This story is set after one ending of Max Payne II.

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Max Payne III - The Redemption of Max Payne.

Part One - Devils in the Detail.

Prologue.

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Life. Don't talk to me about life.

Life has been the dealer in the worst game of poker ever played - the life of Max Payne. Me.

My wife and baby daughter were murdered by insane killer junkies. Flash forward three years, and I was framed for the murder of my best friend, and proceed to murder half of the mafia and scumbags of New York. Flash forward again, and I fall in love with a woman who's been hired to kill me, and then she dies too, killed by a man I thought was my friend - before he tries to kill me and I'm forced to kill him first. Everyone I'd known for years was dead. Mona. Vinnie Gognitti. Vladimir Lem. Winterson.

Such is the life of Max Payne.

To make any kind of sense of how somehow, my life was restored, and I found meaning again, flash back two years ago ago, to a little while after the battle that had claimed Vlad's life, Mona Sax's, and Alfred Wodens...

--

It's funny, how things turned out.

Alfred Woden had been more sorry than I had thought for what he had done, for how messed up my life had become because of his actions. So much so in fact that he had left me his house and money in his will. I hadn't cared so much, so I'd sold his manor.

The money I used to pay my hospital bills, and those of Jim Bravura. It was the least I could do. Wintersons son was staying with her parents, and I gave him a lot as well. The least I could do. In return, he'd testified against me in the subsequent trial for her murder. I was exonerated. A few Inner Circle people who's hated Vlad, and were grateful to me for killing him, saw to that.

I had my old apartment fixed. Most of a lifetimes memories were gone, blown up. Nonetheless, a few had survived. Alex's family sent me a copy of the picture of me and him from the good old days. My wife's distant cousins sent me a picture of me and her. They were almost all I needed.

Almost. There was one thing missing. Mona Sax, the woman who had brought me out of the dark hole only to push me into a deeper one with her death, was unrecorded, unlemented, no pictures of her outside of police photographs. I took them, framed them, to remind me of everything I had lost.

I had been fired from the NYPD, Bravura not buying everything. I hated him, but at the same time, I was grateful that he had fired me. No more adventures. No more mysteries. Max Payne finally got to relax.

I hated it.

Life became an endless array of boredom, boredom and more boredom, punctuated by old police friends calling. Even Bravura called, to say hello, tell me he had forgiven me. He asked if I wanted my old job back.

Thanks, but no thanks, I told him. I couldn't go back. I was rich enough not to need to.

That was the life of Max Payne. I could finally shut myself out, stay away from any reminders of my past.

But my past couldn't keep away from me. One day, almost two years after the manor, I heard a knock at my door. I was tempted to ignore it - had I knwon the consequences of my decision to answer then, I would have. But, against my own better judgement, I went to the door, and opened it.

"Payne!"

I stared hard at the man looking at me, and only one thought occured to me.

"Payne? You ok?" Vinnie Gognitti asked.

"You're dead," I told him. "You're dead, Vlad blew you up."

"Yeah, well, that's what you thought..."

--

I invited him in.

"You gonna explain this?" I asked him. This was insane. He'd been blown to kingdom come, ages ago - I had seen the remains.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll get to it," Gognitti replied. "You got a beer?"

"Kitchen," I said numbly. Then it hit me.

"Even if you are alive, why're you here?" He had hated me, and had once tried very hard to kill me. His being here made no sense.

"Well, it's a long story. Pull up a chair."

I shook my head.

"Make it short," I suggested.

"Well," he began, "the Russian had gone up the stairs to talk to you, right? I'm sitting there nervous as hell because I know, as soon as he's finished with you, he's coming to me. He'll blow my freaking head off."

"Get to the part where you end up here, now," I told him impatiently.

"I'm getting to that!" he moaned. "So anyway, I hear a gunshot, then he comes down, and I start beggin for him not to kil me, and he looks at me and says, very clearly, 'why would I kill you, Vincent? You are nothing to me,' and then he disarms the bomb, and gets me out of the costume. Then he says to me, 'but, I think my men need target practice. Run, Vinnie, or you will die.' Then one of his boys cocks his gun, and aims it - so I run, right? Into the funhouse. The bastards come after me, and they're shooting, but I dodge 'em, and run off. Then, the next thing I know, there's a huge explosion behind me, and then I just - well, I run away," he ended sheepishly. I looked at him for a moment.

"What do you want here?" I asked him.

"Well, after that, I went to my apartment - you left me a lot of dead cleaners, Payne, and they left a lot of hardware, so I go off to try to make something of my life."

"And?" I asked, not really getting the importance of me in all of this.

"I made something of my life," Gognitti said. "Took over the Russians place, got a few boys, nothing much - but here's the thing. I figured I owed you, Payne. You saved my ass at the used car lot, even if the Russian did get us after, and I thought, well, I might as well pay him back."

"How?" I asked.

"I found out some information you might be interested in," Gognitti told me. "Some very weird information."

"What information?!" I asked.

"The cleaners are still around," Gognitti growled, would-be-menacingly. "They're being run by someone big, and they're back up to their old stuff - you know, wiping people out, that sort of thing."

"And this interests me why?" I asked.

"You know Jack Lupino's old hotel?" he asked.

"Yeah?"

"You left me the phone tapping stuff - I use it to spy on the cleaners calls. Their boss is after you."

I digested this for a moment.

"You're sure?"

"Yeah, I'm freaking sure. You think I'd put my neck out coming here if I freaking wasn't?"

He had a point, so I stood up.

"When are they planning on hitting me?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied, "but it'sa gotta be soon. I don't -"

Suddenly, he was cut off by gunshots from outside.

"That's them!" he yelled, panicky as ever. I grabbed my berreta, the same one that had come with me in 2001, during the Valkyr case.

"Then let's give them a warm welcome," I said, cocking the pistol.