Dylan spent a few years in London back before he built his reputation and sparkling record. He didn’t ask for enough money back then, didn’t plan out the hits. He was still seeking the thrill of pulling a trigger and putting bad people in the ground.
Morgan changed that, took Dylan under his wing and showed him how to survive in the world he’d chosen for himself. He wasn’t sure Morgan still lived in the shitty flat over the One-Eyed Goose but it was a start. He needed help tracking down the guy who hired him to kill Mette and Morgan would point him in the right direction.
He knocked on apartment 7 and waited. Knocked again when no one came to the door. He pressed his ear to the tarnished wood but there was no indication someone was inside. He tried the doorknob even though he knew it was stupid. No one in their line of work would just leave the door unlocked. But it turned.
Dylan drew his gun as he entered the empty apartment. There was a mattress and some blankets, beer cans, and some plastic bottles of liquor. It smelled a little like piss. “Morgan?” he tried.
“You can’t just be in here.”
Dylan nearly shot the elderly man standing in the door. “I’m sorry, I was just looking fo--.”
“Morgan ain’t here no more. Hasn’t been around for a bit.”
“Does someone else live here now?”
The man took in the apartment, the dirty mattress and scattered cans. “Doesn’t look like it, no. George’s been trying to rent the place but hasn’t got any takers. Bit of a rough part of town.”
Dylan didn’t need to be told that. “Where can I talk to George?”
“Down in the pub, I’d reckon. He’ll be the bastard pouring drinks.” The man grumbled some other harsh words under his breath and teetered back to his own apartment. Dylan watched the door of number 4 across the hall click shut.
The pub looked exactly the same as it did five years ago. Dark walls and dark floors and dark tables and chairs, black pleather booths with rips and tears on the seats. The bar top was green and scuffed all to hell. Dylan took an open stool and waited for the bartender to toss a napkin in front of him.
“What’ll it be?” he asked without smiling. The wrinkles along his forehead and around his eyes told Dylan he’d been doing this a while.
“Shot of your finest tequila and a lime, please.” He’d been driving for three days and deserved something nice for his troubles.
The bartender grabbed a bottle of a brand Dylan didn’t know, poured a healthy amount into a shaker with some ice and strained it. The shot glass had a chip in it. “Going to keep a tab open?”
“No, but I did have a question for you, George.” He tossed twenty quid on the bar.
The bartender took it, didn’t offer to make change. “Might have an answer.”
“A man named Morgan used to live in one of the apartments above here, number seven. D’you know where he is now?”
His face fell just enough to notice, eyes turning down to the bar top. “He died a year back.”
“How?” Dylan would have bet another twenty pounds he knew exactly how, but he wanted to hear it.
“Nasty business. Bullet to the chest, bled out all over the floor.”
Dylan tipped his shot back, the liquor cold enough he didn’t reach for the lime wedge. “Did they catch who did it?”
“No,” he said, doing away with the empty glass. “No one much cares for any of us around these parts. He was mixed up in the wrong crowd. Some people said he got what was coming to him.”
They all did eventually. “I’ll take another round, please.”
“Were you a friend?” he asked, going through the motions of chilling the tequila again.
“Morgan didn’t have friends.”
George’s lips quirked up into a half-smile. “He said that, didn’t he? I’ve had a couple people come ’round here and ask about him. Men who looked haunted like you.”
Other hitmen, guns for hire. Morgan ran a little circle of them, became a point of contact for them to load up on ammunition or an untraceable weapon when they needed it. He wondered who took over for him. “Coworkers,” he said. “We were all in the same business.”
He set the liquor in front of Dylan with another lime. “Sorry for your loss.”
Dylan appreciated the sentiment. “I hear you’ve been trying to rent the place.”
George shrugged. “It’s a shit flat.”
“I think I know someone who’s in the market for a shit flat.”
Without Morgan, he would have to get creative. Contacts were fleeting in this job and Dylan’s were all years old. Standing in the middle of his newly rented apartment and warm from the tequila, he called a guy who’d helped him clean up after a hit once or twice. The line went to a general voicemail both times.
He tried the woman who ran a safehouse by the river he’d frequented and got the number for Ricky, who might be able to help.
Ricky was absolutely no help.
He pulled the business card that lead him here out of his pocket and dialed the number again. Disconnected. He tried another quick search of the number and the initials A.T. but came up with nothing. The number was unlisted, not in use.
But perhaps someone with a little more skill could extract the information he needed.
Luther lived in a boujie high-rise in the heart of the financial district. His building had a doorman and security artfully placed around the lobby attempting to be discrete. Dylan left his name with a man at the front desk and waited for him to call up.
He was sure many respectable people lived in this place but Luther was not one of them. He’d made Dylan his first forged passport, the British one he looked so young in, and could disable a CCTV system anywhere in the city before his first cup of coffee.
“Mr. Cartwright isn’t expecting any guests.”
And he was an asshole. “Could you let him know I have the bushel of apples he asked for.”
The desk clerk looked at him with confusion but did as he was asked. “Someone will escort you up, sir.”
“Thank you ever so much.” He put his cockiest smile on and followed the bodyguard to the elevator. He had a holster much like Dylan’s and another gun strapped to his ankle. His buzzcut screamed ex-military.
The first thing Dylan had done when he left that shithole was grow his hair out.
The guard pressed a series of buttons once they got on the lift and didn’t say a word as they climbed to the 22nd floor. The doors opened into a pristine white entry room, marble floors reflecting the bright overhead lights. Dylan’s footsteps didn’t echo so much as thud in the quiet. His boots would definitely be leaving dirt on the floor.
“Luther?” he called.
The man stepped into view looking as squirrely and slippery as ever. He was in a fluffy white bathrobe and slippers. “Dylan, you dog. Showing up here without warning. I hardly had time to do my hair!”
“This isn’t a social call.”
“It never was with you,” he said, a glint in his eye. “Come in, let me get you a glass of champagne.”
Dylan considered a token protest, but Luther already popped the bottle. It was surely an expensive brand and vintage but Dylan never had the palate for drinks like this. Luther clanked their glasses together before gesturing for Dylan to sit.
The couch was like a cloud.
“So tell me all about your problem.”
“I need to find someone but all I have is their initials and a phone number that’s disconnected.”
Luther rolled his eyes. “And here I thought you were going to bring me something difficult. Burner phones are a bit tricky but nothing I can’t find. I can have a name in a couple of hours.”
“And an address.” He sipped his champagne and hated it.
“Demanding. Show me those apples you brought me.”
Dylan tossed the envelope full of money on the coffee table between them, the business card with the old phone number sticking out of the flap.
“Look at you, remembering just what I like. Please, make yourself at home,” he said, standing. “You look like you could use a hot shower and a shave. The bathroom down the hall is stocked with anything you’d need.” He took the bottle of champagne with him, sauntering in the opposite direction and eventually disappearing into a room on the left.
Dylan waited and tried the champagne again, closed his eyes for just a moment and caught himself before he slipped into sleep. Luther was right, he did need a shower.
The bathroom was as white and pristine as the marble entryway. Dylan turned on the shower and let the water heat up. Stripping out of his clothes, he took the time to look at his three-day old injuries. The bruises were a rainbow of colors, a dark ugly purple all the way to sickly green. His ribs were still tender if he breathed too deeply or pressed his fingers into the spots. His jaw wasn’t too bad, the bruising mostly camouflaged by the growth of his stubble. The swelling in his hands and knuckles was gone, the stiffness of the joints the only indication they were hurt recently. Not bad for avoiding two assassination attempts.
The mirror started to fog over, so Dylan stepped into the shower and let the staleness of the car trip slip down the drain. The showerhead had about ten different settings and Dylan found the most aggressive one and let it beat down on his neck and between his shoulders.
He had no idea who Luther was going to find. Had no idea what type of man would hire a hitman to kill Angus Mette two weeks after he orchestrated the biggest terrorist attack England had seen in a decade.
Dylan didn’t know what that made him, the man who took the job.
Maybe Luther wouldn’t find anyone. A dead end, literally or figuratively. If Mette figured out who had taken the shot, he sure as hell knew who paid for it.
He switched the showerhead to something gentler, more like rain, and tipped his head back so it combed through his hair and dripped down his face. The memory of the hit slipped to the front of his mind, a clear image of the snow-covered rooftop where he waited. The window he watched. He’d been seeing it in his dreams, any time his mind wandered. He’d replayed it at least a dozen times on his drive. Picking apart the scene, trying to see what didn’t make sense.
He’d had a photo of the man he was paid to kill, an official-looking mugshot from a foreign prison, but he knew what he looked like. Would recognize Mette anywhere from the amount the news had flashed his face around in the aftermath of the bombing.
He was having a meeting with his inner circle that afternoon and Dylan had roughed up a low-ranking member of his operation just enough to get an address.
It was a clean shot through the glass but Mette had kept his distance. Criminals like that knew to be wary of windows. Dylan remembered being surprised the place had such big ones, curtains wide open to let the whole world see inside. Not surprised enough to question it, at the time.
It was wrong though, something was wrong. He didn’t know how but Mette had known Dylan was there. He had expected him and made plans for it. Someone slipped him the intel, tipped him off, prepared him for the kill shot. It had to have been fake blood that dripped into the carpeting. All of it for show.
And Dylan didn’t even notice.
He turned the shower off and grabbed for a towel to dry his face, rub it through his hair. His glass of champagne still bubbled on the counter and he chugged it.
Luther emerged from his room exactly two hours later with a single piece of paper in his hand. “I had to slip into some very naughty places for this,” he said with a smile. “Very fun.”
“But you found him?”
“Alec Thorne. 31 Hornton St. in Kensington.”
Dylan took the paper which included a list of phone numbers and the address. Most of the additional information was redacted. “Why’s all this…”
“If I wanted to spend all day hacking through government firewalls I’d work for MI6,” he said. “You asked for contact information not a life history.”
Dylan couldn’t argue with that. “Thank you.”
Luther flopped onto the couch and took a long swig from the champagne bottle he was still nursing. “Always a pleasure doing business with you, Dylan.”
“Likewise.” He gathered his jacket and folded the paper into the inside front pocket of it.
“Don’t be a stranger.”
Dylan headed back through the entry room and pressed the call button for the elevator.
Back in the car, he cranked the heat and programmed the address into his phone’s GPS. He needed to invest in some gloves, his fingers were icicles. The route took him through the city, a bunch of cramped streets and busy intersections. Pedestrians fucking everywhere. All of it on the wrong side of the road.
The desire to just pull up on the curb and leave the car behind was tempting, he considered it more than once, but he made it to Hornton Street without killing anyone or himself. He turned down a side street and found a spot to park that wasn’t incredibly illegal but still might get him a ticket.
He didn’t plan to be staying long.