- 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
Joaquin Duarte was in his forties and his hard life was written all over his face in rough crags that made him look much older than he was. Still, he carried himself with pride and power, walking tall at the head of his eight underlings into the burned-out building he’d personally designated for the meeting.
The place had been the hangout of a Mara clique that tried to make a move on some territory without his permission. Three of them were dead, five in the hospital. The rest had been absorbed into neighboring cliques. No one got uppity or stupid under Duarte’s eye without suffering for it.
And speaking of…
He let out a snort of disgust when he saw who was waiting for him.
“So it wasn’t a joke or some dumbass play by the five-oh.” Duarte said, folding his arms. “Mayfield’s little rich boy really wants to talk to me.” He shook his head. “You must be some kind of serious pendejo, coming down here in person. What’s keeping me from shaking you down for all that money, huh?”
Vincent had arrived early and righted a knocked over card table and some of the less damaged chairs in the center of the room. He was sitting opposite the door with Burke standing behind him.
Instead of answering the question, Vincent settled back as best he could in the partially melted plastic chair and said, “Joaquin Durante. You know, I did some readin’ up on you and I gotta say, I got some respect for you. What’s it been? Ten years, since you made the break from Mara Salvatrucha and not only are you still breathin’, but you’re the top man in the city; drove out your old gang, drove out Calle 18, and now you’ve got your hands wrapped around the neck of moren’ half the Hispanic gangs in the city.”
Duarte folded his arms. “This supposed to impress me, rich boy? You think some flattery is gonna keep your ass from being stomped?”
If the threats affected Vincent, he didn’t show it. “No. I just wanted to show I know you, Durante. That I ain’t comin’ here to be condescending and offering things outta ignorance. More important, I want you to know that when I talk business with you, it’s out of a place of respect.”
“Respect?” Duarte gave a half laugh. “What the hell do you know about respect where I come from, Liedecker? You probably think you can try and buy me off for whatever you’re playing at, but let me tell something: you ain’t got enough for that.”
Now Vincent laughed. “I ain’t lookin’ to buy anything from you, Duarte—I’m lookin’ ta sell. Like you said, I’m a rich boy—what was I gonna buy from you an’ yours?”
For a long moment, Duarte stood, just considering the man before him and whether or not to take offense to the implication that his maras had nothing to offer Liedecker. From the unhappy sounds at his back, his men were thinking the same thing. Curiosity, however, won the day. He’d let the other man live long enough to shed some light on the strange circumstances of the meeting.
“And just what do you got that we’d want?”
Vincent steepled his fingers in front of him. “Maybe you’ve heard that I had some… problems with the Wild Men a time back.”
Rumors. Duarte hadn’t believed that even the Wild Men were psychotic enough to blame an accidental demolition on the owner of the building. Some people said Liedecker himself had been to one of the Wild Men’s hangouts earlier, but that made no sense. Hoping to get the full story, he gestured for Vincent to continue.
“That turned into another problem. The Old Business, a man named Wosniak decided to offer me protection from ’em. These days, that price is feelin’ too damn high though.”
“And what?” said Durante, “Now you want to buy protection from us instead?”
Vincent shook his head. I said I wanted ta sell you somethin’, not the other way around.”
“Then get to the point, cabron.” barked Duarte. “I didn’t come here to waste time and if you keep wasting time, my boys will waste you. Got me?”
As unimpressed as ever, Vincent nodded. “Just explainin’ where I’m coming from here. See, the Old Business had uses for me, or more accurately, a lot of my daddy’s old businesses. Not the money, you understand, but what they can offer; the Defense Works for guns, Flashway Internet for communications—all sorts of small stores and chains for money laundering. What makes his important to you is that I learned a lot about how they operate.”
At this, Duarte laughed and looked to his men, who joined in. “What? You think you can sell us intelligence? This ain’t one of your corporate things where you can by and sell info, fool. We don’t give a damn how those bitches run their crews.”
Vincent grimaced, which made them laugh harder. “Oh really?” The fire and vehemence in his voice brought them all up short. “Then you aren’t in the least bit interested why it is that most of them can’t get arrested pissin’ on the street outside a station house, while your soldiers have the FBI and MPD so far up your asses they know what you had for dinner last night?”
Something in his tone made Duarte’s jaw tighten, but his actual contents kept him from saying anything about it. Before he could say anything, Vincent plunged on ahead.
“How much money and man power do you lose to the police every month, let alone every year? How much are you losing every time the FBI takes down one of those bodegas or convenience stores you use to launder money? I know the contacts the mob uses in the MPD now, and I know how they hide their laundering.” He looked Duarte directly in the eye now, predator to predator. “And I’m willin’ to sell it to you: names, numbers, shop space.”
Duarte’s interest was officially piqued. “That all sounds good, I’ll give you that. But how do we know what you’re offering is worth jack or shit?”
“You’re lookin’ for a sample?” asked Vincent.
“That’s the long and short, cabron.”
Vincent nodded slowly. “You got your palmtop with you?” When Duarte nodded, he continued, “Then look up the Strong Nu U gym on Lancaster Street. The owner is H. Palmer, but in reality, that’s me. Say the word and that’s you.”
“And what’s that get me? What’s the point of givin’ me some busted-ass gym?” asked Duarte.
Unable to hide an expression that told the gang leader he knew just how clever he was, Vincent leaned forward. “The secret of money laundering is inventory. The PD and the FBI watch your shop and takes note if you’re not sellin’ enough to really stay in business. Gyms though? You sell a year’s membership and only you and God knows when or if that person ever shows up again. Movin’ your money’s just a matter of adding names to the membership roles.”
The clever expression got more unbearable. “But you know that much—what you might consider is that a gym is a damn sight better place to steal ID information then what you get out of a stolen car. Think of how easy it’s be to get biometrics off someone by putting biometric locks on their lockers? Or how easy it is to get voice prints with mics near where they yammer on the phone? That place I’m offerin’ you is a gold mine and that’s just the start.”
In a swift motion, he produced a card with a number on it. “How about you give the new place a month, then call me and see if you want to meet again for everything else I’m peddlin’?” With that, Vincent stood and without challenge from the Duarte or the other mara members, took his leave with Burke.
After the incident with the surviving Wild Man member that precipitated his current situation, Vincent had decided that his father’s home was no longer safe. For the past several months, he’d been living in a luxury apartment tower in Riverside, which boasted a doorman and on-site security in both the residential tower and parking structure.
Following his meeting, Vincent had Burke drop him off there with a promise that he, Burke and Callahan would be back at the Westinghall Building soon enough to continue his plans. It was just that he needed to take the rest of the day off.
To him at least, his father had seemed fearless and more bold than any person alive. As in everything, Vincent tried to mold himself in John Liedecker’s image and in this case, he was usually successful. Not that day though. The maras had a reputation for dealing with the kind of disrespectful manipulation he usually dealt in immediately and lethally. That meant he’d been forced to play diplomatic and as if he were the weaker party in the negotiation.
What galled him was that he was the weaker party in that negotiation. No matter how much bravado he displayed at the end when he was certain Duarte was hooked, there had been every chance that the man could have ordered him and Burke dead.
Him and Burke. He’d dragged Burke in there as a show of strength, but his friend could have easily died over his mouthing too. That was the opposite of the entire plan. He was playing to boldly and too recklessly. Maybe, maybe he was okay if he burned out before the finale, but damned if he wanted to take anyone with him he didn’t absolutely hate.
Feeling more than a little sick, Vincent nodded to Roy, the day man who watched the front door.
“Afternoon, Mr. Liedecker.” said Roy, “Your lady friend came by earlier. You said she was welcome at any time so…”
Some of the sickness lifted as Vincent paused at the door. “Is she still here?”
Roy nodded. “Went up and hour or so ago, sir.”
That made Vincent smile. “Thank you, Roy. You have a good day.”
“You too sir.” said Roy, but Vincent was already on his way to the elevators.
He found Isabelle lying on the couch in his sitting room, reading something on her tablet. Upon hearing the door open and close, she called out, “You didn’t say you had anything to do today, so I came up and hoped you’d be back soon.”
“Just some little errands.” he lied, slipping off his jacket. “You’re off early though—I hope it’s for somethin’ good and not somethin’ bad.”
Isabelle sat up on the couch and put the tablet aside, beaming at him. “It’s good. It’s very good. Professor Creasey’s grant was extended for two more years and he’s going to hire me on full time!”
The last of Vincent’s earlier concerns fell away and he gave her a wide grin. “Now that is good news. Best news I heard in a long while.” He crossed over to the couch and put his arms around her. Isabelle’s elation was contagious and before long, excitement turned into feverish kissing that swept all his other thoughts out of his head.
After long minutes lost in the feel, the smell and the taste of his beloved Izzy, Vincent surfaced upon a sea of euphoria with Isabelle in his arms. “This,” he said, “calls for a celebration. We need dinner, we need wine—We gon’ need more than that we need… somethin’ special.”
He kissed her as his mind worked on how to properly commemorate the occasion. “Tonight, let’s go wherever you want—nothin’s too special. But this weekend… how do you feel ’bout Rome?”
Isabelle purred against him and captured his lips one more time before speaking. “Oh Vinnie, you know you don’t have to spend money to impress me. I’d be fine just calling in take out and spending the rest of the day together.”
Pulling her closer, Vincent kissed behind her ears before whispering into it. “Whatever you wish, darlin’. Whatever it is, I’ll make it happen.”
Across town, Theodore Wosniak sat in his library. The glow of the fire and the artificial light of the palmtop in his hand were the only lights on in the room. This cast the private investigator sitting across from him in shadow, but did nothing to disguise the man’s twitchiness.
It wasn’t even nerves; the man was all confidence—he just couldn’t keep still. Every few minutes, he’d sit back, adjust himself, cross his legs, uncross his legs, and lean from one side or the other. Wosniak would have snapped at him, but he had other things on his mind.
“You don’t have any pictures of them on the inside?”
The PI shook his head and sat back. “Those bangers put lookouts on the doors and around the windows. I couldn’t get close, and I was out in the open on the street, so I couldn’t use the parabolic mic.”
“Then you don’t have any real proof.”said Wosniak. “Nothing that says he was definitely there with Duarte and his boys. A man like Liedecker the Younger could turn this around and hang me with it if I went to the others with it.”
“It’s something though.” The PI briefly stood, then sat in a different position. “I mean it’s not proof to anyone else, but you believe me, right? Those pictures are from the same day: he met with them. Plus, I did some digging and Duarte took possession of a gym today that’s owned—through an impressive number of shell corporations—by Liedecker.”
“How many shells?”
“It might not stand up to your people’s scrutiny.” the PI admitted, “His guy for that is pretty good; lots of catty-corner work.”
Wosniak scowled. “Then that’s worthless too.”
The PI crossed his leg again. “But now you know, right? That’s what you wanted. You never said you needed ironclad evidence to use against him.”
“Yes.” said Wosniak flatly. “And you’ll get paid. Don’t worry about that. Call my office in the morning if the transfer doesn’t come in. For now, we’re done.”
Nodding, the PI stood. “If you need anymore work done, you know who to call huh?” He stepped forward for a handshake, but Wosniak left him hanging until he got the message. Casting a look back at him one last time, the PI left.
Only when the PI was gone did Wosniak dismiss the pictures the PI provided and made a quick phone call. “Yeah, I need to bring in someone from out of town to take care of a problem for me. Hmm? No, I’m sure I can keep a thumb on the situation, it’s just that some people need proof that things are serious.
“No, I don’t think that’d be necessary. Plus, there might be questions asked by the public. I want this quiet and personal. Hmm. Yeah, he’s just what I had in mind. I don’t care how much, get me in touch with him. One hour. Yeah. I’ll be here.”
He clicked off and set the palmtop aside with a cruel smirk. “Now, you smarmy son of a bitch; let’s see who’s smart now?”