At any moment you may have to kill someone, or even be killed. I attempted to control my nerves and focus on the tasks that lay ahead of me. I was once one of these men sent to kill without knowing why. A 'yes man' that did whatever it took to complete an objective. If these guys had any idea of who I was, of who the man they worked for, would they still try and kill me? Not that it mattered anymore. They chose their profession. They knew what they signed up for. They were part of that two percent.
The two percent of men that were born to kill.
I stood in silence as I waited for the chain of events that would ultimately lead to the loss of life. Not mine, but of those sent to kill me. The back door opened and the footsteps were clear and methodical. This person wasn't rushed. They were a professional.
The ratchet sound of a shotgun out front immediately erased any plan I had. John had jumped the gun and I had lost any element of surprise I may have had. I burst out of the office, and trained my gun on the man at the back door.
Instinct and training taught me to shoot on sight in a situation like this, but something stopped me. “Don't move!” I shouted.
The sound of glass shattering on the floor pierced the dead silence of the bar. A young man stood in the doorway, arms raised.
Our eyes met briefly.
“Get on the floor and throw me your weapon!”
“I... what..?” he stammered, “…I don't have a weapon! I work here!”
I scurried to the front of the bar and stopped dead at the sight of John holding a shotgun inches from a man's head.
No one moved.
The clientele glanced from John to me holding the revolver at my side and my mouth hanging open.
“Mitch?” I said.
“Derek, what the fuck is going on?”
I blew it. Paranoia and the alcohol had gotten the best of me.
“John, it's…it’s alright. I know him. He's good.”
John peeked at me but refused to lower his gun.
“You can put the gun down, John. He’s cool. He’s with me.”
John glanced between us and, after a moment, reluctantly lowered his weapon.
“What was that noise back there?” he asked.
“I uh... owe you a case of Dos XX. I may have scared the shit out of one of your employees. He may not want to work tonight.”
John sighed. “Shit! I forgot Miguel was coming in. He usually works Thursdays.”
“Excuse me!” Mitch shouted. “Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?”
John and I exchanged looks.
“Your mess, your explanation,” John said. He returned the shotgun to its place under the bar. “I'll go talk to Miguel.”
“Mitch, what are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here? Last I knew, you were in a gunfight and almost died, your boyfriend was shot and is in the hospital, and for some reason you decide it's a good idea to go on a bender and shoot anyone that walks through the door? Are you fucking insane, Derek?”
I put the gun on the bar and took my seat. None of the other customers left or even acknowledged what had just happened. They returned to their drinks and ignored Mitch's ranting. This was definitely my type of bar.
“It was just a misunderstanding,” I said.
“Taking someone's parking spot is a misunderstanding. The bartender almost blew my head off with a god-damned shotgun!”
“I think, after today, I'm entitled to be a little paranoid, Mitch. Did you come here to lecture me? If so, you're about two drinks too late. I've had enough bullshit for today and you can leave. I can still feel where you tazed me.”
Mitch crossed the bar and took the seat next to me. “Look, I'm sorry. But you know I don't like guns pointed at me.”
“Why are you here, Mitch? How did you find me?”
“I followed you from the hospital. I saw your meeting with Lang. I knew it didn't go well and decided to follow you. What happened?”
“Seriously? You can stalk me around the city, but you can't answer your damned phone?”
John returned from the back and pointed at my empty glasses.
“Make it two,” Mitch said to John. “Look, I was upset. We both were. Can you blame me for not wanting to talk right away?”
“Then why are you here now?”
“Because I can't take losing another person. I can't take losing you. Not again.”
I didn't respond for a while. John brought us our drinks and left us alone. He didn't seem too shaken up about the situation. I grabbed my shot and held it up to Mitch. We touched glasses and downed the Jameson.
“Why do we do it?” I asked, after a while.
“What we do. Kill people. Take the lives of people we don't even know.”
“It's not easy, I know.”
“Actually, killing is the easy part. Living with it is another story.”
Mitch took a sip of his beer and turned to face me. “We're good at what we do, Derek. If we didn't do it, someone else would take our spot. Everyone has a calling, and this is ours.”
“So, you don't feel guilty? Ashamed? We destroy people's lives for a living. Not just those that we kill, but of everyone that person knows. Their friends, their family, their lovers...”
Mitch put his hand on my shoulder. “…Derek, what has happened in the past is just that... the past. Everything that's happened to us, created us. We make a choice every day in life; the choice of who we want to be, and who we want to be it with. This is our choice. We both accept the risks because we're good at what we do. And, deep down, however sick or fucked up it is, a part of us enjoys doing it.”
“But we can't change who we are. We're that two percent. The two percent that are natural born killers. How do you change the only thing you've ever known? How do you get people to accept your past?”
“Not everyone will accept you for who you are. But those people aren't the ones worth fighting for. Some of us will never be happy in life; all we can hope for is being at peace. We are those people.”
“I don't want to be one of those people anymore, Mitch. I'm sick of it. I want out. I can't stand losing everyone that matters to me. Most of the time I feel alone in the world.”
“You're not alone, Derek. You never will be. Not as long as I'm alive.”
I finished my beer and glanced at Mitch, absorbing his short brown hair, spiked in the front. A good contrast to his deep blue eyes. The same eyes that made me fall in love with him years ago. His six foot frame was built more like a swimmer than a professional killer.
Mitch remained quiet as we looked each other over.
“Derek?” he finally said.
“Let's leave. I've had enough to drink.”
I flagged John over to get my tab and I had to give the guy credit. With everything that just happened, he didn't say a word. He ran my card and brought my receipt over to sign. I doubled my tab as a tip. Mostly because I created a lot of unnecessary drama, but part of me felt bad that I caused Miguel to drop a case of beer. He nodded to us as we got up to leave.
“Be safe,” were his final words as Mitch and I walked out the door.
Outside, the cold air hit me hard. The rush of adrenaline hadn't fully faded and my blood still pumped heavily through my veins. Mitch wrapped his arms around me and I melted into his warm embrace.
“My car is around the corner,” he whispered in my ear.
Part of me knew that what we were doing was wrong. My boyfriend had been shot and sent to the hospital, but here I was, sinking into the embrace of another guy. Not just any guy, but an ex I was unwilling to admit that I still loved. I turned to him but didn't break our contact.
“Mitch, what are we doing?”
“We're doing what feels right, Derek. You were there for me on some of my darkest days. Let me be here to do the same.”
We kissed. Not the fast kiss of those desperate to make love, but the slow, passionate kiss that made any doubts in my mind fade away. There wasn't a spark in our kiss. It was more like the slow burn of a piece of coal; the glowing embers that fueled the fire deep within us. The kiss lasted for minutes, neither one of us willing to pull away.
When we finally stopped, I leaned into him. His arms enveloped me in warmth. A warmth that I knew and loved. A warmth that I hadn't felt in years. A warmth that I desperately craved that night. Any doubts I had about what may happen that night vanished. Sometimes all a person can do is show up and be there, and Mitch was there, holding me on a crisp night that I would never forget.
We walked towards Mitch's car, but remained in close contact. His arm draped over my shoulder as we walked in silence. We turned the corner and I saw his Tahoe parked on the street surrounded in darkness.
He stopped suddenly. “Wait.”
“What is it?”
“The streetlight is out,” he said, nodding at the lamp above his car.
“So are half the others. This isn't the most well kept neighborhood, Mitch. I'm sure replacing light bulbs is the least of their worries.”
“It wasn't out when I got here. That's why I parked there in the first place.”
We both looked around the shadows surrounding us.
“You sure?” I asked. “It could just be paranoia. It happened to me in the bar.”
Mitch motioned, without pointing, to the glass under the streetlight. “It was broken recently. Someone knows we're here. They're waiting for us.”
Instinctively I reached for my gun, but it wasn't there. I left John's revolver at the bar. As if reading my mind, Mitch bent down and acted like he was tying his shoe, but was actually pulling his backup weapon out of his ankle holster. Always the prepared one.
“What now?” He asked as he slid the weapon behind my back and tucked it in my waistband.
“Let's make out.”
“Honestly, Derek, now's not the time for jokes.”
“I'm serious,” I said, and pulled him in close. “This way we can look over each other’s shoulders and scout the area without drawing too much attention.”
“Fine. But no tongue or I'll get distracted!”
Our lips met again. Even though it was a rouse to check out our surroundings, the kiss was still passionate. We turned slowly so each of us could get a full view. When we stopped I was breathless. Mitch put his forehead against mine and smiled. I couldn't help but return it.
“You see anything?” he asked through his smile.
“No, but I did have a few drinks so I may not be 100%. What about you?”
“Across the street. Your 3 o'clock. There was a glint of color. Most likely the reflection off night vision goggles. They know we're here, why haven't they taken a shot?”
I thought about it for a moment. “Maybe they don't want to shoot us on the street. What if they want us to get in the car?”
“You think they rigged it?”
“It's not like it's that hard. How many times have we done the same thing to a target?” I asked.
“True,” He agreed. “You think they pressure rigged it or wired it into the ignition?”
“What difference does it make? Either way, the second we get in that car, we're dead.”
“Humor me. You've done it more than I have, just answer the question.”
“Well to pressure-rig the seat they would have to get inside without setting the alarm off, and then install and calibrate the weight sensor under the seat, but that requires almost taking the entire seat apart. It would be faster to just wire the ignition to blow it. But why does it matter?”
He smiled and pulled out his iPhone. “You ready?”
“Are you recording our death? If so, then no.”
“I have an app...”
“There's an app to remote detonate a bomb?”
“I have OnStar.”
“And?” I asked.
“I can remote start my car from anywhere.”
It finally clicked in my mind. “If this works, you better leave them a damned good review.”
He pressed a few more buttons on his phone and then looked up at me. I nodded, and he pressed the final button.
Though a block away, the resulting explosion sent a shock wave through the street. The Tahoe was immediately engulfed in flames. I watched as the SUV lifted a few feet off the ground before settling down on the street in a raging inferno. Store windows on both sides of the street shattered and the two cars closest to the Tahoe also caught fire.
We wasted no time when the explosion happened. We ducked around the corner and ran back down the street towards the bar. An alleyway on our left appeared and we made a silent decision to take it. It would lead us back to the wreckage and our potential killers. If they were still alive.
We made it two blocks when his phone rang. “Hello?”
I couldn't hear the entire conversation, but I knew it was OnStar calling based on his responses.
“No, it wasn't an accident... Well yeah, I mean the car is destroyed, but... No we're fine... Look, now's not a good time... Fine, I understand what company policy is, but we don't need an ambulance... Or the police... No... For fucks sake, just call the damn cops then!” Mitch shouted and ended the call. “Cops are on the way. We need to move fast.”
We continued our way down the alley and made a left a few streets down. We were now on the opposite side of the roaring flames that was once Mitch's car. Besides the few homeless in the area pushing their shopping cards full of belongings away from the area in a hurry, no one else was visible.
“Shit. They scattered already. We lost them,” he said.
“Not quite,” I responded. I spotted a homeless man shuffling away from the scene with no belongings. The same man who had entered the bar earlier.
I took off, sprinting down the street, gun in hand, with Mitch following. A block away, the man turned and spotted us. He immediately dropped the facade and fled. I may have been in shape, but the guy we were chasing was faster. He took a left at the next intersection, and we were still a block behind.
“Take the alley and try to cut him off!” I shouted to Mitch.
I glanced behind me to see Mitch peel off in the alley. When I reached the corner, I turned left at full speed. I took the corner at a wide angle and it saved my life. The soft sputter of a silenced weapon and the dings they made as they hammered the pavement in front of me made that abundantly clear.
I ducked behind a parked car and waited for the shooting to stop. I tried counting how many shots he fired, but I couldn't be sure. The alcohol threw me off. It was a miracle I wasn't dead already.
The soft clicks of his silenced weapon were interrupted by a tremendous bang from another weapon. It echoed through the dark neighborhood and faded into the faint sounds of approaching sirens.
“Derek?” Mitch yelled.
“Peachy,” I mumbled. “Did you kill him?”
“Not quite. He's still breathing.”
I poked my head around the bumper of the car I was using for cover. Mitch was down the street holding a gun to the homeless man lying on the sidewalk. He was clutching his shoulder where Mitch had shot him. I got up and made my way towards them.
The man on the ground said nothing to me.
He stared me dead in the eyes with a look of indifference. He knew his time had come and had failed his mission. There was no recognition of pain or fear on his face, just a blank stare of acceptance.
“Better make it quick,” Mitch said. “Cops will be here soon thanks to that little OnStar prick.”
“What's your name?” I asked the man on the ground.
“Jackson,” he said, without breaking eye contact.
I fired a bullet into his head and then two into his heart.
He was dead before any pain could register.
“What the fuck?!” Mitch asked.
“He wouldn't have talked. Not without a pharma package to loosen him up, and we don’t have time to try and break him before the cops get here.”
Mitch lowered his weapon. “Well, no shit, I already knew that.”
“Then what are you mad about?”
“You used my gun! That was my favorite back-up! It was clean with no trace and now I have to ditch it.”
I looked at the gun. It was a 9mm CA 75B semi-automatic pistol with a satin nickel finish and a 15 round magazine with one round in the chamber. It held 16 rounds of ammunition. While not the most expensive gun, it was reliable and I could tell why Mitch liked it.
“I'll buy you a new one,” I said.
Mitch sighed. “I want one that's engraved this time.”
“Fine. Can we get out of here now?”
Mitch draped his arm over my shoulder as we made our way away from the scene and the approaching sirens. To anyone else, we were just another young, gay couple out for a midnight stroll.
We continued walking for a few miles with no destination in mind. Right now we just needed to put distance between us and the crime scene. Every few blocks I would drop another piece of Mitch’s weapon in a dumpster after wiping it clean of prints. Trash collection was the next morning and we were now far enough away that there was little chance the police would be able to find any of the pieces, much less enough to assemble it again.
The main thing I was worried about was our presence in the area. Mitch’s car was registered under an alias that couldn’t be traced back to him, but I had used my real credit card at the bar. If the police went to the bar looking for witnesses, all John had to do was give them my credit card receipt and my name would appear on a warrant issued state-wide.
“We’ll be fine,” Mitch said. “We’ve been through worse.”
“Yeah, but we had people with power backing us that could make certain things disappear. I don’t have that anymore.”
“You still have Lang. He can protect you.”
“I put his son in the hospital. I’m not so sure he’ll be willing to protect me anymore.”
“You underestimate him. And yourself. He thinks of you like a son, you should know that by now.”
I sighed and leaned closer to him. “I just don’t like not having control. We left a huge trail for them to follow and it all leads back to me.”
“How about you stay with me tonight?” He asked.
“Well I had planned on getting a hotel room for the night, but I can’t use my credit card anymore, so I guess that works out.”
Mitch smiled. “You don’t have to justify your decision with me.”
I returned the smile but didn’t speak. He knew me too well.
It was rapidly approaching midnight so we hailed a cab back to Mitch’s apartment in the city. The drive was long and at some point I dozed off in the back seat cuddled up next to him.
When I woke up we were in the city a few blocks away from his place. He was awake and smiling at me. “How are you feeling?”
“My head is killing me,” I groaned.
“Serves you right for all that drinking.”
“Whatever. Did you sleep at all?”
“No, I was talking with the cab driver most of the way. And I wanted to make sure we weren’t being followed.”
“And?” I asked.
“Turns out he’s originally from Chicago, has a wife and three kids, two are in college so he does a lot of late night cab driving to help pay for it. Really nice guy.”
“Asshole. You know what I meant.”
Mitch smiled again. “We’re clear so far as I can tell.”
The cab pulled to a stop beside an apartment complex on the outskirts of the city. I had been here once before, back when Mitch had a BBQ and invited a few people over. It wasn’t anything flashy or extreme, just a simple, well-maintained building with peaceful, middle-class citizens living life. At this hour, everyone was most likely asleep.
Mitch paid the cab driver, wished him luck with his family, and sent him on his way.
“You’re always so nice to people,” I said.
“You’re one of the few people that can hold a conversation with a random stranger for hours on a drive. Most people would have just ignored him.”
“I’m not most people.”
“I know, you’re better.”
“He thinks you’re some random kid I picked up at the bar because you said you were into all sorts of kinky things. Turns out, he and his wife are too. He said if you’re ever in the area again, they’d be happy to host a party.”
I punched him in the arm. “You’re an ass.”
“Not according to everything you just said.”
“Yeah, well that’s before I knew you were a giant prick.”
“Speaking of giant pricks…” He said as he led me inside.
I woke up alone in Mitch’s bed to the smell of coffee and a faint glow shining through the window. A quick glance at the clock told me it was way too early to be waking up. I yawned and stretched my body, the events of last night still fresh on my mind. I continued to lie in bed, refusing to start the day before the sun was fully up.
Mitch, apparently, had other plans.
“Go get him!” I heard him whisper.
“No! You son of a bitch!” I screamed.
An orange flash of fur came running around the corner and leaped through the air and onto the bed. He licked my face and nudged me towards the edge of the bed. I tried to curl up under the blanket, but it was no use.
“Damn it! Get off me you big oaf!”
Mitch appeared in the doorway with just his boxers on, coffee in hand. “He’s not going to leave you alone until you get out of bed.”
“I can’t get out if he’s on top of me!”
“Dog, sit,” Mitch said.
The golden retriever sat obediently and continued to stare at me like I was a toy. When I made no move to get out of bed, he nudged me and gave a playful bark.
“What? He just wants to play!”
“Well I’m kind of naked under here.”
“Mmmm,” he groaned. “Maybe it’s my turn to play.”
“Don’t even think about it. You can’t sic your dog on me first thing in the morning and then expect sex. It doesn’t work like that.”
Mitch pouted and then turned back towards the kitchen. “Fine. Have it your way. Get him, Dog!”
Dog immediately pounced on me again until he succeeded in pushing me completely off the bed. I stared up at him while he hovered on the bed, tail wagging.
“Sounds like Dog won!” Mitch laughed from the other room.
I ignored the comment and grabbed a pair of boxers.
Well it felt good to finally post another chapter! Hopefully the next one won't be so far away!
Once again, a huge thank you to LouisHarris and MJ85. Louis is an awesome editor that doesn't let anything slip! Any mistakes are from me tweaking after he graciously waded through the slop I had on 'paper'. MJ, my beta, that never fails to tell me when an idea sucks, or that I should drink more before writing. Without these two, the chapter wouldn't be what it is today. Thanks guys :)