Beau, thirty-five, is a gangland enforcer who has gone into hiding rather than following the orders of his boss, Mercer, to harm a rival's kid. Now, all Beau wants to do is eliminate Mercer before getting out of town.
When Rick, an eighteen-year-old denizen of the streets, witnesses Beau killing one of Mercer's men who has found him, Beau takes Rick under his wing instead of killing him, as well. He offers Rick a place to stay while he figures out how to put his plan to take Mercer out into action -- without ending up dead himself.
Befriending Rick is an act Beau may come to regret. Rick convinces Beau to take him along when he leaves town -- thus working his way into Beau's dangerous life on the run -- and perhaps, into his heart, if Beau can come to grips with the fact that Rick is half his age.
Note: This story contains scenes of graphic violence.
Resting his elbows on the table, Rick stared at Beau, asking, "Why are you in hiding, and from who?"
"Whom," Beau replied with a trace of a smile, getting a raised finger from Rick in return.
"Well?" Rick said when Beau remained silent.
"I refused to do something my boss ordered me to. He took umbrage with that and decided I was a loose cannon who had to be eliminated."
Rick nodded slowly. "Who did he want you to kill?"
"Kid, you're too smart for your own good."
"But I'm right, aren't I?" Rick leaned back, looking hard at Beau. "That's what you do. You kill people."
"If I said yes, would you pack up and leave?"
"I saw you kill that guy last night, and I came home with you."
"That doesn't answer the question. As far as you were concerned, you put it down to self-defense, which, to a certain extent, it was. Him, or me, and I like living."
Rick got up to pace the living room. He stopped to peer out the window for a moment. Then he turned to ask, "Good guys, or bad guys?"
"Competitors, mostly. Sometimes our people," Beau responded, understanding what he meant.
"So people from another ... gang? The Mob? Whatever you want to call it?"
"And you're okay with that?"
Beau nodded. "It's a job. It pays well. And I'm protected, or I was. There's no way the cops could get to me, because I was always alibied."
"If they did, you'd sit in jail until your boss's high-powered lawyer got you out."
"It's been known to happen. Not to me, but to guys I work with."
"Doesn't it bother you, at least a little bit, that you're hurting or killing people?"
"They're our competition," Beau replied.
"You don't go after normal citizens, or cops?"
"First off, killing a cop would be stupid. They don't stop looking for the killer when that happens, which makes things harder for everyone, us and the other guys doing what we do."
"In my defense, for what it's worth, I haven't killed any, and I wouldn't."
"What if you were ordered to deal with, oh, I don't know, the wife or kid of one of your competitors, to teach the guy a lesson?"
Beau tapped his fingers together. "That's why I'm sitting in a rented, furnished apartment, instead of in the nice house I own halfway across the city."
Rick smiled. "So you do have some morals."
"Damned few." Beau smiled briefly. "One of them, maybe the only one, is that I won't kill a kid, or harm one, no matter what."
"Nice to know," Rick replied dryly, "since you seem to think I'm a kid."
Beau chuckled. "You're under twenty-one, so in my book, you qualify."
Rick came back to sit at the table. "Why are you here, instead of on the other side of the country?"
"I've got something I need to do, first. And no, I'm not telling you what."
"If this place is rented, can't they track you that way?"
Beau snorted. "How stupid do you think I am? It's not in my name, or any name I've ever used."
"That's good to know, I guess."
"You don't sound too sure."
"I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything," Rick replied. "I see a man killed, I end up hanging with his killer, then find out you're, I guess a mob enforcer?"
"That's what my boss calls me." Beau smiled sourly. "Among other things, now, I'm sure."
"I can think of several things to call him, if he wanted you to kill a kid," Rick said angrily. "Like a little kid?"
Beau shook his head. "Not kill. Beat up. And he was sixteen. His father wanted to go off on his own. My boss didn't like that."
"And you refused?"
"For what it's worth, yeah. And that's all I'm saying on the subject. The less you know, the better -- for both of us."
Rick frowned. "What if he sent someone else to do it, since you wouldn't?"
"The kid's safe, now. I dropped a hint that it might be a good idea if he vanished."
"That must have pissed your boss off."
"So, you vanished, too. But not so well, since that guy found you last night."