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Tribute

Harley Gage stood silent, pressed against the wall just inside the dark living room of the man he hated most in the world, his ex-section chief, Richard Dyson.

When Harley had been freed from his unjust two-year prison term, he had thought that Robert McCall had been the man that set him up. Harley had worked with Kostmayer and Dyson to rescue McCall, only to find out that the man he had been working so closely with, Richard Dyson, had actually been the one who had set him up as a murderer and left him to rot in jail.

Harley tried to take a deep breath to calm himself. It had been eight long months but finally with the help of a new friend in the DA's office, Harley had gotten his hands on the information he needed - Dyson's address.

So there he stood, gun in hand, waiting for Dyson to enter the apartment. Harley didn't care what happened to him after he got him back. Harley couldn't help but be bitter at what his life had become. He was now an ex-con, with all the skills of a first rate spy. His life had been ruined by Dyson's decision to let him take the rap for a Company screw-up.

He had no money, no home, and from where he stood, no future. Robert McCall had taken him in and let him stay in his apartment, but Harley couldn't stand to be a leech any longer. All he wanted was to pay Dyson back for taking his life and throwing it into the garbage.

Suddenly Harley heard the sound of keys in the lock of the door. He took one more deep breath and let it out slowly, silently.

Harley listened carefully to the sound of footsteps as they came into the apartment. He was sure that the large package he had placed on the table just outside the living room was enough of a distraction to get Dyson to stop and look and then he would get the drop on him. Harley heard the footsteps stop at the table. It was all working perfectly.

He ventured a quick peek around the doorway and saw Dyson standing over the table with his back toward him. Harley turned smoothly; he had his gun out and pointed it at the middle of Dyson's back.

"Hold it right there Dyson," he said, calmly, in a conversational tone, "put your hands up and turn around slowly."

Without moving a muscle, Dyson spoke, his voice sounding amused, "Ah, Harley Gage. I've been expecting you."

Elbows to the side, raising his arms up in surrender, Dyson slowly turned around. At the last minute Harley spotted the small cigar-sized tube in Dyson's left hand pointing directly at him and before he could react, a small dart shot out from the tube and imbedded itself deep in his chest.

Instantaneously numb, Harley looked down in horror at the back end of the dart sticking out of his body. The room began to go dark and he dimly noticed that his head hit the floor as he collapsed.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Dyson was sitting in his favorite club chair, near the couch, enjoying the finish of a glass of a single malt whisky. He put the newspaper down and looked over at Gage who was moaning and stirring on his couch. Gage slowly became more vocal, muttering to himself before finally opening his eyes.

"Oh God, let me die," he groaned. "Where am I? What happened?"

"You're availing yourself of my hospitality," Dyson made sure his deep voice had little emotion in it.

Harley shakily raised his hands to cover his ears and groaned again. "Not so loud!" he begged, and then he put a hand on the bump on his forehead. "Did you hit me after I went down?" He glared at Dyson but soon his eyes glazed over again. "Oh God," he swallowed, "I'm going to be sick."

"You hit yourself when you fell, Gage. By the way, there's a bucket by your head, make sure you don't miss it when you heave. I don't want you to ruin my carpet or couch."

Harley blindly reached for the bucket. Dyson was pleased to see that he made it just in time.

With his usual theatrics, Gage rolled onto his back and called out, "What did you do to me Dyson?" He still managed to sound angry, even though his voice was weak.

Dyson folded his paper, letting Harley see that he was not moved by his discomfort. "I shot you with a new chemical dart. It's been banned from use as too harmful." He got up out of the chair and glanced into the pail at Gage's head, "Is that blood in there?" He did enjoy teasing Gage.

Harley stared at him, hatred burning in his eyes.

Dyson noticed that Gage was swallowing as though he was doing his best not to vomit again. "You'd better let it out if you feel like heaving. I'll get you some chicken soup. That'll help."

Harley blinked slowly, "Chicken soup?" he whispered harshly. He closed his eyes and gently rubbed his forehead.

Dyson went in the kitchen and boiled water for a cup of instant soup. It took less than a minute and then he stood over Harley with a mug of hot broth, "Chicken soup. Couldn't hurt."

Gage didn't move.

"Take it. The sodium will stop the nausea and you need to be re-hydrated. Go on." He put the mug in front of Gage's nose. "Drink it."

Dyson grinned as Harley managed to put a shaking hand out to take the mug. He brought the cup to his lips and delicately took a sip. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and took a deeper drink.

"See Gage? I told you." Dyson sat back down on the club chair and adjusted the newspaper on his lap. "You'll be right as rain in a minute."

"Yeah," Harley muttered, "and then I'm going to kill you with my bare hands."

"I don't think so." Dyson brought out the cigar shaped tube once more and aimed it at Harley. "If you move off that couch without my approval, I'll shoot you again," he shrugged, "and there hasn't been any report on the recovery of people who've had two doses of this stuff."

"So kill me," Harley said petulantly, "You've ruined my life anyway, why not just finish me off."

"I never said they died," Dyson chuckled, "just never recovered. Hospitalization, unceasing vomiting. From all reports death would be a welcomed side effect."

Harley settled himself into the cushions and leaned his head on the back of the couch "Why not kill me? You've done every kind of evil to me already." Harley flung his hands out dramatically. "Just finish it okay?" his voiced choked with emotion, "Just finish the job that you started when you set me up to go to prison for something I didn't do!"

Dyson shook his head in disgust. "Drop it Gage. You're out of the joint now. You can restart your life anytime, if you'd drop the 'poor me' attitude."

Harley rubbed his hand over his eyes. "Easy for you to say. You're set up in this great apartment, owner of dozens of cars, loads of money," He glared at Dyson, "they confiscated all my money when the company threw me behind bars. Everything was taken from me!" He began to yell. "Everything! All gone because of you!" He made an effort to get up to attack, but still unsteady, he slid back down onto the couch.

"Now calm down," Dyson's lowered his voice to a gentle rumble. "If you spent as much time thinking about working the legitimate angles, as you do feeling sorry for yourself, you would have discovered an answer to your problem long before this."

"My answer is to kill you and get you back for what you did to me!" Harley whined.

He was beginning to lose patience with his guest. "Drop it already! Damn, I can't understand how Robert puts up with you."

"He's been a true friend. He's helped me," Gage whimpered and started to sit up again.

Dyson looked Harley over, top to bottom. "Your problem is that you're too wrapped up in yourself."

"Well, you'd be too if you'd been in prison..."

"I was in prison in the Soviet Union for two long hard years. In Lubyanka, under deep cover." Dyson glowered at his guest.

Harley opened his mouth, but no words came out. He worked his jaw and finally said, "You In Lubyanka? My God. How did you...?"

Dyson tried to keep his memories from boiling to the surface. "The Company sent me in to get information, to find out who else was imprisoned there." His voice sounded hollow to his own ears, "and Lubyanka wasn't anywhere as nice as your penitentiary."

Harley leaned his head in his hands, "If you know how bad it is to be imprisoned, then why'd you do it to me?"

"It was necessary, that's all I can tell you."

"So my life wasn't worth a thing to you? I'm garbage to be... "

Dyson interrupted Gages lament. "The Company owes you two years in back pay. Did you collect that?"

Harley's mouth dropped open, "No!"

Dyson smiled. He knew it, Harley never did think too far beneath the surface. "And you can also collect a lot of money on top of that, because being setup to go to prison is considered a hardship mission. Did you think of that?"

"No," Harley said and continued to sit with his mouth hanging wide open, "I never thought of..."

"I suspect Control is enjoying McCall's playing host too much to have started the paperwork going." He crossed his legs and leaned back comfortably in his chair. "I can get you what you deserve right away. I was Southern Control; I still have the attention of certain highly placed friends and if I put my weight behind the request for your compensation, I can guarantee you'll wind up a very wealthy man. And if I make an out and out effort on your behalf, that can happen very soon."

Gage suddenly smirked at Dyson. "Yeah? So why would you help me now, and why didn't you try and help me earlier, huh? Why now after I just tried to kill you?"

Dyson threw his paper down onto the floor, and tucked the cigar shaped gun into his pocket. "Because you weren't ready for my help before. Now that you've finally made the effort to do something for yourself, I'll spend some of my time getting you the money that's due you."

Gage laughed bitterly. "I don't get it. Why do anything for me?"

"Because I owe you. I'm helping you now because tonight, you finally made the effort to take control of your life. Unfortunately you decided that the best way is to kill me, and that was a mistake, but still, you resolved to make your own choices."

Harley bit his lower lip while he was thinking, "I don't trust you, Dyson. What do you want from me in return, more blood?"

"Cut the melodramatics," Dyson barked, "What I want from you is nothing."

"Nothing?"

"A firm and powerful nothing. I don't want your hate. I don't want your indebtedness. I don't want your friendship. I don't collect friends and goodwill like McCall. I don't want anything from you."

Harley shrugged, "Okay. That's easy, I'll act like I don't know you."

"Wrong again. I want you to have fear and respect toward me, but there will be no future personal contact to prove it."

"I don't get it." Harley shook his head in confusion.

Dyson felt his stomach turn. He hated the necessity of calling upon the power of Tribute, but there was no other way out of this. "How does a man get unwavering respect and loyalty in prison?"

Gage's face fell. Dyson could tell he know exactly what he was referring to. "I can't say." Harley said nonchalantly, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Dyson knew there was no other way to end this mess with Harley. "Can it, Gage. How does the head honcho make sure that even the men who are on the peripheral of the yard fear and respect him? Come on, we both know that you preformed this rite of passage in the joint."

Harley swallowed hard. "Tribute," he whispered.

"Yes Harley. With Tribute, there's no ongoing confusion in either of our minds. Two years ago I set you up and put you in prison. To atone for that, I'll get you the ways and means to have a better life. We'll both know that because of me you'll have more money and security than you could ever have dreamed of, and with the Tribute paid we will be even, and we'll both remember that fact."

Harley shuddered. "Look Dyson. I may have paid..." he stopped to take a breath, "Tribute in the hole. I had no choice, but I'm not into that, I never was."

Dyson stood up and walked across the room. He knew that he had to put some physical space between them. He then turned and looked directly at Harley. "Neither was I when I paid Tribute to Lavrenty Beria's son when I was imprisoned in Lubyanka. He got me into the prison because the Company was blackmailing him. But in order to stay alive, I had to pay Tribute to him every year I was in prison. Once a year. That's the way I remained alive. Because of Tribute, he took care that no one killed me, and the Tribute guaranteed that I wouldn't give him up to anyone. Ever."

Harley hung his head and didn't move. "I don't know Dyson." He whispered, "There's got to be another way."

Dyson shook his head, "Tribute's tried and true, and I believe in it. It kept me alive and no man goes back on Tribute once it's paid."

The room was silent. Gage' shoulders drooped in surrender and he closed his eyes. "When will it be?"

Dyson looked across the hallway towards the bedroom. "Pay it now Gage, and then it will be over and finished with. We'll take the rest of this long night to perform the act." He walked to the bottle of whisky and poured three fingers of the amber liquid, drank it down then poured another measure and moved toward Gage and offered it to him. "You'll have paid the Tribute and I would have taken it from you. It'd be finished between us. You could get on with your life. And I can go on with mine without worrying about you popping up out of nowhere trying to kill me."

Harley stared at the glass, took the amber liquid and then drank it down, "But how can I be sure that you'll get me my money?"

Dyson tried to keep his anger under wraps. He knew Harley was just afraid. He wasn't questioning his honor. "No one goes back on the Tribute once it's paid, you know that." Dyson stared hard at Harley. "And I wouldn't go back on it. I told you, I've been the one to pay the Tribute, and I know how it feels, how it indelibly scars the psyche. I won't renege once the Tribute is paid."

Harley stood up. He was shaky. "Can I trust you Dyson?"

Dyson stood in front of Harley. "Look at me, listen to my voice. It's your decision. This is something you have to decide for yourself."

Harley lowered his head and nodded. "I know."

The room was silent for a few minutes. Finally Harley sighed and shrugged, trying to look confident. "Might as well, it's the best choice, my best decision. Yes, I'll pay Tribute."

Dyson pointed to the next room and pulled off his tie. "That way is the bedroom."

Harley faced Dyson and winced. "Can I use the john first?"

Dyson said, "Good idea. It's through the bedroom." He stepped closer to Harley and put his hand on his shoulder. "I promise you, I'll be gentle. I can't promise you'll enjoy it, but I will take my time and do it right. I intend to make it worth my while." He turned away and walked to the bedroom, and started to pull his belt off. "Don't forget the lube. It's on the second shelf in the medicine cabinet. " He stopped walking but started to undo his cufflinks. "Oh and Harley..."

"Yeah?"

"Take your slop bucket and dump it out, will you?"

And he walked through the door to the bedroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Alone in the living room, Harley had the urge to run. He had preformed the Tribute in prison a few times and each time he had obsessed on it for months afterward, wondering if the pleasure he experienced made him a queer. After a lot of thought he knew in his heart that he still lusted after women. But this time he wasn't sure, it might be different.

He had worked as an agent with Dyson for four years. And he had to admit, silently to himself, that the idea of doing this with his ex-section chief, with a man he knew so well, was more than slightly arousing.

He picked up the bucket and stepped towards the bedroom. No matter what else happened, he knew his life was going change completely after tonight.

 

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