The hug itself wasn’t as bad the second time around.
A drink would help, though.
“Okay Paul, enough of the mushy crap, I’m buying.”
He grinned as he pulled away, patting me on the shoulder with one of his massive hands.
“There’s a pub nearby that hasn’t got bodies in it.”
“Just the way I like it.”
The both of us started walking, chatting away like the old friends we were.
Most 'regular' people I met thought that moments like that couldn't possibly exist for me. That because I was a fugitive and criminal I didn't have friends or anyone that remotely gave a damn about me.
But I did. I had times of happiness and sadness, jubilation and anger just like everyone else because of those I cared for. I valued them and did my best to help them when things got bad.
Only difference was, if someone double-crossed me they ended up with a bullet through their spine and a good amount of infamy for their family name.
I called things like I saw them, and I dealt with them like I saw them too.
"Blake, you paying or what?"
I was pulled out of my thoughts and lethargically fished a crumpled bill out of my pocket, tossing it onto the counter of the bar we'd just entered.
The bartender straightened it and put it into a cash register hidden behind him somewhere, likely to keep out of sight of certain kleptomaniacs.
Paul and I grabbed stools by the wall, our drinks coming a second later.
"You ordered a Dog's Nose for me? Really, Paul?"
He shrugged, holding up his Shandy.
"Blake, the one thing I learned from you is to never forget how much you love gin. Besides, it's your money. Cheers."
I raised my glass too and chugged the liquid gold down, wiping the froth off my face.
That felt good.
"Slow down, Blakes, not the end of the world or something."
"Easy for you to say Paul, you're not the one with a killer headache."
Pounding headaches were pleasant in comparison. I was more or less experiencing a smashing headache.
"Okay then," he replied, "But I'm not paying for anything."
I hunted around in my jacket for money, coming up with...nothing. The sack of cash taken from Marla's corpse was hidden in Sally's secret compartment secured with five different combination locks, much too far (a few blocks) for me to want to go.
But then my fortunes seemed to turn around.
Another frosted mug suddenly appeared before me, the bartender gesturing to the other side of the bar uninterestedly.
“The lady in the red sent it. Enjoy.”
I swiveled in my seat to see who my generous sponsor was, being very pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
She was a blonde, hair curling around her shoulders and over the pale skin of her generous bust. The crimson of her lips matched the colour of her tight corset top, contrasting with the piercing blue eyes directly meeting mine. Her posture was relaxed, smile amused, and presence totally oozing sex appeal.
Paul whistled quietly beside me, neck craned to look back.
“Shove off,” I muttered, picking up my glass, “She bought me a drink, not you.”
“Already getting possessive are we? I’m soon to be a married man, remember?”
Paul chuckled and turned back to chat with the bartender, whereas I maintained my position, taking a swig from the Graveyard in my hands.
It had plenty of gin. As if I needed another reason to be drooling over this stranger.
And then she stood up, with this sort of forbidden grace, and strolled towards my seat.
I put on the most suave look I could manage, though it was bound to be mixed with a tipsy edge.
Sure I drank all the time but at other times I was a total lightweight.
Like right then, unfortunately.
The woman neared, her intoxicating perfume wreathing about me, and bent to whisper something in my ear.
I almost shivered.
"The back of your head is bleeding."
And then she stood, winking at Paul, and walked her alluring walk straight out the door.
My hand went cautiously to where my neck and skull met, coming back wet with blood.
Oh. I must've been grazed by one of Marla's bullets. That was why my head was hurting.
I finished the drink in one motion and, grabbing a napkin and holding it to the wound, ran out after her.
Wasn't so often you found a lady like that. There was no point in letting her slip out through my fingers.
I emerged into the cold night air with my breath billowing around me like that of a dragon, no pretty woman in sight.
Well that was just fine and dandy.
But then I heard her voice again, from somewhere above me.
"I've heard about you, Blake. Contract killer, addict, activist."
My world span as I stared up, trying to see where exactly she was talking from.
"Activist?" In what world?
"It doesn't take much to find out that you're utterly devoted to the cause of equality. I find it admirable, but somewhat misplaced."
"The world is never going to change what it believes people should and shouldn't do, at least not in our lifetimes. It would be easier to simply accept that and live the role set out for you since birth."
"The only way the world will change is if people fight it. People like me."
My eyes caught the matte sheen of leather and a second later the woman dropped down from the roof of the pub, agile as a cat.
"I like that fire. Perhaps if it was to be combined with a bit of strategy it could achieve greatness."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Your vagueness is totally attractive, don't get me wrong, but what the hell is this about?"
She smiled, looking at her shiny black nails, and stepped into the moonlight.
"I have an offer for you."