"Evan, have you forgotten how to count again?" Chance leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled, leveling an impenetrable gaze at the young man standing in front of him. Evan's posture shifted to something more feline, flirtatious, and as he opened his mouth to respond, Chance cut him off.
"Don't. Even. Try. You're a smart boy. You should know by now that look doesn't work on me. Just hand over the money and go be pretty at someone who gives a shit."
Evan sighed and with an almost imperceptible roll of his eyes, reached into his back pocket and pulled out the notes he'd been hoping to keep in his possession. He leaned across the desk, skirting around the edges of Chance's personal space, and set the cash down.
"This look works on everyone, Chance. Everyone."
"Well, I'm not everyone, am I, Mr Myers?" Chance's voice was quiet, as always, and accompanied by a look sharp enough to kill someone and firm enough to drag them back to life.
"You are most certainly not, Mr Freeman." With a wink and a smile, Evan turned and sauntered across the office and out the door, probably on his way to seduce some naïve soul who would soon learn a valuable lesson about recognising a triumph of packaging over content.
If Chance had been capable of having a soft spot for anyone, he would have had one for Evan. Not because of the boy's expertly cultivated seductive manner, but because of his apparent lack of conscience. Chance appreciated that in a person. It was useful, or at least it could be when it was on his side.
After locking Evan's takings in the safe, Chance scanned the CCTV monitors. He took his job seriously in as much as he refused to have his work complicated by arrogant, careless dealers. He wasn't particularly interested in what they were selling or who they were selling to, but when they were selling in his club, they better not cause any trouble. The ones who did were only stupid enough to try it once.
Nothing encouraged good behaviour like a private encounter with Chance's special brand of percussive retribution. His hands were surprisingly strong and quick to find their way around the throat of anyone who didn't conduct themselves appropriately.
In the early hours of the morning, he slid the third bolt across the door, locked the last heavy padlock and headed out into the damp air under the ethereal haze of streetlights shrouded in mist.
According to people whose life experience hadn't frequently reassured them of their own invincibility, this wasn't a good part of town to walk through alone. There were dangerous people here, doing dangerous things, and Chance was usually one of them.
He wasn't a particularly large man, although what there was of him was sinewy and solid. He walked with a slight limp from one of the many times his father had exploded in an uncontrollable, drunken rage and Chance had been unfortunate enough to be within kicking distance.
It would be easy to mistake his gait for a sign of weakness, but that was another lapse in judgment people didn't have twice.
The shattered kneecap was far from the only, or worst, injury his father had dealt him. His chest, back and arms were littered with scars from cigarette burns, although to be fair his mother was responsible for at least half of those. She would cry while she burned him, telling him it was his fault for ruining her life, for making her do it.
His father, on the other hand, showed no emotion whatsoever. Not even when he aimed a claw hammer at the face of his ten-year-old son who, despite his size, had the slight advantage of sobriety and moved swiftly enough that he managed to live through the impact.
It took three surgeries to repair the damage and he was left with a scar that ran through his top lip to balance the one that split his left eyebrow, another gift from his father.
Chance's face was a map of a hard-travelled road and his pale eyes had stared down death enough times that physical pain was at worst an inconvenience, and at best, evidence of survival. He neither rejected it nor craved it and he had learned too early in life that to fear it brought only vulnerability.
He took no pleasure from inflicting pain on others but he didn't exactly avoid it either. Guided by neither a desire to harm nor a desire to help, his primary motivation was simply to get to where he was going with a minimum of obstruction. Any obstruction that found itself in his path was dispatched efficiently as he continued on his way.
When he reached the shadows under the bridge where something like karma had intervened in his life at the age of eleven, he stopped to offer his usual prayer to a god he didn't believe in. Keep them in hell, where they belong.
In keeping with a ritual that had grown into a tradition, he allowed himself a quiet pause to remember the night when everything had taken a turn for the better, when a man with a gun had stepped out of the entrance of a narrow close and demanded his parents hand over anything of value.
His mother was too drunk to argue and his father was too drunk not to, so it hadn't ended well for them. The man had sneered, "Who do I shoot first?"
Taking a coin from his pocket, the unnervingly calm young boy had flipped it in the air, caught it, then pointed to his father and answered, "Him."
A matter of seconds later, two bodies lay at the side of the road, blood tinged with alcohol seeping from holes in their skulls with a quiet gentleness neither had known in life, merging warmly in the cracks between the cobblestones.
The man hurriedly went through the pockets of the corpses with a level of expertise that suggested this was not his first mugging. In the spirit of the event, the boy offered him the coin. He shook his head, almost smiling at the gesture, and said, "No, kid. Keep it. And go. I'm giving you a chance here."
In that moment, as his parents' blood crept closer to his feet but wasn't quite quick enough to touch him, a name was given and a life began.
YOU ARE READING
Car ThievesScience Fiction
The year 2027. Edinburgh, Scotland. Disease has swept a deadly path through society. A nightlife mogul with a violent past, a sadistic drug dealer, an artist craving companionship, a privileged playboy and a fiercely independent motor mechanic strug...