- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #1
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #2
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #3
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #4
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #5
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #6
- Liedecker: Life and Times, Part III – The Master #7
Vincent Liedecker had been born into wealth, but his father had not. While John Liedecker made sure his children wanted for nothing, spoiled them with gifts for their birthdays and holidays, and groomed them to take over his holdings, he instilled in them the understanding that luck and timing played a part in building his fortune. They always knew that if things had gone the other way just once or twice, they would be wanting, they wouldn’t have gotten everything they wanted for Christmas, and they might well have had no jobs or even a home.
Theodore Wosniak was the third generation head of his portion of Mayfield’s underworld. For him, wealth was something he deserved and anyone who didn’t have it clearly just didn’t deserve it enough. He took pains to make his philosophy clear to everyone.
They were dining at Corvis, one of the most exclusive restaurants in Mayfield at Wosniak’s invitation. Vincent was having the grilled salmon and the house soup, tomato bisque because it was light and he wasn’t very hungry. Wosniak was having ‘the biggest steak in the place’ because it was the biggest steak in the place and therefore the most expensive. He was having it ‘so rare it’s bleeding’ because that’s how he’d heard one was supposed to eat steak.
And so Vincent enjoyed his meal while Wosniak pretended to enjoy the tough cut of meat before him, only barely hiding his wince at every bite as no matter how one was supposed to eat steak, rare wasn’t to his taste. He was also shifting uncomfortably from time to time in the silk suit he was wearing because silk was the new style.
He glared as Wosniak washed the taste of his steak away with a giant gulp of wine. That he’d somehow found his way into being beholden to such a man such that he couldn’t refuse a lunch invitation already revealed the depth of his mistake.
It wasn’t the worse consequence that befell him for getting a large chunk of the Wild Men’s membership killed. That the splinter gangs started by their survivors still wanted revenge on him was a big one. That one of said survivors almost succeeded in killing him and possibly doing the same to his beloved Isabelle was worse—he would never forgive himself if she’d been so much as nicked even if he didn’t regret a single corpse he’d put under his belt in that debacle.
But the fact that he’d had to run to Wosniak, one of the local mob leaders, for protection made his pride ache and his dignity shrivel. Wosniak was a thug at heart and he liked having the posh son of the late and much beloved John Liedecker under his thumb. It wasn’t even that he was getting much out of Vincent, it was more that Vincent’s capitulation was a trophy to be bandied about.
“So you’re probably wondering why I called you here, gave you this nice meal and all.” Wosniak said, noticing, but not caring one bit about the look of disdain on the younger man’s face.
“Not hard to figure out.” said Vincent, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “You want something. What this time? A pallet form Morton Defense Works, a couple of trucks shipping over the border, some free construction work?” Those were the usual requests. Small, simple and just enough to remind Vincent that he was working with Wosniak.
The crime boss shook his head and made a show of cutting another strip he didn’t really want to eat off his steak. “Not this time. I want you; your smarts. Your…” He speared the steak with his fork and gestured with it was he thought of the word he was after. “Your knack for planning. I got a real job for you this time, Vincent.”
‘Vincent’, not ‘Vince’. Hardly anyone called him ‘Vince’ anymore. Wosniak never had.
He wanted to toss out a barb about Wosniak needing his brains because he had none of his own. The man had only become more cunning, but less elegant in his methods over the years and had probably forgotten how to deal with a problem that couldn’t be solved by sending some heavies. He didn’t though. Wosniak’s protection kept the Wild Men legacy groups off not just him, but his friends and Isabelle.
Instead, he nodded once and asked, “So what’s the job?”
The expression that crossed Wosniak’s face made Vincent want to slap him. It was the look of a man watching his well-trained dog sit. “The guy’s name is Marcus Lloyd.”
“I’ve heard of Lloyd.” Vincent frowned. “He took over The Hills last year when Jameson got hit by that big narcotics sting.”
Wosniak made a rude noise. “You’d think nobody could get in trouble in The Hills unless they got stupid like Jameson. Place has got everything but training wheels on. Upper class so all you gotta do is push to the teenagers and trophy wives, run the car boosting business and keep up with protection payments. No guns, no whores, no big thefts. You almost have to pay the PD to arrest you.”
“I don’t remember any new busts in The Hills.” Vincent said, returning his attention to his bisque. An image formed in his head of what the problem was, based on what he’d seen on the news and what he knew of Marcus Lloyd.
“Yeah, well there’s been too many in the surrounding neighborhoods while I haven’t heard of any of Lloyd’s guys gong down in months. The rest of us, we already have problems with how he runs his territory: too much flash, too much exposure—people are starting to lean on the cops to do something.”
‘Flash’. That’s what car bombs were to Wosniak. Same with having his goons spray an entire apartment block with gunfire. The exposure was from the two dead teenagers resulting from the latter. Vincent narrowed his eyes again. Yeah, people tended to put pressure on the local PD when their kids started dying.
Wosniak neither knew nor cared what was on Vincent’s mind, continuing to talk. “In the old days—my grandfather’s day—the big boss would have some guys make an example of him and that’d be that. “ He scowled and reached into an inner pocket of his suit to retrieve his cigar holder.
He finally came up with the thick, wooden box and proceeded to remove a cigar, a cutter and a match from it.
Out of the corner of his eye, Vincent noticed a waiter, likely a new hire, noticed this and started to approach. There was no smoking in any public establishment n Virginia, after all. He was quickly intercepted by a more seasoned waiter, who led him off, talking softly. Vincent could only imagine that the experience man was pointing out that while smoking was lethal in the long term, annoying mob bosses was lethal in the near term.
Again, all this went right by Wosniak, who kept right on talking. “These days, no. We got no big boss, just a goddamn committee of little bosses holding the territories. None of us trust the others, so if one of us was to… blow this son of a bitch’s brains out all over his living room, let’s say, the others might think he was making a move.”
“So instead, you want me to figure out how to do it so you don’t get blamed.” Vincent guessed.
“That’s the idea.” Wosniak took great pains to sniff the length of the cigar before cutting it and striking one of his wooden matches to light it. “That’s what you’re gonna do. I want him in the ground with nothing that leads back to me by the end of the week.”
Vincent took another spoonful of soup and digested that. It would give him four full days in which to work. “Alright.” he said simply.
Wosniak bit down on his cigar as he did a double take. “That’s it?”
“What do you mean ‘that’s it’?”
“I thought Daddy’s boy might try and argue, maybe try and talk me out of it so you won’t get blood on that nice suit.”
Instead of answering right away, Vincent left Wosniak to think on his own question, taking a bite of his salmon and a sip of the sweet tea he’d ordered in lieu of wine. Finally, he crooked a brow at Wosniak. “Let me ask you this, Wosniak. You think I was worried about my suit when I dropped a building on more than half the Wild Men?”
Wosniak’s lips curled back in a sneer, accented by the smoke that curled out through his teeth. I know it would’ve been a bitch to clean if you’d got gutted over it. ‘Sides, that was to avenge Daddy Liedecker, wasn’t it?”
The expression on Vincent’s face didn’t chance and he continued to eat in spite of the taunts. “You think me callin’ him ‘daddy’ is funny. Maybe even a sign of weakness. That right Wosniak?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “What it is is a sign of respect. You ask anyone with even a bitty little brain in this city and they will tell you that John Liedecker was a great man. Ask the same ones and they most likely won’t even know who you are.”
He carefully put his fork down on his plate, the clink of silverware punctuating the shift in his tone. “Now we both know I’m gonna do what I gotta do. You say it’s take care of Lloyd, then that’s what’s gonna happen. But what I’m saying to you right now, Wosniak, is I’ve had time to think since that night. And I’m still thinkin’. Watch how you play this out, because the wheel don’t stop turnin’.”
“That a threat?” Wosniak smirked around his cigar.
“That’s a mission statement. This is business. You provide a service I want, I pay the price you ask. But are a certain point, maybe I think I don’t need the service as bad as I thought I did. Maybe I start shoppin’ around…”
Wosniak’s eyes narrowed Vincent could practically hear him working up some veiled threat; maybe against him, or Isabelle, or one of his friends. Speaking of… He moved quickly to get out ahead of his antagonist.
“Don’t say what’s on your mind right now. Neither of got much need for what happens if you do. Right now, as long as you get that I don’t like you and I don’t respect you—but I find your price good enough, we’re gonna be fine, Wosniak.”
Showing fear and complacency back then had been a mistake, Vincent knew that now. Quietly doing all those little favors was another mistake. No more. He needed to make sure Wosniak didn’t get comfortable with their arrangement and the issue with Marcus Lloyd proved he was too valuable to make an example of.
In response, Wosniak blew twin streams of smoke out of his nostrils like a storybook dragon. “I’ll send you the details.”
Vincent nodded and took out his wallet, fishing out a couple of fifties because he knew Wosniak wasn’t going to leave a tip. He threw them on the table, then said, “One more thing.”
“Thin ice, Liedecker.” growled Wosniak, trying to assert himself again.
“Nothin’ major.” Vincent waved him off. “I just can’t have whatever driver my service sends seeing me out there doin’ your dirty work. I’m gonna need one of your drivers.”
Wosniak sneered at him. “That’s how I know you’re not as hard as you say you are, Daddy’s boy. Just a sentimental mook, that’s you. I know just what driver you want…”
Roland Burke fixed the cufflinks on his brand new tailored suit and watched curiously as his old friend paid for it. “Can’t say I’m not thankful, Vince, but what gives?”
That morning, his phone rang and suddenly his job was to drive for Vincent Liedecker, who he hadn’t seen much of in the last eight months or so. If he wanted to really put some thought into it, he hadn’t really spent much quality time with his friend since shortly after he, Vincent and Callahan went together to Wosniak’s place after the attack on Vincent’s house.
Liedecker the younger had dropped off the social map, throwing himself into maintaining his family business and his relationship with Isabelle. Slowly but surely, he’d started checking out early on guys’ nights, then canceling, then never calling.
Now he was back and the men Burke worked for waned him to have a ‘Company’ driver. It made him scowl instead of grin at seeing his old pal again.
Vincent finished up with the tailor and turned to his friend. Burke was a head taller and a lot broader, but Vincent never felt there was much difference thanks to their respective attitudes. It was he who tended to loom while Burke stayed back unless he had to do otherwise.
“Me and Callahan when through a lot of trouble to get you out of that business, Burke. I think ‘what gives’ is my line.”
The bigger man groaned. He hadn’t even thought of that. “You know how he is, Vince. He got his hooks in again. I had a new job—security over at the new office complex on Claremont. Then I lost it. No idea how, they just let me go two months in, said I failed a drug test, but you know me, Vince, I—“
“Angeline Security and Consultants.” Vincent interrupted. “It’s theirs. Wosniak doesn’t own it outright, but their little social club does through shell corporations. They own about a quarter of all the security in this town. Wosniak’s the one that got you fired, Burke: just so he could rope you in.”
Burke’s mouth moved, forming words, but he couldn’t seem to get the breath to actually speak them. Eventually, he did manage to spit out a sentence. “What the hell for?”
“Insurance, Burke. I caught a few job offers from ‘research teams’ coming into Izzy’s email and Callahan got somethin’ like. Wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to get to Dee too, but if he got to her, he wouldn’t put up with me.” Vincent led the way out the door and into the cool of early Virginia spring. He took out a pack of cigarettes and shook one out of the pack.
“It’s about me, Burke. All the shit that happened to you these past couple years. Wosniak’s been getting me to do him ‘favors’ through my d… my businesses. That way it doesn’t trace back to him. He knew I wouldn’t stay happy with our ‘deal’ for long, so he’s trying to get at me through my friends and family.”
They started walking. Thought Vincent put the cigarette in his mouth, he didn’t like it, just held it there, absently chewing the filter.
“Vince,” Burke started after a few blocks. “Maybe I was never, ya’ know the brains of the three of us, but that doesn’t make any sense. If Wosniak’s got it in for you, why’d he let me be your driver?”
At this, Vincent smirked and plucked the cigarette out of his mouth. He’d gotten this close to lighting it. Turning the thing around in his fingers, he directed Burke toward the Westinghall office plaza. “Because he’s got bigger problems on his hands. Someone in the organization who’s gonna pull the whole thing down on their heads if he’s not careful. Someone to big for him to just kill outright. Plus Wosniak this he’s turned informant. He wants me to kill the man for him.”
Burke coughed and eyes his friend nervously. “Vince, I don’t know about this. I know about the Wild Men, but…”
“Marcus Lloyd,” Vincent said coldly, though Burke wasn’t sure if that was directed at him, “Is a piece of human garbage like the Wild Men. He likes to make a show of his ‘business’: car bombs, drive-bys—things with high body counts and lots of collateral. The man’s a rabid dog that needs to be taken out back and when he’s gone, I’m gonna feel nothin’ more than like I did my civic duty, truth be told.”
The big man frowned deeply. “I know you’re a hard-ass, Vince. But I’m not sure you’re ready for this—the kid of stuff Wosniak and the other bosses are into. What you did before, that was setting a timer and waiting. There’s gonna be blood, Vince. And it’s either gonna be yours or it’s gonna be you who spills it.”
Vincent snapped the cigarette in half and tossed it into a trashcan as they passed it. They stepped onto the brick paving stones of Westinghall Plaza and were walking past the fountain before he found the right words. “I appreciate what you’re trying to say, Burke. You don’t want me to get any deeper here than I already am. That’s what makes you a good friend.”
He paused beyond the fountain and looked up at the building before them. “But this is how I try and be a good friend. I got you out once, right? Well I’m getting you out again. I’m getting all of us out from under Wosniak and his cronies. You, me, Izzy—“ He started toward the main doors again, “—Mayfield.”
Burke almost tripped over the threshold walking into the lobby. “Vince… what the hell are you talking about.”
A satisfied smirk twitched Vincent’s lips. “My daddy wasn’t the first person killed by these reckless sons of bitches and their petty crime wars. They want money and power and whether they’re as big and flashy as Marcus Lloyd or not, they kill everyone around them to get at it. As long as there’s a gang war in Mayfield, no one’s safe. Even if I get us all out, tomorrow, I might still walk into a stray bullet aimed at someone else, or Izzy might be on the wrong street when a battle breaks out.”
They crossed the marble-floored lobby to a bank of elevators. Above them, there was a board listing what businesses were on what floors. Vincent checked it and Burke gave him a confused look when he followed his gaze to what seemed to be a random listing.
Vincent continued, pressing the button for the elevator. “You think John Liedecker would stand by for this kind of thing in his city? No. He would do whatever he could think of to fix it.”
The fire in his eyes dimmed as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. “He wouldn’t be able to stop it though. He was a good and honest man: better than these slime. But it’s the slime that’s go the edge. You’ve gotta stoop to their level to win at this game.”
As they climbed into the elevator, Burke shook his head, bewildered. “Vince.. I don’t get what you’re talking about here.”
The doors closed and Vincent stared straight ahead. “I’m saying we’re gonna give Wosniak just what he wants—then crush him under it.”