Michael had wished he hadn’t gone into work that day. Standing in the lobby right in front of him were the country’s three largest gang bosses. The Alpha of the Wolves, Damon Wolfwood was on the left, every bit the scary man he had heard about. With his black handlebar mustache and scars going across his face from claws. It was questionable where he had gotten those scars, some believed it was wolves he tamed or his disowned son.
In the middle of the three was the Serpent queen, Bree Musini. She was less terrifying, but she wore a scowl like a man wore a fine coat. Her dark hair was tied up and she glared at him down her nose with one yellow and one green eye. She walked with a profound limp and used a cane with a jeweled cobra wrapped around it. It was rumoured she had caught and turned the serpent into metal. Though no such thing existed, Michael wouldn’t put it past her to find a way.
Now the third was not nearly as intimidating as her peers. She was young and looked every bit like she had a sheltered life. No visible scar was present on her round face. The girl was the daughter of the Serpent Queen, her yellow eyes a clear sign. She shared the same dark brown hair and high cheekbones as well. The Coyote Alpha, Adira Musini, took the right side of his counter. While she wasn’t the scariest, her gang was the most detested gang of Stoketown. Especially because her second in command was rumoured to kill on command without second thought.
Michael stretched the collar of his now too tight shirt and gulped. He didn’t know what business these monsters had with the president, but he knew it couldn’t be good. “Please take a seat.” He stretched out his hand, motioning towards the plastic chairs on the other side of the room. He watched as all three took chairs as far from each other as they could.
The entrance to the lobby opened and Michael sank into his desk further. It was the lieutenant of the Coyote Alpha. The lieutenant limped his way to Adira’s side. Michael knew the president had given The Coyote Alpha special permission to bring her number two, though he didn’t know why. It was dangerous bringing such a monster into the office.
A bell dinged on Michael’s desk. He stood up, straightened out his coat and walked to the door behind him. He slipped through it and closed it behind him. President Carl Batrum was sitting with the back of his chair to the door, staring at an empty wall where there was supposed to be a painting of him. It had been stolen a month ago and never returned.
President Batrum turned around in his seat to stare at his secretary. The President was an older man, his hairline had receded to the crown of his head and his hairs were snowy white. His face was wrinkly from years of frowning and he had a very beak like nose. “Michael.” He said. “Are our guests here already?” His voice was gravelly, though also a bit nasally.
“Yes, sir.” Michael folded his hands in front of him. “Shall I show them inside?”
“Not yet.” Batrum sat back in his seat. Michael wanted so desperately to get rid of the crooks in the other room. They were probably currently stealing something from the room in his absence. “Tell me, Michael, what do you think of our company.”
Michael pushed the bridge of his glasses higher on his nose, it had been slipping from his nervous sweats. “I am not sure I agree with you using them.” He paused. Batrum rotated a hand, a cue for him to continue. “There are more reputable people you could hire.”
“Yes.” Batrum stood, fingertips on his desk. “But, we need crooks and thieves, not the policemen.” He put one arm behind his back and the other was suspended in front of his stomach, he gestured with it as he spoke. “I guess inside we are all a bit of crooks ourselves. How else would we win an election, or a job such as yours.” He walked towards Michael. “It’s just some of us are better at hiding it than others.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
Batrum pursed his lips. “I guess I am just an old fool rambling.” He reached Michael and put the hand that was in front of him on Michael’s shoulder. “Can I trust you to keep this all a secret? I can’t have a war on my hands.”
“Why would there be a war?”
“The job is one that takes them to Mao.” Batrum removed his hand from Michael’s shoulder.
“What will they be doing?”
“You are quite vocal today.”
“Sorry.” Michael lowered his gaze.
“Bring them in.” Batrum motioned with his hand before walking back to his seat and sitting down. “Oh, and please come back in for the meeting. I need it transcribed for future reference. You can never be too careful with these people.”
“Yes, sir.” Michael bowed his head and left the room to fetch the gang bosses. All three were exactly as he had left them. The lieutenant was standing by his Coyote Alpha, smoking a cigarette. “You can’t do that in here.” Michael said.
“I can’t?” He deadpanned and took another drag. He blew it out and cocked his head to the side. “Huh.”
“The President will see you now.” Michael dropped the smoking topic for now.
“It’s not fair you can bring your Lieutenant.” The Serpent Queen sniffed. “I would have brought Darin if I knew you were ignoring the instruction to come alone.”
“Drop it mother.” The Coyote Alpha replied. “Father wouldn’t have come.” Both women stood up.
“I wouldn’t have come at all.” The Alpha Wolf said. “I do not want to see my traitorous son. Even if it is in passing.”
“Father.” The lieutenant said. “Nothing would have kept me from my Alpha.”
The Alpha Wolf scoffed. “You say that as if you aren’t quaking just being near me.”
Michael thought of how strange this group was. Though now Michael knew who the Lieutenant really was: Kalum Wolfwood. The son of the Alpha Wolf. It was quite the drama when he left the Wolves, even Michael had heard about it.
Kalum took another drag before rubbing the butt of the cigarette on Michael’s suit. It burned the fabric, ruining the jacket. Kalum blew the smoke and dropped the cigarette in Michael’s hands. “Take care of that for me.” He said. Michael wanted to throw it at the Coyote lieutenant. He didn’t though. It would invoke the wrath of the gang if it didn’t end up with him being shot on the spot.
They all filed into the office of President Batrum. There were three seats in front of the large desk, one for each leader. The President stood and bowed his head in greeting to the three. “Welcome all.” His eyes settled on Kalum. “I’m afraid I only have the three chairs prepared.”
“He can stand.” The Coyote Alpha said. “He is fully capable of it.”
“Very well then.” Batrum put his hands out. “Shall we begin?” He sat back down. All three leaders followed suit. The Alpha Wolf leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in his lap. The Serpent Queen sat straight, her arms draped over the arm rests. The Coyote Alpha sat with her legs crossed and arms draped over the arm wrests, Kalum at her left shoulder.
“Why are we all here?” The Coyote Alpha asked. “I assume it’s not for a pleasure visit. You would have gone to a brothel for that.”
Batrum ignored her last remark. “You are all here because I have a job for you. Though you can decide what you will do about it, I don’t care if you work together or not. The reward will be the same.”
“We don’t work well together, if you haven’t noticed.” The Serpent Queen said. “We are all different clans.”
“I recognize that, but I am offering a competition of sorts, if you would prefer I say it like that.” Batrum opened a drawer and pulled out a briefcase. “This case holds 100,000 credits. I have three exactly the same, one for each of you. Let’s call it a downpayment.” He opened it and turned it over for all to see. “You all will start with the same amount, but if you complete the job, you will get 50 million credits.”
The Alpha Wolf whistled. “That’s a lot of credits.” He licked his lips. “What is the job?”
“My grandson was kidnapped recently.” He looked at all three leaders sorrowfully before continuing. “I need you to go retrieve him and bring him back for me.”
“Forgive me,” The Coyote Alpha said, “But I am not the sentimental type. The money is good, but too good to be true.”
Batrum nodded. “I do not pretend to know that this sounds too high a price for my grandson, but you must understand, he is very important to me. More than you can know or understand.” He folded his hands in front of him on the desk. “He is my only grandson after all and I must get him back at all costs. He is very important to my sanity and Brea.”
“Why so much money?” The Coyote Alpha asked, her eyes narrowing. She was suspicious. And smart to be. “If it’s a simple retrieval mission, it wouldn’t be as much. What’s the catch?”
“He’s in Mao.”
The Serpent Queen laughed. “50 million credits for that?” She rolled her eyes. “Please, it’s at least a 60 million job.”
The Alpha Wolf sneered. “We may be from the darkest shadows of Stoketown, but we still value our lives. It’s hard to believe, but we would rather live.”
The Coyote Alpha stayed focused on the President. “I don’t care about the danger, a good crew could do it just fine. What I’m worried about is the high price. Not even your life is worth 5o million credits.” She smirked. “Trust me, I would know.”
The President didn’t react to her words, but Michael knew it hurt the man’s pride. “50 million, take it or leave it.” The President said roughly and raised an eyebrow. “Any takers?”
Before the other two leaders could respond, the Coyote Alpha spoke up. “Fine. On one condition.” She licked her lips. “You owe us a favor as well. Any favor we want, you will grant it.”
Batrum scoffed. “How about 50 million and I don’t close your businesses.”
“All of my businesses are perfectly legal.” She motioned with her hands as if to show him they were clean. “I have all the documents to prove it.” She smirked. “I don’t know if I could say the same about your son’s little scheme.”
Batrum cleared his throat. “Fine.” He looked at Michael. “Did you get that? 50 million credits and one favor.”
“We’ll do it, too.” The Alpha Wolf said.
“Same here.” The Serpent Queen said.
“May the best gang win.” Batrum closed the case and pulled out two identical ones.
The Coyote Alpha stood and straightened her vest. “Please, call us clans, it’s way less demeaning.”
“Fine, may the best clan win.” Batrum shooed them away. Each leader grabbed a case and began to leave. Michael stood and handed the transcript to the President. “Thank you, Michael.” The President looked at the four crooks. “If one of you could do the favor of getting rid of my assistant, I would appreciate it.”
Michael’s eyes went wide. What was Batrum doing? He hadn’t done anything wrong. He did all that Batrum had asked. It was unfair. His heart dropped when the Coyote lieutenant stopped in his tracks and turned back towards Batrum. The other three kept on going. Though the Coyote Alpha stopped at the door, waiting for her second.
“Nothing comes for free.” Kalum said.
Batrum pulled out his wallet and threw 100 credits on the table. Kalum pulled out his gun and shot the secretary straight in the heart before Michael could react.