A Good Reason To Die
by Cody

He was feeling good; the result of a nice meal and plenty to drink. People who got on his nerves when he was sober were surprisingly funny and interesting after he'd had a few bottles of Delerium Tremens. He was carrying his current bottle with him and he set it on the counter by the sink so he could use the urinals. The door to the bathroom swung open and someone walked in, but he didn't pay attention. It was dim in here; the walls all black. Looked both expensive and faux-dingy, the lighting purposely bad and the urinals made of black porcelain. Justin surely would've had something derogatory to say about the "this is hip, I promise" décor if he wasn't having a bit of trouble keeping steady on his feet. He took a piss and went to wash his hands, and it was there, at the sink, that he noticed that the man who'd come in was standing too close. He looked over at him.

The man said, "Justin Timberlake?"

Justin said, "Who wants to know?"

It was hard to see the man's face, but the light fell across his mouth and it was odd, like talking to the disembodied smile of a Cheshire, except this cat wasn't smiling, rather was asking, "Got a wife named Britney?"

"Maybe." Justin's gaze wandered down to the man's right hand, which was holding…a towel? "Who are you?"

And then the towel was coming towards his face, and Justin gasped and reached to pull it away but already he was falling into the black, hearing from some distant place, "The man she hired to kill you."


When he came to he was sitting in a car. In the front passenger seat, and the only thing restraining him was a seatbelt. The window he leaned against was heavily tinted, but other than that it seemed a normal car. He didn't know why he was surprised. Maybe he expected to find himself in the back of an unmarked van, bound with duct tape or something. This just…surprised him. This SL500, Justin had one of these himself at home, and was that Bjork coming through the speakers? He reached immediately for the door lock, pressed the button but it didn't work. He kept his eyes on the lock, tried to sound not-to-be-fucked-with and demanded, "What the fuck's going on? Unlock the doors."

A soft chuckle, blasé amusement. "You gonna jump out? This isn't a movie, you know. You'll get hurt."

Justin still didn't turn his head. There was this thought in his mind that he must've picked up somewhere, books or TV or something, that once you saw an abductor's face you were definitely going to die. If you just didn't look at them, there was always the chance you could pay them off and be released or something. "Who the fuck are you?"

"I told you who I am."

Oh, right. The man sent to kill him. Justin gripped the door handle hard, yanked on it. "But...but...what the fuck? Let me out of here!"

"I'll let you out when we get there."

"Get where?" He sounded desperate, but he was beyond caring. This was probably some sick prank, right? Just some fucked up trick. But it was scary as fuck, because his head ached from whatever had been used to knock him out. Chloroform, if he remembered what people usually used in movies. He felt nauseous, pressed his forehead against the window and took a deep breath. "Where are you taking me?"

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you."


"Just a little hired gun humor."

Justin still didn't respond, and the man cleared his throat. "Okay, then."


They drove for a long time, until cityscape gave way to countryside; long fields of grazing cows and farmhouses replacing buildings and stores. They turned onto a dirt driveway that took them down about a mile before it reached a house Justin would've found charming if not for the conditions under which he was coming to it. The engine shut off and the man got out. Justin tried his door but it was still locked, remained so until the man came around and unlocked it from the outside.

He looked up instinctively, then didn't look away. Fuck it, I saw him, it's too late anyway, he figured, and took a good look. The man had a slight build, wore loose jeans and a shirt that clung to his well-formed upper body. His hair was dark and shaggy, curling to the nape of his neck, and though his eyes were hidden by shades, Justin appreciated his lips and stunning cheekbones. He wondered what was wrong with himself, that he was checking out someone who wanted to kill him. Why the hell is he wearing sunglasses at night? And that, too, seemed an entirely inappropriate thought to entertain while his life was endangered.

Since he was sitting there gawking like a jackass, the man reached down and unbuckled his seatbelt, took him by the arm and yanked him out of the car. Justin leaned against him, still woozy from the chloroform and alcohol, and shamelessly let the man bear most of his weight as he navigated them into the house and up the stairs. Finally they came to a large bedroom. The windows were barred, but other than that it was almost homey. There was a big day bed smothered by a plump quilt, and Justin let himself get tucked into it gratefully.

"Get some rest," the man told him. "I'll kill you in the morning."


When Justin woke up he felt much better. He went to the door of the bedroom and was surprised to find it open. He ran down the stairs like lightning, crying out in frustration when he saw the front door was dead-bolted; a key lock. He looked around the room, at the barred windows, and then ran into the next room, a kitchen, and there was the man, standing at the stove scrambling eggs. He glanced over his shoulder. "Oh, hey, you're up. Hungry?"

"Um." Justin felt dizzy and figured he should probably eat something; keep up his strength. "Yhea."

"Go wash up. There's a bathroom upstairs at the end of the hall. You can take a shower if you want; there's clean towels. I put a spare toothbrush in there for you. Sorry, but you can't change your clothes."

Justin was at a complete loss for words.

"Hurry up, we've got a big day ahead of us," the man said pleasantly. "After breakfast, you're going out into the woods to die."


Breakfast wasn't as terribly awkward as it should've been. Despite morbid thoughts of bacon and egg burritos being his last meal, Justin found himself warming up to the man hired to kill him. The man who smiled and put a platter of food down in the middle of the table as Justin sat, before sticking out his hand and saying, "I'm JC, by the way."

Justin took the hand by habit. "Justin," and then, "Oh, but you know that…"

"So, Justin." JC sat, seemingly unfazed by the allusion to their initial meeting, and hefted a burrito onto his plate. "I wrecked your car."

"You fucking what?" he screeched, because he'd been driving his newest Porsche last night.

"Well, not by myself; I had help. It looks great, wait till you see it." JC poured salsa over his food and offered it to Justin, "Want some?" Justin stared at the jar stupidly, then nodded. JC tipped it helpfully. "Tell me when."

"When," Justin said, and this whole experience was just freaking him the fuck out. Were hitmen supposed to be…like this? His hand came up of its own volition, and he hadn't consciously noticed that JC was still wearing sunglasses until he was pulling them off.

JC caught his wrist. Hard at first, then slackened and let Justin remove the glasses fully. Large, very blue eyes confronted him. A little disarmed; he clearly hadn't expected such a bold move. Justin, honestly, hadn't either. He set the glasses on the table quietly, and only then did JC's hand release him.

They looked at each other for a while.

JC said, "So, what kind of music do you like?"


After the dishes were washed and placed on the drying rack, JC picked up a messenger bag, put it on so the strap crossed his chest, and led Justin outside to a four-wheeler. He sat on it, scooting up to make room behind him. "Hop on." JC slid his messenger bag around to rest against his back and said, "Sit close so this doesn't jiggle around. There's breakables inside."

They rode out across a couple of acres of grass, past cows that JC hollered at cheerfully, and into the woods. Stopped a few yards away from a dirt road. On the side of the road, crumpled against and partially around a giant tree, was a mangle of iron and glass that used to be a suped-up 911 GT2. Justin leaped off of the parked four-wheeler and ran to his car. "My baby!" He grabbed his hair at the senselessness of it all. "You wrecked my baby!"

"Looks good, doesn't it?" JC took in the scene with satisfaction, creaking open the door of the crashed car. He gestured grandly, like a chauffeur. "Get in."

Justin backed away. "Are you crazy?"

JC jogged up to him, took his arm and pulled him toward the car. "I'm not asking, I'm telling. Get in."

Justin dug his heels into the ground. "No way."

"Get in or I'll put you in." JC held the door open with his free arm. "Watch for stray glass. Here, I'll help you."

"How do I know there's not a bomb in it or something?" Justin peered into the car warily.

"If I was going to kill you, you'd be dead. Get in." JC pushed at Justin's shoulders.

Justin scooted into the car; the fit so tight, he wondered if he'd be able to get back out. "So you're not going to kill me?"

"No, of course not. I'm not a killer." JC reached into his messenger bag, pulled out a plastic packet of dark red liquid. He wagged it at Justin. "I'm a con artist." Producing a Swiss Army knife, he clipped a corner of the bag and poured some on Justin artfully. Fake blood, Justin realized as JC continued. "My camera's in my bag. I just want to take some pictures to manipulate and send home to wifey; proof of a job well done."

Justin bent forward willingly as JC positioned his head against a crack in the windshield. "So you fake my death, and then...?"

"And then you stay with me for a while." JC finished off the packet, took out another.

Justin turned his head to watch as JC went around to the other side, opened the door and stretched across the seat to arrange the blood from this angle. "How long is a while?"

JC shrugged, busy squirting blood on the windshield. "Until I get my money."

"And then?" Justin lifted his head up completely now.

JC put his hand in Justin's hair; repositioned him. "And then you don't stay with me anymore."

He held obediently still, gazed forward at the red-smeared glass. "What about Britney?"

In his peripheral, he could see JC shrug again. "What you do about her is none of my business."

"Maybe I'll hire you to kill her," Justin said.


Killing Justin took a little more than an hour, but then there was the matter of cleaning up. JC gave him some clothes to change into after his shower. "Looks like you're a little bigger than me, but they should fit okay," he said. "Use the scrubbing brush in there to get all that dried blood off."

Justin looked his clothes over. "Does fake blood stain?"

"Oh, that's not fake," JC said.

Justin ran to the bathroom.


He was a little unsettled by the whole blood incident, and refrained from partaking of the spaghetti lunch JC prepared. "You're one sick fuck, you know that?"

JC laughed. "Flattery will get you everywhere."


They watched TV for the rest of the day. Dinner was sandwiches because JC didn't feel like cooking again. They ate on the back porch with a six pack of beer between their lounge chairs. It was summer and the day stretched long. "Shouldn't I be tied up or something?" Justin wondered.

JC let his sunglasses slide down his nose, lifted his eyebrows. "You want me to tie you up?"

Justin rolled his eyes. "I mean, aren't you afraid I'll run away?"

JC shook his head, "Nah."

"Why not?" Justin felt a little offended, in a way.

"Who cares if you do?" JC shrugged, sipping his beer. "I already got the pictures. That's all I really need."

"What if I went back to Britney?" Justin said. "She'd know I wasn't dead. You wouldn't get paid."

JC pushed his glasses into place. "You'd go back to her?"

"To confront her, maybe." Justin finished off his beer, set the empty can on the floor.

JC raked a hand through his hair, then gestured out to the open field. "So go ahead. Run."

Justin stood up from his chair, smirked when JC tensed at his sudden movement. He stepped towards the house. "I'm gonna fix myself a drink. You want something?"

JC smirked back. "I wouldn't say no to a Bloody Mary."

Justin grinned, "Sick fuck," and went inside.


He was standing in the kitchen pouring a rum and coke when JC came up behind him. "I'm going to call her now, you wanna listen?"

Justin half-turned, surprised. "Can I? I mean, should I?"

JC picked up the Bloody Mary that sat on the counter, tasted it. "If you want. Just be quiet. Either way, I'm taping it; you could listen to it later."

Justin looked down into his drink, stirred it with a finger. "Or not at all."

"If you want."

"So you're going to call to tell her...?" Justin took his finger out of his glass, wiped it on the thigh of his jeans.

"That I took care of it."

Justin looked at him, "You mean, killed me."

JC met his gaze steadily. "Yes."

Justin stood quiet for a moment, then nodded shortly. "I'm coming."


He followed JC upstairs and into the bedroom across the hall and one door down from where he'd slept last night. In the center of the room stood a table surrounded by rolling chairs, and against the back wall were plastic trunks, some open to reveal a clutter of what Justin thought of as gadgets. Stuff with wires coming out of them; stuff he paid other people to know about so he didn't have to. He went over to one of the trunks,. "What is all this shit?"

JC didn't even glance over; his attention focused on the machine he was hooking up to the phone on the table. "Equipment. Don't touch it."

Justin bent to peer closer, kicked the side of the trunk lightly. "Is that a bullet-proof vest or something?"

JC's head snapped up at the sound of his things being bothered. "Hey, get away from there. You're gonna break something."

Justin rolled his eyes but went to the table, plopped down in one of the chairs. "I barely nudged it."

"How 'bout my foot barely nudges your ass?" JC said, apparently done setting up the phone because he pulled a slip of paper out of his pocket and read the number written on it.

"Your what nudges my ass?" Justin grinned, but JC just raised his eyebrows and half-smiled, bringing one finger up to his lips to instruct silence. He lifted the receiver, flipped a switch on the machine connected to the phone and gestured towards the headphones plugged into it. Justin put them on. He listened to the tones as JC dialed, and then the ringing began.

She answered on the second ring, "Hello?"

JC held Justin's eyes as he said, "Mrs. Timberlake?"

"Yes, is this...?" Hearing her voice was odd to Justin; he felt as though he hadn't heard it in years, though it was less than a full day since they'd last spoken.

"A friend." JC made a jack-off motion in the air for Justin's benefit. "I've just called to say your package was picked up and disposed of, and I'd like to make arrangements now for my compensation."

There was a pause. "He's...?"

JC said, "Yes."

"Did-- I mean...how did it go?"

"Everything went according to procedure. Now about my compensation..." His voice sounded strange to Justin, too. Ominous.

"Yes, of course. But...before I pay you, I'm going to need--"

JC cut her off, knowing she wanted, "Proof?"


"I have pictures, Mrs. Timberlake. Will that suffice? Or, and this would be at your own risk, if you'd like to see the body for--"

She hurried to say, "No, no that's...pictures are fine. That's fine."

"In the morning mail you will receive an envelope addressed to you from Hardt Cosmetics. Inside you will find the pictures and a phone number you will use at noon to contact Officer Jean Pascal. You will give him the information he needs to complete the paperwork for filing a missing persons report. He will then misplace this paperwork until your husband's body is found. Which will happen after twenty-one days of decomposition, when a Good Samaritan call will alert police to the whereabouts of his vehicle and body."

"What if someone finds him accidentally, before then?"

"No one will find the body until I want it found." JC's face evinced annoyance, but his voice remained impassive. "Meanwhile, you will make the call to Officer Pascal tomorrow, and fulfill the requirements of my payment."

"Yes, all of the requirements…Everything's...how you said." She let out a shaky breath, and sounded both relieved and anxious. "Well, I'm...thank you."

"My pleasure." JC replaced the receiver and smiled brilliantly at Justin. "Congratulations. You're dead."


It wasn't until three hours and as many drinks later that Justin asked, "You've got cops working with you?"

JC looked honestly surprised, "What?"

"Officer Pascal."

JC grinned, "Doesn't exist, Justin."

"But she's going to call him," Justin said.

"She's going to call him, yes," JC agreed. "She's going to call the number I sent her and a very polite man will answer and tell her his name is Officer Jean Pascal. He will ask her a lot of questions and pretend to actually listen to her answers, and then he'll hang up with her so she can call all of her friends and cry about her poor missing husband."

"But when the three weeks are up, and there's no Good Samaritan call, no call from the morgue to come ID the body?" Justin wondered.

"She figures out I took her for a ride. What's she gonna do? Call the police?" JC laughed. "The real police?"

"Once you get your money, it doesn't matter anymore…I could go home ten minutes after you get paid and it wouldn't make a difference," Justin realized.

"Like I said before, what happens after I get paid is none of my business." JC got up to refresh his drink, offered his hand for Justin's glass. "I'll have it by nine o'clock tomorrow night. I'll ask you to stick around till then, do you mind?"

Justin gave JC his glass, pseudo-sulking. "You only want me for my body."


They slept in late the next day; their first meal wasn't until three in the afternoon. Pita pockets stuffed with tuna salad. Justin liked the way JC made tuna salad with tiny chunks of diced apple. He looked over at JC, studied the way his hair stuck out from the impromptu-headband of his sunglasses. "So why did she do it? Did she tell you?"

JC shrugged, "I'm really not interested in the motives of my clients. Don't ask, don't tell."

"Yhea..." Justin sipped the white wine JC had served with lunch, with a facetious grin and comment on what goes with fish. "I just wish I knew. That fucking bitch. What did I ever do to her?"

JC looked at him askance. "You had a good marriage, then?"

"No, fuck no," Justin scoffed. "If you can even call it a marriage. It was more of an...arrangement."

"Hmm." JC's face seemed mindfully blank.

"Her dad and my dad, long time friends, you know? Started a law firm together. They wanted us paired off since we were kids, keep the money in the family and all that bullshit." Justin shook his head at the memories. "I really didn't have anyone else I wanted to marry, and she was so stuck under her dad's thumb she didn't shit without his permission. She's one of those really very good girls...or so I thought, before this..."

"So this comes as a complete surprise to you?" Again, it seemed deliberately inexpressive.

"No, maybe not," Justin admitted. "I'm not really...if I hadn't married Britney, I wouldn't have married anyone."

"Why's that?" JC looked at Justin, waited until Justin raised his eyebrows before he said, "Oh."

Justin smiled slightly, "You couldn't tell?"

"Well, I…wondered." JC appeared intent on memorizing the pattern on his plate. "But then, you're married, so…and then, some people are into...both."

"Yhea, not me. I'm just. one way." Justin's smile grew when JC looked at him again. "You think that's why she did this?" And then remembered, "Right, no idea."

"She didn't know before she married you?"

"What, about me?" Justin's lips twisted vaguely. "I think she must have."

"Why's that?"

"I was...involved, I guess, with a close mutual friend. Wade Robson, one of the best at the firm. We met in law school, but we didn't end up sleeping together until about a year ago."

JC's eyes went back to his plate. "Are you and he still...?"

"No, no, that's ancient history," Justin negated firmly, wanting there to be no confusion. "We had our fun, but...I don't know. It was never more than that. For me, at least."

"And for him?"

Justin shrugged. "He got over it. We're still friends."

"And you think Britney knew about all of this?"

Justin nodded, fairly certain. "I would think so. She and Wade are pretty close. Especially after he and I ended, they started spending a lot of time together. They have a lot in common."

"Like you?" Mischievously.

Justin glared playfully but allowed, "Well, yhea, kind of. Britney and I never had a romantic relationship, but we've always been in each other's lives. Kind of crammed down each other's throats by our parents, god rest their souls. I love my parents, and hers were like an aunt and uncle to me, but they were so wrapped up in what they wanted for us, they never stopped to consider whether it was what we wanted for ourselves."

"So maybe to Britney, you're a sort of symbol of her parents' oppression?"

"Maybe." Justin was impressed. "For someone who doesn't care about people's motives, you sure are good at figuring them out."

JC's head ducked. "I'm just speculating, same as you."

"But you're good at it." Justin grinned at JC's bashful reaction to compliments. "I should hire you."

JC looked up, interested. "To what? Find out why she killed you?"

"Could I? Do you do that sort of thing?"

"Yes, of course." JC was quiet a moment, as though carefully choosing his next words. "You'd have to stay here longer, though. She'd have to think you were really dead until I figured it out."

"Right, sure," Justin acceded readily.

"You don't want to just confront her after I get my money?" JC said, hastened to add, "Not that I don't want the job..."

"I want to know the truth. I don't know if I'd be able to get it myself."

JC picked up the remains of his neglected pita. "I want a hundred K."

"Done." Justin fingered the stem of his wineglass, eyes darting from it to JC's face and back. "Speaking of which...may I ask?"

"How much your life cost?" JC took a bite, chewed and swallowed before answering. "Quarter."

It was disturbing, to have his life in terms of dollars. A set amount: You're Worth This Much. He blurted, "That's it?"

JC smirked. "Not exactly pocket change."

Which was true. Most people would never in their lives have that much money in liquid assets. That wasn't the point. "I know, but..."

And JC shut him up with, "No matter what I said, would it have been enough?"


Left to his own devices, Justin would've found life in the middle of nowhere boring, he was sure. But JC thought of a dozen things to do each day, kept them occupied and what's more, amused. They woke up early, went to bed late, the hours between filled with all kinds of pointless activity. They rode the four-wheeler across the rambling backyard, every few days switching to the riding lawn mower to keep the grass from getting too high. They did arts and crafts projects that reminded Justin of his days in Boy Scouts: making pinecone birdfeeders (that were attacked by squirrels), braiding leather bracelets (JC wore his as an anklet), attempting to whittle whistles (attempting being the key word). JC had an acoustic guitar that they lugged around constantly, making up songs that were sometimes absurd and sometimes somber. They took meandering walks through the woods and swam in the nearby lake at night when no one would see them.

What surprised Justin even more than the fact that he was enjoying himself, was the way the conversation flowed. Steady as a tide; the silences were as comfortable as the banter. Maybe it was because he'd never met anyone like him, but Justin was unceasingly interested in JC's opinions. Even when he found his views ridiculous, he never felt that JC was foolish. Instead he found JC to be quick and mysterious, silly and thoughtful. Justin caught himself replaying their time together in his mind as he lay in bed at night, remembering JC's face, his voice, his body and his laugh.

He meant never to mention it, wanting to preserve their camaraderie at any cost, but sweating in the sun shirtless and barefoot, gulping water from a thermos, Justin couldn't help but ask, "Are you like this with everyone?"

JC was surveying the half of the lawn that remained to be trimmed. He straddled the mower seat, looking down at Justin sprawled out on the grass. "Like what?"

Justin shrugged, wiped his face on his arm. "Like…friendly."

JC half-smiled, taking the thermos from Justin and lifting the back half of the seat to put it in the storage space below. "Am I friendly with everyone?"

"I mean, everyone you…you know." Justin stood now, approached slowly.

"Everyone I kill?" JC teased, scooting up as Justin got behind him on the mower, then slid back again.

Justin kept his gaze steady on JC's shoulder, the curve of his biceps. "Yhea."

The muscle bulged as JC revved the engine to life. "Not if they're assholes."

"But I mean, like, you…I mean, you've been…friendly with other people before?" Justin's arms crept hesitantly into place about JC's waist as the mower lurched forward.

JC's head turned to the side, like he would look at Justin's face if he could. "You want to know if you're special?"

"I just," Justin shrugged. "I don't really have a lot of people I consider friends."

"Justin?" JC paused, then, "No."

Justin blushed hotly, started to loosen his arms, move back on the seat. "Oh."

"No, I mean…" JC reached a hand down, covered one of Justin's. "I've never been like this. You're…special."

Justin's arms tightened around JC, he pressed closer as they picked up speed.


"So how exactly are you going to go about it?" Justin inevitably asked.

JC said, "Well, I'm not, personally. No one truly effective works truly alone."

Which surprised Justin, although upon consideration he figured he should've expected it. "You've got, what, partners?"

"Not quite partners, I wouldn't say," JC dissented. "More like...friends of a common ilk. A few of my favorite con-men, who're more than glad to help me out...at the right price, of course."

"Of course," Justin smiled. "And may I ask about these friends?"

JC smiled back. "You're the boss. Actually, you may ask about one of them in particular. The one that's brunching with our dear Britney as we speak."

Justin was shocked, checked his watch. "Today is...Tuesday, right? She brunches at the club on Tuesdays."

"After a morning of doubles tennis," JC concurred. "The past couple of days have been dedicated to research. The clock started ticking the day you died, from then on we had exactly three weeks before she realizes what's going on. Working fast isn't an option; it's a necessity. Thus, being introduced soon, if he isn't already splitting a croissant with her, is--"


"Glenn Gorman." He bowed his head a bit. "And you're right, we've never met. But I have a very good excuse for that: I'm not from around here. Just passing through, in fact."

"Visiting friends?" Britney guessed. "Maybe I know them?"

Glenn winked at her. "I bet you know everyone."

Her tone was teasing, matching his, when she said, "What kind of a--"


"--name is Glenn?" Justin made a face. Not very Bond, James Bond. Glenn Gorman sounded like the tuba player in a Catholic primer school band.

JC laughed. "Not his real name, of course. To her eyes: a wealthy, short Irishman. Dark and strange but oddly charming, who will manage to finagle an invitation to the next social event."

Even sans his trusty Palm Pilot he'd somehow learned to live without as of late, Justin recalled, "The Wil--"

"Wilder's engagement party next week," JC cut in, nodding. "Picture it, I know it's a familiar site: A ballroom filled with overdressed people drinking overpriced champagne, talking about nothing and gossiping about everyone. In breezes our friend Glenn, but not alone. With him is a slightly taller, rather blonder man. Thick Southern accent and easy grin, who'll, for present purposes, be known as--"


"A friend of mine," Glenn said. "Mark Alexander."

"Nice to meet y'all," Mark drawled, coating it syrup-thick for the benefit of the small crowd. Eyes sharp on him, ever-ready for a new victim to digest. Something to keep their tongues wagging. One set of eyes, he held deliberately for just a second longer than was appropriate.


"And what's the purpose of that? They're gonna trick the truth out of them, like an episode of Murder, She Wrote?" Justin looked doubtful.

JC said, "You watch Murder, She Wrote?"

"Shut up." Justin rolled his eyes. "You think you can just get them to confess their deepest, darkest secrets to complete strangers? You think it'll be that easy?"

JC smirked. "You think it'll be that hard?"


When the crowd dispersed, weary of introductions, Mark made his way to the side of the man he'd been eyeing earlier. "The Wilder's have a beautiful home."

Wade Robson smiled, his hand on Mark's arm a blatant invitation. "Yes, they do."

Mark stepped closer, kept his eyes lowered coyly. "If the ballroom is this lovely, I can only imagine...what the bedrooms must be like."

Wade's gaze was nothing short of predatory. "I could give you a tour, if you'd like?"

Mark grinned. "I think I would."


"One thing I can tell you already," JC said, "is that Wade is in on this."

"Wade? No! You're serious?" Justin's jaw dropped. "I'm shocked, honestly. I mean, I knew he wasn't thrilled when I called things off, but...he always acted okay with it...That asshole!"

JC shrugged, "We tapped Britney's lines the night you hired me. She called Wade after hanging up with our friend Officer Pascal, to tell him the good news: the deed was done. All that was left was paying me off. The bastard tried to convince her to refuse to pay me, saying I wouldn't have the nerve to turn her in because I'd risk my own ass. But your girl's smarter than she looks, apparently. She paid me in full, with a nice bonus besides."

"So fucking Wade...goddamn him," Justin scowled, shaking his head. "That sneaky sonofabitch. Lemme tell you, won't be hard to get it out of him. A pretty face and a couple of drinks and--"

"He'll spill like a glass of milk," JC sneered. "Your crowd makes it too easy on guys like us, you see. They love to talk. Ask them about so-and-so and prepare to hear every fault the person owns. Including a weakness for alcohol and ass."


"I don't usually think--" Wade stopped, hiccuped. "I mean, drink, so much."

"You were closer to right the first time," Mark mumbled, leaving the bedroom door open behind them.

"Huh?" Wade turned to look at him, swaying dangerously.

Mark grabbed Wade's suit lapels. "I said, Shut Up and Kiss Me."

He laughed loudly in Mark's face, his breath thick with the stench of alcohol. "You're funny, you know that? That's why I like you."

"I'm hilarious," Mark agreed, topping off Wade's glass with a flask he pulled from his waistcoat. "Have a drink."

"God, I can't even taste it anymore. I can't even tell what I'm fucking drinking over here," Wade claimed, swallowing obediently.

" 's truth serum," Mark's voice deep and soft as he guided Wade to the bed and pushed him onto his back across it.

"Hmm?" Wade's drink sloshed as he fell back. He sniffed carefully. Smelled like cognac to him.

"Tell me the truth, baby," Mark rasped. Very sexy.

"You want me to talk dirty or somethin'?" Wade slurred.

"Oh, yhea. Sure, come on." Mark urged, "Tell me your dirtiest secret."

He belched, grimaced. "Hmm...well, that won't be easy."

"Too many to chose from? You bad boy." Mark kneeled on the bed and smacked him playfully.

He grinned. "The baddest. You have no idea."

Mark chuckled. "What've you done that's so bad, huh? You ever lied? Stolen? Cheated?"

"Oh, god, yes. I'm a lawyer." He reached out for Mark with his free hand, tugged at his suit.

Mark let himself get pulled closer, straddled Wade's legs. "You ever hurt someone?"

"Of course. Who hasn't?" He shifted his legs impatiently.

Mark scooted up to sit on Wade's thighs. "You ever killed someone?"


"And Britney? How you gonna get her?" Justin hoped for the worst. Chinese water torture or forcing her to shop off the rack or something.

"Women are easy," JC explained. "Get 'em crying on a sympathetic shoulder, and then try and shut 'em up."

Justin snickered at that. "How are you gonna make her cry?"

"Let her walk in on Wade in the arms of another, of course."

"Why would that make her cry?" Justin's face wrinkled in confusion, then smoothed as realization hit him. "Oh, fucking--"


"bastard! How could he do this to me? He knows how horrible it was for me, before. Being married to a goddamn fucking fag and then he does this to me?!" Upon witnessing the scene, she'd fled, scurrying into the first open door she saw. Another bedroom.

Glenn lounged beside her on the window seat, sipping a sherry. "Well you know what they say: Bi- for now, gay later."

"Glenn," Britney scolded, digging in her tiny handbag for a tissue. "Don't joke. This is horrible. I can't believe he would betray me like this. After everything...everything..."

"What's everything?" He inquired coolly, his composure a comfort in her distress. Such an impartial third party, like a priest in a confessional.

"He used to...be like that. Do that. He used to do that with..." she choked, "but then it was over, and he hated him, he told me so. He told me he regretted it, that...that..."


"That Justin had brainwashed him, got him all confused and turned around, but that he wasn't really like that...and I felt sorry for him, because I know what it's like, to feel like you're sleepwalking all the time..." She swiped viciously at her wet cheeks.

"Justin is?" So calm and detached, soothing.

"Was," she corrected bitterly. "Was my husband. My rich, handsome husband. All my friends were jealous, the fools. If they only fucking knew..."

"So you and Wade are lovers?" Handing her his handkerchief.

"Well, I thought so...I mean, maybe he's just..." She spread the handkerchief and buried her face in it. "I don't know, I don't know...I don't want him to leave me. Not after everything."

"What's everything, darling?"

"Everything, god, everything," she moaned miserably.

He offered his glass to her. "Have a bit, dear, just to even out."

"No," she shook her head. "I can't."

"It'll calm your nerves," he persuaded, bringing it to her lips.

She turned away resolutely. "I can't drink. I'm pregnant."

A moment to process that, and then, "It's?"

"Wade's," she nodded shortly, angrily. "That fucking lying faggot. I can't believe I trusted him. I loved him."

He petted her hair comfortingly. "So it didn't work out. So what? You'll move on. You're strong. You don't need him to support the child; you're rich enough on your own."

"It's not that. I've got five times as much money as him, easy. It's not that," she said. "This society, this little tiny fucking world I live in here...do you know what it would do, if I had an illegitimate child? It would destroy me. But, it's not even about that. The plan was to tell everyone it was Justin's, anyway."

"Your ex-husband's?"

"My late husband's," she corrected.

Glenn tilted his head in confusion. "But...how long ago did he pass away?"

"Last week. I mean, he went missing last week. But I know he's dead."

"Womanly intuition?" he guessed.

She laughed harshly. "Something like that."

He gestured to her bright gown, "No mourning black?"

"Not this season," she sneered. "It's perfectly acceptable for me to wear what I like. You see, I'm 'putting up a brave front'. They all talk about how I act so happy but you can tell that inside I'm just 'crying my poor little heart out'. And they're right, it is a front. But not like they think."

"Well, that certainly made things easy on you, hmm? Your husband's death. You might've been able to pass your child off as his to everyone else, but hardly to him, huh? Considering he's gay and all." Glenn sipped his drink, for all his bearing they might've been discussing the weather.

"He would've told on me...He would've ruined me," she whispered, as though thinking aloud. "That's why...that was why..."

"Why what?" he prompted softly.

"That's why Wade said...there was only one way to make sure he never told..." Her eyes wild with memory.

Glenn touched her arm gently. "You killed him?"


"Does it count as killing someone if you don't actually do it with your own two hands?" Wade speculated. "In a court of law, it does. And isn't it more appropriate for someone in my tax bracket to pay someone else to do my dirty work for me?"

"You're lying," Mark intoned readily.

"I'm not!" Wade denied, offended. "You don't believe me?"

Mark shook his head. "You're just trying to impress me. It's not working."

"Oh, isn't it?" Wade grabbed Mark's chin roughly, "I could have you dead by morning, you know that? With one phone call."

"You've done it before?" He calmly removed himself from Wade's grasp. "Was it expensive?"

Wade's voice was patronizing, haughty, and inappropriately loud. "It depends on how much money half a million dollars is to you."

"Half a million?" Mark whistled lowly. "Must've been someone important."

He snorted derisively. "It wasn't."

"Who was it?" Mark smoothed Wade's jacket flirtatiously.

"No one that matters," he mumbled, leaning up for a kiss.

Mark evaded him easily. "Let me be the judge of that."

"Why do you care, anyway?" he snapped.

"Maybe it was someone I knew?" Mark stroked Wade's hair.

He pushed into the caress. "I seriously doubt it."

"Try me," Mark coaxed, and again eluded Wade's kiss.

He sighed. "How 'bout I give you a hint?"

"That works," Mark agreed, tugging Wade's hair until his scalp stretched taut.

"Ow!" He yelped, slapping Mark's hands away. "His wife is here tonight."

"Justin Timberlake," Mark guessed immediately.

"You got it," he confirmed, pleased.

"I sure do," Mark muttered, then asked, "Why'd you do it?"

Wade squeezed his eyes shut tight, shook his head. Kept shaking it for so long that Mark was about to repeat the question when Wade finally answered, "That motherfucker...he fucked with me...fucked with my head. I was this close, you know that? This fucking close to having it all..."


Wade's eyes popped open, eerily bright. "Him, the firm, everything."

"You mean Timberlake & Spears?" Mark clarified.

"He was my foot-in-the-door at first, that's all...and then..." Wade sighed, long and defeated. "Even the best of us fall sometimes, you know?"

"More than you think," Mark told him, disentangling himself so he could get up.

"But I don't wanna talk about that anymore...fuck it...the firm's as good as mine now that he's out of the way..." Wade blinked, suddenly realizing Mark was halfway out the door. "Hey, what the fuck? Where are you going?"


"Home. My flight leaves in the morning," he said, standing and taking her hand in his.

She watched him brush his lips across her knuckles, bewildered. "Your flight? You're leaving?"

"I told you I was just passing through," he reminded, walking away.

She scrambled to her feet, hot on his heels. "You won't...you won't tell on me, will you?"

He halted so abruptly she nearly crashed into him, and turned to smile at her impishly. "Darling, who would I tell?"


"We in?" Joey called from the wheel, as the backdoors of the van slammed shut.

"Let's get the fuck outta this place," Chris called back, disengaging his wire. "God, I hate these things."

Lance sat against the doors, shirt pulled up and yanking futilely at his rigging. "Mine's stuck."

Chris got his wire off, placed it carefully in a leather pouch he found on the floor. It wasn't a wise man that disrespected Joey's toys. He glanced at Lance, laughed shortly. "You, sir, are drunk."

Lance grinned at him, "A little drunk."

"A little sober," Chris said.

Lance didn't argue, just cocked his head appealingly. "Wanna help me get this off?"

Joey screamed from the front, "Not in my van!"


They were in the room Justin had come to think of as the Gadget Room, sitting at the table as JC explained how night vision goggles worked. Justin wasn't at all interested, he'd only asked about them because JC loved teaching Justin all kinds of boring things. Usually Justin let him, although it seemed that the more boring the subject, the more excited JC got.

They both jumped when the front door slammed open. "Lucy, we're hoooome!"

"In here, dork!" JC yelled. A stampede thundered up the stairs.

The first to reach them was a very blonde man that smiled at Justin amiably. "Hey, you must be the dead guy."

Justin returned the smile. "I see my reputation precedes me."

JC cut in with introductions, "Justin, the loser with the bad Ricky Ricardo impression is Lance."

"You mean, Mark!" Lance objected.

"And that's Chris," JC referred to the shortest of the three men who'd arrived.

"Chris?" Chris arched an eyebrow.

"Glenn," JC amended.

Chris bowed elaborately. "At your service."

"And that's Joey, my favorite techie," JC grinned at the one sporting a goatee and a t-shirt that said talk nerdy to me.

"The tapes." Joey laid a CD jewel case on the table. "Or, well, you know."

Chris fetched the CD player that sat against the wall, brought it to the table. "You wanna listen now or save it for tomorrow?"

Lance wrinkled his nose. "Let me leave the room first. I hate hearing my voice recorded."

JC turned to Justin. "Your call."

Justin watched Chris load the CD, then looked at JC and cleared his throat. "Actually, would you mind if everyone left? This is kind of...you know."

"Yhea, sure..." JC stood as the others filed out, heading for the stairs. "I'm gonna see them out and then hit the bed. Call me if you need anything, okay? "

Justin nodded, "I will."


JC's bedroom door was slightly ajar, Justin pushed it open carefully, whispered, "You up?"

JC was in bed, face turned toward the windows to watch the moon. He looked over to where Justin stood engulfed by shadows. "Hmm?"

"You're sleeping," Justin said immediately, "I'll go."

"No, stay. What's up?" JC sat up, clicked on the lamp on his nightstand.

"I listened to 'em," Justin said, advancing.

"And?" JC shifted his legs as Justin perched on the edge of the bed. "You find out what you wanted to know?"

Justin shrugged, gazing out the window. "Pretty much."

"So, what's your next move?" JC studied the way the moonlight framed Justin.

"What do you mean?" Justin looked at him.

JC quickly looked away. "I mean, what are you gonna do now?"

"I don't know," Justin paused; planning the future hadn't yet occurred to him. "I guess...I don't know."

"You can get all your money back and everything..." JC pointed out.

Justin nodded slowly, "Yhea, true..."

"I guess it'll be nice, huh?" JC said, staring safely at his bedspread. "To get back to your big house and everything. Your maids and shit."

"Sure, right," Justin agreed quietly, mouth curling at JC's demeanor. He scooted closer, rested a hand above JC's knee.

"Get back to your cars and yachts and dinner parties. Your real life," JC prattled, tensing under his touch. "You must miss it."

"You know, it's funny," Justin reached out and clicked the lamp off. "I don't think I do."

JC stayed stock-still as Justin kissed him. A big, strong hand curved around his neck, pillowy lips parted his own to indulge a wickedly skillful tongue. It wasn't until he found himself being eased onto his back that he managed to mumble, "Justin...no."

Justin didn't relent until he had JC pressed against the mattress. "No what?"

"Me and you...we're not the same type of people..." JC protested as Justin climbed on top of him, and maybe he would've been more convincing if he wasn't spreading his thighs in welcome.

"Aren't we?" Justin's grin deliciously naughty as he stripped off his shirt. Leaving him in pajama pants that rode low enough to promise there was nothing underneath and JC always slept in just his boxers and--

"You're a high society cat...and I'm--" JC's objections were swallowed with a gasp as Justin palmed him through his boxers.

Justin's laughter and eyes were sultry, teasing. He nipped at JC's lips. "You ever fucked a dead guy?"

JC panted lightly, "Well, once, but I was really drunk so I don't think it coun--" before Justin shut him up with a kiss. JC made the best of things and tugged at Justin's pants.

They broke apart to undress each other. Justin smirked as he stretched out on top of JC, "Anyone ever told you, you have a sick sense of humor?"

Kiss after kiss now, as they pressed skin to skin. With Justin nibbling the length of his neck, JC murmured happily, "Mm, one guy did…but I killed him."


He was sitting on her bed eating her breakfast when she came out of the shower. "Hello, Britney."

She stopped in her tracks, gawked. "No, you're! I, I--"

"See dead people?" he guessed.

She shook her head, blinking her eyes like she thought she was imagining him. "No! You're!"

He smiled wanly. "You look pale, Brit. Take a seat. We have a few things to discuss."


"...and that's it. That's what I want, that's what you'll give me. Agreed?" He glanced at his wristwatch, though time wasn't an issue. He'd come in through the front door and he'd leave the same way. The help got every third Sunday off, and the breakfast tray had been taken away earlier while Justin ducked into the bathroom. The only person who'd been here today was Ally, the main housekeeper, but she always left right after breakfast to go to church and then home to her family. The house would be abandoned until tomorrow morning. Justin knew the routine like the back of his hand.

"Justin, that's not fair!" Britney protested, exactly as he'd expected.

"That's completely fair," he countered. "So, I'm cleaning out our accounts. Big deal. There's plenty of income from the firm; you'll hardly starve. There's always your Centurion if you get a yen for something extravagant. I'm only taking what's mine: a couple of my cars, my clothes, and movers are coming later this evening to pack up a list I gave them. Random shit, personal effects. None of your precious Tiffany lamps or any of that crap. You keep all that, I don't want it. The things I'm taking, just tell people you sold it, junked it, I don't give a fuck. Say you couldn't stand to look at my stuff. Shed a few alligator tears, it'll earn you some brownie points with the peanut gallery."

She sniffled, considering. Finally she asked, "Which cars are you taking?"

"Two of them. My Viper, of course, and my Jag. We're putting my bikes in the van."

"We?" She looked at him with equal parts suspicion and curiosity.

He ignored it. "I don't hate you, Britney. I pity you. You're going to spend the rest of your life stuck in this miserable, meaningless existence. No wonder you're so fucked up."

"What am I gonna do now?" she lamented. "I'm all alone, and you're taking all my money, and leaving me alone and pregnant and--"

"You'll figure it out," he cut her off, short of sympathy and not willing to feign it. "I'm doing you a favor, really. I'm out of the way and now you can marry whomever you please."

"I don't have anyone," she moaned pitifully, head in her hands.

He smiled wryly. "You'll find someone. You're a young, beautiful, wealthy widow. I'm sure you can sucker some daft jerk into marrying you."

She looked up as though shocked by his callousness. "How can you talk to me like that when I'm sitting here crying my eyes out?"

He laughed softly. "Britney, do keep in mind: you tried to kill me."

"Nobody cares about me," she wailed, burying her face in her palms again.

"The accounts will be empty in the morning. Don't be surprised." He turned, walked away without a backward glance. "Goodbye."


"All done," Joey announced upon finding Justin at the kitchen table sipping a gin and tonic. "Money transfers tonight at two a.m. You have the account numbers I gave you?"

"Right here." Justin lifted his jacket from where it lay across the chair beside him to expose the manila folder beneath.

"I transferred JC's share of the hundred K into this one, can you give it to him?" Joey was holding four identical folders, and now placed one on the table and pushed it towards Justin.

He took it and stacked it on top of his own. "Sure thing."

"Well, it was good working with you, man," Joey said, offering his hand.

Justin shook it heartily. "Same here. You're amazing, really."

"I do what I can," Joey smiled, shaking his head when Justin gestured towards the bottles and empty glass on the table. "No, thanks. I should get going. Some other time, maybe?"

Justin held his eyes for a moment before nodding shortly and smiling back.


Justin sat alone in the unlit kitchen as the sun went down, nursing his drink. He jumped, startled, when the silence was broken, "Joey still here?"

He retrieved a folder and put it on the table before looking up. "He left a few minutes ago. This is yours."

"Cool." JC sat in the seat across from him. "So..."

"So," Justin smiled softly, watching JC reach for a bottle.

"What are you gonna do now that you're a free man?" JC asked, seeming very nonchalant as he twisted the gin closed and opened the tonic.

"Dead man," Justin corrected him, catching his eyes. He leaned forward, taking the soda out of JC's hands and setting it aside.

JC's eyebrows quirked in amusement as Justin leaned in further. "Okay: What are you gonna do now that you're a dead man?"

His breath was warm and sweet on JC's lips as Justin said, "Live."


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