Sixteen dollars a drink was murder.
Dylan made a space for himself at the bar and ordered a club soda and a bunch of limes. He squeezed them all into his glass and left the little pile of rinds on a cocktail napkin in front of him. A perfect spot to watch the sea of humanity bump and rock together to the music. The place was dark save for the flashing lights and lasers beaming off the DJ booth and speakers, blurry faces on the dancefloor illuminated every so often. It was a good crowd tonight, most of the tables and VIP booths already filled.
He sipped his soda as his eyes adjusted. Chiseled jaws, heavily lined eyes, red lips that spread for sharp white teeth all came into clear view.
No one he recognized.
No one he was looking for.
The beat of the music sat heavy in his chest, rolled around behind his ribs and made him sway to the rhythm as he descended deeper into the crowd, leaving his sanctuary at the bar behind. The tequila shots he’d taken before braving the walk to the club spread through his skin, warming his face, making his fingers tingle. It was so fucking cold outside he almost couldn’t stand it. But here, amongst the living, breathing bodies, he felt warm again. A little bit alive.
He scanned the shadows holding up the wall on the far side of the dancefloor. They were mostly men dressed all in black, lingering. Watching. There were a lot of similarities between those men and Dylan. He purposefully settled in the view of one, hair falling in his face, jaw just barely covered in stubble. In the right flash of light, Dylan caught sight of the anchor tattoo behind his ear.
Dylan smiled, rocked his body to the upbeat house music. The man came to him easily.
He wasn’t shy about taking Dylan’s hand, fitting his fingers around his wrist and squeezing. It was too loud to have any kind of conversation here on the edge of humanity, but Dylan knew what he’s asking, and he let himself be pulled deeper into the crowd. Let himself be jostled and shoved and knocked into until the man found a place to stop and pull him close.
Their hips found the beat, a seductive sway and roll. Dylan was taller, a little broader, and he used his height to his advantage, looming. The man seemed to like it, baring his neck for Dylan’s lips to trace. He fit his teeth to the jugular, imagined how easy it might be to bite and break skin.
The man grabbed at the front of Dylan’s leather jacket, pulled him down into a kiss. He tasted like stale beer and cigarettes but Dylan played along, riled him up. He was good at many things but great at just a few. The man groaned, Dylan could feel it against the palm he had on his chest, fingers reaching for his neck, the carotid artery he’d need to press to cut off the man’s air supply.
Kissing he was great at.
“C’mon,” he said, dipping down to say it right in the man’s ear, to make sure he heard.
He took his hand and walked, dodging and slipping past people with ease. The man was pliant behind him, following without question. That always got people in trouble.
Dylan had been to this club enough times to know where the exit into the side alley sat along the far wall. He got the man shoved up against the brick wall out in the freezing cold Prague night. There was a light over the dumpsters down the way but the rest of the alley was dark. Perfect.
The man’s hands wandered over Dylan’s shoulders, down his sides. They slipped inside his jacket while he bit at the man’s ear, kissed over the anchor tattoo behind it. He kept his hands on the brick wall, boxing the man in. Captured. Dylan felt him startle when his fingers brushed over the holster he was wearing, the gun secure in it.
“You like that?” Dylan asked.
He made an attempt to escape, lunging toward the busy street to his left. Dylan held him firmly in place, pressed his full weight against him so his head snapped back against the brick.
“None of that,” he said. “Don’t make this difficult. We were having such a good time.”
“Who sent you?”
“Does it matter?”
The man’s eyes filled with fear. “What did they pay you? I have money. I can pay you more.”
Dylan tutted, disappointed. They always try to bargain. “It’s not about the money, babe.”
“I’ll give you anythi--.”
He punched him right across the jaw, effectively shutting him up. The man slumped to the ground, holding his mouth, his hair falling artfully over his eyes. Dylan kicked him in the ribs and pulled his gun free, slipped a silencer out as well and twisted it into place. “Would you rather me leave your body here or toss you in the dumpster after.”
“Please, god,” he whined, his breath ragged and sharp. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Unfortunately, you can’t bring back the innocent people you killed for sport a few months ago so, you don’t have anything I want.” He cocked his gun. “Sorry.”
It was barely more than a small pop as the bullet sliced through the man’s head, right between his open eyes. He bled, like they all do, dark red dripping down his nose and over his cheek. Dylan took the silencer off and holstered his gun. He pulled his phone out and took a picture. Straightened his jacket and flattened the collar.
He looked toward the busy street gently illuminated by the warm streetlamps. No one that passed turned their head, no one looked. He was invisible in the shadows like this. He considered joining them, slipping into the flow of people and leaving the club behind.
Instead, he crouched down over his kill and closed the man’s eyes, checked his pockets for his cell and wallet. He took the cash and crushed the phone under his boot, leaving it shattered by the body.
And then he went back into the club and bought himself a drink.
The sun just started to turn the sky a pale navy when Dylan finally left the club. The air smelled like it always did this early in the morning before the birds woke up and started chirping. He knew this time of day well, felt at home here when most people were still asleep, alarm clocks ticking down the minutes until they’d wake.
The city sounded quieter than usual. His ears were muffled, the loud music of the club dumbing down his eardrums. The phantom rumble of the bass still beat in his chest, he still felt the snap of the trigger against his index finger.
It would be stupid to walk all the way back to his apartment but the thought of sitting in the back of a cab, closed in and trapped, was as unappealing as ever. The wind whipped down the street, slicing at his face and hands, any skin that was exposed. His phone vibrated in the back pocket of his jeans.
Dylan dipped into an alcove to type out a reply. It’s done. Just as you asked. He attached the photo he’d taken earlier and hit send.
The response was quick. Two anonymous deposits of $700 into his account.
You’re $100 short. He’s drunk but he’s not that drunk.
The third deposit came with an apology.
“Yeah, fuck you,” he mumbled, shoving his phone back into his pocket.
Stepping out of the alcove was miserable, the wind still ripping through his jacket and jeans. The sidewalks were wet from the rain earlier, everything was. It seeped all the way to his core. And it seeped into his sock when he stumbled into a puddle. Lovely.
He’s only about eight blocks from home.
He’d been through worse.
Dylan fumbled his keys, just managing to get the right one in the lock to let him inside. It was marginally warmer once he closed the door, his pathetic furnace doing the bare minimum for what he pays for it. He reached out to hang his keys on the hook by the door and missed, watching them fall to the floor and clatter.
Not bothering to pick them up, he swung by the fridge to grab a beer and twisted off the cap easily. He threw that too, bouncing it off the wall and into the trash can with ease. He should sleep or at least lay in bed and act like it. Instead, he sat on the couch to remove his wet shoes and socks, his toes nothing more than icicles at this point, and turned on the TV.
A suburban housewife in a pearl necklace was trying to sell him a gold watch and matching earrings. The watch was too delicate, wouldn’t look good on him. His wrists were too big. He considered buying it anyway to keep as a gift for someone who did have the wrists for it.
He drank his beer instead.
The watch was taken away and replaced by a pendant necklace with an ugly green gem in the middle. He was still cold and he needed sleep, exhaustion starting to creep up on him. He hung his jacket by the door and set his gun on the table next to it, still in the holster. He had another he kept by his bed and a few more shut away in his closet. This one was always here when he wasn’t wearing it. It was important to know where things were, to be able to run on instinct.
He lifted his t-shirt over his head and tossed it in the direction of the rest of his dirty clothes, his jeans not far behind. Goosebumps rippled along his skin as he waited for the water of the shower to warm up. He needed to get a space heater for the bathroom. The tile floor was always like ice.
The water was too hot but he let it beat down on his shoulders and back, let it claw at the coldness of his skin and bones. He washed his hair, hoping the scent of the nightclub wouldn’t linger in the strands. He didn’t have the energy for much else, turning the tap off before all the soap had made it down the drain.
Steam filled the bathroom now, a haze of warmth. Dylan wrapped a towel around his waist, leaned over the sink. He couldn’t see his reflection in the mirror, not with all the condensation, which was fine. He hated looking at himself.
He finished the beer he’d brought into the bathroom and dropped the bottle in the trash. It clattered against the few others already there. It was trash day tomorrow.
The sheets of his bed were cold but his skin was still flushed from the shower, held its warmth long enough for Dylan to put on fleece pants and a sweatshirt and slip under them into sleep, mind quiet with alcohol.