Disclaimer: I do not own Collateral or any of the characters from the movie. I only own the characters that were not seen in the movie. You've heard this spew before.

Author's Note: This is my first attempt at a Collateral fiction so feedback would be very appreciated. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Thanks.

Weird

Chapter One

Vincent stepped out of the airport into the chilled winter air of New York City, suppressing the shiver that rose up the back of his spine. He didn't like New York. It wasn't as bad as L.A., but he still didn't care for it. In all actuality, he didn't like big cities in general. People didn't trust each other in cities. Everyone was suspicious. Vincent looked as he always did. He wore an expensive gray suit that was tailored perfectly for his body. His prematurely grey hair was sleeked back and his beard was slightly scruffy. He looked like a businessman who had just gotten back from a long trip. He headed toward the row of taxis in front of the airport, hesitating only for a second before climbing into one. He asked the driver to take him to the nearest convenience store. It had just started to snow as the cab pulled to the curb near the badly lit run down building. Vincent hopped out of the car and hurried inside in search of warmth.

He wandered about the store gathering the assorted items that he needed. A pack of D batteries, a very large bottle of water, a newspaper, and a pack of gum. The cashier, a very old Arabian with horrible English, rang up everything.

"That will be $13.52." he mumbled.

Vincent pulled a large wad of hundreds from his inner jacket pocket and offered one to the old man. But the old bat shook his head fiercely.

"No one hundreds. Must be smaller." He said.

"But I don't have anything smaller." Vincent said.

"No one hundreds." The old man said.

"Look, I just want my things. Why can't you just take the money?" Vincent asked.

"No one hundreds." He repeated.

"But…"

"No…"

"I know! No one hundreds." Vincent snapped.

He turned to walk out the door but felt someone touch his elbow. He turned around to see who it was and came face to face with a petite young girl smiling brightly at him. She had strawberry red hair that was hanging just below her shoulders and pretty blue eyes. She was clad in dark tight fitting blue jeans and a blue jean jacket that was a shade lighter and a dark green scarf wrapped around her neck. She tugged him back over to the counter and looked at the cashier.

"Throw in a pack a Marlboro Lights." She said.

The cashier obeyed and then said, "$19.35"

The pretty red head handed him a twenty and he gave her a bag and her change. She dug her cigarettes out of the bag and handed it to Vincent. "Merry Christmas." She said.

"Uh, I can't really pay you back." Vincent said.

"Don't worry about," she said, "Just uh, help me get a cab without getting mugged, raped, or murdered and we'll call it square."

"That I can do." He said.

"I'm Claire." She said, offering her hand.

Vincent shook her hand and then placed it on his arm, "Vincent."

"Well, Vincent," Claire said, her light blue eyes dancing, "You're not from New York."

"No. No, I'm not." Vincent said with his charming smile.

"First visit?" she asked.

"No." Vincent said, "But, I…"

"Not a big fan, eh."

"It's not my favorite place on Earth, no."

"Here I thought everybody loved New York."

"Most New Yorkers do think that. I really just don't like big cities."

They reached the street corner and Vincent held up his hand to hail a taxi. Claire laughed, "Awe, but look at you. You can hail a cab with the best of 'em."

"I don't much care for cabs, either." Vincent said.

"Why not?" Claire asked.

"I just had a really bad experience in one." Vincent replied, absently fingering his chest where he knew a scar to be hidden beneath his shirt.

"Well, I'm gonna be late for work." She said as she slipped into the backseat of a yellow cab, "Nice to meet you. Merry Christmas, Vincent."

"Happy New Year, Claire." Vincent flashed her another heart stopping smile and shut her into the car, watching its taillights until they disappeared around the street corner. Pretty girl. Sweet, too.

Claire kept her eyes locked on Vincent until he vanished as the cab turned the corner. He was such a stunning man. He had gray hair, but his face looked so young. She would be willing to bet that he was in his late thirties, early forties tops. He had a gorgeous, slightly crooked smile and brilliant blue eyes that would stay with her for a long time to come. She figured he was some kind of businessman. He had on a nice suit, expensive looking, but he didn't seem too flashy. She had met a lot of different people in her line of work and she decided he wasn't in advertising, he was too subtle. He wasn't an accountant or a lawyer, his beard was too scruffy for that. She would've taken him for a stockbroker if he had been a local. He was probably some kind of closer that corporate thugs send in to bully other companies into selling out. He had a air of intimidation about him, like he was used to being in controlling. Totally comfortable with the idea of having people fear him. Claire took a deep breath and paid the cabby as he stopped outside the club where she worked. Vincent. Oh, she had liked him. Five minutes with the guy and he had left quite a mark.

She blinked herself back into the present and rushed to back of the club to get dressed for work. If she was late, Antonio, her boss, would kill her.

Vincent flipped on his laptop and gave the cabby the first address of the night. He would pay the driver and be done with him. He had since given up the idea of keeping the same cab all through the night. Ever since Max, he couldn't risk another night like that. That night had done its damage. He had changed.

He paid the cabby with a hundred and when he had his change handed to him, he couldn't help but think about how easy that had been. Then the image of Claire and her pretty smile flashed into his mind, unbidden.

He should have offered to buy her a drink.

'Wait!' Vincent thought, 'Where the hell did that thought come from?'

He was losing it. Plain and simple. He was losing his mind. He needed to focus on the target. Get in, get out, get it over with.

He popped his neck, straightened his jacket and ran a hand down his tie to smooth it. He hated ties. Then, he entered the building in a confident stride. No one even looked up.