Wind whipped at John Trevisano's coat as he trudged through the corner of Frank and Bloss. March was supposed to be Spring... This felt like December.

A sudden gale threw freshly powdered snow in his face. He choked on the icy flavor that slipped into his mouth and buried his head deeper in his up-turned collar.

It didn't help.

Christ... Why did he ever let that bastard through the door? He got sloppy, complacent. Just let him walk right in. And now he was headed straight to ruin everything.

That bastard was his “friend” Charlie McKay. Right fielder for his baseball team back in school, now apparently a scout for...cops? The mob? Hell, he didn't even know who. Tailed him right up to the Tiger's back door, talked his way in with nostalgia, saw everything, then vanished.

Say what he will, Johnny was at least grateful the snow left him some footprints to follow. At least it was good for something. And with the wind blowing like it was, it didn't look like Charlie was getting anywhere much faster than he was.

But tracks would only last for so long, snow blustering like it was. He picked up the pace. Down the street, down an alley. Another street, another alley, zigzagging across the neighborhood. Paranoid, Charlie, you're paranoid. You really think I'd follow you this far? Johnny managed a thin smile.

The streets were empty. Or, mostly empty. John eyed a cop on the other side of the street on the edge of Exposition Park. Making his rounds, no doubt. He looked just as miserable as Johnny, but with half the reason at best.

“Oh, shhhhit!”

It was muffled, but Charlie's voice wasn't hard to recognize. His former teammate was at the other end of an alley he'd just reached.

Charlie bolted.

Johnny followed.

He slid around the corner, gaining steadily. Sprinting base to base had made Johnny a better runner than Charlie's occasional half-assed jogs after pop flies ever had. And when he ducked down another alley, Johnny was on him. A hand on his coat, a back to the wall. “Evenin', Charlie. Fancy runnin' into you again. Let's have us a talk, hm?”

“Whoa, whoa. Johnny, listen to me. I wasn't gonna tell anyone-”

“So you were just running from me 'cause you're ashamed if I followed, I might see your crap apartment. That it?”

Charlie chuckled. “Come on, now... My place is no castle, but it's no dump... The Mercurios pay well.”

Johnny pulled Charlie off the wall for a second, then slammed him back onto it. Charlie let out a sharp breath.

“You spying for them, then?”

“Spying is such an ugly word... Keeping tabs, more like.”

“Tabs you were gonna take right to the bank.”

“What, and squeeze the profit out of a little place like Irving's? What do you take me for?” Charlie grinned a cheshire grin. “Bet they haven't even bought their proper insurance...”

Johnny's fist was begging to meet Charlie's nose. He took a deep breath. Hitting him would feel great, but it wasn't fixing anything. “What do you want, Charlie?”

Now Charlie whistled, long and low. “You trying to buy me, Johnny boy? You know what they're gonna give me for outing a bar with a year of back fees to pay 'em? Lunch money won't cut it these days.”

He was right. He was a bastard, and he was right. Johnny couldn't even hope to match what they'd pay. But...still. “Name your price... How much to make you forget tonight?”

“You serious?” Charlie rubbed his hairless chin for a few seconds, seemed to relish the power. “Fifty. A week. Until I decide you're good.”

“Fifty a week? Are you insane?”

Charlie shrugged, still wearing that shit-eating grin. “A boy's gotta eat... Course, I know some folks who'd be more than happy to pay if you're too cheap.”

This was it. This was how it ended. He'd finally found a good job, was just settling into it, and Charlie McKay was going to ruin it. For him and for T.G. What would he do if he couldn't pay him off? The Tiger was turning a profit, but they were already vaguely tied to the Ziccardis. If they started double dipping, there'd be blood...

“Tick tock, Johnny boy. I've got a meeting to get to. And my time is money...”

The wind picked up in the alleyway. A gust of snow blew through, assaulting them both.

Flakes melted on Charlie's teeth and bit at Johnny's eyes, stinging like frozen tears.

The wind died down when Johnny broke Charlie's nose.

Charlie dropped to his knees, hands climbing over his face as he squealed a high-pitched note that resembled “My nose. Jesus, my nose.”

Johnny didn't stop. He barely thought. He drove a knee into Charlie's temple, then kicked the mobster when he collapsed, groaning loudly and snorting blood.

Then the panic started to set in.

What now? He couldn't bribe him. Even if he had the cash, there was no way he'd keep his mouth shut now. And oh Jesus that was a lot of blood coming out of him. Johnny started to pace, clutching at his head as he tried to think.

Charlie struggled to pull himself up, wincing and crying out with each stiff movement. “I'm gudda kill you, Johddy...”

Johnny undid the upper buttons of his coat, reached inside and took hold of the freezing wood inside.

His bat. He'd turned a belt into a sort of strap inside the overcoat so he could get it to the Tiger and back without drawing too much attention. He drew out the familiar tool. The familiar weapon.

“Jesus, s'ad a bad...!?”

Johnny was a good guy. He'd only fought two men since he graduated. Drunks causing trouble in The Tiger. He'd only needed the bat for one of them, and it didn't take much to persuade him to leave.

“Johddy... Johddy, hey! Led's dalg aboud dis!”

Charlie was a bad man. A mobster. A crook. Someone who'd ruin a good man like T.G.'s business in a heartbeat for a steak dinner and a pat on the head.

Good man.

Bad man.



He was a bad man.

“Johddy... Johddy, stop! Jesus!”

Johnny hefted the bat over his head, heavier than it had ever been before. He shut his eyes and brought it down on Charlie's head.

There was a sickening crack, like a ceramic pot full of wet clay breaking open. Charlie screamed.

Then again.

The sound of a butcher using too much force to tenderize his meat. Charlie made a noise like a stuck pig breathing its last.

Once more.

Hot blood flecked his face, and the scent of old pennies wafted up his nose. Charlie was silent.

Johnny opened his eyes, saw his handiwork, and vomited on the spot. On Charlie.

Oh, Jesus...

Someone must have heard all that...

That cop couldn't be far off. Had to be on his way.

He... He had to go.

Johnny ran. He ran, and he didn't stop running until he was in another alley five blocks away.

Johnny shoved the bat back in its holster, realized it was soaked in blood, tore it out and shoved it in a snowbank. He twisted it in deep, some attempt to clean it. Then he grabbed handfuls of snow and tried to rub the blood off his face. Couldn’t know if it worked or not. Good enough. Had to be. He shoved the bat clumsily back in his coat, took a breath and walked out to the street as calmly as his screaming mind could manage.

He took the long route down Lake Ave, where his footprints would blend with other traffic. He didn't return to the Tiger. Instead, he went home. Took up the bottle of whiskey T.G. had sent home with him months back as a birthday gift. He'd barely touched it before tonight. Was saving it for a special occasion. Johnny took a long swig from the bottle and coughed furiously as it burned his throat.

When he finally staggered into his bedroom and collapsed on the bed, he had tears in his eyes, booze on his breath, and vomit caked on his lips. He cradled the half-empty bottle in his arms, and wept.