Wolf's enthusiasm waned quickly.
They spent the day conducting phone interviews in the planning room. Having spoken to fifteen or so guys so far, they were underwhelmed by their choices. Like Bain's equipment, his pre-screened applicants left much to be desired. Obviously the position was only available to Crime.net users, meaning small time crooks and people with no previous work history were weeded out by default. Bain's algorithms couldn't sort out the applicants with personality dysfunctions though. They might have been able to ignore annoying, obnoxious, or even dangerous idiosyncrasies in the past as long as the work was good, but things had changed.
The safehouses they'd used before were little more than shithole apartments that they rented to be near the job sites. They didn't actually do any work there; they weren't secure enough. Instead, they had been dividing their planning materials, weapons, and gear up amongst themselves and hiding them at their own homes. It made sense to do it that way since they were working much more nomadically then.
When they began planning their series of D.C. heists, however, Bain had suggested that it might be more practical to set up a real base of operations and live there together. It would do them more good not to have apartments, even under aliases, if they were going to be staying in one place so long.
It was only after Hoxton had been arrested that the benefit of added security became truly apparent. They had thought they were all pretty good at stashing their take-home work. However, much of the case against Hoxton was based on their blueprints of D.C. banks he had been in charge of storing.
That convinced them. Bain found them a business front and had it modified to meet their needs. By all outward appearances, it was a shithole apartment just like their other safehouses, but Bain had the basement expanded and outfitted with everything they usually had to divide among their homes or find third-party locations to work on. The safehouse provided spaces for modifying weapons and masks, developing tools and devices, testing newly purchased weapons, and planning. Not having to travel somewhere else to do these things saved them a lot of time and they would be able to plan and execute jobs much more quickly than before.
Wolf, for one, preferred this to living alone. Though Dallas and Chains tended to spend a lot of time off by themselves, Wolf thought there was something pleasantly frathouse-like in knowing that they were somewhere nearby.
This new housing arrangement, however, put a new stipulation on who they wanted to hire. They were going to have to live with whoever it was. Wolf was not completely ignorant of his own personality flaws and how his crew might have second-guessed hiring him if they would have, in effect, been inviting him into their home. That didn't make him any more willing to give any of these guys a chance, though.
He didn't feel qualified to judge on many other matters. Having been hired after only doing one prior job himself, which even by their usual standards had been a spectacular clusterfuck that he had only barely escaped, he didn't know how to fairly judge someone else's work history in this field. But Dallas and Chains were deciding that.
Instead, he was vetoing applicants based on his impression of how considerate a housemate they'd be. Nearly every single one of these guys sounded like the sort who'd piss on the toilet seat and not wipe it up. Then there were a few who seemed just a little too into getting to shoot people, police or otherwise. There were others that Wolf, always suspicious of it now, got a distinct aire of betrayal from. Comfortingly, he saw that Dallas always picked up on this as well. Then there was one guy who had said something about being a White Knight, which Wolf hadn't understood, and Chains and Dallas shared a deeply unimpressed look about. It appeared that much of the criminal element were dicks. Perhaps Wolf shouldn't have been surprised by that, but his crewmates were perfectly nice people in his estimation so his frame of reference had been skewed until now.
Suffice to say, he wasn't thrilled about talking to yet another prick who wouldn't hold a candle to Hoxton.
"Stop scowling, buddy," Dallas teased him. "We'll find someone good eventually."
Wolf huffed and sunk lower into the couch.
"Yeah, I know," Dallas sympathized. "It took us a lot of interviews to find you too, but I got a good feeling about this one."
"Did you have to talk to this many assholes?" Wolf asked.
"Heh, yeah," Dallas said. "You gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince."
This didn't make Wolf feel any more excited about further interviews. In fact, it made him wonder. When he had been hired, he'd been an absolute mess. He was doing much better these days, he thought, but he still had his moments. Why had they chosen him? He must have seemed completely insane then. At least these guys had pulled off successful jobs.
The ringing on the speakerphone interrupted this line of thought.
It rang twice, then someone picked up.
"Hello?" said a weirdly bright voice on the other end.
"This is Mr. Steele," Dallas said in a tone of voice he used for professional situations. "May I speak to Mr. Wilson?"
"You got him," the guy on the other end said. "You're calling about the job, right?"
"Yeah," Dallas said, dropping back into his normal way of speaking. "Your resume is pretty impressive, but it's all light-touch, one-man work. It isn't exactly in line with the stuff we tend to do."
"Yeah, that's true," the man agreed, amusement tinting his tone. "But I was hoping that you might see that as a benefit."
Wolf cocked an eyebrow at the phone. This guy's voice had a fey quality to it that, frankly, made him sound like he might be gay. If Hoxton were here, he'd have been doing a dick-sucking pantomime act at it, trying to make Wolf laugh while they were supposed to be quiet. But Hoxton wasn't here which is why they were even talking to this guy at all.
Wolf couldn't imagine a guy whose voice made people do blowjob charades like this being able to hold off a police assault.
Dallas seemed intrigued by him though.
"Really?" he invited. "How's that?"
"I've been following your work too. And not to criticize, but it's pretty easy. Most of your jobs end up going loud. They all make the papers."
"Heh, yeah, that's usually the way of things," Dallas said, not hiding that he was a little proud of the fact.
"But I noticed the papers also said you, uh," the man thought for a moment on how to phrase it vaguely, "tried to be quiet for the jewelry office job?" He was referring to the Garnet Group. And he had guessed right. They had every intention of doing that job quietly, but their cover had been blown pretty quickly.
A calculating grin was forming on Dallas' face. Wolf saw the gears begin their turning.
"You're saying you could help us with more... subtle approaches."
"Yes," the man said.
"But all your previous jobs were solo. Why do you suddenly want to be on a crew?"
"You could help me on some bigger jobs I'd like to do," he answered. "The larger a job site is, the harder it is to know what everyone is doing at a time. If I had someone on surveillance and maybe some helping hands around, I could do most of the real work myself without a problem."
That was an intriguing proposition. Wolf looked to Dallas and could see he thought so too.
Chains spoke up then.
"But you would be fine with twenty-five percent on these jobs, even though you'd be doing the most work?"
Leave it to Chains to look out for their bottom line.
"Well, yeah. That'd only be fair, right? You'd give me the same percentage when I work on your jobs, wouldn't you?"
Equal fourths was the way their crew had always divided their cut so there was no disagreement about that. If you weren't pulling the most weight on one job, you might be on another. That this guy understood and was cool with that all sounded pretty square. Plus, it meant that the rest of them could make more money with less risk.
There was still one question that hadn't really been addressed though. It didn't look like anyone else was going to ask so Wolf interjected.
"Have you ever been in a loud job?"
"Never had to. I'm pretty good at not getting caught." He didn't say it like he was bragging, just that it was the simple fact of his work.
"Can you keep your head if it does go loud?" Dallas asked, throwing a quick look of approval Wolf's way for bringing it up. That was a distinct possibility in their crew, after all.
"I'd like to think so," he said, although he didn't sound entirely convinced of himself.
"We'd need to know so," Dallas told him seriously.
The man on the other end didn't have a response for that.
"Can I put you on hold for a second?" Dallas asked.
"Yeah, sure," the voice on the phone said. Dallas pushed the hold button and made sure the light was on.
"What do you think about this guy?" he asked the other two.
"It's a good deal," Chains said. "Twenty-five percent to stand around in the dark, looking at the surveillance cameras? The money doesn't get any easier than that."
"Yeah, but we need someone who can hold his own in a fight," Dallas said. "We've already got our own jobs planned. But he might be fine at it. We just need to know first. Maybe we could have him come out for a trial job?"
Wolf was dubious of this idea and he looked to see Chains was too.
"Something simple that the three of us could hold down on our own," Dallas went on. "Just to see if he's got the chops."
"Do you really want this guy that bad?" Chains asked.
"I don't know yet," Dallas answered. "But I think he has potential."
Chains merely shrugged at that. Wolf didn't want to argue with Dallas, especially since he really didn't have a rebuttal other than that he just wasn't any surer of this guy than anyone else they'd spoken to.
"Wolf?" Dallas asked. "Are you okay with doing a try-out job with this guy?"
He hadn't thought it had to be a unanimous decision. With Chains' indifferent agreement, Dallas had majority rule. But he still wanted Wolf's opinion anyway.
Was he really okay with it? Frankly, no. He didn't know this guy and to go on a job with him meant he'd have to give him a certain amount of trust. And for Wolf, trust in short supply these days. On the other hand, this guy did seem like the easiest to live with of the people they'd talked to. And if he could fight just as well as he could sneak... Dallas was still waiting for an answer.
Don't be a wanker, he thought to himself in a winning Sheffield accent.
"It will be something we could do with just the three of us?" he asked.
"Yeah, small like a GO Bank or something," Dallas said. "We'll get the police's attention, stay just long enough to see how he does, and then we'll book."
He made it sound so simple. And even though they were in this mess because of a seemingly simple job, Wolf found himself assured. They would be more careful this time and everything would be fine.
"Excellent!" Dallas said, taking their interviewee off hold. "You still there?"
"All right, well, we wanna see how you handle a loud job. Can you be in D.C. in, uh," Dallas thought for a moment, "four days?" That would give them enough time to plan a small robbery, with another three days to get this guy prepped and briefed for it.
"Yeah, I think I can manage that."
Dallas sorted out some logistical issues with him about when and where to meet and then hung up.
Dallas, for one, was very busy over the next few days. Wolf, however, had very little to do and so was taking a nap in the planning room. It was quieter there and the sofa they had jammed up in the corner was the only one in the safehouse with all its cushions and no collapsed seats.
He wasn't sleeping very deeply however. Though Dallas had come in without making much noise, his paper shuffling and marker uncapping woke Wolf.
Dallas noticed his stirring and said, "Sorry, buddy. I thought I was being quiet."
Wolf just shook his head so as to say it was no bother. Stretching, he got up off the couch to look at the blueprints and map Dallas had brought in. They were of a jewelry store and the street it was located on. Dallas had begun drawing in the display cases and furniture on the blueprint in red marker.
"This is the test job?" Wolf asked.
"Yeah. It's small, but it's on a busy street. Lots of pedestrian traffic through here," Dallas said, drawing a line in blue marker on the sidewalks in front of the store and the parking lot across the street. "We'll need to be careful of the civilians. But they have an alarm system too so it shouldn't take us long to make it loud."
Their prospective teammate might not believe it, but they had never gone into a job with the express purpose of getting police attention. Wolf had a bad feeling about it.
"Are you sure about this guy?" he asked Dallas.
"No," Dallas said, surprising Wolf with his frankness. He had expected to be reassured. "That is why we're trying him out."
"He seems..." How to describe it? "Soft?" Wolf tried.
Dallas snorted at that.
"Yeah, well, we thought that about you too, buddy. Hoxton said you sounded like the kind of guy who'd end up zip-tied on the floor at one of our jobs when he heard you on the phone. But I was right. You turned out to be perfect for the job."
Dallas was overdoing it a little. Perfect? Wolf remembered having to be corrected a lot. And even now, there were moments when he'd do something they thought was too Hollywood and they would all stare or bust out laughing.
And others when they seemed wary of him.
They had doubted him before too. Maybe that was just a normal part of trying to find someone new then. Was he wrong to think this guy might not be able to handle their kind of work?
The niggling thought from earlier returned then. He wondered if he would have judged himself so harshly if he had been on the crew back then. Wolf considered this for a moment and decided that he would have. He had been inexperienced and reckless, even without the baggage of his mid-life crisis. He'd had to unlearn a lot of movie clichés too.
Why had they hired him? At least the guy on the phone was bringing some easy, quiet work to the table. Wolf couldn't think of anything that he'd had to offer them at the time. Sure, he was in charge of the explosives and gadgetry now, but it was only after months of heisting with them that he'd thought to apply his old skillset to his new work.
"Why did you guys pick me?" he asked Dallas. He looked up from drawing green lines on the blueprint's viable window entrances to find Wolf looking perplexed.
Dallas set his marker down and leaned on the table.
"As far as Hoxton and Chains go, it was 'cause you weren't afraid to risk your ass. Or that's what I pointed out to them, anyway. That one job you did yourself... you didn't care how many cops you had to kill to get out. That's a good attitude to have in this business. Sometimes a guy with a screw loose can be an asset."
"Madmen aren't hard to come by," Wolf argued. They'd certainly had their pick of them the other day. "What was it that made you think I'd be a good crew member over anyone else?"
Dallas sized him up for a second, then seemed to make a decision.
"Bain finds as much history on our prospects as he can," he said. "It helps to know where a guy is coming from." He gave Wolf time to reach his own conclusion about that statement. Wolf had never been that forthcoming about his life before the crew and the others had rightly assumed that he didn't want much known about it.
But Dallas knew and was telling him so now.
Wolf didn't find that revelation to be nearly as horrible as he'd always imagined it'd be. Dallas knew everything anyway (except apparently how to do a quiet job). Moreover, he was trustworthy.
And since Wolf gave no outward sign of upset about this bit of information, Dallas went on.
"I wasn't lying to them about you being ballsy. That was plain from the video surveillance. But I argued for you because I had a pretty good feeling that, if we could just prove to you that we weren't gonna leave you with your dick hangin' out like everyone else had lately, you would work and fight harder than any of the other guys Bain dug up for us." He gave out a small chuckle. "You kinda gotta figure a guy who got most of his work knowledge from movies would die before he gave up on his crew."
That information was a little uncomfortable to swallow. Dallas had considered the precise circumstances of how his old life had fallen apart and chose him for their crew based on it. It was manipulative and conniving. Exploitative even. And yet, Wolf couldn't find anything to be truly angry about. Dallas had used that information, yes, but all he had done with it was... show him that he could trust them enough to work together.
His crew had proven their loyalty to him several times over and, consequently, Wolf had indeed been prepared to risk death for them. And yet Dallas had prevented him from doing so for Hoxton. Wolf had been so angry at the time because it went against that very loyalty he'd developed in working with them. It had felt like betrayal.
But he realized now that Dallas' decision had kept both he and Hoxton alive. And in choosing him for their crew, Dallas had done him nothing but good. He had money again, more than he'd ever imagined, and he wasn't living in the dismal fog of his old life anymore. And he was alive, which was almost certainly more than he could have said for himself if he'd tried to keep heisting alone.
If he was a cunning opportunist, prepared to manipulate people's issues and hangups to get what he wanted, Dallas was still every bit as loyal to his crew as Wolf was. Every decision he'd made had been in their interests on the whole and individually.
"You were right," Wolf said, finally.
"Of course I was," Dallas said, though there was a faint note of relief under his self-assuredness. He picked his marker back up.
He pointed it at the blueprint. "What do think would be more useful here? C4 or sentries?"
Wolf looked at the map and considered the situation.
"C4. It'll get the safes open faster. Besides," he said, grinning a little, "the point is to let this guy shoot at some cops. We don't want sentries doing all the work for him."