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Pros and Their Cons: Pt II Started by: JohnnyChrist on Nov 09, '20 07:06

Johnny was quick to hunt down his contact information for Barbara. She would be absolutely key in making this transition smooth between he and Issei. First part of the con, establish the mark. Unfortunately, Issei was a seemingly innocent bystander in the mix, a pawn per se. The real target of the con was Johnny's landlord Jerry Wence, the bastard that had gone back on a signed three-month deal with him so long as he helped sell the property. That's exactly what Johnny intended to do. Sell the property; and he'd facilitate that sale without the help or knowledge of the soon to be presumably, and legally, dead Jerry Wence.

Johnny rushed through the door of the apartment complex and ran smack into a fat-assed, greasy, slimeball of a bastard. "Geez, watch out where ya park that thing, yeah?" Johnny waved a hand at the man's backside. "I'm gonna smell like your ass for a damn week!" Shoving by the man, he took one step for the stairs and was quickly halted by a heavy grip on his arm that spun him back around to face the guy. Looking down at the greasy, filthy, white undershirt the man wore, he noted the name tag.

"Where do you think you're goin', kid?" the man huffed out, almost out of breath already.

"Up the stairs," his eyes traveled back up to meet the man's gaze, "George. Is that gonna be an issue?"

George grunted and gave Johnny a glare over, "It might be seein' as this is my building."

Johnny took a look around, "Oh really! Then you're the man I'm lookin' for. Ya see, I'm a health code inspector, and this building is due for some hefty fines. I mean, look at the state of disrepair? And you have, how many tenants here? One of which who I'm friends with which is how I know this place is a shithole, Georgie. So, unless you want the weight of the Philadelphia Board of Health coming down on your shitty little building and costing you more in fines then you make in three years worth of a full house of rent that you charge these unlucky sons of bitches that have to deal with your sleazy," Johnny shoved a finger into George's chest. "Greasy," poke, "lazy," poke, "wasteful," poke, "good-for-nothin'," poke, "ass, then I suggest you mind your own FUCKING business, Georgie boy. Otherwise, we're gonna have a problem here. Ya understand?"

Johnny had all but backed the much larger George into the corner where he shoved the man into the chair there. "Are there any other questions, ya mother fucker?"

"Ummm," George stammered out, a bit shaken by the confrontation. That hadn't ever happened to him except for when Barbara stood up to him. "D-d-do you have yo-your badge?"

"My badge?" Johnny asked with a laugh. "Oh, you're a prankster now, eh? Your sittin' here, in this place, askin' me for MY badge? I tell ya what, George, I'll show ya my badge, yeah?"

Johnny opened the right side of his coat just enough to catch a glimpse of the shiny silver underneath his armpit.

"That a good enough badge for ya, Georgie? You really don't want my badge to flash out in the open, I promise ya that."

Johnny thumped the man on the forehead then turned for the stairs, "And don't fuckin' follow me unless you just want trouble, capisce?"

Rushing up the stairs he went door by door counting the numbers until he reached the one he had listed for Braganza. With a hefty knock, he called out, "Barb, it's Johnny. I gotta job for ya if you're interested! I'm comin' in, alright?"

He twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open, catching him and Barbara by surprise as it caught on the chain that she had in place. "OOF!" he grunted out as he ran into the abruptly stopping door. "Eh, guess I shoulda known with the slimer downstairs." He peered through the door, grinning mischievously and impishly.

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Despite it being nearly noon, it was still quite early for an artist... especially the type who did her best work at night. Through the thin crack in the door Johnny could just make out a sliver of the tiny, decaying single room: corner with half-finished canvases, lopsided desk, and above it a mirror which - while meant to reflect the various candles melted in puddles across the desk - inadvertently reflected the opposite wall as well. From this vantage point - unbeknownst to Barbara who never saw it from his angle - the rest of the room was as clear as the stained-glass daylight that filtered through her makeshift scarf curtains. Her crimson sheets, strewn with a menagerie of boho quilts in varying stages of age, the odorless armour and it’s army of kerchief skirts, vests, and hand-me-down mens clothing, and... to his mixed amusement and abashment... the bare and curtain less wash bin tucked into the far corner. 

Barb was quick on the draw as the door creaked open, and subsequently hung on the barely-there chain she’d installed. But, even in the hurried fluster of silk and terry cloth, Johnny got a VERY clear glimpse of ALL her glory; dark curls on top of more dark curls. 

Fuckin’ Christ, Johnny!” She chastised as she wrapped herself tightly in a bright kimono-esque robe, doing her best to hide the startled glint in her eye. Bare feet scuttled across the bare floors, leaving a trail of wet prints and water droplets in her wake. Pausing at the door, she began to snicker uncontrollably as she fought with the lock. “Christ...” she repeated his name with a giggle, shaking her head as the door snapped closed in his face only to open again seconds later. He was a bit red, she noted, as she opened it wide and stepped aside to invite him in. Was it the robe? She glanced down, ensuring she was properly - albeit thinly - covered. A little collarbone, a peek of cleavage. Nothing untoward.  Sure, the mixture of cold draft and damp cloth had created a noticeable silhouette within the silk, but nothing to gawk at. Nothing you didn’t see on the streets everyday in winter, she thought. 

Closing the door tightly, she latched it back and slid her lone, rickety chair beneath the handle... just in case. Gesturing around the room, she smiled sheepishly. “Make yaself at home,” she chuckled, a bit sarcastically. She made no effort to tidy the room or hide the state in which she lived. It simply was what it was... cracked window, holey ceiling, sketch plastered walls and all. Leaving him to the comfort of the bedside, she slid onto her well-used easel stool, crossing her legs away from him as she retrieved her cigarettes from the nearby desk. She was slow and meticulous. And, were it not for the barely noticeable shaking in her hands, he might’ve thought it was for show. And a fine show it would have been. She was like a living painting... perched and poised in bohemian beauty. Her surprisingly long curls snaked down her back to her waist like some Renaissance Grecian goddess. As she exhaled a plume of smoke to the ceiling, the collar of her robe fell open just a touch, a slip of a porcelain shoulder peeking out; the he surprisingly enticing as it whispered over her slim ankle. There was nothing on display, and yet she was art... in her own perfect, oblivious, irritatingly natural way. 

So,” she chirped, tossing the pack and lighter toward him, “Gets ta talkin. What’s gotchyas panties in such a wad thatchyas interruptin’ my shower? I only gots enough water for one a week. So it damn well better be good.”

Johnny was silent for a moment, seemingly lost in thought, until snapped her fingers at him loudly, Italian mother style, “C’mon ya puts, get gabbin’ or get goin’!”

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Taking one final glance at her artistic forms as the cigarettes and lighter hurled in his direction, he snapped to as she...snapped. "Well, I got the con to change our lives, literally, if you think you can help me make it happen." He paused to light on of the cigarettes, taking a drag then frowning. "Bah, no spliffs in here?" He chuckled, then tossed the pack back at her followed by the lighter. "Regulars good, don't worry. I'll bring the j's next time, doll." Johnny winked then stood and looked around. "I see you got a place kinda like mine. Mine might be a bit better off, minus the fire in the bin to warm the room up..." He chuckled as he noticed the burning trash bin with a makeshift stovepipe curving out of the window. That definitely wasn't an arson case waiting to happen! No! Not at all!

Turning back to her as he puffed on his cigarette, he grinned. "Anyway, this job, if you're interested, is gonna be intense and a bit dirty. I mean. We gotta kill a guy. He's a real shit of a guy I gotta tell ya. Kinda like your slimeball downstairs. You ever killed a guy?" He spun back her direction quickly, the silhouette of his pistol holster catching enough light to make itself known beneath his coat. "Dirty business..." He shook his head and puffed away, moving to the window and looking out over the bustling cityscape of Philadelphia.

"We're gonna need to forge a few documents, and how good are you at acting? Fuck it, I don't care how good you are. I just need you present to sign a few documents at the bank with me when I go. You'll be my associate. You won't have to really say or do shit but be by my side." He puffed again, continuing to stare at the city beneath while his mind ran on all cylinders.

"We'll need a ruse, and I have just the one. We'll be estate attorneys gathering the holdings for the will. And all of this, is to sell a single property. Though we could theoretically sell everything he owns as a big fuck you to him and walk away with all of the money. And, if you help me out, I'll give you half of everything we make. But, I want every sell we make, unable to be reversed..."

He looked at Barbara with a gleem in his eye. "You in, or you out?"

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Barb watched him like a lazy cat as he prattled at light speed about his plans. She lived in the slums. Guns didn’t bother her much anymore, though her brow did perk a bit at the fact that he’d bring one into her home. Otherwise, she remained silent and motionless; elbow propped on one knee as she watched him pace. 

She was calm and ice cold... almost scary cold... as she exhaled another puffy cloud toward the window. “Not on purpose... as such,” she answered off hand, but gave no more detail. There was a story there, for sure. But judging by his manner, there was no time for that right now. So what’re we talkin’ here? Rat poison in the bread? Pesticide in the well? Syringe with a bubble? Blow out the pilot light? I’m assumin’ yas don’t wanna flat up shoot the guy, seein’ as that’d be loud and messy. Sos whats yas plan? And exactly wheres do yas need me in the whole shebang? Weeping widow? New trainee? I needs ta know where yas goin’ with this, Johnny.” 

To her credit, externally, Barb seemed rather unperturbed. Anyone else in his position might’ve begun to wonder if they should be worried at this point. But, seeing as she hadn’t offed the engorged tick of a slovenly wretch downstairs yet, he was probably in the clear. Besides, the well-camouflaged glint of suspicion that sparkled behind her eyes told him she was much softer... and more disturbed... than she was letting on. BUT, by the look of her, she wasn’t about to let that stop her from moving outta this shit hole. So... maybe he’d picked a good one? IF her stomach turned out as stone cold as her face?

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Johnny blinked as she gabbed. "What? Rat poison? Pestici-... NOOOOO no no, I'm so sorry, we're going to kill him on paper. I want the fucker to have hell on earth trying to do anything for the rest of his miserable old life. Fucker crossed me on a deal, and I want him dead... But alive to reap the seeds he's sown." He shook his head, noting the slight melt of coldness in her features. He could tell she was relieved, but only in her eyes could he really see it. That and the smallest of micro-expressions at the curve of her lips. Sure, they'd both killed. Him both on accident and on purpose. Her obviously not on purpose from her statement. But that changed a person, regardless of motive.

Sitting back down on the edge of her bed, he took one last hit of his cigarette and pinched the cherry between his fingers to snuff it. "You ever forged a death certificate? Because that's where this starts. Jerry Wence. I need him dead roughly half a week ago for the bank's knowledge. I know he's been holed up in his house sick so no one would have seen him recently. Perfect timing to fuck 'im over." Johnny smiled.

"Is it strange it kinda makes me warm with you talkin' all murdery? Somethin' ain't right in my head, I swear it." He chuckled. "New trainee will be best, I can handle the estate. Bank knows Jerry ain't got a wife. She passed six years ago or some shit. Not certain he didn't kill her himself, honestly. But, he does have a son and a daughter. Jerry Wence Junior, who just happened to be in Kansas City last I heard, working on some farm outside of town. Real junkie from what his pops told me. Then the daughter, not much better. She's in some halfway house in Texas or something, down in someplace I think called Galveston or somethin'. Went down there with some hotshot fighter that passed through and got mixed up in some bad business."

Shrugging, he chuckled. "Maybe I'll send'em both a portion of the sales as a nice present from dear old deadbeat dad."

"Anyways. I need ya to be my assistant, and you can sign my papers while I discuss everything with the banker and make sure everything is in order. We'll need to do this by tomorrow though. Think you can handle this? The main prize, is the deed to the land that Jerry's Gym is on. I'll handle schmoozing the banker over. You just siphon through the paperwork to make sure the deed is in the holdings." He grinned.

Johnny paused in his thoughts, "You need a death certificate copy so you can replicate it? I can make that happen quick and easy."

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Barb blinked at him with a ‘who the fuck do you think I am’ kind of stare. Shaking her head, she reached into the cavernous, broken drawer of her desk and effortlessly produced a thick sheet of parchment. “All’s I need is his vital statistics and a believable C.O.D... If yas know all his info, I can have this done in less than an hour. If not, then yas gonna haveta do some rootin’ around that property a yours ta find me what I need.” 

Pulling a notepad from behind one of her canvases, she wrote a list as she spoke. “To do this proper, I’m gonna need his full name, wife and parent’s names, parent’s place birth, home address, veteran status, and profession. Ifs yas can get me that, I’ll haves yas records by dinner.” Handing him the list, she gave a particularly feline stretch as she moved to the bed, sliding an ancient looking typewriter from beneath it. Keeping her robe properly positioned while carrying the cumbersome machine was a bit of a fiasco, but with a little effort she had the certificate loaded and ready in a matter of moments. 

Waitin’ on you toots,” she shot him an impish grin as she waited to see if he would leave (and finally let her get dressed) or if they were doing this now.

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Johnny looked over the list carefully as he plopped down on the bed. "Man, Barb... That's a whole lotta info you need. I don't know if I can pull that off before tomorrow..." He purposely had sat down facing away from her so she wouldn't see the smirk as he read over the list one more time in his head before starting...

"Full Name... Jerry Hubert Wence. Wife, Francis Loretta Leopold Wence, minus Leopold if you don't need her maiden name. Mother, Patricia Gayle Wence. Father, Gerald Joseph Wence. Father born in Kansas City, Mother born right here in Philadelphia. Home address, Four-Three-Three-Seven Baltimore Avenue. Veteran Status, None. Profession, Professional Boxing Coach-slash-Trainer. I think that should about wrap up those question, yeah?"

Johnny looked her direction with a smile as she simply stared at him. Either he was a wealth of knowledge, or he'd done his research before arriving at her doorstep. The latter was probably the most likely of choices, but who really knew with Johnny? Either would be plausible for the con-man. And when you're as good as Johnny claimed, it meant that you were -always- prepared. Come to think of it, where had he gotten her information? How had he known where to find her? They had only met a handful of times, and always away from her home. How did he end up on her doorstep when she had always made sure to let him leave first? Many questions that could plague Barbara's brain, and Johnny knew that as well, so he held his grin, but coyly asked, "What? So I might know what I need for a death certificate? Let's just say this isn't my -first- dirty con." He winked at Barb with a confidence that screamed -RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN-.

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Yeah. There was not running. As excited as Johnny got about cards, Barb got double when it came to someone understanding her work. She didn’t bat an eye or skip a beat. Hell... who the hell, what kind of woman, had blank death certificates just LAYING AROUND THE HOUSE? Never mind her complete LACK of concern about him finding her. After all, when you worked in this world, you learned to just ASSUME that the people who needed you would ALWAYS find you. And, while slightly disturbing, it was actually a perk of the job. Marks came to you. Not the other way around. Made life easier that way. 

Chewing the filter to her cigarette, Barb ‘hmmd’ and ‘uh-huhd’ as her fingers flew across the keys. “Date of birth? And then we’s move on to the death... date, location, cause and informant if yas got any in mind. Elsewise, I can wing it.” 

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Astonished at the speed of which Barb's fingers had flown up to this point, Johnny smiled. Perhaps this con was going to be SILK! He knew he'd certainly be sleeping in silk sheets soon enough, and perhaps a nice pair of silk pajamas. For him -AND- for Barb. Because she was gonna make a small fortune herself for this one job; at least enough to get them out of their individually shitty living situations.

Staring for just a few moments too long, he cleared his throat as Barb turned and gave him a look. "Yea, umm. Birth date. Eighteen seventy-six. March twelfth."

Tapping his chin as she spun back around to type out the birthdate, Johnny was lost in his thoughts for just a moment. "Death date, let's see. What's today. November sixth? Seventh? Something like that. We'll need to go back about two weeks or so, so that's..." Johnny quieted down and mumbled to himself as his fingers flipped up and down quickly.

"Say October first of this year for death. Location, primary residence. Heart attack. And I gotta uniform on payroll. We'll say he stopped by after a worried neighbor called in a disturbance. Noise from the heart attack happening... Caused a stroke and killed him after fighting it for a while. Sound believable? Or you got somethin' more creative and thought provoking?"

He stood and watched over her shoulder as she typed, his eyes sneaking a glance down the robe that had fallen open just enough for his vantage point. Just as quickly as he'd stolen the peek, his eyes were back on the typewriter. He could worry about tits and trying to see them later. Now, right now, they had a con to pull and money to make. And with time being of the essence, there was surely no time for teenage level hormones to try and get in the way. Were there?

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The cigarette in Barb’s mouth bounced between her lips as she mumbled softly to herself: 

“Born twelve March, eighteen seventy-six. Dead October one. Myocardial infarction with cardiogenic shock. Dead on arrival. ...Let’s say... M.E. James Sullivan... examined and cremated... Asphodel Meadows Mortuary, Philly.” 

With the stroke of the last key, Barb whipped the paper free from the typewriter with an air of hard finality. Dipping again into the gaping holes of her knobless desk, she produced a surprisingly fine looking fountain pen, a stamp and a steel seal. A flourish of looping cursive and a few loud bangs, and Johnny was starring down at a validated copy of Jerry Wence’s official death certificate. 

As he marveled at her efficiency, Barb - oblivious to his wandering eyes - effortlessly hammered out two ‘certified copies’ to present to the ban kin triplicate. Because bureaucracy. “These should be just about all yas need,” she smirked, “but I can hammer out power of attorney, last will, blah blah blah... just tell me whatchyas want.” 

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"I've got last will, but power of attorney would be great. What are you going to need for that?" As he spoke, Johnny turned away from Barb and made his way to her armoire. Before she could even contest, he had flung it open and was picking through her wardrobe. "You have a business suit or nice dress in here somewhere?" he asked as he thumbed through her clothing. "I love the way you dress, but there's a certain style we'll need to go for when we hit the bank to pull this~," Johnny paused mid sentence hearing a click at Barb's front door. Shutting the armoire, he made his way to the front door and swung it wide open. George, to his own surprise, found himself falling face first into Johnny's open arm that quickly squeezed around the man's neck.

"What'd I tell ya George?" Johnny asked as he kicked the door shut with his heel, spinning the bulging eyes of the building manager away from the gloriously, nearly completely unclothed Barbara. "Wha'did I say? Huh?" George coughed and spat out as best he could, "T-to not..." He coughed again, gasping for breath, "Bother... you... She's the one that... told you... about the state... of the... building... Isn't she?" It was all George could do to not pass out on the spot as he continued to struggle against Johnny's surprisingly strong grip.

"That's right, and I know all about your sick fantasies too, and what you try and get the pretty little tenants to do when they can't make rent." Johnny reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his "badge" and held it up where George could see it. "You see my "badge" a bit more clearly now, George, right?"

The man whimpered a bit as Johnny tapped the barrel of the gun against his head. Taking a look over his shoulder at Barbara, Johnny called out, "Gimme a minute toots. Me and the fat fucker are gonna go have a, ummm, come to Christ meetin'." Chuckling at his own ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE pun, Johnny turned back to George. "C'mon little piggy. Let's go." Opening the door with his gun hand, Johnny man-handled George out of the room.

Barbara was left by herself. Maybe she could at least get dressed now since Johnny had vacated? The door was open though, maybe she'd need to check on George. It wouldn't be good for anyone if he ended up dead right before she moved out. Surely Johnny had to know that, right?



Continuing down the hallway, Johnny practically drug George to the stairs. "Now, I fucking told you that you'd have no God damned problems if you just let me be. Well Georgie, you didn't fuckin' listen. Didya?" Johnny stuffed his gun into the back of his pants and balled a fist. It was a swift, solid swing that Johnny directed at Goerge's kidneys. And again. And a third time. Each time George groaned and cried out a bit more through his constricted throat that Johnny kept his arm around. "You get it now, George? Leave me be, no..." Johnny swung again with a grunt, giving that one all he had. "Problems!"

George doubled over after the fourth time his kidney had been pummeled. Finally releasing him, Johnny stepped back and George gasped for a good breath, whimpers and groans the only real sounds he could make between his coughing fits.

"We gonna have anymore fucking problems, George?" Johnny asked as George turned to face him.

"I'll kick your ass, you little punk..." George gasped out.

"Right, we'll see. Just get your ass downstairs before I decide ya ain't learned your fuckin' lesson, eh?" Johnny turned to look down the hallway toward the sound of opening doors, just in time to see a young red-headed woman stare toward the commotion.

"Ain't nothin' ta worry about doll, go ahead and go back inside, yeah?" he called as he heard George take his first, slow step down the stairs. Turning back, he smirked. "That's good, Georgie boy. You'll be okay, just a little bloody piss later. That's all. Take some Aspirin and go lie tha fuck down."

Johnny had no sooner turned his back and walked down the hallway toward Barbara's door before he heard George fall down the stairs. Spinning back around, he saw none other than the young red-head at the top of the stairs with a look of horror and terror on her face... Like she'd absolutely meant to do what she did, but hadn't fully thought it through until she'd done it.

"Fuuuck me, doll face. I told ya go back inside!" Johnny yelled before turning to run for Barb's door.


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There was no getting dressed. Barb was out the door and at the stairs in less than a heartbeat, the swiftness of her reaction giving Johnny pause. Blinking down at the scene before her, the pieces quickly snapped into place, and just as quickly, Barb snapped into action. Pulling the redhead away from the stairs, she smiled awkwardly as she shoved John and the new girl toward New Girl’s door, “John, Ginger. Ginger, John.” Silently, a look passed between the two females... the kind of heavy, wordless knowing that only women share. “He’s gonna take care a yas while I clean this up. Dontchyas worry yas pretty red head. He fell. Yas hear me? We saw him yesterday gettin’ back from tha bar again, and he looked real rough. I heard a noise and came lookin and we’s found him just like that at the bottom a the stairs. Yeah?” She paused, growing intense and impatient as she waited for the woman to silently shake her head, “YEAH? Good. Just lemme do all tha talkin’. Nobody’s gonna ask yas nothin’. And ain’t nothin’ gonna happen to ya or yas little ones. Alright?” 

Giving Johnny THE LOOK, she continued, “I’m gonna calls tha cops. When they’s come askin’ YOU,” she pointed at him for good measure with gravely clear enunciation, “heard me scream and came out ta help.” They shared a nod before she shoved him into an even tinier, dirtier flat than he’d previously seen. “Oh and... uh... do that thing you do,” She motioned to ‘Ginger’ as if he should somehow just KNOW how to handle the distraught and quickly shattering woman before shutting the door tightly behind them with an air of echoing finality. 


From the hall, John heard the soft patter of Barb’s bare feet descending the stairs followed shortly by the unquestionable, squelching THUD of flesh against wood. Behind him, Ginger gave a hollow whimper as she slipped just a little farther away. 


Racing from the stairs, Barb rushed into George’s office and carefully riffled through the chaotic mess of paperwork on his desk to find the registry. With a sigh of relief, she noted the comfortingly few names listed on their floor. The factory workers would all still be on shift. That left herself, Ginger, and crazy-Alma upstairs... who wouldn’t be saying anything to anybody, and wouldn’t be believed even if she did. Sighing, Barb glanced around the office. This needed to be believable. Plopping unceremoniously into George’s seat, she slid one leg loose from her robe, taking a DEEP breath as she pried his stapler open and pressed it to the soft flesh of her thigh... well out of sight. 

A quick exhale and a yelping whimper later, and she was reaching for the office phone with shaking fingers and tears in her eyes. It was brutal, but - with any luck - it would be effective. Sniffling lightly, Barb’s voice shook as she told the operator, “Yes, please, I need help. It’s my landlord. I think... I think he’s DEAD.” 



Several agonizing minutes later, a sharp knock came at Ginger’s door. Opening it, John stepped out, unprepared for the scene before him as he closed the door tightly behind him. 

Barb, wild-eyed and weepy, wilted against the stairwell as an officer comforted her quietly. Geroge, still and paleing, lay in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs almost exactly where Ginger had left him... a gharish pool of darkening blood staining the wood beneath in a slowly widening ink-blot of deception and murder. 

What had she done? Now there were TWO cons?

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Johnny took Ginger by the hand and led her inside, the noises from the scene below causing a pitfall in her stomach. "Oy, don't do that," Johnny coaxed softly, waving his hands in front of Ginger's face and lightly touching her forehead. "I need you here, now. Not somewhere else retreated in your head. Look, first things first. Ya did nothin'. Don't worry about it."

"I-I pushed him down the stairs!" Ginger coughed out, fighting the urge to vomit. "And he's dead!"

"Yes. Yes you did push him. So, this is going to be painful for you, but it's going to be quick and we'll get it over with," Johnny calmly spoke out, turning away from her and removing his coat. Her eyes landed on the gun in his belt and she whimpered a bit...

"You're gonna kill me, aren't you? That's what you meant by painful but quick?" Ginger backed away, moving toward her children's "room".

Johnny turned around with his brow raised, "What? No! Why would I kill you? I have a gun because the world outside is rough and filled with guys like Georgie out there. First, I'm from the clergy. Not the side that deals with confessionals and shit, but the side that handles exorcisms and the metaphysical. So. When I say ya did nothin' wrong? Believe me when I say, I believe you did nothing wrong. And you're going to as well."

Ginger blinked, slightly confused. "You're a priest?"

"Ohhhh no no no, doll. I'm no priest. In fact, I'm actually a magician." He flicked his wrist and held out a card to her.

"Johnny Christ?" she read aloud, her brow still raised. Johnny shrugged as she looked at him. "I mighta got kicked outta seminary. BUT. That don't matter, Ginger. Listen here. This is what I need you to do. Stay with me here. Focus on my finger. Good. Closer..." He smiled as he began to move his hand back and forth, Ginger's eyes focusing on his one finger.

"A little closer..."

She moved even closer.

"Peerrrrfect. Now," Johnny spoke softly and calmly. "I need you to focus very, very carefully on the sound of my voice. Listen, but never let your eyes wander from my finger. Keep focused." He watched as she continued to follow the rhythmic motion of his hand.

"That's good. Now, feel yourself drifting out of consciousness. Slowly, slowly further away... But don't go so far away that you can't hear the sound of my voice. Drift off until my voice is a low humming sound, buzzing in your ear. Further... Further..."

Johnny began humming in a pulsed measure, the beat of his cadence slowing as his hand movement crawled to a halt. Continuing to hum in the slow, low frequency, Johnny waited a few moments before dropping his hand swiftly. Ginger's body fell forward and into his arms. Smirking, he stood her back up straight.

"Am I still standing with Ginger?"

She nodded.

"Can Ginger hop in a circle for me, just in her spot. Hop and spin."

She began hopping and spinning. Satisfied with her level of trance, Johnny continued. "Okay, Ginger may stop now. I want Ginger to focus on the sound of my voice and only my voice. Nod when Ginger is doing this."

After a few moments, Ginger nodded.

"Perfect. Ginger, listen to me. You remember him smelling awful, like cheap booze and cigarettes. He'd been drinking a lot more lately. You remember hearing him come in late last night. He looked even more rough than normal, but he didn't talk to anyone. Just went straight to his office. No one bothered to check on him because, well, he's an asshole. You haven't seen him today, not until we heard Barbara scream. I went out to help her and we saw him at the bottom of the stairs. I came back with you because you were shaken up about seeing him laying there... Looking dead." Johnny paused, wondering if that was, indeed, smart to plant. Regardless with a shrug, he continued. "I'm Barb's friend, but I was trying to calm you. You're so worried because you don't know what you'll do if you have to leave. You and your kids really have no where else to go. What's going to happen to you?"

He saw the tears start to form as her consciousness began to take hold of his words... What -was- going to happen to her and her children? Where would they go? The thoughts echoed deep into her subconscious.

"Ginger, I need you to erase the memory of what you did to George. Instead, you were inside..." Johnny paused and looked around, then reached over and turned the volume of the radio all the way down before turning it on. "...Listening to the radio, quietly, while your children napped. I need you to do this, Ginger. Nod when that is released from your memory."

He waited a moment as she simply stood there, swaying slightly. Eventually, she nodded and he smiled. "Good. Now, when you hear knocking, you're going to wake up to the reality we've spoken on and agreed to. Is that understood? Nod and blink three times when you're ready."

A few, quiet moments passed before she nodded... Once she blinked, her eyes rolled back revealing the whites. Twice she blinked. A third time she blinked.


Almost too perfect. As he reached for the dresser the radio was on to knock on it, a loud knock came from the door. Immediately, Ginger snapped awake, and tears swelled in her eyes. "What am I gonna do about the kids, Johnny? We don't have anywhere we can go if something terrible happened to George! What if he's dead?!" she called out, almost hysterically.

Johnny smiled, "Ginger, it's gonna be okay, but lemme get the door and see who's there, yeah?" Opening slowly, he stepped outside and pulled the door shut. Looking around, he took a quick mental glimpse of everything. George had been moved just slightly. Interesting. Just what game was Barbara playing here?

Finally looking at the officer, Johnny nodded. "What can I do for you, officer?"

Noting the empty holster, the cop raised a brow. "Got a gun?"

Johnny raised his hand and turned around. "Yup, pulled it when I heard the lady scream and came runnin'. Slipped it in my backside outta habit, Officer."

'Hmmph'ing, the Officer nodded. There had been no reports of gunfire, and George had no bullet holes, so there was no reason to suspect him of anything. Yet. Turning back around, Johnny lowered his hands. "I know you're here for a statement, whatta ya need from me?"

"Can ya tell me what happened here, son?"

Johnny shrugged. "Honestly, mate. Not really. I was visitin' with my friend over there," he pointed to Barbara, "and she was gonna run down stairs to see if her landlord had any of her mail. I heard her scream and came runnin'. Lady in the room behind me came out too, but we's asked her to just stay in her room. Figured that'd be better... Less contamination of tha scene an' such. She saw the fella down there through tha banister, though. Freaked her out real good. Barb said she'd call you fellas if I'd go and try ta calm her down. I guess she figured since I'd spent my younger days in seminary that I'd be good for that." He shrugged softly.

"Anyways, name's Johnathan Young since you'll be needin' that for the report."

The cop nodded as he wrote. "Alrighty, thank you for your time. Anything else you can add?"

Johnny shook his head, "No, not that I can think of right away. But feel free to ask if you think of anything."

The Officer nodded and sighed. "Thank you." Turning from him, he walked toward Barbara and the other cop comforting her. "Oy!" Johnny called. "It okay if I go to my friend?" As the officers nodded, Johnny walked over to Barbara. "You okay, dollface?" He frowned slightly, reaching for a loose tuft of hair and tucking it behind her ear.

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John seemed surprised to see REAL TEARS in Barb’s eyes as he tugged her attention away from the cops. As if on cue, at the touch of his hand, she melted silently into his arms; catching him a little off guard as she tactfully hid her face in his jacket. The officers, all too familiar with such circumstances, simply nodded and shook their heads. Typical. 

To Barb’s credit, absolutely nothing aside from George’s body, seemed out of sorts or terribly suspicious. Seeming entirely disinterested in spending any more time in this shithole than necessary, the officers gave the place little more than a compulsory once-over. These places always attracted a certain type of people. And more often than not, fate found it’s way to those people with a certain amount of ease and brutality. It was just a fact of life, as far as they were concerned. And they didn’t seem all that concerned at that, barely even making an effort to lower their voices as they discussed the scene: Only footprints were the woman’s, straight to the office. No signs of a struggle or disturbance. Nothing out of place. Body clearly what you would expect from a fall. No apparent tampering. Call the coroner. 

Shrugging, one officer returned, lightly tapping Barb’s shoulder. Handing her a card, he nodded sternly to John. “It’s a mighty unfortunate accident. But things like this happen every day... more here lately. The coroner should be here within the hour. Our boys’ll clean up after. Standard procedure will hold the property as an official crime scene until after the report’s are filed. If anybody gives you trouble about squatting before then, you give me a call. I can make it a week... two at the most. But then it’s out of our hands,” he smiled forlornly at them both, a kind sort of understanding lighting his tired eyes. “I’m sorry.” 

Giving her shoulder a squeeze, the man put his hat back on and turned for the door. “Probie, job’s done here. Let’s go!” 

Letting Johnny steer her upstairs, Barb only barely glanced over her shoulder to note the cruiser as it passed the windowed door before tugging him into her room and once again locking the door. Ginger could wait. 

Moving to the bed, plopped down with a pained groan. Hiking the split in her robe clear up to one hip. For a split second, Johnny’s mind swam. She couldn’t possibly be THAT twisted, could she? But, as his gaze found and followed the small trickle of blood drying to her soft skin, suddenly EVERYTHING made sense. No wonder she was crying. This crazy bitch! 

I’mma need yas help pullin’ this out,” she chuckled awkwardly, gesturing to the staple buried in her thigh, and the quickly-swelling fever that had flushed around it as they waited on the cops.

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"Shit Barb! What the fuck?" Johnny shook his head as he hurried over. "You got any alcohol? Not beer either. Real shit. Preferably not cheap booze..." Glancing over the small, but feverish wound, he couldn't help but chuckle. "Hellova move though." He stood and rushed to the only cabinet with a door, barely hanging on it's hinges, as she directed him to it. A full, never-been-opened, ten year old bottle of something was in there. Pulling it out, he looked at the label. Old Forester. How convenient. One of the only -medicinally- sold, therefore legal, bottles of whiskey available. And they just so happened to need it as a medicinal tool. Could the day get any stranger?

"Of all things, ya got this hundred proof bottle? Well, it's probably aged enough for a better flavor now anywho." Johnny chuckled and looked at her, asking with his eyes and hands if he could pop the cork. As Barb nodded emphatically, Johnny twisted the wax seal away and popped the cork with a loud, salivatingly crisp, *PLONK*. Taking a quick sniff, Johnny's eyes closed tight and his nose scrunched up. "Whew! That's gonna burn nice."

He returned to her side and knelt beside her. "Ya wanna bite down on somethin' or just want me to get it-"

"GET IT OUT!" she whispered sharply through clenched teeth.

"Yes ma'am," Johnny retorted quickly and pulled a small pocket knife from his pocket. Opening the blade, he slid it artfully between the small metal staple and her skin. Quickly, relentlessly, and without warning, he tugged hard. The knife popped one side of the staple out but left the other. However, before she could even flinch away, he grabbed the staple between his fingers and ripped it out.

To her credit, she didn't make much of a noise at all... Or pull away. Though he did see the tears well again. He knew it had hurt, and the staple hadn't popped out in one go like he'd hoped either. But, at least it was out. Now for the fun part.

Quickly, before she could protest or ask for a moment, he turned the bottle over and poured the cold whiskey down her thigh. She didn't have but a moments notice as the bottle tipped before the liquid hit the fevered wound and seeped into her open punctures. Even small, they burned like a fiery pike sticking inside of her flesh.

Jumping up as she inhaled sharply through those clenched teeth and cursed quietly, Johnny hunted for something to pour the liquor on so he could wrap her leg. Finding a small, clean looking wash cloth, he dumped a healthy amount of whiskey on it and then took a drink straight from the bottle. "Oh, oh dear me that burns! That's good shit!" Chuckling, he returned and pressed the alcohol soaked towel to her flesh and held it tightly against her, offering her the bottle. "I'd say drink, but that's up to you. Thins the blood, but also makes you feel less pain. Your choice, Barb. Not that much blood is still coming out of such small wounds."

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There was a quiet resolve that washed over her as the cold steel of his knife touched her flesh; only the slightest whimper escaping as she breathed through the abrupt pull. Her sharp gasp at the frigid whiskey was louder than anything... even the huffing curses that whispered through her teeth as she wiggled on the spot. Breathing into the burn, she relaxed into a purposeful appreciation of the warmth as he waffled about the whiskey. 

Shaking her head, she took the bottle from him with a patronizing smirk, downing a long swig. “It’s a staple, not a shank, John. Fuckin’ relax.” Leaning back, she twisted to pull a clean chiffon scarf from the armoire, forgetting for a moment just how bare she was beneath the diaphanous silk robe. Turning back, she blushed just a little as she straightened the opening and pulled it tight again. 

“There’s an envelope in that top drawer, gets it for me, wouldjyas?” She smiled sheepishly as she shooed him away, waiting until his back was turned to tie the scarf over his makeshift bandage like a bowed garter. “Should be five an’ some change left, I think. I figures yas can take that and uhh...” she paused briefly to riffle through her sea of quilts for the misplaced card she’d been given, snatching it from beneath a wave of bohemian flowers with a soft grunt. “Officer Bradley’s card,” she read the name off before handing it to him, “over to Ginger to help smoothe things over an’ get her off her feet.” 

Standing, she smoothed her robe again, “Meanwhiles, I’ll get dressed so’s we can hit tha bank an’ get this done.” She smiled briefly before a tsunami of realization blinked across her face, “Err... ah... ON her feet. We’s should get her ON her feet.” She snickered and shook her head, “Not that yas couldn’t easily do both, I’m sure.” She was rambling as she shoved him toward the door, card and cash in hand. “I’ll meetchyas down in a few.” 

There was a sharp snap as the door closed in his face, silence any protest as he heard the chain slide back into place on the other side of the door. Did she even own presentable clothing? What about THAT HAIR? There were a million concerns and questions that needed to be JUST RIGHT for them to pull this off. But if she was willing to put a staple in her leg to dupe the cops... maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. ...maybe. 



It seemed like HOURS as Johnny paced Ginger’s living room waiting for Barb. It was after two already. The banks would be closing soon. And, he thought - fed up to his eyeballs with the woman’s wilting ‘damsel in distress’ show of helplessness - if he had to suffer throughout single second more, he’d shoot himself in the foot just for an excuse to leave. He was a showman, after all. He knew a routine when he saw one. And, despite the red head’s desperate attempts to prime him for pity or arousal, he was no mark. 

Damn Barb to hell for putting him in this situation... but then, he’d brought this to her door and down on them all. So maybe this was just the comically ironic self-flag elating punishment that he always seemed to attract. 

Just about the time he was ready to throw in the towel and call the whole job off, there was a soft - almost shy - knock at the door. 

Much to his surprise... and delight... opening the door revealed an unnervingly well put together Barb looking downright indignant in the visage of a proper, polished secretary, right down to the hat and pearls. Noting his speechless, gawking stare, Barb rolled her eyes with loud huff. Smacking him with a thick manila folder as she grumbled, “One. Hour. Yas get this for One. Hour. Any longer an’ so help me, I’m stripping in yas backseat.” 

Opening the folder, she turned it and carefully presented it to him. Death certificate, power of attorney, transfer of dead on death and a sea of other unnecessary supporting documents... enough to drown any normal banking associate at the end of a long day. Everything they could possibly need all neatly delivered in taupe pearls and pin curls. Smirking, she booped his nose and pulled him out the door by his collar. “Now, let’s get this over with so’s I can take off all this ridiculous fluff!”  

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Lost for words, Johnny simply shook his head and waved goodbye to poor Ginger as he shut the door in her face. "Ya look-" he paused as they both halted, both as they stared at the scene below and at eachother.

"Shut it, Johnny. Don't even. Just know this means I likes yas."

Johnny, shrugged and turned to walk down the stairs. "I was gonna say ya look good. But I won't. Just know I appreciate ya." He didn't look back over his shoulder at her, but he did hold the door as they exited the building. Leading her around the corner of her block, he stepped up to a black car with a smirk. "Borrowed from a friend for ascetics. Gotta look the look and walk the talk, right?" he chuckled. Slipping into the rounded door, Johnny grabbed his necktie from the backseat and popped his collar. Pre-tied. Winking at Barb as he reached over and popped her door open, he snugged the tie up and flipped his collar back down.

"How do I look? Like an attorney?" He wiped the grin from his face as his features shifted. Serious, yet approachable and nice looking. The best way to explain the presence and aura he put off as she stared at him. Not waiting for her answer, he waved his hand at her. "C'mon! Get in, let's go and do this thing!"

Fishing the keys from his pocket, he turned the engine over. You could almost see Barbara, and Johnny for that matter, melt as the engine roared to life. "I've really gotta get me one of these on a more permanent basis."


As the two got settled into the car, Johnny put it in gear and eased onto the gas, pulling away from the curb. It wasn't a -long- drive to the middle of town where Jerry's bank was, but they had about a ten minute drive ahead of them. Pending the current traffic levels of course.

"Anyway. Just follow my lead when we get into the bank, alright? We'll have this done quick and smooth." He reached over between her legs and popped the glove compartment open, sifting through the few wallets that were in there until he eyeballed the one he wanted and plucked it out. "There we go. Alrighty, all set." He winked at her as he closed the compartment and straightened his posture.

"Do me a favor and stick those papers into the briefcase in the backseat, yeah? And you're welcome to strip back there after we leave the bank. Trust me, I wouldn't mind." He playfully stuck his tongue out. Adrenaline was pumping! Getting away with assault and murder, hypnotizing a woman... Seeing Barb's smooth legs and bare skin? Today was a GOOD DAY for a CON! But, Johnny kept the excitement reigned in. Calm and smooth won this race every time, and the moment that graceful stride broke was when lady luck turned her back. And Johnny was far to aware of the Lady's fickle love for him...

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Just how many times was she going to end up with his hand between her legs today, Barb wondered as he reached for the glove compartment. Sure, artsy types were a little less prude than most. But even she had SOME modicum of modesty... sort of... mostly... if she liked you enough to care. Deciding that a non-reaction was the best reaction, she simply nodded. Following the status quo wasn’t usually a strong suit of hers, but going with the flow came naturally enough. She just wouldn’t think too hard about the implications of his requests. Otherwise, that stubborn independent streak might muck a fuss.  She knew that it had nothing to do with his confidence in her, and everything to do with the societal expectations of the con. But still... the idea of having to follow meekly along always rubbed her the wrong way. So wrong, in fact, that living with George had seemed a better option. 

Now it wasn’t an option at all, she reminded herself. And, with only the tiniest amount of mental pouting, settled into her sidekick role. Twisting, she stretched herself into the back seat. A little wiggling, and a fair amount of pouting grunts, and the folder was neatly tucked away nicely. Only AFTERWARD, as she straightened and smoothed her skirt, did it strike her that simply pulling the case upfront and then putting back would have been far easier and less... ass-y. Oh well. 

Folding her hands in her lap, she assumed her best ‘phone voice’, shooting him a sidelong glance, “Your files for the Wence case are ready, as requested, Mr. Young.” It was half practice, half joke, and all smoothe as butter. Almost as perfectly delivered as his own forced eloquence. “I’ve cleared all your afternoon appointments, and notified the estate agent that we’ll be arriving by three pee-em to finalize the remaining documents.” 

Smirking Barb nodded. Yes, that would work nicely... even if it did turn her stomach. Not that she’d need to speak all that much anyway. But just in case...

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Johnny nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again.

"Ugh, I don't like it. I mean, don't get me wrong, for the con it's perfect... But Jesus Christ, please don't ever be like that normally. One, it's creepy, and two, it's just not you. You're... Just no. I like you you... Not that you."

Half-chuckling, half-groaning, Johnny looked at her. "But, a very good role for what we're about to do. That's for sure."

Putting his eyes on the road, he smiled. Things were shaping up. That was good. He really did hate going in cold like this, especially for such a serious matter, but it would test Barbara's resolve and wit. Two things which, after the earlier events, he was more than confident in.

Rolling the car to a stop along the curbside, Johnny nodded to a two-story building and smirked. "Now's better than never, Barb. Let's get this over with so we can celebrate, hmm?"

Johnny stepped out of the car after killing it and reached into the back seat to grab the briefcase. Slipping his gun back into it's holster, hidden behind the long coat he buttoned up, Johnny walked around the car and opened the door for Barbara. It was game time, and the look on both of their faces said it. With a nod, he stepped out of the way and offered his hand to help Barbara out of the vehicle before shutting the door behind her.

The pair walked up to the door of the small building labeled "Citizens and Southern Bank". Johnny stopped outside and looked at Barbara. "One of the few banks that have survived so far. Not owned by a white man, either. Not that I care one way or another, just something I find interesting as all the rich, white man institutions continually fail." Johnny shrugged. "Makes you think, huh?"

Turning back to the door, he pulled it open and stepped through. Looking around for a moment, he zeroed in on the mark and quickly made his way toward an office door, only to be stopped by a man trying to direct him to a teller.

"Excuse me sir, madam, the tellers are right over here," the slightly younger and certainly more nervous looking man coaxed as he stepped in front of Johnny, who was more than prepared. Looking down at the name tag, Johnny smiled and fished into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.

"Thank you, Benjamin. Interesting, my name is Benjamin as well." He smiled at the man as he flashed his wallet. "Benjamin Huxley, attorney with the Philadelphia offices of the BLL group of Manhattan, New York, and this is my assistant Mrs. White. We're here on behalf of my client, the late Mr. Jerry Hubert Wence, in accordance with his last will and testament."

Blinking and slightly overwhelmed, the young man shook his head. Johnny had spoken quickly, but projected his voice with an authority even Barb hadn't heard from him yet. Wait. He was a "Huxley" and she got "White?" What kind of lame bullshit was that? Too late now though, she couldn't argue or it would throw the con.

With the younger Benjamin still lost, an older man walked up and offered his hand to Johnny. "Please, Mr. Huxley, Mrs. White. Come with me. We can discuss Mr. Wence's belongings in private in my office."

Nodding, Johnny looked at Barbara and tilted his head in the direction the older gentleman turned to walk. Following, they were soon in a small office about a quarter of the size of Barb's apartment. Johnny frowned slightly as he looked around but squeezed himself into the tight fitting room as Barb followed.

"Mr. Wright," Johnny nodded as he noted the name plaque on the desk before him. "If my memory serves me correctly, and it usually does, you're the founder of this bank, yes?"

The older, darker skinned man nodded with a smile. "That I am, Mr. Huxley, sir. That I am. I'm sorry to hear of Ole Jerry's death! I used to go down to his gym many years ago. When did he go?"

"Mr. Wence passed on the first of October. Complications following a heart attack. Cardiogenic shock." As he spoke, Johnny was already pulling all of his paperwork from the briefcase to show Mr. Wright, starting with the death certificate. Following, he produced the written, and signed, last will and testament which would place all of the current deeds held by the bank into the attorney's hands, or more correctly the BLL Group's hands, to "enact the will properly", along with the power of attorney. Everything was going smoothly thus far as Mr. Wright looked over the paperwork.

Shutting the briefcase and setting it down, Johnny pulled out a chair and picked up a pen on the desk. "Do you have any paperwork for us to go ahead and get started?" He motioned to the chair for Barb to join him. She could certainly help fill out paperwork.

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MRS. White? MISSUS?? She hadn’t worn a ring!! How could Johnny make such a rookie mistake?!

Breathing through her discomfort, Barb silently accompanied the men into the office, sliding into the offered chair with a demure smile and nod.

”Everything looks to be in proper order,” the owner gave a somber nod, “give me just a moment to retrieve everything.” Wright left the office briefly, the heavy sound of his brisk footfalls echoing through the tiled building with an anxious hypnotic rhythm. Barely a few minutes passed before he returned with an arm of well-organized files, rubberbanded together and earmarked with Jerry’s various account numbers. 

“Alright,” Wright nodded, “I’ll just need a few signatures. Jerry, God rest his soul, streamlined most of his holdings after his son’s last rehab. So this should be a fairly painless process for both of us,” he chuckled uncomfortably. “I hate handling estates. Jerry knew that.” 

Fanning the files out, he flipped through them individually, sliding each page toward Barb as necessary. 

“This is for the house here in Philly. Sign and initial both copies, please. This is for the two properties in Galveston. Same. And this one is the gym. This authorizes the liquidation and transfer of all remaining assets and funds, less continued arrangements for the children’s living expenses and medical care as well as all applicable legal fees as specified. The title to the Cadillac. Transfer of Guardianship for the Safety Deposit Box. And final disbursement of the late Mrs. Wence’s remaining veteran’s benefits. ...for her service as s field Nurse in the Great War,” he added in response to Barb’s arched brow. 

Adding a flourishing signature to the final page, Barb slid their copy of the files to one side, returning the rest with a silent and appropriately somber nod.

“Very good,” Mr. Wright nodded, “Here is the key to Mr. Wence’s deposit box. You’ll find everything else you may need included in the files provided. If you have any further questions, concerns, or necessities, please do not hesitate to contact me personally.” Standing, he shook both their hands before navigating very carefully through the tight space to open the door for them. “One of our tellers will be happy to walk you to the boxes, if you wish to handle that now. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to hold it until further notice. and Benjamin can see you out whenever you are ready, if you need help, Miss.” 

Barb, hefting the thick stack of papers into the crook of one arm, shook her head with a smile. “I assure you, Mr. Wright, I’m quite used to this part of the job. But thank you. Your kindness is not lost on me,” managing a small dip of a curtesy, she turned toward Johnny. “With your permission, Mr. Huxley, I will return to the car and get these squared away?” 

She waited patiently for John’s assenting nod before turning toward the door, the vision of perfessional etiquette as she waited for young Benjamin to scurry over and open it for her. “Thank you, Benjamin,” she smiled as she exited, gaining a goofy smile from the younger man in return. Carefully navigating the curb, she locked the door behind her as she slid into the passenger seat, carefully positioning the paperwork in the back seat only AFTER ensuring that all was secure. 

She’d wait for Johnny to finish up inside before climbing back and peeling off the unnecessary layers of her outward con. And though she realized the deposit box would need to be cleared today rather than later, as the clasp of her garter belt dug into the back of her already sore thighs, she hoped he would make it quick. 

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