I may yet, the masked veteran had once boasted, as Owen Sleater stared down the barrel of his Colt, his own arm extended, the revolver at the end of it still as calm waters, every muscle in his body tensed for battle. He was a man who was always ready for the fight; a man for whom the war would never truly be over, and as he locked eyes with Richard Harrow that night it was like looking at his own reflection after dropping a stone to the bottom of a pond. The surface was rippled; distorted. But it was still the same man looking back at him. It was Harrow's single olive eye that told him they were kindred. When Owen looked inside it, he saw the spark of life that was so missing from the tin replica on the left. That spark told him that Harrow was not just a soldier, but a survivor. He intended to fight to the very last bullet and go down still pulling the trigger. And Owen appreciated that. Hell, he even respected it. It was a shame, he thought then, that they were fighting on opposite sides of this particular war. In another life, he and Harrow might have even been friends.
But in this one, they were right back where they started.
Richard held his Colt on the Irishman, his mouth slowly pulling to the right in an involuntary grimace. It briefly exposed his teeth before his jaw muscles unlocked and he was able to put his lips back together. He stared at Owen underneath the brim of his cabby hat, remembering all too clearly the last time they butted heads like this. Sometimes he still wondered why he hadn't pulled the trigger. If he had, then Jimmy wouldn't have lost the warehouse. Or the seventy-thousand-dollars worth of liquor. Or his marbles. Maybe if Richard had just done away with Owen Sleater then, he would have his friend back now. The man who'd taken a chance on him in that V.A. hospital all those months ago; who'd shaken his hand as though he were not a monster.
It was why he had come out here. To try and make things right, so everything could go back to the way it was.
"I'll give ya fair warning, Sir," Owen said after a moment, his adam's apple bobbing up and down in his throat as he swallowed, hard. His eyes never leaving Harrow's fractured, yet strangely symmetrical face. "As it happens, I've got nine lives."
"Hmm." Richard mumbled in reply, his damaged voice box making his words hoarse. Formidable. "Well I've got. Six bullets." He grimaced again, baring the incisors on the right side of his mouth. "And once they're. In your chest, hmm. I'll reload. And use three more."
"And what will that accomplish, Sir?" Owen challenged him, his gun beginning to tremble on the end of his arm. He could tell that Harrow meant business this time, and had a feeling that words might get him out of this warehouse and into his Oldsmobile much more smoothly than bullets would. "If ya shoot me," he continued. "How do ya think that fair-weather friend of yours will reward ya? Do ya think he'll let ya sit in on his meetings with the big dogs? You know the ones, Sir. The ones he has and doesn't tell ya about because he's too embarrassed by ya?"
Richard raised his Colt higher; put his finger on the trigger. His single olive eye turning dark; flashing sudden anger. Sleater saw he had hit a nerve. That was good.
"Ya know what he'll do when ya turn up with my head in a bag, Sir?" he continued. "He'll pat ya on the back like the good old hound dog y'are and he'll tell ya to go have a little lie-down under the porch. Then he'll mount my head on the wall and tell all the big dogs he did it all by himself."
Richard took one step forward, then two. Shoved the barrel of the Colt against Owen Sleater's forehead, pressing so hard that when he pulled away - if he pulled away - there would be a single pink circle right between Sleater's eyebrows that might not go away for hours.
"Jimmy, hmm. Is not embarrassed. By me." But even as he said the words he understood they were a wish, not a fact.
"They're all embarrassed by us," Owen replied. "Our cheap suits and our beat-up shoes. Your tin mask. My accent. All our scars." His lips split in a sudden grin, and he laughed out loud despite the pressure of the Colt against his brow. He lowered his own gun, brought it down to the level of Harrow's navel instead, and, after a thought, lowered it further. There was no greater insurance than the promise to blow a man's bollocks all to hell and breakfast.
"We're not like them, Sir," he said. "We're outcasts. No better than the hired help. I make the bombs, you shoot the guns. They keep us around because we clean up their messes when they don't feel like gettin' their hands dirty. That's all."
Richard shook his head, slowly, first to one side and then the other. "Jimmy. Hmm. Cares. What I think." he insisted, the Colt beginning to tremble in his grip.
"Oh, is that so, Sir?" Owen replied, his grin tempering down into something more like a sneer. "Tell me - when was the last time he actually asked ya what ya thought about somethin', before he went ahead and did it anyway?"
Richard fell silent. He could not, in fact, remember the last time Jimmy asked for his opinion on anything at all. These days, he seemed to plunder ahead heedlessly, like a runaway freight train screaming down its track. Richard could no longer even attempt to guess at his intentions; so much of what Jimmy did these days seemed like random acts of spite.
"That's what I thought," Owen continued. "So I'll ask ya again, Sir: How exactly is puttin' nine bullets in my chest goin' to make anyone take ya more seriously? How is it goin' to do anything, besides prove you're nothin' more than James Darmody's lap dog?"
Richard thought about that for a long moment, his finger itching to pull the trigger, if only to put an end to the harsh truths that were coming out of Sleater's mouth. He didn't want to believe them, but as the seconds ticked by he came to understand that Sleater was right. There was no place for him at Jimmy's right hand anymore. The man was a king now, and he had so many new advisers surrounding him that Richard often felt no better than a fool in motley, simply there for Jimmy's amusement. That it had come to this was sad, but not terribly surprising. Richard had always known, on some level, that Jimmy would only keep him around while he was still useful. And now that he had ascended to the throne, it seemed Richard's usefulness was at an end.
He lowered the Colt, and after a moment, Owen raised his revolver. They each holstered their guns and then stood eye to eye, as if looking into a mirror.
"What." Richard suddenly realized, his voice quiet and sad. "Hmm. Am I supposed. To do now."
Owen was silent for a moment, then suddenly, he grinned from ear to ear and wrapped his arm around the veteran's shoulders.
"Have ya ever fired a Tommy gun, Sir?"