Her cheeks and eyes were red, tear tracks on her cheeks.
“I can't do this anymore! You don't tell me where you are, and whenever I ask you give me a half assed answer as to where!” She stomped her foot and screamed, and if it was any other situation I would've laughed at her tantrum. But I was on the verge of losing this woman.
“Do you really wanna know where I go? You sure you can handle it?” I watched her expression closely, she was still angry with me.
“Yes! You're supposed to be my boyfriend” She shrieked, her voice cracking the higher it got.
“I work for Billy Hargrove, he's the one whose helping pay for his apartment, the one who helped buy this fucking ring!” I threw the bag at her, anger overtaking all of my emotions.
“Billy Hargrove?” Her voice was softer now, but I didn't care. She slowly picked up the bag and pulled out the velvet box.
“I kill people, I'm like a fucking mobster. That night I came home and broke down after we had sex? I had killed a man for the first time. He was drunk as hell and I watched pieces of his brain slide down the wall” I stopped and took a breath, I hadn't noticed how badly my lungs were burning from the lack of oxygen.
“Johnny” Her voice came out as a whisper as she opened the box, but I wasn't done.
“I do all of this for us! To ensure that no matter what we can be together, and if it's so hard for you then just leave” I pushed passed her and went down to my study, slamming the door loudly.
My thoughts were racing as I paced the small room, grabbing the pack of cigarettes that had been sitting on my desk for a couple weeks. I cracked open the window and pulled out a cigarette along with my lighter. The nicotine filled my lungs quick, overtaking all the negative thoughts that were bouncing around. It was then that I realized she knew about the ring, she knew what I was going to do and I had fucked up beyond recognition. I pulled a deeper drag into my lungs and sighed, blowing the smoke out slowly. Three cigarettes later the door opened, revealing an even redder faced Krista, except this time there were tears flowing freely down her cheeks. The ring was sitting on her finger, just like I had dreamt about.
“I'm sorry” I set the cigarette down into the ashtray and held my arms open for her. She walked over and crawled into my lap quickly, her face buried in my neck.
“It's all my fault” She mumbled, her tears soaking the collar of my shirt gently. I shook my head and rubbed her back in slow circles.
“I shouldn't of snapped, I'm so sorry Johnny” She clutched onto me tighter, her breaths coming out shallow.
“How about, we go lay down in bed and watch a movie?” My phone was going off in my back pocket, but right now I needed to be here for her. She nodded and stood up holding onto my arms.
That night we spent hours talking about who I was when I was working. She made a few lighthearted jokes to help ease the mood, her ring shining in the dim moonlight. We weren't going to waste any time in getting married, I needed to ensure she was safe at all costs, no matter what it took.
“Billy! You made it!” I ran over to where Billy stood and wrapped my arms around him in a tight hug, Krista was busy talking to my mom trying to keep her busy.
“Wouldn't miss it for the world Seward” He smiled down at me and patted my back gently, slipping a white envelope into the opening of my tux. I furrowed my eyebrows as he headed over to the bar.
I took out the envelope, thumbing through the bills quickly. My jaw dropped open. He had given me nearly twenty thousand dollars! Jesus, that would pay off both of our cars and then some. I walked over to Krista and handed the envelope to her, begging her to put it in her bag. I couldn't risk anyone seeing us with that kind of money. She nodded and went off to the side room where she had stowed away a bag for herself. I turned around to find Billy, only to notice him talking to Y/N. I thought it better than to walk over and possibly ruin his chances of getting a girlfriend. Lord knows he needed one more than anything. Maybe she could help ease his mind off of everything that was going on behind the scenes.
Our honeymoon went by faster than I thought humanly possible. It felt as if we landed in Italy just yesterday, and then we were flying back home to be with our friends and family. Krista was going to announce to everyone that she was pregnant. The doctor we had seen confirmed she was around three months along. Something my parents wouldn't be too happy about. As soon as we stepped inside our house my phone started to ring. I groaned and answered it, knowing that if it was Billy I could be in deep shit for ignoring a call. The voice on the opposite end confirmed my feelings.
“There's a hit, I need you by tonight” I wanted to tell him no, I was still jet lagged from the flight.
“Are you sure? Can't you take Theo?” I asked with a slight yawn, it wasn't that I hated helping Billy out. But I wanted to enjoy my life as a married man a little longer.
“He's out to dinner with the in laws, if you can do this for me I'll leave you alone for the weekend” The offer sounded tempting, I hadn't had an entire weekend off in months.
“I'll be by in twenty” I hung up before Billy could get another word in, heading down to where Krista was in our bedroom. I pushed the door open to deliver the bad news and smiled softly, she was asleep in the bed. I was doing this all for her, and the little baby she was now carrying.
When I arrived at where Billy had asked us to meet I noticed another car sitting next to his. It wasn't one I recognized at all. And when Theo pulled up next to me I knew something was wrong. Billy never asked for more than one of us to join him during a hit, not unless he couldn't handle it. I grabbed the thin rope I kept in my trunk and snuck inside with Theo trailing behind me. Billy was standing with his hands in the air, a gun pressed to his forehead.
“You know damn well why I'm here Hargrove!” The man screamed in his face, cocking the gun.
“You can tell Baker I'm coming for him” Billy glanced over at where I stood, his eyes widening slightly.
I ran over and lunged onto the man's back, wrapping the rope around his throat with a vice grip. He fell to his knees, gripping onto rope as I pulled harder. His eyes rolled back slowly as he hit the ground. There was no pulse, nothing. I stood up and wiped off my pants as I looked over at Billy, his jaw was dropped open.
“Johnny, what the hell?” His voice was breathless, looking down at the man by his feet.
“There was a hit on him, I'm just doing my job” I shrugged and wiped his gloves off, my breathing was so calm that it unnerved him.
“Matthew was twice your size, I've never seen you take someone out so fast before” I chuckled and looked over at him, I knew what I was doing. And I didn't care.
“It's all about skill, things can't get messy” He knew I was doing it to keep Krista safe, she was all that mattered.
Theo loaded up the man into the metal barrel, filling it partially with gasoline.
“I know that, I just don't need you doing something reckless” I scoffed and grimaced, my lips pulling into a deep frown.
“I'm not that dumb, I've learned more in the last year than I have in my entire life! Just let me have this one thing!” I threw my hands up in aspiration, clearly annoyed with how the conversation was going.
“I didn't say you couldn't have this Johnny, I just need you to be careful” I sighed and took off my gloves, throwing them into the bin with the body. Theo flicked open the lighter and tossed it in, the flames licking high into the sky.
“I am being careful, now let's go” I turned my back to him and walked over to my car.
The drive home was quiet, it felt eerily quiet as I pulled into the driveway and noticed almost the lights were still off. I had left Krista a note saying where I was going to be, I was sure she found it and went back to bed to wait for me. At least now I could have the weekend for myself and my wife.
Except it was harder for me to be home, Billy was being threatened from all sides, and if we lost him we lost everything. Zack Baker, the only other true mob boss in town, was trying to have Billy taken out, so Theo and I did everything in our power to keep him safe. I took it upon myself to end this hell once and for all. Billy had threatened me over the phone to head to the cabin with him and Y/N, saying I needed to be safe. I wouldn't be safe until I knew my wife and child were, along with my friends. It was easier than I expected though. No one was around to hear Zack's cries as I stood in front of him tied to the kitchen chair, no one to save him. He begged and pleaded with me to let him live. He would spare our lives and leave. I couldn't allow that though.
I chuckled and pressed the gun against his temple, firing one single round. His eyes rolled back as the blood sprayed against the wall closest to us. I hadn't expected to feel so elated as I watched him bleed out, I shouldn't of been so happy about it. So I cleaned myself up and headed up to the cabin where everyone else was. Krista was complaining about how her back was starting to feel sore. I rubbed her small belly gently and watched as the trees began to get thicker, it was the perfect hideout.
“It's Steve, the same one that Billy had a contract with before” I sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed. Krista was rubbing my back gently. Our son was asleep in his room just across the hall.
“Just do what you have to do, we'll be waiting when you get back” I looked up at her and smiled, she was the only person who really kept me normal nowadays.
I kissed her cheek and stood up, heading outside to get into Billy's car. We planned on getting any information we could out of Steve's girlfriend. It didn't matter if it was a small amount, because at this point anything was better than nothing. Billy cranked the radio and gripped the steering wheel in a vice grip. He was trying to pump his adrenaline so that he didn't have to worry about anything when we ambushed this woman. Theo was already waiting for us in his car, he had made sure that no one noticed him drive up. The last thing we needed was someone seeing our faces as we escaped.
“Let's go” Billy's voice was rough, his face was calm but his eyes betrayed how he truly felt. He was terrified.
“Yes sir” I said softly, pulling the bandanna over my face as I pulled up my hood. I knew Billy didn't want to resort to this, but we had no choice.
Theo took the rear as we walked around to the back of the house, I knelt down and picked the lock slowly. The last thing I needed was for this woman to have a damn alarm on her house. Once the door was opened and everyone was inside Billy nodded towards the stairs, tiptoeing up as quietly as he could manage. The woman was sitting in a chair facing her vanity, her hair damp from the shower she had just gotten out of.
Everything from that moment was a blur, Billy had made sure she couldn't escape from the chair she was in. Tears streaming down her cheeks as she tried to reason with him, it felt too sincere. She was telling the truth. Goddamnit. The sound of boots slamming into the stairs broke us all out of our anger, the reality that we were about to be caught caused panic to swell throughout my body. I pushed Theo towards the window and motioned for Billy to follow him. As I reached the window I was yanked back, I closed my eyes tight and waited for the gunshot that would end my life.
I wasn't met with that though, I was met with fists. Over and over again. This person wasn't beating me as a warning, they wanted me to know that I was about to die. I reached my foot up and kicked them in the stomach, elbowing whoever had me in a choke hold. As soon as I was free I ran down the stairs, holding my throat as I tried to catch my breath. There were two gunshots, one hit me in the side as I pushed the door open and ran outside. I clutched my side tightly to try and stop the blood flow, the pain was searing. I could see Billy's car in the distance, if I could get there I could get inside and be on my way to safety. A third gunshot at my ankle and I slammed onto the ground, screaming out in pain as the person who had been firing stepped closer. I stood up and turned to face them, my heart sinking low in my chest.
“Fucking Haner” I glared at him and reached for my gun, the sound of a fourth and final gunshot hit my chest. I fell against the hood of Billy's car, all I could hope was that he would keep Krista safe for me.
Just please do that for me.