"Come on, Cassie," the little boy behind her said, and she started. A man standing outside the diner, puffing at a cigarette, opened the door for the little boy and his sister. They moved slowly through the entrance, and as she passed she turned her chin up, eyeing the stranger curiously.
"Thanks," she murmured, but the man suddenly felt vindictive (what was she staring at, anyway?) and he smirked impolitely until she scampered inside. He followed after.
The door shut behind him as he saw McKay glare in his direction. He strolled over to the booth and squeezed in uncomfortably. "If I'd known you were in here I wouldn't have lagged outside, McKay," he smiled by way of apology.
McKay grunted. "A little romance, sparky?"
He looked back at the girl, who was ordering for her obnoxious family, and their eyes met briefly before she looked away, embarrassed. "Don't swing that way, McKay," he reminded. "If I did you and Frankie would be fucked."
"Frank and I were fine before you came along," McKay said wryly.
"Sure you were," he grinned, facing him fully. "But you like having me around. I get you nice things."
"Don't get comfortable, okay, kid," McKay said, and then added, a bit more sincerely, "It's never a good idea."
McKay was constantly puzzled by Henry. He'd been in the city for a year, and he had done well for sixteen. Most sixteen year olds were still selling soft and answering to someone else. But not Henry. He'd come to Manhattan and set up shop with Frank (McKay's boss). He already knew the business, knew the people - knew the risks. Kids didn't usually last so long, but Henry had. McKay didn't want to see him get burned, so he tried to keep him on the straight and narrow, most days.
Henry didn't regret leaving home. It wasn't that he didn't have a life back in England, he did, in fact, he'd had a reputation. But his name had soured and things had gone tits up. Bad memories over there - even if England was home. New York had been better. He'd started fresh.
"Scott says that Benny owes him a twenty. He won't let that shit go. I'm going to need you to sort him out."
Henry grimaced. "What happened to your last slave?"
McKay raised his eyebrows. "You'll never know. And you won't want to. Just fucking do it."
Henry watched while the waitress filled up their coffee cups. He nodded his thanks as she blushed and walked away.
"What you do to women is immoral, kid."
"You don't have any morals," he scoffed, and then felt he should protest. "Scott's business doesn't have much to do with me, McKay."
"It sure fucking does," he snapped. "You told Benny that Scott would back off, and that Benny was fucking good for the money. Well he's not, is he?"
"You know I didn't mean it," Henry tried innocently. "All right, all right," he relented after a moment. "So I might have caused a little trouble. But nobody even likes them, everyone's just waiting for a reason."
"Well here's yours: Benny needed that money to pay off Oscar. If Oscar finds out Benny's in the hole and Scott's still making a lot of fucking noise, there'll be hell to pay."
"You're right," he admitted. "It's just too bad Oscar already knows. He's the one who told me to mix it up."
"Fuck, man," McKay complained, as Henry laughed. He sighed. "He's already asked you to take care of it, yeah?"
"I've got it handled," he insisted.
"No but, what kind of fucking pillow talk is that?" McKay groused. "'After you blow me can you kill that one guy nobody likes? Thanks so much.' That's fucking sick."
"Works for us," Henry shrugged. "Oh. I've got the book you wanted. Second Edition."
McKay looked peeved. "I wanted first. You know I wanted first."
Henry got up, "well, get it yourself next time."
"Then what would be the point of you?"
Henry smiled and left, not needing to turn back to know that McKay would be sipping his coffee and reading his new book. He spotted the girl from earlier trying in vain to get her little brother to eat, and grinned. Her blush made him laugh as he walked out into the sunlight, and onto the busy street.
From the white truck outside of Alice's Restaurant, FBI agent Marshall Donnelly watched the lanky teenager make his way down the road. He scowled at the screen, where John McKay remained at his lonesome booth reading his book.
"That's Henry Brooks," he said absently to the new recruit, FBI agent Alicia Monroe.
"He's small time. Who we want is John McKay," and he zoomed in on the feed he had in the diner. "Frank McAllister's go-getter. Runs central supply in Manhattan. McKay's an old sport in the game, he's been with McAllister from the beginning just about. Got property and drug charges that won't stick. He's involved in every transaction from here to D.C." Donnelly sighed. "And we've got no proof to prosecute him."
But Agent Monroe's eye was on the teen who was quickly moving out of sight down the street. "He's a little young for this type of crime, don't you think?" she murmured.
Donnelly motioned for Marks to bring up the boy's file.
"Henry Christopher Brooks," Marks read. "Immigrated to New York roughly a year ago from England. Five-Feet, eight inches, a hundred and twenty pounds. Last booked in Queens for disturbing the peace. Before that he did time at a correctional facility in London for six months for breaking and entering. Has ties to McAllister and Van Rued, suspected of first degree murder on multiple counts. Little evidence, never enough to convict. Bureau thinks he's about sixteen. England has him on their watch list for his involvement in the Evenward case."
The blank look on his new partner's face made him sigh. "They didn't brief you, or what? At the very least, tell me you watch the news."
She looked a little sheepish, and he wondered about the people the bureau were signing up these days. "Okay," Donnelly said. "Five years ago the Evenward family made a deal with Patrick Tyler. English guy. Smack business. Evenward double-crossed Tyler, thought Tyler wouldn't find out about it, and two days later the entire house, security, gardners, maids, any poor fuck that was there that day, had completely disappeared in a window of about a two hours. No one knows how Tyler did it, where he hid the bodies, or how he managed to wipe the entire business out. I mean it. From little to big fish. Gone."
He glanced at Monroe to make sure she was following.
"This guy, Denny Brooks, he was a hit man for Tyler. He adopted a son in 89', that's Henry Brooks. Kid you just met. There's not a file on the kid before then, no real name, no birth certificate…nothing. The kid was a regular old carbon copy of his dad though, followed him everywhere, even on jobs."
"It's no wonder he turned out to be such a crazy fuck, huh?" Marks added.
"Why this is so interesting," he continued. "Is because there was a set of prints and a weapon found. Belonged to Henry Brooks."
"What?" Monroe said, a bit loudly. "You're telling me that a little boy is responsible for all that? Or involved...? That's nuts."
Donnelly shrugged, "Denny Brooks worked for Patrick Tyler at the time, so it's obvious why he was sent to get rid of the Evenwards. Chances are, because Henry's prints were the only ones found - Denny took the kid with him. So yeah. He had to have been there."
"I can't believe that," Monroe said, shaking her head.
"Neither could the Met, didn't even question the kid, but you better believe it. Brooks may be young, but he's got his father's talent for killing. The dad, by the way, is incarcerated back in England, caught around the same time that Patrick Tyler disappeared. Shortly after all that, Henry Brooks ends up here. How he got involved with Frank McAllister is a mystery, he's wanted for questioning but that's about it. No proof, no prosecution, and with the Evenward case closed, there's not much we can do."
Marks shut the file as Donnelly sighed. "I've been after McAllister for five years, and Brooks's file is interesting, but not what we're after. He works mostly as liason between McAllister and Van Rued, who, uh," he grimaced. "Has a soft spot for Brooks."
Laughing, Monroe sat on the back of a chair. "Sounds like he's got a line ten crime bosses deep wanting to adopt him. Talk about dysfunctional."
Donnelly handed her a cup of coffee. "Adopt? No, yeah...Van Rued makes no secret about his taste in men. Or young men, I guess."
She blanched, looking at the mugshot of Brooks, and despite his youth, she could not help but think him handsome. "How old is Van Rued?" she felt compelled to ask.
Marks cheeks dimpled with good humor. "Could be the kid's father. Should we add statutory rape to his other charges?"
Donnelly chuckled. "I doubt one of the biggest weapons dealers in the country cares about our underage laws."
"Brooks though, he's hot. I'd tap that," Marks nodded to himself, immersed in his computer screen. He turned back around when their silence lingered. "What? I'm as straight as an arrow but I'll be the first to admit that Brooks has got a nice -"
"That's inappropriate," Donnelly interrupted. "Any questions, Monroe?"
She shook her head as Marks announced, "McKay's moving," and they watched as the man left money on the table and got up from the booth.
"He's got another goddamn book," he zoomed in. "Looks like Dickens again."
"David Copperfield," Monroe noticed, and gasped. "Ooh! Looks like a second edition!"
Donnelly and Marks turned to stare at her. She brushed some of her brown curls back and shrugged a little defensively. "What? I'm an antique book lover."
Marks jutted his thumb at McKay, "so's he. Looks like you've got something in common."
Oscar stared as he slipped into his jeans. Henry sat back down on the side of the bed to put his shoes on, and smiled as Oscar's hands trailed down his naked back.
"How did I get you," he whispered, and Henry turned a bit.
Oscar always took an odd interest in his scars; the starburst hole in his shoulder, the numerous burns and nicks. The marks of a hard go of it.
"Too beautiful," the man said wistfully, running a hand down his cheek.
Henry smiled, slapping Oscar's face lightly. "And you're too old for me."
Oscar cursed at him in German, and then said, "I am thirty-five, Heinrich."
"And old enough to be my father," Henry finished, laughing as he got up. "What do American's call that? Cradle robbing?"
Oscar shook his head, amused, a pleasant crinkle at the corner of his eyes, and Henry leaned down to kiss him.
"Why don't you stay?" Oscar said softly, as he did every night. "Jana will not be back tonight."
Henry raised an eyebrow at him as he wrestled to put on his coat. "The answer will always be no, O," he said, quietly sorry.
Oscar lit a smoke, his eyes on the bed as Henry belted his jeans. Feeling a bit put-out, Henry knelt down and drew him into another kiss. "You know I would. Come on. I would, really."
"Frank doesn't need you," said Oscar.
"Sometimes he does." said Henry. He drew back and stood up. "Benny should be gone by tonight, O."
Oscar murmured something in German, sounding relieved. "Thank god. That boy and what is his name? The Scotsman…"
"Scott," Henry informed him, amused. "And he's Dutch."
He waved a hand. "Those two boys, not good for business."
"Frank wants them gone as well," he affirmed and stared off a bit. "But he's wondering about your men handling the Cordero issue."
Oscar scoffed. "Cordero has a deal or two left in him, Heinrich, and Frank is doing the same with Torres before they're done. You tell McAllister that we will take care of him in due time."
Henry nodded as the man shifted on the bed until he was in sitting position. "I hate to talk business with you like this," Oscar grumbled.
Grinning, Henry straddled him and leaned in close, "Then you shouldn't have taken a workmate to bed."
"It's your fault," Oscar quipped, pecking him on the cheek. "You're too good for him. Give up the life so I can take care of you, Heinrich."
Groaning, Henry rolled off of him and put a hand over his eyes. "O, you keep saying that. It's not going to happen."
"Why?" Oscar retorted defensively. "I tell you this all the time, because I mean it, do you think I'm lying?"
Henry's eyes softened. "I don't think you're lying," and he laid a hand on Oscar's forehead. "Not at all, O."
Without saying goodbye, Henry made his way out of the lavish bedroom and into the hall. He sighed. A kept boy. That's what Oscar wanted.
A year and a half in the man's bed had only asked for trouble. It would probably end soon: Henry might be removed from the relationship by outside forces (Frank finding out would do it). But then Oscar would be dead, because Frank was a twat about some things. Or they'd break up. Henry would call quits when he got tired of it all. Neither options appealed to him, though at least the latter left Oscar alive, if a bit heart sore.
And Henry wasn't really what Oscar wanted. He was self-sufficient. He had his own ambitions. After having been on his own for a very long time, and only ever trusting a hand-full of people - Henry worked alone. He liked being on his own in fact, liked being in control, and even if he thought he might, just might, love Oscar half as much as Oscar loved him, Henry would never be kept.
Frank's glare when he walked into the house could have killed. Henry took his coat off and hung it on the wall next to the large oak doors, his eyes fixed on the top of the staircase challengingly. Frank's place was two stories and had fifteen rooms. Architectural enthusiasts wrote articles on it. People admired his house but never asked how he could afford it. When Henry had first stepped into the mansion, he'd laughed at the extravagance to cover up any awe he might have felt. Frank liked showing off, practically got off on it, and Henry knew how men like him worked; giving them satisfaction only meant you were in their debt.
The marble staircase made Frank look awfully imposing, but at his 6'1, compared to Henry, the man didn't need a goddamn twenty-thousand dollar staircase to intimidate anybody. He also had one hell of an ugly scowl. It didn't waver at all, which meant that Henry would have to work him really well if he wanted to keep vital bits. Like a limb.
"Well?" said Frank. "What did Oscar have to say?"
His tone made Henry blink. It was strangely cheerful.
"Shit," he cursed quietly, and then made his way up the rest of the stairs. He came towards Frank and stood at his side, well away from the staircase. He wasn't stupid. He really didn't want to take a spill down a long flight of steps.
"Not much, Frankie," he answered.
"Yeah? Tell me about it."
Frank moved down the hall and Henry followed obediently. They went into Frank's study, and Henry knew that once the door was shut the yelling would commence. So he left it open.
"Shut the door."
Frank threw him an exasperated glare, his handsome flushed a little, and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Did you take care of Benny and Scott, like I asked you to?" he asked, making Henry sound like a kid. "Or were you too busy getting fucked sideways?"
"We never fuck sideways," Henry said before he could stop himself. "It's bad for Oscar's back."
Frank slapped him with the back of his hand, then stood silently as Henry held a hand to his face and cursed aloud.
"Fuck, that hurt!"
"You deserved it," Frank said flatly, but not without regret.
Henry adjusted his jaw. "Yeah, I know. Bugger!"
He was put into a chair and given a handkerchief to stop the bleeding. By the time they were seated and pouring drinks, Frank's notorious temper had fizzled out and Henry had forgotten and forgave the pain in his jaw.
"I took care of it," Henry started slowly. "Oscar agreed that they needed to go."
Frank sat down. "Good, I fucking hated those assholes," he grinned. It was short lived, though, and Frank soon sobered and glared at him over his glass. "You belong to this business. To my business."
Henry sighed. "I know."
He raised his eyebrows at his boss, and Frank acknowledged how truly ridiculous the question was with a half-shrug and a pointed look.
"No, I'm not fucking spying," he scoffed. "Spying for fucks sake. We in a KGB novel?"
Frank rolled his eyes. "I hate teenagers. And smart teenagers are the fucking worst."
Henry's cheek dimpled. "You've never called me smart before."
Frank drained his glass, scowling. "That pretty face doesn't make your attitude any less shitty. I'm still mad at you."
He grinned. "Two compliments? Two? Have I made employee of the month?"
"No," Frank said derisively, filling another glass. "Does your face still hurt?"
"It's throbbing, thanks."
"It'll heal soon, with your 'absolute power' thing going on."
"You're forgiven," Henry said. "About the job, Benny and Scott wanted out anyway. Scott, poor bloke, practically started to beg when I suggested it."
"Some people just aren't fit for it," Frank said pensively.
Henry nodded. "Shame."
Frank started to say something, but was cut off by a knock on the door. The small smile he had been wearing previously fell as he hollered, "Yeah, come in!"
"Don't mind if I do," Dex Anibal said all-too confidently, adding a lecherous smile when he noticed Henry. He shut the door behind him. "Trisha done for the night?"
"Fuck you!" Frank exploded. "Do you realize I've got a Torres up my ass and a Cordero fucking my mouth right now?"
Dex sat down in the chair next to Henry. "Sounds like a party."
Furious, Frank stood up and loomed over them. "You fucking killed what's-his-name Torres and now they're taking out my guys like it's a fucking free-for-all!"
Dex remained silent as Frank said, "This isn't the goddamn west coast, Dex. This is a business. Things run smooth or they don't run at all. And you work for me, not for yourself or anyone else. Do you understand?"
"At least in L.A. shit actually gets done. They've got crips and bloods," he said to Henry conspiratorially. "Yakuza, Koreans - you'd like them."
He winked at Henry. Henry grimaced and looked away.
"You're such a - " Frank shook his head. "While you're working for me, you follow my rules, or I swear to fucking god I will obliterate you."
Frank filled up another glass and let out one huge sigh. Dex lifted his chin. "Jesus Christ. You know you're not holding up to your end of the deal," said Frank.
Dex stood up, knocking into Frank's desk. Henry reached out to steady a see-sawing Buddha, shaking his head tiredly.
"Yes I fucking am," said Dex. "You told me to scare that Tony kid, so I did, it's not my fucking fault he was going to pop a cap in my back."
"Of course he was, dumb fuck!" Frank retorted, making a face. "You broke both his goddamn legs and left his gun on him. I'd take the shot too!"
"Then maybe you should have been more specific about what I was and wasn't supposed to do."
Dex moved over to Henry and grabbed his arm, pulling it so hard it would have dislocated had Henry fought him.
"No," barked Frank, and there was a tense silence. "You show me some respect - some goddamn loyalty, and we'll renegotiate. If I'm not satisfied, Dex," and he turned his irate blue eyes on the man, so cold and cruel that Henry wondered when Frank had started hating Dex so much, or if he always had. "You're not satisfied."
Dex fumed silently for a moment, his grip on Henry's arm tight enough to bruise, and finally pushed him away forcefully. Henry scoffed and brushed off his shirt.
"Fine," and Dex blew out an angry gust of air. "Fine."
When he had gone, with a loud slam of the door, Henry sat back down and lit a cigarette. He watched Frank as the man settled into his chair again, still drinking heavily.
After a time, Henry said, "Thanks."
Frank stared at him, his eyes serious, and leaned forward marginally. "If Dex finds out you've got another cock up your ass besides his, he'll draw out," he stopped and thought for a moment. "And then probably kill Oscar, which would fucking blow for business."
Henry nodded, knowing what Frank hadn't said; that Dex would kill Henry too."You want me to stop seeing Oscar, then."
"It doesn't fucking matter what I want," Frank snapped. "Dex will kill him, so I suppose it all depends on how much you love the Kraut fuck."
He sat back in his seat and thought for a moment, knowing that Frank had his best interests at heart, but he was biased. Frank hated Oscar.
"Fuck it," Frank sighed, "do what you want."
"I'll be careful," said Henry, before changing the subject. "You got anything for me?"
Frank looked at him thoughtfully, flicking his thumb against a stack of papers. Then he smiled. "I always do."
It smelled like piss. There wasn't a light back here, just a sign - "Bob's Tires" it said. It was blue and pink, and bright enough for Henry to see by. Steam puffed up from the service pipes. A lighter clicked on, and Henry inhaled. Peru saw his face for the first time.
"What do you want?" he gasped, edging toward the smelly bins. His back hit a dead end and his heels skittered.
Henry examined him. The right side of the man's face was scarred, and scarred bad. His eye, though still functioning, was half covered by a melted eyelid. They said his back burned first, in the fire, and that's why he hunched over. Henry didn't know. It wasn't his problem.
Peru was a Torres - a bastard son. He wasn't worth a job, but Henry didn't call the shots. It was all about his father anyway, Jose, who Frank had an ongoing beef with.
"Relax," Henry said, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
"I-I-I-," Peru stuttered.
"There's no need to worry," Henry told him, mildly concerned.
Peru didn't seem to agree. Sweat ran down the side of his face, and he was shaking like a harp-string.
"Who the fuck are you? What ever you want - " he shook his head violently. "I - I don't, I won't - "
"I don't want anything," Henry interrupted, his voice low and soothing. The alley was quiet, but for Peru's panting, and those bins really did smell like shit.
Peru gasped. His back scraped against the wall painfully. "Please," he croaked. "Whatever you want. I know people. You need money? I have it. Whatever you want."
Henry frowned. "I'm good, thanks," he said.
Peru sobbed. Snot gathered above his lip. "Please, please - "
"There's no need to cry," he said, raising his gun. Peru shouted and sobbed. The barrel pressed hard. The Glabella. The click of the safety.
"Everything is going to be ok," said Henry.
He pulled the trigger.
McKay sat in the same booth by the same window: a creature of habit.
He was thumbing through David Copperfield. Henry'd had a hard time finding that edition. He was glad to see McKay get some use out of it. He took the seat opposite and slid Great Expectations across the table.
"Hello to you too," Henry said wryly, and then asked curiously, "How's the reading?"
McKay glanced at him over his book, annoyed, but marked his place and put it aside. Henry straightened up and smiled at him.
"Good," he said softly. "Your Dickens is good."
"My Dickens?" Henry repeated, confused. "Oh. Because he's a limey you mean," and he grinned. "Lots of good things come out of England. The colonies for instance."
"Smart ass," McKay picked up the new book. "First edition, kid? You're learning."
"Don't give up on me yet."
Their waitress put down an empty cup in front of him. She filled it up half way. He smiled at her, wondering when she blushed if she was the same bird from last week. He watched her leave.
"Frank told me Peru's out, and Benny and Scott quit," said McKay, a little amused.
"Job isn't for everyone."
"Any close calls?" McKay asked, still inspecting Great Expectations with a critical eye.
"Nothing," and Henry really was as disappointed as he sounded. "Same old, same old, as you Yanks like to say. There's just no spice anymore, John. Don't you ever get tired of it?"
McKay glared at him. "I've been doing this for almost twenty years. How do you think I fucking feel?"
Henry nodded, flicking his lighter on and off. "No wonder you read crap like that," he said. "How can this life get old? You'd think it never would."
"If it's any consolation," McKay replied dryly. "I don't think you could ever be boring, Sparky."
Henry shrugged. His lighter clicked on, but the little flame was in the palm of his hand. McKay reached out and took it from him; there was no need to start a fire.
He looked at the lighter surreptitiously, but it was ordinary. Nothing strange there. Henry always teasingly called what he did magic tricks. McKay didn't like them. The didn't make sense. But If McKay started questioning how Henry did things, he didn't think he would like the answer.
And Sparky was bored, was he? That didn't sit well. People like them couldn't get bored, or they'd lose their fucking minds. Go postal. Or retire, whichever. Seeing as it was unlikely the boy would stay interested, or move on to other things, McKay figured he'd cash out and die young. Because that's just what happened.
The bell went off over the diner door, but McKay didn't pay attention until footsteps stopped in front of their booth. Henry was busy fixing up his coffee. He used too much cream and sugar.
"You Henry Brooks?" the man said, and Henry looked up.
"Yeah, who are you?" both of his eyebrows raised curiosly.
The man smiled, "that's not your real name. You're Harry Potter."
Henry stared at him. His face shut down. McKay looked between them both.
"I don't know," Henry said softly. "Am I?"
McKay didn't know where the bright light came from, or how it shattered the window, didn't see any science fiction-like ray guns, though he did catch a small glimpse of a smooth piece of wood sticking out of the stranger's jacket. He couldn't tell where Henry shot a similar light back from, knocking the man over...he wasn't sure how it happened at all, but hoped to God the table he'd made a temporary shield out of didn't get smashed to pieces. Everything had gone to shit in seconds, but McKay couldn't help but smile sardonically, and think, now there's your spice, Sparky!