Never in all his years of being on this earth had he expected to be walking into a situation like the one that they were about to. They parked in Camden and headed down to the Riverside that was lined with stripped trees and a chilly breeze, signalling winter was well on its way. Talking with MacKenzie on the plane about being prepared and her run down in the basics of self defence was much like the briefing he'd had going into the Young Guns project, never in a million years did he expect to be reliving this for real.
He checked his watch, the big hand a minute away from ten am - Showtime. His heart beat drummed in his ears and he wished he'd snagged a hip-flask of Jack before they'd left. He swallowed, a loan figure sat at one of the coffee tables close to the waters edge. He had wrap around shades on with a low slung ball-cap, denim jacket and jeans and his hand was curled around a cup of coffee. Hell it could be just a kid but he was guessing by the recognition in Mackenzie’s eyes that was not the case.
"That's our guy. Are you ready for this?"
"No, but I don't think I ever will be." He looked around and noted it was still a very public place so nothing sinister surely could happen. He couldn't see anyone else that could be with the guy, but then again he wasn't a stealth agent to know where they might be hiding watching.
The kid stretched out his legs as they approached and nodded to the chairs opposite him. Jon rested his hand on his hip where the gun he'd accepted in the end sat under his woollen coat. He took a deep breath and remembered his last-minute demonstration; flip the safety off, point, and fire. Simple? Yeah really simple, lets not forget the ten thousand tonnes of pressure that went with that to get it right in a spilt second.
"Miz Cooper and Mr Bon Jovi, you came alone it seems as I requested. I'm impressed."
Jon slid gingerly into the chair after MacKenzie nodded and did the same. He rubbed his palms on his jeans and doubted if he really did need to use the gun it would probably slide out of his hands like butter. "Hi." Hell, what else could possibly he say? Hey fucker thanks for ruining my life? Thankfully MacKenzie took the lead as they had discussed.
"Black watch, I presume?"
He pulled put a packet of cigarettes and lit one. "You would be correct Miz Cooper."
"Where's my partner?" She had eyes of steel and held her posture strong and dominant in her chair.
"Patience. He's my insurance if you two try any funny business."
MacKenzie placed her hands flat on the table. "What do you want from us? We're here now."
He flicked his ash and leaned forward. "Tell me Mr Bongiovi, how is your football team doing? Practice all going well?"
What in the world? "Uh yes, yes its fine. Admittedly I haven't been involved as much lately." Due to you making my life a living hell. "But I'm confident that I have a strong team, yes." The kid remained shaded by his glasses and cap and he suspected he'd stay that way the whole meeting. They were like sitting ducks but they had little choice at this point.
"Blackwatch, what do you want from us? I'm sure it's not a merry chit-chat in the least."
He chuckled and took a drag of his cigarette. "She always so feisty? Guess that's why you hired her as your bodyguard huh?"
Jon didn't answer, let alone tell him it was MacKenzie declared herself his bodyguard without giving him that much choice at the start. Looking back it seemed absurd, just like the whole damn thing had been.
He continued. "Not much use now as I could snap of my fingers and your heads would be blown off. It's really that simple. You're a brave man coming here Mr Bon Jovi. I gotta give you props for that in the very least of your semi-charmed life."
Is that what this was? He was being targeted because he was rich and he had pretty much everything he wanted in life? Seemed a bit lame. MacKenzie was doing a good job at keeping it straight, keeping it not personal. That was her job, but each time she did he'd close off and they were going around in circles. He knew what he had to do.
"Look Blackwatch, with all due respect I'm completely confused what you wanted to get out of this terrorizing. Was it just to get your kicks?"
He laughed and stabbed his smoke out. "Don't give yourself too much credit there rock-star. I thought you were smarter than that. It was fun at first, but now its becoming a drag and thanks to the little airport scene, the police are all up in our business again. I don't need that shit so I want it to stop."
MacKenzie smiled sarcastically. "Well that’s what happens when you shoot at people in a public place, FYI."
"I'm aware. Bon Jovi, do you remember a kid called Wes?"
Jon frowned and then lifted his brow. Oh shit. "Yeah he had a helluva throw on him, I didn't commit him to the team. I don't sign gang affiliates, it’s a general rule." He rubbed his neck and let out a deep breath, this is what this was about. He met Kenz's gaze and nodded as she pieced the same puzzle together. They were pissed because he didn't allow one of their guys to play in the team? Seriously?
"He's my little brother. You crushed his dreams Mr Bon Jovi. That kid deserves to be out on the field and all it took was you and your high class personal investigator here to draw one fucking conclusion that he was in a gang and you chopped his head off." His hand curled into a fist. "You are what is wrong with this country, you go around with your many charities shitting money all over the place preaching about a better life for all but the reality is you have no fucking idea what the hell it's like out there. You hear the word gang and run a fucking mile. Let me tell you something about Wes, he's got nothing to do with what I do. He's a good kid, stayed in school, studied hard and trained hard. I wanted nothing but to give him a normal life away from this shit and this was his chance. And you fucked that up for all the wrong reasons, so I fucked up your life." He slammed his hands on the table.
MacKenzie shifted as the kid's anger boiled over and Jon's heart lodged in his throat. Wes had talent, there was no denying that and Jon remember how disappointed that he'd been he couldn't sign Wes, he had a boatload of potential but rules were rules. He'd kept the Philly team so clean from conception and thought he was doing the right thing.
He hated to admit that the kid did have a point about the judgment factor in all of this. He should have talked to Wes about it, found out what was going on and then make a decision. At the time the risk of having any gang around games and putting the other players at risk, it just wasn't an option but damn. Damn if the inconsistency of his message to his charitable work was staring him in the face. "You're right. I didn't realize that at all." Christ, he hated to admit he was wrong, he was never wrong but hell in this case...he just might be.
All those nights worrying about his family, worrying about MacKenzie - it was his entire damn fault from the start. You couldn't blame him for being pissed off.
"You couldn't think of emailing him or settling this in a less violent way?" MacKenzie kept her hand on her hip under the table.
"You're partner being shot was a mistake. A bullet was meant to go through the stairwell--not the living room window, and you were not meant to be chased to the fucking airport."
Jon didn't have time to blink as MacKenzie whipped out her gun and stuck it in the side of Blackwatch's leg under the table. She leaned in, calm and poised. "A pretty fucking sloppy mistake don't you think? You could have killed him!"
His heart hammered in his chest, if people really were watching them it would just take Blackwatch's signal and they'd be dead.
"Miz Cooper." He growled but didn't move as he leaned in towards her. "I told you that it was a mistake. I didn't want your partner as my baggage but I had no choice. I took care of the problem. It just turned out I could use him to get you here so we could sort this clusterfuck."
Jon assumed "took care of it" didn't mean the rogue got a stern talking to and sent to his room without any dessert.
"He could have been killed. Now tell me why I shouldn't shoot you in the god damn balls for it."
"Because you're smarter than that Miz Cooper, you know I'd blow your head off before you got past the second trigger."
She snarled but held her ground. He couldn't believe this, talk about surreal. He rubbed the back of his neck, "so where does this leave us?"
Blackwatch leaned back and tugged his cap down hard. "It leaves us in a predicament. I want Wes to have a shot in the team but you have this "rule"."
"I can let him try out again. I have to at least make him try out to make sure he's worth the cut."
Blackwatch's long fingers drew circles on his chin. "I wouldn't expect anything else. He'll be there because he's good. You can't tell him I have anything to do with this."
"What? Doesn’t he know his brother’s a thug?"
"Not this. He stays clean of the gang. I told you that. He has no idea we're involved in this."
Well shit. In a funny and fucked up way they were just like him and Richie. Looking out for each other without the other knowing. He'd many a time made sure Richie's mom turned up at shows when he knew Richie needed some family, or stopped the bar tab when Richie was rollicking drunk. He knew also Richie had told people to leave him the fuck alone when he just couldn't deal with people, they looked out for one another so in a weird way this was the same thing. "I understand."
"When does my partner go free?"
"I'll make sure he returns home after Wes gets the call from the coach. Do we have a deal?"
Jon met Kenzie's gaze and nodded, it was easy for him. He had the easy part of the deal. She had to walk away without what they ultimately came for. "We have a deal."
"Any funny business and he's dead. I mean it. He tries out and we walk away from each other and Miz Cooper you drop all police involvement from this case and delete anything relating to it."
She nodded but Jon held out his hand. "I have a couple of conditions of my own."
"Mr Bon Jovi I don't think you're really-"
He didn't let him continue. "If he does make the team, your gang is not to come to the games or any practices. I don't want any gang colours to be at my Soul games. And that's not negotiable."
Blackwatch nodded. "Fine. You have until eight-pm." He slid out his chair and walked away.
Jon blew out his breath and his shoulders relaxed. "That's it? That's all he wanted?"
MacKenzie put her hand on his. "Mis-understood kids. Christ what a mess. If I'd put this connection at the very--"
He took her other hand and shushed her. "Kenz. It's not your fault. None of this is. He's right you know, for all I do I'm a hypocrite."
"Jon, he's thug. Don't listen to him."
He half-laughed. "No he's right. I preach about new starts and building new futures for these kids and families we build homes for but I never bothered to look at the bigger picture. Where these kids have come from and the challenges that they face getting there. The judgement from people like me who doesn't even know what it's like coming from that sort of life. Wes was outstanding when we trialled him. None of this ever should have mattered. I failed Kenzie, I failed and its something I will have to look at inside myself and turn it around."
Her eyes warmed and she smiled as she leaned in and kissed him. "I know you think you've failed Jon but hell, you've done more than a lot of people in your position would even care to."
"It's ok. I'm fine with it." He tugged her up out of her seat as they stood. He drew her in, that elusive scent of ginger teasing him. He dropped a light kiss on her lips. "Now I need to put it right."