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Payday: Civil War

Chapter Text

Captain Winters was dead to begin with.

Houston was the one to put that pain in the ass out of his misery. Winters had always been fucking annoying. He would show up, cause a bunch of chaos, and then leave like the coward he was when it got tough. The crew had an ongoing “contest” to see how many rounds they would go through before he left.

Being distracted was what had done the captain in though. Winters turned just ever so slightly as Wolf set up their last turret gun. It was one chance in a million, but Houston fired anyway. The bullet went through Winters’ temple, blasting his brains over his shield.

Houston barely believed he did it, and would have ended up in custody in his shock if Chains hadn’t grabbed him during their escape.

The residents of the safe house gathered in front of the television set to watch the press conference about Winters. As the guest of honor, Houston was wedged in the middle of the sofa between Chains and Wolf.

“I found bottle of Stolichnaya,” said Sokol. He came from the kitchen with the vodka in one hand and glasses in the other.

“I’m all for drinking to the man’s health,” said Bonnie.

Nazdarrovya!”

“Would you two keep it down? McKendrick is about to go on.”

Houston wanted to enjoy his short moment in the limelight. The sofa was getting gradually less comfortable as Dallas and Hoxton tried to find room. Jacket was creepily leaning over Houston’s shoulder, trying to get a better look at the television.

“Don’t let it go to your head, mate,” said Hoxton.

“Of course you would say that.”

“Okay, everyone keep it down. I want to hear this,” said Dallas from his end of the sofa. He clicked the volume up a few levels.

The press conference looked the same as it did when Commissioner Garrett announced the arrival of Captain Winters. McKendrick was a little grayer in the jowls, probably worried about what voters would think of him now.

He straightened his tie before starting his speech.

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. As many news outlets have reported, we regret to announce the in the line of duty death of Captain Neville Winters.”

The gang cheered and Houston felt Chains clap him on the back.

“My administration is greatly saddened by the loss of Captain Winters, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

“Well that’s a fucking robotic response,” snorted Clover.

“More information about the service will follow shortly. To discuss details with the press, I invited Commissioner Garrett to speak.” With another adjustment of his tie, McKendrick walked off the stage.

“You’d think the bastard would say more,” said Chains.

Houston saw Dallas lean forward in interest.

Garrett still reminded Houston of a science teacher he hated in middle school. The man has been as sour as the Commissioner was. The times had been trying for him; the lines in his face were darker than they were before.

“Thank you Mayor McKendrick, for inviting me. Captain Winters was a good friend of mine, which makes his murder all the bitterer.”

“He ain’t mincing words is he?” said Bonnie.

“He was killed by a member of the Payday Gang, another casualty in our war on crime in this city. And I promise I am as committed as ever to eradicating them from Washington D.C. Neville Winters’ death will not have been in vain. Thank you.” Garrett walked off the stage to a flurry of questions from the press.

“That was disappointingly short.” Houston was expecting Garrett to rant and rave a little longer.

“We’ll have to keep checking the news,” said Dallas.

“Don’t worry my friend, have a drink.” Sokol came around from behind the sofa, shoving a glass of vodka into his hands.

Houston held the glass away from him. “Uh, I don’t drink.”

***     

Winters was one less problem for Dallas to worry about. But several more concerns were becoming more pressing.

Garrett’s first, and probably best, idea failed. The public knew that Winters had been killed by the Payday Gang. Dallas was still surprised Garrett hadn’t mentioned his next plan for dealing with them in more detail. Maybe he learned from his showing off of Winters during the first press conference.

As a few weeks passed since his little brother blew Winters’ brains out, Garrett’s war against them had grown complicated. Dallas tried to not let it bother him, but sleep had trouble coming.

After he had tossed and turned for what seemed like the nth time, Dallas wanted to get out of bed. Hoxton, ever the heavy sleeper, slung an arm over his stomach, trapping him. The clock said nearly five in the morning. Dallas gingerly moved Hoxton out of the way, not wanting to wake him.

He stood in the kitchen making a pot of coffee. Dallas dug around in the refrigerator, crossing his fingers that the milk hadn’t expired. It was one day shy, hopefully one of them would have time to run out and get more. He stood, jumping at the sight of Hoxton leaning against the stove.

“Jesus, you scared the shit out of me.” He reactively placed a hand on his chest.

“That wasn’t my intention.”

“Did I wake you?”

“Just a little.”

The coffee finished brewing.

“Do you want a cup?” Hoxton was in the apartment more often than not, but Dallas still felt like he had to play host.

“Not at five in the fucking morning.” Hoxton crossed his arms. He was staring at Dallas with a raised eyebrow.

“What?”

“Out with it, what’s bothering you?”

Dallas considered dismissing Hoxton’s concerns, but knowing him he would probably pester Dallas if he did.

“A part of me wishes Houston didn’t kill Winters.”

Hoxton frowned. “What do you mean?”

Dallas finished making his coffee.  He needed a little caffeine before explaining further.

“I mean we knew how to deal with him. And now that he’s dead, who the hell knows what Garrett wants to try next.”

“Doesn’t Bain got a mole?”

Dallas sighed. “Not anymore.”

Hoxton leaned forward in surprise. “What do you mean not anymore?”

This was why he didn’t want to have this conversation now. Before dawn was not an ideal time to confess secrets.

“Bain only told me yesterday. Smith is still keeping in touch. But it’s not him. The feds didn’t take their time to perfectly mimic his writing style and spelling mistakes.”

“So what the fuck happened to him?”

Dallas rubbed his forehead. “Who the hell knows, but he’s not in Garrett’s office anymore. And that’s not the part that concerns me the most.”

“Ah shite, and what’s that?”

“Before they got to Smith, he sent Bain the name of Garrett’s new plan. It’s called Project Image.” The gang was in it deep now, if Garrett was giving his ideas code names.

Hoxton laughed. “That makes him sound like a fucking Bond villain.”

“I don’t know what it means.”

“You gonna tell everyone to stay low?”

“A little, but I want us all to keep doing what we were doing.”

“Are you sure that’s smart,” Hoxton said skeptically.

“If we change tactics that tells Garrett that we’re on to him. I want to know more about this Project Image first.”

“I’m guessing you want me to keep my mouth shut about this.”

“I don’t want the others panicking over what could be nothing. But I’m going to talk to Chains about this. Let’s hope Project Image is just another idiot cop with delusions of godhood. Oh, and whatever you do Jim, don’t tell my brother my opinions on Winters.”

“Afraid of breaking his little heart?”

“I mean it,” Dallas said darkly. Houston had always been a little sensitive, especially when he felt slighted.

“When have I ever dragged you into our rivalry?”

Dallas smiled. “I’d kick both your asses if you did.”

Hoxton reached over and placed a hand over Dallas’ mug. “Now that you got that off your mind, want to come back to bed?”

“I’m already awake.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure.” Dallas brushed his arm.

Hoxton gave him a quick peck on the cheek and left the kitchen.

Once Hoxton was gone, Dallas sat down at the table. Time to make plans for the future.

***

Clover was halfway through her second Guinness of the evening, Houston still on his first glass of root beer. They were sitting in a corner at a hole in a wall, enjoying a little privacy. Being there together was less than a date, but more intimate than two friends hanging out.

“When are we going to do a job again?” she asked, stretching out in her seat. “Something quiet. I miss picking locks.”

“Why are you asking me? I have no idea.” It was starting to concern him that one hadn’t been in the works for a while.

“You’re a lot closer to Dallas than I am,” said Clover.

That was true, but his brother had been more aloof than usual lately. Houston felt like he was the only one who noticed it. Chains acted like it was same old same old, Hoxton was still a dick, and Wolf, was Wolf.

“Yeah, well he’s not telling me jack.”

Clover took a sip of her beer. “Oh? Family problems?”

“It’s not like that.”

Houston didn’t exactly want to confess his insecurities to Clover, but the last time they were together, she told him something personal. His thoughts would be safe with her.

“Spit it out!”

“I get the feeling he’s not too happy I got Winters.”

Clover laughed. Houston liked how deep and throaty it was.

“I’m not happy you did either. I lost a hundred bucks to fucking Bonnie.”

“You were betting on who would do it?” Houston said incredulous.

“It was her idea. Sorry, I had my money on Chains.”

Houston felt his ego deflate slightly. “Thanks.”

“It was too much to resist. Anyway, did Dallas say anything to you?”

Rather he hadn’t said enough. It was not as though Houston expected his brother to lavish him in praise, but he thought he would have said more.

“He said ‘Good job little brother’ and slapped me on the back, and that was it. After we got Hector, we actually sat down and talked about it. Like how we should have figured it was him.”

“Maybe he’s plotting. He seems the same to me.”

“I don’t know. It could be a sibling thing.”

“At least you got one brother to worry about. I’ve got seven and they’re all a bunch of ballbegs.”

Houston didn’t know what that meant, but it was probably an insult.

 

The next time he was in the safe house, Houston paid closer attention to Dallas. On the surface all was as it should be. Gradually, he noticed that Chains was acting in a similar way to his brother, aloof and quiet. It wasn’t as obvious, but he had been around both men enough to tell.

Did they both know something he didn’t? Why weren’t they telling him? Old feelings of inferiority resurfaced. Hadn’t he proved again and again that he deserved to be here?

Before Houston could confront either of them, Dallas held a meeting in the safe house.

“Alright ladies and gentlemen,” he said, standing in front of Lady Liberty. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news.”

“What’s the bad news,” said Dragan.

“The bad news is that now that Winters is dead, Garrett’s got to come up with another plan to get rid of us.”

Houston’s jaw clenched. If Dallas wanted Winters to stick around, he should have said so and saved him a bullet.

“I don’t exactly know what the good commissioner’s plan is, and he’s keeping it close. So for right now, I want everyone to keep quiet for a bit. The less Garrett knows the better.”

“Are we just going to hide until he makes the first move?” said Dragan.

“We are not hiding.” Houston watched his brother grind his teeth in annoyance. “I’m working on an arraignment that should benefit us.”

“And what’s that?” Dragan was not easily impressed.

“I’ll let you know when it’s concrete. Now if you all will excuse me, I have work to do.” Dallas turned and went to the basement.

Houston followed him.

“Don’t you think this is too cautious?”

“If I wasn’t this cautious little brother, I wouldn’t have lasted this long.”

It was funny how Dallas could use that nickname both as a sign of affection and as an insult. Houston kept arguing his point.

“Why can’t Bain help us organize a heist into Garrett’s office? We broke into the FBI already.”

“That was a heist you can only do once. I’m not going to risk people just for information that might not even be there.”

“Are you sure Garrett is that smart?” Houston had trouble taking a man who told his best officer to wear a giant badge on his chest seriously.

“He has his reputation for a reason.”  

“So what’s this arraignment?” Houston hated feeling out of the loop.

Dallas’ eyes narrowed. “I’ll tell you when I get a yes.”

“Am I the only one who doesn’t know about this?” Had his brother forgotten that he came immediately when he asked him to? Houston had been a part of planning every major heist since he joined the gang. “Does Chains know? Does Hoxton know?”

He couldn’t help the mocking tone in his voice with the last sentence. Dallas’ relationship was untouchable, but of course Hoxton would have some perks from being his boyfriend.

Dallas got close to Houston, keeping his voice low.

“I do what I do to keep this crew alive and out of prison, and you’d better respect that. This job is harder than it looks, so don’t do anything stupid.”

Dallas left him, anger boiled in Houston’s stomach. It was as if he was five again, getting caught in some mischief by his brother.

Houston found Chains, the man was more likely to talk than Hoxton.  The enforcer was playing cards with Wolf.

“What are you guys playing, poker?”

“Go fish, Wolf’s kicking my ass.”

“I ask the better questions,” Wolf grinned.

“You wanna join?” asked Chains.

“Why not?”

Chains wasn’t kidding about Wolf kicking his ass. Maybe he had played the games with his children in another life. After a few rounds, Houston felt comfortable bringing up the subject.

“You guys know what the deal Dallas is putting together.”

Chains took a card from Wolf’s hand. “Something with the Belasco family, they might be willing to be a second pair of ears. It’s all up in the air.”

Houston’s stomach sunk.  Chains did know.

“Bain’s idea or his?”

He could be mad at Bain, it was a running joke in the safe house how much of a pain in the ass he was.

“His. Bain is not a fan. You know how he likes to keep it all in the family.”

No, we’re family. Don’t you forget that. Houston wondered if his brother had.

Chapter Text

The meeting with the Belascos was fixed for about a week later. Dallas selected a few to attend. To Houston’s surprise he was asked, along with Chains, Wolf, Hoxton, and Clover. An old warehouse was selected as the meeting place, the gang’s own turf rather than the Belasco’s. The building was one of Bain’s many backup safe houses, Dallas had assured them that Garrett and company didn’t know about it.

While they waited for their guests to arrive, Houston was watching the back with Clover, in case the Belascos chose that way to come inside. Bain hadn’t joined them yet in their ear pieces, making Houston feel comfortable to bring up his concerns with Clover.

“I don’t like this.”

“Why not?”

They were both masked, but Houston could imagine Clover’s expression behind the cartoonish lips of hers.

“Look at us, we are attending this ‘meeting’ in ballistic vests, not exactly the friendliest of sights. We shouldn’t be allying ourselves with people who could betray us without a second thought.”

“Safety is safety, and are you sure about that? I overheard Hox and Wolf talking about how the Belascos hated Hector too. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.”

Houston hoped that Clover would agree with him, so he wouldn’t be alone in his thinking.

“That’s true, but Richard Belasco could easily turn into another Hector if the feds get to him.”

She held up her Queen’s Wrath.

“We’ll have to make sure he doesn’t then.”

“Think on it Clover, with the right people, the right equipment, and the right information, we break into Garrett’s office. Or hell, how about his house?”

“It would need a fuck ton of planning, with no room for error.”

“We could do it. The Ghost and The Burglar together!”

“We’ll see. Don’t get lost in your daydreams, love.”

Embarrassed, Houston felt himself blush. She hadn’t called him that before.

“You two better get over here.” Dallas’ voice crackled over the headset. “The Belascos are inside. Time to be intimidating.”

 

The main part of the warehouse was dark and dusty, save for a few bright lamps casting the place in shadow. Houston had been in there once before, Dallas had them store some contraband there after a few heists. His brother said that it stopped being used in the late 70’s, and through some finagling the building ended up in Bain’s possession.

Paint chipped pillars held the ceiling in place, old lists and posters were still taped to them and the walls. Houston thought them eerie reminders of what the warehouse was like in the past.

The Belascos were standing in a cluster. One of the things that Houston liked about being on the crew was that they had decent masks, unlike their guests. The Belascos were wearing black ski masks to conceal their identities. There were six of them, keeping the numbers even.  They were armed as well.

“Let’s hope this works,” said Bain.

“Good evening,” said Dallas. “I’m glad you could come.”

The Belasco standing near the front spoke. Houston assumed he was Richard Belasco. The man took over as leader from his father after the old man went to prison.

“So are we. My family is always looking for new opportunities.”

“You and the Payday Gang have a common enemy,” said Dallas.

“Garrett.”

His brother wasn’t wasting time getting to the point and neither were the Belascos.

“I know that you have several moles under your payroll.”

“Maybe,” said Richard Belasco.

“I still think this was a waste of time,” said Bain.

“What can we do to get your information?” asked Dallas. “I want to know what the fuck Garrett is up to.”
“Full access to crimenet.”

He had a pair of balls on him. Bain did not let everyone near crimenet, certainly not a small time rando who talked big.

“We’ll see. Bain needs convincing.”

“That he does,” sighed Bain.

Houston tried not to snort at his comment

“And so do we,” said a second Belasco.

“That information is our most precious commodity,” said Richard.

His answer proved Houston’s suspicions about the Belascos. If they were worth anything, Richard would not have spilled the beans that their possible connections to Garrett were the only good thing they had going for them.

“And crimenet is ours,” said Dallas.

“He needs to give me something,” said Bain.

“Bain will consider it. What can the Belascos do for crimenet?”

The answer to this would decide if Houston thought an alliance with them would bring anything into fruition.

“I’m not giving you my information, not yet.”

“Does that information even exist?” said Houston. He was not going to let the crew get walked over by some dumbass who thought he was tough shit.

He felt the rest of the gang watching him, surprised he had spoken.

“Did I ask for your fucking opinion?” snapped Dallas.

You oughtta. “Do you really expect us to believe that you know anything about Commissioner Garrett?”

“‘Us’, said Dallas sharply.

“Mouthy, isn’t he?” said Richard.

“At least I’m asking the difficult questions.”

“Houston, calm down,” said Chains quietly.

“Sorry I’m not moving as fast as you’d like,” said Richard, “But Hector’s antics nearly destroyed our organization. A few of us got caught by the feds, and unlike you all we don’t have the resources to break them out.”

“But you have dirt on Garrett,” said Houston sarcastically.

“Yeah we do, asshole,” said the second Belasco.

“You, shut the hell up!” said Dallas. He pointed at Houston in an effort to make his opinion known.

“He’s not wrong,” said Bain. “The Belascos can have a taste of crime net if they prove they are worthwhile.”

Houston saw Dallas take a deep breath.

“Bain wants more.”

“What’s he going to do if we give him that?” asked Belasco.

This impasse was getting ridiculous. The Payday gang could do better than that.

“Come on Dallas, we don’t need these guys.”

Houston wanted his brother to listen to him. Did Chains truly believe that this was the right direction? Houston couldn’t be the only one who thought this was a bad idea. Why wasn’t Bain speaking up more?

“Who is this prick?” asked Belasco.

“My idiot brother,” said Dallas.

“I can’t be the only idiot here who thinks this is bullshit.”

The warehouse dissolved into shouting. The Belascos, save for one, were angrily yelling that the Payday gang was a bunch of privileged assholes.  Dallas and Chains were telling everyone to calm the fuck down.

“Not all of us were born privileged,” said Houston over the din. He had a mostly normal childhood in suburbia, but a few on the crew had not. Chains, Clover, and Hoxton went into this lifestyle out of necessity.

“Shut up! You are not helping this situation,” said Dallas.

The Belascos started to calm down. Richard Belasco scratched his head over his mask.

“Why would my family want to work with you, if you can’t control your own?”

“If this isn’t going to work out, we should at least part quietly,” said Dallas.

“Doesn’t even have an answer for that.” Belasco said to his crew.

Houston scowled. “Better than being a liar.”

“Little Brother, for Christsake, I’m-”

The gunshot made them all flinch. A Belasco in the back’s arm was extended, a smoking pistol in his hand.

It happened so much faster than Houston would remember. Chains readied his shotgun to fire. Hoxton shoved Wolf out of his way. Houston watched as his brother fell to the floor, bullet hole through his ballistic vest.

Chapter Text

The warehouse dissolved into screaming. Richard Belasco yanked off his mask, shouting he had no idea his man would pull a gun. The other Belascos followed his lead, putting their guns on the ground. Chains was fucking pissed.

“Bain, Dallas is down, we need back up now!”

“I’ve got a guy, hang on!”

Houston couldn’t give a damn what the rest of them were doing. The sounds were all white noise.  He needed to get to his brother.  

Hoxton was already next to him, mask off. His hands pressed down on the wound. The bullet hole was on the right side of Dallas’ chest, an unusual spot for an assassination attempt. Houston knelt at his brother’s head. Was he still breathing?  Houston carefully slipped Dallas’ mask off. He was unconscious, his breath coming out in wheezes.

“Don’t die you bastard,” said Hoxton.

Houston tipped up his mask and reached under Dallas, expecting to feel more blood.

“There isn’t an exit wound.”

He placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder, the only comfort Houston could give.

 

***

Chains had two options: see what the fuck happened to Dallas, or keep the Belascos from running.

Richard Belasco held up his hands, begging for mercy.

“I didn’t want violence! I told them not to fucking shoot first.”

The shooter kept his mask on. He stood there limply, the gun at his side. Chains waited for him to begin firing again.

“I got a medic bag,” shouted Clover.

Chains looked back quickly.  Houston and Hoxton were by Dallas, but he doubted they knew how to treat a gunshot injury.

“We’re leaving,” said Belasco. “You can have him.”

He kicked the shooter in the back of the knee as he ran. The man crumpled to the ground.

“Put him in zip ties,” Chains said at Wolf.

There was an unspoken agreement between Dallas and Chains that he would be in charge if anything happened to Dallas. Not that Chains fucking expected this.

“Okay, what the fuck is happening here?”

“What do you think?” snapped Houston.

Time was critical. This was a moment that Chains was grateful for his years in the marines. Dallas had yet to turn blue, and his chest continued to rise and fall.

“Hoxton move your hands for one second,” he ordered.

“What?”

“Just fucking do it!”

Hoxton did as he was told. Chains bent over Dallas, watching as blood bubbled out of the hole.

“It’s a sucking chest wound.”

“I know what that fucking is Chains,” said Hoxton, reapplying pressure.

“I’m talking myself through it! And you all better fucking do as I say.” Chains grabbed the knife he kept strapped to his leg. It was years since his combat medical training. All of the crew’s injuries before were ones that they could handle themselves, but not this. Air was going into Dallas through the bullet hole. It could collapse his lung and worse, send him into a coma.

“We will,” said Clover.

“We gotta cut him out of his clothes to expose the wound.”

Clover had a butterfly knife, and helped Chains cut the straps of Dallas’ ballistic vest. Before they could take it off him, Chains was distracted by the sound of fists hitting flesh.

“WOLF! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”

Wolf’s knee pressed into the shooter’s throat as he punched him again and again. Him being dead was just was Chains needed.

“Fucking stop that! He’s the only evidence we have!”

Wolf was in one of his rages, and Chains couldn’t put in the effort to calm him down. Between Dallas or the shooter, he would pick Dallas.

“Stop!” shouted Hoxton. “Get over here NOW!”

Wolf got up, straightened his jacket and walked over. The shooter strained against the zip tie, spitting blood and teeth onto the floor.

Chains and Clover took off Dallas’ ballistic vest, wary of doing more damage. Hoxton continued to press down, and Houston murmured reassurances to his brother.

“We have to cut the rest of the clothes,” Chains said more to himself that the others, “Then I’m going to seal the hole, and hope Bain’s guy hurries the fuck up.”

Clover followed his lead. Chains was concerned that Dallas’ undershirt would be stuck to the wound and that he would have to cut around it. Houston reached over and took his brother’s tie off to help.

The wound finally exposed to air, Chains took off his gloves and put on a clean pair from the medic bag. Blood had soaked down Dallas’ stomach. Getting some gauze from Clover, Chains tried to clean around the bullet hole. He took a deep breath, and hoped he would do this right.

“The doctor is on the way,” said Bain.

“About fucking time. Get the tape ready,” Chains said to Clover.

The wound needed to be covered with an airtight material. Chains took the plastic bag that the gauze was in.

“Hoxton, you have to move your hands again.”

“You know what you’re fucking doing?” he demanded.

“I know what I’m fucking doing.”

Chains placed the bag over the wound. He had to steal it when Dallas exhaled.

“I got tape ready for you,” said Clover.

“I’m gonna need three strips,” said Chains.

At every exhale, Chains sealed three sides.

“HOLY SHIT! Fucking Bain didn’t say it was this bad!”

Bonnie was staring down at them in shock, Jacket, Sokol, and Dragan behind her. Chains wanted this “doctor” to show up first. He wasn’t sure that Bain was going to send the rest of the crew along too.

“You want to be useful, Bonnie?” said Chains. “Take that bastard and put him in the spare room down the hall, not the one with the bed. And I want this motherfucker alive. I’m talking to you Jacket.”

Understood.”

Dragan and Bonnie dragged the shooter away, Jacket going with them. Chains would remember to examine the gun later, no average thug would have a pistol that fired armor piercing rounds without someone powerful giving it to him.

“Hello!” called a voice from the back. “I was told there was a shot guy in here.”

“Keep walking down,” said Chains.

A thin blond man with a smug expression walked into the warehouse. A young woman in pajamas was dragging a large case behind her.

“I’m Crenshaw. I owe the Dentist a lot of money and that’s why I’m here.”

“You’re not a fucking dentist are you?” said Hoxton.

“No, I’m a goddamn veterinarian.”

“Don’t worry guys, he really is a medical doctor,” said the woman.

“This is Alison,” said Crenshaw. “She’s a nurse.”

Chains was unsettled by Crenshaw’s attitude, but if the Dentist approved of him, then so would he.

Crenshaw got straight to work examining Dallas.

“Good job with the seal, you probably gave him the best chance he’s gonna get. Alright, his lips are getting a little blue. Is there a bed in this shit hole?”

“Yeah, down the hall,” said Chains.

“Okay, we are going to move Texas here-”

“It’s Dallas,” snapped Hoxton.

“Whatever. We are going to move him to that room.”

Alison took a blanket from the case, folded it in half, and placed it on the floor next to Dallas.

“This should make it easier,” she said.

Crenshaw took charge and assigned them all a part of Dallas to grab in order to lift him onto the blanket.

“On the count of three,” he said. “One, two, three. Okay, he’s on there. Same thing again for taking him out of here. And whatever you do, don’t fucking drop him.”

“We’re not going to do that,” said Houston.

“Shut up,” said Chains. Houston had another thing coming once Dallas was settled.

***

After Dallas was placed on the bed, Houston’s heart rate started to return to normal, instead he felt painful worry growing in his chest. Chains and Clover lead him away, the fear that this was the last time he would see his brother alive splintered in his mind.

The remaining crew stood in the sparse “living room” of the warehouse. Clover was rubbing her eyes in exhaustion. Bonnie and Sokol came back, curious about what was going on.

Hoxton came out of the room, and the door closed behind him. Crenshaw must have thrown him out. Houston respected the man’s ability to get him to leave. The sight of blood up to Hoxton’s elbows was more disconcerting without Dallas in sight.

“You stupid fucking cocksucker!”

He went after Houston, ready to deliver a beating. Houston had seconds to get out of the way.

Chains stepped in, restraining Hoxton. “Not now! We’re not doing this here!”

Hoxton was struggling against Chains’ grip. “You fucking kidding me? He’s the reason we’re in this mess!”

“And we’re not going to do anything stupid!”

Hoxton wrenched an arm out from Chains. “This is well deserved!”

He was moments from breaking free. Chains was certainly stronger than Hoxton, but he was pissed. The Englishman would try do whatever he wanted. Would anyone else attempt to stop him if he got away from Chains?  Houston could see Clover eyeing the two of them. Clover told him that she would never betray Hoxton again, but stopping Hoxton from attacking him couldn’t be considered a betrayal, would it?

Bonnie reached over and grabbed Hoxton by the ponytail, yanking his head back. “I know you’re upset, but for fucks sake, calm your bloody tits!”

Hoxton’s attentions quickly turned on her. “Fuck you Bonnie!”

Bonnie held her arms wide. “You wanna fucking go little man?!”

“Fuck all of you!”

Hoxton shrugged off Chains’ hold. He shot Houston another glare and stormed off.

“Wolf, you keep an eye on him. And I swear to god if either of you go near the prisoner, I will shoot you both in the fucking kneecap,” said Chains.

“Don’t worry,” said Wolf. “I’ll keep him out of trouble.” He followed Hoxton.

“What do we do now,” asked Houston.

“No,” said Chains pointing at him, “You don’t get to ask that question.”

“What? I’m freaked out-”

“Well, maybe you should have used your fucking brain, instead of acting like a goddamn know-it-all.”

“It would be nice if someone explain what happened,” said Sokol.

“Stay out of this,” said Chains, anger radiating off of him. “This is between Houston and me.”

“I didn’t think he would get shot.” Houston had trouble finding his voice to speak.  Chains had to believe him. “I just wanted what was right for the crew.”

“If that was true, then you would have deescalated the situation, not fuck it up more.”

Alison poked her head out of the bedroom.

“Hey guys, Doctor Crenshaw wants me to say, and I quote, ‘shut the fuck up, so I can do my fucking job,’ Sorry about that guys, he really wants you too. Thanks.”

“Noted,” said Bonnie.

“Yup,” Alison closed the door again.

Chains got close to Houston’s face.

“Just cause I stopped Hoxton from kicking your ass, doesn’t mean I’m not going to.”

Sokol started to push them apart.

“That is enough. No more violence.”

“Please, not now,” said Clover.

Chains didn’t back down. Houston waited for the first punch.

Dragan walked in.

“Chains, Richard Belasco is back. He wants to talk to you.”

“Tell him I’ll be right over.”

Chains sighed deeply. Whatever he decided to do could not be as bad as what Houston felt now.

“Bonnie, Sokol, lock him in the maintenance closet. Make sure he can’t get out. I will deal with him later.”

The two took Houston by the crook of his arms. Sokol whispered an apology in his ear.

“Hey Chains, just tell me what happens with Dallas.”

Chains did not respond.

“He’s my brother, I can’t…”

 

The maintenance closet was dark and lonely. The lock clicked, and the sounds of Bonnie and Sokol walking away were replaced by silence.

Houston slid down to the floor. It wasn’t his fault Dallas was shot. The Belasco could have pulled the gun and fired anytime. He didn’t need his help to do it. Houston ran a hand down his face, a long unthought-of memory came to mind.

He was sitting in Nate’s lap, he must have been five. Nate would be eighteen. This was right before he moved out, arguments with their mom and Houston’s dad becoming a daily occurrence.

Nate was reading to him his favorite book. Houston liked the one where Winnie the Pooh got his fat ass stuck in Rabbit’s house.

“Will you read it tomorrow night,” he asked when the story was over.

“Aw we talked about this Ryan. I’m going to my new apartment tomorrow.”

He knew Nate was leaving, but he was in denial about his favorite person not being at home anymore.

“I don’t want you to go!” he said, the tears coming at last. He held on to Nate’s shirt while he cried.

Nate patted him on the back.

“Hey, it won’t be that bad. You can come visit me. We’ll go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, just like I promised.”

“Yeah, but you won’t be here with me.”

Nate laughed, happy to be so popular with his little brother.

Back in the maintenance closet, tired, guilty, and above all, alone, Houston wept.

 

Next Time: Chains finally gets some information, Hoxton attempts to process his emotions, and Clover makes a decision she can't take back.

Chapter Text

His hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

Hoxton ran and hid in the bathroom, the back of his head still throbbing from where Bonnie pulled his hair. His breath came in rapid gulps, but it wasn’t enough. Hoxton felt as if he was drowning. His heart beat fast enough that he feared it would give out like his Granddad’s did.

The ballistic vest constricted his breathing, but Hoxton couldn’t take it off. It wasn’t the first time he was covered in blood, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. But this was different. The stickiness made his gloves snap as he moved his fingers. His jacket was ruined, as was the shirt underneath.

None of that mattered; Hoxton wanted it off of him. But if he took off the gloves or the vest, Dallas’ blood would get elsewhere. Sweat dripped into his eyes, he couldn’t wipe it away without smearing blood on his face.

Hoxton had expected him to die. He waited to watch Dallas cease breathing, to feel his heart stop under his palms. They talked about what would happen if either of them died. Things to be done and words to be said. That was years ago, before they were in a relationship. And he thought going to prison was the worst thing to happen to him...

Hoxton tried to take slow steady breaths in the hopes that it would calm him. He shut his eyes, trying to block the world out.

He was used to being alone. Hoxton spent more than his fair share of days in solitary at Hazelton. The silence was pleasant at first, but being by yourself with your own thoughts soon turned into a personal hell.

As Hoxton hyperventilated, it got harder to stand up. The graying tile of the floor started to spin.

“Let’s not crack your skull on the sink, Hox.” Wolf caught him as he started to fall.

Wolf steadied Hoxton back on his feet. In his growing clarity, he realized that Wolf was carrying a spare shirt and a bottle of dish detergent.

“Fuck.”

Wolf smiled slightly.

“You’ll be alright. See, you can say your favorite word again.”

“Help me get out of this shit, Wolf,” asked Hoxton, his voice raw.

Wolf pulled his gloves off, throwing them in the trash. Hoxton’s hands did not tremble as bad as they did before. He and Wolf got him out of the ballistic vest. After that, it was easier to get the jacket, shirt, and tie off.

Blood stained the undersides of his wrists. Hoxton couldn’t help but stare, another wave of panic starting to hit him.

“Hox,” said Wolf, snapping him out of it. “Take this,” he shoved the detergent at him, “and wash your hands.”

Hoxton scrubbed until his skin was raw. There wasn’t a towel, so he dried his hands on his undershirt.

“Feel a little better,” asked Wolf.

Anxiety was replaced by another unpleasant sensation.

“Wolf.”

“Yeah?”

“I think I’m gonna be sick.”

Wolf unintrusively waited while Hoxton threw up. It honestly embarrassed him, he felt like a small child being nannied. Worse, deep down, Hoxton was grateful Wolf was there to help him.

Quite certain that there was nothing left in his stomach, Hoxton sat on the floor. He held his knees close, resting his head on his forearms. He heard Wolf sit down across from him. They shared a companionable silence.

Hoxton wasn’t sure how much time passed before Wolf spoke.

“Are you ready to go back out?”

He tucked back hair that had fallen out of his ponytail. Hoxton nodded. He needed to see Dallas again. If this was the end, he would be there.

“How do I look?”

“Like yourself.” Wolf passed him the shirt. “Bain must’ve stored spare clothes in this place.”

“Thanks.” Hoxton rolled the sleeves to his elbows. “Let’s go.”

***

Richard Belasco had a lot of balls for coming back so quickly, thought Chains. The man better have something valuable to say, Chains patience was running a bit thin. He and Dragan turned down the hallway to the back, passing Houston in the maintenance closet.

Chains opened the door, knowing Dragan looked intimidating behind him. He didn’t let Belasco back inside. They weren’t welcome anymore.

“What the fuck do you want?” he demanded.

Two of his lieutenants were with him. Belasco did not have his mask back on. Chains saw fear reflected in his eyes.

“Is Dallas alive?”

“For now.”

“Look, I don’t want the Payday gang as an enemy. Here,” he gave Chains a piece of paper. “His name is Christopher Mosconi, that’s his address. He’s been with me four years. Reliable kid, I had no fucking idea he would do that.”

If Belasco was feeling guilty, Chains would push for more information.

“What do you know about Garrett?”

Belasco sighed. “He’s working with Murkywater. That’s all I know.”

He did a shit job of bluffing about his value.

Chains tucked the paper in his pocket. “Thanks for this. Now get the fuck out of here.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice,” said Belasco. He and his lieutenants left as fast as they could without looking like cowards.

 

Back inside the warehouse, Chains spoke to Bain.

“You hear that?”

“Yes, and I hate to say this. But I’m gonna to have to go dark for a while.”

“THE FUCK?” One more thing to make this shit show worse. Having Bain around was like a safety net, and without it...

Dragan was surprised at his outburst, frowning at him.

“I think the feds are trying to hack me. Sorry Chains, but you’re gonna be on your own for a bit,” Bain disconnected.

“Motherfucker.” Chains tore the earpiece out.

 

Chains went back to the living room. Bonnie was raiding the kitchen, while Clover and Sokol were resting on the ratty sofa.

“I don’t know if you guys heard, but Bain’s gone for now. He’s thinks he’s getting hacked.”

“Well fuck me,” said Clover.

“I’m assuming we’re going to have to fucking stay here for a while,” said Bonnie. “And I don’t know about you all, but I don’t wanna eat spaghetti-o’s from 2003.”

Chains swore under his breath. “We’ll figure out a supply run later.”

Wolf and Hoxton came back, grim as to be expected. Wolf flopped down in between Clover and Sokol, while Hoxton leaned against the wall, arms crossed.

Dragan clapped his hands together. “This is as good a time as any to say I’m leaving.”

“But Dragan?” Sokol pleaded like a kicked puppy.

“You can’t go,” said Chains. Would things truly fall apart this fast without Dallas keeping them all in order?

“Actually I can,” said Dragan. “I was supposed to go back to Croatia next month for a visit. I’m sure the Butcher won’t mind if I arrive early.”

“You would really fucking abandon us?” said Chains harshly.

“Don’t think of it as abandonment. But I have better things to do than be involved in pointless squabbling.”

“Pointless squabbling?” said Hoxton. “You’re out of your fucking mind.”

“I’ve been listening and watching you all. This in-fighting is getting ridiculous,” said Dragan. “I’ll be back when it calms down.”

Sokol went to Dragan. “Please stay, we need people.”

Dragan gave him a nod. “Goodbye, Young Sokol.”

Sokol deflated as he walked away.

“Ah fuck him,” said Bonnie, giving a dismissive wave.

“I can’t believe he left,” said Sokol.

Chains ground his teeth, a bad habit that he thought stopped years ago.  

“Anyone else better not get any smart ideas. First Jiro, now Dragan.”

“Yeah, where has Jiro been,” asked Wolf.

“We went off to play Finding Nemo in San Francisco.”

“Nemo?” said Sokol. “I thought his son was Kento.”

“It’s a joke,” said Bonnie.

“It’s a movie about a fish that goes to find his son who is named Nemo,” said Wolf.

“That is-” Sokol was cut off by the sound of the bedroom door opening.

Crenshaw stepped out, Alison behind him.

“Your friend’s stable. That doesn’t mean he’s gonna live, but he isn’t dead yet.”

Clover crossed herself. Chains thought Old Catholic rituals must be hard to stop doing.

Chains smiled briefly. There was still some hope. “Thanks, man.”

“Whatever,” said Crenshaw. “And Cockney-Two Face, you can go sit by him now.”

“This accent’s from Yorkshire, you American wanker,” said Hoxton angrily. He shut the door part way, giving himself some privacy.

“Where’s the bullet,” asked Chains. As with Mosconi and the gun, it was evidence they couldn’t afford to lose.

“He didn’t take it out,” said Alison.

“Why not?”

Crenshaw rolled his eyes. “Cause sometimes taking it out is more dangerous than leaving it in.”

“Oh,” said Chains, feeling stupid. He should have remembered that.

***

Bonnie was never one to forget a flask and considering the events of the past few hours, she was glad she didn’t. One person needed a drink more than her.

The bedroom door creaked as she opened it. Dallas lay still as death, tube coming out of his throat, held in place by medical tape around his mouth. Bonnie was impressed by how much equipment Crenshaw had. He probably stole it. Smart man.

Hoxton sat next to the bed, holding Dallas’ hand, running his thumb along the knuckles. He hadn’t noticed or was ignoring Bonnie joining him. The sight of Dallas was unsettling to her. Bonnie had seen and done worse to other people. But Dallas was always, well, there, and now he wasn’t.

Hoxton quickly snatched his hand from Dallas’ when he realized he wasn’t alone.

“Oh, you’re not offending my sensibilities Jimmy,” said Bonnie.

“Have you come to abuse me some more?” He sounded more tired than she expected.

“Oi, if you’re gonna be a twat, I won’t give you this.” Bonnie waved the flask in front of him.

He took it greedily. “I’ll consider it an apology.”

“This is a pile a shit ain’t it?”

Hoxton stopped downing the scotch to answer. “You can fucking say that again.”

“My poor wee ned,” she tut-tuted. Bonnie hadn’t called Hoxton that in years. The mean term of endearment would probably annoy him.

Hoxton finished the flask, making a face as he did so. “Thanks, you great cow.”

Bonnie snorted. At least they were back on good terms.

 

***

Clover always knew when to leave. She picked perfect times to leave Dublin, Hoxton, and the British Isles. But now doubt weighed more heavily on her than exhaustion. The barest bones of a plan were coming together, a barely sensible plan, that is. Clover would find the confidence that this wasn’t the worst idea ever. Wasn’t better to go and fight, rather than to wait? That was if Houston wanted to go with her.

Her throat constricted at the thought of leaving Hoxton. He might never forgive her for this, especially considering that she was helping his arch-nemesis. Hoxton never gave her shit for running off on him. He gave her the biggest hug when they finally saw each other again.

But Houston was lovely to her. Needy and insecure, but in ways that Clover didn’t despise.  He put her on a pedestal, but small enough that she could step off if she wanted.  Clover had been burned in relationships before. The ones who loved her were awful in some way or another and the ones she loved never worked out, usually for the stupidest of reasons.

She made up her mind, gathering up her gun and her and Houston’s masks. There was just one more thing she needed to do. To her chagrin, Bonnie was still in the bedroom. The warehouse was quiet, Chains left with Wolf to interrogate the prisoner and Sokol was nowhere in sight. Alison was snoozing on the sofa and Crenshaw was minding his own business, drinking a bottle of water in the kitchen. The time she had to break Houston out could be getting shorter. The last thing she wanted was Hoxton getting suspicious.

Bonnie stepped out of the bedroom. As the door opened and closed, Clover got a peek inside. Hoxton was asleep. He leaned back in the chair, snoring quietly.

“My god, you didn’t drug him did you?” hissed Clover.

“I ain’t that amoral,” chastised Bonnie. “Let’s see, stress, and the fact that he downed this in less than a minute.” She pointed her flask at the floor, nothing coming out.

“Can I talk to you for a moment?”

She and Clover ducked back into the warehouse. In the years she’d known her, Bonnie was good to Clover, if often unreliable. On occasion, the older woman gave proper, if sometimes bizarre, advice.

“What’s wrong, Hen?”

“I’m going to take Houston and go. I’ve got a plan. But I wanted to let you know.”

Bonnie pursed her lips. “You could do a lot fucking better, girl.”

“That might be true. But he’s a man that respects me. Fuck, he’s amazed by me sometimes.”

Bonnie tilted her head towards the bedroom.

“Well, one that likes pussy,” said Clover, narrowing her eyes.

Bonnie crossed her arms. “You ain’t gonna get my blessing if that’s what you’re here for.”

“No, but I’m telling you this so we stay in touch. You still got your burner phone?” Clover’s rested in her bag.

“Of course,” Bonnie opened her jacket to show Clover. “I’m guessing you don’t want me telling this lot about our deal?”

Clover shook her head. “No, fragile egos, you know. It’d be complicated fast.”

“Have fun escaping this trainwreck. I’ll be keeping an eye on our Hoxton. Cause you know if he wants to do something bloody stupid, Wolf would go right along with it.”

Clover took a deep breath. Bonnie had looked out for Hoxton for years, Clover knew she wouldn’t fuck up that.

“Please let me know if-”

It would be cruel in Clover’s opinion if Houston didn’t know about his brother.

“You don’t have to ask me to do that. Now come here.” Bonnie gave Clover a bone crushing hug. “Good luck.”

“Thanks Bonnie,” Clover wheezed through her grip.

“Now, go get your boyfriend.” Bonnie gave Clover one last slap on the back.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

Clover sighed and took one final look towards Hoxton. Sorry dear.

 

Years of breaking and entering uncaught made Clover adept at sneaking around. She could hear bits and pieces of Chains shouting. Thank god he was busy. Clover thought herself friendly with the man, but she didn’t want to be on the receiving end of his anger.

She turned down the hallway, gently pulling her lock picks out of her bag. She knelt down in front of the maintenance closet.

“Houston, it’s Clover,” she whispered.

“What do you want?” he said quietly.

“Answer this question very carefully. Do you still think that with the right information we could go after Garrett?”

“Why are you asking me?”

Clover’s lips thinned. “Cause I’m deciding if I’m going to pick this lock or not.”

“What about my brother?”

She shut her eyes. “He’s alive. But if we leave, we might be able to help him.”

“Then yes.”

Right answer.

“Give me a moment.”

The door was easy to get into, Clover picking it in record time.

Houston stepped out, wan and depressed.

“So where are we going?”

Getting Houston was the simple part, now to get as far away from the warehouse as possible. The building was in an isolated part at the edge of the city, taking a cab would be stupid. Clover didn’t have much money on her.

“Clover?”

Clover could get into a car without a problem. She just needed to get one that had a shit alarm.

“Saoirse!”

Clover turned on Houston. “Oi, I told you never to call me that here.”

Clover didn’t regret telling Houston her real name. She revealed it after she kissed him. A few drinks in her belly and a sense of security made her want to.  A part of Clover felt pleased he pronounced it correctly.

“I’m sorry, but you weren't answering my questions.”

Clover opened her mouth to respond, but was distracted by Sokol walking towards them. Clover pushed Houston behind her protectively.

“Stay out of this,” she warned.

“Are you leaving,” asked Sokol.

The question didn’t sound like a demand. Sokol held his mask close to his body like a scared child.

“We are.”

“I want to go with you.”

“Why,” said Clover. “I know you’re in the gang cause you wanted the money.”

Unlike her and Houston, he hadn’t joined out of loyalty to a friend or relative.

“That is true. But uh, I like working with you people,” he said bashfully. “I don’t like what is going on here. Chains shouldn’t have put Houston in closet.”

“Alright,” said Clover, leading the way. “Get your asses in gear boys, we’re outta here.”

           

They sped walked as fast as they could. As Clover and company got into a residential neighborhood, she spotted a barely roadworthy piece of shit car on a side street. Another session of lock picking completed, Clover opened the door.

“Let’s hope this doesn’t die on me.”

“Don’t worry, I have engineering degree!” said Sokol.

Houston got shotgun and Sokol climbed in the back, finding himself cramped in the tight space. Her Irish luck came in handy, as the dumbass who owned the car left a spare key in the glove box. Clover hadn’t driven much back in Ireland, but now that she was in D.C. she asked Twitch to give her a few lessons.

“Um, Clover so what are we doing about Garrett,” asked Houston.

“We’re not dealing with Garrett, not yet anyway.”

“What do you mean?”

“Think about it. We have no authority or clout,” said Clover. “Chains and the others will be mad as hell once they realize we’re gone.”

“Dah,” said Sokol, “We are on bottom of, how you say, totem poll.”

“So what now? We can’t go back empty handed,” sighed Houston.

“I’ve thought of that. There’s one person we can talk to.” Clover turned on to I-95 North. “Anyone fancy a holiday to New Jersey? We need to find John Wick.”

 

Next Time: Clover and company get to where they're going, and Chains starts to look down the rabbit hole.

Chapter Text

Chains slapped himself on the cheek to stay awake, of course there must be other bullets than the one in Dallas. He hadn’t returned to the interior of the warehouse to get the gun. Jesus, he was losing it.

The gun lay on the dusty cement floor, undisturbed from where Mosconi dropped it. Chains would take it to Gage when he could. The weapons dealer had better be able to tell him something more about it.

Chains turned the pistol over in his hand. The gun was a FN Five Seven, he saw them during his military service. The weapon was in excellent condition, no scratches or signs of wear and tear. He popped the magazine out, ready to see the ammo.

The magazine was empty.

Chains groaned. That motherfucker screwed them over a second time. Whoever put Mosconi up to this didn’t want them to have the bullets.

 

Chains grabbed Wolf from the living room. It was time to pay Mosconi a visit.

Inside the spare room Jacket sat on a stool watching him. The chicken mask tilted from side to side as he stared unflinchingly. Every few seconds, Jacket wacked his baseball bat against the floor, making Mosconi squirm.

Mosconi spat blood at Chains and Wolf. He curled on the floor, leaning forward on a knee, grunting in pain. One of his legs was twisted out away from him, blood drying on his shin.

Escape,” said the mechanical voice of Jacket when he noticed Chains’ puzzlement. He mimed swinging his bat. “A wise decision.”

“Nice job.” Chains got down next to Mosconi and ripped the mask off. He wanted to see what this bastard looked like.

Mosconi’s thick dark hair was matted with sweat. A swollen left eye twitched, unseeing. Blood dripped from gashes in his cheek, and when he sucked on his lip, Chains saw that his front teeth were gone, all courtesy of Wolf beating the shit out of him. What bothered Chains the most was how young he was.

“So Christopher Mosconi, let’s talk.”

“Why haven’t you killed me?” he coughed out.

“Cause we need you.” At least until Chains got what he wanted. The attempted murder of Dallas was a good enough reason to kill him later.

“They said you would.”

“Who said that, Garrett?” Maybe this guy would spill the beans without any motivation. Chains mentally crossed his fingers. Did he know about the Murkywater connection? Or did Belasco keep it to himself?

Mosconi spat more blood, this time getting it Chains’ face. Chains wiped it off with the back of his sleeve.

“Listen up asshole,” Chains said brutally. “I am the best friend you’ve got right now. Someone here wants to kill you more than the rest of us, and there’s a madman who’ll help him do it. So unless you want to leave this place in five garbage bags, GET FUCKING TALKING!”

Wolf chuckled quietly behind him.

“I don’t expect to leave here alive.”

“I’ll get the garbage bags,” said Wolf.

Chains sighed. “Zip it, Wolf. Here’s a simple question for you. Why didn’t you kill Dallas?”

“So he’s alive,” said Mosconi, he sounded curious.

“Only just,” said Wolf.

“You had a nice gun, but there was only one bullet in the magazine. Not to mention you were in pretty close range. I’ve got a friend, and he’d tell you that a fucking smart assassin shoots his mark in either the heart or the head. You missed both.”

Mosconi tongued his broken teeth. “You’re a marine right?”

“Once upon a time,” said Chains.

“It takes more time and energy to tend to a wounded man than a dead one right?” smiled Mosconi.

Fuck. Chains grabbed him by his filthy collar. “DO THEY FUCKING KNOW WHERE WE ARE?”

“No. Belasco was careful, but not careful enough. I got in,” Mosconi’s undamaged eye widened as he laughed.

Chains shoved him to the ground and stood.

“We’ll weather this, we always have.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” He smiled, showing off his broken teeth.

Wolf pulled Chains to the side.

“We can make him talk.”

Chains didn’t doubt that Wolf would find a creative way to break Mosconi.

“This guy’s a motherfucking nut. He’ll say whatever it takes to shake us up,” hissed Chains.

“What do you want us to do with him?” asked Wolf.

Jacket was nodding in agreement behind him.

“Wolf, you watch him. Jacket, you can have a break. I need to see what the fuck else is happening.”

***

Hoxton snapped out of sleep, tipping his chair over.

“Oh fuck!” he shouted as he landed painfully.

The universe was content to torment that night. Sorting himself out, Hoxton took a moment to remember where he was, and what had happened.

Instinct and affection made him check on Dallas. Hoxton fucked up when he fell asleep. What if- No, he wasn’t going to dwell on that. The idea would only send him down a dark spiral again. Hoxton adjusted the military wool blanket covering Dallas. He didn’t want him catching a chill. The cramped wood paneled room was poorly heated in his opinion.  Assured that no one was watching him, Hoxton kissed Dallas on the forehead.

Chains started shouting from the kitchen. Hoxton opened the door to investigate.

“What the bloody hell are you on about?”

A vein pulsed in Chains’ forehead.

“Houston is gone!”

“What?”

That wanker was where he belonged in Hoxton’s opinion. Fucking idiot, acting like he was smarter than everyone. Would’ve Dallas seen the gun being pulled if he wasn’t babying his stupid brother?

“I went to get him after talking to Mosconi and the door’s open!”

Hoxton did a headcount of the gathered. The weird nurse was dozing, the wanker doctor was closing the bedroom door, Bonnie was there, Chains was pissed, Jacket rubbed his baseball bat, and Wolf must be guarding that piece of shit. The absence was as obvious as a missing limb.

“Where the fuck is Clover?”

“That’s what I was getting at!” said Chains. “Who else is great at picking locks? And fucking Sokol vanished too.”

How could she have done that? Clover had run off before, it was not an unbelievable behavior from her. Hoxton remembered the bitterness that bothered him for months after she left him. At least in that instance he could understand why she did it.

“That Judas Cunt,” Hoxton breathed.

“You watch your fucking language,” shouted Bonnie.

“What the fuck would she leave?” Clover was fiery, but not pigheaded. The unspoken thought hung in the air, why would she have abandoned him? Again.

“I don’t know,” said Chains. “I guess Sokol wasn’t happy with what we’re doing either.”

“Wuh? Why are you all mad?” Alison stirred on the sofa, voice blurred by sleep.

“Cause Lucky Charms and the Commie ran off with the other one,” explained Crenshaw from the other room.

Hoxton shot a glare in the doctor’s direction.

“But that doesn’t explain Clover!”

Bonnie picked at her nails, “I think it’s clear that she and your boy are winchin.”

“They’re a couple,” asked Chains for explanation.

“Aye.”

“Clover and Houston?” said Hoxton, disgusted. He believed that Clover was a sensible person. Well, most of the time anyway. What the fuck drew her to Houston?

“A girl’s gotta get it somewhere,” Bonnie said smugly.

Hoxton sighed. “A mental image I never asked for.”

“Fuck, you know shooting Dallas was a good idea,” Chains said darkly.

“How can you say that?” snapped Hoxton. His balled his fists, fingernails digging into his palms.

“Easy now lads,” said Bonnie, stepping between them. “Don’t want me sorting you two out.”

“Look at us, Hoxton. We’re falling the fuck apart! Half of us have gone who the fuck knows where! I hate this phrase, but its divide and conquer.”

Hoxton scoffed. “Bunch of twats.”

When Clover ran the first time, Hoxton occasionally hoped that he would see her again. He couldn’t recreate the feeling now. Hoxton went back to Dallas. He’d been gone too long already.

***

Clover knew a few things about John Wick. Granted, the man kept to himself and she hadn’t spent much time with him. But she knew that he had a dog, his wife was dead, he liked vintage cars, and when not in D.C., he lived in New Jersey. Exactly where in New Jersey, she did not know.

“Are you sure this is the right neighborhood?” asked Houston.

Having driving for over four hours, the mood in the car was getting testy. Houston was visibly exhausted, and Sokol apologized repeatedly for the sound of his stomach growling.

“I overheard him and Chains talking about it,” said Clover as she turned onto another residential street. She made Houston buy a map of the area when they stopped for gas. Clover had never been to New Jersey and was relying on it and sheer luck.

“I hope he is home,” said Sokol.

“How are we going to know he’s home?” complained Houston. “We can’t just go up to a front door and ask ‘Does John Wick live here?’”

Clover drummed her fingers against the steering wheel in frustration. The clock in the car said six am. Sleep was a long time ago.

“He has a dog, so we’ll look at houses that have a fucking dog yard.”

Sokol sighed and murmured something in Russian.

Clover drove around another bend in the road, she blinked. Wick’s dog was a pit, wasn’t she? A gray dog trotted at the end of lead, a man in a dark hoodie was holding it.

“I think that’s him.”

She pulled the car next to the man, rolling down the window.

He pulled down his sunglasses, revealing the perplexed face of John Wick.

“What are you all doing here? I told Dallas I’d be back next week.”

“Hi Wick,” she said. “Things are a little fucked up. Can we talk?”

 

Wick’s home was fancy. Rosie the dog ran inside immediately to her bed in the living room. She nestled inside, wagging her tail. Clover was surprised that the rooms were white, her mother never bought anything white when she was growing up, saying that it was a bitch to keep clean.

“You have nice house,” said Sokol. “Reminds me of IKEA.”

“Uh, thanks,” said Wick.

“Sorry to crash at your place,” said Clover as she lowered herself to the sofa. “But we didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“I don’t mind having guests. You guys are welcome here, but I’d like answers. Want anything to drink?” he added, as if unused to playing host.

“Water would be amazing,” said Houston.

Clover echoed his response, as did Sokol.

As Wick prepared glasses, Clover looked to Houston to decide who should give the explanation. Dallas was his brother, giving him ownership of the story.

Clover reached over and whispered in his ear.

“D’ you want me to talk?”

“I’d like that.”

Houston interlaced his fingers in his lap, a dried blood splat that she hadn’t seen before was on the bottom of his shirt.

Wick carefully held three glasses, before coming back with box of Ritz crackers.

“Sorry, I don’t have much else. Let me know if you want more.”

Clover took a deep breath after taking a long chug of water.

“We’re all real fucking tired, so I’ll give you the short version for now. Garrett’s going after us bad, he got some numptie to shoot Dallas. He’s alive,” added Clover, “the Dentist sent a doctor.”

Wick frowned. “That’s not what I expected to hear at all. But why did you three need to come here? A phone call would have worked.”

“Chains got mad and locked Houston in closet,” said Sokol.

“What?”

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” said Houston.

Clover put a hand on his arm to silence him.

“He disagreed with Dallas in front of everyone, and then one of the Belascos pulled a gun.”

“And Chains put you in a closet for that?” asked Wick.

“He was in bad mood,” said Sokol.

“I know he’s your friend, and this is hard to hear,” said Clover. “It was too hostile to stay. Nothing would get done. You’re a reasonable person, Wick. Chains and the others will listen to you.”

Clover said the words with conviction, as if she could convince Wick as well as herself.

Wick nodded. “I’m not sure what you want me to do?”

Help us. “I don’t know either.”

Clover relaxed. She wanted a drink stronger than water, a hotter than hell shower, and sleep. She reached the end of her current plan. They could figure another one out later.

“You three need rest,” said Wick, ending the conversation. “My bedroom and the guest room are welcome to you.”

“You’re being too nice,” said Houston.

“Like I said, I don’t mind having guests. I’ll wake you up around noon, then we’ll talk.”

 

Deciding to be gentlemen, Sokol and Houston let Clover use the bathroom first.

Locking the door behind her, Clover checked the burner phone. She set it on silent to keep the communication between her and Bonnie private. There was a text waiting for her.

r friend is ok. others arnt happy u r gone.

Not that Clover expected it to be different. Bonnie didn’t specifically mention Hoxton, but Clover had a good imagination. She typed a response back.

With JW. I’ll say more later.

Clover turned the water on, ready to soothe her aching body.

 

Next Time: (A breather chapter!) Clover and Houston talk about the past and worry about the future.

Chapter Text

Clover wrapped the towel around her middle, combing her hair with her fingertips. She wiped steam off the mirror. The pink streak in her hair was starting to fade back into the bleach. She didn’t feel bad borrowing lotion to rub on her face, but Wick’s late wife’s make up still sat in the drawers, long untouched.

“Hey Clover,” Wick knocked on the door.  “I’ve left a pair of pajamas out here for you.”

“Thanks,” she said, embarrassed by his efforts to be a good host.  Clover had squatted in more houses than she could count over the years, but she hadn’t felt guilty like this.

“Is the car stolen?” he asked. “I have a friend that can give it some new plates.”

Bless him. “It is.”

Clover handed him the keys, reaching carefully around the door. He gave her the clothes in exchange, a pair of warm yoga pants and an old baggy t-shirt.

“It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.”

“Thanks Wick, for everything.”

“Try not to worry about it.”

But she would.

 

Houston let Sokol shower next. When it came to who was going to sleep where, Clover stepped up and told Sokol to take the guest room. Besides the romantic implications, she believed Houston shouldn’t be alone.

 

Clover nestled under the covers, trying to get comfortable with the thought that she would be sharing Wick’s marital bed with Houston, wearing a dead woman’s clothes. While she waited for him to join her, Clover looked over the contents of Wick’s empty room. A daisy bracelet, a small dog collar, and a man’s watch lay in a neat order on the bedside table.

Houston walked in, seeming vulnerable out of his suit. Clover wished that they were spending the night like this under better circumstances. He got into the bed, sighing as he did.

She faced towards him, pulling the blankets over her shoulder.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I should be asking you that.”

It had been one of the longer days Clover lived through. She heard Sokol snoring already faintly through the wall. If only she could fall asleep as easily as he could.

“I’d probably still be in that closet if you hadn’t gotten me out.”

“Glad you appreciate it. Bloody hard to do.”

Clover was as sure as she could be that she made the right decision. Doubt still gnawed in her stomach. What if Wick didn’t help them in the way she wanted him to? Or worse, she damaged the crew irreparably.

“Cause of Hoxton?”

A part of her was glad that Houston knew her well enough for that.

“He was there during a crisis for me. It would have been fair to do the same.”

“Really?” said Houston. “What did he do?”

She rolled over. This was getting a little too personal. “It’s not a story you want to hear right now.

“You sure about that? Listening to you would be a nice distraction.”

“I’m not very good at comforting people.” You certainly failed to comfort Hoxton.

Clover spent too much of her day being “nice.” Let Houston regret listening to her.

“It was when we were working together. The brother I was closest too, Declan. Well, he was on his motorbike on the M50 and a drunk hit him.”

“Fuck, was he okay?”

“Killed him instantly. Bastard wasn’t wearing a helmet.”

How many times did Clover tell him to wear one? She was still amazed her mother had been able to contact her with the news. No one knew where she was going when she left Dublin. Hoxton placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder while she sobbed into the phone.

“Oh,” said Houston. Clover watched as discomfort passed in his eyes.

“Told you, you wouldn’t want to hear it.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

“Hox didn’t have to, but he came along for the funeral.”

Declan’s funeral was the last time she went home, a perfect reminder of why she ditched her family in the first place. Hoxton quietly stayed out of way, bringing her more drinks when her Dad and other brothers got on her last nerve.

“Sorry Clover, it’s hard to imagine him being that pleasant.”

“He’s not a complete dick,” said Clover. “It’s great he went or else I would’ve killed the rest of my family.”

“Hoxton did that and you still ran off on him?”

Clover frowned. “I had my reasons.”

“He do something to you?” asked Houston, concerned.

“If Hoxton ‘did something’ he’d be out buried in the woods right now.”

Houston didn’t need to know that part of her past, it was too awkward. Hoxton kept his promise to keep it to himself, and so far Bonnie hadn’t turned the story into a joke.

“Seems like you two were a good team.”

Clover turned away from Houston, hoping he would get the point. “I needed to leave.”

“What? Did you like fall for him or something?” he said jokingly.

Fuck. Clover pulled the blanket over her head. Childish, but effective.

Clover hadn’t decided if it was love she felt for Hoxton or she just had a fairly intense crush. The older she got, the more she leaned towards the latter. Him going to Declan’s funeral deepened whatever feelings she had.

“Oh shit.” Houston slapped himself in the forehead. “I was just snowballing there.”

“Smarter than you look then,” she said darkly.

“Clover, I’m sorry I pried.” Houston rubbed her arm over the blankets. “Wait! You didn’t sleep with him-”

Clover tossed the covers off, angry that that was the first thing he thought of.

“For fuck’s sake, no! You that insecure?”

“No.”

“Yeah, you are.” The thought of joining Sokol in the guest room was looking more appealing.

Houston ran a hand down his face.

“I just wanted to talk.”

Clover sighed. “I made a pass at him.” Drunken love confession.

“Did you know he was gay?”

She avoided answering. “It may have gone over my head.”

“But it’s so obvious.”

Her eyes narrowed. “If my memory is correct, you didn’t know until Hoxton said he was shagging your brother.”

“Point taken.”

Clover had been there to learn how to swindle people, Hoxton there to teach her. It was embarrassing to think that she hadn’t noticed his preferences. He must have said something that she missed. A comment or a joke, or he likely just assumed she knew.  Perhaps Clover had started seeing Hoxton through the eyes of her crush instead of how he really was.

“That must have been awkward.”

“You fucking telling me.”

Awkward didn’t cover it. Clover remembered watching the amusement slide off Hoxton’s face when he realized she wasn’t joking. She could still hear the conversation in her head.

“I wonder why you haven’t tried to fuck me when I’m like this.”

“First off, you’re too drunk, and you’re not exactly my type.”

“Wot? My tits too small or somthin’?”

“Sorry love, I uh, I’m gay.”

The most painful part of it was how kind Hoxton had been about the whole thing. He apologized profusely for giving her any wrong ideas and didn’t make fun of her. Of course it had stung. She didn’t let Hoxton see her disappointment, and tried to let their relationship go back to normal.

“You ran after his rejection?”

“Don’t think I took the guns over a broken heart. I don’t know how to describe it, I needed to be me. Me without anyone else.”

She had gone from her shitty family, to shitty friends, to Hoxton. He was good to her, but she needed to be on her own feet. To live of her own volition without anyone else.

Clover knew she had to go. She didn’t want to tell Hoxton she wanted to be alone. For all of his shit, he did like having her around. Better to rip off the Band-Aid. She didn’t trick Hoxton, only exploited a human failing. He didn’t think that she would leave him.

What bothered Clover the most as she drove off giving him the salute, was that he went for his gun. Just a minute movement, but one that she could see in the mirror. Hoxton could have killed her if he wanted to. Clover had seen him pop off a few blokes during their time together.

“Where did you go afterwards?” asked Houston.

“Crashed on Bonnie’s sofa while I figured things out.”

Bonnie let Clover stay with her after she sold the L-95s. The only payment Bonnie wanted was hearing why Clover betrayed their mutual friend. Bonnie enjoyed it when people irritated Hoxton. She had applauded Clover’s escape. In retrospect Clover probably shouldn’t have told Bonnie what partially motivated her.

Good god! I cannae believe it took you three an’ half years to realize he was a fucking pooftah!

“Is knowing this about me going to bother you?” asked Clover.

Houston better be honest with her, and save her fucking time if it did.

“I’ve got enough things to be bothered by,” he exhaled.

“Are you going to be able to sleep?” she asked.

“Probably. I’m terrified about Nate though. Jesus, I keep thinking I'll have to tell our mom."

It was strange to hear Dallas be referred to as such. She forgot that Houston and Dallas had a lifetime of shared memories and history that the rest of gang knew nothing about.  Clover was tempted to share with Houston about her and Bonnie’s arrangement, but choose not to.

“I think that if it happened,” said Clover. “They would try to contact us.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah.”

He didn’t respond. In the silence, Clover placed a hand on his cheek and gave him the lightest of kisses. Nothing to imply that something more intimate would follow. Sex hadn’t happened between them, and this was not the time or occasion for that.

Clover pulled the blankets around her and Houston, and shut her eyes.  

 

Next Time: Chains makes an overdue visit to Gage, and Clover and company come up with a dangerous idea.

Chapter Text

Chains got Wolf and Crenshaw to bring the van and the other cars inside the warehouse, wanting to keep them out of sight. This was as much as they would do with the time and energy they had left. To his relief, the sofa pulled out into a bed. Chains could use a few hours of sleep. The crew would rest in shifts, one keeping watch for the police and the other guarding Mosconi.

Crenshaw downed instant coffee to stay awake, drinking it out of a chipped mug he found in the kitchen. Alison made a pile of the sofa cushions on the floor in an attempt to be cozy.

Bonnie and Jacket took the first shift, while Wolf and Chains tried to sleep.

Chains stared at the ceiling, his brain more awake than he was. Flashes of ‘how the fuck were they going to get out this’ went through his mind relentlessly. He probably shouldn’t have put Houston in the closet. Not that he thought Clover would let him out, or that Sokol would go with them.  Chains picked a lot of fights as a kid. Anyone who bothered him got a fist to the face. One of his better foster mothers told him he needed to stop giving into his rage right away. He could walk away from the person he was mad at until he could think about it rationally.

That’s what he tried to do with Houston. Chains would have let him out eventually. He was his friend after all.

Sick of trying to sleep, Chains went to Dallas.

He hadn’t gone back in the room since he and the others placed Dallas on the bed. Crenshaw was checking his pulse, yawning deeply as he did. Hoxton still sat with Dallas. He leaned on the bed, clutching his hand, asleep.

You were supposed to talk to someone when they were unconscious. That’s what every movie or television show Chains watched told him. It was all bullshit, but what the hell did he or Dallas have to lose? Chains took a deep breath, wondering if he would be talking more to himself or to his friend.

“You better fucking wake up man, cause if you die, this all dies with you.”

There would be no way for Chains to keep the Payday Gang together without Dallas. He was the one member that everyone liked or at least respected. If he died, Hoxton would go berserk, Houston would never speak to him again, and Garrett, the smug bastard, would succeed.

Chains realized Crenshaw was watching him. 

“It could still go either way,” said the doctor. “Now if you don’t mind, he needs to be decompressed.” Crenshaw held a long needle in between his thumb and index finger. “I’m sure you don’t want to watch me do this,” he added with a smirk.

“I’ve seen Pulp Fiction a few times,” said Chains, unwilling to be intimidated.

 

Chains brought Wolf with him to see Gage. Bonnie was in charge of the situation in the warehouse. Jacket would do as she said, and if Hoxton decided to be more dickish than usual, Bonnie could easily stop him. To his surprise and relief, she had a burner phone. Exchanging numbers, Bonnie and Chains agreed to contact each other only if there was an emergency.

It had been several months since Chains saw Gage in person. He and Wolf did their best to blend into the background as the two travelled to his “office,” parking as far away as they could.  If Garrett knew that Dallas was shot, the police would be on high alert looking for the crew.

Before Chains could knock on Gage’s door, the man opened it himself.

“I had a feeling you’d show up soon,” he said, cigarette dangling from his lips.

“Bain in contact with you?” asked Chains.

“Not since he went dark. Come in.” He turned around in his wheelchair beckoning them to follow.

“So you know what’s going on?” said Wolf.

Gage pushed himself around the counter.

“Yeah, a botched assassination.”

“Christopher Mosconi botched it on purpose,” said Chains. He took the gun from his bag. “Can you tell me more about the gun? I know what kind it is, but is there anything else?”

Gage took the gun, turning it over under the lights. 

“First off, I want you to know he didn’t get it from me. I haven’t dealt a FN Five-Seven for months now.”

“Good,” said Chains. “That was my first fucking question.”

 Gage blew smoke. “They are a common enough of a civie gun. Your shooter may have gotten it legally.”

“Fuck.”

Chains was not going to creep out of the underbelly for answers, not in a situation like this. A man in his occupation could only stick his neck out so far.

“I’ll keep my ears open about anyone dealing in FNs.”

“Got any ammo for it? Our guy only had one bullet in the magazine.”

Gage raised an eyebrow at Chains.

“Yeah, motherfucker is a wackjob.”

“Hang on.” Gage went to a drawer behind him. “FN 5.7x28 mm.”

Chains caught it as he threw it to him.

The bottleneck style bullet was around an inch long. Chains saw one punch through a bulletproof window with barely a hole when he was in the marines. It was troubling to remember that its twin was currently inside Dallas.

“Anything else you want me to do?” asked Gage. “I bet my left nut that the cops are paying more attention for you people. And if you don’t need anything…”

He gestured towards the door.

Chains ground his teeth.

“I have a suspicion that Mosconi is military.”

Gage sighed at the thought of doing more.

“I have a friend at the VA who might be able to help. I’ll give her a call. It might take an hour or two. So make yourselves at home.’

After Chains gave him all he knew about Mosconi, Gage went into another room to call his contact. Chains waited as patiently as he could, pacing every few moments. Wolf picked knives off the tables, testing the edges with his thumb.

An hour later, Gage came back with a notepad on his lap.

“Christopher Mosconi, served in the army from 2007- 2011 in active duty,” he read aloud. “Two deployments to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2010. Chose not to reup. Best part, my friend says Murkywater contacted them to try to get his information.”

“I bet you a hundred bucks the Murkys put him up to this,” said Chains.

Before Gage or Wolf could respond, Chains’ phone vibrated in his pocket. Crossing his fingers that the worst hadn’t happened, he answered it.

“Hey.”

“Hello dear,” said Bonnie in her best American accent. “Best come home now. We’ve had some unwanted guests.”

Chains swore under his breath.

“Thanks, I hope they haven’t left. I’d love to say hello.”

 

Next Time: John Wick shares his wisdom with the rest of Team Clover.

Chapter Text

Houston sat in the back of Clover’s car with Sokol. Wick volunteered to drive first.

He didn’t sleep much. Houston constantly woke in a panic, thinking each time he did was because his brother had died. He wondered if he would cease to feel their sibling connection if that happened. Houston had been wary of waking Clover as he tossed and turned, but she slept soundlessly.

Wick woke them up as promised. Clover squealed as Rosie jumped on the bed, licking her face. Houston would’ve found the moment amusing under better circumstances.

There was nothing for them to do in New Jersey. As soon as Wick made arrangements for his dog to be looked after and supplies were packed, it was back to D.C.

“Where do we go now? asked Sokol. “To the warehouse?”

“I don’t think it’s smart for us all to be there at the same time,” said Clover. “I’d rather go and fight rather than sit around.”

Houston wanted to return. He shouldn’t have left in the first place. Clover didn’t know he felt that way. She went through all the trouble to get him out and his attitude would mean it was for nothing.

Despite knowing he'd be stuck in the same room as Hoxton, Houston needed to be near his brother. He would regret it for the rest of his life if Dallas died without him.

“How about we pay Garrett a visit?” said Wick.

“You gonna kill him?” asked Houston.

That was the most straightforward idea Houston heard in ages. Wick’s reputation was for clean, methodical killing. Garrett wouldn’t see it coming.

“Uh no. Killing him would make the matter worse,” said Wick. “If sending an assassin to kill Dallas was the start of a new campaign, it was because Winters failed. Can you imagine what sort of lengths the authorities would go to if Garrett was killed by the Payday gang?”

“Bring in the military,” said Clover darkly.

“Exactly. We bring him down with information, not force.”

Did everyone think that he shouldn’t have killed Winters? If the rest of the gang wanted to string the man along, maybe they should have said it. Dallas, in all his brilliance, hadn’t thought through the consequences of what would happen afterwards.

“You know how to make me feel worse,” said Houston glumly.

“My friend, you did not shoot Dallas,” said Sokol.

He reached over and gave Houston’s shoulder a squeeze. Houston pulled away.

“I just helped create a chance to do it.”

“His name is Christopher Mosconi,” said Clover.

“How do you know that?” asked Houston.

His experience of the shooter was watching the man writhe on the floor after Wolf beat the shit out of him. Knowing his name gave Houston a new facet to focus his hatred on.  

“I overheard Chains mention it. Is your plan breaking into Garrett’s office, Wick?”

Houston felt suspicion rise in his stomach at the way Clover changed the subject. Maybe the events of the last two days were making him paranoid.

“I’m thinking his house. That information is too dangerous to be kept in an office.  If we can find proof that Garrett hired a man to commit murder, I know the right people to get that information to, some lawyers.”

“How do you know lawyers?” said Houston skeptically. “They ask you to whack their competition?”

“Helen was a lawyer.”

“Oh,” Houston felt his ears tinge pink in embarrassment.

***

Certain parts of America puzzled Clover when she came to the country. Walmart, politics, what wasn’t considered candy, but what surprised her the most was fast food. Granted a Chik-Fil-A, wasn’t exactly McDonald’s, but Clover never ate in a place like this. A cartoon chicken stared down at her from the sign, while cows wrote misspelled sayings on a billboard in the hopes that she would come inside.

They were still around a hundred miles from the city. She suggested that they stop and seriously consider their next step.  Clover didn’t expect Wick to pick this restaurant. She thought his tastes were a little more, refined.

“Chick-Feel-Ah?” said Sokol, trying to pronounce it as they stood in the parking lot.

“Chick-Fill-Ay,” corrected Houston. “You say it like it’s one word.”

Wick noticed Clover frowning.

“Would anyone expect us to be here?” he said reproachfully.

“Alright, you gotta point.”

 

The four got a table near the back, out of sight of the main doorway. A perky waitress with a toothy grin took their orders. After giving theirs, Sokol went to use the men’s room, and Houston went back to the car to get the last of his cash for the bill.

She spent the car ride deciding whether or not she would tell Wick about her and Bonnie’s arrangement. He was the neutral point in the crew. If Chains got to him first, Clover wouldn’t be surprised if he joined their side. But the more the two women learned, the harder it would be to keep it to themselves.

Clover texted Bonnie that they were on their way back to D.C. The other woman played her part well, keeping Clover ahead of the curve.

“Can I tell you a secret,” asked Clover.

“How you really knew Mosconi was his name?”

Wick lifted his glass of water in a mock toast.

She sighed. “I thought I was a better liar. Bonnie and I have been feeding each other info. Besides the name, she texted me that Garrett’s plan is called Project Image, and he is probably working with Murkywater.”

“Why are you telling me?” Wick asked.

“Next to Dallas, you’re the most fucking reasonable man in the gang.”

Wick wasn’t crazy, but he was reactionary. In a good way, in Clover’s opinion. She would’ve killed everyone responsible if an idiot murdered her puppy too. Best have that strength in her group.

“Thank you, I guess.”

“I owe you the truth for coming all the way down here,” said Clover.

“Hey, stop acting like me being here is a problem.” He lowered his voice. “Being in the Payday Gang gave me focus and purpose again. I want to save it too.”

“What are the chances we can get into Garrett’s house and get out successfully?” asked Clover.

She wasn’t trying to be grim. Bonnie always said to have the odds in her favor before being risky, and this was certainly risky. No Bain, no back up if it went bad. Death or prison awaited those who made a mistake in this lifestyle.

“We need four things for it to work,” said Wick. “The address, the layout, timing, and opportunity.”

“And a good gun,” said Clover.

***

If Bonnie was in Chains’ position she wouldn’t want to walk into the current scene in the warehouse. Hoxton, Crenshaw, and Alison were getting Dallas settled inside the escape van, Bonnie was holding Mosconi by the collar, and Jacket poured gasoline on the two bodies.

“What the fuck happened in here?” shouted Chains.

“We weren’t gone that long,” said Wolf.

“It’s a bit of a funny story,” said Bonnie.

All been going as well as it could be. Jacket was keeping an eye out. Bonnie got the stove working again, and canned soup was cooking away. She even had time to send Clover a few messages without anyone noticing.  For efficiencies sake, Bonnie took Mosconi out of the spare room and made him sit on the living room floor. She didn’t want to be far away if it went wrong with Dallas.  Besides, Hoxton knew better than to try and fight her, Mosconi would be safe (for now) under her supervision.

“Jesus woman, you’ll end up burning the soup if you don’t stir it.”

Crenshaw furiously tended to the food. She didn’t give a damn if her cooking pissed him off. He seemed like a control freak anyway.

“Why d’you end up working with The Dentist?” asked Bonnie, making conversation.

She was bored, the TV didn’t work, and Hoxton drank all her booze. The idiots around her were the best entertainment available.   

“Did I ask why you’re a criminal?” snapped Crenshaw.

“Margaret Thatcher,” laughed Bonnie.

“I got caught stealing painkiller at the hospital,” said Alison, raising her hand to speak. “The Dentist got me off.”

Bonnie thought that Alison had the druggie look about her. All bones and stringy hair. Who else would come to a crime scene in her pajamas?

“I ain’t surprised.”

“Scottish lady,” said Mosconi.

“What you want?”

“Can I go to the fucking bathroom?”

The thought of stinking piss in the living room if Mosconi wet himself got Bonnie to take mercy on the man. She pulled him up to his feet.

“All right then. You try anything funny, and I’ll cut your thumbs off!” she warned.

He mumbled “fat bitch” under his breath.

Bonnie gave him a good shake.

“Say that again, and it’ll be your pinkies too!”

 

Bonnie half dragged Mosconi to the bathroom. She cut the zip tie off his wrists. He gave them a good rub, brushing dried blood from where they dug into his skin.

“In you go.”

“Can you close the door?” he pleaded.

She tut-tutted. The modesty of some people.

“Listen laddie, you ain’t got nothing that I’ll be excited by seeing, the door stays open.”

She picked at her fingernails while Mosconi relieved himself.

“How much they pay you to kill Dallas?” asked Bonnie.

She guessed that it was a pretty penny. Bonnie would want a big payout for a half-cocked murder like this.

“Not kill him, just hurt him bad.”

“Potato, Potahto. How much they pay you?”

“I wasn’t paid,” he sighed.

“You really must be simple then,” said Bonnie.

In her experience, assassins were either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid. Mosconi was looking like the latter.

“My dad will receive 50 grand in the form of an insurance check. He has ALS. The money can extend his life a little longer.”

Bonnie found his reasons slightly sympathetic, if he was telling the truth. A loud clack cut off her follow up question.

“Oh shit,” she muttered.

Mosconi was pulling his pants back up.  Bonnie knocked him out with an uppercut. He wasn’t going to get away without her watching him. She redid the zip ties and left him on the floor.

Bonnie hurried back into living room. Hoxton was peering into main part of the warehouse. Bonnie crept up next to him.

“I sent tweekie nurse to get Jacket,” he whispered.

“We got company?”

“Plainclothes cops if you ask me. Overheard talk about going back to the precinct. They just went behind the van, no calls for backup just yet.”

Bonnie felt a tap on her shoulder, Jacket, baseball bat in hand, was behind her.

“Ohmygodohmygod,” Alison nervously chanted.

Bonnie scowled. She would give them away with her yammering.

Hoxton grabbed Alison, holding her tight, his hand clamped over her mouth.

“Go get them.”

“You ready Chicken-man?” asked Bonnie.

Jacket nodded eagerly.

The gun that Bonnie had was not silenced. Unnecessary sounds would draw attention. She pulled out her knife, ready to jab it into the soft part of a cop.

The policemen started to move over to the Longfellow. The smaller of the two looked over his shoulder, seeing Bonnie and Jacket approaching.

Bonnie threw the knife into his leg. Distracted by the pain, he wouldn’t be able to get his gun. The second cop pulled his, but Jacket’s bat smashed across his head prevented his firing. Bonnie’s cop stumbled forward into her reach. She finished him off with a well-timed neck snap. Jacket drove his bat down in a wide arc, a painful thud signaling the end.

The visitors lay broken and bloodied on the cement floor. Bonnie fished through their clothes, finding wallets and police badges.

“These two should’ve stayed home today,” said Bonnie. “But uh, good job Jacket.”

Thank you very much.

A high shrill scream echoed in the warehouse. Alison’s eyes were wide in horror. Bonnie thought the girl would pass out cold.

“Oh would you bloody relax,” demanded Hoxton. “You act like you’ve never seen a dead body before!”

“Did someone break his neck!” wailed Alison, pointing.

“Fuckin’ cool party trick, huh,” said Bonnie.

The first time she tried killing that way it didn’t exactly work. Bonnie had to give the neck another twist to be sure. She pulled out her phone, Chains was going to be fucking pissed, but he needed to know.

“Hello dear, best come home now. We’ve had some unwanted guests,” she said, keeping her tone light and American.

“Thanks, I hope they haven’t left. I’d love to say hello,” said Chains.

He hung up immediately.

“Chains and Wolf are coming back,” said Bonnie. “If he wants to talk to them cops, I hope he’s got a motherfuckin’ ouiji board.”

“They were too dangerous to keep alive,” said Hoxton.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me?” said Crenshaw, walking over to the bloodbath. “Are those cops? We can’t fucking stay here! I did not sign up for this shit.”

“Too bad,” said Bonnie. “You’re balls deep in it now.”

“Can Dallas even be moved?” asked Hoxton.

“Very carefully.”

“What are you waiting for!” said Bonnie. “Get to fucking work!”

While the others dealt with Dallas, Bonnie and Jacket gathered up everything salvageable from the warehouse. Blankets, clothes, food, a couple of knives she found taped under the sofa.

Evidence,” said Jacket, as the loaded up the Longfellow. He gestured to the spaces around him, and nudged a body with his foot.

“Is that a question?” asked Bonnie.

It was hard to tell with his recorded voice.

Yes.

“Get all the spare gas, and siphon some from Crenshaw’s car. We burn the place down.”

The police could spent their time going through the ashes.

I really enjoyed that.

Bonnie went back for Mosconi. She considered stuffing him in the trunk of the Longfellow. That would keep him and Hoxton away from each other.

He was woozy on the bathroom floor.

“Why the fuck did you hit me for?”

“Insurance, time to go laddie.”

 

“It’s a bit of a funny story,” said Bonnie.

“Who were those guys?” asked Chains. “Belascos, Murkys?”

“The fucking police,” said Hoxton.

“And their colleagues will be wondering where they went, so we need to skedaddle,” said Bonnie.

“You planning to light a fire in here,” asked Chains, picking up one of the gas cans.

“Eh, Bain can fucking bill me,” scoffed Bonnie.

Chains pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Answer me this, where the fuck are we going to go? Back to the safe house? At this point I’m gonna assume it’s not fucking safe.”

“We can’t keep Dallas in the van,” said Hoxton.

“I didn’t think that far ahead,” admitted Bonnie.

She was in crisis management mode, it would be a bloody waste of time to worry about the future when the present was two dead cops, a compromised warehouse, and wounded man to deal with.

“That would be you, wouldn’t it,” said Hoxton bitterly.

“Fuck you Jimmy!”

Unappreciative little prick.

“I know where to go,” said Wolf happily, trying to appear taller than he was.

“And where would that be?” asked Chains.

***

The warehouse burned rapidly, far faster than Chains thought it would. The old, dry lumber was consumed quickly by the flames. He hoped Wolf was right, there was no one else more likely to take them all in.

He and Wolf went to the back door of the bakery. The tantalizing smell of sweets reminded Chains of how hungry he was.

“Open up,” he said as he knocked.

To his relief, it was Vlad himself that opened the door.

“My friends the Payday Gang,” he said, spreading his adidas sportswear clad arms wide. “What the fuck can I do for you?”

 

Next Time: Chains and the others get used to living with Vlad's dear mama, and Clover and the boys pay Garret a visit.

Chapter Text

“Why is there a fucking goat in here?” demanded Chains.

Vlad let the crew inside his mother’s house through the back door. Mrs. Kozak lived in a brown split level nestled in a quiet neighborhood. Chains wondered if the old lady knew what her son does to afford the place. But their hostess was nowhere to be seen as Chains stepped inside. However, there was a goat lazily crewing on the carpet.

“He is dinner,” laughed Vlad.

The man was fond of doing strange things, and Chains hoped this was another one of his pranks.

“You fucking serious?”

Vlad knelt and pet the goat, the animal bleated contently.

“No he is not dinner, but I don’t think you want to know what he does.”

“This conversation is real bloody interesting, but can we get Dallas the fuck inside,” said Hoxton icily. He held Dallas by the ankles, while Crenshaw and the rest slowly shifted him out the back of the van.

“Guest room on the first floor,” said Vlad. “On the right, past the kitchen.”

“What are you going to tell your mother?” asked Chains.

“That you are friends staying for a while. Come,” Vlad beckoned him forward. “I’ll introduce you.”

Mrs. Kozak was snug in the middle of her sofa, her frail body almost hidden by a mountain of pillows.

“Mama!” Vlad went and kissed her on her thinning white hair.  He spoke to her in happy sounding Ukrainian, pointing to Chains.

Chains tried to smile and look friendly, and gave her a little wave.

Mrs. Kozak nodded. A crooked finger turned up the volume on the TV, before she returned to her embroidery.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Chains.

“Don’t bother, she doesn’t speak English. The house rules are no noise after nine p.m., and take your shoes off. Which we forgot to do this time,” Vlad added as he glanced down at the floor.

Vlad talked Chains through the rest of the house. If he was going to keep law and order (Maybe just order) in this place, he better know where all the shit was. Chains avoided piles of books sitting on the floor, goat shit, and a chandelier that was hung too low.

“We have a prisoner. Any place we can put him?” asked Chains.

“That depends on whether you’re going to kill him or not,” said Vlad.

“I haven’t made up my mind.”

“No murder while Mama is in the house!”

Chains thought of a few other questions to ask Vlad, but Jacket walked into the entry way.

“You outta take that mask off,” said Chains. “You’re gonna scare Mrs. Kozak.”

Chains…” The tape player whirred and clicked. “We then found ourselves in a tight spot. Hoxton.

Jacket pointed towards the back door.

“Goddamn it! I’m gonna kill him!”

 

“Fucking say that again,” said Hoxton.

He gripped Mosconi by the hair, half pulling him out of the Longfellow’s trunk. Mosconi didn’t seem to care. He laughed, almost enjoying the attention.  Bonnie and Wolf stood to the side, either not wanting or choosing not to deal with Hoxton.

“Kill him!” demanded Wolf.

“You’re not bloody helping,” Bonnie yelled at Wolf.

“I thought you were going to keep them fucking separate!” Bonnie gave Chains her word that she would.

“I had to take a piss!” she said as if it excused her.

Chains could understand Hoxton wanting to kill Mosconi slowly and brutally. Hell, Chains would likely let him do it when the time was right. But Bonnie told him what their prisoner shared with her.  The idiot probably knew more than he realized. Lucky for him, Chains still considered Mosconi minimally valuable.

“Hoxton, let him go. For now,” added Chains.

A vein throbbed in Hoxton’s forehead. His free hand wrapped around Mosconi’s throat, starting to squeeze.

“He’s a fucking useless piece of shit,” he spat.

Chains’ patience for this, no, for the whole world, was about to crack.

“You can fucking kill him later,” he said, exasperated.

Hoxton blinked. Mosconi’s nose broke again, crunching under Hoxton’s punch.

He shook the pain from his hand, walking away as to resist the temptation to hit Mosconi again.

“God, that felt better than sex.”

“What kind of sex are you having,” said Bonnie skeptically.

 

Chains found a deck of cards on Mrs. Kozak’s mantlepiece. He and Wolf played a few rounds of War, enjoying a few moments of peace while the others found places to sleep.

“I’m gonna talk to Mosconi again, see if he wants to share a little more.”

Dallas had never been a fan of torture, and neither was Chains. That was more of Wolf and Jacket’s specialty. And if the situation required it, the two would be around.

“After that?” asked Wolf.

“Tomorrow night you and Jacket will come with me. Dress as heavy as we can, but bring silenced weapons. We need to see what those Murky motherfuckers got on us.”

***

Houston sulked.

He wouldn’t admit to sulking. The word implied childishness, an idea that Houston did not want to be associated with.  But his annoyance as being selected to be the getaway driver was well founded. His brother got shot. Houston needed to be at the front lines, not dicking around in the car.

Clover broke the news to him as they prepared for the break-in. Their new “safe house” was a moldy old motel room. It reminded Houston of the one the gang raided for The Dentist in regards to The Commissar.

“Wick and I will go through his office and Sokol will keep an eye out for any trouble,” said Clover.

She stood over a blueprint of Garrett’s house.  Wick spent the day following the good commissioner around, and Houston, Clover, and Sokol schmoozed their way into getting information about his house from the development’s realtor.

Back in the motel, Sokol was painting black camouflage on Wick’s face.

“Don’t worry. I make you look good.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about tonight,” sighed Wick.

“Hang on, what will I be doing?” asked Houston, realizing he hadn’t been given an assignment.

“You’ll be waiting in the car for us to get back,” said Clover tentatively.

“What?”

“It’s not that we doubt your skills,” explained Wick. “But someone has to stay there, and you’re understandably stressed out.”

“I am NOT stressed out!”

Clover placed her hands on his shoulders in an attempt to calm him.

“Look love, we’re trying not to put pressure on you.”

Houston flopped back on the bed. Clover calling him “Love” again made him not want to fight her.

 

Before she climbed out of the front passenger seat, dressed in black from head to toe, Clover leaned over and surprised him with a kiss on the cheek.

“No matter what happens, stay in the fucking car.”

The kiss disarmed him. Houston would have had a better response than opening and closing his mouth like a landed fish.

 

The three had been gone for almost an hour. Houston was usually better at keeping track of time. Fuck, Clover and Wick were right after all.

Gunshots rang out in the night.  He used to not be afraid of hearing them, but since Dallas was shot… Weren’t the guns they brought silenced?

No matter what happens, stay in the fucking car.

Clover would be mad. And if the police, or whoever, found the car, the four of them would be fucked beyond belief. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in his nervousness. More shots rang out. She would be fine. John Motherfucking Wick was with her. All of them got out of tighter situations than this.

A woman’s scream shattered Houston’s resolve. He cocked his gun and left the vehicle far behind him.

 

Next Time: Clover learns of an alliance, Wick finds a paper trail,  Houston tries to save the day.

Chapter Text

Clover scratched her head through the black cap. A few stray locks of hair bothered her scalp.

Wick in his clever preparedness, made sure to bring extra dark clothes and gear. Clover had to roll up the sleeves of the shirt so it would fit her. The black vest bothered her a bit, as it was not designed for someone with breasts.  For so long, Clover enjoyed slipping into the heister guise with her clown mask. Not this time however.

The mask was in the car with Houston. She, Wick, and Sokol weren’t breaking into Garrett’s house as the Payday Gang, only as anonymous robbers. The camo paint blotting her face hopefully would trick any cameras in case they had facial recognition technology. Before they left the motel, Clover sent Bonnie one last text in case this went to shit.

Going somewhere dangerous for a lead. Tell H I’m sorry if it goes wrong.

Bonnie replied shortly after.

will do good luck

It was now or never. With all possible gentleness, Clover picked back door lock. With one final twist, she quietly opened it.

Garrett’s house was what Houston jokingly called a “McMansion,” a new large house much like the other ones in the neighborhood. The man was out for the night, Wick discovered that the Metropolitan Police Department was hosting a fancy dinner, awards would be handed out. Garrett in attendance. Clover privately snorted at the thought of him celebrating the force’s success. After all, the Payday Gang was still in D.C.

The floorboards creaked under her feet as she slipped inside. During their research, Sokol had found articles and legal paperwork that told more of Garrett’s background. Twice divorced, no children. Convenient.

According to the blue print, an upstairs room was labeled as a study. Obvious, but a place to start.

The second floor hallway was opened to a balcony that overlooked the first floor. Sokol waited out there.

Garrett locked the office door, a much weaker lock for Clover to break than she expected.

The office was meticulously organized. Clover thought people who were obsessively neat were a bit strange. Being that clean was too much effort. A tall mahogany bookshelf dominated the left wall.  Garrett’s various awards and achievements dotted the rest of the room, along with a signed Bruins’ poster.

She and Wick examined Garrett’s desk. His computer sat untouched.

“You want to start with the computer?” whispered Clover.

“Yeah, what are you going to do?”

“See what else is in here.”

In Clover’s burglar experience, the valuable finds were never in the expected place. She lifted the Bruins poster, rolling her eyes for thinking there was anything under it. People hid stuff in stupid places.

“I’m into his computer,” said Wick. “He didn’t have the world’s greatest password.”

Clover smirked. Stupid ballbeg.

Her eyes passed over the bookshelf. Garrett’s possessed more criminology texts than she could shake a fist at. Didn’t he have any hobbies? A set of older books drew Clover’s attention, they were out of place.

The books were from an old classics collection, all the same size and width. Clover reached over and tried to pull one down. All of the books came off. They had been hollowed out to hide a safe.

She pointed at it when Wick looked up. His raised an eyebrow.

Her safecracking skills were a little rusty. The gang thought it was more efficient to use the drill. But drills failed and Clover had enough faith in herself that she wouldn’t.  

Listening carefully with her ear pressed against the safe (She forgot her stethoscope). Clover heard six clicks. Six numbers to find.

Clover got the combination correctly on the first try. She opened the door with her body away from it, in case the safe was booby-trapped. Luckily, it was not.

Inside were piles and piles of paperwork.

Clover swore under her breath. They agreed to get in and out of the house as fast as possible. This was not much better than a needle in a haystack.

She pulled the first stack of paperwork out of the safe. Garrett was dull, it being the expected birth and divorce certificates, deeds, and other boring shite. The second pile Clover went through were bound love letters. Gross. She thumbed through them, finding nothing of note.

Chewing her lip, Clover reached into the bottom of the safe. A manila envelope with a thick rectangle in the corner was folded in thirds.

The envelope didn’t have any writing on the front, but inside were two wads of hundred dollar bills. Notes on the paper holding the money together, labeled who they were intended for.

The first-

G

The second-

JHS

“Oh fuck,” she exhaled.

G obviously stood for Garrett.  But JHS could only stand for one man, John Henry Simmons, AKA The Elephant.

“What’s wrong,” asked Wick.

The held the money up to him.

“I’m pretty fucking sure The Elephant sold us out.”

“Garrett has had a lot of innocuous email exchanges with a woman, who according to google is Senator Simmons secretary. She only asked Garrett about him giving a campaign donation,” said Wick. “But look at this.”

Clover got up and looked over his shoulder. He brought up another email, dated as being received yesterday. “All of the recent emails from Abigail Henderson contain this exact sentence: ‘Campaign donations from your office will always be welcomed and received.’”

“It has to be a code. How many emails does it appear in?”

At last, tangible evidence that Garrett was up to something.

“Five that I could find.”

Clover frowned in contemplation.

“I doubt that Garrett is giving money to The Elephant. I bet it’s the other way around”

“The senator has more access to funds than he does,” agreed Wick.

Clover didn’t follow American politics besides watching the parodies on Saturday Night Live. She trusted that Wick’s judgement was correct.

“Glad to know this was worth it.”

She would text Bonnie this when they got back to the hotel. Chains ought to know about The Elephant’s betrayal.

A loud bang and indistinct shouting spiked Clover’s heartbeat.

“What was that?”

“I think we have company,” said Wick, he drew his gun.

Clover disregarded the mess she made of the safe and followed Wick. They stood in the doorway, waiting. Sokol held his hands over his head, frozen in the middle of the balcony.

Sokol burst out shouting in Russian. That was bloody unhelpful. Clover didn’t speak any of the language.

“We know you speak fucking English!” The voice was unfamiliar and military sounding.

Wick held up a hand to stop Clover.

“He says there are five Murkys on the first floor, facing the front, armed with assault rifles.”

Clover forgot Wick was bilingual.

“Suggestions? We can’t fucking leave him!”

 

Clover would remember to thank Garrett for putting fresh mulch on his lawn after she leapt out of the window.  A broken leg would have been damned unhelpful. Three against five, the odds could have been nicer on their end.

“How fast can you kill people?” asked Clover, as she and Wick crept around to the back. The door was wide open thanks to the Murkys.

“I don’t exactly keep track. “

They peeked into the window; the Murkys had Sokol on the ground, handcuffed. One of them kicked in him the stomach. Sokol cried out in pain.

“I can shoot one through the glass at the minimum,” said Wick.

“I’ll get Sokol.”

Clover readied herself by the backdoor, ready to rush in.

Wick fired twice. The window shattered. Two of the Murkys went down.  Clover ducked back into the house, throwing herself behind a counter for cover.  The remaining Murkys fired into the kitchen. Clover mentally crossed her fingers that her cover would last.

“Stand down, or we’ll shoot your friend.”

“Don’t do it!” shouted Sokol.

Clover would not tolerate the creation of pointless martyrs.

“WICK!”

Clover sprung up and shot a Murky in the throat. Before she could return to the cover, the man in his final moments shot her.

The impact felt like a sledgehammer to the ribs. She screamed as she smacked into the linoleum.  Clover coughed as the air was forced out of her lungs. Relief that her vest worked was replaced by fear as a different Murky stood over her, ready to perform the coup de gras.  

A knife sprouted from his neck. Wick’s other hand seized his gun before he could fire. He twisted the blade from him, splattering the wall with blood.

“You okay Clover?” Wick asked as reached down to her.

“Wasn’t there five of them?” she wheezed as he helped her up.

“We shot them at the same time.”

Clover leaned against the counter clutching her side, while Wick uncuffed Sokol.

“That could have gone better,” he said as he rubbed his wrists.

Carnage littered the place. There would be no denying that Garrett’s house was broken into.

A series of gunshots went through the front door lock. Sokol pushed Clover down. Wick ran to the side of the door, ready to kill whoever came though.

Houston yelped as Wick pressed the gun against his temple.

“Houston!” Wick said surprised. He quickly pulled the weapon away. “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you!”

“I heard the gunshots! I just had to!” Houston babbled.

 

“What part of stay in the fucking car did you not understand!” shouted Clover.

The bruise on her side blotted the clover tattoo on her ribs. She sat on the motel room desk as Wick wrapped a bandage around her middle, trying to keep her cracked bones in order.

“I couldn’t stay in the damn car while you three could be getting fucking murdered for all I knew!” defended Houston.

Clover had been annoyed with Houston, she was even a little mad at him once, but those emotions didn’t compare to the anger pumping through her veins. The feeling was about more than what occurred tonight. She told herself when she joined the gang that she would never have a romantic relationship with any of the men she worked with.  Why complicate her life? Two things changed her mind: watching Hox and Dallas have a functional partnership that didn’t impact their roles in the gang, and Houston being sweet and respectful to her.

But Houston let his feelings for her get in the way of a job.

“I told you no matter what! Wick nearly fucking shot you!”

“Yeah, a man with lesser control as an assassin would have killed you,” added Wick.

“I’m sorry my friend,” said Sokol. “They are right.”

Clover downed the painkiller Wick handed her. She pulled her shirt back on, tired of watching Houston eye Wick with jealousy while he bandaged her under the bra.

“Houston. You, me, bathroom. Now.”

“Why?”

“Cause I don’t want Wick and Sokol watching us have a row!”

 

Houston shut the door behind him.

“What do you want to say to me that you didn’t in front of them,” he asked.

“If you can’t put the job before our relationship, we shouldn’t be in one,” Clover said as she rubbed her forehead.

“Are you breaking up with me?” He said weakly.

“I’m not! I don’t want to. But you gotta fucking consider this.”

Houston’s jaw set.

“Sorry Clover, but I gotta  lot more fucking important shit to be worried about right now.”

She didn’t want to make his life more miserable than it already was. Clover sighed, saying that they would talk about this later and left the bathroom.

 

Sleep came quickly to Clover. She and Houston shared one bed, while Sokol and Wick slept in the other. The air conditioner in the room rattled gently, creating a peaceful white noise.

The cell phone started vibrating. Texts were silent. This was a call.

Clover leaped from the bed, fishing around in her pants for the phone.

Houston sat up.

“What is that?”

Wick and Sokol stirred, voicing their own confusion at the sound.

Bonnie’s number flashed on the screen. Clover stomach sunk. There was only one reason Bonnie would choose to call her directly. She hit the answer button.

“Hey Bonnie, why are you calling me?” Clover asked, trying to keep her voice steady. Houston would need her to be strong.

“Oh fuck, not Nate,” his voice cracked.

“It’s Dallas, isn’t it?”

 

Next Time: Chains, Wolf, and Jacket spend a quiet evening out at Murkywater. An ongoing situation worsens.

Chapter Text

Mrs. Kozak spooned red soup into bowls that morning, passing them one by one to her unexpected guests.

Chains never ate beets like this before, but after a few bites he started to like it. Outside of the bedroom, Wolf and Bonnie were trying to get Hoxton to eat.

“Come on Hox,” pleaded Wolf. He held the bowl out to his friend.

“I told you, I’m not fucking hungry,” said Hoxton from inside.

“You haven’t eaten in days,” Wolf protested.

Bonnie had another, less subtle, approach.

“You fuckin’ eat it!”

“Yes Mum.”

“I ain’t old enough to be your mother!”

Wolf sighed. “Please do it for me.”

Hoxton sighed. “Fine.”

A hand reached out of the doorway and snatched the bowl from Wolf.

Chains had taken over Mrs. Kozak’s dining room table, taking an inventory of their supplies with Jacket. They still had their vests, the guns they brought with them to the meeting with the Belascos, a pile of combat knives, six grenades, and not enough ammo to last them long in a firefight.

He considered a quick run to the Safe House. But if Bain was compromised, even in the smallest way, Chains didn’t want to risk the place being overrun with cops. Their situation was bad enough by staying with Mrs. Kozak. But another problem awaited solving. Only two weapons were able to have silencers.

“Would you be okay with only using your bat unless shit goes bad?” Chains asked Jacket.

Jacket shrugged.

Chains didn’t know what that meant coming from him. He didn’t have the time to ask.

 

Mosconi had been locked up in the laundry room, a drying rack shoved out of the way so he would have room to sit down. Blood dried in brown streaks down his face and clothes, hard eyes stared out of a damaged face.

“Bonnie says that you shot Dallas for your dad,” asked Chains.  

If Mosconi didn’t give him anything to work with this time, that was it. He was a liability to keep around. Chains would respect Vlad’s request not to kill with his mother around. There were a few quiet parts around the Chesapeake Bay to dispose of a body.

“I did. I wanted to be a good son.”

“Were you a disappointment?” asked Wolf, fingering the knife in his hands.

“None of your fucking business.”

“Do you know if your father got the money?” Chains would take a gamble. Why pay a man after a suicide mission? There was no way he would be able to check if he was paid.

“Garrett’s contact told me that it would be delivered after the meeting.”

Though it was obvious from the start, Chains now had his confirmation that the commissioner was behind this.

“But you don’t know that for sure.”

For the first time, Chains saw a hint of doubt in Mosconi’s expression.

“He gave me his word.”

“If he was an honest man, he wouldn’t have gone outside the law to stop us,” said Wolf.

Chains took out his phone.

“Want to call your father to be sure?”

“I don’t want any of you bastards near them!” shouted Mosconi.

“My only problem is with you, not your family. This is your last chance.” Chains bent down. “I’m not fucking kidding.”

Mosconi closed his eyes, and murmured a phone number.

Chains pressed the keys. “You do anything funny motherfucker...”

Wolf bent over, holding a small knife to his carotid artery.

He wouldn’t kill him right there in the laundry room, but Mosconi didn’t know that.

Chains put speakerphone on and held it close to Mosconi.

“Hello?” asked a concerned woman.

“Beth it’s me!” Mosconi’s voice strained with relief.

“Chris? Where the hell are you? You were supposed to call days ago. Dad is freaking out!”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. Look, can you answer one question for me?”

Beth sighed on the other line. “What?”

“Did an insurance check for Dad come in?”

“Uh, hang on.”

Chains heard Beth shuffling around papers.

“It should have gotten there a day or two ago,” added Mosconi.

“I’m sorry Chris, but there isn’t anything here.”

Mosconi jaw twitched.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes! There’s been nothing like that for weeks!”

“Hey Beth-”

Chains cut him off by hanging up, feeling satisfied that his gambit worked. Dallas would have been proud to know that he manipulated so much outta the man.

“Looks like Garrett didn’t keep his end of the bargain,” said Wolf.

Mosconi’s shoulders slumped. The mania that drove him earlier was gone.  

“What are you gonna do with me now?”

“If Dallas dies, so do you. If he lives, then we’ll talk,” said Chains. If Dallas survived, he could decide what to do with his attacker. “Now what do you know about Garrett, the Murkys, and Project Image.

“Murkywater hired me. I don’t know how they got my address.”

“They asked about you at the VA,” said Chains. He wouldn’t tell Mosconi how he found that out, but it would probably make him talk more.

“Some guy with an accent, I don’t fucking know, said that Murkywater was recruiting a couple of guys for a specific job. I don’t know what it was, probably your Project Image,” added Mosconi, as Wolf opened his mouth to ask. “I went for an interview. It was very quiet, in the middle of the night.”

“What they ask you?” said Chains. The reference to more Murky stooges set him on edge. Were they trying to create Captain Winters part two?

Mosconi shrugged. “About my time in the army, stuff like that. They did ask me if I would be willing to break the law.”

“Obviously yes,” said Wolf.

“The accent guy tells me that I didn’t make it on their task force or whatever. But he asks if I’m willing to injure someone for money.”

Chains knew the rest of that story. “Did Belasco not pay you enough?”

“My dad needs the money. But if you want to know more, there is a file with the information about it all at a Murkywater depot.”

“How do you know that?” asked Chains.

Mosconi rolled his eyes. “Because I saw it, computers can be hacked, and Murkywater loves to keep track of their shit. And best of all, I know where it is.”

 

Before leaving, Chains gave Bonnie an address. She was watching the news with Mrs. Kozak. The old woman was made smaller by sitting next to Bonnie’s giant frame.

“Here,” said passing it to her.

“What’s this?”

“A worst case scenario.” Murkys were tough sons of bitches. Even if Mosconi’s help got them through it, the night could end with them all dead or in custody. “That’s Wick’s address. He can give you, Hoxton, and Dallas shelter.”

Bonnie smiled strangely. “Good to know.” She tucked it in her shirt pocket.

 

The guard silently slipped to the floor after Wolf slit his throat. Chains peered around the corner of the depot, stepping over the body. Wolf covered Chains, Jacket stayed back with Mosconi. Chains had Wolf cover his mouth with duct tape. Insurance, in case their prisoner tried to be an asshole.

The depot was as quiet as when the gang broke in during the so called “Shadow Raid.”

Mosconi had said they would find the files in a secret panel in an office. Wolf had crossed his fingers that it had been moved since Mosconi saw it. Chains wondered why Bain never had them steal information instead of materials from Murkywater before.

Assured that the way wasn’t full of security guards, Chains motioned the three others forward. According to Mosconi’s description of the building, they were getting close to the office. Chains was not a particularly big fan of stealth heists. In his private thoughts, he considered them boring. It was more interesting to run and gun.

That tactic would never work in a break-in like this. Chains led them slowly down the hallway, ready to do the same motions again in the next one.

 

Some hallways and dead guards later, Mosconi nodded when Chains motioned towards a non- descript door. Jacket and Mosconi stayed behind while Chains protected Wolf as he picked the lock. Despite himself, Chains wished that Clover’s fast fingers were there.

The door creaked as it opened, revealing a room empty save but for a table and two chairs.

“You sure this is correct?” hissed Chains.

The four would pay for it dearly if Mosconi was incorrect. Chains could imagine many more spaces like this in the depot.

Mosconi nodded.

Wolf and Jacket would keep watch while Mosconi showed Chains the files.

Chains tore the duct tape off his mouth.

“That fucking hurts.” He licked his tattered lips in pain.

“And that’s what you choose to complain about?”

Mosconi ignored him. Limping, he counted the tiles on the floor to himself.

“It’s under this one.” He tapped his foot to mark it.

What the fuck could be so dangerous that the Murkys started hiding shit like they were some prohibition bootleggers?

Chains cut into the linoleum, trying to keep it in one piece. Pulling it up, he found a sole folder shoved in the little hole.

Brushing cement powder off it, Chains thumbed through it. The info had been printed onto red paper to prevent photocopying.  Six pages listed names and identifying characteristics. No photographs.

“That one’s mine,” said Mosconi when he reached the last page.

Chains tucked the file under his arm. “Time to go.”

 

“Now how the hell do we get out of here,” whispered Chains.

“I think it was back this way,” said Wolf.

Before Chains could respond, the alarm went off.

“FUCK! NEVER MIND!”

Klaxons blaring, the four ran as fast as they possibly could to the outside, Mosconi hobbling in the rear.

One more turn. He kicked the door open. The night air held was Chains hoped to be freedom.

“What side of the building are we on?” demanded Wolf over the noise.

“I think we need to go left,” said Chains.

Affirmative,” agreed Jacket.

They stood in a wide courtyard filled with containers making it look much like other Murkywater establishments.

“You guys are ridiculous,” said Mosconi disdainfully.

A loud “zip” sounded and the back of his head exploded. A sniper rifle thundered in the moments afterwards. Mosconi crashed to the ground, eyes unstaring up at the three of them.

Motherfucker.

“We need to fucking go!” shouted Chains. “We leave him!”

His searched the surrounding buildings, wanting to see their enemy, but there was no sign of him. The three were sitting ducks out in the open. Praying the the sniper wouldn’t be able to line up another shot, they kept moving.

 

The Longfellow was silent on the ride back to Mrs. Kozak’s.  Mosconi must have been more valuable than Chains thought if the sniper thought that he was a more worthy target than him, Wolf, or Jacket. He felt a slight pity for the man, just an ignoble death in the end.

Carefully, Chains went through the files as Wolf drove around the city to assure they didn’t have a tail.

Mosconi’s file had notes saying he was likely emotionally unstable. Perfect for manipulation. Other than race and age, the files listed prior military service for some sort or a violent history, one man was released from prison after committing a casino robbery. Strings must have been pulled to get him out.  One man, a Jonas Miller, had a tattoo of a spider on his neck. Talk about tasteless.

But unlike Mosconi’s, these men did not a psychological profile.

“Goddamn it.”

The two people who might be able to draw anything further from this were incapacitated or hiding their ass from the feds. A sudden sadness hit Chains. He missed having Dallas to talk to.

 

Back as Mrs. Kozak’s, Chains and the others were seized upon by the houseguests. Bonnie, Alison, and Crenshaw crowded them into the kitchen.

“Where’s Mosconi,” asked Bonnie, noticing his absence.

“Dead,” said Wolf.

“A sniper shot him in the head,” said Chains.

“Well fuck me sideways!”

“Now that you’re back,” said Crenshaw, clapping his hands together.“It’s time for a house meeting.”

“What is this, fucking summer camp?”

Chains lowered himself into a  chair. Sore, he rubbed the back of his neck. Despite his help, Chains really wanted to tell the doctor where he could shove his house meeting.

Crenshaw, undeterred, continued.  

“I need to talk to all of you. ESPECIALLY YOU, ENGLISH,” Crenshaw shouted down the hall.

Hoxton crept out of the bedroom, and stood in the corner, silent.

“What’s going on?” asked Chains.

Crenshaw crossed his arms.

“You gotta take your friend to a hospital.”

 

Next Time: Chains, Bonnie, and Wolf face an unpleasant moral decision. Hoxton reaches his breaking point.

Chapter Text

“You gotta take your friend to a hospital.”

Chains sighed. “We can’t do that.”

What did the man expect them to do? Roll Dallas out of the car as they drove by?

“He’ll go to prison for the rest of his life,” added Wolf.

Crenshaw rolled his eyes. “It’s not my fault he didn’t pick a career with a better health plan. I’ll be blunt. He’s dying, I’m amazed he’s lasted this long. But there is nothing else I can do for him here. Unless you bring him to a hospital, he’s leaving the house feet first.”

Chains had thought and even talked about the possibility of Dallas not surviving in the last few days. Now the prospect of him dying was brutally real.

“How much longer does he have?” he asked.

“A few days, probably less. The window of survival grows shorter the longer you wait. Have fun debating the next step, I’m gonna go take a fucking shower.”

Without Crenshaw speaking, the grim choice between two impossible decisions awaited the crew.

“It can’t really be between prison or death?” said Wolf, shaking his head.

Fuck, Dallas was his friend. Chains never asked for any of the responsibility of getting the crew through this. No matter was the decision would be (and both were pretty shit), Chains would carry it on his shoulders for the rest of his life.

“Gunshot wounds are reported to the police at hospitals.”

Garrett likely had Dallas’ description out. Chains would bet his life that Garrett wanted to indulge the possibility that the gang would take him to one.

“We could take him far away?” suggested Bonnie.

“Same shit, different location.”

If Dallas lived, being discharged was another problem entirely. Arrest and imprisonment was the most likely outcome. After breaking out Hoxton, there was no way the authorities would let anyone unwanted near a member of the Payday Gang.

“We could change his appearance,” said Wolf.

“I’m sorry, but that’s fucking stupid.”

Wolf’s shoulders drooped.

“Don’t be mean, it was an okay idea,” defended Bonnie.

“It’s death or prison,” said Chains, hating himself. “We gotta pick one.”

They would have a vote, Jacket as the tiebreaker, if needed.

“Let him die.”

“What?” said Chains, sharply.

Hoxton didn’t look anyone in the eye.

“I said, let him die... He’d hate us for putting him in prison.”

Chains wanted to punch a hole in the wall, but stopped himself. Mrs. Kozak would be unhappy if her home was damaged by a bunch of criminals.

“What about Houston?” said Wolf. “Shouldn’t he be a part of this decision?”

“He’s not a part of this situation. He fucking left!”

If Chains didn’t shove him in that closet, would he still be here?

“He’s his brother,” countered Wolf. “Shouldn’t he get to say something about this?”

Bonnie raised both of her hands in the air.

“A’right, that’s fuckin’ it.” She took the phone out of her jacket pocket. “I’m calling Clover.”

***

The others didn’t notice him leaving. Hoxton went back to the bedroom, locking the door behind him.

Anger was the safest emotion for him to deal with his grief. But anger dissolved into the crushing sadness now weighing on his chest. Hoxton exhaled once before he started crying. He tried to keep quiet, hoping that no one would hear him.

He was overdue. Typical, always pushing negative emotions away until they surprised him out of nowhere.  It took six months for him to lose his shit in prison. Just another day in solitary for breaking a lunch tray over Matt Roscoe’s head, and before he knew it, Hoxton found himself sobbing in the corner.

He always assumed that he would be the first to die between the two of them. Someone in the crew was going to get killed doing this shit. It was practically a guarantee. Hoxton never considered that he would be the one left behind. Again. Dallas was sensible, not a hothead like him. He was always careful. It wasn’t fucking fair.

Hoxton sat down on the edge of the bed. He couldn’t bear to look at Dallas. All the vitality and charisma that drew them together in the first place was gone. It would be cold-blooded to let him end up in prison. He’d be treated worse than Hoxton was and hate his crew for their abandonment.

There was only one choice left for Hoxton, left for the both of them. He thought it cruel to let him suffer any longer. Better it come from him, rather than letting that bastard Crenshaw overdose him on painkillers. Dallas didn’t like painkillers.

Hoxton stood, straightening his shirt.  He bent down, stroking Dallas’ hair, placing his other hand on his shoulder one last time.

“I know I never say it enough, but I do love you. Probably more than I’m willing to admit,” he choked out. Dallas was likely unable hear him. “And I’m so sorry it’s got to end like this.”

Hoxton gently cupped the back of Dallas’ head, slipping the pillow out from underneath. The act would be almost intimate. In his weakened state, it wouldn’t take long. Press down and don’t stop...

He reached up to remove the oxygen tube from Dallas’ throat. Hoxton hesitated. What would he do when it was over? Go back into the kitchen and tell them all what he had done?

Chains and Wolf would never see him the same way again. And Houston. If the two ever crossed paths again, he would try to kill Hoxton.

He gripped the pillow tighter; it was a hideous pink thing. He could almost feel Houston’s hands clamped around his neck. Hoxton would let him do it. Hoxton would welcome it.

Not if he didn’t off himself first.

He never thought about suicide in prison. He always knew he would get out of that shithole somehow, and he was right. There was nothing after this. He would be killing Dallas over, and over again in his mind, constantly. Oblivion was better than that.

Hoxton wasn’t armed, but he knew where the guns were. He had snuck around the rest of them before, he could do it again. Put the barrel in his mouth and pull the trigger.

Chains and Bonnie would be angry with him. He’d break Clover and Wolf’s hearts. Hoxton doubted there was anything after death, but Dallas would’ve been disappointed in him if he took the coward’s way out.

Hoxton broke down harder. He couldn’t do it. God, the lows he had reached to even consider it.  Smothering Dallas would break him more than if he died because of the gunshot. Hoxton put the pillow back.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m fucking sorry.”

***

“A’right, that’s fuckin’ it. I’m calling Clover.”

Chains and Wolf stood dumbfounded as Bonnie called the girl. Wolf opened his mouth to interrupt, but she held up a finger. Clover took her sweet time answering; hopefully she wasn’t still on the job.

“Hey Bonnie, why are you calling me?” Bonnie could hear people moving and murmuring in the background. “It’s Dallas, isn’t it?”

“Now don’t get ya knickers in a twist! He ain’t dead, but he’s close.”

“Oh fuck,” said Clover.

She was getting nowhere. “I don’t even wanna talk to you. Where’s Wick? I need to talk to him.”

Gambling was second nature to Bonnie, and she was taking a big gamble on this idea.

“Uh, okay. Give me a moment.”

“I’ll put you on speaker phone. Chains and Wolf are giving me the evil eye.” Chains crossed his arms, frowning. Wolf looked more confused than mad at her duplicity.

“Hello?” Wick said sleepily.

“Wick, Laddie! Dallas needs better medical attention than the shite he’s getting here. Do you know where he can safely get something good?”

She hadn’t spent much time with Wick. Bonnie was loud and messy, him the exact opposite. She did get on his good side by making Rosie happy with belly rubs.  If Wick was as infamous of an assassin as Chains and Dallas claimed he was, he had to know of underground medicine.

“Yes. But it’s in back in New York. Will he survive that long?”

Chains spoke into the phone awkwardly around Bonnie. “We think so.”

Bonnie shoved it at him. “You two better handle this.”

“Let me get this straight,” said Chains, as he took the phone. “Have you been in touch with Clover the entire time?”

Bonnie shrugged. “Well, someone had to be fuckin’ reasonable, while you lot were all off measuring dicks!”

Chains raised an eyebrow. “Hi John.”

She smiled, crookedly content that her plan worked. And people still thought she was stupid.

Wolf snapped her out of it.

“Where’s Hoxton?”

He was standing there just a few moments ago. Bonnie bit her lip. Did he hear any of what she said? Despite him arguing the contrary, Hoxton could be overly emotional. And impulsive. Fear tightened Bonnie’s throat. She needed to find him.

Her concerns were reflected in Wolf’s worried expression.

The two ran to the spare bedroom. Wolf jiggled the door.

“He’s locked it.”

Fuck.

Wolf knocked.

“Hey, it’s me and Bonnie. We wanna talk to you.”

No response.

“Jimmy, open the fuckin’ door, or I’ll break it down.”

Silence.

Wolf looked up at her, nodding in agreement.

Bonnie’s foot splintered the door frame easily. She and Wolf found Hoxton sitting slumped on the bed. Red faced and miserable, he had hid to cry.

“Oh Hox,” said Wolf sympathetically.

Not that Bonnie never saw that before. She remembered Hoxton, barely past twenty-one, lying drunk off his arse on her rug, blubbering different versions of “he cheated on me Bonnie!” until he passed out. It was almost funny, in a dark sort of way. Not this time however.

“I locked the door for a fucking reason,” he snapped.

“Now before you get all pissy at us, we came to tell you that Wick’s got a way for Dallas to get better help. He don’t have to die in this room.”

“What?”

“He’s going to have to go to New York though,” added Wolf.

“Yeah, him and Chains are working it out now.”

Hoxton rubbed his eyes.  “Does this even have a chance?”

“We wouldn’t be telling you if it didn’t!”

“Sorry,” he sighed. “I’m just so bloody tired.”

Bonnie and Wolf went on either side of him, lifting him up. Hoxton didn’t protest.

“You should get washed up,” said Wolf, leading them away.

“Your face is a bit more fucked up than it usually is.”

“More fucked up than it usually is? Have you ever looked in a mirror, Bonnie?” Hoxton said annoyed.

Bonnie laughed, best joke she heard all day.

***

“Hi John.”

“Hi Nick.”

John got out of the bed, gathering up the rest of his clothes. Clover, Houston, and Sokol watched him with various expressions of confusion, the mood in the hotel room going from panic to hope.

He shut himself in the bathroom, giving himself some privacy.

“Didn’t realize you got dragged into this mess.”

John wouldn’t call it being dragged, rather being along for the ride. He could have told Clover to go home, but John didn’t like to watch things fail.

“It’s hard to ignore a problem when a car full of people shows up at your house.”

Chains sighed. “They went all the way up to Jersey?”

“Look, I don’t want to debate how this schism happened, but if you can get him to the city, I know where he can get better medical attention.”

John had no intentions of making the division worse. Hell, this would probably bring the two groups back together. There was no point in being separate, not with these kinds of stakes.

“What would that be?” asked Chains.

“Remember that hotel I mentioned once?”

“The one will all the rules?”

“Yeah, I’m about to call the management and see if he’ll break a few.”

 

Next Time: Wick finds out that his help comes with a caveat, Houston loses his cool, Jacket watches the news, Chains puts the evidence together.

Chapter Text

After ending the call with Chains, John finished dressing. Winston obviously couldn’t see him over the phone, but John did not want to feel out of sorts when they talked.

The call rang, and just as he thought it would go to voicemail, Winston answered.

“You had better have a good reason to call at this hour.”

“Hello Winston, it’s Wick.”

“Ah Jonathan!” he said jovially. “What on earth do you need? But I can probably guess.”

This was where he needed to tread carefully. Winston gave more to him than expected during the business with the Tarasovs, and now he was pushing his luck asking for more.

“I need a favor.”

Winston chuckled. “Of course you do.”

“I need the Doctor’s help. It’s not for me, it’s for a friend.”

He could call Dallas a friend now, couldn’t he? John had so few these days. The perks of the Continental were meant for members only, but if a member could vouch for a guest, they could be extended... on occasion.

“If this friend is one of those clowns in D.C. the answer is no.”

John closed his eyes.

“This is his last chance, he’ll die without it.”

“I’m sorry to say, but that isn’t my problem.”

“It’s mine though. And this is my solution.”

Winston scoffed. “What’s happened to you Jonathan? Remember what I told you last time? You dip so much as a pinky…”

“Call it an extended vacation.”

Rosie was good company, but John knew he would be deeply lonely without interaction with people he liked to look forward too. Where else would he find companionship where he didn’t have to hide his past?

“And armed robbery? I do think it’s a waste of your talents. You could have picked better people than the Payday Gang to be with. They’re chaotic and messy. A sinking ship you’d do best to get off.”

“I can’t leave a man I respect to die. Besides it wouldn’t be a noble way for him to go.”

John gave plenty of undignified deaths to his marks. Dallas would not be one more under his watch if he could help it.

“For an assassin, you have a strong sense of morality.”

All thanks to Helen.

“I try.”

Winston sighed deeply.

“You can bring him to the Continental. But here are my conditions: you will pay for his entrance as well as yours. When he can be moved, dead or alive, he is out of there. You bring a mess into my hotel, you will clean it up,” listed Winston.

“Agreed... His brother and S.O. aren’t going to want to leave him,” John added in a desperate final reach at Winston’s sympathy.

“What will I do with you Jonathan? Bring one. I don’t want more of the Payday Gang in here than I have to.”

The bitterer part of the decision to accept was not that John had to choose, but by how easy it was for him to decide.

“You have my word. I owe you a debt.”

“Ah not quite. If your friend lives, he owes me. If he dies, you do.”

“Thank you for doing this.”

“I’m getting soft in my old age.”

After he disconnected, John splashed cold water on his face, making himself prepare to go out and tell Houston that Hoxton would get precedence over him once more.

***

Houston lay still on the bed, one arm slung over his face. The stress would snap him in two. For a long moment he believed his brother was dead. He wasn’t, but Houston doubted that he could go through that sensation again.

He had enough time while Wick was on the phone to come up with regrets. They weren’t on good terms when Dallas was shot. His last words to him would be one of chastisement. Jesus Christ, Houston and him didn’t used to fight this much. The brothers got along better when the two were a bratty child and a sullen teen than they did now.

But Clover. Wonderful, double-dealing Clover.  Goddamn it. He didn’t know what to think of her now. She and Bonnie must have been keeping tabs on each other. How else would she know that Wick was with them? Maybe it was just because his expressions were usually nonplussed, but Wick didn’t seem surprised at being asked for. Did he know? He and Clover were alone at one point during their dinner at the Chik-Fil-A.

“Hey.” Clover tapped him on the arm. The bed sank as she sat down.

“Were you talking to Bonnie?”

Clover sighed. “Yes.”

“Then what was the point of us leaving?”

He moved his arm to glare at her. Sure, Houston was feeling useless as he sat in the closet. But as he reflected on the last few days, he should have told Clover to go without him.

“We left for clarity.”

Houston’s lips thinned.

“Did you tell Wick?”

“I did.”

Houston hurried out of the bed, pulling the rest of his clothes back on.

“Jesus, Clover. It feels like you’re fucking stringing me along!”

“I’m not! I’ve been doing what I think’s best in the situations we’ve landed in. Would you rather I’d not have Bonnie telling me what’s going on? Wick needed to know, we fucking brought him into this!” argued Clover.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

“Don’t give me that bullshit line! I can stand by the decisions I’ve made. Can you?”

Houston wanted to say “yes,” but that would be a lie wouldn’t it? And Clover knew it too.

“Uh, Wick is back,” said Sokol awkwardly pointing.

Houston forgot he was still in the motel room. Poor Sokol, the perpetual third wheel.

“The management will let Dallas see the Doctor,” said Wick.

“So what happens now?” asked Houston. “We go and get him?”

Wick took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t go with me.”

Houston hoped his gut feeling was just paranoia. He was wrong.

“The fuck? Let me guess? Hoxton can go with you?”

Wick didn’t deny it.

“Winston will only allow me to bring one other person.”

“Why does everyone pick him over me?” Houston snapped. His brother, Clover, Wick, hell even Chains made that bastard a priority. “Jesus fucking Christ, he has the personality of nails on a chalkboard.”

Wick straightened, crossing his arms as he did.

“The only thing I could imagine that’s worse than watching Helen die would be if, for whatever reason, I couldn’t be there when it happened. Especially if it was prevented by someone.” Wick’s voice rose ever so slightly. He didn’t need to yell to be frightening. “Hoxton goes, because I can’t knowingly do that to another person.”

Houston laughed sadly, “But you can do it to me?”

“Because circumstances require me to do so.”

Before his brain processed that it was a bad idea, Houston socked Wick in the jaw. Clover shouted “Oi!” and Sokol ranted something in Russian.

Houston raised his fist for another punch, but Wick caught it. Twisting Houston’s arm around his back, he slammed him into the wall.

“I deserved that one. But don’t do it again,” said Wick quietly.

“Point taken.” Houston’s face started to feel numb. Wick let him go.

“I think it’s time for you to go,” said Clover, trying to keep the peace.

Wick grabbed his guns and gear.

“Me too. I’ll let you know when anything changes.”

“Good luck!” added Sokol.

The door clicked behind Wick.

Houston panted, trying to catch his breath and wishing he could trash the motel.

“That could have gone fucking better,” said Clover.

***

Chains’ ass had been saved by John before and now he was here to rescue them all again. Dallas was settled in the escape van in Mrs. Kozak’s back yard. Bonnie and Wolf talked to Hoxton next to it. The early morning sun peaked over the skyline.

“Thanks for doing this,” said Chains.

“Don’t thank me yet.”  A bruise was growing visible under John’s beard.

“Did Houston give you that?” Chains fingered his own jaw.

“I can’t begrudge a man some violent release.”

Chains laughed and John smiled.

“I think we’re ready to go,” said Hoxton.

“I’ll drive first,” said John.

Chains shook his hand and wished him luck.

“Can I leave now?” whined Alison.

Chains was surprised she was still around.

“Yes! You were as helpful as you usually are,” said Crenshaw. He was unhappy at the idea of coming to New York with Wick and Hoxton. Mrs. Kozak’s would be quieter without his constant bitching in Chains’ opinion.

“And I’ll tell the Dentist that you were a pain in the ass like you usually are,” she said in return.

“And before you lecture me,” Alison said at Chains. “I’m not gonna tell about this.”

“You fucking better not.”

Wolf grabbed Hoxton in a tight hug.

“There there Wolfie,” he grumbled.

“You better bring him back.” Bonnie pointed threateningly at Wick.

“The Doctor will do as much as he can for Dallas.”

She sighed. “I ain’t talking about him.”  

“Oh.”

Hoxton appeared smaller and more defeated than Chains had seen him before. He thought about Mrs. Kozak’s busted door frame and Bonnie’s sudden protectiveness.

The van went on its way. Chains crossed his fingers that John’s lead foot wouldn’t land them a ticket.

The situation was out of his hands now, and uneasiness bothered him. Chains wasn’t particularly religious, but he remembered the patron saint of lost causes, Saint Jude. Maybe the guy could cross his fingers for Dallas.

 

While the others were getting ready, John went over with Chains what he and Clover discovered at Garrett’s house. He couldn’t be annoyed at her and Sokol for leaving considering what they found. Fuck the Elephant. Bain had some suspicions about him, but not that he was sending Garrett money.

Chains returned to the kitchen to properly go over the files from Murkywater with Wolf. Bonnie went to go take a nap. Jacket watched the television with the goat and Mrs. Kozak next to him. Senior citizens liked to get up early.

He spread the files over the table, squeezing in a little room for his and Wolf’s coffee cups.

“So John says that he found five emails that suggested the Elephant was giving Garrett money,” said Chains.

“And without Mosconi, there are five Murkywater guys,” added Wolf.

It was a funny link of information; Garrett got money from Chains’ least favorite senator to pay Murkywater to hire a bunch of thugs. Why?

Where these five men a sort of task force designed to take the crew down? But unlike Winters, none of them were trained as extensively as he was. No SEALs, Green Berets, or Rangers. Hell, all the military guys were dishonorably discharged after brief tours. Not that Chains could criticize them for that. He did have trouble taking Garrett’s little group seriously. Besides Miller’s dumb neck tattoo, one of the others was listed as having an orange mohawk.

“Are they really going to come fight us?” asked Wolf.

“I think we can take these pricks with a hand behind our backs. You and Jacket could tear them apart.”

He hoped. The gang took down stronger enemies than these asshats. The Commissar, Hector, Winters. Garrett and the Elephant’s budget was backing them, but weapons were only as powerful as the people using them.

 

Chains stepped out of the shower, grateful for the small reprieve. As he wrapped the towel around his hips, Wolf started yelling.

“Chains get out here now!”

He nearly slipped as he ran to the sound of the commotion. Jacket was standing at the edge of the living room. His mask was off, and his usual blank expression hinted at fear. He pointed at the television.

Bonnie watched the TV slack jawed.

“Jacket saw this shit. What the fuck is happening,” she said.

A news reporter spoke on screen.

“...no casualties have been reported by the MPD. We now have new footage from the Harvest and Trustee bank robbery that occurred this morning. We reported earlier that the robbery was believed to be allegedly committed by the notorious Payday Gang. This is footage taken from a hostage’s cell phone.”

“It fucking can’t be us!” said Chains. “We’re fucking here!”

He stared, both mesmerized and pissed at what could only be the true nature of Project Image.

The footage was jittery and shot from the floor. Armed men with clown masks ordered the hostages to the ground. Chains counted the robbers as they flitted around the screen. One, two, three, four, five, their masks in the style of the crew’s. Orange hair sprouted behind a jeering clown face. The camera focused on one of the robbers, he barked orders to the others, clearly the leader.

“Now you fuckers better keep quiet. And shut that fucking phone off!”

The man turned his head as he spoke and Chains saw the spider tattoo peak over the top of his collar. It all stumbled together, horribly.

“It’s a turf war now,” breathed Chains. “That bastard, Garrett couldn’t stop us so he went and made his own Payday Gang.”

 

Next Time: Garrett takes over the narrative and sits satisfied, enjoying his plan.

Chapter Text

Garrett swirled the ice in his whiskey glass. McKendrick didn’t know the good stuff from the bad, but Garrett was happy the imbecile offered him a drink in the first place. He ran his hands over the leather of the library chair. The room exuded more power and authority than the impotent little man who owned it.

The mayor fidgeted with his tie. Garrett disapproved of the nervous habit. There were classier ones tics one could have.

“Is your plan really going to work?” he asked for what felt like the hundredth time.

“McKendrick, I’ve told you again and again I can offer no guarantees,” sighed Garrett. “But Mosconi has shot Nathan Steele.”

There weren’t many paths that scenario could follow.  He told Mosconi to give him a slow lingering death. A headshot was too simple for someone who caused so much strife.

“Have some patience,” added Simmons. He leaned against the bookshelf, smug.

Garrett disliked Simmons more than McKendrick. The senator acted like Garrett didn’t know how much those criminals helped him. Informants worked in Boston, but Garrett could only ever see Simmons as an opportunist. He was on the side of the people who could help him at the time. His money brought about their goals, but Garrett would never trust him.  

“I wish you could just give me his head on a silver platter,” said McKendrick.  The joke fell flat.

A part of Garrett was sad he would never meet Nathan Steele, or rather Nathaniel Saidi, in person. Cuffing him would have made the victory sweeter. The others didn’t know he figured out “Dallas’” real name. Best to keep that sliver of information and how he got it to himself, for now.

“This isn’t a fantasy novel.”

“How are you sure that is going to work?”

In all his analysis, Garret did see that the gang had their virtues. Loyalty was one of them. The obnoxious Englishman was liberated, and the schizo was still around, both liabilities in his opinion. They would be too busy trying to save their leader to notice what developed under their watch.

“None of the other members are strong or stable enough to take over. With Bain out of the way, the Payday Gang is ordinary again.”

He would let Bain continue to run with his tail between his legs. They were close, so close to getting him for good, but the bastard must have had a backup plan. Of all the other candidates to replace Steele, the one called “Chains” was the most likely choice. He too would be dealt with, in time.

“But if the public gets wind of your little group-” panicked McKendrick.

“That won’t happen,” Simmons cut him off.

Garrett took another sip of the whiskey. “I have other ideas.”

He was assured that their loyalty to “Dallas” would go beyond death. And the simpleton brother would be easy to manipulate. Pensacola, Florida was a worthwhile place for him to send his… well, the others didn’t know about that either.

“When does your gang go out?” asked Simmons.

“Soon. We are working on the last few details.”

“We,” being Murkeywater. Garrett kept his distance from that part of Project Image. Plausible deniability and all that. The name wasn’t his idea, but McKendrick thought it was a clever play on “Mirror Image.”

“I’m interested to watch them work.” said Simmons.

“As I am I.”

A turf war would lead to more violence in the city, but it was temporary cost to push the Payday Gang out of power. Five against twelve wasn’t ideal, but with Simmons’ money and Murkeywater’s assistance, Garrett was in process of recruiting more. He would be proud when the crew was rotting in prison or cold in the morgue.

When it was done, McKendrick and Simmons were next. Between the two of them, they brought more scum into D.C. Garrett had no patience for corruption. Yet he was leaning dangerously over the edge with his own plan. The ends justified the means, and this way Neville Winters’ death wouldn’t be in vain.

Fighting the Payday Gang with his rules failed. Now he would fight them with theirs.

 

Next Time: Hoxton and Wick wait at the Continental for answers about Dallas. Bain returns with a new lead.

Chapter Text

Hoxton stared out the window of the passenger seat. Wick was not a talkative man, and Hoxton was grateful for the quiet. All of his normal coping mechanisms were removed due to his location.

“You should be nicer to Houston,” Wick said as he turned the van onto the highway.

“What?”

“And when we know what’s going to happen with Dallas, you’re going to tell him.”

Hoxton didn’t have the energy to be bothered by the request.

“Where’s this coming from?” he asked out of curiosity.

“I could only bring one of you. I had to choose.”

“Bloody hell,” Hoxton muttered to himself. His idea of what the hotel they were headed to was like was based on hearsay. If Chains acted wary, Hoxton felt a little concerned.

As for Houston… Poor wanker. The thought surprised him. Shite, he was truly depressed if he genuinely was sorry for Houston. Hoxton had a guess as to why Wick would choose him. He thought about asking to be sure, but Wick’s eyes were glued to the road.

 

Considering that the last few days dragged on in uncomfortableness, Hoxton’s perception of time had grown warped. Minutes could have been hours while he sat with Dallas. Going from D.C. to New York went by faster than he expected it to, they were in the city before he knew it.

“That’s the Continental,” said Wick.

An old flatiron building loomed ahead. Nothing marked it, except for a C emblazoned on the overhang.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be so out in the open.”

The whole city could see the comings and goings, as it was located in a decently busy section. But the Continental’s visibility did assure him. The hotel could have been ramshackle dump with broken windows.

“Winston has security well controlled. But we’re going to use another entrance.”

Wick turned the van down a short side street. The Continental’s back was as ordinary as any other city building. A large blue dumpster sat against the wall. Hoxton wondered if anyone ever shoved a body in it.

Wick shut off the ignition.

“They’re waiting for us,” he said. “I better introduce you. Just be-”

“Polite as I fucking can be?”

“Yeah… don’t say fucking.”

“What about me,” demanded Crenshaw from the back.

“Wait in the van until I tell you when,” said Wick. “We have to do this the management's way.”

“Or else what?”

Wick didn’t answer.

Hoxton followed him inside what could only be the hotel’s laundry room. Two men stood waiting.

“You’re fifteen minutes late, Jonathan.” An older gentleman in a nice suit tapped his watch. His glasses dipped down the end of his nose, he possessed the allure of knowing more than everyone else,

“I didn’t know I was being timed.”

“Is this…” he pointed towards Hoxton.

“Yes.”

Hoxton became self-conscious about how his appearance must reflect on him. He hadn’t bathed since the morning of the meeting with the Belascos and his clothes were rumpled.

“I’m Winston,” the man offered his hand.

“James Hoxworth.”

It had been years since he introduced himself like that without being prompted by “state your name for the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.”

“Welcome to the Continental. This is the concierge, Charon. If you have any questions, he’ll be the one answering them.”

“Thanks.”

“It is always a pleasure having you here Mr. Wick, and company.” Charon spoke the words as formally as he would at a front desk. “I have you down in room 814.”

Wick took the keys and moved to give something to Charon.

“No. I will be taking those,” interceded Winston.

A stack of gold coins clinked as Winston tucked them into his pocket.

“There’s an extra.”

“A dinner reservation, if needed. You said I had to clean up any messes,” said Wick.

Winston raised an eyebrow at the comment. His eyes went over Hoxton, as if he expected him to comment.

 

The hotel provided a stretcher to transport Dallas upstairs. Hoxton, Wick and Crenshaw crammed into a service elevator to get to the Doctor’s room.

“Is he good at what he does?” asked Hoxton.

Wick nodded. “He stitched me up a few times.”

“That is very different from what we are dealing with now,” said Crenshaw annoyed.

Hoxton rolled his eyes.

“Didn’t you get your medical license revoked or some shit?”   

 

Wick lead the way and knocked on one of the doors at the end of the hallway. A small old man with a bow tie and glasses opened the door.

“Hello, I’ve been expecting you.”

“Thanks for doing this,” said Wick.

Crenshaw shoved Dallas’ stretcher into the room, speaking in medical jargon that Hoxton couldn’t understand.

The Doctor’s space wasn’t designed like an ordinary hotel room. It was more like a medical office. Not that Hoxton ever spent much time in one. Blue curtains blocked out a corner, the Doctor directed Crenshaw to wheel Dallas in there.  

“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” he turned to Hoxton. “Are you the next of kin?”

“Boyfriend, actually.” His thoughts went to Houston again.

“Would mind answering a few questions for me?” He picked up a clipboard from a table, ready to take notes. “I’ve never treated Mr. Steele before.”

“Sure,” said Hoxton, happy to be useful.

“How old is he?”

“Forty-five.”

“Thank you.” he jotted it down. “And does he have any pre-existing health conditions I should be aware of?”

“Uh, he’s allergic to shellfish?” Hoxton didn’t think that counted.

He found that out the hard way, a dinner date that ended with swelling, hives, and a jab with an epipen.

The Doctor nodded.

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.”

Hoxton laughed derisively.

“Lucky me.”

The Doctor asked Hoxton and Wick help move Dallas from the stretcher to the operating table.

“I am going to ask you both to leave. I’ll call your room if there are any changes. You can say goodbye if you’d like,” he said gently.  

They gave Hoxton a moment of privacy.

“Look, you bastard,” he whispered. “Don’t go dying on me now, we’ve come so far.”

 

The hotel room was beautiful in its simplicity. He guessed that its gold walls were meant to make you feel welcome. Feeling out of place, Hoxton reminded himself that he wasn’t squatting and was allowed to be here.

He sat down next to the window, the leather chair creaking under him. Outside was cloudy, ready to rain at any time. The entire purpose of his last few days was tending to Dallas, now that he was out of sight; Hoxton’s anxieties crept back to the forefront. His fingers tapped on the arm of the chair in a pathetic attempt at distraction. Wick himself recommended this place. The office was clean and organized. The Continental was as good as a hospital.  And you were going to kill him.

Habit and sheer willpower allowed Hoxton ignore the shame of what he almost did at Mrs. Kozak’s. He was bloody lucky he failed when he did. Dallas did have a chance of surviving, however small it may be, and he would have ruined it. But what if Dallas died here, then Hoxton merely delayed the inevitable and should have just ignored his doubts. What was the point? At least Wick was with him. Of all the people to have a shred of understanding… He still wore his wedding ring. Hoxton had no doubt that Wick would keep wearing it for the rest of his life.  Hoxton wondered, and almost wanted to ask, if Wick ever considered giving his wife a quick death...

“Jim!”

Hoxton snapped back to reality at the sound of his name. Wick was shaking his shoulder.

“Sorry,” his hand fell away. “You weren’t responding to anything else.”

“What am I supposed to do now?” It got harder to breathe. “I bet you can’t have a bloody fag in here.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Wick.

“I don’t know how to pass time. Solitary was one fucking thing, but this…”

“You could always go take a shower?”

“I am really that disgusting?” Hoxton fingered his greasy hair.

“Maybe a little,” joked Wick.

“Might as well.”

“Don’t lock the door.”

Hoxton rolled his eyes when he was out of Wick’s sight. He wasn’t going to try to kill himself until after he knew about Dallas.

 

Instead of being dirty and sad, Hoxton was now clean and sad.  In his new role as the caretaker, Wick ordered room service for a pot of tea.

“Well you know how to make an Englishman feel at home,” said Hoxton.

“It’s the least I could do.”

Hoxton poured himself a cup. The china was the sort his mum would have only brought out for decent company.

“Did I ever tell you I’m sorry about your wife?” he asked Wick.

He hadn’t. After the breakout, Chains pulled Hoxton aside and explained why Wick had reacted badly to his comment. Embarrassed, Hoxton shied away from the topic in conversation. How cowardly.

“I think so,” said Wick.

He was being polite, given the circumstances. Wick would have remembered, he was bloody clever.

“I’m gonna say it again, I’m fucking sorry.”

“I appreciate it.”

“It’s fucked up isn’t. When you love someone, you're giving them permission to hurt you eventually.” Hoxton sure as hell didn’t expect Dallas to leave him behind. However justifiable the decision was.  

“I think it’s worth it,” said Wick. “Despite how empty I am without her.”

“How can you stand it?”

“This is normal for me now. And I have Rosie.”

“What kind of sick fuck kills a little dog like that?” Hoxton was more of a “cat person,” but he was horrified when Chains told him about Rosie’s predecessor.

Wick shrugged.

“They’re all dead now.”

 

Several hours of tea and intermittent talks were ended by a knock.

Hoxton’s heart was in his throat. Wick let the Doctor in.

“I thought I’d come down in person.”

Hoxton’s stomach was about to drop through the floor. He couldn’t pass out now, he needed to focus.

“And?” Wick asked, for him, probably.

“He’ll live.”

Hoxton wheezed out the breath he was holding and doubled over, resting on his knees. He leaned a little too far forward, Wick holding him in place by the collar.

“I removed the bullet, since I was concerned that it would shift over time,” explained the Doctor. “He may have mobility issues in the right arm.”

The words were all nonsense to Hoxton, the Doctor could be talking about hockey for all he cared. Nate wasn’t going to die. He inhaled deeply, reminding himself that was real. His almost five day nightmare was over.

And you almost smothered him.

Trying to push the guilt out of his thoughts, Hoxton collected himself, profusely thanking the Doctor.

“Winston wants him out of the Continental as soon as possible,” said Wick.

“I will deal with management. I refuse to let a patient go that isn’t ready.”

“Can I go see him? He’ll be confused when he wakes up.”

How the hell were Hoxton and Wick going to explain everything that happened while he was incapacitated?

“Of course.”

 

Hoxton could now watch Dallas rest without fear. He needed to ask the Doctor more about what to expect when he woke up. Hoxton had nannied drunks, druggies, and other idiots, but not people waking up from major surgery.

Wick handed him a ringing mobile phone.

“Hello?” said Clover.

He wasn’t ready to talk to her. Dallas was the priority.

“I wanna talk to Houston. And tell him it’s good news before he wets himself.”

“How are you?” she asked.

“Oi, put the wanker on!”

If she wanted to act concerned for him, Clover picked the wrong bloody time for it.

“Hoxton, what the hell?”

“Alright now, your brother’s fine. He’s still out of it and will be for awhile.”

“Wow,” said Houston. “He really is?”

“Yeah mate, I’m looking at him right now.”

There was a long pause.

“This is fucking weird.”

“What is?” asked Hoxton.

“You being nice.”

“Oh don’t worry I can be mean again when this is over.”

Houston snorted. “Something to look forward to.”

***

A few hours earlier…

Chains didn’t bother getting dressed. He sat, dripping water on the sofa to Mrs. Kozak’s chagrin, watching the newscaster’s repeat over and over again the latest on the false Payday Gang.

“What the fuck are we going to do about this?” yelled Bonnie.

“Kill them all?” said Wolf.

Jacket nudged Chains with his phone. An unrecognizable number was on the screen.

“Who the fuck is this?” he demanded.

“Sorry to have to contact you this way, but my resources are a little limited now,” said Bain.

“Motherfucker. Where have you been? Are you watching what I’m watching?”

“Yes, I’ve also found other stuff that Garrett has been up to.”

“Shit. What else has he done?” sighed Chains.

“If my theory is correct, he went way below the belt on this one.”


Next Time: After being a living MacGuffin for thirteen chapters, Dallas wakes up.

Chapter Text

“Little Brother, for christake, I’m-”

Dallas didn’t get to finish his sentence. The force of the gunshot sent him to the floor. At first it felt like he had been hit by a truck.  Then the pain came, pinning him to the ground.

He was being touched. Hands held on to him, and Dallas wished he could move, but his body wouldn’t respond. His thoughts were jumbled. Memories and images flashed too quickly for him to make sense of them.  The last thing Dallas remembered is the two people he loves most in the world begging him not to die.

 

Everything was heavy, and for the first time in ages, he was aware. Dallas was too tired to open his eyes. But people started to talk.

“Maybe it’s cause I haven’t eaten in days, but this steak is real fucking good.”

It was Hoxton. Thank god. Dallas would recognize his distinctive voice anywhere. In the past, he would let him ramble on; bitching about what annoyed him that day, just listening. Silverware on plates scraped together.

“The chef is an interesting guy,” said Wick.

“You want any?”

“I uh quit eating meat after what happened to Daisy.”

 

Dallas drifted back in.

“...he shouldn’t be up on his feet in his condition. Mr. Steele needs bed rest.” Dallas didn’t know the speaker. “But considering your line of work, if he needs to move, and move quickly, take this.”

Pills shook in their container

“He don’t believe in painkiller,” said Hoxton.

“Believe me, he’ll likely change his mind.”

“That’s stuff’s pretty good,” added Wick.

 

He finally opened his eyes, if only for a second. Blue curtains and the white sheets of a hospital bed blurred before him. Under normal circumstances, Dallas would panic, but he lacked the energy.  He weakly lifted his head, seeing Wick pacing back and forth at the end of his bed. The hitman wouldn’t be there if he was at a hospital.

“I think he’s waking up,” he said, coming close.

“Oh fuck.” Hoxton was sitting next to him, newspaper in his lap. Dallas hadn’t realized he was there.

He tried to sit up. His right arm was in a sling. A hot bolt of pain sent him back on the bed.

Hoxton and Wick adjusted him on the pillows.

“Try not to do that.”

Hoxton grinned widely.

“Welcome back to the land of the living!”

“Where-” Talking hurt.

“Try not to talk. You’ve had an oxygen tube shoved down your throat for the past few days.”

Dallas strained to think of the last thing he remembered, not finding anything concrete.

“I think you better explain,” said Wick.

“Shit, right.” Hoxton slapped himself in the forehead.  “We’re in New York City. This is a hotel run by Wick’s people.”

“What happened to me?” Dallas managed to ask.

“You probably should’ve started at the beginning,” Wick said to Hoxton.

“I’m a little distracted right now. He’s awake!”

Dallas head started to spin. He reached for Hoxton, wanting to feel stable. And secure. He feebly grabbed the sleeve of his shirt.

“Was I mad at Houston?” He had the vaguest memories of being annoyed at his brother.

“You got shot,” said Hoxton.

“Not by Houston,” assured Wick.

“One of the Belasco cunts had a gun with armor piercing rounds. Fucking Garrett paid him off to do it.”

So much for his brilliant idea. His little brother was right after all. Garrett was one step ahead of him in reality. He couldn’t afford fuck ups, and this one just damn near killed him.

 

“This is a lot fucking harder to do when it’s not your own face.”  Hoxton leaned in close, trying not nick Dallas while giving him a shave.

Hoxton convinced him to take advantage of the claw foot bathtub their Continental Hotel room had, once the Doctor allowed Hoxton to wheel him out of his office. Hoxton reminded him that having a “proper bath” was one of the first things that made him feel normal again after prison. He sat against the back of the tub, trying to keep his bandage from getting wet. Besides getting clean, Dallas had wanted a shave. His dominate hand was fucking useless, that side of his body hurting if he moved his arm.

Hoxton helping him was understandable, but Wick’s assistance was mildly embarrassing. He got to watch Dallas dry heave into a bucket and Hoxton didn’t have enough arms to get him into the bathtub. But better Wick, than say Chains.  His presence in this instance was like having a cat around. Comforting and quiet, and would say nothing.  Wick left the Continental shortly after, headed back to his house for a brief visit.

While Hoxton had washed his hair, one phrase kept repeating itself in Dallas mind, it could have been worse.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t say much so far.

“For what? Getting shot and making me worry like an old granny?”

Everything.

“No, for turning you into my nursemaid.”

Hoxton chuckled. “Who else are you going to ask to help you take a fucking piss?”

He stopped laughing when he realized he was failing to cheer Dallas up.

“How long was I out? ”

He was sure he had already asked Hoxton that, he couldn’t remember.

Hoxton shook the razor in the water to clean it.

“Almost five days.”

“I can fucking handle it. Tell me what happened.” His memory was starting to come back to him. Wick wasn’t in D.C. during the meeting with the Belascos. One of them must have gotten him involved.

“You’re allowed to rest, you know,” smirked Hoxton.

“I feel like a chump sitting here.” He needed answers. What happened after he was shot? How were Chains, Wolf and the others doing? His brother?

Hoxton sighed.

“I don’t know much, I spent those days sitting with you.”

Dallas studied him. The last time he wanted to intently watch Hoxton was after he was broken out. Mostly because he could barely believe that he was back after two years, and his brain needed to adjust its image of Hoxton’s face with its new lines and that damned scar.

Now there were dark shadows under his eyes and any time Hoxton had touched him since he woke, it was as if he expected him to fall apart at any moment.

“I’m not as fragile as I look, Jim.”

“Yeah, please try telling me that after watching you nearly bleed out,” he said harshly.

“You know what I mean.”

“Well, it all went bloody downhill.”

“Did you beat up my brother?” Houston would have been an easy target for Hoxton’s anger. Maybe he should have knocked them both upside the head ages ago.

“Tried too, Chains and Bonnie put a stop to that quick. But Chains apparently went and locked him in a closet to keep him out of the way. Oh and Dragan left. Decided he didn’t want to deal with our bitching. And Clover ran off with Houston, and Sokol went with them. You better be nice to her, she’s gonna be your sister-in-law.”

“What?”

“She and your brother are in a relationship,” Hoxton said disgusted.

At least there was one surprise that didn’t bother him. He was mildly impressed. But as Hoxton continue to list the slow decline of the crew, Dallas dwelled on how precarious the Payday Gang’s existence was. They still had their friends, if you could call them that, with the Dentist and Vlad, but the two had priorities that didn’t involve them. Now the Elephant was working with Garrett, who apparently thought he was the biggest threat of the lot. Would it be the more sensible decision to call it quits while they were barely ahead?

“Be honest, did this whole thing really fall apart that quickly without me?” he asked a bit more sharply than he intended.

“You’re the only one we all like,” Hoxton said with a shrug.

“That’s not reassuring. Christ! After all this time, I thought I was a little... expendable.” Not the best choice of words.

“Don’t say that!” snapped Hoxton. “And I’m not just saying that for me. Sure, it went bloody pear shaped, but we all did what we did cause we thought it would help you.” He gently straightened Dallas’ shoulders and got close. “You got yourself a good and loyal crew, it all worked out in the end.”

“This time.”

“The Doctor said that feeling depressed after anesthesia perfectly normal.”

Dallas smiled slightly. “You ask him that?”

“I gotta be prepared!”

“I’m glad you’re here.”

“Where else would I be you stupid wanker? I’ve stuck with you through a lot of shit and I’m going to continue to do so. You tolerate my charming personality, and we aren’t dead or in prison. I think things are going pretty fucking well, considering everything. Don’t you get all dreary on me.”

Dallas flicked water at him with his good hand.

“I’ll try not to. Is there anything else I should know?” he asked.

At the question, Hoxton retreated, looking away. He rubbed the back of his neck.

“I’ve got a confession,” he sighed.

“What kind?” Dallas said, confused.

“Something I didn’t do.”

“Meaning?”

“You have to understand, bringing you here wasn’t the first idea. We were going to keep you close and have Crenshaw...But then you got worse, and he told us we could either bring you to a hospital or let you die.”

“That obviously didn’t happen.”

“That’s cause Bonnie thought of Wick, you owe her a pint or five. But before… when we thought we only had two choices...I uh…” Hoxton bit down hard on his knuckle.

“Hey, don’t hurt yourself like that.” Dallas pulled his hand away, fearing he would break the skin. “If you decided to bring me to a hospital- I get it, I left you behind.”

“No. That’s- fuck.” Hoxton inhaled sharply. “I was going to mercy kill you,” he said dangerously close to tears. “I couldn’t just leave you like that. And it had to me, not anyone else.”

“You’d rather have killed me than let me go to prison?” Dallas said slowly.

Despite being together again, in his darker moments he wondered if Hoxton ever considered returning the favor.

Hoxton pulled away further, wide eyed and stricken.

“You really think I’m capable of doing that to you?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question.  

The nagging voice in the back of Dallas’ thoughts that said he cared far more for Hoxton than he did in return was silenced.

“Yes.” He owed Hoxton honesty.  “But not anymore, not after this.”

“Good. I couldn’t go through with it,” he said weakly. “I would have killed myself afterwards. And just so you know, for sure, the only times I ever wanted you in prison was when I was there. So I could beat the shit out you.”

“And then hate sex.”

That got a laugh out of him.

“Besides, if I did- smother you, Bonnie and Wolf would’ve walked in on me doing it. It wouldn’t be the most embarrassing thing she’s walked in on me doing, but it would the worst.”

After a moment of silence, Hoxton leaned over and kissed him, calmly and carefully.

Their foreheads resting together, Dallas sighed. “God, you and I need a vacation.”

“Technically we are on holiday. We’re here on Wick’s money when you think about it. Too bad we can’t go out and be stupid tourists.”

“Get in.”

“Don’t get any funny ideas,” Hoxton said as he stripped. “I’m getting into this tub only to share, not anything else.”

Dallas smiled, the first genuine one since he recovered.

“I’ll just watch the show.”

***

Meanwhile…

When Bain’s orders came in, it took them less than an hour to clear out of Mrs. Kozak’s house. Chains had them all clean, making sure all evidence of their extended visit was gone. The old lady seemed grateful that her home was tidier than when they arrived and Bonnie cracked the joke that they ought to bill Vlad for their maid service.

All Bain had for Chains to work with was an address and the strong likelihood that one of Garrett’s associates was inside, along with a hostage. Chains hoped that he was wrong about the latter considering its implications; he had probably vaped something a little harder than usual.

The address turned out to be in a residential neighborhood similar to the one where they busted Hector. But unlike that night, there weren’t any guards roaming around.

“We got the right house?” hissed Bonnie.

“I had Bain say it three times, this is it,” said Chains.

As the sun set, Wolf slowly picked the lock to the back door. All of the shades had been drawn. Chains and Bonnie covered him, while Jacket was the lookout.

“Follow me.”

The house was stripped bare, white walls and no furniture. Even the appliances in the kitchen had been torn out.  He told Bonnie and Wolf wait behind him as he turned the corner.

An old woman sat in the middle of the empty living room, mouth gagged and her hands cuffed together. Seeing Chains, she tore the gag off.

“Leave now! She knows you’re here!”

“Who does?”

A laser sight glinted on the woman’s chest.

“Hi Chains, long time no see,” it was that same damn sugary voice she used when trying to calm down her victims, “Although I did see you through my scope earlier.”

“Oh hell no,” groaned Chains.

“It was real hard shooting Mosconi instead. It would’ve been more fun to kill you,” she teased

“Fuck you, Greta.”

 

Next Time: An old friend causes a disastrous reunion. Clover and company return to the safe house.

Chapter Text

Clover sat in the passenger seat of what she was now beginning to consider “her” car. It was Sokol’s turn to drive. Houston sulked in the back, still sore from the fight with Wick.

Clover tucked her legs up on the dashboard, trying not to be bothered by the pain throbbing in her ribs. The vehicle was silent save for the constant flick-flick of her butterfly knife.

“You should stop doing that,” said Sokol. “You could impale yourself if I hit brakes.”

With one final flick, Clover tucked it back into her pocket.

No one in the car wanted to say that they didn’t know exactly where they were going. To stay longer in the motel wasn’t smart, and she was personally unsure about meeting with the others before it was declared if Dallas would live or die. Clover thought of bad the blow out would be if it went wrong.

Her phone buzzed next to her knife. It was a number she didn’t recognize.

“It’s not Bonnie or Wick,” Clover said before Houston asked. “Hello?”

“Sorry to be out of touch for so long,” said Bain. “But I need you to return to the safe house. I think someone might have gotten lost there.”

***

“Fuck you, Greta.”

Chains spat the words, while she laughed from the balcony above the living room, he had fucking walked into this one. Bain led him to believe that they were up against Murky boys, not her.

“Aw, we both know that didn’t work out last time.”

“I know you’re capable of a lot of shit, but I never thought you’d turn traitor.”

“Bain fired me, what else was I gonna do?” She gave a snort. “Garrett needed someone to do his dirty work.”

Good, thought Chains, keep her talking. Greta was a natural chatterbox. Along with her tendency to be clumsy during a job, he could get her to spill the beans on something useful if he asked the right questions. Maybe she would talk so much he would get a chance to escape. Or let Wolf fuck her up.

“I wouldn’t call that being fired,” he said.

After that debacle with Gage and the IMF envoy, Bain had simply stopped asking Greta to do jobs for him. Dallas hadn’t cared about her loss, and Chains didn’t either. Illyia was far more qualified anyway.

“Yeah, well he replaced me with that mopey bastard. If you see Wick again, ask him if he knows what happened to poor Perkins.”

“Would you shoot me already?” said the old woman. “I’m getting tired of being stuck here.”

“Shut up!” shouted Greta.

“I didn’t think that Garrett would leave you to do babysitting duty,” said Chains, trying to edge a little closer to the hostage.

“Do you know who this old bat is?” said Greta.

“I have an idea.”

Bain did some fact checking while he went dark, and considering who and what he was looking at, Chains believed his guess was correct.

“This is Evie Tomlinson of Pensacola, Florida. Not ringing any bells? She’s also known by her two married names, Kirkpatrick and Saidi. Sound familiar?”

It did. Chains knew she existed in an off-hand way. But he never expected them to meet. Houston clearly got his coloring from her, but when Evie Tomlinson frowned, Chains saw Dallas glaring back at him.

“Bain was right, this is a low blow.”

Greta leaned into her scope.

“Call it Plan C.”

“Oi bitch! Catch this!” shouted Bonnie, unseen.

About time someone did shit. A grenade clattered on the floor behind her.

“The fuck!” Greta shrieked.

In her panic, the sniper rifle swung upwards away from Chains and Evie. He lunged forward, grabbing the old lady and flinging her over his shoulder. Better they both be incinerated than to have to explain to Houston and Dallas that he got their mother blown up.

He ran back the way he came, Jacket, Wolf, and Bonnie on his tail.

“Sorry, we couldn’t think of anything else!” apologized Wolf.

“Don’t fucking care! Let’s go!”

The blast shook them all as they bolted back out the door. Greta was likely dead, but Chains wouldn’t be surprised if she had a way of getting out. Scumbags like her had a way of sticking around.

Chains parked far enough away from the house as to not raise suspicion. Neighbors would have heard the grenade going off, the police would be on their way.

A gift,” said Jacket, giving her a Coach purse before she climbed in the back of the car.

“I found it on the staircase,” added Bonnie.

“Thank you, Ryan gave it to me for mother’s day years ago, I think he stole it,” she said fondly.

Jacket got in the driver’s seat, with Bonnie as shotgun.

“Sorry about this shit Mrs. Tomlinson,” Chains wedged in next to Wolf and her, “but we work with your sons.”

“You’re obviously not the police. And it’s Ms. I’m not married.”

Chains undid the cuffs.

“Thanks handsome,” she said giving him a wink.

Bonnie and Wolf snickered. Chains rolled his eyes and covertly flipped them the bird.

“You’ll be safe, -er safer with us.”

“But who are you people?”

“I’m Chains.”

“Bonnie,” she smiled crookedly.

“Wolf.”

Jacket… it is very nice to meet you.

Evie lips thinned skeptically.

“And where are my sons?” She scowled. “Either of them. I wanna give them a piece of my mind.”

She clearly didn’t know about Dallas. Chains was impressed that Greta hadn’t blabbed about it in front of her.

“We’re not sure.” It wasn’t really a lie. So far she had shown to be tough and full of barbs, but Chains was certain that would chances if he told her about him getting shot.  He wasn’t comfortable enough to tell. It made Chains feel like a dick, but he wanted to see what she knew first before giving her the bad news. “But we’ll find out soon.”

His answer wasn’t good enough for Evie.

“This is the second time Nathaniel's antics have made me leave my home! I had to get the heck out of Chicago because the Mafia kept driving past my house.”

“So you know?” asked Wolf tentatively.

“About what they do for a living? Of course I do! I’m not stupid!”

“I hate to bother you like this,” said Chains. “But could you please explain what happened. Did Greta kidnap you?”

The dam was released, Evie happy to list her experiences with the right prompting.

“I had just stepped out of my house to go grocery shopping and this car comes up next to me, and this man pops out and puts a bag over my head and shoves me inside.”

“Did you see what he looked like,” asked Chains.

“No, I had a bag over my head. And what’s her name, Greta starts talking, saying that I’m extra insurance, as the man cuffs me.”

“How did you get to D.C.?” said Wolf.

“Private plane. I know because they finally took the damn bag off my head.”

“That’s gotta be the Elephant,” grumbled Chains. “He would have access to that shit.”

Evie concluded her story by explaining that after landing in D.C. she and been driven (black bag over head again) to the house they found her in, Greta her only company.

“She made me sit there almost the entire time! That Greta is not a good cook either. I could really go for a burger right now.”

“I think we could all go for a fucking burger right now,” said Bonnie.

“We can dream,” said Chains.

“How about a smoke?” asked Evie. “Don’t tell my sons. They think I quit years ago.”

“How about you tell us if Greta said anything about a man named Garrett? He’s the man who ordered her to kidnap you.”

“Commissioner Garrett? Oh, she talked about him. In fact, Greta told me what he wants to do next.”

***

The safe house didn’t appear out of the ordinary. The laundry’s front was as damaged and dirty as it usually was.

Houston let them inside the usual way, Clover held her gun in a close position for easy access. Before one of them could turn on the lights, there was a great scream and Clover felt a whoosh of air coming down on her.

“Jiro! It’s us!” she yelped

His katana stopped short of her head by inches, before immediately being pulled back.

Gomenasai! I am sorry!” He flipped the lights on. Clover’s eyes hurt in the change. “I thought you were police!”

“How long have you been here?” asked Houston.

“Not long.”

“Bain sent us here to find you,” said Clover.

“Where is everyone!” he said crossing his arms. “I was meant to be picked up at the airport!”

“Things went bad,” said Sokol.

Clover, Houston, and Sokol did their best to condense the craziness of the last few days in reasonable manner. Jiro was disconcerted that so much happened while he was gone.

“What now?” he asked.

“We’re waiting for Bain to call us.”

“Anyway, how was the trip to San Francisco?” asked Houston, trying to be cheery.

Jiro lit up at the question.

“I found Kento,” he said smiling widely. He took out some photos from his jacket, showing them happily. “I have grandson!”

“Aww,” squealed Clover. A young man, who had to be Kento, stood next to Jiro, holding a little baby in his arms. “He’s so chubby!”

After hearing Jiro’s stories, Sokol announced that he was starving.

“Not much food here,” said Jiro.

Sokol gagged after he opened the mini fridge. He swore presumably in Russian.

“It smells so bad!”

The four ending up sharing two packages of ramen, poorly cooked in a frying pan. Clover made a mental note to restock the place when this was all over.

 

An hour or so later, Clover’s phone started ringing again, it had to be Bain checking in.

“We’ve got our missing man.”

“Listen,” said Bain. “You better put me on speaker phone. You three are not going to like this.”

“What now,” sighed Houston.

Clover patted him on the arm. Just one fucking thing after another.

“Garrett’s big plan, Project Image, is the creation of his own personal version of the Payday Crew. They fucking robbed our favorite bank early this morning.”

“That bastard!” said Houston.

“Yeah, well he created this ripoff in hopes that we would say goodbye to D.C.”

“So this is what you were up to while you ditched us,” said Houston bitterly.

“You’ll thank me later.”

“What do you want us to do?” said Clover, cutting in.

“I think I know where one of the phonies will be later tonight.”

Chapter Text

Fuck this.

Clover originally had zero issue with being the only woman in the Payday Crew. She was surrounded by men for most of her life, from her brothers, to Hoxton, to now.  Besides, none of them gave a shit about her gender as long as she could take down cops and carry a loot bag.

Then Bonnie came along. It had been the same as before, but much more entertaining now that the other woman would yell at the men to remember to put the fucking toilet seat down.

That goodwill was strained when she was asked to dress up like this. Clover didn’t want to know why Bain had trashy women’s clothes like this tucked away in the safe house, and judging from the musty smell; they had been there for a while. Clover yanked down the neon green skirt as it rode up as she stepped out of the bathroom, the cleavage of her top too low for even her standards.

“Why do I got to be the bait,” she said. “I’m not even beautiful.” Complaining was a luxury she didn’t deserve, but it was fucking annoying that it had to be her due to being the “token woman.”  And if Bonnie was here, there was no way she would fit the role of seductive temptress. At least under normal circumstances.

“I think you’re beautiful,” said Houston in his devoted little way.

“Whatever.”

Clover took a few minutes to shave her legs and armpits to meet the standard of female beauty as a part of the disguise. (When on earth would she have the time do it with everything going on?)

“You look like decent prostitute,” said Sokol.

Her eyes narrowed.

“I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted,” said Clover.

Bain had a connection who said that a man with Jonas Miller’s description had been seen in his bar, The Hancock, recently. The punk had the matching tattoos and was waving his money around, or rather Garrett and the Elephant’s money, in a noticeable manner.

The plan was simple. Clover would go into the bar as a lady of the evening, convince Miller to follow her out of the place where Houston, Sokol, and Jiro would shove him into a van with Twitch at the wheel. It was so simple, but all Clover could see was all the ways it could go wrong.

 

Twitch, reliable as usual, got them to the bar without a problem. He parked in a nearby alleyway, giving the four the cover of darkness. Clover gave her nose ring a tweak and felt as ready for faux seduction as she ever would. She turned for one last look at her companions. Jiro gave her a stiff and authoritative nod, Sokol gave her the thumbs up, and Houston tried to smile.

Clover plastered a fake grin on her face and was about to walk through the front door of The Hancock, but something looked wrong. The rainbow and brown scale flags hanging above the doorway, the gender of its clientele, and the music said it was not divvy pub expected.

She hurried back to the van.

“Hey, what happened,” asked Houston instantly concerned.

Clover pulled the earpiece from his head.

“Bain, you bastard! You didn’t do the fucking research. This is a gay bar!” hissed Clover. “He ain’t gonna fucking want what I’m selling.”

Bain sighed on the line. “I’ve been a bit busy keeping our heads above water.”

“It’s called the bloody Hancock. Do I need to explain the pun?”

“Believe me, I get it.”

“You got me all dressed up for nothing!” The stresses of the last few days started to creep into her voice.

“What do we do now,” asked Sokol.

Clover gave him a friendly nudge, “Pucker up Pretty-Boy! You’re going in next!”

***

Houston gave Clover her privacy as she changed into her original clothes in the back of the van. Afterwards she joined him in the shadows of the ally.

They hadn’t fully recovered from their fight in the hotel. Clover held herself aloof, which he felt was worse than if she unloaded rage upon him. Then, he would know what was going through her mind. But waiting to Sokol to return with their mark was not the time for peacemaking.

“He is coming!” whispered Jiro.

Sokol and Miller rounded the corner wrapped up in each other’s arms, kissing wildly. Sokol spun him around, making panicked eye contact with them to do their part of the deal.

Jiro lunged out punching Miller in the back of the head as Sokol pulled away from him. In his disorientation, Clover zip tied his hands together, while Houston did the same to his legs with duct tape.

“What the fuck!” Miller got out as he fell forward. “Oh Jesus fucking Christ don’t hurt me!

Houston tore a section of the tape off.

“You better shut the fuck up asshole,” he said, plastering it over their hostage’s mouth.

“We don’t like it when people steal our fucking jobs,” added Clover.

Seduction completed, Sokol wiped his own mouth with his sleeve.

“That was not as bad as I thought it would be.”

 

Miller, seemingly resigned to his fate, lay still on the van floor. Judging from his expression, he was likely scared out of his mind. Bain congratulated the four on retrieving the imposter. The van rumbled on its way to what Bain said would be a safe place.

Houston rubbed under his eyes. No matter how much he slept, he still was exhausted. Clover leaned on his shoulder.

“I can’t believe you punched Wick in the fucking face,” she said quietly.

“What?” he said confused.

“Took a lot of balls.”

Houston frowned in concern.

“Thank you?”

Was she trying to apologize?

Clover nestled closer to him.

“I’m sorry I kept secrets from you.”

“Sorry, I kinda took this all out on you.”

She laughed a little.

“Yeah, you’ve been a bit of a prick.”

Clover’s phone rang. The sound gave Houston a pavlovian response to expect misery.

“It’s Wick’s number,” she said.

Houston swallowed. This was the call he had been waiting for. As she answered, Clover squeezed his hand tightly in hers.

“Hello.”

Hoxton was on the other line. Nobody else sounded that grating.  Houston couldn’t understand what he was saying; only hearing that he wanted to talk to him. Did that make Houston feel better? Hoxton sure as hell wouldn’t be spreading his sympathies around if…

“How are you,” asked Clover.

“Oi, put the wanker on!” He shouted. Clover held the phone away from her ear.

“You better take this.”

“Hoxton, what the hell?” Houston said it more harshly than he wanted, his nerves getting the better of him.

“Alright now, your brother’s fine. He’s still out of it and will be for a while,” Hoxton said, in an almost friendly manner.

Houston sighed.

“Wow, he really is?” he asked weakly.

“Yeah Mate, I’m looking at him right now.”

What Houston would give to be there. A repayment of all the times his brother comforted him after skinned knees and other childhood clumsiness.

“This is fucking weird.”

“What is?” asked Hoxton.

“You being nice.” The last time Hoxton had been this pleasant to him, he was incredibly drunk and his favorite “football” team won a game or whatever they called it.

“Oh don’t worry, I can be mean again when this is over.”

Houston almost wanted to laugh.

“Something to look forward too.”

His message given, Hoxton hung up.

Clover looked at Houston awaiting him to speak.

“What happened,” asked Sokol.

“He’ll be okay.” It was so fucking good to be able to say that. Houston sighed and leaned back against the frame of the van.

***

Sleep was a comfort that Dallas felt he didn’t deserve. He wanted to be back with the rest of his crew as soon as humanly possible. But after Hoxton helped him back into the hotel bedroom, he fell asleep as soon as he settled on the bed, Hoxton making an effort to not hog the blankets.

The sound of the lock being undone was enough to wake Dallas.

“Hey, I think it’s time we get going.” Wick turned the lights back on, Dallas’ eyes hurting as the brightness changed. He put a bag on the table. “That’s a change of clothes.”

“How about a warning ‘fore you do that,” complained Hoxton while hiding his face.

Wick began to gather up their things, ignoring the protests.

“The management has decided our time here is over.”

“That was a lot longer than you lead me to believe,” said Hoxton.

“We’ve already overstayed our welcome.”

“What kind of people do I owe a debt too?” asked Dallas.

All Hoxton had said was the hotel owner was a friend of Wick’s.  Dallas appreciated his talents and connections (especially now that they had saved him) but he made an effort to avoid the underground of the underground that Wick was a part of. Dallas never wanted to get involved in situations that were beyond his control. Not that he could ever be assured that he was making the most cautious decision, as his bullet hole said otherwise.

“His name is Winston. Don’t concern yourself too much about it; he’ll take his time deciding what he wants from you.”

“That’s not really assuring.”

“What the fuck’s happening?”

A man Dallas didn’t recognize walked in, drink in hand.

“Piss off,” muttered Hoxton, giving him a two-fingered salute.

“Crenshaw you can leave now,” said Wick. “Your services are no longer required.”

“About time.” He drained the glass. “I don’t need a ride back to D.C. My sister lives in Manhattan.”

Despite his rudeness, Dallas’ manners got the better of him.

“I guess I should say thank you for your help,” he said to Crenshaw.

He smirked.

“It’s not like I had a choice.” He turned to leave. “Don’t get shot again.”

“He won’t,” snapped Hoxton.

 

Dallas declined the offer to be wheeled out of the hotel. The suggestion coddled him too much. Hoxton had his good arm slung over his shoulder to help keep him upright, Wick ready to step in if he were to bring Hoxton down with him to the floor.

As they walked through the lobby, an older man in a corner reading a book raised his martini glass in toast.

“Good luck, Mr. Steele.”

The best Dallas could give him was a nod, as his companions took him out to the back.

 

“I moved the van out here,” said Wick.

The familiar vehicle looked as though it got a bath. Was that a part of the hotel’s treatment as well? The van was not unoccupied. Wick’s dog poked her head out of the passenger window, barking happily as he returned.

“I didn’t want to leave her again,” he said.

“She’s your responsibility,” said Dallas, as if that made any difference to what Wick would do.

 

As Dallas settled in, Rosie trotted over and placed her head on his leg.

“You better pet her,” said Wick, adjusting the mirror as he got ready. “She thinks you’re upset.”

Dallas did as he was told, scratching her behind the ears. The dog’s tail thumped against the car seat.

“She’s a very empathetic animal.”

“That’s why I picked her.”

“Animals are fun, but where the fuck are we going?” asked Hoxton.

“Back to D.C.”  There was a slight grumble in Wick’s voice. Dallas guessed he was getting tired of driving back and forth between the two cities. “Bain has been back in touch with the others, we’ll likely be next.”

“About time that needy dog got back to us, no offence,” said Hoxton.

***

Crenshaw wandered out of the Continental, happy to have drunk away the hours at what he was told was the second best bar in the hotel. Where the best one was no one would tell him. He hailed a cab to head to his sister’s. Inside, he took a deep breath and ran his fingers over the worn leather of the seat.
He was free at last of those criminal fuckers. How had he fallen so far? Doctors had done worse than he did. He only slipped up a little. And why of all people to help him it had to be the Dentist?

He checked his phone. Twelve percent battery, he should have taken the time to charge it properly at the hotel. He had several missed calls and texts from Alison, likely asking what was happening. The Dentist would want an update about the Payday Gang, but Crenshaw was done with that cryptic bastard. He would offer promises that Crenshaw had little faith in being kept.

Without his medical license and the small possibility that it would be reinstated by the usual manner, he would have to ally himself with the powerful. Perhaps witness protection would let him go abroad. Doctors Without Borders would let him disappear.

He dialed the number.

“Metropolitan Police Department tip line, how may I help you?”

“I’d like to speak to Commissioner Garrett. I have information about the Payday Gang.”

 

Next Time: Bain sends the gang to a weird old house. At long last our crew is reunited. Clover and Hoxton have a row.

 

Chapter Text

Chains always knew Bain had many tricks up his sleeves, but he was beginning to wonder where the fuck the man got all his buildings. The next so called “safe-house” was an abandoned waterfront property, some dilapidated mansion that reminded Chains of a B-movie haunted house. He half expected to see Norman Bates or “Mother” peeking out of a window.

“I hope next time he sends us to a nicer place,” said Wolf.

Bonnie agreed. “How about a hotel with a fucking hot tub?”

“I don’t think we are going to be staying at the Ritz anytime soon,” said Chains.

Years of dust was disturbed by the gang walking around. Old furniture was covered by white sheets turned gray with age, the floors creaking under their feet as they explored their new hideout.

“I wonder how Bain found this,” said Chains.

“If he expects me to dust,” said Bonnie, as she wiped a finger down a dirty mantel. “He’s got another thing coming.”

Jacket stood by an old piano, poking an out of tune key.

Bain called again.

“Everyone else is supposed to meet here, so stay put!” he demanded.

Where else was Chains going to go? He got stuck with the crew members who would be the most conspicuous (not to mention occasionally awkward) in public.

“You were right,” said Chains, bringing up the “heist,” if rescuing a hostage could be considered one. “The hostage was their mother.”

He was relieved that they got the old woman out in one piece, but Chains feared the implications of her involvement. In order to find her, Garrett must have discovered Dallas’, and by extension Houston’s, true identities. What did that mean for everyone else in the crew? After all these years they were all connected one way or another.

Bain grumbled something about one more person to worry about. “Find out if she knows anything.”

“I don’t think she has a problem talking to me.” Handsome, dear god.

 

Jacket and Wolf were having fun playing a bad (was there ever a good version?) of chopsticks on the piano. Chains privately rolled his eyes, happy that those two were enjoying themselves.

Bonnie crept up next to him.

“So when are you gonna tell her,” she said, in a conspiratorially tone. “I can imagine that Mummy Dallas here would be terrifying if you pissed her off.”

He waved her off, not enjoying being nagged. “I’m getting to it.”

“Just give it to her straight, that’s how I’d want it.” Bonnie punched one hand into the other. “If you don’t wanna-”

He would be fucking stupid to let Bonnie, who had the subtlety of a sledgehammer, to give bad news.

“Absolutely not.”

 

Evie Tomlinson stood outside enjoying a cigarette.

“You probably should stay inside. This place is supposed to be abandoned,” said Chains, announcing himself.

“Oh damn, I’d been stuck in that house so long, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be outside.” she inhaled deeply.

“I know that feeling. So ah, what do you know about Commissioner Garrett?” he asked. The topic hadn’t been covered in much detail during the drive over; the gang’s new guest wanted a smoke and a nap. But Evie had mentioned that some D.C. bigwigs would all be in the same location soon.

She raised an eyebrow.

“Getting right to the point are we?” Evie said coldly. She tapped the ashes of her cigarette. “That Greta woman got bored and modeled a dress in front of me. Why the hell would she want my opinion? Anyway, he’s having a party, more like a gala.”

Garrett was turning into Emperor Nero, fiddling as Rome burned. He would mention it to Bain as soon as he could.

“Why is that important?” Chains asked.

She shrugged. “I sure don’t know. Now, tell me where my sons are?”

“Let’s go inside.”

Evie frowned.

“I don’t like where this is going.”

***

“Is it just me or this more of a dump than the last place,” said Houston as the van approached. Bain sure knew how to pick them.

“I used to squat in places like this all the time,” said Clover contentedly. “It’ll feel just like home.”

Twitch parked the van in a copse of trees. Sokol and Houston dragged Miller, still bound and gagged, along the rocky shore to the house.

The back door, nearly rusted off its hinges, squeaked open. Bonnie beckoned them all inside.

“If it isn’t my favorite bunch of runaways,” she said excitedly. “How the fuck are you all doing?”

“Could be fucking better,” said Clover as she was engulfed by the other woman’s hug “Where can we dump the bastard?”

Miller writhed in panic, thinking she meant his corpse.

“This is the faker,” said Wolf, promptly giving him a swift kick in the shins.

“We found him at interesting bar,” said Sokol. Houston thought his ears tinged pink.

With Bonnie taking over hostage wrangling duties, Houston drifted away from the others, looking for Chains. Houston didn’t feel any antagonism for Chains, but it was best to not let their argument simmer.

“Hey Houston,” he said.

Neither spoke.

“Are we ah, going to be cool about this?” Houston said tentatively to fill the silence.

Chains mimed contemplating, “I think so.”

Thank god.  “I promise I won’t talk out of my ass next time.”

“I thought you always talked out of your ass.”

Houston rolled his eyes. “I think that’s Hoxton’s line.”

“We can be cool,” said Chains. “It all got too fucked up too fast.”

“Dallas will recover.” And what would they be saying now, if Nate hadn’t?

Chains sighed. “I know, Wick called Bonnie.”

“When did they ever hang out with each other,” said Houston, mildly impressed. Bonnie and Wick were like oil and water, or the opposite ends of a spectrum.

“I don’t fucking know. But there’s something else.”

“And that is?” One thing after another.

“We uh, found someone.”

Behind Chains appeared the small and familiar frame of his mother, of all people. Her hair was frazzled and clothes rumpled. He began to calculate mentally how long it was since he’d seen her.

“Mom! Why the hell are you here?”

Houston embraced her and patted his mother on the back. She felt so much smaller than he remembered.

“That Greta woman took me!” she complained.

“What the fuck, really?” He said at Chains. “Greta is working with Garrett?”

“We found Greta guarding her in an abandoned house. She’s mad that Bain stopped asking her to do jobs.”

A million questions sat on the tip of Houston’s tongue, the only one that he got out was, and “Did she do anything to you?”

His mother reached up at patted him on the cheek.

“It was really boring.”

“You would say that wouldn’t you?”

***

A few hours of attempting to make the house comfortable went by before Wick and Hoxton returned with Dallas.

Wick cautiously opened the back door, Rosie dashed in wanting to sniff new smells. Dallas followed supported by Hoxton.

“Let’s not mob them,” said Chains, half seriously as the rest of crew eagerly wanted to greet them.

Dallas seemed as though he had gone through the wringer, his right arm still rested in a sling. He gently got Hoxton to stop holding him up, wanting to stand on his own. But he was alive, and Chains could finally believe it in his gut seeing him in person. To be honest, he was ready to have Dallas start making the major decisions again. Chains would appreciate more the level of stress he operated under.

“I’m so fucking glad to see you.”

“You look like you’ve gone through a war,” said Dallas to him.

“Shit man, so do you.”

They shook hands tightly. For a moment Chains saw him flat on the ground bleeding out. He blinked and the memory was gone.

Next to them, Bonnie and Wolf had Hoxton sandwiched in a hug between them.

“Would you wankers get offa me?” he complained.

“We’re happy to see you,” said Wolf.

“Shut up and let us hug you,” said Bonnie.

“More like smother me.”

“Is there anything else I should know,” asked Dallas.

“Hey Nate,” Chains overheard Houston whisper to his brother, “Uh, Mom’s here.
Dallas leaned over his shoulder.

“Oh Jesus Christ,” he said, as Evie gave him a wave.

“Not quite, just me, your own mother.”

“Why the hell is she here,” groaned Dallas.

“Garrett took her as collateral,” said Chains.

“That son of a bitch,” Dallas muttered. “He should have left in Florida where you belong.”

“I belong in Chicago, but some idiot decided to mess with the mob,” said Evie, hands on her hips.

“Mother, please.”

“Don’t ‘Mother’ me,” she said. “I am allowed to be concerned. You were nearly killed.” Her chin started to wobble. “And this one,” Evie pointed at Houston. “Didn’t bother to call me.”

“When do we ever call you,” said Houston.

Chains took the opportunity to rescue Dallas from his family. He had Wick and Hoxton join him, they needed to know about Garrett’s group as well.

Chains gave Dallas the low down on the files they found in the Murkeywater Depo.

“So you found out what they were hired for?” he asked.

“Clover and Houston picked one of them up,” said Chains. “He’s the leader of Garrett’s version of the Payday Gang. That bastard has his own clowns.”

“That motherfucking asshole,” exclaimed Hoxton.

“How did you find out?” asked Wick.

“The news, it was shortly after you guys left.”

“I want to meet this loser,” said Dallas. “Let’s see how he handles the original.”

But as Dallas spoke, he stumbled.

“All right there, Nate,” said Hoxton, trying to hold him up. “You’re still recovering, remember.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not,” said Wick.

“Lie down, we just got you back in once piece,” said Chains.

His opinion overruled, Dallas resigned to being led away.

“There is a settee that isn’t too dusty,” suggested Wolf.

“Little brother, right now I’m gonna fucking rest for a bit, but later we should talk,” said Dallas, placing a hand on Houston’s shoulder.

Houston inhaled sharply.

“That would be good.”

***

Now that Dallas was alive and returned, Clover awaited to be lectured about her vanishing with Houston and Sokol after the debacle with the Belascos.

But none such lecture appeared.  Both Houston and Dallas were preoccupied with dealing with their mother. She wasn’t ready to be introduced to her (Did she even need to be?) and Clover kept out of the conversation.

Her own little reunion hadn’t gone smoothly.

Hoxton had been staring at her since he arrived.  She didn’t need to look at him long to see that he was pissed, presumably at her.

While the family reunion was going on, he leaned over and whispered in her ear.

“Looks like your new lad’s a real mama’s boy.”

Clover elbowed him in the ribs.

But Hoxton wasn’t done with her.

Clover decided to explore the house. Once she and Hoxton broke into an old flat in Camden, the owner off on holiday. Hoxton got busy drinking the beers in the refrigerator, but Clover dug around in the closet instead, finding and dressing up in old furs.

After deciding that the holes in the upstairs floors weren’t worth the danger, Clover returned downstairs, finding Hoxton waiting for her.

“If it isn’t the vanishing lady,” he said sourly. “Are you still going to be here if I close my eyes?”

Clover snorted. She could give back as good as he gave it. They got quite good at having rows during their partnership. Of course he would be mad about her not saying goodbye before going off.

“I didn’t think I had to tell you where I go every fucking moment!” The only person she was truly accountable to was herself, why couldn’t he see that?

“I thought you were over fucking running off!”

“I did not run off. I left to get shit done!”

Tensions had risen in that warehouse. Too many cooks in the kitchen, that was enough to push her to leave.

“So that’s what you’re calling it these days.”

“Sorry I triggered your abandonment issues!” snapped Clover.

Hoxton twitched as if she had struck him, maybe she should have done that instead.

“Oh that is a low blow,” he said quietly, “even for you.”

For a moment, she forgot that she wasn’t only person to have left him behind. Hoxton turned and walked away.

“Fuck,” she sighed.

 

Next Time: Siblings, by blood and bond, repair fractured relationships. The crew must choose what to do next.

Chapter Text

Clover went to find Bonnie.

The other woman sat on the dirty linoleum floor of the kitchen. Bonnie was attempting to pop a bottle of wine open with a butter knife.

“You ain’t got a corkscrew with you,” she asked Clover.

Clover slid down to the floor next to her, not caring that her clothes would be filthy.

“I don’t. And why the fuck are you drinking that anyway? That shit could be ancient, you’ll get botulism and then you’ll be sorry.”

Bonnie continued to chip away at the cork.

“I’ve been nailed to the wagon for too long. I fucking deserve a drink.”

Clover exhaled deeply and leaned her head on Bonnie’s muscular arm.

“I do too.”

She put the bottle down.

“What’s wrong hen?”

“Houston and I barely got through all this shit, and Hoxton’s made it clear he’s fucking pissed I left.” Clover knew that it was likely consequence, but now that it was really happening...

Bonnie snorted. “That’s the English for you, always ruining everything.”

Now it’s the Irish’s turn. “I may have pointed out one of his biggest insecurities,” said Clover weakly.

“Oh bugger. Which one?”

Clover sighed. “People leaving him.”

“Ah, you picked one of the big ones.” She returned to her project.

“He just kept picking at me and it came out.”

Bonnie finally got the cork out of the bottle and took a swig.

“Best drink I’ve had in a while.”

She passed the wine to Clover, who gingerly took a sip. The booze had turned to vinegar in its old age.

“Gah, this is fucking disgusting!” Clover spat it out..

Bonnie laughed. “My liver can handle anything.”

***

Not wanting to admit that his feelings were hurt, Hoxton went back to Dallas.

He was leaning back on the sofa. Dallas rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Hey,” he said sleepily.

Hoxton sat and pulled Dallas closer to him.

“You and Clover argue,” he said, as soon as they got comfy.

“What on earth gave you that idea?” Hoxton didn’t feel like going over it.

Dallas raised an eyebrow. “I could hear you two through the walls.”

“Ah, fuck.” There was no such thing as a quiet conversation with that woman.

“You should talk to her.”

Hoxton grumbled in response.

“She’s your best friend,” countered Dallas.

“I don’t know. I think Bonnie might get a promotion after all of this.” Hoxton hoped that Bonnie didn’t hear that. He would never live the comment down if she did...

“You don’t mean that.”

“Aren’t you mad that she left?” Hoxton found it hard to imagine Clover leaving with Dallas awake. Actually, he could see her doing whatever she wanted. That was the trouble.

“This isn’t the military.”

“You’re not going to say anything to her, are you?” A part of him wanted to see Dallas tell her off.

“I think we have more important problems than lecturing Clover,” said Dallas. “Now go talk to her.”

He knew he would have to eventually, but Hoxton tried to deflect.

“Look at you telling me what to do. What about your brother?”

“Am I hearing this correctly?” Dallas asked skeptically. “Are you concerned about him?”

“If he is important to you, then he’s…” Hoxton’s voice trailed off in silence. He was not going to say this out loud.

“What was that,” Dallas grinned, daring him to finish.

“Important to me. Had to make me say it, you bastard!” Hoxton scowled. “If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it and call you a bold faced liar.”

“You’re blushing just a little bit.” Dallas pinched two fingers together.

“Fuck you!”

***

Houston was trying to stop his mother from showing more kid photos of him and his brother to Jiro, when Hoxton beckoned him over.

“Hey Houston.”

Part of his system was shocked by having Hoxton speak to him in person. The last time the two had interacted, Hoxton wanted to beat the shit out of him.

“Hi,” Houston said, wary if the goodwill they shared during the phone call has lasted.

“Dallas wants to talk to you.”

“Thanks,” he said, happy that his brother was ready to talk. Houston waited as Hoxton still stood there. “Is there something else?”

He poked him hard in the chest.

“If you ever do Clover wrong, cheat on her, slap her around or some shit, I will cut your fucking knob off!”

I think she would do it herself if that happened. Not expecting this outburst, Houston gave Hoxton a shove. There were words he could give him as well.

“And you ever break my brother’s heart, I’ll do the same to you!”

“Alright then,” Hoxton said with a sneer, apparently content with their impasse. “He’s waiting for you.” He pointed towards the room.

“Fucking twat,” Houston muttered to himself.

***

Now that Dallas was doing his part with his brother, Hoxton needed to do his with Clover.

He found Bonnie first, she was in the kitchen hugging a half empty bottle of wine like it was a baby.

“Your girl’s up on the roof,” she said.

“Don’t drink that all at once, you’re not going to get anymore,” he chastised.

Bonnie rolled her eyes. “You gonna put a damper on my fun?”

 

Clover was out on the roof, her legs hanging off into the air, swinging gently. Hoxton remembered watching her do the same when they watched the sunrise on top of Primrose Hill at Regent’s Park in what felt like another life entirely.

“What now?” she asked, looking up at him. Clover held her arms snug to her body.

“Nate told me to fix it with you.”

Clover nodded. “Is that all?”

He joined her on the roof, keeping a decent six inches between them.

“Why didn’t you stay?” The question sounded different than asking her again why she left. “And it can’t all be because you wanted to get your little boyfriend out?”

He still had trouble believing that she and imitation wanker were together. Why not Chains or Sokol? That Hoxton could understand.

She sighed, her hair rustling as she did, “I tried hiding from drama, I guess I just fucking brought it with me.”

“Did you ever consider that maybe I would... you know,” Hoxton tried to get the words out but just ended up exhaling a string of profanity.

“What are you trying to say?” Clover encouraged. “Use your words?”

“Did you ever think that maybe I... needed you?” Hoxton said through gritted teeth, he had had enough moments of emotional vulnerability in the past few days to last him the next ten years.

Hell, Hoxton had stuck around during her brother’s funeral. He even resisted the urge to kneecap Clover’s father when the old bastard started to irritate her.

She looked at her hands in embarrassment. “To be honest, I don’t know how to take care of you.”

“I think you know how to do that. I’ve still got this.” Hoxton yanked up his shirt, showing a faded and crooked scar along his rib cage. “You’re the one who stitched up this stupid zig-zag.”

Clover punched him in the side.

“Maybe if someone hadn’t been such a football hooligan, he wouldn’t have gotten it in the first place!”

“Dallas calls it my Harry Potter scar, I’ll have you know.”

Clover squealed with laughter. “Cause you’re an English wanker.”

“Thinks he’s being bloody clever,” he grumbled.

Clover stopped laughing. “Emotionally, I mean. You were always the one who did the comforting. I didn’t know what to do… God, that makes me a shit friend.”

“Is this because of the… you know?” Hoxton waved a hand between them. “I swear to god I never told anyone. Not even Dallas.”

Hoxton likely had his head up his own ass big time to not realize that Clover was falling for him. Probably because he didn’t see her as a romantic option, he assumed she must not have seen him as one either. And he felt like a real cunt when she drunkenly blabbed about feelings. Hoxton had been on her end of things more times than he wanted to admit.

She stared at him skeptically. “I’ve been over that for years. And thinking about it makes me feel like an idiot.”

“So I am completely fucking wrong about why you leave?” Hoxton said slowly.

“Yes,” said Clover, exasperated. “I feel like I’ve got to do things on my own, and then… I’m gone. And I’m really sorry me leaving affected you as it did.”

“And sorry… I’ve been… a bit of a twat,” He said as quietly as he could.  Hoxton couldn’t have the rest of the crew thinking he’d gone soft and started apologizing for everything.

“I’m going to forgive you, but there’s one thing that’s been bothering me.”

“And that is?”

“When I ran off, the first time, I saw you almost go for your gun. Where you going to kill me? It’s water under the bridge now,” Clover added quickly, “But I’ve always wondered…”

“Maybe a little?” He had. It was the first reaction Hoxton processed when he realized that she was taking the guns and without him. His imagination was vivid enough to envision shooting Clover between the eyes. “It was just a reflex, love. I couldn’t have lived with the guilt if I did.”

He knew that with absolute certainty, especially after almost killing Dallas.

“I promise that the next time I want to leave without you, I’ll fucking let you know.”

“You damn well better!”

***

Neither brother knew where to begin. Dallas still sat leaning on the settee. Houston stood, holding himself like a kid ready to be lectured.

“Should I start or should you?” said Houston, his natural instinct was to defer to Dallas.

“Age before beauty,” said Dallas feebly. “I’m really-”

“I’m an idiot,” Houston cut him off. He couldn’t hold it in any more. He had spent too much time wondering if he would get the chance to say these things, and now that he did... “I should have kept my fucking mouth shut. You knew what you were fucking doing and- I didn’t.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Dallas. “My idea near got me killed.” He paused. “I’ve been kinda a dick to you to be honest.”

“I don’t fucking care about that anymore.” Houston shook his head. “There were a few times that I genuinely believed you were dead. Do you know what that fucking feels like?” He fought to finish the last sentence.

There was a long silence.

“Sometimes it’s hard seeing you like this,” said Dallas.

“Seeing me like what?”

Dallas rubbed the back of his neck. A telltale sign that he was nervous.

“This is going to sound real fucking insulting, and by all means be insulted. There’s no other way to say it. It’s hard seeing you as an adult sometimes.”

“I think I’ve been an adult for a while,” Houston said, confused. He was thirty-two, not twenty-one.

Dallas sighed, kneading his forehead.

“That’s not what I mean. I have more memories of you as a kid, than now.”

“And who’s fault is that?” Houston snapped a bit more than he wanted to. Of course, he got the occasional post card and phone call while his brother was hiding, but it wasn’t the same.

“Mine, I hope I can own up to being shitty.”

“God, you’re not shitty. But for fuck’s sake, can’t you just talk to me sometimes?” This all started when Houston felt locked out of the loop. Maybe he wouldn’t have mouthed off the way he did if Dallas had been more open…

“Don’t I?” Dallas said, seriously asking.

“Then why didn’t you tell me about the Belascos, or if you were pissed I killed Winters?” Houston crossed his arms.

His brother sighed.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

“Because I’m your little brother or because you’re the leader?” asked Houston

“Both. Those things should be separate, but they overlap,” said Dallas sadly.

“It was bound to happen with me joining.”

The two facets were the reasons why Dallas had asked him in the first place: the familiar connection and his skills as a criminal. Houston wouldn’t have the job without either one.

“I don’t regret it,” said Dallas. “Do you?”

“Hell no.”

Dallas moved over on the sofa. Houston took it as an invitation to join him. His brother placed his free hand on his shoulder, holding on tightly.

“I want you to be here, don’t ever forget that.”

Houston laughed, “You don’t forget either.”

The humor didn’t last. “How the fuck are we going to get out of this one?” Dallas sounded almost scared.

Houston gave him a nudge. “You and Bain’ll figure it out, you always do.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“This has been bothering me, when was the last time you, me, and mom were all together,” Houston asked in part out of curiosity and to distract his brother.

Dallas frowned, thinking.

“Oh shit, your dad’s funeral.”

“Really? Jesus Christ, that was a long time ago.”

Houston remembered their mother being mad that his brother was letting his sixteen-year-old-self bum cigarettes in the church parking lot instead of spending time with the rest of the mourners.

“I can’t believe that son of a bitch brought her into it,” muttered Dallas. “Garrett probably knows our real names now.”

“What are we going to do with Mom?”

Dallas rolled his eyes.

“I’ll add it to my list of worries.”

 

Next Time: Dragan returns. The crew makes plans and gets a gift from the Dentist.

Chapter Text

With Houston in tow, Dallas returned to the others. He watched the crew for a moment, existing briefly as themselves, the calm before the inevitable storm. Who knew when they would get another moment of peace like this, or if.

Bonnie was playing cards with Wick and Sokol. Wick’s dog napping around his feet under the old table they were playing at.

“A’right, let’s see what you lads got,” she said shuffling the deck.

“Please go easy on us,” begged Sokol.

“Yeah, no cheating,” added Wick.

Bonnie laughed. “I don’t need to cheat.”

Wolf was laughing in a corner with Jacket, while the silent man repeatedly played a cassette of facts for him. Hoxton played on the out of tune piano, singing a Beatles song, Clover tapping her foot next to him.

Jiro and his mother shared stories. Dallas was surprised that some sort of friendship had developed between them.

“Look what you’ve missed.” Chains stuck his head into the room from a doorway. He held a sleek shotgun that Dallas didn’t recognize.

Chains wasn’t alone.

“Gage sent resupplies,” said Dragan, with a slight smugness. “He would’ve come himself, but he thinks your next safe house better be wheelchair accessible.”

Dallas’ eyes narrowed.

“I was told you ditched us for the Butcher.”

“I didn’t get very far,” Dragan said, unbothered. “Gage will bill us when he has the time.”

“I’ll be waiting for it.”

Dallas lowered himself onto the sofa. Houston ready to catch him if he were to lose his balance. It was time to start acting like a leader again; he had been gone for too long. The rest of the crew waited in silence (surprisingly) for him to speak.

“Now that everyone is here, we need to figure what the fuck is our next step. There is no room for any mistakes this time.”

“You can fucking say that again,” said Hoxton.

The following Dallas knew he needed to say, considering how fractured the gang got after he was shot. A minute part of him was flattered that he had so successfully led them, but Dallas felt majorly annoyed that some of them decided to run around like chickens with their heads cut off when he was incapacitated.

“But before we get onto that, I need to say this. As of this moment, I’m giving you all a clean slate. I don’t give a fuck what you did while I was-,” Dallas paused to pick a good word. “Unavailable. What happened, happened. And now we’re going to move on. All of you have better be fucking ready to do your jobs when the time comes. If not, get the hell out of here and don’t come back.”

No one moved. Not that Dallas thought that anyone might.

“We’re all staying,” said Clover.

Hoxton privately raised an eyebrow towards Dallas at her comment. He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Now then,” said Dallas, clasping his hands together. “Onto business. Mom, would you care to share what you learned as Greta’s hostage.”

His mother perked up as she was mentioned.

“I’m I going to get a clown mask if I do?” she teased.

A few people sniggered.

He sighed, thinking that the universe decided to bother him more by having her here.  “Mother, answer the question.”

“All right. Greta told me that Garrett is attending a gala and anyone who’s anyone apparently will be there. She got bored and modeled a dress for me. She said she wanted to be beautiful.”

“Greta told you all that,” asked Wolf.

“Greta always ran her fucking mouth,” added Chains, exasperated. “Is it really that surprising?’

“Did Greta mention anyone else by name” said Dallas, getting the conversation back on track.

His mother said no.

“Jesus, did Garrett know what a complete fuck up Greta is?” said Houston. “She left her fingerprints all over the place, and killed too many civilians during that shit with the IMF envoy. I’ve never heard Bain so pissed.”  

“We don’t pass out CV’s in this sort of work,” joked Bonnie.

“He probably thought she would have inside information,” said Chains.

“Not too much,” said Dallas. “Greta wasn’t with us too long.”

Chains frowned contemplatively. “Are you thinking about gate crashing Garrett’s gala?”

“To do what exactly?”

Dallas’ mind still felt as though it was pushing through a fog. He couldn’t speak for the rest of the crew, but much of their planning must have for short term goals. Make sure he didn’t die, find a place to hide… Now it was time to pick the direction of their futures.

“I’ve got a question,” said Hoxton, interrupting his thoughts. “And I’m gonna have to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.”

“I’m sure that’ll be real fucking difficult for you,” muttered Houston.

“Shut it, wanker,” Hoxton gave him “the two” briefly before continuing. “As I was saying, why don’t we just leave? Get the fuck out the city.  I’m not saying it’s a good idea, but what’s stopping us?”

Dallas sighed. He was considering it. Wasn’t it better to stop while the going was good, rather than getting fucked by the authorities if they tried again?

However, there was one more factor he hadn’t examined yet.

“Where’s our hostage?” asked Dallas

“I hog tied the bastard and left him in the bathroom.” Bonnie laughed at her own ingenuity.

“It’s time we get acquainted.”

 

Dallas brought Chains along with him, if Miller was military as he was told, perhaps a fellow soldier would make him talk. Hoxton went as well, not wanting to let Dallas out of his sight.

Bonnie had done a good job of tying him up. An “X” of duct tape had kept him quiet. He lay on the floor, the muscles of his neck straining slightly. Dallas took note of his hideous spider tattoo, feeling grateful he never got one himself.

“Jonas Miller is it?” asked Dallas.

Miller did a double take as he realized who was speaking to him, his eyes filled wide with panic. Chains reached down and yanked the tap from his lips.

“How did it feel being a cheap rip-off of me?” said Dallas, keeping his voice low. Now he could kind of understand why Hoxton has been so pissed Houston had been him for a while.

Miller continued to blanch.

“Holy fuck, please don’t kill me. I’ll tell you anything you want!” he pleaded, trying to pull back as far as he could from his interrogators.

“Look who’s a little pussy,” said Hoxton, smirking.

Chains glared down at him skeptically. “I’d thought a former soldier would show more fucking bravery than this.”

Their prisoner took some offense to this.

“Me and the Army didn’t get along,” spat Miller.

“Guess you got kicked out before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell got the ax.” said Chains, with a slight sympathy.

“Boo hoo to me!” he scoffed.

“Since I’m still low on energy,” began Dallas. “I’m going to keep this brief, either you tell me exactly what I want to know, or else we dump your corpse in the Chesapeake.”

“And be fucking honest,” said Hoxton.

Luckily for them, Miller didn’t need much prying to talk, his survival instincts stronger than his fear of being a “rat.” He confirmed largely what they already knew. Garrett hired him and the others as competition for the Payday Gang with the goal of kicking them out of D.C.

“So where are your other members hiding?” asked Dallas. If the crew could get the rest of them, it would send Garrett back to square one.

“I don’t fucking know,” said Miller. “They were a bunch of assholes. Bill almost fragged me, and thought it was funny to fire at civilians, which we were absolutely not supposed to do.”

Although he wasn’t a fan of killing civilians, Dallas thought it would have been karmic justice if one of his stooges shot the people he was trying to protect.

“I have a source,” said Dallas, feeling weird that he was referring to his mother as such, “that says Garrett is attending some Gala soon. Know anything about that?”

“Metropolitan Police Department Charity Night, yeah. It’s in a few days,” said Miller.

“Do I need to be concerned about this?” asked Dallas.

It could be nothing, but considering Garrett’s most recent idea...

“I don’t know.”

“Did he say anything?” pressed Dallas.

“Yes,” admitted Miller. “He said something about a fail safe.”

“Meaning what,” demanded Chains.

“Just that he hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.”

 

Leaving Miller as he was, Dallas privately consulted with Chains and Hoxton.

“Your opinions?”

“Toss him in the bay,” said Hoxton.

“I don’t know man, Miller could just be a plant to confuse us,” said Chains.

Both options were ones that Dallas could see himself doing or agreeing with.

“What bothers me is what he said about Garrett hoping he wouldn’t have to use his fail safe.”

“Could be bullshit,” suggested Chains.

Hoxton nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, but we already know that Garrett is prepared to work around the law. I want to know what he’s up to.”

 

A few hours later, Bain called again.

“You’re going to get a delivery.”

“What sort?” asked Dallas.

A delivery meant that the visitor would know their location, and thus the possibility of having a tail.

“The Dentist says has a gift he wants you to have.”

“What?” said Hoxton. “He’s gonna give us all free fillings?”

Bain sighed. “He wouldn’t say, only that he hopes you all like it.”

Not quite a half hour later, Bonnie found a woman by the back door.  Hoxton pointed out that she was nurse the Dentist had sent with Crenshaw when he was shot.

Alison held a small wooden box between two trembling hands. Dallas asked her to sit down before she passed out. Suspicious, a part of him assumed that the Dentist was sending them a message.

She held the box out in front of her.

“Here, I don’t want to hold this anymore.”

“Why’s that?” asked Chains.

“He thinks it’s funny. God, I don’t think it’s funny,” she said, fear shaking her voice.

With his good hand, Dallas held the box, while Chains lifted the lid.  He looked down.

“What the fuck is this?” breathed Dallas.

 

Next Time: Garrett starts down the slippery slope as his plans begin to go astray.

Chapter Text

As with most disasters, once it started, it didn’t stop.

Firstly, he found his home broken into with a ruined kitchen and five dead bodies littering his carpet. The evening had been miserable enough dealing with the simpering McKendrick and that damn condescending Simmons.

He called Murkeywater to come clean the place. Hide the dead, scrub the blood away and sweep up the shrapnel. MPD could not know about this. It would be another thing in a growing list for him to hide. Not that Garrett let anyone into his house to begin with.

He watched the security footage. The smaller woman, possibly the Russian, and the assassin engaged in a firefight with the Murkies. Five skilled men taken down by three. What the hell did he work with them in the first place if they failed so easily?

Simmons went the house after Garrett alerted him to the break in. His presence better than having McKendrick sweating in fear all over his house.

“Did they take anything?” Simmons voice was low.

Garrett nudged the spilled papers all over his office with his foot.

“Nothing, but they could have seen enough.”

Simmons raised an eyebrow. “How much is enough.”

“Not very, do you think I’m the kind of idiot who would leave information of this kind unprotected?” Garrett said with a scowl.

“What about your men?”

“We still go ahead.” He got too far to turn back now. Neville would have told him to stick to the plan.

 

Not long after his task force went out, successfully in Garrett’s mind, a text from an unknown number ruined his afternoon.

“What do you mean she’s gone?” Garrett demanded. He had found some polite excuse to get away from the MPD offices to learn what the hell happened to Greta. Somehow she had made it back to a Murkeywater depot without getting caught.

“The Payday Gang found out where we were hiding Tomlinson and came calling,” said Greta.  A Murkeywater medic attended her wounds. She managed to get to some cover when a grenade went off, but damage was still done. Cuts and bruises dotted her face and body.

“And you let those bastards take Evie Tomlinson?” he shouted, feeling his face starting to go red.

Greta rolled her eyes, offended by his line of questioning. She shoved the medic out of her way, annoyed with his care.

“I did my best.” And Greta walked away.

So far, Garrett could attest the assassin was talented. Greta contacted him shortly before the death of Winters, suggesting that she could be of service to him. Her own reasons for hating Bain and the Payday Gang were strong enough to want to work with the police. Winters himself had advised Garrett against using Greta in any capacity, as she was, firstly, a criminal, and secondly, just as bad as the men and women they were trying to apprehend.

But after Winters’ murder, Garrett needed allies, and talented ones at that. A fighter who could do dirty work and not care was the kind he wanted.

A voice in the back of his mind said he regretted ordering Greta to take out Mosconi. The man served his country with honor in the Army and shouldn’t have been gunned down illegally by an unseen enemy. Greta and Simmons argued he was a dangerous loose end and unfortunately, Garrett agreed. He also told Greta to snipe any of the gang when given the opportunity. After removing Mosconi, she said she tried to kill “Chains,” but was unable to line up a successful shot.

For a cat’s paw, Mosconi was as Garrett wanted. His body would be found by the authorities in a few days, made to look like a drug deal gone wrong.

As for Tomlinson, despite having two criminal sons, she had no record of her own, save for a neighbor calling the police for a domestic disturbance in 1973. Garrett had used the FBI’s information about “Dallas” and “Houston,” and attempted to learn more about his enemy. Greta may have sighed and complained about doing “secretary work,” but after digging and cross referencing, she found Tomlinson in Florida.

It was only too simple to kidnap a harmless old woman, and he assumed that it would be the same to keep her prisoner.  Garrett hoped that she would not take her story to the authorities. Doing so would implicate her sons further. It was dangerous to gamble on a mother’s love, but Garrett didn’t have much else.

 

Luckily for him, Garrett’s next weapon against the Payday Gang would come from a legitimate source. The Metropolitan Police Department tip line got a phone call from a man who claimed that he had been called in to provide care to “Dallas” after he was shot. Research sent his information to Garrett.

Evan Crenshaw, age thirty-six, graduated from Georgetown University Medical School in 2006. Lost license to due to oxycontin abuse. Not the greatest of CVs, but he wanted to talk, and Garrett could use that.

“Bring him into protective custody; I want him to speak to us before someone else gets a chance.”

“That might be difficult sir,” said the officer at the tip line. “He said he was calling from New York City.”

Garrett swore under his breath. This was going to give him an ulcer. “Negotiate with the NYPD, I want him here ASAP.”

“I’ll get on it, sir.”

 

Even though he did not have Crenshaw in person, Garrett was sent his statement to the tip line. With a smug sense of victory, he read that the Payday Gang had split, arguing over what to do with their leader gone. Crenshaw was better connected than he originally anticipated. The mysterious “Dentist” had requested his services in exchange for the possibility of having his medical license reinstated.

But that was uninteresting compared to the rest of his account. He and a nurse listed only as “Alison” were called to a warehouse by Bain to help “Dallas.” Garrett checked the address of the building. It had burned to the ground a few days prior. Garrett kept reading the testimony to confirm his suspicions that the fire was connected. Two police officers, God rest them, had been murdered by Margaret “Bonnie” McGee and the person known as “Jacket.”  Garrett wrote a note to call the fire department investigating to look deeper for bodies in the rubble. Crenshaw said after end of the warehouse, he and the remaining members of the Payday Gang went to the house “of some Ruskie named ‘Vlad.’”

Garrett tucked the rest of the transcript into his briefcase. He knew exactly where to go.

 

His men raided the house.

Garrett didn’t know exactly what he was expecting. Finding the clowns sitting around waiting for them, unprepared for their impending arrests. But what he found was an angry octogenarian, her annoyed son, and a goat.

Allochka Kozak,age eighty-eight, was displeased by having the police tromp all over her immaculate home. The little old woman waved a dirty wooden spoon at the officers, likely cursing at them in her native tongue. Garrett tried to put distance between Mrs. Kozak and himself, but she pressed her way towards him, still upset.

“What is the meaning of this?” demanded Vladislav Kozak. His mother called him shortly after their arrival. “I know I have trouble with the law, but that long time ago.”

“I am here on suspicion of this house being used to shelter the Payday Gang,” said Garrett, trying not to let his frustrations get the better of him.

Kozak scoffed. “I am busy in my bakery. And it might surprise you, I don’t live with Mama! I only come cause she call.”

It took nearly two hours for the Ukrainian translator to get to the house. Garrett would not trust Kozak to translate for his own mother.

“I’ve told you, Commissioner, all she says is that there is no one in the house but her and the goat,” the translator said with a sigh.

The goat in question was bleating constantly, he too unhappy that Garrett and the police were there.

“Ask her again,” said Garrett.

Same result.

“You can come back with a warrant,” said Kozak. “You are stressing out my poor Mama!”

“I will be.”

 

In his eagerness to get to Kozak’s Garrett hadn’t finished reading Crenshaws’ testimony. A shortsighted move to be sure, but Garrett didn’t want to waste time. Sitting in the car as he was driven back to headquarters, Garrett continued. Steele’s condition worsened and Crenshaw said he must be taken to a hospital or he would succumb to his injury. Garrett hoped that the latter had happened, but instead Steele was taken to a hotel that was neither named nor described in New York City for further care.

A line turned his blood cold.

Yeah that Dallas guy will recover. The doctor there did a better job than me.

Nathan Steele did not die as anticipated.

Garrett hoped for more, but there was none. He crumpled the pages. With their leader alive, the Payday Gang would be reinvigorated. His gambit was becoming more dangerous and complicated.

 

Early the next morning, his phone rang. It was Greta. Garrett sped walked down the hallway to get out of anyone’s earshot, nearly spilling his coffee down his front.

“I told you to avoid calling me.”

“Shit’s hit the fan. Miller’s disappeared.” You were not looking for the most capable man ever to lead a secret team (not to mention an illegal one), but Garrett had thought he had a decent enough of a head on his shoulders. The old policeman in him was begrudgingly impressed by his ability to keep the others in line during the robbery.

Garrett kneaded his forehead. “Go find him then.” Another loose end to be handled.

Greta took a deep breath. “I think he’s been taken by the Payday gang.”

He ducked into a janitorial closet for extra privacy.

“Are you damn sure?” If it was true, it meant they were on to him. Would the gang invest time and manpower to capture a simple copycat?

“A witness said he saw Miller leave the Handcock with a tall, blond, young man with a scar across his nose. Said man sounded foreign, likely Eastern European. Does that sound familiar?” Greta snarked.

Sokol.

Garrett was stuck. To get some of his own men to look for Miller put keeping the nature of his employment at risk. He could get the others of his own gang (It hurt his head to think of them that way) to find him. But that would likely lead to a dead end. Stepping back and reorganizing was his best bet, for now.

“Follow any leads you find. I will contact you later.” He hung up before Greta could respond.

 

He stayed late that evening. Smoking was a habit Garrett long since gave up, but he went out to the gas station nearby for a pack. Each drag was a comforting distraction from the dark realization hanging over him.

His phone rang; Garrett tore it off the speaker.

“What?” he snapped.

“Sir, a mysterious package has been delivered to the front desk,” his secretary, Abigail Henderson, usually didn’t sound so nervous.

“Why is that important to me,” growled Garrett.

“It’s addressed to you, sir. Bomb squad is handling it now.”

Goddamn it. Sending boxes were not part of the Payday Gang’s usual M.O.

“I’m on my way.”

 

Large, green suited officers learned over a small cardboard box on the floor. Garrett thought that it looked completely ordinary, and then he noticed the dark brown stain in the corners.

“Who brought it in?”

“It was left outside, sir,” said Henderson. “We are checking the security footage now.”

“Sir, I think you better have a look at this,” the bomb squad officer. “This is not a bomb.”

Garrett shoved a beat cop out of his way. An all too familiar smell started to prick his nose...

***

Elsewhere, Nathan Steele had opened a delivery of his own.

Inside the Dentist’s box was a full set of human teeth, still bloodied from extraction.

“What the fuck is this,” he said.

“Fucking teeth,” said Hoxton.

“Motherfucker,” said Chains. “There’s a note.” He cleared his throat and read. “Our mutual acquaintance went to the police. I have never tolerated traitors or fools.  The former Mr. Crenshaw was both.

“He could have just called,” said Bonnie. She was awkwardly patting Alison on the shoulder, “instead of freaking this poor tweaker out.”

“Let me see,” said Wolf. He cackled the Dentist’s idea of a gift. “Can we keep them?”

“Are you off your bloody nut?” said Hoxton. “Never mind, I already know the answer to that.”

“We are not keeping human remains,” said Dallas. He dealt with bodies before, an unfortunate side effect of his career. But this was different. No one had ever sent parts to him before. “Burn them, throw them into bay, but they are not staying here.”

“Hey guys,” said Houston. “Uh, what do you think happened to the rest of him?”

***

Garrett grimaced, part in disgust and the other in disappointment

Gray with death and covered with dried blood, was a head.  Garrett didn’t need to wonder long about who the unfortunate victim was, as his driver’s license was nailed to his forehead.

Evan Crenshaw. So much for getting to him first.

“Get forensics up here now!”

***

Dallas had Clover and Bonnie escort Alison back to wherever she came from. He figured she would be more comfortable traveling with other women. As for the teeth, Chains flung them and their container into the Chesapeake Bay.  

He felt a strange sort of emotion towards the now dead Crenshaw. Dallas hadn’t exactly known him, but he partially owed his survival to the man. Then again, the doctor did try to sell them out to the police. Why would anyone in their right mind try to cross the Dentist?

Dallas now found himself watching the sun start to rise, sitting on a log with his brother and Hoxton, the pair unusually not sniping at each other.

“Did you think they did it before or after he was dead,” asked Hoxton.

“Jim, please” Dallas sighed.

“I think it’s a reasonable question,” said Houston.

“Wow, you two are agreeing,” snorted Dallas. “I ought to get shot more often.”

“Why the hell would you said that,” said Houston.

“That’s fucked up.”

Dallas grinned. “And I am proven correct.”

They both paused before saying that Dallas was being a dick and/or a wanker.

“I will say, I hope it was after he was dead,” said Dallas.

***

Greta did not find Miller. Eventually she gave up and told Garrett that she was going home. He stayed in his office long after everyone had gone home.

Forensics determined that Evan Crenshaw had been dead ten to twelve hours before his decapitated head arrived at headquarters. More disturbingly, all of his teeth had been torn from their sockets. Considering his previous alliance, the “Dentist” had likely done what his title implied and removed them himself.

The clock blinked 2:30 am. Garrett would not be found by the cleaning woman when she came to vacuum in a few hours.

 

Old habits had him reflexively check his mailbox, although he was certain it would be empty. His fingers found a small envelope containing a disk. Written in black sharpie, were the words WATCH ME.

Garret had yet to pick up the spilled papers in his office and sat at his desk to watch.

A video fill his desk top screen. Sitting in a folding chair was Jonas Miller, his hands tied behind his back.

“Hi Garrett,” Miller said. He looked away from the camera.

A familiar mask crept into view. Mocking the American flag was another reason for Garrett to hate “Dallas.” His right arm was in sling, and a pair of hands supported him off screen.

“Surprise, asshole. I’m still alive. And since your man here likes being alive. He’s gonna tell his story to the right people. Don’t worry, we’ve got him a lawyer. But since I don’t give a fuck about Miller here, I’m gonna give you a suggestion. Get the fuck out of this city and leave me and my people alone. You have twenty-four hours or Miller spills his guts.”

The film cut off.

Garrett leaned back in his chair. The thought was simple in its brutality. He lost. Forty years of service would be destroyed in a matter of sentences. He didn’t doubt that the Payday Gang knew where to take Miller’s testimony.

The whole city was rotten. Simmons and McKendrick were going to be his problems for the tomorrow that would never come. Garrett thought of the fail safe he jokingly mentioned to Miller. It was just an idea for his men to use in the future. Now it would serve its real intended purpose.

If Garrett was going down, the politicians and killers and criminals would be there with him in hell.


Next Time: Garrett and the Payday Gang push their respective plans into action, but who is playing who?

Chapter Text

Clover readjusted the tight bow tie around her neck. She didn’t know how banquet waiters could stand wearing them for hours on end, slowly being choked to death by their uniform. But as disguises went, this one was fairly simple. Her pink streak was hidden by a hair clip and her nose ring was tucked in a pocket. As for Houston, a shaved face made him look less bedraggled after everything that happened in the past few days. A waiter wanted to look professional for tips. In their walkthroughs of the hotel ballroom, carrying heavy trays of appetizers, the pair made sure not to be seen too often with the other. No one needed to get suspicious that some of the servers were up to mischief.

When it was decided that the gang was going, Bain snuck their names onto an agency that was looking for extra servers for the gala. Not their real names, obviously. Clover’s badge said “Sarah.” An appropriately bland one for the average American woman she was pretending to be. Houston was “Rob,” which made her laugh considering their occupations.

The rest of the crew had their roles to play. Dallas wanted people who could blend in the best to be out on the gala floor. Considering that some of the crew’s appearances screamed “criminal,” it was easy to rule out few, such as Hoxton and Bonnie. Hoxton scowled at the assessment, and Bonnie joked that this was discrimation.

After that, they were divided by skill set and availability. Wick used his connections with that hotel of his to get an invitation under another name to the gala. As a guest, he could move around in ways that servers couldn’t. Chains and Hoxton joined Dallas trying to find Garrett. Bonnie and Dragan were waiting with the escape van with Twitch. Sokol, Wolf, and Jacket would be trying to find a bomb that Garrett may have concealed in the building...

***

“Ow, stop bending my arm like that!” Dallas snapped at Hoxton.

He was trying to help put the ballistic vest on Dallas, as his movement was still limited by his healing wound.

“Well, sorry!” said Hoxton. “You’re gonna wear this bloody thing properly, so quit bitching.”

Both paused to grimace at the other. Dallas and Hoxton were conscious of what happened the last time he was wearing a vest.

“Hey shut up,” hissed Chains. He loaded a clip into a silenced pistol, focused solely on his work.

The three stood outside a security door, waiting for Wick to find a way inside to let them in. There was no lock to pick and using a drill would get them caught faster than you could say, “Where’s the police?”

Everyone else was in their positions, now it was time to join them. After hours of painstakingly going over the layout of the Westmere Hotel in downtown D.C, Dallas believed that they had the best plan available.

Garrett failed to leave D.C. calling the Payday Gang’s bluff. Bain and Wick arranged for a lawyer acquaintance to meet with Miller. Their prisoner was out of their hands and into his. Wick claimed the man owed him a favor. No one decided to ask what this favor was.  Miller’s accusations would now be taken more seriously with an intimidating attorney at his side.

Bain’ intelligence said the imitation gang would be crashing the gala. This was contrary to Miller’s statement that Garrett snuck a bomb into the hotel. Dallas was not a fan of either option. If there was a bomb and the gang alerted people to its presence, were they doing a good deed? That would certainly give the news clickbait to publish.

Would this struggle be solved with information and legal antics or the usual way with violence? And as for the gang’s own future in D.C. well, Dallas was beginning to wonder if it was it was even feasible anymore. Garrett would be replaced with someone or something, and Dallas wasn’t inclined to sit around and find out. But was a problem to solve later. Other matters were more pressing. There were too many civilians here for an open fire fight. If it came to blows, they would need to be sneaky.

Hoxton yanked the straps of the vest, bringing Dallas out of his thoughts.

“You ready?” he asked.

“As ready as I’m gonna be.”

The whole gang was there, except one. Jiro stayed with their mother. Out of all of them, he deserved the chance to continue his life in some semblance of peace with his son and grandson. As for his mother, he was not leaving her to her own devices. Dallas and Houston trusted Jiro to get their mother out of the area if needed.

Dallas checked his watch. Wick said it would take him close to an hour to get to door under the best circumstances. Nearly forty-eight minutes had elapsed. The lock started to click. Hoxton pushed Dallas behind him, while Chains held up a pistol in case it wasn’t their friend opening the door.

“Get in,” said Wick. “We haven’t much time.”

Dallas gave him a nod of thanks.

A full body bag sat on the floor of the security office they now stood in. A wall of screens illuminated camera feed from the hotel.

“No chance to react?” said Chains in regards to the former security officer.

“None.” Wick started to take down a vent. The bag would slip inside with no one the wiser. Well, at least until the body started to rot.

“Any sign of Garrett,” Dallas asked into the microphone at his wrist.

“He’s in the back left corner of the ballroom,” came the whispered voice of Clover. “ He’s not near any doors. I’ll let you know if he moves.”

So far it had gone without a hitch. Never in the Payday Gang’s history, had so many people been out for a heist (if you considered this a heist) at once.  To make it more complicated, they were separated into smaller groups. If things went tits ups it would be harder to regroup and get the fuck out of there.

***

“Um excuse me?” An older woman, who looked like the type of person Clover would have robbed clean of her jewels, was puzzling over the platter of food she was carrying. “What is that?”  She pointed in distaste.

“It’s a vegetable spring roll with a side of chili sauce,” said Clover for what she felt was for the millionth time that night.

“What’s in it?” the woman pointed to the food.

“Vegetables.” Clover tried to keep her expression neutral. This fucking idiot was keeping her from doing her job. She could just dump the platter over the woman’s head and be done with it.

“Does it have gluten in it? I don’t eat gluten.”

“Sorry it does.” Clover smiled brightly and walked away as fast as you could without spilling the tray, leaving the woman to gape after her. “Posh bitch,” she muttered under her breath.

The ballroom was almost full to capacity. Circular tables covered by silver table cloths surrounded a dancefloor. The occasional couple came out to dance to the live orchestra, which was set beneath a wide window that overlooked the pool. Just judging by the clothes and jewelry, the best of D.C.’s wealthy were out tonight, making themselves feel good by being at a charity gala.
Clover walked around a blue streamer covered pillar. Garrett was still speaking to a man in the corner. Two brutes stood near the commissioner, waiting for an unseen enemy to strike.

“Garrett’s not alone,” she said into her mic. “He’s got a pair of ugly bastards with him.”

“Noted,” said Dallas. “How’s Houston?”

“He’s still tailing McKendrick.”

The mayor, Clover could tell, was enjoying the open bar a little too much. His face a bright red from the excess alcohol. Perhaps he was expecting his night to end in chaos.

“Let me know if anything changes,” said Dallas.

“You got it.”

Clover’s hair hid her earpiece, but Houston was shit of luck in that regard. Buzzcuts weren’t good for concealment. Keeping them in communication with the others was her job.

More people reach awkwardly around her, grabbing fistfuls of spring rolls. She would need to take a trip back to the kitchen for another platter, just what she needed, to be on the wrong side of the hotel away from her mark. Finally, the crowd around Clover moved away. Garrett was on the move.

***

“Garrett is leaving. I think he’s heading to the men’s room in the eastern hallway.”

“Thanks Clover,” said Dallas. “It’s time.”

“His two bodyguards are with him,” Clover added.

The plan was that Wick would go first down the hallway making sure it was clear of guests before they followed. The cameras only showed around half the hallway. Dallas wanted to know what was happening down the whole thing.

“No one is down on our end,” said Chains, his eyes went from screen to screen. “I say go.”

Wick nodded, and carefully slipped out the door.

Dallas watched as Wick walked under the security cameras, careful to not show his face for the footage.

“You check in with Wolf and company?” asked Hoxton.

“Not yet.” The rule was to keep radio silence unless it was an emergency. “I’m gonna take their quiet as a good thing.”

A trio of men in coat tails passed through the footage, unaware of what was happening around them.

“Taking his time isn’t he,” said Hoxton.

“Would you rather him rush?” said Chains, raising an eyebrow.  

“Considering there might be a live bomb near me, I’d like to stay here as brief as fucking possible,” hissed Hoxton.

“Honestly, where the fuck would Garrett even get one?” said Chains.

“Murkywater,” suggested Dallas.

“I’m good on my end.” The sound of Wick’s level voice ended the debate. “Better hurry. We need more body bags.”

Chains led the way, Dallas in the middle, with Hoxton keeping watch in the rear. Dallas had practiced holding and firing a pistol with his left hand, but he was essentially a sitting duck if they were fired upon.

Wick stood close to the bathroom door, attempting to move two large bodies by himself. Unlike his usual M.O. the men had not been killed by headshots. Too messy for this environment.

Chains and Hoxton quickly started helping Wick shove the remains in the bags. They only needed to be out of sight for a little while. The four were positioned in one of the few security blind spots.  

With his colleagues’ approval, Dallas went inside the men’s rooms.

Garrett washed his hands in one of the alabaster sinks; paying no attention that Dallas had joined him. Dallas cleared his throat. The commissioner turned, freezing when he saw who was now keeping him company.

He tried to go for a gun, but Chains and Hoxton appeared behind Dallas.

“Don’t try it motherfucker. I’ll blow your goddamn head off,” said Chains.

For a millisecond, Dallas thought that Garrett would try to fire despite the threat.

Garrett remained calm, but his breathing began to deepen.

“Where are my men,” he demanded.

“Somewhere where they’re not gonna be found,” said Hoxton. He ran a finger across his throat.

A muscle in Garrett’s face started to twitch.

“What do you want?” He straightened his jacket.

“How about a chat?” said Dallas.

 

Next Time: Dallas confronts the gang’s arch nemesis. The situation gets shittier.

Chapter Text

“Where is best spot to put bomb?” whispered Sokol, more to himself than anyone else.

He and Wolf had been paired together by Dallas to find it due to their respective skills with technology. Jacket was with them to keep watch and probably because no one else wanted to take him along. Sokol hoped he and Wolf would stay out of trouble. He could imagine the hotel being splattered with the blood and viscera of the unfortunate if the two went all out.

He and Wolf narrowed down the least likely locations of the “bomb” before they arrived. He mentally kept adding quotations marks to the word, because the gang weren’t sure if there really was one. Sokol worked with explosives during his time robbing casinos, for he knew this was really just tupaya shtuka , a stupid thing.

The Westmere Hotel was decently large, fifteen floors high. Really fourteen, but western society believed it was bad luck to have a thirteenth floor. Sokol would admit he was mildly superstitious. He had his pre-game rituals for good luck, but not having the number thirteen in your building was silly in his opinion.

Garrett wouldn’t put the bomb on the higher floors unless he wanted to give people ample time to escape before the building possibly collapsed on itself. The ballroom was on the second floor, a short walk up a staircase from the lobby. The majority of the presumed targets would be there.

And the bomb wouldn’t be in an obvious sport. Sokol believed these Americans were more observant than that.

It had been easy enough to get in, maybe too easy. The three snuck in via an access door near the delivery dock. No one would be making any at this time of the day.

Wolf and Jacket were antsy to keep moving.

“Let’s try spot C,” said Wolf.

Da.

***

“How about a chat?” said Dallas. “Hoxton, check the good Commissioner for me.”

Hoxton smiled a sadistic little smile. “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”

“Forget me,” said Chains to their captive. “You really don’t wanna fuck with him.”

Hoxton patted down Garrett, taking a silenced pistol from the back of his trousers and fishing a knife out of his pocket, looking all the while murderous.

“Are you going to kill me here?” asked Garrett.

Dallas raised an eyebrow. “Capping a guy in the bathroom? I don’t know if that’s very creative.”



They couldn’t stay in the men’s room forever, Dallas had them move Garrett. Chains happily handcuffed him behind the back, leading him with a tight grip around the upper arm. Dallas didn’t fear Garrett the man, only the power he represented. An old man would stand a snowball’s chance in hell against him, Hoxton, or Chains in a fair fight. Garrett continued to look straight ahead, not letting the humiliation bother him.

Hoxton swiped a keycard into one of the conference rooms. Bain hacked into the hotel’s scheduling system. The room was empty for the next three days, and out of the way enough that Dallas agreed to use it.

Chains took a chair from the mahogany conference table. “Sit.”  

Garrett sat down, knees creaking he did. “I always did want to meet you in person.”

“I guess dreams really do come true,” said Dallas. He didn’t want to sit as well, but he was starting to get dizzy. Better he sit down himself, or Hoxton would make him. One final face to face with Commissioner Garrett. “And next time you want to assassinate someone, tell your guy to aim a little more towards the left.”

“How in the hell are you alive?” growled Garrett. “I was explicit in my orders to Mosconi.”

“Yeah, and he fuckin’ did what you wanted him do,” said Hoxton with a sneer.

“We’ve been cleaning up your mess,” added Chains.

“I’m alive cause I have talented friends.” Or else he really would be dead as a doornail.

“Aren’t you smug?”

“I think I’m allowed to be,” said Dallas. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”

“So have I, so has this city.” Garrett leaned forward, baring his teeth. “And you bastards would destroy it without a care.”

***

When it came to following a mark, McKendrick was making it easy for Houston. The mayor didn’t drift far from the bar. He could walk around the ballroom with his platter of bacon shrimp without worrying about him getting away.  

McKendrick was a small problem to deal with in Houston’s opinion. Two people who should have been at the gala were absent, Greta and the Elephant. Their lack of appearance sat like a stone in Houston’s stomach.

Greta he could understand her skipping out. It would be hard to come out socially while you were laid up, or better yet, chilling in a body bag.
But the Elephant. Where was he?

This Project Image shit had his help behind it. If there was more to see here than what he and the rest of the crew knew about, the Elephant missing set his paranoia on edge.

It wasn’t as though the senator would be hard to spot in a crowd. The majority of guests were old white people, he would stick out.

He and Clover would pass each other at ten minute intervals, making sure all was well with the other.  They would tap their index finger and thumb together once to signal that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Two taps meant trouble.

Houston was assigned to start taking out the first course to his tables. The mayor continued to drink. A hand trembled.

***

“Speaking of destroying things without a care,” said Dallas. “I’m not the one trying to blow this place straight to hell.”

Garrett’s shoulders stiffened a millimeter. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Dallas rolled his eyes. “Oh please, that’s bullshit. Miller said you had a bomb."

"Seemed to believe it too," added Chains. 

"I'm not going to not answer any more of your questions." Garrett spoke without anger, and leaned back in the chair.

"Not to sound cliched," said Hoxton. "But we got ways of making you talk."

"I'd like to see you try," said Garrett.

Before Dallas could decide what to do next, Sokol’s voice crackled on the earpiece. “We’ve found the device. I think Wolf and I can disarm it.”

“I don't think that's going to be needed, as of this moment, my guys are dismantling your bomb,” said Dallas. 

Garrett continued to be oddly calm.

“There's another one,” he said slowly. 

Dallas wanted to think that Garrett was lying. It was almost too convenient. But getting in here had been easy, maybe too easy. That would be the perfect gambit. Get people to waste their time finding a singular bomb, when they should have split resources finding two.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” sighed Hoxton.

“Wolf, there’s a second bomb,” Chains said into his microphone.

 A slight expression of triumph passed on Garrett's face. He was a man prepared to martyr himself.

“My god, you’ll kill everyone here,” said Dallas. “People you’ve sworn to protect.”

Garrett smiled sadly. “Thanks to you, I’ve got nothing left to live for. But I can take all you, and the two-faced politicians with me. Sure, people will mourn such a tragedy. Wonder about all the things they could’ve done differently. But this city will have a clean slate. It deserves one. I've made my peace with the universe, have you?”

Dallas yelled into his mic. “We need to get out of here now!”

 

Next Time: Unexpected guests arrive.

Chapter Text

Dallas yelled into his mic. “We need to get out of here now.”

Fuck. The time for subtlety was over.”  

“What about him?” Chains stuck at thumb out at Garrett.

Leaving him to die was the baser, not to mention simpler, response. But the commissioner wanted martyrdom and Dallas wouldn’t oblige him. Besides, he made a good hostage.

“Bring the fucker with us.”

Hoxton rolled his eyes, muttering something about him being a load.

Clover’s voice, privately quiet, responded in the earpiece. “Did I hear all this right?”

“Make your way to an exit asap. I’m not risking it going off.” A tension headache started to throb around the back of his head. Dallas gritted his teeth and tried to focus.

“I’m not going anywhere,” growled Garrett.

“Well, tough shit,” said Hoxton.

“I’ll grab your brother and go.” Dallas trusted Clover to make it out in one piece. She was reliably sneaky.

“We are going back out the door,” added Sokol. Dallas crossed his fingers that he, Wolf, and Jacket would get there without damage, to themselves or their surroundings.

If everyone could escape the building that was one problem solved, getting away from the area before the MPD arrived would be another.

A loud crash shook the floorboards.

“Fuck me,” said Hoxton.

“Was that the bomb?” Dallas demanded of Garrett.

Before he could answer, Clover interrupted.

“We got-” Her voice was cut off by the echo of gunfire.

***

She was just stepping out of the kitchen with a tray of bacon wrapped shrimp resting in her arms when it happened.

A charged blast broke the high windows around the ballroom. They fell in a cascade of jagged glass. Attendees screamed. Clover heard one man cry out “terrorists!” This was not the bomb. Unmarked mercenaries trooped inside. They wore heavy gear, ready to fuck it all up. Murkeywater. It had to be.

Dallas needed to know. Forget the half-assed impersonators, Murkeys would ruin their night. Permanently.  She dropped the tray to the floor, not caring about giving herself away.

“We got-”

Murkeys fired into the ceiling. Dallas would have to wait.

“We want the Payday Gang!” One shouted. Clover figured he was in charge.

Clover’s eyes darted back and forth. She would have to run across the dance floor, past the murkeys to get out to where Bonnie and Dragan were with the van. Or she could go back and try to meet up with Hoxton and Dallas.

The guests panicking around her, Clover frantically looked for Houston. Heart in her throat, no face matched his.

A murkey pointed in her direction.

“That’s one of them, GET HER!”

“Bollocks,” she hissed. Clover was unarmed, save for her butterfly knife. The murkeys wouldn’t be callous enough to shoot her around civilians, or so she hoped. Clover ducked down and dashed back into the kitchen.

***

Houston crouched behind a pillar when the murkeys busted in. Old instincts acted before he could. So much for blending in.

Clover.

“We want the Payday Gang!” A murkey screamed.

Well, shit. Houston wasn’t going to hand himself over to them. There were other choices to be made. He inhaled deeply. Houston regretted his lack of an ear piece. It was like walking around with his pants round his ankles. They could have hidden it behind a wig, but a crappy disguise like that would’ve made him stick out.

He stole a glance around the pillar. If a merc got close, maybe Houston would be able to disarm him. Then he would have a gun, which was a vast improvement on the current situation. Houston was more likely to die than take a weapon with his bare hands.

“Don’t just stand there, moron!” a fat guy in an ill-fitting tuxedo said as he went by Houston. “They’re not here for us!”

If only.

Houston finally saw Clover near the kitchen. She searched for him in the crowd, looking in the wrong direction. He swallowed a shout before he could call her name.

“That’s one of them, GET HER!” The Murkey could only mean Clover.

Her eyes widened for a millisecond. Clover turned on her heel and scurried into the kitchen, the double doors swung back and forth as she did. The murkeys headed after her, civilians giving them a wide berth.

Houston pushed past the guests. He needed to be with her. Clover was vulnerable by herself. He walked against the rush of people, damn anyone who tried to get in his way.

***

Clover up-ended a tray of desserts, triangles of yellow cake splattered on the floor. A chef was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The guy shouted “fuckin’ bitch” after her. Other back of the house staff gawked at her spill. She ignored them. In the back there was another door that led out to the rest of the hotel. Kitchen doors banged open again violently. Her enemies followed her inside.

“A wanted criminal just ran in here,” said a murkey, “female, tall with brown hair.”

“Yeah, well get the hell outta here as fast as you can,” said a cook.

“Can I see a badge?” asked a woman by the sink.

Her demand went unanswered.

Clover knelt down behind a prep counter. Plastic containers sat on the shelf by her head. None would make a good weapon. So far the other kitchen staff thought she was just afraid of the men, not that she was the wanted woman. Houston better have had the sense to get himself away from the murkeys and not try to get her. She could protect herself, but not him at the same time.

The door to her escape was little over twenty feet away in the cramped kitchen. Crawl or run? Which was less likely to get her killed, or worse, captured?

“Clover, where are you?” asked Dallas sternly.

“Kitchen,” she whispered.

“We’re heading out the back stairwell,” Dallas replied. “Try to join us there.”

She shuffled forward, keeping herself steady on her bent legs. The stupid fucking bow tie dug into her neck as she curved down in a crouch.

“What the hell are you doing,” a fellow waiter said down at her.

Clover ran out of prep counter to hide behind. Feeling like the kids in Jurassic Park dealing with the dinosaurs, she leaned to see where the murkeys were. Three of them had their backs turned to her.

“I think I found her!” The waiter who had spoken to her moments ago pointed at her hunched over form.

“Yellow-bellied bastard,” Clover spat.

Time to run.

People and equipment blocked her path. Clover leaped up and slid over a counter. Her escape was still far away. Why weren’t the murkeys firing?

“Hold up!” A murky seized her by the wrist. Clover twisted her arm to break the hold, but he was strong. He pushed her up against a hot and full stovetop

Clover wrapped her fist around a pot handle.  The surface was warm to the touch, a sauce bubbled inside. As the murkey reached presumably for cuffs, she swung the contents at him. He screamed shrilly as boiling green liquid splashed down his face.

His hold no more, a quick knee to the balls sent him down.

***

Sokol felt the shock even up on the third floor. Garrett’s first bomb had been designed to cause the ballroom ceiling to collapse when it went off. They found it up inside one of the HVAC panels. But that device was dead, lying on the floor in a pile of pieces that he and Wolf had so carefully organized.

“What was that?” asked Wolf.

“Something not good. Dallas what is going on?” Sokol waited for Dallas to reply, but none came. Their leader was busy in conversation with Clover.  She was in trouble.

“It can’t be the other bomb,” Wolf scratched his bald head. “Don’t you think we’d all be dead?”

Jacket slightly shrugged.

The three of them stood at the end of the hallway, near the entrance to an emergency stairwell. The original plan involved heading back down to the delivery dock. Now, it was time to re-evaluate. In his earpiece, Clover said something vague. Sokol could hear nothing but their breathing, until, gunfire.

“I know that sound,” said Wolf.

Sokol swore in his native tongue. “Let’s go.”

The emergency stairwell door at the opposite end of the hallway burst open and several armed men in full gear came storming down.

“You! FREEZE!”

Bienvenue en enfer,” said Jacket.

Wolf started to laugh. Sokol feared it had been too long since he’d let loose.

“Sokol, go to the others,” Wolf’s laugh transformed into a steady tone. “Jacket and I got this.”

“I can’t leave!” Sokol was no coward. But he wasn’t a fool either.  

Please be advised, the following presentation is not intended for minors.” Jacket hit his bat against his palm.

“Put the guns down, assholes! You’re not going anywhere!” The men were more than halfway there.

“What are you waiting for!” shouted Wolf. He opened their door and one-handedly pushed Sokol towards it.

Goodbye. Sergei.

Both Jacket and Wolf shoved him down the stairs, before slamming the heavy fire door shut. Sokol stumbled down several steps before regaining his footing. His two companions disappeared through the tiny window. Sokol could hear shots and steady thump of wood hitting flesh.

He inhaled deeply. What kind of man was he if he ran from a fight? He was Russian for god’s sake. His people had survived wars, winters, dictators, and the fall of communism. Small things compared to a few bastards.

But his friends wanted him to be saved, the idea that he was worthy of two psychopaths’ affection sat in Sokol’s stomach uncomfortably.

He kept moving.

***

She was never a woman to dress up. Sure, her schools’ (When she did bother to attend) had dances and such, but Bonnie simply went to her local thrift shop and got the least moth bitten men’s suit and wore that instead. Needless to say, after fussing a bit over tonight, she was happy to be out waiting with Dragan.  Besides, with her beautiful appearance, all the other wankers at the gala wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off her gorgeousness.

Her joceline shotgun rested across her lap. Bonnie leaned back in the passenger seat of the van. Dragan smoked a cigarette. Heavier weapons, just in case, surrounded him.

“So, fight one hundred duck sized horses or fight one horse sized duck?” she asked. Silence was bloody dull.

“I’m not answering that stupid question,” said Dragan.

“You’re not very fuckin’ entertaining,” scoffed Bonnie. “What about you Twitch?”

“A hundred duck sized horses,” said the driver.

Bonnie chuckled. She reached and prodded Dragan in the foot. “See, someone’s got a sense of humor.”

“I have a sense of humor,” he complained. “It’s much more refined than yours.”

“That’s a load of bollocks.”

Of course, Bonnie’s evening wouldn’t stay dull. Dallas and Clover panicked over the line. She lost contact with Sokol and Wick. And no one was giving her a decent idea of what the hell was going on in that fucking place. Dallas and Bain had told her to stay where she was. Bonnie smiled crookedly. She was never fond of doing what people wanted her to do.

“That’s fucking it,” said Bonnie. “We’re going in. Dragan! I think you know what to do.”

Twitch drove around to hotel entrance closest to the ballroom. There still would be a staircase to run up, but who gave a fuck? Bonnie certainly didn’t.  Dragan leaned out the van, rocket launcher over his shoulder. People inside the hotel ran away horrified. Dragan fired, producing a massive puff of smoke before the ordinance smashed through the unfortunate revolving door.

“We can’t have you drive through it” he said to Twitch, before slapping him hard on the back.

“Yeah, it’d be fucking bad for the van,” said Bonnie.

“I think that solved the problem,” he said.

“What are you waiting for? Drive you great tosspot!”

Twitch slammed on the gas, the van moving forward with a jolt. Debris crunched under the tires as they drove into the interior.

Bonnie, shotgun in hand, stepped down from the van.

“Lovely evenin’ innit?”

***

Houston got to the kitchen. His presence went uncommented by the other staff. No one was facing him anyway; the chefs and waiters all staring at something else. People’s heads blocked what they were looking at. Houston took a knife from a magnetic strip that ran along the wall. A strange noise gradually became louder. A woman’s voice shrieked violent profanities.

“Shut the fuck up!”

His ears focused on a thud and a whimper of pain that turned to coughing.

A nervous sweat ran down Houston’s spine. There was another way to get into the kitchen. He and Clover made a note of it during pre-planning. Houston ran, barely registering that the escape van was now parked in the mangled lobby.

“Where the hell are you going?” Dragan shouted at him.

He got to the right door, it had to be it. Houston discovered the murkeys pinning Clover to the floor. One had his knee pressing down on her back, while the others put the cuffs on her wriggling arms.

They were too focused on apprehending her to see Houston.

“Go,” Clover looked up from the floor, expression raw with pain. Mascara-streaked tears dripped down her face. “Please.

Houston tightened his fist around the knife. Maybe he could stab one murkey in the neck.

“Fucking GO!” she snapped.

Her final plea alerted the murkeys to Houston’s appearance.

“That’s one of them, you assholes!”

Unsure of where his legs were taking him, Houston went back to the lobby. He used to not understand how his brother could leave Hoxton…

Bonnie and Dragan were using the van as cover.

“Oi, get your arse over here!”

He wasn’t alone in escaping. His brother, moving slowly, was supported by Hoxton. Chains shoved Commissioner Garrett forward. His nose bled heavily, several splats darkened the white of his dress shirt.

“I had to do it,” Houston muttered aloud for no one in particular “What was I supposed to do?”

“What the fuck’s wrong with you?” demanded Hoxton.

“They took Clover.”

***

Getting shoved to the linoleum and kicked in the stomach fucked up her already busted ribs.  Clover leaned over in pain, only the firm control of the murkeys kept her upright.  The world slurred in front of her. Clover’s feet struggled to keep up as her captors pulled her along.

Radios beeped to life. Other murkeys waited alongside more hostages.

She wouldn’t be alone. Wolf and Jacket had been apprehended too. It was a small consolation. Clover mustered a sad smile.  Masks off, Wolf stood in fetters, a pair of murkeys held his by the elbows.  Jacket knelt, hands bound together in front by several zip ties. Blood splattered over his clothes.

Why were they here, why hadn’t the murkeys moved them out of the hotel? Instead Clover, Wolf, and Jacket waited in a bizarre semi-circle surrounded by their subduers in a corridor.

“We’re flushing him out. Even he’s not immortal,” beeped a radio.

A chill joined the pain. They were bait.

Semi-automatic gunfire ended in the clicking of an empty magazine.  John Wick burst into the scene, throwing the useless weapon to the floor. Realizing what was about to happen, he whipped out a walther from the back of his belt. He stood perfectly still, ready to fire.

“Stop right there,” said a murkey.

“Yeah don’t try anything funny,” added another.

“I’ll cut the bullshit. We know who you are. Put the gun down or we start killing.”

Clover’s captor yanked her up, the sudden motion sending another ripple of pain through her middle. The muzzle of a handgun pressed hard into her temple. Wolf was held in a similar position.

Wick didn’t move.

“I only need one hostage. Half of you aren’t valuable.” The murkey speaking kicked Jacket to his stomach. A heavy boot pushed down the center of his back. A hammer clicked back. “Don’t fucking try me.”

Wick raised his hands and put the walther down. He glanced at Clover and the others.

“Smart man.” The murkey gave a nod.

Someone fired. Clover yelped.

A tranquilizer dart stuck of Wick’s neck. He yanked it out. And for a brief second, Clover thought he would fight through it, but whatever was in it was too strong. Wick started to collapse. A black bag was placed over Clover’s head and the last she saw was a pair of murkeys dragging him away.

“You just can’t be too careful.”

 

Next Time: The escaping crew process their losses. Wolf plays a violent version of a kid's game. A near fatal mistake gives inspiration.

Chapter Text

“I had to do it,” Houston muttered aloud for no one in particular. “What was I supposed to do?”

“What the fuck’s wrong with you?” demanded Hoxton.

“They took Clover.”

The world seemed to freeze as Houston’s words hung in the air. Everyone next to the van in the broken lobby stared at him. He barely registered that Commissioner Garrett, bound and gagged, was there too. Hoxton let go of his brother and seized Houston by the shoulders.

“What the fuck do you mean they took her?” Hoxton demanded.

Houston’s mouth had gone very dry. “We weren’t together when the murkys came in. I tried to get to her, but she’s in custody. I tried, you gotta believe me.”

Hoxton’s face went slack. Bonnie groaned and Dragan shook his head. Houston noticed Sokol behind him, staring off into space with a thousand yard stare.

“Wolf and Jacket are captured or worse too,” he said, still mentally far away. “They chose to stay so I could escape.”

God forbid it get to that point (if it was what their enemies even wanted),  Houston thought Clover could survive prison. She was level headed and crafty enough. But not Wolf or Jacket. Captivity would destroy them one way or another.

Hoxton went to the back of the van, roughly telling Chains to move. He slung an ammo bag over his shoulder.

“I’m going after them. You with me Houston?”

“You bet.” He spoke without thinking.

“Are you outta your bloody mind?” said Bonnie. “That’s suicide!”

“You can’t,” said Dallas finally speaking up.

“What about you Sokol?” asked Hoxton, ignoring Dallas’s protests.

“If I go back and get taken, their sacrifice is worth shit,” said Sokol. “They would be pissed if I went back now.

“Suit yourself.” Hoxton threw a medic bag at Houston.

He could only see himself as far as going deeper into the hotel with Hoxton. Houston began to calculate how many steps it would take to get to the stairwell, and how much time they would have before getting seen by the murkeys. What would follow after was a haze that Houston would decide what to do as it happened.

Sirens were heard in the distance. Murkywater mercenaries would soon not be alone, as the MPD was on its way.

“Are we reaching a decision, gentlemen,” said Bonnie, tapping her watch. “Cause we’re running out of time. Ain’t this building supposed to blow up?”

“Jim, Ryan, think about what you’re doing.” Dallas kept his voice level. Houston took note of his brother using his name.

It was too much for Hoxton.

“HOW THE FUCK CAN YOU ASK ME TO LEAVE!” he exploded.  Houston had seen him mad before, but the man had transcended from anger to pure rage.  “DID YOU FORGET YOU ALL LEFT ME?! AND I FUCKING WON’T DO IT TO THEM!”

“You wanna last stand, I’ll give you a last stand,” said Dallas sharply. “But this isn’t the place. We have our own hostage. I’d rather even the odds. Fight them on our own terms. The MPD isn’t gonna want it known that their commissioner was kidnaped by the fucking Payday Gang.”

His brother and Hoxton glared at each other so darkly, Houston thought it might come to blows.

“Wait,” said Chains, unintentionally breaking the tension.“Where the fuck is John?”

Houston had kind of been avoiding Wick since punching him, but the man’s usual quiet countenance was absent.

“Well, shit,” said Bonnie.

“Either the murkys have him, or he’s dead,” added Dragan.

Dallas was turning a bit gray. He sagged into the frame of the van. A part of Houston wanted to force him to sit down. He’d been shot not yet a week ago. The sirens got closer.

“We’ll vote. Can you all honor the results?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said Houston.

Silence from Hoxton.

“Go?”

Dragan and Sokol, immediately raised their hands, looking ashamed all the while. Bonnie nodded. Dallas slowly put up his own hand.

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” muttered Hoxton. “And stay?”

Houston joined him in raising his hand. Chains put up his as well.

Semper Fi motherfucker.”

Three to four.  Houston had hoped that Bonnie, with all her boldness, would have chosen to stay.  MPD sirens were joined by the squealing of tires. The hotel would soon be surrounded.

“I don’t know about you lot, but I don’t wanna get picked off by police snipers!” said Bonnie. She got into the escape van, ready to pull the others on board.

“Clover’s your fucking friend,” said Hoxton.

“Aye,” countered Bonnie. “And fat lot I can do for her and the rest by going after them”

Houston felt cold sweat dripping down his spine. Out of how many successful heists, he was never privy to the decision to leave someone behind. Not to mention, four crew members. Deep down, he knew that Clover, Wolf, Jacket, and Wick were unlikely to appear perfectly fine around the corner, but he still waited for the missing to arrive.

“Everyone get in the van, we can have it out about this later,” said Dallas, returning to his leadership role.

Chains and Dragan hoisted Garrett up in the back with minimal protest from the man. He likely knew how precarious his situation had become.

“Come on.” Houston let Chains steer him away from the lobby. Guilt tightened his throat. His heat broke at the memory of Clover getting cuffed on the floor. Wolf and Jacket had both saved his ass more than once. If Wick hadn’t used his connections, his brother would likely be dead.

He settled into escape van. Houston clenched his jaw, the pain would be grounding.

A solitary Hoxton continued to stand in the lobby.

Dallas leaned out of the van. “Don’t make me drag you in here.”

“Fuck you,” spat Hoxton. He climbed aboard, getting as far from Dallas as he could.

“We leaving?” asked Twitch, unsure, when all were inside.

“Unfortunately,” said Houston with a sigh.

The van left the lobby and then the property of the hotel itself. A loud rumble shook them, as the sound of a building collapsing was heard behind them.  

***

The Murkys threw her roughly in the back of what she assumed was a truck. Clover twisted herself into a semblance of comfort, feeling her way on a bench to sit on. Clover tried to shake the black bag off her head, scared by the idea of going through this with one of her senses missing, but it remained where it was.

“Fuck. Just fuck all of this,” she hissed. “Wolf, Jacket, are you here?”

“I’m here,” said Wolf. “Jacket’s next to me. They broke his cassette player.”

“Sorry, mate.”

Jacket thumped his feet on the floor twice in response.

A door banged open. Someone or something was flung on the floor, hitting Clover’s feet as they landed.

“Wick, is that you?” Clover nudged a possible limb with her foot.

“I think he’s still unconscious.”

“What’d give him? A horse tranquilizer?” Clover snorted, a painkiller would feel nice at this moment. The brief moment of humor wasn’t enough to drive away the reality of the situation. The four were still alive, meaning they had value. That could change in the near future. Clover imagined herself kneeling on the floor taking two bullets in the back of the head. Not the way she wanted to go. If death was near, Clover wanted to die on her feet, fighting till the last. She didn’t need to ask to know Jacket, Wolf, and Wick would want it too.

She sent up a silent hope that Houston could forgive himself, and that Hoxton wouldn’t let her capture destroy him.

“They sure aren’t taking us to prison,” said Wolf, bringing her back to the van.

“I’d bet my left tit those murky bastards have a black site.”

“I think-”

A radio beeped on the other side of the door and Clover hushed him.

“You get any of the originals?” The voice on the radio was female, likely American.

“The crazy Swede.”

The voice sighed. “ Really ? None of the good ones, huh?”

“We tried,” said the Murkey.

“Who else was taken?”

“The psycho in the letterman jacket, the mick bitch, and the assassin.”

Clover’s feathers ruffled at the slur “mick.”  Police in America owed a lot the Irish. Fuckin’ pigs.

“That’ll have to do. I know a few places that will pay a king’s ransom for Mr. Wick.”

The van rumbled to life, and murky guards joined their hostages.

“Move,” said one as she pushed Clover.

“I bet you fuckin’ love this, you prick.”

“Shut the fuck up, or I’m gonna knock your teeth out.” He grabbed Clover by the throat, giving her a shake.

“Don’t you talk to her like that!” snapped Wolf.

“You be quiet too, Baldie!”

Clover coughed air back into her lungs, thinking up creative ways to kill the asshole.

 

They drove for what seemed like an hour. Clover couldn’t be sure of how much time has passed since her capture. Jacket was, as usual, silent. Wolf kept his opinions to himself. Wick slowly started to come to, Clover feeling him stirr down on the floor.

The truck came to a sudden stop. A cool breeze rushed in as the door opened.

“Time to move it people.”

Blindly, Clover was pushed along, a gun barrel sticking hard into her spine.

“Try anything funny and I fire.” The voice was the same murkey who grabbed her by the throat earlier.

Clover fantasized about sinking a knife between his eyes.

 

Gravel crunched under her feet as they were led away. Clover could hear Wick being dragged along behind them. The steady buzz of large electric lights and revving of engines gave her an idea of what sort of place they’d been taken too. A murkywater depot most likely.

“Up the stairs we go,” said the guard.

Clover stumbled up a few steps. Gravel became linoleum that squeaked under her shoes. After several turns of of a hallway, she heard a lock being turned.

“This is it for these fucks.”

Clover was forced to the floor, the sudden landing brutal on her knees. She heard Wolf and Jacket forced into similar positions, while Wick was unceremoniously dropped.

Loud footsteps entered the room.

“Take off the bags,” it was the American woman from the radio. “I wanna look at them.”

Clover blinked at the harsh lights of the office they were held in. A desk and several filing cabinets occupied the room.  Their captors had placed them all in a row. Jacket, Wolf to her right, and a slumped over Wick to her left. Perfect line for a firing squad, thought Clover.

A woman with dark hair, high cheekbones, and a face that screamed “bitch” stared pompously down at them. Bandages covered parts of her forehead and shoulders. Both of her hands were bound up, leaving only her fingers visible. The grenade did it’s damage, but it should have finished the job.

“Greta,” said Wolf scornfully.

Clover knew the stories about the assassin. Maybe she would have been the first woman in the Payday gang, if she hadn’t been so sloppy.

“Hello again Wolfie, it’s been awhile.”

“It could have been longer,” he grumbled.

“Aw, you sound disappointed.”

“I thought we blew you up,” said Wolf.

“I had just enough time to hide, no thanks to you.”

“Have you come to gloat at us,” said Clover.

Greta turned her attention away from Wolf, giving Clover a creepy smile.

“I don’t gloat. But I did want to see you all up close. It’s like a zoo.”

Jacket, using sign language, spoke.

“He wants to know why you’re gonna do with us?” translated Wolf.

“You’re gonna be my guests until the rest of your little friends show up. And they will. I have no doubt about that. You’re loyal to a fault. And when that ultimate showdown is over, I’m gonna sell Mr. Wick here to the highest bidder. Plenty of people will pay for a chance to have their way with him.”

Wick, mostly recovered from the tranquilizer, hauled himself up to a sitting position.

“I’d like to see them try,” he said murderously.

“Oh, you will,” Greta smiled widely. “Cause unlike your fellow hostages, you’ll still be alive by the end of the night.”

One of the four murkys bent over them.

“We’ll have a good time until then, won’t we.”

Clover finally had a face to match the voice of the man who had gone out of his way to bother her and the others.  He was pale and puffy, making his features too small for his ugly visage.

Wolf sprung up with a powerful grace Clover didn’t think him capable of. He drove himself into the murky, the force of his leap knocking him the floor. Wolf put his head up by the murky’s own. Clover couldn’t see what was going on. A sickening crunch gave her an idea of what he was doing.

Screaming, the murky thrashed on the floor, blood flying everywhere.

Wolf spat out a chunk of flesh. It splattered in a bright spot against the white of the floor.

“GOT YOUR NOSE!” he cackled maniacally.

“Holy fuck,” breathed Clover.

A gory mess ran over the murky’s face instead of where the man’s nose would have been. Two other guards pulled the still laughing Wolf off of their comrade. His teeth and beard covered in blood.

A loud bang made Clover flinch. Wolf’s legs went out from under him. He moaned in pain.

“Drop him,” ordered Greta.

Wolf rolled in agony, his right leg bubbled out blood as his twitched. The fucking bitch shot him in the leg.The injured murky was taken away by one of the others.

Clover, Jacket, and Wick tried to get close to Wolf, but Greta held out her pistol.

“Don’t try anything else, or I’ll aim for something more interesting,” she warned. “Like a head.”

“He’s going to bleed out,” said Wick.

She shrugged. “Oh well, maybe the rest of you will mind your manners.”

“How can you be so bloody unfeeling?” yelled Clover.

Jacket gave her the finger.

“Just let me give him first aid,” said Wick. “I’m not gonna do anything else but that.”

“Yeah right.”

The puddle around Wolf’s leg grew larger.

“Him being dead might make things more complicated,” a murky suggested.

“Fine,” sighed Greta. “But not you, I’m not stupid enough to uncuff you. Her.”

Clover blinked. Her could only mean herself.

A first aid kit was tossed at her knees. A murky uncuffed her, and after a quick rub of her wrists, Clover got to work on Wolf.

He was beginning to look a bit pale. Clover gently slapped him while opening the kit with the other.

“Hold on there, Wolfie. I got you.”

He murmured something likely in swedish in response.

The kit clearly had clearly never been used before. All the bandages and equipment were still in plastic.

Clover exchanged quick glances with Wick and Jacket.  There were ways to use a first aid kti other than to heal. Such as using the scissors more creatively.

***

Dallas sat alone.

Sure, he had said they could all have it out. But everyone had gone their separate ways back at the house. Even his nosy mother had known better than to bother him. He sunk deeper into his chair, wishing he could sleep for days. Not now.

Now it was wait for Bain to call, wait for the descending brain fog to go away.

The pain in his chest had turned to a steady throb. He slipped the pills from the Continental out from his pocket. Dallas’ opinion on painkiller was still low, just this once he would forget it.

He struggled to get the cap off one-handed. Damn child safety seals.

Loud footsteps went past. Hoxton suddenly stormed into the room.

“Gimme that you cripple bastard,” he tore the pills from Dallas’ hand and easily opened them himself.

Hoxton shuck out three and plopped them into Dallas’ palm. Dallas didn’t move to swallow, still puzzled by his boyfriend’s appearance. Their fight at the hotel was likely relationship ending all things considered.

Hoxton held up the container, squinting at the label.

“Ah fuck no.” Hoxton beckoned for Dallas to open his hand, took two of the pills, placed them back in the container, and then left as quickly as he entered.

“Jesus.” Dallas took the painkiller.

Not long after Hoxton, he had another visitor.

“Hey man,” said Chains. “We need to talk.”

“I know we do.”

“Bonnie is still with Garrett,” said Chains. “And Houston is up on the roof.”

Dallas wondered if Chains told him this so he didn’t think that his brother had run away.

“If we had stayed, more of us would have been captured or killed.”

That was a miracle in his mind, that no crew member had died in all of this. Their information told them they’d have surprise on their side, but so did their enemies.

“Is that how you justify this,” asked Chains.

“You three could have stayed, I wouldn’t have stopped you.” He wasn’t a dictator.

“Yeah, but Bonnie was right. It wouldn’t have helped.”

Chains’ phone started ringing. Perfect Timing.

“Hello?” He raised an eyebrow and passed the phone to Dallas.

“Speaking.”

“It’s me,” said Bain. “The Elephant wants to talk.”

“About time he did.”  What an ungrateful bastard. The politician should have remembered what fate had awaited Hector.

“Putting you through.”

“I’m listening.” Dallas put the phone down and turned on the speaker.

“Good evening Dallas.”

“Simmons,” he said, hoping his vitriol was apparent.

“I’ll keep it brief. I know you have Garrett. I don’t give a damn what you do with him. But as for you Mr. Steele, you and the rest of your associates have two hours to surrender or else, Jonathan Wick, Rochelle Saoirse O’Malley, Ulf Andersson, and,” the Elephant paused, “Whatever Jacket’s name is, will be dead.”

“You’re not giving me much of a choice,” said Dallas. He would be signing someone’s death warrant either way.

“You have two hours.” The Elephant disconnected.

“They’re being held at a Murkywater stronghold about an hour outside the city,” said Bain. “I’ll send you the address.”

“Call in all our favors. See what you put together in an hour.”

Bain promised he would and hung up.

“We’re going and getting them right,” said Chains.

“Of course.”

“It’s a one-way job.” Chains smiled sadly.

Deep down, Dallas always thought that the Payday Gang would end this way. One final blaze of glory. People like them didn’t usually live til retirement.

“Probably. But it’s the only job I want.”

 

Next Time: The Payday Gang gets ready for a last stand.

Chapter Text

Two politicians sat across from each other in a Murkwater room. Or, a politician stared at a fool. The local news, muted with subtitles, played in the background. A reporter stood in front of a building that’s once beautiful front had been turned to a pile of smoldering rubble.

Simmons rested his fingertips in a contemplative steeple, while McKendrick guzzled a water bottle the mercenary guarding the door had given him. The mayor’s necktie was loose around his shoulders, and the man wiped sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. The events of the evening had not been kind to him.

“Can you believe that madman! That prick would’ve blown me to kingdom come if Murkywater hadn’t gotten me out the door,” he said relieved.

“I assure you,” said Simmons, “I had no idea that Garrett planted the bombs. I wouldn’t have sent our men in if I knew.” Murkywater leaders did not mince words with him in the aftermath. Several of their men went missing in the bombing.

Dismay that his associate failed to inform him of his plot bothered Simmons. They had been in this all together. Simmons lips thinned at the thought that his heavy lifting went unappreciated by McKendrick and Garrett. He was the one who brought Evie Tomlinson to D.C., funneled the money where it needed to go, and now they were at...What the word he was looking for?

Cross purposes, that was the term.

A gut feeling kept him away from the gala, besides he wanted to keep an eye on Greta. He still had memories of Dallas telling him about her incompetence. Murkywater mercenaries were the ones who brought back four members of the Payday Gang, not her.

“I believe you about that,” said McKendrick. “What the hell are we going to do about the Westmere Hotel? D.C. hadn’t a building blow up like that since 9/11?”

What am I going to do about it rather.

Simmons had fantasized about doing this for ages

“It will be time to clean up loose ends.”

He gave a mercenary a nod.

Mckendrick was aware enough to move a fraction before the mercenary shot him in the head. Blood and brain matter left an ugly imprint over the walls and floor.

“Unfortunate, but necessary, make it look like he was a victim of the hotel bombing. Keeping his face intact is optional.”

“It’ll be taken care of sir.”

“Thank you,” Simmons said with a deferring smile. “Pardon me, I need to make a phone call.”

***

Clover twisted the torsion device on Wolf’s tourniquet into place. The gloves in the kit were too large for her hands, nearly slipping off as she worked. He was still conscious and the bleeding had stopped. The idea that this treatment might cause him to lose his leg was a present one. Clover had been warned that it might be a result. Wolf needed to stay alive first. They could worry about that later.

Wick and Jacket watched her intently while she patched Wolf up. Jacket’s usually blank face showed an almost human level of concern.

“Okay Wolf,” sighed Clover. She gave him a gentle nudge with her elbow. “No falling asleep now.”

“It hurts,” he muttered.

“I know.”

Greta left right after Clover was given the kit, saying she had more important matters to attend to.

Clover sat cross-legged next Wolf, his body separating her from the Murky watching them.

“Do you still need that?” Their captor pointed to the box.

“Yes,” Clover said bluntly.

She slipped the scissors she used to cut into Wolf’s trousers next to her thigh. Wick kept sneaking glances at it. Clover interpreted it as him being able to do something with them. There was still around a three foot gap her and him. The murkys would notice if she passed him the scissors. Then it would be her lying bleeding or dead on the floor.

Jacket’s shoulders twitched, likely to adjust from the strain of having his forearms bound together for so long. He started to sign.

“What the fuck are you doing?” demanded a Murky.

“He says he has to use the bathroom,” said Wick.

“Are you fucking with me?”

“He’s not. He really has to go.”

The Murky bit his lip as he shook his head. “No one is leaving this room.”

Jacket signed more insistently.

“He says he’ll piss all over the floor.”

The other murky slapped the other on the arm.

“Fuck you dude, I don’t wanna smell piss for the next few hours.”

“Fine.”

He called on the radio to get more colleagues to escort Jacket to the bathroom.

Clover brought her hand to her chin and let it fall, a thank you, one of the few signs she knew.

A pair of Murkys grabbed Jacket by the elbows, bringing him up to his feet. As several pairs of legs blocked the view, Clover passed the scissors to Wick.

***

Chains did his job as Dallas’s second and bought (or forced) what remained of the crew into the living room. Hoxton glowered in the corner, Houston standing with him. Misery made strange bedfellows indeed.

“The Elephant just called. We have two hours to surrender or they kill the- Wolf, Clover, Jacket, and Wick,” he almost said hostages. Not the way he wanted to talk about people he considered friends or at the very least, allies. “He doesn’t give a fuck about Garrett, so that’s not an option.”

“And what options do we have,” Hoxton said snarkily.

“Go and get them,” he paused. “You know what that means.”

“Suicide mission,” said Chains. “Well, fucking probably.”

“Chains and I are going. Who’s else’s coming?”

His brother made a face as if it the most obvious question in the world. “You know I’m going.”

“Do you have to fuckin’ ask?” said Hoxton. He pointed at Bonnie, Dragan, Sokol, and Jiro. “Do the rest of you wankers have the balls?”

“Aye,” said Bonnie. “Time to go and make my ancestors proud.”

“Da” added Sokol.

“I suppose,” said Dragan with a shrug.

“Jiro, I know you have family to go back to,” said Dallas. “You deserve a chance to have a relationship with your son.”

Jiro shook his head. “He would understand that there are things a man must do.”

Dallas inhaled. “So we are in agreement?” No one had anything to add. “Get ready. We leave in ten.”

While the others went off to prepare, his brother pulled him aside.

“Hey, uh. What are we gonna do about mom? We can’t exactly bring her along.”

“Ah shit.” That was a complication he hadn’t considered yet.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said Chains, “but I have suggestion for that.”

Their mother was smoking in the kitchen. In lieu of an ashtray, she tapped her ashes on the busted table. Wick’s dog curled herself around one of the legs.

“Nice of you two to remember your old mother.”

“We didn’t forget you,” said Dallas, “That’s why we’re here.”

Chains sat and scratched Rosie behind the ears. She lay flat, not lifting her head up. The dog was clearly despondent at Wick’s absence.

Dallas looked at Houston, hoping the glance would prompt his brother to speak. He was their mother’s favorite.

“Um, Mom,” said Houston, awkwardly rubbing his hand together. “We’re leaving and you can’t come with us.”

She stubbed out the cigarette. “Why not?”

“It’s dangerous,” said Dallas.

She rolled her eyes. “If you’re leaving then what I am supposed to do?”

“You’re going to New York,” said Chains.

“By myself?”

“No you’ll be bringing Rosie with you.”

The dog wagged her tail at the sound of her name.

“You’ll be going to a hotel called The Continental,” explained Chains. “When you go up to the concierge tell him you have John Wick’s dog. Trust me, they’ll be real nice to you after that.”

Evie, frowned skeptically.

“Okay. When I do go?”

“Right now,” said Dallas.

Outside the decrepit mansion, two brothers embraced their mother and each gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“So much for spending quality time with my sons,” she said with smirk.

“Maybe next time,” Houston gave her the keys to Clover’s car.

They were sending her off with directions to the Continental, the last of their cash, and the dog.

“Hopefully it won’t be years before I see either of you again,” she said with a slight maternal indignation.

“Me too.” It wasn’t a lie, but a kindness.

She climbed in the driver’s seat, “Come on- What’s this dog’s name again?”

“It’s Rosie,” said Houston.

“Come on Rosie!” The dog leapt up into the back seat. “Now, Nate, Ryan, you two stay out of trouble. I worry enough over you both.” With one final wave, Evie Tomlinson drove away.

“Do you think she’ll be fine?” asked Houston, as the car went out of sight.

“God, I hope so.” Their mother going on with her life was the one certainty he wished for. “What about you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve just sent away one family member and the other is about to follow me somewhere lethal.” At last, Dallas felt regret at asking his little brother to join the gang.

Houston rubbed the back of his neck. “You know I can’t leave her.”

“I know, believe me, I fucking know,” Dallas sighed. He remembered all too vividly riding away in the escape without Hoxton.

“Are you gonna be able to deal with this?” asked Houston. “Me going?”

“No, but I don’t have the time to be upset about it.” He put his good arm around his brother as they walked back to the house. “When we get there, please don’t do anything stupid.”

“Like follow you into death trap?”

Dallas laughed bitterly. “Please, I got enough gray hair already.”

***

He didn’t put one the heaviest vest they had. If this was going to be as shit as Hoxton believed, he wanted manuverability over protection. Hoxton stole a knife from Bonnie. It was one the ones she took from the warehouse. God, that place felt like he left it ages ago, not days. He made sure the knife was a easy reach from his belt.

If the universe smiled upon him and he survived the assault, the other ending Hoxton foresaw for himself was getting arrested. Thus, the knife. Gun ran out of bullets. He gritted his teeth, no one would take him alive. He was never going back to prison.

If those murky cunts had harmed a hair on Clover or Wolf’s (ha) head, they would regret not dying when Garrett blew the hotel.

There was a knock. Hoxton turned to find Dallas behind him. Apparently he did give the fucking idiot the right dose of painkiller. That’s would’ve been exactly what they needed, their leader dying stupidly cause he didn’t bother to read the label on his medication correctly.

“Since we are about to go to our deaths, maybe you outta stop being pissed at me,” he said.

“That’s real bloody romantic,” said Hoxton. He slammed the magazine into a pistol.

“I didn’t have time to come up with anything better.” Dallas reached over and placed his hand on Hoxton’s wrist.

“You know, if you took all the pills you planned. We would’ve found you drooling on the floor.”

“Thanks for looking out for me.”

“I can’t help but fucking do it,” said Hoxton with annoyance. “Even after everything you’ve done to me.”

“I never want to leave anyone behind.”

Hoxton sighed. “I fucking know. It doesn’t make it anymore pleasant.”

“What now?” The question was simple, but the answers were complicated.

“I go and try to save my friends. And I guess I’ll do that with you.” Hoxton took Dallas’ hand in his. “Fuck me if I’m gonna upend my own relationship in a time like this.”

“We’ve gone through worse haven’t we?” asked Dallas sadly.

Hoxton couldn’t help but smile crookedly. “Fuck, what lives we lead.”

***

Bonnie and Sokol lead Garrett to the van. Twitch would be driving halfway, then Bain’s contacts would be taking them further on to the depot. Bain had told him what favors called and Dallas skeptically believed him. How on earth could Gage find one of those…

Garrett’s hair stuck up messily, making him look just as deranged as his plans. He glowered like a wounded lion.

“Anything to say Commissioner?” asked Dallas.

Dragan had a rectangle of duct tape ready to silence him.

“I’m not telling you a goddamn thing,” he growled.

“Too bad. Gag him.”

Dragan slammed the tape over his mouth.

“Since you ain’t gonna talk,” said Bonnie gleefully, “I hope you enjoy being our meatshield.”

“Alright everyone, get in the van,” said Dallas. Hoxton helped him up inside.

“Masks on?” asked Houston.

“You bet.” He looked at all the faces of the people who would follow him to the end. “Not to be stereotypical, but it has been an honor,” Dallas said soberly. “Let’s go get our friends.”

Next Time: The End?

Chapter Text

The Payday Gang went on to have many more adventures. What they are is up to you.