Pittsburgh. Some might find it difficult to follow the trail of events in their lives which had led this particular group of slightly-less-than-honest people to move across the country to Pittsburgh of all places. Painted in broad strokes, it could be made simple, but the moment someone even asks the dreaded "Why" question on any of the variables? Prepare for serious story time.
"'ey Boss, vy da fuck did ve come here again?"
Carmen Victoria Carnifex stopped mid-stride on the train platform to just glare at the man for a moment before one of his comrades whacked him on the back of the head. The group began walking again and entered the main concourse of Pittsburgh Union Station.
"Cyka blyat, get your head out of your ass, Sasha," the tallest hissed with a bit of menace, "I personally told you tvice on de train."
"Ow, zat hurt, asshole," Sasha answered, looking at the burliest of the bunch, "You're lucky you're so beeg, Sergei, or I'd pop you one!"
" their employer began in Russian before switching to her native English, "
Can you not simply enjoy being off of that train for a bit before you get back to your petty squabbling?
Several people eyed the group as they entered, but most of them were simply glued to the well-dressed tall blonde woman who led them. Admittedly Victoria had spent a great deal of money on her attire with the intention of people doing just that, so she swept by them without much thought. Those who didn't actively gaze upon her greatness were ignored entirely.
Sergei and Sasha, with the latter attempting to make up for his lapse in judgement earlier, opened the glass doors ahead of her as they left the building. A pair of black BMW sedans awaited them in the Pick-Up lane, a pair of attendants from the rental company already awaiting them. Carmen had the tallest of compatriots hand each of the waiting drivers an envelope, flashing them a friendly smile before sitting in the back of the first car. The envelopes she'd had Ivan give them possessed a few hundred dollars and a short business card with a name and cell phone number on it. The young men had performed their jobs admirably despite the rental car company explicitly informing Ivan that they would not deliver the vehicles to the train station.
Meanwhile, Sergei hopped into the driver's seat while Sasha loaded the bags into the trunk. Behind them, Ivan and the other two men loaded into the second sedan. Two minutes later, the pair of vehicles began making their way to the Omni William Penn Hotel. A short trip, but one Ms. Carnifex was not about to make by foot or public transportation. Too many variables. After arriving at the hotel, Ivan checked them in while the other four carried the bags up to the luxury suite they'd reserved. Calling it a suite was a bit of misnomer in some ways as it was more of a small apartment than a hotel room. Sergei waited outside with Carmen whilst the other three entered the penthouse and performed a security sweep. Sasha returned and removed a small device from a case Sergei had been holding before re-entering the suite. This took another five minutes before all three exited and nodded to their boss.
Carmen smiled briefly as she entered the fresh penthouse suite and stretched out her arms a bit in front of the massive windows in the parlor. She could almost feel her underlings flinch a bit as they fretted about her safety, but she couldn't quite give enough of a fuck to care. They also didn't know that she'd preemptively increased the density of her skin along the front of her body for that moment as well just in case. The likelihood of someone knowing of her arrival, her hotel, and which room she was in was extremely small, but it wasn't zero. To be honest, the likelihood of a great white shark being launched through the front door of the White House also technically wasn't zero either, but there were reasons Carmen didn't try to run for any political office.
Has anyone heard from dear Auggie? I texted him earlier that we'd arrived, but he only answered with a very cryptic emoji.
A series of "No, ma'am"s, head shakes, and some shrugs answered her. Disappointing. Carmen walked over and lightly touched the youngest of the group's shoulder. Oddly enough, it wasn't until now that the rather tall woman noticed that she was the shortest one in the room. Not that it bothered her at all, but she suddenly had an image of herself being protected by a bunch of actual bears rather than well-dressed men.
Mishka, dear, you're young. What's it mean when someone answers your message with a smiling face with sunglasses?
The last few weeks, or was it months now, in Pittsburgh had been relatively uneventful. By relatively, it took into account the fact that Augustus had absolutely no run-ins with local gangsters, crime bosses, cops, or anything of the sort. Well, aside from the time that three young gangbangers decided that they had wanted to hold him at gunpoint and try to run his pockets. Luckily for them, Augustus had made their deaths quick, painless, and relatively clean. Unluckily for them, however, he had also placed their bodies in their homes for their wives, girlfriends, or, for one of the gangsters, their mom to find. Nobody fucked with Augustus Davenport, especially not when he was here on a mission and with a fucking job to do.
As part of that job, he had set up a number of holding companies and LLCs, being careful to hide them behind as many layers of bureaucracy as possible. By hiding one behind the other behind another behind a fourth and so on, Augustus had been careful to set up a Russian nesting doll of secrecy to ensure that, above all, their identities would be hidden. With how well he had routed the companies and how he had managed to set up most of the higher-level companies in countries with favorable tax laws, even INTERPOL would have a difficult time tracking down what was really going on in little old Pittsburgh.
And so he sat at a table inside of a recently-renovated nightclub. It used to be an office but, much like Augustus used to shit his pants when he was a baby, it didn't matter what it used to be, it only mattered what it was. He'd purchased the building, evicted the tenants, and begun the renovations almost as soon as the ink dried on the last of the LLCs. During all of the business-related meetings and paperwork signing, he'd had to wear a suit and play the part of the consummate professional. He didn't hate wearing the suit but his normal role was one of action, intimidation, and ensuring that whatever Carmen said went. He knew she trusted him to get it done and he very much put every iota of effort into it when it came time to play businessman. When it came to Carmen, he always gave 100% because he trusted her to do her job just as she trusted him to do his.
"No, no, I told you not to turn on that damn music. There's nobody here to listen to it, that's why. How about this, Junior, which one of us is paying you and which one is the one getting paid? Thank you. See, how hard was that? We're ready to open but we tested the sound systems yesterday and I swear I don't want to hear that right now. I've got to go meet with someone, make sure this place is spotless and have some food ready for when we get back. We might not come back but I'll text you."
He'd run a crew before and he still typically ran a small group or, at least, he used to way back in LA. Carmen did most of the heavily lifting in terms of people management, running their businesses, and thinking large scale and it was his job to handle security, retribution, and everything that allowed him to use his skills. He looked forward to being able to focus on his job again, though it wasn't unlike Carmen to make him the primary point of contact for everyone who worked at their new club, Pinnacle. He was never sure why she made him handle stuff like this, probably because she did have bigger things to worry about and, for the most part, Augustus was good at handling businesses. He just wasn't the biggest fan of it. It quickly bored him, becoming a game of hiring, firing, and dealing with the day to day workings of a front. He rose from his seat, tugging on his suit jacket to avoid it sticking in the back while simultaneously using his movement to ensure that his two pistols were still in their shoulder holsters.
The ten minute walk to the hotel was uneventful aside from the setting sun casting shadows in the street. Few people messed with him, partially due to the speed at which he walked and partially due to the 'Don't fuck with me' look that he tended to wear at all times. A quick stop at the front desk, coupled with a small bribe and a few simple questions, and Augustus walked away with the room number that he needed and a keycard to same. It was rarely hard to act the part of the dimwitted husband or the forgetful businessman who left his room without his keycard and greasing the gears with a few hundred bucks typically made any low-level employee jump at the chance to help him out. What he never got used to, though, was people trying to talk to him on the elevator. Why did tourists and business people always want to talk to him? He knew enough of the local cuisine to be able to recommend a few places to Carmen and he knew where he'd go if he wanted something particular to eat but he was far from an expert in the city's food scene. He had no idea what to do for recreation because he was here on a mission that didn't involve much conventional fun. His best defense against conversational tourists was to answer shortly and give them a look that indicated his significant irritation. That almost always worked.
He waved the keycard in front of the door and, hearing the lock disengage with an audible click, Augustus made his way into the suite. Even as he entered, he saw Sasha and Sergei reach towards their waistbands with an aggravated look on their face. They relaxed when they saw it was Augustus, though he clicked his tongue a few times as he walked further into the room. "What if I had been housekeeping, what then? You gonna kill every housekeeper that walks in here? What about room service? We don't have a whole lot to worry about here unless one of you leaked something so maybe relax a bit before the bones in your hand find themselves rearranged." It wasn't the first time he'd had to chide the mobsters so he spoke as if he was talking to children. Plus, Sergei had been with them long enough to remember what happened the first time he tried to put Augustus in his place and Augustus was pretty sure that Sergei was still paying for the hospital stay.
As he walked through the suite, he knew where Carmen would be. She didn't like being cooped up for long periods of time and she almost always ignored the advice to avoid open spaces. Not that he blamed her, he knew she could handle herself, but she didn't have the reflexes that Augustus had, causing him to feel no small amount of concern when she did risky things without him there. He placed a rather large folder on the table in the living room of the suite, partially because he didn't want to hold it anymore and partially because he knew it would bring her inside. He gave the mobsters a look as if to say 'Don't look at it, it isn't for you' and made his way towards the balcony. "Carmen, how was the trip," started Augustus, opening his arms for a hug. "I have a great deal of information for you to look over but I like to think you'll like it. I've also got a few reservations, just let me know which ones to cancel."
Hearing her associate had arrived, Carmen smirked and turned around. She swept back into the room with the confidence of a mob boss she was becoming.
LA to Chicago was lovely, but Chicago to Pittsburgh was...bleh,
" Carmen announced with a smile as she sunk into her friend's hug. He was taller than her, but her heels made up for it some. Breaking it off after a moment, she let out a ragged unladylike sigh as though the weight of the world just slipped off of her shoulders. While Carmen had known it for some time, it was only now that she realized just how much not having her friend Augustus nearby had weighed on her.
Honestly, I'd like to see the new club first,
" Carmen began as she snatched up the folder, "
8.5 million dollars for a new nightclub in downtown Pittsburgh is a bit above the median budget we'd set, but I also purposefully set the budget low in case of any incidentals. The pictures you sent over have been quite impressive at the very least. The former tenants weren't a problem, I trust?
The folder was, as usual, a top notch overall dossier on everything Augustus had picked up over the past three months. Local street gangs and their various activities, allies, and enemies. Local city government status. Various identified potential contacts and their vices. It even had a list of known meta incidents over the past year. Everything a growing criminal syndicate would need to know before establishing themselves in the city's underworld. Committing most of it to memory was a simple task as she just temporarily increased the density of her hippocampus's pathways. This took her roughly a minute and a half. Anyone else might have been skeptical of her ability to process the entire folder's contents that quickly, but she knew that Auggie knew better. Hell, he might give her a bit of shit later for taking even that long, but she wanted to be sure she didn't miss anything.
Well let's get moving, Auggie,
" Carmen announced as she clapped the folder closed, "
Ivan, Alexei, quit playing with your toys and bring the cars around.
The two large Russians nodded and put the various assault rifles they'd been checking down for the moment. Those guns (and the twenty or so others they had brought with them) were part of the reason why Carmen had taken trains across the country instead of just hopping on a plane: Amtrak security was almost nonexistent compared to TSA. That combined with her absolute distaste for even the idea of such plebeians touching her had made flying commercial a non-starter. As for chartering a private jet, such actions tended to grab the attention of federal agencies. So, until she had her own private means of aircraft travel, trains were where it's at. Plus they were quite comfy!
So Auggie, did you find any whammen you liked out here?
" Carmen said with a broad smile as the pair plus their now-three-man escort rode the elevator down to the lobby, "
I'm hoping you didn't spend all your time out here just working...again.
The drive to the new club was less than three minutes which really only gave her enough time to drink a bottle of water. Stepping out of the door as Sasha opened it, Carmen took her first real look at their new business venture. All of the external decorations were covered in protective sheeting and plastics, but that could be fixed in 10 minutes. It was almost dark enough out for the hidden neon signs to really pop out, but Carmen wanted to wait on that for a bit. The inside mattered to her a lot more than the outside did.
Ivan and Alexei opened one of the large double-doors to the entrance for the pair as they approached.
The previous tenants. At the thought of it, Augustus couldn't help but smile. There were many ways to handle people and, while Augustus would have loved to simply kill them, he knew he needed to keep the body count low and keep everything out of the spotlight. Instead of threatening them, he'd just gone to each of the offices and mentioned that there was black mold throughout the building and that the new owners were being forced to evacuate the building as part of the cleanup. A few forged documents, a few photographs, and a few signed lease releases later and the building had been emptied. Plus, it provided an air of believability to the story when they began the renovation process. For the teardown, Augustus and the rest of the hired help had worn Tyvek suits and worn respirators. There had only been one stickler but Augustus knew that Carmen would be proud that he had simply acted the part of the stupid help rather than killing him. Augustus had given the man a false email and name, anyway, and who was gonna care that he had two months left on his yearly lease? In response to Carmen's question, Augustus simply shook his head. She had bigger problems to worry about, all of the details were beneath her.
As she picked up the folder, Augustus started the stopwatch on his watch. It had become a bit of a game between them. She timed him to see how quickly he handled his business, he timed her to see how long it took her to read various dossiers. He once printed off the entire script of Bee Movie as a joke and she had been able to recite it from memory after less than a minute. It was why he left the majority of the thinking to her. While he was good enough at running a business to be considered middling or, perhaps, above average, Carmen was unparalleled. She was able to consider more angles in less time and she was able to understand details that few would be able to pick up on, let alone comprehend. Her mind was like his eyes and reflexes and, combined with his martial ability, they were almost unstoppable.
"One minute, twenty-three seconds. I'll put together more of those so that you can get your speed back up. We might not have a minute and a half in the future." It was a joke, though the tone of his voice was almost always flat. Whether he was happy, sad, excited, angry, or any other myriad of emotions, he spoke in the same flat voice. Few could pick up on his inflections, as evidenced by the raised eyebrows of the nearby Russians. They didn't dare to speak to Carmen like that and yet Augustus did whatever he pleased. It was one of the benefits of his position and their relationship, though he didn't abuse it too often. Plus, it wasn't like the Russians could even hope to fight Augustus even in a 5-on-1 fight, a fact he reminded them of on a regular basis.
There she goes asking when I'm going to get married and have a family, thought Augustus with a chuckle. "I was out here to work, why get into trouble or get distracted when I have stuff to do?" She knew he was goal oriented and between scouting a location, setting up multiple layers of holding companies, squaring away bank accounts, buying the location, evicting the tenants, coming up with a plan for renovations, sourcing materials, getting up with necessary contractors, finishing the renovations, investigating local gangs, looking into the local meta scene, finding potentially dirty cops, DAs, maintenance personnel, etc, and working out, Augustus barely had time to eat or sleep. Almost all of his waking moments were spent improving their position in Pittsburgh. She always chided him for not taking time for himself, though he did take time for himself. That's what working out and range days were for, though range days had been few and far between because range days cost money and he had done his best to keep his personal expenses extremely low. He typically ate sandwiches, tuna, salads, and various other foods that were filling but cheap. He worked out enough that he could get cheaper food without worrying about his physique. He could eat better when they had money rolling in but, until then, he didn't dare spend an unnecessary dime.
When they reached the lobby, Augustus sped up to not only get the door for Carmen but to also open the door of the rental for her. He knew she was capable of it and he knew that the Russians were pretty good about opening her door whenever she needed to get out, though it was iffy on whether they would open the doors whenever she was getting into vehicles. Augustus did it because they were friends and it was the right thing to do, though he felt as if the lackeys should be doing it on principle because she was their boss. Technically, so was he, though he figured they didn't consider him as such due to their backwards way of thinking. Racist fucks, thought Augustus as he closed the back door behind Carmen and entered the car from the other side.
Augustus woke up when the car came to a stop at the club. He didn't realize he was that tired, though he remembered that he had been pushing himself to the limits to get the renovations done before Carmen showed up. In the last week, he'd averaged three, maybe four hours of sleep a night. He uttered an apology, more out of concern that not having himself ready to go at all times might undo all of the progress that they had been working towards.
Augustus began the tour, showing off the various features as he spoke about them. "For eight and a half million dollars, you get a vibrant new nightclub situated near plenty of popular local food spots, between two universities, in one of the busiest parts of the city, and right off the Monongahela River. I've gone with a sort of retro look mixed with the clubs from that one video game, uhh, Cyberpunk I think it was called. I was looking for inspiration and I saw that and blended it with what I know normally works for what we're trying to do here. All new appliances and furniture, a full service kitchen, two bars per floor with the ability to add a third without much hassle. Brand new, state of the art DJ equipment on floors two and four. Floors one and two are for your average clubgoers and I opened up the center so that those on the first floor can look up to the second. Floors three and four are for our VIP customers and the VIP area has more amenities than most of the clubs around us, probably because I combined what all of them offered and made sure we offered everything. Floors five and six are for us and feature a significant amount of soundproofing, another full kitchen and bar, meeting areas, common living areas, personal quarters, an armory, a security suite, and almost anything you could ask for. A layer of one-way glass, combined with thick reinforced glass for structural support, separates floor three from one and two and floor five from the rest. We can look down and see everything in the central pillar and I've got more security cameras set up than Lockheed and the Federal Reserve combined. I've set them up to minimize blind spots and we can easily add more if we recognize a problem. They're accessible wirelessly through our secure network but only with the proper passwords and they're also hardwired in for redundancy and security."
"I've set up our own server farm so we can keep all of our footage without deleting anything for three months. After that, or if we decide to delete it, it automatically deletes it, rewrites over the drive space, deletes it again, and then defragments that portion of the drive. In the event of a security breach, failing to provide the proper code after two attempts results in all drives being wiped and slagged, though we can activate that remotely from our phone. Our private network already has VPNs setup and I set up a cell signal scrambler and a signal jammer throughout the building, which we can toggle off and on by floor, by section, or by hemisphere of the building. Oh, and we have bulletproof glass upstairs that's rated for multiple hits from .50BMG API and SLAP, though I only saw it stop two of the SLAP rounds during my testing, the third went through but was pretty inaccurate. We have blast resistant doors separating five and six from the rest of the building, as well as dedicated elevators to the basement for if we need a quick or discrete escape. The non-staff elevators only go to floor Four and even the staff elevators require the entry of a code that changes every 24 hours. I've done all of the upstairs work myself, aside from the bulletproof glass, though I reached out to some of our family contacts to get that done discretely and without sending up red flags. I've done everything from the painting to the electrical to the hanging ceiling fans. Nobody but me and the glass guys have been up to floors five and six. So, what do you think and what questions do you have?"
Managing silence as Augustus walked her through the various features of the new building, Carmen let her eyes dance and wander all about in restrained excitement. This building was the first major step in her plans for this city, and her dear confidante hadn't disappointed her in the slightest. There was a slight mental note in his detailed tour that she filed away for later, however. The combination of his noticeable exhaustion in the car and his work inside the club made her worry a bit more about his well-being. But that would need to wait for later.
I find it... exceptional, dear Augustus,
" the crime lord-in-progress declared at last with a twinge of electricity in her voice, "
How do we look on hiring right now? I'd like this place up and running quick. I don't think Uncle Yuri is long for this world.
The tour hit the literal checkpoint between floors five and six, and it was then that Carmen snagged something from inside of Mishka's jacket with a quickness before storming to the front of the party. Six rather well-built men in black suits moved into position as the group approached. Naturally, they prepared to allow Augustus and anyone he approached with through without question or complaint, but Carmen held up a hand in acknowledgement.
Good evening, gentlemen, I'm going to assume you don't know who I am,
" Carmen began with some measure of geniality, "
Therefore I'd like for you to treat me as though I'm an unknown woman with very basic clearance to enter. How would we proceed then?"
The six looked at each other and then at their known employer, Augustus, for confirmation before proceeding. Having received it, they began by indicating that she walk through the large metal detector.
The six looked at each other again then at Augustus with suspicion. Was this a test? Of course it was.
Well, boys? I'm an unknown woman who just set off the metal detector. What do you do now?
The last two at the checkpoint moved to properly block the passage forward in case this "unknown woman" tried to power through while another pair flanked her. Indicating that she raise her hands, one began running a hand wand over her while the other stood by in case this woman attempted something aggressive. Carmen complied with a smile, looking back at Augustus as she did and winking. Her dress, a simple black contoured business dress, was cut low down the back and it was at this crucial point that the little hand wand beeped.
Oh no...whatever could be there?
" Carmen said in a mocking tone before reaching her hand to that spot with a quickness. Pulling out the matte black SIG Sauer P320, she leveled it at the guard with the wand, her voice now as steely as the weapon in her hand.
Bang. You're dead.
Naturally the five other guards responded by drawing on the threat, but she noted that they were about a half-second slow. Well, that was probably because they were operating on reaction vs. action. Hell, she'd barely noticed that she'd instinctively fortified her skin via increasing the density to that of steel. At least she was getting quicker about that.
Allowing the weapon to suddenly flip over in her hands as she held it out away from her, Carmen smiled again as each man maintained their stance; they were ready to shoot at a moment's notice.
Great job on these guys, Auggie,
" the woman said with a brief broad smile, as she turned her head back towards her comrade but taking care to not move anything else out of concern for the drawn weapons pointed at her, "
I like 'em. Now if you could, please ask them to not aim their sidearms at their employer. Thanks.
Waiting for everyone to calm down, Carmen began walking forward once more but now uninterrupted.
To the upper floors then? I think it's time to work on the next steps.
Her joviality gone, Carmen's face returned to her usual icy status. Fun had been had, but now it was time to get to business. Admittedly Carmen skipped most of the fifth floor; she simply pointed to the Russians with her to get acquainted before being escorted by Augustus alone to the top floor. Looking around, the fact that he'd done almost all of this himself would have endeared him to her further if that were possible, but it probably wasn't. Still, she kept it in mind that she'd have to do something absolutely amazing for him later... Maybe that flight school he'd hinted about four years and three months ago to the day? She'd think on it.
Alright, Auggie, I've seen your reports, but now I want your opinions: who are the five biggest drug dealers in the game here besides the Italians and how likely are they to accept an invitation to meet?
Carmen's tests were always fun to watch, to the point where Augustus was almost always sad if he missed one. Had he known that she wanted to test them, he simply would have made himself scarce and put in an order with the kitchen staff or changed out the flickering lightbulb in the second floor bathroom. It wasn't flickering enough to be a safety issue, though it had been enough that Augustus had added it to his list of final to-dos and the bulb was sitting inside the maintenance area on the third floor. The janitors and maintenance staff weren't here, if only because Augustus had given them the day off as a reward for their diligence during training and the speed with which they picked up his particular way of wanting everything done.
Augustus had seen out of the corner of his eye as she reached into Misha's jacket and his eyes instinctively honed in on the subtle movement or, rather, the object that she had grabbed. It wasn't low enough or long enough to be her pickpocketing his wallet, instead it was slightly higher. His shoulder holster, thought Augustus, forcing himself not to smile and frown at the same time. Ever since they learned that Augustus used shoulder holsters, the Russians had taken to using them. Augustus wasn't sure if they thought it was why he was so good or if they thought that it was cool but the fact that they couldn't secure their firearms against Carmen pissed him off. He thought extremely highly about Carmen, though her physical abilities, particularly in regards to speed, paled in comparison to Augustus. His reflexes, reaction time, speed, and overall dexterity was far above most metas, let alone normal people. The fact that she was able to do it with such subtlety was to be expected, though the fact that they were unable to notice it or secure their weapons against it was not.
When she reached out with her hands, weapon upside down as it dangled by the trigger guard from her hands, Augustus took it before Misha could react. He dropped the magazine, rotated the takedown pin, and pulled the slide forward, all as fast as he could manage. With similar speed, he pulled the guide rod and barrel from the firearm, threw the slide down the stairwell, and deftly pocketed the guide rod and barrel. Misha gave him a look of annoyance and Augustus returned it with one of sheer boredom and a hint of hatred. "You can keep your gun in piece when you can keep it. It was a test of them, sure, but it shouldn't be so easy to steal your piece."
Before Misha could even reply, Carmen mentioned working on the next steps and Augustus nodded, opening the door for her with one hand and ready to defend himself from Misha with the other. Most of Carmen's family hated dealing with Augustus and they hated him being right even more. He rarely fucked with them without a good reason and, to Augustus, high level members of the organization shouldn't be succumbing to the same shit that the common rabble of the underworld were known for doing. They should be better, a fact he routinely tried to enforce on them with varying degrees of success. At least they know how to clean the damn things, thought Augustus with a frown, saddened by the fact that he was giving credit to those who could barely do the bare minimum. Augustus wasn't petty enough to lock up the gun parts in his pocket, though he was petty enough to wave the Russians away with a 'buh-bye' motion as Carmen excused herself to the sixth floor.
As soon as the doors closed behind them, Augustus turned and pressed a single button on a keypad near the door. With a thick and audible clunk, the reinforced locks on the doors slid into place and exterior bars swung down. These doors were rated to withstand anything short of an M136 but, even then, the penetration did not equal destruction of the lock. While the weapon might pen, destroying the two-inch titanium rods that held the thick steel doors together would be next to impossible and reinforced walls that extended past the accessible portion of the door rendered moot any attempts to just blow away the door or go through the walls.
Augustus guided Carmen to her office and closed the similarly thick door closed behind them. He pressed a button on the keypad near the door and, like before, a thick clunk could clearly be heard. With the press of another button, the shades descended over the windows and thick curtains moved into place. In addition, a vibrating hum could be heard from the sides of the window. The hum was low enough to be barely noticeable but loud enough to break the quiet that had been in the room prior to their arrival. Waiting for Carmen to sit, Augustus moved to a nearby safe, entered three different passcodes, swiped a keycard, and put his eye to a scanner before pulling it open. She might think it was too much but he was the security conscious one, especially when it came to her safety and their operational security. He grabbed a few folders from the safe before returning to the desk. He pulled his own chair out and lowered himself into it. While any chairs that he figured Carmen might sit in, such as the ones in her office, the conference room, her room, the living room, etc, were far more comfortable and stylish than the rest, Augustus had splurged on his own seats as well as any that potential high-level visitors might sit in. Had she not specified that her cousins receive similar levels of comfort, Augustus would have brought up some cheap folding chairs for them.
"You get used to the noise, Vick. We both know that the glass I chose absolutely shreds any directional listening devices but that's an extra level of insurance and it only took a few personal massagers per window. If you check your phone right now, you'll notice that you're not getting any signal in or out. There's a SCIF button on every keypad and, on a few of them, there's SCIF ALL. SCIF will turn the room you activate it in into the best recreation of a SCIF that I could manage. SCIF ALL will turn the entire floor into one and SCIF SPEC will, well, I've tried getting a signal in or out of here and, unless you're hardwired in, nothing's getting out. All of our stuff will still work unless you hit SCIF SPEC, which disrupts our hardware and comms equipment. It has the added benefit of immediately scrambling any IPs, deleting and quarantining any recently downloaded or recently modified files outside of designated folders on our computers, resetting our VPNs, bouncing through a randomized list of servers across the globe, and reactivating them in a type of safe mode but we have dedicated security features if we're just trying to disrupt somebody downloading or uploading something. I've prepped a folder of our security measures for you, it should be in your desk, bottom drawer. Your desk, as well as any safes and our vault, is also lined with the stuff needed to make it a Faraday cage so don't put your phone in there unless you want to keep it safe or don't want to deal with phone calls."
Augustus placed the folders on the desk, though there were far more than the five that Carmen had asked for it. "Taking the Italians out of the equation takes out the number one, number two, and number five out of my list of top ten drug dealing organizations here. If it helps, one and two are in an alliance and recently deposed number five. Number five was the biggest dealer in the city but the new leaders formed an alliance between their families and there's a war going on right now. It's too early to tell, though the first thing they hit was their drug trade."
"Anyway, you asked about non-Italians. Number three is a Turkish family that operates out of North Oakland, specifically some Persian Cuisine place that's on Centre Ave. Their gyros are pretty good, though their kazandibi is pretty bad and the last time I had good Turkish food was when I was in. They mainly deal in hash and heroin and their territory is everything south of 380, north of 885 slash Panther Hollow, everything east of Crawford, and everything west of Penn Ave. They have a decent amount of export business with their product to other organizations, though we'll get to that."
"Number four is a group of Columbians that operate out of Cilantro and Ajo on East Carson Ave. They're allied with the Italians, which is why they can operate south of the Monongahela, but only on the drug front and only because the wife of their second in command is the sister of the Forelli family's don. Some think she's sleeping around on him and that it was only to give the Columbians some protection and a way to do business. Oh and the Forelli's are Number two in that stack of folders. They're your coke guys and they move a lot of it. They have some of their own territory but the Italians keep them small on purpose and they can freely sell, move, or store stuff in Italian territory so long as they pay. If you're curious, they operate south of the river, north of the railroad tracks, and between 23rd street and the Liberty Bridge."
"Skipping number five, number six is a Jamaican family that uses Naka End Zone on Crafton Blvd as their HQ. They just got out of a war with the Italians so they've been pushed back territory wise because they were allied with the Scorsese family, number five in that list. Before you ask, yes, that Scorsese family. These guys run most of the weed game, though they've recently started having to pay the Italians because of that war. I'm still working on the small details but I think they're gonna be paying that for the next year. Don't quote me on that and I'm still trying to figure out whether they're giving product to the Italians, selling it to them for cheap, or paying them outright. They have to stay west of Greentree Road and north of Mansfield Ave. They extend northwards to Berry Street and westwards to the creek."
"Number six is a Yamaguchi-affiliated Japanese gang that operates west of Browns Hill Road and east of the Monongahela in the Hazelwood and Greensfield area. Surprisingly enough, these guys mainly move meth and a little bit of PCP. They stick to themselves and mainly sell outside of their neighborhoods. It's a pretty good setup, actually, and they tend to help mediate the rest on this list. They were a pretty big reason the Jamaicans stepped out of the war but that's also because the Scorsese family actively targeted them when they ran most of the city and the Japanese took advantage of their reputation to hurt them for it."
"The final one that you specifically asked about is a bunch of Crip sets who banded together east of Larimer because they were surrounded by Bloods and LAW. These guys move your crack and pills, though they picked up fentanyl recently from the Forelli and they've started cutting stuff with it. They stay east of the 8, west of Blackadore Ave, north of the MLK Jr East Busway, and south of Lincoln Ave. They also run a fair amount of cheap guns. The rest do to but the OGs offer AKs for a third of the price that everyone else wants. Word is that they're doing it to try to cut in on more of the guns market but I think it's because this war on all sides thing is bleeding them dry."
"As for meeting up, the Yakuza guys are going to be the hardest to convince. They don't trust anyone and they don't do well with outsiders and newcomers. That said, if they do accept, they'll be able to convince everybody else that I named. The Columbians are pretty eager to impress their Italian connection so they should be easy enough if we can keep them from leaking word to the Italians. It sounds backwards but they seem to be wanting to keep their ambitions a secret, probably to make it seem like they're better than the Italians think they are. The Jamaicans are definitely ambitious and they're trying to find new funds without having to pay the Italians to do so. Plus, they can't look like a threat or they're gonna be dragged back into the war. As for the OGs, I can probably convince them without much issue. If I flash some ink and promise to help their blocks, they'll meet."
"I think that's everything you asked for. I've got more and those folders have headshots and cliffnotes but I'd rather focus on what you want to know rather than trying to check every box for the hell of it."
" Carmen answered with a sigh as she felt as though the vague humming was boring into her very soul.
Listening quietly to her friend's analysis of the city's drug suppliers, the crime lord-in-progress smirked a couple of times but remained quiet. For the most part, this city felt like the minor leagues in terms of its underworld. This far removed from the coast, there was only so much smuggling that could be done here, and that in itself limited the actual abilities of most criminal enterprises. America loved its drugs, but so many of them needed to be smuggled in that the reach of many illicit substances was surprisingly limited compared to other countries. The Drug War had, despite overall public perception, actually done something to limit the influx of drugs into the country, and the current government had actually continued that in secret. The DEA was still a force to be reckoned with, after all.
Yamaguchi, eh? That's...that's actually a bit funny,
" Carmen commented after Augustus had finished, "
Did you know that I have actually met Shinobu Tsukasa? Yeah, I helped him out after Obama levied all of those sanctions on the various organized crime elements around the world. You know I actually spoke to his nephew, Yoshinori, before we moved out here about what their presence was out here. Same with the I-Ties, too, but they were less willing to work with us.
Actually reaching for the folders herself, Carmen specifically grabbed the ones for the Scorseses and Forellis.
On the plus side, since Sonny's death, the LaRoccas aren't in power anymore and they were the last ones the Five Families in New York openly acknowledged. These schmucks are just branch families at best. The Five won't help us deal with them, but the Five won't lift a finger to help 'em.
Tossing those back, she picked up the folders on the Turks, the Columbians, the Jamaicans, and the Crips.
These we can simply force to bend the knee. Old school 'Kneel or Die'-style. I know you like doing it that way anyway.
Pausing for a moment to collect her thoughts as the plan began to take real shape, she breathed in deeply and then continued.
If you say the Yakuza have enough pull to bring them to the table, then I'll call ol' Yoshi and get that rolling. I don't suppose you would have any pull with any of the sets around here, huh? You know, I could probably do an hour-long TEDTalk on the failures of the true American-born gangs, you know that? Bloods, Crips, etc... Anyway, 'Failure to Organize' would be top of the fucking list... Oh well. More for us, then.
Laying those folders back down, Carmen allowed a small smile to creep onto her face.
As for the I-Ties, we'll need to move against them as soon as the plebeians are put in line. I've got some ideas on how to do that, but I don't want you working on that yet until after we secure our first slice of the pie. Oh, and don't go medieval on the Japanese. They're the most-likely to play ball with us as long as we reasonably respect their independence. They're rather odd like that. Eventually I'll work something out with the kumicho to bring them into the fold properly. Until then, we'll treat them with decency and respect.
Speaking of decency and respect, I thought you should know that I'm planning on entering a professional relationship with Slate,
" Carmen continued, referencing one of the smaller criminal organizations in the city, "
Your overall situation report labeled them small and a bit green, I know, but you know how I like helping out the underdogs. Plus they've got a line on guns that doesn't involve my cousin. Any objections?
This city is absolutely ripe for change, dear Augustus,
" she said with a smile as she stood up and stretched, "
As it is now, the dominoes are still being set up, but if we simply adjust them here and there before giving them juuuuust the right push, they'll all fall right into our hands.
Walking out of the sealed internal office and out into the penthouse's proper living area, Carmen gazed at the city skyline, her eyes glittering with a mix of excitement and malevolence. The edges of her mouth faintly curled upward as she spread her arms out as though she was going to embrace it all. Her voice dropped low into a half-whisper, half-growl.
This is the start of my family, Auggie. This will be my city.
Turning back to her friend, the smile changed from an almost primal, animalistic predatory-look to that of a dear friend. The one that she only ever really gave to one man in her entire life.
We're going to take it all, my friend. Everything this city has, everything this city is, and everything it will ever be. You'll help me, right, Auggie?
Augustus chuckled at the thought of Carmen conducting a TEDTalk on the various American gangs, if only because the only ones in attendance would be law enforcement. Gang members typically didn't go to TEDTalks and those who did were certainly the eloquent few who were too few in number to effect real change. Even Augustus had been hard pressed to move up in his set, though the lead up to the war with Carmen had all but guaranteed his leadership.
Augustus did have to stop himself from frowning slightly as she spoke about the Crips. While most would attribute it to the fact that he previously repped a blue set, it was far more complex than that. Augustus's gang affiliation was a big part of his life, both before and after the Army, and the transition to being included in Carmen's organization had been brief and bloody. He had done what was needed to survive and, while he now counted Carmen among his near-zero list of friends, his heart still occasionally ached when he remembered all of the friends he had lost.
Lil T, lit up like a Christmas tree as a declaration of war. His daughter was six months old when he died and his baby momma took to H, which was sold by the same Russians who killed her man. D-Dog, killed by a sniper after the cops dropped him off in a Russian-affiliated hood. Pusha, blown up by a car bomb in his garage. The blast killed Pusha's grandmother, one of the women who helped raise Augustus. Deus, short for Thaddeus, gunned down during a deal that Augustus had sent him on, though neither of them knew that the Russians had muscled the GDs into betraying the Elm Street Crips. The list went on and on, to include all of the OGs that had brought Augustus and his friends into the fold.
Those days were behind him, though it was the only thing that he and Carmen never spoke about at length. They knew everything about each other, to the point where Augustus knew her shoe and ring size as well as her favorite foods, movies, music, and even how firm she preferred her mattress and pillows. He knew that how she styled her hair told him much about what mood she was in even if her words didn't. He knew thousands of potentially useless and somewhat intimate facts about her and he had no doubt she knew as much, if not more, about him. They'd shared hotel rooms, ridden in tiny Cessnas with barely enough room to fit them, and done all but sleep together during their time together as they'd grown closer over the years. Still, they never talked about it. They never talked about the bloodiest year of Augustus's life and he was okay with that. If she knew it was a sore spot for him, she never let on and, for Augustus, believing her ignorant about this one facet of his life was better than believing that she was doing it on purpose.
Augustus snapped himself back to the present and stood with her, his arm aching slightly from where he had been rubbing the BK tattoo on his left forearm through his shirt. "I can handle the Crips and whoever else we need to handle, Vick, but I don't care how likely the Japanese are to work with us. If they don't bend the knee, I'll send the same message everyone else in this city will get: You yield or you die. They're not the only ones in this city who know how to manipulate or torture people, not now that we're here."
As they stood by the window, Augustus clasped his hands behind his back, if only to stop them from subconsciously wandering back to his tattoos. He had quite a few gang tats and, while he'd removed a few of them in order to complete the look as the consummate professional and in order to more effectively work for Carmen, he would be easily recognizable as a Crip if anyone saw him without his shirt on. That fact was part of the reason he worked extremely hard to avoid being caught by police, gang members, or even the public and it's why he never worked out around other people. He wasn't ashamed of his past but all he had were memories and those were his.
"This city will be ours before too long, Vick. Every criminal empire needs an empress and every empress needs a right hand ready to get to work and, right now, I'm ready to get to work. I might eat dinner or grab a coffee first but you know I stay ready."
Carmen's expression softened further as she examined her chief associate.
We'll begin operations next week. I imagine it will take that long for the Japanese to get everyone to agree to the meet anyway, plus it gives the Bears something to work towards. Their growth is one of my responsibilities and yours, remember? In the meantime, you are going to take the weekend off.
Her hand shot up as a warning immediately as soon as she said it. Even if she wasn't looking at the man, Carmen knew he would object to her directive to take a break. It was just the sort of man he was. Ever the soldier.
This isn't like L.A., Augustus,
" she declared, her tone going cold, "
I need you at the top of your game, and I'm not going to get that with how you are now. Running on half-sleep for months on end? I know your methods, and normally I would respect them... but we are going to war, Auggie.
Carmen smiled at her friend before she sat down on one of the large plush chairs. God, this man really knew her too well.
Go, go. Maybe sleep in a real bed for once, eh? Just because we're about to go to war again doesn't mean sleeping on the ground too. Go, go. I've got this here.
Looking out on the city again, Carmen pulled out her phone and began going through her contacts. Augustus had done his job beautifully, and she knew he would surpass even himself going forward with a bit of rest. For now, though, the next moves of the game were hers and hers alone.