Paul stood in his boss’s office, thumbing through some light reading.
“I still don’t understand why you can’t just let me eat him,” Ragnar said over Donald Lam’s bound and gagged body. Carl shrugged, still mute.
“Because people have a thing about eating each other. And besides, if he died now, how would he answer for the…seventeen influential young men and women he’s helped disappear? Nevermind the gambling debts, the handful of murdered prostitutes, the embezzlement, tax evasion, laundering…”
Paul flipped to the next page of the black notebook. Six pages dedicated to this waste of space.
“I could go on, but I won’t…But I could.”
Paul had made sure to spend a couple days fact checking a lot of the information in the book before he tried to use it against his boss. It would be real embarrassing if he tried to blackmail the man and it turned out to be unreliable.
“Donny boy...I always knew you were shady, but it turns out you’ve been a very bad man these last few years.” Paul flipped back to the front of the page, where the informant’s names were listed.
“I hear none of your family’s Garthspawn came back.” Paul said, sitting on the man’s desk. “More than anything else, I think that speaks to your character. A man who doesn’t make his women happy…” Paul shook his head and tsked, flipping to the last two pages of the report.
“This little notebook is real handy. It even has suggestions for how to dispose of you in ways that arouse the least amount of suspicion. Would you like to hear them?”
Donald shook his head.
“Too bad. Since you like to get coked up while you beat on hookers, we could put you in a seedy hotel with an exploded heart, your face covered in blood and cocaine.”
Paul withdrew a quarter-pound paper envelope of cocaine – more than enough to kill a man – and slammed it down on the desk.
“How does that sound?”
Donald shook his head.
“Or,” Paul said, his gaze returning to the notebook. “You owe the Jones family, who loan shark for the Dentons, one hundred and eighty thousand credits. Thus far they have waived your rather large debt in exchange for your cooperation on…less savory matters.”
Paul directed his attention back to his restrained boss. “Did you know that they have a signature way of killing people? They cut off the hands and tongue, crack open the chest and leave a specific dagger in their heart.”
Paul reached into his vest and pulled out an ornate knife, embedding it deep into the table beside the cocaine.
“How does that one sound?”
The chief of police for the city of Santo Descanso began wiggling madly, shaking his head.
“Option number three…” Paul said, turning back to the notebook Garth had given him.
“I think he wants to talk.” Ragnar said, his distended muzzle wrinkling in disgust.
“How can you tell?”
“He’s pissed himself.”
Paul glanced over at Carl, who nodded and ungagged the man.
Donald sucked in a huge breath.
Ragnar lunged forward and slapped a hand over Donald’s mouth an instant before he could scream, his claws digging into the side of the man’s face. The wolf beastkin gave a guttural growl that shook the hairs on Paul’s forearms before he leaned forward and whispered something in Donald’s ear.
Donald went very still, and when Ragnar pulled his hand away, he stayed silent.
“What do you want?” He whispered.
“I want to watch my youngest daughter grow up,” Paul said, folding his hand on his lap. “But right now I’ll settle for a substantial pay increase. Promote me to captain.”
“That’s…impossible. You’d be skipping three ranks.”
“Not impossible. Difficult. Unorthodox, even. It certainly wouldn’t make us any friends, but I’m too old and too pressed for time to play the politics game.”
“The…positions are full, they’re all full up.” Donald stammered. “I can’t make you a captain, because they’re all full.”
“One captain…” Paul opened up the book and flipped through the police section. “Captain Morgan, will be announcing his retirement tomorrow due to a sudden desire to spend more time with his family. Give me his job.”
I wonder why Garth thought captain Morgan was a funny name.
Paul watched Donald struggle with the decision, while he laid out the next steps in his mind.
Giving the chief one night would push him to make a move. He’d most likely call in a few favors to have people come to Paul’s house and disappear him before the ball started rolling on the promotion. People only had so many favors they could call in. Paul would then disappear the people called in for the favor, decreasing Donald’s power.
He never would have tried it while his family was in town, but Paul’s weaknesses were literally out of reach for his enemies. It was the perfect time to trim the fat a little, on a societal level.
“Alright, fine. I’ll do it. You’re a scary bastard, you know that? How come you never pushed for a higher rank before now?”
“Never had a reason.” Paul answered. “I like my work simple. Was actually thinking about retiring in say..three years?”
The government retirement pay was determined by averaging the last three years of income, with the rank at the time of retirement playing a factor. A captain’s pension was much better than a detective’s.
It was a story Donald might believe.
I can’t actually tell him I plan on killing him and taking his job, can I?
Donald’s desk was a hop, skip and a jump away from the captain’s position.
“I see what you’re aiming at. Sounds like a plan. On one condition. You give me that book.”
One way or another, Donald was going to end up dead, face down in a pile of coke. But for now he needed to think Paul was as shady as he was. Willing to play ball.
“This book?” Paul asked, hefting the black book of secrets. “This is an expensive book. I could sell you this book, or trade it for something of equal value, but I’m not going to give it to you. It’s worth a hell of a lot more than a captain’s position, as I think you’re well aware.”
“I have a stash of credits that-“
“This one?” Paul asked, pulling the leather satchel beside the desk off the ground and opening it in front of him, showing him the gleaming gold.
“It’s a start, but I was hoping for something with a bit more…real property value. Like the little businesses you own around the city that launder money for the Gonzalez family.”
“Come now, it’s all in the book.” Paul said. “I should think that raises its value even higher.”
“They’ll kill me if I sell those places.”
“There’s a section on the Gonzalez family right here.” Paul pointed out, “Plenty of ways to blackmail them into accepting the new ownership, especially if business stays the same for them.”
“Well, what do you say?” Paul asked. “Every major family in the entire city, just waiting to be exploited. I don’t really have the leverage to get to them all, but you do. Worth a lot more than a couple businesses and a promotion you’re not even paying for out of your own pocket isn’t it?”
Donald Lam seemed to come to a decision. “Untie me. let’s do some paperwork.”
The door slammed open and a young woman with short black hair, a rounded face and cherry red lips stormed through the entrance.
Ah, this must be Alicia Denton.
“Ms. Denton!” Donald’s eyes lit up like he’d seen a ray of sunlight in the abyss. “These men are trying to-“
“Shut it.” She snapped ad Don, gliding up to Paul, her rapier rattling against her wide hips.
Donald’s eyes went misty as he was ignored. Ragnar chuckled and put the gag back in his mouth.
“Can I help you?” Paul asked.
She must be looking for me. it’s probably about –
You must be Paul,” She said, offering him a delicate hand. “We met a few nights ago. I’m looking for Edward. I was hoping you knew where he was.”
Paul glanced back at the gagged chief of police.
“I’d rather not say in front of company. Would you give me half an hour?”
“I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to point me in the right direction?” the Denton asked, her face upturned, full lips pouting. “Unless it’s something important?”
“Would you mind watching the chief for a minute? And mind the door.”
Carl gave him a salute, and Ragnar pulled out a cigar, lighting it up and blowing the smoke in Donald’s face.
They stepped out of the office into the crowded police station that humming along like their chief wasn’t being tied up and extorted.
Paul guided the young girl to a place he knew no one would overhear them due to its thick walls and proximity to the noisy main floor, then addressed her.
“Alright, so you wanna know where ‘Edward’ is, huh?” Paul asked, leaning against the wall across from her.
“I would appreciate it,” she said.
“You’re Alicia Denton, right?”
“What of it?”
“Edward’s pet project.”
She looked confused, cocking her head to the side.
“Is there some reason you can’t tell me?”
“Yeah, a pretty simple reason, actually. You’re a Denton.”
He wasn’t going to tell her where his family was without some kind of insurance she wouldn’t report back to her aunt about where he was hiding his children.
Her eye narrowed the smallest fraction before the expression left her face entirely.
That Denton hardheartedness kicked in instantly.
“Alright Paul, what do you want?”
“What’s that?” Paul asked.
“What do you want, from me, that will convince you to tell me where Edward is?”
Paul thought about his evening for a moment. They could always use extra muscle later tonight during the more dangerous portion of the plan, and tearing down the Lam monopoly on Law enforcement and the military would be directly counter to the Denton party line. Working with him on that would be something she wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about, and a pretty good piece of dirt on her.
“How about this. I know the general area where that thing pretending to be a kid is. You provide me with some extra muscle tonight, I’ll tell you where to look.”
Alicia raised an eyebrow. She didn’t seem flustered at Paul’s description of Edward, which lead him to think that she’d figured out some of the secret as well. Maybe not the biggest one, but she definitely knew the boy she was looking for wasn’t a boy.
“And this extra muscle request…you wouldn’t happen to be acting against the Lam family would you?”
“I can’t say before I do it, but I can honestly say your family isn’t going to like it. Not one bit.”
Alicia pondered for a moment, her cherubic face pensive, hiding the cold mechanisms behind it. “Then how about a more nuanced trade?”
“You’re climbing the political ladder on Edward’s behalf, aren’t you? Do you think my aunt knows that?”
A thread of ice worked its way down Paul’s spine. Maggie didn’t know about the connection between the two of them, but if Paul started acting up, it wouldn’t be too difficult to put two and two together. The vicious woman could make things difficult. Or just outright kill him.
“What are you getting at?” He asked, trying not to show how close to home she’d struck.
“If you’re going to join the higher ranks of the police department, you’re going to have weight to throw around. Specifically deciding who to hire and who not to hire.”
“I want five guaranteed entry level positions for people of my choice, and in exchange I will mitigate the fallout of upsetting the status quo with my aunt.”
Paul thought about it for a minute. It would be ten or fifteen years before those guaranteed hires could become high enough ranked to be a serious problem, and by that time a lot of things could happen. In fact, there might not be a city fifteen years from now. Not with Garth Daniels living next door.
It wasn’t a hard promise to make, but he couldn’t just agree to it.
“That and the directions, in exchange for your help tonight.” Paul mused. “How did this turn into an extortion? You get one guaranteed hire.”
“Three or I walk away and tell my aunt aaall about finding Don tied up in his own office.”
“Fine. Three. Give me a few minutes to finish with the chief and I’ll meet you back here, then we can go over what I’ll need help with.”