Hank slouched and lumbered as he walked and Freddy followed him down the hall. Each step he took seemed deliberate and he hunched and shrugged, as though shouldering a great weight, like some Roman God. Hank didn’t speak. His reptilian eyes, unblinking, had been fixed on Freddy from the moment he walked in the door until the moment he turned down the hall. When he arrived at the destination he turned the knob with his meaty hand and walked through the door. He held it open for Freddy and stared again with those dead eyes. The eyes of a killer.
The room was nothing special. Just a desk, a phone, a fan, a cabinet. on the cabinet a few bottles of booze and some glasses. Behind the desk sat a man with blonde hair, short back and sides. He wore a grey woolen three piece and a shirt and tie. His hat was on the desk. Freddy took off his hat when he entered the room.
‘Take a seat son.’ Said,short back and sides. Freddy shot a quick look at Hank and then back to short back and sides. ‘Nah, I’d rather stand if its all the same.’
‘Suit ya’self. Hank, bugger off for five minutes will ya? Give me an’ Freddy a bit of time to chat.’ Hank stared at the back of Freddy’s head, pursed his lips, looked at short back and sides. Back at Freddy. ‘Right-o.’ He closed the door behind him.
‘I’d tell ya not to worry about Hank but the truth is, he doesn’t like ya.’
‘He isn’t much of a people person.’ Short back and sides lit a cigarette.
‘Do ya?’ Short back and sides took a drag.
‘Think so.’ Short back an sides exhaled and then threw the packet across the desk.
‘Help ya’self.’ Freddy took a step and pulled out a cigarette and threw the packet back across the table. ‘So I hear you’re a war hero. That right?’
‘Nope.’ Freddy lit up.
‘Yeah well, I heard different.’
‘War doesn’t make heroes in my experience. Just empty shells.’
‘Empty shells. I like that.’
‘Dutch. Come on Freddy, we’re on first name basis now.’
‘Dutch, I finished that business for you.’ Dutch blew a smoke ring.
‘Yeah! I heard! one in the back of the fuckin’ skull.’ And Dutch opened his mouth and a laugh fell out and filled the room and for a moment there was nothing else but that laugh and the cavernous gape of his throat. ‘Was in the paper! You know that? The fuckin’ paper!’
‘Yeah I saw.’ Freddy frowned.
‘Don’t worry about it mate, nobody has a clue who the shooter is. Jimmy had a lot of fuckin’ enemies, don’t worry about that.’
‘One too many I guess.’
‘Too fuckin right.’ Dutch now serious, ‘Listen kid, I look after those that do the right thing by me and those that don’t, well, I look after them too, get me?’
‘Yeah I get ya.’
‘Speaking of which, I owe you some cash.’ Dutch opened a drawer in his desk and fished in and came up with a roll of notes. ‘We agreed on two hundred but I’m gonna give ya three.’
‘Thank you.’ He shifted his weight, ‘Why’s that?’
‘Because you did a fuckin’ good job, and I told ya, I look after those that do the right thing.’
‘I appreciate it.’ Freddy blew smoke from his nostrils and thought a moment. ‘Will there be any more work?’
‘I reckon there might be. We’ll keep in touch.’ Dutch laid back into his chair. ‘Most blokes aren’t that keen to shoot people. Don’t wanna get their hands dirty.’ Dutch squinted.
‘My hands are plenty dirty.’
‘Thought you’d be over it, after all the shit you would’ve done over there.’
‘For the past three years I’ve done lots of two things, diggin’ ditches and killin’ Germans.’
‘Well, diggin ditches is an honest livin’.’ Said Dutch. Freddy was silent. He looked at his hands. ‘Still, I bet nobody ever got blisters shootin’ people, ay?’ Said Dutch. Silence.
‘Anyway, honest or not, here’s ya dosh. Go get pissed and fuck some strange and I’ll catch ya later.’ Freddy took the money from the table and turned and then turned back. ‘Dutch, what’d he do?’
‘What’s that?’ Dutch looked up from his smoke.
‘Jimmy. To deserve to die?’
‘Well Freddy, that’s between him and me and the Devil makes three. Rest assured he was no stand up citizen.’
‘Not getting a conscience about it are ya?’
‘No.’ Freddy turned, ‘Just wondering.’
‘Ours is not to reason why Freddy. Ours is just to do and die. Ya know?’
‘Yeah. I know.’ Freddy left the room.
As the door closed he pocketed his pay and let his hand go briefly to the pistol in the back of his pants. Down the hall Hank sat on a bench and glared and rose and walked toward Freddy. They passed in the hall and their eyes locked and drew into each others, and they both, unblinking, made a secret, silent promise, those made between hard men, to one day murder each other. And finally passing and breaking gaze they each continued on toward opposite fates, the reptilian, Roman God and the Empty Shell.
Follows on from part 1 (obviously)