Chapter 10:


Max Caliber

We were parked in an underground parking lot. It was eerie being in one at this time. It sat dormant, say for our car and one other. A white van. Nonetheless, I reported on every single detail of the information I gathered, including the extra information that Mikey secured. But I made sure to keep Mikey and Albert's names out of the discussion.

"God damn, so that mess was you two. The entire police force is trying to find the people responsible for that massacre. But to think the main murder would be sitting next to me right now," he mumbled to himself and toyed with his lighter. He wore a tired face as he stared out over the entire empty lot.

"Hey, I did what I needed to do. It was either them or me, and you promised me absolution for any crime I commit," I reminded him.

"That doesn't mean you can go around killing thirty people in a bloodbath," he groaned before unleashing a string of curses. Then after his little swearing match with himself, he sighed.

"Listen, was the information good or not?" I asked. Trying to steer the conversation away from the topic of my possible prosecution.

"Yes, very. In one day, you discovered more about this entire operation than what we could in a month. To be entirely honest, I don't know how that makes me feel," he complained and gave his lighter another flick.

"Hopefully, that recruiting me wasn't a waste of time," I suggested.

"Definitely," he agreed and beat his head softly against the headrest. "Do you know what the difference is between dogs and wolves?"

"Huh?" I said and looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, do you?" he repeated the question. Ignoring the abruptness of the question.

"No," I replied.

"Wolves, just like dogs, prefer to hunt in packs. But whereas wolves only hunt when they are hungry. Dogs seem to have taken far more to us. They kill anything that seems a threat. Then leave the corpse untouched. Wasted," he said and kept his eyes locked on the van.

"Okay, but I fail to see how that was in any way important?" I asked, lost by what he was trying to say.

"As long as the reason for killing is justified and not wasteful. Then it can be accepted to an extent. So, just make sure to remember that, Mr. Reinhard," he explained before adjusting in his seat. "Now, what is this other business you wanted to discuss?"

"Will you be able to get Yohan and Albert pardoned?" I asked bluntly.

"As far as what you told me, Albert maybe. But Yohan will be a different story. I can't guarantee anything," he explained.

"But if I got you the information of where they are making the stuff. Also, the names of the big wigs, will you then be able to pardon them?" I reiterated my question.

"If you could get me that, then I think I'll be able to work out a deal," he replied.

"Well, I guess I have my next objective," I stated, now also staring at the white van.

"Can I ask a favor of you?" Yusuke asked and turned to me.

"Only if I can get a favor in return," I answered.

"There is something sneaky happening at the docks as of late. So, I and a couple of others from the precinct staged a stakeout. What we found was this," he said and produced a couple of pictures from his Brest pocket. He handed them to me. I furrowed my brows when I studied the picture.

"When was this?" I asked. Moving the pictures closer to my eyes.

"The night before your little massacre. Do you recognize any of them?" he asked, studying my side profile carefully. In fact, I did. I recognized everyone in the picture. It was the gang member leader and the man-mountain. The background was filled with the exact crates I saw at the warehouse. And the one making the deal was Mr. Smolinski.

"Yeah, these two. They were the ones we met up within the warehouse," I said and handed back the photos.

"Not the one making the deal?" he asked me as he slipped the pictures back into his pocket.

"Nope, besides, the photo was not the best quality. Maybe if you had a clearer one," I tried to make up excuses for not spilling the name of my employer. I would definitely have to follow up on this later.

"Makes sense, just to remind you. Keeping any information from me is a crime. If I found out you're lying to me, there will be hell to pay," he warned me.

"Come on, man, where's the trust?" I asked in the last attempt to shrug him of my tail.

"Very well then," he concluded and returned his eyes to the white van. "So, the favor I'm asking of you is to find out who this arms dealer is. Because I think I might know who it is. And if I'm right, then that old man is going to pay."

"I'll see what information I can get on the arms dealer, but only if you promise to do my favor," I replied.

"Depends on what it is," he stated, flicking his lighter once more. The sparks that flashed felt like some sort of interrogation tactic.

"Can you spare someone to occasionally watch my house," the words barely left my mouth, and Yusuke had already turned in his seat.

"Why?" he inquired.

"I've got a bad feeling about something. Yohan and Albert came over today without letting me know. This isn't the first time either," I began to explain.

"And?" he urged my explanation on.

"Well, Judy was home alone every time with them. And it's not that I don't trust them. But I can see the type of life those two are living now. It's wearing them down, and I'm just scared they might do something that'll put Judy in danger. Think you could spare someone?" I asked with a hint of embarrassment. It was because I had to ask another man if he could help keep my own wife safe.

"Whenever someone is available, I'll be sure they take my shift, and I'll do a stakeout. I can't, however, spare someone every single day. But it's the best I can do," he explained and gave his lighter another flick.

"Thanks, Yusuke, that means a lot," I said. Even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted, it was far more than I expected to get out of Yusuke.

"Of course, that's what partners are for," he said casually. This time it was me who turned his head in surprise at the words used.

"Partners?" I questioned.

"Yeah, partners. We are working on this case again, and you asked me to trust you. Besides, I get no feeling that you are dishonest with me. So, I've decided. From tonight on, you and I are partners," he said and tossed his lighter into the side of the door. Then he stuck out his hand. I looked hesitantly at him before finally gripping his hand tightly.

"Alright then, partners," I confirmed, and with that, the two of us were off. After he dropped me off. I was rushed into the shower by Judy so that I could get ready in time.

The rest of the night was a rather strange experience. The day before, I killed so many. Today I deceived and lied, and my reward for all of it. Was a romantic evening with the woman I love. In fact, it was the first night since we celebrated my return that we could do things that married couples usually do.

But sadly, all good things must come to pass and when the next day came. Mikey was already up and standing next to my car. So, we went to work and bright and early. In the car, I explained everything about last night's meeting with Yusuke that was of importance. Ending with a final note about the situation regarding Mr. Smolinski.

"I want us two to confront him this morning about his side business. I'm more than certain if we reveal his own dealings to him. He'll try to squirm and get out of the situation. We just need to play along with his compromise. That way, we can take out the arms dealing and drug ring in one fell swoop," I explained to him as we approached the café.

"How certain are you that he won't react violently and try to kill us?" he asked.

"Easy, Mikey. We have a trump card," I said and pulled out the custom pistol that Yohan had made for me. "With this in hand and me revealing I'm the fabled devil of the west. He might see more value in having me on his side," I explained.

"Goddammit, keep that thing down," he freaked out, and his eyes darted around for any onlookers. I slipped the gun back into its holster. "Yeah, that could work. But we just need to be sure we don't get roped too deep into this."

"I agree. We'll take the lightest compromise we can possibly get. That way, you can keep your hands clean. And I can continue to set everything up with Yohan," I continued.

"There you go again, Captain," he said and gave a little chuckle.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Smiling, plotting, and taking action. You always get so excited to crush your enemies. It's really unsettling," he said. I, realizing I was grinning from ear to ear, made my face stone again.

"Yeah, sorry about that, bad habit. But don't you worry. Just like during the war, I always win," I reassured him and pulled into the parking spot.

We both got out of the car, ready to confront Smolinski. But I could see on Mikey's face that he was somewhat nervous. Which I found strange since he was usually even more stone face and strong-willed than me.

"It's Margarette, isn't it?" I asked. Guessing that's what got him acting strange.

"You really need to learn to keep your nose out of my personal life," he responded coldly and seemed to become calm again. I was right, and I knew it. He wouldn't admit it, but he had a crush on the girl.

"How did the walk home go yesterday. Talk about your feelings?" I asked mockingly.

"You jackass, this isn't the time to be yanking my chain," he complained as we stepped inside the café.

"What are you talking about. There is always time to talk about your love life. I mean, it was so barren for long. I'll relish the chance to divulge in any news," I continued to pester him as we walked down that hallway.

"It went well, and no. We didn't talk about anything like that. There, you happy?" he asked in a huff as I gripped the door to the staff room.

"Elated," I answered and stepped inside.

Smolinski was as always behind his desk. Busy going over various business ledgers and seemingly enveloped by his own affairs. With him so engrossed in his work, we walked up to him from both sides. He was still unreactive to the shadows that fell over him. With a firm hand, I spun him around in his chair, with Mikey stopping it right as his face aligned with mine. He was preparing to shout when I placed my hand over his. Raising a single finger to my face to shush him. I leaned close and as Mikey and Yohan had noted. I had a grin spread across my face.

"Mr. Smolinski. Let's have a little chat about the guns you sold to the Kirishima Clan."

Real Aire