I am a good person. All throughout my life I had been given many opportunities to be good. I worked my hardest to be a good son and a productive member of society. I really did. I like to be the truth in most matters. It is even worse when I find that people I trust have lied to me. I hate it when people betray my trust. I think this is why I get especially cross when people try to cheat me. I don't like it when people try to take advantage of my kindness.
I was pulled from my thoughts by a heavy grunt from one of the men in front of me. My eyes swept calmly over his broken form, taking in the crimson red dripping from the shallow cuts along his cheek. He looked as if a corpse had risen from the ground and had become reanimated. The hulking mass of my hired muscle pulled back from the fresh wound that now adorned the man's pale shoulder. Tom pulled his arm back, preparing for another blow when the man spoke.
"I swear boss I haven't done nothing. I gave you all the money." desperately exclaimed the man. He began to shift his body in an attempt to face me fully. His deep brown bangs were thick with his blood as his coffee eyes met mine. The expression he wore on his face was one of a caged animal, who knew deep down, they were caught. I had only a brief moment of sympathy before I remembered why this man was on his knees in front of me in the first place.
"I don't like lies Mr. Perry," I stood from my spot lounging on my chair. He flinched away from my sudden movement. My arms swept open as I punctured my next sentence with shrug. "Daisy has given me concrete evidence that you have been cheating me out of my cut."
"Don't believe that lying whore. I swear on my life that I haven't done anything," he replied quickly. My eyes flicked from the man to the small form of Daisy standing to the left of him. Her face was masked in calm but her eyes burned with righteous anger. It almost looked as though she wished to kill the man herself. To save my cousin the trouble I gave Tom the signal for another blow. Tom pulled back and struck again, this time kicking the man in his stomach. The man nearly doubled over as he cried out in pain.
"First of all, that 'whore' is my cousin," I said calmly. "Second of all, insulting her won't get you anywhere. Third of all, this whole situation can be solved with one simple thing. Open his bag Jordan." Upon hearing me call out her name, Jordan brushed her auburn hair away from her face and walked over to the man from her spot languishing on the wall. She pulls the man's bag away from him and begins to rifle through it.
"Hey boss," exclaimed Jordan. "Look what I found" held gracefully in her gloved hands was a large wad of cash. My eyes swept between the man and the money. His eyes fixed greedily on the wad before collapsing into despair. He knew that this is concrete evidence for his lies. He would not get away with his transgression against me now. All that was left was to wrap up his short miserable life. I almost felt bad for the poor man.
I fixed him with a smirk. Even if I felt bad that doesn't negate the fact that he did lie to me. I began in a mocking tone, "Haven't done anything hmm? Then how would you explain all of this? looks completely honest. Count it out Jordan."
I watched as she began to count the money. Mr. Perry had become silent since the money was pulled out. His body attempted to fold into himself, almost as if he was trying to hide. He shook similarly to a leaf in the wind, never stopping. It took Jordan only a few seconds to count the money but with the tension in the air, the moments stretched into hours.
Jordan had finished counting the money. The room looked expectantly at her. Everyone held their breath for Jordan to begin talking. She spoke up in her sweet, husky voice, "It's way more than he said he had Boss. An extra hundred or so. "
"Boss please I swear I didn't mean to keep all the money. I was going to give it back." Mr. Perry spoke quickly. I could tell his thoughts were scrambling. I imagined his mind racing for any excuse that would save him from the inevitable future of his death. This image filled me with a sick sense of pleasure. I knew I shouldn't like it as much as I did. The power I held over this man's life was almost as intoxicating as the liquor I sold.
"That seems likely," I said with a glare. "What to do about those unfortunate lies. That's the real question." Thoughts rolled through my mind. What to do about this situation? There were many different scenarios that could play out, ranging from bloody to clean. I could shoot him right now. Simple. I could let Tom have a row with him. Bloody. The possibilities were endless.
The man hung his head in shame. He seemed defeated. He spoke softly and said, "I just wanted the money to help my kid sir." His tone was fueled by regret. If he died, his last thoughts would be how he let down his child. My heart stopped. I remembered his kid. Sweet boy, about ten years old. Would amount to something great. Emotions raced across my mind. I felt almost bad for him now. To chop down an innocent life along with his would be unbearable.
I shook off the pity I was feeling. This wasn't a time for emotions. I needed to make a strong decision. "You still tried to cheat me out of my money, doesn't matter your intentions. Now you've put me in the position of figuring out what to do with you."
"Want me to take him out back?" asked Tom. "Show him what it means to toy with the watcher?" He was excited by the prospect of taking someone's life. I knew that Tom took a sick pleasure in the darker parts of this line of work. Almost too roughly he grabbed the man's bound hands and pulled him into a standing position, ready for my sentence of death.
Jordan caught my eye and looked expectantly at me, almost as a challenge. Her chestnut eyes seemed to read my every thought. She was my closest friend, she knew the conflict brewing in my head. She had similar arguments while working for my rivals, The Greats. Her eyes clued into her position in the argument. I could tell that she thought it was best if he was taken care of. She always was the one who made quick, analytical decisions. It's part of the reason I trusted her. My head agreed with her. My heart disagreed. My heart told me that wasn't the right thing to do.
My mind raced as I made my decision. Everyone was waiting for me to speak. My eyes went to the man in front of me. His eyes pleaded for my forgiveness. My thought went back to his statement from earlier. He wasn't lying about his kid. I had met the boy once before. The kid was a charmer, even at his young age. I thought of the life he would lead if I killed his father right now. The sad image penetrated my thoughts. My head and heart stood screaming in a reckless battle. My mind lost.
I sighed briefly. "No, I don't think that is in order. I believe that sending him on his way is what needs to be done. No coming back. No more money. No more jobs. Got it?" The man nodded, clearly ecstatic that he would live to see another day. "If I see you around he again or if you try to mess with my gang at all I will not be as lenient. Tom let Mr. Perry go." Reluctantly, Tom released the man's hands. He reached around and got his knife and cut the man's arms free.
The man rubbed his arms where the rope had bit into his skin. "Thank you so much, sir. I won't forget your kindness, sir." He turned to walk from the room. Seeing him leave filled we with gentle regret. Could I let him go that easily? I knew I couldn't. Words of my weakness would spread and I'd lose my image. I decided to leave him with a scare.
"One more thing." I walked over to the man slowly. He looked warily at me, almost as if he expected me to ignore my previous kindness and stab him right then and there as if my selflessness meant nothing. As quick as a bullet, I punched him hard in the stomach. The man doubled over in pain. I leaned down to the man and whispered into his ear. "If you ever try to insult my cousin again they will never find your body. Understand?"
"Understood Sir," The man exclaimed as he began to run from the room. He moved as if he could not run fast enough to get out of the warehouse. I found it almost comical. Once he had left the grand room, the stiffness in the air let up. We could all breath easy.
Of course, Jordan was the first to speak up. "You shouldn't have been that lenient Nick," she said teasingly. She walked over and slightly ruffled my hair like I was her unruly child. I didn't take nicely to the teasing and crossed my arms in a pout. This behavior earned a laugh from both her and Daisy.
After their laughter subsided, I sighed. I knew Jordan was right. Softly I said "I know Jordan," I quickly stated the easy explanation of my intentions, trying to save myself from more merciless teasing. "His family was just close to the police department that's all. I just realized that the cost of covering up his death could sink us."
Jordan smirked. Skew knew me too well. She could tell that wasn't what I was thinking about when I let the man go. "Him bringing up his kid had nothing to do with it hmm?" she said playfully.
I shook my head in disbelief. "You know me too well," I replied with a smile. I walked the short distance to my desk and began to sift through the pile of papers that littered the surface. "Anything else we have to do today?"
"No that unpleasantness was it." exclaimed Daisy as she walked over to the chaise lounge and flung herself on it. Ever the dramatic, my cousin draped her hand over her eyes delicately. Her drama brought a small smile to Jordan's face as she moved to follow her friend, sitting at the end of the lounge. I caught Jordan's eyes and gave her a teasing smile. Her eyes bore into me with mock anger. We both burst into a small fit of giggles after my teasing ended.
Tom stalked up behind me and tried to look over my shoulder at the papers littered on my desk. "I really think that dude learned his lesson. I messed him up real nice. Don't think we're gonna be seeing any more of him" interjected Tom. I turned my eyes toward him, fixing him with a pointed glance. He turned away from the papers, feigning innocence.
I rolled my eyes and went back to work. "That's what we can hope for," I replied, wishing for the calmness of the rest of the day to last forever. I knew deep down that it wouldn't. There was electricity in the air, and I intended to use it.
"I hope I heard you correctly" I lounged back, my fingers wrapped around an English cigar. The man sitting to my left nervously tapped his foot. He appeared worse for wear, having a black eye and multiple cuts all over his body.
"I believe you did. In exchange for the watcher's whereabouts, you will give me a thousand dollars and your protection." He spoke arrogantly, probably thinking that his idea was the best thing ever. I nearly chuckled at the thought.
"You Mr. Perry, you have got yourself a deal." I punctuated my sentence with a gesture with my cigar. "Though you probably could've gotten a bit more if you played your cards right." I took a puff. I was finally going to take down my rival. All thanks to one of his own betraying him.
A thought crossed my mind. "Might I ask what caused you to betray the watcher so quickly as you did."
"He was so inconstant. One minute he'd be lost in thought, the next he'd be tearing your head off. I couldn't stand the fellow. He nearly took my head off after I kept a little more of my profit." He stopped his tapping, anticipating my response. his reasoning was unsound. I knew I could barely trust the creature in front of me. He'd be kept on a short leash.
"Interesting. Very interesting old sport." I ended my response with another puff from my cigar, letting the smoke drift from my lips as I contemplated a future without the Watchers.