31 Hornton Street was in a row of similar looking houses, all connected. A short set of stairs led to the front door and a skinny black fence surrounded the garden level. Red and white bricks curved around the windows and the third story had flower boxes covered in snow, ice dripping down like daggers. No cameras or surveillance equipment that Dylan could see.
He rang the doorbell.
He stepped down a few stairs, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and tried to look as innocent and harmless as possible
When no one came to the door he rang again, knocked a few times as well.
“Whatever you’re selling I’m not--.” The posh-looking blond cut himself off when he caught sight of Dylan.
The man’s eyes flicked from Dylan’s face to his holster and the stolen knife he’d strapped to his belt. Dylan made no move to reach for any of them, despite the warning bells going off in his head. The man was clearly in-shape but nothing Dylan couldn’t handle, even in his current state.
The man, who, at this point, Dylan assumed was Thorne, reached for something behind his door and Dylan wasn’t keen to give him the chance. He rushed the door, knocking it back and hitting Thorne in the chest.
The entryway was narrow and Dylan got Thorne up against the wall, forearm over his chest and hips holding him still. His hand reached for the side table where a very shiny Walther handgun sat. Dylan slapped at it.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he said.
“Forgive me if our positions don’t give me a different idea,” Thorne replied in a sharp English accent.
Dylan collected his free hand and pressed it into the wall. “I need to talk to you about Angus Mette.”
Thorne’s eyes widened, flicked over to where his gun still sat.
“I’d prefer not to do it at gunpoint but if that would make you more comfortable…” He released him but kept his body close, bare inches between them.
“You’re the assassin,” he said. “The one I hired to kill him.”
“Are we doing this here? In the entryway?”
Thorne huffed but relented, straightening the cuffs of his shirt that were rolled up to the elbow. “Follow me.”
Alec poured them both a glass of brandy before sitting in one of the modern leather chairs near the fireplace, crackling with real wood. “I have a lot of questions,” he said, crossing his legs in one elegant motion. He wore slippers with his suit pants and button-down, only half-relaxed in his own home.
“And I would love to sit here and answer them, but Angus Mette is alive and he’s hiring people to hunt me down. I don’t have a lot of free time.”
Alec did a very good job of not reacting to the news. “You shot Mette in the head.”
“I did.” He sipped his brandy, appreciated the way it warmed his throat.
“Then forgive my confusion but how is he alive?”
“I’ve replayed the job over and over, countless different ways. I don’t know.”
“Did you miss the shot?”
Dylan’s hand clenched around his glass. “I don’t miss.”
“Yes, I know. Your reputation precedes you, it’s why I hired you. But you were shooting from a rooftop at quite a distance. It is possible that you missed.”
“It’s not.” Dylan watched the man fall, the blood pool in the carpet.
“Did you shoot the wrong man?”
“I know how to follow instructions. I’m not an idiot.”
Alec finished his drink, stood to pour himself another. “So, Angus Mette has risen from the dead. And you have a target on your back.”
Dylan didn’t say anything.
“Why come to me?”
“You hired me. I assumed that it was only a matter of time before Mette figured out who paid for the shot that killed him.”
“So you came all the way to London to, what? Warn me?”
Dylan gritted his teeth. “One of the men he sent to kill me told me he was planning something. That he was tying up the loose ends first. It could have just been a dying man trying to leave a little chaos behind but if he was telling the truth, if Mette is planning another attack…someone needs to do something about it.”
“Why not call the police?”
“Why didn’t you?” Dylan spit.
Alec leaned back in his chair, swirled the amber liquor in his glass. The perfect picture of calm. All an act. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you think I can do in this situation.”
“Why did you want him dead back then?” Dylan asked. “Besides the obvious.”
“Is the obvious not enough? I’m a very patriotic man, Mr. Rivers, and Angus Mette killed one hundred and twenty-one British citizens in the blink of an eye. I wanted his head on a platter. Immediately.”
There was something Alec wasn’t telling him, secrets and motives buried deep below the pompous, performative surface. Dylan drank the last of his brandy and set the glass on the side table with a heavy hand. “Thank you for the drink. I’ll see myself out.”
Alec stayed in his chair but Dylan felt his eyes follow him out of the room and down the hall. He hesitated at the front door, hand on the knob. The Walther still sat on the entry table, loaded. It looked customized, now that Dylan took a real look. Not a layman’s gun.
“I’ll hire you.”
Dylan turned. Alec was on his feet now, the fire casting flickering shadows along his left side. “Excuse me?”
“I’ll pay you to kill him. Again.”
He stepped back toward the sitting room. “My fee isn’t cheap.”
“I’m sure you can tell I don’t want for money.” Alec’s smile was sharp. “And my MI6 severance package should be more than enough to supplement.”
“MI6?” Dylan’s stomach churned. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Medically discharged for nerve damage. I have a tremor in my trigger hand. Bit hard to take aim now.”
“How long ago?” Dylan asked, close enough to feel the warmth of the fire. He kept the chair and table between them, somewhere to duck if Alec turned violent. “Were you still MI6 when you hired me?”
Alec licked at his lips. “Yes, I was. But sometimes it’s more efficient to outsource.”
Dylan couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “I’m not interested in working for the government.”
“Neither am I.”
He turned and headed for the door. Fuck this, he’ll find a way to survive. He could disappear, pay Luther everything he had to wipe him off the face of the fucking earth.
“Dylan, wait.” Alec had followed him, both of them standing in the narrow hall now. “You’re right, you know. If Mette has found you, it’s only a matter of time before he finds me as well.”
“Yeah, well. I think you can take care of yourself.”
“Maybe so. But I studied Angus Mette for months before the bombing. I know more about him than you ever could. There were lists upon lists of people loyal to him, people we tried to get to turn. We wouldn’t have to just take out Mette, this time. We could dismantle his whole network. One by one.”
“I work alone.”
“I’ll double the fee.”
Dylan wasn’t in the business for the money. Well, he was, but it wasn’t the driving force of it. It was just how he was able to eat and keep a roof over his head. The driving force was taking assholes, the scum of the earth, off the streets. And Alec was offering him a whole asshole bouquet. “Why should I trust you?”
Dylan scoffed. “Not really a salesman, are you?”
“No,” he said, stepping fully into Dylan’s space. “But I don’t need to put on a show to hook you in. This isn’t just a job, this is your reputation. This is you needing to clean up your mess in order to survive.” Alec wasn’t that much shorter than Dylan, but he did have to look up to make eye contact this close. “I have the money and connections to help. And I’ve got nothing better to do now that I’m retired. I think you’ll find my skills with a gun may rival yours.”
“I sincerely doubt that.”
Alec smiled. “What do you say, Mr. Rivers?”
Dylan leaned down to speak directly into Alec’s ear. “If you fuck me over,” he said. “I’ll put your name at the very top of the list. Understood?”
“You have yourself a deal.”