CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

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Obo stares at the gun in consternation. He hits it a couple of times and points it at Judd again. It’s jammed though. It won’t fire. Judd realises that Obo is actually trying to kill him. He reaches behind his back and wraps his fingers around the gun, pulling it out. His finger slides over the trigger like it’s the most natural thing in the world. He ignores the ringing of his phone and points the gun at Obo’s head.

“You stupid fuck,” he snarls.

Obo stands there, gun hanging limply from his hands. He stares at Judd, at the barrel of the gun and starts to shake. Judd reaches in to his pocket and grabs his phone, eyes locked on Obo the entire time. His gaze flicks to the screen for a moment, just long enough to see that it’s Connie that’s calling him. He hits the silence button, the song dying away and leaving the bar quiet. Right Stuff sighs in relief.

“I hate that song,” he says with a shrug when Judd looks at him in question. “Really bugs me and I don’t know why.”

“What the fuck Obo?” Judd snaps, ignoring the other man, “You actually try and kill me?! What the hell is wrong with you?”

Obo says nothing. He just stands there, glaring at Judd. He knows that Judd won’t pull the trigger. Judd knows that he might pull the trigger though. He’s looking at a guy who wants him dead, who actually did try to kill him. He knows that he would be dead right now if the gun hadn’t jammed. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s got two choices that he can see and neither are particularly attractive to him at the moment.

Part of him wants to just pull the trigger, let the gun fire and take Obo out of the picture forever. It’s screaming for justice, demanding that the wrong that Obo tried to do to him be righted by him doing the same right back. But another part of him knows that killing Obo won’t solve anything. Judd knows he probably wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he takes another person’s life. The thought feels wrong to him, to his logical mind at least, even if the animal part of his brain is crying out for justice. He also knows that he would have much larger consequences to deal with than just knowing that he killed Obo. Judd would have to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Killing Obo would essentially create a gang war. His men would be targeted by Obo’s guys, Judd himself would probably be killed, murdered in cold blood, out of revenge for him killing Obo. Judd doesn’t think that he can do that, face the death of his friends, men and himself all because he killed one man.

Another part of him, one that’s steadily growing louder as he and Obo stare each other down, is telling him to just walk away. The voice sounds like Reece and Connie combined. It sounds like Sally, and strangely his father. Judd wants to listen to it the louder that it gets. This part of him is telling him to forgive Obo and walk away. It would be easier, all round. Judd could lower his gun, apologise to Obo and forgive him for trying to kill him and then just walk away. He wouldn’t need to worry that someone would turn up one day and try to kill him. He wouldn’t need to worry that Obo’s men would try to get revenge. Obo would make sure of that. Sparing a person’s life, especially when that person tried to kill you, creates an obligation from that person. Despite the type of man that Obo is, or perhaps because of it, he will try to honour that obligation and no one would be sent after Judd.

But walking away from Obo would also mean walking away from the entire business. Judd doesn’t know if he can do that, leave everything behind. He’s built a reputation for himself, a customer base. He’s created this business from nothing and now he will have to leave it all behind. Word would spread that he spared Obo’s life, that he didn’t pull the trigger. But no one would see it as an act of mercy. They would see it as Judd being weak, that he isn’t able to make the choices that have to be made in their world. Everyone who is willing to make those choices would come after him and try to take the business away from him. They would expect him not to fight back and they would push him to the point of killing or being killed.

Neither option sounds great to Judd in his head, but he knows within moments what he needs to do.

Slowly he lowers the gun and tosses it on to the floor.

“I forgive you,” Judd says to Obo who just stares at him, “I forgive you for trying to kill me. And I want you to remember that I could have killed you but didn’t. You leave me and my family alone. You leave my friends alone. You hurt no one that I care about. Understand?”

Obo nods his head slowly, clearly in shock still.

“And you can have my patch,” Judd says, waving his hand. “I’m getting too old for this game anyway. Just do me a favour and don’t sell to kids. Stick to my rules if you can, it’s safer for everyone.”

Then Judd turns and walks away, the bar door slamming shut behind him. He pulls his coat closer around him and shivers against the cold. He forgot how freezing it was outside and the wind and snow have picked up and gotten worse.

The sudden cold shocks Judd for a moment and he realises what he’s done. He’s actually left the business behind. He can never go back. And strangely he doesn’t care. He feels lighter, happier and freer than he has in a very long time. He walks back to his car, not really looking where he is going. It passes in a blur and he suddenly finds himself back in his car with the heater going. His phone beeps and he snaps back to the present, away from the thoughts that are rolling through his mind. He looks at it and sees that Connie has called him three times in the last fifteen minutes. A thread of worrying works itself in to his mind and he quickly calls her.

“Judd!” she cries as soon as she answers, “Are you ok? Did he hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” he says automatically, “He tried to kill me but I’m fine.”

“Oh thank god,” she gasps, “Judd I’m so sorry, I didn’t think you’d get hurt.”

“Ahuh,” Judd says, not really registering what she’s saying.

“I know Charlie,” she says quickly, “He put me up to it and I agreed to help him. I’m so so sorry,”

“Can I come round?” he asks shortly, “I need to talk to someone,”

“Of.. Of course,” Connie stutters.

Judd starts his car and drives away.

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