11 PM. Tim's eating breakfast at the local diner. Food would taste better if the mean old cook decided to put a bit of love in it, but he's a mean old cook, and he hasn't got an ounce of love left in his dying heart. Tim chews on his cold sausages, gazing into the blackness of his coffee. "At least the coffee's hot," he thinks. An old man is sitting next to him, sipping on what must be his sixth coffee. Before 1 AM, Francky's is a nice, quiet joint. Past that, it becomes a loud place crowded with kids wasting their 20s away. But Tim can't blame them: he did the very same at their age.
The waitress flashes him a smile. Everybody on the staff likes Tim, even though they don't have much choice. See, Tim isn't really a good guy. He's well-known around town; folks know what he does for a living. They respect him anyway, mostly because he never fucks with people without having a solid reason to do so. He's been in the dope game since he was a teen and now he practically runs the whole show. There isn't a gram on the streets that hasn't been approved by Tim before getting there. His politics? Pretty simple: only the good stuff comes into Brenstown. Some even say he's "keeping the dirt clean." He takes his role in the illegal industry very seriously. Says users around town deserve the best quality on the market, nothing less. Says he's doing it out of respect for the consumers, but he also knows his name depends on those strict politics. Since he's been building that brand for twenty years, he's willing to do about anything to protect it. Trust and quality−the two things that allowed him to stay on top of the game for so long.
He's got a bunch of local guys working for him, and he trusts each one of them with his own life. As for them, they'd all be willing to give theirs for Tim. Most of them, after all, wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for him. Tim knows what he does is wrong, but he takes comfort in knowing he and his crew are doing it right.
When things don't go right, however, Tim tends to lose his sympathetic side quite abruptly. He has a reputation to keep on the streets, and he also needs to show his guys who's in charge. Tim never shies away from the dirty work. He hates that part of the job, but, like he keeps repeating to his partners and employees, every single job in the world has a shitty part to it. And yesterday was definitely the shittiest day in the past couple of years, he thinks as he finishes his coffee. Marc had really messed up, and Tim had to take care of it personally. Now shit was going to hit the fan, and he knew it. His right hand, Jake, one of his best and most loyal guys, wouldn't take the death of his younger brother Marc lightly. Like all righteous men, he valued family over business, and even though he'd understand Tim's move, he wouldn't accept nor tolerate it. Retribution was to be expected, and changes within the organization were to be made.
And Tim hates change, even though he's wise enough to know it's the only real constant in this life. He sighs as he stands, getting ready to leave Francky's. He drops a 20 on the counter, gets out, shakes the wrinkled hand of Ol' Eddy, the locally famous beggar, and heads for his apartment.
12 PM. Jake's cleaning his 9 millimetres with great care. He won't allow a bullet to get stuck in there when he pulls the trigger on his brother's murderer, his mentor. His girlfriend, Annie, is desperately trying to convince him to think this through another time. All he hears is noise. All he sees is her blond, messy hair and her full, unstoppable mouth. She doesn't get it, and probably never will: she's always been an only, spoiled child.
As much as he hates the fact he has to kill a man he loves so much, he knows it's the only way. And the boys all knew Marc intimately, so none of them could blame him for what he is about to do. Sure they'd protect Tim to the end, but there would be no hate between Jake and them, only bullets. He loads his gun and stashes it in his old letterman jacket. A quick fuck and two shots of whisky later, he's out in the streets, walking firmly towards Tim's apartment. He nods at Ol' Eddy, who's smiling foolishly at him from his cardboard palace.
"Welcome our beloved Lilly Saint to the stage, fellas!"
11 PM. The small crowd is roaring—even the girls. People in Brenstown love Lilly so much, especially when she's pouring her heart out on stage. Amid the public's applaud, Lilly's thoughts are all white. Powder white. She needs a line and quick. Lilly used to wonder why performing created such an urge, but now she doesn't give a single fuck; she simply gives in to the impulse. Her car key goes from a tiny plastic bag to her nose, twice. She's ready. The old curtains get drawn. High as a kite, she offers them high notes and cruel words. They love it. She loves it. Lilly's making love to her audience, almost moving them to tears.
Her last song, Good God Bad Girl, has the men going wild. With that black microphone in her hands and her hips moving slowly, she's got them hypnotized. Her thick lips whisper nasty words while her green eyes shoot naughty stares. She loves to see the primitive, sexual desire burning in their eyes. She has always craved that feeling as a teenager, but now she can get it almost whenever she wants. The song ends with the words "I love the love-making you make, believe me when I say it: my screaming isn't fake." Bottles of beer raise into the air. Whistling and cheering, the crowd at McHenri's has fallen in love with Lilly Saint, once again.
Backstage, she asks the doorman to get her a round. While he's gone, she sniffs another line. He returns with six shots of Jack Daniel's, and she knocks them all back in a flash. She sighs, thinking she desperately needs to fuck. Making her way through the drunken customers, she exits McHenri's and heads for Tim's apartment. On the way, she throws a handful of change at Ol' Eddy, who smiles and tells her how much he loves her.
1 AM. Two big guys at Tim's door. Bob and Terry, old-timers, strapped with machine-guns. Jake can see both of them from his hiding spot in the stairs, but he has no clear shot. No choice but to fully confront the guys, unless he manages to mind-fuck them or something.
"Bob, Terry, you guys get the fuck out of my way and I ain't going to pop your senior asses, you hear me? For old times sake, you know."
"Shut your mouth, kiddo. Step into the light, and we promise we ain't gonna spray you either. Boss wants to talk."
"The message I'm trying to deliver here isn't quite the talking type, guys, but I'm guessin' y' already know that."
"As you wish, Jake. Our order was to offer you a chance to talk, that's all."
As soon as Bob stops talking, both men start unloading their guns into the stairway. Jake ducks for cover and ends up on the first floor, heart pounding. He hears the familiar click of an empty magazine and rushes upward, gun drawn. Before they have a chance to reload, Bob and Terry's kneecaps explode. Screams of pain. Jake's pissed; he loved those guys. They taught him how to shoot straight when he was like fourteen. Now this. "It's Tim's goddamned fault," he thinks as he grabs a machine-gun and gets ready to kick in the door. A second later, he tumbles in the living room, surrounded by pointed weapons.
"Drop it, son," Tim says.
Jake's trigger finger is shaking.
"We're all family here, son. Drop the damned gun."
There's no way he could put one through Tim's eyes before getting shot a dozen times, so Jake lets his machine-gun slide to the mosaic rug.
"Well, I guess family business got a bit bloody yesterday, huh Tim?"
"Business got fuckin' heartbreaking, that's what, Jake."
Both men stare at each other for a while, until Tim stands up from his wooden desk and takes a few steps towards Jake. There is a sadness shining in his gray eyes as he goes on:
"You know, son, I've tried my best to teach you about life. I've always thought of you as kin. I told you about values, honour, responsibility... but it's never too late for another lesson.
"And what lesson might that be, old man?"
"Well, it's a pretty easy one. It goes something like this: a man must always live with the consequences of his choices. Any man who doesn't do so is either a coward or a fool. And we both know there's no cowards or fools among us, right?"
"You wanting to kill my ass is the direct consequence of me killing your brother Marc, so allow me to be true to my words. Let me deal with the consequences of my choices like a man."
Jake's confused. Tim takes off his shirt and his watch and throws them on the desk. No more confusion, it's payback time. Jake does the same thing. The guys form a human, silent circle around both men; a bloody lesson's about to be taught.
Tim strikes first. A quick jab to the nose has Jake stepping back, shaking his head. The young man knows he must not let anger dictate his moves, so he breathes in and raises his fists. The taste of his blood sharpens his thoughts as he approaches his mentor. Tim throws a right hook at him, but Jake dodges and responds with a series of blows directed at the old man's right side. The hardened drug lord falls back, coughing. Thinking he's about to lay down in defeat, Jake closes in on Tim with his guard down. At that moment, Tim rises with an uppercut that sends Jake flying in the air. His back to the floor, the younger man kicks his old boss's chest, avoiding a takedown. Both men lay on the ground, trying to catch their breath.
Jake, driven by a sudden rage, musters the strength to roll on top of his opponent. His eyes, now blinded by pain and anger, don't see a friend and a mentor: all they see is a murderer. He punches Tim's face relentlessly. Bones crack, blood spills. He only stops when he feels a cold cannon on the back of his head.
"That's enough, darling," says Lilly Saint.
"Lilly, this has nothing to do with you, get the fuck outta here before you get hurt."
"For as long as Tim keeps fucking me like a whore and treating me like a princess, this has everything to do with me, Jake. There's no way I'mma let you kill him in front of me."
"He killed my brother, Lilly."
"He KILLED my goddamn BROTHER Lilly!"
"I heard you the first time, big boy. And I'm sorry, really, but you're gonna have to get your ass out of here, or I'm gonna shoot that pretty head of yours anytime now."
Tim's almost unconscious. Jake's on top of him, arms hanging loosely, head down. Lilly, still in her shiny dress, is firmly holding Tim's revolver. To everyone's surprise, Tim opens his bloody mouth:
"Lilly, you stupid whore, lower that fucking gun."
"But dear, I'm only trying to save your ass here."
"Who said my ass needed any saving, huh? Now lower that gun and let me speak to my boy here."
Tears shine in Lilly's eyes as she does what Tim asks. She looks away, turning her back on both men.
"You punch just like a woman; you know that, Jake?" Tim says, coughing a spurt of blood.
"Yeah, well, it seems those womanly punches messed you up pretty bad, boss."
"They sure did, son, they sure did. Listen, I'm sorry about all that. I didn't want it to come to this but—"
"Remember what you told me when I was young? You kept repeating freedom wasn't something governments had a right to define. You said it had to be more than an idea; it had to be something you live by, a principle. That there were no policemen or government officials that were going to stop you from selling drugs to people, simply because those same people had a right to choose if they wanted to get high. How noble you made selling dope sound. I remember that, I remember you, teaching us about your freedom theories and much more. But I'm guessing you decided Marc wasn't quite free of slangin' his own dope on the side, huh? God, you're full of shit, Tim."
"Don't confuse things, son. Your brother was a great guy, but he was flawed like we all are. He was greedy and careless, and, in the end, he acknowledged it. He was abusing my trust, selling shitty, dangerous products on the streets of our town, to our people. When the use you make of your freedom hurts and kills your neighbours, then I guess somebody has a right to stop you. Sure it was also about business—who the hell am I to pretend otherwise—but there was more to it than that, and you know it.'
Of course, Jake knows it. But things have gone beyond his forgiveness, and it is time to settle the score. Time to honour his brother's memory, time to set things straight. No one in the room makes a sound, except Lilly. She's softly weeping behind Tim's desk. Jake's crying too. He's standing on top of a man who saved him, who taught him almost everything he knows. And now he must kill him, even though he's afraid he doesn't have the strength to do so. Tim orders Lilly to give his revolver to Jake. She obeys. Jake stares back and forth between the gun and Tim's face in disbelief. The dying drug lord speaks up one last time:
"It's okay to kill a king when your ass fits the throne, son. Make sure Brenstown stays the way it is, and again, I'm sorry for your brother, Jake. I loved him as much as I love you. But you know the rules."
A single tear falls from Jake's cheek to Tim's chest.
"Now do it, son."
Tim closes his eyes. Jake watches in horror as his own hand puts the gun near his old friend's temple. With a scream, he looks away and pulls the trigger. The mosaic rug gets sprayed with royal blood. Jake stands up and goes to the old wooden desk. He sits in Tim's chair, bare chest with his face still covered in blood and tears. Lilly puts a hand on his shoulder. One of the guys pours him a drink and asks:
"So, what would you have us do now, boss?"