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by shalott

Okay, so it wasn't exactly an original idea. Good enough for Al Capone was more than good enough for Vincenzo Lombard, Carlo Stracchi, and the rest of Armando's pals. Ray kept his poker face on for the benefit of his button men while the Feds demolished his desk and carted papers away, but inside he was grinning like a loon.

It was just as well he was in a good mood. It wound up having to last him a trip to the station and four hours sitting in a holding cell with half of the made men in Las Vegas pacing and yelling around him, every one of them outlining plans for the mystery snitch that he could have done without hearing.

He sat in one of the corners and tried not to listen, bitching in grand style at anyone who got close to him, running Armando's mouth on autopilot. He wondered what Pop would say. Scratch that, he knew what Pop would say, what he'd have said to any of this. That was one voice he'd always be carrying around with him. Fraser, though… He'd stopped hearing Fraser in his head after the first couple of months. It hadn't felt right, having conversations with him in Armando Languistini's voice.

He wasn't the first to get a bail hearing, and the local cops escorting him weren't any too gentle. But when he got out of the courthouse, the car that was waiting for him had smoked windows and an agent he knew behind the wheel, and his lifeguard Milson was sitting inside.

The door thudded shut behind him, cut off the sounds of the strip, the neon lights. Ray leaned back, closed his eyes, and breathed in deep as the car moved away from the curb. The engine had been idling, and the air smelled like a downtown Chicago street in August.

"You're crazy, you know that?" Milson was putting ice in glasses. "The risks you took, you should be getting out of this city in a bodybag."

"Hey, it's done. We brought the bastards down. Just water, thanks." He took the glass and drank deep. Armando Languistini drank thirty-year-old scotch and hundred-dollar bottles of champagne. Ray felt him sloughing off like dead skin, put a hand up to his face almost expecting to feel it peeling. "You got a razor around here?"

They pulled over a few miles out of some backwater dump to get the shaving kit out of the trunk. The driver went into town to grab them some lunch, and Ray wet his face down with bottled water and took off the mustache without soap or shaving cream, squatting over the center divider and craning his head to keep his upper lip in the rearview mirror. He couldn't see his whole face at once.

He slept from there to the Salt Lake City hotel. He shaved again in front of the big bathroom mirror, with the grain, against the grain, until he couldn't feel any stubble under his hands. The fluorescents made his skin look leathery and orange and his eyes muddy brown, like he'd spent more than just three years out here in the desert sun.

He closed his eyes. "What now, Benny?" he asked softly.

Come home, Ray.

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