Authors: Mike McCrary
GETTING UGLY copyright ©2013 by Mike McCrary
Cover art by JT Lindroos
All rights reserved.
GETTING UGLY is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author. No part of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission from Mike McCrary.
For you, you and you…but not you, asshole.
fuck you, grande ugly.
The man you’d rather be, or be with, depending on your preference. Twenty-five, whip smart head, with a body crafted from Hanzo steel. Leon could very well be the spawn of an aggressive mud pit baby making session involving Han and Hope Solo. He’s nothing like that pansy Skywalker. Leon used to like Luke. At one time wanted to be Luke. Hell, he
Luke one Halloween. Most days his features are just shy of perfection—even his minor imperfections are considered ruggedly handsome in most circles—but not today.
That was a long time ago, long before the events of today.
His time spent with the FBI has served him well. The hours working the Bureau’s program have transformed him into a perfect physical machine. Not like the beefy boys of Venice Beach. No chest shaving or sweating through black and gold spandex just so he can look sweet in a pair of smiley face boxers. He looks nice in his boxers—boxer briefs actually—but that is not why he does it.
He’s not out to impress, not trying to snatch up ladies. He has a wife he loves dearly, and that’s more than enough for Leon. From the moment their eyes locked over a keg of Milwaukee’s Beast at Dusty Ballard’s house that summer, Leon knew she was the one. Still is. That was the summer before senior year. It’s clichéd, he knows, but it’s the truth: when you fall you fall, no matter when it is. What can you do? So, no, he’s not killing himself at the gym, perfecting himself physically, to pull in some strange while out at Buffalo Wild Wings.
No, his body has been carefully honed for endurance and—if need be—fast, effective violence. The days and nights spent working through the different regimens, the grueling federally funded training, is all for days like today.
Leon didn’t use profanity for the majority of his life, considering it a simple language for simple, weak minds. But days like today have forced Leon rethink that philosophy.
Today Leon thinks,
Today those good looks hang from his bones like a shirt draped over a fat boy’s treadmill. Today that cut from steel body resembles a turd that’s been stepped in.
Of course, Leon never thought there would be days like this. No one does. Why would they?
He sports a bulging blood clot over one eye, a deep cut seeping above his brow. Crimson strands of saliva string from his bottom lip. Sleep’s a distant memory and Leon fights to stay focused, his mind drifting to thoughts of his wife—the way a child might cling to happy thoughts after waking from a nightmare. No lullaby here for Leon, only “Enter Sandman” as performed by Satan’s garage band.
He stumbles through the dirt streets of Shit Town, Mexico. He’s not sure of the town’s actual name. His thoughts are starting to run together. Leon was given an assignment and began tracking this deranged man in LA. Then his quest took him to Chicago, and then to a tiny pothole in West Virginia. From there it was the Caymans (
That was nice
.), Warsaw (
Not so nice
.), Bangkok (
Just flat-out fucked up.),
and finally here, somewhere in the mountains outside of Mexico City.
But this man, Leon’s target, is here.
He knows it.
Unmistakable signs are all around and cannot be ignored. Most notably, the swirling atmosphere of complete chaos. Behind Leon, a tiny town burns, small houses lit up like campfires. Dead bodies litter the dirt road, shell casings scattered amongst the pooling blood. An axe is planted in the chest of some poor soul. A goat runs like hell.
Leon’s standard issue Glock 23 hangs in his chewed up excuse for a hand. A few locals from the town huddle behind him as if he’s their only hope. Leon can’t even begin to worry about them. Not because he’s an unfeeling bastard—he wishes he could help—but because of the cold hard facts of the situation.
Leon can’t do a damn thing for them.
He’s tried before.
There was the guy at that Thai place in downtown Chicago who was kind enough to provide some useful information. Leon tried to help him.
Jesus, what was his name?
Leon struggles to remember. He does, however, remember that Thai Place Guy got up to go to the bathroom and was met by a dark stranger. Thai Place Guy received a lethal knife wound for his trouble, the blade starting at his navel and then ripping up to his sternum. Thai Place Guy’s special reward for assisting the FBI? He got to watch his guts spill out over the urine-stained linoleum of a men’s room. And Leon doesn’t even want to think about what happened to that family in Poland who talked.
The FBI appreciates your sacrifice.
There are other helpful dead bodies scattered around the globe. The sum of those dead innocent people (well, some not so innocent) has caused Leon to think perhaps he shouldn’t be so damn chatty with folks.
He pulls his cell while limping down the Mexican dirt road, his bloodied left leg dragging behind him. A torn Britney Spears t-shirt provides a makeshift tourniquet. Leon spins through his contacts and makes the call. After a one-ring pickup Leon spits out, “Cooper, I did it. Got a location on him.”
Leon can’t help but think back on the day he first sat down in Cooper’s office.
That was two years, five months, eight days ago.
A lifetime ago.
eon recalls the office being drab, sterile as hell, but with a magnificent view of the Los Angeles Westside.
Behind a cluttered oak desk sat a warhorse of a G-Man: LA Special Agent-in-Charge, A.L. Cooper, a living, breathing legend with thirty plus years on the books. The multitude of Cooper stories echo throughout the halls of the FBI. Cooper had worked offices across the U.S., as well as joint CIA gigs around the globe, and had his pick of offices years ago. After a fraction of thought he selected swimming pools and movie stars. Of course he did. It’s fucking seventy-two degrees and sunny three hundred and fifty days out of the year and, oh yeah, everybody’s beautiful.
Even the homeless are fives and sixes.
Cooper needed to find a good man to track down a bad problem. He’d poured over the stack of potential candidates, and most of them didn’t amount to a thimble full of warm cat piss.
One, however, caught his eye.
This kid, Leon, had only been on the bureau’s roster for a couple of years, but it’d been an impressive couple of years to say the least. The kid reminded Cooper of Cooper. They shared a similar blue-collar, lower-middle class upbringing, Cooper born and bred in PA with Leon growing up in OH. Both played football. Cooper an All-District middle linebacker, Leon an All-District ball hawk of a safety with great run stuffing skills. Leon went from Quantico to a field office, then quickly made it onto a FBI SWAT team in Dallas. Currently the kid was with the Tactical Section / Hostage Rescue Team (TS/HRT.) Just like Cooper’s path years ago. In fact, Cooper was on the original TS/HRT team established in 1983 for the Los Angeles Olympics in response to that unfortunate shit that went on in Munich.
The major difference between Cooper and Leon?
Cooper had the benefit of a good, stable home. Leon, on the other hand, was raised in foster homes around Ohio. Cooper guesses Leon’s parents bought it in car crash, that’s usually how they both die at the same time. He checks the file and sees they died in a company fire at the plant where they worked. Leon was six. The courts awarded some money, which his piece of shit aunt and uncle blew most of. The court appointed trust did have some caveats baked in that stated how the money was to be used “for the benefit of the child,” but Aunt Josie and Uncle John-John took that to mean buying them a new house, car and stocking their bar for the apocalypse. Fortunately, there was still enough for Leon to go to college and have a bit left over. By the look of that wife of Leon’s, Cooper guesses most of what was left went to the rock on her finger and a down payment on a new house. And upon further review of Leon’s bank records, yup, that’s it.
All of this makes Cooper smile. Orphans with dependency issues and the need to excel make fantastic recruits.
Leon sits across Cooper’s desk, a clean-cut, poster child of an FBI man, nervously twisting his wedding ring.
, Cooper thinks.
Kid kinda reminds Cooper of Luke Skywalker.
Cooper likes the kid, make no mistake, but this is an interview for a very special project, so it’s imperative to be a bit of an asshole and fuck with the young lamb Leon. Establish dominance; develop Cooper as a father figure and whatnot.
“Leon. Or is it Leo? Is Leo short for Leon?”
Leon wants this assignment as bad as anything he’s ever wanted. Though he doesn’t really know what it is, he does know all about Cooper. Knows the war stories and the legends backward and forward. If even half of them are true, he wants to grow up to be Cooper, or at least his version of Cooper.
Leon fights back the nervous energy. It’s okay to show respect, but mustn’t show any form of pussy tendencies. “Leo would only be losing an “n” so it’s not really— Leon is fine, sir.”
“Fuck it. Why the FBI?” Cooper fires back. What the kid says isn’t nearly as important as how he responds. Does he freeze up? Shift in his seat? Or, Godforfuckingbid, start to sweat and stammer like a five year old ballerina.
Leon wants to impress. He thinks about how all great careers start with something like this, a defining moment. One of those points on the graph that signals an upward trend, heading for the stars, knocking a big assignment out of the park, blowing expectations out of the water. But, damn it all to hell, Leon does not know how to answer Cooper’s question.
“Why. Did. You. Join. The FBI?” Cooper presses. “You wanted to expand the cock n’ balls via the Glock n’ badge?”
Leon’s response is nothing but free-flowing youthful sincerity. “I wanted to do something, you know, something good. Be proud of my job; be proud in general. I’ve got friends who jumped to Wall Street. Some became lawyers, chasing paychecks. Slaves to a salary…”
Cooper slices the air with his hand cutting him off. “Right. Right. Right. Enough, son. You already got the gig, stop the shit.”
“No. No shit here, sir.” Leon tries not to bounce up and down in his seat.
Did he say I got the gig?
Cooper takes a moment to chew on the honest, wide-eyed little boy look plastered all over Leon. He remembers looking at the world through that lens. That was a long time ago, and Cooper knows that world view simply does not exist—never has, never should. Cooper briefly entertains the idea of not allowing Leon to go through with this assignment. Save the kid from himself. Cooper allows a moment of silence to hang in the air while he lets his eyes tell him what he needs to know about Leon.
Is the boy completely full of crap?
Will he survive?
Do you have a choice?
Cooper picks up Leon’s file. “You come highly, highly recommended. Rising fast. Knocked the piss out of the test scores.”
Cooper continues reviewing and discussing Leon’s off the chart abilities: Leon rapid firing, speed loading, and ripping targets on the firing range to nothing before the instructors could begin to process his skill level; Leon tearing through the obstacle course like it wasn’t even there. He was driven beyond reason, passing fellow cadets like they were disinterested sheep.
Leon’s first day on the street?