Rating: NC-17 for that thing adults do behind closed doors.
Pairing: Mr. Blonde/Mr. Orange. Or more accurately, Mr. Blonde/Freddy Newandyke. It depends on your perspective.
Summary: When Joe Cabot still isn’t too sure about the newest guy on the job, he sends Orange on a little side job with Mr. Blonde to see where the kid’s head is at. Freddy then finds that he’s getting more than he bargained for.
Word Count: 21, 436
Disclaimer: I own nothing, I earn nothing.
Warnings: Explicit profanity and graphic sexual content.
A/N: Blatant Blonde/Orange smut written as requested for acidic_flower and beta read by fitz_carraldo. So sorry for the incredible lateness on my part, it took me forever to get started and then it took even longer to get it finished. Hope that you enjoy it!
Posted to orange_white, rareslash, tarantinoverse and resdog_fic.
ETA: Somehow I set the comments to being screened and hadn't even noticed. Sorry for that, and I just fixed it.
ETA 2: Apparently I also had it set to only allow friends to comment. I...have no idea. Apologies for that as well.
Bonus related image!
“Don’t know where the fuck anythin’ is anymore,” Joe mumbled to himself in the dimming light of his office, patting down his jacket and then searching stiffly through the pockets concealed inside, beneath the silk lining. “This getting older thing, somebody needs to do somethin’ about it. They can cure just about anything but cancer and AIDS these days, you’d think someone’d do something about goddamned age.” After a short fishing expedition, a silver lighter produced itself and he shook his head, lighting the cigarette balanced between his thick lips.
“People’ve been tryin’ to do something about that ‘long as there’ve been people.” Larry chuckled, taking a drag on the filter of his cigarette as he reclined carefully, a glass of scotch held loosely in one hand as the crystal caught and reflected the light of the room, small specks of light shining back, occasionally catching and creating small shards of color on the fabric of the man’s shirt. “Hell, it all comes down to the same thing doesn’t it? Nobody wants to get old, it’s all about keeping young, fit, clear headed. Goddamn fountain of youth.”
“Don’t I know it, Junior. Ain’t all gone yet,” he tapped his temple slowly with his free hand, the other plucking the cigarette carefully from the folds of his mouth, “But just enough. Hell, even with a fountain of youth, won’t do a damn thing for the way things’ve changed. Even the damn game, it all comes down to the generation playing. Thieves these days, they ain’t the old sort like you an’ me. N’ Mr. Blue, at that. Young bucks runnin’ around with one hand on their gun and the other on their dick. That‘s all they are.”
Larry dissolved into rolling chuckles, heavy and warm in his throat and chest and Joe held up a hand, fingers swaying as his head shook in turn. “No, no, I’m serious here. Sound like an old man talkin’ like this, but I’m damned serious. Young guns these days -- they're not the same. Can’t keep their heads, get skittish, get trigger happy or piss their pants when things get hot.”
“If I recall,” the other man interrupted amiably, a wry grin splitting his face as he lifted his scotch halfway to his mouth, “Half the guys on this job are young guns, as you so aptly call ‘em.”
Joe shook his head slowly, finger leveling itself as Larry and holding place. “See, I know that. But Eddie’s my own boy, I know how he works, just as old sort as you an‘ me. And Pink, known him since he was just a snot nosed punk, so I know him. Hell, Blonde’s practically in the damned family, him and Eddie been thick as thieves since before either of ‘em had any cheek fuzz.”
Larry was nodding, crystal glass poised at his mouth as he considered the words, watching quietly as Joe fumbled with his lighter and carefully lit the extinguished tip of his cancer stick. Larry mulled Joe’s words over, his glass making it to his lips, a small trace of the alcohol touching his tongue. He considered the slick burn of liquor before swallowing, slow and contemplative.
“What about the kid? Orange?”
Joe nodded, a gesture empty of anything but simple action. “Not sure. Kid’s fresh, don’t know him too well. Hard to peg him straight away. Can’t be sure how much of his referral was just one of his buddies helpin’ out, how much was real talk. Kinda hard to figure him. He’s young, the most I can say. Got plenty a’ potential.”
“The story he told at the bar - ” Larry began, only to be interrupted with a wave of the elder’s hand.
“Was good. Not sayin’ it wasn’t, it doesn’t prove anything. Shit, you know just as well as me that these stories get bigger the more they get told, like damned fish tales. Hell, how much of that was real and how much was imagination we don’t have no way of knowing. For all we know, he was dealing with a security guard and a lost beagle in that men‘s room. Might’ve been spaced out on the reefer he was sellin’.” The cigarette tip had gone out again. Joe snapped his lighter impatiently, an expression of frustration puckering his leathery face. “S’why I’m sending him on a little side job with Blonde.”
“You’re what?” Larry replied with a subtle bodily jerk, legs uncrossing and his foot planting itself firmly on the floor, knees shifting as he began sitting up a little straighter. “What’re you talkin’ about Joe? What’s he need a side job for? What you’ve got planned for us is enough for a rookie.”
“Stale piece of crap,” Joe muttered under his breath, stubbing out the smoldering tobacco in a crystal ashtray. “How the damn hell… Is it too much to ask for a decent cigarette?” He fished out another and peered up at the other man with small crinkly eyes. “It’s cuz he’s a rookie. Young blood, like we’ve been talkin’ about, damnit. We don’t know how this kid is under pressure, and even a small hitch in a job like this heist can turn into a big hitch. Blonde’ll take care of him, figure out what the boy can take, how he sweats.” Joe shifted restrictedly in his leather chair and made a weary sound of irritation low in his throat, like dog drawing itself up from soaking up the heat of the sun while lying limply on a lawn, the old man began another search through the various pockets of his rich suit, patting himself down slowly as he stared off into space, mouth moving slightly as he mumbled wordless thoughts under his breath.
“Ah, hell, Joe.” Larry rumbled, rubbing the day’s stubble on his jaw carefully. “Sending him out, out of the blue? Kid didn’t sign up for that. And hell, if you wanted someone to check him out and get a feel for him, you coulda asked me to do it.”
Even as he spoke, Joe was shaking his head. “N’ah, not this time around. Blonde’s been doing some small things for me an’ Eddie anyway. This is something little, out of town, enough to test Orange out and see what he can do. He’ll get paid for it, so think of it as a bit of a training exercise. And like I’ve said, I’ve known Blonde since he was just a kid. He’ll do the job right and good, and show the young gun how things’re supposed to go down. Good learning experience for him. Hell, if the kid is skittish, we need to know now. If he can’t handle the job, or if we need to give him a different position. We can’t afford mistakes on this one.”
Larry’s expression was closed and pensive as he took a quiet sip of scotch, focusing on the warm burn of the alcohol streaming slowly down his throat, settling hot in his belly.
“Damned cigarettes,” Joe rumbled absently, holding up another. “Genuine Turkish tobacco, A grade. Best shit you can get your hands on.” He shook his head. “And what do I get? God-damned stale piece a shit.”
When Freddy woke up with a small spastic jerk, he immediately couldn’t remember what had woken him. His mind was still heavy and muddled, and his pillow warm and inviting, and as he settled back in, snuggling down into the blankets and shifting his head to eye the clock with bleary eyes, he took the fact it wasn’t the alarm into consideration. He had a meeting with Holdaway later on the roof of a random hotel. Where the hell the man was coming up with the locations he would never know, but he secretly wondered if there was some kind of undercover police meeting point list or hand guide that nobody had taken the liberty to fill him in on. But as soon as these thoughts struck him, he groaned low, his heavy eye lids slipping closed and his face collapsing shamelessly back into the pillow with a grunt of approval towards the instant comfort.
Not a moment later, there was a loud knock at his door, once - twice - and thrice, three times of hard knuckles rapping against wood and he groaned in both aggravation and confusion, his head lifting to glare suspiciously at the cheerful 8:13 blinking back at him in bold digital red that glowed in the dimmed bedroom.
The knocking took place two more times, the second while he was pulling up a pair of blue jeans over his hips and the third as he walked through the living area to stare at the door with a frown. Each time, the knocking was the same, three even raps against the wood, loud and clear, unhurried.
There was nobody coming over today, and he knew it. Anyone who would be coming over would have called, and door to door salesmen knew better than to come at eight in the morning or to go into buildings that didn’t require being buzzed into. As he stood, the knocking took place again, once - twice - three times, still unhurried, still loud and even without any hint that could disclose the identity of the uninvited guest.
In the back of his mind, Freddy thought of the story about the last undercover cop that had tried to get past Mr. White and his group. That guy got found out, got shot and killed along with an apartment of people. If he’d been found out, wouldn’t the guys have waited until he was someplace with them, at the warehouse or out planning the heist? It’d make more sense than showing up on his doorstep in the morning to shoot him in the head and walk away. It’d probably wake up the neighbors, unless they had a silencer. But considering these guys worked for Cabot, that wasn’t too difficult to imagine. Though, probably less cleaning up would probably be expected of them. Just shoot and walk away, easy as pie.
Slowly, he picked up one of the smaller hand guns lying on the dining table, loaded but not cocked. Didn’t matter, it was better than being empty handed in the long run, and easy enough to hide behind his back or chuck to the side if it turned out to be some little skirt with pig tails and prepubescent pimples trying to sell him some Thin Mints. Though if Girl Scouts were trying to hit people up at eight in the morning, then they were either getting really fucking desperate or working on upping their game
Moving to unhook the chain, he paused and reconsidered, then unlocked the door instead and jerked open the door, peeking through the crack just above the taut pulled chain and half expecting to see the barrel of a gun waiting for him.
Instead, he was looking at Mr. Blonde, looking bright eyed and bushy tailed with an eyebrow cocked like a pilot’s and an expression of smooth disinterest. If he had a gun, it wasn’t obvious and well hidden, but while that didn’t soothe Freddy’s nerves by any amount it did make him raise a brow of his own.
“Mornin’ Sunshine.” He rumbled lightly, cocked eyebrow lifting a little more and his hands dipping to hook his thumbs on the belt loops of his jeans. “Shouldn’t big boys be out of bed by now and ready for school?”
Freddy was silent for a long moment, not comprehending the surrealism of suddenly having the man at his door, and his wariness of a trap about to be sprung making the small hairs on the back of his neck and on his arms stand a little straighter. “What’re you doing here?”
Blonde smiled slow and lazy like, sort of like a Southern gentleman. “Joe’s got a job for us. Well,” he paused, his head tipping to the side and the little smile stretching a little further and creating small dimples that hollowed into his cheeks. “A job for me, you’re playing tag along.”
A small creeping feeling settled itself along Freddy’s spine, his chin tilting upwards as the confusion overlapped with the paranoia he got when he eyed the smile on Blonde’s lips. “I didn’t hear anything’ about this.” He said, allowing his skepticism to bleed through just enough to be a natural response. “Why didn’t anybody call and tell me?”
“Maybe you were asleep,” Blonde said calmly, eyes darting to the crack between the door and door frame, his head moving as if to get a better look inside, despite Freddy’s head blocking anything from being within sight. “How’s the missus? She in bed too?” His lip curled into what Freddy thought was supposed to be teasing, or perhaps indecisive and oddly knowing, but he wasn’t entirely sure. Whatever it was, it made him shift his feet, grateful for the door blocking how disconcerted he appeared from the criminal’s view.
“She’s not here,” he lied easily. “She’s at work.”
“You sure about that?” He smiled.
Freddy frowned, hoping that it’d be interpreted him as simply not liking the idea of someone insinuating that his fake wife was off somewhere he didn’t know of or approve of. Last thing he needed was someone knowing that not only was he lying about being married, but that his non existent significant other was also apparently cheating on him. Or something along those lines. He tried to read Blonde’s face, see if there was more than him just being an ass, but if it was there, he couldn’t see it. The man was blank, clear and clean of anything that might give away the meaning, the thoughts inside his head carefully hidden. Freddy was uneasy, not just with what was going on, and possibly planned, but that there was a man who seemed so naturally unreadable. He himself had to be aware of himself constantly, to know what his face was showing, what was in his posture like, what was in his tone. He had to hyper sensitive to everything about himself, but here in front of him was a guy who managed to be completely unreadable as easily as he stood upright.
“Keep that bullshit to yourself.”
Blonde didn’t say anything, didn’t nod, didn‘t give anything away. Just stood quietly, taking it in and then said, “Well, you go leave her a note. We’re going out of town, probably won’t be back ‘til late tonight, if things go quick.”
He was quiet, a silence stretching between them as neither budged and Freddy mulled over the story with rising concern, but Blonde raised his eyebrows in a small movement, his expression reading clearly as a ‘Well?’, slight lines forming across the previously smooth skin of his forehead as the rest of him remained quiet and stoic.
For a guy possibly hired to take him out, he almost looked as innocent as a guy asking for directions to the nearest fill-up station.
Freddy still wasn’t convinced, something screamed at him that it wasn’t quite right. That it was wrong, and that Nice Guy would have called if they had a job they wanted him to go on. Something that required driving around alone with the space cadet. But, as suspicious as he was, he couldn’t risk saying no, because if it was something Joe wanted him on, then he had to go. He just hoped that the place out of town they were headed to wasn’t a shallow grave that he was going to be expected to kneel before. Hell, he could see it already, like out of one of the old crime movies that used to be played late at night on television during the summers. He used to sneak downstairs when his parents were in bed and sink down into the old sofa and watch some dumb-ass punk who double crossed the wrong bunch of crooks get led straight to his death and kneel down in front of a pit of fresh dug earth, guys with bad acting and cheap cigars clamped between their teeth leveling a gun at the fool’s head. “You really thought you’d get away huh, Sunny Jim?” They’d say, or something along those lines, and either the fool would be brave and dumb, or scared and cowardly, begging for his life and crying for mercy before a bullet went through his skull. Always execution style, like in the old war films his dad and grandpa liked to watch after Easter dinner every year. Freddy used to love those movies. He’d sit in rapt attention in the dark, thumb nail between his teeth as he hung on every word and every motion and gesture of the bad acting, waiting to see who’d be smart or who’d be dumb and go to his waiting grave.
“I’ll be right out,” he muttered, snapping the door shut without warning and leaning heavily against it, his gaze turning to the mirror and his own reflection which greeted him from the shined surface, the small hand gun held so tightly in his grip that his knuckles started to slowly ache from the pressure being applied.
He ran a hand through his hair, the air kept up tight inside his lungs escaping him in a low slow breath.
A job. A job he had no warning of, and out of town at that.
Something about that just didn’t sit right. Blonde seemed like the dangerous sort, not like an animal like some guys could be, with sharp smiles and dangerous eyes. Nothing generic, nothing typical in a bad guy crook, hired and out for blood. Just something a bit off about him. Maybe the way he combed his hair, maybe the cheap aftershave he wore. Maybe the way he smiled like he had some genuine old school charm. It just didn’t sit right. There was a twist in his gut, how nonchalant the man was when he stood outside another man’s home. Not acting like it was a sudden thing, but like they’d made the plan to go on a trip weeks ago and was amused by his buddy’s poor memory. Like everything was cool, everything completely calm and normal and there was nothing amiss.
It had to be the biggest pile of shit he’d ever dealt with.
But on the offhand, if he had been found out, it’d make more sense for them to have called him. They wouldn’t want him to think something was up, they wouldn’t want him paranoid and cautious, they’d want him comfortable and sure of himself, sure that everything was straight as they sent him to his death. Hell, Joe was a damned smart guy, he’d know that. If he was going to catch a rat he’d know how to do it, and do it good, so more likely than not somebody just forgot to fill him in, maybe Eddie too busy off with some work of his own or fucking some stripper he’d met, and didn’t get around to making the call. Or maybe they wanted to see how willing he was to trust them, to put his life in the hands of some stranger. One of their guys. A man he was expected to work with in the long run anyway.
He still didn’t like it, he decided with a groan, pushing himself away from the door and staring aimlessly around his apartment, arms loose by his sides and his shoulders tense. And he was sure that Holdaway was going to be pretty damn un-amused.
A long car ride in the California summer could be absolutely vile if the right circumstances and aspect were mixed together. Sitting in a strange car, with a strange guy, listening to Sugarloaf croon about their green eyed broad as the backs of his arms sweated and stuck to the material of the seats and the air condition dickered and struggled, giving short bursts of cool air and then lapsing until there was nothing but a smothering gust of heat that settled around the temples and throat, making the mouth dry and beads of moisture to form and gather, not enough to drip as a decent sweat but to itch and irritate the skin and threaten to get into the eyes and sting. This, mixed with the small gust of cooled air carried through crack of the slightly lowered window, and a still body that made no movement other than the curve of his arms as he steered, or his thumb tapping rhythmically on the steering wheel in vague harmony with the radio, was enough of a combination to have Freddy sitting still as a statue, his breath warm and tight in his chest as a cigarette balanced between his fingers up near the crack in the window, his eyes glued on the seemingly endless stretch of road ahead of them as he wondered if there was a possibility that at the end he was going to walk up and be greeted by his own demise. That, perhaps, it was a set up, that he wasn’t being paranoid, that perhaps the man tapping along to the radio beside him was going to put a bullet through his head, even execution style, and leave him for the coyotes. To let nature handle the game of hide the body. Or if there was a hole already dug, just big enough to dump him in. Or if they were just going the simple route; a dumpster and lighter fluid. So many possibilities, each one worse than the last, all perfectly plausible and even possible, stretched out ahead of him and looming in the distance where he could see it, but not reach and grasp the conclusion with certainty.
The longer he thought about it, and the longer they sat in silence, the more sure of himself he became that it wasn’t an innocent job he’d been sent to join in on. That while it have made sense for Eddie to call and to keep him assured and calm, that even smart guys could make mistakes. Or they wanted him to panic. They wanted him to see it coming, to shit his pants waiting for it, watching it come at him and knowing he was stuck on a track he wouldn’t be able to get back off of. It left a sticky thickness in his throat, to have such certainty and such uncertainty at the same time, to be so indecisive yet so sure that something had gone wrong. Joe hadn’t bought into him. The man could probably smell a rat, and he wasn’t stupid. Or blind. Freddy knew he didn’t exactly look like a cop, but he didn’t look like a career criminal either. Despite his bravado, his tone, his infinite amount of practice, of having Holdaway and other officers smacking him upside the skull, getting his shit straight; knowing how to walk, talk, where to look, how cocky to be, how snaky he should be. How to act like he was an up rising star in the organized crime industry, how to sound tough and look smooth, how to be a bad motherfucker.
“You ever been to Europe?” Blonde said suddenly, startling Freddy out of his thoughts and making him to turn and watch the man with veiled wariness.
“Europe.” He repeated, not looking away from the road, as though it was obvious. “My brother’s been over there. Traveling, seeing the sights, taking in the culture or whatever it is you do when you go to Europe. Says it’s great.”
“…ah.” Freddy said, getting it, but still unnerved all the same. “Yeah, no, I’ve never been there. I’ve been to Canada, and once to Mexico, but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.” He waited for the conversation to continue, but as he watched Blonde drive the man said nothing, was just quiet and drove in silence as though nothing had been said at all. As the silence stretched, and the song on the radio changed to another seventies pop song that he hadn’t heard since he’d first started shaving, he turned his head back forward and then to the window as he watched the scenery pass them by.
“You won’t get shit out of Mexico or Canada.” Blonde said suddenly, and Freddy frowned and turned back, wondering why the fuck the man had taken so long, making him think the subject had been dropped. “There’s no culture. You have’ta go to Europe to find culture. It’s where everything is. Art. Music. All of it.”
If Freddy was honest, he’d say that Blonde hadn’t struck him as much of an artistic kind of guy. As a matter of fact, despite what he was saying, he still didn’t.
“Europe is expensive, man.” He said, eyebrows raising. “Maybe one of these days, or something, but right now I can barely pay off my lease.” That much was true. “S’why I needed this job with Joe. Get my cut, I’ll move on up. Move out of that shit hole I’m at.”
“My brother saw the Mona Lisa.” Blonde mentioned amiably, breezing past what Freddy had said as if he hadn’t said it at all. The corners of his eyes were crinkled, like he was smiling, though his mouth was still a straight line.
“He went and he saw her. You know what he said? He looked at her for a good long time, just lookin’ the whole painting over, and then he said ‘Shit, this is just an old painting.’ Because that’s what it is, just an old picture of some brunette. People act like Jesus Christ himself wiped his ass with it, but it’s just some picture. It’s what all art is, just pictures. But their cultured.”
Freddy found himself nodding, even though Blonde wasn’t looking at him. It was a sentiment he could agree with, a bit, but he figured there had to be more to it than that. It wouldn’t be so important if there wasn’t more to it, wouldn’t be so famous and priceless. People didn’t treat things like that if they were, in fact, just a picture. He didn’t exactly know his art history, didn’t really know much more than the big names; Michelangelo, Picasso, Van Gogh, and all those famous genius types. If their works were just pictures, just that and nothing more, then they wouldn’t be worth the pedestal people had placed them on. They just wouldn’t be worth it. People were stupid, but they weren’t that stupid.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
He waited, the sounds of the car, the wind screaming through the window, the crooning and poppy jingles of seventies hits on the radio, even the rumble of the motor suddenly seeming quiet as he waited for the other man to speak. But he didn’t, his thumb was still tapping away, his eyes focused on the road at he guided them forward, and Freddy decided that the conversation must really be over. It was annoying, just that small snippet of conversation having pulled him from his thoughts, away from what was possibly waiting for them at their destination, and he felt a twist in his gut as he sat in silence, absently flicked the worn out and smoldered cigarette butt out the window and watched it be ripped away by the rushing air from the corner of his eye, and as the radio and sticky heat lulled him back into a meditative stupor, he watched the land pass them by. He began to wonder how much he should be worried. Maybe he really was on his way to get iced. He had a gun, he knew standard hand to hand, he might even have a fighting chance despite a clear difference in size and weight. Or maybe it was exactly as it’d been presented to him, and he’d best take his mind off of it and focus on the task waiting at hand.
A task he still didn’t even know the nature of.
God, he hoped that there wasn’t someone getting taken care of. Even if it turned out to not be him, which he’d guiltily find to be a relief, he still didn’t want to be joining in on someone taking a hit for having crossed Cabot. How the fuck was he supposed to handle that kind of a situation? Tell Holdaway he was sorry, there was nothing he could do, that he had to stay in character? Or get his ass in trouble by trying to play hero and giving himself away as not being quite as much of the tough little shit that he was playing the part of? Either situation, no matter how you decided to look at it, was a bad fucking situation.
Sitting forward, he cringed a little as the back of his arms peeled from the seat, and his eyes darted to follow the movement of Blonde’s thumb as it continued to lightly tap along to the radio.
He still hadn’t even said where they were going.
Freddy had a feeling that no matter where they ended up and for whatever purpose, he wasn’t going to be liking it.
It was when they got into town that Freddy’s heart had sunk down into his gut and really started thumping. It was in that rolling bellyache meets heartache kind of way. First his heart started beating real quick, practically humming in his chest, and then just plummeted down into the hollow of his stomach. But even as it sank it kept up that wicked pace. It wasn’t much longer before that bled away into nervous excitement. It took everything to keep his face blank and smooth, completely devoid of the anxious tension he felt even as he started to feel kind of nauseated and his palms started to sweat. More than once he had to subtly wipe his hands on his jeans.
He had no honest idea of how he managed to keep himself cool and collected around Blonde, even when the bastard lazily steered the car into a drive-way, parked, and killed the engine.
The few moments when the guy just sat there, quiet, not even acknowledging he was there had him nearly strung out on the tension. Freddy felt like he was going to suffocate on it. The possibility that this was the end of the line, that there was no telling what was going to happen. How was it going to go down? Was he going to be taken inside the house, what looked like one of those old houses that got split into three or four separate apartments, maybe into the basement and there’d be someone else waiting? Maybe Blonde was going to do the whole thing himself. Maybe there really was a job and they were paying a house call on some poor bastard. There was simply no possible way that the crook couldn’t feel it. The tension was like a pea soup fog on a miserable day. He absolutely had to be able to tell it was there. He could probably smell it in the musty smokiness of the car interior; heavy on the air and rank in his nostrils.
When Blonde got out of the car so did Freddy.
It was unspoken. The ‘You follow me’ was there, hanging under the surface, and Freddy made himself calm down a bit. On the offhand that he was giving away some of his tension, he needed to be clear headed. Make it look like he was just nervous because he was an amateur. Turn that anxiety into actual excitement. Make it look like he really was a young crook turning professional. He couldn’t let it away that he was scared for his life. He wasn’t scared. Maybe a little. Anxious that he’d mess up. Scared he’d make a mistake common for rookies. He had to turn his paranoid bullshit into what he should be feeling so he could look it. He couldn’t jump to conclusions, he couldn’t defend himself immediately and he knew it. Holdaway had pounded that lesson into him with the intensity of a drill instructor. Be the character, be the cover. Keep it going for as long as fucking possible. Don’t give yourself away at any moment, even if you’re found out. Plead fucking ignorance. Plead ignorance until the bitter end, because even if you have to pull a gun and defend yourself, you want at least someone to believe you may be the real deal. You never know, so you take no chances.
Considering the mantra running through his head, it was pretty anticlimactic compared to the ideas his brain had been shooting at him on the drive there.
The first five minutes they didn’t even go inside. Blonde just checked his watch, modestly adjusted himself, and started stretching from being folded up inside the Caddy for so long.
Freddy just leaned against the car and smoked in silence.
They were in a typical urban neighborhood. Nothing special. The house they were parked at was more than halfway down the street. At one end was more houses, at the other was a liquor store and one of the main roads. There was a teenager loitering outside the liquor store, probably hoping to bribe someone into buying him alcohol. The house itself was pretty average. Big, old and ugly. The vinyl siding was dirty and a faded puke green, one of the upper story windows had a crack in it and the apartment window on the left side had a big FOR RENT sign taped up with a phone number written in large block letters. It could have been any house, any street, any town, anywhere. In all honesty, Freddy was almost disappointed. It wasn’t even the kind of scumbag hideout you’d expect to see in a cheap crime drama or on Baretta. Too normal, too common, completely natural.
“C’mon.” Blonde rumbled. Rather dutifully, Freddy threw down and stepped out the cigarette before following. They slipped on their holsters, armed themselves openly, and walked around back. It was cool, quiet, and while not broad daylight, it was close enough to it.
The apartment they were looking for was at the back of the building and up a cheaply built wooden staircase that looked like maybe five years ago somebody had started to stain it only to give up and walk away. At the top was a door, and Blonde knocked three times. It was almost identical to how he’d knocked on Freddy’s door. Perfectly timed, no rhythm. Just knock - knock - and knock. The hard blunt contact of flesh and bone meeting wood with peeling paint.
Unlike at Freddy’s apartment, instead of knocking again, he just grabbed the doorknob, gave it a testing twist and then forced the damned thing right open. Freddy watched the spectacle of home invasion quietly and nearly jumped when a heavy palm landed on his shoulder, firmly guiding him up the last step and inside.
“You haven’t said what we’re -” He started in a whisper, the nervous stomachache hitting him again like a fist to his gut.
“Hush.” Said Blonde loudly, cheerfully, holding up a hand. Almost holding up a hand. It was more like a vague and lazy jerk of his wrist down around his side.
There was a sudden loud thump in the next room. The sort of noise typically associated with someone slamming into something. Considering the sudden presence of somebody new in the apartment, Freddy was willing to bet the home renter had banged against a table or counter when he’d heard voices. Maybe was even reaching for a weapon to hold off invaders.
Blonde started walking and Freddy followed him. They turned the corner into what apparently was the living area there was a guy with tussled dark hair scrambling to pull his jeans up skinny hips as he shoved a crack pipe under his futon, a haze of smoke clouding the already dim atmosphere of the crap stacked living room. There were cheap faux bamboo blinds over the windows that were casting a yellowish shade, and an old television was on PBS playing re-runs of the Muppet show with a shitty connection that would flicker as old cereal boxes tried to balance the antennas in place.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” the guy yelped when he saw them, going still as his eyes, red rimmed, skimmed over his house guests. His curse broke off at the end, dissolving into a thick smokers’ cough that made Freddy’s own throat ache in empathy.
“Afternoon, Tommy.” Blonde said pleasantly, as if he’d just dropped by like a typical neighborhood guest. “Travis around or you home alone?”
“How the fuck should I know, does it look like he’s here? I think he went out to get some fucking smokes or maybe to -” He broke off his rambling, finally having recovered himself and stood up, jeans now in position and just a peek of his boxer-shorts over the waistband. “The fuck, Toothpick? Why’re you -- where’s Vince?” He ran a hand through his hair, only succeeding in pushing it up more so it stood on end in various directions. He glanced at Freddy, his apprehension bold on his face.
It was like looking at a stereotype for white trash.
“Never you mind about Vince.” Blonde waved off, and Freddy hovered behind him, eyebrow having raised as he wondered about the Toothpick nickname. Who the fuck went around getting called Toothpick of all things? Sure, sounded kind of rockabilly when you really thought about it, but seriously. Kind of lame. “We’re here to see you and Travis. Now, you sure he ain’t home or does my little buddy over here need to take a walk around the premises and make sure he didn’t slip in while you were smokin’ up?”
Tommy shifted on his feet, just enough for Freddy to have a feeling and take a look towards the shadow of a hallway towards the back, adjacent to where he and Blonde were standing. Blonde seemed to get the same feeling, and without a word jerked his head in that direction. Cops, crooks, whatever the fuck have you. It was a universal instruction, and Freddy nodded. He placed a hand openly near his gun and started across the room, first giving a look to the white trash, to Blonde and then making his way cautiously but purposely towards that pathetic little depression of space.
He may have looked sure of himself, but he was so tense that his legs and arms were starting to cramp.
The hallway itself was bare. There was a closet, which he checked, and it was empty aside from some musty jackets and some dust collecting sports gear that probably hadn‘t seen the light of day since moving day. There was a bathroom, the door open just a sliver, enough to give him a slight view of a shower and the edge of a chipped sink. He walked quietly, straining to listen for any movement inside, but also to hear anything transpiring between Tommy and Blonde. He couldn’t hear them speaking, in fact, all he could hear was his own leveled breathing and the heavy thud of his heart beating within his chest. A hard thud, thud, thud that rose to his throat and ears, the pounding of the blood overshadowing the sound of his breath, of the sole of his shoes on the carpet, even the slight rustle of fabric as he drew his gun and held it poised in front of him.
He slammed the door open and it swung loosely on the hinges.
There was nobody inside.
Just a small, cramped, dirty bathroom. Shower, sink, toilet. A couple pairs of dirty boxers on the floor between the sink base and the scale. Sighing, partially out of the ridiculousness of his own tension, he slipped his gun back into place and ran a hand through his hair and away from the oily sweat that was beading across his scalp and forehead. It was hot inside the apartment, and rank with smells and smoke. He hadn’t shared an apartment for awhile, and the near suffocating smells of smoke and the overwhelming multiple male essence was starting to give him a headache.
Back in the living room, things hadn’t changed all that much. Blonde was leaning, seemingly quite comfortably, against the wall and Tommy had caught a seat on the edge of a chair and was glancing between the floor and Blonde himself.
“Didn’t find anybody.” Orange said as he walked back in, stopping midway across the room and staying put.
Blonde nodded and turned his sights back to Tommy.
“You got any idea why we’re here?” He held up a hand as the guy started to sputter a response. “Now, calm down. Don’t get all excitable. Me and Orange over there had a long drive. We’re dog tired. You know what happens when you get excited around a tired dog? It gets annoyed. Frustrated, even. Then it starts getting excitable itself. You know what comes after that? Well, what usually happens when a dog is ticked off and starts getting excitable?” Tommy started to sputter off another reply, but Blonde stopped him again.
“Orange, what happens when a tired, annoyed dog gets excitable?”
“That’s right,” He nodded, “It bites. Now, personally, I’m not much in the mood for biting. I’m a bit tired from that nice long drive we had to get here. But Tommy, you give me a reason, and I will. I’ll bite like a scrap yard dog. And I bet if you get me riled enough to bite, that’ll get my associate over here all excitable too. Now, what you really need to think about here before you open that mouth again, is how you feel about having two tired, ornery dogs in your living room, who could get excited and start biting at any time.”
Tommy wasn’t looking quite as comfortable anymore, he was nodding his head, watery blue eyes darting between the two men as his head just kept moving side to side. It was kind of silly looking, to watch him. Still high, still half dressed, hair sticking every which way and his chin just jerking up and down, left and right, as he made a decision for two men with guns.
Freddy was starting to get a slight sinking feeling down in his gut again. This one wasn’t quite as strong as the previous ones. He wasn’t sure why they were here quite yet, but the scenario was taking shape. Maybe these guys owed money, or were looking to buy something, and for whatever reason they needed to get scared. There was no other word for what Blonde was doing. Hell, if Freddy himself hadn’t been on Blonde’s side of it, his heart would have been in his mouth at the moment. The pleasantries were still there. They, the intruders, were still seemingly cool, calm, and relaxed. It was Tommy who was tense. He was the one who looked like he was expecting a gun to his forehead. And maybe he was. In fact, he probably was. Freddy figured he would have been had he been in his place. Barely half an hour ago he was expecting to be in his place.
Whoever Travis was he was probably going to be happy he was missing out on this. Tommy on the other hand, was glancing just a bit at the windows every so often, just a bit, hardly noticeable, but enough to belay his desire for someone to show up. Hoping for a neighbor to stop by, maybe a fellow junkie wanting to drop in and get high for awhile. Someone, anyone, to interrupt what was happening in his apartment as he sat scared and outnumbered.
“So, we gonna talk like a couple of sensible grown men, or you gonna get riled up? Remember, you get riled up, then we get riled up. But if we get riled up, we might bite. Do you want us to bite, Tommy?”
Tommy kept shaking his head, the line of muscle at his jaw tense. As Freddy watched him, really took him in, he realized that the junkie probably wasn’t that much older than himself. Maybe somewhere between himself and Blonde.
“Good,” Blonde nodded, rubbing a hand over the slight scratch of the day’s stubble appearing on his jaw line. “Now, I was hoping to talk to not just you, but to Travis too. But I s’pose if he wont be gracing us with his presence, I’ll just have to lay down the facts with you, and hope you’ll be kind enough to pass the message along. Can you handle that?”
Tommy nodded adamantly.
“Good.” He said sounding pleased as he pushed himself off of the wall and nodded once to himself. “That’s good.”
“You see, Tommy. You came into an agreement with Joe. And from the way thing’s been looking, he’s kept his end of the bargain and you and your buddy Travis haven’t made up your end.” Tommy started to say something but Blonde held up a hand to silence him. By this point, Freddy was paying even closer attention. If ever there was a moment to be a rat, then this had to be it. Hearing not only details of the crime he was in on, but whatever other affairs Cabot had tucked away under his belt with low life scumbags like this Travis guy and Tommy. Crack addicts with White Castle burger boxes on their floor and a shitty television reception. If he hadn’t been so focused on the now he’d have been mentally practicing how he’d be relaying everything back to Holdaway.
“Now, Joe helped you guys out. Joe doesn’t help just anybody out, Tommy. You know that. You can’t take his generosity for granted. He’s a busy man. A generous man. But you start misusing his generosity, it starts to get pretty ugly. Particularly for you and your buddy.”
Blonde breathed deep through his nose and leisurely removed his gun from where it was situated. Freddy didn’t move, not directly, but his eyes locked on the other man and he paid further attention, his gaze following his fingers and his pulse picking up every time his fingers even seemed to get close to the safety or the trigger. The same seemed to be said for Tommy, though he looked more like a startled rabbit. He wasn’t even trying to cover up his fear. It was like he’d suddenly been drenched in it, it was raw and stark on his face.
“Now, as I recall the situation as I was told,” Blonde said calmly, taking a seat in an old armchair and having his gun hang heavy in his hand between his knees. Loose but not too loose. “You owe some money, is that right? You and your buddy got in a bit of trouble with one of Marcellus Wallace‘s guys right? Joe cashed in a favor to get you out of it. Travis is related right? Distantly I think.” He rubbed his nose thoughtfully, “Ah, that’s right. Eddie’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s nephew or some shit like that. Hell if I remember. But you guys were in a nick, and Joe got you out of it. But he wanted it know it was not just a mercy act, you were gonna owe him. Work or cash. Course you couldn’t do him any work, you’re a couple of junkies, what can you do for him? No professionalism, can’t handle a gun, can hardly fuckin’ think straight. So he asked for a modest payment. And as I hear it, it’s been about a year, and no payment.”
Blonde shook his head and fixed a look on the junkie.
“Now, that just isn’t gonna fly, Tommy. When you owe a debt, you pay it on time. Didn’t your mother ever teach you that?”
Tommy nodded, but he seemed to not know if he should be. The way his chin and head were jerking, it was almost as if he couldn’t decide whether he should be nodding, shaking his head or pleading for some act of mercy to leave him be and get back to normalcy and his crack pipe.
“C’mon Tommy, you guys have the money?”
“I don’t - I dunno. We’ve been saving up, I swear we have Toothpick. I swear to fucking God. I don’t handle it though, Travis, he don’t -- he don’t trust me with the money so you’d have to - “ Blonde cut him off, another brief raise of his hand.
“Hold up there, cowboy.” He said, chidingly. “You have the money, or you don’t. Which is it?”
“I dunno, I don’t - Travis would know --” He was cut off again.
“Come on, Tommy. You’re starting to get excited. You’re getting me excited. Yes or no. Do you have the money?”
“I don’t --- No. I don’t, no. No, I don’t think we do. Not yet! We will! We’ve been saving up and we almost do, I swear to fucking God, Toothpick, I swear to fucking God.”
Blonde leaned back in the chair, absently turning the gun over and between his hands as he watched Tommy with a look. With what Freddy could see of it, that was the only description of it. It almost reminded him of a teacher, some kind of authority figure faced with a stupid kid and a dilemma, and not entirely sure how to go about remedying the problem.
“Well, I guess if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.”
Tommy sat forward, eyes clouded but earnest. “Really? I mean, c’mon man, we’re good for it. But you gotta understand, we just need time. I’m sure we almost got it. Just a bit longer. You could leave a message for Travis, I’ll give it to him, and we’ll get this worked out.”
“A message.” Blonde murmured thoughtfully, nodding to himself. “A message. That’s a good idea right there. We can just leave Travis a message, go home, tell Joe it’s being sorted out, and when it’s done? It’s done. Water under the bridge. What d’ya say, Orange? That sound like a good idea to you?”
“Sounds just peachy to me.”
Blonde nodded. “Hear that, Tommy? All sounds peachy. Looks like we can work things out after all.”
It was like a physical weight lifted itself off of Tommy’s shoulders. He stopped slouching, sat a bit straighter and there was a hopeful gleam to the dark bloodshot hollows of his eyes. It was hard to believe someone so pathetic was really worth any bit of effort on Cabot’s part. The guy was likely to get AIDS from a dirty needle at some point, or OD on something, smoke himself down into a stupor or some kind. A knotted gnarled branch of a human being, sallow greasy and bony. How he could be honestly worth the trip was beyond Freddy’s comprehension. All those hours plastered to the seat of a car thinking he might be on the way to his own death, and it came down to this little wreck of white trash urban suburbia.
Blonde was standing up, and Tommy moving to stand as well.
“So, is that it? I mean, what should I tell Travis when he gets back? Or do you want to write down the message or something like that?”
Blonde smiled a slow pleasant smile, and Freddy felt something twist in his gut even before the words were said. “Actually, I had a better idea. When it comes to issues as sensitive as money, I think it takes a bit more than words to deliver a message properly. Words, you know, they don’t mean all that much.”
He rubbed his jaw slowly. “Orange. Take our buddy Tommy here and shoot out his kneecaps.”
The reactions of the two men were virtually identical. Both turned startled eyes to the man, though they were already looking at him so it wasn’t so much turned, and simply stared for a long moment of terse, heavy silence. Tommy seemed to be unable to formulate words, his pink mouth gaped and his lower lip wobbled pathetically, and his knees visibly quivered, threatening to give out and send him back into a seated position on the edge of the chair of where he‘d been perched throughout the discussion..
Freddy wasn’t much better, but he managed to gather himself quickly and utter a throaty “You sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Shoot them out. We want a real message here. Something that’ll get Travis’ attention and make him understand that just because you’ve got some obscure relation to the higher power doesn’t mean you can skip over your debts. Now get it done, I’m dog tired and want to skip out of here before the neighbors get home.”
Freddy’s mouth had gone dry.
His fingers twitched and his mind was racing and turning to a numb white noise seemingly at the same time. As his stare switched from the thief to the pathetic excuse for a human being, he felt his hand slipping back into the holster and removing his piece even as his mind picked up speed by ten fold, various possible scenarios running through at three thousand miles per second and four at a time as he weighed his options. In the end, how much would it really hurt if he did as told? He’d be likely fucking the guy up for life, and he’d never forgive himself for it, but if he refused, or gave away his cover, how much more would he be hurting? It was a junkie and his knees. His stomach flipped and rolled. It was a junkie and his knees. It was a man and likely his ability to walk. But there was the job, and now that he looked at this, it had to be a sort of test. Joe wouldn’t send him to do this for no reason. Blonde wouldn’t practically put the gun in his hand and tell him to shoot for no reason. They were seeing if he had guts. If he had the balls for this line of work. And sadly, he didn’t think that he did. Freddy really didn’t think that he did. He wasn’t that kind of a guy. He wasn’t the type of man who could swallow everything down and destroy another man for life. Over money. Something as fucking retarded as cash would cost a guy his ability to walk, and what for? To make a point? So other people would hear what had happened, and understand that either you got a favor and paid your debt or you avoided people like Joe Cabot as best you could?
No, he couldn’t do it. He was a cop, but not a tough one. Not really. He liked to dream and pretend as much as the next guy. Liked to think he’d accomplish something heavy and badass and earn his gold shield, but he didn’t have the stomach for it.
But maybe Orange did.
In fact, he was sure that Orange did.
“You think it really needs to be both?” He asked, tilting his head to the side thoughtfully even as he forced down his building guilt and nausea. “Kinda harsh for a first warning, innit?”
Blonde was quiet for a long minute, and then shrugged. “Whatever. One could work. But make sure it’s the knee, don’t pussy out on this and blow out his shin.”
He nodded. And as Tommy turned pathetic terrified eyes on him, all Freddy could think was ‘You idiot. I saved you a leg. I’m saving you a fucking leg so don’t look at me like that. I did what I fucking could without making it worse for the both of us.’ But even with the rationalizing with himself, and his desperate attempts to somehow miraculously telepathically relay the message into the junkie’s mind and make him understand it was the only way and that he‘d somehow helped him out in the end, nothing could assuage the wave of gut wrenching and spleen twisting guilt that ate through him as he raised that gun and leveled it at his target.
When they walked out and back down the ugly half stained stairs, Freddy didn’t even notice the warm broad palm of Blonde’s hand as he gave him a brief pat on the back. The loud shot of the gun, his gun, and Tommy’s agonized screams were still ringing far too loudly in his ears.
“Where the fuck are you at?”
“Barely a fucking clue,” Freddy breathed, pinching his nose bridge as he peeked over his shoulder to where Blonde was leaning against the car and taking long slow drags on his cigarette.
“Well take a fucking guess, man. Give me a general area so I’ve got something to work with.”
“Ah,” He stalled, eyes rolling upwards to stare through an old band sticker half scraped off of the phone box. “I think we’re somewhere outside of Palm Springs. Give or take. Hundred and fifty miles to two hundred out at my best guess.”
“…fifty miles is a big ass gap, man. Hell, your best guess. Knowin’ you that means you’re west and south of where you think you are and a good three hundred fucking miles out.”
“Ah, c’mon man, cut me a break. He took some back roads on the way up. What the fuck do you want from me? This motherfucker just had me shoot out a junkie’s fucking knee. I shot out a guy’s knee. I nearly shit myself, man.”
“What the fuck, Freddy? What the fuck are you doing out there?”
“It’s a test, I think, I swear they’re trying to feel me out. They wouldn’t bring me out here for no fucking reason. I couldn’t do anything else, man. He said shoot out the kneecaps and that’s what I had to do. I haggled him down from both to one, but what the fuck was I supposed to do? If I’d pussied out on it he’d have thought I was either not gutsy enough or that something was up. I’m sorry man, but you told me not to break cover so I didn’t break the fucking cover.”
“Well duh, Mr. Fucking Obvious. Listen, just watch yourself out there. I want a full report when your ass is back in town. Watch your fucking back, you hear me? And for God’s sake man, figure out where the fuck you are. Do you at least know where you were? Did you think to memorize the address, man?”
“Yeah,” he mumbled, peeking over his shoulder again and seeing that Blonde was watching him calmly, Red Apple cigarette still pulled between his lips as he drew slow lazy drags off of it. Completely comfortable, totally sure of himself. They might as well have been on a road trip to fucking Disney land the man looked so fucking relaxed.
“Why you being so quiet? Speak up, Newandyke.”
“Sorry man, but he’s watching me. For all I know the bastard can read lips. Listen, run a check on the nickname Toothpick. The junkie called him that.”
“Toothpick? What the fuck is that?”
“I dunno, man. Just run a check. I’ve gotta go, he says we’re going to stay over night. Doesn’t like driving late at night or some bullshit like that. I figure I’m pretty much as fucked as I can get right now.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just watch your fucking back.”
“I plan on it.”
“Get off the phone, man.”
“Alright, alright. Thanks honey, I’ll see you when I get home.” Freddy said, a grin twisting his lips a bit as he turned back around so the thief could see him speaking openly. “Love you.”
“Fuck off, jackass.”
There was a hiss of breath on the other end as Holdaway hung up the receiver, and Freddy waited a moment, just staring ahead as a few seconds ticked by unnoticed before hanging the phone back onto the grime collecting cradle. The sun was almost setting now, the California sky turning yellow and gold with a hint of lavender in the opposite direction where dark was already beginning to settle. It was still warm, enough that there was sweat on his neck at his hairline, just moist enough to itch, and he rubbed a palm over the short hairs there as he started walking back towards the Caddy.
“So?” Blonde smiled, dropping the cigarette butt to the ground and stepping on it.
“She thinks I’ve run off to Reno with a woman named Cee-Cee to full fill my dreams of being an entrepreneur in the tiger breeding business. All Bengal, hoping for an albino. Albinos are worth a fucking fortune.”
“Beautiful animals,” Blonde chuckled. “Course, could tear your face off if you look at it wrong.”
“Ah, and that’s why we sell them off and get them into zoos and magic acts before they’re grown. Like over sized kittens when their young. It’s all good.”
“I bet Cee-Cee will be proud.”
“Hell yeah. I’ll make an honest woman out of her, the little bitch.”
Blonde smiled without showing any teeth and got back into the car.
Continue to part the second.