Charlie leafed through the pages of a newspaper distractedly as he sat at the long white counter of a Jewish street corner restaurant in the late hours of the evening. The remnants of his lunch lay discarded on a large white plate next to his elbow. The food served to him was edible but not very palatable, and was in dire need of more pepper and less grease. However, he wasn’t here for the food. The location of the small restaurant afforded a phenomenal view of the apartment belonging to Jack Wolfe. From this one stool he could take note of all of the activities of arguably one of the most important associates of the Purple Gang.
A plump Yiddish woman finally appeared to take his plate, which had long ago gone stale and cold. She seemed mildly irritated at Charlie’s presence and snorted “Shmendrik” as she took the plate. Charlie held up his coffee cup to her silently, and she nodded before walking off, mumbling a long string of Yiddish in an irritated tone.
Charlie looked at his watch and noted that there was still an hour left in his shift. While working surveillance was a boring, tedious task, Charlie was more than a little ashamed to admit to himself; life had not been this exciting in awhile. He loved driving and bootlegging. He loved spending the obscene amount of money he made doing it even more, but since the crash, the excitement in his life had all but dried up. Fast cars and fast women had been replaced by nights under house arrest, working on tedious amounts of paperwork for the family business. That was changing though, and Charlie felt like he was, once again, in the epicenter of events. The family was going to war.
The small women returned with a fresh cup of coffee and Charlie poured whiskey from his hip flask into the sludge the restaurant claimed was coffee, as he thought back to the night Hank had been shot and Freddy had been killed. Charlie had never seen Aidan so angry. Then again, Aidan had never had a close friend murdered before. Still, Aidan’s reaction had been scary and glorious to behold. As Evvie had finished mending the wound in Hank’s chest, the house had slowly filled up with the most important men in the operation, including Don Trapper, the local police chief, and Aidan’s main contact within law enforcement. Aidan had put out the call and the troops had dutifully gathered.
The kitchen which had served as an impromptu operating room now transitioned into a war room. Surrounded by important men, Charlie had all but disappeared into the corner of the room; a fly on the wall. Once everyone had arrived and had been informed of the day’s violent events, Aidan had turned his glassy stare to Don.
“Don, who are we up against?” Aidan had said with his arms crossed against his chest.
Don had been extremely uncomfortable, being in the house of a criminal, but it spoke to the sway Aidan held over him that he had come despite his misgivings. “I cannot be sure but it matches the MO of the Purple Gang.” Don paused and threw a thick folder, stuffed with papers and photographs, onto the table and flipped it open. He took a breath before continuing, “Aidan, these guys are nasty. What they lack in coordination and intelligence they make up for in shear brutality. They control a good amount of Detroit and they cut their teeth on hijacking and extortion. They are a mostly Jewish gang, led by the Bernstein Brothers, but I use the term ‘lead’ loosely here. Their operations run the gambit and those operations will often conflict with one another leading to power struggles and violence within their own ranks, and by violence I mean murder. They kill without hesitation, even each other. The cops in Detroit know exactly who these guys are but no one will touch them because everyone is too scared to testify against them. Honestly, Aidan, I don’t think going to war with these guys will end well for you.”
Aidan had not reacted at all to Don’s warnings and misgivings, and instead continued to gather information. He had moved forward and picked up the folder on the table and began to flip through the photographs and pages of police reports. “Is it just the lack of evidence that is keeping the cops from going after them, or are the cops on their payroll?”
“No, from what I can tell they haven’t tried to bribe city officials at all. They don’t need to. Aidan, you can’t fight these guys.” Don responded frankly.
“I’m not going to fight them. We would never survive an all out war with these guys. What I need is for the police to do their job.” Aidan had closed the folder with a snap and looked up at Don with a hard, serious look that had caused the room to go awkwardly silent. His eyes had seemed to bore holes into Don with the silent accusation before continuing, “So the police have no hard evidence what so ever of these guys’ activities?”
Moving his hand through his disheveled blonde hair, Don had responded in a slightly exasperated manner, “Aidan, the cops can’t get a warrant to search any of their houses or businesses to look for hard evidence without probable cause. That means we need a witness. Not to mention, the cops are scared to death to go after them. Most cops are simple men trying to support a family. They don’t want to get killed.”
Hank had spoken up then, sitting shirtless with the scraps of a sheet wrapped around his shoulder, “What sort of evidence would the police need to go after these guys?”
Don had bitten down on his lip as he ran through a list of the types of evidence that would work, “Pictures of illegal activity might work, being caught in the act, some sort of evidence of the purchase and sell of liquor, murder weap…”
Evvie had interrupted at that point, breaking her silence, “Evidence of the purchase? Like a ledger?” Charlie had perked up at Evvie’s question, since he had been in charge of keeping the books for the business for the last couple of months.
Shrugging Don had responded, “Yeah, a ledger would work, but all of the books are doctored. The police have tried that route before and found nothing.”
Charlie had plucked up his courage then and moved to the center of the room, “Yeah, but there has to be a master ledger, one that is not doctored. There is no way they would be able to run an operation that large without keeping records that are actually accurate. Do you know who the Purple Gang’s accountant is? He would have to have it.”
Don had moved forward taking the folder from Aidan’s hand and flipped through it and pulled out a mug shot smacking it down on the table. The man who had stared back from the picture was a man with brown hair that was receding, a piggish nose, tiny lips and bug-like eyes that protruded slightly from his face. “Jack Wolfe. Originally he was in the Sugar House Gang before they gang aligned with The Purples. We’re certain he keeps the books for all of the sugar operations but we don’t know if he is doing the accounting for the rest of the business or not.”
Aidan had seemed to perk up slightly, “Do they have a history of making alliances?”
“Umm… Yes, well sort of. They have been known to take over and incorporate other gangs into their structure. They did that with the Sugar House Gang during the Cleaners and Dyers War a few months ago.”
The room had fallen silent, waiting for Aidan to make up his mind. When he spoke, he was quietly authoritative in the way that only truly powerful men could be. “Ok men, we have our target. I want this guy followed all day, every day. I want to know where he sleeps, where he drinks, who he fucks, and where he takes his shits. We need to find out where he is keeping that ledger.”
Evvie’s voice broke the authoritative spell with an equally quiet voice, “Aidan, to what point. Look at these pictures. These guys are serious. Even if we find out where this mysterious ledger is, how are we going to get close enough to get it without getting killed?”
Aidan had responded simply, “A gambit…”
Along with Evvie’s almost everyone’s jaw had dropped at the brashness of Aidan’s response, but Evvie was the only one to say anything, “A gambit? Are you crazy? These guys will kill us! We should just go home to Kentucky. We don’t need to run this much territory and they won’t…”
Aidan had interrupted Evvie, silencing any further objection from her, which had upset Charlie slightly. Charlie believed that his sister had made a very good point. This plan of his was a little crazy, but Charlie had seen Aidan pull off some really crazy stunts. However, there had never been this much on the line before. Charlie believed whole-heartedly that they would not come out the end of Aidan’s gambit spiffy clean. Someone would pay with their life, if not everyone. Of that Charlie was certain. Those thoughts did not, however, diminish his enthusiasm, and while Charlie had heard heated arguments between Aidan and his sister through the walls of the house, Evvie did not publically object to the plan again.
Charlie folded his newspaper and leaned forward, propping his head against his hand and looking out the window at the building across the street. The lights were on in the lower windows of the building and there seemed to be some activity within the confines of the brick building. Charlie perked up slightly as he saw bodies move in front of the window that resided near the door. He chocked slightly on a swig of his coffee, as the door suddenly swung open and Jack Wolfe emerged in a matching tan trench and hat that stood in stark contrast to the red brick façade. Charlie quickly fished into his pocket and fumbled an unknown amount of money onto the counter as he grabbed his hat and dismounted his stool, wondering where Mr. Wolfe could be going at this time of night.
Charlie shuffled clumsily out into the streets, as he pulled his hat low over his eyes. He stuffed his hands in his pants pockets as he fell in step behind his query. He navigated quietly around the closed produce stands on the sidewalk while his eyes never left the man’s back. The sidewalks were nearly empty and only the occasional car drove down the street next to him. Charlie kept his distance and tried to blend into the shadows to remain unobservable, but he failed at that as a mangy cat swiped at him from under a produce stand. Surprised by the creature he side stepped with a startled yelp that made the few people on the street turn to look at him. He stood still for a moment and reached into his pocket for a cigarette turning away from the man he was following in an attempt to look nonchalant. The dirt brown tabby that had swiped at him, hissed at him loudly from where it crouched as it pulled the dead carcass of a rat closer to itself.
Charlie wrinkled his nose at the greasy haired creature whose eyes reflected the little light on the street. Charlie snuck a peek up the street at the man he was supposed to be following and found that he had continued on his way. Puffing on his cigarette Charlie turned to follow his target. He moved from the shadows of the sidewalk to cross a street that led into an alley. His eyes squinted beneath the brim of his hat, as he held Mr. Wolfe firmly in his vision, losing site of his surroundings. He didn’t see the men who had walked up from behind him from the shadows of the alley that he had just passed, and he didn’t see the burlap bag they carried, until it was over his head.
Charlie immediately panicked, and gripped at the lip of the sack that constricted painfully around his throat. Arms encircled his arms and pulled him painfully sideways as his legs kicked out, trying to find purchase as he was dragged from the light of the city streets. Charlie felt like he was chocking as he gulped on the little air within the bag, which was quickly growing stale from his own warm whiskey laced breath. In his panic, he struggled against the hands pulling against him until someone punched him in the ribs that had only recently mended from the car crash. Charlie half groaned, half screamed at the sharp pain that raced through his side and he went limp in the hands that held him captive.
Charlie struggled to breath against the pain in his ribs, which sharpened with each flustered inhale. Charlie felt himself being dragged through a door as his shoes bumped against the door sill and his head spun. His vision began to pixelate and grow fuzzy, and Charlie became certain that he would soon pass out. Just as his grip on consciousness felt too heavy to hold, Charlie was plopped into a chair and the bag removed from his face, as his arms were secured to the chair he sat in. Charlie blinked against the bright light that shown in his eyes and coughed painfully as he gulped greedily at the air that did not stink of his own breath. Charlie felt like screaming and yet all he could do was sit in the chair as he fought to get his breathing under control.
A single light hung from the ceiling and illuminated the space directly encircling Charlie in his chair. He couldn’t see past the brightness leaving the rest of the room hidden in complete darkness, and Charlie could sense monsters lurking just out of the light. He felt himself chocking on the fear cocktail that his own body pumped through his veins and he hysterically began to cry, “Let me Go! Let me GO!” as he rocked his chair back and forth. Finally, someone moved out of the shadows and slapped Charlie hard against the face. His yells died in his throat as he looked up at who had hit him. The man, who stood above him, had a pleasant attractive face full of masculine angles that were softened by slight curves. His eyes were small and a dark rich brown yet they shone with a confidence that Charlie recognized from his time with Aidan. Unlike Aidan, however, this man’s eyes twinkled with a dangerous mirth. Charlie shrank slightly under the man’s amused gaze as he realized who stood before him.
“Calm down Charlie. Don’t take any wooden nickels now. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself or… your family.” said Abraham Bernstein, the leader of the Purples.
Charlie closed his mouth and clenched his jaw, tightening all of the muscles in his neck. He tried to calm his breathing but failed causing his nostrils to flare dramatically with each breath. The corners of Abraham’s lips twitched upward slightly as he said, “That’s more like it. Let’s get down to business then.”
A chair was pushed forward into the light like it was surfacing from being submerged and Abraham sat down in it and crossed his legs in one fluid movement. He was dangerously casual, as he looked Charlie up and down while lazily twirling a large gaudy golden ring around his finger.
Charlie’s voice was gruff as he asked, “What do want from me?”
Abraham chuckled to himself and looked up at the blinding light of the lamp that illuminated them, “Oh Charlie, I just want to have a little chat is all… of course this chat will determine how many pieces you will leave here in.”
Charlie chocked back a sob, fighting to keep his wits. Looking down at the man’s shoes he nodded his head slowly in acceptance.
“Very well. Charlie do you know who I am?” he said in a friendly manner as he pulled a cigar from his pocket. Charlie nodded and Abraham smelled the length of his cigar before continuing, “Good, then you know the grave circumstances you currently find yourself in. That should help speed things up.” He stood as he spoke and circled Charlie as he pulled a cigar cutter from his other pocket. “I’ve been watching you’re bother-in-laws little operation for some time now. Well, it’s not so little anymore is it? He all but controls liquor distribution for two whole states and now he’s knocking on my door. I have to say it’s very impressive.” He towered over Charlie and using the cutters snipped the end of his cigar inches from Charlie’s face making him close his eyes and tremble slightly. “Especially, since he seems to have done it without any resistance, even from the cops. You’re brother-in-law is a very popular man, don’t think I haven’t noticed that.” Abraham returned to his chair as he lit his cigar filling the air with the pungent smell of smoke. “I freely give respect where it is deserved and Aidan Ikaros deserves my respect.” He leaned forward in his chair and exhaled a plum of cigar smoke into Charlie’s face causing him to gag slightly. “That being said, it doesn’t mean I’m going to allow him to continue to operate. His business style is a threat to my own, so he has to be eliminated.”
Charlie spoke up finally, his voice strained from the lingering pain in his ribs, “Why are you talking to me then? Why don’t you just kill him like you do everybody else?”
Abraham smiled sadly as if he wished he could and it made Charlie sick with revulsion. “To be honest with you, The Purple’s just got out of a gang war and we are not ready to jump right into another one. Don’t misunderstand, if necessary, The Purples are always ready to fight but I just would rather not at the moment, which leaves me with a bit of conundrum. I was thinking you might help me with my problem.”
Charlie wrinkled his nose, “Why would I help you?”
The look that Abraham leveled at Charlie made his blood run cold, “Because, you love you sister.”
Charlie immediately struggled against his restraints at the mention of his sister and he yelled, “If you touch a hair on her head…”
One of Abraham’s henchmen materialized out of the darkness and punched Charlie in the ribs causing him to double over in pain. As he struggled for breath Abraham continued as if Charlie had not spoke, “Here is how it’s going to go. You will agree to kill Aidan Ikaros or we will kill you. You will then have one week to kill Aidan Ikaros, or we will kill your sister. I hear she is quite lovely, a real dame. I’ll make sure to enjoy that pretty face of hers before she dies, and then we will kill everyone else except of course you. We will let you live but unfortunately you will never walk again. If you decide to run for it, you better make sure you take everyone with you, because we will kill anyone who was ever affiliated with your business.” Abraham chuckled before continuing, “I would think hard before I told Aidan though, he doesn’t seem like the type that would run… So Charlie what will it be?”
Charlie was ashamed to admit to himself that the choice was simple.ns 184.108.40.206da2