- 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
Crime is a hell of a thing.
Most people don’t understand it. They think it’s a disease, somethin’ that’s wrong with a group of people. Usually those people, though they won’t admit they really just hope it’s those people because that’d justify bein’ a shit toward ’em.
But if it’s a disease, they convince themselves, it can be contained. Cured. Wiped out like polio.
Well that’s bullshit.
Crime is a byproduct of people. People can’t get something? They take it or somebody somewhere will find a way to sell it and to hell with whatever laws and punishment they’ve got facin’ em. Someone’s poor and hungry? They’ll steal food or hold up a liquor store. Someone wants to get high? They’ll find a drug dealer. Some sumbitch think his ten million dollars are a might lonely and want some friends? Well he might just kill a whole damn country for it.
Crime is us.
No matter how much we fear what comes with it: the death, the real diseases, the urban decay—the only real way to get rid of it is to get rid of us. I doubt you’ve get any volunteers for that one.
Police. Prelates. Politicians. Goddamn fools. You can’t stop crime. You can’t fight crime. You can’t ‘be tough’ on crime.
It doesn’t work that way. The only thing you can do to crime to mitigate the damage it does is to cut it open, crawl up in its belly…
And control it.
It’s a nasty process. Takes a lot of pain. A lot of blood. Someone would have to be push to the damn burning edge to try it.
Guess that’s why I am.
Five weeks since his little object lesson to Liedecker the Younger. Wosniak had anticipated meeting and putting down another rebellion from the man by then. He’d even tested him, ordering extra bodyguards from one of Liedecker’s firms: Mayfield Security.
Not a single of them had been caught so much as stealing, much less trying to kill him. It made his real security detail, a group of former defense contractors, seem redundant.
It seemed the for all his bluster, the young Liedecker wasn’t as willful as he let on. Nor as ruthless. Wosniak thought back to what happened to the Wildmen and decided that the difference there was that they had simply killed his father. Meanwhile Wosniak had a metaphorical knife to the throat of everyone the brash young man cared about.
That seemed to be all that it took. Not that Wosniak had any intention of letting his guard down anytime soon. He took a moment to glance up at his head of security to make sure the man was still being vigilant.
He couldn’t be asked to remember his name, but the man was impressive enough. Everything about him from jaw to shoulders were huge, solid and square. Clean shaven, he wore his work suit with a greater air of professional dignity than a thug or common merc. And his eyes never stopped moving; scanning for a threat.
When Wosniak really was convinced that Liedecker was done rebelling, he was singing the merc on permanently.
Satisfied that things were in order, he thumped the window separating him from the driver’s compartment of the limo and the driver set off.
That night was going to be the night. Given everything that was going on, especially Liedecker the Younger’s attempts to embolden enemies like the Maras, Wosniak was going to propose that the Old Business needed central leadership again. His leadership.
And under his directives, they would drive out the Maras and let the other gangs know that they would submit to being under the aegis of the Old Business… or die.
For years, that had been the plan. It would have been the plan for several more, but recent events and the bigger public focus n the open war between the gangs and mob had accelerated his timeline. It was now or never. He had to consolidate power before they lost the police to public pressure on the city council or the mayor. Before Whatever Liedecker was planning could distract him or make him appear week to the other capos.
His phone tore him out of his thoughts. It wasn’t playing a tone set to anyone he knew, but his subordinates used so many burner phones that he didn’t think anything of it.
“Speak.” He said, after flipping the old model device open.
“Mr. Wosniak, this is Janice Law, Mrs Harrow’s personal assistant.”
Wosniak made a face. Harrow was the senior member of the Business. She’d been around since the time when the mob was largely underground, was one of the founding members of the racket in Mayfield along with her husband. She was also very hands-on; still personally putting bullets into men at seventy-eight. It was a sign of her slow but steady decline that she had some college-aged kid making her calls now.
“Yes,” He said, not bothering to hide his lack of enthusiasm for the assistant. “I trust Mrs. Harrow is on her way to our meeting?”
“Actually, now sir.” Wosniak blinked and was glad the girl couldn’t see it. “Mrs. Harrow is currently boarding a plane to Sicily.”
“What? Why the hell is she traveling now? We have a meeting!”
“You have a meeting with the heads of the Old Business, sir; not Mrs. Harrow. Her interests have been bought out.”
Wosniak mentally stumbled. The Old Business’s operations had, for a long time, been just a small piece of the Mayfield criminal pie. Nevertheless, it brought in around sixteen billion dollars a year for its six heads. Even with inflation being what it was, buying out Lucy Harrow’s piece wasn’t a small piece of change.
“Bought out? What the fuck do you mean, ‘bought out’?”
More galling than anything, Janice Law didn’t even seem concerned. “An offer was made and she accepted.”
A tone sounded in Wosniak’s ear. Another call was coming in. “Hold on.” He said harshly and switched lines. “Speak.”
“Theodore? It’s Ben Jameson. Is this for real?”
Wosniak’s eyes narrowed and if he wasn’t in the midst of boiling over with anger, he might have noticed the limo slowing down. “Is what for real, Jameson? Does this have to do with Harrow?”
“Maybe. Did she get the offer to?” The youngest member of the Old Business’s leadership sounded as if her were bouncing with excitement. “Did you? Are you taking it?”
“Taking what?” Wosniak almost choked on the words. Something was happening. Something he hadn’t foreseen. And nothing made his bile rise like not being on top of things.
“The ten billion.” replied Jameson as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “You know, after payoffs and operational costs, that’s about ten years worth of profit in the Business.”
In his imagination, Wosniak crushed the phone in his palm. Somewhere along the way, the phone became Jameson’s skull. “Who.” he snarled. “Who is offering you ten billion and for what?” He knew that last part now—or at least could guess.
“Ever hear of Ithaca Consulting Services? I have no idea how they even know about us, but they want to buy out all my interests. I’d got to say… it’s tempting.”
By the time Jameson finished that sentence, Wosniak wasn’t listening. The limo had stopped. The door to the passenger compartment had opened. And with zero resistance from Wosniak’s goddamn five hundred thousand dollar a month mercenary bodyguard, Vincent T Liedecker had slid into the rear bench seat.
The son of John Liedecker was dressed in a crisp, white suit with a black shirt and white tie. There was a rose bud in the button hole of his breast pocket. He was also completely unarmed. His steely eyes locked with Wosniak’s as he pulled the door shut. And as if on command, the limo started again.
“One hundred twenty-two billion.” Liedecker said.
“You slimy little son of a bitch.” Wosniak ground out, throwing the phone to the limo’s carpeted floor.
Liedecker, however, was still having the conversation he intended to had—with or without the other man joining in. “I figured you figured out what was happening by now and I thought it’d be right neighborly to let you know the answer to one of those questions: how much were my Daddy’s holdings worth? One hundred and twenty billion.”
“I hope you put that number in your will.” Wosniak reached into his coat and came out with a long, sleek pistol.
The appearance of the weapon only made Liedecker mildly roll his eyes. “That right there is a Morton Defense Works Combat Utility Sidearm. Takes .454 caliber ammo and features recoil and sound dampers, vibrational guards. I remember giving you that gun’s daddy back when we made our first deal. At the time, I neglected to note one important feature: biometric trigger locks—which you’ll find have become mysteriously unregistered on that particular piece.”
Wosniak didn’t try to puzzle through that. He just aimed and pulled the trigger.
Only to find that the trigger refused to move.
A confident smirk appeared on Liedecker’s face as he registered poorly-concealed shock on Wosniak’s. “Y’see, I own Morton Defense Works. In fact, I own a lot of things you depend on—or profess to depend on. Mayfield Security, for example, where you hired all the guards that don’t actually come into contact with you.”
His eyes left Wosniak’s to roam the interior of the limo. The merc still hadn’t moved anything but his eyes. Eventually, the younger man found the humidor and flipped it open to reveal Wosniak’s supply of cigars. “You know, I stopped smokin’. Mostly ’cause of you. I always knew it was a bad habit, but I never thought it was disgustin’ until I met you, Wosniak.”
“What the hell is your game, Liedecker?” Wosniak was examining his gun, trying to figure out a way to make it fire. “You didn’t just hijack me to bitch.”
After a bit more exploration, Liedecker found a cache of wooden matches and lit one. “Just explainin’ is all. I thought even you might deserve to know ‘why’ and ‘how’. Plus, I did learn things from you—that thing ’bout smokin’ for example… and what it means to be rich.”
He blew out the match and flicked it into the humidor, a little loop of smoke tailing it along the way. Moments later, she struck another. “We’re both more well-off than most folks. A lot of people wouldn’t think there’s a difference between you and me—like once you make so much money, more doesn’t matter.
“Didn’t to me. But to you… that’s why you hated me an’ my Daddy, ain’t it Wosniak? All this time you were lookin’ at folks with way more than you who didn’t have to risk death to keep a hold on it like you do. People who everyone knows are rich just from their names while you have to eat the food, dress the dress and smoke the smoke just to show that you’ve got what you’ve got.”
He flicked the match—this time without snuffing it—into the humidor. The little smoke trial didn’t die, but started to increase as the cigars started to catch. With a smirk, Liedecker slammed the lid of the humidor closed.
“I never really thought like that. My Daddy didn’t raise me to think like that. For my family, the money is a bond of responsibility: to our family and to this city. You have no idea how much Liedecker money runs through this city’s veins; how many of these start-up labs and research institutes started with Liedecker grants, just how many companies were once or still are connected to me and mine.
“You’re the one that taught me to think of it another way: as influence, power—a weapon. All the bought cops, the bought State Assembly members, maybe event he governor. All the mercs and muscle you pulled in including the ones you sent after and who killed Burke. All of them are money in its most dangerous forms.”
Wosniak gave up on his gun and opted to use his other best weapon: his mouth. “Maybe I didn’t have my ‘Daddy’ leaving me more money than God, but I know how to spend smart. Smarter than you, kid.”
To his surprise, Liedecker nodded mildly. “That’s true. Or it was true. You made me learn that—you know, when you killed Burke and maimed both my sister and the love of my life.”
“I heard she left you. Both actually—I know how you country boys just love their sisters. Of course, even I gave some thought on having a run at your sister, Liedecker. I don’t normally have a thing for half-Asian women but she made me rethink…”
If he thought his taunts would get a violent, off-balance response, Wosniak was wrong. The coldness in Liedecker’s eyes only grew colder. “I’ll admit it because I’m man enough to, Wosniak: you hurt me. Cut me deep. Almost made me give up. I spent days thinkin’ I had nothin’ now and you had all the cards.
“My original plan was to turn over the whole mess o’ ya’ll over to the MPD. But then, you owned the MPD. There was nothin’ clean I could do to end this and I knew it.”
He reached up and rubbed his temples. “It was a bad couple of weeks. But then I got to thinkin’. About you an’ me. About who you were and why you needed me so damn bad.” He leaned forward, a stalking lion approaching its prey. “It was the money: the things I owned. In effect, you wanted me to t’ be your goddamn sugar daddy without so much as a slap an’ tickle.
“But it’s still my money. My companies. My power and my responsibility. You see, I forgot what crime is all about. I’ve been tryin’ to kill crime, but that ain’t possible. I wanted you, the Old Business, the Maras and all the other pushers, whores, racket men and thugs out of my city… but more would just show up.”
Once more, he locked gazes with Wosniak and the other man could almost feel the heat boring into his skull. “Ya see, Wosniak, You can’t fight crime. You can abolish it, or banish it… but you damn well can buy it. Every man has his price, and it turns out a lot of those prices can be paid in cash.”
Liedecker sat back for a moment, smirking cooly as he watched Wosniak put it all together.
The cold feeling that had been settling in around Wosniak’s heart flashed to steam as the audacity and simplicity of Liedecker’s play was.
The damn kid had just purchased the Old Business right from under him.
All of his maneuvering. All of his work in climbing the ranks… and some little punk with a rich daddy had stolen it right form under him by writing a few checks?
Something broke loose in his head. He’d spent years pretending to be a man of wealth and taste; a person of culture—when the gun toting thug he’d been in the twenties was still luring there, placated by playing and bullying those weaker than him. Like Liedecker had been.
Now the weak one was trying to rise up, trying to be strong at his expense and he couldn’t allow that. Without even making a sound, he bolted from the seat. The non-functional gun rose, ready to be used as a fully functional club.
Despite it all, the young billionaire merely looked bored. Tired.
“Brill.” he said with infinite calm.
Now. Wosniak remembered the merc’s name: Brill. He wished he would have considered why his bodyguard let the Liedecker kid break into the limo in the first place. In retrospect, it was obvious: Liedecker had bought out the defense contractor Brill worked for.
Maybe if he’d thought of that in time, he would have exercised restraint instead of leaping headlong and finding a rapidly extending steel baton rushing the meet him half-way to his target.