Joe Haslam was an old army colleague of Gary Windass who visited his friend in the Rovers in July 2017 with a view to co-opting him into working in a private security firm he now ran. Gary admitted that he was between jobs and could only find part-time labouring work and listened as Joe listed the benefits of his work in the trouble spots of the Ukraine including high pay, a five bedroom house and the ability to go on three holidays a year. When Gary retorted that this was "danger money", Joe told him that he himself mostly drove people around and never had to use a weapon, offering him the open vacancy at his firm. Gary congratulated Joe on his success but assured him that the job was not for him, claiming that he had family and children to think about. Gary left his wallet behind in the pub and Joe placed a wad of cash in it as an incentive, handing it to Sean Tully for him to pass on.
A few weeks later, Gary caused an accident on a building job he was working on and became liable for the damages. Desperate for cash he summoned Joe back to the Rovers where he heard that a recruit he had taken on had had an "accident" in his work and the vacancy was open again. Told to ensure his passport was in order, Gary took the job on, lying to girlfriend Sarah Platt that he would be shop-fitting with his dad in Hamburg. Meeting a couple of days later to look over the contract, Joe especially advised a nervous Gary to pay special attention to the clause on the fourth page to have a will in place. Gary signed the contract on 16th August having passed his medical with ease and was told his flight would be at 5.30 tomorrow.
Despite Sarah finding out about some of the nature of the work, he left and returned after a few weeks. He claimed the trip had gone well but hid his badly bruised body from anyone, after by the various fights and altercations he had been involved in. Nevertheless, he accepted a second job from Joe in the August which went even more badly when a man ended up getting killed. Still facing financial problems, Gary nevertheless accepted a third job, confessing to Joe that he had a wobble when confronted with a man who turned out to be a maniac. Joe warned Gary that one more mistake and he would be the one who might end up with a bullet in his head. Gary came back safe again, but once more covered in bruises. This December trip almost ended in disaster - a car containing Gary's bag had been blown up and this led everyone to think that Gary himself had died when Joe reported the loss. Gary was made to promise never to return to the region after he returned home.
Six months later, Gary called Joe in for help. He had traced escaped-killer Pat Phelan to a caravan park in Abergele and wanted the man returned in an effort to get his mother Anna freed from jail after she had been wrongly convicted based on a set-up perpetrated by Phelan. Gary wasn't honest with Joe, saying that Phelan had robbed him of money and he just wanted to scare the man. Joe lost his nerve though when he saw a baseball bat in the back of Gary's van and realised just who Phelan was, labelling him a "psycho". Gary tackled Phelan on his own but found himself bested, however Joe had returned and knocked the man out with a rock before he could throttle Gary. They returned him to Weatherfield where Joe accepted a payment for his services but demanded that Gary be upfront and him the next time he wanted a favour from him.
In January 2019 Gary's financial situation had again taken a dive and he met Joe in the Rovers to discuss more security work. Joe suggested he take six months tax-free building work in Qatar instead but Sarah caught them talking and exploded at her boyfriend for thinking of such a plan, also telling Joe to have a nice life and not to stay in touch.
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