Bargains

Mccree_portrait

Well, it’s high noon somewhere in the world.

This diner has seen better days an’ perhaps, once upon a time, it saw a better class of customer, too. Now, it’s mostly used only by locals, or tourists who’ve taken a wrong turn. There sure as hell ain’t no right turn around these parts.

At this moment, there’s just me an’ the other man sittin’ opposite me, holdin’ a coffee spoon like he’d like to carve my eyeballs out with it. He’s finished his drink. My own coffee stays untouched in front of me. Far as I’m concerned, it always tastes like boiled dirt.

Somewhere at the back of my head, the punchline to that joke is screamin’ to be let out.

That’s ‘cos it was freshly ground this mornin’.

I entertain myself, I surely do. Freshly ground.  Why, I’m nothin’ short of a comedy genius. I…

“So that’s the deal.”

His words shatter my moment of self-admiration an’ that kinda annoys me. In their wake, a pause fills the room: the long, drawn-out, painful sort. The kind that nobody wants to fill with noise in case it’s the wrong kind. So silence lingers. A screamin’, empty void of absolute nothin’.

I let the abyss remain. Let him suffer.

Tell y’all the truth, I thought he’d never get round to askin’ his question, not that he’s actually asked it yet. But he’s gettin’ there. For days now, he’s been kinda skirtin’ around the issue at hand. I can tell he regrets his choice in takin’ me on – but hell, I ain’t got nothin’ to lose by lettin’ him sweat just a bit more. Right?

The pause stretches out further still. I gotta admit, I’m enjoyin’ watchin’ him bite back his annoyance. It’s… satisfyin’. Man’s too full of his own self-importance. Do him good to get taken down a peg or two. I chew on the end of the cigar as I watch him, because I know it annoys. An’ if bein’ annoyin’ ain’t what Jesse McCree does best, I’m sure I don’t know what is.

I chew a bit more an’ watch how his expression darkens. The cigar ain’t lit. It’s my last one. You reckon I can afford to smoke it?

Hell, no. I’m hopin’ that this arrangement is gonna buy me more smokes goin’ forward.

“So that’s the deal.” He repeats the phrase as though it’s some sort of offer. I’m watchin’ his hand curl into a fist an’ then relax again, and damn me if I ain’t havin’ fun. I’m drivin’ him mad an’ it’s the kinda power trip I like best. Our eyes meet an’ if I’m honest, my resolve waivers just a little an’ I gotta look away.

There’s burnin’ rage behind those sloe-berry eyes. Gabriel Reyes ain’t a man who takes to my particular brand of humour so well. But my silence works. He finally asks the question.

“Damn you. Are you in, McCree?”

Am I in? Last time someone asked that question of me, it cost me pretty much everythin’ I had. An’ all for a two-pair played out by a flush. I raise one eyebrow. Reyes don’t care about my carefully studied reaction an’ presses on.

“I’m not going to ask you again. You get one offer and that’s it. You get one offer, an hour to think it over and if, after that’s up, you haven’t given me your answer, you’re done. I’m not going to beg.”

“Why?”

I speak, just the single word, an’ Reyes is smart. He knows what I mean. I ain’t askin’ him why he won’t beg. He knows that an’ hits on the crux of my question right off. His brow furrows as he assesses me in one glance. He bites back a sharp retort and speaks from the heart. Or he would, if he actually had one, which I’m startin’ to doubt.

“You have potential. It’s a simple choice, McCree. Come with me and be a part of Blackwatch, or stay out here and rot like the ingrate I suspect you are.” He sets down the coffee spoon and leans back in his seat, a casual sprawl. He’s taller than me by a few inches; an’ even slouched he’s still long, lean an’ deadly. Despite his open hostility, I kinda like Gabriel Reyes. We work well with one another an’ I can learn a lot from him, pains me though it does to admit it.

There’s a set to his shoulders that dares me to be smart at him an’ for once, I decide to play by someone else’s rules.

I glance up at the clock over the counter. It’s comin’ up ten to midday. I grin at Reyes who doesn’t return the expression. With studied precision, I take the cigar out from between my teeth.

“Gimme ten minutes,” I reply. “An’ I’ll tell you then.” He rolls his eyes in exasperation.

“Fine.”

Start as I mean to go on.

Right

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