It was raining. Not in a heavy, slapping the pavement kind of way but the barely-noticeable drizzle I had gotten used to during my years in London.
Almost made me nostalgic. But then again I never really cared for the United Kingdom in the first place.
Just another ex-colonizing country with a couple of balloon-headed royals leeching on tax money as if their lives depended on it. I hated monarchs. Nothing but idiots who thought that they actually meant something because of their bloodline.
Nobody meant anything, let alone a bunch of laughably rich prats.
I turned towards the familiar voice, nearly getting bowled over as the arms linked to it crushed me in a bear hug.
“Jesus, Paul!” I yelled back, shoving him off with a grin, “Where the hell you been?”
He shrugged, as if the answer was already apparent.
“On the job, obviously. Had a massive gig down at that fancy-pants casino, made a whole load of dough.”
I scoffed, pulling a cigarette from my jacket’s pocket and holding it in my teeth as I lighted it.
“Shut up, you and your guys couldn’t have gotten past the security if you had a machine gun on you.”
Paul laughed suddenly, shaking his head in amusement.
“That’s the thing, Blakes! The guy I was telling you about, that has connections to every smuggler out there? He’d gotten us all M60’s!”
My eyes did nothing but stare until I’d gotten a long drag out of the smoke.
“You didn’t shoot anybody, did you?”
He looked confused at my apparent set of morals before realizing what I meant.
“We didn’t load any of them. Everyone there was terrified to the point that they just handed the money over. And, before you ask, I did get us all to wear gloves and masks.”
I didn't care if they'd killed any of the rich tycoons, that would have been wonderful actually, but what with the entire bullet tracking forensics shit it wasn’t the greatest idea to be leaving a trail.
Yes, I had just shot and ‘murdered’ Marla and her partner, but it was a bar brawl in the seedy part of town. The mayor wasn’t going to have anyone investigate the death of crime bosses, but rich socialites that put vital money into his city...now that was different. Kind of unfair, but that was what life was. So long as neither of us got caught, things were good.
Paul was a good friend of mine, had been for years since I first got into the trade. We looked out for each other. I kept him on his feet when it came to his heists, and he kept me on the up and up with who was looking for a bounty hunter.
“Good job then, my brother.” I drawled, clapping him on the back and offering him a cig.
He turned it down, a distant look coming into his eyes that I had learned to recognize. Great. Time for some sappy talk about his girlfriend.
“I had to tell you, man, Dinah and I...well, I decided that my next job would be the last, and she said that she’ll marry me afterwards.”
Paul looked at me expectantly for some kind of approval, to which I responded by giving him back the bone-breaking hug he’d given me moments earlier.
“Congrats! You two always did make a good couple!”
I gave him a broad smile, already imagining him balding and doubling in girth with Dinah, two kids and a dog. Paul would do well in that kind of life. He’d never really been meant for the criminal side of everything, but his deadbeat dad had thought differently and pushed him into the gang scene at a young age.
That was all I really knew about his past, but he knew even less about mine. Felons only lived for the present, of course.
“Only one thing I’m wondering,” I said with mock seriousness, taking another puff of tobacco, “And it’s really, really important. Life or death actually.”
Paul raised an eyebrow.
“What’s that?” he asked, waving the smoke away from his face.
“Now, don’t be alarmed, but...” I started, a mischievousness in my tone, “Who’s going to be helping me get the girls now?”
He rolled his eyes and punched my arm, even as I doubled over laughing.
“Both of us know you never needed any help, Blake. I almost forgot to ask you something, too.”
I waited for him to continue, still chuckling.
“I want you to be my best man!”
My jaw dropped.
“Y-you what? Me? A no-good, drinking, drug maniac who doesn’t even know the meaning of well dressed?”
It wasn't so much the idea of being stuck in a suit as it was the word 'man' weighing on my chest.
One look at Paul confirmed how much it meant to him.
Sighing and preparing myself for another painful hug, I nodded.