A/N: Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it! :) *gobbles like a turkey and trots off into the sunset*
"He said he wants the tire changed and that the breaks are making squeaky sounds."
The woman said, tossing her impossibly red braid over her shoulder with one hand and gestured to the flat tire of the black Mustang with the other, her various rings shimmering under the naked bulbs. She glanced at the man beside her as she itched the shaved sides of her head.
His huge dark arms were crossed as he glared at first the car and then the woman. Shuffling over to the car, combat boots digging small trenches in the mud, he opened the hood and peered inside.
"Were you going to mention the fact that the engine's air filter is shot, or did he tell you to save that information so that I'd have to come back tomorrow?" His dark brown eyes scanned the inner workings of the vehicle and he groaned, "It's a crime what he does to this car. Look at this mess!"
"So you can't fix it?" She grabbed a pack of cigarettes out of the back pocket of her stained cargo pants and stuck it in her mouth while she dug in one of her other pockets for a lighter, "Cause he's not gonna like to hear that."
"No, it won't be a problem, but he's got to stop being so rough with this thing." He watched as she continued to search all of her pant's pockets without luck and finally, with an ounce of triumph in her expression, pulled the lighter from her sports bra.
"Well how else is he going to get you to come around? We never see ya no more, Hank. What with you turning legal and all that stupid stuff with morals. Cruz told me he saw you towing a cop car the other day. You helpin' cops now?"
"If they pay - and the city does pay, very nicely," He rolled his eyes at her and shuffled over to the toolbox he'd set on a stack of boxes. He rifled through it and found a wrench. Trudging back over to the flat tire, he sighed, "Where's the jack?"
"Dunno. What's a jack?"
"Garnett, for being one of the people in charge of Blackwell's cars you should really make an effort to learn more about them." He gave her an irritated look and began searching the garage for the missing car jack.
"Hey, he had you for all the mechanical-y stuff, I was very happy with my job guarding the armory. Least I know all the parts of a gun, a-ight? When you got out he says he needs someone to make sure the cars is shiny and waxed. Didn't know I'd get stuck tryin' tah take care of 'em too."
"He knew you don't know anything about cars."
She smirked and tapped her cigarette. "Ya know it. He wants one person and one person only working on his cars, and dat's you."
"And I'm sure having me around so much makes him think he can get me to join up again, right?" He located the jack and took it over to the car.
"Now you're gettin' it." She sprawled out on a pile of dirty rags and watched him lift up the car enough to begin changing the tire. They were both silent for some time until the sound of some obscure saxophone filled the vast garage. The man jumped at the sound and Garnett tiredly reached over to a workbench and snatched her phone.
"What is it?" She answered. As the voice on the other end of the line spoke she lost a bit of color and frantically jumped to her feet. She kicked the pile of rags under the workbench and began to shove random tools into drawers. As she rummaged around the garage, in some dance that resembled tidying up, the air was filled with the smell of smoke.
"Is he coming in?" The man asked, not looking away from the tire.
"Yeah, and if Cruz hadn't called then I wouldn't have any warning at all. Oh great, here he comes." She dropped her phone onto the table again and was about to toss and squash her cigarette when the inside door swung open and Walton Blackwell was suddenly in the room, grinning as if he had a secret he just couldn't wait to tell them.
"Henry, good to see you. I hope my old junker isn't giving you too many troubles today," His gaze caught the cigarette dangling from Garnett's fingers and he looked at the woman with irritation, "Put it out. Those things will kill you."
"But boss…" She gestured to the smoke that was curling around him.
"Put it out, or you'll be cleaning the toilets." Blackwell threatened. He nodded when she dropped the object of the squabble on the cement floor and crushed its glowing end under her shoe.
"So are you just the world's worst Mustang owner or do you do these things to your car on purpose to get me down here?" The mechanic, asked, putting the last bolt back into place on the hubcap.
"I'd never!" Blackwell exclaimed, winking, "This is your home, Henry, I'm just giving you excuses to come visit your family."
Dropping the wrench in his toolbox, Henry scowled at the other man. "Like I told her, your engine air filter is shot. You want me to change it?"
"Why don't you come back tomorrow and change it then?" The mobster slung and arm around the younger man's shoulders in a fatherly fashion, "In the meantime, I have someone who I'd like you to meet."
Henry squirmed. "You know, you really shouldn't be driving this thing in this condition. I still need to change the radiator fluid and-"
"Tomorrow." Blackwell practically dragged him into the cathedral. Leading him through the back room and into the makeshift kitchen, which had several Scoundrel's lounging around on plastic furniture inside, the mob boss pushed him down into a folding chair.
"You know, I charge by the hour."
"Just wait here while I go get him."
Henry rubbed his forehead tiredly as his former employer, and current client, left the kitchen, trailing smoke behind him. As soon as he'd gone all of the Scoundrel's heads swiveled toward the man with a variety of expressions. Some of them looked disgusted, others excited, but most bore a look of confusion.
"So you've come back." A man stated, picking some mud off of his boots.
"Did you kill someone and need a place to hide?" A teenage boy asked, sneering. Henry vaguely remembered when the boy had joined the group. His name was Jeff and he was still in high school. He would have dropped out, in the same manner Henry did, but Blackwell wanted someone in the school to keep an eye out for possible recruits.
"Nah, he's probably hear to ask for permission to date April." A woman in the corner tossed a sandwich wrapper in the trash can across the room and gave Henry a look of longing. He ignored her and stared at the cracking ceiling, tracing the patterns and pondering when the place would give up on them and collapse. The city had already declared the building unfit for people to go into, and had plans to knock it over someday.
"Isn't he already dating that weirdo? Why would he ask permission now?"
"Cause the boss don't know about it and when he finds out they were going out behind his back he'll be pissed." The woman, whose name, Henry recalled, was Luisa, picked at her teeth with a plastic knife as she glared.
"What? You're not going to defend yourself, Hank?" The first man smirked, "Why are you here?"
"Blackwell wanted me to change the tire on his car and take a look at the brakes." Henry shrugged, not making eye contact with any of them.
"So this ain't about April?" Luisa asked skeptically.
"April lives with her mother, why would I need to ask her uncle for permission to go out with her?" Henry said, "I don't see how it's your business anyway."
"Blackwell doesn't know!" Jeff sucked in a breath excitedly, "We should tell him."
"Hey, it's not nice to go around spreading other people's secrets." A girl in the corner, who hadn't spoken or even looked in their direction, snapped.
The three other Scoundrels jumped as if they hadn't known she was in the room. They stared at her, but she continued to calmly eat her bag of chips and sip on her soda. When Henry glanced at the three who'd been pestering him he noticed Jeff was very pale and inching toward the door. The other man, whose name was Denny, seemed frozen in his place. Luisa was scowling, but didn't say anything.
"You must be new, I've never seen you here before." Henry tried to be friendly, not wanting to make any more enemies in the ranks of the Scoundrels.
The girl got to her feet and nodded. "I'm Casey."
"Nice to meet you," She shoved her hands in the pockets of a gray hoodie, "Are you really dating Blackwell's niece?"
"For about a year now." He smiled.
"Hmm. If any of these people tell their boss that it won't be her," She jutted her chin toward Luisa, "You're too cute for her to rat on you. I'd say your biggest worry is that kid who ran out. He's eager to start a fight."
"How can you tell?"
"My mother was, err, is a therapist. I picked up some of her tricks."
"Well, if he does tell there isn't much I can do about it. I'm not going to attack some teenager," Henry got up from his own chair and went over to shake hands with the woman, "What's your story? How'd Blackwell get you to join up?"
Her golden eyes narrowed. "I'm not joining anything. He helped me out so I'm sticking around for a bit, but I'm not staying."
"You're saying that now, but you'll be like the rest of us sooner or later," Luisa commented, relaxing a little and flinging the plastic knife into the trash can. She grinned nastily, "Once you get tangled up with Walton Blackwell you can't get away. Henry knows that better than anyone."
Casey's gaze softened a little. "Yeah?"
"No. I'm done with the gang."
"You might change your mind, friend." A raspy voice laughed from the doorway.
Everyone in the room spun to see a deathly pale man with a shock of black hair growing at odd angles. His eyes were seemingly the reverse of any normal eye, the white was black and the pupil was the color of snow; there was no iris to be seen. Henry felt every muscle tense and experienced the intense desire to run away, but was unable to move.
"Who the heck are you, creepo?" Casey shot.
"My lady, I meant no disrespect sneaking up on you." His thin, slightly blue lips curled into a smile, but it wasn't mocking.
"That's Blackwell's right hand," Henry said, "His name is Diesel. He wants nothing but trouble."
The newcomer pivoted on his heel to face Denny and stared without a word. The other man's face drained of color and he nervously sat down. Diesel turned back to Casey with an apologetic expression. Casey regarded him warily, taking in his jerking movements with a mix of curiosity and disgust.
"So what do you want?" She asked, seemingly unafraid. Henry admired her courage and wished he wasn't so skittish around the strange man.
"Sadly, I'm not here because of you, my lady," He seemed downtrodden by this fact, "I am here to take our good friend, Mr. Renshaw, to meet someone."
Henry winced at his name and found the strength to move an inch away from Diesel. "Your boss said something along those lines. Who am I meeting?"
Rather than answer, the man gave a quick, respectful nod to Casey and his bony fingers shot out and gripped Henry's arm. He pulled the other man along with surprising strength, lead him out of the kitchen, and took him to an outside door.
They were standing in the midst of a run down garden. A large weeping willow with a stone wall blocked out most of the sunlight, leaving many plants withered without any sunlight to help them. A smashed statue of a winged creature lay in three pieces next to a small koi pond that was filled with green scum.
At the base of the tree there was a boy of about seventeen years. Henry stopped in his stumbling tracks as he took in the state of the young man. Both eyes were swollen shut and his lip was puffy and split. There were many other cuts, bruises, and scrapes across the boy, and his arm was bent at an odd angle.
Taking a deep breath, Henry had to close his eyes for a moment before looking over at Diesel, who was giving the boy a pitying look.
"What did he do?"
"Walton sent this poor fellow on a mission in the town over. We hadn't heard from him in sometime. Walton began to grow worried and sent my brother, Ethan, to go check up on him. The youngster had taken the opportunity to run back to his family - intent on quitting the gang."
"So you brought him back and killed him."
"He is not dead."
"He might as well be." But that gave Henry a glimmer of hope. If he could shake his escort he might be able to get the boy to a hospital in time to save his life.
"Does his story remind you of anyone?"
"If you were sent to threaten me back into the gang then you're wasting your breath. You can't hurt me, remember?" To prove his point he pulled his pocket knife out and ran it against his palm. The blade bounced back as soon as it made contact.
"I forgot to mention, Walton may have let a few sparks loose on this boy's family home. If you were to go to his address you'd find nothing but smoking timber."
Jaw clenched, Henry put away his knife. He thought of his father, who was paralysed from the waist down because of an accident on a construction job, and of his mother, who laughed at everything and thought ill of no one. His three older brothers, who'd been born with the same power as he had, would be fine, but they were in another state with their own families and were well prepared for any form of attack - even from Blackwell.
"Why does Blackwell so badly want me to come back? Does he want me to stand in front of him when bullets are fired?"
"He is about to attempt to fight an enemy with far more power than he has. He seems to think you'll side with that enemy if you have to make a choice. Before you can do that he wanted to give you a preview of what that would mean for your family."
Rage boiled inside Henry as he continued to look at the crumpled young man and the smears of blood across his face. Turning to Diesel, he grit his teeth.
"So you're just going to continue to be our mechanic, hmm?"
"Tell Blackwell I'll send him the bill for the tire change, but that I'm not coming back. Ever. Tell your five brothers, tell Luisa, tell Jeff, tell Denny - tell anyone you come across that I'm not coming back. I'm through with this."
"So you're just going to let us do what we will to your family?"
"No, I'll protect them."
"And I suppose you think you can just become a normal member of society? Do you think the Mayor, esteemed as he is, will want you wandering his streets? You, who has stolen, lied, and killed for Blackwell?"
Henry almost stopped on his march out of the garden, but he managed to block out the words for long enough to get back to the kitchen. Luisa tried to stop him when he got there, asking where he was going in such a rush, but he ignored her. The only time he halted was when the new girl, Casey, gave him a curious look. He opened his mouth to explain, or to warn her of the dangers of staying in the cathedral, but words failed him.
Hurrying out through the garage, he jumped in his old tow truck and slammed the door. He realized that he'd left his tool box and went back to retrieve it, hoping no one would get in his way. Snatching the box and a few tools around it, he began to leave.
"You gonna make me fix all these dumb cars myself?" Garnett called after him.
"Tell your boss to stop breaking them and you won't have to." He snarled, slamming his truck's door and gripping the steering wheel as if it was the one who'd threatened his parents.
He sped away, barely paying attention to the road. As he drove he began to mutter to himself about how he should have left long ago and not bothered to come back when Blackwell requested his service as a mechanic. He was so distracted that he barely stopped in time when a woman landed in the middle of the road and held out her hand for him to stop.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it! I'm not sure if I really like this chapter or not, but it's important to the plot because it introduces Henry and Diesel. Diesel is creepier than I wanted him to be, but that's okay, he's a really creepy dude. He'll be important later on. :) Like I said, thanks for reading and have a happy Thanksgiving (or normal Thursday).