Chapter 16:


Max Caliber

With my own grief dealt with. I felt a sudden swell of strength within myself. It was now or never. I could no longer doubt or scheme. I needed to act, and so I did. I cleaned myself up after Judy consoled me and promptly departed with Mikey. We were on our way to the docks.

“Listen Mikey. I’m going to drag you into this forcibly,” I said and loaded a few extra magazines with the massive rounds.

“I had a feeling it would boil down to this,” he sighed and began to slack down. I felt the car lose speed. My hand went into my pocket and pulled out the gun. I placed it against his leg.

“Mikey, step on the gas. I’ll explain your part on the way there. So, hear me out,” I warned as I tucked the spare magazines into my coat. Mikey looked at me with dead eyes. The car sped up.

“This whole thing really has consumed you. You don’t even glance at those around you anymore,” he began to complain as I pulled the barrel away from his leg.

“Spare me the complaining. Tonight is where the ending starts to take shape. This meeting we are going to right now. It’s the second to last piece,” I cut him short of his rant. He glanced at me from the side of his eye.

“How so?” he asked. Probably feeling more forced than wanting.

“It’s a rival gang. I’m going to give them what they want and in turn, they are going to deal with the main force of Yohan’s gang,” I said.

“Where do I come in?” he asked.

“While they deal with that little problem, you get Albert out of that place,” I answered.

“The cops?” he continued down the list of problems he had with the plan.

“They’ll be busy taking care of the lab where they are cooking up Red Ash. Meaning they’ll have to call in backup from another precinct. Giving you just a large enough time gap to get out,” I found myself saying with a hint of pride.

“Yohan and George?” he asked. Unlike before, his name had no effect on me.

“They’ll be at the lab and in the raid, join up with me. I’ll get them out safely. Then the next day we pardon the three of them and we’re done,” I concluded. I felt it would be better to keep George under wraps. Mikey needed to believe it’ll be a perfect victory, otherwise, he wouldn’t help. He always said that once a plan starts to change its victory conditions. The unexpected losses will continue to grow.

“When will this take place. Don’t want it interfering with my own personal life, you so seem to neglect in your plan,” he said.

“Well, that all depends on this meeting. Hopefully, it’s soon. Then we can put this all behind us as quickly as possible,” I explained. Mikey let out a loud sigh. “What’s the matter. Don’t like the plan?”

“It’s definitely your usual type of plan. All or nothing. If everyone involved risked everything. It’ll work out, right?” he asked almost mockingly. As if this expected level of trust was unreasonable. But I was trying to clean up the town and get my friends out unscathed. Obviously, I needed complete trust and more importantly. I had to risk a great deal.

“Yeah, that sounds about right. What’s the matter with that? We always worked like this, and it hasn’t failed us yet,” I stated. Rather mystified by Mikey’s sudden questioning of my way of doing things.

“First time for everything. But whatever, we’re almost there,” he said and ducked from the main road.

We quietly rolled down the road that led to the harbor before slipping into one of the many smaller roads running in between the warehouses. There wasn’t a light of a day old here. Yet Mikey drove as if the sun was beaming from above.

As we snaked deeper into the harbor, we finally reached our meet up spot. Next to the warehouse that Smolinski explained was his. Was a massive group of people. Their numbers were easily in the fifty. If a shootout like last time was to happen here, then I doubt I could handle it. The car came to a stop as I adjusted the strap on my sawed-off shotgun. It’s showtime.

“You’re late,” was all that Smolinski said as he took a puff from his comically larger cigar. He has dressed in his countries winter clothes. Clearly, he didn’t want to let some pepping photographers get more information on him.

“Apologies for that. But we’re here so let’s get it started,” I said as I made my way over. Mikey remained in the car and kept it running. I didn’t tell him this, but it was as if he knew what I wanted him to do. Good old Mikey.

“Listen, I already apologized for you being late. But to keep good graces you should as well. Don’t want to slight their honor,” he explained to me in a hushed voice. When we finally reached the massive group of very heavily armed men. They all gave me a foul gaze. One skinny man with a suit stepped forward to greet us.

“I apologize severely for my tardiness. Please still look favorably on me,” I started and gave a bow. I had never done this before so, I hoped that would be enough to suffice.

“Thank you for apologizing. Now, if you two wouldn’t mind following me to discuss things further with my superior,” he said in an eastern accent and led us through the crowd of thugs.

They parted before us to reveal a luxurious car sitting behind them. It was too dark to make out the make.

“Be on your toes,” whispered Smolinski as we watched the attendant open the backdoor for us. Smoke billowed out of the car as the two of us were urged inside.

Inside was much the same story as outside. Lavish leather and spacious. In fact, there were four seats inside. They all were stationed around a central table. In one of the seats sat a massive person who wore shades. In the other chair sat an elderly gentleman who had gone gray a long time ago.

“Please, gentlemen, sit,” said the enormous man with quite an impressive voice. As we set ourselves down in the expensive seat, he gestured towards the table. There was some whisky poured for use, two knives, a pistol and a katana.

“Reinhard, if you have any weapons on you. Please place them on the table,” explained Smolinski. He slipped a revolver out of his pocket and produced a knife from his sock. Both went on the table.

“Now the devil,” said the monstrous man. I complied and unhooked my sawed-off and put it down on the table. But when I pulled out my handgun. I felt all eyes change from studying me to look at it.

“There, everything,” I said as I placed both weapons on the table.

“Thank you for meeting with us,” Smolinski added quickly.

“Here,” said the giant. He took the whisky and sipped it before handing it to me. Most likely to show that it wasn’t tampered with. I left it on the table but nodded my head in acknowledgement.

“Allow me to start the introductions,” began Smolinski before being shushed.

“No need. Let us talk business,” spoke the old man for the first time. He was clearly the one in charge here. As if the words were a magic spell, smoke began to pour into the car from behind the shield that hid the driver’s compartment.

“Yes, let’s,” I began and produced a stack of papers from my coat. “This here is the location of the West Cartel’s main operations. It’s also the storage for the Red Ash they distribute.” The papers fell and smacked down onto the table in front of everyone. Silence followed.

“What is it you want in trade for this information?” asked the old man.

“A bloodbath. Kill every last one of them hiding there. Your reward is the Red Ash and the removal of a rival,” I replied.

“Why would you wish this upon your own people?” asked the old man.

“Simple. I want out of this life. This way they’ll pay for roping me into this life. As well as I would no longer need to look over my shoulder, for the knife I planted in their back to return,” I explained and watched as Smolinski took a sip from the whisky.

“I see. How do we know this isn’t a trap? What of the police? Why can’t you leave in any other way than this?” he asked. Studying every single detail on me. Clearly, this old man was looking for any signs of me lying. Sadly, I’m a master deceiver.

“They will not let me leave and see me as too valuable. As you have felt my exploits yourself,” I said and saw the micro reaction from the big man. “So, I wish to show them that if you cage me. They’ll pay dearly.”

“Ah,” was all response I got. Was he not convinced yet?

“Don’t worry about the police. That will be my responsibility. I already have them playing to my tone. They won’t be bothering you and your men that night, Mister Kirishima,” I said. It was a pure guess who this old man was. But something told me he must be the patriarch of the clan.

“Astute,” he replied. Confirming my suspicions. I would love to know his name but, sadly I was not in the position to pursue that lead. I now needed to prove I was no trickster.

“To show it’s not a ruse. Please, may I?” I asked as I pointed to one of the knives. The old man and big man exchanged glances before nodding their heads.

“You may, but would you allow my associate here to arm himself first?” he asked.

“Naturally,” I nodded in agreement. The second he took the pistol from the table; I took the knife. I unsheathed it and held the cold steel against my right brow. “Will my own blood be enough to bury the ideas of betrayal?” I asked and prepared to cut.

“That would not be necessary,” the old man said with a raised hand. I wonder if he said yes if I could scare my own face and draw blood.

“Thank you,” I said as I returned the knife to the table.

“We shall take this information from you. What you ask of us will be done on Thursday night. So, keep up your side of the bargain. No police,” he said and took the papers.

“Thank you again,” I said and only now realized that Smolinski was frozen solid in his chair.

“But the drugs. It will be burned. That is not our way. My dearest nephew that you killed, went behind my back to procure that evil. I will not take it as a prize,” he continued as his helper took the papers from him.

“That is most humble of you. I am grateful,” I said and meant it. I was prepared to ask Albert to set ablaze the Red Ash when he made his escape. But now it seems it wasn’t needed.

“I want something else as a prize,” he said to pull me from my thoughts.

“Name it and it shall be yours,” I quickly responded.

“This is unnegotiable. Do you understand?” said the old man. I felt uneasy at the way he stated it. But at this point, I had no choice but to go along.

“Of course. Whatever you wish. If it is within my power, it’ll be yours,” I replied.

“I want you,” he said plainly.

“Excuse me?” I asked instinctively.

“Your skills. Lend them to me once after today at any time of my choosing. Agree to this and we will have a deal,” he clarified. I had to fight hard not to show my anger at this request. But I had to comply.

“You will have my gun, but only once. Chose that time wisely.”

Real Aire