Author: Guede Mazaka
The MacManus case isn’t solved by a long shot, but it’s swelled too big now for a mere regional agent to handle. Word is, they’re putting together a special national team to take the trio on, and guess who’s not invited? Ed Greenly, that’s who. The agent who had them in fucking Federal custody and who fucked up.
Guess who is invited? A lowly detective from the BPD who’s so goddamn flaming you could light a cigarette off his back.
Speaking of, Smecker must want to gloat because instead of getting himself packed up for the Big Call in Langley, here he is waltzing into the bar. Christ, can’t Ed get any peace? “Hey, bartender. Two more, right here.”
The bartender gives Ed the eye and Ed wishes once again that he was back in the New York City office. There at least he knew the bars and he could find one that would let him drink himself to death as long as he did the final act outside. “Sir, I think you’ve—”
“If he’s got the money, then give him the fucking drink, padre,” Smecker drawls. His swagger is straight out of an Old Western—he’d be the goddamn brothel madam, and goddamn fucking hell, Ed didn’t really need that image in his head.
He doesn’t need anybody saving him, either, and when the drinks plunk down he’s almost tempted to push them away. They’d only taste of failure, after all. But then, that’s kind of the point, and that is why he walked into a bar in the first place. So he takes a sip. And then he takes a swallow, and then he slams the rest of it down. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass being so damn tall; that means there’s more tolerance to overcome before he can get shitfaced. “Tolerance. There’s a laugh.”
“So you guys still come down off a bad case like this? Jesus. One never does learn from history, does one?” Smecker gets himself the stool next to Ed and calmly straightens his tie. His eye rolls around, creepy fuck, to catch Ed in the act of gaping. “Oh, yeah, didn’t I mention it? Did the FBI for a bit, then dropped down to local.”
Ed blinks. He downs his second shot, and while it’s burning the sense out of his head, he asks the obvious question. “Why?”
A simple look gets Smecker his own drink before the bartender retreats to the other end of the bar, muttering about hard-assed cops. That gets him a supercilious toast from Smecker, and still smiling, Smecker gives a nod to Ed as well. “Why not? PD in a city the size of Boston’s about the same workload only with less traveling and fewer levels of bullshit.”
So much for an honest answer from the goddamned son of a bitch. “You’re smarter than that,” Ed says.
Blurts, more like. His head is finally beginning to swim and now he’s willing himself to stay sober a little bit longer because he wants to read that expression on Smecker’s face. It’s all kinds of anger and old regret and mockery, and it’s about the most human he’s seen the guy during this whole fucking mess.
Eventually Smecker sits back. Slouches and stares at his glass in a way Ed recognizes from the cafeteria at Langley. It’s the burnt look, the one that shows up on the crazy geniuses that topple militia rings and nag Ten Most Wanted goons and then go home to open their wrists in the shower.
“I’m saner than that, too,” Smecker finally says, his voice quiet and utterly devoid of any malice. He dips his finger into his whiskey, then traces the rim of his glass. “Is this your first mind-fuck?”
“What the hell does—all right, yeah, it is. It was—it was gonna be my big break-through.” Ed takes imaginary notes in the condensation that’s pooled around his glass on the bar. It doesn’t take long for them to evaporate and vanish, just like his pride. Some shit just takes down everyone, whether they’re the village idiot or Einstein, and there’s no point in trying to act otherwise.
Smecker’s still being enigmatic, however much he’s unbent in the last couple of minutes. “Did you like it?”
“What the fuck kind of question is that?” In the corner, the bartender twitches at Ed’s raised voice. He makes a move, but Smecker coolly stares him down. Honestly, Ed doesn’t give a fuck. He’s too screwed over right now to notice getting even more screwed off. It’d be like seeing if adding a little more salt would make the ocean taste different.
“You didn’t. Good. You’ll be okay, then. Tomorrow morning you’ll choke down a couple of aspirin and get back on your shiny-ass saddle, and you’ll ride again, cowboy.” Then Smecker picks up his glass the way normal people do when they’re toasting a dead friend, and he slowly drinks it down. No quick slam for him—he’s feeling the burn and he’s not cutting it a minute short.
He almost sounds sincere. Or maybe, if Ed was sober enough to word things properly, it’s more like he’s being sincere because he knows sincerity will be worse in this case.
Then again…“Did you just express concern for my well-being?”
“Shouldn’t you be too drunk to talk like that?” Smecker drops a couple of bills on the counter and gets up. When Ed’s hand makes its way to his elbow, he looks at it like it’s a dead rat. “Off, Fed-boy. Unlike some people, I don’t get downtime in between cases. I have a domestic and two manslaughters to deal with tomorrow morning.”
“Huh. Lucky.” Ed doesn’t let go of the other man. He’s a little bit drunk now, but not that much, and suddenly he doesn’t want to get any more drunk. If he does, he might forget a lesson, and fuck knows he doesn’t want to learn any of the latest ones over again.
The other man lifts an eyebrow. “Lucky?”
“Yeah, well, I think you’d know what I mean.” A ten-dollar bill down on the counter and then Ed’s following Smecker out the door. The air hits his face and his head starts to hurt with the muggy heat of it. “Fuck. Fuck. What if—what if I did like it?”
“You didn’t. Trust me. I’ve got eyes that I actually use.” Smecker hasn’t attempted to shake Ed off yet, but he nearly torches Ed when he lights himself a cigarette.
Pissy queen. Pissy know-it-all gay bastard that goddamn it, needs to explain this before Ed flies out because fuck if Ed is ending this with a wild bender through Boston’s bars. He needs something to make it clearer. Something he can sleep with at sleep, even if it’s not a proper ending. “Maybe there was a moment. Can you get that? Maybe I haven’t been around the block as many times as you have, but maybe—”
“Edward.” The name drops from Paul’s lips more softly than the ash falling from his cigarette’s tip. His voice is quiet and smooth, like a lullaby for the damned. “Go in there, buy me a drink, talk all you want and then forget about it. They were criminals. More charismatic than usual, but they still broke the law and you fucked up their case. That’s all. Buy me the drink and get ready to drive me home, and in the morning you’ll be all right.”
“What about you?” Ed asks. Though his hand is already on the door-handle.
Paul laughs at him. It’s not a nice laugh. It’s not even a bitter one. It’s just a laugh, like a shadow on the wall. The moment Ed blinks, it’s blown away. “I’ve got room for it. I have a nice place in Boston, and I don’t want to get dragged back. You can do that.”
“It’s really always about what can be done for you, huh,” Ed says. He’s counting the change in his pocket, wondering if he’s got enough for a bottle.
“Try not to remember that,” Paul replies. He turns so he’s more than half in shadow, with only the glow of his cigarette to trace out his face. “You don’t know how to sleep with it, and you don’t want to.”
Ed pauses another moment. Then he says, “Thank you,” and he goes inside to buy that bottle.