After the call ended, Andrew stood up to hand the phone back to Clay. The two exited his office and proceeded down his winding wooden staircase to the main floor. A few of Han’s other enforcers were already sitting on the mahogany-colored couches of the main sitting area. Clay sat across from Han with the other three enforcers in attendance. Han remained standing.
“We have a meet tonight with Turner’s people.”
“You think they have something to do with Katelyn?” Clay asked.
“No, Jake doesn’t have that in him. But he might know something. I’m only bringing two others with me. Everyone else, keep your phones on.” Andrew ordered.
The sitting group nodded affirmatives and Clay stood up, motioning for two other young men, both of whom were dressed in black, to follow him.
In the woods that surrounded the outskirts of Huntington, a small river ran adjacent to the edge of town. The river was crossable at only one bridge, a small wooden structure that had turned a mixture of greenish-grey as a result of the growing moss. The bridge served as neutral territory. On one end of the bridge was the Eastern forest, and on the other Western front. Andrew Han had arrived somewhat early in order to place his two watchmen strategically in the heavily wooded area surrounding them. When he saw Jake and Liam appear from a distant path, he was surprised at their lack of back up.
“No blacks?” he turned to Clay, who stood considerably taller than Han, and was looking at the Eastern tree line from their side of the bridge with a pair of binoculars.
“None,” Clay responded, putting the binoculars down. As was customary, the party that calls a meeting must step onto the bridge first, signifying a display of trust. The bridge was totally open to ambush without specialized preparation, and so if one finds themselves standing on the bridge, facing the Western Front, they are effectively defenseless. Jake walked up to the wooden bridge and Liam stopped at the banks of the river.
Jake walked up to Han, hand extended. “Thought you’d be early,” Jake said as the two clasped hands for a quick handshake.
Han put his hands back into the pockets of his tan Harrington jacket. “You’re alone.” He said, looking over Jake’s shoulder at Liam, who nodded to him respectfully.
“I told you I would be. I see those blacks in the tree line. You said it’d be you and Clay?” Jake questioned. Behind him, Liam took a few steps back as he noticed two men on the other side of the bridge, dressed in the customary black jumpers of a shooter team.
“In these times, who can we really be honest with?” Han responded.
Jake ignored the comment and got to business. “Seeing as to what I’ve heard, I can’t really say I know what to do about the Katelyn thing. I wanted to let you know I don’t think it was you.”
“I appreciate that, seriously,” Han smiled, “but I think there’s something we ought to do about it.”
“Of course. What do you propose?”
“We had a pretty good year last year. I want the good times to keep coming, don’t you?” Han asked.
“I want our truce to stay the same, as a show of faith I’m gonna hand over some of my best people to help keep order down in the East. We need to make everyone calm again. As for these…” Han looked to Clay for a moment, expecting him to fill the vocabulary void that had formed.
“Interlopers,” Clay said.
“As for these, interlopers that kidnapped Katelyn, I propose we both make efforts to search for them. We should share that job.”
“Makes sense,” Jake folded his arms across his chest as he thought for a moment. “You’ve heard that they’re foreign, right? We’d gotten word that they were speaking another language when they assaulted Kate’s crew.”
“That doesn’t make them foreign. We have plenty of diversity in Huntington; someone here might have been putting this together. What did the language sound like?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like was it fucking Chinese or German?”
Jake turned to Liam, who shrugged and said, “It sounded like Spanish, but not Spanish.”
Jake looked at Liam crossly, “I thought you said it wasn’t Spanish?”
“It’s not! That’s what I’m saying. It sounds too foreign but still kind of like Spanish, you know?” Liam retorted.
Han tilted his head to right slightly to see over Jake’s shoulder and look directly at Liam. “He’s a real master of accents, this one.”
Clay laughed for a moment. Jake’s frown only deepened.
“Why don’t you start with that?” Han continued. “Figure out if we can spot them if they stick out. See if people have been hearing any weird versions of Spanish around.” Han turned around and began to back towards the West. “Let me know what you find.”
Jake watched Han’s team dismount and fade into the thick forest. On the trail, Liam commented on Han’s demeanor.
“I’m tired of that Korean fucker thinking he can talk to us like we’re babies.”
“Try not making us look like complete idiots, and maybe he’d change his tune,” Jake responded angrily.
“He just made a bunch of calls for us, and then sent us home like fucking cub-scouts. We play on the same field as him, he should be scared of us.”
“But he’s not. Let’s face it, without Kate’s people were weaker than their outfit. It’s just the truth.” Jake was a brutal rationalist. He had no space in his heart for hubris or pride, the only thing that drove his actions was his blinding desire to succeed. The sooner he could restore order, the sooner he could take power back from Han. In the meantime, taking affronts to his ego was the least of his problems.
Liam, on the other hand, began his career dressed in the ceremonial black of a shooter. His tendency for explosive violence was an integral part of their means of keeping order in the East. He felt as though Han’s gesturing was beyond simple social posturing. He could feel their authority slipping away with each day that Katelyn Campbell’s crew was out of commission.
Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Adam’s writing, be sure to check out his previously featured works with Big Easy Magazine here! Also, be sure to read some of our other short fiction. This includes works from Nolan Storey, Margaret Marley, Camille Goering and Fritz Westenberger!