The offer Yohan gave me was an envelope filled with Franks. It also contained a piece of paper with a location and time scribbled on it. Then lastly, the final part of the offer was being rolled between Yusuke’s fingers. A small vial containing Red Ash.
“You realize this is enough to put him away? With the help of your testimony, of course,” he said as he inspected the light red powder. It did really look like ash. I remember the shock when I looked inside. How it looked and that Yohan would so blatantly offer me this.
“I know, but I know you better than that. Why take down just Yohan when we can use him to get to the root? You know, cut the head off, and the body will wither and all that,” I replied and put the parchment underneath my arms. Tucking my hands into my trouser pockets.
“I see your point. How do you want to approach this?” he asked and dropped the vial back into the envelope.
“I’ll go and meet with him. Agree to be part of this little smuggling business of his and gather information. Then once I have enough evidence, I hand it all over to you,” I answered.
“Asking for trust even though you will betray the people you fought with. This country’s people are truly estranged to me. But I’m glad for the help nonetheless,” he concluded and looked at the envelope one more time.
“I’ll be needing that for tomorrow,” I said and stuck out my hand. He was just about to hand it over before he paused and gave me a stern look.
“I’m trusting you. Don’t make me regret thinking of you as a man with morals,” he warned before handing back the envelope.
“You won’t regret this, partner,” I replied and made my way back to the house.
When I slipped back into the house, Judy was just finishing up in the bathroom. Giving me enough time to slip the envelope and parchment into one of the cupboards downstairs, I knew no one would go looking in. The rest of the night passed as planned. Just us two, all alone for the first time in a long time.
The following day, I was up bright and early. Mikey and I came in an hour earlier today to make up for yesterday’s half shift. Also, to discuss last night. I was busy cleaning the counter, and he was restacking the sandwiches.
“So, why tell me all of this?” Mikey asked as I filled him in on the entire situation.
“Simple, really. I need your help with this. Think about it logically. I’m going to get in cozy with Yohan and most likely help out with George. But I need you to go check up on Albert,” I explained as I grinned when I could see my reflection on the counter.
“Albert? You think he’s part of this as well?” he asked.
“Yes, and there’s good reason for my suspicion. Albert wears the same suit that George and Yohan do. He drives the same type of car as the other two. All three of them seem to work very unconventional hours at the same place,” I unloaded my reasoning. Mikey paused his work and seemed to ponder what I told him. He toyed with his long black hair.
“I see why you’re suspicious. But what will you do if George and Albert are caught up in all this?” he asked and went back to work.
“Yusuke himself gave me my way out. I’ll eschew reports making it seem that the three of them were forced into it. Then I’ll get them pardoned as a favor for aiding in taking down the Red Ash ring,” I answered and counted the contents of the cash register.
“All three of them?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, even Yohan. I can’t think that the three of them went into this intending to hurt people. They might be slightly on the reckless side, but they are still good people. There must be a reason for them to get involved. I’m certain of it,” I monologued my reply and slammed the till shut. I continued the prep work with a sigh as I didn’t mean to shut it so hard.
“Ah-ha. That’s the reason you are really doing this. Bold to get involved just so they have a chance of getting out of this with their lives attached,” he said, and a smile crept on his face.
“We may no longer be deployed anymore. But I still feel a sense of responsibility for them, you know?” I admitted and adjusted the new cookie jar.
“You always were the most caring one. But fine, I’ll help,” he agreed to my offer. I slung my arm over his shoulder and gave him a good shake.
“I knew you would give me a hand. I expect no less from my lieutenant,” I cheered and chuckled as I annoyed him. His frantic struggles against the surprise attack made me chuckle a bit.
“Oi, get your hands off me. I’m not some kid you can sweep up in with your celebrations,” he rebuked and tried to force my arm away. But while we were busy roughhousing a bit behind the till the entrance opened.
“Oh my. You two seem to be in a lot better mood,” said Margarette in a soft, gentle voice with a cute smile on her face. The two of us froze and simply gave her our best grins in return. I’m pretty sure we looked like a bunch of idiots, but there was nothing else that I could think of doing.
“Finally, you’re all here. Now get to work,” announced Smolinski. He only stuck his head from the backdoor. With that, it seemed the spell over me was broken, and I could finally move again.
“Ho-How are you today?” I asked as I frantically scrambled to my position. Mikey followed my example quickly and slid over to the coffee, and started brewing immediately.
“Take a seat. I’ll make some coffee for us to start the morning,” Mikey offered as he frantically got to work. Margarette gave a slightly worried glance and floated over to the two stools in front of the counter and sat down. Putting her flower pattern handbag down on the counter.
“Thank you two. Especially for yesterday, but you don’t have to worry about me. You know I’m actually a lot tougher than I look,” she reassured us. She curled her arm to try and show us just how strong she was.
“Well, if you say so. Then I have something I need to ask you, two things actually,” I quickly added. If she didn’t want to dwell on it, then we should do our best to move on. Keep the awkward air about yesterday as far away as possible.
“Oh, okay, ask away,” she asked, a bit taken by surprise. Her arm even lowered slowly and wrapped tightly around her middle. She looked a bit worried about what I was going to ask. So, a little bit over-eager, I decided to ask it as quickly as I could.
“Will you please teach me to make good coffee like you? I mean, I can’t be beaten by someone like him,” I asked and pointed exasperatedly towards Mikey. I had never seen him flung himself around with such disgust and shock.
“What do you mean someone like him?” he asked with a contorted and confused look on his face. Clearly, the out-of-the-blue question and resulting scene were quite funny. Margarette snickered at the two of us before finally responding.
“Oh, is that all? Here I thought you were going to ask something serious,” she said with a clear sign of relief on her face. In fact, it lit up brightly as she giggled a bit. So cute.
“This is serious. I was his superior officer, so I need to be better than him here as well,” I defended my statement. I knew riling up Mikey and seeming a little bit overzealous about my job would put yesterday’s sour event behind us.
“What did you just say?” was all that Mikey could conjure up as he came closer to square up his shoulders with mine.
“Oh my, I didn’t know that. I’ll teach you all the tricks. You can’t have a junior officer upstaging you,” she said, tagging in. Mikey’s jaw visibly dropped as his shoulders sunk down. That was the final blow. He had lost.
“Thank you, Margarette,” I said with a smug face and a nod of my head. Now strike while the fire is still hot. “Now for the second question.”
“I’m listening,” she replied, probably expecting a question along the same lines. But it wasn’t. A harmless question but an important one.
“Can you maybe take Mikey to your brother and ask if he’ll tell him a bit more about that new job he’s doing?” I asked. As expected, her soft expression changed again. She applied thought to what I asked her. Mikey, understanding why I asked this came over. He slid each of us our coffees.
“Please, Margarette. I’m planning on maybe working two jobs so that I can save up some money,” he added on a fake reason for the question. She took the coffee and closed her eyes. Nodding to herself.
“I can do that. But why not take him yourself?” she asked me.
“Oh, I have to meet with Yohan about something after work. But thank you. We really appreciate this,” I thanked her. Great, now that Mikey’s way in is set up. I can focus on my part of the investigation. I needed to be careful tonight.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur. The breakfast and lunch rushes were on another level today compared to yesterday. I never stood still for a single second. On top of that, Margarette taught me the basics of brewing good coffee. Surprisingly enough, there was a lot more to than simply adding hot water and sugar. But while all of this was happening. I kept my mind focused on the best way to possibly get the most information out of Yohan. How deep would I have to commit to my role before I get to meet the higher-ups?
The end of the workday finally arrived and as planned. Margarette and Mikey walked home to go see Albert. On the other hand, I was on my way to a park not far from the café. When I stopped next to the bench, the note mentioned I realized something. Why meet in such a public place? What was he planning? As I was mulling it over, I went and sat down on the bench. Time went by, and it grew cold before Yohan finally arrived.
“Good evening,” he greeted as he got out of his car. He had large bags underneath his eyes. It seems his business has kept him busy of late.
“Good evening,” I replied. Rubbing my arms against the cold. If I knew I would be out in this type of weather, I would have dressed appropriately.
“I’m surprised you came. I risked giving you that envelope. Knowing what type of person you are, I expected the police to be knocking on my front door,” he said with a serious tone as he spun his keys around his finger.
“I need the money,” was my only response.
“I see. Get in. We’re making a delivery.”