Jake stood patiently next to Liam, who was dialing a number on his phone while they stood on the steps of a slightly dilapidated townhome.
“I’m tired of people not knowing how to use their phone.” Liam said more to himself than to Jake. He banged on the front door angrily. Soon, they could both hear commotion from inside the townhouse. The door abruptly opened, and Mikey Stilts, underboss to Jake and Liam, rubbed his eyes as his pale face made contact with the morning light. He nodded to the both of them as Liam passed him into the foyer without regard for permission.
“What’s down?” Mikey asked the both of them.
“I called you four fucking times. I told you we were meeting before anyone opens up shop today.”
“Right, my bad.” Mikey yawned. “I was up late as fuck last night.”
Jake walked past the two into Mikey’s cramped hallway. His beige carpet floors looked as if they had never been vacuumed. Jake turned around to the both of them and motioned for Mikey to follow him.
“We need to talk about strategy.” Jake said as they followed him into Mikey’s living room. Liam sat down on a burgundy sunken-in couch.
“Some shit’s going on, and we gotta figure out how to get out from under this.” Liam added.
“I saw some of Han’s cars around Fulton. Is that ya’lls agreement?” Mikey asked Jake. He sat across from them in a leather loveseat incessantly scratching his buzz-cut scalp.
“We need the support for now. Mostly to make sure one else tries to go Trick-or-Treating. What’s the word with everyone on the street?”
“We had to keep flipping, so no one’s stopped. Gotta be honest though, a lot of people don’t like seeing Han policing our spots.” Mikey replied.
“I don’t like it either, but it’s what we gotta do.” Jake said.
Mikey Stilts was not only a trusted underboss of Jake Turner’s organization, but he was also the ranking authority on all shooter-related activity. While Mikey rarely carried out offensives without Jake’s directive, he’d suffered personal losses from Han in the past that had never been fully atoned for. In Mikey’s eyes, Han was not a rival business organization, but an enemy tribe, tied loosely to his cohort only by mutual commercial interests.
“I heard whoever kidnapped Kate drove a black ‘stang.” Liam said. “You seen anything like that around?”
“One time, like a week ago, I was coming from the corner store and I saw a 67’ black Ford drive by. I only remember because it was so dope.” Mikey replied.
“I want you to go to Clay, get any info that they get and give it to me.” Jake said.
“I fucking hate that dude, but sure.” Mikey replied.
Jake stood up and motioned for Liam to follow him as he began to leave the living room.
“We gotta go to the Bluffs and talk to De’Andre ourselves.” Jake said to Liam.
“I’ll call him.” Liam said as he nodded goodbye to Mikey Stilts.
In the sections of the East defined by condensed townhomes and suburban apartments, an enclave known as the Bluffs served as the Campbell organization’s former center of power. The Bluffs were the most highly populated enclave of Huntington; forests of brick and iron whose narrow streets and hidden alleyways were once the grounds of some of the most violent clashes in Huntington’s chaotic past. Since the summer of union between the Campbell group and Turner’s people, the Eastern Bluffs had become a more ordered, sectarian subdivision of the East, and as a result of the successful non-violent drug trade, it had become considerably prosperous.
Although the year of peace had quelled the rival gangs and united them under the Campbell banner, the new vacuum that had formed had the potential to lead to catastrophe. Jake understood that if there was no restoration of the old order, it wouldn’t be long before the Bluff’s devolved into the battleground that it once was. The contact to all parties outside of the Bluff’s was a retired gangster by the name of De’Andre Jordan. De’Andre had participated in the First Wars, the era that defined the lines between East and West Huntington, and had become a source of folklore for Jakes generation. As a result of his mutual reverence by all groups, Jordan was seen as a neutral delegate, someone who could be trusted by all sides.
When Jake and Liam walked up the hill towards Jordan’s townhome, they noticed that a few of the former Campbell safe houses had their windows smashed in and police tape around the doors. Jake noticed the rustling of curtains on the windows next to the entrance of De’Andre’s modest home. Soon, his door opened, and he took several steps down to the pavement level to meet with Jake and Liam as they approached.
“Heard you might stop by.” He said to Jake.
“I should’ve come by earlier. It’s fucked up how all this went down.” Jake replied sympathetically.
“It’s been worse before.”
“You got some time to talk?”
“I ain’t got much to say. They fucked up my lil’ bro’s knees for good, two of my other boys got put in the ER. I ain’t really tryna sit down with whoever did this, you feel me?”
“I don’t think anyone wants compromise.” Jake agreed. “But we need more info to track them down. You told Liam they had accents. Was there anything else you can tell me?”
De’Andre paused, as if to think. “They wore biker jackets. All matching. One of them just sat in the car while the other two broke up the safe house. I don’t know for sure, but I think the one that stayed in the whip was a bitch.”
“A girl did this?” Liam interjected.
“I don’t know who the fuck it was. But they had tools. So next time I see a mustang around my block, I’m telling these shooters to do what they do.” De’Andre replied firmly.
Jake knew that all of his authority and jurisdiction ended at Towson Road, the entry way into the Eastern Bluffs. Even though his intuition informed him of keeping a conservative profile on the matter, he understood De’Andre’s strategy.
“Too many fuck-ups have managed to happen in 72 hours,” Liam observed, “we need to keep this shit solid, one way or another.”
“I’m more interested in finding out what the fuck out-of-towner’s are doing all the way out here.” Jake said as he looked to De’Andre. “What do you think of Han using outside people to make his moves?”
“Maybe,” De’Andre took a cigarette out of his back pocket and lit it with one swift motion. “I don’t really give a fuck if that little Chink wants war, I’d rather he come to me like a grown man rather than sending Fabio and his crew.”
“If you had to guess, what would you say they were?” Jake inquired, referring to the assailant’s nationality.
“Man, if I had to guess, they either Brazilian or fuckin Italian. Definitely not Spanish, but still Latin as fuck.”
“Latin?” Liam commented. “That’s what I meant. They were speakin’ some kind of latino shit.”
Jake ignored the conjecture. “I guess the best bet is to look for a black mustang. What year?”
“Custom ’63, no doubt.” De’Andre replied. “I only see them shits at car shows, but this shit was clean.”
“That’s specific,” Jake commented. “Should be easy to find.”
“Should be.” De’Andre agreed.
Jake left the Bluffs with a plan of action. If the car De’Andre described could be spotted, then it could be tracked and followed. The only remaining puzzle for Jake was the question of where someone from out of town could be hiding with such a distinctive car. He asked Liam for his best guess as they trekked down a rather quiet block of Eastern townhomes.
“If they were in the West End, it’d be easier to hide.” Liam said. “But since we’re assuming Han’s actually with us on this one, I’m going to say that’s probably not where they are.”
“What about old farm country? Those houses back behind the West edge?” Jake asked.
“Maybe, but those houses are falling apart. Who the fuck buys a rotting barn?”
The two immediately understood the answer to their riddle. It had become clear; the foreign group had to be hiding in the wooded farm country of the upper West, there was simply nowhere else in the close-knit condensed community that someone could conceal a 1963 Mustang show car without directing attention.
“We’ll have to check that out.” Liam said.
“We need support first, call Mikey Stilts, give him the word.” Jake ordered. Liam nodded.
This will be the last installment of weekly short fiction for Big Easy for a little while. We will still be featuring original, local poetry each Wednesday and will resume short fiction as soon as we can! Thanks for reading!!