Work with Gabriel stayed steady and good through to 1996. I fell into a groove. I still lied about my name. I stuck with Ash but it had become almost as personal as professional. I don’t think I’d have responded to my given name anymore without some reflection. I didn’t care who knew I was a Spaniard. I couldn’t hide that anyway. Family history was obscure and quiet enough that I wasn’t thinking about it bugging me. My international contacts had accepted that I didn’t operate outside Detroit anymore. Trouble wasn’t going to follow me.
I started to grow comfortable.
The cliché is for that to be dangerous. My version of comfortable is less dangerous than you’d think. I still moved around residences. I still kept a switchblade close at hand. I’d even started carrying a pistol. It freaked me out less as I grew used to the social firearms etiquette of the states.
My savings had grown to a level that kept my tastes happily expensive. Honestly I should have ditched Detroit and moved on. But the work was too interesting. Additionally, Gabriel had become intriguing in the extreme.
Every two months or so he’d call me in and have something weird on deck.
“Bring me two gallons of virgin water Ash.”
“I need a thousand dollars in New Orleans mint silver dollars.”
“Find a two headed cat.”
“Three cases of .45 ACP are in the cooler at the restaurant. I want every round hand rubbed with garlic. Three hits counterclockwise.”
The weird requests piqued my interests and I started digging. It was a quick thing to figure out that he had some weird mystic obsession. It didn’t interfere with business. Hell, it even seemed to help sometimes; like in tracking down that dipshit with the sarin. I started to get a taste for it myself.
I boosted a book from Gabriel’s office one night and photocopied the thing at Kinko’s. It rattled on interminably about auras and spells and rituals. I tried out a few.
None of it really seemed to do much. Still, once I’d thrown down the markings under my bed I dreamt only of myself being clever. No more teeth falling out or naked bus rides. When I started keeping the 1904 SVDB penny in my wallet I always seemed to have exact change at the gas station. Storing my razor in the pyramid didn’t do anything though.
For me it was a little game, but for Gabriel it was deadly serious. He always seemed to get more out of it than me. But that was all secondary because when the wheels turned in 1996 and the business was on the table it was always gambling.
Gabriel had gotten a yen to own a casino. Throw that next to the indian casinos raking in the dollars and the rubes flocking to the Windsor and you’ve got an exciting proposition. I sat in on meetings. I passed around some cash. I was bagman to the stocky Irishman who always was there to help with a few hundred thousand for reelection or to lean on a mouthy ex-mistress.
Gabriel was hungry for the gaming. He watched Casino something like thirty times and got to where he’d drop random lines from it and laugh like a hyena. Gabriel has a thing for cash money. He likes value he can carry and he likes influence. He doesn’t put much stock in banks and as near as I can tell he doesn’t ever pay taxes.
The crew for the street side of things had shaped up well. We had Winter and Berlin for the serious personal strong-arm work. They each kept in touch with a few crews of hard boys who enjoyed a scrap. Marcus Smythe and Max Sobieski were local businessmen who fronted for Gabriel when he needed it, which was becoming more often as his casino dreams grew grander. Gabriel sent me down to Vegas one week in March to get buddy-buddy with some real casino hands.
I made some calls to the old international folks and took a group of Swedish high rollers to Mandalay Bay. They ran me out of the grubstake I took with me in four hours and I had to hit the streets and steal a truck or two to fence for more cash. Happily, over the course of watching a dozen drunken Swedes blow a few million dollars of money I’d touched, I made some new friends. They liked the way I worked and they got comfy that I wasn’t a plant after they stripped me naked unannounced three or four times. They were good guys about it though. They took me to the Golden Gulch afterwards and I endured a round of lap dances.
They still made me pay though.
After that I scheduled a weekend for Gabriel, Marcus and myself to go down and get a tour of the facilities and a crash course on the business.
Imagine my surprise when Gabriel cancelled it.
It was around sunset on a Thursday. I’d come in to chat about some incidental trouble with the Savonarola organization in mid-town when Gabriel just looked up from his desk.
“Drop everything. We have to knock over an armored car.”
Gabriel has this particular presence. When he looks up at you with those grey eyes and says something totally random you don’t even flinch. It’s the way he taps his hand on his desk and lights a cigar. You just know that there won’t be any problems.
“Get Winter and Berlin. We’ll have a conference in twenty minutes.”
“When does this need to go down Gabriel?”
Gabriel does have that particular presence. But I still stalked out of his office nervous and pissed off. I like to be daring. I don’t mind armed robbery when it has to happen. But whenever something gets set up for too short a turnaround, I know I’m going to lose money.
Twenty Three (sorry about the hiatus)
8 years ago