Chapter 9:

The truth revealed

Max Caliber

After last night, I sneaked back into my own home. It was strange. I felt nothing for the men I killed by the thought of Judy seeing me like this made me turn pale. I quietly took a shower and crawled in next to her. Hoping she would not wake up.

Fortunately, the next day came quickly. I wasted no time in getting out of the house as quickly as possible. I promised Judy I would take her shopping next weekend to make up for my absence from home. But today, I had to meet with Mikey to figure out what he could scrape together, and then I need to report to Yusuke.

Today, however, Mikey was not riding with me to work. Instead, he would be meeting me there, out back behind the café. It made me a little anxious to find this out via note slipped underneath the door. But knowing Mikey. He was probably just being cautious.

I had never rushed to work like this morning before. Wasting no time in parking in the back alley. Where sitting on the railings leading up to the café, Mikey sat. He wore a dissatisfied look on his face.

“Mikey, why the sour face?” I asked as I climbed out of my car. With the loud slam of the door, it seemed to rip him from his thoughts.

“Got a lot on my mind, Reinhard. This is bad news but tell me. What could you get out of Yohan?” he asked in retaliation and slowly got up. He walked up with both hands in his pockets.

“Shit, if you think you’ve got bad news, then wait till you hear what I have to tell you,” I began before telling him everything that transpired last night. His eye were ones filled with shocked at hearing what kind of people Yohan was dealing with. But when I explained the slaughter, he seemed somewhat understanding.

“Damn, is that all?” he asked. Mikey clearly had a look on his face, hoping that was all I had to say.

“Yeah, that’s everything. Now tell me what you could find out,” I said before taking a seat on the second-lowest step of the stairs. I leaned back on my elbows and gave a heavy sigh.

“Well, Albert is in it as well. Not as deep as George and Yohan, but still. He’s been doing smaller drop-offs and riding around gang members for the better part of a month, almost. Not only that, but they are planning to drag him in deeper,” he explained with his arms folded in front of his chest.

“Any more details about the people they are working for, or anything like that?” I inquired.

“Yeah. He said their group is really the only supplier of Red Ash. Apparently, it’s a drug from the southern countries. Comes from the heart of one of those impoverished forest settlements. They learned from them how to make it,” he explained.

“I see,” I added.

“Lastly, Albert told me something rather interesting. Apparently, all the gangs in the city are setting their sights on their little organization. It won’t be long before a full-on gang war breaks out to find out how to make Red Ash,” he said.

“Albert, was this open about everything with you?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. It was strange hearing that Mikey could get this much out of Albert. I only managed to get what information I had after lending a helping hand.

“He’s scared, Reinhard. I think he wants out, but he’s too afraid to say anything,” he said and gave a small stone a kick down the alley. “I think he wants us two to get him out of the situation he’s got himself in. Because he was rather adamant that he doesn’t want us to join. He’s just trying to keep Yohan and George off his back,” Mikey explained.

“So, Georges and Yohan are the main two guys. It makes my heart feel a lot lighter, knowing he isn’t as involved as the other two. He’s got kids and everything,” I said as I looked up to the blue sky.

“Yeah, but your cop buddy is going to have to pull some serious string to get Yohan and George out of trouble. Not to mention keeping Yohan quiet about what you two did in the warehouse,” Mikey said and began to make his way past me. He was just about to grab the door handle when I decided to ask one last thing.

“You said anything about joining up with them?” I asked.

“I said I’m good, but I’ll rather work triple shifts here than do that kind of stuff,” he said and disappeared into the café.

“Understood. So, it’s just little old me playing secret agent,” I groaned to myself.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. Mikey and I were getting the hang of working in the café. So, we bothered Margarette less than usual. In fact, when I was busy with customers, I could see Mikey try his hand at flirting with her. He could get a giggle out of her every now and then. This angered some of the customers.

But it wasn’t long before our shift finally came to an end. While Mikey walked Margarette home, I closed up the shop and was last to change out of the work uniform. Mr. Smolinski was busy counting out the register at the desk when something caught my ear.

“Damn devil of the west,” he mumbled to himself. My ears immediately perked up.

“What did you say just now?” I asked as my cold eyes met his.

“Nothing, mind your own business,” he scoffed and had hoped it would be enough to deter me. But if I heard him correctly, he knew who I was. He knew my nickname.

“I said,” I began as I stepped closer. Now towering over him in his chair. “What did you say?” I asked again.

“You think I’m scared of some punk like you?” he remarked and tried ignoring me. But before he could turn his seat. I grabbed him by his shirt and slung him against the wall.

“Where did you hear that name. Where did you hear of the West-fold devil?” I shouted as I lifted him from his feet. My hands digging into his chest.

“I said devil of the west, you idiot,” he shouted in pain. “I’ve never heard of the West-fold devil.” With that, I dropped him back on his feet. Knowing I misheard him, I felt the situation’s awkwardness wash over me. I had to do my best to recover from this situation. I needed to think quickly on my feet.

“If you ever hear someone talk about the West-fold devil. Let me know, okay,” I threatened. Hoping me doubling down on the threat would be enough to keep him off my case.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. But do anything like that again, and you’ll be fired, you hear me,” he shouted in my face. I think he saw my cheeks and ears go red with embarrassment.

“Sorry about that, Mr. Smolinski. It won’t happen again,” I said. With that said and done, I made my way out of the staff room. Smolinski was still cursing at me as I left, but I decided it would be best if I got out of sight as quickly as possible.

Once outside, I made a call using the payphone. Yusuke said he would come to pick me up at home like before. With the meeting in place, I rushed home. But instead of thinking about the meeting or what Mikey said. I was busy sweating buckets if I could still come to work tomorrow.

When I came home, I saw one of the black cars Yohan, and the other two usually drive. My brow furrowed as I pulled into the driveway. On the porch sat George, who seemed the usual fidgeting mess he always is.

“George, what are you doing here?” I asked, somewhat skeptical by his sudden appearance.

“Oh, hello there, Captain. Me? I- Uhm, I mean we just dropped by to give you the payment for a job well done,” he said in panic and shot up from his seat. He furiously patted himself down.

“We?” I asked as I came closer. He was sweating immensely, and his entire outfit seemed disheveled.

“Yeah, me and Yohan. He told me to give you this. He’s inside. Keeping Judy distracted. So, that she doesn’t need to find out about this little side business you’re working on,” he said in a frenzy before he pulled a thick envelope from his sock. He tossed it to me.

“Thanks, but I would prefer if you guys didn’t show up to my house every time unannounced. Judy is going to start getting suspicious,” I said as I opened the envelope. It was stacked to the brim. “This much?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. Our big boss said to make sure you were excellently rewarded for last night. Can’t have the devil of the west go underpaid,” he said with a broad smile and scratched his cheek.

“What did you just call me?” I asked. Shocked at hearing this for a second time.

“The devil of the west. You know, that’s what the other gangs are calling you. Or at least the devil who slaughtered an entire division of the Kirishima clan. And since we are the West Cartel,” he was explaining before being cut short by the door opening. Judy and Yohan stepped out and seemed to be having a joyous time. They were both smiling and glowing with happiness. This sight cut my anger short as I quickly tucked the money into my coat.

“Honey, your home. These two said they wanted to drop by and tell you something. You never told me Yohan was so funny,” she said and giggled as she remained in the doorframe while Yohan simply walked past me.

“George gave you what we came for right,” he asked in passing.

“Yeah, he did. Thanks for dropping by,” was all I could grumble at the moment. In this light, Yohan looked different than the time I came back. His eyes were tired, and he stank of booze and something else. He must be falling deeper down the rabbit hole. I wonder if I can save him.

“Alright, honey. I’m going to take a shower. Why don’t you see them out?” Judy said before ducking back into the house.

“Hey Judy,” I shouted. She stopped on the first steps leading to the second floor. “Get all dressed up. I got my first paycheck, and I’m treating you to a nice dinner.” With that, she gave a little cheer and clapped her hands. Then she rushed eagerly up the stairs.

“Isn’t that just the nicest thing,” said George as he followed after Yohan. Quickly trying to escape me. I wanted to chase after them and ask some questions, but I was a bit too puzzled by what I just heard. Besides, Yusuke would be here soon.

“Bye,” was all Yohan said with an evil smile. It made me feel somewhat uneasy seeing that look on him. As if he knew something I didn’t. Something important.

I waved them off and sat down on the porch bench. My mind could only think of one thing. How did Smolinski know of that name? The new title I’ve been branded with. I sat there and pondered for quite some time before I heard the honk of a car.

“Reinhard,” was all Yusuke said as he pulled up to the sidewalk in front of my house. I had no more time to waste thinking about it. I would pursue that lead tomorrow. Right now, I needed to report in and then treat Judy to a night she won’t forget.

“Yo, Yusuke,” I replied.

Real Aire