Part One: North Of The Border

Prologue: Toronto

There was no denying she was beautiful.

The man tilted back idly in his chair, his gaze never leaving the figure on the stage. As she performed, his eyes ran approvingly down her body, taking in the tight fitting clothing and the perfectly proportioned figure. Oh yes, there was no doubt about it. She was more than worth his attention.

She couldn't be more than twenty, he decided idly as he lit a cigarette, exhaling a cloud of smoke into the already hazy atmosphere of the diner. There was a gentle innocence to her features, cloaked only by the mischievous, playful sparkle in her dark aquamarine eyes. She was not a novice, he was sure of that. She had played this kind of crowd before. He knew her type...and he knew exactly how to get her attention.

He slid a hand into his pocket, closing his fingers around the tight knot of cash, rubbing his nails against the elastic band that held them together. He had been well paid for this job, but that didn't mean he was going to rush it. And considering the size of the stakes involved, he more than deserved to have a moment or two of pleasure.

He hadn't been sure at first, he mused, as he flicked ash absently from his cigarette into the waiting ashtray. It was a risk - and he had taken risks enough in the past. He had always made a rule of not working for the same employer on more than one occasion, especially when the past job had gone so badly wrong. And yet there had been a challenge in the proposition. A challenge and plenty of money, too. No intermediate to work for, no-one else to mess up the job and give the game away. This time it was all in his own hands. Two deaths stood between him and enough money to set him up for life. No more skipping borders, changing names and taking on low paying jobs to scrape by an income. This was the big one. And he had had enough sense to see it.

He rubbed his fingers against the money once more. The down payment had been inducement enough, he admitted. And it wasn't like he hadn't dabbled with murder before. It hadn't been his fault that he'd failed in the past - his time in prison had decided him that living witnesses were an unecessary loose end. This was right up his street and he knew it. Since he'd left his cell in a Los Angeles jail, he'd covered his tracks impeccably. And now here he was, in one of Canada's biggest cities, just another face in the crowd.

At this moment she finished her song and, amid the drunken approval of the crowd she allowed herself the slightest of smiles, stepping daintily off the dais and into the main body of the diner. Exchanging a word or two with the security guard on duty, she disappeared into a back room, only to re-emerge in a few minutes dressed in a simple waitressing outfit, her apron smoothed carefully over her hips and tied neatly at the back. His lips curled into a smile. So that was how she would play it, then? He wasn't fooled. He'd been to enough places like this to know that few waitresses were averse to making money on the side by pleasing the customers in other ways than simply serving food. He'd picked this place out for many reasons...but the reputation of the serving staff was well known in the area. And since he'd had other business to attend to, he had not been able to resist dropping by and seeing the wares for himself.

As if she noticed his eyes on her, she drifted nonchalantly across the diner to his table, casting him a quizzical, questioning smile as she did so. She was even prettier up close, he realised. Well formed and obviously worth both his time and his money. Well then. Things were looking up. He returned her smile, extinguishing his cigarette and folding his arms across the table.

"You sing very nicely."

He spoke quietly, and she cocked her head to one side, as if trying to work out his motives. At length she shrugged, the tiny smile touching the corners of her mouth once more.

"Thank you." She said softly, her voice tinged with the local city accent. "That's why they pay me."

"I've heard tell that there are other reasons people tip so well here." He narrowed his eyes, running his gaze once more over her figure. Involuntarily she seemed to tense, then, as if ashamed of her reaction, she forced a playful smile onto her face, crossing her arms across her chest.

"Other reasons, sir?" She asked lightly. "The food, perhaps? You haven't eaten - can I get you something?"

"That's not the kind of appetite I was thinking of quenching." He reached out to take her hand, glancing at the cheap nail polish that had already begun to chip at the edges. He raised his gaze to hers, as if issuing a challenge. "So let's drop the pretence, shall we? It's a well known fact in this area that the ladies of this establishment aren't averse to earning some cash on the side for the right offer. I just made myself a whole bundle of cash and I'm looking to celebrate. I could make it worth your while."

For a moment the girl regarded him, as if unsure how best to respond. Then she laughed.

"I'm sorry, sir. That's not a service I'm able to provide." She said simply. "Though I'm sure there are plenty of ladies on Bellevue avenue who'd be more than glad of your windfall."

"Playing hard to get is cute, but I'm not looking to play games." He shook his head, angry that she should be so teasing him when he held so many cards and she none at all. "What time do you finish work?"

Gently, she pulled her hand away, using it to smooth down the apron. She offered him a thoughtful smile, then,

"If you had your way, I'd be working well into the early hours." She said with a tiny shake of her head. "That's not the kind of work I do, sir. I'm flattered by your attention and your offer - but that's not the kind of girl I am. I'm sorry to disappoint."

She turned to leave but he reached out, grabbing her firmly around the wrist.

"Not so fast." He growled. "I'm not someone you should be arguing with, girl. I'm not someone you want to upset."

"I think you'll find nor am I." Her eyes glinted with ice at this and she pulled her hand away, raising her other one to gesture to the security men. In a moment the two large beefy bouncers were lumbering in their direction, identical scowls on their pierced and tattooed faces. "Perhaps my friends can explain it to you better than I can, hrm?"

With that she turned on her heel, making her way back towards the bar. As the security men drew closer, he began to wonder if he'd maybe miscalculated. He'd been so sure...but here he was, with his usual club luck, about to take a dive into last week's garbage. He got to his feet, casting the bouncers a glare.

"It's all right, I'm going." he muttered. "The service here stinks anyhow."

"That's a good idea." One of the security men clenched his fist, beating it into the palm of his other hand in a threatening gesture. "And don't bother to show your face here again. The boss pays us good wages to keep scum like you from harassing his don't you forget it!"

"His woman?"

A mixture of realisation, amusement and understanding flooded his features, and despite his predicament he let out a low chuckle. "Well, that's an interesting twist...I didn't realise that she belonged to management. My apologies, gentlemen. I'll show myself out."

And before either of the men could react he was on his feet, heading for the door of the diner and out into the busy street.

As he paused beneath a lamp to catch his breath, he ran his mind over what he'd learnt.

"She's the boss's whore, which is why she takes no favours from anyone else." He muttered. "But that's just fine with me. We'll soon see how icy and cold she is when I put my plans into motion. Talk about another incentive - looks like it won't just be the money to be gained from this little job. If I can add her pretty little face to the tab, well, why the hell not? Noone talks to me like that and walks away...we'll soon see who has the last laugh!"


Prologue: Toronto
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight

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