Chapter 15:


Max Caliber

A week had passed since I sat down with Smolinski. What I heard was music to my ears. Kirishima Clan was armed to the teeth and frothing at the mouth. They wanted revenge, especially since Smolinski went above and beyond. He fed them lies and misinformation about how his other dealings were telling slanderous tales of them. How the eastern mafia was quickly put into place by the tougher ones here. How they weren’t all, they were made out to be. How they were fish out of water.

The two of us had a little bit of a discussion, and he arranged a meeting for me with one of their higher-ups. At that time, I kept helping out Yohan and Albert. All the while keeping any of this from reaching Judy’s ear. But with a week gone, I finally had all the information I needed. It was time to set the playing board into position. Even though it wasn’t exactly like I wanted it, it would still result in a victory. I would win.

My meeting was tonight at the docks with Smolinski to accompany me. Until then, I spent time at home with my wife and waited for Mikey to pick me up. But as fate would have it. Something I had hoped to face when all the other pieces were in place came up.

“Reinhard, we need to talk,” said Yusuke with an earnest expression as he pointed over his shoulder to his car. He also had his badged flashed out at me.

“Make it quick before my wife notices,” I said as I closed the door behind me and followed him closely from behind. There was an unnerving air about Yusuke today. He must have figured out who the dead body was. I need to prepare my counter for this. But could I really set this piece into motion without knowing if the others are in place? It’ll take some luck but maybe.

“So, are you going to make me pretend to break the news?” he asked, annoyed, and sat down on the hood of his car.

“What are you talking about?” I asked, playing along. He pulled out the lighter and gave it a few clicks as his foul stare was on me. He sighed and straightened his back.

“Mister Reinhard. It’s with the utmost sorry that I have to report this. But the unidentified person we found the shot was your dear friend, George,” he said in a mocking report. But his expression quickly changed. “Woah, what’s going on here?”

“Huh?” I asked, confused as he stared at me with a surprising look. I lifted my hand up to my face to wipe whatever was making everything blurry from my eyes. Maybe I forgot to blink?

“Reinhard?” he asked with concern as he got up from the car and came over to me. As my hand rubbed my eyes, I realized why this was his reaction. Tears were flowing from my eyes. I guess hearing those words from him did this. It was the first time I really got reminded of George’s death. The first time I spoke about it with anyone.

“Oh my God,” was all I could say. My voice was croaking, and the tears just couldn’t stop. What was going on with me? I thought I buried this feeling and my guilt. Why does it have to show now?

“Reinhard, you really didn’t know?” he asked uncomfortably. His face was filled with shame. He must be feeling terrible now.

“No,” I lied. I decided the best way to deal with this sudden bolt of grief was to choke it further down. Now was not the time to be overwhelmed by my emotions. Now was not the time to mourn and embrace the guilt.

“I’m sorry,” was all he could say, and he places a hand on my shoulder. I gave a loud sniff as I blinked several times. Clearing the tears from my eyes again. As I took a few deep breaths and suppressed everything, I pounced.

“Thank you for telling me, but I need to tell you something as well,” I informed him. Deciding to go with the gamble. But try as hard as I could. This feeling inside of me remained. This horrible pain in my chest.

“Oh, don’t thank me. Uhm, anyways. Tell me,” Yusuke stammered as he tried his best to move on from the moment. He most likely thought I wanted to move on from the unsettling news. Not wanting to cry in public and all. To save face and dignity.

“I know where they’re making Red Ash,” was all I could say. What is wrong with me? How come I struggling to talk? I’ve killed hundreds of people. Seen countless friends died. I even faced death on several occasions. Why was he reminding me of it, having this effect on me?

“Not now. Please, we’ll talk about this later,” he said. With that, he got in his car and left. I was left standing in my driveway with tears beginning to build up again. Why would he not listen to what I had to say? I needed to get him into position. I needed my pieces in place. Yet here I was standing, fighting back the tears for something I had already done and came to terms with. Had I come to terms with it?

My hands were shaking as I made my way back to my house. I opened the door slowly, then just as slowly closed it behind me. I walked over to the coat rack and stared at the right-side pocket. I knew my resolve sat there. If I could touch it now before Judy came, I would become just like it. Hard as steel and deadly. A machine that felt nothing for taking lives. A tool to accomplish a goal. But my hand was only outstretched to the pocket when I was reminded of something.

“Honey?” was all she said. Her soft voice pierced the silent dread of the home. The ringing in my ears is gone. The heartache feeling ten times heavier. But the need for it is gone. The need for my false resolve is gone.

“It’s, Uhm, George. He’s dead,” I said and felt the tears rushing down my face. Without saying a word, she rushed towards me and took me in her embrace. No, I was wrong. That thing isn’t my resolve. Judy is. That’s why I’m doing all this. Because once this is all over. Everything will be back to the way it was before I left.

Real Aire