A little late, but I thought I would post the first chapter to inCapable now before I am completely cut off from civilization :-) I hope you like. Please remember this is unedited and may change. And there may be some bad language...
Declan: I don’t like to owe people nothing. But for better or worse I asked for a favour back when I was fifteen and that favour resulted in a debt so big I’ll be paying it back for the rest of my life. That’s not to say that I hate the life I’m living. Actually, I’m rather indifferent about it now, which is probably why Jimmy won’t ever let me walk away from him and his family.
I kill without conscience. And I’m fucking good at it.
Tonight Jimmy is once again collecting on my debt. I’m about to take down a man who’s doing shit he shouldn’t, and he’s not being very quiet about it. Jimmy wants him taken care of, but he doesn’t get his hands dirty. He calls me instead.
In Sterling City there are two big players, Jimmy Dante and Danny Hill. Each of these men are organized and they have armies of criminals who work to build their territory and make their bosses very rich men. For years these men have had a truce. Jimmy sticks to weapons and stolen property and Danny deals with drugs. They were at war once upon a time, but this meant no one was getting ahead. It made sense to keep the peace, but now, Ken Duffy, Danny’s cousin, has gone and reached out to some of Jimmy’s contacts. He’s trying to sell weapons in our territory and Jimmy ain’t having it. Truce or no, the guy has to be dealt with. Only Jimmy wants it done quietly. The guy has no short list of enemies but Jimmy doesn’t want to be at the top of this list. He wants to keep the truce—if he can.
Mickey and I sit outside the man’s house. He lives just outside of the city, and down by the beach. Nice house. Maybe something like what I’d like to live in one day. The ocean. The quiet. Neighbours a half mile away. We’ve been sitting here for hours. I’ve scoped the place out for days now. Done my homework. I know this guy has a thing for some stripper at The Palace. He goes to her work every night and usually closes the place. Then he follows her home for a quick fuck and he’s home in bed by three a.m. It’s two-thirty in the morning now and he’s just pulling into his drive way. We’re parked down the road, in line of sight, but maybe a quarter of a mile away.
My window is down and I pull my rifle out. I adjust the scope and take a breath, hold it in, while I wait for him to get out of his beat up Chevy. The silencer is on and the closest neighbour is around the bend. There’s no way they could see me. My only worry is approaching cars, but then, few cars travel this road at this time of night. Even if one does, the windows in this car are tinted and it’s stolen so even if they get a license plate they’ll be investigating someone else, someone not connected to me in any way. The guy steps out of the car and slams the door shut.
It’s now or never.
The quiet dart of a bullet leaves the weapon, giving my left shoulder the slightest of kickbacks. I’m right handed but I shoot on my left side. Yeah, it surprised me too when Mickey taught me how to shoot. I was just fifteen then and a crack shot even at the very beginning. He once told me he couldn’t have asked for a better person to take under her command.
The bullet hits the guy straight through the forehead and he drops to the ground with a crumple and a thud. The window of the Chevy is splattered with blood around the outline of his body.
“I’m fucking hungry,” I say, as I pull my weapon inside the vehicle and press the button to roll the window up.
“Come to mention it, I could use a bite, too,” Mickey says as he slides the gear shift into drive. “Maybe some fries and gravy. The wife never lets me have fried shit anymore. Never should have had my cholesterol checked.”
We don’t immediately eat. We have to ditch the car first. Our job comes first, above everything else. You get sloppy or deviate from your tasks and you get caught. I’d rather put a bullet in my own head than go back to prison. I had respect there because of who I associate with, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get shanked twice or have random assholes try to jump me to see who had bigger balls. The answer was always me, but still, I didn’t like having to prove it day in and day out. It was pretty tiring, to say the least.
We drive the car out of the city, near a field where we ditched my SUV. I get in my car and follow Mickey to an abandoned mine where we douse the stolen car in fuel and set it on fire. The flames are high and burn orange and red. It’s kind of pretty. I’ve always had a love of fires. But the fucking smell of burning tires makes me sick.
Mickey taps me on the shoulder to signal it’s time to go. We hop back into the car and head back to Sterling City. All I can think about is how well I’ll sleep after I fill up on grease.
I change my routine daily. Keeping the same schedule isn’t smart when you have enemies. Stick to a schedule and they can easily take you down, like I did to the poor stupid asshole outside his own home the other night. One thing in my daily routine I don’t change is visiting Mona’s cafe. Instead, I alternate the time when I show up. One day I might come in and get a coffee to go, the next I might go in and sit and have breakfast, and sometimes I’ll just go out back and visit Mona while she works.
Mona is perhaps the only woman in my life that’s ever showed me any affection that hasn’t involved sex. Don’t get me wrong, I can get a piece if I want it, but anything more than that is where I have problems. I got issues with getting in deep. So my time with women is cold, and it’s quick and dirty. No emotion. No lingering feelings. Empty sex. It’s about all a guy like me can manage when you do the work I do.
And Mona? Well, Mona is like a mother to me. She’s Mickey’s sister and when Mickey took me under this wing, Mona took an interest in me. Eventually, I moved off the streets and into her spare bedroom. She was all by herself and I guess she liked the company after losing a kid and a husband. Having her in my life isn’t smart. It goes against everything I know, but I also know Mona is fucking scary and if I stayed away from her to protect her she’d just kick my ass. Besides, if any woman can take care of herself it’s Mona. And she’s already cursed because of her family and the people she associates with. Daily living is an act of faith, like it is for me.
Tonight I decide to come into the cafe an hour or so before close. It’s a Tuesday night and the place is dead. Beth, one of the waitresses, and Mona’s niece, is leaned against the far counter, texting on her phone. I sit on a stool eating pumpkin pie. Mona only makes it in October and I don’t know what the hell she puts in it but I look forward to during the other eleven months of the year that it’s not on the menu.
As I finish my last bite and scrape the whip cream up with the edge of my plate, my eyes catch the headline of the paper off to my right.
Killer on the Loose: Man Shot Dean at His Home.
Sure took them long enough to find him. I pull the paper closer and unfold the halved paper to read the article. No clues. No leads. Police refuse to comment for fear it might jeopardize their case. Bullshit. They aren’t commenting because they got nothing.
I continue reading the next article.
22 Year Old Student Found in Dumpster.
Heat travels down my throat as I take a long drink of my black coffee. Mona appears through the swinging doors to the back of the cafe. Her full hair is curled and newly died a bright shade of red, her lips approximately the same colour. I swear it’s a new shade of red every week.
“There you are, Declan. I thought you weren’t going to come in today.”
“You know I come here everyday,” I say as I set my mug back down on the counter’s wooden surface.
She leans over and tries to read the headlines upside down. “Shame about that man they found. Perfect shot, straight through the forehead.”
“Yeah. A shame.”
“He’s one of Danny’s guys, yeah?”
I offer a small shrug.
She frowns at me. She knows how good my shot is and she also ain’t stupid. Her brother’s reputation around this city is well known. She also knows that he’s been a sort of mentor to me since I met him. I’m his boy and she knows it.
Mona watches me from across the counter, still frowning, but we’ve had a long standing relationship of don’t ask, don’t tell. She takes a step forward and presses her fingernail onto the picture of the girl they found in the dumpster. The victim is smiling in a cap and gown—a high school graduation photo. “Second girl they found this month. Someone has to stop this asshole.”
I simply nod before grabbing my coffee mug and taking another sip.
“Maybe that someone should be you,” she says.
I chuckle and shake my head. “You and both know I ain’t no hero, Mona. I’m the complete opposite.” Yet, she’s always trying to get me to go back to school. Get a trade. She knows who I’m am and somehow she sees some measure of good in me that I’m certain doesn’t exist. Maybe it did at one point, but not now. I’ve seen too much shit. It takes a fucking lot to stir something in me.
“Maybe not,” she says. “So don’t do it to be a hero, do it for the challenge. I hear the cops have nothing?”
“A challenge,” I scoff. Good attempt at mind fucking, Mona. No. I put myself on the limb every time I do a hit, I’m not about to do one for the fun of it.
I continue reading the article about the girl. Part of me considers what Mona said. I hate when she puts ideas in my head. I’m a killer, why not add him to my list of victims. At least, this one would mean something. And torturing him might offer me a small bit of pleasure. Guys like that don’t deserve to live. Sure, I’m no angel, but I have limits. I don’t touch women or kids. Not unless I have to. And what I mean to say by that is if it comes down to me or them, well, I’ll always pick me. See. No hero.
The bell above the door rings and I glance from my peripheral at the girl who walks inside. Occupational habit. I have to be conscious of the people around me to make sure someone doesn’t surprise me with a gun pointed at my head.
It’s pouring outside and the girl looks like a drowned rat with her blonde hair limp against the sides of her face and neck. Her white blouse is slick against her skin and I can see the shadow of her bra underneath and I can honestly say with those tits she doesn’t need one. Her sneakers are stained and ripped on one of the toes. She’s twenty-one, maybe twenty-two. Innocent as fuck. And one of her eyes is blue while the other is green. Details. I notice them all. Down to the small mole she has above her left eyebrow.
Her feet slosh in her sneakers as she squeaks her way over to the stool beside me. She plops down and I smell her. Nonchalantly, of course. I’m not a creep on anything. Like I said: details. She smells of oranges and she still has a touch of white film on her fingers from where she was obviously peeling one earlier.
Mona whistles. “Forget your umbrella, darling?”
The girl shrugs, looking positively defeated. Then the curious girl lowers her head onto the counter and bangs it on the wood surface one, two, three times. Not much makes me break a smile—I try my best to come across mean because it makes intimidating people easier—but this girl, she almost breaks me. I shake my head and Mona’s eyes meet mine before she almost swallows her lips trying to fight a smile. She heads out back and nods to Beth to help the girl.
Beth slides her phone into her back pocket and takes a few steps forward, holding the edge of the counter with her hands and leaning forward. I meet her eyes and she gives me a wink. Always the flirt. I went to school with Beth—or I should say, I did until I dropped out in tenth grade. She was popular back then—at least with the boys. Blonde hair, big tits and a small waist. She was every teenage boy’s wet dream. But she’s been with more than her share of boys, many of whom I have a working relationship with so I can’t say I find her all that appealing, sexually. The guys I work with are assholes and they sleep with just about anything that opens their legs for them. Still, she’s nice enough. She beams at me before focussing on the girl beside me.
The girl fishes in her pockets for change and starts dropping random coins on the table. I take a drink of my coffee and the heat makes it way down my throat before sitting in my stomach.
“Hmm,” says the girl. “How much for a coffee?”
Beth sighs and glances to the doors to the back. “Don’t worry about it.” Beth has balls. She better not let Mona catch her giving shit away for free. Beth sets a coffee down in front of the girl and pours the dark liquid into the girl’s cup. The girl immediately curls her hands around the mug and brings it up to her mouth. She closes her eyes and smells it before taking a small taste. “Mmm.”
“This is really good coffee,” she says. “Thank you…” She focusses on gaze on Beth’s name tag. “Beth.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I’m Evie,” the girl says after taking another sip.
“Nice to meet you, Evie.” Beth slaps a cloth over her shoulder. As two of the regulars leave she heads to their table to clean it up, leaving me alone with this sad girl.
I mean to carry on like she’s not there. She’s of no interest to me, but then her eyes are on me. I can feel it. I try my hardest to ignore it. Fuck. What is she staring at? If she were a man I’d grab the back of her head and slam her head into the counter.
“I’m having a bad day,” she says quietly.
I clear my throat and continue reading, giving her nothing more than a grumble.
“That’s okay if you ignore me,” she says quietly. “Everyone in this city does it. Where I come from people smile and say hello just because. And they don’t ignore you. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.”
“And what would you like to talk about, huh? How much we have in common?” I glance at her. “Lady, I’m just trying to enjoy my coffee here.”
I keep reading. But I’m not really reading. As much as I hate to admit it this girl does interest me somehow, if anything, because she’s not exactly the kind of girl that hangs around this part of town. And she definitely nothing like the girls I find myself around on a consistent basis.
She frowns at me. “Why do you assume we have nothing in common?I mean, you were being sarcastic, right?”
This girl really doesn’t know when to quit.
“You have a scar,” she blurts out.
Now she definitely has my attention. Mechanically, I turn my head to face her and her eyes survey the scar down the right side of my face. No one has ever directly asked me about my scar before. Most people don’t like to piss me off by asking me about my personal life. They know they’d get a kick in the teeth.
“I have one, too,” she says and she turns on her stool and lifts her hair up to show me a healed scar, in a cool shade of pink, at the base of her neck. “We have that in common.” She turns and a wide smile curls up along her lips and her eyes brighten.
I’m curious about the scar but I don’t ask. I don’t want to encourage her. Generally speaking, I don’t engage in conversations with people I don’t know. I don’t trust people I know, let alone strangers so it’s best to ignore them altogether. But damn her if she won’t let me.
“Playing by a creek when I was a kid. The rocks were covered in algae and I slipped on one and landed on my back. Hit my neck on a rock. Couldn’t walk afterwards because of the swelling in my neck pressing on my spinal cord. I worried I’d never walk again but then within a month I was running track again and doing backflips on the mats in gymnastics.”
We don’t even know each other and she’s sharing personal details with me. This girl is definitely not from around here. She’s too trusting. She’s exactly the kind of girl that winds up on the front page of the newspaper like that student. I hold my tongue. But the way she stares at me, waiting, I almost feel guilty…but not that guilty. Fuck. Her eyes are as big as saucers, like a deer or something. She’s beautiful. Full pouty lips and rosy cheeks with freckles. Innocent as all fuck.
Beth returns behind the counter and gives me a nod. “Keep a watch for a minute. I got to use the bathroom.”
“Sure,” I say.
I focus on my eyes back on the newspaper, hoping she’ll get the hint. But she’s not that smart, or she just doesn’t care that I’m blatantly ignoring her.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. It’s just…I just moved here and I haven’t talked to a friend or anyone from my family in days. The only people I’ve talked to since moving here were people I tried to get to hire me, but trying to find a job in this city is like trying to skip stones through mud.”
I have no idea what that means. “Excuse me?”
“I just…I’m sorry.” She holds her cup tighter and takes a sip.
Fuck. I clear my throat. What the hell am I doing? “Do I look like someone you want to strike up a friendly conversation with?” I press my index finger on the headline of the newspaper. “I could be this guy for all you know.”
“You could be…”
Yes. This girl is definitely going to get herself killed. She’s got no sense. I slide the paper over to her and focus on the shelves of cups and plates on the wall.
“Exactly,” I say, as if I’ve proven my point. So maybe you shouldn’t go around trying to make friends with strangers.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Thanks for the advice.”
Sigh. Why is she smiling?
Beth returns and glances up at the clock. It’s almost time for them to close and I can tell she’s anxious to get out of here. Beth likes to party and there is going to be a good one tonight at The Pipeline, an underground club and casino by the docks. I fight there sometimes to let off steam.
“Anything else?” Beth asks the girl.
“A job?” the girl says with a humourless chuckle.
A wide smile covers Beth’s face.
Evie: The waitress is smiling at me. Could it be they just might be hiring? She tips her head to the side, her smile faltering. “We just had someone quit…or stop showing up.” She meets the grumpy guys eyes. “I’ll talk to Mona, if you’re serious?”
“Wait. What?” I was joking. “Yeah, I would.”
“Give me a minute. I’ll get her.”
I moved to Sterling City about a week ago with everything I could carry and just enough money to pay for a month’s rent and some incidentals. I needed a change and a fresh start. A week later I’m still unemployed and I’ve almost given up. I thought it would be easy to get a job, any job, but it hasn’t. I applied for service jobs, in restaurants and in bars, but no one will give me the time of day. At the end of my wits, earlier today I finally asked one of the managers what was wrong with me. He told me I’m shaped like a boy. Shapeless. And shapeless girls don’t make him any money. I wanted to punch him in the gut. But instead, I turned on my heel and walked out, my fists clenched.
I never even submitted resumes in this neighbourhood and I hadn’t thought about doing it either. Sure, I made a choice to live on the East Side because I can’t afford to live in any of the nicer neighbourhoods in the city, but I hoped to find a job downtown. Somewhere where I didn’t worry about drive-by shootings. Hell, I saw two prostitutes around the corner before coming into this place. And a guy I passed in the alleyway was shooting up. Still…I do need a job. And at this point I can’t be choosey. And this place is nice—inviting. Even with bars on the windows… The tables are clean and it smells good enough to eat. Maybe it won’t be so bad.
I nod to Beth before she turns on her heels and disappears through the swinging double doors leading to the kitchen. Am I really this lucky? No. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Who knows how many hours I’ll get here—if I even get the job—and I need full-time work.
I turn to the cranky man beside me and I smile wide. He glances away. What is his problem anyway? Would it hurt him to be nice to me? I’m excited and I don’t care if he doesn’t want to listen to me. “I thought I’d ran out of luck,” I say out loud.
Cranky shakes his head and sighs. “I wouldn’t be too quick to change your mind about that.”
I frown at him as the woman from earlier appears. She has this crazy bright red hair and she speaks with a hint of an accent that I can’t place. She’s thin and her skin is like leather. Something about her is intimidating. Maybe it’s her eyes. They’re focussed and unamused, and they’re almost black. She reminds me of the lunch lady in high school who ran the kitchen. Harsh and loud, but somehow sweet with a heart of gold. The lunch lady I remember from my teens gave me extra food at break times and she let me help bake with her sometimes. I assume this woman is Mona because her gaze is set on my face.
She rips the toque off the head of the cranky guy beside me. He runs his hands through his dark shadow of hair. “Manners, Declan,” Mona says. The hat lands on the table. “And no hats on the table.”
“Won’t happen again, Mona.” He gives her a small smile and a wink and that’s when I see past the long scar on his face. His smile softens his dark eyes and makes his skin crinkle in the corners. A dimple dots his left cheek. His chin is square and wide and his teeth are white with a small gap in the front. He has a tat on one of his hands, a word I can’t see, and another tat that claims the back of his neck.
Mona hops onto the stool beside me and sets her mug in front of me. “Hazelnut spice,” she says as she nods to the mug.
“Beth says you’re looking for work.”
“Where you from?”
She stares at me blankly.
“It’s about two hours away. Really small. Barely a dot on a map.”
“I didn’t ask.”
I swallow hard. “Um…”
“You ever work in a coffee shop before?” she says.
I shake my head. “No. Never. I’ve worked in fast-food restaurants and a couple of bars. But I’m a fast learner and service is service, right?”
“What’s you name?”
“You start tomorrow, Evie.”
“I didn’t accept the job yet.”
“You said you needed job, didn’t you?”
“Well there you go. You have one.” She throws her hands up in the air as if I’m exasperating and I’m left a touch confused.
As she turns her back to me and heads for the doors to the back, I call out to her. “But you never said how many hours it was. Or the pay?”
She waves over her shoulder at me and keeps going until she comes to a halt before the swinging doors. “Declan, give the girl a ride home. She’s like a drowned dog sitting there. I don’t want my new employee calling in sick with the cold her first week here.”
“You didn’t even tell me what time I start!” I call out after springing to my feet and bending over the counter to watch her until the swinging doors shield her from my view. “Or ask me for references!” I sigh and shake my head. This is the strangest job interview I’ve ever had. She didn’t really interview me at all. To her, it was simple. I needed a job and she needed an employee. Case closed. She didn’t even give me the chance to refuse it. I just stand here, dumbfounded, until the girl she called Beth comes back out. She stands at my right with her hands on her hips.
“She’s something else, isn’t she?”
That’s an understatement. “I don’t even understand what just happened here.”
“You got lucky,” Beth says. “I’m working evenings tomorrow night and I’ll be by myself. Show up at three and we’ll go from there.
“Sure. Thanks, Beth.”
“Don’t mention it. And you might not thank me after you’ve worked here a few weeks.”
She and the cranky guy beside me exchange a look that I can’t understand. “Nothing.” She smiles brightly at me. “Nothing at all.”
But when her face turns serious again I start to worry. Just what exactly am I getting myself into?