- 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
The sound of shore birds was there to welcome Wosniak to the world of the wakeful. That and pain. Agony radiated from the place on his temple where Brill’s baton had caught him.
Thinking of Brill brought it all back: Liedecker out maneuvering him. The Old Business being bought off by some young pup who probably drove himself to bankruptcy just to pull of his spiteful takeover. Twenty years of clawing his way up the ranks of Mayfield’s Underworld wasted.
But why wasn’t he dead?
Liedecker had every reason to want him dead, obviously, and with Bill apparently on his payroll, he wouldn’t have to get his hands dirty. More than likely, Brill could do it in such a way that the body was never found.
Groaning, Wosniak sat up, doing his best to ignore the complaints of his head and the rolling in his stomach in doing so.
“Took you long enough to wake up.” Liedecker. Wosniak grit his teeth. So whatever was going on wasn’t over.
“You little shhhhwit.” Wosniak barely noticed the slur in his voice and he couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out of his mouth. “Couldn’t get upph the nutssh to finishhh me offh yerself?”
A nasty chuckle was Liedecker’s reply. Steeling him self against the gray dawn light that nonetheless stabbed his eyes like Apollo’s arrows, Wosniak opened his eyes. He was lying on asphalt with his back against some sort of concrete barrier. Across from him, sitting so that his legs emerged from the open rear door of the limo, was Vincent Liedecker.
Several more seconds of punch-drunk examination revealed steel struts spanning above them and Wosniak’s personal car parked behind the limo, the driver’s side door hanging open.
“All in due time, Wosniak.” said Liedecker, getting out of the car. “Hell, I thought Brill mighta killed you by crackin’ your skull. Good thing he didn’t though: I had one more thing to show you. Check your palmtop.”
“Fushk you.” Muttered Wosniak, but he fumbled in his jacket pocket and found the device. It was already on and low on batteries. A messenger app was open, the last sent message still on-screen. ‘I’m sorry. I can’t live with the things I’ve done. I can’t go to jail, so there’s only one way out.’ The recipient field listed his second ex-wife.
He’d somehow expected that, but the sight of it for real and in his hand left him speechless.
“You left everything to the Brady Fund for Victims of Criminal Violence, Mayfield chapter. Very upstanding of you.” continued Liedecker, pacing the blacktop just out of Wosniak’s reach. “You know, the irony here is that no matter what you did, you would be up shit creek: you sent goons to kill me an’ ended up dead; but if you had done nothin’, you’d be goin’ to jail for a long, long time.”
He walked past the injured man to stand at the concrete barrier. “Seems like you’re cursed, Wosniak. And I bet you thought you were charmed.”
Wosniak was working up the energy to form a retort when Liedecker suddenly rounded on him, grabbing him by the lapels and wrestling him to his feet. Their eyes locked and fir the first time, Wosniak really saw into the eyes of the younger Liedecker.
If he’d seen earlier what he saw right then, he would have stayed away from Liedecker, Burke and anyone else connected to the man.
“Roland Burke was my friend. You murdered him” Liedecker hissed, slamming Wosniak’s back up against the barrier and making the injured man’s world spin. “Dee is my sister. You blew her goddamn arm off.” Another slam. This time, when Wosniak’s head lolled back, he had a view of the St. Anne River and the West Truman Bridge ins the distance.
Liedecker tightened his grip until Wosniak was having trouble breathing. :And Izzy… Izzy was the love of my life. Everything that happened with her was my fault.” He closed his eyes and for a few seconds, Wosniak thought he might just be able to summon the wherewithal to headbutt the young buck and escape.
Just a few seconds. Liedecker’s eyes opened and Wosniak saw a firing line.
“But that’s for me to learn an’ live with. It’s too late for you to even try.” With a grunt of effort, he reached down, seized Wosniak’s legs and hoisted him over the bridge railing. The former crime boss made a feeble attempt to grab for his attacker’s arms, to shout out one last curse, but his facilities hadn’t returned to him and then it was too late.
Vincent didn’t stop to watch him fall. It was almost impossible to hear the splash from high up on the newly-constructed Shuster Street Bridge. Instead, he promptly sat down in the spot where Wosniak previously occupied and scrubbed his face with the heels of his hands.
It was over.
No, that was a lie.
It was just beginning.
Now he was the sole boss of the Old Business as well as several other largely profit-motivated gangs he’d decided to buy out. There were still regular neighborhood street gangs out there that needed to be bought to heel and the remains of dozens of now-disbanded operations to consolidate.
There were going to be changes, that was for damn sure. Everything he’s said to Wosniak was true: he knew now that there was nothing he could do to put an end to crime in Mayfield. As long as there was demand, someone would supply it.
But maybe he could put a collar on it, reduce the collateral damage.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There were long, dangerous days ahead, and now he was alone. Callahan was still there, but distance would keep him alive. Everyone else… as gone. Had to stay gone lest they wind up like Burke.
“No sense in lazin’ around.” He said aloud and pushed himself up from the bridge deck.
Rip Van Winkle couldn’t have felt older than Vincent did as he took a moment to stretch the kinks out of his back. Turning around, he found that he had a view of most of Mayfield. His city. Both the Mayfield he’s inherited, and the one he’d taken with blood and treasure—the secret Mayfield his father never knew existed. They were both his now.
The question was whether or not he could take good care of them.
Thirty Years Later
“…and that’s the whole story. Took me more than twenty years to get the whole thing out of our boy. To tell the truth, we’re still not friends like we used to be. Nobody’s friends with him like he used to have. I can’t say I blame him, but it’s not a good thing, that’s for damn sure.”
The unnatural quiet of the visitation room combined with the hard plastic chair under him to make Callahan shift uneasily throughout the entire story.
“When I heard you asked Doctor Welles not to testify in favor of your release, I got worried… thought you might be suspicious of the whole thing. It’s not like that, Izzy; if you walk out of here, there’s gonna be no strings attached—that’s more than he’d give anyone else.”
Across from him, Belle Cummings let out a long, frustrated sigh and stretched her neck out. Her time at the Solomon center had been enough for the gray in her hair to finally start winning the battle with the brown, but she was by no means in unattractive woman, if one could discount the permanent lost look in her eyes.
“So Vinnie sent you to convince me to go?”
Callahan chuckled a little. “Hell no. When you told him to leave you alone, he took it to heart. He told me not to say a word when I called him about it. I’m just about the only person who can go against him like this without fear. Me and you. He still loves you, Izzy; staying away is how he respects your wishes.”
Belle rubbed the side of her face and stared out the window to the Center’s courtyard. Many of the facility’s actual patents were out there, enjoying an uncharacteristically warm day in late winter with family and caretakers.
“That doesn’t change anything. Nothing in your story makes the things he’s done okay. He’s not a soldier fighting a war. He’s not someone defending himself. He got into this mess for the right reason, but then it was all just anger and revenge. How many people has he killed since then and called it ‘business’?”
Callahan nodded. “No. you’re right. It’s not meant to make you take him back… you probably shouldn’t. I just wanted you to know the hows and whys is all. To explain to you why you should take the out and let the doc testify for your release.”
A short laugh rose in Belle’s throat. “That’s be a lie though. Maybe not everyone here under Vinnie’s little science farm needs to be here, but I do. I got real obsessed with interfacing—was obsessed back when Vinnie and I were together and interfacing wasn’t even a thing yet.”
She gestured down to her legs, which were capped by ceramics above the knee. “I did this to myself to make a proof-of-concept. That wasn’t sane. The people I gathered around me almost convinced Vinnie to kill them. That’s not sane either.”
“He was never going to kill them.” said Callahan.
“They weren’t going to give him a choice, the way I heard it.”
Callahan shook his head. “Then you heard wrong. The Syndicate was breathing down his neck, so he made a big show to you so you would warn them off—then he blamed the whole thing on Vorran after they disbanded and there wasn’t any evidence for the Syndicate that they weren’t working for Vorran.”
“He did that?” Callahan nodded. “But who’s Vorran?”
“Another crime boss.” said Callahan. “No one knows where the hell he came form, but he’s been messing up what Vince set up here. Started with undercutting him in the arms trade, then moved into prostitution, drugs—all the stuff Vince put strict rules on. If it wasn’t for the fact that Vince has been throwing every big of static he’s come up against his way—he’s even been tipping the prelates off to the thing’s Vorran’s into—there might be trouble already.”
Belle frowned and looked down at the table between them, tracing the grain of the wood. “How much trouble are we talking about?”
“Vorran’s been putting out feelers trying to find out who the real man in control of Mayfield is. He’s come close a few times. If e finds out and exposes him…”
“…Vinnie would go away for a long time.” Belle finished for him.
“If he’s lucky. Virginia’s still one of the four states that still have the death penalty.” He shook his head upon seeing the concerned look on her face. “I doubt you have to worry. Vince is the cagiest bastard ever to walk the Earth. Even if he is found out, I’d bet good money they’d never catch him.”
Belle closed her eyes and rubbed the side of her face again. “And I went and told the Interfacers… who he let live, even knowing they could bring the whole thing down on him.”
“I half imagine that you doing it would be the only way he’d accept being brought down.”
“That’s not going to happen.” Belle said. “But I’m also not leaving here until I’m better. If you want, you can let him know it’s got nothing to do with him—I need the help; that’s all.”
Callahan nodded. “I will. Not sure if he’ll believe me, but I will.”
Belle reached over and put her hand over his. “Joe… I just wanted to tell you how good it is of you to stick by him. I think he needs it.”
“I can’t say I don’t agree.”
She kept her hand over his as he started to stand, “And… thanks for telling me all this. I have a lot to think about.”
“I didn’t tell you anything you didn’t have a right to know, Izzy. Stay strong in here, okay?”
“Yeah.” Belle finally relinquished her hold on him, “And you do the same out there.”
End Liedecker: Life and Times.