Inspired by quickreaver's MoL (men of letters) Sam
Detective Ackles hardly recognized his old classmate. Though Jared still wore the glasses, years of fighting had burned off the puppy fat, tattoos marking his arms and chest, with a line of Spanish poetry peaking out from his waistband. An orange vacancy sign hummed next to the window, and the light drew hard lines around his body as if he were carved from wood.
Jared took a last pull and dropped his cigarette on the floor. "Okay I'm in," he said, leaning against the wall, "What's the plan?"
Jensen stuck his hands in his hoodie pockets. He'd bought the ensemble off a junkie for fifty bucks, and it smelled like old trash, but the hotel was full of Sheppard's men and he needed to blend in.
"There's gonna be a lot of hustling at the block party this Friday," he began, "Rachel moved twenty kilos of coke last week, we don't know where, but it's in this neighborhood. The D.A.'s already got an investigation going, if we can bust enough dealers at the party, we can hopefully find her stash and one or two people willing to testify against Sheppard."
A smile toyed at the edge of Jared's mouth, impressed against his will. Jensen had been so shy when they were kids, and now...
"Am I one of those people?" he asked.
"I'm not here," Jensen clarified, "We never had this conversation. As far as the city's concerned, you're just an anonymous tip."
"What do you need from me?"
"Just keep me informed about Sheppard's men. Who's close to him? Who's a soft touch? Who runs to their mom's house when the five-o shows up? And stay close, I'll need back-up in case things go south." He did not smile, but his eyes glittered. "You a good shot?"
Jared snorted and slapped a new pack of cigarettes. Back in the day, he'd killed so many men for Sheppard that the boss had splurged and given him an Aston Martin for his sixteenth birthday.
"I'm okay," he said, flicking his lighter and cursing, "Crap I hate these free ones they give out."
"Here," said Jensen, "Mine's running on fumes but..."
Jensen thumbed his own lighter, cupping his hands around the weak spark. Jared leaned over him, smelling of gin and aftershave, and pushed the end of his cigarette into Jensen's palms. For a moment his face glowed in the cold blue flame, and Jensen's eyes flicked down and up again slowly. He wondered how far down the Spanish poem went.
"You got any money tucked away?"
"Yeah, not like a ton, but enough. For when I got too old for this," said Jared, exhaling through his nose, "Why, you need a new shirt?"
Jensen blinked. "These aren't my clothes."
Jared laughed, a warm rolling sound that Jensen had nearly forgotten. "I dunno how you got past the door in that, you look like a trust fund slummer."
"I had to blend in."
Jared stuck the cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "Nobody gives a fuck, so long as you're not wired," he said, pulling Jensen out of the chair, "Raise your arms."
Jensen turned a little pink. "I'm not wired."
"I know, I'm taking off that filthy fuckin' rag. You show up at Sheppard's party, you gotta look like you have class money," he said, "What're you, twenty inch in the shoulders?"
"Twenty-one," said Jensen, smiling, as if they were ten again and raiding his dad's suit collection, "I've been working out."
The two o'clock Miami rains pattered against the window. He let Jared peel off the hoodie and toss it in the sink, then relented and let him take the cargo pants and sneakers as well. It must have been ninety-five outside, but Jensen crossed his arms over his chest.
"Here," said Jared, tossing some clothes on the bed, "You wanna take a shower too?"
"No, I'm ah I'm good." said Jensen, a little too quickly, "I'll change in there, just a sec."
Jared waited, smoking and watching stormclouds drift over the ocean. Down below, four boys were pushing a dead car, parking it sideways at the end of the street and running back to fetch another. The whole neighborhood would be barricaded by sundown. Anyone who wanted to make the party tonight had to be on foot.
"How does it look?"
Jared turned, about to say "fine" and change clothes as well, then stopped. The suit was tailored, a deep chocolate that set off his eyes, with a french cuff shirt unbuttoned at the top and leather shoes as soft as a mother's breast. Jensen hadn't shaved in a few days, and it gave him a meanness he did not himself possess. Jared had a sudden flash of them as kids, swimming in too-big office jackets, giggling at dirty jokes, a stolen kiss in the dark...
Jared reached behind him to set the cigarette in an ashtray, and went to refold Jensen's handkerchief.
"You never learned to fold a pocket square?" Jared asked, tucking it into Jensen's breast pocket.
Jensen snorted. "Who cares so long as I look expensive?"
Their faces were very close, Jensen's mouth pink and wet in the afternoon heat. Jared let the question go unanswered. "I'm gonna change," he said, turning away, "Meet you behind St. Jude's at nine?"
Jensen nodded, happy to put his cop hat back on. "Will do."
A knock at the door and Sheppard looked up from his steak. "Yes?"
Rachel hesitated. "Chico's at the door for you."
Tossing his napkin on the table, he stood to leave the room when he caught Rachel's expression. "What is it?"
"Nothing I...have to return a phone call." she said, walking to the rear of the house. Sheppard sniffed and watched the door shut behind her.
He stood before the front window. It was still dark out, and with the hall light behind him the pane glass reflected him in neat sections. A man lay curled in a ball, no shoes, no shirt, the knees of his bluejeans torn and bloody.
"Damn, did you crawl here?" Sheppard asked, touching the Chico's arm, "Stand up."
Chico shook his head, and Sheppard saw that someone had cut the soles of his feet. The sky began to lighten in the east, and several police cars zipped across the interstate flashing their party lights.
"Who did this?"
He whimpered and set his cheek against Sheppard's patent leather shoe, pointing toward a bridge in the distance.
"He came for us," Chico whispered, "After we put a hit on Monroe and his wife."
EMTs rushed to haul up the bodies, dangling so low their shoes brushed the tops of cars, and they swung back and forth bumping into each other like the devil's desk toy. You couldn't see their faces for the birds covering them.
Sheppard set his teeth. "Misha."
EARLIER THAT NIGHT
The factory had caught fire years ago. Now stars shone through the roof, with collapsed beams hanging at eye-level and a poplar growing in the elevator shaft. Chico awoke in an old armchair, and when he rubbed his temple his hand came away bloody.
He was reaching for his gun, not finding it, when his eyes fell on the five steel drums, suspended by chains, bottoms glowing red, paint blistering over a fire so vast it licked the ceiling. He froze, for he thought he knew the men inside them, but no longer recognized their voices. They sounded like dogs that had learned to scream. They smelled like a Christmas ham.
Then something blocked his way and Misha stood before him, his body edged in flames. Chico held up a hand to ward him off, but Misha pulled something from his coat and held it out for him to take.
Chico turned the tape player in his hands. "What is this?"
Misha said nothing, and after a moment Chico pressed Play.
"...County 9-1-1, police, ambulance, or fire."
A child sniffled on the other line. "He-he-he's here, I think he hurt Daddy, he's here right now in Mommy's room and there's b-blood all over the kitchen and-"
Shuffling noise as the phone was transferred, and a slightly older boy took over. "It's alright officer," he said blankly, "Everything is alright."
"Wait gimme back the phone-!"
He could still hear Monroe's kid crying when the tape stopped, the play button popping up beneath his thumb. The fire was so hot it made his hair curl, but Misha placed his hands on either side of the chair, the fire throwing his face in sharp relief, and Chico dared not move.
"Now," said Misha, sparks reflected in his black eyes, "How does that make you feel?"
The fire spun clockwise, ash funneling upwards toward the moon, and the man clapped his hands together in prayer. "It was just a job."
"Don't look to me," he said, his breath hot on the Chico's mouth, "Ask for God's forgiveness."
"Please," Chico pleaded, slipping off the chair to his knees, "I yield! I yield!"
Misha surveyed him. At first the man thought he saw a glimmer of hope, that the priest might concede this one. He wrapped his arms around Misha's legs, head thrown back in a gesture of complaisance.
Chico waited for more. But the silence grew, and Misha's stare weighed on him, distant, as if Chico were already dead and his crimes now beyond Misha's jurisdiction. As if some great horror was rising up to meet Chico, and would stretch out to pull him through the very stones of the earth.
He let go of Misha's legs. "Please I'm beggin' ya, I'm down on my knees..."
"You kneel to my face, but in your heart..." said Misha, flicking open a switchblade with a wicked gleam in his eye, "...you're still standing."