Victor had been told to wait for a green 2001 Subaru Outback. In an ideal world, he would actually give a shit about cars and know what that meant off the top of his head, but since this world was far from ideal he had spent the first twenty minutes outside the laundromat waiting for the internet to load on his damned smart phone so he could Google a picture. Now with the image in his mind, he scanned the road, and wondered what sort of man this new cook was going to be.

17. That was the number of interviews his boss had conducted before finally settling upon this man. All the interviewees had been pretty high class, too, if that was a word that could be accurately applied to drug manufacturers – their unspoken resumes stained with the blood of the countless junkies, dealers, and other assorted underworld lowlifes that they had wasted in their climb up the harsh ladder of corporate meth sales. Mike had been present at most of the meetings, and had passed on some very prestigious names.

But they had all been turned down. Every last one of them had been sent home with nothing but Gus's polite yet cold smile, except for this guy. This Gale Boetticher.

So naturally he was curious.

A dark green car pulled into the entrance. He squinted at it for a moment, then decided it wasn't the right vehicle – confirmed when a plump Hispanic woman exited. She greeted him enthusiastically in Spanish as she brushed past and he murmured a reply, his eyes not leaving the road, his thoughts not leaving the cook.

Why hadn't he ever heard of him before, for one? Granted he wasn't the most knowledgeable person in the business, but most names were at least vaguely familiar to him, especially the types that got chosen for jobs like this. 'Boetticher', however, rang no bells. Was he foreign, perhaps? Maybe Swedish or German or something? Victor's expertise was mainly in the Americas, so that very well could be it. Also, with the already uneasy stalemate between his boss and the cartel growing more and more unstable, hiring from overseas may simply have been the best move.

Of course, why would some European drug lord bother with an underground lab in Albuquerque?

Whatever. He pulled out a cigarette and lit up. He'd know soon enough. In the meantime, he planned to enjoy the down time. He and Mike had been scrambling about the past couple of weeks getting this whole shebang rolling – ordering equipment, securing the location, rehiring workers, building the lab itself.

And then there had been the whole deal with that Heisenberg guy.

Victor didn't understand it. The man had been desperate to work with Gus in the beginning: that was obvious. He remembered sitting by the door of Los Pollos Hermanos, watching him nearly run into the restaurant and then stop in the middle of the aisle, looking around. On mere appearances alone he fit the description of the tough guy the streetlight whisperers had made him out to be, but other than that Victor just wasn't seeing it. The way he moved, the way he talked, the way he was so obviously trying (and so utterly failing) to hide his sense of urgency all screamed 'amateur' to him.

But he had his orders. So when Heisenberg tried to leave, he stepped into his way. "Excuse –" the man started, but Victor cut him off.

"38 pounds, 1.2 million dollars, truck stop, 2 miles south of Exit 13 on the 25. One hour." He listed off the instructions that Mike had given him, and in about half the original words. The 'more the merrier' might be how the saying went, but when it came to conversations such as this, Victor favored a mirrored version.

The great Heisenberg stared at him, hazel eyes narrowing behind wire-rimmed glasses, brow furrowing in confusion. "Wh-what?"

"One hour. You in or out?"

"Uh, i-in, in, absolutely, but I just need a little more time…"

"One hour," Victor repeated once more, mentally shaking his head. Amateur. Definitely. "If you miss it, don't ever show your face in here again." He turned and walked away. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched the man stand still for a moment, then sprint for the exit, muttering to himself.

After that incident he had assumed that they would be seeing more of each other, but in the weeks that followed there were no further business transactions. He mentioned it to Mike one day, as they waited for another contact to show up. The older man had shrugged in reply. "Guy's out of commission right now."

"Out of commission how?" he inquired.

Mike turned, gazing at him levelly. "Look, kid" (Victor hated that – he was 28, for fuck's sake – but in all fairness he supposed the man had earned the right) "the guy's not dealing right now, okay? Boss'll get to him when he gets to him."

He had taken that to mean his partner didn't know, and dropped the subject. Then, three weeks later, Heisenberg had shown up again – to tell Gus he didn't want to work with him anymore. Didn't want the lab job, didn't even want to cook at all, ever. Victor hadn't heard the actual conversation, but apparently he was having family problems of some sort. The sort that turned you off to 3 million dollar deals. Or something.

The boss had been displeased, but Victor had expected as much. He tilted his head back and blew smoke into the Albuquerque sun. That Heisenberg guy didn't have what it took. Plain and simple.

There was the car.

Victor dropped his cigarette, grinding it beneath his shoe as he started slowly towards the vehicle. Other than being the right model, it wasn't quite what he'd been expecting – the bumper was covered with faded Ron Paul stickers, and a recumbent bicycle was strapped to the top. Before these facts had time to register, though, the door opened and the new cook appeared.

He was of a fairly average height, with close set dark eyes and frizzy brown curls, wearing an off-white collared shirt, brown cargo shorts, and sandals. When he saw Victor, he smiled in delight. "Hello!" he said with a little wave, nearly stumbling over his own feet as he made his way over. He finally reached him and stuck out his hand, still grinning. "Hi! I'm Gale."

Victor stared at him.

What. The. Fuck.

"…Boetticher?" he asked, the name's crisp syllables made even sharper by the uncertainty in his voice. This was the guy? This nerdy loser?

"Yessir! Pleased to make your acquaintance. And you are?" The idiot still had his hand out, thousand-watt smile never faltering.

Victor head spun.

There was a logical explanation for this, there had to be. Maybe it was some sort of prank? It wasn't like Mike to do something like that, but he'd been surprised before.

He sure as hell was surprised now.

The man – Gale – seemed to sense that something was wrong, and lowered his hand, his smile fading a bit. "This – this is the place, right? The…" he looked around, then leaned in, lowering his voice to a stage whisper, "…meth lab?"

For the love of God. "Hold on," Victor finally said. He turned away, dialed Mike's number. "Is he there yet?" an apathetic voice answered.

"Not sure." He looked over at the man, who was looking at him expectantly, eyes wide. "Subaru Outback, you said?"

"Yeah. It's got a bunch of libertarian shit all over it."

Victor paused. "So…"

"Just bring him down, all right? Jesus." The line cut off.

He sighed and looked up to the sky. "Dios mio," he muttered, then glanced back.

"Come on," he said. Gale's face instantly brightened.

"Oh, good! Okay. Wow, I was really worried for a moment there, imagine if I'd shown up at the wrong laundromat asking for a meth lab, that'd be something, huh?" He laughed nervously. Victor said nothing, merely turned on his heel and strode back into the building. He could hear Gale's sandals slapping against the concrete as he tried to keep up.

"This place is pretty fantastic, isn't it? Wow! Look at all these people!" The people in question were giving them sideways glances, whispers drowned out by the machines. Gale waved at one group of women. "¡Hola, senoritas!" A few waved back and laughed before returning to their work.

Victor quickened his pace, wondering idly if ignoring the man would help at all.

"It's like it's just a regular laundry, everyone going about their business, and then just under their feet is an industrial level meth manufacturing facility. It's just amazing! Who would have thought?"

So far, the answer appeared to be no.

"I can't wait to see the lab. Have you seen it? What's it like? What did you say your name was?"

"I didn't."

"Oh." This shut him up, but only for a moment. "Well, I think – oh! Sorry." He almost ran into Victor as they stopped. He looked up at the large machine in front of them, then gave him a questioning glance. "Um, why …"

Victor pulled the lever and the machine came forward slowly, revealing the stairway. He waited for Gale to go down, but the cook just stared.

"Wow," he breathed, the perpetual smile replaced with a childlike look of wonder. "That's, it's just…like –"

Jesus Christ. They didn't have time for this. "Hey," Victor interrupted. Gale looked over at him.

"Hmm? Oh. Yes?"

"Shut up and get down the stairs." The other man blinked a few times, as if uncomprehending, then suddenly snapped to attention.

"Oh. Y-yes. Of course." He meekly ducked his head and disappeared into the hole. Victor sighed.

What the hell was Gus thinking.

Granted, he hadn't given the guy much of a chance. He was a cook, after all – with the dealing aspect taken out, that wasn't a job that required a lot of toughness or street smarts. Still, you'd expect someone who had earned an opportunity like this to have had to deal with the shit part of it on his way up.

He knew he had.

Whatever. He'd know soon enough whether this Gale was good for anything. He looked around at the laundry and shook his head.

Amateurs, he thought once more, before climbing down himself.

…~…

Author's Note:

I am absolutely astonished that people are actually reading this. Thank you, so much. It's good to know that these hours of research won't go (completely) to waste, because I have great things in mind for this. So stay tuned!

I'll try to update every couple of days, but it'll probably end up being a once a week sort of deal. Which, for me, the great procrastinator, is quite an accomplishment.

Anyway, thanks again! Please review~