“Get over to your office and tell Ed to take a vacation,” I suggested.
“Ed almost never comes into the office any more. He only writes bonds on his old clients. He handles that by cell phone or from home. I think he only keeps the office open for me.” Lucas informed me.
“Well call him and make sure he is okay, then warn him to stay out of the office. I want to know how they found us?” I asked Lucas.
“I sure as hell didn’t tell them. These guys are smart and they have all the money in the world. This isn’t Smiley we are dealing with.” Lucas informed me.
“No shit,” I replied. I know almost nothing about Chinese gangsters. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since repressive government are an incubator for organized crime. There is a lot of money in China these days.”
“Yes but doing business outside of china has to be a lot more healthy,” Lucas said
“That would be my guess as well,” I agreed. “I guess I have to send Sarah somewhere else,” I said. Lois can go live with her boyfriend. The TV people can do whatever they want, they know the risks. Cheryl is gone already, so I just need to move those two out for a while. I promised them that I wouldn’t bring this shit home, but here it is on my doorstep again.”
I made a call to Sarah’s cell phone. I left her a message to call me before she went home. The return call came an hour later. I explained to her that Mr Smiley was going to be a bigger problem than anyone thought. I also explained that she needed to move back in with her grandparents for a few days. It wouldn’t be long I promised.
I made the same call to Lois. “Lois we are having a bit of a problem, could you go stay with your boyfriend for a couple of days?” I asked. Since it’s so close to her last day anyway. I figured a couple of days wouldn’t be a problem.
“I’m sure that will be fine. Do I need to go now?” she asked.
“Yes, pack a few things quickly and just go. I will take care of this in a couple of days and you can come back for the rest. I will even stop your rent as of last week, since you were going anyway at the end of the month.”
“That sounds just fine. I’ll throw some clothes in a bag and leave.” she said.
“I’ll come over to walk you to your car just call me when you are ready to go.” I said. Then I turned to Lucas and said, “Lucas you probably need to stay here with me till this is over.”
“I can do that,” he said. “You sure it won’t be any bother?”
“Of course it will be a bother, but I got you into this.” I admitted.
Just then Lois called, so I dropped everything and went to her apartment then led her to the parking lot. She drove off while I watched to make sure no other cars left the area following her. None did.
Earlier I had denied any knowledge of the fire call, so the fire department planned to investigate it as a prank. They must have gotten a lot of those calls, since no one seem all that upset. The policeman, who had been in the neighborhood anyway and just stopped to be sure no one was in danger or had been hurt, wasn’t as forgiving. He wanted to do a full investigation.
After they had all gone, I tried to decide the lesser of the evils. I could call Anya at the FBI or I could call The General who ran swamp thing. Since I had absolutely no use for Swamp Thing, I called Anna, as she liked to be called those days.
“Anna what do you know about Riverview Developers?” I asked.
“Fine how are you Maxine,” she said then laughed. “Okay we aren’t friends, I get it. Is this a good tip.”
“It is what it is. I’m looking for information, so what do you have?” I asked again.
“Who do you think they are?” she asked in return.
“I have no idea. I ran across them while I was investigating a child molester,” I said.
“Kiddie porn again,” she said incredulously.
“I think, the guy was laundering money for them, so it could be anything. But whatever he does is important enough for them to send a couple of hard men to talk to me.” I said.
“Are the hard men still alive?” Anna asked.
“They were an hour ago, I have no idea how their boss will feel about me still being alive.” I replied.
“It’s good that everyone is still alive,” she said. I could tell she was stalling for time.
“If you don’t have anything on them, I am going to call Swamp Thing. These guys were definitely from out of town.” I said.
“What neighborhood?” she asked.
“Asia for sure,” I replied.
“Thanks, that narrows it down some,” she said. She was still stalling for time, when she asked, “Have you seen my Mama lately?”
“No, but if you don’t have something in two hours, I’ll try to find the Irishman, or his boss. They owe me one as well as you.” I said.
“Seems like half the world owes you,” she said with a chuckle.
“Sometimes it seems like the other half is trying to take one from me,” I replied. I flat hung up on her, since I was tired of the verbal cat and mouse game that she always played.
The phone played Mag7 again and since Lucas was sitting at my computer, I said, “Change that fucking ring tone. I want a phone that rings like a phone is supposed to, damn it.”
“Hello,” I said into the source of my present aggravation.
“Maxine, what the hell is going on at your place. One of the patrolman called me about a fire that wasn’t a fire.” It was Detective Mike Dawson who asked.
“I have no idea what happened. They just showed up in my parking lot.” I said innocently.
“Right and I’m getting big foot for my daughter’s next birthday party.” he said.
“Well keep him out of the pool, I hear they shed terribly.” I replied.
“Come on, off the record are you okay?” he asked.
“Sweetie I know there is no such thing as off the record with cops. I am fine, but stay available. You never know, I might get lonely in the next day or two.” I said.
“If you do, you call me direct. I don’t want to hear anything about you from patrol officers again,” he demanded.
“Right,” I said. “Why all the interest suddenly?”
“You are always into the good shit. I have no idea how you manage it and I don’t care, I just want in on it.”
“Okay Detective Dawson, I will call you whenever I need a cop. Right now I don’t. I promise I will though one day soon.”
“Now you,” I said to Lucas. “Fix this damn phone.”
It took him five minutes to do something. He pushed a button to show me that it rang like a telephone. “Thank you,” I said.
Nothing much happened for the next couple of hours or so except that I continued to hear the click of computer keys. Lucas was typing so that he could find all the information available on the Riverview Development corp. While he did that I kept a careful eye on the surveillance cameras. I also found time to break out both my pump shotguns. I didn’t warn Willy and Earl simply because they should have heard everything. They should already know how bad it could get.
Mike the last cameraman had installed four feeds for me. One parking lot, one on the gate, one on the courtyard, and one in the alley behind the building. I had a pretty good view of every angle, of my little world.. What I expected, was for them all to go black and then the dance to begin.
My cell phone rang and it was a real ring. It took me a second to figure out where it was coming from. “Hello,” I said when I did.
“Maxine, it’s me Earl. I’m trying to figure out what to do with Willy. The way you talk, we are going to have trouble. She needs to leave here now.” He said.
“They may be watching. Leaving by herself could be a real mistake. Come over here and get a weapon, then take her to the airport.” I said.
“She want’s to call the cops,” he said.
“That’s up to her, but I’m against it,” I replied.
“I know. Let me talk to her to be sure that does in fact want to go.”he suggested
“If you two don’t want to stay alone just put everything on auto pilot and come on down. We can hold up in here today. Tomorrow the FBI might be joining us. I can’t swear that they are going to be the calvary. Usually they let things go till they are just a hair short of disaster, before they step in.”
“I’ll get back to you in a couple of minutes,” he suggested.
“In the meantime Earl stay away from the windows and keep an eye on the surveillance cameras. I know that Mike has them cued up somewhere in there.” I said.
“Yeah, I’ll do that.” he said.
“Is your camera man going to bug out,” Lucas asked when I shut the phone down.
“Could be, I have no idea what he has in mind,” I said.
“You know, we could be over reacting. They might not come back,” Lucas said.
“Whose life are we willing to bet on that?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Lucas said.
When Earl and Willy showed up, I was in the middle of making coffee. Lucas and I had finished all there was left from the early morning pot. I looked up to see a worried looking Willy and a man beside her with a glint in his eye. At that moment I decided that I liked Earl even better.
“So what’s the plan?” Willy asked. “I need to know, so I can decide what to do. Earl thinks I should leave. I’m not sure. I have been in war zones, so I’m not convinced that this is going to be that bad.”
“It might well be nothing, but we don’t have an army to hide behind. If this goes sideways, it’s going to be every man and woman for themselves. The camera will not protect you from these guys. Their only reason to be here will be to kill us all. This bunch leaves no living witnesses. So if they come and we lose, we are all dead.” I said.
“Then, why don’t we call the cops?” she asked.
“To be honest this morning I just wanted a small piece of self incriminating evidence on Smiley for the DA. Now I find, he is into something even bigger. I would like to bag them all, just for the hell of it. Right now all the hard evidence we have is on Smiley, the pervert. If the cops turn him, they will want to make him a deal. If I can get something on the Chinese gang, then all of them go down. That’s what this is about.” I said. I did not like having to explain but then she had a right to know.
“I see, when you put it that way, it makes a lot more sense. So what is the Chinese gang up to?” she asked.
“That’s what we are going to try to find out. Right now I’m just letting it go along on it’s own till the FBI or Lucas can find something. If worse comes to worse, there is one group with even better international criminal intelligence connections that I can ask, but they are the very last resort.” I admitted.
“Well how far are you willing to go to nail these guys?” she asked.
“Well I’m hoping this doesn’t kill me in the process, but short of that, about as far as it takes.” Willy obviously didn’t know all that much about me. I thought that Mike had explained it all to his people, but obviously not in great detail.
“So if I leave is it going to put you in a bind?” she asked.
“It’s not going to make a bit of difference to me. Earl is the one you need to talk to about that. Maybe Mike as well.”
“Okay, I’m going to call Mike,” she said. “Can I do it in your bedroom?”
“Sure go right ahead,” I said.
While she was gone Earl said, “I hope she goes home. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
“Odds are they won’t come back, but you never know.” I said.
“I suppose so,” Earl said. After that we just stood around waiting for something to happen.