With the blood barely dry on my knuckles, I made my way to the nearest phone booth. Leaving Mikey to look after Margarette. If it was under almost any other circumstance, then I would have been happy that the two of them were alone. But this unpleasant encounter was enough for me. It showed me if I had the power to do something about this problem. Then I needed to do it.
After I gave Yusuke a call, he told me he would come over tonight to my home. There we’ll talk about his offer. In the meantime, Mikey took Margarette back to her place. While I had a word with Mr. Smolinski.
“Thank you for stepping in and dealing with those ash heads. They are a bothersome bunch, but I could deny the little miss her side project,” he explained to me with his heavy accent while sitting on the desk.
“Think nothing of it. I don’t plan on stopping here, however, and that’s something I would like to talk to you about,” I continued the conversation. I was leaning with my shoulder against the lockers. With bandages in hand, I was wrapping my forearm.
“Not stopping?” he asked with intrigue. While his eyes were locked onto me, his hand ducked backward over his typewriter. He conjured up a wrapped-up sandwich.
“No, I’ve got an offer on the table to take on this red ash problem. Not only that. But to maybe put a stop to the rising gangs in the area I’ve heard some of the customers talking about,” I explained as I put the final touches on my bandages.
“Oh, and who would this contact be?” he asked and stopped his sandwich short of a bite.
“A police officer by the name Yusuke Kurosawa. You know him?” I asked after seeing his reaction.
“I do. Hardworking man with a real sense of Justice. But a ruthless dog when it comes to criminals had my fair share to deal with him when I first came to this country,” he told me.
“Deal with him?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. He didn’t respond immediately, instead opting for another bite. I put my shirt back on and took my things from inside the locker.
“I have nothing to hide. I came to this country with the intent of getting my hands on the arms trade here. That’s why I own this business and a few others. Sources of income to make sure that when I start buying arms, that I’ll be ahead of everyone else,” he said. The way he could so casually mention it threw me off. Instead of crying out in shock or even showing a hint of unrest, I asked a question.
“What do you mean arms trade?” the words had hardly left my mouth when he looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Buy guns and other weaponry, of course,” he replied.
“Then what?” it was strange. I had so many other things to say, but somehow, his demeanor kept me calm.
“I pack them into the storehouses I’ve got down at the docks. Get me a few good containers and then ship them out to the smaller wars being fought. Re-selling firearms is a very profitable business. But it’s run by old money, so one needs to be very rich or very shrewd to get a slice of the market,” he replied.
“Is that legal?” I asked the question that was on the back of my mind.
“Completely. That’s what I consulted Yusuke about. To do this, I planned on doing it the perfectly legal way, documents, and everything. And what better country to get the mass amount of product I plan to sell than one that just came out of a war,” he said. His words brought a bit of calm to me. I had the picture of the illegal arms trade in my head. It was nice to hear that I was wrong.
“Can’t fault you, really. War profiteering is shameful, but it’s not my place to judge. I served, so I know how it is,” I replied and finally finished dressing.
“Exactly. I’m more than certain that you know how many times resupplying occurs through an arms dealer. Besides, I have nobler plans with the money I’m to make than just sitting on it like some dragon. I plan to reinvest,” he said and finished his sandwich and licking his fingers.
“Reinvest it in your other business ventures, I’m certain?” I asked, hoping for him to agree to the thought process.
“Naturally. You might not expect it, but pretty soon, most of this city will be on my payroll one way or another. But I’m planning on first helping the religious sects and small business owners in the beginning. Less lucrative, but once you get the people behind you. Advertising becomes easy,” he concluded with an evil grin. The entire conversation felt uneasy to me, but as if I was under the effects of a spell. I simply nodded and left without speaking once out of outrage. Instead, I accepted what he told me. Perhaps the incident with the ash heads put my frame of mind into a weird place.
I walked home after that since I left my car for the other two. Mikey said he would come to pick me up tomorrow for work, and then I can just take my car back with me. So, as I made my way down the main road, I took in everything around me. It appalled and saddened me.
This was never the riches part of the city but compared to back then. This was only a sham imitation of what it was before. Homeless people gathering in all open spaces. Building small rundown shelters out of whatever they could scavenge. People being harassed in stores for any form of alms. Even the working people seemed affected by it. Their clothes were worn and their faces grey. The few that were still walking looked around anxiously or openly showcased their firearms. Yet all of these people had one thing in common.
They were mainly men. The women were working inside the stores, businesses, and restaurants. These men weren’t old either. In fact, the older generation were the patrons of the stores, businesses, and restaurants. They were all my age, veterans of the war. I felt a heavy depressive cloud over me as I watched the beautiful scenic route tainted. Tainted by the forgotten. Tainted by the leftovers of the war, like me.
“Reinhard, want a lift,” said a familiar voice following the honking of a horn. I was ripped from my stupor. Next to me was Albert, driving the same type of car that George drives. But his was considerably cleaner.
“Thanks, Albert,” I said as I quickly hopped into the car with him. It looked strange to see Albert wear a suit better than George. But on his face, he wore a massive smile. So, it felt strange to be examining my friend just to report it later on.
“I hoped I would see you walking along this road. Imagine my surprise when Mikey brought Marge home in your car. But when he told me what happened, I thought I had to show my thanks to you one way or another,” he explained and gave the steering wheel good drumming. He genuinely seemed to be in a fantastic mood.
“Thanks, Al. Yeah, sorry about that, but at least your sister is fine,” I said before staring out the window. I think I will keep my integration of him after I speak to Yusuke.
“Oh, she’s tough. Don’t worry about that. I mean, she grew up in a house with five brothers, so she had to be,” he said to reassure me.
“Five brothers are bad enough. But she had to deal with a wildcard like yourself. I almost pity her,” I mocked and gave a wry grin to Albert. As expected, he exploded, and soon the two of us were lost in conversation as he took me home. The ride felt a lot shorter than the one to the café. Perhaps it was the excellent conversation, not being as hung-over, or that he knew the roads better than I.
When I got out of the car, I saw another identical-looking one in my driveway. It was empty and had a different number plate than George’s.
“Looks like your popular. Yohan must be looking for you as well,” he exclaimed as I got out of the car. So, it was Yohan’s. I wonder what he wanted from me. Maybe he was going to try to convince me to join him with the others.
“I’ll be sure to hear him out. But thanks for the lift and give my regards to the misses,” I said as I waved him off. He pulled out and continued to down the street. As if by some other beings working, Yohan appeared. He stepped out from the front door with Judy in tow.
“Ah, here you are. I dropped by to give you something, but Judy was so kind to let me stay and wait for you,” he said as he pulled a thick envelope from underneath his armpit and waved it in the air.
“Hello, honey. When I heard a car, I was expecting it to be your, but where is it?” Judy asked, confused as she looked around the front yard. I could feel my expression softening. She looked so adorable in her bathrobe. She must have had a bit of a lazy day after the party from last night.
“I’ll tell you later, darling. So, Yohan, what’s this?” I asked as I accepted the envelope from him. He blitzed past me and was already planning on climbing in his car.
“That is an offer you can’t refuse. We’ll talk more about another time. I’ve got business to attended,” he declared and slammed his car door shut. Puzzled, I scanned both sides of the envelope. It had nothing written on it.
“I’ll give it a look over a bit later,” I said and greeted him. Judy and I returned to the house where I told her about what happened. How my first day of work went and how much I missed her. After that, we ate and spend some time together.
The sun had gone down a while ago, and Judy was in the bathroom when I heard the honk of Yusuke’s car out front. I got up from the couch and took the envelope that Yohan handed me. With it in hand, I stepped out for a quick chat.
“Good evening,” said Yusuke as he stood outside his car and flicking the lighter he held in his hand. He seemed as if he had a long day. The bags underneath his eyes were sagging.
“Good evening. Any luck on the whole Red Ash business?” I asked as I stepped over the front lawn to him.
“None whatsoever. But with your help, I think it’ll change soon,” he said, stuck his hand into the open window of his car. Taking a parchment from the front seat.
“Yeah. Really depends on what you tell me now,” I replied. Trying to look as if there was a chance I would reject, but I knew better.
“Well, shall we talk here or in my car?” he asked and nudged his head towards the car.
“Here’s fine. Also, keep it short,” I said and folded my arms.
“In here is everything about the case that I can make public to you. If you accept it, you’ll be taken under special judication. Granting you a certain level of authority. Along with that, you’ll be corresponding with me with all matters regarding the chase and withholding any information. It will be viewed as a crime. But if you accept and we track down this drug ring. Not only will you be a hero to the people of this city, but depending on the circumstances they are involved in. I can even get your friends pardoned,” he reported to me his offer. It was mechanical and precise in nature. Exactly what I expected from him.
“I accept and here,” I said and traded the parchment he had for the envelope I had.
“What’s this?” he asked as he looked puzzled at it.
“That, my dear Yusuke, is my first thing to report. An irresistible offer was given to me by Yohan. A distributor of Red Ash.”