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: Today is the day my life changes. All I need is five minutes of Jimmy Dante’s time and he’ll see that I’m a horse he can bet on. I don’t care what I have to do or what I have to say to earn his trust and his support. I’ll get it…or I’ll die trying. Living in abandoned buildings and fishing food out of dumpsters have motivated me to rise above.
Mickey and I wait outside the double doors to Jimmy Dante’s office. Two assholes with sunglasses and suits on stand between me and my future and I stare them down, refusing to be intimidated. They’re twice the size of me, but I’m sixteen and I’ll catch up. I don’t back down from any fight, not even one I know I’ll lose.
The one on the right, with the bald head and the pock-marked face, scowls at me. He grips the muzzle and trigger of his automatic rifle a little tighter. It’s easy to act all tough when you’re packing, isn’t it?
Mickey nudges me, as if he can hear what I’m thinking—which is impressive considering I only met him a few weeks ago. “Keep your mouth shut, kid, and let me do the talking.”
I glance over at him, clenching and unclenching my fists. “Whatever you say.”
The doors open into a concrete room with no windows. There’s a door to the right and the entrance is at my back. In the center of the room is a desk, and behind it sits a very thick man with blond hair and beady eyes.
“Take a seat,” he says, pointing to the two chairs in front of the desk.
Mickey saunters forward and I match his pace, staying by his side. He drops into one seat and I take the other.
The man’s eyes stay on me the whole time. I don’t look away. I don’t give a fuck who this guy is and if I want to work for him, I have to show him that I’m tough—tough enough to stare right back at him.
“You know who I am?” he asks.
“Jimmy Dante,” I say with confidence.
“And you are?”
Mickey jumps in, introducing me instead. “Declan Lewis. He’s the kid I was telling you about. Balls of steel and tenacious as fuck.” Mickey claps me on the shoulder, beaming at me like he’s proud. It’s something I’ve never before experienced and it distracts me for a moment. “I think he could have a real shot here if you give him a chance.”
“Really?” Jimmy leans back in his chair and sighs. “How old are you, kid?”
“Don’t call me a kid. I’m sixteen.”
“Sixteen,” he says with a smile. “Sorry. I’m mistaken.”
Mickey throws me a warning glance, knowing that I’ll knock this prick out if he continues to talk to me with that smug look on his face.
“You want to fight in my club?” asks Jimmy.
I sit up a little straighter and stick out my chest. “I’m good at it. I’ll fight whoever you want, and I’ll win.”
“And why would you want to work for me?”
“Counsellor at school said the only thing I’m good at is fighting, so I figure maybe that’s what I should do with my life. Might as well get paid to do something I’m already doing, right?”
“I’m not going to have your mother running in here, crying, saying I ruined her son…?”
I scoff at his question. If he knew my mother at all, he wouldn’t consider wasting our time with stupid questions. I’ve got no one in my life and nothing to my name. Until last week, I was sleeping under a bridge with an alcoholic snoring four feet away from me.
“You seem so confident,” Jimmy says. “How could I refuse?”
“You won’t regret it,” I say.
He nods to the man behind us before pointing to the door. “Get Stone and Mallory. Let’s see if this cocky little fuck is as good as he says he is.”
“Wait now,” Mickey says, holding out his hands. “You want him to fight both those guys? At once.”
“I can handle myself just fine,” I say, refusing to let fear creep into my mind. This is my chance, probably my one and only.
Jimmy stands, smiling wider. “Well, there you have it. The boy can handle it.”
I stand, pausing for a moment to collect my thoughts.. “And if I win, you’ll let me work for you. And you’ll never call me boy again.”
“Demanding, aren’t you?”
“You’re getting a lot in return,” I say, referring not just to my body but to my soul, too. Because everyone knows that making a deal with Jimmy is like making a deal with the devil.
And like it or not, it’s for life.
DECLAN: I can kill without conscience. And I’m fucking good at it.
Tonight, I’m about to take down a man who’s doing shit he shouldn’t, and he’s not being very quiet about it. My boss, Jimmy Dante, 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 is organized, and they have armies of assholes 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. He wants to keep the truce—if he can.
I sit outside the Ken’s house and glance up at the full moon in the cloudless sky. There is just enough light to cut through the darkness, enough for me to see what the fuck I’m doing without the added risk of artificial light. One of these days I’m going to get night vision goggles from eBay, I swear.
Ken lives on the outskirts of the city, down by the beach. Nice house. No neighbours close by. Maybe something like what I’d like to live in one day if I ever get out of the business—but I’m not holding my breath. Jimmy’s got his hooks in deep.
The rush of the ocean and the salty air calm me, and they’ve made sitting here for the last few hours bearable. I’ve scoped the place out for days. Done my homework. I know Ken has a thing for some stripper at The Palace. He goes to her work every night and usually closes the place before following her home for a quick fuck. 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. I'm 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 seeing cars at this hour is pretty unlikely. 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.
Ken guy steps out of the car and slams the door shut.
It’s now or never.
The first time I killed someone, the surge of adrenaline in my body amazed me: the wave of nausea that tightened my stomach and made bile crawl up my throat; my heart beating wildly in the cage of my chest; my heart pulsing so hard and fast I could feel it throbbing in my neck; and the taste of sweat on my lips as rained from my pores. The high lasted for hours. Now? I might as well be on vacation down south somewhere, sipping a margarita by the beach.
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 his command.
The bullet hits the guy straight through the forehead and he collapses to the ground. Blood splatters the window of the Chevy around the outline of where he once stood.
I drive out of the city, near a field where I left my SUV hours before. I pull the gasoline out of the back of my car and douse the stolen car. The fumes fill the air and make my throat tighten. I pull a lighter from my pocket and light it before tossing it on the car and backing away.
Boom! The car explodes into flames, and I narrow my eyes from the blinding light and the scorching heat—they make my skin moist and my eyes burn. I turn and run to my truck, knowing my handiwork is about to cause a lot of attention. As I drive away, the flames dance in my rear-view mirror, breaking through the tall grass and lighting the dark sky on fire with wisps of red and orange.
I don’t give what I’ve done a second thought until I see it written in bold print on the cover of a soiled newspaper sitting on the tarnished bar of Mona’s Pub. I wipe whipped cream up off my pie plate with my index finger and lick my finger clean.
KILLER ON THE LOOSE: MAN SHOT DEAD OUTSIDE HIS HOME
Sure took them long enough to find him. Of course, they don’t mention that the world is better off without him and no one will lose sleep over his death. On top of treading on my employer’s territory, he was also a woman beater.
Only cowards prey on women and animals, cowards like my bastard father.
I pull the paper closer and unfold it to read the rest of the article, wiping off the crumbs from my crust and probably a half dozen other orders from this morning including some, what I hope is, chocolate chip pieces. No clues. No leads. Police refuse to comment for fear it might jeopardize their case. Bullshit. They aren’t commenting because they got nothing.
Licking my lips, I continue reading the next article. Mona sure likes her whipped cream sweet, just like me.
22 YEAR-OLD STUDENT FOUND IN DUMPSTER.
Can’t take credit for that one. Or the other woman they found a few weeks ago.
Mona appears through the swinging doors to the back of the pub as I drain the remainder of my strong coffee with one long drink. Heat snakes down my throat. Mona offers me a smile, and I nod back to acknowledge her. Her full hair is curled and newly dyed 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 every day.” I set my mug back down on the counter’s scratched wooden surface.
Mona is perhaps the only woman in my life who has ever showed me affection that hasn’t involved sex. She’s like a mother to me. When her brother, Mickey, took me under his wing when I was a teenager, she also took an interest in me. She moved me off the streets at sixteen and into her spare bedroom. After losing a kid and husband, I guess she needed me as much as I needed her.
Mona 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 ain’t stupid. Her brother’s reputation around this city is well known, and I’ve pretty much assumed his role since he’s semi-retired; in all honesty, you never make a clean break from the Dantes.
Mona watches me from across the counter, still frowning, but we have 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 raise an eyebrow at her, waiting for her to make her point, although I'm pretty sure I've already got it.
“Maybe that someone should be you,” she says.
I chuckle and shake my head. It still surprises me when she pushes me to be better, to walk away from the family, to go back to school, to get a trade, to find a woman… 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.
“You and both know I ain’t no hero, Mona.”
“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 more reverse psychology, Mona. As 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 kill 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 unless I absolutely 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 trudges 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; I can see the shadow of her bra underneath, and I can honestly say that 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. Right 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 or 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 defeated. Then she lowers her head onto the counter and bangs it on the wood surface, one, two, three times.
Not much makes me break a smile these days—I try my best to come across hard because it makes intimidating people easier—but this girl, she almost breaks me. Mona’s eyes meet mine before she almost swallows her lips trying to fight a smile. After a quick nod to one of the waitresses, Mona bites her tongue and makes her way to the kitchen. Once she’s out of sight, I slide on my black toque. Mona freaks out if I wear a hat in here, but my hair is fucked up since I’ve been wearing a hat all morning.
The waitress, Beth, is on her phone, of course, probably tormenting some poor asshole who doesn’t know any better. She slides the phone into her back pocket and takes a few steps forward, holding the edge of the counter 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 associate with are assholes and they sleep with just about anything that’ll open their legs for them. Still, she’s nice enough.
She beams at me before focussing on the girl beside me.
The wet girl fishes in her pockets for change and starts dropping random coins on the table that clank just loud enough to be heard over the soft rock music playing in the background. One quarter rolls my way and I slap my palm on top of it before reaching out to hand it to her.
“Thank you,” she says quietly, plucking it from my palm. Her hand is so cold, it almost sends a chill up my arm. It’s fall now and she’s out without a jacket. Foolish girl. She sniffs and wipes the rain from her face. “How much for a coffee?” she asks Beth.
“Don’t worry about it.” She sets a coffee mug down in front of the girl and pours the dark liquid into it. The coffee here is strong, and the smell of her fresh cup has me craving another.
She immediately curls her hands around the mug and brings it up to her lips. She closes her eyes and smells it before taking a small taste. “Mmm. This is really good coffee. Thank you...” She focuses her 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.” Two of the regular customers stand and leave and, after slapping a cloth over her shoulder, Beth saunters over to their table to clean up after them, leaving me alone with this sad girl.
I mean to carry on like the girl’s not there. She’s of no interest to me, but then her mismatched eyes are on me. I can feel them. I try my hardest to ignore her. Fuck. What is she staring at? If she were a man, I’d grab the back of her head and slam it 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 grunt.
“And you’re going to ignore me. Fantastic. Whatever happened to polite conversation?” She sighs and takes another sip of her coffee.
She doesn’t seem to understand that her passive aggressive comments have no affect on me, but still, I offer her a short reply. “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’s 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?”
She really doesn’t know when to quit.
“You have a scar,” she blurts out.
Now she has my attention. Mechanically, I turn my head to face her, and she surveys the old 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 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 gives me a look of satisfaction.
She thinks she’s got me. Sigh.
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 meaningless 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,” she begins. “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 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. 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. Beautiful. Full pouty lips and rosy cheeks with freckles. Exactly the kind of girl I have no business being around.
Beth returns behind the counter and gives me a nod. “Keep a watch for a minute, will ya? I got to use the bathroom.”
I merely stare at her. She knows she doesn’t have to ask. Like I would ever let anything bad happen at Mona’s place.
I focus back on the newspaper, hoping this Evie girl will take a hint. But either 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 anyone 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 just...I’m sorry.” She holds her cup tighter and takes a sip, staring at me from under her long lashes, and my gaze dances between each eye, trying to decide which one I like more, the impossibly blue one or the emerald green one with flecks of brown.
Fuck. I clear my throat. Now I’m the one staring. “Do I look like someone you want to strike up a friendly conversation with?” I reach for the paper and toss it on the counter in front of her, pointing my finger at the dead girl on the cover.
Yes. This girl is definitely going to get herself killed.
Beth returns and glances up at the clock. It’s almost seven o’clock on a Thursday night and her replacement must be coming soon, because no why is she sticking around tonight. Beth likes to party and there is going to be a good one tonight at The Pipeline, an underground club and fighting ring by the docks. I fight there sometimes when I need to rage—and when Jimmy tells me I have to. It’s about the only thing I can do in my life to release my anger since I need to have absolute control over everything else in my life.
“Anything else?” Beth asks the girl.
“A job?” the girl says with a humourless chuckle.A wide smile covers Beth’s face. I see where this conversation is going, and I’m not entirely happy about it. This girl doesn’t belong here and the sooner she realizes it, the better.