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Devil May Care

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Offline Nutter

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Zach had once thought himself to be noble. That he did a noble job, and that made him a noble person. He supposed that had been the start of the problem, though he could no longer put a finger on exactly when that had been. What he really knew was that 10 years ago he had been a straight-laced cop, and today … Well.

Scarred fingers slipped the small brick of powder underneath a plant pot, his brown eyes taking a quick scan of the area while he was doing so. He was fairly certain that no one was watching, but you never knew these days – there were eyes everywhere. It was as he was straightening up that he started to hear the creak and clank of one of the automated patrollers nearby, and he didn’t waste any time in making himself scarce.

It had all started innocently enough, he supposed. Skimping a little from the top of drug deals, stealing money from criminals, generally being a little underhand. As far as he was concerned it had all been victimless crimes, as it wasn’t like he had been selling any of the stash – at first it had simply been for his own enjoyment, but he had quickly learned that it was a terrible idea. Trying to chase after bad guys while feeling like you were running through water was most unpleasant, and the sensation had never really given him what he needed.

That was when things had escalated again, for another time and what he hoped was the last time. Becoming a distributor had never been on his list of things to do, but the salary of a cop wasn’t exactly great, certainly not helped by all the automation going on these days. So what if he needed to do a little extra to keep things going?

Of course, he never had enough hands – things kept growing, and he kept having to work a full time job on top of his own just to keep things running. Some extra hands would do him a great deal of good, and with the current economy he had a pretty good idea that he wouldn’t have too many issues getting a few extra hands.

Such was the case that he had put the word out around some contacts in the shadier circles, looking for some people who were okay with shifting product. The exact details were kept secret, especially about who exactly they would be working for, but the meeting point had been passed around. That was where Zach was waiting now, on a rainy day in a shitty part of London in one of the many long-abandoned factories that had lost their purpose in the rise of the automation technology.

Zach sat in a chair that was missing a leg, his fingers drumming a beat on his leg. There were some advantages to looking the way that he did – a set jaw, light stubble, dark hair and eyes – in that everyone who ever met him, in or out of uniform, said he looked like a cop. He just had that vibe, and it had certainly soured him when he had first discovered that was all anyone thought of when they looked at him. Of course, when you were working on the darker side of law enforcement, that definitely helped as well.

Fingers crossed it wouldn’t scare away any of his new recruits though.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Reginald Catherton grimaced as he walked, slightly hunched over against the driving rain. Maybe it wasn't quite to Indian monsoon levels, but it turned the thick layer of soot that perpetually coated everything into sludge. But London wouldn't be London if it wasn't damp and foggy and dirty as hell. After nearly twenty years away, when he returned, he found that bugger all had changed.

Reginald was a tall man, with broad, powerful shoulders. He wore a sturdy greatcoat, but the regiment insignia was missing from the shoulders. It had probably been stripped off a dead man along the way somewhere, but Reginald didn't care about that. It did a decent job of keeping the majority of the rain off him and it sort of fit.

He was thirty-five years old, the first signs of grey speckling through his dark brown hair. The wars had left their mark on him; a deep scar ran down the side of his face, snagging his lip and pulling it into a perpetual sneer. Other than that, he might have been quite good looking. Once.

At his belt hung a large, heavy sabre and he walked with the gait of a man used to using it. He frowned up at the looming warehouses, now deserted. When he was younger, he remembered them being busy, but that was just some of the things that had been sacrified for the war effort. He crossed over the road and approached the hulking doors, wary of what awaited him. The tip had given him bugger all information, just a place and a time and the promise of payment. Reginald hated to think what that could mean, but beggars could not afford to be choosers. Desperate times called for desperate men and right now, London was full of desperate men.

He went to the side door, seeing the remains of a rusted padlock lying smashed not far away. He reached out and slid open the door, wincing at the screech of protest from the rusted metal, announcing his presence.

"Hello?" Predictably, it was dark inside, with a little light coming in from a few smashed windows high up. He stood just by the door, looking around until he saw the figure sat on the chair.

"I heard you had some work going?" Reginald walked slowly towards him, stopping a few feet away. "Name's Catherton, sir."


Offline Nutter

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Zach looked up as he heard the creak of the doors on the warehouse, away from where he had been staring at the floor and thinking about his next venture. He gave a bit of a smile, attempting for disarming rather than skeeviness, and pushed himself up to his feet while walking forwards with his hand held out.

“Zachariah.” Law enforcement was a prime avenue for ex-military, and after having more than a few of them ending up joining the force in one way or another, he didn’t have much trouble picking out the type. The sword at his side certainly helped, and it was honestly a good sign that he would probably be good for muscle if required. Then again, it could also mean that this was definitely the wrong place for him to be.

“Zach will do. Take a seat – sorry about the location, but needs must.” He swung the chair he had been sat on around so he could perch on it backwards, resting his arms on the back and smiling at the new arrival. “Where did you serve, Catherton?”

Zach wasn’t really interested in the answer, but it was best they were both on level footing.

“Do you any idea what I’m looking for people for, Catherton?” It was best to make sure they both knew what they were getting into. Soldiers joined the army for many reasons, and they usually left jaded and desperate for work. It could definitely work in his favour.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Reginald nodded as Zachariah introduced himself, partially, but he did not return the smile. He paused at the outstretched hand, looking as if he were debating whether to ignore it. After a moment, he extended his right hand, with its close fitting black leather glove, an item that was noticeably missing from his left hand. His handshake was firm, strong.

He sat as directed, making a minor adjustment to his sword. The movement was practiced, natural, showing a man who was used to carrying it and having it at close reach at all times.

"India." He replied quietly. "King's Regiment, fourteenth."

It was a lie, but only a minor one, delivered without a pause. In truth, he had been a sergeant of the King's thirty-sixth regiment.

He shook his head.
"I was only given the place and time, no other details. I assure you, I am competent. I know how to keep my mouth shut."

He wasn't a fool; it was hardly going to be anything above board if they were having a job interview in a place like this. He was best to not ask any questions.


Offline Nutter

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“Wonderful.” All good things to hear – sure, this guy could be a plant or a spy or something else designed to weed him out, and Zach had steps in place to watch out for that kind of behaviour. After all, he had slowly managed to turn this into a very lucrative business, and he had no intention of losing out on this business now. “I need some deliveries completing.”

Zach had decided long ago that it was best not to get his own hands dirty after an especially close call, and ever since then he had always had others do the drops for him. There would always be an adjustment period while he was bringing new handlers in, but they often took to it well. Zach liked to think he was very fair with his pricing.

“I always like a military man for jobs like this. You’re good at doing what you’re told.” Licking at his lips in a nervous tick, Zach rested his chin in one hand. “If you’re willing to do as you’re told and not ask too many questions, I’ll pay five pounds a week for a handful of deliveries. I can’t guarantee your safety, and if a cop ends up at my door asking if I know you I’m going to deny having ever seen your face before.”

It was always best to be up front.

“Any questions?”


Offline Jabbathejack

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"Deliveries." Reginald nodded, his expression unchanging. "Am I allowed to know what I will be carrying? I don't have my own transport."

He paused, frowning lightly.
"How much resistance am I likely to encounter?"

By the tone of the conversation, he was expecting something, but Reginald liked to be prepared. Of course, Reginald knew that he asked far too many questions for a military man, but then again, he preferred to be better prepared than the military ever was.

The pay, however, was decent. A damn sight better than anything he'd managed to get recently.


Offline Nutter

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“No you can’t.” Zach smiled a little wider, tapping his fingers along his jawline. “However, transport can be arranged – I give those who work for me all the opportunity and resources they require.”

Rising from his chair, he reached underneath and pulled out a small parcel wrapped in brown packing paper. It was tied off with a piece of string, and looked rather unassuming. That was rather the point, after all.

“We expect no resistance – this is an exchange of goods. If everything goes to plan, you give the package to the contact and you both walk away unharmed. That’s not to say that it can’t go wrong, but there’s no reason it should. I trade responsibly.” Of course, the high pay rather gave away that it wasn’t like there was no risk – if there was no risk, then there would be no need for sage a high cheque. “We operate discreetly. Packages are dropped off at a secure location or your home, whichever your preference for pickup, and you take them to wherever you are directed and to whoever you are directed. A pay packet will be given to you every week for the work.”

Zach seemed to talk with his hands a lot, waving the package around and gesturing somewhat wildly.

“I understand the questions – a military man such as yourself may be reluctant to take up such transactions, but I assure you that I work to make sure there is no one getting hurt in my operations.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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An unknown package. Reginald's scarred lips twitched, but whether it was a facial tick because of his injuries or a betrayal of expression was impossible to say. He made no verbal complaint.

He frowned as the package in question was produced. From the looks, it could be anything, perhaps a purchase carefully wrapped up by the shopkeeper.

Reginald shook his head.
"My home isn't what I would call secure."

It was a Rookery. Whole families crammed into a tiny space together. One step up from the workhouse at best. Yet it was discreet; the people who lived there learned quickly when to look the other way and when to forget that you ever saw anything.

"I'll get it done." He nodded and stood up, waiting expectantly for the package and the details of its intended recipient.


Offline Nutter

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“Wonderful.” Zach gave what appeared to be a genuine smile, handing over the package before folding his arms across his chest. It was always good to get a willing worker in, even if they were the ones he ended up trusting the least in these times. Thankfully, he had measures in place to protect his own back.

“Corner of Parliament and Great Peter – you’re due in an hour. Guy you’ll be looking for is similar cut to yourself, ex-military. Hold onto his payment for me and I’ll have someone arrange a time to collect it from you.” That wasn’t the part he was worried about – this job was to a very reliable source, and he had no doubt that it would go smoothly so long as Catherton did his job. “You can take my ride over.”

Holding out his hand again for a shake, he seemed to have an open and trusting smile. He hadn’t been doing this for far too many years without being able to put on a face – after all, he couldn’t give away his big plans.

“Now on your way, soldier.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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Reginald nodded, giving the package a cursory glance as he assessed its size and weight. Fortunately, it was small enough to slide into the inner pocket of his greatcoat.

"Parliament and Great Peter."

He repeated with another nod. He knew the area, although it was not one that he frequented. He shook the offered hand once more, less self conscious this time about the response that his single gloved hand would produce.

"You can find me at St Giles. They know me there."

He named the Rookery, one of many in the city. It was a vague address, a warren where he shared a corner with a few other old out of work bastards like him.

He went out through a different door, indicated by his strange new employer, unsure of what sort of transport was waiting. To his surprise, he found a steam car waiting, the driver ready and waiting.

"Corner of Parliament and Great Peter, please."

"Get in." The man grunted his answer and soon, the small car was weaving its way through the busy streets, the driver slamming his horn and shouting expletives whenever a horse drawn wagon or another steam powered car dared to cut into his path.

They reached their destination with a little time to spare and as he turned back to thank the driver, the man pulled away from the curb and was gone, leaving him to make his own way back. Fair enough. Reginald turned back to survey the area, leaning against the wall to wait.

This was one of the richer parts of London, with imposing buildings reaching high up, ornate church spires, with gargoyles leering down at the common folk below. A few people walked back and forth, giving him looks of distaste and a wide berth, but Reginald did not care.

Precisely on time, a man approached, pausing by the post box to check his pocket watch. As Zach had said, the man was clearly military. An officer, Reginald guessed from his clothing and posture. Reginald coughed lightly and stepped out from his shelter.

"You're not the usual man." His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Who the devil are you?"
"Catherton." Reginald replied quietly. "Zach sent me."

The officer fixed him with his sharp eyes, assessing him for a moment before he replied.
"Do you have it?"

Wordlessly, Reginald reached into his coat pocket and retrieved the package, although he paused before he handed it over.
"Do you have the payment?"

The officer scowled, throwing a wary glance over his shoulder before he took a brown paper envelope from his own pocket. Each man wary, they made the exchange. Without looking in the envelope, Reginald slid it into his pocket and turned on his heel. Without knowing where to deliver the payment to, he just had to guard it before Zach sent for him.


Offline Nutter

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It would be a few days later before anyone reached out to Reginald again, and it contained a few things – a letter containing instructions for a pick up and drop off point and time, an envelope to post the first payment back in, and the promised wage. There was no identifying information, but it didn’t take a difficult leap of imagination to figure out who it was from.

In the meantime, Zach was making sure everything was set up just the way it needed to be. The military man Catherton had met the first time was laying on the floor, a slash across his throat and blood pooling around his body. Zach had made sure that the blade was consistent with a military sabre, and sworn statements had been easily bought putting Reginald in the area.

It was not means that Zach enjoyed implementing, but he was running for too delicate an operation to put anything to chance. It would be too easy for his new recruit to end up spilling his mouth, and in return Zach just needed to make sure that didn’t happen.

So there he sat in uniform, waiting in the abandoned shop front that had used to house a sweet little bakery. Zach was taking the opportunity to enjoy a sweet pastry, and trying not to think about his own guilt – he had always insisted he wasn’t a bad guy, and it soothed him to know that the dead man in front of him (Masters, if he was to be believed) was definitely no good guy. He had done the city a favour, really.

Sweat was dripping down the side of his face, even in the cool autumn night, despite this.


Offline Jabbathejack

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The package was brought to him by a boy insisting that it went to his hands only, otherwise he didn't get paid. The boy even checked to see that he had the scar before he handed it over. He followed the instructions carefully, first of all sealing the payment in the envelope provided, ensuring that the original seal remained unbroken.

Reginald found it strange that the payment was due to be sent away rather than brought to the drop point, but, he reasoned, it was probably someone else who would be waiting for him at the next drop. It was hardly his place to question his employer's dubious actions. Besides, his own payment had been delivered as promised, enough to ensure that he ate a decent meal before it was time to head out.

The drop off point was close by, an old bakery a few streets away. When the time came, Reginald headed out, pulling his coat around him to ward off the chilly air. The fog was thick, making it hard to see anything but shadows around him.

He stopped outside the disused bakery, noting that the instructions were correct; around the back of the building, some of the boards that blocked the door had been prised off, enabling entry.

Reginald stared, first of all at Zach, noting the uniform. A moment later, he saw the officer's body, lying at his feet in a pool of blood.

"What?" Instinctively, Reginald's hand dropped to the hilt of his sword. "What's happened?"

His eyes narrowed, watching his strange employer; he had a bad feeling settling in the pit of his stomach. The only people who trusted coppers in this city were the very rich and other cops. Unfortunately, he fit neither category.


Offline Nutter

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The smile that Zach gave Reginald as he came in was not the same relaxed one he had given him on first meeting, but instead was a little nervous and maybe even deranged. He stood up from his chair, pushing his jacket back from his waist and showing the saber at his belt.

“Oh don’t worry, it’s not you I want to hurt. This is just my insurance.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand, hoping that he didn’t look as dishevelled as he felt. “This guy had threatened to out me, so he needed to be taken care of anyway. I just wanted to get some extra benefits out of it as well.”

Letting out a slow breath, Zach looked down at the corpse as his feet. He had never actually killed anyone before …

“I am a cop – it’s a good cover for what I do. It’s also really important that I don’t get caught, and I can’t trust just anyone who comes in. This is just, you know, a backup. In case I need it.” Licking at his lips nervously, he took a few steps back. “I’ve got people who will swear they saw you meeting this guy a few days ago, and others who will swear they saw you here as well. I made sure he was killed with a blade like yours, just to be sure. If you betray me, I’ll bring you down with me. I’m just evening the playing field.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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Reginald's eyes narrowed as he saw the sword at the man's belt. Insurance? Extra benefits by having his life hanging at this man's whim? Reginald scowled.

"Bugger your insurance, you bastard."

In a single practiced movement, Reginald drew his sword and he advanced on Zach a few steps, stopping just short of the body between them. He could see the sweat shining on the man's face, his nervous acts.

By contrast, even though his eyes blazed, Reginald's blade was steady, his gloved hand showing no sign of injury. He was a man who had killed many times before and didn't seem to be all that worried about killing one more.

"You don't know much about me, mate, but I'm not the sort of man you should fuck with. Understand? I don't care if you're a cop. I don't care what dirt you think you have on me, that isn't going to stop me from killing you. I had enough of whiny arseholes like you ruling me when I was in the army."


Offline Nutter

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“Heyheyhey-“ Zach fumbled for his own sword, pulling it out and taking a few steps back while also trying to keep the body in between the both of them. He let out a breathy laugh at the explanation, trying to steady his grip on the sabre past his sweaty hand. “If you kill me here, you’re going to end up in prison for a real long time. A cop-killer? That’s not going to end well for you.”

Everyone knew the police looked out for themselves, crooked or not. Hell, half the police were doing something shady, and it was all just an elaborate game of trying not to get caught or stepping on anyone else’s toes.

“You don’t betray me and you have nothing to worry about. This never happened and you never need to worry about it again. You just keep getting paid – you do like getting paid, right?” Zach could feel his breath coming in a bit more heated than usual, and realised he was feeling a little something of fear. Why had he done this alone again? Oh right, because he was a fucking idiot.

“I’ve got to cover my back, just like you need to cover yours. A- And hey, this is a two way street – you know my dirty secret too.”