The source of Sam’s shame sat through a tinted window, across the children’s playground.

He wanted to think that he was better than this; that he was entering this phase of his journey through the noblest of intentions. But that was the man to oversaw his beating, and what was about to happen to his was by no means noble.

His spime buzzed. The boys were in place.

Sam stepped from the car. He took a deep breath. Finally he pulled at his suit sleeves, to straighten them. “Faking it everyday from now on, Sam.”

***

He crossed the playground. He’d played there as a kid dodging needles, stepping over junkies. But the trade has scared the rest of the kids away. He nodded at … he realised he didn’t know the name of the man he was about to destroy. Probably better that way. If he didn’t think about him as “a man.” The nod to the help continued.

“Gentlemen” He slipped his hands into his pockets and looked up and the bleached out sky. “Nice day for a drug deal.”

The boss looked up. “Oh, someone put the monkey in a suit.” They all laughed. “Not that it helps.”

“Do you like it?” Sam spun around. “Same tailor as Jefe. I tell you, no one was as surprised as me. Nice man, Jefe. You met him?”

The laughing stopped.

“You know the rules,” Sam continued, as if bored. “The help gets murdered, the boss gets beaten.” He paused for effect. It seemed to work. “Gentlemen. Put your guns down and work for me. We don’t have to spill any blood.”

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” The boss spluttered.

Perhaps it didn’t work as well as Sam had wanted. He tried again, speaking directly to The Help this time.

“Gentlemen. Think about your next moves very carefully. I’m offering you not only your lives, but jobs.”

The boss had had enough. “Fuck the rules. Kill him.”

Sam turned his back on the small group and walked a couple of steps. He heard guns pulled from holsters before he spoke. “Boys?”

He turned. His men slowly faded in. Those stealth suits were fantastic and worth every penny of he paid for them. His boys’ gun barrels were firmly placed at the temples of their opposites.

“Now. Before we were so rudely interrupted, you were putting those weapons on the floor and I was offering you jobs. You may want to spend some of the next few minutes thinking about that. Boys, get them on their knees.”

The henchmen were forced down. Sam walked between them, fishing something out from the pocket of his jacket.

“I happen to value my boys. That’s why you never saw them. You’ll find that keeping your team safe. Not putting them in the line of fire. These simple things grant you loyalty.” He fitted a knuckle duster over his fist and flexed his fingers until it settled. “I also think that, as a boss, you should never be afraid of getting your hands dirty.”

It was a sloppy punch, telegraphed from a week ago. It had time to have a couple of lunch dates before it arrived. But when it arrived it brought with it years of resentment and frustration and pain. It landed with the force of a thousand beatings that Sam had endured.

The punch that followed didn’t dally as much as the first.

It shattered his victim’s nose.

Sam spoke. His voice was calm, controlled. Like the beating he was dolling out.

“You. You don’t get your hands dirty.”

He powdered a cheek bone.

“You just decide what’s enough.”

He cracked a jaw.

“You told me what would do.”

The punch shattered teeth, sliced lips, inside and out. “That’ll cost you.”

Sam was sat astride the bleeding mess. There was no human. Not to Sam. Not a man just doing what The Tow demands. It was a target.

A first step.

It gurgled, tried to lift a hand to protect itself.

“Well, will this do?”

Sam brought his fist down again.

“WILL IT?”

Sam stood, pulled a phone from another pocket. “Hello? Med-aid? I want to report a beating. The victim’s almost dead. You should come quickly.”

He turned and walked to the car. “Lads, I’ll meet you back at the place. Offer these men jobs. If they don’t want them.” He looked at them, kneeling. There weren’t more than kids. “Let them go.”

***

Sam drove the car into an alley, pushed the door open and threw up. He stumbled from the car, tearing the blood soaked clothes from his body, sobbing.

“Faking it. The only way. The only way.”

Lighter fuel, matches and the crime burnt away.

But still he cried.

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