Tommy Turtello served ten years for a bloody crime he doesn’t regret. He, in fact, used his time behind bars to hone his skills, learning new methods for making himself a more effective “maintenance man,” one self-appointed to rid the world of those he deems as soulless. He has spent his first year of freedom putting his new talents to use, leaving a trail of bodies and earning a heroic status in his community as a nameless, faceless avenger. But when he seeks to expand his activities beyond familiar territory, he finds that others have their own bizarre methods for maintaining order.
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Turtello had been trailing the kid for about half an hour. He guessed the kid was eighteen years old or so—less than half his own age. Bronze skin, lithe track-runner’s body . . . a premature college senior on the verge of graduation. The kid was ready to enter the world, thinking he already knew it all. But Turtello had been studying him closely, and he had acquired a wealth of sweet, delicious knowledge. The kid didn’t fully realize it, but deep down the boy craved to know more about the sinful world—and Turtello so desperately wanted to teach him.
The kid stood in the line of folks about forty deep waiting to get into the club. Watching from across the street and hidden from the waist down by a once baby-blue Porsche in dire need of a wash, Turtello was still in school uniform. The students all had to wear one. So did he, as the maintenance staff. The kid had shed his for Friday night attire that was stylish enough to perhaps woo the frontman into letting him inside the exclusive spot. The clothes had a better chance of working than the fake ID the kid undoubtedly possessed; but, all taken together, the kid had to know there was a fifty-fifty chance of him getting in. No matter how many times he’d tried the trick before, he’d be nervous. But he’d exude confidence—a confidence that might smell faintly of alcohol. Repellant to some. To others, so sweet.
Turtello crossed the street.
Yeah—the kid had definitely started drinking before starting out for the evening. Turtello knew the stance: straight-back–chest-out cockiness, challenged every so often by quick-and-strong winds no one else around him could feel. The kid swayed but didn’t stumble. He cracked smiles; cracked juvenile jokes with those around him. Probably thought doing shots of bourbon made him an adult. Probably thought most of his fun made him an adult. He was certainly ripe—as ready for Turtello as Turtello was for him.
“Hey, buddy.” Turtello’s voice rasped like an old jazzman’s. “You want inside?”
The kid and those near him gave the older man a once-over. Most of the partygoers were as inebriated as the kid was. They saw Turtello’s face, but they wouldn’t remember much about it later. The powders Turtello had used to color it would help ensure that. Lean and muscular himself, and sporting silvery white hair with black highlights, he used the wrinkles in his skin like a farmer used furrowed land. The powders’ dust and grains were his soil, but what was to be reaped grew in others. Tonight’s special, intricate color blend was intended to sow confusion in the eyes of onlookers, but arousal—or, at the very least, piqued interest—in the eyes of the one directly greeted.
Sure enough, some of the young observers snickered, ignoring his face to get a load of his generic maintenance uniform with its even more generic “Johnson” name patch. They paid him only a glance before turning back to their inane conversations.
The kid, the one he’d addressed, sneered at Turtello before giving his response. “The fuck you think? I’m in line, ain’t I?”
Turtello nodded. “Yes, you are. And I can get you out of it. Lead you straight inside. No ID check.”
“Fuck you.” The kid took his eyes off him and started playing with his cell phone.
Wasn’t just alcohol in his system. The kid had been smoking something, too. Turtello smiled, enjoying the game and loving his odds. “Serious, man,” he said. “I work maintenance here. Got keys for all entrances.”