Chapter song ; Dust to Dust by The Civil Wars
Let me in the wall, you've built around
And we can light a match and burn them down
Her laugh filled the small room. Quiet, like the chime of bells on a breezy night. Still, despite the sound of her laugh being a wave of relief to his ears, he could hear how tired and empty it sounded.
"That ain't nice, Ollie."
Hadley slouches in her seat, using her free hand to circle the rim of her empty coffee cup - it was the only thing she felt she could afford these days.
A disgruntled sigh echoed through the phone, and Hadley heard her brother shift on the other end.
"Listen," Oliver starts, "You've gotta stop lettin' those guys - "
"Is that Hads on the phone? Give it 'ere, Ollie!"
Hadley smiled as the phone rustled, and her eldest brother grunted in agitation as the phone was snatched from his hands.
She presses a finger to her temple, closing her eyes as she spoke, "Hi, Andy."
She could already imagine his smile just by listening to his voice, "Man, it's nice hearin' your voice, Hads! Being stuck with Ollie all the time is fuckin' terrible, I tell ya. And imagine him being my boss? Anyway! How've you been? You doin' good, little bird? You still workin' at that lame bar? How's -"
"Christ, Andy, slow down," Hadley laughs, standing from her seat and grabbing her cup. She walks to the sink and rinses the dish, "It's nice hearing your voice too. And be nice to Ollie, you've both worked hard to get where you are -"
"To get where we are?" Andy quips sarcastically, "In the middle of the fuckin' desert is where we a - aye!"
Hadley places the cup to the side and walks to her 'bedroom'. Really, she lived in a single bedroom apartment, with a small kitchen and even smaller bath. Her bed rested on the floor in the far corner, with a small dresser for her clothes. Books were the only thing messily spewed around her apartment, laying on the bed, dresser, floor, table - everywhere.
Hadley adjusts the phone on her ear again as Oliver's voice comes through.
"You take care of yourself," Oliver's tone was serious, and Hadley frowned, "Andrew and I, we're good. Stop sending us so much shit, Robin."
Hadley flinched at the use of her first name. Every time he said it she felt as if she were being scolded by a drill instructor. Oliver's tone was always tough, the Marines making him much more rough around the edges in contrast to Andrew (the middle child who, still acted like a child). After the death of their parents - and more so after the death of Yancy - Oliver took the role of dad, mom, and eldest brother. He enrolled into the Marines, leaving his street fighter and chav-like lifestyle in replace of the military lifestyle. Andrew followed him as soon as he could, leaving Hadley all by herself.
She didn't mind, she knew they were only trying to make their lives as a whole better. The military offered good care whilst enlisted and after retirement, for both marine and family. And since both of her brothers were enlisted, they promised Hadley the world - even when she felt she didn't deserve it.
Now, by "stop sending us so much shit" her brother meant the care packages Hadley wound send her brothers twice a month. She would send them each one, packing up four packages total and spending more money on them than she did on herself.
"Don't pull that, Ollie," Hadley tried to sound assertive, but she was anything but. Her voice was soft, warm, and sounded more like gentle encouragement rather than a stand down statement, "You and Andy need it."
"Andrew definitely does not need the candy you send," Oliver murmured, she could imagine him now - pinching the bridge of his nose or running a hand through his short hair.
"It makes him happy, don't it?" Hadley asked, rummaging through her dressed to pull out fresh clothes for work.
"Hadley," the way her brother says her name sounded desperate, "Stop letting those shits walk all over ya. I swear, you know how to fight but you refuse. I didn't spend hours during my leave teachin' you how to break someone's nose for no reason."
"They're just a couple of cheeky bastards - "
"Cheeky bastards who like to feel up on my sister," Oliver snapped. He took a deep breath, and Hadley stopped moving, "Listen, Hadley, I love ya. Andrew loves ya. But we ain't there, I just need some reassurance that you're taking care of yourself. Tell me you broke some bloke's nose, for Christ's sake. I know ya work at the bar, I know the tip is awfully nice sometimes but you don't deserve to be treated like crap. Be careful with the people that walk in and out of there, yeah?"
Hadley sighs, "I got it, I got it."
"Good," Oliver replied, "I'll let ya go now. I'll try to be in touch as soon as possible, alright? Thank you for the care packages, but Hadley, try to buy yourself something. Andrew and I are fine."
"Send my love to Andy," Hadley speaks up, "Love ya, Ollie. Be safe."
"You too, pretty bird."
With another quick 'love you', Hadley hung up. She sighed, dropping her head and hands with a frown.
Hadley smiled, walking behind the bar to greet the other bartender. He set a hand on her shoulder, silently thanking her for being his release from the job. Her usual group of "customers" were already piled in their usual corner. Hadley would be behind the bar, like they had always asked.
"Oi, before I forget," Charlie, the other bartender, stopped on his way out of the bar, "Someone came by earlier lookin' for ya."
Hadley straightened, "Yeah?"
"Some young bloke, looked real out of place," Charlie waved his hand, "But he said he had a message from Harry."
Hadley pursed her lips. She hadn't seen Harry in months and had grown quite worried over the man. He came by from time to time, an older gentleman with an affinity for Guinness and the occasional whiskey. He had said he was a tailor, but she had been able to guess his military past.
"The way you carry yourself reminds me of my brothers, they're Marines."
"Very perceptive, Hadley."
She had grown to like his company, he was an easy man to talk to and listened to her without judgment. He offered quiet advice and never discouragement, and for that she was grateful. He only ever came on Sunday's - the only day she ever worked in the afternoon. The only day the men in the corner never bothered to walk in.
Charlie nodded, reaching to grab his scarf on the coat hanger, "Yeah, told 'im you work late and he said he'd be back."
"Don't give me that face, ya didn't let me finish," Charlie rolled his eyes, wrapping his scarf around his neck, "Warned him not to come 'til Sunday afternoon. You won't miss him, wore a suit and glasses and all that fancy shit ya never see 'round here. Now, I'm off for the next couple days. See ya, Hadley."
With a quick wave to the other bartender Hadley began to work. Forcing a smile on her face that didn't look as tired as she felt, she quietly addressed the men when they spoke to her. It was, thankfully, a quiet night. So far, the only one that spoke to her was the usual. She didn't know his name, but had mentally nicknamed him Slick.
His hair was greasy, and pushed back and away from his face. He had bad teeth, a few covered in silver from the cavities that won. He was a horrid man, often calling her absurd things and trying to grope her whenever he could. He'd smoke in the bar, blowing thick clouds in her face just to see her squirm.
He worked with Fat Man, the big and burly giant who practically ran the bar. She knew he was more than just a street thug, the amount of money she's seen him hold in his pocket was enough for her to buy her way into Oxford.
Hadley was quiet and impassive, but she was perceptive. She prided herself in the fact that she was. She knew how to stay quiet because she knew how to listen, and she knew where to keep her eyes and when to move them away. Hadley was smart, and no one in the bar knew it.
She saw the flash of steel, the quiet trades and hands sliding across the table with small sample baggies underneath their massive palms. She heard them whisper about their racketeering. Selling secrets, guns, booze, drugs, women and - recently - explosives.
She was a bird, perched in the tree and listening to conversations mill around her but she would never be able to tell anyone. She was the only in the bar, they had made sure of it. That way they would know if someone were to speak out against them, they would go for her first. If a mole was suspected she would be the first one on their list. So, she kept quiet. She listened and learned, but never spoke a word to anyone. As far as Ollie and Andy knew, she worked at a lame bar and was occasionally harassed by some drunkards. They didn't know anything about these men, and she will forever keep it that way.
But secrets made her tired.
Hadley was exhausted. Recently more than she's ever felt. Her bones ached and she was sure that there was only coffee running through her veins at this point. She was too young to feel this tired, too young to be this accepting of death's embrace.
The mention of Harry had made her miss the older man, the man who insisted she stand taller and always made her day a bit brighter. He was always the best part of her week when she didn't speak to her brothers, and even when she did - she looked forward to Sunday's because of Harry Hart.
She missed him.
Slick dropped in the stool in front of her. Every time he called her that she wanted to break his nose, she hated being diminished to something so demeaning.
"Give me 3 cups of whiskey, yeah?"
She didn't say anything, most nights she never even uttered a word. She replied when their questions weren't rhetorical and only spoke when spoken to, more often than not her answers curt and quiet. She never held a conversation with any of them, and no one was trying to get to know her either. She preferred it this way, the less they knew the better.
But who was she kidding? She was sure they knew enough.
Where she lived.
Obviously, where she worked.
If she was married. (She wasn't.)
If she had children (She didn't.)
They were far too organized to not have any information on her.
"A fuckin' bomb? What does he think we do? Craft military shit?"
Hadley clenched her jaw as she grasped onto the glass cups.
"Do you see how much money Executioner's offerin'? You see how many zero's are at the end of -"
"You're talkin' bout makin' building's n' shit go boom!"
In the past couple of weeks their conversations had escalated, talking more about bombs and less about drugs. All from the Executioner.
Hadley poured the whiskey, and as she did the front door of the bar opened and the bell chimed. Her head flung up, the whiskey spilling onto the counter in her surprise.
She didn't recognize him, but she knew it was the man Charlie was talking about. He was dressed in a slim fit navy suit with a nice stripped tie, glassed framed his face, and she swears the last time she saw shoes that shiny was on Harry himself. He was a handsome young man, a strong jaw and sharp features. He looked around curiously, and Hadley felt panic swell up from the depths of her stomach. Charlie told him to come back Sunday and the idiot didn't listen.
Thank you for reading!
Rodrigo Calazans ; Oliver
Jordy Baan ; Andrew
Ash Stymest ; Slick