The light of day was quietly dying and the lights of the city were winking on to greet the night.
Wosniak was growing impatient, waiting in the sunken parking garage of one of his legitimate holdings beside a small fleet of vans whose markings indicated that they belonged to a carpet cleaning service. They were a loner from the holdings of a late ally in the organization. One of many late allies.
He hated to admit it, but the brash young man had been right: they were losing this war, and he wasn’t sure that even the next step in military technology would pull them back from the brink.
It was an idea that haunted him on a nearly constant basis in recent days. This wasn’t the first time that proper organized crime had been in danger, crowded out and outperformed by less nuanced gangs or infiltrated and crumbled to dust by police forces.
The mafia no longer existed, if only because they no longer used that word. But the organization was in just as much danger now as its predecessors were. Suggestions had been made that allying with criminal syndicates in other cities could save the fifty year old fixture in Mayfield’s underworld. But the price would be all sovereignty and freedom.
Since making this deal, he’d ordered a full accounting of a situation and it was quickly becoming clear that while better weaponry was worth more than warm bodies, better brained were worth ten truckloads of new guns.
Of course, other inquiries he had ordered might remedy that need.
Headlights appeared, sweeping down the garage’s ramp even before the hum of the truck’s electric engine was audible. The young buck had succeeded after all.
Vincent brought the truck to a stop in front of the vans, but not so close that Wosniak might think he was trying to block them in and stepped jumped down from the cab. Once again, he was alone and unarmed. Without even seeming to notice Wosniak, he took out a cigarette and lit it. Only when he’d taken a few puff did he nod in the direction of his prospective employer. “Got something for you.”
Wosniak’s expression didn’t change. “Prove it. It’s see them.”
“Your boys can’t open doors all of a sudden?”
“Not the issue. I want you to do it.”
Vincent exhaled twin jets of smoke from his nostrils. “What else is new? Can’t get your own guns, can’t open your own doors. I shouldn’t have expected any better.” He made a show of going around and opening the bay doors of the truck himself. Inside, it was just as he’d promised; packing containers of the latest and greatest military technology.
Still not giving he young nemesis any slack, Wosniak had one of his men verify that each case did in fact contain weapons and ammunition.
For his part, Vincent just watched bemused until the arduous process was over. “We done?” He asked. “I held out my end of the deal, now you hold up yours. Burke is out. Free and clear and with no retribution.”
“I’m a man of my word.” said Wosniak, scratching his chin as he nodded. “You did exactly as you said you would, and given the times, I feel like being generous when it comes to your lack of respect. I trust there’s no additional price?”
“You mean favors or money?” Vincent snorted. “Ain’t got a need for neither from you. Now, if we’re done…”
“One more thing.” Wosniak reached for his jacket pocket.
For just a second, by even the slightest of margins, Vincent felt his back stiffen, but he fought the urge to brace or flinch. His expression remained neutral when the crime lord produces a cigar case.
If his steadfastness bothered Wosniak, he didn’t show it, instead taking his time to select a pair of cigars from within. “It’s tradition, you see? You smoke to a good deal or a new alliance.”
“I’ve already got a smoke, thanks.” Vincent made a point to ash his cigarette even though it didn’t need it.
“Not shit like that. Genetically engineered, FDA approved safe bullshit.” Wosniak cut the two cigars, replacing the cutter in its slot within the holder. “These are real, from an operation out of Florida that caters to the rich and tasteful, you see? A man smokes something that’ll kill him and laughs it off.” He offered one of the smokables to Vincent. “Here. It’s part of the deal.”
Vincent took a long moment to look at the proffered cigar. It couldn’t hurt to try it; he never had before. Very deliberately, he took his cigarette out of his mouth and dropped it on the ground, grinding it out with his shoe. Then he accepted Wosniak’s offer.
“Good.” said Wosniak. He extracted a thin, thumb length rod from the case, an electronic match. Applying a bit of pressure to it caused an electrical arc to dance across its tip. “Purists prefer a wooden match, but I’m partial to the little hint of ozone.” He lit Vincent’s cigar for him, then his own, watching the young man’s reaction carefully.
“It’s good, huh? Nothing like the sterile twigs you’ve been sucking on.” His smugness increased in proportion to the enjoyment his newest business partner’s enjoyment of the cigar. I’d have thought you’d have already tried one though. Being a man of means and all, Liedecker.”
The reaction was instantaneous. The emotion drained from Vincent’s face as he took the cigar out of his mouth. “I never gave a name.”
“You didn’t have to. You got in my car.” Wosniak pointed out with intense satisfaction. “Believe it or not, I’m very concerned about the identity of the people I work with. So I’ve got a camera linked up to a computer like the ones the cops take your picture with when they pull you over.
“Except this one’s not just linked up to criminal databases, thins one’s got yearbooks, news archives, hell, it might even pull from street cameras for what I’m paying for it. The point is, Vincent Thomas Liedecker, the son of John Liedecker, Mayfield’s favorite man, isn’t a man something like that’s going to take long to recognize.”
He smiled broadly, like a cat watching a mouse. “I knew everything I wanted to know about half a minute after you left.”
“Deal’s done, Wosniak.” Liedecker said flatly, “I’m leaving. You want to stop me, stop me. You want to kill me, get it over with. But if you think you’re going to blackmail me, or my daddy, and I’ll see you burn in hellfire. I’ll burn too if that’s what it takes to make sure you stay put for it. Remember that.” He started to turn away.
“Your ‘daddy’ know that you just ripped off a massive chuck of business from him?” Wosniak said without moving. “Morton is his company, right?”
Liedecker continued to walk away taking a puff of his free cigar all the while. “He ain’t part of this. Back off it.”
“That’s not it.” rumbled Wosniak. “I was just wondering if you could have pulled this same thing off if it wasn’t ‘daddy’s’ company.” There was a slight hesitation in Liedecker’s next step. “Actually, I was wondering if you’ve ever done… anything without him holding you up.”
The stopped Liedecker in his tracks. “You don’t know me.”
“I know enough. I’ve seen your high school transcripts. You’re not stupid by a long way, but between you and me, you wouldn’t be at Dayspring College if it wasn’t for how much money your old man gives them and the good press of having Mayfield’s First Son attending, just like they had their first daughter.”
Wosniak’s smile remained intact as Liedecker slowly turned around. “And speaking of your sister, I see that she’s in charge of Global Reach Air. Used to belong to John too, I believe. When do you get a company handed to you, Vincent? After college?”
“Just what are you trying to get at?”
“I just want to know if you managed these guns by being smart, or being connected.” Wosniak said plainly.
“Wasn’t raised to brag.” Liedecker shook his head. “But if anything, being connected to the company made it harder. Had to double-blind the whole thing to keep people from thinking it was an inside job.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.” laughed Wosniak. “That means, I’ve got an offer for you.”
“I think you will be.”
“You don’t have enough money in your whole operation. And the only chair high enough for me to call it prestigious? Well it’s your ass filling it, Wosniak. There’s nothing you can offer me.”
He started to turn away, but what Wosniak said next gave him pause, of only from curiosity: “You called this city yours back when you first came and made your little offer. Is it?”
“Is it what?”
“Yours. A man talks that way when he cares about the place they live in. And like I said, you’re the favorite baby boy of Mayfield. So I’m wondering if the feeling’s mutual.”
“What’s that got to do with anything Wosniak?” Liedecker didn’t look at him, instead watching the weapon crates being offloaded to the vans.
“Because I too, love this city. My family moved here when it broke ground and I never left. I’ve been here for its growing pains, it’s awkwardness and finally, its ascension into greatness.” He chewed the end of his cigar. “The Wild Men, the Mara, they don’t care. They’re just animals looking for any piece of pavement to call territory, to piss on to make themselves look stronger.
“You’re not blind, you’ve seen the news; they take their fights right out in the open, blowing anyone and anything between them to hell. Right now, we’re the target, but just wait until those animals turn on one another, or start asking for protection.”
Liedecker made no attempt to respond, nor any move to leave, so he kept talking.
“We’re the only ones that’ll keep this city hale and healthy and you know it.”
“Right. Hale and healthy and swimming in drugs and whores. That only sounds good next to a gang war. If I got my way, all of ya’ll would be gone for good.” Liedecker spat.
This invited a guffaw from Wosniak. “You think crime would disappear without us? Bullshit, kid. Idealism that you’re too smart for. People want what we’re offering and someone, somewhere’s gonna supply it. That’s capitalism. Getting rid of us is just getting rid of stability and quality assurance.”
Liedecker finally turned back to face him fully. “You call me an idealist, but you’re the one chomping at the bit to bring me in. Sound like you think one man can make a difference for the mob.”
“Don’t think so much of yourself, Liedecker the Younger.” Wosniak shot back. “I liked the way you got things done and I’ve got empty seats at the table. All I’m doing is letting you know there’s a seat open for you and if you don’t fill it, well there’s people on the outside that want in. And they will deal with the Mara and the Wild Men: same way you deal with all leeches. Think about that.”
With that, he turned and started back for his card.
Liedecker scowled. This felt a lot like how he’d been manipulated into stealing the gun in the first place.
“How do you deal with leeches?” He shouted at the crime lord’s back.
Wosniak turned only just enough to glance over his shoulder. “You apply fire to the wound.”
Tartuffe had just gone into intermission and the theater goers populated the lobby in small groups, discussing the production, or the goings on of the day.
Outside of those groups, stalked Isabelle Cummings, modestly dressed, with her hair down, but unstyled. After all, she had no one she wanted to impress. She’d decided not to let the tickets got to waste, but the reality was, she didn’t like going to plays or movies alone and going both alone and angry had seriously cramped her enjoyment of the play.
Then she spotted him, past the knots of people, slipping into the theater with his usual cocksure air. It wasn’t long before he saw her too and gave her a smile that made her own lips turn upward in spite of herself.
“I’m late.” He said casually once he’d closed the space between them.
“Thought you weren’t coming.” Isabelle refused to let go of her anger that easily.
“My fault.” Vincent replied. “Something about me just makes things work out. Got things done faster than what I thought. Glad to see me?”
“I would be if you let me know why you needed to abandon our date on no notice. I don’t appreciate that, Vinnie.” Her eyes were like steel, fixed on his own.
He didn’t break eye contact once. “Not at liberty to say, Belle. But you remember how I said I’d make it up to you?”
“This better be spectacular.” Isabelle warned him.
“I was thinking of getting away this weekend. Maybe out of the country, What do ya think of Venice?”
She blinked. It was academic to her that yes, she was dating the son of a very rich man, but none of the Liedecker family was known for grand gestures outside of charity and public events. The possibility of a spontaneous, romantic trip had never sounded like a possibility.
“What brought this on?” She asked.
Vincent smiled at her, his usual, easy going self. “Nothin’. I just feel the need to go somewhere, get some thinking done. About my future.”
End Liedecker: Life and Times Part 1: The Son
Coming Soon – Liedecker: Life and Times Part 2: The Apprentice