Chapter 11:


Max Caliber

As the words trickled into his ear, his eyes stretched wide. I could see how his pupils were vibrating as his mouth dropped open. As pale as a ghost, he sat frozen in time. I slowly took my hand away from his mouth. Then, like a spell being lifted, he spoke.

“How do you know?” was all that he could muster. It was rather amusing watching the grouch being confronted, but it raised a question. How was I going to approach this?

“Listen carefully to what I have to say to you,” I began as I pieced together the best course of action. “I have friends in some real mighty places. Last night I got tipped off with a certain piece of information about you, Mr. Smolinski. You see, I have photographic evidence of your little deal.”

“Impossible,” he got out as he stared in disbelief at me. This was great. I had him right where I wanted him. Now I merely had to tighten the screws on him. Then present his escape.

“Oh yes, very possible. You sold a decent number of cases filled with an assortment of firearms to Mr. Satou from the Kirishima Clan.” I explained and placed my foot on the piece of chair that was exposed between his pudgy legs.

“And from what I heard. That little group met a rather unfortunate end,” added Mikey from behind as he leaned on the back of the chair.

“That’s right, so the police are really interested in anyone involved. You wouldn’t want that pesky Yusuke hearing about this,” I slipped my final knife into the argument. As expected, I could see the fear grip his eyes as he caved.

“What do you want?” he asked, almost pleaded. Bingo. Even this usually harsh misanthrope couldn’t handle the stress. Since the beginning of this little chat, I realized the menacing grimace I wore for the first time.

“The West Cartel. Tell me everything you know about them, for starters,” I gave my first condition.

“I don’t know much about them. They’re a relatively new gang,” he began to panic and stumbled over his words. This was no good. If I let him panic this much, it’ll take too long to get information out of him.

“Names, hearsay from other groups, and any rumors. Tell me everything,” I clarified and leaned closer. Bringing my face a hand’s length away from his.

“I’ve only met with one of their guys. His name was Roland. Real shifty looking character. He wore a white striped suit and dark shades. His slick black hair combed back. I only met him once, I swear,” he admitted in a panic.

“Good, now what did he want?” I pried.

“I can’t tell you that. It’ll just give you more dirt on me. Besides, trust me. You don’t want to mess with them. Apparently, they go this new lunatic in their ranks. That’s what you heard me complaining about yesterday,” he tried to reason with me. But little did he know he fell exactly into my trap. While keeping my eyes locked with his. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out the gun nonchalantly. He froze when seeing the barrel pointed right at him.

“You know, they say the devil of the west uses a custom pistol. One that fires such large caliber rounds. That it leaves nothing but mince and paste behind. As the one who killed all those men. I can assure you of one thing. This is more than a hand cannon. It’s scarily accurate too,” I threatened as I pressed the barrel against his chest. Even though he was scared stiff, something else was in his eyes. Recognition.

“No way. I sold Yohan this gun. This is the devil of the west’s gun,” he admitted to me. Even though I was surprised that he was the person who sold the custom piece to Yohan. What really got me was that he mentions Yohan by name.

“Yeah, it’s a real work of art,” I said and slid the barrel up into his throat.

“But, if you’re the devil of the west. Shouldn’t you know everything about them,” He asked while Mikey had to pin him down as he tried to escape from the chair.

“I’m the one asking the questions here,” I said as I clasped his face in my hand. Forcing him to look at me and not the gun. “But I’ll tell you this. I’m not working for them. I’m here to take them down.”

“Now tell us about what this Roland wanted,” whispered Mikey into his ear. Smolinski just looked at me for a while before I finally let his face go. I could see in his eyes he was ready to talk. So, I slipped the gun back into my coat.

“He wanted to ask me about trading with him secretly,” he answered.

“Why secretly, couldn’t he do it normally?” I asked, taking my foot off his chair.

“No, the other gangs threatened me. Saying that trading with them would cost me my life. Well, at least as long as they kept the monopoly on Red Ash,” he explained.

“Interesting. Anything else you know?” I asked as I gave his chair a slight kick to spin it toward his desk. I sat down on the one end and Mikey on the other.

“I also know that apparently because of that killing. That the Kirishima Clan is going to strike back at them soon. But that’s all I know about them. I swear,” he pleaded again.

“That’s good, Smolinski. Now listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you, okay,” I stated and adjusted myself once more on the desk.

“Okay,” he said and nodded.

“From now on. You and I are going to work together. This whole interrogation business is behind us now. This is the beginning of our new work relationship, okay,” I said and stuck out my hand.

“Okay,” was his only skeptical reply as he studied my hand.

“Shake my damn hand,” I barked. Like a scared child, he followed my orders. “Good, good. Now hear this. We’ll continue as if nothing happened right now, okay. Breath one word of this little altercation, and I’ll make sure you get a few new breathing holes. Got it.”

“Got it,” he responded, semi-scared to look me even in the eye.

“Now, how we are going to work together is simple. You’re going to help take care of this West Cartel debacle and make sure no one else gets their hands on Red Ash,” I said, calm as anyone could say anything.

“How am I going to do that?” he asked, somewhat confused by the whole circumstance change.

“Simple. Keep doing what you’re doing now. But ramp it up and keep your ears open,” I explained and gave my ear a good tug. “Oh, and we’ll be meeting regularly after work to discuss everything in more detail.”

“I see,” he answered. I was happy to see him calm down a bit. It meant he could digest the plan I was about to tell him all the better.

“I want you to supply the Kirishima Clan with as many weapons as possible. Build a real good relationship with them. But while you’re doing this. Try and figure out the places they are going to hit. Because quite frankly, I have no idea where their main headquarters are. And I’m far too impatient to work my way up the ladder from the inside to find out. Besides, this is a win-win situation for you. Thanks to gang violence, your business improves, but you also got the devil of the west on your payroll. Watching your back,” I explained to him the situation.

“Alright, I think I get it,” was his response before the staff room door opened.

“Oh my. Now that you three are looking so serious there at the desk?” asked Margarette with a beaming smile. She wore another cute summer dress and looked simply radiant.

“Hey there, Margarette. Don’t mind us. We were just finishing discussing the potential for a little bonus. You know, as thanks for our diligent hard work,” I lied and got off the table. My hand immediately went into my other pocket. Gripping the leftover payment money from Yohan.

“Bonus?” she asked, a little confused as she set down her purse in her usual locker.

“Yes. Mikey and I already got our share. Mr. Smolinski asked me to give your share to you at the end of the workday. But it can’t hurt to get it now, right?” I continued my lie and urged on Smolinski. He snapped out from his state of shock when I gestured to him.

“Yes, completely right. We’ve had and week thus far and decided to share the profits with my hard-working employees,” he said and forced an awkward chuckle. While he was playing catch-up with my ruse. I pulled out the stack of bills still in my pocket.

“Here you go, Margarette. Now, if you’d excuse me. I need to make a lightning-quick phone call. But if you want to thank someone. Thank Mikey, he made this possible. Right, Mikey,” I said and diverted the shocked Margarette’s attention away from me.

“Oh, my goodness, thank you. Mike, you really did this for us all?” she exclaimed as she rushed to him. In her state of happiness, she gave him a big hug. While I slipped out of the staff room and gave the stunned Mikey a wink.

“So, he goes by Mike with her. Interesting,” I said to myself as I quickly made my way out of the café. I went to the payphone I used yesterday to make another critical phone call.

The phone rang for a good while before he picked up. I had hoped it would have been quicker because every second is wasted now. Is a percent increase that the plan is going to fail.

“Albert, hello?” he answered his house phone.

“Thank God. I was beginning to stress that you weren’t home, Albert. Now listen to what I must tell you, old buddy. If you want out of that little drug ring of Yohan. You get your good for nothing ass over here to the café at the end of your sister’s shift. Let her take your car home,” I said as quietly but commanding as I could.

“What? But she can’t drive and how?” he was stammering on the other side of the phone. Which made me lose a bit of patience.

“Albert. Albert, listen to me. I don’t have time for this. My shift is starting soon. Do as I say, or else this golden opportunity is going to pass you by, okay,” I forced the decision onto him.

“Al-Alright Reinhard,” was all I heard before hung upon him.

With that sorted out, my grand scheme was starting to take shape. If I could get Albert to fit neatly into his puzzle piece. Then all I still needed to do was get George and Yohan in the perfect positions so that they bend to my will. Then after that, I’ll have everything in place.

The rest of the day passed relatively usually. I did my shift at the café while at the same time hyping up Mikey as much as I could. In fact, with my little stunt with the bonuses. She seemed the happiest we’d ever seen her. This is really saying something since she was such a cheerful person typically.

But nonetheless, the day came to an end. Albert came by as planned, and I hurried out Margarette and Mikey. So that he could take her home and leave us two alone.

The second they started the car, I took Albert by the hand, walked him to the bathroom, and pushed him inside. Making sure we weren’t followed. There inside one of the stalls, I told Albert everything. Well, everything he needed to know. About how I was with working with Yusuke. How I got Smolinski under my thumb and why I’m doing all of this. Then finally, I informed him of my plan for him. Which I left him no choice in. He would be my extra informant inside the West Cartel for now until I can get him out of there and under Smolinski’s care. That way, I would already have another person safe.

When I finished what I had to say to him, I left. Leaving him with some cash to get a taxi back home where Mikey would most likely be waiting with his car. All the while, I made my way home. Hoping for the first time that Yohan had come over uninvited. Because I had something rather important to tell him.

Real Aire