The Devil’s Trident. That was where Galvin said they would find this Ace guy. Andrea had expected to see an elaborate bar but this was very disappointing. It was simply a terrace house converted with a sign placed above the ground floor window.
“This… looks depressing,” Andrea said, shaking her head. Compared to the gang headquarters they had, this was a pitiful excuse. “Are you sure this is the place?” she asked, turning to her accomplice by her side.
“I don’t know no other Devil’s Trident. And I’ve bin ‘round this city enough times, I can name you every street in it,” he said, shoving a map into his pocket.
“Sure you could.” Andrea glanced at the bar’s title once more then opened the door to a strong smell of booze, cigars and mints. Unsurprisingly, the place was quite small, with two pillars erected in the middle, their paint flaking away. The counter at the end was shoddy and plain, the rack behind it full of musty bottles and hanging dirty cloths. To make it worse, the tables dotted around were few and their edges seemed to be rotting.
Andrea pinched her nose as she entered and sat at the closest free table, careful not to let her suede touch the random droplets of liquor.
“This is disgusting,” she managed to say through her blocked nose.
Her accomplice simple shrugged, earning himself a look of contempt. “I don’t mind it much.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re disgusting.” But the brute of a man waved the remark away.
“If you are eager to get out of here, where do we find Galvin?”
This was the part she dreaded. And knowing what the common room looked like, the next destination did not appeal to her in the slightest.
“He said,” she started, unblocking her nose for a second, “to meet him in the toilets.” Her accomplice raised his eyebrow. “And he was very specific about which one.” Andrea watched a smile form on the man’s face. He hardly smiled, but when he did, it wasn’t a good thing.
“Am I going to get to see anything?”
“This is strictly business, Michael,” she interrupted before he could go on. “He said to go to the one at the far end and push the flush.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“Two things. It looks like it’s locked, but it’s not… And… to close the door behind me after.”
Michael’s smile widened. “Then what are you waiting for? I believe those are the toilets,” he said, pointing to a nondescript, almost unnoticeable, door on the other side of the room.
Andre looked at the door then back at her accomplice. “Fine. But follow me in, I don’t want them coming in.”
“I was coming in anyway. I’m not missing this.”
Andrea looked at him and sighed. She stood up from the table, careful again not to touch any of the liquor around, and made her way to the door. If only there was a way to hide that that was her destination. But it was too obvious. Heads turned in her direction and rude comments and catcalls erupted around her.
They were easily ignored but that did nothing to ease her comfort. Why she had even agreed to do meet like this was beyond her. If only she had had the sense to calm him down, then she wouldn’t be in this situation right now.
The door opened smoothly, displaying a grey tiled room and some cubicles on one side. Just as Andrea had predicted, a strong stench of urine was present. Despite how strong it was, it couldn’t mask the smell of vomit.
Just as Galvin had said, the furthest cubicle was locked. Holding her breath, she pushed it open, keeping her gaze averted to the side in case anyone was actually in. The cubicle was empty, the toilet plain and bare in front of her.
Relief flooded through her and she let her shoulders sag a little before she took a huge deep breath and pinched her nose with one hand again. With the other, she edgily pushed the flush and hurried back out, glancing at Michael closing the door behind her. Her gaze returned to the cubicle.
Then it happened.
The toilet somehow moved back into the wall revealing a set of stairs below.
Curious, she took a few steps down into the gloom. Lights were flickering far below.
“Michael?!” Andrea called when she was down a few steps. “Micheal!”
“I’m here… woah!”
“Close the door behind you and come down,” Andrea ordered, not waiting to see if he actually listened to her or not.
Slowly, she continued her way down, careful not to slip. The steps were made of stone and, to her dismay, they were a bit wet, but at least there was no horrible smell.
Something clicked under foot and she heard a grinding noise above her. The toilet had moved back into place and she and her accomplice were drowned in darkness, save for the light from the flames on the torches a little further down.
Michael swore behind her. “Never expected this.”
Andrea had to agree.
“What’s at the bottom?”
“I don’t know,” Andrea said, her echoing voice making it seem like she was shouting. “But I’m close.”
Michael said nothing.
The rest of the way down, they continued in silence, careful not to slip or trip in the darkness. Upon reaching the bottom, she scanned the way ahead and waited for her accomplice.
“It goes forward but then there’s a choice of three-”
“Wait,” Micheal interrupted. “I heard something a few seconds ago.”
Andrea looked around, peering into the gloom, but could make out nothing. “I don’t-”
“Shhh!... There are people somewhere here. I can hear someone talking.” He strolled forward a little, then ducked into a tunnel on the right. Andrea followed suit, letting him guide the way.
“Here. Look can you hear them now?” Michael asked, stopping suddenly at a dead end, a metal grating blocking them from peering over the edge.
Andrea crept closer to the grating, straining to hear the words being said, but all she could hear was murmuring. She stayed there, trying to listen further while Michael went to search the other tunnels.
“There’s another path here,” Michael’s voice came a short while later. “And you can see them clearly. Come this way,” he said, his head popping into view.
“What is it?” she whispered once she had joined him.
There he was!
Galvin was standing in the middle of a circle of CE members looking back and forth between a group of tied up men, hanging above a collection of deadly-looking spikes, and a man pacing up and down.
“I know that guy!” Michael whispered. “He’s one of the Emenikz!”
But Andrea wasn’t looking at the men. She was looking at what could only be the disreputable ganglord, The Ace of Spades.
Stories of how striking he looked had travelled far, but despite what she had heard, she still found herself confounded by his handsomeness. His skin was fair, his eyes, blue and sharp, behind them a glimmer of intelligence. As he walked, his light brown hair bounced at his shoulders, straight and smooth, like silk. They curled at the edges of his neck, facing wherever he was facing, like snakes.
“It’s your choice,” The Ace was saying, a hand on his suit at his heart. “It’s either you kill them or you kill your friend, Andrea Xiey.”
“There’s something so hot about a slightly busted car, you know that,” Galvin said, entering the garage. “What’s that? A Dodge?”
“Dodge Monaco ’69,” Hank said, emerging from beneath his project on a skateboard. “She’s got some serious damage. Guys came and dumped her there,” he said, pointing roughly to the back of the garage.
“In the scrapyard? Who’d do that?”
“Well, looking at the busted exhaust, the smashed front headlights, bent hood and the rear lights sticking out… I’m guessing the buggers who drove this must’ve been involved in the Exemar Woods incident. Probably an escape vehicle, and well, you know the rest,” Hank said, wiping his head with a towel. “Bugger’s been annoying me for a few hours now.”
“You plannin’ on sellin’ it?” Galvin said, following Hank into the office.
“Sell it?” Hank extracted a couple cans from his fridge and threw one to Galvin. “I ain’t gonna sell that tin can. I’m gonna turn her into a real beauty and use her in the drags next week.”
Galvin popped his soda open and gulped some down. “Dude, what about your other work? That’s gonna hold you up, ain’t it?”
“That? Yeah, I’m still doing that.”
“I still think you shouldn’t be doing it. Just cause some guys come knocking on your door asking you to fix their stuff doesn’t mean you should.”
“Work’s work, man.”
“But these guys are criminals. You fix their stuff and you’ll end up with a bullet in your head.”
“Nah, I’ve done it before. Guys won’t do crap to me. I’m too valuable. The only mechanic who willingly fixes their cars.”
“That’s cause all other mechs have common sense.”
“Last guy who turned ‘em down, man, they burnt his house. Guy before that, they kidnapped his children and sold them.”
“Sold ‘em? Where’s a guy gonna sell people?”
“I dunno, bro. I dunno. And besides they pay me to do it.”
“With what? Blood money?”
“Dude, chill man. These guys aren’t the bloody mafia. They don’t go round pulling stunts and stuff.”
“Naw, these the Emenikz you talking about.”
“Emenikz ain’t nofin. Look at the Jade Tribe.”
“But the Emenikz are holding their own.”
“And they’ll be dealt with in time, just you watch,” Hank said, finishing his can. He tossed it into the bin and with a victorious smile winked and Galvin.
“Yeah what you gonna do? Take your Dodge and run ‘em over?”
“Nah. I’m just a mechanic. But I know people.”
“Yeah, the peasants down in Beurry.”
Hank snorted. “Nah, not them coloured. People down in Upreaton.”
“Yeah, and my mother’s the head of the Xiey Family,” Glavin snorted. “You crack me up, man. Anyway, I just came to ask if you’re gonna be at that race tonight.”
“No other reason?” Hank asked, grinning, spreading his arms out. “Cause at night, homie, my nuts and bolts come loose.
Galvin laughed as he stood up. “Oh, shuttup. I don’t want your rusty nuts.”
Hank snorted. “Yeah, I’ll be there, but I ain’t racing though. I’m just coming to show off my soon-to be-ex ride.”
“You talking about your Coronet? That’s old bro.”
“Actually,” Hank’s eyes lit up, “I recently bought a Bel Air. Fitted it with hydraulics an’ everyfin’. You’ll see it. Now go, bro. Go, go and let me do my work. If you don’t want my nuts, my cars’ll take em.”
Galvin laughed and began to make his exit. “You’re crazy, man.” As he was about to leave, he turned back to Hank. “One more thing. The ceremony’s in an hour. So get your sorry butt over there, I ain’t sitting in this one alone this time.”
Hank hugged the nearest car. “But my babes want me.”
“Shuttup, man, something’s wrong with your head. You’re coming. That’s the end of it.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll be there. Just don’t expect me to come alone. I’m comin’ with Barbara.”
“Yeah,” Hank said, pointing at his personal car. [Car description]
“I can’t believe it. You named … Man, you need to get out more!” Galvin shook his head and left, heading back the way he came.
Ittinaou landed on his feet and stumbled backwards a step. “Chuck it over,” he said to his friend, waiting on the other side. After a nod, the brown package sailed over the wrought iron fence and landed in his arms. It was heavy, heavier than he originally thought. How were they supposed to get away with this large thing dragging them down?
“Don’t just stand there looking at it,” his friend yelled as he climbed the fence noisily. “Get going!”
“What and leave you alone?”
“I’ll catch up, you fool! Just go!”
Ittinaou nodded and slipped the package into his bag, then slinging it round his shoulder, he started running. He could hear the fence links rattling behind him as his friend jumped off and landed where he was standing just a moment ago. They were lucky the police hadn’t arrived yet, otherwise the fence would surely give them away.
“Here, give it to me,” his friend said, catching up to him easily.
“No. I can hold it,” Ittinaou said, jogging up the alley, pushing his friend’s hands away.
“It’s too heavy for you.”
That was true, but Ittinaou wasn’t about to give his friend the satisfaction of the truth. They were in this together and if he were to be of any use to the gang, he may as well play a part in carrying it if not knocking out the lights of the owner of their stolen object. “Oh, shut up!” he retorted instead, doing his best to ignore the sweat building up on his forehead.
They had been running for a while now across alleyways and sometimes climbing onto houses if there was a way and running across them. A good fifteen minutes must’ve passed by already, but there was no way he could be sure. Neither he nor his partner owned a watch.
They soon emerged onto a main road and shielded their eyes from the glaring sun.
His partner swore beside him as they took in the sight, doing their best not to look too inconspicuous. Hopefully nobody would pay them too much mind. Ittinaou was very well known in the neighbourhood by sight for multiple thefts and vandalism. And it wouldn’t do if he looked suspicious yet again.
“When do you think the cops’ll look here?” his partner said, clutching his stomach and looking down the road. At the far end, they could see some of the police tape cordoning off the crossroad. A van was there with it, but it looked like nobody was about.
“Beats me. Let’s go!”
Together, they walked down the street, neither risking to raise their heads.
“What do you think happened there?” Ittinaou whispered.
“Hell if I know. All I care about is getting back to the crib and opening our stolen goodies.”
“You and I are getting the bigger share this time, I ain’t having none of the crap that went down last week.”
“Duh, course we will. Just last time, da boss said they did extra things, that’s why.”
“Extra things? What? First time I’m hearing this. What’d they do?”
“You know the DQQ?”
“Course I do, idiot!
“Well, last time, Benny and his team attacked one of them, got info on a drug supply running in from the capital.”
“So? How’s that important?”
“They sold the info to da boss. Well, I say sold, more like, just told him and he rewarded them last time.”
“Well, this time, I ain’t caring for none of that rubbish. What we did today was big.”
“You mean, what I did. You did jack!
“I almost got killed!”
“So? YOLO bro.”
“Let me hear you say that when you almost die!”
“Shhh, keep your voice down, fool.”
Ittinaou huffed and looked around.. They didn’t look too inconspicuous, given the street was mostly empty. There was an old man on the street opposite them, smoking and watching them. Some kids were playing hide and seek with the cars and trees and a woman with a pram, walking in quite a rush. If anyone looked more queer, it was her. But that gave no reason to be sloppy.
They turned a corner and spied the nearest alleyway. “That way,” Ittinaou’s friend pointed out.
But Ittinaou wasn’t looking. His house was at the end of the road they had turned onto and there was also some police tape around that. He swore and hurried towards it.
“The hell happened here?” he heard his friend ask from behind.
But Ittinaou didn’t hear. He slipped under the tape, looking at the marks on the walls of his house.
“What the f…?”
“Looks like someone tried to burn your house.”
Ittinaou glanced at his friend and ran inside. The house was a mess, and there seemed to be a smoky presence in the air. Like a barbecue had been lit. But they didn’t own a barbecue…
Ittinaou hurried into the sitting room. The whole place had been lit, it seemed, all of it charcoal black. But where were the firemen? The police? The ambulance? And when did this happen? It certainly smelt fresh, like it had happened while he was out.
He ran up the stairs, dumping his bag on the ground.
He searched frantically in the rooms, looking for his family, but he saw no bodies.
But they could have been outside too, like him. He sighed with relief.
“Yeah?” he shouted back, running back down.
“In your garden. Check this out bro. You ain’t gonna like it.”
Ittinaou listened to him and stepped over the broken glass and burnt furniture, into the back garden.
Then he saw it. A pile of three bodies.
And burnt next to it, on the grass, the Xiey Family symbol.
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This is the prequel to my novel - Criminal Empire. If you haven't read that yet, do check it out, I hope you like it!
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