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**Fear moves nations, but kindness moves hearts**
(This is pretty much character conversation with some ‘comforting’ near the end; just warning you.)
Joe had picked us up and we were driving home. For the longest time no one spoke. Joe was never one to be gregarious with strangers, I was fucking tired and bleeding, and … I don’t know why Melinda held her tongue; maybe Joe scared her. Joe does look like one tough dyke. She’s not a dyke, but she is tough.
“So, how long have you known Taylor?” said Melinda, breaking the ice.
“Wow … it’s going on fourteen years now,” Joe answered.
“Has he always been such a badass?” Melinda asked. Joe laughs uproariously.
“Taylor? A badass? What gave you that delusion?” Joe chuckled. “I’ve heard the words ‘bad’ and ‘ass’ used to describe him, but never together.”
“He killed six men today,” Melinda protested.
“Taylor killed six guys … by himself? I don’t believe it. Tell me what happened,” Joe said.
“Well, there were these six guys — they kidnapped me and Taylor killed them.”
“No, tell me exactly what happened,” Joe repeated.
“Okay,” Melinda grumbled. “At the meeting he killed this one guy … but the kidnappers shot that other guy … and Taylor got shot.”
“Well,” Melinda bit her lower lip, “the third guy blew himself up. Abby shot that other guy and wounded their leader, but Taylor killed that fourth man then killed the leader in the end.”
“So basically, Taylor killed one and a half men plus another man in another encounter, and got shot once in the process,” Joe pointed out.
“Oh,” Melinda said in a small voice. “Why didn’t Daddy send someone better to get me?”
“Don’t you say that,” Joe said heatedly. “Don’t confuse body count with competence, Melinda. If Taylor Eden says he is going to get you out alive, he is going to get you out alive. Case in point: you are sitting talking to me right now instead of lying dead in a ditch somewhere.”
“But,” Melinda stuttered.
“If Taylor could have gotten you out without a shot being fired, he would have. He wasn’t paid to kill those guys. He doesn’t do run around killing people for fun. He was paid to bring you out in one piece and when bullets start flying around that reduces your chances of staying alive.”
“But he killed those people.”
“He doesn’t like to kill people. That doesn’t mean he can’t,” Joe explained. “Listen, Taylor is claim to fame is that he’s a cockroach. I’ve seen him shot, stabbed, beaten to unconsciousness, run over, and once, a bomb was dropped on him. The bastard won’t die and he won’t quit. If he says he’ll do something, he does it. It may take forever and day and be messy about it, but he does what he says he’ll do. That is why we’re friends.”
“So is he good or isn’t he?” inquired Melinda.
“It depends what you want to do; if you want to snipe someone at 500 meters, he sucks. I’ve seen him empty a clip at eight guys, all fewer than ten meters away and only hit one — and he only wounded that guy,” Joe snickered.
“We were in the jungle,” Taylor said weakly. Joe laughed.
“How come I dropped two guys with six shots? Melinda, Taylor isn’t Special Forces, or a SEAL, or even a paratrooper. Hell, he failed to qualify for Ranger School. He didn’t know crap when I first met him, but he learned. He’s good at that too. He’ll never be the best at anything, but he does know a bit of everything.”
“He’s certainly good with his tongue,” Melinda stated. My friend sighed.
“That’s not for me to talk about,” Joe commented.
“I was asleep for most of it,” Taylor coughed.
“Taylor, have you been fucking women in your sleep again?” Joe teased him out of my funk. Joe was one of his best friends, but she could be a real ass at times. She was also now a housewife in the suburbs, with two kids and a successful husband who was an executive at some insurance company.
“I was drugged,” Taylor bitched, “not asleep. Won’t you ever let me live that down?” Taylor said concerning an earlier episode in me and Joe’s lives.
“No, it is too fun watching you squirm. So, do you have a woman in your life?” she asked.
“Her name is Cheyenne. He says her name in his sleep,” Melinda volunteered.
“Really?” Joe arched an eyebrow and peeked in my direction. “How long have you to been together?”
“Six weeks. We live together with another woman,” Taylor replied.
“A three-way or a pyramid?” Joe inquired.
“What’s a pyramid?” Melinda asked.
“He loves Cheyenne, Girl two loves Cheyenne and they all agree to get along,” Joe explained.
“Her name is Sierra,” Taylor grumbled.
“You must be sleeping with her too,” Joe teased.
“Do you really think I’m that shallow?” Taylor said.
“Yes. You don’t open up to anyone, Taylor. If you know a girl’s name it is because you’ve screwed her.” Taylor didn’t have a good answer to that so Taylor kept his mouth shut.
“You seem like such a tight-ass, Taylor. It seems you have a wild side,” Melinda teased. “Say my name.” Taylor glared back at her.
“Melinda — happy canlı bahis şirketaleri now?” Taylor seethed.
“So, this is the longest relationship you’ve had, isn’t it?” Joe means since Rosalita. Joe has always acted like his nosy older sister. Of course, when Taylor was lying in some homestead with a bullet wound, there are very few other people Taylor would consider calling.
“Looks that way,” Taylor confessed.
“He likes to be ridden,” Melinda jokes carefully. Taylor sighed. Taylor might as well play along.
“I insist that was rape,” Taylor griped. “Hell woman, I was unconscious the first time and pinned under another woman the second time.”
“Good for you,” Joe congratulated him. “If you let yourself get raped by beautiful women more often I wouldn’t worry about you ending up cold and lonely. Worse, you might end up living in my basement like some forty year old failure.”
“I’m saving money,” Taylor countered. “Moe taught me well. I’m going to retire somewhere in the Developing World and live a life of leisure.”
“Who is Moe?” Melinda asked.
“He’s the reason you are alive, Melinda. Moe trained Eden to do something more than being a thug. He was Taylor’s mentor,” Joe told her.
“Where is he? Why wasn’t he hired instead?” Melinda asked.
“Girl, give it a rest. Taylor did his job. You are alive and going home to Daddy, so cut him some slack. That bullet that passed through him could have been in you instead,” Joe growled.
“Sorry,” Melinda sighed sarcastically.
“Moe is retired,” Taylor told her. “He trained me as his replacement, but there is no real replacing of Moe. He was one of a kind. He was one tough son of a bitch; probably still is. I get a card on my birthday and at Christmas. It is hard for me to imagine him actually dying.”
“Everyone dies,” Melinda pronounced. Joe laughed.
“There are some bastards that I wouldn’t believe were dead if I cut out their hearts and scattered their ashes,” Joe responded. “You don’t hang around with the right crowd.”
“Melinda, try to believe that not all people are created equal. You are too rich and Moe is too mean to die,” Taylor tried to explain. “Moe would have killed them and have had you home by now. I’m not him. Comparing me to him doesn’t piss me off. I know I’m not him. I’ve never thought otherwise.”
“You are taking being average awful well,” Melinda taunted.
“Bitch, don’t make me smack you,” Joe warned.
“It’s okay Joe. Melinda, there are only two things I care about. Doing my job and going home: in that order. If you are trying to piss me off, you will have to do better than that,” Taylor sighed.
“I’m not trying to piss you off,” Melinda said petulantly.
“Fair enough,” Taylor responded. They rode in silence for more than ten minutes before Melinda cracked.
“Do you resent fucking me too,” she sounded hurt.
“No. I enjoyed it. You’re quite good, and I had a good time. I also know that we are from different worlds, and we will probably never meet again,” Taylor explained. That robbed Melinda of both her speech and her anger.
“I don’t get you. Do you like me, or don’t you?” Melinda snapped. Joe chuckled.
“To be honest, it doesn’t matter what I feel, Melinda,” Taylor told her. “We are not likely to see each other again.”
“That’s a dumb way of looking at things,” Melinda grumbled.
“That’s our Taylor,” Joe interjected, “dumb as a stump, and half as personable.” For some reason Melinda found that hilarious and she couldn’t stop giggling.
“Joe, some time we need to discuss exactly why I saved you in Mozambique,” Taylor griped.
“I’m still six life-savings ahead of you, you bastard,” Joe grinned back at me through in the rear view mirror.
“You save each other’s lives?” Melinda asked.
“With me it was a moment of weakness; with him it was a rare moment of good sense,” Joe teased Melinda and Taylor. Taylor didn’t say anything right away. The trip was over.
“Joe, I’ll be right back. Melinda, it is time to meet your father. He’ll be happy to see you,” Taylor told her. Taylor handed Melinda one of the cases full of money, while he took the other one.
“I … okay,” Melinda was tense. They both got out of the car and headed into my boss’s office. Taylor took her through reception.
“Katie, here is the money back. Count it. It is twenty-five thousand dollars short. I ran into a barn and felt obliged to pay for it.” The boss’s reception took the nearly two million without comment. Stuff like this was part of working with the Man.
As Taylor walked through the firm, people recognized me, but they didn’t say anything. They almost never did. Taylor wasn’t part of normal business life. They knew of him but this was the first time they’d seen him with a bullet wound. They got to his door, Taylor stopped and that brought Melinda up short.
“What is it?” she asked.
“This is where I leave you,” Taylor responded. “Have a good time, and try to be safer when you go out. Good-bye.” Melinda gawked at him. Taylor turned to go and she reached out and took his arm on the wounded side. canlı kaçak iddaa Taylor winced.
“I … thank you,” she mumbled. I believed she meant it.
“You are welcome Melinda,” Taylor nodded before finishing his turn and leaving. Taylor didn’t look back, but several seconds passed before he heard her open the door. Taylor figured for the next few days he would be party-talk, but he would be forgotten in a week. Taylor wasn’t the kind of guy the princess wants to see later, and he was okay with that.
(Later in the day)
Joe helped Taylor up to his apartment. Taylor was woozy from the morphine the ‘underground’ doctor had given him. She’d also given him enough blood to replace much of what he’d bled out. Taylor had called ahead to give a vague warning that he’d been okay, but in an accident. Joe knocked on the door (door bells bothered her). There was a short wait then the door swung open and a small, busty woman stood in the doorway.
“Taylor!” shouted the woman, “What … Oh hell, you’ve been shot.” She stepped back.
“Taylor,” gasped another woman, this one taller, better looking and a lot more frightened. She bounded off the sofa and ran closer to Taylor.
“Here, help me get this guy to bed,” Joe told them, “you must be Sierra,” Joe said to Sierra, “and that makes you Cheyenne.” Sierra nodded. Cheyenne moved to Taylor’s hurt side and was about to grab him.
“Careful Dynamite, he’s going to be sore there for a few days, so be careful. Lead me to the bedroom.”
“Hey Cheyenne,” Taylor told her. “I’m okay; just a bit woozy. I’ll be right as rain in a few hours. Sierra, you are looking nice tonight.” He was unsure what to say next. Normally Taylor would tease Sierra first thing when she got in. He looked high. She stood around uselessly as Cheyenne and Joe moved Taylor into the main bedroom and laid him out. Joe propped his upper body up and tucked him in.
“What can I do to help?” Cheyenne asked. Joe looked over from where she was sitting on the bed beside Taylor.
“Is this the first time you’ve seen him bloody?” Joe asked. Taylor had already fallen off to sleep.
“Yes. He’s normally so careful. Taylor said he didn’t like guns,” Cheyenne nearly sobbed. Joe rose and took Cheyenne by the shoulders and led her out of the room. “Let him get some rest.”
Cheyenne didn’t reply, but she looked over her shoulder at the closed door to her and Taylor’s room.
“Taylor’s pretty tough Cheyenne, I’ve seen him come through with much worse. Let’s sit down. I’ll stay here until I know he’s okay. That should take an hours or so.”
“Oh,” Cheyenne said. She left Joe and sat down. Sierra went to Cheyenne’s side. Joe went straight to the kitchen, opened a few of the lower drawers.
“Here we go,” Joe declared, “He always hides his scotch under the sink, right next to the drain cleaner.” She went to the glass shelf unerringly and took out three glasses. She then ambled over to the chair closest to the sofa sat and poured out three third-full glasses. She slid one each to Sierra and Cheyenne.
“I need a shot and I hate to drink alone,” Joe announced. Sierra took her glass. Cheyenne glanced at her glass then back to the Joe.
“Who are you lady?” Sierra inquired.
“I’m Joe Mamacoua, short for Josephine, but no one calls me Josephine anymore.”
“How do you know Taylor?” Cheyenne asked. Sierra was paying attention.
“Taylor and I go back fourteen years, from the time he was a wet-behind-the-ears beginner.”
“Beginner?” said Cheyenne.
“Did you sleep with him?” Sierra asked.
“Hell no,” chuckled Joe to Sierra, “Why do bitches keep asking me that? Taylor is like my annoying little brother. Besides, I like my men big. My husband is a Samoan, three hundred lovely pounds: every hard muscled bit of him. Taylor’s a stick. He doesn’t do anything for me.”
“As for what he was; hasn’t he told you anything about his past?” The women shook their heads. “Close-mouth bastard,” Joe muttered. “Joe and I were mercenaries — soldiers of fortune.”
“You two were mercenaries? That’s so weird; Taylor doesn’t look the type,” Sierra pointed. “Okay, he’s built solid, but he’s short and wiry. Don’t mercenaries have a height requirement?”
Joe laughed at that.
“Being a soldier of fortune requires a passing familiarity with a firearm, a willingness to risk your life for a pathetic amount of money, and luck.”
“Was he any good? He keeps talking about the cache of money he’s put aside. Did he make it that way?” Cheyenne asked.
“Taylor was a lousy mercenary,” Joe chuckled. “The only person I know who was a worse shot than him was me, and I at least had epic vehicle skills.”
“How long was he in that business?” Sierra asked.
“Nine years. We had a lot of fun, which means we got shot at, run out of countries, and partied like animals. Taylor really used to go all out. He was generous to a fault. That’s why it’s so funny to hear you ladies talk about him stashing away money. Taylor wasn’t much for making plans over even a week ahead.”
“Are we talking about the same man?” Cheyenne wondered. “Taylor canlı kaçak bahis is so …”
“Closed off,” Joe completed for her. “Yeah, he got that way right there at the end.”
“Why did he quit?” Sierra pressed.
“A woman,” Joe said rather tight lipped.
“Who?” Cheyenne asked with ill-disguised interest.
“He’s not told either of you about this? I’m not sure I should. It’s his business.”
“Please,” Cheyenne begged. Joe seemed to think it over.
“Okay, but if either one of you skanks hurt him, you are going to wish someone ran you over with a dump truck, because he’s my Brother. He’s watched my kids for me, and I wouldn’t have trusted must of my buddies with that responsibility. Taylor is a good guy, despite the number of people he’s killed. He would never hurt either of you, but trust me, I would do it with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart,” Joe threatened. Sierra reddened. Cheyenne paled.
“You think you’re that tough, old lady?” Sierra challenged. The thing was Joe was clearly of mixed race heritage, but mainly Amerindian and African American. She had short cropped hair and was built solidly. Her t-shirt highlighted her strong chest and biceps. She was well-endowed, but not overly so. Her stomach was flat and her thighs thick, as were her calves. In essence, Joe looked like she could lift Sierra over her head and break the younger woman like a twig. Joe didn’t rise to the challenge. She shook her head and chuckled.
“You’re a funny girl, and as for old, I’m forty-five, I have two wonderful kids, five and two, and a wonderful husband who keeps me in a lifestyle that means I never have to work a day again in my life. I still take one or two contracts a year.”
“Why?” Cheyenne said.
“Keeps me in shape and on the ball; not doing the job would be like asking a doctor to stop being a doctor. If it swims, crawls, or flies, I’ve either driven it, or read a manual on how to drive it. People like me are in demand.”
“So, has Taylor really quit, or does he go out and do whatever it is he does out there?” Sierra questioned.
“No, Taylor is out of the biz. I know several people who have asked him to work again, but he’s turned them down,” Joe answered.
“I thought you said he sucked,” Sierra pointed out.
“He does. As I said earlier today, Taylor’s claim to fame is that he’s a cockroach. He’s been shot, stabbed, beaten unconscious, garroted, blown up, and even once had a bomb dropped on him,” Joe informed them. Cheyenne put her hands to her mouth as she gasped. “People want Taylor because he is reliable as the day is long. Tell him to do something, and he’ll do it. It may take him a while, and it may get messy, but he’ll do it or die trying. I’ve known him to fail twice and both times it involved me dragging him away.
“If all of those bad things happened to him, why did he stay?” Cheyenne said quietly.
“We all stayed for different reasons. I don’t know why he started. He had this idea that he would be good at the trade, I guess. He wasn’t. After his first mission, he was one of only three survivors out of the twelve newbies we took in. He expected to be dropped from the team. You should have seen his face when I told him to come along. I’ve never regretted that. I trust Taylor with me life. More important, I trust him with the lives of the people I love.”
“As for why he kept at it all those years; it was a woman,” Joe finished off her scotch and poured another glass. Sierra was struggling to keep up, so Joe filled her glass too. Cheyenne was only drinking in sips.
“What woman?” Cheyenne asked.
“Are you sure he’s never talked about a woman before?” Joe wondered. “Damn that man is so closed off. Cheyenne, when he was hurt and delirious today, he called out for you. I haven’t seen him do that in five years, since she died. Her name was Rosalita.”
“What happened to her?” Sierra inquired.
“Some no-name group of rebels raped her then they mutilated her body while she was still alive. We burned her corpse up before Taylor could see it.”
“Did he try to save her?” Cheyenne whispered.
“He had a gaping bullet wound to the chest when we found him. We all thought that he was dead. Apparently the rebels thought so; otherwise they would have mutilated him too. He was only ten feet from her body. We aren’t sure how much of her dying he was conscious for.”
“The only living person who knows that is Taylor, and as far as I know he’s never talked about it to anyone. He did one mission after he healed up, but it was clear to him his heart wasn’t in it so he came back to the states and got some crummy job as a leg-breaker.”
“What was Rosalita like,” Cheyenne timidly asked.
“Not a lot like you, if that’s what you’re looking for. Rosalita was tall; maybe five ten, stacked, and had a real hard body. She worked out a lot to stay in shape. She had long thick wavy raven-black hair that went down to the small of her back. She always had this tilted half-smile on her face unless Taylor was around her. When they were together, she really glowed. He was the best thing to ever happen to her. Everyone could tell that. She also was a certifiable psychopath. In essence, you are not her replacement. Taylor isn’t like that. He likes you for you, and for Taylor that’s saying a lot. Taylor doesn’t let anyone get close anymore.”
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